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Badlands

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Jon doesn’t struggle when they bring him into the viewing room. He doesn’t have the strength to do so. He isn’t quite sure why, has to wonder if they’d used kryptonite or magic on him but the lack of information isn’t good. His mother would have told him to know everything first before he acts but he isn’t certain it it would be safe to wait in his situation.

He stumbles as he is pushed into the room, feet giving out from under him. He feels sick and he still doesn’t know where he is. The room is as unfamiliar as everything else he’s seen so far.

He wants to go home, needs to know that his family and his kingdom is safe.

He doesn’t think he’ll get his wish any time soon.

They pull his arms behind his back and into restraints. His vision still blurs even as he tries to focus on any one thing. Everything seems so far away and it feels like someone has stuffed cotton and wool in his mouth and ears.

He glares at the man who inspects him and tries to kick at them. The man barks an order at the some of the guards and he gets a blow to the stomach. Jon sucks a sharp breath and grits his teeth before trying to headbutt the man who drags his head up by a tight grip on his hair. He gets a backhand for his effort and he spits his blood across the floor.

His ears ring a bit from the blow but he can make out the conversation from the men in front of him. “He’s a bit unruly but I’m sure Prince Damian will enjoy the chance to break his own slave.”

Jon freezes at the words. The word slave rings in his mind and he watches the men warily. When one of them comes forward to inspect him again, he snarls and spits out the words like venom. “I know who you people are but I am not a slave.”

The man in front of him hesitates and turns to the men who had dragged Jon in here. As Jon looks closer, he realizes that this stranger closest to him was blind, eyes blank and staring into nothing. The man cocks his head and purses his lips. “He wasn’t trained at all, was he?”

“The Lady Talia was certain that her son should be able to train his new slave himself. To prove his worth. We’re just here to bring him in.”

“Very well, we shall let Prince Damian decide for himself. Keep him under until the city. We would not want the slave to damage himself before the prince has a chance to see him.”

Jon opens his mouth to protest but the man had already reached for his neck. He feels the prick of something before the world slowly disappears into darkness and white noise.

-----

The sprawling palace of Nanda Parbat is littered with his mother’s people. Damian wonders if Talia plans on coming back so soon even though a part of him knows there is much more to think about than whether or not Talia is coming back soon. His father and Richard still has not come back and the stalemate between the Al Ghuls and the Waynes may collapse despite everything their family has done to keep the balance.

It rankles at him and he scowls at the blade in his hands even as he runs his thumb over the sharp point, testing it and letting his blood well up at the well-placed cut.

It will not do to show a weakness to anyone.

He has just returned the sword to its case and has taken up his brushes and paint to the canvass when there is a knock on the door. “It is open,” he calls out. “Enter.”

“Your highness,” Ravi greets him as he enters the room. The servant bows and stops a few steps away from Damian. He is followed by several other men, dragging a bound young man between them.

The young man looks younger than Damian, with dark hair and pale skin covered in bruises. There is a collar around his neck in the green and gold colors of the Al Ghuls. His clothes are in tatters but Damian still recognizes the red and blue of his shirt. The red and blue of the royal house of Kandor.

“What is this?” Damian demands, tilting his head to try and get a better look at the prisoner slave.

“A gift from the lady Talia,” Ravi answers. “He was delivered by her men earlier this morning, your highness. He is unbroken, yours to do as you wish.”

The young man is stirring and Damian rises from his seat. He crosses the room to stand in front of the men. He waves his hand to dismiss most of them except for the two still holding the young man up. The slave blinks, awakening, as Damian tilts the young man’s head up with a hand on his chin.

“He belongs to me?” Damian frowns. He tries to think of a reason why his mother would give him a gift, especially one that comes from Kandor. The kingdom of Krypton feels like worlds away from the allied thrones of Gotham and ‘Eth Alth’eban. Anyone born of Krypton would have power unimaginable. It seems unlikely for his mother to give up that kind of power.

“What does she want from me?” He murmurs, even as he watches the slave’s blue eyes go from confusion to anger. Damian removes the gag from the boy’s mouth but squeezes his throat for a moment before he could get an idea to attack Damian before he tilts the boy’s head until their eyes meet once again. “Tell me, what’s your name?”

The slave blinks at him and gapes. Damian has to wonder if this is where the catch is. Perhaps, his mother has chosen to give him a defective, brainless fool to be his slave. But, then, the boy scowls at him and tries to lunge forward only to be held back by the guards at his side. “I don’t answer to you or anyone here, little Robin.”

Damian feels his temper flare. He clenches his fists and takes a deep breath, calming himself like Richard has taught him ages ago. The title is a weight around his heart that makes him catch his breath. Robin. The youngest of the princes of Gotham was always called the Robin. There were times when he wonders whether to deserve the title that his brothers, older and, though he will not admit it, better than him in so many things, have taken before.

