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Like Those Foreign Stars

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“We’re almost there, Dickie. Almost there. Hold on.”

 

Comforting words came out of his mouth without permission. Jason was never the kind of person who liked to offer comfort through his words, he preferred to offer it through his actions. Words got carried away, actions didn’t. With Dick things didn’t work that way though. There was something about him that made him cherish words even more than actions. Sometimes he just needed to hear it in order to believe it, as strange as it was. They all had their own ways of coping with their issues, who was he to judge anyway? If Dick needed that kind of reassure right now, Jason was willing to offer it to him, even if he had his own demons whispering in his ear.

You’re not gonna make it. Is far away. Don’t even bother.

Jason felt that the more they swam, the island itself seemed to move further away. He was afraid that in the blink of an eye the island was gonna vanish between his fingers, a glimpse of a paradise drifting away. The illusion of a helpless and delusional stranded. His arms and legs were burning with the effort; his strength was about to ran out. Every move and stroke felt like the last one Jason might give, succumbing to exhaustion, dehydration, and an endless list of aches. But Jason kept going, not stopping to catch his breath, just letting his body move with his latest backup power, burning every last drop of energy he had left. His eyes fixed on the target. Get to the island and get them to safety.

His objective was repeated in his mind like a nonstop mantra, ignoring the voices in his head telling him they weren’t going to make it, sending adrenaline into his veins, determination in every push forward he gave. Dick had already stopped trying to help, he had made a great effort, but his body couldn’t take it anymore. Despite his total lack of cooperation to move, Dick was uncharacteristically stiff while Jason held him to his side, deathly quiet and just emitting small cries of pain with the frantic movement of Jason trying to swim towards the island. It was risky, he knew. Moving him so sharply in his condition could further aggravate the wound and worsen the bleeding, but there was no other option. Even if Dick got mad at him, Jason would rather that than lose him tonight. Damian was swimming right next to him, clutching to his shirt in an attempt to not be torn apart by the tide. He was speaking to Goldie in a soft voice, trying to encourage him to stay awake, barking orders to pretend he was the one in charge, too afraid of not making it in time. Jason was no longer sure if Goldie was awake or not, or if he was listening to what the demon was saying, but at this point, it only mattered to get there and then Jason would think of something, a way to improvise and stop Dick from bleeding to death.

 

“You can achieve this, Richard. Just a bit longer,” Damian sounded as drained as Jason felt. “We got through the hard stuff, now you just have to keep your head out of the water. Kind of literal.”

“No, just— I gotta stop—” Jason hesitates just for a second when Dick’s almost imperceptible voice is heard over the splash of the water. But Jason couldn’t afford to pause and risk no longer being able to keep going. Not when they were so close. “Jay… hold up a second, please—” Dick sounded breathless and in pain. Jason could feel the heat emanating from his body, something that was undoubtedly already bad.

“I ain’t stopping just cuz you say so. You can do it, we are about to make it!”

“Hurts.” That’s all Dick acknowledges and Jason just closes his eyes for a moment but he doesn’t stop his march.

“Do not quit, you still have so much to give. This is nothing compared to what you and I have faced back in the old days. I’ve seen you fight with a knife buried in your shoulder and still win the fight. I’ve seen you take a fall from truly high and still got up with a cartwheel included! Richard, you promised!” Damian sounded like that 12-year-old boy again, terrified that a person he loved so much would abandon him. If the demon had a panic attack this instant there wasn’t much Jason could do.  He knew Damian’s biggest strength and weakness was Dick, but he had to trust the demon to pull himself back together on his own. For everyone’s sake.

“R-right. I promised—”

 

Jason no longer focused on listening to the conversation, nor the slurred speech of Goldie. Keep swimming. What from a distance seemed like the crest of a mountain was now a large island right before their eyes. The closer they got, the smaller they seemed compared to the huge piece of floating land. The waves of the beach played them a good fortune, pushing them into the current of the island and closer to the mainland. Jason readjusts his grip on Dick while they move with the waves, trying to not fucking drown. After a few minutes amid swirling waves trying to tow them in all directions, they finally reach shallow waters, being able to catch sight of the fucking bottom full of sand, shells, and vast aquatic life. They made it. The water drags them to the beach, and after nearly 24 hours in the open sea, they finally touch terra firma.

The moment his body makes contact with the sand Jason feels like letting go of a screech of glee. He grabs a handful of sand between his fingers, breathing in and out, his body trembling with the effort. Jason’s whole body felt about to shut down, the headache was almost unbearable and his face burned, but there wasn’t time to recover and lie down. Goldie didn’t have that luxury. Jason hoists Dick up carefully by his shoulders, dragging him out of the water. Dick was a dead weight as his heels dug into the sand. The sun was already setting behind the horizon, the last of the light was about to vanish and leave them in complete darkness again.

Making up his mind, Jason gently picks him up in his arms, gathering the last of his brute force to carry him in bridal style. Dick immediately nestles his head in the crook of his neck, wincing in pain when he stirs his wound accidentally. With careful steps on shaky legs, Jason walks toward the safety of the beach, far from the ocean that almost swallowed them whole and nearly ate them alive. Jason seeks for a good place to settle Dick down, and he finds a spot between two palm trees and soft white sand. Kneeling down into the sand, he deposits Dick on the ground with all the care in the world, finally daring to take a breath. Jason gathers up the courage to peek at the blue-eyed through his wet and dripping hair. Dick’s eyes were tightly shut and his features were twisted in pain. Jason reaches out one hand and touches his forehead, boiling skin to the contact. He brushes some wet strands away from his face, catching his breath. Jason nods for himself and then he gazes at his wound, finding that Damian already had his hands on his belly, slowly moving to the side clothes soaked in fresh blood that didn’t stop pouring from the wound.

