His birthday celebrations have been going on all day. From the break of dawn to the low shade of late afternoon. So far, there have been performances from fire breathers, acrobats, dancers of all shapes and forms; food that is sublime to the taste for even a royal of the Unseelie Court, and red wine ever flowing like blood from the line of barrels set up against the throne room walls.
With every breath, Dick can smell incense on the air, the flowery perfume of dryads mixed with sex from the darker corners. Laughter echoes around the great arched ceiling above, weaving in between discordant notes of music, and every face that turns to him is lit by a smile, some better at pretending to be friendly than others.
Happy birthday, Prince Richard, they say, in a wealth of different languages, Happy birthday. Happy birthday. Happy—
He’s already terribly bored of it all.
Across the way, Dick can make out the fire of Koriand’r’s hair forcing a space in the crowd as she laughs and dances with Roy. Nearby, his other best friend Donna, good as a sister, is leant down over a dark tome with the witch, Raven, and with every passing moment he wishes he could join them more, but as royalty (and more importantly, the one whose name this celebration is in) he cannot. He has to remain sitting on his throne, keeping up appearances, and bandy words as weapons where otherwise a simple dagger might do.
Bruce casts him a sharp look out of the corner of his eye from where he sits in his own chair, as if somehow sensing what Dick is thinking. Just the slightest downward turn of his lips is a warning, and so Dick sighs and reflexively straightens his back a little, tucking a lock of dark hair behind one pointed ear as the seconds tick by instead of escaping out the nearest window like he wants to.
His only solace is that, as with every birthday, there are gifts to be had. Some of them even useful.
So far, he’s already amassed a collection of new weapons, rings and jewels. There are also some purported magical items; mermaid scales from the far sea, pegasus feathers, spell scrolls and so on. Those have been set carefully aside to be validated by Alfred and Tim later. Fakes are always a possibility, and hidden assassination attempts even moreso.
The last thing he needs after a day like today is to wake up with a curse on his soul tomorrow.
Dick looks up as one of the servants, a thin limbed sprite with bright blue hair, fetches forward the next box. “From Lady Shayera and her consort Carter Hall,” he announces, “They regret not being able to attend your coming of age celebration personally, but hope this gift will make up for their absence.”
He gestures for the sprite to open it. From inside is pulled a cloak, dark, voluminous, and lined with raven feathers that shine blue-black in the candlelight. Out of everything he’s received so far, it’s the first object to make Dick lean forward with real interest, and beckon the servant to bring it closer.
Delicately, he runs his fingers over the feathers that encompass the neck. “It’s beautiful,” he says, imagining himself riding through the night with this streaming from his shoulders, “I’ll have to send a thank you to the hawk tribe, personally.”
“One would hope you’d send a personal thank you to all who have sent you gifts, Prince Richard.”
Dick looks up as Alfred comes to his side, offering him a fresh glass of wine from a platter, The sprite carefully withdraws with the cloak, folding it back inside its box to take over to the table with the rest. “But there’s so many, Alfred,” he says lightly, “I wouldn’t want to sprain my poor hands.”
“Ah, of course not.” Alfred replies a smile of his own, “We’ll just offend half of the fiefdoms who pay tribute to your father instead.”
“I’m afraid even at the risk of personal injury to you, my prince, I must insist on some measure of propriety.”
He laughs, taking the glass of wine. “Fine. What’s next?”
“Ah, nothing, sire.” The sprite speaks up, wringing his hands together. “That is the last of the gifts we have received so far.”
“Oh.” Dick does his best not to appear disappointed. He isn’t greedy, not at all, it’s just that with every present received he’ll now have no excuse not to pay full attention to the guests. “Does that mean everyone who’s coming has already arrived?”
“Most likely,” Alfred cuts in, “Evenfall is approaching, and we must close the gates soon.”
Regretfully, Dick nods. Leaving gates open to the Nightlands once the grey light of day abandons them is just asking for trouble. “Then perhaps now I could—”
“Until the king gives you permission to leave, remain in that chair, young man.”
He may not be a child anymore (officially so, after today) but that tone of voice from Alfred can still make him quiver. Giving up dignity, Dick pouts as he leans back in his throne. “It’s strange, you would think my birthday would be the one day of the year where I would get to do what I want.”
“The burden of being royalty, I’m afraid. Duty must come before pleasure.”
He wishes he could argue that, but past his distaste for these things, Dick knows that it is true. Duty has ruled his life ever since Bruce took him in, from the bright lands of the Seelie and into the night. He would never truly abandon it even if he were given the opportunity. He owes his father that much.
Across the room, Kori tosses her hair in a bright arc, catches his eye and winks. If he could have but an hour…
That’s when the doors at the end of the hall, so recently closed after the last guest entered, fly back open.
The chatter of the crowd dies out instantly, followed a moment later by the music as the bard playing catches sight of the same thing everyone else has. A man stands in the doorway, towering tall above most of the other humanoids in the room, with a long cloak sweeping from his shoulders above intimidating armour. A greatsword hangs down the man’s back, its hilt visible behind his shoulder and the long white hair that frames his face both.
Looking down the length of the hall, and seemingly basking in the disturbance he’s caused, Slade, master of the Wild Hunt, smirks and begins to parade his way towards the dais.
And he’s not alone.
A beast follows in Slade’s footsteps, the end of the leash holding its collar wrapped around the huntmaster’s hand. It’s greater in size than any other hunting hound Dick has ever seen, with huge ears pointing upwards and long, shaggy black fur.
As it gets closer, the reason why becomes increasingly clear. That’s no dog, it’s a wolf.
He rises from his seat as Slade draws closer. So too does Bruce, looking with narrowed eyes at the display. “Slade,” he growls, making his distaste for the man clear. For as long as Dick can remember, he and the huntmaster have never gotten along, and the only thing stopping them from being more open about it is the fact that they’re both as dangerous as each other, as well as essential to keeping the Nightlands under control.
The Unseelie might obey their king, but as the kingdom’s enforcer, they fear the huntmaster more.
In an attempt to dispel the potentially disastrous atmosphere that now fills the hall, Dick speaks his own greeting with enforced levity, “You’re late, Huntmaster. A few minutes more and we would have left you locked outside.”
“Your Majesty,” Slade says, looking at Bruce with a smug smile before turning his attention fully on Dick himself. His bow is as shallow as he can defensibly get away with, “My Prince; I can only apologise for my lateness. Bringing your gift to the castle took longer somewhat than I expected.”
Slade’s single eye shines with amusement, and Dick thinks it might be a good idea to send someone to check on the trolls who were guarding the gates before too much more time passes.
A thrum of anticipation builds in him, “My gift?” he asks.
The chain holding the wolf rattles a little as Slade lifts it, “Of course, I would never come to your birthday celebration empty handed, Richard.”
Ignoring the look Bruce is giving him, Dick takes the implied invitation to step down from the dias and closer to the wolf and Slade. Its size becomes even more apparent at such distance; it’s at least as big as a child’s pony, if not bigger. The top of its head reaches Slade’s chest, and for Dick his shoulders. He can make out a spattering of white hairs like dust amongst the otherwise pitch blackness of its fur, but most curious of all are the creature’s eyes; blue-green, rather than the more traditional gold or brown.
