Standard disclaimers apply.

Hehe more Jordy! Guess this becomes #4 huh?

A New Start

**

Jimmy woke to a sound in the distance, a high-pitched sound, with a down beat… not 70's porn. No. That'd mean his sister had her sense of humor back, and that he'd actually gotten some last night. No… his wife had been too busy saving the universe to make more little Graysons. He started to drift off to sleep again, thinking happy thoughts of porn music, and how he used to torment his sister with it, when there was a chirping laugh, then a roll like thunder.

Rolling to the edge of the water bed, he tried not to create too many waves getting out. His honey-bunny had worked hard last night, and needed some sleep before it was time to play tag-team with the twins, and deal with the inevitable weirdness that accompanied holidays. His sister had another thing coming if she thought they were going to eat something OTHER than grilled food today. She was SUCH a dysfunctional pest.

There was another thundering sound, right below his window. It wasn't even dawn yet, and someone was in the drive way, playing basket ball. Which was really strange, because no one had used the hoop since he'd finally gotten bigger than Mara, and had sent her out the window, and into the hoop. And then he'd found himself duct taped to the ceiling again, which didn't work any more because the paint was old and he was too heavy, and he landed on the dining room table, thus breaking it, and then mom had beat them both with a wooden spoon… after that they'd decided to not perpetuate the circle of violence any more and not use the basket ball hoop any more. And dad popped the ball. On purpose. With a wing-blade. In front of them, while they watched.

Slowly pulling back the curtain, he saw his sister and his best friend bouncing the ball back and forth in the driveway, occationally taking half- hearted shots at the basket under the window. She was wearing a pair of those short pants that chicks wore, and a striped tank top. What was the occasion? She looked like a normal human being?

The driveway was short, only a car length and a half long, so it was hard to see them once they got closer to the basket. They moved out again, under the still-glowing street light, still jabbering away a good bit.

Jordy was a good guy. He deserved to be happy. It just irked Jimmy that his sister was what he thought made his friend happy. She was a complete hose- beast, even WITH massive therapy.

Jimmy noticed that she was the only one taking shots at the basket… and she was getting pretty close. His insidious mind hadn't done anything really rotten to anyone in a long time (except for the last invoice he sent the Justice League), so he held back his chuckle and grabbed the dirty diaper pail.

He opened the window, then paused before he grabbed the container of dirty diapers… his mother was going to kill him for this. Then she'd say that he OBVIOUSLY wasn't mature enough to live on his own with his family, if he couldn't restrain himself from doing horrible things to his sister. His hands twitched nervously with indecision. Until he heard the greatest piece of dirt of all.

"You can't keep calling the baby 'our little camping trip,'" Jordan told his sister.

No. He wasn't going to dump dirty diapers on her. He was going to do something far worse. Especially since Plastic Man usually got online in about twenty minutes.

The ball hit the rim and bounced out. It must have been Jordy shooting, Little Miss Perfectionist would never casually miss. "Well, it's too early to think up names."

"Why? I'm thinking… if it's a boy, we'll name him after your grandfather. And if it's a girl… and you don't mind… we can name her after my mom?"

Even in the dim light, he could see the color draining from her face as she came back into view. "Can we… can we just wait on names?"

He stopped bouncing the ball. "Mara… everything's going to be fine this time."

Jimmy felt a twinge of guilt within him as he eves dropped on their private conversation below. Most of the time, he had no problem. When he was in high school, listening in on his sister's private moments was one of his favorite pastimes. But this… well, the emotional stuff made him feel guilty.

"I just don't want to lose this one," she admitted quietly.

Jimmy's hand went to the window to push it back down. He didn't want to hear any more.

"You're not going to lose this one," Jordan consoled. "Now come on. You're the one who wanted to play pick-up. Start picking up." He bounced the ball to Mara.

"Jimmy… get back in bed," Crystal ordered, still asleep.

Quickly and quietly, he closed the window, and jumped back on the bed, the wave pushing them both around.

* * *

"Jimmy, get down here," Barbara called up the short flight of steps leading to her son's apartment above the garage. It was right above the kitchen, so she never bothered calling them until breakfast was ready. But today, breakfast was waiting on the table, and his wife was waiting for him, and he was messing around on the computer. "Jimmy, this is the last time I'm telling you." That boy would NEVER be ready to live on his own.

"COMING!" the young man howled, typing quickly. There was a pause in the low-sounding clicks, and then he came bowling down the steps, a grin of satisfaction upon his face.

"Jimmy, what did you just do to your sister?" his mother asked knowingly.

"MAN. You're SO accusatory. Who said I did anything to Snivel-Snot?" he looked at the people gathered around the table, and pretended to be startled to see her there. "I mean…"

"Whatever you did," she said darkly, "you'd better UNDO it."

Barbara rolled up behind her son, and bashed him in the calves with her chair. "Your sister brought breakfast, and she's going to cook lunch, and you haven't been doing ANYTHING to help me out around here, so I suggest you behave yourself."

Sitting across from Jordy, Jimmy attempted to look contrite. That little piece of information about Robin being knocked up had sold for more than he thought it would. It was about time he started making money off of Uncle Roy and Plastic Man, instead of losing it.

"Jimmy, just get up when your mother calls you," Kristen ordered, sliding her arm around his. She couldn't believe the twins were still asleep, and she wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to have some quality time at home alone with her family.

"So… um… anything new happening in your lives?" he asked casually as his father came into the kitchen.

Dick closed the drapes over the sink against the early morning sun, then headed directly to the coffee maker. The shocks of grey hair adorning his temples were standing straight up in the air.

"I'd tell you, but then I'd have to kill you," Mara answered sternly.

