Standard disclaimers apply. I own who I own. I don't own who I don't own.

Jordy's No Good, Very Bad Day


The battle was over, the weird alien people had gone back from whence they hailed, and those of us who had spent the last six hours cleaning up space junk were taking a break in the Watchtower kitchen. That would be three Lanterns and a few miscellaneous Titans. The remainder of the Titans team (including the love of my life) had spent quality time infiltrating the Weird Alien People's mother ship to disable it, and weren't back yet.

Sitting at the table, I untwisted another cookie and licked out the filling. There was a reason my jeans were tight on me. Iris and Electrode gave me a look, seeming to ask if I was going to hoard all the cookies. You didn't get these love handles from SHARING, I wanted to tell them.

"Well," my grandfather began to say as he opened the refrigerator. "The JSA is more than happy to have you."

Staring at his purple cape, and the back of his head, I could feel myself starting to blush. "Well, uh, thanks. It's not like I wanna like… join up on another team, I just wanna totally get away from YJ, and teenagers and their problems. I mean… being their advisor is a thankless job at best." Those stupid kids had gotten themselves sucked into another dimension and still weren't back yet. It was a welcome break.

"Well, what about the Justice League, Kyle? Room for another Lantern?" Sentinel asked. It seemed like they were talking around me. Like there was some other conversation going on that I wasn't privy to. I didn't know if it was ABOUT me, necessarily. I just wasn't included.

Dad was sitting on the counter, leaning his head against the hanging cupboards. His eyes were closed and he was probably half-asleep. "I dunno," he muttered. "Don't know if they accept 'Minty Lanterns'," my dad finished smartly.

Putting the two pre-licked halves of the cookie into my mouth, I made a face. Jimmy was the deadest guy in the whole universe.

"Well, the JSA…"

"That's ok, grandpa," I finished. The last thing I needed was to go from babysitting duty to the Old Hero's Club. "I'm kind of trying to cut down on stuff. At least till I find a job."

They both rolled their eyes.

"I wanna be a productive member of society, gosh darn it."

"Oh please," Iris interrupted. "You're the prince consort. Quit trying to live the life of a commoner."

I KNEW I was blushing now. Hunching over, I reinvested myself into my cookies. Cookies would make me feel better. "Can't I have a job?" I asked meekly.

Electrode gave me a scrutinizing stare before getting up and exiting the room. Joy. Another friend to add to my ever-growing Christmas card list.

I looked to my dad for support. "Come on. You have a job."

He blinked at me once with tired eyes. "I'm not married to your wife," he informed me as he hopped off the counter and also exited. I was completely batting a thousand.

"Get the hell off! Don't touch me!" a voice called out loudly from the hall. The sound echoed off the metal walls and stung in my ears. My companions in the kitchen were staring at me, so I got off my butt and went into the hall to greet the dearest love of my life. Just when I got out there, she was pushing Nightwing away. He gave me 'that look' that let me know she was ALL my responsibility.

"Um… hi, Robin," I said lamely. She scowled at me, put her hand on my shoulder and pushed past me. Watching her stalk off, I rubbed the scar on my forehead she'd given me with a Baterang last year.

I shrugged at her father, and watched her turn the corner into a recreation room that we used to frequent as teenagers. "I don't think I can do anything," I told him.

"Well, THAT is comforting," he said distastefully.

I noticed Iris in the doorway of the kitchen, leaning against the blast door. "Don't you have some place else to be?" I asked. She shrugged, then left. "You're going to have to order her into the med unit," I explained to Nightwing when we were as alone as you can be in the hallway of a facility crawling with hero type people.

"For a mental check?" Nightwing asked sarcastically.

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. It didn't do to too well for trying to impress the one guy on the planet who could save you from Young Justice duty. "She's hurt," I explained. "She only gets REALLY bitchy and defensive when she's hurt." See, I'd learned something during my own stint in the Mickey Mouse Club.

"You're married to her," he reminded me. I was just a kept husband, though.

"Yeah, like THAT is going to convince her to do something she doesn't want to do. You gotta order her." He was her dad. More importantly, he was her team leader. He was the only one, just shy of the Bat, who could get her to get herself looked at.

Fortunately, he listened, and followed her. I decided to let them duke it out before I went and tried to play comforter. I'd swoop in and agree that her dad was being unreasonable as they patched up whatever owie she'd gotten this time.

* * *

The cave wasn't very big, but somehow Robin had managed to segregate herself from the rest of Young Justice. Crystal had closed off the entrance with a thick layer of ice to keep the Hemina from eating us as we slept. Robin had situated herself next to the three-foot high ice-covered opening, having previously informed us that she was going to 'keep watch.' I was ok with that. I really didn't want to be eaten by a pack of hungry Hemina, with their truncated bodies, oversized heads and rows and rows of sharp teeth.

Everyone was asleep. Nighthawk was with Crystal, which was just weird and gross. He was like twelve, she was almost fifteen, and it struck me as wrong, somehow that they were sharing a blanket from one of our supply packs. Yellow Hurricane had finally given up on being agitated at the inactivity and had curled up by herself next to a large, smooth rock. Superboy was face-down and slobbering on the dirt, uncaring and fast asleep. And that left only me, sitting in the middle of the cave, clutching my knees to my chest as I stared at the slowly melting ice keeping us from certain doom. Mystical enchanted type forests with mystical evil animals were no fun. We got all the dumb missions.

"Quit looking at me," Robin said angrily.

My gaze turned from the glistening ice to her. "I'm not looking at you." Well, now I was. Was she paranoid or something?

"Leave me alone," she growled.