 

“All right, huh, we need to stop the bleeding. And I have an idea, but I can’t do it fucking here.” Jason murmurs looking around the area surrounding them. In front of them there was a mass of trees and palm trees towards what bear resemblance to a jungle. With the light disappearing, it was risky to go into uncharted territory without knowing what might be lurking inside. Jason hadn’t survived being eaten by sharks to come here and be chewed up by a fucking panther. But staying here didn’t seem like a good option either, they were very out in the open, he felt very exposed on this spot. They needed fire, and the conditions out here would make it harder. Making a shelter was one of the golden rules to survive, but make one out of scratch would take too much time. Dick didn’t count with that time. Jason plays with the options in his mind before glaring at Damian. “Choose wisely. Stay out here in the open, or risk seeking refuge?” Damian looks back at him with intensity, and then he looks away and stares at Dick with a troubled expression.

“Neither option is reliable enough, however, if we have to take a chance and choose the best for Richard, I’d say risk seeking shelter.”

“All right, stay here with him. I’ll give a quick sweep of the area and see if I can find something.” Damian nods and then grabs his arm before he could stand up.

“Take the knife,” Jason takes the offered weapon and stands up without casting a last look at Dick, repeating to himself that in no time he will see him again, hopefully wide awake. “And don’t die, imbecile. You are needed here.”

“Aw, so you need me after all, shrimp,” Jason smirks at him. “No worries, I’ll be back. Though if I don’t come back by nightfall, think of something else.” Without waiting for an answer, Jason makes his way into the shadowy jungle.

 

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Jason advances through brushes and trees cautiously, perceptive to any sound around him. He was trying to not get too far away from the beach. Going deep into a jungle was kind of stupid, more at night and with no one beside him. How to know if the island was uninhabited? Jason couldn’t be sure if there was a tribe somewhere in there, ready to hunt them down and offer them as a fucking tribute. Yeah, Jason wasn’t going to take any chances. There would already be time to explore the island tomorrow. For now, the only goal was to find a safe place for this night. A cave might be an option —how ironic— as long as there were no other residents in it.  

With the light disappearing behind his back, Jason carries forward in his search with time against him. (He couldn’t be exactly stealthy. His boots were dripping wet and made a squelching sound every time he walked. Here and now he was an awfully easy prey) On his way, he finds some places but not entirely suited. It wasn’t time to be picky, though something told him to keep looking, that’s when Jason bumps into the perfect place. It wasn’t completely a cave, it was more of a crevice formed in a wall of rocks rising towards a hillside. It wasn’t too deep to consider it the refuge of some beast, but enough to keep them out of the open and it could protect them from the wind or rain. Besides, it was strategically hidden from view by a few well-placed trees and bushes, which would keep them safe from predators. Jason loses no time to scout the place out with the little light that was left and once sure that it was safe, Jason makes his way back to the beach, marking the trees with knife slits to not to forget the way. It’s not like he couldn’t remember the path by memory, but all the trees looked the fucking same.

When Jason reaches the beach, the night had already fallen, leaving everything on indigo hues and shadows. Damian glares at him with an irked face just as Jason bends down, obviously already annoyed for taking that long. Jason ignores the green eyes nailing daggers into his head and focuses on Goldie. To say that Dick was one step away from death was understandable, but there wasn’t time to lose it. Jason only peeks at the bleeding wound to then place his hands under Dick’s knees and back, ready to carry him one more time. Jason grunts with the effort when he lifts Dick in his arms, the acrobat wasn’t as light as a feather, he was pure muscle, after all. When the blue-eyed doesn’t even stir with the shifting, Jason tries to forget the exhaustion and take the first steps with urgency. However, his body didn’t felt like complying. He was already on edge, his legs felt like jelly and his arms seemed about to fall off. Damian’s eye seems to throb in exasperation when the 18-year-old stands in front of him.

 

“You’ll drop him, Todd. Hand him to me.” Damian growls stretching out his hands towards him. Jason shakes his head, bringing Dick’s body protectively closer to his chest.

“I can do it—”

“Don’t be stubborn, you fool. Give him to me while you lead the way.” Jason lets out a sigh and carefully, he lets Damian pick up Dick and gather him up in his arms. The scene leaves Jason pinned to the ground for a moment. Damian wasn’t a kid anymore, that he already knew, but now he could carry Dick in his arms like Dick had done so many times in the past. It was a strange thing to see, something almost sappy. The demon wasn’t far behind from reaching him in height. And my God, he looked so much like Bruce, so much that Jason felt like punching him in the face. Fuck. The blue-eyed settles comfortably into his chest and Jason blinks, spinning on his heels and signalling Damian to follow him.

“C’mon, this way, brat.”

“Are you certain you found an adequate shelter? Is crucial to survive this first night. If not, we are most likely screwed.”

“Yup,” Jason says as he gets rid of branches and leaves out of their way. “In fact, I believe it will be our new residence for a couple of days.”

“Not if Father finds us before.”

“As this first day he has been so successful…”

“He will find us, probably in the course of two to three days.”

“Uh-huh,” He mumbles not quite sure. “We’re almost there.” Both walk quietly and only with the sounds of the jungle as background noise, something that wasn’t that relaxing but at the same time was kinda melodious. Not long after they reach the cave-no-cave and Damian wrinkles his face in reluctance.

“That’s it? Is this the best you could find?”