"God, what's your problem? You were making noise while I was trying to sleep, doing GOD knows what in the drive way, now you're coping the 'tude? And what're you doing here so damned early? You should have stayed in Gotham so you could bring Grandpa. Now I'm going to have to drive alllll the way there, because you're too dumb to just wait there." He snatched a pastry off the plate in the center of the table and shoved it into his face, relieving him of the burden of continuing his diatribe.

"Lay off," Jordy warned. "We were out all night, and no where NEAR Gotham. And if it makes you feel any better, I can bring him Lantern express—but he didn't like that very much the LAST time."

The front door swung opened and all heads turned toward the outer hall. "Don't walk away from me when I'm yelling at you!" Tim screamed from outside.

"Don't yell, and I won't walk away! Mr. Stupid Tim who's too stupid to even TALK to me because all he does is YELL!" Cassandra stomped her feet as she entered the kitchen, waddling as she went. "Get him away from me!" she ordered Barbara, who wheeled herself into the doorway as a physical obstruction.

"What did he do NOW?" Dick asked with frustration.

"ME? SHE'S the one who fought with me the whole way up here about driving! I'm not letting her drive! She's too fat."

Cassandra picked up the nearest thing, which happened to be a bottle of dish soap, and leveled it at Tim's head. She was very displeased to see him catch it and a few tiny bubbles squirt out the nozzle.

"And so it begins," Mara said grimly. "Didn't they get it out of their systems at Christmas?"

"I'm not too fat!"

"Ten bucks on Cass wailing off and decking Tim," Jordy grumbled.

"Your stomach's pressing up against the wheel!"

Jimmy looked at his dad. "Twenty on dad decking Tim."

"You're stupid, and I hate you!" Cassandra screamed logically.

Dick slammed his coffee down. "GUYS! HELLO?"

"Fifty bucks on dad and Tim having a catfight in the kitchen," Mara offered, taking a sip of her coffee.

"Stay out of this, Dick! She wants to squish the baby, OBVIOUSLY."

Sammy walked past the fighting adults, her arms wrapped around a purple Shatzi doll. "Cassie and daddy yelled the whole way up," the little girl informed them, going directly to Mara and sitting on her lap. Jimmy gave an annoyed look, but didn't say anything. "You're the sidekick. You tell daddy to stop. And you tell Cassie to stop too."

"I do not! But I'm an ADULT. I can DRIVE. You think no one's ever driven while visibly pregnant before."

Mara quickly kissed the girl's head, pushed the child off her lap, then got to her feet. "STOP IT!" Putting her fingers to her lips, she let out a piercing whistle. "Cass, don't drive if your belly touches the wheel. Tim, you're a jerk, and we've talked about this before. I'm ready to give EVERYONE a time-out."

Tim's arms folded over his chest, and he skirted around Barbara to face his new quary. "Just try."

"Oh my GOD. Did you take JERK pills today? I'm telling you this as your partner—KNOCK IT OFF." She never ever talked to Batman like that IN costume, but this was different. This was TIM, and he was doing a bang-up job of ruining his life… AGAIN. "You have obvious identity and control issues stemming from major emotional upheaval…"

Tim held up a hand for her to stop. "And let me guess, you're the perfect partner."

"Actually, YES, I AM," Mara replied sarcastically. She got an inch from his face and glared into his eyes. "I put the partnership first. And you put being a JERK first."

"Ten bucks on Tim decking Mara," Jimmy offered. Mara slapped her brother upside the head without ever taking her eyes off of her target.

He folded his arms over his chest, making his stand. "Yeah, I know the way you put our partnership first."

"I told you first," she told him quietly.

"Yeah, before you told your HUSBAND." He thumbed at Cassandra. "And this one here never tells her husband ANYTHING until it's over and done with. You all have it in for me."

"Before she told him WHAT?" Dick asked in frustration. The arguments were starting earlier every holiday, he swore. "And what the hell are you people DOING here at the crack of dawn?"

Tim scowled at his partner. "Why don't you tell them."

"You're mad at me, aren't you?" Mara asked angrily. "You're mad at me for breaking up the partnership. Dear Lord. You've been doing this for like a YEAR, and you're so BAT it isn't even FUNNY."

"WHAT?" Barbara asked. "You QUIT?" She wheeled over to the table and grabbed a doughnut. "Happy Independence Day!" she cried out sarcastically. In disgust, she began chewing on it, then got frustrated and threw the doughnut back in the bakery box. "And when were you thinking of telling the rest of us?"

"God! I have a good reason! It's like no one trusts me, or believes me…"

Barbara glared at Jimmy.

The boy held his hands up defensively. "WHAT? This is NOT my fault! Mara, just TELL them already?"

Suddenly her hands were on his head, pulling his whole upper body back by the hair. "And how much do YOU know?"

"See… she never tells anyone anything," Tim complained to the rest of the family.

Jimmy grinned, knowing he was in danger of being seriously hurt. "You, a camping trip, using the basket ball hoop RIGHT UNDER MY WINDOW AT FIVE THIRTY IN THE MORNING. I know EVERYTHING, Bubbles."

"Are you quitting the Titans too?" Dick's kids ALWAYS did things then told him about it AFTER they'd screwed with everyone's lives.

"YES." Mara pushed Jimmy away. "Peeping Tom.You disgust me."

Jordan buried his head in his hands. "If Jimmy knows, Plastic Man knows. We're all gonna die."

"KNOWS WHAT?" Dick asked forcefully.

Mara picked up her bag and slung it over her shoulder. "I'm not telling anybody anything. Not when you're all yelling." She weeded through the crowed in the kitchen, pushing Tim out of her way, and went out the front door, slamming it.

