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Dead in the Water

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Dick supposes he shouldn’t be surprised there’s an ulterior motive--Bruce never invites him to the Manor of his own accord unless he is either A) seriously concerned for his well being or B) in need of Nightwing’s assistance with a case. Since Dick’s been doing pretty well lately, in both his Nightwing persona and his civilian life, the fact that it is the latter is also altogether not shocking.

Still, when he descends down to the Cave and sees Bruce in the cowl and cape instead of casual around-the-house attire, he is a little bitter. Some small part of Dick had been secretly hoping Bruce just wanted to see him. Apologize for their estrangement. Compliment him on his good work in Bludhaven. Ask him what his favorite flavor of jam is. Anything. 

Dick says nothing. If he chooses to go down that route, the fight will last for hours--he knows from experience. Been there done that. At the moment Dick has neither the energy nor motivation to engage in a conflict of that calibre, and he intends to be back in Bludhaven by nine for patrol. Generally if he wants to engage in an argument with Bruce he makes sure to schedule time beforehand.

His mentor is seated at the Batcomputer, looking through what appear to be case files from a case several years ago. Dick squints, but can’t make out the words from this distance. As he’s not particularly inclined to step any closer, bridging the gap between himself and Batman, he abandons his attempt to read the files. If he needs to know, Bruce will tell him.

At least, he remembers a time when that was the case. He’s not so sure it’s strictly true anymore. 

“Nightwing,” Bruce greets, even though Dick is in civilian attire. “I have received intelligence that there is a plot to kidnap Richard Grayson for ransom.”

Again, Dick can’t say he’s shocked--either by the revelation, or that Bruce dives right into hero shit without so much as a how was your day. These plots are a dime a dozen, and have been ever since he was nine and freshly placed in Bruce Wayne’s care. “What are we going to do about it?” he asks, wondering why this is big enough news to warrant summoning him to the Cave on short notice. Dick has a life to live, thank you very much, and he would like to get back to it sometime soon, if Bruce is amenable with that. He almost opens his mouth to inform Batman of this sentiment, but the temptation is outweighed by his disinclination to start another shouting match.

Batman doesn’t look at him--his focus stays firmly on the digital case files. Classic Batman avoidance. Dick rolls his eyes, irritated. “I believe it would be advantageous to allow them to kidnap you.”

Dick raises his eyebrows. Now that piques his interest, even against his reluctance to get involved with anything Batman at the moment. “Let them kidnap me, and take ‘em down undercover?”

“That is the idea, yes.”

Dick nods, and despite his annoyance at Bruce, grins a little. This sounds like a mission he might just enjoy. “Tell me more.”

Again unsurprisingly, Bruce came up with a detailed plan before he even called Dick over. All of it, of course, hinging on Dick’s agreement. Because he just assumed Dick would say yes. 

Dick hates that he’s right.

The plotters are a group they have tangled with before--back when Dick was Robin, he and Bruce dismantled their human trafficking operation and sent the ringleaders to what should have been a lifelong sentence in prison. Unfortunately, owing to the simple, endlessly frustrating fact that this was Gotham, it had taken less than a year for the group’s leaders to wiggle their way out of prison and disappear. Bruce suspects bribery, and Dick, being intimately acquainted with more corrupt prison officials than he cares to list, would bet a lot of money he’s right.

Luckily, the perps aren’t the only people who know how to bribe. Though the nature of Batman’s reward had been a little different. Less money, more maintaining the use of your limbs. 

He has managed to capture one of the group’s leaders. Motivated by his already-broken arm and the promise of more pain to come, Benjamin Davis--human trafficking extraordinaire--had divulged to Batman that, in the wake of their untimely imprisonment and subsequent payoff, the men--who he had only named as Garcia and Miller--were in a bit of a financial pickle and looking to earn some quick cash. And, Davis told Batman, what better way to do it than employ one of Gotham’s criminals’ favorite techniques? Kidnap a Wayne and wait for the cash to roll in. 