“What were you expecting? A cabin with jacuzzi, flat screen, and air conditioning?” Jason makes fun of him as between the two make their way into the shelter. The three could fit fine though just a little bit to close from each other. He could even stand up straight and not hit his head with the ceiling, which was good. The demon places Dick on the ground, looking around the cave in mistrust. “Lower your standards, punk. This is much better than I expected to find. Now, let’s get to work.”

“Did you at least inspect that there were no wild animals? Insects?” Damian asks instead.

“That’s your job, brat. Look out for insects and pick up the leaves and branches out of here,” He growls. “You don’t happen to have a lighter?”

“You’re not capable to make a fire without one? Are you that inept?”

“I sure as hell can! But I don’t want to take too long doing it, we need light and we need that fire ASAP!”

“I stole a lighter from a stupid pirate back on the ship, but I do not think it still works with all the water!” Damian snarls and roughly hands him over the lighter.

“Fuck, whatever. While I make the damn fire I need you to get some palm leaves or something cushiony to put on the ground so we can sleep better. Goldie needs to be as comfortable as he can, and the gravel ground isn’t. Got it, brat?” With Dick’s mention, the fight leaves Damian’s body and he sighs, nodding.

“Got it.” Both move their asses in an orderly fashion way. Jason —barely able to make out their surroundings— gathers dry tinder, twigs and branches of various sizes to build a makeshift tepee. Once he has enough elements, Jason places them at the entrance of the cave to not asphyxiate them in smoke but close enough to have light inside. It wasn’t that hard to make fire without tools, but it was laborious. Dick needed that fire already, so Jason gets to work. Using the smaller twigs, he creates a tepee shape putting the tinder in the center. After several attempts, some gashes on his hands, and many curses, Jason manages to light the fire.

“Fuck yeah!” Putting more dry branches Jason keeps the flame until the fire is steady enough to take his attention away from it. Jason wipes the sweat off his forehead and then turns around, noticing that Damian had already done a good job of collecting weeds and some palm leaves as a temporary bed. (How he got the palm leaves, no fucking clue) Jason could hear quiet voices talking so he gets closer to them and he notices with great relief that Dick was awake with half-lidded eyes.

“It’s about time, Todd. It’s good to see you’re not the Donkeyboy I knew you to be.” He ignores the demon’s taunts effortlessly.

“Hiya, Dickface. Good to see you joined us. How are ya feeling?”

“‘m okay,” The blue-eyed murmurs looking at the ceiling of the cave with cloudy eyes out-of-focus. “H-how did we get here? This is… a cave?”

“Technically it’s not a cave, and I guess we got here by pure luck.” He admits with a snort. The orange reflections of the fire were reflected on Dick’s face, the sparkles dancing on his skin. It would have been a really good touch on him if it weren’t for the fact that Dick could barely keep his eyes open. He taps his cheek with his fingers. “Hey, keep your eyes open. You can’t fall asleep, slob.” Goldie furrows his forehead and then his eyes fluttered open.

“Why? ‘m tired.”

“I can tell, but I need you awake for what I’m about to do.” Damian looks at him certainly formulating a lot of questions in his mind. Jason brings his hand towards the pulse on Dick’s wrist, noticing that his vitals were spiking, as was his fever. His skin was sweaty and Jason could see him shivering. 

“What are you planning to do, Todd?” Jason pulls the knife out of his pocket and swings it in his hands. This idea has been in his head for a while now. He knew that an emergency cauterization with heated metal should only be done if there were no other options to treat a serious wound. He also knew that this procedure was incredibly painful and should only be considered in a case of life or death. This was the case. If Jason didn’t stop the bleeding right now, he was going to die. There were no other alternatives or back-up plans. Dick had already spent half of his seven cat lives. Damian’s eyes widen in alarm when he seems to understand. “Are you certain about this? I—”

“We’re out of options and out of time. If we don’t do this…” Jason trails off, the words left handing in the air.

“I understand. Tell me what you need me to do.” Damian’s voice came out firm and unwaveringly, even though his face gave away the 18-year-old boy he still was. Jason had never respected him as much as he did right now.

“Ok, I need you to cut your shirt and have more clean cloth ready, we’ll need it for later. I’ll do everything, I just need you to hold him still. If you can put something in his mouth to muffle the screaming, do it.” Damian was stunned for a few seconds and then he snaps out of it, biting his lip but beginning to cut the sleeves of his black shirt wordlessly. Kneeling by the fire, Jason approaches the blade of the knife into the flames, careful not to burn himself. Unfortunately, there was nothing to wash his hands with or disinfect the wound, they would have to do it the hard way, Dick already had a nasty infection spreading anyway. At least the fire would help kill any bacteria that might be on the knife blade. It was too much to ask after everything that has gone wrong, the pain Jason was about to inflict to Dick and the fact that Damian was the one who had to keep him still. It wasn’t going to be pretty, but it had to be done. It wasn’t time to be a chicken and back off now. He couldn’t hesitate doing so, his hands had to be strong and steady. His mind couldn’t drift towards the disastrous outcomes of what might happen. “When I give you word, I need you to get rid of the tourniquet and try to clean the blood as best you can. You must hold him steady, understand?” Damian nods slowly, his face tight and his body stiff but his eyes determined and ready.

“‘ho?” Dick mumbles out of the blue and Jason tries to not smile, peeking at the blade and seeing that it was almost ready. Just a little more.

“Dick, are you with me?” Dick tries to twist his face towards the sound of his voice and Jason takes it as a yes. “I’m gonna cauterize the wound, and you won’t like it. It’s gonna hurt like hell, but I need you to hold on, okay?” Goldie gazes at him not following.