Jordy knew better than to try the same. Using his ring's energy, he floated above the congregation and out the door. His wife walked to the end of the driveway and kicked the empty plastic garbage cans out into the street. "Mara! Come on! You should just calm down, and explain everything…"

Mara caught up with one of the errant flying trash receptacles in the street and kicked it again. "I wanted it to be HAPPY. But… but…" She stopped chasing the can down the street. Meeting up with it one final time, she uprighted it, then swallowed her emotions.

"They're going to be happy," he told her. "Just give them a chance."

"They have to start out happy."

Jordy restrained himself from rolling his eyes. "They'll get happy. And it'll be OK. Come on. Do you want me to tell them?" he gently grabbed her arm, and began pulling her, and the garbage can back towards the house.

"No. I'm not telling them anything," she said, her voice catching with unshed tears. "Not when they're mean."

The young man bit his cheek. She'd been given to extreme emotions for the last few weeks. Hey. Only seven more months, he consoled himself.

What the hell was HE talking about? He was loving every minute of this. She'd gotten him alone last night, they'd had a nice, fancy dinner with stuff he couldn't pronounce… she talked about actually staffing the house the way it should be staffed… and then she told him WHY. It was taking all he could do to keep from grinning himself stupid at every opportunity. He was going to be a dad, she was going to be a mom, and life was REALLY starting to suck less and less all the time. His Young Justice brats were behaving themselves, Peaches now wore the S-shield but still preferred to be called Peaches, he had found temporary employment doing some web animations for a comic strip writers.. and damnit, they were going to be parents. Nothing in the world could beat it, even Mara getting occasionally weepy.

She sniffed, watching as he put the garbage cans near the house. "Alright. Ready to go back in," she whispered.

"Good. And we'll make 'em happy. Whether they wanna be happy or not." He didn't necessarily subscribe to Mr. Grayson's method of maintaining familial tranquility, but it did seem to calm Mara down a little. "And we're gonna watch the fire works with my dad tonight, so you'll get to escape the family madness, and tell him the good news."

"Yeah. Time to make HIM feel bad and old too," she grumbled, opening the door and going back inside. It was strangely quiet.

Jimmy met them at the door and whispered, "I owe you money. And you'd better just behave. Dad and Tim broke the kitchen table, and then mom smacked them both."

Dick was gathering up the pieces of the table when they found him. He looked incredibly disgusted. They weren't going to be telling HIM any time soon.

Tim was outside scraping the sludge off the grill, his back to the sliding glass door, which was good. He couldn't see Cassandra turning from the television and scowling at him at every chance she got. Sammy was sitting with Kristen, playing with the twins.

"Ever get the feeling this family's too big for family dinners?" Mara asked patiently.

"Don't even SAY that. One of us still has to go get grandpa. Which isn't going to be happy or good if we're all still fighting, cause I really don't need him threatening to shoot everyone so he can have some peace and quiet." Jimmy sighed. "Lets all just get through the rest of the day in peace? PLEASE?" Usually that was what everyone said, but that's never really what happened.

"Is this before or after I kick your ass for being a jerk and a twad?" Mara asked skeptically.

* * *

Mara let herself into her mother's computer room. She didn't make very many visits up here lately. "Jimmy said you wanted to see me?" Was she in trouble? Usually she only got yanked up here when she was in trouble.

Her mother turned away from the computer, and had some unidentifiable look upon her face. Maybe it was unhappiness, maybe it was surprise. "So… sweetie. Guess you just found out, huh?"

"Huh?"

"That's your news," Barbara pointed out, a warm smile lighting her face. "You're expecting."

Mara found herself blushing, just as badly as she had the night her mother had caught her after losing her virginity. "Well…"

"Mara, I just pulled up your medical reports to be sure." She took her daughter's hand. "I'm happy for you honey. I know you've wanted this for a long time. And I know everyone down stairs is loud and obnoxious. But they'll be happy too."

Tearing the handkerchief out of her back pocket, she blew her nose. "No they wont. Tim hates me, and dad'll be mad I'm leaving the Titans a man short, and everyone else hates me too, so I'm not telling them anything about anything."

"That's my little girl… stubborn to the end. They're going to figure out sooner or later."

Tears began streaming from Mara's eyes uncontrollably. "No they're not, because I'm moving to New York."

Biting back a smile, Barbara hugged her eldest child. "You're not moving to New York."

"You can't stop me."

Barbara wagged a finger. "I have ways. Now listen to me. Tim doesn't hate you. He's just a nut. And your father isn't going to be mad. He's your father before he's the Titans' leader. And believe me, Titans are a dime a dozen."

Mara smiled tearfully at her mother. "You know how to make a girl feel wanted."

"Self-esteem is for other kids," Barbara assured her. "You look like you've been up all night. That's why you're grumpy. Go take a nap, and we'll call you when lunch is ready."

"Jimmy'll burn it," Mara protested.

Barbara began pushing her child to the door. "I'll watch him and make sure he doesn't. Now do what your mother tells you to do." Getting to the door, she gave the girl a pat on the back. "My baby's having a baby. And you waited until you were married and everything. It's everything a mother could hope for."

Mara headed for her own room, her heart a little lighter. It didn't matter who the father was, whether she was a stable environment for a child or not, but as long as she wasn't screwing up like her brother, that must make it OK in her mother's eyes.

* * *

"Drink this," Dick ordered, thrusting a beer at Tim. He was trying to make amends, and this was his peace offering.

"I don't drink any more," Tim informed him, barely looking up from the grill-sludge.

"Since WHEN?" Dick asked, trying to not get angry again.

