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By the time he manages to work his way out of the rope, Dick can't even remember how long it's been. A few hours, at least, to account for having to work while wearing what amounts to a kevlar ball gown.

And the time he lost to that tranq.

Damn strong stuff, especially seeing as it actually managed to get through the suit. He's going to have to track down their supplier after he's done with them. If Babs doesn't track them down first.

He slips the already picked open handcuffs off his wrists and, seconds later, the rope joins them on the floor behind him.

Jesus. Who even tranqs someone, handcuffs them, then ties them to a chair? And hits them upside the head at some point, apparently, judging by the headache he's got brewing. It'd almost be flattering, how much trouble they went through for him, if his head didn't hurt so damn much.

He stands on shaky legs (damn strong stuff), carefully rubbing his wrists through his gauntlets, and takes another look at his makeshift prison.

And snorts, shaking his head.

Seriously, could it be any more cliché? Lone straight-back chair, scratched wood table, a single lamp. He looks up and, sure enough, the ceiling's cracked and dripping. They might have been smart about actually catching Batman (and he's going to have to make damn sure that never happens again), but this is just ridiculous.

The goons might be good, their place might actually be able to block his comms (who the hell is in charge of this outfit?), but their interior design needs some work.

The only thing he needs to complete the picture is for a group of them to burst in yelling, guns drawn, and--

The door slams open, hard enough to bounce against the concrete wall. Armed, yelling men come spilling out from the hall, the sounds of some kind of commotion following them. One... two...

Five.

"Just check that he's still tied up, stupid!" The guy in the back, the biggest one of them, yells before he's even fully inside the room. "We don't need him helping this guy right now!"

"Yeeaaaah, about that..."

"It's, uh... Too late. Way too late!"

The rest of the men, already spread out motionless around the door, don't look back at the last one, their eyes firmly on Batman.

Huh. They might actually be scared.

"What?!" The big guy, some skinhead, finally manages to push through the wall of four muscled men in front of him, eyes blazing. "What do you freakin' mean too late?!"

Dick lets himself slowly, very slowly, raise his hand, as if he were waiting for the guy to call on him in class.

The guy gapes at him and immediately turns to the rest of his buddies. "Shit! What the hell were you guys doing?! Did you even use the right tranq--!"

Dick tunes out the rest of his rant.

One thing he's learned? Quips don't work quite as well while in the cowl as they did in his Nightwing suit. They just don't get quite the reaction he wants, not unless that reaction is giving some of the goons heart attacks. Who knew?

(His head is still pounding anyway. So not in the mood for quips.)

So he doesn't bother to say anything before moving. He surges forward, catching the nearest one by surprise. A well-placed roundhouse kick and the guy drops before he can even lift his gun.

The next three are almost as easy. They're good, if a little dim, but don't last long against Batman. They don't have the sheer numbers from when he got captured, and they're not ambushing him this time. It's a quick, easy fight, and three more are down before their bullets can do anything but graze his cape.

And it's just him and the big guy, still staring at Batman with his jaw dropped open, his gun clutched tightly in his hands.

"Who did you not want to help me?" Dick asks, voice as flat as he can make it. He doesn't move to approach the guy. Not yet.

"G-go to hell! Like you don't freakin' know!" To his credit, the guy recovers quickly enough. He stands taller, straighter, the grip on his gun loosening slightly. "You had one of your freak buddies nearby all along!"

Freak buddies? Could Damian and Cass have gone for backup to look for him once they realized Dick was missing?

Jesus. He wouldn't put it past the kid to try to lose Cass and come by himself.

He really hopes he didn't.

"I don't." Dick finally, deliberately, takes a step forward, then another. "Why don't you tell me."

The guy stands his ground. "Like hell I'm gonna tell you! Don't fuckin' move and I won't have to shoot you!"

"I don't think so." And it's just a matter of moving in just right, just fast enough, disorienting the guy with his cape, and Dick's got him right up against the wall, hand just tight enough around his throat to make him really uncomfortable. "Well?"

Straight from the Batman school of intimidation.

It's almost disappointing how quickly he talks.

"The Red Hood! The Red Hood! He came in here bustin' up the place! And all you masked freaks are working together now, aintcha?!"

Jason?!

"I see." He frowns and, one quick slam of his gauntlet against the side of the mook's head later, he's lowering the guy to the floor and turning toward the open door. Yeah, that noise is definitely coming closer.

Thanks, Jason.

He thinks.

His head swims after the first step toward the door, nausea churning in his gut. He presses a hand against the wall to steady himself, taking a deep breath.

Okay, so fighting five guys after getting knocked out with whatever the hell that was is not a good idea. Even if the fight is easy.

Good to know.

The noise increases in volume dramatically then dies down again, all before he can straighten up again.

Sounds like Jason won his fight.

