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pray for the wicked

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Some days, Jason wishes he had followed Talia’s advice and disappeared under a new name.

 

Maybe moved to Mexico, or Canada, found an ordinary job, an ordinary life.

 

A life free of this vigilante nonsense.

 

Because by god , there is too much nonsense.

 

For example, the motherfucking dinosaur chasing him.

 

*

 

Pressing random buttons on the stupid watch-thingie works moderately well. As in, he’s not in Jurassic Park anymore.

 

Instead, it’s bloody Camelot out here.

 

People are whispering fearfully, staring at his clothes, at the red helmet tucked on his arm, at the half-dozen guns strapped on his person. He smiles at a passing maid, tipping his helmet like a hat. She blesses herself, begins walking faster.

 

Awesome, by the state of things and his usual luck, it won’t be long until someone start the witch hunt.

 

“Jason, you asshole,” a voice calls out, “what part of stay put don’t you understand?”

 

It’s Dick, jogging to catch up to him. He’s still on his Nightwing suit, and it stands out so, so glaringly in the middle of Medieval England. If Jason had been nervous about repercussions before, now he’s sure they’re gonna end up burning on a pyre.

 

“What the fuck possessed you to come here wearing that ?” He asks, “you’re going to get me killed!”

 

“Excuse me for not stopping to change clothes before rescuing you .” Dick hisses, grabbing his arm and dragging him into an empty tent, “do you know how many jumps I had to do before finding you? Your signal kept changing because you wouldn’t stop in one damn year.”

 

“I was being chased by a dinosaur! A really big one with really big teeth,” Jason crosses his arms, “what did you want me to do? Sit around and let it chew on my arm? What took you so long anyway?”

 

“What took us so long? What took us so long?” Dick throws his hands up, glaring at the ceiling, “you literally disappeared in front of our eyes. Without any explanation. We called Zatanna for help because we thought it was some sort of spell! I’m sorry we didn’t immediately realize you had stolen some future-tech time-traveling device.”

 

“To be fair,” Jason says, “I didn’t realize it either. Those thugs left it lying there on the ground, I just picked it up for safe keeping.”

 

“Yeah, right, I’m sure you did,” Dick says with the sassiest voice Jason’s ever heard him use, “and if you want to know, we already arrested them all. B was waiting for the Justice League to question them on how they got their hands on this tech.”

 

That’s a good question, Jason supposes. This has got to be from the future, and regular, low life criminals don’t usually have access to this kind of thing.

 

“This is great and all, but can we fast forward this to the 21st century?” The longer they stay here, the more likely it is for them to be persecuted for something. Witchcraft, probably. “I miss chili dogs and laws against witch hunts.”

 

“Yeah, hold on, Babs and Tim found a way to control this thing,” Dick fiddles with his own watch, “let me just–”

 

An arrow flies past them, nearly hitting Jason on the shoulder. He curses loudly. At the entrance of the tent, a group of guards stand, with swords and crossbows, “Halt! In name of the King–”

 

Jason shoots in the vague direction of their kneecap, “sorry, buddy, but we’re not sticking around for that,” taking advantage of the subsequent confusion, he bolts, calling behind his shoulder, “ run.”

 

Shouting, and then more arrows fly past him, one of them tearing at his jacket. Jason doesn’t wait to see if Dick is following, hopes he is, and keeps running. He doesn’t know this place, this time, but he knows how to lose someone in a crowd, and man, nothing says crowd better than flea market. Making turns through the tents and stands, Jason prays these people are as bad at tailing as Gotham’s criminals. Suddenly there’s a tug at his arm and his brother is making a sharp left turn. Jason follows, almost crashing against an old lady.

 

Dick leads them further into the city, past the market and finally coming to a stop in a back alley. They find first-hand that alleys are just as dirty anywhere in history. “Okay, I think we lost them,” Dick begins, but his voice has that tone that says Jason isn’t going to like whatever he says next, “but. We can’t go home just yet.”

 

“The fuck. Why?”

 

“It needs to recharge. I’ve made too many time jumps trying to find you in the first place,” he glances up at the sky, “but it’s solar powered, so as long as we stay in the open, it won’t take long.”

 

From the alley, Jason can see the gates to the castle and its towers. God, he hates royalty. Couldn’t they jump start french revolution a few years earlier? “Can’t we use mine?”

 

“Jason, you’ve made as many jumps as me, if not more,” Dick shrugs, “it’s probably dead by now.”

 

True enough, when Jason tries pushing the buttons, the counter doesn’t even light up. Instead, the popular low energy bar blinks on the screen. Uh, good to know they still keep it simple in the future, he supposes. “So what? We just wait?”