“You w-what?” Dammit. Jason didn’t want to do it without his acknowledge, but Dick’s gaze was far-away and the tremors running through his body barely let him talk.

“Just try to no kick me, okay? And don’t hate me for this.” Jason lowers his eyes to the knife noticing that it was bright red, ready. “Take off the tourniquet.” Jason doesn’t wait for an answer and pulls the knife away from the flames, hissing with the temperature of the handle, but he ignores it. Jason hovers over Dick’s side and notices as Damian was trying to gently clean the wound, but with the tourniquet out the river of blood wasn’t stopping. Damian forces a piece of cloth into Dick’s mouth and this time Dick reacts, blinking repeatedly and when his eyes land on the bright scarlet knife, his eyes become clearer, fear smearing his face with creases.

“No, no, n-no! Jay—” Jason ignores the twinge of pain at these pleas taking a quick breath while Damian puts his weight over Dick’s chest keeping him down, and then the kid places his forehead against Dick’s in a gesture of comfort. Jason connects his eyes with those blue eyes, mentally asking for forgiveness. “D-don’t—”

“I’ll scar, okay?” It the last second, Dick’s face changes, resignation and calmness were written all over as he closes his eyes, giving Jason the push he needed to place the scorching knife on his skin. The first scream of pain is one of the most spine-chilling sounds Jason has ever heard, it didn’t matter that it was muffled by the cloth. The following cries rumble on the cave, leaving him overwhelmed. And then, there’s nothing but numbness while Jason works.

 

_____________

 

 

With the first rays of light skyrocketing in the sky, the steady rhythmical lap of the sea, and the early twittering of the birds, Jason was already in motion.

At any moment he was going to succumb to all the extra human effort he was enduring, he knew. But it only had taken one glance at the rosy cheeks and the much better semblance of Goldie and he was already on his feet, taking the first steps out of their shelter and into the morning jungle. They needed water, Dick needed that water because if not, all the effort Damian and he had put into saving him would be in vain. After all the pain that Dick had to suffer last night, it wouldn’t be fair on his part. It didn’t matter that Jason could barely keep his eyes open, it didn’t matter that he hadn’t been able to sleep thoroughly the night, too afraid that Goldie might die if he dozed out. It didn’t matter that today would be almost 34 hours without sleep, he still could put up a fight.

The jungle was all Jason expected it to be. Warm, muggy climate, with lots of trees and palm trees forming a canopy of abundant green foliage above his head. On the ground, there were traces of fruit nibbled by animals and that gave him hope of finding something to eat. Jason follows his instincts as he ventures the island, always marking his way back to the shelter. He knew that the further inland he went, the better odds of finding water sources were. Testing his theory (and the advice of several survival books) after following the trail of dampness on the ground, and the occasional footprint left by an animal, the sound of running water reaches his ears. Jason makes his way towards the unmistakable splash while pushing away foliage from his freaking face and it’s when he comes across a clear. Surrounded by rocks was a stream that flooded down towards some precipice. “Thank fuck!”

Jason bends down and sinks his hands into the fresh-water, letting out a sigh with the cool temperature. Jason scrubs a hand over his tender face, wetting it and feeling the relief on his reddened skin. He makes a waterfall with his hands and drinks the water without slowing down, fuck it doing it carefully. Once his thirst was as satiated as possible, Jason thinks of a way to collect water and bring it to the two dummies. With a look at a coconut palm, Jason’s lightbulb clicks on.

 

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“Seriously?” Damian rolls his eyes only complaining once but then he takes a sip of the water stored in a coconut shell. It looked fucking aesthetic like that.

“I climbed a fucking tree, peeled the damn coconut and made my way back here, and that’s the first thing you say? Not even a fucking ‘thank you’?” Jason says with his mouth full of coconut. Alfred wouldn’t approve.

“Tt. It was pretty creative coming from you, so I guess a thank you would not hurt. Moving on, Todd. Wipe that smirk from your face!” Jason doesn’t and instead smirks even more. “Though we’re going to assume that the water isn’t contaminated? Don’t you think we should boil it for Richard? His immune system is already seriously affected; we cannot risk worsening the infection.”

“You got a point there, Baby Bat.” Jason gestures for Damian to approach the still lit fire. Damian squints at him but says nothing, turning his back on him. Jason leans heavily on the cave wall, taking the chance to check on Dick. The fever was still accounted for but no longer was as alarming as last night. The color had returned a little to his face, and at least he didn’t look like a freaking corpse anymore. Jason inspects the wound next, noticing with great satisfaction that there was no longer any blood on the new bandage. That didn’t mean that Dick was completely out of danger, but it meant that they had gained more time. The clock was still tickling for him. With one hand on Dick’s wrist, Jason closes his eyes succumbing to the fatigue. It doesn’t take much for Jason to fall asleep, or maybe faint. Dick’s heartbeat lulls him and in no time Jason finds himself matching his heart rate with Dick’s. Knowing that Damian was gonna do guard duty makes him not resist the darkness that gets hold of him. The first time he awakes is because of someone squeezing his hand. There were muffled voices on the background, but Jason was too tired to try to understand what they were saying. Jason ignores it and the feeling of a warm hand on his makes him doze out again. The second time he awakes it’s by movement in his perimeter sight, and even with his eyes closed, Jason squeezes someone’s wrist in protective mode. A hand slides down his cheek and Jason calms down. Darkness returns to tuck him in. The third time he awakes is because he feels something falling into his lap. Jason forces himself to open his eyes and after a few seconds to adjust his sight, he stares into a pair of green eyes.

