I wish I could say that I come awake instantly, or with any real speed at all. Even more, I wish that I could say that I wake up with any real consciousness, when actually the truth is that I drag towards awareness one step at a time, like my mind is a body I'm pulling down an alley. I swallow, groan, just start to stir before muscles complain, and give up for just a little longer. I know at least my torso is vaguely vertical, I know whatever I'm laying on is comfortable except where it's digging into the outside of my knees, and I know that every time I think about moving a long, slow, ache sings through me.
Not like the pain of a beating, but more like the hangovers after a celebration with the Titans… I didn't get drunk with the Titans again, did I? I thought that was Tim's area now, I was pretty sure I'd left most of the blackout drunk nights behind me after I left the team.
A hand pats my head — ow, shit — and then I drag myself awake, cracking my eyes open through sheer force of will. My mask's still on, so that's something, but the face looking down at me does not help with the idea that something I'd probably rather forget happened. Mostly because it's a crooked smirk and laughing blue-green eyes, and there are very few things that scream 'you fucked up last night' more than waking up to Jason smirking down at me through the hangover from hell.
"Hey, Dick." His voice is soft, thank god, and I only wince a little bit at the sound. "Yeah, sucks doesn't it?" He shifts closer, leaning down, and even if I could drag together the energy to stop him getting closer he stalls me by saying, "I'm gonna take your mask off, alright? I've gotta see your eyes to make sure you're with me again." I manage the tiniest nod, and totally miss wherever Jason pulls the tiny bottle of solvent from. "Alright, easy, Dick." I wince again at the spray of the liquid around the edges of the mask, and then close my eyes as Jason very slowly pulls it off my face.
His hands are bare, and one traces down the left side of my face, lingering on a particularly sore spot below my cheekbone that I think might be a real bruise. Or just more of this headache, it's hard to tell. I honestly don't remember the last time I woke up this fucked up.
"What happened?" I rasp out, opening my eyes and like magic Jason suddenly has a bottle of water in his hands that he raises to my mouth. I spare about half a second considering if it's drugged before just accepting it. Jason really doesn't need to drug me, not right now, and we've been doing better anyway. He hasn't even killed anyone in a few months, that we know of. Lots of emergency rooms visits, lots of bullet wounds, but no deaths we can pin on him.
Jason waits to answer until I pull a little bit away, recapping the bottle and setting it aside. He cups my face, obviously studying my eyes, and then gives a very small nod. "You, were drugged out of your mind last night, remember any of that?" I shake my head as much as I can with his hands holding me pretty much still, and he shrugs. "Yeah, didn't think you would. I found you in the middle of my territory, nearly passed out on a rooftop, and took you back to my closest safe house to detox."
I swallow, not finding anything in Jason's expression that says he's lying. "You could've," I pause, to breathe through the headache pounding away at my temples, "called Bruce, Tim, anybody. Thought you didn't like me."
He carefully lets go of my head, raising the water back to my mouth. "Yeah, well I'm not enough of a piece of shit to leave family lying defenseless on a rooftop, alright? B doesn't take my calls, and the replacement's out at the Titans for the weekend, remember? He told me what you got dosed with, and how to deal with it. So I did." The water tastes like heaven, and I swallow as much as I can before I have to breathe again. "You're gonna be fine, Dickie. Some bruises — you weren't really cooperating, jackass — and scrapes, but it's all minor."
I nod, and feel the pull of something at my throat, and along the back of my neck. I frown, turning my head, and catch sight of a thick blue cord wound down over my left shoulder and underneath my armpit. From there I follow it to another line drawn around my lower arm, and then to what are definitely my bound wrists, lines heading down underneath the chair and also tied to each arm. My legs are spread and bent up, knees tied to the end of the metal arms and tied together at the ankles, and as I shift I can feel a thick, hard object between the back of my neck and the chair that I'm pretty damn sure is one of my escrima sticks.
"Jason," I start, warning him, and he snorts.