And to that end, Dick seems like the perfect target. He lives alone in Bludhaven, so there would be no badass butlers or angry eleven-year-olds afoot to protect him and prevent the kidnapping. Jason is legally dead, so he’s not an option, and though Tim does live alone, as CEO of Wayne enterprises, there is a no-ransom policy in place in the event of his kidnapping. The same applies to Bruce.

So the criminals decided they should kidnap Dick.

If Davis had been a more helpful hostage, the natural course of action would have been to interrogate him further. They’re still missing crucial information--where is the base of operations for the criminal group? Beyond Davis, Garcia, and Miller, how many men are in the group’s employ?

Unfortunately, when presented with these pertinent questions, Davis had become remarkably unforthcoming, and no amount of broken fingers convinced him to open his mouth. So Batman let him go--holding up his own end of their deal--and proceeded to immediately call Dick with a plan. A plan with which Dick has several issues. Namely:

“I don’t feel comfortable with you injecting a tracker into me. Can we have one in my clothes or something?”

Bruce shifts uncomfortably. “We won’t need to inject a tracker,” he says. The tone of his voice is anything but reassuring.

“What do you mean?” Dick asks suspiciously. He has a feeling he knows where this is going, but doesn’t want to accuse Bruce without solid evidence. Because of course Bruce wouldn’t do what Dick’s thinking of--he’s got more morals than that, surely.

Bruce coughs. “There is already one in your arm.”

“You injected a tracker into my arm?”

“It was practical,” Bruce says, completely unashamed. “Not knowing your location was a safety risk, and any trackers not in your skin can be easily removed.”

Dick stares at him, horrified. “How long has it been there?”

At this, Bruce at least has the good grace to look away. “Since you became Robin.”

Dick sputters, so angry he can’t even think of the words to express it. He is entirely lost for words. He’d always suspected Bruce didn’t trust him one hundred percent, always wondered--

But this proof, this undeniable proof of a breach of trust, a violation, so severe--

It feels like everything is crashing down around him. 

“WHAT THE FUCK,” he roars. “I don’t--I can’t--I can’t even believe you! Which arm is it in?”

Bruce hesitates. Dick marches forward and puts his hands on Bruce’s chest to shove him violently backwards. “Which arm?” he demands.

“Left forearm,” Batman finally says, emotionless.

Dick shoves him again, overtaken by his rage. “Goddamnit,” he seethes, breathing heavily. “You never told me. You didn’t even ask for my consent.”

“It was practical,” Bruce repeats, because that’s what matters to him. The mission. Everything is always about the goddamned mission with Batman, even when it means ripping away his son’s autonomy, even when it means messing with his body without so much as letting him know. The ends always justify the means, when you’re the caped crusader of Gotham City. Always. 

“DOES IT LOOK LIKE I CARE?” Dick yells, more furious than he can ever remember being. He gestures wildly with his arms--one of which, guess what, has a fucking tracker imbedded beneath the skin. Go fucking figure. “You--you had no right, how could you?” He hates the way his voice wobbles dangerously, threatening to break.

“I knew you’d be mad when you found out,” Bruce says as if it excuses his actions. His voice, in contrast to Dick’s, is level and even. As if he’s completely unbothered.

“Fuck you,” Dick breathes, chest heaving up and down rhythmically. “Fuck yeah I’m mad.”

“We can discuss this more after the mission,” Bruce tells him calmly--placating. “For the time being, it’s the only way to ensure we can track your location after you’re taken. It stays in.”

Dick shouldn’t be surprised. This whole day has been one not-shock after another, demonstration after demonstration of Bruce being Bruce. Bruce, who Dick knows . He should expect these things by now.

And yet, hearing again, so concretely, that all Batman cares about is the mission, completely blindsides him. It’s a slap in the face, sharp and painful, and suddenly all the rage melts away, leaving nothing but raw, bleeding, hurt. 

Bruce doesn’t trust him. Never has, never will.

“Leave the mission alone,” Dick says, voice rough, turning away so he doesn’t have to meet the sharp white lenses of the cowl. “They’re kidnapping me. I’ll handle it.”

“Dick,” Batman warns, annoyance creeping into his tone. “You don’t get to make that decision.”

Dick holds up his left forearm demonstratively and points to it with his opposite hand. “You didn’t get to make this decision. But you did. Give me the mission. I’ll handle it.”