 

“Yes. I guess? There’s not much we can do about it, and well, I was in a bit of rush to leave when they were explaining things, so. That’s that.”

 

“Great, really– shit. ” One of the guards from before spots them, and before Jason can say anything, they’re surrounded by royal guard, crossbows and swords aimed at their throats. “Is it a good time to remind you I’m out of bullets?”

 

“Not really no,” Dick glares, “but it’s not like they wouldn’t shoot you down before you reached for your guns anyway.”

 

“Is this gonna be a ‘who shot first situation’? Because not to brag, but if I still had bullets, it would definitely be me.”

 

“Are you asking for an ordeal by combat, foreigner?” One of the guards asks loftily, looking down at them. “Would you not like to hear the charges first?”

 

“You know fucking what, asshat,” Jason snaps, “please, do tell, what are the charges?”

 

Another guard steps forward, unrolling a paper. He clears his throat, “the charges against you are, as listed,” he reads, “theft, drunkenness, attempted murder, and,” he pauses, probably for dramatic purposes, “witchcraft.”

 

“Hm, do we get a say on this, or…” Dick trails off, eyes darting around and looking for an exit.

 

“By the laws of this land, you may ask for an ordeal by combat,” the first guard tells them, “and pray your pagan gods are of any help.”

 

“We’re not wizards,” Jason tries to reason, “come on, where’s the pointy hat? Long white beard? We’re the two less wizard-y looking people ‘round here.”

 

“Do you request a combat or not, sorcerer?”

 

“Jay,” Dick whispers, eyeing warily the swords pointed at them, “I don’t think this is a good idea.”

 

“You should heed the advice given to you by the freak,” another guard sneers, “what kind of vest is that? And what kind of aberration would wear it? Should we perhaps just kill this one first?”

 

“What did you just say to him, asshole?” Dick Grayson might the world’s most annoying human being and he might be an idiot and a pain in the ass. Jason might have an endless list of issues with him. He might even have tried to kill him a few times, but. Only Jason gets to do it , this random asshole can go fuck himself . “Consider your motherfucking combat accepted. Let’s see if how well you talk when I’m done with you.”

 

“Jason, no ,” Dick shakes his shoulder, “this is a terrible idea, I can’t stress enough how terrible it is. The entire point of this rescue operation is for you not to die.”

 

“Is this your final answer, sorcerer?”

 

“Yeah, you bet it is. I will combat the shit out of this ordeal,” Jason smirks, then turning to his brother, “don’t worry, I’ve got this.”

 

“Somehow, this isn’t very comforting,” he hisses back.

 

The guards grab them by the arms, roughly dragging them away. All the times Jason read Le Morte d'Arthur growing up, this isn’t exactly what he had in mind when he pictured living in medieval Europe. Though, to be fair, the whole challenge thing? That’s definitely going to be crossed off his bucket list now.

 

*

 

The cell is a small, square, dirty thing, with a bench pushed against the wall and a plate of stale bread on the corner. Jason tries not to think too much on the smell, or the dark stains, focusing instead on trying to figure out a way out. “Hey, d’you think we can blow up these bars?”

 

“I don’t usually walk around with C4,” Dick snaps, still giving him the stink eye for earlier, “what about you?”

 

“Usually? I do. But they took away my helmet.”

 

“I’m not even surprised.”

 

Dick is lying on the bench, taking up all the space. He hasn’t moved since they were thrown in the cell, and hasn’t forgiven Jason for accepting the combat either. Which is really unfair, because Jason totally bought them time to wait for the time-traveling device to recharge.

 

“You know, a little help would be nice,” Jason says, testing the bars. Yeah, solid iron and not going anywhere. “By the way, shouldn’t I be the one lounging right now? I do have a combat to win.”

 

“And whose fault is that, idiot?” he glares, “if you die, Jason, I swear to god. I swear to god.

 

“Jeez, relax, been there, done that, not interested in doing it again. Too much of a hassle, not enough angels playing harps. 0/10 would not recommend.”

 

“You are an idiot.” Dick says, flatly, sitting up, “do you realize how worried we were?”

 

“Why?” Jason shrugs, “it’s not like I died again or something.”

 

But we didn’t know that,” he looks up at the ceiling, as if praying for strength. “All we knew is that you had half a dozen guns aimed at you, and then nothing. You had disappeared. We had lost you again.”

 

“Oh,” Jason looks down at his hands, suddenly not very much interested in trying to dislodge the window bars. “I hadn’t thought of that.”

