Jason leaned back in his chair, pressing the tips of his finger together as he regarded the man that was sitting on the opposite end of the table from him. Here, the man didn’t really looked out of place. With his fitted suit, black hooded cape, and white mask that was featureless aside from a slightly raised up portion near the middle of the mask, giving it an avian look.
The Grandmaster of the Court of Owls was lucky that Jason was the one sitting on the throne. If it had been his predecessor, the man would’ve had to kneel and remove his mask to show his face. While Jason might be more benevolent than his predecessor, it didn’t mean that he was kinder in any way. They had come together in a location of his choosing and he had listed off his expectations for the negotiation that they were having. However, it couldn’t really be called a negotiation. The Grandmaster didn’t have much say in their conversation because he’d been forced to come and speak of a union between their organizations.
After all, the Grandmaster had sent Talons to dispose of Jason when he’d taken power, thinking that a power imbalance would be the perfect time to strike. He couldn’t have been more wrong. Jason planned his coup for years and made sure that there was little to no room for error, and part of that plan was being aware of retaliation.
When one overthrows the leader of a large organization there were bound to be assassination attempts. The Grandmaster had not been the first and he would not be the last to endeavor to take Jason out.
All in all, Jason thought that he was being merciful. He could’ve easily declared a campaign to take the Court of Owls out – something that he was more than capable of doing with all of this new power in his hands – but he’d decided to show how benevolent that he could be.
In certain aspects, of course.
Hence why the Grandmaster was silent during their negotiations.
It was more Jason laying out his terms to the Grandmaster than an actual discussion of a proper union. Luckily the Grandmaster had made a wise decision in coming to meet Jason after he’d received his invitation. The severed heads of the two Talons that had been sent for him.
He’d thought that it was quite a clever invitation on his part, with the whole ‘The Court of Owls will send The Talon for your head’ and all. Jason remembered hearing the nursery rhyme when he was younger and might have felt a stab of fear when the Talons appeared inside his private quarters, but they had been disappointing. Jason had been insulted that the Court hadn’t even bothered to send their strongest Talons to assassinate him.
“All of my terms and conditions are on the document presented to you. You need but sign it and mark it,” Jason said.
“Mark it?” The Grandmaster asked. Jason waved a hand and a servant stepped out, providing the Grandmaster with an inkwell, quill, and dagger.
If only Jason could see the Grandmaster’s face. His expression was sure to be comical judging by the way his shoulders tensed up. “It only requires a prick of the finger, Grandmaster. It doesn’t have to be more than a drop.”
The Grandmaster’s movements were jerky as he signed the bottom of the document. He hesitated before he pulled his glove off, grabbing the dagger. How pitiful for the leader of an organization of assassins to be intimidated by nothing more than a small blade.
Jason shifted, purposefully bumping his knee against the table leg when the Grandmaster was taking much too long for his liking. The man jolted and sliced open the tip of his finger instead of simply pricking himself. Blood trailed down his finger, staining the cuffs of his expensive suit. Jason cleared his throat. “My apologies. It seems that I moved a little too quickly. My leg was falling asleep.”
“No… My apologies.” The Grandmaster pressed his finger against the document and no sooner did he lift his finger from the page and the document was pulled away by Jason’s servant along with the writing implements.
“I will have one of my servants look at your finger for you,” Jason said.
The Grandmaster nodded. “Thank you, Demon’s Head.”
Jason kept his face neutral. Despite it already having been a month since he’d taken over the League of Assassins and properly disposed of Ra’s al Ghul, he still wasn’t used to being referred to by the title. It would take some getting used to.
“And now to our final order of business.” Jason sat up straight again, resting his forearms on the armrests of his chair.
“Demon’s Head, my lord…” It sounded like it was causing the Grandmaster physical pain to be addressing Jason so politely. “I would like to discuss that matter and…your choice.”
He cocked his head to the side as he regarded the Grandmaster. “Please, do elaborate.”
“We have much better choices for your partner,” the Grandmaster said.
This was why Jason hadn’t allowed the man to speak for himself up until now. “I was clear in my demands, wasn’t I, Grandmaster?”
The Grandmaster nodded. “Yes, you were. However, we have many members of the Court who would be more than willing to be wed with you.”
“Why would I want a partner that isn’t able to defend themselves? That would just be an inevitable death, Grandmaster. Surely not something that you’d wish for any of your members.” Jason narrowed his eyes at the man.
“And not only that, but we have women who could provide you with a stable household and heirs even,” the Grandmaster kept going.
This time Jason didn’t hold back his sneer and the Grandmaster immediately shut up, leaning back against his chair as if the minute distance would make any sort of difference. “You presume to know what I want?” Jason growled out. He had to say that having the power to make the Grandmaster cower in his seat was intoxicating, but he couldn’t let it go over his head. Not yet, at least. “You speak of heirs as if they hold such importance. As if I would even be thinking about willingly raising a person who might, one day, raise their arms against me. It’s foolish.”
The Grandmaster bowed his head. “I’m sorry, Demon’s Head! Please forgive me. I didn’t mean any offense by it.”
Jason sighed. He was done with this whimpering man. “I asked for your strongest Talon, I expect your strongest Talon. If I find out that you did not honour-”
“We did! He’s here!” The Grandmaster pointed behind him, where two Talons were stationed. They’d been instructed when the negotiations had started that they were not to speak or attempt to interfere in any way. However, now one of the Talon’s stepped forward. He was clad more ornately than the other Talon present. The dull brown and gold motif of the Talon paled in comparison to the black and red with silver accents of the Talon that had stepped forward. How amusing. Jason initially thought that every Talon had their own distinct uniform, but it appeared that the Court of Owls had actually adorned this Talon to make him seem more appealing to Jason.