“Where did you find such a beast?” he inquires, fascinated as he carefully stretches out his hand towards the wolf’s nose.
“The Thorn Forest.” Slade answers, watching as the beast leans forward in turn to sniff at Dick’s hand, “He was but a pup when I stumbled upon him, alone and with no other pack to be seen.”
“And he’s completely tame?”
“Do you think I would give him to you if he wasn’t?” Slade’s smirk is daring, tempting Dick to say yes, he would. But he refrains from it, instead choosing to stroke his fingers along the wolf’s muzzle as Slade keeps talking. “I’ve spent years on his training; he’s the fiercest hound you will ever know, and the most obedient. Treat him well and I promise you, you will never have a more loyal companion.”
“He’s beautiful,” Dick agrees, “What’s his name?”
The wolf allows his touches with a little more than a slight shake of its head, eyes staring back into Dick’s own with more intelligence than he would expect from most animals.
“Jason,” Slade replies.
“Jason?” Dick looks up at him, raising an eyebrow, “Hardly seems fitting for such a creature.”
Surely something like Fang or Shadow would be better.
A low chuckle is Slade’s answer, “If you accept him, you are welcome to change it. Though it may take some work to convince him of that.”
Dick has a barb ready on his tongue to shoot back, only for the wolf to then distract him by pushing its head further under his hand in a plaintive motion to have its ears scratched instead. Instantly smiling, he obliges, knowing that no matter what else Slade might say now he has already made up his mind; he is keeping this wolf.
“Very well, Jason it is then.” Meeting Slade’s single eye, he nods to him, “I accept your gift with thanks, Huntmaster.”
“Then here, my Prince, take him as your own.”
Slade holds out the end of the leash, but when Dick reaches to take it from him, he is startled by the huntmaster twisting his grip around to grasp his hand for a moment. Slade’s fingers are warm and dry, huge against his own, and Dick’s heart beats that bit faster as he watches his hand be lifted and then pressed against the man’s lips, the touch lingering just long enough to threaten to cross the line into impropriety.
“Slade?” he questions.
“Join me on a hunt soon, Richard.” he says, quiet enough that no one else in the hall will hear, “Bring Jason with you, then I’ll show you everything my gift is capable of.”
Curiosity wars with caution for a moment as Dick considers it in the light of what Slade’s just done. The gesture no one could mistake the intention of.
“... I’ll think about it.” he finally replies diplomatically, well aware of everyone watching them.
“See that you do.” Slade says, still smiling as he drops Dick’s hand, now with Jason’s leash resting in it. “Happy birthday, Prince Richard; I hope you enjoy the rest of your party.”
He steps back, taking a moment to pet the top of Jason’s head before — with the smallest nod in Bruce’s direction — stepping back away into the crowd.
“I detest that man,” Bruce growls as Dick steps back onto the dais, leading the wolf after him. “How dare he—”
“Would you like me to take your new… ah, pet, down to the kennels, Prince Richard?” Alfred interjects quickly, before a true tirade can begin.
“No, thank you, Alfred,” Dick resumes his seat, this time with Jason lying at his feet. He scratches the blue-painted points of his fingernails between his wolf’s furred ears and grins at the stares of his friends from the crowd. “I’ll be keeping this one with me.”
Hours later, after an uncomfortable conversation with Bruce about watching Slade’s intentions and enduring a hundred different questions from his friends, after drinking and dancing through all the hours of the night, Dick is finally able to stumble free of the party and return to his own rooms with Jason in tow.
Throughout the night, the wolf has been a surprisingly reassuring presence, despite the fact Dick only made his acquaintance recently. Even as an animal, Jason seemed to share as much disdain for the party atmosphere as Dick himself, and though he endured the curious hands and words from his friends, he’d also proven to have a delightfully astute sense for when Dick wasn’t enjoying someone’s company. A few low growls had spared him more than a few unwelcome advances, much to his own pleasure. Yet, for all his ferocity, Jason had also proven Slade’s earlier words; he is exceptionally well trained, taking the scraps of meat Dick fed him from his own plate at dinner as gently as a lamb and obeying every command given to him without it ever needing to be repeated.
Now with the bedroom door shut behind him, Dick drops the end of Jason’s leash before taking great delight in kicking off his boots, one by one, into the opposite corner of the room. He strips off his jacket, then performs a quick pirouette in order to flop backwards onto the bed, sighing at the softness of the mattress and the sudden quiet surrounding him both.
It’s not a lie to say that for the most part Dick thrives on attention and the company of people, but even he doesn’t have an endless supply of energy, contrary to what most fae think.
Sighing, he takes great delight in closing his eyes and listening to nothing more than the sound of burning wood popping in the fireplace for a solid minute. At least until a questioning huff from the edge of the bed and a wet nose nudging at his leg interrupts him.
“Alfred would kill me if he knew I let you on the bed,” Dick murmurs, opening his eyes before lifting his head, “A good thing he’s not here.” Rolling onto his side, he pats the mattress next to him in blatant encouragement for Jason to climb up, which he instantly does with an eager wag of his tail.
As soon as the wolf is settled, Dick reaches over to start petting him again. Jason’s fur has a slightly coarse texture to it, but still feels warm and pleasant under his hand. The threads of white mixed in with the black become more apparent at this proximity, and Dick smiles when the wolf dips his head to lick his hand. Jason is definitely infinitely better company than anyone else he could have brought back to his room from the party tonight.
As he continues scratching his fingers down Jason’s ruff, Dick for the first time pays real attention to the collar he’s wearing.
It’s thick, heavy leather, decorated with braiding on the edges, and — as he looks closer — Dick can see more than that. There’s writing stitched into the leather, runes written in some language he doesn’t understand. Perhaps Tim or Alfred would know the words if they were here, and he makes a mental note to have them take a look at the collar tomorrow.
And that’s not all. There’s a jewel as well. A blood red ruby sitting centered at the front of the collar, directly over Jason’s throat. Idly, Dick reaches to run his thumb across the sharp cut surface of it and, by doing so, gets the biggest fright of his life.
It’s like the air around Jason vibrates suddenly, turns to the shimmery, hazy lines like the ones he remembers sometimes rising up from the roads of the Seelie lands on a bright summer’s day. Dick’s vision blurs, losing focus on him, and when it finally clears again what was once a huge, black wolf on his bed has suddenly turned to the tall muscled form of a young man.
Pale, freckled skin. The round ears of a human, and dressed in loose black linen that leaves bare his arms and the top of his chest. He has tousled black hair the same shade as Jason’s pelt, marred only by a white streak through the fringe of it, and blue eyes that edge towards becoming green the longer Dick stares at them.
The same eyes as the wolf, he realises.
For a small eternity, all they do is look at each other. Then finally instinct and training kick in, and pulling the long knife he always wears at his belt free, Dick lunges forward to shove the boy down flat on his back on the bed and push the blade in against his neck.
“What the hell is this?!” he demands, completely thrown off guard by the transformation, “Who are you?”