“You better eat something before you pass out from malnutrition.”

“Huh?” Jason looks down and finds a coconut shell filled with fruit suited over his lap. He takes a berry between his fingers and stares at Damian with a baffled expression. “Where’d you get this shit?”

“In some shrubs. Where else? There is a lot of variety of fruits on this forsaken island. Despite the circumstances, the overall picture is encouraging.”

“I’m not vegetarian!” He snaps waving his arms in the air.

“Do I look like I care?” Jason rolls his eyes bringing the berry to his mouth just to stop at the last second. He gives the demon a glare.

“How do I know it’s not fucking poisoned?”

“Do you think I am stupid? I am not Drake. You honestly think I cannot tell the difference between an edible berry and a poisonous one?”

“If you can’t tell the bloody difference between Star Trek and Star Wars, what do you expect me to think!?”

“They are about the same damn thing!” Damian yells in irritation.

“Absolutely not, you idiot!”

“The titles say it all. They’re different universes, okay? You wound me Dami, so many marathons together and you still can’t tell the difference.” A playful voice says and Jason shifts his eyes to meet with a couple of blue eyes fixed on him. It’s like a weight has been lifted off his shoulders when Goldie gives him a warm smile. Despite his sweaty forehead and bruised lips, he still looked charming. “Oh, hiya there, Jay.”  

“Dickie?” He clears his throat when his voice comes too soft. “How you feelin’ fried chicken? Everything OK?” 

“I feel as if someone had put a burning knife over my belly.”

“You’re not funny, Dick. Seriously, stop it.”

“You just can’t appreciate my sense of humor! Cass would have laughed.”

“No, she wouldn’t. Cass would have definitely hit you for joking with something that serious.”

“Liar, liar, pantsuit on fire!”

“I think the heat is making you more stupid than usual. I should have left you to fend for yourself.”

“How kind of you, Jaybird. I’m glad to see you’re in such a good mood.”

“What can I say? Breakfast was brought to bed for my slave and despite sleeping leaning against a freaking wall and with an annoying rock stirring my back, I got plenty of fucking rest.”

“I am not your freaking slave!” Damian hisses like an angry kitten.

“So what are you, a fruit picker or something?” Jason makes a gesture to the fruits on his lap.

“I just relish on reading herbology books in my free time. At least I read something stimulating and not love stories such as you!”

“So that makes you a nerd, like Timmy, and it makes me a hopeless romantic?” He smirks devilishly at the kid. “And for the record, I don’t read such books.” He lies.

“See? That’s why no one loves you, Todd!” Dick and he look each other in the eye and then they burst into laughter.

 

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After being satisfied with plenty of fruit, coconut, and some kinds of mushrooms enough to feed a squirrel army, Jason spends the rest of the afternoon busy doing what any survivor should prioritize.

The first thing he does is what in any survival book or movie tell you to do, create a signal for help in case any plane or ship that passed close enough could discern in the distance. Even if Jason never imagined himself collecting rocks of various sizes with the heat of the sun pounding down at him while he made a big SOS on the sand. If only the villains could see him right now. Pathetic. How did he go from being at the top of the pyramid to ending up here at the bottom of the food chain? The second thing Jason does is create tools and weapons with whatever he can find at his disposal. Good thing Damian had brought that knife with him, if it weren’t for it a very different story would be taking place. (Jason tries to ignore the fact that that same knife cauterized Dick’s wound) They couldn’t survive from berries and fucking seeds —no matter what Damian appealed— the island was teeming with wildlife at their disposal. Not that Jason was a stone-hearted bastard that was eager to hunt, far from that. But he knew the benefits of eating meat and the energy it would provide. Dick needed those B vitamins and minerals if he wanted to fight any infection that was brewing right now.

Once creating several good-sized spears, Jason heads to an area of the beach with shallow waters and some rocks that facilitated the skill to walk and peer from above the fishes without being detected. The water was warm, crystal clear with a mesmerizing bluish-green hue. He was able to appreciate with clarity the great variety of fish and corals; Jason even picks up a pretty shell for Goldie. With lots of patience, Jason remains motionless while waiting for the right moment to attack. His patience pays off after some time when Jason gets through two fishes with one strike. Satisfied, Jason makes his way back to the shelter, following the smell of smoke. Behind him, the sun was going down and the sky was turning indigo, with pinks and oranges and brilliant reds painted like brushstrokes. When Jason reaches the shelter he finds decorations that weren’t there before. It looked like someone had been busy. Damian had collected more fruit and picked more coconuts, breaking various coconuts in half creating more containers to store nuts and stuff. He had also collected more wood for the fire.

 

“Honey, I’m home!” Jason jokes as he leaves his wet boots by the fire to dry. It was strange, having adapted so quickly to the idea of being on a desert island completely by themselves and without anyone knowing if they were dead or alive. Jason should be scared, but for some strange reason, he just felt on some kind of holydays. Maybe being able to adapt so quickly and be prepared to survive and face any challenge was something he did unconsciously. Jason wasn’t going to question why his mental health was so good at the moment. 

“You brought food, Little Wing?” Jason nods and then hands the shell to Dick, who gives him a heartwarming smile that makes it worth having been roasted with the sun while he tried fishing. 

“Yeah, maybe it won’t be butterfish but it will be good enough.” Jason sits down by the fire as he begins to prepare the fish. First removing the scales and then taking the guts out. This time Alfred would be proud of him. Goldie looks at him with his eyes wide open, clearly having never seen anything like it. Dick and the kitchen, they just didn’t fit together.

