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Like Those Foreign Stars

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If anything Dick was very good at, it was reading people by just looking at them. Kind of like when you’re in a bookstore and you read the introduction of myriad books and you immediately know which books you’d never read and which books you would read over and over. That’s how effective Batman’s training and Cass advises had been, he could read people as if they were books. Obviously, comparing books with people maybe wasn’t the best metaphor, but somehow it made sense. Though Dick always liked to believe that there was more than meet the eye, on a mission, it turned out to be very useful to know how to read people quickly.

Dick knew how to pick out micro-expressions that happened in a second and vanished the next, he could perceive what the body language said about a person without the need for words. For him, communication through touch and movement was the most certain thing that could exist. (Alfred had always told him that he was a kinaesthetic kind of person) A man could be a master of lies, may trick with his words, but his body would always betray him. Whilst it was true that was an ordinary and quite essential skill in the vigilante business, sometimes Dick liked to think that his sixth sense was above average. It never had failed him before, not on his Robin days, not when he built his own legacy on Blüdhaven. Dick couldn’t remember a single moment when his instincts had let him down, and yet, in spite of all that awareness regarding the body language and a clear perception of his surroundings, his family and many other people were always teasing him about being pretty naïve about a lot of things. And okay, maybe in a way it was true, but Dick knew that for what it was really important, he was genuinely perceptive, thank you very much. People were wrong about that gossip cause it was one thing to turn a blind eye to certain things and another very different thing was not seeing it at all.

Dick liked being underestimated, though it was a double-edged sword.

He basked in seeing the stunned face of his opponents when they realized he was much more than a little birdie in black and blue or a fine, graceful figure. Clearly, this mission was no exception to the rule, despite Bruce’s ‘better judgment’ in sending him on this operation from the very beginning, B himself must know by now that he was the best option. Everything about him drew attention, and his face was quite well-known even outside Gotham. Dick knew that from the moment he publicly bragged about his vacation on a luxurious cruise on the South Pacific Ocean, he had painted a red mark over his back. He was aware of being the perfect bait for those new famed pirates, and for that reason, he didn’t think twice before embarking on this cruise, and what better than being accompanied by Damian and Jason? Brotherly bonding was what Dick enjoyed most in the world. It didn’t matter if it was on top of a skyscraper back in Gotham, in the kitchen of the manor, or in an undercover mission on a cruise ship. It was worth the same. What more could he ask for? Oh, well, maybe a little breathing space. Definitely.

Since the first day, Dick had felt all eyes on him. And he wasn’t dumb, he knew he was somewhat attractive, but that much? He could feel the watchful looks everywhere he went, like a shadow following him at every step he took. It got to a point where it became a bit tiresome, overwhelming even. But to be honest, not all the looks were bad, as they were almost always followed by a smiling face or some kind words. He was used to it, but that didn’t mean he always enjoyed being the center of attention, as now.

Undeniably there were many kinds of looks that meant hundreds of different things, emotions that could range from being pleasant to be awkward, and this time, Dick felt really uncomfortable under that intense green gaze. From the moment he set foot on the ship, after meeting the majority of the passengers even if it was in a fleeting glance, after engaging in a lot of conversations with all sorts of people, Dick hadn’t been so sure he’d found a person who gave him all the red flags as Aleksander did. From the moment he sat next to him in the game and gave him that dazzling smile, Dick knew. There was no doubt in his mind that this man was pretending to be someone he wasn’t, a wolf disguised as a sheep. His walk was that of a hunter, looking for its prey in the crowd, and Dick knew very well that he had been chosen as the prey in this particular hunting.

He didn’t know whether to be offended or pleased about having captured the most likely pirate’s attention, as that had been literally the purpose of the mission. It hadn’t taken much effort if Dick was honest. A lovely smile this way, a comment about his travels around the world that way, waving the big diamond ring at every opportunity that seemed fit. Everything in order to get the bad type of attention, and it had paid off.

