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Like Those Foreign Stars

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After checking some info and catalyze some passengers from zero-likely-to be-pirates to some who give them the vibe, Dick brings out something about a special welcoming lunch arranged for two o’clock in the dining room. It may be the perfect opportunity to check-out a considerable number of passengers face to face. Having memorized the wealthiest people on-board was crucial as they could be the main targets, besides, it didn’t hurt having a clearer idea of those who shared a stay with them in the high-seas. The theoretical part of any undercover mission sometimes was very tedious. Jason may be great at planning, but nothing compared with the rush of the chase, the action, the adrenaline, so it was bloody time to leave the suite and begin the field research. Who knows, right? Maybe not even a pirate can call the shots with an empty stomach.

Jason decides to keep his current outfit consisting of a white fitted short-sleeved shirt, black slacks, and some white sneakers, something casual and fresh. Being a perfectionist, Jason makes sure to have his hair combed back and without any hair out of place. He had to dye himself black that annoying streak of white hair. It’s not like he cares that much, but not seeing it reflected in the mirror gives him a certain sense of nostalgia, as if the one who stared back at him was a complete stranger. Maybe it was stupid, but not being able to recognize himself in the mirror added an uncomfortable weight over his shoulders. Good thing there wasn’t any dress code on-board, considering already that the clothes Jason wears are worth more than his safe house in Crime Alley. Dick being a pompous ass instead changes clothes taking a hell of a time in the bathroom, making him and Damian wait like idiots. When he finally comes out, Jason’s mocking comment gets stuck at the tip of his mouth. He can’t help to narrow his eyes at him. Dick is wearing a white bowling shirt stamped with a palm tree design, some buttons are unfastened to show a little skin. He has tight-fitting white slacks that highlight his slim but muscular figure, and to complete the look a pair of white sneakers. The gold-plated watch on his right wrist stands out a lot in contrast to the white of his clothes. Jason would like to say that Dick looks just like another rich prick from the bunch, but no, Dick somehow always stands out from the crowd.   

 

“What?” Dick asks when Jason is still watching him closely. The blue-eyed brushes the hair away from his eyes and Jason notices gold rings adorning his long fingers, but the blue diamond ring stands out proudly even more.  “Is there something wrong with my outfit?”

“No,” Jason replies not wanting to make a fuss. Ever since Dick turned twenty-six it was as if he had the constant fear that his good looks were fading away, which was stupid, considering that the years have only settled his beauty. Right now, he looked like a fucking Adonis. With the moon shining in his eyes and with a smile that could melt even the coldest heart. But whatever, it wasn’t like it had any effect on him, not at all. Next to him, Damian stops writing a text and lays eyes on Dick with critical eyes. 

“What are your intentions with that clothing, Grayson?”

“Uh, I thought we had already made clear our way to blend in among all the rich guys, leave an impression, Dami. If there are pirates on-board we need them to focus on someone to rob and I’d rather be me than someone else.” It is his simple answer and Jason rolls his eyes.

“And here comes the self-sacrificing idiot I know,” Jason comments.

“I’m just being fashion. Is that a crime?” Dick whines.

“Why do you always insist on doing the opposite of what is been told to you, Grayson?”

“Chill out kiddo, we don’t even know if there are undercover crooks. It’s no big deal.” Dick replies calmly. 

“I am not a kid anymore, Grayson.” Damian reminds Dick as if they didn’t knew already, so Jason prefers to change the subject looking at Damian with a raised eyebrow.

“Aren’t you too warm with that turtle neck? We are in the middle of summer, you freak,” Damian lets out a weary sigh and crosses his arms around his chest. His shirt tightened around the biceps making them stand out proudly. He has the same fashion sense as Bruce, for fuck sake! So the dwarf thinks wearing a black turtleneck shirt, grey slacks, and some Salvatore Ferragamo sneakers is a good outfit for a cruise. Like father, like son.

“I don’t know when you thought your opinion might matter to me, Todd.”

 

Jason just takes a deep breath and turns around. The view of the sea from the promenade deck is stunning as they walk to where the gourmet dining room stands. The deck is extensive and has circular windows giving it a classic touch but keeping the modern look of the ship. There are several reclining chairs with people drinking from their cocktails while staring at the sea. Jason can perceive a wide variety of sounds everywhere. The murmur of people’s voices walking beside them, the soft breeze buzzing in the air, and the waves dancing calmly around. Jason had memorized the whole ship, each part, and centimeter, but it was one thing to see it on a screen and another very different thing to appreciate it in person. They arrive at the dining room to find out they have reserved seats in the VIP section, Jason doesn’t even ask how.

