The first week of school is over and I'm already counting the days until summer. The studying isn't so bad, I probably needed to do more of it anyway... I just... forgot how much I hated people in large numbers. I got so used to being around eight people that I lived with day-to-day, and now... being around... all these jocks and cheerleaders and kids who can't remember my name after nine years- or their manners for that matter. I'm a human. I don't always act like it, but treat me like one. Anyway, story information. I'm hoping to get an update in every weekend. Also, there will be alternate endings to this fic.
I'm not sure when my brain made the connection between the shuddering heaves of the stone creatures coming my way and the strong knocks on my door, but by the time I was getting my eyes open again, my door was open and an orderly was walking to me with a small cup in hand. A delayed glance to her face revealed Diana, a glance I had to repeat a few times to deal with the slight morning nausea. When she handed me the cup, I just stared at it for the longest time until I remembered that I was expected to take the pills inside.
"Right," I slurred when she blinked expectantly at me.
I dumped the pills in my mouth and handed her the cup to fill it with water. As soon as she turned, I slipped the bottle of painkillers from my pocket and opened it as quickly and quietly as I could, spitting the pills in my mouth into my hand and replacing them with the painkillers. I slid the 'bad pills' into the bottle, knowing I'd remember to check later. I pocketed the bottle again, managing to get it done before she had even filled up the little cup.
When she came over, she made sure I had pills in my mouth and then gave me the water. I took them down easily, swallowing a little groan as I sat up. She checked again to make sure I had swallowed, going as far as to pull back my cheeks. Once apparently satisfied, she opened up my wheelchair, lifted me like an infant and set me down in it. As much as I was happy to see her alive, even if she couldn't remember me yet, I wasn't liking the baby treatment. She was gentle though, and I appreciated that much.
"How are you feeling today, Dick?" she asked in the same infantile manner she had used to pick me up as she pushed my chair out into the hallway.
I gave a little sigh, stomach churning in protest at taking the pills on an empty stomach. Miss M and Martian Manhunter would refresh her memories eventually and she'd apologize for this if we ever brought it up, but she didn't remember yet and I could play along.
"A little sore," I admitted, folding my arms over my stomach, "but... mostly homesick."
She turned to shut the door behind her and I managed to catch her face tighten a bit at the mention of home. I didn't know how far I could press, but I couldn't just sit here without trying anything.
"You too?" I kept quiet just in case.
She looked down at me and raised an eyebrow in the slightest, a faint curious flicker in her eyes. I didn't think she'd say anything when she started to push us down the hallway, but she started to slow down a little before speaking.
"Everyone longs for home every once in a while."
Her voice hadn't quite adopted an accent, but she was pronouncing her words in a manner that reminded me of either Greek or Turkish, and if I remembered what Batman had tried studying of Themyscyrian, she was back to that mindset.
"I couldn't go home even if they let me out of here. My family's..." I paused a moment before pressing, "well, I'm sure you know. What about you? Do you have people on the outside waiting on you?"
Diana hesitated and I could tell she was reluctant to answer me, but we had a few minutes from the line of Wet Floor signs set up ahead of us in the hall.
"I have family outside of here, but they're too far away to be waiting on me," she admitted.
It wasn't much and I knew that, but I was in the arena and I was down to my teeth and nails. I wasn't going to just let it end at that. If I still had more to use, I was using it.
"Why'd you leave them? Your... family, I mean."
"It wasn't my choice to leave, initially, but I... I don't plan on going back soon. I feel like I can save people here."
"You think keeping us locked up here is saving us?"
The second I said it, I regretted it, but I couldn't take it back. It was out there, right with the water that had the floors still glistening in the lights as we went down the hall. I just about held my breath, keeping my eyes forward.
"Yes," she said after a long moment, voice softer, accent dropping slightly. "Think of what you're locked away from... and who you're locked in with."
I tensed, sneaking a peek up at her. She held the faintest smirk. I wasn't sure what she meant, if this was a hint that she remembered who we were, but it sparked an almost painful kind of hope and everything felt good and bad all at once.
"I hope you start feeling better soon, Dick."
She pushed me far enough into the homeroom to get Tim's attention and he came over to get me, thanking her a little sourly, before taking me away. I started to tell him what she had said when we were far enough away, but he didn't stop at the couches. Instead, he started us down the hallway after a few of the others.
"What's going on?" I asked him, stifling a yawn into my palm.
"Shower time," he assured me.
As he pushed us down the hall, he took to humming a song I couldn't quite place under his breath and I stayed as quiet as I could to listen. He didn't have a golden voice or anything like that, but there was something oddly calming in something as simple as humming. By the time we got to the locker room, I still hadn't placed the song, but I tried not to worry about it. I'd figure it out later.