The boy yelps as he goes down, hands making an aborted motion to grip Dick’s arms before pressing themselves into the bed sheets instead. His head tilts back, baring his throat to the knife as he heaves a breath, then — in the rough tones of someone with rare cause to speak — shouts, “Whoa, wait! Wait, Master, please! I—Jason! I’m Jason!”
“Jason,” he repeats incredulously, then narrows his eyes, “I was given a wolf, now you’re a man. Explain that to me.”
“It’s a spell!” The boy responds, lifting one hand just enough to gesture to what appears to be a smaller version of the wolf’s collar wrapped around his neck, “You… you triggered it when you touched the jewel. That’s why I changed.”
That could be so, but still, it doesn’t take away from how suspicious this sudden transformation is. The fact that it happened without word or warning from the man who gave him Jason in the first place. Choosing to turn yourself into an animal to get close enough to kill a prince wouldn’t be the most elaborate assassination plot Dick’s ever heard of (ignoring, of course, the idea that assassination may have been Slade’s goal in giving him Jason all along), nor the most far-fetched one he’s survived.
“Slade said nothing about your ability to do this.” he points out, keeping his tone hard and unfriendly.
“No. He didn’t, he…” Jason swallows, the spark of fear in his arresting eyes now accompanied by a hint of exasperation, “He wanted it to be a surprise. Thought you’d like the idea of being the only one who knew the truth about me — not the entire court. And…”
“And?” Dick prompts, pressing the blade a little closer to the boy’s neck.
“He also found the idea amusing.” Jason finishes.
Dick snorts involuntarily. Of course, he thinks. Of course he would. As long as he can remember, the Huntmaster has always had a pretty terrible sense of humour, usually relating to other people’s misfortune or discomfort in some way. It makes perfect sense that knowing the full reveal of his ‘present’ would give Dick such a shock would amuse him.
Next time they meet, Dick will have to make sure he finds an appropriate to pay him back for it.
Keeping the knife at his throat, he continues to give Jason a hard look. “And did it not occur to him that having you suddenly change forms on me with no warning might be something I’d take as a suspicious action?”
“He told me it was my job to make sure you didn’t.”
“Good work,” Dick replies wryly. Lowering his gaze, he turns his focus to the jewel again, examining the way it glints and glimmers in the spell-lit lights of his room with no outward clue to its own magical nature visible. “If I touch that again, will you change back?”
“And what about anyone else?”
“It will only react to you, and Slade. He made sure of it.”
Interesting. With his initial shock and wariness beginning to pass, curiosity becomes Dick’s dominant emotion. Shifting the point of the dagger up under Jason’s chin, he reaches across the space between them to trace his fingers over the leather of the collar and gently circle the stone itself with the intention of seeing how Jason reacts.
He’s stiff, and the sharp line of his jaw shows that he has his teeth gritted, but there’s no flinching as he continues to hold himself perfectly still for whatever it is Dick intends.
“It doesn’t surprise me that he’d keep himself in the loop.” he says lowly, already considering the possibility of having that particular caveat removed from the spell. One level of control left by Slade on his gift may yet lead to another. “Are there any other secrets about you I should know?”
“Depends what you’d count as a secret.” Jason replies, tilting his head back a little further.
Was that a hint of attitude below the submissive exterior? Dick is almost more interested in that than anything else.
“Let’s start simple,” he says, “I’ll ask you some questions and you’ll answer them honestly. If I think you’re lying at any point, my new pet will become my new rug, understand?” Jason shudders as he nods, throat bobbing beneath the sharp edge of the knife, and Dick allows himself a slightly savage smile to complete the act.
“Good. Now, first question, how long have you been with Slade?”
Jason cocks his head. Trying to calculate the years, Dick’s sure. “... a long time.” is his eventual answer. “Since I was a pup. I’m not sure how long exactly, only that I don’t remember much before him.”
Interesting choice of phrase. “Since you were a pup… So are you originally a man or a wolf?”
He shrugs uncomfortably, “I don’t know, Master. As far as I know, I’ve always been able to go between.”
Curiouser and curiouser. Dick twists the handle of the blade between his fingers as he gives Jason a considering look. “Even without the collar?”
“Yes. But…” Jason wrinkles his nose, “I can’t control the change myself anymore. Not since it was put on.”
“That must be frustrating for you.”
“Sometimes.” he answers, after a brief moment of hesitation. Dick’s warning about staying truthful clearly remains present in his mind. “But I’m used to it now.”
Yes, Slade would have made sure of that.
Sitting back a little where he straddles Jason’s waist, Dick considers his next question carefully. “What was Slade’s real purpose in giving you to me? And what does he mean me to do with you, knowing what you really are?”
“Whatever you want.” Jason answers candidly, breathing a little easier as the knife moves an inch away from his throat. “Leave me as a wolf, and I’ll just be your pet, I’ll guard and hunt for you. Or like this, I can be…” he licks his lips, “He had me trained in a lot of different things, so I could please you no matter what. As to his purpose,” Jason’s gaze, those arresting eyes of his, suddenly fix themselves on Dick’s own, “I think he made that clear when he handed me over to you.”
“Yes,” Dick says, after a moment, “He did.”
So I could please you no matter what. It’s impossible to miss the implication behind those words, and despite his resolve to stay on topic, Dick can’t help his eyes wandering a little. Over Jason’s face (handsome, he notes now, with its smattering of freckles), his dark curled hair, and the fit muscle of his body. The width of his waist and pelvis is pleasant between Dick’s thighs, and the way he looks at him, like Dick is his entire world now that Slade has handed him over, it’s… it’s…
He takes a deep breath, forcing himself to focus again.
“All right. I suppose it would have been easier for you to just kill me as a wolf than like this if that was your purpose.” Sliding the knife back into its sheath, Dick climbs off Jason to sit back on the mattress.
The boy slowly sits up after him, rubbing his neck above the collar. “You’re keeping me, then?” he asks, wary but with a notable touch of hope.
“For now,” Dick answers, unwilling to commit completely just yet.
The mattress creaks as Jason climbs off it, moving instead to the floor. He kneels in front of Dick, which doesn’t help stay the thoughts that entered his head a minute ago any. “Thank you, Master.”
Dick has to wonder what Slade may have threatened Jason with if he didn’t make sure he was accepted by him (if he didn’t wind up dead in the process, that is).
“You can call me Dick here.” he says.
Jason eyes widen with surprise, “I... really?”
It’s almost like he thinks the offer might be a trap. Dick waves his hand dismissively before elaborating, “I get enough of the titles out there with everyone else, I don’t need to add ‘master’ to the mix. Besides,” he arches an eyebrow, finally allowing his face to relax into a small smile, “It would please me, and isn’t that what you’re here for?”
Jason’s mouth hangs open for a moment. Then, just as quickly as it fell, he snaps it shut before nodding, “Yes, Mas—Dick. Yes, Dick.”
The words, idly said, cause Jason to sway forwards slightly. There’s something almost shy in his gaze as he bows his head, letting his hair spill forward to cover part of his face. Any closer and he’d be pressed right up against Dick’s legs, just like he had been earlier as a wolf.
It’s not a thought Dick minds much at all.
“Is there anything else you’d like me to do for you now?” Jason chooses that moment to ask.
