199 Justice League Cardinal Sin

Mary and Kara got Barbara home. The former Batgirl was in severe pain and many of her wounds were bleeding again. Mary, who was certified in First Aid and CPR, examined the stitches. None of the sutures had broken or come loose. It was just a matter of redressing the wounds to handle the seepage.

Having stopped the bleeding, Mary sat back and looked upon Barbara as she lay in her bed; "You're awfully pale. Can I get you anything?"

"I'd kill for a cup of coffee." Barb admitted.

"It'd be bad for you." Mary lectured, "Coffee has caffeine and caffeine is a vasal dilator. It'll make you bleed more."

Barbara just stared at her. Mary grew uncomfortable, "It's true."

"Just get me the coffee." Barbara ordered.

Mary shrugged and trudged off to the kitchen. Barb looked to Kara, "Can you hand me the phone?"

Kara did so and Barbara called her dad. She'd been incommunicado for a week now and he was grateful just to hear her voice. He was confused by her decision to meet at her townhouse.

"I'll explain when you get here." She said, "Merry Christmas." She paused while he spoke. A wan smile spread across her face, "I love you too. See you soon."

Mary brought the coffee in, along with a pitcher of milk and a bowl of sugar, on a tray; "Here you go. All the ingredients you need to kill yourself."

"Mary." Barb growled.

"Okay, okay." Mary sat the tray down and threw her hands up in surrender, "I've said my peace."

"You certainly have." Kara said before asking, "So what's the plan?"

"Well, I have to go home soon. It's close to 7 o'clock back home. I promised Billy and Uncle Dudley that I'd be there for Christmas Eve. I'll be back tomorrow though."

"Thanks." Barbara sighed and then turned to Kara, "What about you? Any plans?"

"I have to make an appearance at Ma and Pa's tomorrow but Clark's got Diana there so my room's filled up. Besides, you need me more." Kara said.

"For moral support at the very least." Barbara managed another pale smile.

There was a knock at the door and Kara answered it. Commissioner James Gordon was petitioning for entrance into his daughter's home. Kara escorted him to the bedroom. He blanched when he saw Barbara's condition.

"You've been shot! Who did this and when?" Gordon grew upset, "Where's Wayne?"

"Dad!" Barbara yelled. When he saw the toll it took on her, he calmed down. She spoke again, "I'll answer all of your questions in a minute but my friends need to leave the room so you and I can discuss things privately."

"That's my cue." Mary said as she hopped to her feet.

Gordon eyed her, "Aren't you a little young to be a superhero?"

"I bet you never said that to Robin." Mary quipped. Gordon winced and Barbara lost what color she had.

Mary recoiled, "I didn't mean… I mean… What did I say that was bad?"

"Robin retired." Barb told her, "It was a mess with Bruce so we don't talk about it."

"Oh." Mary said softly, "I won't mention it again."

She went over to the ladder leading to the skylight. She took hold of the lever that opened the light and cranked the glass open. She then put on her leather jacket.

"Excuse me," Gordon said, "but are you planning on flying out of here?"

"Yup." Mary said brightly, "Shazam."

The lightning transformed her into a young woman. Her clothes transformed into a red blouse and skirt emblazoned with a golden lightning bolt.

She waved at the Gordons, "See ya tomorrow."

After Mary cleared the rooftop, Kara closed the skylight. She turned to Barbara, "I'll be in the living room whenever you need me."

"Thanks." Barbara gratefully said. Turning to her father she declared, "You'd better get yourself a mug and help me drink this coffee. Trust me; you're going to need it."

Gordon did as he was told and closed the bedroom door behind him. Even over the sounds of the TV, Kara heard crying. Seeing a picture of her punching Batman through a wall, she tried to focus on her program but she couldn't quite lose herself in its mind numbing tedium.

The following day found Kara in Kansas. It had been a rough night. Barbara had spent most of it expressing her anguish. She'd been traumatized by six bullets and faced her own mortality. She subsequently ended her newborn marriage to a man that had not only abandoned her on the battlefield but also during the recovery afterwards.

Bruce's emotional death affected her as deeply as it did himself. Added to this grief was Tim Drake's ordeal. It had been a month born in Hell.