With Tim insisting, he helped me out of my chair and I tucked the pills into the back in a rip I quickly made, leaning it up against my locker. He grabbed his towel and headed off, so I did, too. I undressed in the shower stall as carefully as I could, hiding out of the way of the water stream until it was a bearable temperature. Only then did I step under it, turning my face to the water with a little sigh. The heat was magnificent, up until it reached my stomach. That part took away the magic.
All the same, I took my time and enjoyed what I could, trying my hardest to angle my body while I washed my hair, but the poses ended up hurting more than the water did. I settled for biting the inside of my cheek and working around it until I couldn't take much more. I shut the water off, and stared at the knob for a moment. I remembered running through here and turning all of these on to try and hide from Wally. My stomach turned anxiously at the thought. I gave a little sigh and wrapped my towel lower on my hips than I wanted to, keeping my hand on the corners just in case.
It seemed to secure pretty well though, so I made my way back to the lockers with some confidence. I had just slid a new pair of sweatpants on when I heard footsteps coming up behind me. There wasn't time to turn around before I had pale arms squeezing me around my shoulders, a little laugh blowing against my hair.
"Hey, buddy," Wally sighed as he let go, spinning me around.
His eyes skimmed from head-to-waist to see if he had missed anything, giving a sharp exhale when he saw the burn. He put a hand to my shoulder and pointed at it with his free hand, lips twitching into a forced little grin.
"That looks nasty," he told me, grin twitching when I gave a little laugh. "You feeling alright?"
He let go and I gave a little shrug, not sure what I could really say. No one here was really 'okay', to be honest, but I don't think he was looking for honesty.
"Could use some more pills," I offered, trying to sound jokingly.
For someone looking as funny as he did in nothing but his towel, there was nothing in his expression to suggest he saw it that way. His eyes narrowed in the faintest and his jaw pressed sorely.
"You're blowing through those pretty quickly," he accused, keeping his voice gentle.
I ran my fingers back through my hair a little tightly. "I hurt, man."
He smoothed my hair back flat when I pulled my hand out, jaw softening, but frown never lessening.
"We all hurt, Dick. No OD-ing," he paused a moment, looking down and pretending to adjust his towel around his waist.. "I won't leave here without you."
I watched him avoid my eyes and found myself smiling. I balled my hands into fists and stuck them in my pockets, averting my eyes, too.
"Not going anywhere without you, KF," I promised.
I kept my back to him while he dressed, going through my locker for a bigger shirt than the one I'd had on last night. Before I found one, Kaldur called me from the next set of lockers and I remembered that he was going to try and help with the burn. I didn't waste a lot of time in coming to join him. Unlike Wally, he'd had the decency to get dressed first. He looked over the burn for a moment, studying it, before he gave a little nod. He spread his fingers and crooked them in a claw-like motion, ghosting them just above the wound.
"What exactly are you planning to do?" I asked, eyes widening as the markings on his arms started to glow.
The blond made no move to answer me, crouching a little lower to get a good look at the burn. Then, without any warning, it felt like I hadn't had water in days. I was tired, my head hurt, the world was spinning two ways at once, and my mouth felt almost sticky. A part of me wanted to just sink down and lay on the floor. I managed to get my train of thoughts to circle back and I had enough sense to look down at my stomach. The burn was still there, dark and ugly, but a thin, clear layer rested over it, almost like a transparent new skin.
Kaldur straightened, an apology quiet in his eyes before he beckoned a small stream of water through the air to join us. He tapped my jaw and I had the sense to open my mouth, taking it down with little complaint. I assumed it was from a shower stream and I was a little grossed out, but I preferred having a clear head to a possibly not germ infected one. I thanked him weakly and he nodded, leaning back against the lockers behind him. I followed suit, poking at the surprising hardness of the clear layer.
"I created a thin... false layer of skin over the damaged skin and flooded it with some of my own white blood cells. My hope is that because our biological makeup is different, your white blood cells will sense mine and, not recognizing them, will rush to try and get rid of them. The increased presence over your burn might help speed up the healing process. That's... my thinking, anyway," he gave a little sheepish shrug, speaking carefully as though he weren't sure of what he were saying.
I wasn't sure of the science and if it would work, but I didn't know a lot about Atlantean magic, so I decided to not argue with it. If it could fix me and get me out of here, I'd go for a full body suit of the stuff.
"Why the water drain though? I'm still a little dizzy."
"I can't just... conjure fake skin for you. I'm not a magician. I had to make do with what I could control, and that happened to be some of your body's water content."
I couldn't think of how water could feel like plastic under any circumstance, especially while staying body temperature. I'd ask eventually, but it wasn't a current priority. It didn't take long for Wally to join us, Conner finding us soon after. After poking at the fake layer of skin for a long time, testing its attachment and capability, Wally talked the science of it out with Kaldur. I caught up with Conner, happy to see him in one piece.