"For like a YEAR, man. Where the hell have YOU been?" He wiped off the putty knife; trying to keep his composure it was hard.

Dick's face crunched up in a world-class scowl. "So not only are you following the Bruce method to throwing away your inter-personal relationships, but you're also going his no-alcohol rout. You're headed for an early, boring, lonely grave." He threw back some more beer.

Tim threw the putty knife inside the grill. "YES, I'm going the no-alcohol rout. In case you haven't noticed, you degenerate, I'm an alcoholic. But you WOULDN'T notice that, WOULD you? It figures that the only way YOU could get bumped up to World's Greatest Detective status was that Sherlock Holmes isn't real, and Bruce kicked the bucket."

"God knows that title is NEVER going to YOU," Dick snapped back. Slogging down the rest of the beer, he crushed the can and tossed it onto the picnic table. "Ok. Look, man, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I dove after you in the kitchen, and I'm sorry about the alcohol thing. I really DIDN'T know you had a problem, OK?" That was the shitty part about being in a family full of detectives… folks learned how to hide problems REALLY well. "But I think I'm not the only one to blame."

Tim closed the lid on the grill and lit it, then turned to face him. "Fine. Apology accepted. I'll try not to show up at your house screaming first thing in the morning."

"I think you need to talk to Cassandra too. And Sammy didn't need to see that."

"And who made you the world's most perfect parent?"

Dick sat on top of the table with a sigh. This day had begun far too early. "I'm not perfect, Tim. No one's perfect, ok? I just want to know what's going on with everybody. Mara's been acting strange, and I can't even ask her partner about it, because he goes off the deep end. Just… tell me what's going on with her, and I'll leave you alone, OK? Why'd she quit Gotham? Why's she quitting the Titans?"

"SHE has to tell you that." Tim's voice was laced with bitterness.

"Great. And she's sleeping, and Babs told me I'd die if I woke her up." He wished he had another beer right about now.

"Then I guess you're just going to have to work on being patient. It being a virtue and all."

Not in the mood to deal with any more, Dick retreated into the house.

* * *

Jordan Rayner rolled onto his back, trying to get some air into his lungs. Maybe he SHOULD start training again with Bat-people—he should have seen that last blow coming. Grabbing hold of the air conditioner on the roof of the building he'd spent the afternoon fighting on, he slowly pulled himself to his feet. He kind of appreciated the Bat-folks ability to anticipate what was going to happen, and be prepared. He didn't appreciate their ability to be insane and ruin every holiday simply because it was a holiday.

"Hey, I think we got 'em," his father, Kyle Rayner, called out behind him. Slowly, the young man turned, wondering if that really was the last of the Yellow Coat Militia. He had a bad feeling some new baddies had just moved into New York. At least these guys were obvious—with their yellow coats and all.

"So… um… think there'll still be fireworks tonight?"

"What," his father asked, resting with his hand on his knees for a minute. "That wasn't enough fire works for ya?"

Jordan leaned heavily against the air conditioning unit, the metal grill pressing into his back. "Hah. Hah." His dad STILL thought that everyone wanted a wise-cracking superhero.

"Oh come on, that was a good one."

"Quit getting you standup routines from Eel and Jimmy Grayson, and then come talk to me." He rubbed the cut on his neck gently, trying to see how large it was. It wasn't as bad as it felt, he determined.

"Are you embarrassed by me?" Kyle asked. They'd been so close when he was a kid, and even in high school. He wondered where that had gone in the last few years. Gosh darned, wasn't fair—the kid's wife having his attention now.

"Umm… no?" Jordan replied, trying to think up a good reason why his father should never wise-crack again. "Anyways, here's just what I'm thinking… maybe you should like… lay off the jokes, cause its unbecoming for a guy who's gonna be a grandfather."

It had been worth the price of admission—his father's eyes glazed over, and he had this deer in the headlights sort of look to him.

"Helllooo…" Jordy passed his hand in front of his father's eyes. "Anybody home? You're old now, so you shouldn't be making smart remarks."

"Little kids…" he muttered, licking his lips.

Jordan snapped his fingers. "Da-ad!"

Kyle came back to reality. "Um… that nice," he said indifferently." That earned him a push in the chest from his son. "Ok, fine, it's better than OK. I'm happy for you guys."

"Good… Now act surprised when Mara tells you tonight. If they're still having the fireworks, I wanna get her out of her parents' house. Things've been crazy there all day."

The baddie who'd knocked the wind out of Jordan earlier started to pick up his head. The young man watched him for a moment, considering his options, and bit his lip. He didn't want to be considered MEAN or anything… but…

A hand reached out of the ring, and slapped the man unconscious.

"There. More quiet. Much better. And um… if it's a girl, we wanna name it after mom. If that's ok."

Kyle didn't say anything. He just turned around and flew off.

Jordy looked up at the afternoon sky, searching for answers. "Dad! Come on!" he called out finally, flying after him to catch up. "Come on! We're supposed to be the non-dysfunctional ones." This was about his mom. It was ALWAYS about his mom.

He caught up to his dad half way back to the apartment they used to share. "I think you should make her quit," Kyle said, when Jordy finally grabbed hold of his arm to stop him.

"She's gonna quit till the baby's born."

"They say a Gotham person only leaves the game in a pine box."

Jordy rubbed his eyes, searching for divine guidance. "It probably is. Look, she was trained by the best."

"Who's dead," Kyle pointed out with cruel truthfulness.