 

“You do have stunning eyes. Did anyone ever told you about that gem matching the color of your iris?” Dick rolls his eyes inwardly. Really? Can’t anyone be more creative with their flattery? At some point it gets boring. “Though in my opinion, I do not think there is anything that can compare their color. I am sorry if I am overstepping, I’ve just never seen eyes quite like yours.” Aleksander comments in a gentle tone, his voice is husky and certainly a bit demanding. He had that perfect mumbo jumbo to roll people into sharing their biggest secrets without even realizing it, he knows how to ask subtly for basic information and personal data that might seem harmless, but is not. Luckily, he was a pro in that field as well. Extra point for himself, yeehaw!

“Can you believe my optometrist told me once that my eyes are nothing special? Even if it is said that only 8% of the population has blue eyes, but whatever.” Dick comments with a shrug.

“Well, rest assured it is a lie. It’s not just the color, it is your gaze. Kid, anyone who says otherwise is just envious.”

“Thanks,” Dick smiles softly taking a sip of his drink, an apple martini, ugh. He had never liked alcohol that much, this was just for the sake of the mission. He couldn’t turn down the invitation to this drink, not when he was so close to getting answers. How would Aleksander suspect him if Dick was playing to be the charming, partygoer, and goofy Richie Grayson? Hopefully, he had him in the palm of his hand.

“Why did you choose a destination as magical as French Polynesia? Are you traveling for pleasure or business?” Aleksander enquires looking at him with interest.

“Oh, always pleasure. I needed a break, you know? Changer d’air!” Dick says with a smile, waving his arms to make an emphasis.

“Do not we all need it?” The man snorts. “Hmm, so do you speak French, uh. You are full of surprises, young man.” Aleksander comments with a curious tone.

“Yup. Fun fact, French impresses girls more.” Dick winks at him making the man snort again.

“Thanks for the tip then. Tell me, Richard, have you enjoyed this ocean crossing so far? What do you think of the ship?”

“Everything is excellent, I have been on many cruises in many places in the world, and I think I can say that this is one of the best. Even though my dad didn’t want me to board this cruise, you know?” Bullshit. Dick didn’t even like cruises. They always ended up being a nightmare, he felt like they were on top of a piece of wood helplessly floating in the ocean, or maybe was the fact that Dick had seen Titanic before they boarded, yeah, that was it. Anyway, Dick always felt dizzy and his fear of sharks didn’t help.

“May I ask why?” Aleksander’s face changes into one of genuine curiosity, and Dick must bite his tongue to not show a face of incredulity. Dick’s tone comes out more petulant than he had planned.

“Surely you’ve heard those ridiculous stories of pirates attacking cruise ships, haven’t you? My father thinks they’re real, for goodness’ sake! Me on the other hand I find them very absurd, I mean, seriously?” He can see how the man’s attention is now completely on him.  Aleksander tilts his head sideways for a moment, as if he didn’t believe what he’s saying.

“And why do you find them absurd?” The man touches his chin questioningly. “Even I who am far from the media have heard about them. I do not think people like them should be underestimated.”

“Maybe, but for me they are nothing more than silly tales. I mean, pirates in the 21st century? I think they are being very old-fashioned; you know?” Dick says nonchalantly, gesturing with his drink in a dismissive way. “I don’t think anyone should consider them important, they are simply cheap copies of scoundrels from the past.” He ends saying with an amused smirk. If Dick is really, really good at something, it’s in pissing people off opening his big mouth. Aleksander doesn’t seem to react to the taunt, but Dick manages to catch how the man squints his eyes at him for a second in what might seem irritation.

“Those are some harsh words, but I think you’re right, kid. Perhaps they are nefarious people doing absurd things in order to gain attention,” The man smiles playfully, but the edges of his smile look forced. Dick can feel a chill running down his spine. If he could describe the red lights on his head right now, they’d look like a shiny Christmas tree. “Richard, do you know that young man standing over there?” Dick glances quickly around to find Damian staring at them, not hiding it at all. Dick sighs heavily, having noticed the intense glare of his little brother a while ago while they were chatting. Although it was kind of sweet to see Damian so committed to making sure he was safe, sometimes he could be a little scary. Damian never hid when something bothered him, his face was easy to read due to years of practice in understanding his many gestures and grimaces. Dick knew for experience his baby brother was too close to snatching a bite. He needed to regain control of the conversation, and having Damian breathing down his neck wasn’t helping. “He’s been watching us for a while now, you want me to do something?”