Barbara had fallen asleep after sunrise. Commissioner Gordon had then arrived to sit with Barbara. Kara stopped by a Starbucks and grabbed a latte while the other patrons stared. It was a freak experience for the Gotham crowd to have Supergirl buy coffee in their unfair city.

After signing a few autographs, she flew away, much to the astonishment of those that said she was a phony. She flew straight to Kansas. She took her time, following the sunrise, and realized for the first time how tired she was.

She arrived during breakfast. Ma and Pa Kent were overjoyed to see her. Clark and Diana were also thrilled. As the morning wore on, though, they became concerned.

Clark approached her after they'd opened presents and the Kents had Diana cornered, "Are you all right? You've been distracted and upset ever since you got here. Ma and Pa aren't saying anything but they're worried. So am I."

"Kara sighed, "I guess I need to share with someone. It's like this…"

"…and I just want to smash his face in." Kara concluded twenty minutes later.

Clark's eyes were wide and he had a ghastly color, sort of like when he was hit with kryptonite radiation, "I didn't realize. I'll go have a talk with him and see…"

"No, you won't." Diana said from the doorway, "It won't do any good. He's made up his mind."'

"Yes, but…" Clark started to say.

Diana cut him off, "Have you ever known Bruce to change his mind once it was made up?"

"No." Clark sorrowfully admitted, "I haven't."

"I'll rotate his head a few times and see if that'll change his mind." Kara grumped.

Clark and Diana both gave her disapproving stares. She blinked, "What?"

"The only thing we can do is let Barbara and Bruce make up their own minds." Diana opined.

"And takes steps to minimize the damage that they can do to the League." Clark added.

Diana proudly beamed at him.

At 3 o'clock Kara made ready to leave. She explained that she had to get back to Barbara since her father was going on duty at 6 o'clock and it was already 5:00 pm in Gotham. She promised to come back with everyone else's present and to collect her own loot. She flew off into the east while Clark and Diana exchanged a worried glance.

At 5 o'clock, Dick Grayson entered Wayne Manor bearing gifts for Alfred and Bruce. Conspicuously absent were gifts for Barbara. Bruce mentioned this.

Dick shrugged, "Barb's already called me and told me her side of the story. Since I know you I also know that that side of the story is probably also the gospel truth."

"Did she tell you that she'd given up being Batgirl?" Bruce asked.

"Yes, she did." Dick replied, "Not that you gave her much choice."

"So you understand. Good, because as of now, you are no longer Nightwing." Bruce announced.

"I'd like to see you try and stop me from being Nightwing." Dick retorted.

"I'll stop you." Bruce declared, "You'll never wear a costume in this city again."

"Then I'll just go to another city." Dick replied as he stood up from the table they'd been sitting around. He nodded to Alfred, "Merry Christmas, Alfred."

As Dick headed for the door, Bruce called after him; "If you're on your way to see Ulla Paske, I wouldn't if I were you. She's nothing but trouble."

Dick turned, "Go to hell, Bruce. If I ever see you again, it'll be too soon."

Dick went out the door and Bruce stood there alone. Alfred entered the room, "Was that wise, Master Bruce?"

"It's for his own good." Bruce coldly replied.

"I see." Alfred sighed as Bruce stalked away.

An hour later, Bruce knocked on Barbara's door. The door was answered by Mary Batson, "Yes? Oh! It's you."

Bruce didn't like that inflection in her voice but he supposed she had a right to it, "Can I come in?"

She shrugged, "It's your funeral."

Mary stepped aside and Bruce moved past her. Inside, Dick, Kara, Billy Batson, and Barbara were gathered in the living room. It was tight quarters but no one cared.

Kara had found a tree. Mary and Billy had decorated. Dick brought the food and the holiday brought the cheer. Bruce's entrance killed all of that.

"I won't stay long." Bruce promised.

"You've got that right." Kara growled as she got up off of the couch.

"Barbara, can we talk…privately?" Bruce asked.

"Will anything change if we do?" she asked.

"No." He replied, "But I thought an explanation…"

"I've heard your explanation, Bruce." She snapped, "It was bull before and it's definitely full of crap now. Just go."

"Now wait a minute…!" Bruce felt a tapping on his shoulder he turned…right into Mary Batson's fist. Bruce had rolled with enough punches to minimize the damage that a 16 year old girl could do but still, that girl could hit whether she was Mary Marvel or not.

