It’s kind of sickening, watching them.
They’re all glad that Bruce and Jason finally accepted their soulbond, as well as the fact that they’ve been in love with each other for years, but it’s still deeply disturbing for Damian to see his father look at Todd like that.
And then there’s Drake and Grayson. They’re not soulbonded - yet - but they still act like ridiculous idiots around each other.
But as much as Damian sneers at them and makes snide remarks, they only roll their eyes and keep smiling. It drives Damian insane.
Nobody really knows how soulbonds work. When a pair is soulbonded, there is one visible sign - a small mark on the back of each person’s neck, a mark unique to the soulbonded pair. And, like Bruce and Jason now know, fighting a soulbond is the worst thing you can do.
Damian will never understand soulbonds. And he never expects to be a part of one. He doesn’t want to be a part of one. He has never allowed himself to get so close to a person that for the possibility that he might develop one.
Being tied so inextricably to one person...that can only be a weakness. And he never expects weakness from himself.
So he’s utterly confused when he’s sitting at the desk in the study, hunched over a book, and Dick walks in, grabs him and starts shaking him and gabbling excitedly.
“Damian! Dami!” Dick is practically jumping up and down. “You--you! Do you have a girlfriend? A boyfriend? Who is it? Tell me who!”
Damian twists out of the older man’s grasp and glares at him. “What on earth are you raving about, Grayson?”
“Damian, you have a soulbond mark!”
“What?” Damian jerks, recoils, then jumps up, pushing past Dick and running to the nearest bathroom. He pulls down the back of his shirt, straining his neck as he twists and turns, trying to catch a glimpse of the soulmark. It’s there; he can’t see it well, but it’s there, a dark shape against his tanned skin.
“Damian?” Dick asks from the doorway, almost timidly. “Are...are you okay?”
Damian just stares at him.
Tim sits on his bed and tries not to hyperventilate. Ignores the ache in his chest, the pounding in his head, and the fights the urge to run and find whoever will make this pain go away.
He’d caught sight of the mark in the mirror when he was washing his face and had stood there in shock for a few minutes once he realized what it was.
A soulbond mark.
Dick. It must be Dick. Who else? It’s only logical.
He isn’t ready.
Tim’s startled out of his thoughts by a loud rapping on his bedroom door.
“Babybird! Let me in.”
“Yeah, hurry up and open the door.”
Tim manages to get to his feet and open the door for Jason, who grabs him by the arm. “You’ll never guess what happened. Dick’s been jumping around the Manor telling everyone, I’m surprised I got here before he did. Damian has a soulbond mark.”
Tim’s pretty sure that he only manages not to faint through sheer willpower; Jason would never let him live it down.
“Hey...is something wrong?” Concerned, Jason leads Tim back over to his bed and sits him down. “What happened?”
Swallowing hard, Tim just turns slightly and tugs his shirt down, revealing the mark.
Tim sighs in agreement. “Jason...I. Damian and I don’t even get along. Damian and I can’t be in the same room for half an hour without arguing.”
“And Bruce and I can?”
“It’s not that same.” Tim glares at his older brother. “When I was ten years old, I saw the two of you together and knew you were in love.”
“Shut up, Jay. You know what I mean. But me, me and Damian? Right. We can’t go a whole day without one of us wanting to knock the other out. And...and god, Dick.”
“Shit,” Jason says softly, remembering. “This’ll break his heart.”
Tim nods miserably.
Jason sighs. “Okay, babybird. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that soulbonds are fucking complicated. And it’s not gonna be easy, especially not at the beginning. But listen -- don’t fight it. Promise me, Tim. Don’t fight it.”
“Okay,” Tim finds himself saying, it’s impossible not to - Jason looks so...desperate. Sounds so serious.
But Tim’s not so sure that he can do what Jason’s asking him.
Bruce has his head in his hands. Jason pats his shoulder comfortingly.
Soulbonds are supposed to be rare.
Now two in one household? And Tim and Damian, to top it all off.
Of course nothing in their family could be simple.
“We could elope,” Jason suggests.
Bruce considers this seriously. But he supposes that he’s not been the ideal father already. Abandoning three of his children - who now seem to be involved in some twisted love triangle - in a situation where there is already sure to be a lot of heartbreak probably would not help.
Still, it’s a very tempting offer.
“You see how Damian is doing,” Bruce instructs. “I’ll go talk to Tim.”
Somehow, Damian actually seems to be coping. Kicking the shit out of one of the punching bags might be helping with that, though.
“Hey, little demon.”
Damian doesn’t turn to look at his brother. “What do you want, Todd?”
“Just checking in.” Jason sits on one of the benches off to the side of the room. “How you holding up?”
“I’m soulbonded to Drake, Father looks like he wants to move to Australia and Grayson is acting like a kicked puppy. It is causing me physical pain to be in a different part of the Manor from Drake.”
Jason winces and nods in sympathy.
“And I highly doubt that Drake is willing to do anything about any of this.”