“Oh, no. He is my little brother Damian, I am sorry. He may seem a little hostile but he is only joking. Just ignore him and he’ll go.” If looks killed, Aleksander would already be torn to shreds.

“I see. There is no need for an apology. I can understand that, after all, we do not know each other. So if you allow me, we can change that.” Aleksander looks at him intensely, waiting for an answer, so Dick smiles brightly.

“I’d be happy to.”

 

Turns out the man wasn’t as easy to manipulate as Dick would have thought. No doubt Aleksander was well trained and skilled at keeping the conversation fluid and supposedly spontaneous, but Dick could read between the lines. Topics such as his personal life, travels, and even the relationship with his family always came up, but curiously, the man hadn’t yet commented on whether or not he knew he was the adopted son of the billionaire Bruce Wayne, although Dick had the feeling that Aleksander had him well-studied in advance, this conversation hadn’t happened by chance.

Dick was trying to give Aleksander everything he wanted to hear but trying not to put Damian or Jason at risk, he didn’t want to make them an easy target, he wanted to stay as the main and possibly only target. With a bit of effort, Dick had managed to pull out a bit of information of him, though almost none, but nevertheless useful to create a profile about his personality. There was certainly an aura of leadership coming from Aleksander, from how he talked to how he sat. He was smart, analytical, and even funny and polite, for crying out loud. How could a person seem so nice and end up being a cold-blooded pirate?  Sure, hypothetically speaking, but every second that passed Dick felt more accurate with his hunch. He was risking the thought that it even seemed that the man had some military discipline, or maybe even marine (which would say itself a lot, cause according to the rumor the pirates were former marines) The man had said he owned a large number of nightclubs in several states, and he did have that Wall Street businessman vibe, but not of a clean one. (Who was, anyway?) Dick knew he couldn’t trust anything that came out of Aleksander’s mouth.

When Dick feels the conversation going up a dead end, he realizes that Damian was no longer watching them, it looked like his Little D went for a walk around the casino or was checking the bugs in Andrei’s room. In any case, it was the perfect opportunity to take the talk elsewhere and turn the conversation around, maybe even get more answers, so Dick gives him his best dazzling smile.

 

“Why don’t we get out of here? I think the weather is ideal for a walk on the promenade deck. What do you think?” Aleksander gives him a lopsided smirk (pretty scary) making his stomach twist.

“Lead the way.” Dick knows he should warn one of his siblings about his plans, but the idea of them ruining everything with their silly overprotection makes him think twice. His Little Wing was talking with a girl and Dami was... doing his thing, whatever that was. They’d be fine without him for a few more hours, right? No big deal.

 

_____________

 

The idea comes to Dick after an hour or so after he and Aleksander had walked on the promenade deck while discussing many topics. His detective side was frustrated with not being able to get anything more from the man, Dick needed evidence on his hands, he needed to get his much-desired questions solved. If he couldn’t get that from Aleksander, Dick needed to take matters into his own hands, solve the riddle about him, and that aura of darkness that he emitted.

He had to be patient, like when you throw the hook into the water and wait for the fish to take the bait. Patience is a virtue, is what Bruce always said. Dick waits patiently, taking his time, waiting to pull the hook. Then it happens.

After casually talking about the ship’s suites, Dick manages to find out the number of Aleksander’s suite, though it hadn’t been as easy as it would have been with someone else. Dick could have asked Timmy for the information, but it felt good to be able to do something himself, it gave him great satisfaction in seeing that his persuasive gifts were as good as ever. It had been a long time since Dick had been on an undercover mission (his family believed that he always ended in some misfortune in such missions, which was a total exaggeration) so this was like a journey down his memory lane. Once knowing where to go and knowing that the man wouldn’t return to his suite soon afterwards, Dick plans his escape.

