Author's Note: "We've switched DarkRiver's regular Muse with Folger's Crystals, let's see is he notices!" I bloody well do notice! Eroticus seems to be on vacation, so I'm stuck writing real stories. Sorry, I know this'll ruin my rep, but what can ya do? This one should be viewable by all audiences... any slashy themes you notice are just your own sick minds at work.

This is a D.C. fic about Young Justice. If you're reading that book, I think you'll get a kick out of this little story. If you're not... why the heck aren't you? It's only in ish 27 and it's written by the most awesome Peter David so what's your excuse? Seriously, I've tried to fit in a little exposition to help along those who don't know the kids, but you'll get more out of it if you read the book. (There, Mr. David, I've given you your props, can I start now?)


Family Values: Part Three
By DarkRiver

The dance continued. Like two expert fencers, and Maxine and Ismael went at each other in a brilliant series of feints, counterattacks and ripostes. Every point she so eloquently drew he shrouded in doubt and cynicism. By the same token, as clever as his parries were, she seemed to be ready for him.

Her next witness was the psychiatrist that had interviewed the young heroes, Dr. Andrea Mackey. The Judge had read the report thoroughly and he knew there was little enough in it to make a case of. The four young people were astonishingly normal.

There was some mental scar tissue covering old wounds on Cissie's psyche; stemming, it seemed, from her relationship with her mother. Having now dealt with Bonnie Jones, he could certainly see how the usual mother/daughter bickering could escalate. And the report also left indications of low self-esteem, resentment and repressed hostility.

In short, Cissie was the picture of the normal teenage girl on the outside, but on the inside she was a powder-keg.

A point that Maxine brought up, with Dr. Mackey's help. She tore into Bonnie's credibility as a mother, her ethics and even her values. It was an ugly, ugly thing to watch... but in family law, it was not that uncommon. Judge Winfried allowed it, over-ruling Noonz's constant objections.

Noonz could do little after that but emphasize on his cross-examination the good in the psyche report.

The next witness was Professor Davis, a Dean at Yale who had designed and graded the scholastic competence test for the group. Again, the results mostly favored Young Justice--especially Tim Drake--but there was a chink in the armor.


Superboy had tested at only seventh-grade competence in Math and third-grade in English skills, results which Maxine loudly and sternly announced in the courtroom. Kon had blanched, looked at his friends, and then tried to shrink into his seat.

The final witness of the day was Donald Fite. No one knew more of the activities of Young Justice than A.P.E.S. and Agent Fite had been given clearance to answer questions on the matter.

"Mr. Fite, how long have you been observing Young Justice?" was Maxine's first question.

"Since they were formed."

"And why is that?"

Agent Fite's expression was calm, but there was a slight note of agitation in the sudden shift of his body posture. "The D.E.O.--one of A.P.E.S.' affiliate organizations--was investigating the escape of a dangerous creature when they encountered Robin, Superboy and Impulse. They asked to assist and, all other options having failed, they allowed them to contribute.

"They returned a short while later with the creature in a containment unit--its natural state is gaseous--and handed it over. During the process of anesthetizing the creature, there was an explosion. It was believed, initially, that the creature perished.

"However, forensics showed the containment unit used was one from our stock... and all the containment units that were brought to the site tested defective due to bad O-rings. A.P.E.S. suspected the boys not only knew of this, but were shielding the creature. So, my partner and I were assigned to watch them."

"Were you ever able to prove your suspicions?"

"Yes," Fite said sternly, glaring over at the four. "But that matter has been resolved."

"All right then, let's move on to what you've seen in the last few months. Have you personally witnessed any of them behaving recklessly?"

"Yes... though mainly the one called Impulse."

"And have you witnessed them going into dangerous situations?"

"I would certainly classify their unwarranted assault on one of our bases a dangerous situation, yes."

"You kidnapped Secret, Fite, don't act all innocent!" Kon snapped.

"Young man, you will be quiet," Winfried ordered, glaring Superboy back into his seat.

Agent Fite's gaze had narrowed dangerously. This issue was obviously one of continuing tension between the two groups. Showing great restraint, though, he said nothing at all.

Maxine went on calmly. "In all of your encounters with Young Justice, how frequently have they been with adult supervision?"

"Almost never."

"Almost never," she repeated for the court. "Agent Fite, you are a father, aren't you?"