“I won’t eat that.” Damian declares and Jason ignores him, knowing in advance that the 18-year-old animal lover was clearly going to say that. Jason places the two fishes on sticks ready to roast. He takes off what little remains of his shirt and places it near his boots, feeling the sweat sliding down his neck from the heat of the fire.

“No wonder, shrimp.”

“Haven’t you ever heard the phrase, ‘Fish are friends, not food’?” Goldie says instead, his brow wrinkled.

“That’s literally the dialogue from an animated movie, Dick. Grow up.” Jason mumbles.

“But did you know that the fishes can literally convey messages to each other? They moan, grunt, croak, boom, hiss, w—” Dick begins to explain and Jason feels his eye throbbing.

“Your point is?” He cuts him off.

“Well, maybe they can create bonds and you just killed them!”

“We gotta eat, Birdbrain. You know that, right?”

“At least it’s safe to eat?”

“Of course!” He yells and then Jason softens his tone. “Maybe it won’t have the condiments you like but the fire will give it a good taste. At least it’s edible, all right?” Once the food was ready, Jason uses the coconut shell to put the cooked fish and he sits next to Dick, helping him sit straighter to lean on the wall. Goldie clenches his teeth letting out a small whimper with the action and Jason stops, looking at him worried. “You okay buddy?”

“Yeah… is just that the wound is still tender.” Jason stares at him doubtfully and after a second he gives him his damn food. Dick examines the fish carefully, tilting his head to the side like a confused puppy while Damian just looks at him like he just committed the worst crime on the face of the earth when Jason begins to devour his food, releasing a moan. Fucking delicious. “Does it really taste good, Jay?”

“Dick, for God’s sake, stop being a diva and eat your fucking food!”

“Be careful with the spines,” Damian says instead. Dick gives them a funny look and then begins to eat with caution. When Jason is done with his food, he leans on the wall, breathing a sigh and rubbing his stomach. The blue-eyed had apparently not been very hungry and had only nibbled his fish without finishing it, but with a single glare from Jason, Dick finishes it without complaining. The night had already fallen and outside was dark, the only sounds being the crackling fire and the sings of the nocturnal animals out there. Damian was cuddling next to Goldie, the acrobat lying on his chest quietly, his own chest rising and falling in soft breaths. Jason could feel his eyes closing, knowing that Dick was okay, he could rest. But of course, the harmonious silence is interrupted by certain chatterbox.

“If it weren’t for the conditions we are in, this would be very nice. Three bros sitting around a campfire to tell stories and eat marshmallows. If my mood weren’t so sour, I would probably start singing. There’s a song that matches perfectly the mood we are in. And says something like, on an island in the sun, we’ll be playin’ and havin’ fun, and it makes me feel so fine —” Against all odds, Dick’s tone sounds sweet and melodious. “Hip, hip—”

“Please don’t,” Jason mumbles without any heat, knowing perfectly what song he’s talking about. His favourite damn song.

“But we do not have marshmallows,” Damian comments like a pompous know-it-all.

“Nor the desire to tell stories,” Jason adds.

“Don’t be such a killjoy. What are the odds of landing in a place as beautiful as this? When we remember these moments, will it just be a bitter memory or a one-in-a-million experience?”

“I got sand everywhere, places where it shouldn’t be, my face must look like a stupid lobster and there’s a rock hammering at my back right now, so what do you think?”

“You’re just seeing the bad side of things.”

“And the bright side is…?”

“We are alive—” For now, it’s what seems to linger in the air. “And I can’t stop thinking about how lucky we’ve been. Timmy would have said a thousand predictions against us and we still beat them all. And I can’t stop thinking about a lot of things, actually. I can’t stop thinking about what happened back on the ship. We let them down, the passengers. If anything h-happened, I—”

“But that wasn’t your fault, Dickie. You said it yourself, it was the sum of many bad decisions and just bad shit luck. Hell, in any case, this would be my fucking fault! I… simply acted without thinking. If only I had meditated better on my decisions…”

“It was those pirates’ fault. Todd may be more to blame, but in the end, they are solely responsible for this. When we get out of this, they better be imprisoned and ready to pay for their crimes. I will make them regret this.”

“B will not rest until that happens, and then he will come for us.” The blue-eyed brushes away the hair from his eyes with a look full of hope.

“If Father is to inspect every adrift island or centimeter of the sea, he will. He’ll find us.” Damian immediately goes to the defense of the old man, what a surprise.

“Though I wonder how long that will take? Aleksander, he’s really dangerous. For good reason, we couldn’t catch them for that long and I doubt if it’s any different now. Their identities hung by a thread and he knew it. If they managed to escape, they must have already vanished from the face of the earth,” Dick mumbles with a distant look on his face. “It was a big mistake to underestimate him. I should never have believed I could foresee his moves or get into his head. It was stupid and reckless a-and a huge mistake.” Dick stammered and Jason frowns. The mere mention of that man makes Jason clench his fists, feeling his fury awakening. Ignoring the wrath trying to take over his mind, Jason speaks up his mind.

“I don’t care what Bruce says, when we get out of here, I’m gonna beat the hell out of him, so much so that he won’t ever forget it. And after that, I’m gonna find the deepest, hideous pit to drop his ass in.”

“I would like to join.” The demon says and he snorts, nodding in his vague direction. There’s a little awkward silence after that and then Jason asks the thing that’s been on his mind for a while now.

“Though now that you brought this up. I have a question, what happened to the ring?” Dick lets out a sigh and Jason asks cautiously. “Does he have it?”

“Yeah, he does. While you were unconscious and Damian was with the other hostages, Aleksander took me to the bridge. I felt like he didn’t want to let go of me—”

“What else happened?” Damian snarls, unconsciously bringing Dick closer to his body.