I sighed. We'd been getting closer lately. I called her occasionally. We spent down time watching cartoons together. She even let me joke around with her now and again. She was the closest thing I had to a friend, and it worried me that she was acting this way. Robin had been an absolute bear since Nighthawk had been nearly eaten by those Hermina things today. "Everything ok?" I asked. I crawled next to her, so if she wanted to spill some beans, we wouldn't be making it public record. "I mean… if you're worried over Nighthawk…"

She scowled. "I'm just sorry I saved him," she answered darkly. "I should have let him get eaten."

I sighed. That was harsh, even for her, and the unhidden animosity she displayed for who we all assumed was her brother. You couldn't hate someone that much that you weren't related to. It probably wasn't possible. Especially since he felt the same way about her.

"It isn't as bad as that." Wrapping an arm around her, I gave her a quick squeeze. I was good at giving hugs. It was one of the few things I could do competently. She stiffened and drew in a sharp breath. "What's wrong?"

Robin remained frozen in place even after I let go of her. "I'm FINE," she gasped.

While she was unmoving in her place, I pulled back the cape, and saw the spread of dark blood low against the side of her armored crimson tunic.

"You tell anyone about this," she whispered, "and I'll kill you." I knew right then and there that I wanted to marry this girl.

* * *

"Hellllloooo! Earth to Jordan! Come in, please!"

I blinked a few times then looked up at my dad. "Sorry," I said sheepishly. We were in the process of moving more of the mines away from their orbit of earth. Someone'd detonate them later. Using the ring, I cleared myself a path to my father.

"Are you worried about Robin?" he asked seriously.

"Well, I did want to stick around till they were done in the medical wing with her. I know we have to get this stuff out of here though." Duty this, duty that. Couldn't get five freaking minutes alone with my wife… "Look, I'm ok, ok?"

He frowned, then went back to work. What had gotten into HIM today? I couldn't recall screwing anything up—in fact, I'd disabled two ships all by myself. I hadn't been making any smart remarks to piss him off… nothing. My dad was just miffed for no apparent reason that I could discern.

Making a path away from him, I began searching for my grandfather among the sea of gray metal bombs. Maybe he had some idea. I saw him with a collection of mines engulfed in a green energy field that was probably five stories in diameter. "Sentinel!" I called out. "Wait up."

He looked at me skeptically. "You need something?"

I shrugged, taking his bundle from him. Sighing, I breathed in a deep breath of the recycled air within my aura from the ring then thought that it tasted funny and tried to compensate with the ring. "I just want to know what's up with dad." This might have been a family business with the Lanterns, but we weren't nearly as angsty as the Bat-folks, and I liked to keep it that way, if I could.

"He's been thinking about… things again." Sentinel turned away from me and began collecting more mines. Clean up duty wasn't the funnest thing I could think of. But, if they ever had a bad job, a distasteful job… well, I was the first on their list of people to call.

"Geeze. Dad has to… I don't know." I realized as I started talking that I couldn't say that he had to get over it. Not to my grandfather. When mom died, he'd lost his only surviving child. "It's not good for him," I finished finally.

"Get out of here, ok? Electrode and Iris are more than enough to finish up here." Sentinel sure sounded like he didn't want me around either. Was there something about my mere existence that was offensive to my family?

I passed off our collective loads to Electrode. He was using his energy fields to detonate them and contain the blasts. He'd be exhausted soon. Well, I could go check on my other half before I relieved him. Hopefully if I was off exploding things, I wasn't irritating everyone around me.

* * *

A caped shadow passed by medical enclave number seven, and I turned back to my half-sleeping, overly-drugged wife. "Um… WHY is Batman still here?" It wasn't like he was doing anything, to my knowledge.

She sighed, then slowly turned her head towards me. She had a nasty line of stitches running all the way from her solar plexus to her shoulder. She was also bruised up at all points between her collar bone and hip on the left side. Whatever had happened, she wasn't in the mood to talk about it, and it had been pretty nasty. On a separate note--I didn't think I'd be getting lucky any time soon with those kinds of injuries.

"Cass was throwing up yesterday morning, and she made the mistake of saying 'the next time we do this…' so Tim hasn't been home since."

I winced. When you'd already married her, and she was already six months pregnant, that wasn't the time to start having 'responsibility issues'. He already had a six year old. It wasn't like he could just pretend his life didn't exist. "I'd like to know just one normal person," I muttered under my breath.

"EXCUSE YOU," she said forcefully.

I blushed a little. "Look, I didn't mean it like that. I mean… people who aren't having problems."

When I glanced over at her, she was scowling.

"Jordan Rayner hits pay dirt yet again," I moaned, whistling under my breath. "I don't mean you. I mean… I know you're working through stuff." Two afternoons a week in therapy… she'd BETTER be working through stuff.

"Jordy, don't you have something you have to be doing?" She pulled her hand out of mine. I was being dismissed.

"Aww, geeze, man! I didn't mean it like that! What's WITH everybody today!" I cried in frustration as I stood up. Her head flopped back onto the pillow in frustration. We were both getting so far.

"Thanks to YOU, I get to spend quality time RESTING," she said bitterly. "I can't do that with you in here… TALKING." She turned her head away from me and winced. I could tell it hurt her.

I looked at the ring, and then let my uniform slither around me. "That's ok," I told her stonily. "I have WORK to do."

"And what the hell do you think I was doing when this happened?" she asked quietly, never looking at me. "Unless you're the only one who thinks you can do anything, because you're Powered."

"That's not what I mean! You're taking me out of context, and you KNOW it." Geeze, she sounded just like the old man. He always had some kind of 'thing' with powered people existing in the same universe as him, and right now, she was channeling it, bad.

"Then WHAT do you mean?" she asked with that same quiet forcefulness.

I threw my hands up in the air. "I don't know what I mean. Look, I'm just hoping you're grumpy about needing stitches and drugged up and THAT is why you're going Uber on me. Cause I didn't do anything." Without waiting for any further insults from her, I left. Why me? Why today?