"DAD. I'm not going to make her quit. Now it's really REALLY nice that you're so concerned. But I'm gonna tell Robin, and she's going to laugh at you. You know how she feels about being coddled." When they'd been in Young Justice together, she hadn't really even accepted a 'well done' from the Justice League. He was pretty certain she'd flip out about anyone suggesting she hang up her cape permanently. "Come on, dad, be happy for us. We're ecstatic, and everyone around is… is… well, nuts." There wasn't really another word for it. He wasn't sure WHY everyone was picking today to be insane, but there it was.

"I'm not NUTS, Jordan."

"You're not nuts," the young man conceded. "But dad… It's going to work. I am ready for a kid, and I know she's going to be the best mom in the world." He watched, waiting for his dad to contest that statement. His dad didn't say anything about him NOT being ready, and Kyle Rayner had put up with a LOT from Mara over the years, and had usually been one of her supporters, so he said nothing.

"You're going to be a fine dad," Kyle answered dejectedly.

"Do you think I should quit?" He was doing his best to anticipate whatever it was that was the heart of his dad's… gripe.

"You shouldn't quit."

"But SHE should quit."

"I don't know." And Kyle flew off again, and didn't stop or turn back, despite his son's protests, until he was through his own window, and sitting on the couch.

Jordan followed desperately, searching inside of him for words. He stood behind the sofa, and took the remote control out of his father's hand before he could turn the TV set on. "So is this all some sort of… of PUNNISHMENT?" Jordan felt like he was being punished. "Dad… you can't keep getting upset at me for every little thing that reminds you of mom. First of all, she'd kick your ass. And second of all… it isn't fair. I'm sorry I'm here, and I'm sorry that I, and all kinds of other stuff remind you of her, but it isn't our fault. She's dead and she's not coming back, and the rest of us have had to put our lives together and go on… everyone except YOU."

Kyle rested his head in his hands. "This isn't about your mother."

"You were fine till I said we wanted to name the baby after her," he pointed out.

"This is about… Jordan go home. Go home to your wife and just leave me alone, alright? Don't come into my house and… accuse me of things."

"Don't rain on my parade," Jordan answered, flying out the opened window. He'd let his dad brood a little, then try again later. This had been going on for too long. Eight years was too long.

* * *

Barbara stopped surfing for newborn novelty costumes when Dick entered her work room. "Did you fix the table yet?"

"NO. I was going to take it outside and fix it on the lawn, but TIM is out there," he answered.

"Is lunch cooked?"

"I don't know. Tim and I had irreconcilable differences about two hours ago, and we haven't spoken since."

"I'm SO glad you are all capable of acting like adults. If I hear 'he started it' out of your mouth, you're going to be sleeping in your car.

Dick knew better than to protest. He'd get the lecture about not acting childish. There was a reason Jimmy wasn't mature enough o live outside of the house, Dick realized—it was genetic. He really just wanted to pound Tim into the ground in a brotherly sort of way, the same way that he wanted to pound Roy into the ground now and again still. There wasn't really a crime in that, was there?

"Ok. So solve one riddle for me—why did Mara quit everything? Did Tim do something to her? If he did, I'll kick his…"

"Ugg… go talk to her, ok? Everyone knows except you and Kristen and Cassandra anyways. Hell, Plastic Man knows… and if he knows, the whole Justice League knows." Barbara clicked on the button to check out. She knew this was awfully premature, but he was really looking forward to it.

"Why can't you just tell me?" What was this whole family's problem? "I mean… she's acting weird, and she's quitting everything… and you want me to go beat it out of her myself?"

Barbara realized she wasn't going to be persuading anyone to do anything, so she pushed him towards the door. "Go talk to her."

"BABS!" And his wife, who was usually politically neutral, was NOT taking his side.

"Mush. GO. And you'd BETTER act happy by what she tells you, if you know what's good for you."

The door slammed in his face, and he realized he'd been dismissed.

* * *

Flying back towards Gotham, Jordan caught sight of something big and blue, and in his way. "Please God, just tell me WHY everything has to go from bad to worse?" That question escaping his lips was all the proof he needed to know they weren't going to be canonizing Green Lanterns any time soon.

"Jordan!" the Man of Steel called out.

So much for pretending like you just didn't see him, Jordy though.

"Look, unless it's an emergency, I'll be happy to berate Young Justice tomorrow for you. Today's a holiday and I'd like to spend what little is left of it with my WIFE."

"It's nothing with Young Justice. I just wanted to be the first to congratulate you and Mara."

Jordy stopped himself from responding. If he said anything, he'd just end up screaming. He was SO not getting canonized any time soon. Not when he wanted to KILL Superman, every time he saw him. "I'll pass on your well- wishes," he finally managed

"Jordan… why do we always have to be at odds?"

The young man looked down. They were above the suburbs. Not the place he'd really like to have this conversation. Come to think of it, he didn't really want to be having this conversation at all.

"I don't see the problem." Jordan could think of a lot of problems, actually. Nothing that the Man of Steel could possibly begin to understand, though.

"If there weren't a problem, you wouldn't avoid me, and you wouldn't be so short with me." He folded his arms across his chest, in just the manner that irritated Jordan the most.

"I'm just tired, ok? Is there a REASON you can't just leave us alone? Why does this always have to be about YOU, anyways?"

"This isn't just about me. But there's something wrong, Lantern, and we should get it out in the open."

"Look, I'm just testy because I want to go home, ok? It's been a long week, its been a long day. It's been a long everything. Can I go home, and we'll talk about this later?" He tried to move away from Superman, but was thwarted because of the older man's speed in flight. Jordan only wished that he would learn how to fly that fast, or turn that quickly in the air. Jordan sighed in frustration, seeing no way out. "Look, I've always done EVERYTHING you Justice League people have asked of me, INCLUDING you. EVERYTHING. What more do you want?"

