When Jason closed the door behind him, he knew something was wrong. The flat didn't look any different than when he’d left it a few hours ago to go grocery shopping, but two decades of vigilantism interspersed with periods of running for his life gave a man some extra senses. He set the bags of groceries on the floor in the short hall and made his way through his sparsely furnished open plan flat.
The package sat on the kitchen counter, not exactly exposed, but not out of the way enough that Jason could honestly ignore it once he’d noticed it.
He still tried to ignore it, though, because fuck that noise, the day was already long and he wasn’t in the mood.
He gathered the bags back and busied himself with putting the groceries away, crossing them off the list pinned to the fridge to make sure that he was properly stocked for the upcoming week. Out of fresh produce there was only a bunch of bananas, easy and nutritionally dense enough to excuse their bland flavour. Cans of soup went into the cupboard under the microwave and the orange juice and milk into the fridge. Two boxes of heavily doctored granola and packets of dark chocolate stayed on the counter, pushed against the wall, in easy reach.
Painkillers and meds were going on the bedside table.
And speaking of meds…
He poured water into the kettle and used the time it boiled to stab a needle into his thigh. It wasn’t easy to do it one-handed, but what can you do? His left arm was broken in two places, he wasn’t unstrapping it for anything.
This next week was going to be a trial. The cocktail of painkillers and antibiotics that the latest mishap resulted in forced Jason to put his suppressants away for two weeks. Two weeks was enough to jumpstart an unscheduled heat and he so didn't need that right now, when he was in the middle of a case. And he wouldn’t dare to try and find an alpha to help him end it sooner - not with a broken arm and a bullet hole in his hip. He couldn't risk a stranger to get close to him like this and there was no alpha that he trusted enough… His gaze returned to the package seemingly of its own volition. It could be a bomb and he should be wary and suspicious, but he knew it wasn’t.
With a weary sigh, Jason dropped a teabag into the waiting mug and reached for the offending object. Unwinding the string holding it together one-handed was a bit of a challenge, but in the end the wrapping unfolded easily.
A thick slice of fresh halva sat nestled between the layers of waxy paper, neatly cubed into bite-sized pieces sprinkled with chopped pistachios. It was still soft and smelled strongly of vanilla and honey.
It was exactly how he liked it.
Damn brat, he had to go to his mother for that information – either Talia or one of the old cooks that worked the kitchens while he was still with the League had spilled the beans. It was a lot of effort spent on something so small…
But it was such a rare treat that he didn’t even think before popping a piece into his mouth and closing his eyes when it melted on his tongue. Perfect, sweet and creamy, a confectionery wonder that was near impossible to find in Gotham. The kid either found someone to make it for him or spent quite a lot of money to import it fresh.
Two more pieces disappeared in quick succession before Jason got a hold of himself and moved the rest into a tupperware container – paper, string and all – that he shoved into the hardest to reach cabinet. It will be a perfect pick-me-up treat for after the heat, when he’ll need all the endorphins he can get his hands on.
The brat probably knew it, had planned for it, because this was a bit too perfectly timed to be a coincidence. The Bats knew he was off the streets for a while, that he was hurt and needed time to heal; putting two and two together wasn’t hard. At least it was a thoughtful gift – well, not that the others weren’t, the brat was anything if not intelligent and deliberate in his attempts. Just like his father.
Like their father.
The kettle whistled and Jason poured hot water into the mug, allowed the tea bag to steep for two minutes before removing it and doctoring his beverage with a spoonful of sugar and a slice of lemon. It was an Eastern European way of drinking tea Alfred could never forgive him for; but Jason told him a long time ago to pick it up with Mrs Banasiak who lived next door to his mom and was the one to introduce him to it way before an English butler even appeared in his life. Jason never scoffed at tea with milk either, so he didn’t see a problem. At least he used the kettle instead of boiling his water in a microwave like some people he could name.
He sat down at the table with his tea and a bowl of porridge leftover from the morning, eating mechanically, trying to get the last bits of nutrition into his body before sanity left him. The shower after was thorough, the sheets on the bed were fresh and he already had his toys prepared in easy reach.
The waiting was the worst part of the whole ordeal - feeling his brain dipping under the onslaught of hormones, clouding with a haze of fruitless desire and half-named needs. Good thing he was already on painkillers for his hip, so at least the usual pain of swelling organs was absent.