BBB Ward was all fine, he assured me, but they weren't moving an inch when it came to their memories. Everyone except Jason, that is. He had tried beating Karen and Megan to death with a couch cushion until some orderlies came out and asked him to stop. They, of course, hadn't seen the small people. They had just seen an angry teen swinging a pillow aggressively. Wally tuned in as Conner ran through the roster, a bit of interest peaked as he mentioned Billy.
"Captain Marvel is in here?" he asked, lips, quirking in a hopeful little smirk.
Conner nodded, not seeing the harm. Smile growing, Wally got to his tiptoes and looked around them. He had an evil sort of hope in his eyes and I was a little frightened. Whatever he was thinking couldn't be good.
"Billy?" he called out over the showers.
There was a little reply yelled back after a moment, easily from a kid. The redhead had to choke back a laugh, smothered in the apparent genius of his own plan.
"You have any Shazam?"
"Shazam?" the timid voice called back.
A large crack sounded through the room and then a man was screaming, and Wally was sinking down the lockers laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes. I was at a loss for words. I didn't think it would be that easy to expose him to his powers. Every ounce of me told me that shouldn't have been possible. Kaldur's eyes were big with disapproval, trying to figure out where Billy was.
"And they call me insensitive," Conner muttered to himself, unable to restrain a little smile.
Kaldur excused himself and darted off down the row to find the terrified... kid? Adult?... Billy. I just kind of watched Wally until he got over himself, wiping his eyes with a big grin. He offered me the grin, but I only gave back an involuntary smirk. His mouth went faster than his head, and it worked for him in some cases, but it was going to cost him that head some day.
And Megan was going to cost me mine.
There wasn't a warning before her voice was blasting through my head, and everyone else's from the near unanimous groan of pain that rose out across the room.
"Everyone, put something on. Jaime, come to the door," she blasted.
When she disconnected, I looked over and found that I had wound up sitting next to Wally. Conner was sunken halfway down the lockers across from us, one hand over an ear with a little grimace.
"Hook me up with some more painkillers," I muttered.
"Yeah," Wally sighed, helping me up.
It was still a little sore moving around the burn, but the extra layer seemed to cushion it. We circled back around the lockers and I got into mine, finding a shirt and sliding it over my head. We curiously headed over to the ends of the locker to look at the door, waiting to see what it was that Megan wanted. I figured she had my glove, but she was requesting Jaime specifically here. I looked to Wally, but he seemed as confused as I was.
Megan literally stepped through the door before Jaime showed face. Her skin rippled and once she was inside, she willed herself solid and visible again. Something in her hand rippled for a moment before it was solid, too, and she held it out my way. As I walked up to get it, I recognized my glove. I took it and thanked her, unable to keep from grinning in excitement. Turning it over in my hands, I realized I was holding a key part of our escape.
"Wasn't too hard to get?" I asked her, sliding it on over my wrist delicately.
She gave a little smile, shrugging casually, "Nothing I couldn't handle. Try it out."
I fastened the straps to secure it to my arm and looked over the glove with a grin that shook about as fast as my fingers did, drawing my hands into a fist to test the fit. It fit, in all senses of the word, like a glove. I looked it over, excitement hovering, up until something hit me:
I had no idea how to use it.
I could feel expectant eyes on me, but I had nothing to show them. There weren't any buttons to press, any sensors from what I could tell, nothing to lift... it looked deconstructed to me. For a moment, I worried that maybe I needed the other glove to activate it, but that didn't sound right. I poked at the glove's surface experimentally, but nothing was happening.
"Water damage, maybe?" I suggested, trying to fend back the panic that was threatening to overcome me.
Wally seemed to sense it and beckoned me back towards him. I followed without complaint, settling under his arm as I still pressed at the glove. He rubbed my shoulder comfortingly, brows knitted.
"It's alright, buddy. It'll come back to you," he assured me.
I prayed he was right.
Jaime came out from the locker section behind us, clothes thrown on a little hastily, coming up to Megan a little hesitantly. He looked a little nervous, and I couldn't blame him. When Megan just asked to see the scarab, he gave a relieved little sigh and nodded. He turned his back to her and reached his hands behind him, pulling his shirt up so it bunched around his shoulders. I could basically feel Conner's eyes on them. It would've been funny if I could remember how to use one of the key elements of our escape plan.
Megan looked over the scarab before setting her hand on it, head tipping back. Her eyes took on a brilliant white glow and his immediately glazed over yellow, his armor unfolding to protect him from whatever threat Megan seemed to be imposing. Conner made his way across the locker room, coming to stand beside her protectively. I wasn't sure what was going on. A look up at Wally confirmed he was a little lost, too.