"Did I mention you were drugged out of your mind? Apparently you had a run in with Poison Ivy and were stupid enough to get one of her mixtures blown into your mouth; that was Tim's guess, anyway." I stiffen a little bit, except that makes everything hurt, especially the parts of my muscle underneath the lines of rope. "And, way more important, did you know you're a goddamn octopus, contortionist, escape artist when you're that fucked up? Because I didn't." Jason rolls his eyes, and then brings the water bottle back up. "Come on, finish this. Replacement said you'd need at least three bottles to feel even a little normal. You want cold or room temperature?"
"Room," I grate out, accepting the tilt of the water bottle. I test the bindings as I swallow down the last of the bottle. Apart from being able to lift my hips a bit, flex my fingers, and turn my head, I'm pretty much bound into total stillness. It's a really effective style of bondage, and it's all either tied into the chair, or around my two escrima sticks. One is at the back of my neck, and the other is behind my ankles. This would have taken a long time to put together even halfway decently.
Jason pulls the water away and moves around me, his hand clasping down over my shoulder for just a second as he passes by. I take a brief look around — there are curtains over the window I'm opposite, thankfully, but the slivers of light hurt my eyes — and decide that yeah, this is really obviously one of Jason's safe houses. There are metal cases of who knows what, and a table with a spread of guns that makes me just a little sick to look at. A bunch of papers and pictures are pinned up on the wall above it, threads hooking what must be leads together. To the opposite side there's a bed turned flat against the wall, big enough for two if necessary, and with rumpled sheets tossed back to one corner.
I can't turn my head enough to see behind me — the escrima stick hits the back of the chair and stops me — but I assume there's a kitchen back that way, and the door to whatever kind of bathroom there is.
It's a decent safe house, and he's obviously been using this one for a while. I guess he'll move, now that anyone in the family can access the trackers in my suit and figure out where it is. It always makes me feel a little guilty when one of us forces Jason to abandon a safe house, but I know that's not a sane way to look at it.
The rest of the family knows most of each other's safe houses, it's Jason that doesn't want any of us knowing where he is at any given time, or where he might hide. It's not just paranoid of him, not with the fights Bruce and he get into sometimes, but it's not my fault that he's moving. Of course, sometimes Jason gets a little fidgety, goes a little mad with whatever the Lazarus Pit left in his head, and then it's safer that none of us know where he is. He doesn't always distinguish friends from enemies, he just sees threats. Crime Alley gets bloody when those moods come over Jason.
Luckily, at least right now, he seems fine. There's not that tint of bright green to his eyes, and his hands and voice were steady. That's good, probably the last position I should ever be in is tied up in one of Jason's safe houses while he's not quite sane. That's really dangerous, even if I think I trust him not to actually kill me. Probably.
It's not his fault, I know that.
I can hear his footsteps — shouldn't be able to, he's making me more comfortable by letting me track his movements — and his hand touches my shoulder again before he loops back around in front of me. "Here," he says, voice still pitched soft to not aggravate the headache pounding at my temples. I accept another long drink before he pulls it away a bit. "So, remember any of last night?"
I squeeze my eyes shut for a second, trying to think. Yeah, I'd been out on patrol on my own, Bruce was at the opposite end of town, and Barbara had some kind of official event to go to as Gordon's daughter so she was off the coms. It was a pretty quiet night, and I do remember running into Poison Ivy. She was… I think she was trying to grow her plants up out of the pavement to bring down an apartment building. Maybe not the smartest plan, and I don't think there was actually anyone in the building, but it was still something worth stopping. We fought, and…
I groan, wincing as I remember pinning her down and her exhaling something bright golden right into my face. After that, things get really fuzzy, really fast.
"I'm gonna take that as a 'yes,' " Jason says, and I flick my eyes open in time to catch the edge of a smirk. "Up to what point?"
"Getting dosed," I answer, grudgingly. It's easier to talk now, after the bottle and a half of water to soothe my really unhappy throat. Jesus, what did I even do after she drugged me? "After that it's… dark, fuzzy." I narrow my eyes, considering where that apartment building was. "I wasn't anywhere near Crime Alley."
Jason shrugs, offering the water again, and I accept the tilt and another few mouthfuls. "Well, that's where I found you. Kinda flattering that you track me down when you're high, if that's what happened. You're all hands, you know that?"
