"Mother. Is Richard with you?"
Talia settled down her cup and gave some thought about Bruce's most recent ward. She hasn't seen the boy since last month, but sometimes Jason would come home with unbound joy on his bones and birdsong on his breast. Richard has yet to make his appearance clear to her but she has seen the signs. "I haven't seen the boy. Why would you think I have an interest in him?"
"He is... fond of your operative. It is not out of bounds to think he would follow you to reach him. His trackers have been disabled for some hours." And there was a chance he would start tracking her sometime soon, Talia understood.
'Fond' was not exactly what she would use to describe it, but far from her to stop her son from making his own conclusions. "If it makes you at ease, Damian, I will stay inside my apartment. Is that all?" She could finish her work from her computer and her phone, but she would risk Timothy's surveillance. The brat was over his head if he thought he would catch her, but still. It's the principle of it.
"No, is- I... Would you have time for a meeting next month?"
"For my son? Of course. Have a good hunt, Damian."
"Be safe, Mother."
Talia left her phone at the counter and finished her tea, wondering about the meaning behind Damian's request. Their relationship was not as bad as it was once, but there was an ocean of things left unsaid who threatened to sink the two of them. She did not regret her choices; went under with eyes and mouth open and ready to drown, but she regretted that she hurt her son with it. Talia would do it all again. She wanted him to live rather than content himself by surviving under the stifling thumb of her father. The price was worth it.
But Ra's dead and Damian will forever have a place beside her, should he ask for it or not. And was in quiet, mistrusting joy she felt everytime her son made a space for her in his life. He was always a welcome presence in her apartment, the scent of her jasmine tea mixing with incense smoke, marking it firmly as home. And home always, in the marrow of her bones, written on the empty spaces in the atoms of her body, meant something to return to.
She moved to the rhythm of the song playing on the speakers - the kind of beat beloved for the drama and demands to be danced - and added to herself: home meant also someone to return to.
Talia allowed her steps to make sound and checked on her son, the bedroom opening silently against her will. She knew better than invade his space without any warning beforehand and stayed by the door on case he still had to identify her as friend instead of foe.
Jason was sleeping - or faking it - soundlessly, tucked on the queen size bed - she insisted on it - under a pile of blankets so only half of his face was uncovered. It was not so cold he would need it but then, the Court did a number on him, interfering with the Pit in ways Talia had yet to understand. One of these was a craving for warmth she was happy to satisfy.
The blood stained creature under her ribcage wanted to ruin the organization again and again, to torn it apart with her bare hards and leave the her marks in its corpse until her rage was satisfied. It was only moliffied by watching the scene in the room - living proof she succeeded - and retreated to sleep.
Jason survived, and for that she was thankful.
Jason propped half of his body up and stared her with luminescent green eyes - Lazarus eyes. A trait she shared with him and hoped Damian won't have to. Seeing her relaxed posture, the tension left his frame and he melted against the bed. "Hi, T. Somethin' you need?"
"Nothing. I just received a most interesting call, you see." She kept her voice light and airy, arching an eyebrow at the suspiciously big blanket pile. He wasn't having this much trouble with his thermoregulation. "Damian is worried about a bird out of the coop; I am unable to provide information on the matter, as Richard is yet to be seen."
"Such a shame."
"Until such occurs, I have been unaware of his presence no matter what."
"Of course. Court training and all, right?" Jason agreed deadpan and the weight under the blankets deflated as it relaxed.
"Right. Because of my 'connections', I suspect we are under surveillance now; if you want to fly under the bird's radar stay away from windows and electronics." Talia approached the bed in sure and loud steps, stopping beside it and offering her hand. Boneless, Jason turned his head so she could stroke his curls.
His shiny pink curls as of two weeks now, since Talia woke up to a broken mirror and her boy pulling his hair in the mid of a breakdown. The colour suits him, making all sharp his other features instead of softening him. Tall and muscular, face filling with approaching adulthood, and other colors in him, no one would connect him on sight to Jason Todd-Wayne or even to the dead sidekick Bluejay.
Both the creature Talia made him and self-made, she couldn't be more proud. Leagues ahead of the catatonic state she found him but still the same Jason - turned soft and malleable as silk on her hands - who liked his hair petted and light scratches on his nape. "I will be staying at home today, so is there anything you need before I start?"
"A water bottle, please."
"And fluffy blankets!" Chirped in a small voice. It was tip-toeing the lines she had draw, but as long he didn't cross it, Richard could stay as he wished.
"Right, fluff blankets. I can get these mysel-"
"Nooo, you have to stay...!"
"Fluff blankets, please. Stop laughing T, this is a very serious situation."
Love-grown mirth seeped on her pores and spread through her skin born from the way Jason bent to the whims of a child no different from sunflowers curving towards the sun. It gave Talia hope for better times ahead, of a world in which her son could stay relaxed with his friends. No acrimony from the pyrrhic victory who allowed her child to grow living far from her, only the sweetness of catching his smiles and knowing she succeeded.
Oh my eldest, if only you could see it as I see it.
Oh Damian, your family is a mess and so, so loved and with so, so much love it threatens to spill over.
