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Hold On Tight With Open Arms

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Roy Harper snapped to consciousness, but keeps his eyes closed, biding his time and analyzing his position. He knew this sort of situation, perhaps more intimately than he would like. The first thing he felt was the ropes around his wrists, the chair shoving painfully into his back. It was cold on his bare skin. Great. Never a good sign when he woke up shirtless.

“Come now, Roy,” cooed a familiar female voice. “I know you’re awake.”

Roy opened his eyes slowly to adjust for any light, his head lolling to see his captor. “Jade.”

Jade Nguyen grinned, a wide, frightening smirk that had earned her the name Cheshire. “There you are.” She strode toward him, her sharp green fingernails gleaming in the light of a single lightbulb suspended above Roy’s head. Her dress, cut high on the sides to give her legs freedom of movement, seemed an impossibly acidic shade of green. Roy couldn’t see much of the space behind her in the shoddy light, but from the shadows he guessed they were in an average-size room.

“So,” he said, his tongue heavy. “Who’d you nab me for?”

“So quick to business?” Jade teased with a quirk of one eyebrow.

“I learned my lesson last time,” Roy almost growled. The scars from their last night together seemed to throb on his back, even though they should have healed weeks ago. He was probably just imagining it.

Jade gently caressed his cheek with one of her sharp nails, nearly breaking the skin. Roy didn’t flinch. “I wanted to talk to you about a personal matter,” she said.

“Last time that happened you stole my evidence and dosed me with some of it,” Roy snapped.

Stay strong, stay strong, someone’ll come. And if they don’t, well, it’s not like anybody would miss him that much. He fought with Dick. He had never been particularly close to Wally. Ditto with Garth. Lilith seemed to avoid him--probably annoyed by the constant emotion that emanated from him in waves of self-hatred and protectiveness and anger. And Donna, well, Donna deserved better. Maybe if he died this way, instead of in the way Troia said, Diana would believe the future had changed. Maybe Donna would get to wander the world and save lives. Adopt some new Wondergirls, or find someone and settle down, be Wonder Woman or a photographer or a stay at home mom or whatever the hell she wanted. She deserved a better life than he could ever help her make--

Roy was shocked to attention by Jade’s hand in his hair, yanking his head back so that it nearly touched the metal chair back. “You told me you prefer clear matters of right or wrong,” Jade said. “Simple choices. Heroic choices.”

Roy’s eyes nearly rolled back in his head as he tried to watch her.

“Like saving your daughter.”

Despite himself, Roy’s breath caught, and his pupils snapped back to the center of his eyes. “My what?”

Jade shoved Roy’s head forward so that he could see the picture she held out in front of him. It showed Jade carrying a red-haired girl. The child giggled, and Jade looked down at her with a tenderness even Roy had never seen.

“Our daughter. Her name is Lian.” Her voice was soft, but her grip remained firm. Her fingernails dug into the photograph, and Roy was sure that they would at the very least leave dents in the paper. “She will be two years old in October.”

“Were you planning on telling me about her?” Roy asked.

“No,” Jade said, with uncharacteristic bluntness. “I wasn’t going to tell you anything about her until she was old enough to be a capable threat. A ‘sidekick,’ as you and your friends would call it.”

“What changed your mind?”

“She was kidnapped. I returned from a job to find her caretakers mutilated and her cradle empty.”

“Motive? What would they want you to do that you wouldn’t do already for the right price?” Roy asked, the legitimacy of the question undercutting the barb.

“They didn’t want me,” Jade snarled. “They just wanted her.”

Roy’s brows knitted. “Why would they? Why would they care enough to kill assassins--oh don’t even, I know you wouldn’t have anyone less as a babysitter. What, you hired Mary Jo up the street to watch over your fledgling assassin?”

Jade hesitated. “You are right. I hired women I trusted, despite their talents. They had no family to threaten. They were loyal to me. I taught them most of what they knew.”

“Are you even sad that they’re dead?” Roy asked. He wasn’t sure why he was antagonizing her, why he wasted time and energy on this, but he knew he couldn’t stop. Wouldn’t stop.

“Roy. Don’t do this for me. Save our daughter because she’s an innocent. Isn’t that what you do? ‘Black and white cases without moral complexity are refreshing’?” She placed the photograph in his lap.

He stared into the girl in the photograph’s half-closed eyes for a moment, his hair hanging down as his head drooped. Then, he raised it. “Fine. But when we find her, I get custody. I’m taking her far away from your world. She’ll have family with the Titans. And the Titans? Will keep her safer than your babysitters ever could.”

He stared into her eyes, daring her to argue, although he knew she wouldn’t. Even if she didn’t agree, she wouldn’t bring it up now. She’d wait until the mission was over, Lian was in her arms, and she could simply sneak away again without negotiating. (For a mercenary, she really hated reasoned negotiating.)

Jade finally nodded. “And how do I know you won’t turn me in?” She asked.

“You don’t. Any more than I know you won’t stab me in the neck with a hypodermic needle and leave me delirious in an alley in New Delhi. I need you. You need me. We’ve got contacts and skills the other doesn’t.”

Jade kept eye contact.

Roy smiled. “Like old times. Both with a lot to lose and no good insurance. But a common goal.” He moved his shoulder as if to shake her hand despite his own being tied behind him. “Deal?”

Jade eyed him for a few more moments before saying, “Deal.”