A suspicion flares sharply to life, and I pull my head away from the water and study Jason. He's still got the bottom half of his usual costume on, boots, gun, and knife included, but his jacket is missing and so is most of the armor he usually wears. He's just got a regular black tank-top on, which is something that Jason does not wear as Red Hood. And there are — I swallow, hard — dark bruises along one of his shoulders, small and mostly round and oh shit. I snap my gaze up to his face, and he's got that crooked smirk back. His hair is even more of a disheveled mess than usual.
"You— Poison, or—?"
"Pollen. You're damn lucky I got you off the streets before anyone else found you, Dick. You should be one hell of a lot more careful fighting Poison Ivy, you know the kind of tricks she has." He gives another shrug. "Sorry about the cheek, by the way. You grabbed and I just kinda reacted."
Oh, that explains the slightly more achy point on the left side of my face. Yeah, I thought that was a bruise. I test the binds again, but they hold really, really firm. I'm still in my suit, so things couldn't have gotten that bad, right? I mean, he didn't— I didn't— Fuck, what did I do? Poison Ivy's pollens aren't usually that fast-acting, usually there's enough time to call an ally, or get to a safe house, or just in general make sure that the affected person is safely not in danger before figuring out what it is and administering an antidote. That, or just sedating the hell out of the person until they work through it.
We've had a lot of close calls — we're all strong, and fast, and restraint is hard when she drugs you — but we've never actually had someone get— We've always stopped it in time. Just barely, sometimes, or sometimes we've had to resort to knocking the person out, but nothing's ever happened.
But Jason… Does he know the protocol for this, did Tim tell him? Did he…? I don't feel sore anywhere I shouldn't, but I know that doesn't necessarily mean anything, I know that there are ways… He could have…
"Woah," Jason's hands are wrapping around mine, holding them as he kneels down in front of me. "Dick, breathe."
I shudder, pulling at the cable holding me down and tilting my head back for a second to get control. I swallow, and slowly breathe in, holding it for a count of ten before allowing myself to exhale again. Jason's fingers are tight around mine, solid and comforting even though… Even though I don't know what happened.
"Look at me, alright?" Jason's voice is soothing, worried, careful. "Come on, Dick, look at me."
I drag my head down, looking at him where he's staring up at me. His mouth is a thin line, eyes narrowed and I think most people would assume he's angry but I know it's worry. He's freaking out a little bit, and I can feel that in the flex of his fingers around mine and the way his shoulders are drawn up defensively. It's not fear, but he knows that I'm kind of freaking out and it's rebounding on him. Jason's always been so in tune with what the people around him are feeling, even if he doesn't usually use that talent as kindly as he could.
At least now he doesn't usually use it to hurt them.
"Jason," I pause, work my jaw and swallow again, and he gives my hands another reassuring squeeze.
"It's alright, Dick, I promise. Come on, talk to me."
"I—" I tighten my hands around his for a second, and then grudgingly, slowly, ask, "You didn't, take advantage, right?" He jerks like I've struck him, blue-green eyes shutting away as his head turns, and then he's pulling away and yanking his hands out of my grip. One of his hands rises, scrubs over his face and then back through his hair, and he won't meet my eyes. "Jason?" I need to know, I have to. If he— God.
Jason gets to his feet, hand falling to his side. He's moving slowly, deliberately, like he's restraining himself in every movement. He looks at me, and I can see the anger in his eyes as he steps in and cracks his left fist across my jaw. My head snaps to the side, headache sharpening as I gasp in pain, and instinct makes me focus on him again before I even recover from the punch. He's shaking his hand out, glaring down at me like I've seriously pissed him off, but there's something dark and hurt in his eyes.
"How can you even ask me that?" he snarls, holding my gaze. "Me, Dick, of all people? Jesus, you damn well know that I would never hurt anyone like that. Not you, not some random person on the streets, not goddamn Bruce. I don't touch people that don't want it, you jackass."