The restaurant seems to glow with all the abundant natural light thanks to the large floor-to-ceiling glass windows, giving a full view of the ocean. The tables are round and naturally, they look aesthetically pleasing with the formal dinnerware set on. They are led by a waiter to their table near a large window and where it can be appreciated the bow of the ship. Jason is almost intimidated by all the looks on them as they settle down, which makes him angry, considering that every night he faces criminals and the worst of the worst of humanity on a daily basis. For a moment, Jason notices the contrast of the different parts of his life, the two sides of the coin, the white and the black. Jason realizes that he’d rather face the darkness of Gotham than sit here among so many false and dazzling people, at least back there he has a sweet illusion of control, of security, but out here he finds himself at the mercy of so many things. The ocean, the command crew, and maybe even pirates.  

 

“Jase,” Dick taps his thigh slowly, pulling him out of his head. The waiter leaves their menus and Dick grabs one using it to slightly cover his mouth.

“Yeah, Dickie?” Jason parodies a soft tone that makes Dick wrinkle his nose comically.

“Goon alert at nine o’clock,” Dick whispers and Jason discreetly directs his gaze to the spot where Dick guides. There’s a guy sitting at some tables away from them, he seems in his thirties, robust under his Hawaiian T-shirt, and he has a hipster beard that doesn’t fit with his green calculating, and mysterious eyes. In his posture, Jason can notice that the guy is a little stiff. He knows he was on the passenger list that Tim sent them, but he can’t remember his—

“That would be Kai Beck,” Damian says smugly without even looking behind his shoulder or taking his eyes off his phone. Jason doesn’t waste time asking how Damian can do that. Fucking creep.  

“Is there anything incriminating about him? Shady records or maybe even a dark past as a sailor?” Jason mocks taking a menu and vaguely reading. Everything sounds expensive and difficult to pronounce, but whatever.  

“Do you want me to tell you about his blood type, too?” Jason releases a dry laugh when Damian gives him a teasing smirk.   

“Damian.” Dick’s tone sounds reproaching on his own so the gremlin sighs.

“Not that I am aware of, apparently according to the records he is just a regular and boring engineer, but that does not mean he does not have a double job.”

“We can’t rule out anyone, so let’s keep an eye on him.” Dick mumbles smiling at the beaming waiter approaching them with a tablet ready to take their orders.

“Hello, good afternoon. I’m Javier and today I have the pleasure of attending you. I would like to remind you that we have the best quality food on board, so satisfaction is guaranteed. Have you already decided what to order? Or would you like the chef’s suggestion?”  

“I will be the judge of that,” Damian says and Jason feels the need to kick him under the table. “A vegetarian Thai potato curry would do.” Damian says pompously, the waiter nods with a smile and then turns to look at them.  

“And what can I bring to you, gentlemen?” Before Dick could answer, Jason orders for both of them.   

“Risotto Lobster and we’d like to accompany it with 2 glasses of Sauvignon Blanc, please,” Jason replies smoothly.  

“Great choice, sir, in a moment I’ll be right back with your dishes.” Javier quickly leaves and Jason can appreciate the poorly hidden surprise on Dick’s face.

“What?” He can’t help but ask. “You thought you were the only one who could play a rich douchebag?”  

“Impressive,” Dick ends saying with a smile that Jason can’t help but return proudly. “That’s a fine palate, Jase.”

“Meh, I still prefer chilidogs.” Man, he can’t help the craving to eat one right now. It was his tradition after patrol, a nice, greasy chilidog on top of a building to end the night. There is a quiet silence for a few minutes and then Dick picks up the conversation casually.

“Yeah, I’d really like a double cheeseburger with chips and a soda right now, or a big chocolate cake.” Dick mumbles and Damian runs a hand across his chin looking at the blue-eyed with a funny expression.  

“Could you remind me how you are not fat or covered with pimples with your sugary diet, Richard?” Damian asks playfully.   

“I have good genes, what can I say, Little D?” Dick chuckles softly and Damian rolls his eyes fondly.