However, trying to get away from the man in question was proving to be an almost impossible task. For every excuse that Dick made up Aleksander came up with a solution, as if he refused to take his eyes off him, which was interesting, yes, but very annoying. He needed to bail himself out, he was wasting precious time on what he could be investigating Aleksander and find out if he was just misjudging or if his hunch was pretty much justified.

 

“Do you really have to go? The night is still young, kid.” Aleksander requests, but his tone didn’t sound honest, instead, it only twisted more the knot in Dick’s stomach.

“Yeah, it’s a shame, but I’m a little tired and my brother’s probably looking for me everywhere. But I’ll see you soon, won’t I?” Dick asks näively, almost pouting just to add weight to his words. Aleksander smiles softly, his white teeth looked almost like fangs and Dick cringes internally. In the shadow of the moon, his features looked tougher, almost gloomy, not far from the face of any other villain in some dark alley back in Gotham.

“Of course you’ll see me soon,” Dick knows it’s a promise, and not a good one. The simple tone gives him more chills. “You can be sure of that.”

“Well, then I’ll go. It’s been a pleasure, Alek.” Dick says kindly even if the words feel rock-like on his mouth. It was rude not to be polite. Alfred had always taught him very well, even if Dick was about to unmask this man.

“The pleasure was mine, Richard,” Aleksander surprises him when he takes his right hand and kisses his knuckles softly. Dick almost jerked at the gesture, but the way the man looks at the ring one last time makes Dick squint suspiciously. OK, that there was a clear sign, almost as clear as the moonlight. “I’ve had a great afternoon with you. Sleep well kid.”

“Au revoir.”

 

Dick’s smile seems about to get stuck halfway, but Dick urges himself to put on a 100 watts’ smile. With all the grace he can muster, Dick walks away and once he’s far enough away he lets out a long sigh. My gosh, that was intense, but chop-chop, there was no time to lose. Dick didn’t have time to catalogue everything that had happened and put it in little boxes to analyze under the microscope. There were things to do and places to go.

Dick heads to the upper suites on deck 6 with a gentle jog, smiling at a girl passing by in the hallway to ease his tension. He settles a strand of wavy hair away from his face tiredly, okay, maybe it would have been a good idea to follow Damian’s advice and cut his hair before they had boarded. His little brother was so wise, always after him with some advice, almost as a spiritual guide or something. But being so stubborn, he hardly listened, and when something went wrong, his little brother was always there with a smug face saying ‘I told you so’, the brat.

It was almost as if their roles had been reversed and now Damian was the one who was constantly reminding him of his duties, which sometimes upset him, but at the same time, he appreciated the effort of the kid. No, not a kid anymore. Damian was a young man, even taller than him. Gosh, how is that they grow up so fast? Dick feels like a proud father seeing Damian becoming a great, passionate, and virtuous man. It was an indescribable sensation, to be able to see the change in Damian’s attitude and to go from being a spoiled brat to this more tolerant and understanding person, and more knowing that he himself did his bit to make that happen.

Were there stones on the road? Plenty. Was it worth it? Every damn second.

They had reached that point where after so much loss, sorrow, and stubbornness on their part had created many cracks in their already fractured family, but with a lot of glue, love, and above all patience, everyone seemed to have finished licking their wounds and were willing to make peace once and for all. Jay had been the hardest to bring together, but Dick always had kept a lot of faith in his Little Wing, knowing well the man behind the helmet. And despite his wariness at first, Jason integrated himself back into the family, being accepted with open arms. Was it normal to feel teary eyes after thinking about his much-loved family? Hell yes. After 5 minutes of trekking through the halls, he reaches the door marked with the number 105.

Once there, Dick puts his mind back on the game, away from his thoughts and emotions. Being a full-time vigilante, bringing his mind to neutrality is as easy as switching on the light, going from Dick Grayson to Nightwing doesn’t take him more than a blink. After looking on each side with caution and seeing that the coast was clear, Dick uses his magic wand to open the door (said magic wand being Batman Tech) and after a few seconds, the door opens with a satisfying click. What he finds inside, is more than just incriminating, and all in the form of a thumb drive.