"No," he snaps, cutting me off. "Go to hell, Dick. I spent all fucking night watching you writhe, and beg, and fucking whimper for me to touch you so that I could make sure you didn't hurt yourself, or die on me, or cut your way out of those restraints and go fuck some random person on the street. I carried you across half a goddamn neighborhood while you did your best to tear all my clothes off, and you know what your best is? Really fucking good, Dick. I followed all of Tim's guidelines to the fucking letter, and I sedated you but it wore off in barely ten minutes, burned right out of your system. So fuck you, Dick, because this was a pain in the ass and not fun for me, and I would never take advantage of you no matter how easy you made it, you jackass."
He steps away as I stare, my throat locked shut because Jason looks so angry, and so hurt that I even considered that he would have actually touched me while I was down like this, and I can't find the words to try and make it any better. I had to know, and now I do, but god I can tell I've hurt him. I never meant to do that, I just had to know if he… I should have known better.
No one's said it, no one's brought it up, but I'm not an idiot and neither is Bruce. We knew the kind of background Jason had in Crime Alley, knew the kind of things he did to stay alive after his parents… Of course he would never touch anyone without their permission, of course he wouldn't. I don't know it for a fact, but there were always hints about Jason's behavior that implied that he'd had more than his fair share of being used in a lot of ways that weren't legal, and that he didn't like. He was always so touchy about people abusing partners, or kids, or anyone that was sexually assaulted. He was always touchy about that.
"Sorry," I finally manage to spit out, as he turns his back on me and rakes that hand up through his hair again, "I didn't think."
"No, you really fucking didn't." He shakes his head and I can see him forcibly ease his shoulders down, hang his head for a second. Without his jacket I can see every moment of it. "I'll get the replacement to call B," he says, without looking at me. "You're not in any condition to get across Gotham on your own, and he'll throw a fit if I show up at the Cave with you."
"Just shut up, Dick. I really don't want to hear anything else out of you unless it's asking for more water, got it?" He's… He still sounds angry, but it's taken background to that tinge of pain in his voice, like my words are some kind of knife in his flesh that he can't rip out until he's safe and ready to deal with it.
I swallow, watching his back, and then ask, "Untie me?"
He snorts and shakes his head. "No. Your pupils are still blown. Don't know if it's an aftereffect or this is just some kind of lull, and I haven't got the lab to figure it out." His head turns, not quite looking at me but off to the ground at his side. "I've had enough of being used by you for today, thanks anyway, Dick."
He's moving before I can come up with a response, sweeping past me without actually looking, and without that single touch to my shoulder like last time. I can hear him picking something up off a wooden surface, plastic judging by the sound, and then a short stretch of silence before Jason clears his throat.
"Hey, replacement, get B to come take him off my hands, would you?" A pause as I try, vainly, to twist far enough to see wherever Jason is standing. "As if you're not tracking him." Another pause, and then Jason's voice, when he speaks, is a little darker. "I'll be gone. Just get him the fuck out of my safe house, replacement." A sound like he's tossed what has to be the phone back onto the table, and then he's striding back into my view and off to the side.
He pauses for just a second in front of the table with all of the guns, gaze sweeping over them — a chill still runs down my spine, even knowing that Jason wouldn't hurt me, not like this — and then he hooks one of the closer metal cases with his foot, tugs it over, and crouches down to flick it open. It's empty except for some pieces of foam padding, and he reaches up and pulls down some of the guns. I watch as he expertly, quickly, dismantles and packs them away inside the case until it's full, then clicks it closed and reaches for another. It's obvious that this is familiar, and it's barely minutes before Jason has the guns stripped down and stored away, and is pulling up a small backpack onto the table and pulling the leads off the wall.
I swallow, staring at the still-tense muscles of his shoulders. "Jason?"
"If you want out of the restraints so fucking badly do it yourself," he snaps, without hesitation. "Your gear's still on you, your fingers are free, and the cable's not that thick."
"No, Jason, I'm sorry." I can see him tense a little more, see the slight jerk of one shoulder and the pause of his hand before he eases back into movement.
"I really don't give a fuck, Dick." He still won't look at me, and I'm not totally sure I blame him. "It's not like I didn't know what you think of me." He zips the backpack closed almost violently, and then collects the filled cases on top of the table. He's spinning away and stalking back towards the area behind me in under a second, the backpack held in one hand. I clench my jaw for a second in frustration at not being able to turn and follow him, see what he's doing.