"Yes, I have a daughter, Anita," he replied, relaxing noticeably.

"As a father, would you allow your daughter to go into the situations you have seen Young Justice encounter?"

"Objection," Noonz said in a warning tone. "Your Honor, is Agent Fite expected to pass judgment on my clients now?"

"Your Honor, Agent Fite has a unique perspective. As an agent, he knows the dangers Young Justice deals with, and as a father, he can give a qualified opinion on whether or not these situations are appropriate for young people to be in."

Winfried nodded slowly. "I'll allow it."

"Your Honor--" Noonz began to complain, but he was cut down.

"I said I'll allow it," Winfried snapped. "The witness may answer the question."

Donald Fite shook his head resolutely. "No, I would never allow a child of mine to go into danger the way Young Justice does. Some of these places we encounter them are like war zones. Even with power, they're still kids. It is irresponsible to allow teenage heroes to operate without proper protection."

"Even if you are not aware your child is a costumed crime-fighter, as is Mr. Drake's claim?" Maxine asked.

Fite's expression was grim. "Especially then. These young heroes spend a lot of time in their costumes and I find it hard to believe any parent could be unaware of what their child was up to. If they aren't, then they're not paying much attention at all."

"Your Honor," Noonz was getting agitated. "I renew my ob--"

The courtroom doors burst inward with a rush of air and once more, Impulse was by his friends. This time, though, he had brought along a companion.

"What'd I miss?" he whispered to Kon, who noogied him in response.

The members of the court were all focused on the newcomer, though. She was a slender figure in a Romanesque costume. Her customary weapon had been left behind to help keep the appearance that she was not here to do harm. She was the Empress, newest member of the Young Justice team and herself a novice heroine.

"I understand my friends are on trial, and I think I should stand with them. Especially if Rob--Tim--is forced to lose his anonymity this way. If this court wants to make war on our secrets and vilify the parents that love us, then we all..." Her voice warbled nervously. "...must be brave... we must be brave enough to face our accusers."

She lifted off her concealing mask.

"Right, Daddy?"

Agent Fite could only gape in astonishment.

The Empress looked around, unable apparently to hold her father's betrayed look. "Hello everyone, my name is Anita Fite. I'm sorry to interrupt, but I wanted--I had to show my father that he's on the wrong side of this argument."

Maxine was completely taken aback. Her eyes actually showed panic as this new turn of events set off a ripple effect through her whole argument and she desperately tried to see all the repercussions before they hit her. "Your Honor..."

"A recess? Yes, Counselor, I think that is wise. However, as Empress was named in this case I suggest she be back in here when we reconvene. Agent Fite, having been named in absentia in the case as 'Father of Empress' and thus charged along with the other parents--you will be expected to answer for these charges. That's final. We'll take two hours; I'm sure both sides can reorganize by then. And if there is so much as one more bit of drama, I'm declaring this a mistrial. We are in recess."

He banged his gavel angrily and swept out of the courtroom.

Anita looked at her father defiantly, despite the fact that her knees were shaking and her heart had developed an erratic rhythm. This was a confrontation she had never wanted but had always known (down deep in a part of herself she tried not to listen to) that it was coming. She was not fatalistic, she just knew that no one's luck lasted forever.

He had come down from the witness stand and was staring at her, his expression a strange mixture of disbelief and betrayal. Slowly, his attention shifted over to Young Justice, and there he found a focus and an outlet for his rage.

"You did this," he rumbled. "You turned my daughter against me."

"Daddy, it was--"

"Quiet, Anita. You and I will talk later." The four young heroes were giving him cold, defiant looks, refusing to challenge him. "I had almost reached the point where I was about to advocate an end to the surveillance on you, but now... You will never be rid of me. I will watch you everywhere you go, and one slip-up--just one--and I will shut you down so fast even Impulse won't have seen it coming."

Maxine cleared her throat. He threw his baleful gaze in her direction. "Mr. Fite, you are named as a defendant now... if you would like to seek your own counsel--"

"Of course I will."

"Okay, and will you be requesting a separate trial?"


Maxine nodded, starting to regain her bearings. "Bailiff, please make arrangements at the holding facility for Anita--"

"You can't be serious," Fite hissed.

"Yes, Mr. Fite, I am. The orders are very clear; no child involved in this matter shall remain with their parent until the case is resolved."