 

“Of course not. You never think before you do things,” Dick seems to be on a roll now, scowling, “someone points a gun at your face? You activate an unknown device you just picked up from the floor. Someone points a crossbow and throws around half-assed insults? You challenge them to a fucking duel.” He shakes his head, “just for once, I wish you would stop, and think .”

 

Before Jason has to think of something to say to that, a guard wanders down the stairs, keys jingling obnoxiously. “They’re coming. How long until that thing is ready?”

 

“Not long.”

 

“Listen,” Jason pauses, turning away from the window, “I said I got this. Can you trust me on that for once?”

 

The guard begins unlocking the door. Dick sighs, getting to his feet. “You realize this a sword, not a gun fight, right?”

 

“It is time freaks,” the guard gestures for them to leave, crossbow steadily aimed, “praying to your pagan gods will not help you now.”

 

This whole religious persecution is really beginning to piss him off. Still, Jason walks past him smirking, “like I said, I got this.”

 

He hears the long-suffering sigh behind him as they are dragged to the courtyard, and laughs.

 

*

 

Finding a good sword is probably the worst part of all this. Jason could use the All-Blade, but that would probably only freak these people out worse, and besides, he likes to think that one is a dire-situations-only resource.

 

The available armory for him is bare and old, most of the weapons are rusting or going blunt or plainly damaged. He picks up one of the swords, tries cutting his hand.

 

They had to make it harder than necessary, didn’t they?

 

The second one he chooses is better, drawing blood on the first try. It’s not as sharp as he would like, but the balance is good enough. He swings and cuts air, throws the blade from one hand to the other, twists it around.

 

Yeah, he can work with this. Jason turns to the guard on duty, grins, “I’m ready.”

 

*

 

His challenger is a knight chosen by the Crown, all shining armor and crowd-pleasing, his sword glints in the afternoon sun. He circles Jason slowly, like a beast stalking its prey, looking for an opening to strike. This guy seems the attack is the best defense kind of fighter. That’s cool, Jason thinks that too.

 

From what he can see, the armor has few weak spots, mostly where one piece meets the other, and underneath there’s still the mail. His sword won’t cut through that. Jason needs to get this guy to lose the armor. Or aim for the neck, but he doesn’t think that will go well when they get back home.

 

Opting out of the offered armor, Jason figures he at least has the advantage there. His kevlar is lighter, and less restrictive, making it easier to move faster. The only thing weighing him down is the shield, but his arm is quickly getting used to the added weight.

 

The knight strikes first, lunging for Jason. His sword slashes through the air, hitting Jason’s with the loud, grating sound of metal on metal. With little effort he forces the swords down, allowing the knight to step out of the lock.

 

Blocking another blow with the heavy shield, Jason uses the momentum to lunge forward, landing a blow on the knight’s shield arm. He doesn’t drop it, but it sends him off balance. Taking advantage, Jason kicks him on the chest, causing him to stumble backwards.

 

Man, times like these, he almost wants to thank Talia for sending him to the All-Caste.

 

With an angry growl, the knight runs forward, putting all his weight on the strike. The sword dents Jason’s shield, and the vibrations seem to echo all the way from his bones to his teeth. Slightly out of it, Jason has just enough time to dodge another slash and hit his enemy in the face with his shield.

 

The crowd that has gathered around seems to be all in favor of the King’s knight, unsurprisingly, and they all gasp in surprise. It’s mainly composed by farmers and peasants, and they are all here to watch the sorcerer be killed. Isn’t humanity just great as a species?

 

Out of the corner of his eyes, Jason sees Dick. His brother still has chains around his wrists, so he figures it’s not time to go yet. Jason needs to buy them more time.

 

Listen, he’s not naive. He knows this trial by combat thing is merely a formality. Winning or not, they are being accused of witchcraft. That’s not something a King would pardon so easily.

 

Honestly, Jason can’t wait until they discover gunpowder.

 

Grinning, he blocks another blow. The knight looks tired, all that armor is probably taking its toll. He’s getting slow, sloppy. Jason seizes the opportunity and presses forward, quickening the pace of the fight and forcing the other to go on the defensive.

 

The crowd has gone silent, watching the duel unfold. They had been so certain their knight was gonna wipe the floor with Jason, but now they don’t look so sure.

 

And neither is the Captain of the Guard. He wants Jason to lose, he can see it on his eyes. And on the bandage around his knees. Well shit . If he’s really one of the guys Jason shot back in the market, he’s not gonna let him win.

