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A Torch in the Darkest Hour

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Batman is Alpha, everyone's sure of that without even catching a whiff of his scent, and it so happens they're right. No one knows for sure about the Robins. There's a certain amount of speculation among the rogues as to the nature of that relationship, guessing Omega simply because Batman is so Alpha, but in that case, they're right for the wrong reason. Bruce would never lay a hand on a child. Robins one and two got through awkward pubescence with the help of Alfred, blessedly Beta Alfred, in whom they can confide and who can bring them tea and heating pads without seeing them as anything other than unhappy boys in need of nurturing.

Modern society functions thanks to synthetic hormone pills that suppress Alpha and Omega pheromones. In first-world offices everyone smells Beta; the drugs are reasonably priced. Even so, not everyone can afford them, and some choose not to take them for religious reasons. WayneTech markets some of the most highly effective suppressants, but it's dangerous to take any suppressant before full physical maturity. Growth could be stunted, and permanent infertility is a rare side effect. So high schools are segregated by designation, and four times a year Bruce Wayne wears a custom-fitted scent filtration mask inside his own house, in addition to taking his own suppressants religiously. With care and planning, and a little not-so-brotherly assistance, Jay and Dick both get through it.

Jay grows up knowing that the stereotypes are bullcrap. Omega doesn't mean weak, because Nightwing damn sure isn't weak. And Beta doesn't mean nothing, because Alfred is an island of peace in an often chaotic household and none of them could function without him.

He grows up seeing that cross-designation relationships are not the taboo the world thinks they are, as Bruce's loves are almost all Betas or even, in a couple cases, Alphas. He learns that sometimes people whose designation seems plain despite that widespread use of suppressants can still surprise you. Everyone knows Superman is all Alpha … until they meet Lois Lane, the second most obvious Alpha in Metropolis even on suppressants, and learn the truth of Omega Clark Kent.

It's still not a good idea to let people know what he is. There are too many Alphas among the rogues who might try to use him. People fight their instincts, there are laws protecting Omegas’ rights, but Alphas still have an advantage the scum will abuse. He grew up in Crime Alley, where Omega boys just have something extra to sell. He'd sneak suppressants if he could get around Bruce and Alfred, but they're too watchful, so he endures being benched for a handful of days during his heats. The rest of the time, he mimics Alpha mannerisms, well enough so that everyone who meets him casually will assume that's what he is.

Jay eventually learns, to his grief, that Alpha doesn't mean all-knowing, all-powerful, or all-good. Bruce can't fix everything broken inside him, though he tries. Jay searches for a connection with his long-lost mother, and finds his death.

He comes back to something like life, and thanks to Talia al Ghul he ends up … more or less whole, all his broken pieces stitched together with Lazarus green. There's a rage in him now, his eternal anger at injustice fanned to white-hot wrath. He almost kills the Bat … but that'd be too damned easy. Let Bruce suffer.

Talia convinces him to wait, to train, and finds him teachers. He learns, and learns well, and he’s beginning to understand that his confrontation with Bruce does not have to end in the Bat’s death. Jay turns 18 during his apprenticeship, and all the while he finds his own suppressants. They're sold on the street like any drug.

And like any drug, sometimes you get a bad batch.

 

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Jay doesn't realize the drugs aren't working ‘til he wakes up, flushed and panting, stewing in his own scent. The whole room reeks of full, flagrant, fuck-me-now Omega heat. He knows what he should do, shower and strip the sheets and work out and shower again, keep himself distracted for a couple days until it subsides. He for damn sure can't open a window; this isn't a safe city for Omegas, he's been tracking down a trafficking ring to destroy before Talia comes to get him, and he knows what'll happen. His scent is intensified by months on suppressants, if he tries to air the place out, every scumbag Alpha in town will be sniffing under his window.

Maybe later, he'll get up, shower, try to focus on anything but the hazy fantasies in his mind. The smell of himself makes it hard to think, and all he can do is roll over and groan at the unfairness of it. He needs something, or someone, anything to cool the fever in his flesh. Going solo helps a little, he knows, but being Omega is about needing that connection with another person. He and Dick figured out that two Omegas can give each other relief, at least, and he wishes for Dick's gentle smile and toned, welcoming body right about now.

Jay still hasn't gotten around to showering when he hears the apartment door open. Two impulses drive him in opposing directions - grab his gun and defend himself, or bare his throat and beg for deliverance.

He's got his hand on the pistol, but his body is warm and loose, when he recognizes the woman in the doorway.

Talia stares at him in shock, her nostrils flaring, and oh fuck she smells like amber and persimmon and musk. He suddenly wants to wrap himself in her scent and drown there. Jay gives a strangled whimper.

He'd forgotten that Talia al Ghul is Alpha.

 

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Jason has not answered her call, so Talia goes to his current apartment, accompanied by a pair of her more loyal retainers. She doubts anyone could have harmed Jason significantly; he was much too dangerous to be easily taken, even before he began assassin training. Perhaps he is ill, or caught up in a Lazarus fugue. Either way, she must find him, make certain he is recovering.

He is, after all, her responsibility.

She picks the lock, opens the door, and the scent of Omega in heat slaps her rudely across the nose. Her own suppressants - herbal rather than artificial, meant to grant her some control rather than completely erase her designation - are swamped by the urgency of that scent, sweet and fresh and eager. It's Jason, he never told her he was Omega, and he's in the strongest heat she's ever smelled. It startles her into a gasp, which floods her senses with more of him, his need, his desire, his vulnerability. He's looking at her with wide-eyed confusion, one hand on his gun, but his body language is the opposite of threatening. Her jaw aches with the hunger to bite his neck and mark him hers, claim him body and soul, make him call out her name… Her eyes blaze with passion, taking an involuntary step into the room, a purring growl of possession in her throat.

Her retainers are both Betas; her father will not suffer another Alpha in his employ. Still, they both take in deep breaths, and they sigh at the perfume of lust. That returns her just enough shreds of control to snarl “Out!” at the men. They obey as they've been trained, but it's harder to make herself follow that order.

“Talia,” Jason says, making her name a prayer. She looks back and he is beautiful, the picture of Omega perfection, lean and strong, jet-black hair with its startling white streak now falling over his ice-blue eyes. But she sees his free hand fisted in the sheets, holding himself back, and that gives her strength enough to leave.

She slams the door, leaning against it, her heart racing, her body singing with need. “Get me a mask,” she snaps at her men. And remembers through the red haze that he can smell her, too, so she adds, “No. Two masks.”

“And suppressants?” one asks.

“Too late,” she says grimly, because she can hear Jason moving around in the room behind her, drawn irresistibly closer. Besides, suppressants are not safe for him, not for a few more years, and at this point in his heat taking them will make him violently ill. “Get peppermint oil,” she adds. It will help dull the scent a little.

They leave, hurrying, and Jason is on the other side of the door. She can smell him through the gap beneath it, hear him drawing a deep breath of her scent … and hear him giving a lost and wanton moan. It coils heat into her belly, brings that hungry trill up in her throat, and he is right there.