 

_____________

 

Jason’s well-rooted instincts immediately kick in, his mind is invaded by a million thoughts and possibilities, each seeming more unlikely than the previous, but at this point, nothing could stop that well-know, hideous feeling of uncertainty. What the heck was going on? Should he worry? But instead of showing how he really felt, he gives Damian his best glare of skepticism, trying to keep his concern at bay.

 

“Say again?”

“For heaven’s sake, do you want me to spell it out for you or what?” Damian snarls. “Grayson is missing.”

“I got that part, genius. But I mean if he is just ‘momentary missing’ or like ‘missing from the face of the earth’?”

“What do you think?”

“I’m sure he is doing stupid flips around or flirting with someone,” Damian gives him a bitter look. “Don’t worry too much about him, Dick knows how to take care of himself.”

“Sure, and if that were true, you wouldn’t be here, would you? You’d be wasting your time somewhere else, but you know as well as I do that Grayson has a bad case of tough luck. You care about him and you look like a moron trying to hide it.”

“And what happened to that brat who never accepted how much he cared about his older brother, huh?” Jason growls.

“I grew up. You should do the same, Todd.”

 

Jason rubs his forehead with his fingers, wisely deciding to ignore Damian, who clearly was too emotionally involved to be of any help in this case. Ok, first things first. In the event of a ‘sudden disappearance’ the first logical thing to do is dial the number of that said person, right? It didn’t matter that they were possibly within reach from each other, after all, where could Dick have gone without letting them know?

Although it wasn’t uncommon for Dick to throw himself into the unknown without a safety net, he would have had the trouble of telling them where he was going, to not worry Damian, right? But a little voice reminds Jason that Dick is an adult and he didn’t have to report his location every 5 minutes, for fuck’s sake. It was time to acknowledge that fact, which meant that there wasn’t any solid reason to worry, it probably was a false alarm and Damian was just overreacting. Knowing the little shit, it was likely that his overprotection was making him fucking paranoid, considering that he had the terrible example of having Bruce as a father figure, making him jump to hasty conclusions and always expecting for the worst.

‘Everything’s fine’ Jason repeats himself as he hears how the phone rings and rings several times with no answer until eventually, it goes to voicemail. Jason curses but that doesn’t stop him from dialling again, though. There was no need to make a fuss, it was just a precaution. It wasn’t like there was any real danger on a luxury cruise, right? Well, not counting the very, very low probability of undercover pirates being on-board, but honestly, what were the odds that just tonight they had decided to carry out their attack and take Dick hostage? No, Jason wasn’t considering that option, nor was he imagining the idea of finding Goldie’s remains at the sea by tomorrow morning. Absolutely not.

 

“This is worthless, Todd. Don’t you think I already tried to call him unsuccessfully?” The dwarf’s voice jerks him back to the current time being. “Are you going to stand there and be incompetent or will you assist me in finding him?” Damian barks but surprisingly, he didn’t sound as threatening as he should. The words weren’t even spoken in spite, but with a well-hidden anxious tone that leaves Jason frozen in place. Was Damian freaking out internally? At his lack of words, Damian pinches the bridge of his nose with irritation.

“Don’t patronize me, shithead. As I said, Dick probably is playing roulette or he’s sticking his tongue in someone’s throat. There’s no need to get your panties in a twist!” Damian glares at him with dire.

“If that is the case, then why don’t you lead the way inside and surprise me with your prodigious detective skills?” Jason sighs heavily trying not to strangle the little shit, Dick would definitely kill him. The dwarf was just trying to hide his worry behaving like a fucker, he could relate. Tragically, they were more alike than he cared to admit, so he knew how useless it would be to try to convince Damian to calm down.

“Okay, Dick was with that looming man, Aleksander, so maybe he’s with him, right? But I don’t remember seeing him on the passenger list Tim sent, so I have no fucking idea who he is.” Just great.