* * *

Sitting down at the computer in the recreation room, I made the conscious decision to procrastinate on getting back out into space and clearing away the mines. I opened a channel I couldn't believe I was opening without a gun to my head.

"I build it, you break it," a familiar voice said. "Daedelus speaking. You guys reconsidered your position on my last invoice yet?"

"Jimmy, you're such a punk," I told him. "Why the hell aren't you up here?" Hearing my voice, he opened a visual channel as well. He looked like he hadn't shaved in a week, and he had a kid in one arm.

"The Justice League and I are having a difference of opinion right now. They don't pay, I don't provide. Period. End of story."

I ran a hand through my hair. "You billed them twice what the weapons upgrade was worth, Jimmy. You're busting their budget."

"See, they're corrupting you. That job was worth what I charged. And everything WORKED, didn't it? I got the stats from this morning's battle—I deserve that money for the time I saved you guys." The baby turned in his arms, and I could see the little guy chewing on his own hand happily. I couldn't tell which one it was—they both looked alike (them being twins and all).

I smiled to see the baby so happy, and then waved to him. There were some things that made me feel better when the world was against me—little kids and cookies. Cookies had gotten me nothing but a hard time in the kitchen, and my dad's bad mood. Maybe little kids would do the trick this time. "Jimmy, just charge them cost this time. It'll be good for business."

"What'd be good for business is if they paid me the money they owe me," he sulked. "I have two kids to put through college."

"And you'll have two more before you see that money from them." Were we having this discussion? Well, it was better to talk about the things that passed for problems in Jimmy's life than the things that passed for problems in my life. Why couldn't I have cool problems? Like Braniac or something. Superman didn't have complete dysfunction on every side of him, I didn't think.

"Sooooo. What's up?" Jimmy slipped from the view of the camera as he put the baby on the floor. There was a squeal, and he picked the boy back up.

"What's HIS problem?" I asked.

"Dunno. Thomas has been clingy since like last week. I'm going to guess you didn't call 'cause my kids're cute. By the way, when's Crys coming home?"

"I don't know. They're trying to figure out how to get the fish off the moon."

He fidgeted with the baby in his arms for a moment. "This is why they should just pay the invoice. Now what's going on?"

I put my elbows on the edge of the counter top, then rested my chin in my hands. "No body likes me, no one thinks I can get a job, and I'm stuck in space till we've cleaned up all one million exploding satellites from Earth's orbit."

"You don't NEED a job," Jimmy informed me.

"Not you too," I moaned. "Look, I'm gonna need one when your sister divorces me."

He whistled. "Sooo. You're coming to see what I spent fourteen years living with. Makes you wanna kill her, then torture her corpse, doesn't it?"

"Yeah, tell me about—NO. Wait! She's the one who's mad at me!"

Jimmy bit his cheek and stared at me as if he knew everything about me. "And you're not mad at her at ALL," he stated knowingly.

I rubbed my temples vigorously. "No."

A vicious grin spread across his lips as he started bouncing the baby. "You are SO in denial. I can recommend a good therapist…"

I cut the connection. He should be used to getting hung up on; it was how Bat-people ended long-distance conversations.

Superman didn't have to put up with this kind of stuff.

* * *.

"Something wrong, Jordan?" I turned around in my chair at the computer. How long had I been sitting here, staring off into the nothingness?

Superman's voice snapped me out of my thoughts. "I was just taking a break."

He didn't say anything.

"Any luck with the fish?"

He STILL didn't answer.

"I guess that's a NO." Jimmy would have had this taken care of already. "Look… Daedelus…" I shook my head. "Never mind."

"You know why he's not here," Superman said. I hated when he stood there with his arms folded across his chest. When he did that, he was far more unapproachable than Batman EVER was.

"Fine. Look, I'm going back out there. Daedelus would like it if you'd return his wife." I got up and tried to think of a polite way to skirt around him, without making it look like I was avoiding him. We really weren't talking since that whole 'blowing him into space' thing.

Just as I was working on avoiding eye contact and trying to v-line for the door, he stepped forward and grabbed my arm. "Jordan, if you need to take a longer break, and spend time with Robin…"

I pulled away. "No. We have work to do. I know that. She knows that. We all know that…"

"This job is stressful. It takes a lot emotionally and physically, but clean-up is one burden you can skip out on this time, if it helps in the long run." He didn't try to grab me again. He just stood there, blocking my path.

"Robin doesn't want me around, ok? And before you ask—NO, I DON'T want to talk about it with you. I think you've helped our relationship enough." Superman pushed my buttons the way no one else could. Not even ROBIN could get me as upset as just being around him made me.

"Jordan—I know that was a rough time, last summer. I didn't know you were still holding a grudge."

I rubbed my eyes. I was so weary of all of this—of working so hard, of everyone pushing me away—the last thing I wanted to do was rehash last year. It had been probably the worst point in my life. I wasn't proud of it, and I didn't want to relive it. "Look, I'm not discussing this now."

"Jordan—I only want to help."

God help me, I laughed. "Look, you CAN'T, Ok? You can't make Mara like me again, and you can't get the bug out of my family's butt. I gotta work this out on my own." Man, the guy had a complex, or something. Well, I guess you feel the need to solve everyone elses' problems, when you don't have any of your own.

"I can't solve your problems, but I'd like to HELP." I stared at his blue- covered forearms and the hint of yellow S peeking out behind them. "And I think I CAN help."

Seeing that I wasn't going to be escaping the rec room any time soon, I threw myself into the chair I had just vacated moments before. "Can I PLEASE just do this myself? It's like no one thinks I'm capable of ANYTHING."

"That isn't true. I know what some people say about you being the 'prince consort' and all, but you ARE a hero in your own right."

I slumped in the chair a little. "My arch-nemesis thinks he's a character from Clue."

