Actions

Work Header

Fate Takes Its Course

Work Text:

Richard used to dream of finding his soulmate every night. Even before the day his marking had appeared! They would be the only other person in the world who could truly complete him, be it by standing by his side as a friend and trustworthy colleague or laying with him in a sea of romance and sensual love. Just as he would be the one to fill their heart and soul with his own brand of affection and loyalty. The whole thing just seemed so…magical…in a hypothetical sense. So unearthly that only the Gods and Goddesses should have received the privilege. However, that illusion only lasted so long in Richard’s life before crumbling down to ashes. Richard remembered the day that soulmates were ruined for him in vivid detail. He remembered his brother’s sorrow and his rage as he explained that soulmates could be as much of a curse as they were a blessing. 

 

His big brother…his poor big brother…

 

Richard had seen the suffering bestowed upon Damian when it came to soulmates on a second-hand account. 

 

∾∾∾∾∾∾∾∾∾∾∾∾

 

“You must be careful with your soulmate mark, Habibi.” Damian held Richard close, nearly caging his little brother in his massive arms as they sat in the younger man’s room. “You cannot let the words or the person they connect you to tie you down too harshly.” Today had been the day that Richard had finally received his soulmate mark. He had been one of the few people in the world who were given words or small phrases as opposed to more picture-like symbols. Along the inside of his wrist read: “I’ll accept whatever you’re willing to give”. It was actually quite comforting, with how open-minded the wording was. Clearly, this was a person who had a healthy understanding of what being soulmates meant vs. what they were perceived as. While Bruce and Alfred seemed fairly happy for him, Damian was quick to scoop him up and bring them to the younger boy’s room. Damian placed himself carefully onto Richard’s bed, taking a deep breath before looking down at his little brother. It was one of the rare times that Damian let himself be vulnerable. Not even their father got to see the truth behind Damian’s emotions compared to how free Damian let himself be in the presence of his only brother. 

 

“Why, Dami?” Richard couldn’t bring himself to think about misery on the topic of finding your soulmate. Was that not worthy of celebration? It was the ultimate bond between two people, a show that everyone was connected through pictures or words, that everyone deserved to be cherished in this life. The best part was that this could be a platonic connection or a romantic one. With that type of choice, why was Damian so nervous? Last time Richard checked, Damian had yet to find his own soulmate. So, how would he know about the supposed ‘bad effects’ of the bonding right now? Richard didn’t make a habit of digging into his older brother’s life, especially since most of his past seemed to make him uncomfortable. But he also didn’t want to just ignore any potential wisdom from the older boy. “Are you afraid that I won’t have a match? Because if you are, then don’t worry! It’s, like, 1/10000 of a chance! And even if I happen to fit into that low percentage, I’ll live. It won’t be the worst thing to happen to me-”

 

“That’s not what I’m talking about.” Damian hugged Richard close, his arms reaching behind the smaller body so he could rub his little brother’s back. Richard returned the affectionate gesture easily, smiling into Damian’s chest as the solid weight formed a protective aura around him. Their home may have been placed in one of the most dangerous locations in America, but it was monitored and protected by various cameras and intruder traps. Yet, even with all of that, nothing quite beats the feeling of being wrapped up in big brother’s arms. Damian was just…he was…he just embodied all of the elements that went into loving and protecting your family. He was strong, he was wise, he was resilient, he was loyal, and he was patient. Well, patient with his family, that is (though that was probably obvious). “With who you are, you wouldn’t need a soulmate mark to find a loyal life-long partner. Trust me, you’ve developed a talent for getting people to like you.” 

 

Richard wouldn’t call his tendency to accept new friends a ‘talent’. That would imply that he’s always been able to gain people’s trust easily or people ALWAYS wanted to be near him for the sake of being true friends. As it stood, Richard was well aware that there were plenty of people who didn’t like him. Sometimes, it was because he was associated with Bruce Wayne, a man who easily captured the admiration and envy of the general public simultaneously. Other times, it was his humble origin as an acrobat-turned millionaire heir that had other children from wealthy families despising his presence. Very much the idea of ‘keep the classes separate’ and all of that. Whatever, Richard wouldn’t waste his time with people like that. It was a toxic environment to be in and that’s not the type of person Richard wanted to grow into. 