“Now?” Dick asks, somehow managing to avoid saying the first thing that comes to mind when he hears that question, “Now all I want to do is sleep, birthdays are exhausting.”
Reaching up, he starts to undo the buttons of his doublet (midnight blue with silver accents), starting with the ones at his wrists before moving on to the fastenings over his chest. He shrugs out of the garment, dropping it carelessly on the floor before removing the shirt he wears underneath as well. Without being asked to, Jason automatically moves to gather them up and take them over to hang neatly from the back of the chair that sits next to the desk in the room.
Dick can’t help but be amused at how impressed Alfred will be in the morning. He’s always going on at Dick for how carelessly he treats his clothes. And on that note…
“Come here,” he gestures to Jason, who immediately obeys, walking over and dropping to his knees in front of him again. “Your ability won’t be much of a secret if a servant comes in to find you like this in the morning.”
“I guess not,” Jason says, casting his eyes downwards, like it wasn’t what he expected Dick to say and is almost disappointed for it.
Dick tries not to think too hard on that as he moves his hand to Jason’s collar again.
“Don’t worry,” he replies lightly, before touching his finger to the jewel, “I’ll still let you sleep in my bed.”
As a wolf, Jason can’t answer him, but Dick knows he understands by the way he jumps up onto the mattress, settling down and curling himself into a huge lump at the bottom of the bed. Dick takes that a sign to lie back himself, waving his hand at the lights to dim them, and feels no shame at all for tucking his bare feet in against Jason’s fur to keep them warm.
Over the next few days, Dick wars with himself on whether to keep Jason a secret known only to himself, or let his family in on the truth of him, too.
He knows what Bruce would say. That of course he should. That it’s a matter of security. A dumb beast would be one thing, but a wolf that can understand every word that’s said to him is another matter entirely. There’s too much risk there, to their lives and their secrets both.
But then again, Dick also wonders if Bruce would share such information with him were he in his place instead. Probably not, his instinct says, considering all the information he knows Bruce has hidden from him over the years. The secrets he’d ostensibly kept for Dick’s own good, or the kingdom’s.
Secrets they’d had fallouts over, more than once.
Thinking about that is the main reason he keeps his mouth shut at first, but it quickly becomes apparent to him that there’s another reason, too. After all, there’s so little in Dick’s life that he can truly say belongs to him and him alone. Almost nothing that in some way he doesn’t have to share with someone else, either family or otherwise. And right now, Jason is one of those things. A secret that belongs to no one else but him (and Slade, of course, but by now he’s far enough away that Dick almost doesn’t factor that in to his considerations). The thought of giving that up, Bruce’s reaction...
It’s selfish, but in the end Dick makes a bargain with himself. He’ll wait a week. If by the end of that he feels a need to tell Bruce the truth he will, but if not…
If not, then he gets to keep Jason all to himself.
“That thing looks like it could take your head off.” Tim says to him at breakfast the day after his birthday, eyes widening at the same time as his delicate, moth-like wings lift up in small alarm when Dick leads Jason into the dining room. “Alfred wasn’t kidding when he said it was big.”
Dick allows himself a small chuckle as he sits at the table, hand immediately dropping down to rest on top of Jason’s head. “Big enough for you to ride probably. Don’t worry, I’m pretty sure his bark is worse than his bite.”
“Have to be a pretty big bark for that to be true.” Tim replies, dubiously. “You sure he’s safe?”
“So far. You wanna pet him?”
Jason’s ears twist back at the offer, which perhaps fuels Tim’s choice to shake his head. “No thanks,” he mutters, going back to nibbling at his toast, “I’d rather keep my hand.”
Dick grins before settling down to eat himself. Though the servants bring a great bowl of meat scraps and bones for Jason to chew on, he still enjoys slipping him strips of bacon under the table from his own plate.
Each day, he goes through his tasks and duties with Jason at his heels, despite encouragement from the servants and Alfred to put him in the castle kennels instead. The wolf feels larger than life within the subterranean corridors; a steady and powerful presence at Dick’s side. When he uses Jason as an excuse to go outside, to climb and ride, he proves to be just as quick and powerful as Dick imagined he would be when he first saw him, easily keeping up with even a faery horse at full gallop.
(And Dick can’t help but think of Slade’s invitation to hunt with him again in that moment. How utterly ferocious Jason could be when unleashed. It’s something he’d very much like to see).
In the evenings, late at night when he’s sure they won’t be interrupted by anyone, Dick turns Jason back into a man, and they talk.
“So what did Slade tell you about me before he brought you here?” he asks him one night, stretched out on the bed and watching as Jason neatly hangs his jacket and shirt on the chair for him again.
It’s becoming a habit Dick just can’t bring himself to tell Jason to stop. He enjoys the look of annoyance on his face every time he drops his clothing down onto the floor too much.
At the question, Jason stops, flicking a slightly wary glance back at him out of the corner of his eye. That reaction is also part of what made him decide to ask — wondering if it’s because of the way Slade may have treated Jason in the past, or what he might have told Jason about him.
“A few things,” he answers, ruminating on each word as he goes. “He told me you were the heir to the Unseelie crown, but you were born a Seelie and raised in their lands until the Unseelie king took you in. That you are quick, strong and smarter than most take you for, and you can be very dangerous when you want to be.”
Interesting. Dick had no idea Slade has been paying such close attention to him, but he definitely needs to make sure he stays aware of it now. He’s given so little thought to that aspect of Slade’s appearance at his birthday since it happened, what with his attention being so completely focused on Jason.
“When I want to be,” he chooses to reply, reaching up to scratch his cheek in thought. “Is that all, or did he say anything else?”
Jason’s gaze meets his more boldly for a moment before he looks away again. Dick’s thinking of reminding him of his threat about telling the truth when Jason finally continues, “... he said that you have a lot of potential. And…” the tips of Jason’s ears go pink in the candlelight, “That you’re beautiful, too.”
That startles a laugh out of Dick. Not because they’re words he’s never heard before, or doesn’t believe in, but because of the way Jason stammers over them. The look of shy embarrassment on his face, it’s cute.
“And what do you think?” he can’t resist asking.
“I think that I don’t know you well enough yet to say.” Jason answers carefully.
Dick tries not to feel a little disappointed, but does so anyway. It’s strange how attached he’s begun to feel to Jason in such a short span of time. Maybe it’s the fact that he met him as a wolf. That Jason spends most of his time as a wolf. A creature that, for all its size and ferocity, still feels so much safer to Dick than many of the people he’s met in his life. It makes him want to trust Jason far quicker than he knows he should. Especially given that he can’t be quite so certain about the man’s own feelings toward him.
When he’s the wolf, Jason is warm and personable. Happy to press up against Dick’s legs and hip, lick his hand and push his head in close to have his ears scratched. But as a human he seems to change into an entirely different person, one that’s far more cautious and less sure of himself.
Dick decides not to press him any further on that point.
“Potential,” he muses, returning instead to one of the other things Jason said. “What did Slade mean by that?”
One of Jason’s shoulders lifts in half a shrug, “He didn’t tell me. He only shared information that he thought I needed to know.”