“And you are?” Jason can’t keep the surprised tone out of his voice.
Damian shoots him a disparaging look. “I am not stupid, Todd. I am well aware of the negative effects that fighting a soulbond has on both the soulbonded.”
“Yeah, it feels like shit,” Jason admits.
“So, I have concluded that it would only be foolish to deny this...connection.” Damian looks extremely uncomfortable with this conclusion nevertheless.
“But Tim’s not really going to like that, is he?”
“I don’t like it,” Damian snaps. “I am simply accepting that it is unavoidable. Drake, however, will not.”
“C’mere, little demon,” Jason says, patting the bench next to him.
Damian eyes him warily, but does as he says. “Do not touch me, Todd.”
“Yeah, I wasn’t going to...” Jason gives him a weird look, until he remembers what it was like for him, when he and Bruce were staying away from each other, and anyone touched him. It had felt so wrong, because it wasn’t Bruce. “Oh, god.”
Damian just looks at the ground.
Jason sighs. “You know, Tim’ll come around.”
“Course he will,” Jason says bracingly.
Meditation is Tim’s coping technique of choice. Not that it’s really working. He’s almost grateful when he hears the knock on the door.
At least it wasn’t Dick. Or worse, Damian. (At least, he tries to convince himself that it would be bad if it were Damian, instead of wonderful--)
“Bruce. I can’t do it.”
Bruce needs no further explanation to know what Tim means. “It’ll only make it worse, Tim.”
“You don’t know that, Bruce.”
Giving Tim an even look, Bruce says, “Yes. I do.”
“It’s not the same, and you know it.” Tim glares at Bruce and gets to his feet. “It’s not you and Jason. It’s me and Damian. God, it’s not that same at all.”
Bruce figures that it will do no good to point out that actually are similar to Jason and himself in quite a few ways - and he doesn’t really want to think about that himself, either - so he just says, “It doesn’t matter. It will still do you no good.”
“You don’t know that!”
What Bruce does know is how Tim is feeling right now. Why he’s denying the bond so desperately.
He can’t control it.
It’s also the reason that Bruce sent Jason to Damian, and he came to Tim - that loss of control over something that is now vital part of your life can be overwhelming. Jason accepted his and Bruce’s soulbond much more readily than Bruce did, and Bruce knows that Damian will be the same, while Tim is more like Bruce in that regard.
Again, like Bruce, Tim is unlikely to listen - but Bruce has to try.
Before Bruce can say any more, there’s another knock. And they both know who it is.
“I’ll give you two some privacy.” Bruce opens the door. Dick is standing there, hand raised to knock again. When Bruce moves past him, he grasps his first son’s shoulder briefly, then disappears down the hall.
Dick turns towards Tim, still lingering in the doorway. “Hey, Tim. Can I come in?”
Tim nods, and Dick comes to stand in front of him, gently shutting the door on the way in.
“No,” Dick cuts him off, grabbing Tim’s hand. He has a little smile on his face, but his eyes are so sad. “It’s okay, Tim. You don’t have to...it’s okay, I understand. I just. Thanks, Timmy. It was. Good.” He lets go of Tim and turns to leave, but Tim takes his hand again.
“What are you talking about, Dick?”
Confusion flickers across the older man’s face. “Well...you and Damian...”
“Dick, I’m not leaving you.” Tim ignores how strange Dick’s hand feels in his. How different. How wrong. “I won’t leave you just because...because of...”
“Tim!” Dick is horrified. “Tim, you’re soulbonded now. You can’t just...dismiss that!”
“I’m with you,” Tim says firmly. “I won’t leave you.”
“And I won’t get in the way of anyone’s soulbond!” Dick cries. “Listen, Tim. I won’t do that. Not to you. Not to Damian. Not to anyone.”
“I love you.”
“And I love you, but don’t you see, Tim?” Dick grabs Tim by the shoulders and draws him close, until their faces are only inches apart. “It doesn’t matter anymore. No matter when a soulmark appears, those two people, they’re meant to be together, and they always have been. It doesn’t matter what came before.”
“We don’t know that!”
Dick kisses Tim once, hard. “Yes, we do, Tim. We do. Just...just look at the people we know. Look at Bruce and Jason. Lois and Clark. Wally...Wally and Linda. I’ve loved before and it didn’t matter then. And it doesn’t matter now.”
“You always matter.” Tim tries to kiss him again, even though his every instinct is urging him not to, but Dick evades it.
“Thanks, Timmy. But I don’t matter in that way. Not anymore.” Another sad smile, and one last soft kiss, and Dick leaves Tim standing in the middle of his room, alone.
Jason is waiting outside in the hall. “You’re a self-sacrificing idiot, Dickie.”
“I know. But did you really expect me to get in the way of their soulbond?”
“Never.” Jason gets up and walks down the hall with Dick. “But I guess that’s why you’re our big brother.”
Dick slings his arm around Jason’s shoulders. “Hm?”
“You’re the best of us. And you always look after us.”