 

Anyway, back to what Damian was saying. “What I mean to discuss with you is when your soulmate is the one to put you in danger.” That had Richard going absolutely stiff in Damian’s arms. His own soulmate putting him in danger? Like, purposefully putting him in danger? Why would anyone do that to their soulmate? You guys didn’t have to be in love or anything, for crying out loud! Platonic soulmates existed and if, for some reason, you really ended up hating each other then it wasn’t like there was a string keeping you trapped together. You just needed to be present in each other’s lives, that’s all! Strong friendships or romantic pairings were just how people adjusted their preferences depending on what type of intimacy they were comfortable with. What Damian was saying didn’t seem right! But Richard had just gotten his soulmate mark and Damian was the older between them. He probably had more life experience even without a soulmate mark. Weren’t the people in his small friend group marked as well? That’s probably where he was getting his information from. “Don’t misunderstand, dear brother. Soulmates can be a beautiful thing if the people marked work to find their balance. Their happiness! But…but if those involved don’t…they don’t even bother with each other…” 

 

Richard clutched onto Damian’s clothes as his brother’s voice became heavy with grief. It was a tone he had only heard once, when he was still in the single-digits. One of his brother’s beloved pets had died and Damian had tried his best to remain controlled in the face of death. But his family could take the smallest hints of something being wrong without much of a struggle. Damian’s facial expression? It was tightly pinched as if he were actively trying to keep it blank. His gaze? His green eyes held little to no color, appearing gray as he stared at the grave he had constructed for his animal companion. His posture? Damian looked to be wilting on the spot as he wished his pet a farewell and happiness in the afterlife. Lastly, his voice? Like now, it was heavily laced with grief and pain. Though not the type of pain that one could achieve out of a good ass beating in sparring or falling down the stairs. This was definitely more emotional than what Richard was used to hearing from his older brother. 

 

“The bond between soulmates can make or break people, Habibi.” Damian pushed Richard back a bit before reaching for the bottom of his shirt. In true Damian fashion, he had gone through the day wearing a pair of not-too-formal dress pants and a black turtleneck. As he slid his shirt off, Richard was treated to the sight of a…wait…what was Richard supposed to be looking at? His first assumption would be a type of flower. Just what flower, Richard couldn’t tell with how messed up it looked against Damian’s skin (no offense). Heck, for all Richard knew as he stared, Damian could have gotten this oddly shaped flower marking from his nighttime duty as a vigilante or some weird tattoo attempt that had gone wrong. As ridiculous as that sounded, Richard genuinely didn’t know what he was supposed to be looking at!

 

“Dami…” Richard brought a hand up to carefully trace Damian’s marking. The older male didn’t tense under his fingertips, but he did flinch when Richard was finished tracing the outline. “Does it hurt?” 

 

“Not physically, Habibi.” Damian set his turtleneck down beside him, leaving his scarred marking for Richard to see in its base form. “When I first got my marking, I didn’t pay much attention to it. It didn’t matter enough to me. Pennyworth was the one to identify it as a bouquet of flowers, specifically, the Lily of the Valley.” Richard didn’t think he'd ever heard of that plant before. Then again, Botany wasn’t really his specialty in terms of school subjects. He preferred math, psychology, and sociology. Recently, he’s also gotten a small interest in medicine with the new opening of Damian’s very own animal clinic. But all of that was just going off-topic. Damian had been marked with a bouquet of Lilies. Ok, great. So, Richard had been wrong about Damian not getting his mark yet. With that in mind, why was his mark so…dead? Had he just not found his soulmate? Richard never knew there was a time limit to meeting. “Usually, the Lily of the Valley is said to represent good luck and eternal happiness.” 

