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The Oldest Form of Currency

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“You’re overthinking this Tim.”

“I’m not.”

“You are.”

“I’m not.” 

“You aren’t”

“I a- don’t do that Cassie!”

“Tim.” She sighed with a slightly scolding edge. 

“It just doesn’t make sense alright! Luthor had no reason to let us go.”

“He didn’t let us do anything Tim, we escaped!”

“Did we?”

She reels back slightly but can’t bring herself to refute him again because the truth is, he wasn’t the only one with doubts about what happened.

Taking advantage of her momentary silence Tim rushes onwards.

“Because the way I remember it we were absolutely fucked. We had no extraction plan, no backup, I was unconscious and the rest of you had inhibitor collars on! Then suddenly the fuse in Kon’s collar blows and he manages to rip off everyone else’s without somehow triggering an alarm or secondary safety feature? Oh, and of course the hallway outside just happened to be conveniently clear? That doesn’t happen Cassie. Not to anyone but especially not to us!”

“Alright! So maybe there’s something… off about what happened but do you really think hacking the asshole is going to help?”

A hollow look takes over Tim’s face and she can’t help but feel guilty at the harsh tone she used.

“I Don’t know. Probably not. Maybe. At the very least I might be able to see what happened in the building after we were found. I can’t- I was unconscious for several hours Cassie and I wasn’t with you guys for most of that time. I want- no. I need to know what happened whilst we were separated. Even if it doesn’t answer any of my other questions.”

The guilt grows greater.

“I- I’m sorry Tim, I didn’t even think-”

“I know.”

Silence stretched between them. Only broken by the rhythmic tapping of computer keys as Timothy worked his way into the Lex Corps system.

“I’m in.”

“That was quick.”

“Too quick.”

And with that he was off again checking for back hacks and other failsafe’s that might have been hidden within the firewall. With each moment he got more and more irritated and it became clear to Cassie that whatever he was looking for, Tim wasn’t finding it.

With a frustrated yelp Tim pushed his chair out, leapt to his feet and began pacing as he tugged on his hair. A clear sign that he was stressed if she ever saw one.

“I take it you didn’t find what you were looking for?”

“it’s too easy! I’ve hacked Lex before, and it’s never been this easy!”

Choosing to ignore the admission to cybercrimes, she moved forward to block his pacing and force him to look at her.

“Focus, Tim! What does that mean? If it’s too easy does that mean it’s a trap or a set up? I need you to calm down and think boy wonder, is he trying to mess with us?”

Halting his strides, Tim closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Cassie could practically hear him counting down from 30 in his head.

When he opened his eyes again, he was distinctly calmer, and an almost clinical look flickering across his face.

“If- the fact that I got in so easily means that Lex wants me to see the footage. Whether that’s to send a message or some part of one of his elaborate plots I don’t know.”

“Should we ignore it?”

She watched him hesitate for a moment, trying to ensure that his decision was driven by logic and not personal desire. If it was just him, she knows he’d already be watching it, damn the emotional or psychological consequences to himself. But this involved the team and he wouldn’t risk the rest of them on snap judgements

“No.” he stated finally. There was a weight to it that left a heavy feeling between the two of them. Like they’d just made a decision that would affect everything that they knew.

She didn’t like it.

“Good. I’ll get the others.”

“Cas-”

“That wasn’t a suggestion Tim. We’re a team and we work best when we’re together. No secrets. Isn’t that what we promised?”

It’s a low blow and she almost regrets it when she sees the way Tim flinches as if he’s been whipped. But-

It’s necessary. Tim – like all the other bats– tends to put himself on the line for those around him at great cost to himself, especially when loved ones are involved. He needs to know he can depend on them and letting him face whatever… gift Luthor has left for them alone is the exact opposite of being supportive.

She doesn’t want another incident like the one with Ra’s al Ghul a few months back. Tim can say what he likes, Cassie knows that he wasn’t expecting Dick to save him. One second later and-

She doesn’t like to think about it.

.

When they’ve all finally settled down, they turn to the plasma Tv almost in sync as Tim finally presses play to the CCTV footage of the 3 days they were held within Luthor’s complex.

It isn't until after they make it through the first few hours and they see that Tim spent the entirety of his time away from them in one of Luthor’s medical suits that they all let out an unconscious sigh of relief.

From there the next few hours were almost mundane as they speed watched footage from several cameras at once. Each flicking their eyes from one to another at random intervals.