"Jordan, why do you dislike me?"

"Do I NEED a reason?" Had he just said that?

"It would be nice to know why."

Jordan glared, refusing to answer.

"This could make it very difficult to conduct ourselves professionally. Down the road."

"Do you have a PROBLEM that there's someone down there that doesn't think you're the greatest thing since sliced bread?"

"I have a problem when someone I work with has a problem."

"Can't we just consider it bad Bruce vibes, and move on?" But Jordan had been thinking… the Old Man's unhidden resistance to the Man of Steel seemed somehow…founded. As if Batman was the only person who really knew what Superman was like—knew how personally it cut to be so close to someone so… completely adverse to your own way of thinking.

"Bad Bruce vibes? At least he and I had a working agreement."

"But he never trusted you." The first time he'd been allowed in the cave, Bruce had ALMOST shown him around.

He still remembered the abbreviated tour: 'This is the computer, don't touch it if you value your life. This is the car—the same.' Then he'd been walked over to a vault, and the combination keyed slowly enough for Jordan to memorize (he was pretty curtain he was expected to), and the door popped opened, a hiss escaping the pressurized space. 'This is the Kryptonite. Just incase.'

"I'd like to think he did."

"He didn't."

Superman inspected him closely, trying to get to the root of their current problem. "And you don't?

"I just don't LIKE you, ok? Do you have to be liked by everybody?"

"No. No, I DON'T need to be liked by everyone. But I don't like knowing that I've hurt anyone. What have I done to you, Jordan?" There was a certain… morally righteous tone in his voice… that hacked at the young man and drove him practically mad.

His face flushed dark green with emotion, rage filling him. "You EXIST!" Engulfing himself in a protective field from his ring, he shot upward, as quickly as his will would permit. He knew he couldn't outrun someone who could fly faster than the speed of sound, but he didn't know what else to do. He shot out of the earth's atmosphere and into space. At least Superman couldn't talk back to him, in the vacuum of space.

Why couldn't that guy just leave well enough alone? Why did he always have to take a 'personal interest' in the young heroes? Why did Mara have to be one of his 'favorites'? Couldn't they just live a life free of Superman?

From Mr. Perfect, with his perfect, rural origins with just the right amount of tragedy (not too much, mind you. Wouldn't want to become a complete brooding freakazoid like Batman). Mr. Perfect, with his always 'doing the right thing' and 'saving everybody'… except when it came to the other cape and tights jobs. Batman was harsh, even down-right cruel, but he NEVER misjudged the capabilities of those around him, and he ALWAYS did what need to be done.

Jordan stopped his progression away from earth. He folded his arms across the Lantern emblazoned on his chest, and turned to watch Superman's approach. When he got within fifty feet, Jordan opened his orb of atmosphere to surround the Man of Steel. "Do you want to know why I hate you? I hate you because of your stupid moral superiority. At least Batman… Batman might have been arrogant, and he acted like he knew everything—but he always did. You… you just pretend like you care about everybody, and that you know right from wrong SO much better than the rest of us. And Batman was a better field leader than you. And… and the Joker's dead."

"Jordan, what is this REALLY about?" Superman had lost the young man's meaning a LONG time ago. "Do you miss Bruce? Is that what this is about? I didn't think you were close…"

"And He's right! You are the MOST clueless person in the galaxy! Did it EVER occour to you, that if Batman was there, my mother wouldn't have died? That if Batman had been left to Luthor, Luthor would have never tried to kill Mara? You SUCK! I wanted to be just like you when I grew up, and you SUCK. I don't even know how you can LIVE with yourself, being such an inferior creature! You treat Peaches like she's a chore to deal with… but you act like Mara's your kin… and you weren't here for her. Bruce would have NEVER let that happen to her. To us. And if it would have happened, Luthor would have been dead, ten minutes after. None of this… this…'let the system handle it'. He protected his family."

Superman's arms fell to his sides, and he swallowed, dropping the façade of Public Hero for a moment, and Jordan got to see Clark Kent, the fallible man. "You feel that I've failed you."

"You know… Mara had another miscarriage this winter," he said quietly. Right after we found out she was pregnant. If she looses this one, I swear to God I'll… I don't know what I'll do." Visions of the vault, and memorized combination flittered through his mind.

"Jordan, I'm sorry. And you're right. If something had been done about Luthor earlier…"

The young Green Lantern clenched his eyes shut.

"Your mother… did what needed to be done. I wish things had turned out differently. Bruce was sorry for the loss of life when he heard, but strategically, he did not complain."

Jordy wished he could swallow, but his throat was too raw. "He would have never sacrificed her."

"She never gave any of us the chance to make a decision. You seem to think I have control over life and death."

"Don't you? The whole world seems to think you're perfect."

Superman looked down at the blue planet. "They don't know me. And I'm not perfect. I'm just a guy trying to do my best."

"A guy who happens to be Superman."

"We all bear the burden of the symbols we wear."

In the bat cave sat a large glass case. It contained a midnight-black costume, a golden shield upon the chest. The vision of the symbol of the Bat within the shield burned in his mind. Some WERE their symbols, they simply did not wear them. There were some heroes that were more real to him than others. The last of HIS heroes had been buried last spring.

"I'm going home," Jordan informed him with quiet resolve. "My wife and I are going to enjoy what's left of her day off. And you're going to leave us the hell alone. Keep your distance from my family, and don't you dare even THINK of coming near our child." He'd made up his mind that she was going to have this child, and nothing was going to happen. And everything would continue being just fine, if he could just keep the major cause of grief in his life at bay. Superman.