Fite squared his shoulders, looking like a volcano would look right before it exploded in a fiery shower of lava. "We shall see about that." He stormed past her.

"There are papers to fill out," the Prosecutor protested.

"Send them to my office," he grated and left.

"The defense calls Tim Drake to the stand," Noonz announced, and all eyes turned to the boy who had remained so unnaturally quiet through these whole proceedings. In fact, there were times when one might think he was not even there.

Now he walked with grace and calm up to the stand, though his expression suggested that to him this was like walking to the gallows. He took his oath quietly, his eyes locked on the floor.

"Now then, Tim, let's cut right to the heart of it. Did you ever tell your father that you are Robin?"

"No, sir."

"And why not?"

"Because I did not want him to worry about me," he stated matter-of-factly.

"In your time as Robin, have you ever killed anyone?"

Tim hesitated for the first time, his eyes conflicted. "No."

"Has your life ever been in danger?"

"Yes, sir."

"How did you survive?" Noonz asked in a way that was clearly rehearsed.

"Usually through the gifts of training Batman has given me--sometimes with the help of friends like Young Justice."

"So, it is your opinion that you are capable of meeting the challenges you face?"

"Yes, sir," Tim replied. "There is nowhere left in this world that is truly safe. Schools, malls, fast-food restaurants... all have been places of violence and death. With my training--and the help of Young Justice--I have not only survived for months as Robin, but I have made the world safer for other kids."

Noonz turned to Maxine and smiled benignly. "Your witness."

The Prosecutor rose, a sheaf of documents in one hand. "It would be hard to argue that you can handle yourself in a scrap," she commented. "You tested out as an advanced blackbelt, you nearly passed the exam army rangers are put through, your physical came back with remarkable results... but you are not bullet-proof, are you?"

Tim's gaze focused on her for just a moment; then he regained his composure and he lowered his eyes again. "Not as such. My costume is, though."

"A costume that leaves your head and arms fully exposed, correct?"

He sighed. "Yes, ma'am."

"Your father has been pursuing a relationship in the last few months, yes?"

"I fail to see what that has to do with anyth--"

"Yes or no, Tim?"

"Yes," he grated.

"How do you feel about that?"

"I feel fine."


"Yes," he snarled. "She's a wonderful person and my Dad certainly deserves to be happy."

"Very well, Tim. Now, you say you did not tell your father of your other life because you did not want him to worry, is that correct?"

"Yes, Ma'am."

"Do you not feel that it is the parents' job to worry?"

"Of course it is, but--"

"And yet you deprived your father of the opportunity. What makes him different from other parents?"

Tim started to look flustered. "I was trying to protect him."

"Let's examine that, shall we? You seek to protect him and shelter him for worrying. Does it not seem that the roles are reversed?"


"I am simply trying to determine what has motivated you to be a parent to your father. Does he drink?"



"No." Tim's voice was growing deeper with agitation.

"Then why? Or is it you simply don't trust him?"

"I trust him."

"Just not enough to tell him you're Robin."

"I couldn't... I promised..."

"You respect promises you made to this Batman more than your own responsibilities to your father?"

"You're twisting it," he snapped, his brow furrowed.

"Am I? You lied to your father, placed yourself at risk, defied his authority, ran away from home on two separate occasions and you want to sit there and tell me you respect his authority?"

"I have... other responsibilities..."

"And how is it that you managed to take on this Robin guise without him missing you?"

"He... was away..."

"Oh yes," Maxine said with a smile and a gleam in her eye. "The court has records of many business trips made by your father since your mother's death." She gave him a sympathetic look. "Tim, you're not to blame here. He ran from his wife's death--that happens--but that he abandoned you is wrong."

"He did not abandon me!"

"What happened to the previous Robin?"

Tim's head snapped around, and there was a new turmoil in his eyes. "W-what?"

Maxine returned to her table and exchanged one stack of documents for another. "Various organizations over the years have made reports on Batman and his cohort Robin. One of these reports goes back ten years. You would have been five when this report was written. Obviously, you took someone's place and I want to know why."

"Objection, your Honor, this violates the anonymity clause agreed upon by both sides in this matter," Noonz interjected.

"Your honor, I am not asking for identities or current addresses. A.P.E.S. believes Tim is the third--possibly fourth--Robin. I have information that suggests the answer to my question will be quite pertinent to my case--and I promise you it in no way violates the anonymity clause."