He feels he need for violence, to show his anger and to show the slave exactly how much Damian hates the spite and insult the slave had dared to put into that title, so coveted by many children in Gotham. A title Damian has cherished for as long as he’s held it.

“Jon,” one of the men who brought the slave in says. The man is not one of his own but Damian recognizes one of his mother’s trusted guards. “The Lady Talia said to call him Jon.”

“Jon,” Damian’s mouth twists at the word, at the name. “Like the prince? What was it? Jonathan Samuel Kent of the House of El?” He laughs but looks closer at the boy. Is that who the boy was supposed to be? He isn’t so certain. Surely, mother would not be so foolish as to earn the ire and wrath of Krypton’s royal family. The king was one of father’s closest ally and friend. It could not be but still it is something for Damian to think about.

Jon watches him with defiant eyes. He is certainly no simple man. Damian breaks eye contact and turns back to walk towards the painting he’s working on. “Teach him, Ravi. I have no time to train an unruly pet. I already have Goliath for that. I’m sure our guest will be grateful for his accommodations.”

Damian waits until the men and his own servant has left with a bow. Jon shouts protests and insults at him before the men finally placed the gag back. Once they have left, Damian slumps in his seat, staring at the paints and gripping the paintbrush in his hand tightly. He sighs, uncurling his fingers from the brush one by one before replacing it back on the edge of the table.

He closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. In his mind, he can still see defiant blue eyes staring back at him.

-----

Jon pulls at the collar around his neck and winces as it hurts him, sharp pain going through his body. He groans and hisses, clenching his hands on his lap. They’d cleaned him up and sent him back to the prince’s rooms, chained to the foot of the bed.

He is thankful that the prince seemed to have dismissed the possibility that he was Prince Jonathan of Krypton. It would be more difficult to work out a way to escape if they knew who he was.

He keeps an eye on the door as he pulls at his chains, trying to break them. He makes a sound of frustration when he realizes that his strength, at the moment, is not enough to do it. There might be kryptonite or some spell in the collar. He couldn’t be certain. He hates it, hates the situation he’s in, hates Damian al Ghul Wayne and his arrogance.

He hates being trapped with no idea how to get free.

The door opens and he lets go of the chain to watch Damian stride into the room with all the confidence of the prince that he was, the prince that Jonathan wasn’t at the moment.

Damian stops a few feet away from him. His eyes narrow and Jon matches the look with a glare. “Tt, are you going to attack me?” Damian asks with a scowl, crossing his arms over his chest and looking over Jon, inspecting him. Jon isn’t sure if he should be flattered or insulted. He was in chains and collared and Damian thinks that he’ll somehow attack still. He wants to, though, but he knows it won’t help, not in this case, not right now.

“Why? Are you scared?” Jon says with a smirk. He looks the prince over and grins. “I bet I could beat you if we fought.”

Damian scoffs. “Unlikely,” he says. “I am well-trained even against a kryptonian. I have spoken with some of my mother’s people. It seems that you are a gift from Luthor to my family.”

“What?” Jon pales and swallows past the lump in his throat. He slumps where he’s seated on the floor, ignoring the weight of the chains on his wrists and ankles or the collar around his neck. “What happened? Is this--? Are we at war?”

They weren’t, as far as he knew. Gotham and Krypton were both part of an alliance of several nations but things could have changed. Damian ignores him and he watches the prince change his green and gold robes for a simple dark shirt. Jon stares at the back of Damian’s neck as he sits at the desk, sifting through papers.

“Answer me!” Jon demands, with barely restrained anger.

Damian lets the papers fall from his hand to the desk. He turns and regards Jon with cold eyes. “You do not command me. You do not have any right to.” Damian stands and crosses the room to stand in front of Jon. Jon could only kneel before the chains pulled him down where they were stuck to the floor.

“You won’t let me die,” Jon says, watching the other prince warily.

“And why not? You seem to be more trouble than you are worth. I will not have a servant who cannot follow orders.”

“You thought I was the prince,” Jon points out and watches as Damian freezes. Jon smiles. “You’re not sure, are you? You can’t be sure.”

“Can’t I?” Damian smirks. “If anything, being a prince makes you a much better target, your highness,” he says with a mocking tone and Jon flinches even if Damian has already moved away. “You should remember that before you challenge the scion of the Houses of al Ghul and Wayne.”

“I’m never going to bow to you,” Jon glares. “Never.”

“Never suggests such certainty and certainty is a luxury you cannot afford at the moment, Jon,” Damian smiles. “Tt, I thought you’d be smart enough to know that. Perhaps, I shall train you after all.”

As Damian moves to go back to his desk, Jon mutters under his breath. “Yeah, good luck with that.”

Damian stops and looks over his shoulder. “I am Damian al Ghul Wayne, Prince of Gotham and Nanda Parbat. I don’t need luck.”