Three days later he woke up to a persistent feeling of being watched and a cold touch of a wet cloth resting on his burning forehead. No scent signaled the presence of another person, no sound, that’s why Jason didn't panic and jump off the bed to humiliatingly land on his ass. He was way too weak to attempt any sort of defensive stance when even opening his eyes took actual effort. His vision was blurry for the first two blinks, the moisture gathered on his eyelashes slow to part and once it did, the blurry outline of a person sitting at his bedside appeared.
“Brat.” Jason said – and then wheezed a curse when sharp pain tore through his shoulder. “Fuck!”
“Do stay still, Todd,” a male voice said over his head as the pain intensified for a moment. “You’re behind on your antibiotics by forty eight hours.”
Oh, okay, so it was the hypodermic, good to know. It hurt like a bitch, because of the damn post-heat oversensitivity. Now that he was more cognisant, Jason was also becoming aware of his post-heat need for a shower and the fact that before the whole shebang has started he did lock the door to his safehouse pretty damn tight.
“I see you’ve let yourself in.” He stated without real fire in his voice, he didn't have the energy for it.
Damian didn't dignify it with an answer, it was too obvious of a question and the young alpha was all about efficiency and poise. He was also full of shit up to the eyeballs and Jason had absolutely no patience for him at this moment, no matter that it was his hand that reapplied the cool compress to Jason's forehead.
“What are you doing here?” He rasped, looking around the bedroom. Thankfully, none of his toys were in plain sight and he was decently covered with a sheet. He hoped it is his own doing.
Damian shrugged, a graceful move made to look even smoother by the flattering cut of his expensive looking tunic. Green with gold accents, the kid was in Gotham in a professional capacity – or was trying to show off, it was always one of the two with him.
The answer to Jason’s question was flippant. “Someone had to check on you.”
“May as well be you, eh?”
Getting up was an exercise in perseverance and yeah, this heat was a drag, his twisted hormones never meshed well with medication and he probably fucked up his broken arm, too. The kid didn’t disrespect him by offering to help and Jason wasted a moment to be spiteful about it – so breaking and entering, and administering his meds without consent was fine, but helping him stand was not? Fucking al Ghul logic! Or maybe it was the Wayne part? Bruce sure preferred to keep the physical contact to a minimum when he wasn’t punching you through a wall.
No matter, the painkillers administered alongside the antibiotics were starting to work and he could walk the ten steps or so the the bathroom, firmly closing the door behind him. Inside he found towels piled on the small counter by the sink and fresh clothes hanging from a hook on the door. Presumptuous brat!
Hot water helped to revive him, washing off the days of sweat and other fluids clinging to his skin, and the haze of too much sleep from his mind. It also allowed him to fully appreciate how tired he was and how a nice big plate of lasagna and a bottle of beer would help him with that. Alas, no alcohol with medicine and no fat on his empty stomach, what he could hope for instead were a perfectly adequate cucumber sandwich and a cup of mint tea. Goodness.
Well, correction, what awaited Jason in the kitchen was a sight he’d never think he’d witness – Damian al Ghul at the cutting board with his expensive sleeves rolled up.
“Sit down.” The alpha ordered and Jason listened only because he was too startled to protest. A plate of fresh toast slices and a jar of jam landed in front of him. “Eat.”
Should he argue and kick the kid out of his flat? Was it worth the emotional expense and a possible physical altercation he had no hope of winning right now? Damian wasn’t a four foot three shrimp anymore, he was determinedly chasing Bruce in both height and width, nowadays Jason didn't have to look down to meet his eye. He was also getting very good at channelling Talia’s cold facade and Bruce’s unmoved disposition – a real mix of traits to make up one perfect bastard that no one, apart from Grayson, could handle.
Jason decided that the effort wasn’t worth it and reached for a toast, slathered it generously with jam and stuffed his mouth full so he didn’t have to speak. Huh, it wasn’t the bread he bought at the closest supermarket, if the doughy texture and yeasty aftertaste where anything to judge by. The brat had to bring his own supplies. There were even pieces of real strawberries in the jam.
While Jason sulked, Damian sat at the other end of the tiny table and stared at him with that basilisk stare he got going on, the green eyes cold, but attentive, probably registering every twitch of the omega eating his bread. Unnerving, that’s what the kid was, always has been, but his new height and girth added an extra intimidating quality to it..
Kinda not surprising for a kid born out of two hardass alphas, his fucking chromosomes had to be iron-plated to begin with.
The plate of toast disappeared within moments, washed down with a glass of orange juice, leaving both men sitting at the table, silently staring at one another. Jason felt pleasantly full and momentarily pain-free with his stomach soothed and his medication working properly for the first time in days. The vague feeling of emptiness and dissatisfaction that a lonely heat left was easy to ignore when his attention was entirely arrested by the young alpha that had invaded his safe space with his bread and his pheromones, and his unclear intentions.