"God, just shut up." I can hear the snarl in his voice, the equal frustration to mine. "Look, Dick, I'm really not interested in assuaging your guilt just because you feel like you fucked up. I helped you, and maybe I expected a little more than getting asked if I fucking raped you while I was at it, but I guess that was my own stupid mistake. I don't give a shit how sorry you are you said it, you still did, and no, I'm not just going to sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened. Fuck you, and shut your goddamn mouth unless you want me to take the gag I untied before you woke up — because I'm a decent fucking human being — and shove it back between your teeth."
I wince, and then take a glance down to try and— Yeah, there is a length of doubled over, knotted blue cable lying down across my right shoulder, long enough it could hook though my mouth and tie back behind my head to the other side of the escrima stick. I tilt my head back a bit, closing my eyes and trying not to say anything more because I've got no doubt Jason will do exactly what he threatened.
There's a sick swirl of guilt in my stomach, but I clench my jaw down — both sides of my face ache now, I'm going to have matching bruises later — and bite back the words. Jason is family, and I should have remembered that. Not just that, but as far as I know Jason is straight, and I don't think he knows that I'm not. I try not to let any rumors of the men I sleep with out to the world — I've got some fond memories of Roy, before things… changed — and Jason wouldn't take whatever I acted like underneath the effects of Poison Ivy's pollen as fact. He knows better than that. I shouldn't have ever even considered that Jason would do anything to me, especially not Jason.
I wait, in silence, and I can hear Jason moving and packing whatever he's taking with him but he doesn't come back around and into my view. Not surprising, there's nothing more over here, as far as I can see, that he hasn't already stored away. I just wish he'd…
No, Jason is right. I fucked up, I'm the one who said something awful, and he doesn't have to forgive me for it. I didn't trust him even that basically, even though he was nothing but kind after I woke up, and I should have. He doesn't have to give me anything, and he's not required to. I can say I'm sorry all I want to but all I'm doing is telling him I regret it, and he knows that already. He also knows that at the time I meant it, so what the hell does it really matter if I regret it now?
Eventually Jason heads back to the table, leaving the backpack next to the cases and leaning on the wooden surface for just a second. He's got his jacket back on, zipped up the center, which hides all the marks that are obviously from me before he tied me down. What did I do before that? How hard did I push for what the drugs made me want? How hard did he have to push back?
He obviously doesn't want to, but he turns around and heads for me after that brief moment, leaning down and snagging — I can't see it past my left knee, but I recognize the crackle of plastic — the water bottle from the ground next to me. He refuses to meet my eyes, focusing further down my face as he guides the bottle to my mouth. I pause, start to open my mouth to say something, and he shakes his head.
"Just drink the damn water, Dick. The rest is on the table behind you; I don't know how long it'll be before B gets here but I'm sure as fuck not sticking around to find out." Because there's a certainty in my chest that if Jason is still here when Bruce arrives there will be a fight. Jason's not calm like he was before, and Bruce always manages to say things just the wrong way with him. No, they do that both ways, and they always misunderstand each other. It's… It's bad, even at the best of times.
I stay silent, accepting the tilt of the bottle, and it doesn't taste like heaven the way it did earlier, but it's still pretty good, so I'm at least a little more hydrated than I was. How much did that drug take out of me to leave me like this? Or is it just because Jason doesn't have an antidote that the aftereffects are so bad? Do we even have an antidote for this particular strain, or are we going to have to try and synthesize one from whatever's left in my bloodstream? That's not a real fun question; I don't want to think about what might happen if we can't find an antidote, or it's already out of me, and she can do this again.
What if it's not me next time? What if it's Tim, or Bruce, or — god forbid — Jason himself? What would have happened if Jason hadn't found me, or I hadn't apparently subconsciously sought him out? Is it enough to make one of us turn on a civilian? If it is, do we have a sedative strong enough to actually keep us down, and not just get burnt through like Jason said I did to his? This is dangerous.