 

Richard winced at that. Uh oh. He knew where this was going…

 

“But as it’s a poisonous flower, it has also been known to stand for sadness and pain. Heavily connected to the idea of death and loss.” Every coin has two sides. The good and the bad. The ying and the yang. The light and the dark. Normally, in cases involving criminals or morals altogether, there existed a gray zone that occasionally broke the ice between both sides instead of one side dominating the other. In the case of soulmates, it looked like the bond was very…black and white. It had the potential of being beautiful and loving, just as it could lead the two bonded ones down a road of ruin and hatred. “Knowing this, I was desperate to keep on neutral ground regarding my soulmate. I had no expectations that we would be lovers or even close friends. I had only envisioned that we’d find a way to peacefully coexist in the same circles.” 

 

That sounded a lot like Damian. He had a difficult time letting people close. And that was when he had spent years breaking out of his shell with the help of his friends and family! Richard could only imagine how closed off Damian was when he was younger. 

 

“The day I met my soulmate coincided with the day that I met Father.” Damian made it sound like the experience must have been Hell. Which, to be fair, it probably was. Richard wasn’t told all of the details, but what he did know is that when Damian and Bruce first met, neither of them started out liking each other. Damian respected Bruce in a manner that recognized the man’s authority in the household and as part of the reason he was alive. Bruce respected Damian in a manner that recognized the younger male as a child who deserved to know both of his parents. Richard could only pity the person (aside from Alfred) who was forced to be around them during their starting years. “He had taken in a young boy whose parents met a tragic end.” Oh boy, Richard could sympathize with this mystery person in that category. “His name was Timothy Drake. I didn’t mind his presence in our household or Father’s life, but there came a time when I became bitter about my relationship with Father compared to his. Father was always patient, understanding, and proud of Timothy. Meanwhile, whenever his gaze landed on me, it became calculating and confused. I was a mission to him, a puzzle that he didn’t know how to solve or what to do with. Nothing more, nothing less.” 

 

What the heck?! Why the Hell would Bruce do that? It didn’t matter if his behavior was intentional or not, but that was absolutely NO way to raise a child. Jesus Christ, it was only CRUEL. No wonder Damian had moved out when he did and stayed as far away from Bruce as he could while in their civilian lives. No wonder Damian was still fighting so hard to take custody of Richard. No wonder Damian always treated Bruce so coldly and distantly, with no acknowledgment of the father-son bond they could have shared. Richard didn’t think he’d feel safe if close to a person who hurt him like that either! He came from a close, loving family. So, that…that could possibly kill him…

 

And Damian survived that emotionally? Man, if Richard didn’t respect his brother then, he definitely respected Damian’s loyalty to family now!

 

“With how strained our bond was, it was almost impossible for me to want to put any effort into getting to know Timothy. I wouldn’t say he was…mean…by nature. However, his attitude towards me and my creation was too close to Father’s to really give me peace.” Ok, now Richard was just getting mad. What right did any of these people have to take a look at Damian and think: ‘hmmmm, what to do with this one? He was dropped off by Talia Al Ghul, so that must mean that he’s evil. We’ll just monitor him and imprison him when he shows his true colors’. Like, seriously who did that to someone?! God, Bruce believed that criminals imprisoned in Arkham Asylum deserved a second chance but he couldn’t be bothered to TRY with a child? Man, Richard was sooooo not talking to his father for at least a week after this. Unless an emergency came up, but that was a given. “Eventually, I grew tired of his treatment of me and journeyed back to Mother and Grandfather’s side.” 

 

Good. Richard burrowed into Damian’s arms again, hiding the angry grimace that had pulled at his lips. Damian shouldn’t have had to be in an environment that treated him like poison, but at least he had escaped. Richard wasn’t sure if Talia or Ra’s Al Ghul were the ones to escape to, but as long as Damian was safe? Richard didn’t know enough about Damian’s maternal side of the family to make a fair judgment call. He’s never met either of them. 

 

“During my absence, Timothy somehow managed to learn that we were connected.” Damian laughed hollowly at that. “His marking was the exact same as mine, in the exact same place. I should have known that fate could only be cruel to a Demon.” As Damian shook his head, Richard sat up slightly again so he could get another look at the mark. The pieces were finally coming together then. Damian’s mark must have looked so ruined because something traumatic must have happened between the two of them. It would have destroyed their ability to connect with one another, their marks outwardly decaying as a result of the internal struggle. “He followed me back to Nanda Parbat and demanded that we discuss this…development…in person.” 