Talia went and returned carrying the fluffiest blankets she could find in her home and dumped them on Jason's legs. Settling many water bottles beside the bed, she spread the covers over the two and pressed a feather coat on Richard exposed hand. Nodding once in acknowledgementat at an muffled 'thanks', she let her voice trail. "If that will be all..."
"Now you have to cuddle Jason."
Jason's face went through the five stages of grief before settling on negation. "Brat, no. Don't mind him T, I still have to talk to him about boundaries." He sounded more exasperated and embarassed than upset.
Richard, on other hand was upset. "But Jay, you told me you were still cold! She can help-"
"She has a job to take care of-"
"You are more important than a job-"
Now, that was quite enough. In the same tone of the leader of the League of Assassins, she ordered: "Scoot over Jason."
And Jason, bless him, obeyed immediately even as he whined. "But T-"
Talia settled herself under the covers and enveloped him in her arms. His temperature was lower than it should logically be; obviously this arrangement should be kept for a long time. "I could take the month off and the company would still be there standing. My sons come over my job any day, Jason."
"Sons...? Wait... are you, mayhaps, talking about me? Me...?"
Talia wanted to shake him by the shoulders, yell at him, make him believe, I love you. Of bloody course it is you. Son of my heart, I defied my father in the most intense and wretched way I could for you. I love you. If she loved with words, if she didn't know they amounted for nothing without actions, she would tell him.
She loved with gestures.
Talia tightened her grip on him and reminded herself she had only to make him understand. Belief would come later. Splotches of green came on her vision and touched her voice. "Silly boy, do you think I would go to war for anyone? I obliterated the Court of Owls because they took you."
It wasn't enough. The selfish creature on her heart asked for more, to make him understand he is not only an al Ghul in soul, to claim Jason as hers and the world bow to it. Talia's glad to follow it. "I have been holding adoption papers with me for years. Jason Head is yours, if you wish."
"Oh. Yeah... okay. I get it."
"Do you, though?"
"Yeah, mom. I get it."
"See? I told you." It was anticlimatic to her Richard after such intense layers of emotions and she could not fantom how awkward it must be for the boy to have witnessed it. Teenager boys, she remembered, still were clinging to appearing 'cool' and parental displays of affection were quite 'uncool.'
Jason was unnaffected. He relaxed under her hold and if she could swear he was smiling. "Yeah, you're right."
Talia' content to leave things as they were and just feel the moment. However, lithe fingers were catiously poking her arm and demanding attention. "Hey, Miss Head...? Al Ghul...?"
"Always use Head in civilian environments, Richard."
"Right. Can you adopt me too?"
Half of her was bamboozled. Another half was answering him already. "Yes. For legal reasons, we have to meet. Officially, that's it. Repeatedly or the media will hound everyone involved. You need an emotional attachment to me." Helpfully, her brain reminded her of some a plan she had yet to iron. "You already have an emotional link with Jason, it is not unexpected for you to meet on weekends and such. I would come and supervise to guarantee your safety."
"That's good. Thanks."
She had to see his face. Folding herself over Jason - whose face reflected the same astonishment she felt - she stared at big blue eyes circled with dull yellow circles. "...why do you wish me to do so?"
Richard looked away first. Her son offered him his fingers to play and caressed his hair with his other hand. It was natural, made a hundred times before, both of them deriving comfort from it and she filled it her observations to revisit later.
Talia waited patiently and gave him the courtesy of not gazing straight at his eyes again.
"I... it was very bad. At the Court. I lost the hope of rescue for a long time. But..." Richard hesitated. Bit his lip. Glanced at Jason's hair. Her own after. "Jay always believed you would come for him at some point. Dead or alive, you would come for him. And..." Smiling, shy and unsure, he looked at her again. "You came. I want believe in someone else like that too."
Hope. She, Talia al Ghul, the Demon herself, a symbol of hope to someone who should know better. Not Batman, Bruce, or Superman. Talia. But-
Rescue or vengeance, she delivered both. Not an operative unused, the earth scorched and not even ashes left behind. Jason's dead. Peace, never an option. Richard had to know.
Hope, her. "I see." Trust, given. Unshakeable faith. Maybe the belief was there all along; Talia was the one blinded to it. "I cannot guarantee your adoption will pass, not for lack of desire for you to join us or for you being lacking, but for opposition is expected." Bruce was not one let go of his children easily. Worse than pulling teeth. Damian would oppose, of course. More than to her adopting an All-Caste warrior. "If it is your wish, I will try."
She came. She always came to what was hers. Be it to help her ex-husband, to the son she left, the child under her wing, to the legacy she was denied, she came. It was an universal constant, easy to understand as gravity.
Talia added her own fingers to his hair and smiled, the soft one she reserved for family. "Until then, do consider yourself a Head, in your heart if not yet added to your name."
"Don't you have your own bed T?"
"Shut up Jason."
"Just saying, don't be mad."
"Yeah, Jay. And if she gets up I have less headpats."
"Aren't mine enough?"
"I'm touch starved! I need all the headpats. And hugs. Can't forget the cuddles."
"Suure you do. I thought it was because she had to report you since she saw you."
"Boys. Shut up."