As soon as it had started, they both retracted back to as normal as they could be, Jaime pulling his shirt back down over his hips. He turned to look at her and they seemed to have a mutual understanding. Jaime nodded and came over to us, leaving her to hug Conner reassuringly with a pink tint in her cheeks.
"Our equipment is hidden all over this place. We're thinking that we hid it all in a moment of clarity, knowing that we'd find out about it at some point," he explained, rubbing the back of his neck carefully.
I lowered my glove, a few wheels turning in my head at the mention. From the way he said it, it sounded like everything we had when we were 'admitted' here was tucked away somewhere. That could mean Bruce's stuff was hidden somewhere. It was a long shot, but maybe introducing him to his costume would wake up his memories.
"What about Br- er, Batman's cowl?" I asked him, earning his and Wally's confused little gaze at the question.
"It's in here, I think. It's ah..." Jaime closed his eyes for a moment, listening to something or someone we couldn't hear, "in the nurse's office. It's folded and tucked into a big bottle of medicine in his name."
Why couldn't he have hidden it somewhere we could access it? You know, somewhere that didn't have a baddie patrolling it at most hours?
I gave an irritated little sigh and Wally dropped his arm, squeezing my closer shoulder carefully. It might've been a warning to calm down, or maybe an attempt at comfort, but if it were either, it didn't work.
"How the hell are we going to get it?" I grit out sourly, running my hands through my hair tightly.
"I'll do it."
When it occurred to me that it wasn't Wally or Jaime offering, I lowered my hands and turned around to put a face to the voice. Standing a few feet behind us, hair managing to stick up every which way while wet and eyes with dark bags, was Jason. The corner of his lips was lifted, one hand balled into a loose fist. His arms were scratched up, easily self-induced, and his fingers cycled in an easy stress indicator. If he got more than a few minutes of sleep last night, I'd buy the Eiffel Tower and turn it into a bat signal beacon.
"None of you dumb shits can get it done without getting caught, and if Bruce asked, he'd just get a few pills off the top. Best case scenario, she sees the cowl and assumes it's some kind of chemical that keeps the pills good. I get in there, I can just snatch the whole bottle. Get Wayne his memories and tweaker here some of his fix," his eyes darted to the shake in my hand with an accusing eyebrow lift and I felt my cheeks flush. "Not like any of you guys have any theft on your records, anyway. Or any records at all, I guess. Surrounded by a bunch of stiffs."
Wally gave an amused little laugh and I was right there with him. If Jason wasn't back with his memories, he was damn near close. This was my Jason here, sleep deprived, but smug to his ears.
"Think you can snag a syringe while you're in there?" the redhead asked, catching my confusion before I swallowed it down. "It'd be nice to get a few practice runs in with Babs to make sure the fake skin's going to do its job without hurting her."
Sometimes his head caught up with his mouth, it seemed. I gave him a lot of crap, but he was right for this hero gig. That didn't mean I was going to apologize for everything I'd called him in the past few years, but I'd admit that he knew what he was doing sometimes- to anyone but him. He didn't need a spark for his ego. And as for Jason, he seemed to perk up at the challenge, lips opening in a crooked grin.
"I'll empty the whole room if you want," he accepted, a mischievous gleam taking over his eyes. "I'll stuff the beds up your ass and leave room for my brother."
He cackled, pleased with himself, and I couldn't help but grin at him. I could forgive that last comment because he called me his brother. He remembered me. I pressed my lips and blinked a little faster for a moment, grin feeling a little watery.
"Thank you," I said quietly.
Jason leaned against the lockers casually, folding his arms over his chest and avoiding my eyes.
"Save the waterworks, Grayson. I'm not all back yet. The dam's still leaking."
He leaned up again and walked past us, pausing to hold my eyes for a moment, as if he was searching for something.
"I'll bring the stuff to Wayne. In the meantime, stay out of solitary, alright?"
I pressed my grin a little tighter. "You too, Jay. Don't make me come in there."
He was holding a little smirk as he pushed past Megan and Conner, leaving the locker room with that special sway in his step. He was back.
With Wally's help, we hid my glove in the back of my chair and managed to fake a good enough seal on the back that it wouldn't look suspicious. I said goodbye to Conner and Megan, barely managing to get one in between their own goodbyes, and gave one to Wally that had him with the same dark eyed look Jason had when he had walked up.
"You too, KF. Stay whelmed," I smiled at him, sitting in the chair.
Kaldur was still back with Billy from the sounds of it, but I trusted Conner to update him on what he'd missed. If not, we'd fill him in the next time Megan had a conference call. Until then, all we could do was wait.
We needed my stomach to heal, Babs legs to start working again, and everyone to remember. We needed to find out what was going on with Zatanna and Zatara. We needed to get out of here. But for now, we needed to wait.