Information that he doesn’t mind you telling me, you mean, Dick thinks. It all feels designed to pull on his curiosity, to make him want to take up Slade’s offer. Steel isn’t the Huntmaster’s only weapon, after all.
He puts a pin in that thought for later. “Come here,” Dick reaches out his hand to Jason, beckoning him closer.
Jason obeys at once, pacing across the room to him with a lope in his stride that still looks distinctly lupine. At the edge of the bed, he goes to drop down onto his knees before Dick stops him with a hand on his arm.
“No, sit here, next to me.” he orders.
Jason’s skin is warm under his fingers as Dick guides him back upwards, until he’s sitting on the mattress next to him with only a few inches of space left between them. Jason is a little taller than he is, but he curls his shoulders down like he’s trying to make himself appear smaller — another drop onto the pile of things Dick finds so interesting about him.
“Enough about Slade,” he says, “I want to know more about you, Jason.”
“About me?” Jason replies, openly surprised the same way he has been about so much of Dick’s behaviour towards him. “I… what kind of things do you want to know?”
After the first couple of nights, Dick had managed to wean him of any attempts to call him ‘Master’, but Jason still tends to avoid using his name directly when he can help it.
“Anything,” he shrugs, “What you like, what you don’t like. About your past. Anything.”
Jason licks his lips, eyes sliding away from his own. “I don’t… I’m not really interesting. You probably won’t—”
“Jason, you’re a man who can turn into a wolf. Or a wolf who can turn into a man.” Dick interrupts him, a touch impatiently. “That’s almost the definition of ‘interesting’. Besides,” here he grins as he uses what has become a key phrase to get what he wants from Jason, “It would please me to hear it.”
Jason lips purse for a moment, a hint of a scowl threatening to bend his brow before he forces it back.
Dick can’t help but wonder what it would take to make him break that self-enforced control.
“Fine,” he mutters, “I guess if you really want to know…”
“I do,” Dick encourages, leaning towards him.
Jason chews his lip for a moment before going on to answer, “I like… being outside. Running, hunting. Going out right after it’s rained. Good food, the colour green, and…” he hesitates slightly, casting a sidelong look at Dick, “I like to read, when I’m allowed to.”
Dick allows his smile to widen on his face. “See? That wasn’t so hard. I like a lot of those same things, too, though not so much the colour green. I’m more of a blue fan.”
Jason’s lips twitch a little, like he’s fighting a smile of his own. “Really?” he says, “I couldn’t tell.”
“Yeah, I wear a lot of it.” Dick laughs, “But it suits me, don’t you think?” Leaning back, he gives Jason the chance to get a good look at him, and doesn’t miss the way he takes the opportunity to run his eyes up and back down Dick’s torso.
That adorable blush returns to his ears as he reluctantly agrees, “It’s not bad.”
Dick suspects he might have an easier time pulling teeth than getting a straightforward response from Jason, but still, he persists onwards.
“Thanks,” he says, a tad wryly even though he invited the half-assed compliment himself. “So, that’s things you like, what about what you don’t?”
Jason frowns again before answering, still clearly confused about why Dick might care. “The cold. Snow. Being confined. Ignored.” his eyes suddenly shift back to Dick’s face, and there’s a hint of daring in his tone when he says, “Mess, and people who don’t pick up after themselves.”
Dick laughs before he knows it, and suspects in the second after that Jason’s testing him, seeing how far Dick’s seemingly lax attitude towards him extends. “Ouch,” he says, pushing back the hair that’s fallen across his face from his moment of mirth, “I guess I should consider myself told.”
A small smile of his own appears on Jason’s face, only to then be quickly hidden again.
This time, it’s Dick’s turn to frown.
“You know, I’m starting to get the impression that there’s a whole side to you I don’t know yet, Jason,” he muses quietly, reaching out to trace his fingers over the patterns of the quilt covering his bed. “Not the wolf, or what you’ve shown me so far as a man, but...” he cocks his head, “More.”
Jason stares at him, and of course, Dick knows that as much as he feels like Jason’s testing him, Jason must feel like he’s being tested by Dick in turn. Which isn’t completely untrue, what with who had given Jason to him in the first place. Dick needs to know there’s nothing else there, nothing hidden that will later come back to bite him in the ass.
It’s the way of the fae to trick others, to plot and scheme and have a hundred secrets held inside them. The only difference between the realms of light and dark, Seelie and Unseelie, that he’d found after living with both sides was that at least his second home didn’t pretend that wasn’t true.
“I’m not going to punish you for speaking your mind, Jason, especially when I’m the one who asked you to do so in the first place.” Dick continues, putting it out there loud and clear for Jason to hear.
Jason lifts his chin slightly, “Even if I say something you don’t like?”
Dick remembers seeing the wolf make a similar motion the first time he’d walked Jason past the castle’s guard dogs. It’s a challenge, and he keeps his head lifted while he waits for Dick’s reply.
With that in mind, Dick shrugs, keeping the gesture carefully casual, “Empty flattery I can get from anyone, but if you’re really going to be my companion then I want honesty from you at all times. Not just when I have a knife to your neck.”
Jason holds his gaze for a moment longer, then finally lets his eyes dip back down slightly.
“You’re not at all what I expected.” he admits.
“No?” Dick replies, with a flush of pleasure at hearing it. He always does get a kick out of surprising people. “What did you expect?”
“A spoiled brat.”
The words are said so bluntly that Dick knows that Jason is finally taking his request to heart. “Thanks,” he replies, raising his eyebrows up theatrically, “That because I’m royalty?”
“Pretty much, yeah.” Jason says, confidence seeming to grow in every syllable the longer Dick goes without turning on him. “Arrogant, cold — someone who wouldn’t hesitate to take full advantage of being given something like me.”
Something, he says. Not someone.
Dick considers teasing Jason for a moment, backed by his own already existing thoughts about his looks and his personality, but eventually he settles on plain honesty instead. “Bruce would have my head if I ever acted that way. And I haven’t always been royalty; I was actually born a commoner. My parents were entertainers, performers. I lived nine years that way before I was brought here.”
“You ever miss it?” Jason asks suddenly, “The light?”
Images of sunlit vistas immediately flash to mind. The green grass and leaves of trees, flowers ever in bloom thanks to the Seelie land’s’ eternal summer. Dick remembers the taste of nectar and honey on his tongue, delicacies nearly impossible to cultivate here, and the lightness of the air as he swung through it, buoyed up by the shared gaiety of those around him and silken rope both.
But at the same time, he also remembers the vapidness of so many of the smiles he saw. The cruelty hidden beneath the beauty. Sparkling laughter that had knives hidden inside it. And, worst of all, his family’s blood staining pastel coloured flagstones as it slowly seeped out into a pool around them.
“Only sometimes.” he answers carefully, then because he’s interested, “Have you ever seen it?”
“Slade took me hunting there a couple times.” Jason’s eyes shutter for a moment in memory, “It was beautiful.”
He has thick eyelashes, Dick notes, not for the first time either. Thick with a natural curl like his hair, and combined with the handsome lines of his face and his well defined lips…
Abruptly, he yanks his thoughts back towards being on topic.