Jason empties the bottle and then pulls it away, tossing it over my head and somewhere in the direction of what I'm still assuming is the kitchen. I hear it hit what sounds like more plastic, maybe a trash can? Then Jason is leaning back behind me, fingers brushing my skin as he works on the knots at the back of my neck. I let him work, not asking, until he finally pushes my head a little further down and tugs. I can feel the cords pull at my throat, along my shoulders, and then slacken. He steps back, and drops the escrima stick that was holding it all together down at my feet.
"That'll get you started," he says, meeting my eyes for just a second before he turns away and back towards the table. About the same moment that the window behind him shatters inwards, the curtains getting yanked from the wall with the weight of a body that's a little too familiar as it lands.
Jason spins into half a crouch, hands going to his gun and knife, and Bruce lunges at him. The words seize in my throat as Bruce gets a grip on Jason — who hesitated, didn't draw his weapons — and throws him up against the wall next to the gear he's packed. I can see Jason grimace at the impact, see his mouth fall open as the air gets knocked out of him at the same time as it occurs to me that he's not wearing armor underneath that jacket. Bruce advances, fast, and grabs Jason by the upper arms, slamming him back against the wall again.
Jason makes a breathless noise of pain, as Bruce growls in the darkest, most dangerous voice he has, "What did you do?"
Jason's mouth curls in a sneer, but before he can provoke Bruce and make this worse, I find my voice. "Stop!" I call. "B, stop."
I can see Bruce's hands tighten on Jason's arms, painfully tight, and then shove him back as Bruce steps away and whirls to me. Jason, thankfully, doesn't say anything. He's still trying to catch his breath, and the way he curls in on himself a little bit as Bruce heads for me says that the impacts with the wall hurt. He's not wearing armor, but Bruce didn't know that, and if he threw Jason as hard as he would an armored person… Yeah, it would hurt.
Bruce's gloved hand touches my jaw, tilting my head up to study first one side of my face, then the other — the bruises, must be — and then turns his head Jason's direction. "Mask?" he demands, and Jason's sneer flicks a little higher. Can't blame him, if someone threw me against a wall as a greeting I'd probably be a little pissed too.
"Floor, left," Jason answers shortly, straightening off the wall. I watch Bruce look over, find it, and then retrieve what has to be a small vial of the glue from his belt to spray the edges with.
He presses it back over my face, fingers lingering until it sticks, and then snaps a sharp glare at Jason. "If you hurt him—" he starts to threaten, and I can see Jason get just a little bit rigid as he cuts Bruce off.
"Your precious favorite was drugged, asshole. Maybe you should have answered my fucking call." Jason's jaw is tight, anger hard in his eyes and obvious in his body language, but he's not reaching for a weapon. Not yet, anyway. Bruce and Jason just don't get along, not any more.
Bruce deliberately turns back to me, and I can see Jason tense at the dismissal, see the sharp flash of rage in his eyes as his hand twitches towards a weapon and then he balls it into a fist instead. "Red Robin told me the situation." Bruce pauses, and I can feel the flick of his gaze down my chest and to the cables even if I can't actually see it. "Did he touch you?" Bruce demands, speaking entirely to me, and my breath catches as my gaze snaps to Jason.
I look in time to see him recoil, see the fury and then the immediate pain on his face as he jerks his head away. His hands are tight fists, and he stays completely still for a long moment before he looks back up. I'm dimly aware that Bruce has followed my look to Jason, and I can see his blue-green eyes flicking between the two of us without the protection of his helmet or his domino mask to shield him. I want to say something, want to stop Bruce's assumptions and maybe wrap my hands around his shoulders and shake him until he realizes what he's thinking. That Jason, with all of his background, could ever hurt one of us like that. But I considered the same thing.
Jason gives a dark, bitter laugh, shakes his head, and softly says, "Fuck you both."
I can see and feel Bruce tense for a fight when Jason starts to move, flinging the backpack over one shoulder and gathering his cases of weaponry into his hands. With the escrima stick gone I can twist my neck to follow his trail back behind me, across the room — yes, it's a kitchen — and out the door he shoves open and slams behind him. He doesn't pause, and he doesn't look back.
God, I wish Bruce had said anything but that.