"Have you seen some of Batman's villains?" he said sympathetically. "Calendar man? Poison Ivy? Mr. Freeze? No matter how seriously you take yourself in this business, you're going to have some real 'winners' who invade your territory." He was NOT making me feel better.

"I don't need you to read the riot act, or given a pep talk, ok? I'm a grownup, even though no one treats me like one. My wife doesn't think I can handle a college professor by myself, and my family's been acting crazy and all avoiding me and stuff since I tried to get two of those cruiser ships to fire on each other. /I/ thought it was a good idea, even if no one else did." It was probably irrelevant that it had worked. "They sent me to Robin to learn all that tactical stuff as a kid, and now they're mad?" I wasn't one to talk about my family problems with people—especially the Man of Steel, but maybe if he knew that he couldn't solve these problems, he'd go away, and would quit being a Man-door.

"You're not the only one with emotional baggage," he informed me.

"Yeah, I know, ok? I'm just being pathetic. Can I be pathetic in private?"

"Jordan… I probably can't help you with Mara. But I might be able to help with Kyle and Allen."

Excuse me while I jump for joy, I thought to myself.

"How much did they ever elaborate on your mother's death?"

"You are NOT bringing this up now." I'd seen the file footage, I'd heard my dad's version, and it was still sketchy in my mind. Still—I didn't need painful memories on top of all my other problems.

"I think that's why they're upset. I saw that maneuver when I was running cover for Nightwing and his group—Your mother saved her Infinity group, and the Justice League by putting herself in the middle of opposing forces." I looked away from him, not really wanting to listen. I'd seen the force field give out on the footage; I'd heard dad talk about how she'd managed to take out three entire groups of armored metahumans.

"Fine." I told him with the same kind of stoic attitude my wife had perfected a long time ago. "So that's why they're avoiding me."

"They just don't want to loose you too, or see you get hurt."

"People die and get hurt all the time in this business. Most of them don't come back from the dead, some of them stay hurt and crippled. That's the way it works." I'd always tried to be realistic about the life I'd been sucked into. I lived with knowing Mara might not come home one night, or all that it'd take is one bad plan and a supervillian to make me an orphan. "They don't trust me," I finished. "They don't think I'm capable—look, it doesn't matter what they think, ok? Mara'll calm down, they'll calm down, and everything'll be just fine, the way it always was." Yeah. Just fine. No one would trust me, my life would continue to suck, and I'd never have a night alone with my wife again as long as I lived. Just fine.

* * *

I avoided my family the rest of the afternoon. The area we were trying to clear was large enough that it wasn't difficult. The thought came to me that it'd probably be wise to let them work mom-angst out of their systems before I tried approaching them again.

Fortunately, I was relieved of the burden of trying because Young Justice had found their way back home, like abandoned yet determined puppies. I was informed by Troia that I had to read them the riot act for chasing after an enemy ship and going into uncharted territory without permission. This was my life. Get reprimanded for Young Justice, then pass the heat down the line. Hey, someone had to do it, and why not Jordan Rayner? He can be everyone's whipping boy.

In my favorite recreation room, I stared at six dirty faces with their round, pensive eyes. "Would someone like to tell me WHY you thought that was a good idea?"

"Well, we couldn't ASK YOU," Amy Renoir (also known as a Twilight) announced hotly. She hated being called into question for anything—ever. She was all of Mara's arrogance with NONE of her discipline. "You were off getting shot at," she pointed out. I could tell she was bristled; she was fading in and out of substance. She only did that was when was miffed.

"I shouldn't need to baby-sit you every minute," I told them. "Superboy is your leader. You're supposed to listen to him." My attention went to the Boy of Steel. "Lemme guess, YOU ran off chasing that cruiser ship right into the wormhole, and everyone followed."

He held up his hands defensively. "It was SO not me. Peaches went chasing after it."

My attention turned to the youngest member of the group, who instantly burst into tears. I sighed, resisting the urge to comfort her. She was only six, and she was incredibly sensitive. Basically she was with Young Justice because she needed structure, desperately. She had as much power, physically, as Superman, and she didn't quite know what to do with it. So far she was completely indestructible. Unlike Kal El, she didn't have a vulnerability like Kryptonite.

Superboy had convinced everyone that he could 'be in charge' of her most of the time. Personally, I thought he just liked the idea of having a sidekick. There were a few powered folks who tried to tutor her on the side, but what she needed was a permanent mentor and family—not a team who's roster changed more often than the Titans.

"Peaches," I said gently. "Peaches, we can't have the meeting if you're going to cry." Right when I said this, she tore both arms off of her chair with one particularly jarring sob.

I felt bad for the girl. She hadn't mastered her strength and as a consequence destroyed everything she touched. It was REALLY hard to make friends that way. She'd been with us for two months, and it was annoying as it was heart-tugging. "You're not in trouble," I reassured her. "We're just trying to figure out what happened, so we can talk about it. This is how we all learn."

My attention turned back to Superboy. "I thought YOU were supposed to keep an eye on her." She was a lot stronger than he was, but he could at least keep after her, we thought.

"She thought she was trying to help," Superboy said defensively. That was the first time in recorded history he tried to deflect some of the blame from someone else, instead of letting them entirely take the fall. That's how I knew he really liked the little girl.

"Ok. Peaches thought she was trying to help. Honey, we can't go flying off after big ships in battle. Even if you thought you could make it not get away. That's how we end up in other dimensions." I was trying to be as diplomatic as possible, while still being firm and adult-like. I didn't want this to turn into one of the many lectures Superman used to give Young Justice in my own teenage years.

"Horus, Aqualad and Screech. Next time, I want you to TALK to an elder before you go chasing off after the rest of the group. You guys are the oldest. All three of you should know better."

Aqualad was the living embodiment of punk. I suppose you had to be, to have a name like Aqualad and not get the crap beat out of you regularly. "You also say we gotta stick with our team and our leader. Make up your mind." Was it me, or did every generation of heroes turn out more dysfunctional and annoying than the last? Maybe I SHOULD join the old guy's club.

