Temporally Coincident Occurrence Of Acausal Events
"Sometimes, on rare occasions, people can actually remember I was a Titan."
Jason shouldn't have been able to tell when he had regained consciousness; Dick had been a captive and a hostage countless times for well over a decade and had been fooling people for near as long. But this was Jason, the boy chosen to wear his name and colors, so there was a possibility he could see through such deceptions. Or he could've simply been talking for hours.
"The thing is, Grayson, they never seem to remember why I was one."
Dick really needed to break Jason of his casual use of names, even when Dick was only half in costume. He was unsure why Jason was with him. There was a distinct gap in his memories which extended back to Alfred's evening wakeup call though he could not determine how much time had elapsed.
Giving up all pretenses, Dick opened his eyes slowly, letting himself adjust to the dim light. Jason was across from him, stripped and bound similarly - hands chained above his head - talking as if he hadn't noticed.
"But I do."
Jason's tone forced Dick to pause his test of the shackles. It was that same manner of knowing he had often heard in situations before assurances of his immanent death. Jason likely promised worse. Their eyes met. "Brother Blood."
Dick shivered before he could stop himself. Even if Jason was attempting to pass along information, it shouldn't have pertained to that Brother Blood. But Dick knew it did.
"I saw that." There was no way he couldn't have.
Dick planned to tell Jason to shut up, but the pain in his throat made him choke on his first word. Shutting his eyes against the white light creeping into the edges of his vision, Dick became aware of just how much pain he had been displacing.
"Yeah, you got worked over good." Really, with the bruising around the eye, the split lip, and the dried blood in his hair, Jason was one to talk.
"Okay, I got worked over too. But you should see the other guy."
Dick shivered again at Jason's laugh, which sounded nothing like the Joker's laugh except in how practiced it was.
"My kingdom for a mirror; if you could only see your face."
Bruce's hand signals were simplistic enough to be performed even when bound and injured. Though the command for silence wasn't as satisfying at telling Jason to shut up, Dick made due. He was slightly surprised when it worked.
In the silence, Dick attempted to reconstruct the night's events. There were no open cases in which he should've come across the Red Hood's path. Dick could hear Bruce's voice reminding him it was his city and as such Jason's location in it should always be a priority. But he had learned his lesson about geographical ethics and ownership several cities ago and as such his inner Bruce was ignored and left to brood.
Dick signaled for Jason to report, but his brother pressed his lips together and widened his eyes, looking more smug than innocent.
Ignoring Jason's taunt, Dick began to catalog his own injuries, prioritizing them by how they would affect his escape. He'd have to stay aware of his breathing with the damage to his throat. His legs were numb beneath him, though he could see his boot flex, he couldn't feel it. His fingers were swollen, not enough to prevent all movement, but to limit fine control.
His gloves, utility belt, cowl, cape, and chest armor were gone along with his lock picks and his backup lock picks, but Batman prepared for such eventualities. Briefly he wondered how long ago Bruce had solved this scenario, not the captured aspect so much as the Red Hood aspect. The former could be handled easily enough, but the latter - at least he was still quiet.
The chains were just long enough he could contort his body to reach the thin length of wire which had been overlooked. His legs couldn't support much of his weight so he had to rely on the twist of his body and the tension in the shackles to detect the edge of the wire with his bruised finger tips.
"All hail Brother Blood."
Dick bit back a curse as he removed the wire with a jerk. It almost slipped from his fingers, the wire slick from the coating of his blood.
"See, I told you I remember. And you remember too. You had a lot of practice with those four words. Batman probably has a copy of your newscast somewhere in his database if you ever forget."
Dick wiped the blood off the wire onto the back of his hands, careful not to slice into his skin again.
"By then you were wacked out on whatever drug they had you on so maybe you would need to watch it. You weren't much more than a lump on the floor when we found you. That detox had to hurt."
The angle was wrong so Dick was forced to work the lock by touch alone. He closed his eyes again, shutting down one sensory input to focus the other.
"But that was the third time. They did have some sort of hard on for you; must've been the panties. The second time they got you was when you were still with that Terra chick, right?"
"That must've been something. You quit being Robin, get all brainwashed again when you didn't even have a costume, then get 'betrayed' by Deathstroke's pet. Though how she could betray you when she was a spy I'll never understand.
"Deathstroke's kill-the-Titans kick of course leads to your Elvis stage and my rebellion against pants.
"Remind me, was there anything Batman did to me more dangerous than sending me out on some Gauntlet with a brainwashed you?"
The manacle tumblers were delicate. Dick used too much pressure sending them cascading back to their locked positions.
"Well, probably. But those other times undermine my point."
Transferring the wire to his left hand, Dick attempted to loosen his fingers on his right. With each movement he could feel the exact damage and how far he was away from flight let alone the ability to do even simple bar transfers.
"Now the first time, that's the interesting one. Because you never knew about it until after the third time. And they scrambled you good early on. Were you even doing the orange chick with the rack yet?"
Dick wished the cowl was still on, but it was likely Jason could've read his face through it as well.
"Oh you weren't. Well even I'm not crazy enough to touch the problems in your love life. But I mean one session with the Confessor and suddenly you're knocking boots with an alien and questioning Batman's orders and no one saw that as suspicious?"
With the breathing exercises Dick could block out the pain and his surroundings, everything but Jason's voice.
"My mistake, those weren't glitches in your second brainwashing going wrong, those were growing pains. Ha."
The first few tumblers were easier now that Dick knew the sequence, but he still had to move slowly to avoid resetting them.