She'll have him here on the floor if he opens it, and damn the potential witnesses. So she growls, “Don't you dare touch that doorknob,” with every ounce of Alpha command in her voice. He grumbles, whispering how good she smells, and Talia focuses on not going in and doing what they both want. Desire makes her knees weak, and she slides down the door, kneeling on the floor with her lust a molten ache in her very bones.

It was never like this with Bruce, who is as Alpha as she is; Talia wanted Bruce for himself alone, despite the popular belief that Alpha to Alpha pairings are blasphemous. She's never even been around an Omega, except the once. And that once is why she won't open the door, won't let Jason open it either. It's what makes her voice a growl instead of a croon as she tells him to be still, to be quiet, and for the second and third and fourth time not to open the damned door.

Her men return swiftly, and still she snarls at them for their tardiness, snatching the proffered masks. Talia presses her face into one desperately, taking deep gulps of air untainted by the very essence of sexual need. Her head clears a little, but her Alpha instincts are fully roused, and it will need more than filtration to tamp them down.

She dismisses the men despite their concerned expressions, and turns to the door. Talia commands Jason to step back, uncapping the little vial of concentrated peppermint oil and putting a drop inside her mask. When she slips the mask on again, her nose is swamped by that smell, sharp enough to make her eyes water. Still, she's grateful; now she can think about something other than all the wonderful, terrible things she wants to do to Jason.

“Stand back,” she tells him again. And opens the door.

He's shaking, feverish, worse than an addict in the grip of withdrawal, and she throws the glass vial to the floor between them as she steps inside. It shatters, the stink of mint blotting out everything else for blessed seconds, long enough to close the door and lock them in, just barely long enough to cross the distance between them and shove the second mask over his face.

Jason grabs at it, desperate as she was, and gives a whimper of relief as he breathes deep. “Thank fucking God,” he sighs.

She moves past him, because though immediate ravening lust may be averted, she still wants as only an Alpha in rut can want. Talia goes to the window and flings it open, letting fresh air in. “Don't…!” he yelps, and she snarls at him, wordless in her frustrated fury.

Jason cringes, but doesn't back down. “They kidnap unclaimed Omegas here, T,” he insists. “I had a line on the gang in charge, I was gonna take 'em down, but if they get a whiff…”

“We will leave,” she tells him, opening the room's other window. The concentrated odor is leaking around the edges of her mask, tantalizing her. “You must shower first. Quickly, but thoroughly.”

He wavers, and she bares her teeth behind the mask, one hand going to the sword at her hip. “I will protect you, Jason,” Talia tells him, her voice almost shaking. “But you must hurry. Go now, wash the scent off.”

 

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Jay nods, and manages to choke out “Thank you,” before sliding past her to the bathroom. Coming close, not even the mask is enough; his body knows what she is and yearns toward her. His brain also knows that a male Omega and a female Alpha have enough equipment between them for all kinds of fun.

The water here never gets colder than lukewarm, and his cock stays hard against his belly the whole time he's showering, thinking about Talia's hands pulling his hair taut, her teeth nipping his throat, her breasts filling his hands. He thinks of her fucking him, the fierce desire in her eyes, or himself on his knees before her. God, the scent of her! That scent alone promises him so much, the fulfillment of fantasies he never knew he had. Alpha or not, Bruce is an idiot to walk away.

Those images in his mind tempt him with the thought of taking an extra moment to pleasure himself, just to quiet his hormones for a while. Would she know, with only a thin wall between them? Maybe would she come in here and take him the way he wants? His logical mind knows that's insane, they need to get out of here, he's not even really sure if he wants that with her or if it's his heat spurring him on to take any Alpha.

A thump and a scuffle outside, and Jay swears, scrubbing the soap from his skin. The gang's Alphas are already here. He took the gun into the bathroom with him, and after a last quick sluice of water he gets out, shoving the mask over his face, wrapping the towel around his hips, and snatching up the weapon.

He steps out to see two dead men, and his appearance distracts a third long enough for Talia to run him through with a furious lunge. The sight of her - her hair disheveled, her chest heaving, her cheeks flushed, her blade painted with someone else's blood - makes Jason groan, even with the mask and the peppermint blocking her scent. These bastards came here looking for a vulnerable Omega, and found instead an angry, territorial, protective, frustrated, highly aroused Alpha. Now they're dead.

Talia sees him, his skin still wet from the shower, and her glance drops down his muscular form to the towel. Which frankly isn't doing a whole lot to hide his state of mind.

She swallows, visibly, the sword-tip canting down as her grip slackens, and he manages to get both slicker and harder. Come on and do it, he thinks, but Talia rips her gaze away, panting behind the mask. She sounds outraged, snapping at him, “It's bad enough parading an Omega in full heat around this city. Put some fucking clothes on unless you want me to murder every Alpha for ten kilometers.”

Even her anger sounds sexy as fuck, he's never heard her so out of control as to swear like that, and he wants to nuzzle his apology into the curve of her jaw. But she brings the sword up between them, her brows furrowing in annoyance. He ducks his head, scrambling to dress, aware of her eyes on his body with branding heat.

“Come on,” she commands as he yanks on shoes, striding out the door. Jay snatches weapons and catches up to her in the hall. Anger radiates off her, and it should scare him or piss him off, but all it makes him want to do is curl up in her lap and let her take it all out on him. Right now even getting slapped around sounds good, and that must be the heat.

She chooses the stairs, wisely, not wanting to be cooped up in the rickety elevator with him. They clatter down six flights in a hurry, not speaking, and Jay hopes she knows where she’s going. Right now he’s on autopilot, following at her heel like a good little Omega. Part of him hates that, part of him adores it.

In the lobby, they have company, two men walking in. Jay recognizes them from the gang; they send out small groups of snatchers like this, one Alpha to scent the Omega, a Beta or two to subdue them. These two look up, and the masks Jay and Talia are wearing don’t protect anyone else from the smell of sex bleeding off both of them. The taller of the men sniffs, his eyes widening, and makes a common mistake.

Female Alphas and male Omegas are both rarer than the reverse. And when they’re paired up, it usually tends to be same sex, opposite designation, male Alphas taking male Omegas, females taking females. Their situation is rare but not unheard of in the States - he remembers meeting Lois Lane again - but Jason hasn't yet seen a female Alpha in this city.

The gang’s Alpha smells an Omega in heat and a pissed-off Alpha, and assumes the woman is the one perfuming the air with need, the man the one protecting her. Or kidnapping her himself, as sometimes happens in a country with no Omega rights laws. “Kill him,” he says to his partner.

Talia makes an utterly inhuman noise of fury as the Beta moves on Jay, but he’s not susceptible to these strangers, not with the mask shielding his nose. So he takes the guy down fast, not bothering with the gun, lunge-punch-kick and shattered jaw, cracked sternum, then rake the knife along his throat for the kill. Meanwhile the Alpha made the mistake of coming at Talia with his scent flaring richly instead of with a weapon, grabbing at her mask. If she were Omega, and beautiful beyond that as she is, he wouldn't want to harm her. Mustn't damage the goods, after all. He thinks his scent alone will command her. Jay knows an Omega can ignore an Alpha's command - he and Dick both defied Bruce - but it's more difficult to do so in heat. And even a second's delay to fight instinct could be costly here.