 

That just sounded unfair to Richard. This Timothy guy was the one who didn’t seem to like Damian’s presence in the first place. Why did he suddenly care now? Soulmate marks were important, yes, but only going after someone for the sake of a mark was kind of a low blow. It was essentially saying that the person didn’t matter, just a possible connection of fate mattered. Definitely not the way that Richard wanted to treat his soulmate. If he ever met his soulmate, he’d make sure they got to know each other first before doing anything else. 

 

“During his stay, Grandfather grew attached to him. He admired Timothy’s brilliance in the battlefield and his intelligence surrounding technology.” Damian almost sounded nostalgic as he spoke about Timothy’s talents. It was a complete opposite of how hollow and pained he had previously sounded. To an extent, Richard could kind of understand. Even if Damian and Timothy didn’t really LIKE each other, they could still admire each other’s capabilities as warriors and such. “I don’t know much of the details, but eventually, Mother warned me that Grandfather was planning to make Timothy his heir instead of me. I would have to flee if I wanted to keep my life.” 

 

…what?! What the heck?! Who…dammit…who did that to someone?! Hadn’t Damian been hurt enough by the people who were supposed to love him unconditionally?!

 

“When I asked if I should bring Timothy with me, she was quick to deny my request. She told me that Timothy had changed with each day he spent in my Grandfather’s company. His previous morals had been warped and twisted. He presented a danger to Father and I.” 

 

Now that was kind of ironic. It seemed that, for all of the crap that Bruce put Damian through for being the grandson of the Demon Head, the Golden Child of the time was the one to turn to the dark side. It would have been the most underrated, but hilarious movie cliche were this anything but real life. 

 

“I did as she bid me to and returned to Father’s side. I don’t know how, but he had learned of Timothy’s transformation at Grandfather’s hand much earlier than I did and had already prepared for when Timothy inevitably returned to Gotham.” It seemed like a lot was going on around Damian and no one thought to tell him. Or, they did and it was just done in such a crappy way that he wasn’t able to comprehend what he was being told until it was too late. Either way, Richard could only feel his chest become empty as Damian spoke. Any happiness or joy that he had thought up when thinking about soulmates was draining. This…what Damian had been put through at the hands of his own family and his soulmate…it was terrible. It was something no one deserved to go through. “As he prepared the manor, I sought help from the Justice League. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but none of them had ever been unkind to me, so I figured that there was no harm in contacting them - at the very least.” 

 

Wow. Damian held so little trust in Bruce (and probably vice versa) that he preferred to contact almost complete strangers over this problem. Ya know, Richard was starting to get a hint that maybe he should be living with Damian instead of Bruce now. 

 

“Predictably, many - if not all - of them were unsettled by my request to terminate my bond with my soulmate.” Damian actually sounded humored by that. Before this conversation, Richard would have lightly smacked Damian upside the head for even considering something so malicious! If Damian had chosen to do that on a whim, then that would have destroyed both him and Timothy for nothing! At least now, Richard understood that Damian must have felt vulnerable and scared enough to separate from Timothy so severely. Gosh, he couldn’t imagine the stress his older brother was constantly suffering through. “Ultimately, I had to allow Raven to travel into my mind and sort through my memories before my wish was granted. It wasn’t a pleasant experience and, certainly, I’ve made enemies with some of the original Titans for hurting Timothy so easily. But I don’t regret it. I trusted Mother that day and that’s what kept me alive.” 

 

Richard didn’t know what to say to any of that. When they had started this conversation, he was expecting some short paragraphs on how he should be careful with how he handled soulmates since they were so ingrained into the culture or some philosophical quotes around finding balance with ones’ partner. Not digging into Damian’s trauma! Man, this afternoon was…it was something…

 

“That is why you must be cautious about your soulmate, Habibi.” Damian placed his hand on the ruined soulmate mark, gently rubbing as if hoping that it would come back to life. “They can give you the greatest pleasures or lead you into the most lethal of dangers. They can bring joy and happiness just as they can bring pain and loss.” 

 

Richard would never be able to forget Damian’s words that day. The warnings, the backstory, the tragedy…nothing. Not even when he desperately tried to. 