“Basically, not much. He was busier trying to communicate with more accomplices on the way. Something big was going on, I guess. As we were on our way to the extraction point though, he stopped me near the railing and said something very strange.” Dick frowns his face in concentration and unconsciously, Jason cringes. “He kept saying something about consummating some kind of revenge, and when I asked him again why he was doing this, why he had chosen to be a pirate, he simply said: ‘They say the sea is treacherous, and yet, it has never betrayed me.’” Dick explains taking a hand to his face, thoughtful.

“The dude is nuts. He’s dangerous, yeah, but he’s batshit crazy. He just tries to sound like a preacher or some kind of poet.”

“No… he isn’t, Jason. There’s a big difference between being crazy and doing crazy things. I’ve tried to find a meaning for what he said, and I think this is all about revenge, obviously. If I have to guess it has to do with the Marine he served so many years. He lost something that meant a lot to him, and somehow, stealing and killing is a way to find retribution.” Dick looks at him with a curious look. “You talked to his daughter, didn’t you? Didn’t she tell you something?”

“Todd attracts daughters of nut jobs, what a surprise.”

“Mila didn’t tell me anything, but in my defense, I didn’t know she was his freaking daughter. Though I’m 80% sure she didn’t agree with her father’s way of being. If I’m alive, it’s because of her. Maybe she wasn’t all bad.” 

“I doubt that,” Damian states with a growl.

“Maybe…” Dick says instead. “Anyhow, I guess it’s no longer worth talking about the past. I’m very sleepy, and I’m cold. Jay, could you be a real charm and come here to hug me?”

“Oh, no.” Damian sighs gloomily.

“No, not a chance.” Jason crosses his arms around his chest.

“But everybody knows you’re a great hugger! Jay, c’mon!” Dick starts to pout and Jason looks away, trying to not surrender against Dick’s best weapon: his damn puppy eyes. “Please? For me?”

“The hell I am!” He snaps shaking his head from side to side. Jason Todd, being a hugger? Not at all. Jason had never heard anything so ridiculous.

“Pretty please?”

“No, Dick, don’t even fucking try.”

“Please, please?”

“Augh! Fine!” Jason growls but he still crosses the little space between them to lie next to Dick. At first, he just lies there, a bit uncomfortable, but then that feeling goes away as fast as it came. He’ll be a total cheat liar if he didn't admit he was kinda enjoying the moment. In no time, Jason already had his heavy arm over Dick’s middle (careful of his wound) and the other stretched out that Goldie was using as a pillow. Goldie being sandwiched between Damian and him. “If you tell anyone about this...” Jason threatens with a heavy, sleepy voice, burying his face in Dick’s hair.

“Yeah, yeah, the big bad guy of Red Hood doesn’t cuddle.” The blue-eyed murmurs with a sleepy tone as well, muffling a yawn with his elbow. 

“Both of you shut up,” Damian chirps with a clipped tone. “Good night, Richard.”

“Night, Dami.” 

“Not ‘good night’ for me?” Jason asks with a sneer.

“No.”

“Fuck you.”

 

_____________

 

 

On their second day after arriving on this island, Damian and he had established after some bickering that a wise idea might be to find high ground to get an idea of the proportions of the island, see if in the distance they could discern more land in sight, or maybe even a passing ship. (It was valid to feel hopeful, they really had hardly any time on the island like to really start losing hope. It had been only two days, it didn’t matter how much longer it felt) They knew that while staying in their comfort zone was a good idea to not get lost, getting away from the shelter meant maybe finding better conditions, more fresh-water sources, or maybe more food. Besides, Jason needed to stretch his legs a little, and so did Damian, who hadn’t detached himself from Goldie longer than a second since they hit land. The 18-year-old had been very reluctant to leave Dick’s side and leave him alone and defenseless on the shelter. The truth is that indeed Dick looked a little pathetic, with his hair all sweaty and glued to his forehead and that ash color dulling his natural sun-kissed skin. Maybe he would no longer die from blood loss, but the infection was still slowly taking its course, like a cancer creeping bit by bit. However, Dick was far from being defenseless. Jason was highly conscious of that fact. 

Damian had only agreed to go saying he would try to seek for medicinal plants, but the truth is that Dick had told them something like: ‘will you two stop being such worry warts? I’ll be fine’ and thus they found themselves on their way to explore the island and its surroundings. Jason had reluctantly cut off his pants, leaving them like improvised shorts. His boots were like the holy crown, they protected him from the unstable ground full of branches, vegetation, and the not unlikely event that some damn snake decided to sprout from some weeds to bite him. Damian had also cut off his clothes, and they both looked like they were out of a castaway movie, they probably already smelled like one. They needed a freaking bath. Jason could feel his beard growin’ over his chin, and his hair was definitely a mess, Damian not far from looking the same. But whatever, those things didn’t matter right now. After a long time of walking in silence, with the amplified sound of birds singing their lungs out, they reach a hill that takes them to the highest part of the island. As they reached higher, the smells intensified with the breeze ruffling around them. Scents like a bit of clean fish, saltwater, and a hint of seaweed.

When they plant their feet near the cliff, both could clearly appreciate the size of the island and the seriousness of their issue at hand. There was nothing in sight. No ships, no planes, nothing but miles of sea that seemed to have no end. But despite all that, it was impossible not to be stunned by the view of the beach from the top. There was so much to see and so much to thrill about. The waves ahead roaring and rolling down, crashing onto the shore with a soft hiss, the colors of the sea almost too intense to be true, deep blue that when it reached shallower waters it became a turquoise blue, the white sand that seemed to shimmer deflecting the rays of the sun. It was a paradise. Quite simply an aphrodisiac paradise. Maybe Jason hadn’t been able to explore Bora Bora and its magical beaches, but this didn’t owe it anything.