But the man is dealing with an Alpha, not an Omega, and instead of being bemused Talia is enraged. She rams her knife up through his lower jaw and into his brain pan in one brutal thrust. He goes down before he even realizes his error … but he did knock her mask askew.

She breathes in, and looks at Jay like a leopard looking at a fucking gazelle. Like he’s prey, like she’ll eat him alive right here in the lobby, atop the corpses of the two dumb assholes who tried to harm her Omega, and oh shit that turns him on so bad he’s raising his hand to his mask to pull it off and drink in her scent. It’s a wonder he hasn’t creamed his jeans already.

Talia smacks his elbow before he can, righting her own mask almost savagely. “Stop that,” she snarls. “Don’t make this any worse than it already is.” She strides off outside, radiating Alpha with every step, and he tags at her heels. No one sane will cross them now, even with him in obvious heat, not with a sword swinging at her hip and wrath in her eyes. This is a country where Alphas still sometimes fight to the death over Omegas, and she looks like the killer she is.

“Sorry,” Jay mutters, hunching his shoulders as he keeps to her quick pace.

“You should have told me you were Omega,” Talia replies, and her accent is stronger when she’s under stress like this. To his annoyance, he finds that sexy, too. She's always been a stunning woman, and she uses that to her advantage, but now it's personal for Jay.

“Would you have gotten me the suppressants?” he challenges.

She throws him a look still simmering with anger. “Of course not. No one should take those until at least age twenty. No wonder you’re in heat like this, if you’ve been taking street suppressants. You utter, utter fool, Jason.”

“Then…”

She cuts him off. “I would have gotten you on the same herbs I take, which would not risk your health and yet would allow you some measure of self-control. And I would have made certain you were safe during your heats. You did not need to do this alone, Jason.”

His head bows at the condemnation, and from the corner of his eye he sees her body language soften. “Be not ashamed, Jason. It cannot be undone. The next will be easier. For now, we must get you somewhere safe.”

“Got anyplace in mind?” he asks, as she changes direction. An armored car idling at the curb pulls up to meet them.

“I have a safehouse in London with dual-filtered air systems,” Talia tells him. She nods to the back seat, and gets in front. Two League of Assassins mercenaries are inside, one driving, one in the back with him, but there's no way she'd let him sit beside another Alpha. Not now. Besides, Jay knows the Demon's Head preferentially recruits Betas. It's safe.

Well, safer than the street.

Once they're all belted in and the car moves off, Jay realizes what she said. “London? You have dual air filters on the plane that's gonna get us there, too? Because I don't think seven hours in a pressurized tin can at thirty-five thousand feet is such a good idea right now, T. I don't know about you, but I can still smell you around the mask.” He pauses, swallows nervously, and gets the faintest zing of spice and musk in the back of his throat. Unthinking, Jay mutters in surprise, “Fuck, I think I can taste you, too.”

 

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She thinks of his tongue swiping across her skin, that arrogant mouth at her neck … her breast … between her thighs, where she throbs swollen with greedy desire. Another animal noise of lust tears from her throat, and Talia snaps her head back against the headrest hard enough to sting. At least it clears her mind a little. “Do not say such things to me,” she commands. Her two retainers flinch; they are very nervous now, seeing her so close to losing control.

An Alpha in rut is very like an elephant in musth, torqued up by adrenaline and sex hormones. In such a state they are prone to violence and lust, capable of both fits of rage and feats of sexual stamina no Beta could ever dream of. Unlike Omegas, who go into heat on their own schedule, rut is triggered by close contact with an Omega in heat. Or, as is now apparent, more casual contact with an Omega whose heat has been poorly suppressed too long. Suppressants help control rut in Alphas just as they do heat in Omegas, bringing both designations closer to the Beta baseline. For the first time, Talia regrets foregoing artificial suppressants.

When she snarls, Jason flinches, and the desire to protect and soothe him sweeps over her. She cannot indulge that, now. Even touching him chastely will quickly turn carnal. So she forces her ragged breathing to even out, as the driver suggests, “We could hire a second plane.”

Talia starts to agree, and liquid fire twists through her at the thought. Jason cannot be alone just now, where a less careful Alpha could find him. The thought of another doing all the things she will not let herself indulge in drives her to distraction. “No,” she growls. “Find a hotel where we can expect discretion. We will make our plans there.”

 

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At the hotel, one of her men checks them into a suite, while Jason and Talia wait in the car with the driver. He's fascinated by the sweep of her hair, a deep dark brown warmer than black, and her regal profile as she stares fixedly out the window, trying and failing to ignore him. They are exquisitely aware of each other, every breath she takes, every impatient shift of his body.

The hotel directs them up an elevator to the top floor, and it's torture to be so close to her when Talia keeps glaring at him like she'll take his hand off if he touches her. Jason stays pressed into the corner, and once they're in the room he heads for the shower again, planning to do a more thorough job this time. He hears Talia snapping orders to her guards: changes of clothes for both of them, more peppermint oil, certain herbs. Jay ignores the voices.

In the bathroom, he finds three kinds of soap: Alpha-enhancing, Omega-enhancing, and thankfully odor-neutralizing. He scrubs himself with the latter, paying careful attention to places where scent pools: his hair, the base of his throat, the insides of wrists, and of course his groin. Jay had to take the mask off to shower, and he's had a noseful of his own scent despite the soap, so he decides the hell with it, he'll be clearer-headed if he takes care of this first. It's not what he wants, not really, one hand wrapped around his aching cock and the other knuckle-deep in his slick yearning cleft, but he matches the rhythms and spills his fulfillment under the shower's hot pulse.

Breathing raggedly, he rinses off again and towels himself dry. He took a long time, but it was worth it for a measure of peace. Jay puts his mask back on gratefully, and thinks that Talia really is taking good care of him. A wry grin curves his mouth; she always has, right from the moment she risked her father's wrath to bring him back.

Maybe he should go out there and just kneel at her feet. He is an Omega, some would say it's his destiny to serve an Alpha, and despite her temper and the obvious looming Bat-shaped conflict of interest, Talia has been good to him.

That just makes him think how good she could be, and he shudders. Jay wraps himself in the clean robe hanging on the back of the door and steps out into the suite.

There's a table on its side in the hall, and he comes to alert, drawing the gun he slipped into the robe's pocket. Jay follows the sounds of a scuffle to find Talia fighting her two Beta servants, their purchases hastily dropped by the door. He understands immediately what's happening: a good workout helps tame the pheromones, especially Alpha aggression, and this is only a sparring match. He can put the gun away.

But Talia is magnificent, her eyes ablaze, sweat sheening her skin. She holds off the two assassins effortlessly despite her distraction, and Jay gives a heated sigh. Her head snaps around, her gaze fixing him, beautiful and terrible at once. “Leave me,” she snaps at the men, and they scramble gratefully away, the outer door slamming behind them.

Jay steps forward, and sees her body sway toward him for a half second before her voice lashes out like a whip, barely softened by her mask. “I meant you, too. Damn you, Jason, if you don't keep away from me we'll both end up pregnant.” She paces as far from him as the large common room will allow.