 

∾∾∾∾∾∾∾∾∾∾∾∾

 

To this day, Richard always replayed Damian’s story in his head whenever he got the urge to fuss over his soulmate mark. He wouldn’t say that his older brother had scared him out of wondering about his other half or being open to knowing them, but it would be a lie to say that Richard was as excited or confident over the bond as he used to be. And ya know what? That actually worked for him. He hadn’t devoted himself completely to finding his soulmate anyway, so letting go of the light interest he had took as much effort as perfecting a move on the bars would. Challenging at times, but overall, something he was willing to repeat. For a while, it had gone on like that. Neither Damian nor Richard ever brought up their conversation with Bruce or Alfred after they had finished, though Richard did ask that Bruce let Damian adopt him in the end. Being introduced to a Bruce Wayne who had treated his own son so harshly scared Richard more than he wanted to admit. Especially considering that he wasn’t treated particularly well or unwell. Richard didn’t want to wait for the other shoe to drop, so as soon as he could, he rushed to Damian’s side and didn’t look back. Not for Bruce, anyway. Alfred was still cool and Richard loved it when the old butler visited the home that Damian had claimed for them to catch up over some tea and sweets. 

 

It was during one of Alfred’s frequent visits that Damian had found himself with a day off, as his co-workers had bullied him out of the office with the explanation of: “you’re working too hard and you’re literally going to die if you don’t relax for at least an hour”. Needless to say, Damian was far from impressed. So, Richard tried his best to cheer his older brother up with the help of Alfred. It worked for a little while. All the way up until the doorbell rang. Damian was the one to answer it and when he saw who was on the other side, well…

 

Richard couldn’t say that he’s seen Damian panic a lot, as a civilian or as Nightwing, but the reaction he gave their guests was pretty darn close to what a panicking Damian would probably look like. 

 

“Good afternoon, gentlemen.” The voice from the doorway was way too smooth for Richard’s liking. It sounded like whoever was talking was trying way too hard to sound welcoming and non-threatening, which only put everyone in the room on edge. People who genuinely only stopped by for a friendly check-in didn’t have to force themselves to sound harmless. Richard should know, he’s had his fair share of decoding hidden lies and manipulations through his work as Robin and his attendance at Bruce’s galas. This person here? They sounded like one of the many other businessmen that sought to manipulate Bruce Wayne into funneling more profits into their departments when they weren’t even gonna use them for the business, but for personal pleasure. It was disgustingly sweet for such a popular poison. “Come now, Damian. Why the sour face? Surely, you’re just a little bit happy at seeing your own soulmate after so long?” 

 

Richard almost pushed himself up from his seat so he could run over to Damian and shove the larger male behind him. This guy was Timothy Drake? The one who had been chosen as Ra’s Al Ghul’s successor over Damian? The one who Talia had warned Damian about? Holy shoot, it was! Timothy Drake had found their home! He had found Damian when Damian had spent the last several years trying to put distance between them so he wouldn’t be hunted down and imprisoned. Or worse, killed!

 

“Our bond was destroyed before it could even be solidified, Drake.” Oh, God. Richard had never heard Damian use THAT tone of voice before. Not even when speaking with Gotham villains or arguing with Bruce did Damian’s tone get that dark. That…venomous. Clearly, he wanted Timothy to leave. Now, preferably. Richard wondered if he’d be able to help if he backed his brother up. “I thought I made my desire for it to stay that way clear when I had Raven severe it.” 

 

Richard full-on flinched at the reminder. It’s not that he forgot that Damian had done that, he just preferred not to remember it in such graphic detail. If that was running around in his head for too long, then he’d just cry. All day, every day. Although, with how Timothy and Damian had turned to look at him after he flinched, crying might also just come now. It was extremely uncomfortable to have two older men staring at you with such intensity behind their gazes. 

 

“My, my, my.” Oh no, Timothy’s gaze was focused on Richard alone now. No more switching between Damian and him. “How adorable. I didn’t know you were interested in having a son. If that’s what would have made you happy, I would have been glad to deliver sooner.” 