There is a pause, a minute of tense silence filled by Dick’s heavy breathing and the rustling of Batman’s cape. After a long moment, charged with anger and tension:

“Fine. I’ll send you the case files. Leave the tracker in.”

Dick does not deign to respond as he turns around and stalks out of the Cave.

---

When he makes it back to his apartment, it takes one check of his laptop to confirm that Bruce has, in fact, sent him the case files. There is no note attached. No apology, no acknowledgement of their fight. Dick uses a breathing exercise to prevent himself from getting angry again--he needs his hands to be steady for what he’s about to do. If they’re trembling with rage, he could hurt himself. 

Not that it wouldn’t be worth it--the ends justify the means, after all--but still.

In the bathroom of his apartment, Dick pulls a first aid kit out of the cabinet beneath the sink and opens it up, sitting on the floor. He’s brought a subdermal tracker--kind of like a wall stud finder, but for skin--and a scalpel.

He runs the tracker’s sensor over his arm, and it isn’t long before it beeps , hovering over the soft skin of his inner forearm. A rare patch of unscarred golden skin. Dick hates that he’ll have to mar it. 

Abruptly--like ripping the bandaid off a wound, but in reverse--he makes the incision, gritting his teeth as drops of blood roll softly down his arm. The scalpel is sharp, and cuts easily. Still, the act of slicing into his own arm makes him queasy. Dick can deal with injuries on other people--can wipe away the blood, stitch them up, and move on like nothing ever happened. When it comes to himself, though, Dick gets oddly squeamish. 

Having accomplished step one, Dick grabs a pair of surgical tweezers and digs them into the wound to extract a tiny silver dish, smaller and thinner than a dime. How very discreet. Bruce knows what he’s doing--always has. Dick could very well have lived the rest of his life never having known about this tracker. 

Dick drops the little dish into a clear plastic baggie to avoid losing track of it, and wraps a sheet of white bandage around his arm, covering the incision. It’s deep enough that stitches would make sense, but also not so deep that he requires them. He’s frankly never been a fan of suturing himself, so he decides to skip it. 

The first and most pressing issue taken care of, Dick changes into his Nightwing gear, hissing in irritation as his gauntlet scrapes the cut. It’s not the wound itself that hurts--the inch-long incision is hardly the worst he’s dealt with in his time as a vigilante--but the circumstances that caused it. The reason it was necessary in the first place. It burns. 

Dick secures his domino mask over his eyes before he grapples out the window and mounts his bike outside. Patrol will have to wait for tonight--Nighwing has someone to visit. 

---

Normally Dick would be annoyed at having to drive to and from Gotham so many times in one day, but tonight he finds the ride is effective at clearing his mind. Not entirely, of course--resentment still boils beneath his skin--but enough that he can approach Crime Alley with a clear head and his focus firmly on the mission. 

Unlike Bruce, Dick is not so controlling that he keeps tabs on his family members. That means that other than a general idea of where to start, he doesn’t know where to locate Jason. He tried a phone call or seven, but received no response--typical. While Dick has been to several of Red Hood’s safehouses, Dick has no doubt that there are many more he doesn’t know of yet. Not to mention, the chances that Jason is out and about right now are high. Like Nightwing, the Red Hood makes his rounds by night. So whether or not he’ll run into Jason by breaking into a safehouse or two is anybody’s guess. Still, it’s his best shot. 

Dick breaks into one of the safehouses, cringing guiltily at the window whose lock he hadn’t picked so much as desecrated . It wouldn’t have been necessary if Jason had given him the passcode to his security system, but, well, the chances of that ever happening are more of a joke than any conceivable prospect.

The fact that Dick manages to break through a window without being shot at is telling--Jason isn’t home. So, leaving a sticky note with an apology and a smiley face, Dick moves on to the next safehouse, and the next, still with no luck.

It isn’t until the fourth and final safehouse that he strikes gold. When Dick whips out his lock pick, ready to break through Jason’s impressive security once more, he finds that the window is already open and waiting for him. He narrows his eyes suspiciously--he knows a trap when he sees one--but when no immediate threat makes itself known, shrugs and slides through.