I sighed. I DID say that. "Guys… I'm only telling you this once. You have to think ahead. Going off into uncharted territory isn't wise. It didn't help your cause, and it only took longer to disable the ship. We can sort out the blame, and figure out where exactly things went wrong later." I turned back to the little girl in the peach and pink costume. "And Peaches… just stick closer to Superboy next time, alright?"

The girl nodded.

"Good. Go back and like… meditate on what you guys did wrong." I wasn't in the mood to nitpick any more. It needed to be done, or they were going to all be delinquents forever and ever, but I just couldn't deal with it now.

They all filed out of the room, somehow surprised that I wasn't giving them a butt-chewing like I'd been ordered to. I was surprised too. It was REALLY tempting to let my frustrations out on them. Still—it seemed like it'd take too much energy to do that, so I didn't.

Waiting till they were gone, I decided to go see if I should be expecting divorce papers to be filed any time soon.

* * *

"So what I'm saying is that I'm trying to be understanding, and stuff, and let everyone get all their emotional stuff out of the way, but I want to know where I stand. Am I still in the doghouse?" I asked my wife. She was staring at the opposite wall. "I guess that's a YES."

I threw myself into the chair beside her bed. "Too bad I'm going to sit here until I hear from you one way or another, though." It suddenly got really, REALLY quiet.

"I thought you had 'important stuff' to do," she answered finally.

"Young Justice is having a 'time out', and my family isn't talking to me. That leaves YOU. And that marriage certificate says we're stuck with each other—till you decide otherwise."

"And why the hell are you so sure it's going to be ME that gives up?" Was it me, or had we been about to make love before all this started? It seemed like a lifetime ago that we could even stand to be near each other.

"Because I'm too damned in love with you, and you're going to just have to live with that," I told her angrily. "And I'm stubborn." The whole stupid world was going to hate me with or without my approval, so I might as well just keep plugging along. Besides, everyone'd get back to normal, right? Thos kids'd bounce back and go do something to redeem themselves, dad and grandpa'd get over their mom thing, and Robin'd remember that she married me because I'm persistent, and the only person who'd put up with her. I just had to be patient.

"You're a pain in my ass, THAT'S what you are."

I let that last statement hang in the air. Slumping in the chair, I watched her turn back to the wall and take an interest in it. I kept asking myself the same question over and over—what was WITH everybody today?

Unable to find an answer, I closed my eyes and tried to relax. I had a feeling I'd be sitting here for a while.

* * *

I watched the pancakes in the frying pan. The last batch had burned. I'd thrown them into the garbage can, which had melted the plastic liner and had caused a huge mess. I had it figured out though. I had to wait until the sides were firm, then flip them quickly. I could do this.

Watching them intently, I slid the black plastic turner under the pancakes then turned. The pancakes broke apart and turned to mush in the pan. I slammed the whole mess off of the stove.


Spinning around, I saw dad in the door way, rubbing an eye with his hand. "I screwed them up!" I said with painful frustration.

"Rome wasn't built in a day."

"Any idiot can make pancakes."

"You'll learn. You just have to--" Dad couldn't talk any more. He turned around and went back into the bedroom.

I was trying to learn how to cook so he wouldn't starve. I was trying to be an adult. Dad saved the world—MOM saved the world—and I couldn't make breakfast.

Taking the heavy silver ring out of my pocket, I stared at it. Why couldn't I just make pancakes? Yesterday the waffles came out of the toaster soggy, and it took two tries. All I'd done was make a mess with the grilled cheese last night…

Throwing the ring against the wall, I felt my eyes well up with tears. I heard it clatter against the linoleum, then the room was silent—except for the soft hiss of the burner on the stove. I didn't want the ring. The Justice League could shove it up their butts for all I cared. What I wanted was my mother back.

Sitting on a stool at the island, I stared at the blue flame coming from the front burner on the stove. There was still part of me that was on fire inside, that same feeling that had erupted in me when the Justice League gave me news of my mother. She'd died saving other people, they told me. And that was ALL they told me. Dad couldn't talk about it. He pressed his lips together firmly and shook his head every time her name was mentioned. He'd only barely endured the funeral. All he could do was hold on to my arm so tightly I thought it'd break, and keep shaking his head.

That had been two days ago. Since then I'd been learning how to cook and was trying to clean my room. There was something oddly soothing about trying to put all one hundred fifty-seven issues of Stellar Man in order, and digging out all the copies of Captain Cosmic and putting them in boxes to get them off of my floor. Mom had wanted my room clean. That was the last thing she asked me to do before she and dad had been called up…

I sighed, thinking back to Captain Cosmic #100. I'd been six when that came out. I was in first grade, and dad had picked up two copies on the way home from his 'other' job. One to read, and one to keep in the neon plastic bag. Dad knew how important this comic was. Captain Cosmic was supposed to be coming back from the dead.

Mom had sat me on her lap and smiled as she read it to me. When we got to the end, and Captain Cosmic burst out of the sun, alive and well and restored completely, she got quiet. She put her head on mine and just let it rest there.

"Jordy… sometimes, super heroes stay dead," she informed me.

"Nuh uh," I responded. "They always come back. Like Galaxy Lady. And Kid River. And Superman." It wasn't just comic heroes that came back. The really good super heroes did too. Like that Hal Jordan guy I was named after. He wasn't completely alive, but he wasn't dead either. Heaven was just some place super heroes went between when they were alive and when they came back to life. "And Green Arrow," I added.

She had that 'you'll understand when you're older' look on her face. "You know, Jordy… you're my favorite baby boy."

I was her only baby boy. But if I pointed THAT out, she'd tickle me. And if she tickled me, she'd end up hurting the comic book. You just didn't do that. "I like being the favorite." Mostly, I just liked being the baby.