 

“I would have run away with any child you presented to me.” Damian tried to close the door in Timothy’s face when it was clear that attention had turned to Richard, but a shorter body pushed through the crack just as it was moving. It seemed like Timothy wasn’t alone then. Lovely. “Hey! Get back here, you were not invited-!” 

 

The newcomer didn’t pay any attention to Damian’s angered growls, instead, booking it in Richard’s direction until he was directly in front of the smaller male. From where Richard stood, Alfred’s presence off to the side was the only reason that this newcomer didn’t lunge at him or something equally scary. Not gonna lie, it would genuinely be terrifying if this guy lunged at Richard. For all that Timothy was tall and lanky, only a little muscle showing here and there on his frame, this guy was the opposite. Richard could see some muscles bulging through the red dress shirt that he wore, powerful legs emphasized by the tightness of the blue jeans accompanying the shirt. This guy must have worked out A LOT to get a body that was physically powerful. Not that Richard should be surprised. The League of Assassins trained assassins, for crying out loud! One didn’t survive by showing weakness. At least, that’s how Damian described it. 

 

“Richard, return to your quarters at once-” 

 

“Now, now, come on, Damian.” Timothy took Damian’s distraction as his unspoken invite to enter as well. Damian made sure to slam the door closed after Timothy had passed the threshold, but wasn’t able to get to Richard before Timothy’s companion passed Alfred on his way to the youngest male. He sat himself next to Richard, grinning mischievously as Richard tried to keep still. He didn’t want to give this guy the satisfaction of seeing his opponent lose his cool, but would it be more embarrassing if Richard was still technically expressing his panic through body language anyway? Man, this was just a lose-lose situation. Made worse when Timothy opened his mouth again: “This is my little brother, Jason. You know, he used to be native to Gotham, much like I was.” 

 

“Was he now?” Damian came to stand next to Alfred, gaze falling between Jason and Timothy. Richard wasn’t sure which one he wanted to throttle more, but in the interest of not destroying their homes, he tried to make his way over to Damian so he could calm his older brother down. Just being close by would do the trick, as Damian was likely registering this as some type of battle strategy formation. Separating the allies so that the forces were thinned, making them vulnerable to attack. That type of stuff. Unfortunately, just as Richard made to stand, Jason grabbed onto his wrist and yanked him back. Richard was tempted to flip over Jason when he touched the barest hint of solid-couch underneath him, but Jason was much more prepared to deal with the escape attempt. He pulled Richard over until the younger male was on his lap before winding his arms and legs around Richard so that the boy couldn’t even wiggle too much. Naturally, Damian found a problem with this: “Drake! Separate your spawn from my brother this instant! This is between you and I!” 

 

“Not really, Damian.” Timothy tried to move closer to Damian, probably to touch him as Jason was ‘allowed’ to touch Richard. However, Alfred was actually in a good position to step in between the two of them this time. And let Richard tell ya, Alfred played a mean defense. He was somehow able to constantly keep himself between Timothy and Damian without looking outwardly obvious. Richard was convinced that the only reason Timothy noticed their little game was because he was literally trained by Batman and Ra’s Al Ghul. That had to give him plenty of practice for digging into details that an average joe would ignore or miss. 

 

Their weird dance lasted for at least five minutes before Timothy conceded to Damian and Alfred’s wishes for him to stay put. Not to say that he looked happy about it, but he seemed to get his revenge by addressing Richard in Damian’s place. “I don’t believe we’ve met.” Richard was so thankful for that up until this point. “I’m Timothy Drake, your older brother’s soulmate.” 

 

“He’s not deaf, Drake!” Damian tried to move forward, but Alfred’s arm stopped him. After all, it would have been counterproductive if Damian had moved away from Alfred’s safety after Timothy had surrendered. Who knew if Alfred would be able to protect Damian so effectively again? Better not risk it. “You made your point before you barged in here! Now, why don’t you finish saying whatever it is that you must get off your chest and leave. We were having an entertaining evening before your presence ruined it.” 