Jason is waiting for him inside, dressed in full Red Hood regalia, helmet and all. His stance is aggressive, pointing a gun directly at Dick’s chest. “Fucker!” he announces. “I fucking knew it was you!”

A split second before Jason shoots, Dick dodges out of the way, vaulting over the bullet’s trajectory and towards Jason. He swings an escrima at Jason’s hand, aiming to knock the gun to the floor, but Jason moves in time to bring the butt of the gun down against the side of Dick’s head. The maneuver leaves him unguarded for a split second, which Dick takes advantage of to knock Jason’s legs out from under him with a powerful roundhouse kick. He crashes heavily to the ground. Dick’s head throbs painfully. They’re even.

“Fucker,” Jason repeats emphatically. Dick holds out a hand to help him up, off the cold floor. Jason ignores it steadfastly as he stands up of his own accord and pulls his helmet off. He tosses it carelessly away, and it clatters loudly on the safehouse’s hard floor. “What are you doing here, Dickhead? Stopped by on your way to visit Daddy Bats?”

Dick scoffs. “Yeah, right. How’d you know I’d be here?”

“Easy.” Jason holsters his gun and walks over to the fridge, where grabs himself a beer and does not offer Dick one. “You only know about four of my ‘houses. You broke into three of them--you set off all the alarms by the way, you’re not fucking subtle--so I knew this’d be next.” He grins. “And look at that. I was right.”

Dick smiles sheepishly back. “I needed to talk to you. Tried calling, but you didn’t respond.”

“My phone blew up,” Jason responds instantly. Dick raises an eyebrow suspiciously. “It did!” 

“Well, sorry about all your windows, I guess. I think I broke the locks.”

“You better fucking be sorry,” Jason warns, pointing one finger at Dick. “That security was for you.”

Dick grins. “Maybe next time it’ll actually work.”

Jason elects not to justify that with a response. Instead he takes a seat at a rickety little dining table, and when Dick doesn’t join him, coughs dramatically and points to the opposite chair. “Sit,” he orders, using a foot to push out the seat. “Jesus, you need a cordial invitation or something?” Dick sits obediently. Jason sips his beer. “So, what brings you my way? Your usual Wednesday night break-in rampage or something?”

“Two things, actually. Can I see your arm?”

Jason holds up both his arms sarcastically. Dick rolls his eyes. “Left forearm,” he instructs. “Take off the jacket.”

Jason eyes him doubtfully. “What for?” he asks. 

“Bruce stuck a tracker in me when I was Robin. Only told me today. Wanted to see if there was one in you.”

“Shit,” Jason says, holding out his arm with his jacket sleeve rolled up. “He better fucking not have.”

Dick pulls out the subdermal sensor and runs it over Jason’s arm. Nothing. “Maybe your right one?” he suggests. Jason holds it out obligingly. Still, there is no sign of a tracker. 

“Huh,” Jason says, sounding mildly surprised. “Guess it was just you.”

Breathing carefully and deliberately, Dick elects not to respond as he makes a big, distracting production of securing the sensor in a pocket. “Guess so.” He feels an odd sort of jealousy that Bruce hadn’t thought it necessary to put a tracker in Jason as well, but supposes it makes sense. If Jason had had a tracker all along, Bruce would have run into the pressing question of why is my dead son moving? 

So maybe Bruce had just trusted Jason more, even from the very beginning. Go figure. 

“Shit, man.” Jason sounds genuinely sympathetic for a moment--the tone is unfamiliar, but comforting all the same. They sit for a moment, soundless except for the rude slurping of Jason’s beer. Then, suddenly, Dick bursts out:

 “Fuck that guy.”

Jason laughs, startled and, despite himself, a little bit delighted. “Damn right. Fuck that guy.” He smiles, and for the first time that night, the expression looks happy. “Fuck that fucker,” he sighs with finality. “Always waited for the day you decided to screw that guy. I’m marking my calendar.” Then, suddenly looking thoughtful, Jason adds, “Though come to think of it, it might be difficult to fuck him. Since there’s already a giant stick up his ass, and all.”