“Mmh, are you sure? Is that a pimple I’m seeing?” Jason jokes, pointing to Dick’s forehead. Dick frowns raising a hand to check but Jason reacts faster and smacks him loudly on the forehead. Jason chuckles when Dick blurts out a curse.

“Geez! What’d you do that for?” Dick exclaims hitting him on the shoulder. It hurts but Jason pretends it didn’t.

“Because I can,” He replies easily. “And also because your stupid face makes me want to punch it.”

“If we are talking about faces, yours causes nausea, Todd,” Damian says with a smirk, and before Jason can reply the waiter arrives with their dishes. Jason’s stomach almost growled with the smell of the food, heck, it was about time.

“I’ll be around in case you need anything else. Bon appétit, gentlemen.” Javier says with a smile and Jason thanks him, once he’s gone Dick takes his glass gently shanking it with a silly grin.   

“Cheers!” The high-pitch tone certainly catches the attention of several people around, and Jason reminds himself why they are here. Dick’s company and even Damian’s had been a regular thing in Jason’s life in recent years, so with moments like these, it could be easy to believe that they are in a crappy restaurant back in Gotham playfully fighting, and not on a cruise in the middle of an undercover mission. Jason couldn’t deny any longer that he enjoyed the family company in his own way. Many things had to happen so that Jason could once again feel part of something.

“Cheers Dickie.” He ends saying winking at the blue-eyed.

 

The rest of the day flows between Damian criticizing everything, Dick running his mouth like a talking parrot, and delicious food that indeed honoured the reviews. They stay for a while in the dining room, using the excuse of the margaritas that the staff starts to hand out to keep tabs on the passengers from time to time. Everything looked normal. The bearded hipster was still sitting on his seat while tapping his fingers on the table to the beat of the background music, his posture was much more relaxed than a few hours ago, but Jason still didn’t trust him for some reason. Damian had disappeared about a half-hour ago saying he was going to do some things on his own, no questions asked.

Meanwhile, Dick and he were having a fascinating (sarcasm) conversation with the people nearer to their table, or rather, Dick was the one talking while Jason was pretending to actually care. While Dick preaches about his ring and the people were saying that the gem matched his eyes, Jason feels the heavy eyes of someone on him. He looks nonchalantly to the right and he connects eyes with a girl. She looks about twenty-five, short, straight blond hair, she has a rather bored expression on her face. For some reason, Jason has the impression that she doesn’t seem to fit in with the people at her table. She smiles softly at him and then resumes her talk with the guy sitting next to her. Jason has a weird feeling but he can’t place why.  

 

“Jase, did you hear?” Dick gently bumps his shoulder bringing him back to their table. “Dylan here says he has his own club of yachts, and he’s heard about those ridiculous pirate stories.” Dick gives him a subtle look and Jason fakes a surprised tone.  

“Really? Have you seen one face to face? That would be thrilling.” Jason asks and the guy called Dylan shakes his head biting his lip.  

“No, I haven’t come face to face with a pirate and lived to tell the tale, but I’ve heard rumours. I don’t think those are ridiculous stories Richard, I think they’re actually pretty ruthless.” Jason nods recalling the reports about the attacks, the mere thought makes him clench his jaw, so he finishes his drink slowly.  

“I thought that pirates no longer existed, or at least only in Somalia,” The girl named Jade next to Dylan says uncertainly. “We aren’t in danger, right?”  

“Don’t worry darling, I’ve heard that security measures have been taken on cruise ships, we are safe,” Dylan replies with security.

“Yeah, for me they are like bigfoot, seeing is believing,” Dick says and Jason feels the need to sigh out loud. From the corner of his eye, he notices the bearded hipster standing from his seat and leaving the dining room quietly. Jason waits a few seconds, he lazily stretches and then he leaves his napkin on the table fishing out his phone from his pocket, giving them the typical excuse to leave the table. A phone call. 

“Well, if you’ll excuse me a moment, I’ll be right back. Don’t let my buddy here get crazy with the margaritas, they are his kryptonite.”

 

Dick laughs at that and Jason leaves the dining room with a relaxed stride, bringing his phone to his ear and actually making a call. The line rings twice before the person picks up with a sleepy voice.

 

“What is it?” Tim answers, rudely yawning after. Jason chuckles and looks at his watch. In Gotham it must be a little after three A.M or something. “Everything OK?”