"You know about mommy and daddy's 'other job', right Jordy?" Yeah. The one I wasn't allowed to talk about in school, because mom might be like Galaxy Lady—and everyone knew who she was, but dad was like Kid River. No one knew who he was yet. "Well, we might end up in heaven some day."

"You'll come back," I said knowingly.

"Daddy or me might be there a long time. I just don't want you to be mad that we're there for a while." She pinched my nose. "And no bugging Hal Jordan to make us come back sooner. He's very busy."

It only took Captain Cosmic six issues to get 'un-dead', how long would it take my mom? Oh, I knew better now. I was two months shy of my thirteenth birthday. I knew all kinds of things now. Like what happens to daddy's secret identity when you tell the guidance councilor that daddy has an 'other' job. I was happier when she thought I meant drug dealing. And, sometimes, good superheroes DIDN'T come back from the dead.

I'd stopped waiting for John Stewart—Uncle John—to come back from the dead around my ninth birthday. That's when I realized mommy and daddy had dangerous jobs. And they might be spending some serious time with God in heaven.

That was also when I'd promised myself I'd deal with it like a man if anything ever happened. After all—good heroes didn't die. They just relocated to heaven.

I found the ring alone on the floor near the refrigerator. Picking it up, I put it on my index finger and stared at it a minute.

An ugly, malformed hand reached from the ring and shut off the gas on the stove. Mom hated it when we wasted gas and electricity. And if she DID happen to come back—I didn't want to be grounded for the rest of my life. Everyone knew that folks in heaven could see everything you did.

Picking up the pan, I scraped it out to try again. Dad might not want to—but he had to eat.

* * *

"JORDAN!" A harsh voice snapped me out of my dream, and I fell out of my chair and onto the floor. My knees hit the linoleum with a thud, waking me fully. "Quit snoring."

I looked up at my angry wife. "Excuse me for living, your holiness."

"There's no excuse," she said hotly.

I leapt to my feet, ready for action. "Look, I know you have grief and anger management issues, but that's no reason to take it out on me." It just dawned on me, right then and there. It was May. Bruce had died in May. The anniversary wasn't that far away. "Look. I'm sorry. I'm going to just shut up now."

"Yeah," she told me. "You do that."

"I… I know you loved him." I found myself missing my mother right now, so I could sympathize with her grief. And it wasn't an anniversary of any sort. Just getting myself nearly blown up and having a half-conversation with Superman brought back too many memories.

"Jordy, I thought you were going to shut up already."

"I love you too."

"I never said anything about love. All I asked was for you to shut up."

I clenched my hands in frustration. "Well, I love YOU. Deal with it."

"If you love me, then shut up. If you're going to sit here, then just be quiet. Because you're not getting anything out of me." God up in heaven, she was so stubborn.

"You're the living embodiment of selfish, you know that?" I ground out. It had been on my lips all afternoon. She scowled at me with a look at that could sink a thousand ships. "You OBVIOUSLY think you're the only one who ever lost anyone. EVER. You're not. So shut the hell up."

Turning on my heals, I exited the room. I vacated the entire med wing as fast as possible and went back to the rec room, throwing myself on the ugly red sofa. Even IT offended me. Mara and I had spent too many good times on the thing. Now all I could do was sit here and contemplate what I was sure was my impending divorce. I couldn't stay with dad, he was struggling over mom, and I'd goofed today and reminded him of her. I didn't have a FREEKING JOB, so getting my own place was going to be hard. I'd manage. It's what I always did.

I was sure I could always find a bridge to sleep under.

Why the hell did she think she was the only one who mattered?

I tugged the ring off my finger and glared at it. It was the source of all of my problems. I'd have never met her. I'd never be sitting here. My mom would still be here.

The temptation to throw it across the room was overwhelming. But what I really wanted to do was beat the living hell out of it, tell it how I REALLY felt about it. For lack of anything better to do, I clutched the ring in one hand, then leaned back and covered my eyes with the other, trying to sort my life out. God… I hadn't been this screwed up as a TEENAGER.

Can God make a boulder so big, even He can't lift it? Can a Green Lantern will his ring out of existence?

Sometimes, I wanted to will MYSELF out of existence.

"Jordy?" a small voice asked me. "Did I get everybody in trouble?"

Pulling my hand off my eyes, I saw Peaches standing in the doorway. "No," I reassured her. "They're big kids. They don't need help getting into trouble. They find it all by themselves." Maybe I SHOULD still be in Young Justice. I'd certainly gotten myself in deep this time.

"They're not talking to me. I just want everybody to like me."

I rubbed the sofa next to me, and she sat down. "Superboy likes you," I affirmed. "You're his little side-kick." Even if you CAN throw him through a wall. "Sometimes teenagers… need to act stupid. It's what they do." See, I could relate. I'd been one, not long ago.

"I want to be friends, and help people," she said, her pink lower lip popping out in a little pout.

Without forethought, I wrapped my arm around her. "Peaches… everything'll be fine. You just need to let the other kids do THEIR thing, and you do YOUR thing right now."

"What's my thing?" she asked innocently.

I thought about that. "I don't know. We'll have to find you something. And you can figure stuff out for yourself, and they can figure stuff out for themselves. It'll be fun."

"Do you figure stuff out?" she asked. Her brown eyes were so round and innocent. The blonde pony tail sticking out of her hood wagged back and forth, waiting for my answer.

"Well, sometimes I think I have things figured out, then I surprise myself with just how dumb I am." True confessions to a six year old. Looser, thy name is Jordy.

"You're not dumb." Great, and I was now being reaffirmed by a six year old that I wasn't, in fact, dumb.

I pulled her little hood off of her little head. "Why don't you see who's on monitor duty? If it's Superman or Wonder Woman, they can play with you a little." Unfortunately, it was impossible for her to play with someone who wasn't as indestructible as she was.