 

Ooof, that was kinda harsh. Richard wasn’t a fan of Timothy by any means, but even he could acknowledge that Damian was being a bit ruder than necessary. Whether they liked it or not, Timothy was in here and still under the impression that he had a soulmate bond with Damian despite the bond being broken. If it was closure he was looking for, then it would only be right to offer that to him - seeing as how Damian had technically called in Raven’s help without Timothy’s knowledge or permission. Plus, maybe it would be a good way to show they could all move on without violence. Damian could find someone who would make him happy just as Timothy would be freed from his previous notions and allowed to explore for his own pleasure. 

 

But that sounded way too easy for real life, didn’t it? 

 

“Still so impatient, Damian.” Timothy’s amusement in Damian’s frustration got to Richard more so than when Timothy was physically trying to grab at Damian. Richard wasn’t sure why, but he had a strong assumption that it was because words were more difficult to stop compared to physical attacks. And just as much, words could hurt a lot more than punches or kicks when said by the right person. “Very well, I’ll cut right to the point. My dear younger brother has received his soulmate mark recently, so naturally, I offered to help him quicken his search. I’m sure you can imagine how…irritating…it can be to know that there’s someone out there for you but you’re not always in an immediate position to meet them.” 

 

Well, that sounded like something that came from personal experience. And for once, Richard just kept his mouth shut despite the hundreds of questions that he wanted to start firing at Damian. It would definitely start with “How the hell did Timothy hope to find that one person for Jason so quickly?” and end with something along the lines of “is he gonna try to steal you back to his side once he finds Jason’s soulmate?”. Whatever Richard ended up addressing in the middle heavily depended on what else Timothy let slip. 

 

“Let me guess, you requested assistance from the same…detective, of the sort…that you used to learn of our connection?” 

 

“She was a sorcerer, actually, but nice try.” Timothy fixed Richard with a soft smile. It was probably meant to be comforting, but trapped in Jason’s arms and just knowing Timothy’s past with Damian made it anything but. There was a sinister type of satisfaction to the quirk of Timothy’s lips, is all. But Richard was nervous enough not to comment on it. “I actually found myself quite proud of my brother when his soulmate was revealed. It appears that fate truly did mean to bind the Al Ghul heirs to the Wayne heirs.” 

 

It was at that moment that Richard couldn’t hold any of his questions or opinions inside. This was…all of this…this was way too fast. Way too abrupt, way too nerve-wracking. It needed to come out! He didn’t know what the trigger was or why he was quicker to react compared to Damian or Alfred, but as soon as he understood the implication of Timothy’s words, he tried to shoot up from Jason’s lap. He didn’t get very fair, barely an inch from where his butt had previously been pressed against Jason’s legs. But it did get Timothy to step back in shock, so Richard still counted that as a win. “Fate doesn’t control our actions or our relationships.” He knew he’d never be as intimidating or deadly as Damian was. Between the difference in their physical appearances and the natural aura of “do not mess with me” that Damian constantly carried around, Richard just never saw himself measuring up. Nevertheless, he hoped he was at least able to shake Timothy up a bit as he hissed at the older male. “That choice belongs to us.” 

 

Richard continued squirming even after he finished his piece, eager to get on his feet so he could introduce his foot to Timothy’s stomach. As it stood, Jason’s grip on him only seemed to tighten with each little movement. If Richard didn’t know any better, then he may as well have been in the suffocating hold of a constrictor of some kind. Maybe one of those anacondas that could grow to be nine feet on average. Was it even normal for an Earth human to be this strong? Or was this just a sign that Richard needed to hit the weight bench more? Let him tell ya, the longer Jason held on, the quicker Richard’s exhaustion came. All the way up until he was practically slumped in Jason’s lap with no energy left that could be used to bat at Jason’s hand when it found its way against Richard’s chest. 

 

“Interesting choice of words, dear boy.” Timothy sent a wicked smirk Damian’s way. Knowing his older brother, Richard could safely assume that Damian had noticed more than enough through Timothy’s smile alone. Before he could ask to be clued in (Damian would give him clear answers while Timothy was more likely to speak in riddles), Jason presented his arm to Richard. For the longest time, Richard didn’t know what to do. Was Jason trying out a new lock? Was this a trap and he was gonna attack Richard if he failed? Was this some weird invitation for Richard to surrender or else something bad was gonna happen to him? Just…just what was this gesture?! Jason literally did nothing other than present his sleeve-covered arm before Richard. 

