A: That City of Light, it...was uncomfortable. It felt like the air could choke me to death.
RH: Everything that made us who we are was laid bare for us to experience all over again...
A: Anything that was placed in our subconscious to protect us, gone. I guess now we know why it's called the City of Light.
Jason fidgeted a bit as he adjusted Alias's head on his shoulder, who had woken up from her 53-hour slumber and ended up sitting on the cushioned loveseat on the patio of a penthouse in South Metropolis. The penthouse was slightly extravagant to be called a safe pad but extravagant were most buildings in the city: raised patio with dark wooden flooring, loveseats and an l-section couch that surrounded an elongated fireplace and a divider that doubled as a waterfall. He could tell she was feeling slightly better due to the soft smile on her face, but her brows would furrow at times so he wasn't exactly sure. Nevertheless, he sighed and finally decided to take his helmet off, the air decompressing slowly to allow easy removal. "Don't get used to this," he lowly commented and placed it in his lap, his hand reaching up to fix his hair. "What was it with that place? First a gate knows who you are, and as soon as you step in you feel as if you committed a fucking crime. All your memories etched into your psyche just as vivid as the last...I remembered my own death."
Alias sat up from his shoulder and turned her body to face him, still dazed from what happened and instead rested her cheek against his arm that was propped up on the backrest. "You say it as if you let it happen. You had no control over those events but...I understand. Of course, the Knight I knew definitely would've killed me for saying that. The Jason that's here with me, who went with me to a city that continuously moved through time and space and letting me be this close enough to feel his body heat, is someone willing enough to gain absolution. And considering your history, it has to be one of the bravest things you've ever done." Jason attempted to retain his straight face but burst into small chuckles, diverting his gaze towards the pink-haired woman.
"You speak a lot when you wanna," he informed her and she shrugged.
"One of the things you hate about me," she chuckled with him and slowly reached up to caress his cheek. The scar that was once there in the mark of the initial of the man that destroyed everything in Jason's life was replaced with a fresh layer of his unusually soft skin. He must've shaved. "It's...it's healed completely. How does it feel? C'mon, tell me."
RH: I wanted to be honest. To the frozen maiden who always had my back and stayed on my side since day one. Who doesn't mind flirting but blushes like crazy at intimate contact. That could become your closest friend or living nightmare in seconds, but you never knew which. But I couldn't say thank you to her. Not yet.
"Like I've gotten some of my wasted time back…"
"Well...it's a start. I don't expect an immediate thanks but...I'll be waiting on it." She lifted her head off his arm and dropped her hand from his face to stretch her upper body. "It feels better having some of memories back, but now I know why they wiped them."
"What did you find?" he asked as he reached in his jacket pockets, and brought out a box of cigarettes on one hand and a lighter in the other.
"I found it...my uprising. How I found my powers...how Syndicate decided to become more than a renowned hospital, even the torture I had to take. I can still feel his hands, the way it moved over my skin and burned my nerves." She changed position once again and draped her legs on his. Her face was more resentful, in fact he's never seen her look so...hopeless. "Syndicate shaped me into a mercenary because I had no other reason to live. I was on the brink of death anyway. They wanted to dull my emotions by killing my friends, my family and it pretty much drove me psychotic. Then they conditioned me, and I was their first weapon."
"What do you mean?"
"I was their first Meta Mercenary. They trained me in everything there was to know, but one day I didn't follow orders and they pushed me to the edge of my powers and...even while we're talking, I can feel my own death…" Alias fidgeted when she said this. "To be forced into a life you didn't even accept is just...I can't explain it. It's as if everything I was supposed to live for left behind nothing but an empty purpose."
"You have nothing to apologise for, Jason. What happened is marked in my history and now I have the means to change my future, our future. With my false memories gone, I can focus on our target...I guess Syndicate really are tenacious..."
"The targets are Syndicate goons, right?"
"Yeah, all of which belong to Sinclair. But Rhys has lieutenants of her own, and one of them is here, in Metropolis. Something about a party..."
He moved the cigarette from his lips to make an annoyed face whilst letting the smoke seep through his slack jaw. "So I have to dress up to kill somebody?"
"You act as if you don't ever dress up to kill somebody."
A: I couldn't tell him what I found amongst my memories, of his future, in case doing so ignited a flame I wouldn't be able to extinguish. Dying a second time…? This world was cruel. God himself would help me set the skies alight just to keep Jason alive.