The Judge pondered it. Maxine was ruthless, even unscrupulous at times, but she never risked blowing a trial. If she said she would not violate the clause, then she would not. Much as it pained him to see the shell-shocked look on Tim's face, he had to allow it.


Maxine turned back to the witness. "Tim, I don't need to know who he is, just what became of the young man who was Robin before you."

Tim stared helplessly at her.

"The witness is instructed to answer the question," Winfried told him, not unkindly.

Maxine was deathly serious. "Tim, I have a respected doctor here from Arkahm who has worked extensively with the criminal commonly known as the Joker. I also have other witnesses who have spoken at length to this Joker. It would save us all time if you just answered the question."

Tim was sheet white. His jaw worked as he tried to make himself answer. It was like leaping off a precipice, and his friends could only watch helplessly as he looked over the edge.

"Mr. Drake, I will ask you one more--"

"He died," Tim whispered. His anguished face spoke of a hundred emotions at war with each other, ripping up his insides.

Beside Noonz, Jack Drake went ashen as an unsettling image slithered through him.

"Was his death accidental?" Maxine pushed.

Tim shook his head. "He was murdered by the Joker."

"Murdered in the line of duty," she pondered. "Batman could not save him?"

"Obviously not," Tim retorted.

"The Teen Titans? None of his peers?"

"He was barely trained and he lacked discipline," Tim shot back.

"You are different," she told him patronizingly.

"Yes, as a matter of fact."

"Well, we have only your word on that," she responded. "I wonder, Tim, if you had met a similar end, how would your father have ever known?" Tim gaped at her. "Maybe, like with so many other self-destructive teens out there, that was not a consideration."

"I... made promises..."

"Promises you would not have had the opportunity to make if your father had been watching you properly."


"Nothing further, your Honor," Maxine acceded and resumed her seat.

"The witness is excused."

Tim slunk down from the stand, looking like a whipped dog. His friends surrounded him immediately and gave him their support, but all he did was fold in upon himself and stare sightlessly forward.

The rest of Young Justice were called to the stand that day. They were Noonz's best weapon in this case and his only real hope of chipping away at the devastating assault Maxine had mounted. It certainly helped considerably in child-neglect cases to have the kids on the parents' side.

Superboy was cocksure but charming. He truly shined as the model young hero--until Maxine got her claws into him. She assailed his low test scores and excoriated him for his legendary recklessness. He did not lose his temper once, much to his credit.

The point that Winfried paid the most close attention to, though, was how Kon-El had cooperated with the authorities.

WonderGirl was defensive and hostile, even with Noonz. While all of her arguments and statements were well-articulated and reasonably accurate, they were all delivered in such a way that demonstrated her scorn for these whole proceedings.

Arrowette was a sea of calm, by contrast. She answered each question affably, even jokingly at times. It was clear to most that she was at peace with her days as a hero. Even questions about her assault on the man who had murdered her school psychiatrist were dealt with maturely.

Maxine's cross-examinations did little to shake them.

Oberon came and answered questions regarding Kon-El, demonstrating pride and concern for his charge, but failing to adequately answer questions about his education. Cadmus was obviously ill-prepared for the scrutiny.

They adjourned for the day and prepared for the final day of testimony. The day when the parents would finally have the chance to say their piece.

"Mrs. Sandsmark, you are Curator at the Gateway City Museum of Cultural Antiquities, are you not?" Mr. Noonz asked when they started up the next day.

Helena nodded, looking pensive and uneasy. "I am."

"So you have been entrusted with a great deal of responsibility."


"Do you feel that your job has prevented you from dedicating the necessary time to your daughter?"

Helena shook her head. "No, not at all." She gave Cassie a wry smile. "I don't have as much time with her as I'd like, but that's just because she's a teenager."

Noonz smiled. "The court has a detailed record of the events surrounding your daughter's gaining of her powers, but would you please sum up those events now?"

Helena nodded, taking a quick sip of water. "A woman came to interview with me for a job. A robotic creature attacked and the woman revealed herself as Wonder Woman. Over the next few months, my daughter kept finding herself in situations where she could help Wonder Woman, and she did so. She met Zeus, Father of the Gods of Greece, and he granted her a wish--he made her like Wonder Woman."