 

Finally, the knight stumbles, losing his balance and falling to the ground, sword slipping out of his grip. Jason has his sword pressing on his neck in a second. Sensing, more than really seeing, his hand inching towards the sword, Jason steps on it. The bones crack loudly in the silent courtyard. “I win.” He turns to the Captain, sword still pressing dangerously on skin, “I won your damn combat, now let us go.”

 

The man smiles, but his eyes are hard and full of hatred. “But how am I supposed to believe you did not use magic to win, sorcerer?” He shakes his head, “perhaps we should even our odds?”

 

At a wave of his hand, a group of six other knights come marching forward, ready to fight. “You lying son of a bitch,” Jason hates this place. He hits the fallen knight at his feet with the butt of his sword with a little more force than necessary, rendering him unconscious, but you know what? Fuck this place and fuck their rules.

 

His six new opponents surround him; they have the advantage, they saw Jason fight, they already know his style, and unlike Jason, they haven’t just been in a fight.

 

A wave of angry murmurs rise on the crowd, and they all turn to see Dick shrugging off his chains and fighting his way to the ring. “Still think you got this?” His brother asks, jumping over one of the knights and landing besides Jason.

 

“Show off,” he rolls his eyes, “I won that duel, didn’t I? Fair and square. It ain’t my fault this entire city is populated by assholes.”

 

The knights lunge forward. Jason blocks slashes and blows with his sword, discarding his shield by throwing it on one of his enemy’s head. Dick is faster than any of them, easily dancing out of the way and hitting them with his escrima sticks.

 

Jason almost feels bad for the Captain. His knights have no way of winning this fight.

 

A beeping sound shake him off his focus, “is that the device?”

 

“Yeah,” Dick says, dodging another blow, “we need to find a hidden place to use it!”

 

“Fuck that,” Jason frowns, wincing when a sword grazes his shoulder, “they already think we’re Harry fucking Potter.”

 

“We can’t change history, you know that–”

 

“Dick, they are gonna chalk it up to magic, just like the bullets,” he punches another knight in the face, grimacing, “get us the hell out of here before I give up on playing nice!”

 

Wordlessly, his brother grabs his arm and presses a button on the watch. The world blurs and the ground shifts under their feet.

 

Then, they fall.

 

*

 

Time-jumping is a terrible way of travelling. It makes his stomach churn, steals the breath out of his lungs, and his vision takes a whole two minutes to clear.

 

Jason hates it.

 

And he hates Dick for taking it all on stride, cheerfully sitting beside him on a McDonald's parking lot while Jason throws up. He has a suspicion his brother does it on purpose, just to annoy Jason. Everyone may think Dick Grayson is a friendly, nice young man, but Jason knows better. Dick is a petty asshole when he wants to be. And most of the time, he wants to be.

 

"Feeling better?" Dick asks, concerned.

 

"I hate you, and everything you stand for," Jason answers with feeling.

 

Someone pats his back comfortingly. It's a nightmare. "We should take a look at those cuts, they don't look so good."

 

"I'm fine," Jason says, wiping his mouth with his sleeve, "did you figure out where we are?"

 

"At least wash up on the bathroom," Dick frowns, "but I think we're somewhere in France. I'm guessing Paris."

 

"I thought you knew how to use that thing."

 

"I do, but it moves through time," he explains, "we stay in the same spot in space we were before, just a few centuries later. But, you know, since the Earth moves and all."

 

"Are you saying we could've ended up in space?"

 

"Yes, but! Tim and Babs gave me the specific coordinates so that doesn't happen!"

 

Jason looks around. In the distance, he can see the Eiffel Tower. "Yeah, seems like their calculations were a little off."

 

"Every scientific experiment has a margin of error," Dick dutifully recites.

 

"Replacement made you memorize all that, did he?"

 

"He said you might whine," he shrugs, getting to his feet and dusting himself off, "come on. You need to wash up all the blood, and I need to find a payphone."

 

Touching a tender spot on his forehead, Jason feels the dried blood caking the cut. yeah, cleaning up might not be such a bad idea. "No need," he says, digging around his pocket and pulling out a cell phone. He throws it, "here. My phone survived the trip."

 

Heading inside the McDonalds, Jason yawns, crashing from the adrenaline high and beginning to feel the aches and sores. Outside, he hears Dick talking on the phone, "hey, B? It's Nightwing. About that, we might be in Paris? yeah, no, it's a long story. But we're fine! We do need a ride, though. No, of course I won't let Jason drive, I'm not insane. What? There were knights, what was I supposed to--"

 

Jason shakes his head, and goes to the stand in line, blood and dirt and all. This might be France, but by god, he deserves a goddamn burger and fries.