"I don't like you," Jordan reiterated. "But I don't have to. There's no rule that I have to. Unless it's work, don't contact us again." He withdrew the orb of atmosphere from around Superman, and enclosed himself tightly, like Batman wrapping himself in his cape, then started for home.

His father had been right, last summer, when he'd said his family came first. He was doing what he needed to do for them. There wasn't even the usual guilt of being unnecessarily cruel to someone—there was only relief from knowing he wouldn't be bothered further.

* * *

Marching down to the room that formerly belonged to his daughter, Dick knocked. "Mara?"

"Is food ready?" a tired voice asked.

"Can I come in?"

"NO."

"Well it's my house, I'm coming in." He opened the door. Mara was curled up on top of the covers on the bed, clutching the pillow to her. "Where's Jordy?" he hadn't seen that kid around the house since after he'd coaxed Mara back into the house.

"Got called up. Stupid Green Lanterns and their stupid… stupidness."

Well, there was something he hadn't heard in about twelve years. "Mara, mom said you had to tell something tell me. Did you quit with Tim because he's a jerk?"

"NO. He's a jerk 'cause I quit."

"Well, tell me what's going on." He wanted to say… tell me so I can fix it, but he knew she didn't accept help from anyone, if she could help it. But… quitting just didn't seem like her. "And… does it mean you have to quit the Titans too?"

"YES I have to quit the Titans too!" she moaned dejectedly. "And I'm not telling anybody because no one's nice to me." He saw the sudden tear stains on the pillow.

"Because no one's NICE to you? When has that EVER stopped you from doing ANYTHING?"

"Shut up. Leave me alone. Nobody likes me."

Dick sat down on the bed, hiding his amused smile. This was someone he hadn't seen in years and years. "Mara, you think no one likes you because Tim got panicky and hysterical today? He's going to be like that until Cass has the baby."

"Tim's mad 'cause of me. And he doesn't like me because I broke up the partnership. And if I tell you why, you're going to be mad too. Cause I'm leaving you short."

Dick took a chance and rubbed her shoulder gently. "Come on. We can always call someone up from somewhere… IF you have a really good reason for quitting."

"I HAVE to. And I'm moving to New York where no one can find me. Leave me alone."

"Mara… come on. Just tell me what you're 'good reason' is, and I'll leave you alone."

"Tim's mad at me, and I have to quit, and I broke up the partnership 'cause I'm pregnant."

"Well that's something we can work… You're WHAT?"

Instantly, she started crying in earnest. See? I told you.

"Mara, I'm just a little surprised. I'm not mad. I'm happy for you. Why aren't YOU happy?"

"Cause everyone hates me and they suck and today was supposed to be a happy day, and it wasn't cause everyone was fighting, and Jimmy had to go tell everyone in the universe, and Jordy isn't even here 'cause he's working."

He couldn't help it. He pulled her into his arms. "Are you worried about this? Is that why you're upset? I mean… cause I can beat up Tim."

"Not just Tim," she muttered. "Other stuff."

"Who else should I beat up?" Dick tried to make it sound humorous.

She rubbed her nose and clenched her eyes shut. "You're not mad?"

"Mara! I'm NOT mad. But I'm going to be mad if you don't start having a LITTLE faith in me. I mean… Jimmy's still alive. We may even let him live in the real world some day, too." He pushed her hair away from her forehead. She looked so different without makeup, without her hair done. She had somehow turned into a grownup in the last year. And right now… right now she needed a little 'dad magic'. They never really grew up, he supposed. It was a Grayson thing. It was genetic.

"Jimmy said grandpa showed up and he's threatening to shoot everybody if they weren't quiet."

"Grandpa's not going to shoot anyone. He's mellowed out a little. Heck, now when it was ME, he did threaten to shoot me. You and Jordy don't have ANYTHING to worry about. You guys're married and everything. Puts you one up on your mother and me, AND one up on your brother."

"Do you think HE would be mad?" Her voice was weary and meek when she spoke, full of pain and reluctance.

"Hey… hey. Come on. Grandpa would have been happy for you. He wouldn't have said anything, probably. But he'd be happy for you. He might make a comment here and there about you getting out of practice and out of shape, though."

Half a smile sadly turned on one side of her face. "He'd make me do a LOT of paperwork."

"I'm sure mom and me and findja something to do."

"Sometimes… I have to remind myself its OK to be happy without Him. I… he and Alfred're never gonna see…"

"Honey… he never wanted you to pull away from people. Or not have a family. He was really dumb with people… but he was my dad. He cared about all his kids. Including you. So, we gotta remember to be happy even though Ol' Grumpy isn't here. And they know. They know you and your brother're doing OK for yourselves. And they're OK with that. Why don't you come down stairs and eat? If Timmy's not done cooking, we'll collectively kick his ass."

"Don't… no… I mean… I don't want to talk to him."

"You guys'll work it out. Cut the guy a break. He's surrounded by pregnant chicks, and he's trying to cope. And Tim was never like… emotionally normal." He kissed his kid's forehead. They hadn't like… had a conversation in a long time. It was kind of nice, even if his day had been REALLY full with new information. "So… um… did you know Tim was an alcoholic?"

Mara looked up at her father with disbelief. "Uh… yeah." Her features softened a little, and she relaxed. "Well… I guess he never really… um… got vocal with it." Or obvious, unless you happened to be spending a lot of time over his house, when he was going through a 'spell'.

"I don't feel bad. Bruce didn't know either," he offered, trying to consol himself.

"Yeah. Grandpa'd have done something."

"Well, glad he's dry now."

"He is too."

Dick pondered her for a moment. "There's something else on your mind, though. I mean… is it Jimmy? I can kill him too." He had a feeling it wasn't entirely Jimmy, though.