"And he placed a limitation on those powers, yes?"

Helena nodded. "We found out later that I can negate those powers, effectively grounding her."

"So, while your daughter has considerable power, she is still under your authority."


"Has she defied that authority?"

"Yes, at times, like most teenagers. She still respects my decisions, though."

Noonz nodded. "Is she still under the protection and guidance of Wonder Woman?"


"You support your daughter's choice to be WonderGirl?"

Helena nodded with conviction. "Certainly. She is a strong, smart girl who has the rare chance to be what she truly wants to be in life. I worry for her, but I won't stand in her way."

"Thanks, Mrs. Sandsmark. Your witness, Counselor."

Maxine was half out of her seat when he spoke to her. She gathered up her notes and approached the witness box with a dangerously neutral expression.

"Mrs. Sandsmark, according to school records, your daughter was caught two years ago smoking on campus; is this true?"

Helena nodded stiffly. "Yes."

"And what punishment was meted out for this?"

"The scolding of her life," Helena replied evenly.

"She was not grounded?"


"Did you search her room for more cigarettes?"

"Of course not."

"Did you take her to a child psychiatrist to determine if this behavior was indicative of a deeper problem?"

"That's absurd," Helena scoffed.

"Is it?"

"Yes. My God, I tried cigarettes when I was sixteen. Didn't everyone?"

"I didn't."

"Bully for you."

"Your Honor?" Noonz interjected mildly.

"Yes, Mr. Noonz, I know. Ms. Prosecutor, please refrain from badgering the witness."

"Apologies, your Honor," Maxine replied in a subdued voice. "So, in essence, when your child was found experimenting with dangerous and addictive substances, your strongest punishment was simply to reprimand her?"

"You haven't heard my Mom when she's mad," Cassie shot at the Prosecutor.

"Quiet down," Winfried warned her.

Cassie folded her arms and glared unhappily.

"I did not feel it warranted more than that. My daughter knows that no means no."

"And how often is that word applied?" Maxine demanded.

"Excuse me?"

"According to medical records, your daughter is taking ***, an oral contraceptive. Being that she runs with male friends, have you given tacit approval for her to become sexually active?"

Kon gave Cassie an odd look.

"Oh my God," Cassie whimpered and doubled over. Cissie and Anita hovered around her sympathetically.

Helena was looking a little shaken. "My daughter and I have talked; she knows the facts about sex. I've warned her of the dangers and I've asked her to remain abstinent--but in the end, the choice is hers. I have to trust her to be safe, but I can at least rest assured she won't get pregnant."

"So you approve of premarital sex."

"That is not what I s--"

"Close enough, moving on. This is not the first time you've appeared before a judge, is it?"

Helena was definitely looking edgy now. "I get tickets like anyone else. What, am I a bad Mom because I break the speed limit?"

"No, Mrs. Sandsmark, I am referring to something a bit older. Court records for juveniles are destroyed, of course, but hospital records go back quite a long ways. In the winter on 1967, you were checked into Memorial Medical Center. Why?"

Helena turned several different shades of white. "I..." She looked over at her daughter uncertainly and then bowed her head. "I was suffering from injuries incurred during an abortion."

"That procedure was illegal at that time, yes?"

"Yes, but--"

"And the doctors found significant traces of barbiturates in your system, yes?"


"And you were how old?"


"Objection," Noonz called out.

"Your Honor, I think the history of the accused is quite pertinent to establishing their character."

Winfried nodded brusquely. "But wrap this up, Counselor."

"Where were your parents at that time?"

"I... had run away..."

"And why was that?"

Helena's eyes were brimming. "My parents were always fighting... they kept dragging me into it. I couldn't take it..."

"So your own knowledge of what a happy, stable home-life should be is a little skewed. Would that be a fair assessment?"

"No," Helena protested, her voice betraying her panic.

"You came from a broken home, Mrs. Sandsmark. What other model do you have?"

Helena stared helplessly at her. "You don't understand..."

"I think this court understands well enough, Mrs. Sandsmark. You may step down."


"The witness is excused," Winfried told her gently, more than a little disturbed by Maxine's merciless attack. She had always been callous on the cross-examination, but never like this. He had the feeling she had been invited to lunch at the Residence by the new President and given instructions to win at any cost.

Continue To Chapter Four

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