It was an unknown and ownerless piece of land, for their eyes only.

 

“Why do you think it’s taking them so long to find us? They are really looking for us?” Damian asks without his usual smug or confident tone, showing his vulnerable side now that Dick wasn’t here. Something the brat rarely did with Jason. “I attempt to be bold next to Grayson, I do not want to dishearten him. But I do not know if Batman’s gonna make it in time.”

“I’m the least apt to answer those questions… but somehow I know it’s gonna be okay. I don’t have that much faith in B, but I do have faith in the others. They aren’t gonna leave us stranded here. They’ll come.” He replies confidently. 

“I certainly hope so,” Damian says wiping drops of sweat off his ruddy face.

“C’mon, we’ve seen enough, I think I’ve seen a bunch of plants around there, maybe one can help Dickie.” Jason cast one last look into the distance, and then he slumps his shoulders in a bit of hopelessness. They will come, they better. 

 

_____________

 

Tim had left his apartment in a hurry and arrived at the manor in a heartbeat the moment the video-call had been cut off that sharply. He hadn’t left since. After that, there had been no communication of the sorts. Dick, Jason and Damian were adrift somewhere, and completely on their own.

At first, Tim hadn’t allowed himself to worry that much, they were just fine, right? Tim could still track down the GPS signal on Dick’s ring indicating where they were in real-time. Batman had already made an anonymous call to the FBI and hopefully, they should be on their way to the cruise ship location. Everything would be fine.

Then time began to move along without any updates about them, and Tim began to feel the familiar twits in his stomach. Something had gone wrong, he was sure of. Bruce was acting crazy —driving him crazy as well— murmuring that something had been done out of protocol, that they had been surely reckless. Bruce was trying to hide his distress behind grunting and a dark vibe that emanated from him like waves. Cass had been the one to calm the situation with a single glance from her sharp eyes. Barbara promised to keep them notified about any news that might show up, but there was still nothing, and the fact that she still couldn’t find something, was what made Tim even more anxious. What if something had gone terribly wrong? What if...? 

To avoid further torturing himself with those doubts, Tim decided to keep himself busy digging into the files that Dick had managed to send them from the stolen thumb drive. The bits of encrypted information could help to put the pirates in jail for a really long time. But as soon as he had started he had finished, having pulled out every last drop of evidence he could lay his hands on. With nothing else to do to keep his mind occupied, he kept trying to get some updates about the cruise. Then it happened, the GPS signal on the ring all of a sudden was in motion like a rocket taking off. Was it Aleksander who was on the run? Was Dick with him, Damian, and Jason too? What the hell was going on? Bruce had been unhesitatingly ready to do something and not keep sitting in his butt. He had flown from the cave eager to intercept the GPS signal, whoever it was. Tim had to stay under the command that Bruce needed his eyes and ears here in the cave. Batman only took Orphan with him. Then it was just Tim all alone in the cave, waiting for some answers or some kind of feedback. Steph wouldn’t come until tomorrow, so Tim had no one to share his doubts and fears with. As one would expect, Alfred had sent him to take a shower and eat something more substantial than just coffee. But before long Tim was back in the cave, and still, nothing had happened after almost an entire day since the last communication with the cruise ship and with Dick and the others. That was not good, not good at all. Later, Barbara had told him to turn on the TV. The breaking news being: The attack of a luxurious Cruise Ship that had been hijacked by pirates. The report had become a trend instantly, being the news of the moment. Soon the name of Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne also would be also trending, Tim was sure. Gotham reporters thirsted over drama.

Tim was immediately collecting data from the police database. According to the first reports from the police and the FBI, apparently, two pirates had escaped the police operation that had been carried out, though the crooks left behind were already being under arrest and ready to be charged in court. Tim anonymously sent them everything he had on them to count with more evidence against them. The reports indicated that there had been no casualties among the passengers, only some people with gunshot wounds but until now they were reported stable and out of danger, among them the same Captain of the cruiser. A large number of passengers presented a state of shock and some others had presented panic attacks. Taking their testimony would take a while. The good thing was that all the passengers had been rescued and were already on land. Though there still weren’t any word from Batman or his brothers. Where were they? Of course, Tim had tried to call them, but the operator said they were outside the coverage area. 

The question was, if all the passengers had been supposedly rescued, why they still didn’t know about Dick, Jason, and Damian? What were they hiding? Clearly, something bad had happened, and he needed to get to the bottom of it. He couldn’t lose anyone, not now, not after everything they had overcome through the years. 

Tim could hear the tickling of the clock hanging from the wall. It was a silly thing, really, something that Dick had bought as a joke years ago. It was a typical bing-bang watch, but with a cartoon of Batman and Robin in the centre. It had been hanging there for so long, but Tim sometimes still find it foreign to the cave. The bright yellow colours of the caricature made an almost contradictory look with the dark colours and the architecture of the cave, and yet, not even Bruce seemed to care about it hanging there. Now though, Tim felt like his heart was matching the slow tickling. Every breath felt far away as he waited for something to happen, anything to happen. The feeling in his gut was sinking him deeper and deeper into the leather seat. Tim certainly was too bad at waiting.

And then, as a bad omen, suddenly the clock stopped, leaving the cave completely silent. Simultaneously, Tim could hear the phone ringing in the distance.