That manages to draw a laugh out of Dick. He wholeheartedly agrees, though he has to admit he’s nonetheless traumatized by the mental image the words invoke. So, grinning, Dick takes the moment as his opportunity to change the subject. “Anyways, I also came here to ask for help on a case.”

Jason stares at him incredulously. “You? The Kiss-ass Wonder? Asking the Red Hood for help on a case? What fucking universe are we in?”

“I’m being serious, Jay,” Dick says with a roll of his eyes that, though invisible beneath the mask, he makes sure to telegraph obviously. “We got a potentially dangerous operation here, couple weeks worth of undercover work at least. Timmy’s too well-known to do it, and I don’t want him getting hurt anyways. Bruce is also too well known. So we’re left with you.”

Abruptly, Jason slams his beer down on the table. “So you won’t risk the precious replacement, but it’s okay if I get hurt. Got it. I’m the last resort, as always.”

“Not everything is about playing favorites Jay, Jesus.” Dick had been hoping they could avoid this particular argument this time around. They’ve been through it too many times, and frankly, he’s got enough else on his mind at the moment. “I don’t want you getting hurt either, obviously. But you’ve got the skills. I’ve seen them first-hand.”

His words have a placating effect. Jason lowers his tensed-up shoulders. “Mm,” he grunts. “Don’t flatter me.” The gruff tone is dubiously effective, Jason clearly having been at least a little pleased to hear Dick’s assessment of his skills. “What is this mission anyways?”

Dick slides a printed copy of the case file across the table. “Benjamin Davis, and two others called Miller and Garcia. Led a human trafficking ring in Gotham before we took them down. Recently got outta prison early--bribery, we assume--and thinking they can make a quick buck kidnapping the famous, stunningly attractive Richard Grayson-Wayne for ransom.”

Jason scoffs as he scans the files. “Stunningly attractive, my ass.”

“No, my ass,” Dick can’t help but say cheekily. Still, after all this time, he can’t resist teasing Jason. It’s the one part of their dynamic he has always been able to fall back on, even when all other subjects are too touchy to approach with a ten-foot pole. 

“I can still shoot you,” Jason offers--another constant. Dick is quiet as Jason reads the information.

“You got a plan?” he asks after a few quiet minutes. 

“Uh.” The fact of the matter is, Dick does not. Batman’s plan had been banking on the tracker in Dick’s arm, and since that is clearly no longer a factor in play, they’ll need to come up with something new. Not to mention, Dick hadn’t wanted to be presumptuous by coming up with a plan before Jason even agreed to participate in it. 

“Gotcha.” Jason closes the file and puts the manilla folder on the center of the table. “No plan. Why am I not shocked?”

“I had some ideas,” Dick says defensively. “But I wanted to flesh them out with you. For your sake.”

“I am so very grateful. Seems like we got two ways to go here--either we stick that tracker back in you and someone mans the operation from back home, or I infiltrate ‘em from the inside.”

“We are not putting the tracker back,” Dick asserts, jaw tightening dangerously. His anger from earlier threatens to make a comeback, and with it, a surge of anxiety.

Jason raises his hands defensively. “Shit, alright, I guess we aren’t,” he concedes. “Keep your panties on. Option two then?”

“Option two could work,” Dick agrees, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. “Just gotta figure out how.”

---

“Heard you had a little trouble with ol’ Batsy recently, eh, Davis?”

Davis cowers and grabs the nearest available item for self-defense, which turns out to be a lamp with a flowery shade. He holds it out threateningly. 

Jason snorts. If Davis thinks he can take down Gotham’s notorious Red Hood with nothing but a girly light fixture, Jason clearly needs to work on his reputation. Luckily, smearing Davis across the street like a gorey little cockroach seems like exactly the sort of thing that might boost his street cred. If it comes to that, anyways. Ideally Davis will be left alive--despite his evidently lacking combat abilities, he is more useful as a part of their plan than the contents of a body bag. Jason can always fantasize, though.

Red Hood confiscates the lamp with effortless ease and takes one threatening step towards Davis. “He told me all about your plan to kidnap the Wayne kid.”