“I’m just calling to say everything’s fine, actually. What are you doing up, Timbo?” He says while he follows from afar the bearded hipster, Kai, to the lower deck. The guy’s headed straight for his cabin, not straying or going anywhere else, which is a little weird considering it’s pretty early, but maybe the guy is just tired. For now, he’s innocent until proven guilty.

“I’m just finishing work,” Tim mutters and Jason nods, catching that he just came from patrol. Once the guy disappears into his room, Jason turns around and decides to take a walk on the promenade deck, holding the phone with his cheek and shoulder while pulling a cigarette out of his shirt. “How about you guys? I heard the food on-board is great.”  

“Well, yeah, isn’t that bad,” Jason mumbles lighting up the cigarette and taking a good drag, then he blows the smoke seeing it disappear above his head. “The line is secure?” He goes to the point.

“Gimme a sec,” Tim replies and Jason can hear the faint sound of his fingers on the keyboard, it takes a moment and then the replacement speaks again. “Ok, we’re clean. What is it, Jason?”

“We may have a prime suspect, so give me everything on him. His name is Kai Beck.” Jason says quietly, leaning on the deck railing.

“The reports I sent you cover plenty of data, what else do you need to know about him?”

“I just want to know if our friend is who he says he is.” He answers giving another drag of his cigarette.  Jason has learned not to ignore his instincts ever again, nop, lesson learned.  

“Uhh, according to the records he is clean, no criminal records or apparent ties to any criminal organization. He has been an engineer for a few years in a private company, lives in Seattle since—”

“What private company?” Jason interrupts him with curiosity.

“Uhh,” Tim types a few more things and then he replies. “Is a medium-sized company called SouthShore Security and Intelligence. Why?”

“Mmh, don’t you find it odd that a simple engineer from a medium-sized company bought a ticket for a luxury cruise? The tickets aren’t exactly cheap. Doesn’t strike me as someone who enjoys cocktails and wears Hawaiian shirts in his free time.”

“Good point, but it’s just the first day to jump to conclusions, don’t you think?”

“There’s no harm in a little caution, you fucker. Don’t be jealous that your mission was a failure.” Jason says strolling around looking for a place to deposit his cigarette stub, once he does Jason heads towards the bow of the ship.

“For God’s sake, I’m just trying to be neutral,” Tim argues. “Do you want me to dig deeper into his profile?” Tim adds with an interested tone. “Or I can ask Babs to give it a look too, there’s no one better than her to dig up dirt on someone.”

“Yeah, yeah, tomorrow,” Jason says putting his free hand into his pocket.

“Well, I will let you know if we find something. Oh, by the way, where are Dick and the demon?” 

“Dick’s probably getting waste on margaritas as we speak, but he should be fine. On the other hand, I have no idea where Damian is, the little shit.”

“Typical,” Tim says with a chuckle. “Anyhow, don’t let them out of your sight, especially Dick, he always attracts more attention than he can handle.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. Go to sleep jackass, you’re already talking like a mother hen.”  

“I’m not! That’s literally you!”

 

He hangs out before Tim could say something else. Jason allows himself a moment of tranquillity to sit in one of the reclining chairs and just enjoy the seascape. As much as he kind of enjoys the company of the others, there is nothing compared to a moment alone, to clear his mind and loosen up a bit from all the fraud. After a long time of sitting there and just keeping his head blank, he stands up and takes the opportunity to take a look at the security of the cruise and do a little check-up around as well.

There are cameras installed around discreetly and mainly in the most crowded areas of the ship, Jason finds some deck officers but they don’t carry any visible weapons and they appear to be somewhat rookies. There’s not as much security as there should be, considering the recent rumours and attacks on fellow cruise lines. Jason doesn’t like how easily he can sneak into the engine room, or at least at the adjacent room because there is an electronic door to go inside the engine room, but with the right tools, it is easy to pick the electronic lock and password. Is until Jason makes a rather loud sound to get attention that a kindly employee tells him that it’s a restricted area, Jason pretends to be somewhat drunk and the employee politely escorts him to another area. Jason takes a few more laps through the halls and decks and then he realizes it’s already night.

Feeling the tiredness of the day he heads towards the suite with slow steps. Once inside he removes the shirt from inside his slacks as he hears noises coming from the bathroom, when he gets closer he can make out the noise of someone throwing up. He frowns opening the door and peeking a look inside. Dick is crouching on the floor and with his head almost tucked into the toilet, Damian is behind him giving gentle rubs on his back. Jason raises his eyebrow and tries not to snort.