The thought would've made him want to squirm an hour ago, but he's had enough respite that her anger instead provokes a more natural reaction from him. “Fuck, Talia, you don't have to snarl at me! You're the goddamn Alpha here.”

She whirls on him, fists clenched, and almost shouts, “You think that means you have no responsibility just because you're the Omega? Which you deliberately hid from me, when you knew what I am? You think an Alpha cannot be raped?”

And that shuts down all the nice hazy sexy thoughts floating in his mind like a deluge of icy sleet. “Talia, what…?” he begins, stomach churning. That sounded way too personal.

Her glare skewers him. “It is as much a liability being Alpha as it is being Omega, Jason. Just because we are not compelled to roll upon the floor purring like cats every few months does not mean we are not as bound by our designation as you Omegas are. If you come over here and pull my mask off so I cannot help smelling you, it would be the same as dropping two tabs of Insta-Heat into someone's drink.”

Jay flushes at that, glad she wasn't speaking from first-hand experience. He insists, “I wouldn't do that to you.”

“I know,” she sighs, and drops into a chair with none of her usual grace.

“They have odor-neutralizing soap here, and you have the mask,” he tells her. “It shouldn't still be bothering you.”

She gives him a bitter laugh. “I still know, Jason. Being Alpha means I don't need to have you up my nose to want to claim you; my instincts are perfectly capable of reacting to what I already know to be true. The mask and the shower do help.” And then, with a low chuckle, she massages her temples to add, “Knowing the most probable reason why you took so long, that does not help, but I cannot begrudge you.”

He blushes flaming crimson, knowing now why she sprang at the chance to fight the Betas. Anything to keep herself from kicking open the bathroom door, catching him in the act, and then giving him what he really wants.

What they both want. Whether it's just hormones or not, the wanting itself is real.

“I never thought about what it was like for Alphas,” Jay says apologetically, trying not to think about what could've been.

“Why should you?” she shrugs, fatalistic. “You are Omega. You have enough to worry about, trying not to throw yourself at the nearest Alpha whenever you're in heat.”

“Tell me, then,” he says impulsively. If they can keep talking, maybe that will distract them both.

Talia peers at him from between her fingers, and smiles sadly. “Of course. He would never enlighten you. But why concern yourself?”

“No knowledge is ever wasted,” he replies, a saying of hers. “Maybe I can make it easier for both of us. And talking's better than staring at each other, thinking about all the things we won't do.”

She nods thoughtfully. “Very well. I must shower first; that will help, too. Dress while I do that.”

Jay catches himself nodding obediently, like a good little Omega following his Alpha's orders, and his very soul bridles at that. So as she heads for the bathroom and he moves toward the bags of shopping, he taunts, “Should I time your shower?”

Talia stops in her tracks, and cuts him a look over her shoulder that practically smolders. “Have you noticed yet that you never fully belted that robe? It would serve you right if I did opt to indulge, with that sight in mind.”

Blushing, he scrambles to clothe himself as she closes the bathroom door with a throaty laugh. It's completely unfair. Not only is she Alpha, not only is she drop-dead gorgeous in the most literal sense, Talia is also enough his senior in years and experience to effortlessly turn a comeback like that on him.

“I'm so screwed,” Jay laughs, and can't decide if it's good luck or bad that he probably won't get to mean it literally.

 

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The shower will certainly help her, but the moment Talia takes off her mask she becomes aware of the crumpled heap of Jason's clothes. He did not wear these long, only as long as it took to drive from his lodgings to this hotel, and he was freshly showered when he put them on. Still, the scent rising from them is as if Jason himself were whispering hotly in her ear, Take me, please, just take me.

Talia groans; his expressive face has shown her those exact thoughts every time they cross his mind. Why exactly is she torturing them both like this, refusing to give in to their natures?

She picks up his shirt, holds it to her face, and breathes in deep. God, how good he smells, like fresh-baked bread with a touch of cinnamon and honey, and she wants to lick every inch of him until he shudders helplessly under her. It's been so long since she was this close to an Omega in heat…

Memory hurts, but she leans into the pain for relief, dropping Jason's shirt. The Omega girl's eyes were full of fear and miserable lust - Talia never even knew her name. Just her scent, sweet as rosewater, and Talia had drowned in it.

The memory of what happened after is enough to cool Talia's blood for now, and she steps into the shower, twisting the knob to water cold enough to make her curse. She showers quickly, in odor-neutralizing soap, and does not indulge as Jason so clearly did. What offers him relief will only whet her appetite.

She left the clothes outside, and steps from the bathroom warily in two towels and the mask. Jason considerately hung the shopping bag on the doorknob for her, and she takes it inside to dress. Her retainers chose conservatively, blouse and slacks instead of a skirt, and she's glad of that.

Talia steps out to find Jason sitting awkwardly in the chair across from the couch. She takes the sofa and looks at him thoughtfully. The base of her brain keeps telling her that he should be hers, but she can ignore it now. As much as she cares for him, as protective as she is of him, she has never wanted to own him in this or any other way. “We can wait here in safety until your heat is over. My men will guard us.”

He shrugs one shoulder. “Okay. So tell me what it's like being Alpha.”

Talia gives a disbelieving laugh. Could he not have picked a narrower question? She sorts through all she knows, of literature and experience, trying to condense it for him. Jason is her counterpart, Omega and male where she is Alpha and female, each of them possessing in one body the attributes of both yin and yang. What he has learned of life is almost the diametric opposite of her own knowledge. So she begins with what is most important, to her. “To be Alpha is to be driven to protect. We need to be in control to keep safe those who rely on us. However, it is not the ownership that so many assume. An Alpha's possession can be abused, of course, but it should come with the obligation of responsibility.”

Jason frowns, as she thought he might. “There's a lot of Alphas out there who disagree. They think Omegas are made to be owned. And they'll beat the hell out of an Omega who doesn't obey.”

“They are fools,” she tells him. “Alphas are more aggressive, of course, particularly in rut. After all, how many men did I kill today? And you tried my temper, yes, but I would not hurt you. An Omega is a treasure to be cherished. Omegas are made to nurture, to care - to be the balance for Alpha's potential for violence.”

He scoffs. “Yeah, no wonder people think I'm Alpha. I'm all violence, not so much on the warm fuzzies.”

She arches a brow. “We are more than our designations. You are a warrior, Jason, but hardly the first Omega to fight. The Sacred Band of Thebes was comprised entirely of bonded Alpha-Omega pairs, and they were famed for their prowess.”

“Doesn't sound very nurturing,” Jay says.

Smiling, Talia tells him something he does not yet know about himself. “You are defined by your caring nature. You do not kill thieves or con men. Only dealers, killers, pimps - people who abuse those weaker than themselves. Much as you may find battle fulfilling, you choose your targets out of compassion.”

He leans back, thinking. “Okay, I guess. But I was asking something more specific. You said being Alpha is as bad as being Omega.”

Talia sighs, old and ugly memories haunting her. “Or worse, in some ways. An Omega in heat is vulnerable, yes. An Alpha is vulnerable too. You think your scent is not incredibly distracting?” Even now, a part of her mind is telling her where every scent gland is on him, demanding that she kiss each one and cover it with a claiming bite. She can feel the buzz in her own body as her scent intensifies with rut. The clavicle and carpal glands are the most obvious, making him want to tip his head back and bare his throat to her, even as she wants to run her hands through his hair and let it pick up the scent from her wrists.