And just what is Jason doing here? Sure, he helps them out sometimes. Sure, with the passing of time, their relationship's now nowhere near as strained as it used to be. They could even call it friendly now, if they wanted. (He kind of does.)

But he doesn't usually let himself be seen helping them by this kind of criminal. Not when the Red Hood's still got a reputation as a crime boss to keep up.

Just who the hell are these guys working for?

Another deep breath and, dragging his hand along the wall, Dick's out the door and into the hall. And he must be dragging his feet, he realizes when Jason enters the same hall only a moment later.

He doesn't sound surprised to see Dick.

"Hey, Bats. Heard you needed an assist." Red Hood raises an arm in a lazy greeting, then jerks his thumb over his shoulder. "You seen these guys? They play dirty if you don't catch 'em by surprise."

The corner of Dick's lips quirks. "I noticed. What are you doing here?"

"Savin' your ass. If I know these guys at all..." Jason shrugs and gestures behind him again, movements bigger this time, as if he were trying to encompass the whole building. "They went totally overkill on you."

"What?" Dick scowls. He moves closer to Jason, eyes narrowing behind the cowl. And abruptly stops some feet away when his head swims again. "You know who these guys are?" he manages to ask. Jesus, he better not vomit until he's back in the bunker.

Though he thinks he'd settle for 'after getting the answer to his question' right now.

Jason's silent and Dick gets the feeling he's frowning behind that helmet. "Hey, Goldie, are you--"

Goldie instead of Bats. He's frowning.

"I'm fine. You know who they are," Dick interrupts him, shaking his head sharply. And that. Was a bad idea.

Spots in his vision.

There are spots in his vision.

"Yeah... I don't know why he's in Gotham right now, but I know their boss. Old friend of yours. It's-- Whoa, Wonder Boy!"

It takes him a moment to realize he's slumped forward. His vision goes dark and... He thinks he feels arms around him, but he can't be sure, he.

He didn't get his answer.

-

Dick wakes to what sounds like an infomercial playing on a TV set.

His head still feels like someone took a jackhammer to it and he's. Still wearing the cowl?

He puts the matter of the cowl aside for the moment and lets the sound wash over him, taking stock of his surroundings before trying to open his eyes.

Blankets. He's lying on blankets. A bed, definitely a mattress. The sounds of the infomercial are coming from just far away for the TV to be in another, adjacent room.

Besides the TV, the area's just devoid enough of other sounds that he thinks the windows, if any, must be shut tightly. Likely in the early morning, before the sun goes up, judging from what little manages to filter in.

He waits another moment before opening his eyes. Immediately, he groans, screwing them shut again.

Nope. Too bright. Lamp's too bright.

"Dick?"

Jason.

Footsteps enter the room and stop right by the bed. He hears the sound of a chair being pushed back and someone (Jason) dropping down into it.

"I heard ya. I know you're awake, Dickface."

"How?" Dick manages to ask, once he regains control of his mouth.

"Baby monitor," Jason says simply and he sounds way too proud of that. "Come on, open your eyes. I'll dim the lights and everything. I know how these headaches work."

"That's surprisingly considerate of you."

"Surprisingly? I'm hurt." His tone is perfectly cheerful.

Dick ignores him and, carefully, flutters his eyes open.

Dim light. Yeah. That's much less painful.

A bare-faced Jason and an immaculate room greet him once his eyes focus. One of Jason's safe houses then.

Jason jerks his chin at the nightstand, where a glass of water sits next to what looks like two painkillers. "That shooouuuld be safe to take with what they dosed you with."

"Thanks," Dick mumbles. He pushes himself into a sitting position against the headboard and downs the pills with the water.

Jason's kind enough to keep quiet when he has to stop for a moment while putting the glass back, lest he lose his lunch. But he can't say he trusts that smirk.

"What happened?" he asks before that smirk can turn into anything else.

"What happened?" Jason laughs, shaking his head. “You fainted... straight into my arms. That's what happened." That smirk widens and, oh, Dick can almost see where this is going. "You know, if you wanted my attention you didn’t have to go to such extremes."

Oh.

Dick scoffs, meeting that smirk with one of his own. "If I want your attention, there's easier ways to get it."

Jason gives him a look, then, "Don't smile at me like that while you're wearing that. It's weird."

What? "The cowl?" Right. He's still wearing it.

"Yes, the cowl! It's why I didn't even take it off. You wearing that's still..." He grimaces and waves a hand vaguely in Dick's direction.

Dick huffs out a laugh, but pulls the cowl off anyway, then drops both it and his cape on the other side of the bed.

The suit's much more comfortable without them anyway.

"Well?"

Jason eyes him critically, brow furrowed. "Still weird. Less weird, but still weird."

Dick rolls his eyes. Very deliberately. "So now I can 'smile at you like that'?"

"What?" Jason's eyes widen in surprise, but he recovers quickly enough, back to that smirk. "Oh, sure. You can go back to trying to get my attention, Dickie. All you want."