“It is,” he replies, a little wistfully. He won’t ask why Slade had taken Jason over there, there’s only one reason why the Huntmaster would travel to the Seelie lands, after all (at least, only one reason why he should). Nor will he ask if Jason killed anyone in the place; if he knows what Seelie blood tastes like, as well as that of his normal prey. “But the night is beautiful, too.”
Jason ducks his head again, in a way that seems shyly pleased to have heard Dick say that.
Finally, it seems like he’s warming up to him.
They talk more after that before Dick turns Jason back into the wolf for the night, and repeat the pattern every night thereafter. By the end of the week, Dick recognises he’s fallen into a comfortable pattern, and his own personal deadline on whether to truly keep Jason as his and his alone seems to fly by without any word of the secret passing his lips.
He gets to know Jason better. Gets him to open up, piece by tiny piece.
What he discovers, is that — beneath the defensive outer shell — Jason has an acerbic wit, one that oftens makes him laugh when he offers dry commentary on the courtiers Dick has to deal with each day. That he’s quick to criticise, and slow to compliment. Which is interesting, because he himself seems to crave positive reinforcement, and even the smallest approval from Dick can have his tail wagging both figuratively and literally, depending on what form he has at the time. He tries to hide it, of course, at least as a human, but Dick’s good at reading people. He always has been.
He continues to take Jason with him everywhere. Has him sit in at dinners, meetings. Feels the warmth of his weight over his feet and against his legs. He listens when Jason growls or snaps his teeth at anyone, when his ears twist back. Moreso when he relaxes in the presence of someone who isn’t Dick, resting and going to sleep curled up next to his chair.
Alfred first, then Bruce and eventually Tim. Finally, his friends, as if Jason’s gradually accepting them all as his pack. Judging them safe to be around himself, and Dick by extension.
(He can’t help but think of how his youngest brother, Bruce’s only son by blood, who lives far away with his mother, would probably be enamoured of Jason too, if only he could meet him.)
“I swear you like this mutt better than us these days.” Roy jokes one evening when they’re lounging outside the back of the castle together, though the words have no bite considering he currently has his hands buried in Jason’s fur after wrestling around with him on the floor. The bout had ended with Jason laid on top of him, pinning the gancanagh down with his weight — much to Dick and Kori’s amusement from where they sit watching them.
“Well, he doesn’t drool as much as you do,” Dick answers lightly, “That’s one big point in his favour.”
Kori laughs while Roy pretends to be wounded, not able to ape the motions as much as he normally would with Jason crushing him. Finally taking pity, Dick pats his leg to summon the wolf back to his side.
“Roy is right, though,” Kori says, with her head resting atop his own as she reaches out to run her own fire-kissed fingers along Jason’s fur, “You have become enamoured of this creature.”
“Is that a problem?” he asks her, as Roy picks himself up and dusts himself off, grumbling under his breath about how he stinks of dog now.
“No,” she kisses his temple, “I’m simply glad you’re happy, and it is reassuring to know you have someone else looking out for you at all times now.”
“You make it sound like I can’t take care of myself.”
He feels her smile, “No, I’m saying sometimes you forget to.”
Dick can see Jason’s head tilt up, ostensibly simply to be closer to the warmth of Kori’s fingers, but he has his ears pricked as well as he listens to their conversation. “I’m not that bad,” he says, trying to brush the comment off.
“Nah, you’re worse.” Roy interrupts, dropping down next to them on Kori’s other side, “But she’s right, you’ve been much more relaxed since you got Jason. Guess you might have to go ahead and marry Slade, after all.”
Dick takes the opportunity to throw a piece of pastry from their picnic at him, pleased when it lands square between his eyes.
“Roy does have a point, though,” Kori muses, ignoring their squabbling, “Have you decided yet how to respond to the Huntmaster’s offer?”
In truth, Dick’s been so wrapped up in Jason that he’s hardly thought about it. He’d shared the details of what exactly Slade had said to him in the moment of kissing his hand with his friends only, and the reminder of how it had felt in that moment abruptly makes his stomach tighten all over again. Of course, he hasn’t been able to share the other small details he’d learned from Jason with them, but what they did know was enough that they’re almost more interested in seeing the result of what the Huntmaster has started than he is.
“Yes,” he replies after a moment’s consideration, “I’ll go on the hunt, if only because I want to take Jason.”
And it is probably best not to offend Slade, to preserve the fragile peace of the kingdom if nothing else.
“Sure thing,” Roy smirks at him, “Well, you better give us a full report back when you do. Gory details and all.”
Dick throws another piece of pastry at him, “Shut up, Roy.”
They spend the rest of the time joking about other, less serious things, and watching the ghostly tendrils of the mist wraiths inhabiting the lake grasp at the moths hovering over the water’s surface before tramping back inside. Leaving his friends behind, Dick returns to his room, and as soon as the door is locked extends his hand to brush a finger over the ruby at the center of Jason’s collar.
“You shouldn’t go alone.” are the first words to cross his pet’s lips, the moment they’ve finished forming.
“Excuse me?” Dick replies, blinking at the swiftness at which he’s spoken.
“If you do go on a hunt with Slade, you shouldn’t go alone.” Jason repeats, fingers flexing in and out of fists as he climbs up onto his feet.
“I won’t be alone,” Dick says, raising an eyebrow, “I’ll be taking you.”
“No, I mean…” he looks frustrated for a moment, “Take one of your friends with you.”
Dick stops in front of a crystal decanter of wine that’s been left on the table for him by one of the servants. This is new, and he has no idea what to make of it. Jason has never tried to dissuade him from going on the hunt before.
“Why?” he asks, frowning, “Is there something I should be worried about?”
“Slade,” Jason says, folding his arms tightly across his chest, “He’s dangerous.”
Dick can’t help the snort that escapes him, “Everyone knows that.” Picking up the decanter, he pours himself a glass. “You’re going to need to be a bit more specific.”
Irritation flashes openly across Jason’s face as he steps closer to him. “I mean…” he appears to be making a meal out of the inside of his cheek as he speaks, “I don’t know all of what he wants from you. He didn’t tell me. But I…”
“But?” Dick prompts, frowning as he picks up the glass.
Jason grits his teeth, head bowed as he heaves a deep breath in through his nose and out through his mouth. “But it’s probably nothing good.”
Dick blinks slowly at him, before a smile curves his lips, “You’re worried about me.”
At once, Jason scowls, turning his face towards the opposing wall. His body language reads uncomfortable, and again Dick wonders at what it is that enables Jason as the wolf to so clearly express emotion, yet hold back when he’s like this.
He takes a sip of the wine, then places it back down on the table before walking over to Jason. Once they’re standing face to face, he lifts up his hand, gently catching his pet’s chin so he can guide Jason’s eyes back up to his own.
“You don’t have to worry,” Dick tells him softly, “Despite what Kori says, I do know how to take care of myself. And as powerful as Slade is, he’d have to be mad to really try anything against me; I’m the crown prince. Doing so would only break the stalemate between him and Bruce, and bring disaster down on him.”
“And what if that’s what he wants?” There’s no stubble on Jason’s jaw, only smooth skin brushing Dick’s fingers as he responds.