No member of the family was easy for Jason to deal with, but Damian was exceptionally hard, because they had so much in common in some respects… and yet none of it aligned properly. Their proclivity for violence was born out of reasons standing in exact opposition, their shared inability to follow orders and their borderline cruel practicality were born out of different lifestyles and convictions. Damian was a priceless heir to two warring houses with equal claim to both, raised in luxury that was paid off with emotional distance and unfair expectations.
Jason was a street-rat genuinely loved by exactly one person in his life that he’d carried in his heart ever since she’d left him.
Damian Wayne al Ghul was a young alpha upstart with the world waiting on him to crack it, strong and handsome, and unstoppable like a tidal wave.
Jason Todd was a washed out vigilante barely holding together the few city blocks he’d fought out for himself, broken and scarred in so many places it was easier to list his undamaged bits than the other way around. A pathetic example of all that an omega shouldn’t be.
Usually, he wasn’t as introspective, he was too busy kicking asses, but the kid ambushed him at his weakest and most vulnerable, and he didn’t get to walk away pretending this was just something they did. It wasn’t. Regardless of the last three months of the food appearing in Jasons’s safehouses and masked operatives helping him out covertly from time to time, this wasn’t how their relationship went.
“What do you want from me, Damian?” He was tired. Exhausted physically and mentally – it was most probably the reason Damian chose this moment to pounce. “Just… tell me what you want.”
“You know very well what I’m after.”
Jason rubbed his face at the stoic answer. “You see, that’s the thing, I don’t! Are you trying to get back at Bruce or Dick for something? Is it a status thing? There have to be easier ways to score a fuck.”
“You’re just as uncouth as ever, and your opinion of yourself is as always low, but you were never stupid.”
“What?” The feeling of getting in over his head intensified, but no one could ever say that Jason Todd could step away from an argument like a reasonable man. “What are you talking about?”
“You know what I want, Todd.” Damian repeated, arms folded across his chest in a move so much like his father’s Jason felt a stab of pain at the sight alone. The green eyes noticed it, because of course they did. “I’ve been very clear about my intentions.”
The worst thing was that, in a sense, he was. Jason just wasn’t ready to admit it.
“You’ve yet to reject me officially, so the idea isn’t entirely distasteful to you.”
“It’s not that… I don't want to…” Officially. Jesus. Official rejection would require him to officially acknowledge that the thing was happening in the first place, that he put thought into it happening between them and that… he wasn’t prepared for that.
“I do not believe you’d want to spare my feelings either, so I am obviously doing something right.”
“Yes, legally of age to court a mate.” These green eyes looked at him in a perfectly mimicked innocence now. "Is that your only reason for stalling?"
“You know it isn't." It was a good chunk of it, to be honest. “You know why I can’t…”
"I don't, actually.” The alpha unfolded his arms and leaned in closer, resting his elbows on the table, as if he was discussing a trade deal instead of that other thing. “We're both of age and both in the same business, so there's no reason to hold back on that front. We're familiar with each other and have a reasonable degree of compatibility, I have good social standing and can easily support you and your nest."
"Damian, you're the Head of a guild of assassins and I'm twice your age!" Jason snapped out, regretting that this close to heat his vocal cords refused to growl at an alpha.
"Hardly!" The alpha in question scoffed. "Twelve years is not an uncommon age difference between the partners!"
“When the alpha is the older one.”
“Tt, the sexist ways of your society don’t interest me and shouldn’t make a difference to you! You’re far from middle-aged for an omega and I’d like to think that I’d proved myself sufficiently as a reliable alpha for my age to not matter as such.”
Jesus, they were discussing it, weren’t they? He was hashing out his reasons and Damian was defusing them as if they didn’t matter. Fucking slefish snobby asshole! Of course, for him nothing mattered if it stood in opposition to what he wanted at the moment.
“I’m not interested and that’s final!” Jason stood up and went to put away his plate, a dismissive move that he hoped signaled the end of the discussion. “See yourself out, brat.”
The sudden growl had Jason’s muscles tense on him and he almost dropped the plate, his omega instincts freezing him in place. Damian was behind him in a second, pushing into his space, crowding him against the counter. Hot breath wafted over the back of his neck and Jason couldn't make himself step away when a strong hand closed over his unbandaged hip, hot like a brand. Like a claim. “This is bullshit and you know it!” Damian’s voice was just as heated. “You wouldn’t accept any of the gifts or my presence in your nest if you weren’t interested,” he hissed the last word out as if it was a jeer. “Your scent wouldn't betray you now, if you were as honest as you’re pretending to be!”