He only fidgets at the reminder, and she continues, “At least you only need concern yourself with your own heat. We are aware of everyone's status, all the time. Many people cannot afford suppressants. And even an Alpha on suppressants can smell everyone's designation, unless they in turn are thoroughly suppressed. We know when an Omega in heat has been in the room, or crossed the street. We can think a little more clearly in rut than you can in heat, but you should know when your heat is due, and then you are free when it is done. I might encounter another Omega the day after you finally come out of heat. Your designation troubles you every few months; mine demands my attention every day.”

“That sucks,” he says, the sentiment heartfelt, and it startles a genuine laugh from her. “And you're not - you said you weren't fully suppressed?”

That reminds her what occasioned the fight; her servants were not able to find the herbs that might help ease Jason's heat. She cannot truly blame them, this part of eastern Europe is quite distant in location and climate from the southeast Asian mountains where those herbs grow wild, but at the moment her anger had been glad of an outlet. Talia answers, “No. The herbal blend I take, along with meditation and yoga, is enough to keep me in control of myself - in all situations but this one.”

His brow furrows. “No wonder you're so controlled all the time. You have to be. But why bother? You can afford the best suppressants on the market.”

She shifts in her seat, catches herself doing so, and stills. “Because it keeps my senses sharper than they would be, which might save my life. And because it lets others, especially other Alphas, know immediately what I am. Female Alphas are quite rare, you must know.”

“I know, but I don't get it,” he admits. “I just want people to think I'm normal. If you're rarer than a male Omega, why advertise the fact?”

“We are not in the West,” Talia reminds him. This locale is not one she enjoys visiting, for its recent history has held much turmoil, and people focused on survival lose many of the niceties of civilization. “Here, if I am mistaken for a Beta, I am treated rather differently, and it is annoying to keep proving my competence to fools. Being an aberration at least commands respect.”

“You're not an aberration,” he insists, and coughs a little. “Sorry. Throat's dry.”

Talia stands, moving past him to the room's mini-bar; she could use a drink herself. Unfortunately she trusts neither of them with alcohol just now.

“You don't have to…” he begins, and she cuts him off with a smiling glance.

“I am the Alpha here, am I not? It is my privilege to make certain you are well cared for.” A bit of teasing to turn his earlier accusation back on him, but it is playful, not cruel. And even as she says it, Talia knows that her fondness for him is becoming more apparent by the moment, as her instincts soften her cultivated reserve.

The mini bar has tall bottles of cold spring water, and even better, a few sets of nasal filters individually wrapped in plastic. A consideration for couples who wish to dine undistracted in one another's company. She takes two pairs so they can both drink the water without holding their breath.

“You're still not an aberration,” Jason repeats. Stubborn boy – man, really, but his insistence on such a simple thing marks his youth still. “And I don't know how anyone could mistake you for Beta. I knew before I was old enough to smell the difference.”

Talia tosses him the nasal filters, then fits her own pair in, setting the mask aside. She replies absently, looking through the mini fridge to see if anything tempts an appetite she can safely indulge. “You are more perceptive than most. A female Alpha can even be mistaken for a temperamental Omega, if those in command find the notion of a dominant woman distasteful. In some places, they cut them young, and rear them alongside Omegas. The girls assume their fits of lust are heats, when in fact they are reacting to the Omegas around them.”

“Cut them…?” he begins, fitting his own filters in awkwardly, and blanches as the meaning dawns on him. Jason crosses his legs protectively. “Fucking hell, I thought that was some Dark Ages shit!”

“I assure you, it happens to this day,” she tells him, steely anger underlying her tone. She has killed those who commit such atrocities. “An unfortunate legacy of certain extreme religious sects, mostly outlawed, but even in your own so very progressive nation, you have some small groups who cling to the social mores of centuries past, and call it faith. Perhaps it is so in this country. Those who do not properly value Omegas often treat their women poorly, as well.” Nothing in the fridge interests her, so she takes only the water and paces back to bring it to him.

Jason looks up at her with the kind of worried frown that only a city-bred white American could wear, hearing about such ‘barbaric’ anachronisms. He might know that the pharaoh Hatshepsut was a female Alpha, the history books do mention that. It's less likely that he's heard she had to don a false beard and adopt male dress to receive the respect due her designation. But having grown up in a rather feminist country, Jay does not understand the threat that female Alphas represent to patrilineal rulers, especially those with multiple wives. He has never heard the tales of Scheherazade except in heavily bowdlerized form, and does not know the one in which an Alpha woman impregnated half the Sultan's concubines while passing as a Beta herself. That cunning woman made certain her child would inherit the crown, whether it was one she bore the Sultan or one she sired among his harem. In the myths and legends of Talia’s homeland, female Alphas are portrayed as devious and dangerous, which she knows to be accurate. She has only to look into the mirror for proof.

And then he asks, hesitantly, still thinking of the cruel knife, “You weren't… You're not …?”

“My father would never have permitted such interference,” she laughs, and tousles his hair after he takes the water bottle. Indeed, Ra's al Ghul always wanted an Alpha heir … but a male Alpha like himself. Talia knows she cannot measure up to that, no matter how strongly Alpha she is.

It is whimsy, and the undercurrent between them tugging at her, that makes her add in a husky voice, “Do not worry, Jason. I have what you need.”

He makes a strangled noise, turning almost purple, and she curls into the corner of the couch with a wicked smile. Even though it satisfies part of her to see such obvious desire, she knows she is being cruel. He does not deserve that. And she is not helping either of them resist their urges.

“Talk about 'don't say such things',” he complains, when he can speak. “Jesus fucking Christ, that's not fair, T.”

“Neither is life,” she tells him urbanely, taking a drink. And even as she reminds herself not to flirt, she un-crosses and re-crosses her legs to shift slightly.

His gaze drops to her thighs, her groin, and Jason actually licks his lips. She cannot help thinking of his lovely mouth there, him on his knees - as he should be, animal instinct demands - pleasuring her. That image brands itself in her mind, knowing he is thinking the same by the look in his eyes. Suddenly all the filters and soaps in the world mean nothing. He is Omega, she knows, and should be her Omega. Talia stares at him, her pupils dilating, fighting for control.

 

Chapter Text

Jay catches himself staring, and jerks his gaze back to her face. Which is no better, because she has that look in her eyes, the one that blooms warmth in his belly. It was fine for a few minutes, they were having a serious conversation, but now they've circled back to the elephant in the room. And as he watches her, Talia bites her lip, fuck that’s hot, looking at him like she's just barely keeping herself from launching at him.

Part of him wants her to.

But they're not going here, and he grumbles in frustration, moving to get up and pace. He can’t sit still around her, and she can’t quite do so either. But she seems to misinterpret his restlessness for approach.

Sit,” she commands, and Jay drops back into the chair like a puppet with cut strings. It isn't mind control, but an Omega's instinct to obey their Alpha is hard to deny. Especially when the Omega in question hasn't had much experience of Alphas beyond the one he considered a father figure.