It wasn’t until they reached the six our mark – around halfway through day three – that Bart zipped forward and yelled “Stop!”

Jerking slightly at the unexpected noise, Cassie would deny until her last breath that she let out an ungodly squawk upon hearing Impulse.

Looking around she found that she could take comfort in the fact that she wasn’t the only one surprised by Bart’s outburst.

Conner had fallen out of his Chair, Gar had shapeshifted and was hissing slightly in displeasure, Raven and Eddie appeared unaffected, but Rose was swearing a blue streak. As for Tim, the remote was held in a white-knuckle grip and his teeth were grit in a slight grimace. 

Clearly, she wasn’t the only one tense right now. Though it did raise the question as to why they were all on edge when there appeared to be no reason for it.

Then again, anything involving Luthor was… difficult.

“What the fuck Bart?!”

“Don’t do that!”

“Sorry, sorry” blabbed the speedster at a barely human speed; “But you really need to look at Camera 5!”

Wordlessly Tim turned back the time by an hour then made camera 5 full screen. A video of Luthor’s private office took centre stage. They sped through at a slower pace, each noting this time that Luthor appeared to be waiting for someone. It wasn’t until half the reversed hour had passed that they saw the door begin to open, at which point Tim returned it to normal speed.

To the surprise of all but Bart, Red Hood stalked in towards Luthor, her path unhindered by security.

“Come now Hood, you’re well aware that this isn’t how I conduct our negotiations. Are you really going to start us off on the wrong foot by disobeying the dress code? Then again it’s only Red Robin and his tagalongs on the line so maybe you just don’t care.”

They watched in silent dread, anticipating that the Hood would lash out as she was want to do when angered. The woman was known for her temper even before being dipped in the Lazarus pit after all.

Instead, she removed her helmet and scowled at the man.

“Lex.”

“Hood.”

It seemed like an eternity had passed as the two continued to stand off against one another, tensions steadily mounting until just as suddenly as it had started it… stopped.

Luthor smirked and Hood allowed a lazy smile that showed far too many teeth to grace her lips.

“Lex.”

“Hood.”

“if you insist.”

“Always.”

With a smug gleam in her eye the anti-hero began to strip.

She wanted to turn to the others and ask if they were seeing this too but couldn’t find it in herself to look away as a cloying mix of horror and unwanted arousal built within her.

Cassie had always known Hood was beautiful, it was an annoying characteristic that all Bats shared, but it was one thing to fantasise about the older woman, quite another to have those daydreams confirmed in the worst way possible.

By the gods, if Luthor required her to strip just to parley over their release, what in the world had his actual demands been?

 What had their freedom cost the woman?

Stripped of her clothes and weapons, clad only in blood red lingerie, Hood slunk forward and straddled the man’s lap so that she was sat upon the very tips of his knees, her arms draped around his neck.

The CEO’s response was to grasp her by the hips and drag her down against him.

“Much better.”

“God, you’re such a perv Lex” the statement would have been biting, if not for the slight curve to her lips and the undertone that bellied her mirth. 

But was she actually amused? Whispered a voice in the back of Cassie’s mind. Or was she just pretending to make this all end faster?

“I think you’ll find that the proper term is an opportunist. After all, what kind of man would turn down the chance to see all this?”

To emphasise his point, he gave the vigilante’s ass a tight squeeze and bared his teeth in a mockery of a smile as he watched her shudder.

“Tell me what you want Lex”

And if Hood's voice was slightly more breathless than it was before? Cassie certainly wasn’t going to say anything.

“No foreplay? Pity.”

He actually sounded sorry too, she couldn’t help but think in disgust.

“You’ll pay for all the damages they caused.”

“Half. One of them’s your kid as well remember?”

Out of the corner of her eye she saw Conner cringe backwards, away from the screen, at the reference to his biological relation to Luthor. She offered him her hand in support but otherwise kept quiet as the scene unfolded before them. 

“You say that like I care.”

“Don’t be an ass Lex. I don’t understand your insistence on making the kid believe you’re indifferent but please remember who you’re talking to. I’m the one that you payed to hunt down the Cadmus scientists that-”

“I get the point. Very well. Half each on damages. I also want them to stop breaking into my facilities.”

“and when I was 5, I wanted my mummy to stop taking her special candy and daddy to stop throwing beer bottles at me.” retorted Hood mockingly as she shifted on his lap and drew his head closer to her bosom; “We can’t always get what we want Lex and you know I have no control over what the little birdy and his friends do. If I try to ask them to leave you alone, they’ll just assume I’m working with you on something and ‘going bad’ again. At best they’ll try to stage an intervention at worst they’ll try to lock me up. Again.”