"Oh, I'd love to. All part of my plan," he says, tone flat.

Jason snorts.

"Seriously, what happened? How'd you end up where I was?"

He's passed out an unacceptable number of times for one day. The least he can do is get some answers.

Now if only he could actually remember what the important question was...

"Black Bat and your brat sent out the distress signal when they couldn't contact you after you missed meeting them. And you know O. She knew where you were..." Jason snaps his fingers. "In no time. And I was closest." He taps a finger against his chest, once again sounding entirely too proud of himself.

"Don't call him that."

Jason stares at him.

Dick rolls his eyes.

"My hero," he says drily, switching gears. "That can't have been good for your reputation."

"Eh." Jason shrugs a shoulder, leaning back lazily in his chair. "Those guys don't matter. How's your head? Cause I'd rather hear about this plan of yours to get me to pay attention to you."

"Or you can tell me about what rumors the guys we fought are going to be spreading."

"You can't talk shop when you've got a concussion, Dick." Jason sighs.

The sound is so exasperated, Dick can't help but quirk a real smile. What an obvious deflection.

Still, if he insists on talking about that...

"Nah, it won't work if I tell you about it." Dick leans forward slightly, as much as his head lets him.

Jason leans forward in his chair as well, grinning. "No, no, no, now that I know about it, you've gotta tell me! You can't leave me hangin'!"

"It's part of the chase, right?" Dick asks, actually warming to this game. He wants to grin in return, at the thought of just how far they've come. Just a few years ago, he wouldn't have even dreamed he'd say something like this to Jason. "If I tell you everything now, it'll lose all its mystery. You'll get bored."

Jason snorts out a laugh, raising his eyebrows. "You, Wonder Boy? Bore anyone? When you're all dreamy and stuff? You could never do that."

Dick arches an eyebrow in response. That actually sounded halfway sincere.

"Dreamy? Who's trying to get whose attention here?"

"Oh, please." Jason scoffs, all bravado. "If I was trying to get your attention, I'd have it. I wouldn't be fainting in your arms."

Dick frowns. A faint memory tickles at the back of his brain. It was... No, it was years ago, way back when they...

Yes.

He grins, leaning back against the headboard again.

"But you have," he says teasingly. "One of the like... Three times we met when you were still Robin. You passed out right in my arms after patrol. Scared the hell out of me," he mutters, a little sheepish. "Was that part of your plan?"

He's just teasing. Mostly. But Jason. Jason actually flushes red, wearing the face of someone who doesn't quite understand what just hit him.

"You're blushing!" Dick shakes his head. "I was teasing, but you're actually blushing. I didn't even know you could blush! Did you really--"

Jason crosses his arms. "Shut up. No, I'm not. No, I didn't!"

Dick presses a hand to his mouth to stifle his laughter. Out of respect to his headache, of course. "It's okay if you did, Jaybird. I don't mind."

Jason shoots him a withering look. The effect is ruined by the red on his cheeks and ears.

"You totally did." He snorts. "And you totally thought about it tonight."

Jason grunts, rolling his eyes. "Maybe," he grumbles and Dick's about to apologize and smooth it over, give the guy a break, when Jason actually smiles again. A smile that promises nothing but trouble. "Did it work?"

"Not back then, sorry," Dick says truthfully. "It wouldn't have ever worked then." Before Jason can react, Dick continues, smiling, "But it's kind of working now."

"What?"

Dick shrugs, but says nothing.

Jason can figure it out.

He's twisting the truth anyway, just a little. He's been paying attention for a while now, months, not just since right now.

"Nine years later, thirteen year old me is having a field day," Jason mutters, almost too low for him to catch.

"What about twenty-two year old you?" Dick asks.

"Oh, he likes it, too. Trust me."

Jason stands abruptly. He takes the one step between the chair and bed and sets a gentle hand on Dick's chest. Slowly, agonizingly slow, he leans in.

Dick looks up at him, his face inches away from his own. He's not sure whether it's his head or his heart that's suddenly pounding.

Then Jason grins and pushes hard enough to tip him back onto the bed, before turning to leave the room. "Get some sleep, Dickie. I'll wake you up later." He pauses. "And we can talk in the morning."

Despite himself, Dick's grinning again. He shakes his head, tries very hard not to laugh. "We can talk or we can go somewhere."

Almost at the door, Jason stops. "Yeah. We can do that." He hesitates. "Yeah, I'd like that, Dickface."

Just as Jason's stepping out, it hits him. He remembers. What he wanted to ask.

"Wait!" He sits up in bed again, eyes wide. "Who were those guys working for?"

"Hm?" Jason looks over his shoulder at him, brow furrowing in confusion. "Oh. Them. Slade Wilson. Oracle's working on it."

And he slips out of the room.

"What?!"