"Jimmy shouldn't have told anyone. I… I didn't want anyone to know. Except who needed to know. You and mom and Tim and Jordy."

"They're going to figure it out sometime."

"I wanted to make sure… you know. That I wasn't going to…" She sniffed. "Loose this one."

He squeezed her tightly. "Mara, everything's going to be fine with this baby. NOTHING is going to happen. Everything that happened last year that was just a whole seriously bad time for everyone. That doesn't mean things're going to turn out like that this time."

Mara hugged her father back, an urgent patheticness overtaking her. "Daddy… This… this isn't the second. This is the third."

She buried her head in his chest and had a good cry. He rubbed her back, searching for a little direction. "I'll kill anyone in this family that stresses you out, and we'll drive you to your doctor's appointments, and prop your feet up, and spoil you badly." He rocked her gently, wishing that this promise would somehow make everything better.

A teary-eyed face looked up at him, somewhat comforted. "I don't know if I'd survive this family's version of spoiling me badly."

"The point is, we don't leave anyone high and dry, not even if you're Jimmy or Tim."

"Not even if you're me?" she asked, seeming extremely down on herself. Even at her worst, even at the most troubled points in her life, Dick thought the girl at least knew her own abilities, and knew that she was loved.

"ESPECIALLY you. I've invested slightly over two decades into turning you into a respectable person… I'm not going to give up now just because you're hormonal."

Her lip jutted out defiantly. "I'm not hormonal."

"'I'm not tired, daddy,'" he mocked. "Then you passed out and fell all the way down the cellar steps."

"I was five," she pointed out. No one forgot anything in her family.

He gave her shoulders a tight squeeze. "Ahh. You know the mother's curse. May you have one JUST LIKE you."

Why was that lighting a smile on her face?

"See, I knew I could get you to smile."

"I let you make me smile." She looked out the window, as if that would somehow bring her lover back sooner. "Jordy's going to be a great dad. The best."

"Next to your old man."

"Well, next to grandpa and Roy."

"Grandpa and Roy?" There'd better be a punch line real soon.

"Sure. They had a Perfect Parents' Club. Grandpa freaked out Roy by making little cards and everything."

Dick broke into hearty laughter. "Oh god. Bruce DID have a sense of humor on occasion." And as with all things involved with his father—it was given to extremes.

"I thought he just did it to freak Roy out." That was why he did EVERYTHING he did to Roy, RIGHT?

"Anyways… I heard YOU are the one who got Peaches to wear the Supergirl uniform. Which she needed. The girl needed some family. So… I think you're going to be an OK mom too."

A smile spread slowly across her face. "Mom." Deep inside her, she got kind of tingly, now that she thought about it. "Haven't had a chance to enjoy it. Couple of nights ago, Tim and I were flying the patrol rout. And in the air, between buildings, I just puked. Let loose so hard, I lost my hold on my line. Tim just snagged me out of the air, and got me on something solid without saying anything. And he got me back to the Car when I almost passed out. He was sooo good about it. That's how I found out. Then when I told him WHY I was sick, when I figured it out, he flipped. I don't know… I've been so busy telling everybody… him then Jordy… I haven't really thought about it. Besides to be scared."

He rubbed her back. "Hey. It's ok. It's a lot to adjust to. Lemme tell you a story from before you were born. It starts WAY before you were born…"

* * *

Two figures sat on the roof of Wayne Manor, staring up at the stars. The fireworks had ended about an hour ago, and it was chilly, but it was quiet, and they were content.

Jordan pulled his wife a little closer. She had to be cold.

"I was looking forward to spending time with your dad," Mara informed him.

Jordan kissed her cheek, adjusting the blanket that kept their backs from facing the wrath of the chilled slate roof. "He was just really tired after all that battling the forces of darkness stuff today. Oldguy stuff."

"He's happy about the baby?" she asked hopefully.

"Hey, who said I said…"

"Same reason you weren't mad when I told Tim first. You're you. You tell him everything." She kissed his cold nose.

"Dad's excited. I'm excited. Your family stopped fighting long enough to be excited."

She smiled wistfully, staring up at the sky. "Yeah. I have to keep thinking positive. This is going to work."

"It's going to work," he affirmed positively.

She smiled, pinching his cheek. "Yeah. It'll work. No stress. Can you believe my dad told me that? They're all completely NUTS, and he tells me he'll crush and destroy anyone who stresses me out."

A collective laugh rung out from them and drifted off in the mist of their breath and upwards to the sky.

"Well, glad things turned out better after I left. I guess that's the secret. Get rid of the instigating and impregnating Lantern, and suddenly, everyone's happy."

"Oh, please. They were all killing me with kindness after dad threatened to nail their feet to the floor and set them on fire." She kissed her husband, moistening his dried lips with her tongue.

They sat in silence for a while, until Mara looked behind them.

"What is it?" he asked, trying to put her head back on his shoulder.

"We're being watched," she suddenly realized.

Deciding to give Superman a show, he slid his arms beneath her, and began kissing her as passionately as he knew how. When she was moaning in shallow breaths beneath him, he made one obscene gesture to anyone watching. He WOULD protect his family until the end. And in lieu of greater crises, he'd simply enjoy his family—they all would. They'd spend their time just being a part of each other's lives.

* * *

Epilogue

Seventy five yards away from the kissing couple, a pair of electronically enhanced imaging binoculars lowered. The leaves of the tree surrounding the binoculars' owner rustled in the cool night air.

It was a gruff voice that whispered into the night air: "A-52 to Command. We'll have to separate them. It's the only way. Divide and conquer."

THE END…for now.