I won't let that happen. Not while I'm here.
"Is it alright if I stay with you a little longer? It's just your heat signature...it's comforting." Jason didn't answer her for a moment and instead opened his arms a bit, but she took it as an invitation and snuggled up close to him. Her hand was stroking his abdomen and lingered on a certain part of skin near his hip bone. "Can I ask you something?"
"Of course you can."
"...I left because I needed to clear my head."
RH: I left because I didn't want to hurt you.
"That sounds like a general answer."
"It's the best I can give you." The Meta Mercenary lifted her head so that her face was inches away from Jason's, and silently admired the shade of his heterochromatic eyes. Blue, an entrancing blue, a mesmerising blue. Green, a crystal green, a soft green. They were beautiful.
A: He was beautiful. Even when I was gazing in his eyes, so full of compassion and trust…I knew he was still hiding something from me.
"You were afraid that I wouldn't be there for you...weren't you? The same way I was afraid that I'd be alone again. That's why...that's why you kissed me."
"Don't jump to conclusions so quickly. A kiss can mean many things."
"Not the kiss you gave me. It was affectionate, warm...you wanted to make sure that I wasn't going to push you away."
"Sounds like you're complaining." Alias let out a short exhale through her nose and smiled softly, let her hand drift up his torso and it took Jason a moment to realise what she was about to do. A smirk crept onto his face as she moved the cigarette from his lips and leaned forward to kiss him softly, nothing but the distant blaring of the city sounds heard by ears cut off from reality. But it only lasted for a short while, and she pulled back with a deep blush adorning her freckled cheeks.
"Am I complaining now?" She asked him casually before getting out of the loveseat and sauntered into the penthouse, his eyes watching her play with her pink hair as she disappeared into the interior. He smiled to himself as he took that last puff and burnt out the cigarette on the ashtray, and pulled himself off the loveseat whilst remembering to take his helmet inside with him.
RH: Alias really can be full of surprises. Not that I can talk.
As the absence of light began to stretch across the sky, they spent the next couple hours relaxing, freshening up and getting ready for the ball in the south of Metropolis. Alias told him that she had their targets completely etched into her memories, all the sub-lieutenants spread out across Gotham, Arkham and Metropolis; this was over speakerphone as the Meta had her own 'safe pad' here and didn't want Jason to see what she was wearing. Mostly the second reason. She told him that there were two lieutenants with unmistakable power and shouldn't be taken lightly, whilst another two have been given some sort of countermeasure against her own abilities. Their leader, sorry, leaders haven't been found by neither Rex or Max but Alias informed Jason that she can feel them, wherever they were, just waiting for the last piece to be slotted; hiding in plain sight, one would say. And when the discussion was over, Rex arrived with his impeccable timing playing the role of hot chauffeur for Jason. Alias was already there for reconnaissance and to look pretty doing it.
"What is she wearing?" Jason finally asked with a baffled expression as he fidgeted with his bow tie, passing through the streets of Metropolis in the back of a matte vehicle. His ensemble was a dark shade of grey with a silk-like finish, single breasted blazer and peaked lapels. This detail, along with the dual vents and three-button cuffs, gave the garment away as bespoke. The shirt was an icy white, with a black wintery gradient that spanned the lower torso and sleeves and bow tie white with a dark knot. It was sleek and fitted his toned figure perfectly, topping off the outfit with a pair of glasses and Oxfords Alias left behind for him. A gift for a gift he presumed.
"That's surprising," Rex chuckled and gently turned the steering wheel. "Alias actually made me refrain from mentioning her attire. But if you want an opinion, she looks incredibly stunning."
"I'm expecting a fight, and she's gonna fight in a dress and heels―wait, why am I surprised?" His eyes fell onto a small pink box on the adjacent seat. "The box, what's in it?"
"An earpiece connected to Alias's comms. She's been quiet since she arrived but I guess she's mingling with the other guests to maintain her cover. Speaking about cover...you could've told me, boss." Jason peered at the rear view mirror to catch a glance of Rex and fixed his blazer jacket.
"I could've, but you wanted to kill me remember?"
"Because I was upset. And besides, when I tried to look into your head there were psychic barriers."
"...look into my head?"