Bruce staunched the blood flow out of nose while the rest of the crowd congratulated and cheered Mary on. Bruce made his way past Mary and made it to the door. He turned before exiting, "I truly am sorry, Barbara but it's for the best."

"Just go." Kara spoke for her friend, "Before we see how hard I can hit."

Bruce glared at her but he retreated. A cheer went up and the celebrations resumed as the door closed. A cold fist clenched Bruce's heart as he realized he'd pushed away everyone but Alfred. Other than that, there was no one left to love.

8 o'clock came and Dick knocked on Ulla's door. She was surprised that she had any visitors and delighted to see that her caller was Dick. He entered the tiny 1 room apartment that she'd rented for the month. Somehow she'd gotten a bed and a sofa in here yesterday afternoon.

Dick took her out to his car where he showed her her presents. There were bags of groceries and cases of canned goods. Thanks to her super strength the cases weren't an issue. He carried the bags up as she stacked the cases 4 high and schlepped them up all at once.

Once they were inside, Ulla started putting everything away while Dick got out a package of Ahi tuna and made ready to bake it. Ulla gave him a strange look.

"You're not really going to cook that are you?" she wondered.

"Why?" he asked, "Don't you like it?"

"I love Ahi!" she enthused, "I'm just not used to it…y'know, cooked."

The picture clarified itself in Dick's mind, "You're used to eating fish raw?"

Ulla shrugged, "I'm half-Atlantean. You can't exactly cook fish underwater."

"So, you eat it raw?" he repeated.

Ulla rummaged through the sack with all of the meat, "How about a pork loin? I'm a huge fan of pork loin. I have a little hibachi oven. We can grill it."

"What else do you have?" Dick wondered.

"I have a vegetable steamer. We can do vegetables and rice at the same time." Ulla said excitedly, "I've a really nice blender for fruit smoothies after dinner or during dinner if you'd like."

"Slow down." Dick laughed, "Take a breath."

"I never thought so much could be done in a single afternoon but when you've got millions people line up to sell you stuff." Ulla bubbled.

"Just don't go spending all of those millions just yet." Dick said, "The Legion may be able to track down the transactions and get a fix on your location."

Ulla gulped, "I hadn't thought of that."

"That and I'm moving out of Gotham." Dick said, "I was wondering if you'd like to come with?"

Ulla hugged him, "I'd love to!"

"We wouldn't be moving in together or anything." Dick sought to clarify the situation, "We'd just be living in the same town. Maybe we'd even be neighbors."

"I understand." Ulla's enthusiasm was undiminished, "Where would we move to?"

"I was thinking Chicago." Dick revealed. His thinking was that they had a high crime rate and no costumed heroes. Nightwing would be a welcome addition to the town.

Of course, he couldn't tell Ulla any of this. Instead he told her a modified version of the long awaited falling out between he and Bruce. He told of how Bruce had practically kicked him out of the city. Finally, he concocted a reason behind moving to Chicago.

"It's a city the size of Gotham and it still has water, the Great Lakes instead of the Atlantic, but water. There's also a canal connecting the Lakes to the ocean so if you feel a need to take a swim there it is. It's also one of the last places the Legion would look for you." He described his reasoning, "It could work out."

"I'm game." She perkily said, "When do we pack?"

"First we have to fly there and take a look around and find somewhere to call home, or homes, in this case." Dick explained, "Then we can pack."

"I'll make the arrangements and call you when they're set." Dick informed her, "It'll probably be sometime next month."

"Sounds great." She kissed him on the cheek, "Now, about that pork loin?"

"Merry Christmas, Lex" Grodd said as he entered the Dom's command center.

"Actually, it's after midnight so it's Boxing Day." Luthor smiled, "How go the preparations?"

"Galatea, Supreme, and Bizarro know their targets and where to find them." Grodd chuckled, "Most of the primary targets are in mobile prisons based in tractor trailers. The bulk of the secondary targets are housed in the Gulag while awaiting trial."

"The secondary targets will be transported via mobile detentions centers by rail to their appointed court appearances." Grodd summarized, "We can collect them individually at those times."

"Excellent." Luthor smiled, "It looks like it will be a happy new year after all."