Spluttering in terror, Davis shakes his head. “What, that’s--we ain’t kidnappin’ no one, that’s--”

“Save the lies,” Jason interrupts, grabbing Davis by the neck. He pins him to the wall. The grip is tight enough that he’ll have a hard time escaping, but he can still talk--not that talking is what Davis is here to do. No, tonight, he’ll be listening. “You’re kidnapping Grayson to make Daddy pay up. I get it. A classic. But this time, you’re gonna need some help.” 

“Wha--?” Davis’ face goes from pale, to red, to an intriguing purplish hue. Jason watches with fascination. 

“You don’t want the bat ruining your operation now that he knows about it. I get it, we’ve all got bat problems here in Gotham. Me included. That’s why you’re gonna let me help.” The confusion on Davis’ face slowly morphs into interest. Jason has done his research--Davis is a businessman, and he knows how to strike a good deal. He is undoubtedly the brains of the operation, but as evidenced by his easy defeat, brawns are most certainly not on his resume. That means he’s exactly the foothold Jason needs to covertly infiltrate the group. Easily threatened, smart enough to take what sounds on paper like a good deal. Red Hood continues. “I kidnap Grayson for you, keep the bat away, the whole nine yards. In return, you introduce me to your little friends. You get me in on the operation. I join you punks, and you get safety from Batman in return. Win-win deal.”

“And what if we don’t need your help?” wheezes Davis, his face having gone alarmingly blue. Jason releases his grip, just a tiny bit, and his hostage sighs in relief. “We’ve dealt with the bat before.”

“Not like I have, you haven’t,” Jason shoots back, lifting his helmet to reveal the red domino mask underneath. He points to his own face. “You see this? You recognize me? I was Robin. I know the bat better than he knows himself. But he let me die. So I ain’t on his side anymore--in fact I’m very much against it.”

Davis raises an eyebrow, the motion oddly shrewd on his sweaty face. “So that’s why you want to join us, huh? Revenge on the bat?”

“What can I say,” Jason responds, sliding the helmet back down. “I’m not a man to let go of old grudges.”

“And if I say no?” 

“Like I said. I don’t forgive and forget.” There is a barely perceptible threat hidden in Jason’s voice. 

But Davis is a smart man. He picks up on it. For a moment, there are no words exchanged. The silence is broken by Davis’ heavy, strangled breathing, and the rustle of Jason’s body armor. The tension is thick enough to cut. Just when Jason’s getting ready to employ another threat from his arsenal, Davis snaps, “Fine! Fine. You kidnap Grayson for us an’ keep the bat away, you’re in. But I got my eyes on you. No funny business.”

Jason grins. “None whatsoever, boss.”

That done, he pulls off his helmet and pushes a secret button on the inside. He throws it at the nearest wall. It clatters against the drywall, beeping, then--

BOOM! 

The helmet detonates, leaving a gaping hole in the side of Davis’ apartment. “See you later, bossman!”

With that, Jason jumps out through the hole and is gone. 

---

Jason makes it back to his safehouse--one of the ones not compromised by Dickwing, that is--around five AM. He thinks about crashing at Dick’s, just to annoy him, but honestly, he’s had enough of that guy for one day. Enough of him for a lifetime.

Well. That’s not necessarily true, and Jason knows it. If he really couldn’t stand Dick Grayson, he wouldn’t have agreed to help him on the case. The truth is, loathe as Jason is to admit it, there is still a part of him that admires the original boy wonder. The Joker hadn’t been able to beat it out of him, and if that hadn’t done the job, he doubts anything ever will.

Fact of the matter is, Dick Grayson is a force to be reckoned with. He’s stubborn, overconfident, and quick to anger, at least when it comes to Jason. But beyond that, he’s determined. Compassionate. Infuriatingly dedicated. Everything Jason wishes he, himself, could be. 

When he was Robin, he had wanted to be Dick Grayson. He’s long since gotten over that--and thank goodness. But, with the film of hero-worship missing, Jason isn’t sure how he feels about his predecessor. Just that, when he had broken into four of Jason’s secret, secure, safehouses for the sole purpose of helping him and requesting help in return, Jason had been much more inclined to agree than to throw him out on his ass like he should have. 