She bit that cute little lip of hers, and I felt bad. I wished like heck I could do something for her to make it better for her. "I don't want to play. I'll stay here 'cause you're sad."

A sigh escaped me before I could stop it. "Honey, you don't have to sit here because I'm sad."

"Wanna make you feel bedder."

"You're not responsible for my feel—I mean… It's not your fault I'm upset." I rubbed her hair a little. "I'll turn on the TV for you. I've got some DVD's you'll like. Ok?"

She nodded. Peaches was a pest, she had no self-confidence, and she was probably the most destructive force in the universe, but she made me sad. It was because I knew too much about how she felt.

Finding something innocent and cute for her to watch, I left her to the mindless entertainment of the boob tube, and went back to the med wing.

The door opened with a rush of compressed air, and I walked past the half- curtain. Guess who was staring at the wall still?

"Coming back to level more insults at me?" Mara asked angrily without looking up. I really needed to hook myself up with some of her voodoo ninja training.

I rubbed the scar on my forehead. "No. I got one thing to say. Two things. I'm here, I exist, and everyone better start treating me like it. And second, I'm sick as all hell of being surrounded by people, and being completely alone! There! FINE! I'm DONE!" There was some sort of vindication in saying exactly what I thought for what was probably the first time in my life. I turned and left as fast as my legs could take me, though, for fear of verbal retaliation and went back to where Peaches sat, happily watching television.

There was only one safe place right now. And it was with the most destructive girl in the universe.

* * *

Sitting down next to the tiny girl, I put my arm around her and squeezed. Superboy said that if you hugged her often enough, she'd be less inclined to try to hug you. For a non-powered like me, it could be lethal. She'd broken a bunch of ribs and gave him internal injuries the day they met—a scared little girl who'd just lost her mother, and totally unaware that her mother's passing had unleashed her powers. There certainly were a lot of us momless kids running around.

"You like this?" I asked, looking up at the brightly colored bunnies bouncing with their baskets of 'care' and 'love' and 'joy'. I didn't watch the stuff. Jimmy's kids did. I swear.

Peaches nodded with enthusiasm. "I usedta watch with mommy."

"You miss her, huh?"

She looked up at me, biting her little lip. "Uh huh. Everything's different without mommy." That was putting it mildly. She never had powers until her mother died. She didn't live with Superboy—permanent teenager. She also didn't fly off into space and chase down alien ships and follow them into other dimensions. She'd been a first grader who liked teddy bears and cartoons.

Among other things, she was a kid after my own heart.

I was so worried about everyone treating me like a competent person—like an adult—but I really wasn't, I didn't think. I still watched cartoons, I thought stuffed animals and cookies were the answer to everything—either I wasn't an adult, or I just wasn't straight.

And I wanted to be a dad? I really was the most pathetic creature on the face of the earth. There was a reason Young Justice had been dumped on me—I fit right in.

"What if I hung out with you and Superboy for a while? You know… sleep on the couch." Kon really couldn't turn me down, could he? I'd gone to bat for him when they wanted to place Peaches in a 'normal' foster home. I'd pleaded with the right people to at least give him a chance. Not only did Kon deserve that, but a normal environment was a disaster waiting to happen, in my opinion.

"Kon said no overnight guests."

"Well, if he says yes, can I stay over?"

She shrugged.

I sighed and rubbed her hair again. "We'll talk to him later. When he's done having 'big kid' time." I put her arm around me, careful to not put her in a position where she'd be tempted to grab and rip my arm off, or crush me to death. We'd had a long talk before about not touching very hard. Still—she was a little girl, and she forgot things easily. "You know…" I added finally. "I miss my mom too."

Her head turned and she looked up at me with wide eyes that weren't necessarily innocent—but they were still child-like. "Did your mommy die in a car accident too?"

I shook my head no. Opening my hand, I showed her the ring. "This was my mom's. They gave it to me when she died, and I took her place." I choked, suddenly. "She… died saving her teammates." Not knowing what to do, I hugged Peaches closer to me.

"Maybe your mommy and my mommy have tea and hotdogs together in heaven."

I had to smile. "Maybe they are." At least she wasn't holding onto childish notions of people coming back.

"I miss her. But I get to help people. That makes it a little better."

"It does, doesn't it? Do you ever feel--" I stopped myself. It wasn't something you asked a six year old.

With one finger she gently touched just the lock of hair that had fallen into my eyes, then pushed it away from my brow. "Feel like what?"

"Like you have to? Obligated?" That wasn't any way for a little kid to feel.

She shrugged. "Naw. Haveta clean your room, and brush your teeth. GET to help people." God, she was so much better adjusted that I was.

"You have a really good way of looking at things," I told her. Bless her little heart. "I think once you figure out about your powers, and the way we do things, you're going to be OK." I tried to be encouraging, and still put some discipline into her. I didn't want to emotionally scar her, but I didn't want her to end up like Twilight—no discipline. Ok, so maybe I was attached to The Bad News Bears I'd been saddled with.

"Jordy… do you think I can ever hug people again? And do stuff without breaking stuff?" If only we could figure out an effective way to reign in her strength…

"You can do anything you put your mind to. And you got a lot of people who want to help you..."

"There's lots of people around, but I sit all by myself."

I kissed her forehead. "I know." I was painfully aware of that feeling. Now that I admitted that I had it, and I didn't like it—the feeling was almost overwhelming.

"Peaches… Superboy is looking for you," a barely recognizable voice whispered.

I kept my arms wrapped around the girl, though. "Peaches and I were just having a chat," I told Mara without turning around. I hoped she ripped ALL of those stitches out. It would serve her right. "I've said everything I have to say to you."

"So, you're moving in with Superboy," she said hotly.