How befitting that they would dress up his intended.
“Very well. He is to deposit all of his weapons with my servants before we convene privately,” Jason said. A servant pulled out his chair as he stood up.
“Talon, we have discussed this. You know what is expected of you.” The Grandmaster waved the Talon closer and the assassin began placing his various weapons on the table. At least a dozen throwing knives from his front, a few push daggers, and a stiletto knife from his boot. One of Jason’s servants stepped forward and inspected the Talon to make sure that there weren’t any further hidden weapons.
When the servant nodded, Jason lifted his hand and beckoned the Talon. “We will reconvene later, Grandmaster. I encourage you to take advantage of my hospitality.” The lingering threat hung in the air as Jason turned his back to the man, showing just how little he thought of the Grandmaster.
Soft footsteps followed him out of the room, but Jason knew that the Talon was making himself heard. If he, with his large frame, was able to keep himself silent as he walked, then the lithe Talon would have no issues with that at all. The Talon kept slightly to the side and behind Jason as they walked through the halls.
There were guards stationed outside of Jason’s room and he waved them off. They bowed before they left and he entered the room. “Do close the doors behind you,” Jason said.
The doors clicked shut as Jason walked over to his bed, reaching up to unclasp his cloak. He just cursed under his breath as he couldn’t manage to remove the pesky clasp when he felt a pressure against his neck. Jason chuckled under his breath and held himself still. Part of him was surprised that the Talon actually managed to sneak a weapon inside. “Go on. I know you have orders to dispose of me.”
The Talon was silent for a moment, the knife still ever present against Jason’s neck. “When you said we would see each other again soon, I didn’t expect this,” Talon said.
Jason turned, ignoring the sting as the edge of the knife ran along his skin. “I stayed true to my word, didn’t I?”
Talon reached up and pulled his hood off, revealing narrowed eyes and a frown. “An arranged marriage, Jason?”
Jason chuckled and he grabbed the knife so he could push it away from his neck before it actually cut into his skin. “What better way to make sure you never have to leave, Richard?”
Their eyes locked for a moment before Richard sighed and rolled his eyes, dropping his arm to his side. “You’re incredulous, you know that?” He tossed the knife onto the bed.
“I’m a genius, you mean.” Jason let his own mask fall and grinned as Richard reached out, batting Jason’s hands away to undo the clasp to his cloak for him. It had well been three months since he had last seen Richard so close. To have him in Jason’s immediate space like this again sent a thrill running through him.
“You could’ve told me.” When he undid the cloak, Richard unceremoniously let it fall to the ground.
“Hey babe. I’ve decided I’m going to kill Ra’s al Ghul and take over the League. If it just so happens that major organizations such as the Court of Owls want me dead and I thwart their attempt and demand an arranged marriage with their strongest Talon in return, well… Let’s just say I chalked that chance up as a probably,” Jason said, his grin growing. He lifted a hand and rubbed his shoulder. The cloak was much heavier than Jason thought it would ever be, but with the weight came additional protection.
Richard’s face slowly shifted from stoicism to an unbelieving sort of wonder. He chuckled under his breath and slapped Jason’s cheek hard. His voice lowered as he spoke again, but Richard placed his hand on Jason’s stinging cheek and gently rubbed it with his thumb. “What would you have done if I’d been sent to kill you? Did you even think of that?”
Jason’s cheek and jaw hurt as he stretched it. The skin would be bright red for a good hour or so with how hard Richard slapped him. “I would’ve captured you instead of sending your head back to the Court. Still not that hard to use you as leverage for what I wanted.”
Richard leaned in and pressed a kiss to the bottom of Jason’s chin. “You’re incorrigible.” He tilted his head to kiss Jason’s jaw. “Arrogant.” His cheek. “Selfish.” The corner of his mouth. “And a fool.” Their lips connected and, even though he wanted to press into the kiss, Jason kept himself still. Their meetings had been so few and far between over the past year while Jason had been setting the final parts of his plan in motion that Jason wanted to savour this moment.
He placed a hand on Richard’s hip and the shorter man pressed their chests together, but broke their kiss as a result. “What did you do about Ra’s?” Richard asked.
“I disposed of him myself. Dismembered him, burnt each piece separately and discarded the ashes in locations that I only know of.” There would be no sort of resurrection for Ra’s al Ghul this time around.
Jason sighed. “She and Nyssa both suffered the same fate as their father.”
The corners of Richard’s mouth curled up. “If only Talia knew what she was getting into, when she took in the orphan off the streets that had attempted to steal the tires off her car.”
Out of everything, Talia was still Jason’s greatest regret. He’d offered her amnesty. She was the one that had gotten him to the point where he was, had taken him in and trained him in the way of the League even when her father opposed it. In the end, she had been the strong woman that he’d known her as and willingly knelt down in front of his blade.
“One often doesn’t know what they’re getting themselves into,” Jason muttered, leaning into Richard’s touch even though his cheek was still burning from the slap.
“Do you know what you’re getting into with me?” Richard asked.
“No, but I’m willing to take my chances,” Jason said seriously.
Richard chuckled again, this time smiling as he leaned up to kiss Jason again. “Now that’s dangerous. I like it.”