“There are easier ways to do so than by using me.” Dick frowns at the question, though, “Jason, if there's something you want to tell me…”
He leaves the offer hanging there, registering the way a small shudder runs through Jason’s shoulders. He’s biting his lip now, taut as a sea-drenched line. Another shudder and he tries to bow his head again, only Dick doesn't let him, forcing them to keep looking at each other.
“Jason,” he says again, nudging him to talk.
“There’s… nothing. Nothing about Slade. I told you everything I know.”
“Are you sure?” Dick tilts his head, pushing his thumb further along Jason’s jaw. “I want to trust you, Jay, but… sometimes it feels like you’re still holding back from me.”
Jason inhales sharply, “I’m not lying,” he says, as his jaw clenches up, “Not about that. Not about anything. You can… you can trust me.”
Dick doesn’t answer his declaration immediately, musing over both the choice and order of the words, and the pause is just long enough to spur Jason into talking again before he can.
“I like being here,” he blurts out, blush highlighting his freckles. “With you.”
And that? That’s exactly what Dick’s wanted to hear ever since he found out what Jason really was. The push to know that being here with him is no longer a matter of obligation — because he was forced to do so by Slade’s hand — but because he wants to stay.
The smile slides over his face like quicksilver. Shifting his hand upwards, Dick reaches to stroke back Jason’s hair, “Good,” he says, “Because I like you being here with me, too.”
Giving in to the impulse he’s held back for so long, Dick finally leans up and presses his lips against Jason’s own.
He’s stiff at first, stunned Dick’s sure, by the suddenness of it. But after a moment, Jason’s mouth softens, and he leans forward in a way that blares out desperate need despite the way he keeps his hands pressed down at his sides.
There’s something intoxicating about that. Desire paired with restraint. Dick wants to break it suddenly, stepping forward with a full body lurch of lust to press himself in against Jason’s chest. Wants to tear it apart, break down every barrier. Wants to almost climb into his skin and find out what’s really been hiding inside.
On violent impulse, he sinks his teeth into the plumpness of Jason’s lower lip, before taking advantage of the resultant gasp to slip his tongue between his parted lips and seize control of his mouth. There’s a rough, deep flavour to him that Dick instantly likes, and when Jason’s hands jump to his waist from shock, he tightens his own grip in his hair, as well as takes the opportunity to wrap his other arm in around his shoulders.
“Dick,” Jason pants roughly against his mouth when he finally withdraws, “Dick, I…”
“I wanted you since the first moment I saw you like this,” Dick confesses, “But I couldn’t just… I wanted you to want me, too.”
“That… that’s a lot of want.” Jason replies fuzzily, and slightly nonsensically.
Dick laughs at the dazed look on his face before agreeing, “Yes, it is.”
Jason’s lips already look deliciously red after just one, admittedly intense, kiss, and so Dick can’t resist leaning up to do it again. “Come to bed with me,” he murmurs, turning his head to whisper the words in against his ear while sighing at the feeling of the strong lines of Jason’s body against his own. When he steps back to move towards the bed, Jason follows him at once, without even an iota of hesitation or protest.
Once they reach the edge, Dick turns them around and pushes Jason down so that he falls to sit on the mattress, before then just as quickly sliding himself over his lap. It’s an easy, comfortable fit, and Dick hums happily as he cups Jason’s face between his hands and runs his thumbs across the line of his cheekbones.
“Fuck,” Jason mutters, staring up at him with wide eyes.
“That’s what I was hoping for,” Dick can’t resist murmuring back, admiring the way the dark blue polish on his nails contrasts Jason’s pale skin.
It makes him blush all the harder, and even before they resume kissing, Dick can feel the thick line of Jason’s cock under his ass, growing harder by the second. He kisses him over and over, runs his fingers over Jason’s face, through his hair, and even across the back of his neck, smiling when he feels the hard leather of the collar interrupt his path. He hooks one hand around it as he starts to grind their hips together, gasping both at the heat of the sensation and the sudden bruising pressure of Jason’s own hands about his waist.
“What… what do you want me to…” Jason stutters this time when they break, flushed and dishevelled, despite the fact that neither of them have removed so much as a single item of clothing yet.
As soon as he’s had that thought, Dick knows exactly how to answer his question.
“Undress,” he orders, pulling at the collar just hard enough to make Jason’s breath hitch, “I want to see you, all of you.”
And as soon as Dick gives him the room to do so, Jason is jumping to obey. The sleeveless black top he wears in this form is roughly pulled off and dropped next to the bed, amusing Dick with the fact that Jason’s usually finicky nature when it comes to tidiness apparently doesn’t extend to this situation. But that amusement quickly gives way to wonder and admiration as he continues to strip off, revealing more and more of that beautiful pale skin and toned muscle. Dick shivers when he notices Jason’s freckles extend down over his shoulders, and when he removes his trousers… stars above, his thighs.
“I want to eat you up,” he whispers hoarsely, reaching out to brush his fingers down the nearest one. “Gods, Jason, I want to…”
Jason’s whole body turns pink in that moment, the flush running down him from head to toe as Dick moves his hand back to trace the proud jut of his exposed cock. He bites his lip, whimpers when Dick goes on to turn that light touch into an open caress.
“Tell me what to do,” he almost begs, eyes greedily resting on Dick’s face in turn, “Tell me, please.”
The power offered to him in those words almost turns Dick’s legs to jelly. There’s so many temptations, so many ideas he has, but only one he knows he wants to explore right now.
“On the bed,” he directs him, “Lie down, on your back.”
As Jason climbs back onto the mattress, Dick straightens up and starts to remove his own clothes. Slower than Jason did — he can’t resist the opportunity to make a show of it, undoing buttons and knots before sliding the fabric off his skin with artistic flair. From where he lies, half-rolled onto his side despite the explicitness of Dick’s instruction that he be on his back, Jason watches him with greedy eyes and impatient clenches of his fingers against the bedsheets.
“I thought I told you to lie on your back,” Dick gently chides as he steps out of his trousers, kicking them lightly to one side.
“I wanted to see.” Jason replies brazenly, not looking away or shifting back.
Dick smirks, choosing to respond to that by shamelessly stretching his arms up above his head. “And?” he asks, “Do you like what you see?”
Jason swallows thickly, his hands visibly tearing at the sheets. “I think that’s obvious.” he says, again refusing to compliment him directly.
“Yes,” Dick purrs self-confidently, “It is. Though I thought you would’ve already had enough of an eyeful watching me change these past few weeks.”
He climbs onto the bed to straddle Jason’s lap once more, this time revelling in the feeling of bare skin against his own. Jason’s breath hitches sweetly, hands reaching again for his hips before Dick catches and presses them back down.
“It’s not the same as the wolf,” he gasps, eyes darkening in a way that tells Dick he likes the show of force, “The way I see things, feel them…”
“Tell me,” Dick says, leaning down to mouth over his jawline.
“It’s…” the tendons in Jason’s wrists flex under his palms as he gasps, “Simpler. I don’t know… less complicated, and…”
“And?” he punctuates his last kiss with a press of teeth as well.
“Easier,” Jason says, eyes fixed on his face on Dick leans back up. “Just easier.”
