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Claustrophobia

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He wakes up in a strange, clinically-lit room. He's safe for the two seconds it takes for him to realise it's not a hospital. And to notice Dick is in just as awful condition right beside him.

He feels rope digging at his skin. It's not metal, and not tied particularly tight. He surmises they're in one of two possible situations: they've been kidnapped by idiots, or they're being set up to run around like rats. He doesn't really appreciate either, but the first is at least slightly appealing. Idiots are fun, he likes freaking them out, winding them up a little, acting like he's gonna let loose. He never does, half of them don't deserve actual retribution, but it usually scares them away. Makes them rethink a bit. Lets him sleep better at night when he wonders what shit he's ever done for this city.

The second option is upsetting. If they have Dick, this is a Bat matter. Not some personal vendetta against Jay himself, which is completely unoriginal and something he's dealt with countless times, and so beyond boring he can no longer muster up enough fucks to give. But a personal vendetta against the Bats? He doesn't usually get dragged into those. Even to the scum of this Earth, he's not quite as morally high-strung as he needs to be to get dragged in with Bruce and the Justice Crew.

So he offers out the tree branch. "You okay, Nightwing?"

"Man, aside from feeling like I took one too many baseball bats to the head? Yeah, fine." Dick pauses, chews his lip. "Oh, shit," he says, eventually. "We're fine."

"And Detective Lite catches on!" Jay would clap, if his hands weren't burning and straining against his bonds. "Please tell me you know what this is about. Say you know this MO, and that you keep a nice, neat track record of all the people who want to off you and pin your head on their wall."

"That's a pleasant image," Dick quips. "I do. But the clinical approach is overrated, these days. Too many bad guys are trying it, now. It's the flavour of the week."

Jay breathes in, slow, and exhales. "It could be anyone. That's what you're saying."

"You're not gonna tell me you don't think we'll figure it out, are you?" Dick snorts at this, as if the thought itself is so absurd it's ventured into amusing. "I'm almost out of these. How about you?"

Jay hums. "Gimme somewhere around twenty seconds and I'll be good."

"Game plan?"

"When they can hear us?"

Dick shrugs off the ties, and Jay's comment. "Makes no difference either way. What code do we have that they can't break?"

"Bird calls."

"Shut up." Dick laughs. "You wanna pick a door to take?"

"Go left. People always go right. So we'll go left."

Dick stretches, hunts around his back for any leftover weapons. Jay just shakes his head. He noticed the familiar imprint of his pistols against his thigh was missing ages ago. "I'm taking it we'll try to get out of here, but I'm pretty sure it's not gonna be that easy. Don't know why I feel this way, Hood, I've gotta say. It's very unusual for this city." Even as blood wells from his cut wrists, he's making more laughlines. Trust him to keep it cheery.

"Not at all its style. Watch your back, bird boy. I think we're about'ta meet the monster under the bed."

Jay gets up, and slams over a decade of training into the weight of the leftside door. It topples over like a house of cards, and that's when Jay becomes certain they're in Situation Number Two. "It's a trap. What do you say, wanna walk right into it?"

Dick grins. "Sounds like a plan, little wing." He gestures at the door, bows a little. "Please, ladies first."

"Eat a dick," Jay replies, but heads out the door anyway.

The hallway is dark and smells like blood. "Luck is clearly on our side," Dick says, but now the high spirits are fading a little from his voice.


There's an odd light emanating from somewhere vaguely above them. Each corridor turns into another, into another, into another, and they've taken so many wrong turns he's sure they're on the path to Hell. It's meant to be confusing, and it's working. Jay's used to seeing straight through tricks like these, not getting suffocated in them. These people, whomever's -- whatever's -- behind this, they're good. Too good.

They, with their little lab rat paws, are trailed through by the scientists, while Dick makes random speculation. "This place just gets weirder and weirder," he offers. "So, weird people. That narrows down the list by so much."

"They're leading us somewhere. Like Soccer Mommy, hand-in-hand, directing her thirteen kids."

It's a waiting game. Follow blindly and see whatever light is at the end of this tunnel. "It's a maze," Dick says. "I think. Okay, it's probably a maze. Some sort of game-playing supervillain? We've got a lot of those too."

Something tells him they're gonna be exploring a whole lot of it. Pan's Labyrinth. Everything's so clinical, so professional and obsessively modernised, like an office building, but the decor is all wrong. Very classical, old-timey. Two things that rightfully shouldn't blend together, creating a paradoxical, winding route meant to break them all down.

The scientists aren't likely to let them escape yet, so they must want something from them. Whatever they're being led to, that'll be key. He knows it will.

They don't make progress fast. Bats are cautious by nature, but running yourself in circles in a maze made to make you go crazy is godtier stupid. Each hallway looks the same, save for a few minor details. Different scaffolding, different symmetry, little torchlights attached to the wall flickering in patterns. Some form of mapping system? He'll note it for later. Right now, it means they're going in the right direction. The walls are the bait for the trap they're about to throw themselves in.

Dick angles his head back toward Jay. "Any guesses on where we're headed?" he asks.

That gets him a shrug. "Only that we're supposed to be headed there."

Dick pauses in his steps to shoot Jay a wry look, then a considering one, and from there, curious to concerned. Jay waves him away, questions are for later, and follows closely behind as Dick continues his path onwards. His boots click against the floor like little animal claws, and the omnipresent feeling of an ongoing experiment being watched by its researchers grows thicker, crawling down Jay's throat and settling in his stomach. "Yeah, I had that part figured out."