 

What was Richard supposed to do with that?!

 

“I’ll accept whatever you’re willing to give. At least, for now.” Oh man, why did the first part of Jason’s statement sound so familiar? Argh! It was so hard to try and focus on Richard’s memories when Jason’s voice nearly had him falling back into that muscled, warm body. “Why don’t you roll up my sleeve, darling? I’m sure it’ll give you the answer you need.” 

 

Oh for crying out loud-!

 

Richard made sure that his grip on Jason’s arm was tight, not only so he could snap out of whatever momentary trance he had been lured into while Jason was speaking, but also because it was satisfying to hear the light groan that came out of the larger male. The sleeve wasn’t rolled up too neatly to begin with, so Richard found no harm in simply shoving the cloth up to find-

 

Oh…oh, no…Not good, not good, not good…

 

There! Just right freaking there!

 

The same thickness, the same font, the same freaking area as Richard’s own line of: “I’ll accept whatever you’re willing to give…”!

 

Fate doesn’t control our actions or our relationships. That choice belongs to us!

 

Oh, man! Richard knew that Timothy was hinting at him being Jason’s soulmate when he had exposed his methodology of finding him in the first place. But still…hearing it…thinking about it…it all felt less in-his-face compared to seeing Jason’s mark with his own eyes. His own words reflected back at him. Like…like a mirror…a mirror that Richard wanted to keep safe and shatter at the same time. 

 

“There’s no rush to make your final decision on what we’ll be to one another.” Jason grabbed onto the hand that had been holding his sleeve and left a series of gentle kisses along the expanse of Richard’s arm. He made to stop at Richard’s shoulder, but nibbled on Richard’s earlobe when the other let out a nervous whimper. “I can be a patient man when the reward is worth it.” Jesus Christ, did Jason seriously address Richard as if he were some sort of stock item? Really?! That’s not how these things worked! Ooooh, Richard was soo gonna give Jason a piece of his mind when he was released. Which, by the way Jason was still holding him, wouldn’t be for a while. “But first, just to make sure you remember my place in your life…” 

 

The arm that Jason had been holding was brought back down to Richard’s lap. It had to hold Richard’s hand down, so Jason’s second hand reached for something in his pockets before traveling across the front of Richard’s abdomen. The object that Jason was carrying was clenched tightly into his fist, so Richard had no way of knowing what it was until his hand was brought forward and a jewel encrusted silver wrong was placed on his ring finger. The jewels themselves were red, but their shape wasn’t what Richard has ever matched with sapphires or rubies. How rare or expensive was that rock if Richard wasn’t able to identify it at first glance? 

 

“Perfect fit, darling.” Oh, well, at least Jason was having a jolly good time with this. Right?

 

“How dare you!” Damian’s footsteps rivaled the ringing in Richard’s head as he gazed down at the ring Jason had slipped onto his finger. “How dare you just waltz in here and…and…assert ownership over my brother with some trinket!” The first place Richard’s mind went as he examined the silver ring was ‘marriage proposal’, as ridiculous as that was. They had just met, for Pete’s sake! But then again, what else did one use a ring for? Why else would you put said ring on your ring finger?! That’s literally what that finger was known for! That’s where the rings during a wedding would go! Just what was Jason or Timothy’s angle here?! 

 

“He is not some…some property…that you can mark without permission!” 

 

“Come now, Damian, it’s merely a ring. Your beloved brother can choose to take it off whenever he wants, it’s not like we’ve welded the metal to the flesh.” 

 

“Oh, if you even thought of doing something so despicable, then I’ll have no problem disobeying Father’s most sacred rule in the name of making you suffer!” 

 

“So dramatic, Damian-” 

 

Damian and Timothy’s voices echoed through Richard’s head. For a good portion of their argument, he was tempted to look up and see what position they had found themselves in. However, whenever he tried, Jason snuck his hand around so he could grab at Richard’s chin and force the smaller male to pay attention to him. Only him. 

 

“Why don’t we talk about the details of our upcoming…relationship…in a more private setting, darling?”