He finds his expression unexpectedly softening at the confession. “It can be easy like this, too,” Dick promises him, smiling as he releases one of Jason’s wrists in favour of trailing his fingertips across his mouth. Jason instantly kisses them — even daring a wet lave of his tongue across the pads.
It takes a lot of strength for Dick to not just thrust them into his mouth then because of it.
“Speaking of the wolf,” he says, reining himself back in before he can forget, “We should probably take a little precaution before I really have my way with you.”
“Precaution?” Jason repeats blankly, not following what he means.
“With this.” Dick clarifies, pressing his thumb into the hollow of Jason’s throat underneath where the red stone sits. “Accidentally touching this while we’re in the middle of things could really spoil the mood, don’t you think?”
“Oh. Right, yeah.” Jason lets out a slightly awkward chuckle, “That would be, uh, bad.”
“Mmhm.” Dick flicks his nose playfully, grinning wider when Jason wrinkles it in response, before leaning over to the side of the bed (clenching his teeth as their flesh slides together) and retrieving a handkerchief from the nearby side table. It’s a deep, dark midnight blue, and embroidered in gold with the symbol of Bruce’s court, which makes it doubly pleasing to wrap around the front of Jason’s collar, replacing the red Slade had chosen for him with Dick’s own favourite colour.
“There,” he murmurs, once he’s finished, “Now we can have all the fun we like.”
To punctuate that statement, Dick shifts his hips again, making the slide of his own cock against Jason’s this time that much more purposeful than before. The effect is immediate, as Jason lets out a sharp, shocked sound, fingers tearing at the bedsheets all over again.
“Fuck,” he swears, eyes wild beneath the dark mop of his hair, “Dick. Dick, please, tell me… tell me what to do…”
“Just lie there for me, Jay,” Dick hums in pleased response, “Let me take care of you.”
And with trust that excites him almost beyond anything else, Jason does. Lets Dick kiss him. Lets him hold him down, caress and explore every inch of his skin. The taste of his sweat is something Dick becomes intimately familiar with, a sweet-salty taste on his tongue, and Jason is responsive, like a finely tuned instrument beneath his hands. If Slade ever touched him like this in preparation for handing Jason over to him, Dick wants to make him forget it. Wants the only touch Jason craves and remembers from now on to be his own.
The sounds he makes when Dick touches him, bitten back at first, brand themselves on the inside of his skull, spurring him on to greater and greater effort. They grow louder when Dick takes Jason’s cock in his mouth. Die down completely when he makes a show of readying himself with a bottle of oil from the nightstand, then start up all over again as he finally sinks down over Jason and allows his length to slide inside him.
“Fuck,” Jason chokes, overwhelmed with sensation. His hair is a sweat tangled mess against the pillows, eyes wide and dark as his hands fly to Dick’s hips to help him move. “Fuck, Dick, please... I…”
“I’ve got you, Jason,” Dick assures him, the possessive knot in his chest drawing tighter with every passing moment. Leaning down to kiss him, he whispers the next words against his lips, fervent as a prayer. “I’ve got you, and I swear to every power there is, I am never letting you go.”
Afterwards, they lay tangled together on the bed. Dick on his back with Jason’s head pillowed on his shoulder while he strokes his hair. It has the same slightly coarse texture to it he remembers noticing before, almost like the wolf’s fur, warm and thick in the way it twists around his fingers.
Jason had been slightly uncomfortable with the idea of cuddling at first, but once Dick had settled him into it gradually relaxed enough to cling back to him. Now his arm is a thick, muscled weight around his waist, holding onto him the same way a drowning man would a piece of driftwood. Tight enough to make sure there’s no chance of it getting away from him.
It’s nice. Comfortable, and unlike some of his past ventures, Dick doesn’t have to worry about the awkward moment where his partner leaves him, either now or in the morning. Jason’s his, and there’s no way he’s not going to stay with him the entire night.
“So are you going to turn me back again now?”
“Hm?” Dick blinks, brain taking a moment to catch up to the words given how he was on the verge of drifting off to sleep when they were spoken. “What’s that?”
Jason shifts a little, fingers tapping a nervous pattern up Dick’s rib cage as he talks. “I said, are you going to turn me back now? You know, to the wolf.”
To the wolf. Right, of course. It’s what Dick has done every night before now, wary of someone walking in and finding Jason in this form. Ruining the secret that has been his to keep ever since Slade first handed the wolf’s leash over to him.
“Do you want me to?” he asks, curiously.
“No,” Jason’s reply is slightly muffled, “But if you don’t want anyone else to see me like this you should probably do it now, before you fall asleep.”
He’s not wrong. It would only take the eyes of one servant to have the truth spilling out over the entire keep, and gods know the desire to have Jason remain his and his alone remains strong in Dick. Especially now that they’ve done this. Yet…
Moving his hand to the back of Jason’s neck, he finds the buckle that holds the collar in place, toying with it. It’s just a simple fastening, the kind that’s easy to undo, but Dick’s never seen Jason even try to reach for it, and has long suspected that there’s probably another spell woven there that keeps him from doing so.
Either that, or after years of following at Slade’s heels he’s become so resigned to his position that he no longer has any desire or energy to try and change it.
“I don’t,” Dick answers slowly, figuring out the slide of the leather by touch, “But I want you to stay like this with me more.”
It’s so stiff from disuse that it takes him a few moments to work it out. Dick has no idea what Jason might think he’s doing in the meantime, but when the buckle does eventually come loose he suddenly goes very, very still.
“If you want to change back in the morning, and I’m still asleep, you can do it yourself.” Dick tells him, sliding the collar off of Jason’s neck and placing it on the side of the bed, still with his handkerchief wrapped around the red jewel. “That’s your call.”
“Dick…” Jason says, in a strangled tone of voice.
“I trust you,” he replies, going back to lazily stroking his hair. “Both here, and to have my back when I go hunting with Slade. I trust you.”
Jason is so stiff in his hold, Dick wonders for a moment if he might have broken him somehow. The declaration had felt easy to him, and natural. Jason has shared his life and his bed for weeks without doing him harm or trying to run away in either form. Dick has no fear of him in that way, and while there’s some who might call him stupid for that — who might suspect that there’s still some kind of trap lurking inside Jason, he feels confident in his assessment.
He trusts Jason.
It takes another minute before Dick gets an answer. “Thank you,” Jason says gruffly, like he’s biting down on his tongue to keep too much emotion from slipping out. “I… I’ll think about it.”
“Tha’s good,” Dick replies, cracking a yawn. He really is getting sleepy; good sex and company will do that to a man. “Let me know in the morning. Kiss or lick me awake. Something like that.”
This time his response garners a snort from Jason, “You know, I can do both those things in either form.”
“Mmhm,” Dick closes his eyes, giving into his body’s demands to rest. “But it feels different, depending… tongue’s different.”
“You are the strangest person,” he hears Jason sigh next, in a tone that sounds just as a fond as it does distant. A kiss is pressed against his chest before Dick feels him settle back down, big and powerful over his smaller form. “Good night, Dick.”
Dick doesn’t manage to return the sentiment before he slips under the veil, just a smile, but as simple a response as that is, it feels good enough.
It feels right.