---

One week later, Davis sends Jason a date and a location using an untraceable phone number. The location is a warehouse by the Bludhaven docks. The date is the next day. Jason forwards the information to Dick.

Much to Jason’s irritation, Dick finds the thought of Jason kidnapping him to be the funniest thing in the universe. “Should I be a damsel in distress,” he asks when Jason calls him to tell him about his success threatening Davis, “Or do I try to fight back? What if I win? What if I beat you, what then?”

“You won’t beat me,” Jason says with an eye roll he wishes Dick could see through the telephone. “That would defeat the entire purpose.”

“Right, but I don’t want to seem too pathetic,” Dick reasons. “Bring extra guns, that way you taking me down will look feasible. I am a police officer, you know.”

“Never thought I’d see the day you tell me to bring more guns. Times are a-changin,’ Anti-Assassination Wonder.” 

Dick’s voice hardens inexplicably. “That they are, Little Wing.” Then the phone call had ended, and Jason had been left to plan the abduction. 

When the night of the kidnapping rolls around, Jason meets the mysterious Garcia in the alley beside Dick’s apartment building. This is his first time speaking to the guy, and he hadn’t been sure what to expect. Upon meeting him, though, it is immediately clear that Davis doesn’t keep him around for his intellect. He’s a huge, muscular guy with a buzzcut and a frankly impressive number of tattoos. 

“You the Red Hood?” he asks gruffly, cracking his knuckles. Unline Davis, Garcia is a big man. Taller than Dick, certainly, and maybe a couple centimeters taller than Jason. Not that he’s gonna whip out a measuring tape to verify. He’s got a gun very obviously holstered on his belt--Jason would bet anything that it’s obvious presence is meant as a threat to Jason more than Dick. A little reminder of what might happen should he stray from the plan. 

“No, I’m Little Red Riding Hood,” Jason snaps. “Obviously I’m the fucking Red Hood. We doing this, or what?”

Garcia unleashes a mighty glob of spit at the wall and cracks the knuckles on his other hand. “Ladies first.”

Jason flexes his arms angrily but takes the lead anyways. “I’m in charge here,” he tells Garcia as they make their way around the building, sticking to the shadows. “You follow me, we kidnap Grayson, nobody gets hurt ‘cept maybe him a bit. I got it all worked out. You step outta line, though, the bat’s gonna hear about it and it ain’t gonna be pretty. You get me?”

Garcia scoffs, but the threat of bat-shaped interference seems to do the trick, and he accepts Jason’s leadership for the time being as they go about scaling the fire escape. When they reach Dick’s apartment, Jason whispers to Garcia, “Absolute silence.”

Then he punches out the window with a loud crash and dives in. Dick is in a pair of black skinny jeans and a blue T-shirt, sitting at his dining table, eating a bowl of cereal. Typical. His eyes widen comically at the sight of Red Hood and Garcia breaking in through his window.

“Red Hood? Oh no! I sure hope you aren’t here to kidnap me!”

Jason crosses his arms, irritated. He should have known Dick would lay it on thick--in his civilian persona, overdone acting is practically his specialty. If Garcia possessed just two or three more brain cells, his suspicions might be aroused. Luckily, from what Jason has seen of him, that doesn’t seem like a pressing concern. “Hands in the air, Grayson,” Red Hood commands, unholstering a gun to point it at Dick. 

Dick obeys. “Oh no!” he repeats, “Guns!” 

“That’s right, rich boy,” Garcia snarls, cracking his knuckles again. Jesus. Jason’s hands hurt just looking at him. “We got guns. So you ain’t gonna struggle, you ain’t gonna be callin’ no-one, and you might just make it outta here alive. Hear me?”

“Can I finish my cereal first? It’s Lucky Charms.”

Jason shoots the cereal bowl, and milk and marshmallows splatter across the kitchen like a bloodstain. 

Dick’s eyes widen. “Not the cereal!” He stands, balling his hands into fists. “Now that’s the last straw, you cereal killer!” he declares.