 

“I told you not to drink so many margaritas, Dickface,” Dick makes a pitiful noise and gags again. Damian looks at him sharply and Jason ignores the stare. “And there goes 200 bucks flushed down the toilet.”  

“Shut up, Todd,” Damian mumbles pulling the lever of the toilet and then closing the lid. Dick rests his forehead against the cool surface for a few seconds, and then Damian hands him a glass of water. Dick rinses his mouth a few times and then he nods to Damian with a little reassuring smile.

“Thanks, Dami. I’m okay,” Jason crosses his arms around his chest waiting for an explanation, Dick just shrugs nonchalantly. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a ship, okay?” Jason chuckles this time, finding empathy for him and honestly a little satisfaction in knowing that he isn’t the only sensitive to sailing. For some silly reason, finding flaws in the golden boy always makes Jason feel guilty for feeling pleasure with the realization that Dick, no matter how high everyone has him on a pedestal, is not perfect, but a mere mortal like the rest of them. Jason clenches his fists at such a stupid line of thought. Yeah, right, as if Jason didn’t put Dick on a pedestal even higher than everyone. 

“Todd, report,” Damian says and Jason abruptly comes out of his head. He nearly growls with how much Damian sounds like Bruce.

“Is pretty,” He replies. “But the security is thin. Easy access to the engine room as well to the bridge, the staff is too friendly for their own good, and there are not enough cameras to monitor the ship properly. An attack would be too easy.”   

“Idiots, they prefer to invest money in foolish luxuries than in security. It is always easier to blame others than taking matters into their own hands by taking precautionary measures.” Damian growls.

“What about you, demon, did you find something?” Jason asks and Damian purses his mouth as if he were offended by the question. 

“Tt. Of course. I may have a few more suspects to add to the list, but it’s too early to tell.” Damian says and Jason doesn’t want to ask what he was doing.

“Why did you find them suspicious?” Dick asks intrigued.

“There are some passengers who stay away from the crowds, wear long sleeves,” Jason makes a gesture to Damian’s clothes and the demon ignores him. “For now, is just speculation, but we must see everyone as possible suspects. Appearances are always deceiving.” 

“Yeah, like all these people who think Dick is actually funny,” Jason replies with a snort, Damian nods and Dick immediately makes an offended noise.

“Hey! I’m right here, dork.” Dick retorts.

“His puns are the worst,” Jason continues saying with a smirk.

“Tt,” Damian rolls up the sleeves of his shirt leaning on the wall. Why they are still chatting in the bathroom, Jason doesn’t know. “Did you get anything useful from those serpents?” Damian crosses his arms giving Dick a deep look.

“Some people think that the pirates are just a myth and others said that it is just fake news, uh, I made a friend called Brendan who claims to know almost every passenger aboard and he said there are some fresh faces around, which is promising news. Oh, and I heard that in the night the piano bar turns into a nightclub with everything and dance floor.” Dick says with a smile.

“Wow, what super useful information. Thank you Dickie.” Jason mumbles.

“No, is great news! People always slip their tongues when they’re drunk. We should definitely go! The night’s still young,” Both Damian and he exchange a look as Dick gets up from the lid letting out a yawn. “I’m just gonna brush my teeth.”

 

Dick exclaims how excited he is about moving his ass on the nightclub, but when he goes to the room to grab something, he stays knocked out cold on the mattress. Maybe his twenty-six did already start affecting him. Jason can’t help chuckling and taking pictures of him. Blackmail material for later.

He and Damian make notes of their findings in the tablet, the demon gives Daddy Bats some reports of the day, and then its only Jason on the veranda. He stays for a while lost on his thoughts until sleep wins over him and he decides to sleep a little, he doesn’t know if he will be able to fall asleep so easily, but the king-size bed is calling him. On his way to his room, just out of curiosity, he peeks a look into the other room and he smiles mockingly for himself when he dimly glimpses the scene before his eyes. The twin beds are pulled together creating a king-size bed, Dick is snoring softly, spread upside down while using Damian’s chest and shoulder as a pillow. Instead, Damian is lying on his back with one hand on Dick’s middle. The latter with his almost superhuman senses opens his eyes giving Jason a challenging look in the dim light, as if daring him to say something. Jason puffs a breath and ignores Damian’s sharp stare closing the door quietly.