“Let me go.”
“No, I won’t! I won't let you hide behind the lies you keep telling yourself nor behind whatever expectations you think father has for you! I will not step away for your fear!”
Of course he wouldn’t, the kid was as bullheaded as the rest of their goddamn family!
“Damian!” Jason snarled in warning, gathering strength to push away from the counter.
Fingers on his hip-bone tightened painfully in a warning all of their own. “My mind is made, I will not stop pursuing you until you get it through your thick skull that I’ve chosen you years ago, Todd!”
“Years? We could barely stand each other!” He was tired, and his walls were breaking down, and the feeling of an alpha pinning him down like that, breathing into his nape, was a heady cocktail for his starved omega instincts. There was no energy left to push his young suitor away, words were all he had left. “Kid, I don't know what you’re trying to make yourself believe, but there’s nothing between us. There never was.”
“You’re right, I was a child when I met you for the first time, unable to comprehend the position you’ve been put in. I doubt that even father was able to fully understand how he kept failing you.”
“We’re not talking about that!” They were not talking about Bruce or their failed relationship! Damian had no right…!
This time the squeeze on his hip felt strangely apologetic. “I grew above my childish pride,” the alpha whispered into his ear, “I’m not above making amends for my mistakes.”
A chill went up Jason’s spine at such an intimate move. It was getting harder to gather up reasons to refuse him, what with the hand on his side, with the presence of an alpha invading his personal space, with the scent he could smell over his own post-heat odour – spicy and fresh, soothing his frazzled nerves. A scent of a mature alpha, a strong suitor interested in bonding with him.
With him, out of all the people the kid could have on both sides of the law.
“I can’t even give you heirs, Damian, and let’s not pretend this isn’t a breaking point for your family.” Against himself, Jason’s hand travelled to rest on his abdomen, just beneath the navel. He wished there was a scar there, something to signal his broken state, something that the Lazarus Pit left behind when it took away his ability to carry new life in exchange for giving him back his old one. Something to give the stupid baby alpha an idea of how damanged the goods he was gunning for actually were.
He flinched when Damian’s hand rested over his – as if it was easy, as if they were in a place where it was normal.
“I’m not my grandfather, I care not for prolonging that bloodline. If it dies with me, then the world will be better for it. Father’s example shows that one does not need to breed to build a successful clan. I don’t care for some snivelling weakling to stand by my side, neither do I see the appeal of an omega who can’t match me in the field. Just as I know you’d not care for an alpha who saw you as lesser to them.”
Everything he said was what Jason’s turbulent mind wanted to hear, everything he said was true. God, no wonder the kid managed to easily take the League of Shadows out of the hands of older and more experienced players, he always came prepared to win.
“This is my reasoning, Jason, the long and she short of it. I’m a snooty heir to an unmatched fortune, I won’t be satisfied with anything, but the best.”
And Jason was so tired of being alone, of being the perpetual fuckup of the family. Of never mattering enough
When the hand gripping his hip retreated and the presence pinning him in place moved away Jason’s knees almost buckled. He slumped against the sink, limbs and thoughts heavy. “Dick won't be happy,” he tried the last defence. Dick would not approve of him in Damian’s life.
“Richard is sleeping with an alien who can’t seem to know how to dress herself, he has no moral high-ground to judge anyone's choices.”
“We were meant to be brothers.”
“As you said, there was nothing familial between us.”
Was he trying to find a reason to refuse him, or was he asking Damian to put his doubts to rest? Bruce was going to kill him after he finished having kittens.
He turned around and these green eyes were still watching his every move, and Jason for some reason thought it was worth blushing over. As if suddenly he was reverted back to the gangly kid that had just presented and tried with all his might to hide his first crush on the unfairly hot archer friend of his perfect older brother. As if during that conversation something changed between him and Damian, that made it hard to look the alpha in the eye. Jason decided to look at his hands instead.
“I’m not saying yes,” he warned. Damnit, his voice shook. “I’m not... “ Dammit.
“I wouldn't expect anything less,” Damian picked up when the silence began to stretch. “I’ve yet to prove myself a suitor meeting your standards and so far we’re not sure what they are.”
“You can stop being a smartass, for a start!”
“I can try.”
His hands were so worn and pale, even more so when Damian covered one with his hand, brown and strong and warm. “If you give me a chance, beloved, I will prove myself.”
God, it was so weird to be called – that.
“Alright. I can try.”