"Someone should've just warned Blood his brainwashing would never take, though it was an interesting experiment in counter programming. Blood could screw with your first brainwashing, but he could never overcome it. Because truth is, Batman owned you, soul deep. I mean I was grateful to the man at the time, don't get me wrong. But you two - I was young and arrogant and never got it."
The final tumbler fell into place and the lock opened with a soft click. Leaving his wrist inside the shackle, Dick used it to support his arm as he began work on the second lock.
"But I can't judge myself there, because I know he never got it either. Everything he did with me is proof of that. Bet he still has no idea how to handle that demon spawn of his. Pays the child support and, after the butler reminds him, might send a card on his cloning day. But the little time he must spend with the kid? Let me tell you, your brainwashed one man mutiny destroyed it for the rest of us.
"Because when you think about it, the fact that it was so subtle, how can you ever be sure what was you? Can you ever be sure you're free since you never knew you were influenced?
"The thing about you, golden boy, is you'll never play the brainwashed card. All that pain and confusion directed at me and Batman and the rest of your Titan clan? You'll never know how much of that was you and how much of that was Blood. Because I tell you, Grayson, I never thought you'd have the balls.
"Well, retroactively speaking."
With the second lock opened, Dick forced his body to move. There was never enough time to properly return circulation to his limbs, but Dick had experience in worse circumstances.
"Once you start asking, well you've had a lot of crap happen, haven't you? Was that anger all yours? I mean there was that whole Blockbuster thing just after our little Hush drama. But you owned that mistake, even when it hadn't been your mistake to own."
Aside from his throat and a few of his fingers, most of his injuries were expertly superficial; the bruises and cuts were deep enough to slow him down and feel it, but not enough to incapacitate him.
"I was with Batman when Chemo dropped, just this streak of green light in a mushroom cloud a river away. We were having this profound conversation on whether he was going to permit me to kill the Joker. Then 'boom' he's running towards your city without a thought towards me. I had to force him to stay. I wouldn't let him leave me behind again without telling me why he had allowed that animal to live."
Dick swallowed his nausea, pushed off the wall, and began the twelve foot journey from his wall to Jason's. Each step became a little easier as sensation returned to his legs.
"All that time with Batman and I was looking in the wrong place.
"I heard about your thing with the Joker."
The spasm in Dick's foot nearly topped him.
"You were brainwashed again or your emotions were heightened or manipulated. Whichever. When you went in there it was about Drake and not me, though it could've been. Worse it didn't stick. Still you probably cried like you had killed something actually human and it actually had remained dead. I know all that. And I know you won't appreciate this because you're you and you could never get this.
"But thank you."
Jason met his eyes again, but Dick wasn't checking for deceptions. The younger man had been crafting fiction all night, but Dick knew every idea was based in Jason's truths. Dick wasn't about to let him know which of Jason's truths were his own.
His brother had been right and wrong about the Joker. Because Jason was there in his mind and in every punch. And he could almost understand wanting your murderer, the murderer of your parents, dead. But he could never accept Jason's sincere gratitude for his actions. His throat injury was a convenient excuse not to say anything, so he reached for Jason's bindings. It opened with a touch, Dick's blistered and bleeding wrists a contrast to Jason's clean ones.
"You were slow." The response was flippant, but Jason's one armed shrug seemed forced. He knocked aside Dick's offered arm and used the wall to prop himself up despite the obvious injury to his foot. Before he turned it away, Dick could tell it was likely sprained and entirely supported by the boot.
"Landed wrong. My fault. Seems stupid, I knew what to do, but sometimes we both just try too hard."
It was an echo of something Dick couldn't quite place, but then Jason was gone. The lock on the door was old and simple compared to the brand new restraints and presented no challenge.
The house was empty and derelict outside the room, the dusty table in the former living room the only piece of furniture. Their equipment was laid out on it in order except Dick's signal tracers. Those were crushed in a plastic Ziploc bag. Dick would've bet every hidden tracer was in it.
As they redressed in silence, Dick couldn't watch Jason reattach his arsenal. It would've made certain details harder to ignore. There was the line on Jason's back which could've been left by an escrima stick and the bruise on Jason's palm which likely mirrored the one on Dick's throat. There was the similarity of the boot print on the back of Dick's hand to Jason's tread marks in the dirt. If he didn't watch, he didn't have to think about how long he had been trying to overlook such things.
The streets in a small corner of Crime Alley were as deserted as the house had been. Dick paused at the threshold, turning back towards Jason who was adjusting a red domino. His shoulders relaxed some as he noticed the lack of the red helmet. He made the gesture for medical treatment which had really only meant one thing over the years.
"Leslie's?" Jason actually seemed to consider it for a moment. "When you signal for a pickup you'll have Drake, the demon spawn, and Bat-blonde converging on it. As much as I'd love to play Peter to your Greg in the Bunch, well, something suddenly came up."
There were several things Dick should've done. None of them were to let Jason shoulder past him into the street and watch Jason climb awkwardly onto a motorcycle that had been stashed behind a pile of boxes. He should've at least noticed the model and license plate, even if the bike had been stolen and was later ditched such clue would be advantageous. But he had been off grid for nearly five hours and there was the task of deciding what to tell the others. While he wouldn't pull a Bruce, most of Jason's ramblings weren't for them. As it was, it would take all his social skills to prevent Tim and Damian from starting a manhunt, no matter how justified their last encounters left them.
He gave Jason a few minutes head start before signaling the cave.