“I do not remember seeing him before either. Undoubtedly, Richard had some suspicion about him and for that single reason, he agreed to chat with him. The question is, will he be responsible for Richard’s disappearance? Should we—”

“Not so fast, brat. Dick’s not missing... he’s just not here. That doesn’t mean something bad happened to him, or that that prick has anything to do!” Jason doesn’t share the fact that Aleksander gave him a bad mojo from the start. Damian didn’t need that information right now.

“Then enlighten me, where is he, buffoon?” Damian utters. “If you are so sure, then tell me where Richard might have gone without letting m— letting us know?” Damian sounds so mad saying it, as if the fact that it happened on his watch made him angrier.

“Dick doesn’t have to tell you everything he does, you’re not his fucking babysitter,” Jason growls. “There’s no need to jump to hasty conclusions, we’re probably just looking at all the possible bad things and not thinking about the obvious.”

“And how do you explain the sudden disappearance of that man too? It is a coincidence?”

“Dammit, I don’t know!” He yells. After a moment, Jason simmers down his temper enough to speak again. “Hear me out, we should split up to see if we found him, maybe they went to talk elsewhere or something. I’ll search the upper decks and you search the lower decks. If you find him first, call me, okay?

“Tt. Fine.”

 

Damian gives him one last vile look before disappearing once again. Jason takes a deep breath as he makes his way back into the too sharp, too loud, and too bright casino. This time, stepping inside the casino is not a pleasant thing. Every little thing is too overwhelming now, but Jason blocks all the rowdy and enveloping atmosphere compacting it in a small box in the back of his mind. Just to be safe, Jason gives the casino a quick sweep over, hoping that this is just a silly misunderstanding, an exaggeration by Damian regarding his older-brother-and-favourite-person-in-the-world. But the demon was right, there was not a single trace of Dick, nor in the card tables, the roulette, the slots, or the red velvet armchairs where was the last time he saw him. Okay, fine, maybe he went to get some damn air or something.

With that in mind, Jason leaves the casino behind and heads for the Sun Deck. The ship itself wasn’t so big, Dick couldn’t have disappeared just like that, besides, what could that knucklehead be doing that seemed more important than telling them where he’d gone? Asshole.

To Jason’s misfortune, the cruise was full of life. People were everywhere, like little ants after a piece of sugar. Jason feels that his patience is running out when he examines most of the upper deck crowded areas without finding any blue-eyed in sight. Dammit. Did Jason have to get one of those stupid anti-lost belts they put on kids these days? If Dickface wanted to get lost like a little kid, Jason was gonna treat him like one. He feels his phone buzzing and when he checks it hoping it’s a message from Goldie, it’s a new message from ‘adopted deformity :)’ Name with which he keeps Damian’s number under, whoopee.

 

‘Report. Did you find any trace of him?’

‘No, not yet. Nothing up here. You?’

‘No traces of him down here.’

 

Jason doesn’t even bother to answer back, preferring to turn around on his heels and deciding to start looking in the cabins section, even checking in their own suite didn’t seem like a bad idea. Which would be ironic, wouldn’t it? Find the fucker there without any worry in the world, while Damian and he almost burned down the whole ship looking for him. It was always like that, wasn’t it? Jason could be in total control of his emotions and outbursts of anger like he had never before (after the pit, Jason never believed that would be possible) but the moment something happened to someone he cared about, Jason lost his shit. A flaw in the human condition, a weakness. He used to be terrified of that notion, but now, it seemed that he accepted it as everything that comes and cannot be changed.

He was trying to keep some semblance of control while he wandered through the halls. Apparently, all the people were elsewhere and what made his task easier, well, except for a few passing crew members Jason ran into every now and then so he just tried to give that vibe of ‘nothing weird going on over here’. Being on that section of the ship, Jason could sense the movement of the structure more intensely, and if he paid enough attention, he could even hear the ship moving as if it were a monster breathing and groaning. Jason snorts as he turns the corner and he realizes this looked like a fucking maze.