Jay blushes, again, realizing how readily he responded to her … and seeing the satisfied little smirk on her lips at his obedience pushes him past embarrassment into sullen anger. “That is so not fucking fair,” he snaps.

Not fucking is rather the point,” she tells him dryly.

“Why?” he retorts, and it surprises her enough to dash the molten heat from her expression. It surprises him, too, honestly, enough so that he keeps talking. “Seriously, why not just get it over with? Unless I'm not…” Good enough for you would end that sentence, but he chokes on the words that describe so many of his relationships, even platonic ones. When has he ever been good enough for anyone?

“Hush,” Talia croons, and she's the one leaning forward now. “Jason, no. At least, not like this. After your heat is over, perhaps. If that is still what you desire. I am … very much tempted, I admit.”

He blinks at her. He hadn’t expected any genuine interest from this woman who can have whoever she wants … and who has Bruce. Of course he’s at least interested, Jay does have eyes and Talia is the most compelling combination of beauty, danger, and compassion he’s ever seen. “Who wouldn't want you? But after my heat? Isn't the point to do it during? Isn't that the whole reason why we have heats?” His tone is bitter, not impatient, but still harsher than he meant it to be. Part of it is simple frustration, the knowledge that the next two days will be spent fighting his own urges repeatedly. Part of it is once again feeling snubbed. Alphas are supposed to want Omegas; all the great love stories are Alpha-Omega pairs.

Talia just looks at him with such hurt in her eyes that it stings him into sliding off the couch to land at her feet, understanding at last what this is and should be. An Omega's need to heal his Alpha, matched perfectly to her need to protect him.

She touches his face, gently, hesitantly. “We are not animals, Jason,” she tells him in a voice on the verge of breaking. “I would rather be wanted for myself, than simply because I smell irresistible to you. Do you not want the same?”

Her nearness is too tempting; he turns his head and nuzzles into her palm, making her gasp. The sense of the words comes through, though, and he needs that, because he can taste her skin on his lips, and he's a breath away from licking up the inside of her wrist until her scent overpowers the fancy soap they both used. Jay closes his eyes, marshals his resolve, and scoots back from her when all he wants to do is lay his head in her lap and surrender.

“You're right,” he says, blowing out a breath. His liaisons in heat had the feel of dreams; outside of heat was more real, because he chose it without any overt prompting from biology. Jay gropes for the mask that covers his mouth as well as his nose, putting it on over the clip-in nasal filters. An extra layer of security beats being able to drink, right now.

Talia sighs, watching him, and murmurs, “Still, I could wish you were not so very beautiful.”

He thinks to tell her no, that's her, and decides to try lightening the atmosphere instead. “I bet you say that to all your Omegas,” he chuckles, winking to let her know it's a joke.

It falls flat, Talia just staring at him, and then she shakes herself. “I have only been with one other Omega. And I was too naive to… It did not end well. For her or for me. I do not wish to discuss it.”

The mental image of Talia rutting with some woman ought to fan the flames, but her bleak tone has the opposite effect. “I've never been with an Alpha,” Jay tells her. And then adds, just as starkly, “Not since I've been old enough to go into heat, anyway. But it's not the same experience without the pheromones. And when you're doing it just for the money.”

Her head comes up, and there's steel in her glare. It's the first time he's ever come close to admitting to anyone that stolen tires weren't his main source of income as a Gotham street kid. Jay would’ve thought that knowing she was fooling around with an ex-child prostitute might cool Talia’s possessiveness, but it seems otherwise.

“There are Alphas in your city unworthy of the name,” Talia growls. “When this is over, perhaps you will be kind enough to tell me where I may find them, so that I may relieve them of the burden of existence.”

“If you want some delayed vengeance, kill all the pedos, not just the Alphas,” he advises. “And then get ready to adopt a hundred kids who can't feed themselves anymore because you took away their livelihood.”

Still that fierce, regal look as she replies, “We must look into ways of saving such children. Later.”

Jay gets an idea then, and tilts his head. “Why don’t we go save some children now?” he asks. She blinks, and he continues, “The gang here that trafficks Omegas, they take ‘em as young as they can find them. Thirteen, ten even. Why don’t you and I go all Sacred-Band-of-Thebes on their asses and kill the whole pack of them?”

Talia sits back, considering. “It would be risky.”

“So’s everything we do,” he quips with a shrug. “Besides, dunno if you’ve noticed, but talking just keeps leading us right back to the same place. Maybe what we need is a little more action.”

A flicker of a smile then. “Very well. You had a plan?”

He sighs in irritation. “We already killed some of their guys today. But getting to the big boss is gonna be hard. I thought about playing bait: get some Omega perfume, and let ‘em catch me while I was actually fully suppressed.”

“Too late for that,” she murmurs ruefully.

Jay bites his lip then, sees her noticing the gesture and makes himself stop. “We’ve still got bait, though,” he offers.

Talia shakes her head in sharp denial. “No. I will not - cannot - risk you like that.”

He grumbles, thinking. “Then how the hell are we gonna convince them to let us in?”

She smiles evilly. “Play on their prejudices, of course. I will be the bait.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Jason does not like the idea, at all, and has told her so repeatedly as he paces the room. Talia only smiles at him; this could actually be a little fun. There’s nothing quite like the moment when a foolish man who has assumed her to be only a woman learns just how vicious an Alpha woman can be. She has fought every day of her life, she is far more cunning and battle-tested than male Alphas who simply need to glower and spread their scent to command respect.

She stops him by saying, “You will need pictures.”

Jay literally freezes in mid-step, almost stumbling. “What?

Talia smirks, and unbuttons the top two buttons of her blouse, running a hand through her hair to further rumple it. This too is gratifying, though she knows she should not take advantage. It's too wicked a delight to resist. “If you are to convince the leader that you’ve captured an Omega worthy of his personal attention, you will need photographs of your prize.” And if her voice turns sultry as she speaks, as she lies back on the couch in an attitude of defeat, Talia tells herself she is only getting in character.

“Fuck my life,” Jay groans, looking at her and hurriedly tearing his eyes away. “It’s not enough to call this asshole and pretend to be one of his kind of sick fuckers, you want me to send him cheesecake shots of you, too?”

“He did not become the leader by being careless,” she points out patiently, letting one arm droop off the edge of the couch at a pathetic angle. “We must overwhelm his caution. Am I not delectable enough to tempt even the most wary of men?” Talia already knows the answer to that question; she has made an art of being irresistible.

Fuck,” he breathes, covering his face. “Fucking hell. Yeah, okay, fine. I see your point. Just … fuck. This is so goddamn weird.”

Of course it is, it’s a reversal of the roles their designations tug them toward, but Talia just looks up at him, waiting for him to get on with it. Jason stares at her, then frowns. “If I was an Alpha trying to manhandle an Omega against her will, I wouldn’t have a mask on her.”

She tenses, realizing he’s right. “I can control myself,” she assures him, though not having the mask or the clips will make it exponentially harder. She’ll have to breathe shallowly. At least this distraction is absorbing their attention almost completely.

Talia sits up again to take off the mask and put it aside, then stops, thinking. “The kind of man who trafficks in Omegas will desire a defiant one more. He wants something beautiful and vulnerable to break to his will - the breaking is not a trivial part of it. And I am not capable of looking tame, in any case.” Defeated, yes, she knows that better than she'd like, but not submissive.