“One wonders why you care so much with them causing all this trouble. What do you think they’d say if they knew how you’d debased yourself like this? Do you think they would be thankful? Or do you think they would be revolted-”

“Don’t. Please don’t Lex.”

Cassie had thought that she was beyond surprise at this point. Guilt? Oh she had that in spades, but surprise? No. she had thought she had reached her limit. That nothing more could be said on these tapes that would shock her.

Then Red Hood had all but begged Luthor to stop his goading in a tiny broken voice and she’d found out that she was still capable of the feeling.

By the gods, Diana always did warn her not to tempt fate.

She felt ill. Thinking back on how she’d treated the fellow vigilante. She’d been pissed over what happened with Tim but… it didn’t excuse her actions. Particularly when she’d known that Hood and Robin had brokered a peace.

She still believed that she’d been right to be weary, but she hadn’t needed to be so cruel. That she now knew some of those comments had likely struck far deeper wounds than she’d realised at the time just made her feel worse.

Silence reigned in the room and on the plasma as Hood blushed in embarrassment at the show of emotion and looked away from Luthor. Surprisingly enough the man appeared apologetic. Or as apologetic as a Luthor could at any rate.

Reaching forward, he grasped her chin gently with one hand and turned her face back towards him so that he could look her in the eyes as he said; “I… am sorry. That was uncalled for and I shouldn’t have said it.”

“it’s fine.” She responded softly with a wobbly smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “It’s not like you’re wrong.”

Fuck. 

Hearing that hurt.

“No, it isn’t fine my little vixen and I am truly sorry.”

She couldn’t help but shudder at the pet name he had given her.

As Hood became slightly flustered at the nickname being used Cassie’s skin crawled as she wondered how little positive attention the vigilante received that Lex Luthor could make her react like that.

As Hood pulled herself together, she smiled a second time and this one was much more believable. 

She cleared her throat before responding; “Really Lex, just forget it and tell me what you really want out of this meeting.”

“There’s a convention coming up in a months’ time. Mercy will be there of course as my assistant, but it doesn’t hurt to be paranoid. Especially seeing as the event has a history of being attacked. If it wasn’t so prestigious, I wouldn’t risk it but, needs must and all that. It’s a weeklong on an Island off the coast of Greece, I want you to come as my plus one.”

“I’ll be acting as a secondary line of security I assume but, let me guess, should things get a little dull…”

“Well, I imagine you’ll have to entertain me. That shouldn’t be too hard given your expertise” he finished dryly as his hands moved back to their previous position on her ass. 

“you know if you missed me that much you could have just hired me to go on this trip with you Lex.”

“Now where’s the fun in that? In all seriousness though Hood, get your brother in line. I don’t have the time to be dealing with him and his motley crew whenever they think I’m up to something”

“You’re always up to something” commented Jayla dryly.

“That’s not the point and you know it. Get them in line Hood or our next parley won’t be nearly as pleasurable.”

Grinning wickedly as she got off his lap, the still barely clothed vigilante continued to smirk as she snagged her property and sashayed away. 

No hint of the momentary vulnerability from before showing. 

She didn’t even stop to get dressed as she headed towards the elevator.

With a playful wave she threw one final parting comment over her shoulder “promises, promises Lex, you’ll spoil a girl.”

Shifting slightly to deal with his erection, the businessman lifted his head to look up at the camera and smiled as he chuckled slightly.

If he chose to respond to her parting comment, they never heard as a moment later the screen shattered under the force of the remote hitting it.

For a long time no one spoke, each looking towards the others to brave the third robins wrath.

Apparently, they were all cowards.

Finally, after several long moments, Eddie of all people (although maybe it wasn’t so surprising given his history with the Hood) tentatively tried to speak.

“Tim…”

But, just as suddenly as his words returned to him, they also disappeared under the icy rage that was Red Robins glare. 

None of them had seen him like this before, not that they could blame him. That was his sister on screen after all.

By the gods, how long had this been going on for? The exchange between the two was obviously well practised, and there was an easy banter that should not have been possible between people that were supposed to be enemies. 

Dimly she wondered if they would have ever discovered what was going on if Luthor hadn’t decided to taunt them like this. 

She doesn’t like the answer she comes up with.