Not wanting to waste any more time, Jason pulls his phone out of his pocket ready to dial Timmy’s number when he notices several missed calls from Barbara. Oh shit. Ignoring Barbara either involuntarily or voluntarily, always turned out bad. How come Jason didn’t notice the ringing of his phone? Weird. Not wanting to be scolded right now, Jason starts dialling Tim’s number when the above-mentioned dials again. Perfect timing, almost as if she knew they had screwed up somehow. Feeling a little reckless, Jason ignores the call and finishes dialling Timber’s number.

 

“What is it? Everything OK?” Tim’s voice sounds very awake, energetic even. “By the way, Barbara is pissed because she thinks you’re ignoring her calls, you should know by now that it is not a good idea to make her angry.”

“For the record, I’m not ignoring her. For some reason, I never heard my stupid phone rang,” He comments bitterly, swallowing his pride with his next words. “I have an issue. I need you to do something for—

“Wait a minute, how come you didn’t hear your phone? There’s supposed to be really good coverage. Have you checked the why does seem to be interference?” Tim sounds surprised. Jason did hear some interference coming from the line, which yeah, it’s weird, but not the top priority right now. “There is no forecast storm, nor strong winds on your way. The signal should be flawless.”

“Not really. As I said, I’m kind of in the middle of something.” Jason mumbles begrudgingly.

“And that ‘something’ is more important? Jason, I know I said myself that according to how little you had found on these days there was a low probability of unwanted guests on-board, but it doesn’t seem strange to you that the signal is suddenly failing when that usually is the first indication of something weird going on? And you remember that report we read? That the pirates started to partially cut off the signal to make it look like a malfunction from the ship?” Tim drags on elaborating his possible theory of a possible attack, like if Jason didn’t have enough headache to think about that right now. “I don’t want to jump to hasty conclusions, but I don’t think that these events are a coincidence. I know Bruce already gave up on the mission, but the fact that we haven’t found anything weird on the calls yet doesn’t mean something isn’t happening w—”

“We lost Dick,” Jason says out of the blue, cutting off anything Tim was saying. There’s a 5-second silence when RR’s voice resonates back in his ear pretty loud.

“What!?” Tim sounded really shocked. “How did you lose a 26-year-old grown-up man? And with Damian there?” Jason clenches his fits, hating the high-pitch of Tim’s voice right now. “Weren’t you supposed to be going to the casino and play for a while? What happened?”

“Didn’t you hear, fucking deaf? We. Lost. Dick. I don’t know how the hell it happened, but right now you have to tell me where he is. Search in the CCTV cameras or the GPS of that ridiculous ring, or whatever. Be that high-tech nerd and find him.”

“The GPS on the ring indicates that Dick is still on the ship, let me triangulate his position to know more precisely where he is. I’m also checking the cameras, wait a sec.” Jason sighs heavily when he hears voices coming from ahead of him. He is about to ignore them when Jason kinda recognizes said person’s voice.

“I think I found something, I’ll put you on hold.”

“Wait—”

 

Jason abruptly moves away the phone from his ear when the voices in the hallway sound closer and closer, so he casually leans on the wall next to some large plants that provide a little coverage from prying eyes, making himself part of the decor. He pretends to be checking his phone when said persons pass by him and it takes just a moment for Jason to recognize that broad body and expensive suit.

Jason frowns in confusion when he spots none other than Aleksander himself wandering quietly next to another tall man. He looks at them with disbelief when his brain suddenly supplies him with the memory of where he saw that face before, that man being Andrei Chapman, number one suspect in Damian’s research. Holly shit. Jason got that feeling like when a new piece fits into the puzzle as he watches both men talk as if they’ve known each other all their lives. 

It gives him a certain mix between optimism for maybe having found preliminary evidence even from a hunch, and anger because Dick is still nowhere to be seen. Jason returns the phone to his ear and Tim’s voice immediately squawk again.

 

“Can’t you wait two fucking minutes?” Jason growls.

“Sorry, I thought something bad had happened. Anyway, hmm, okay, I checked twice and I’m pretty sure Dick is in your suite.” Tim says cautiously.

“You sure?” Jason swipes a hand over his face heavily. “‘Cause I’m two seconds away from going to strangle him.” He muttered through gritted teeth.