I shook my head, then gently pushed the girl off of my lap. "Why don't you go find Superboy? He can make you mac-n-cheese in the kitchen." She floated up into the air for a second, thinking about it. "We can watch more cartoons later," I assured her.

"Ukkay." She looked over my shoulder. "You're Robin? Robin without the mask?"

Mara didn't respond. I didn't expect her to. She wasn't big on conversation with people she didn't know.

"I'm gonna be just like you when I grow up," Peaches assured her, then very carefully glided out of the room.

"The kid needs to get a new hero," Mara began. I turned around. She was hunched over, obviously in pain. Thrown around her bandaged and taped body was her torn cape. She looked like hell. "So you keep telling me I'm stuck with you, then you take off? That's your solution?"

"I figured it'd be prudent," I said coolly, "to find a place to sleep BEFORE you filed the divorce papers."

"Bastard." She leaned against the doorway. I fought every urge in my body that wanted to get up and help her, despite whatever protests she'd lodge. "You're not alone," she informed me. "That's all you need to know." She began turning to leave, but it was slow going. I hoped she was happy—tearing herself opened like that.

"Fine, just go."

Her fist slammed against the wall. "What do you want me to say?"

"Nothing. Ok? Just go." My face froze and I looked away from her. The last fight we'd had that was this serious had ended with the scar I now bore above my eyebrow.

She didn't leave though. Fights were never that simple."What DO you say to the only guy you THINK has his head on straight, when you find out he doesn't?" She pressed her forehead to the edge of the metal door recessed in the jam.

"Why do I always have to have it together?" I asked.

"Because you're Jordy!"

I couldn't stand it any more. I put the ring back on and a green field reached out and pushed a chair near the door. "Sit down, before you give ME an ulcer. Why do I always have to have it together for everyone else, huh? Where the hell did THAT rule come from?"

"I don't know!" she answered harshly. "Why the hell do you always ACT like everything's ok?"

My jaw clenched closed for a moment. It was supposed to be unmanly to cry. "Because I want it to be," I told her. Damnit. I was having some kind of teenage angst moment. I didn't like it. "What the hell are you doing here anyways?" I asked, a sudden pain swelling within me. "Afraid I'd throw myself out an air lock?"

She showed absolutely NO reaction to that. "If that's what you think of me…"

Good she was leaving.

But she didn't get up.

"Are you going, or WHAT?" I asked finally.

Her jaw set, and she glared at me. "If we get divorced, it'll be because YOU do it. So if that's what you want, you're going to have to say it. And I'm not leaving till you do. Because I'm stubborn, and I love you."

I pinched my eyes shut.

"I didn't come in here because I thought you'd do something that stupid," she told me calmly. "I came in here because you hurt."

Suddenly, I couldn't catch my breath. I stared into the palms of my hands, trying to start my lungs, and more importantly, my heart again.

"You're not alone," she reassured me. Her words hung in the air until I found my breath.

When I sucked it in, finally, it was dry and tasted metallic in my throat. "No. I'm in places full of people, and I'm all by myself."

"That's my fault," she said. It wasn't sarcastically, either. It was… strangely like she was accepting responsibility. "And we notice you."

"But none of you have any faith in my abilities," I affirmed.

She slowly pushed herself to her feet, then pressed the panel next to the door to close and lock it. With great care, she made her way over to me, and sat down on the red sofa beside me. "I won't make excuses for my behavior. Or anyone else's." A purple and grey hand reached out from behind her cape and grabbed mine. She stared down at the silver ring, then stroked it, and my wedding ring with her thumb. "You're a… teddy bear," Mara admitted finally.

My shoulders slumped further. "I guess I need to grow up. Then everyone'll stop treating me like a child."

"No. Don't," she told me. "It's part of your charm." Her hand squeezed mine quickly, and then relaxed again. "It doesn't mean you're… immature. It's the part of you that cares. Takes care of everybody else."

"I'm a home room mom," I amended.

"You're a hero. And you don't think you are. That's why you are." She must have sensed my uncertainty. "That is why your father is upset. I was upset. When I heard what you did."

"I get my face pounded in every third Tuesday of the month, and you guys're worried about that? I put myself between two cruisers and made them fire on each other. No one TRUSTS me. You trust PEACHES more than you trust me."

"Peaches is indestructible. You are not."

I opened my mouth to protest, but she covered my lips with hers. When she finally let me go, Mara looked into my eyes with abject sincerity. It frightened me. "And we don't want to lose our heart and soul."

"Mara… people die…" I began.

"And sometimes they don't come back from the dead," she finished. "I've heard it. I've already lost the man who taught me EVERYTHING about life. I don't want to lose the man who taught me everything about love. So just shut up and let us be overprotective sometimes. You're so much to so many people—let us be psychotic occasionally on your behalf."

I couldn't help it. I had to smile. This was why I loved her. Why I needed her. My lips somehow latched on to hers again.

She and her 'kind' planned for everything, so the emotional wouldn't happen. I planned for the emotional… Neither of us had found a surefire way to deal with life or death. There really wasn't one, was there?

Finally we pulled our lips apart… just a little bit. "Jimmy said he can get me the name of a good therapist," I said with half a smile.

"Jimmy's just mad that I won't 'donate' the money for the invoice," she purred back.

There was a miniscule rapping at the door. We both looked, but ignored it. Doors were locked for reasons.

"You're kind of sexy when you talk about financially torturing your brother…" I trailed off with a grin.

There was a loud pop as a Peaches sized hole appeared in the door. "I told you they were making yucky noises," she told Superboy. Add super hearing to her list of ramped running 'talents.'

"Kon!" I cried in mock-frustration. "She is NOT your personal spy-girl." Energy slithered out of the ring and wrapped around both of us and lifted us into the air. If I couldn't give it back—I might as well use it. "Wanna find a quieter, lead-lined place to catch up?"