Jason frowns. “What’re you saying?”

She looks up at him, serious now. “I must appear to be … roughed up. Some bruises will inflame his ardor more.”

“Got makeup for that?” Jason asks weakly.

“No,” she says, and steels herself. “Hit me.”

He is a statue, moveless, breathless, lifeless save for the horror in his eyes. “What.”

“Hit me, Jason,” Talia says again. And hardening her voice, “In the face, if you please, and hard enough to mark. I can command you to do it, if you need me to.”

He shivers, and she remembers his mindless year, the fierce mute cipher who could cut through her guards like the searing desert wind … and who would not, no matter how provoked, raise a hand to her. She really is asking a great deal of him. Talia softens her tone, and instead of ordering, she coaxes, “Jason, hit me … please.”

He swallows again, and she sees the hellish conflict in him. It is against his principles, against his training, against his very Omega nature, and Talia thinks she will have to command him after all…

Then his fist catches her in the cheekbone, her teeth click together, and her skin warms where a bruise will soon blossom. Talia fights her own instinct to retaliate. Just as well, for he steps closer for another strike, backhanding her across the mouth. Talia tastes her own blood, and “That will be enough,” she manages to say, even as a cramp of desire twists through her. It is wrong, it is so wrong, this is far from anything she enjoys, but at this point her body craves his touch any way she can get it.

“It has to be,” Jason says harshly, and she looks up at him, feeling her lip start to swell, and she’s at a level to see how this affects the fit of his pants quite clearly. Striking her is not something he enjoys, either, but any contact is good for a randy Omega. And perhaps the very wrongness of it sparks the defiance in both their hearts.

He looks conflicted and angry and delicious . In a few seconds she could free him from the fabric, lick him from tip to cleft, and drag him down into her lap…

She swears in Arabic, rolling off the couch and grabbing her mask on the way. He stands rooted to the spot, panting, while she collects herself. “Perhaps you’re right about needing a distraction,” she finally says, breathless.

Jay lets out his held breath in a terse, “Fuck me.”

Talia allows herself, just the once, to reply hotly, “Careful. Keep asking me, Jason, and I will.”

 

Chapter Text

The gang’s headquarters used to be a warehouse behind a bar.  The guards watch with interest as a young man in a hoodie drags a woman almost his own height up to their door.  She struggles against his hold the entire way from the car, her hands obviously tied behind her back and a gag stuffed in her mouth to quiet her.  The pair of them reek of Alpha and Omega, sex and anger, and they are expected. “Delivery for Alexej,” the boy says flatly, as the woman glares at them in impotent fury.

The guards are both Betas, of course, aware of the stew of pheromones but unaffected by them, and they grin a little.  The boss is interested in this one, so they pat them both down - lingering on the woman's curves despite her muffled cries of outrage - and they find no weapons besides the expected gun in his waistband, which they courteously hold for him.  Then they wave the pair through.

One of the lieutenants meets them first, a tall broad-shouldered Alpha who grabs the woman’s jaw and takes a deep sniff at her throat.  “Watch her,” the boy says, a second too late, as she kicks the lieutenant sharply in the knee. He grunts in pain, then slaps her contemptuously across the face, knocking her sideways.

The boy catches his captive, tugging her behind him protectively, and the seven men lounging around get up at the prospect of a fight.  “No playing with the merchandise until you pay me for it,” the boy warns, and they chuckle.

“Very pretty,” the lieutenant says, eyeing her again.

Pretty?” the boy scoffs. “Understatement of the year. There aren't any women like her within a hundred miles of here - and if there were, none of them would be Omegas.”

“If you like her so well, why sell her?” another man asks. “You need money for drugs? Gambling?”

“She's not my type,” he says contemptuously. “I hear you've got some of what I like, though. I'll trade her for three, but they better be Omegas. Boys, no more than thirteen, blond if you've got them.”

“Blond if we have them!” the big lieutenant laughs. “You think this is bar?”

“I think I brought you the biggest score you've ever seen,” he retorts. “And you're dumber than you look if you think I took her down alone. My friends know where I am. Try anything cute, you'll find out who you shouldn't piss off.”

The lieutenant considers. They've lost five men today pursuing a new Omega. “Omega boys, hard to find. You can have two, for her. We have one blond, very pretty, only nine.”

The boy swallows in what they all mistake for lust. “Done,” he says. The lieutenant grabs the woman's arm, but the boy doesn't let go. “You're taking her to Alexej? Now?” he asks.

“You want say goodbye?” another laughs.

The boy sneers at them. “Don't be an idiot. The stubborn bitch kicked me in the balls when we caught her. She might not be my flavor, but I wanna see her get hers.”

The big lieutenant laughs richly. “I like you, boy. Watch. Maybe you learn something. First, we wrap gift.” He snaps his fingers, and another man jogs over, bearing a thick leather collar.

The lieutenant smiles at the cocky boy who brought them such a prize, and proffers it. “You want do honors?” he asks.

Chapter Text

Jay manages not to swear when they offer him the collar. This is literally his stupidest idea ever, possibly the stupidest idea in the history of the planet, and he's trying to make it work while in the grip of heat.

Just getting here was insane. Crazy enough that Talia wanted to pose for cell phone pics to make her look like a bruised, beaten Omega - and also like a woman any man of any designation would immediately picture himself fucking. Jay damn sure did, especially the one where he's pulling her blouse down off her shoulder to show her bra. He kept his cool because by then she'd already told him how to knot the gag, and how to tie her hands so she can still escape. There were shadows in her eyes he didn't like, but that part was all her idea.

He'd feel a whole lot more comfortable if he were the bait here, able to look as freaked-out as he feels, and he understands suddenly why it's no blessing to be Alpha. He's responsible for her right now, for making sure this goes only so far, and it's almost too much on top of fighting his heat. Neither of them are wearing filters now, just toughing it out, relying on the mission to keep them focused.

The ride over didn't help him focus at all, especially not when they stopped a few blocks away to exchange scents. For this to work, he has to smell Alpha, she has to smell Omega. It was supposed to just be rubbing the insides of their wrists over one another, but Jay's the one who fucked that up. Talia carefully rubbed her wrist against his jaw, and she smelled so fucking good that he turned and licked the inside of her forearm, grabbing her hand so he could plant a kiss right against the scent gland at her wrist.

She gave the most incredible breathy moan at that, all the desire in the world in her voice, and it was all for him. The next thing they both knew, they were furiously making out in the front seat of the armored car. He remembers grabbing her hips and yanking her into his lap, kissing her fiercely, her hands buried in his hair, and both of them grinding urgently against each other. He could feel what she had for him, just as she could surely feel his cock standing to attention for her, and he wanted it right then.

Somehow they'd pried themselves apart then, and he has to keep that ragged control now. At least their scents are thoroughly mixed. No one could tell them apart, and she's right, these idiots assume without even bothering to check beyond that one cursory and interrupted sniff.