“The GPS doesn’t lie, and I just checked the cameras. Dick’s in the suite,” There’s a little pause and then Tim adds: “Take it easy, will you? Maybe Dick has a good reason why he didn’t tell you what he was doing.” Ugh, fuck Goldie for being the favorite. 

“Don’t make excuses for him, brat. While I give Dick a piece of my mind, find any connection between an Aleksander and Andrei Chapman.”

“Okay, I will, do you need—”

“Not now.”

 

Jason hangs up and promptly sends a message to Damian, then he angrily goes to the suite as if the devil came after him. It wasn’t Timbo’s fault, but Jason didn’t want to say anything hurtful on the phone. Yeah, amazing how much he controlled his emotions and outbursts of anger, huh. However, Jason wanted to believe that this time they were justified. As he slides the electronic card to open the door, Jason can already hear Damian’s yells echoing inside.

Jason breathes a sigh as he closes the door and finds Damian waving his arms angrily in the middle of the living room. It seems that the runt is ahead of him with the scolding then. Well, round two is for him.

 

“—and I won’t mention how reckless that was, because unequivocally you already know that, don’t you? It seems to me that you do not learn. Are you six years old? Why on earth would you did not think of announcing your whereabouts? Don’t you think we’ve done this many times before, Grayson?” Damian states angrily. Jason folds his arms around his chest as he lay eyes on the fucker, who is sitting quietly with his gaze fixed on the tablet screen, not at all disturbed by Damian’s scolding.

“I’m sorry Damian, I didn’t mean to worry you. I know I should have said what I was doing and not sneak out. Clearly, I made a mistake, but—”

“‘Mistake’?” The demon interrupts him incredulously. “I would rather call that immaturity. What would have happened if I had done that, Grayson? Retire without warning and leave you concerned?”

“You already have, Dami,” Dick responds calmly without taking his eyes off the screen yet, but his brow is furrowed, either in concentration or in irritation. “Sneak around without explanation. Why is it different when I do it?” Dick briefly lifts his blue eyes off the screen, giving Damian a sassy look before returning his eyes back to the tablet. Jason notices a thumb drive connected and he wonders what is it.  

“That is not the point!” Damian starts to prepare his defense but Dick cuts him off again without even sounding mad. Fuck. Jason stays frozen in his place, watching as Goldie handles an angry Damian as if he were an angry kitten and not a dangerous vigilante.

“So what is the point?” Dick makes a gesture with his free hand. “I’m here safe and sound and that’s what matters, isn’t it?”

“The point is that— you keep ignoring me, Grayson! You have not been able to look me in the eye to talk about this.”

“I’m not ignoring you,” Dick mutters tiredly. “I’m just waiting for you to stop yelling at me so I can explain myself.” Jason gives a short huff of amusement, finally coming out of his daze, but for some reason, his anger felt subsided.

“Yeah sure, whatever you have there is more important than facing us, right dickhead?” Dick bites the inside of his cheek but he still doesn’t reply immediately, making Jason anxious with all that strange mystery out of character from Goldie. “Can you stop typing and tell us what the hell is going on? Why did you disappear like that then?” Dick seems to sigh heavily, finding the right words before speaking, but then he just decides to cut to the chase.

“It’s him.” Dick just says, lifting his eyes from the screen and finally looking at them. Jason opens his mouth about to ask what the hell does he mean by that, but something on Dick’s face makes him shut his mouth.

“What do you mean?” Damian vocalizes his thoughts.

“He’s an undercover pirate, I know.” Oh.

“And how did you come to that conclusion, huh?” Jason enquires doubtfully.

“Do you have proofs?” Damian asks instead. “You were in his presence for a couple of hours, Grayson. By that standard, can you say he’s an undercover criminal?”

“Yes, and I have proofs,” Proofs? What the fuck? But before either of them could answer Dick’s phone rings. Goldie takes it heavily and without thinking he puts the call on speaker. “Hey B. What’s up?”

“We need to talk, now.” That was Batman’s voice speaking. Great.