“I said, hands above your head!” Jason steps forward and stage-punches Dick. The hit connects with all the force of a gentle butterfly flapping its wings against Dick’s face. 

Dick flies across the apartment like he’s been struck by a wrecking ball. “Aaaah!” he yells dramatically, clutching his face. “You’ve killed me!” He collides with a cabinet, the door of which collapses inwards with a crunch. He lands on his ass, right in the splatter of milk left by Jason’s cereal-icide.

Jason manages just in time to disguise his delighted laughter into evil cackles, channelling his inner-Joker. “Not yet, rich boy!” he declares. Dick’s enthusiasm has really given him a feel for the performance, spurring him on. “We’re going easy on you today!”

“Yeah!” agrees Garcia, evidently invigorated by Jason’s show of force. He squares his shoulders. “Show ‘im, Hood.”

“Damn straight!” Jason agrees. He marches over to Dick, who cowers comedically. “Now, hands behind your back so I can cuff you, unless you want to get punched again!”

“Not that!” Dick pleads. “Anything but that!”

Jason handcuffs him with a pair of cuffs that Dick could slip out of in approximately ten seconds if he wanted to. Then, because now he’s enjoying himself, he hoists Dick up and hauls him over his shoulder in a show of excessive strength. “We got you now, rich boy,” Jason taunts. “Ain’t that right, partner?” Holding Dick with one arm, he reaches out to fist-bump Garcia. 

“Damn right,” Garcia agrees, accepting the fist bump.

Though transport would truthfully be easier if Jason allowed Dick to walk with his own two legs, he does not release his hold on the abductee until it comes time to shove him into Garcia’s unmarked black van. Dick makes a face when he sees it. 

“We’re driving this? Don’t you guys have a limo or something? My chauffeur always drives a limo.”

“Shut it,” Garcia snarls, shoving him roughly into the backseat and slamming the door. “We got a blindfold?”

Jason pulls one out of one of his leather jacket’s pockets and secures it around Dick’s eyes. “Ready.”

With that, Garcia peels out of the parking space and onto the road. Jason’s gotta admit, he, himself, is not the safest driver on the streets, but Garcia is a whole new level of reckless. By the time they make it to the docks, he is genuinely convinced the man might be colorblind. Nothing else could possibly explain the number of red lights he runs on the way there. Nonetheless, they make it without serious injury. 

When they’ve arrived at their location, Jason hauls Dick out of the car. Though he does use more force than strictly necessary, he knows that Dicks exaggerated “Oomph!” is all for show.

“You better cooperate, now,” Jason says to Dick, who lays on the asphalt. He grabs him by one leg to drag him across the ground. He could just carry him over his shoulder again, but Dick is not a feather-light daisy, and if he’s honest, Jason is probably having a little more fun than he should. He turns to Garcia and says in Spanish, “Where are we meeting the boss?”

Garcia eyes Dick warily. “Does he speak Spanish?” he asks in the same language.

Yes, Dick does. Fluently. Has for as long as Jason can remember. “Not a word,” Jason lies. “Dumb rich boy.”

“Hey, are you guys speaking Portugese?” Dick asks from the floor. “Olá. Um, dois, três.”

Jason ignores him, and Garcia, satisfied, tells Jason in Spanish, “We are taking him on a ship.”

“A ship?” Jason repeats in English, caught off guard. That is… not what Jason had been expecting. Could potentially be bad. That’s not the setting they’ve been preparing for, not by a longshot.

“The boss has some products he wants to pick up.” Garcia says meaningfully. “If Wayne doesn’t pay the kid’s ransom, he will join them, you understand?”

Jason pauses for a moment, frozen in indecision. This situation is more dangerous than either of them have anticipated. He turns to Dick, unsure how to proceed. It’s not too late to back out, if either of them wanted to.

“Did you say a ship?” Dick asks. “My dad owns a cruise ship or two. We use them to get to the private island. I like ships.”

Beneath the veneer of rich kid entitlement, Jason understands what Dick is saying, reads him loud and clear. I like ships. He wants to proceed with the mission.

Jason grabs him by the leg and drags him across the asphalt, following Garcia’s lead. “Let’s go,” he says.