"I'm not just limited to the capabilities you know. I'm a telepathic, Alias managed to figure it out first-time I used it on her. I kinda used my silence as an advantage. And no, I wasn't entirely mad that you disappeared and I'm still not. I understand why you did but Alias, on the other hand...she wouldn't stop thinking about you."
"That's when she met Dick's real self."
"Well, sorta. Actually, they met during Halloween. They didn't get off on the right foot, you would know. But she really does enjoy his presence. You could say they're―"
"Aha, I wouldn't go too far, boss. It's only been several months, though their chemistry is impressive."
"I'm not your boss, Rex. You're your own man, I don't control the life you live. Then again, I don't deserve to be."
"You say that and yet people tend to follow you. You may not think you're a leader, but there isn't anybody else I would follow if my life depended on it. I don't care if you're the Arkham Knight or the Red Hood, as long as Jason Todd doesn't change then I think I'll stick to calling you boss."
RH: Rex. A man whose voice had been stolen from him by his previous leader yet returned to him by someone just as tortured as him. A man of integrity, modesty and determination. Annoyingly nice, annoyingly handsome too. Alias really does admire this man, and I can see why.
"Whatever helps you sleep at night." He felt the vehicle slow to a stop and took the time to take the earpiece from the pink box, the door to his right opening just as he slotted it in his ear and gave Rex a nod when he climbed out.
"Have fun," the Meta teased him as he shut the door behind the vigilante and Jason smirked for a moment before he welcomed himself into the hall. Light security outside, hasn't been a hassle, just a metal detector and an irritating guard that took every fibre of his being to not shut him up.
A simple walk through a well-decorated hallway and his senses were exposed to more. He strolled to the balcony and took in the new environment, a grand chandelier in the centre of the ceiling and engraved pillars at the four corners of the room. People laughed, socialised and drank in small groups while live music became the ambience of the event, buffet tables placed around the perimeter. Several exit routes, guards that walked around with a red band around their left bicep. No, not just the bands. Tattoos on their neck, some sort of mercenary organisation. And wore shades, indoors too.
"I was wondering if you couldn't get any more attractive," a voice cooed from behind him and turned to find Alias with a glass of bubbling champagne in one hand and Jason let out a sound of awe. Sure, he's seen her in her fair share of dresses but this one, this one was different. It was breathtaking, a wine-coloured fitted dress that fell to the floor with dark feathers that decorated her arms, torso and neck and a slit that started at her thigh; if he had seen her from afar, he would've thought they were embellished onto her skin rather than the translucent mesh. Her hair was given a vintage edge that brought out her facial features, the curls falling just on her shoulder with one side slicked and pinned in place. "I guess I was wrong. I knew the glasses would complete the outfit. Like Clark Kent's hot distant brother."
RH: She looked...like Blakelyn.
"He was right. You do look stunning."
"Well, I never fail to please." She sauntered next to him and took a sip of the champagne, seemingly engaged in the event but kept her subtly coy expression as her eyes moved from Jason to the rest of the room. "The host is our target, her name is Tina Stella, an entrepreneur in her own right. She appears every now and then, but every time she leaves a person goes missing. Someone unimportant, someone who wouldn't draw attention."
"What about the guards?"
"You saw the marks? It seems like lieutenants have their own cult following, something I wasn't aware of."
"Minions that have minions. Great."
"The host is hiding something in this place, I felt it as soon as I was in the vicinity. But there's a vessel that's cancelling out my powers. Until I kill them, I'm practically mortal."
"Well, at least now I can sneak up on you." Alias rolled her eyes and took another sip of her beverage, acting out her improvised routine as she moved closer to Jason so that he could feel her breath tickle his ear.
"The hallway on my right is the only area with extra security. Your gear's in the second room on your left." She plucked a fresh glass of champagne of a tray from a passing waiter and pressed it into his hand. "You'll need this. If you need me however, I'll be here trying not to kill everyone." Flashing him a cute wink, she let her free hand glide down his chest as she slid away from him and he peered off his shoulder; the psychic link placed by Rex sent information of the entire interior, a mental map with one room left undiscovered. That was when he felt it, a distant hum that warmed his muscles and he glanced to his right. The room, where whatever secret was waiting to be found. He took a final glance at the party before moving, leaving the festivities behind as he walked into the hallway and fought a shiver that crawled down his spine.