Jay takes the collar, and says, “Hold her tight.” His stomach churns because this shouldn't turn him on, it's not his kink and even if it was he'd be the one on her leash, but he's realizing that anything he does with Talia right now is gonna have that effect. One man grabs her arms, yanking them up so she must stand on tiptoe or have her shoulders dislocated. The lieutenant seizes her hair, forcing her to bare her throat in a parody of submission.

Talia meets his gaze, and the smeared makeup and split lip make her look wrecked … but her eyes are hot and steady, giving him strength. They both know this is only a ruse, a deception that ends with all the twisted bastards around them dead. Jay buckles the collar around her throat, giving the trailing strap a slight jerk for effect, and to conceal the fact that he's left it looser than he should. The lieutenant chortles approval, clipping a chain to the ring on the collar, and the whole lot of them proceed to an inner chamber, Talia struggling miserably the entire way. Apparently this is going to be the night's entertainment.

Alexej, all tattoos and close-cropped dark hair, stands up slowly, surveying them. His smile is just as languid, smug and sadistic. Jay can smell him, smell Alpha, but Talia's closer. Her scent is all over Jay, and Alexej is just a vile stranger. “Good work,” he says to Jay, strolling over. “She is prime. And in heat, too. Very nice.”

He's just far enough away that Talia won't be able to reach him in a single move, so they can't spring the trap yet. And then Jay's gut twists as Alexej says to the lieutenant, “Show me her tits.”

Jay can't help looking as the bastard rips her blouse open casually, cuts her bra in the center, and lets her breasts bounce freely. Beautiful, lush, her skin perfect, her dark nipples peaking in the cool air. Alexej grins, several of the others whistle appreciatively, and Talia makes an entirely too realistic noise of outrage and shame, one that shows Jay why that Band of Thebes stuff worked. There are half a dozen Alphas in the room, with a dozen Betas backing them up, he's in desperate heat, and all he wants to do is kill every motherfucking one of them for looking wrong at her.

She does not stamp the floor twice, though, which is the signal they agreed on if she can't get free in time. So Jay pretends to watch with interest as Alexej closes in that last step, slides two fingers under the cloth gag, and tugs it roughly down. “Fuck you,” she spits at Alexej, in a watery broken voice that saws at Jay's heart. She should've been an actress, not an assassin; this is Oscar-worthy.

“You will,” Alexej says confidently, smiling in obvious enjoyment of her distress. “And you'll love it, whore. You'll find out you were made for my cock. I can smell how much you want it, right now.”

He leans in as if to kiss her, taking a deep breath, and Talia snaps her teeth at him. The bastard draws back just in time to avoid bleeding. The men laugh, Jay rages in silence to hear them laughing at her like that, and why haven't they sprung the trap? It's her call, but what is she waiting for?

“I'll kill you,” Talia says tearfully, and Alexej grabs her collar, twisting it tighter as he smiles cruelly at her. The lieutenant steps in and wrenches her arms up again to keep her from attacking, and still she doesn't signal for Jay's help.

“You need some manners, pet.” Alexej’s voice is hypnotic, and Jay's skin crawls because these words would've been meant for him, if they'd caught him. If she hadn't come after him, he might be standing in her place right now. “Don't worry, we have ways of getting around reluctant Omegas, don't we, boys?”

Another chuckle from the watchers, hungry for the spectacle they think is coming. Jay suppresses a shudder; there are aphrodisiacs made to render an Omega almost helpless with lust, highly illegal in most parts of the world, but these men don't care for laws. If they'd gotten hold of him, every nightmare any Omega can imagine would have come true. Unable to stop, but with enough self-awareness to hate himself for it.

Alexej runs his thumb over Talia's jaw appreciatively, still holding her collar tightly enough to make each breath rasp. His voice is almost a purr.  “I like a little fight on an Omega. It makes breaking you so much sweeter. And when I've had my fill of you, I'll let all my friends have their turn, too, just so you understand what you were made for. Then, when you're well broken in, I'll sell you to the highest bidder. But I promise, first I'll make you beg for my cock before I let you have so much as a taste. You'll love me for it, pet - your kind always does.”

Talia's breath catches, tears in her eyes, and this is too goddamned real. Jay barely manages to hold his gorge. “Keep dreaming, you sick bastard,” Talia sobs.

“First, I think, an elegant thing like you needs a better leash,” Alexej says thoughtfully, cupping her breasts so possessively that Jay fights to keep from grinding his teeth aloud. Talia jerks her chin up in pride and defiance, but the lieutenant is still holding her arms so she can't struggle without hurting herself. Alexej just smiles as he fondles her, and Jay hopes any of them who see him shaking assume it's lust, because they're all dead men, every last one.

“A golden chain for my new pet. So we're gonna pierce these, yes?” The brute Alpha takes her nipples between his fingers and twists, hard, wrenching a cry of pain from her throat, and that's not acting. To hell with waiting for her call. Jay tenses, gaze flicking from one man to the next, picking targets and tactics. The nearest one has a gun…

Alexej lets go, grinning, and Talia falls heavily against the lieutenant, but suddenly the scene is changing. Her hands are free, then she's drawing the lieutenant's gun, and she shoots Alexej in the kneecap with vicious accuracy. Even as she makes her move, Jay is making his own, clobbering the nearest bastard and snatching his gun.

From there it's the same dance Jay knows of old. There are too many opponents in too small a space - which hampers their foes more than it does them. For him and Talia, this is just a target-rich environment. Jay kills with whatever weapon comes to him, gun, knife, chair, his bare hands. A red haze of fury descends on him, sharpening his vision and whetting his bloodlust. Talia is doing the same, even using the chain from her collar to throttle one man.  They weave through each other's space like they've practiced this for months, and even with more men drawn in by the noise, it's over in minutes. Every Alpha in the room, every Beta backing them, every sick rapist fuck, all of them are dead. But one.

He turns to Talia as she moves toward the last survivor, Alexej himself, and to his shock there are tears running down her cheeks. No, that wasn't just acting, and he remembers the pain in her voice when she snapped at him, ‘You think an Alpha cannot be raped?’

That wasn't theoretical, and it turns his heart to ice to think it.

But her eyes? Her eyes are glassy with rage.

Chapter Text

Alexej is crawling to a dropped gun, swearing, and Talia strides over to kick it out of his reach. “Dog,” she growls in Arabic. "No. Even a shit-eating dog has more honor than you. I wish I had the time to give you the death you deserve, you loathsome son of a jackal.”

He hasn't the education to understand the words, but the sense of them comes through. “Omega bitch,” he snarls at her. “How fucking dare you!”

“Not Omega, you ignorant nose-blind cur,” she growls. “Alpha. You were dead the moment you opened the door.”

His eyes widen in realization of how he's been played. Talia still has the gun she took from the lieutenant who ripped her blouse, and she shoots Alexej in the groin first, listening to him squeal and clutch at his torn flesh. It's almost enough to drown out the gloating voice of nightmares that he woke in her mind.

I brought you a gift, Talia…

Don't fight. We both know you want it.

There now, isn't that good? You love it. I can tell.

She shakes her head, panting, her nose full of Omega heat, her mind crowded with unquiet ghosts, her heart pulsing with wrath. Another pull of the trigger, carefully aimed, and the hand that had groped her becomes a tangle of shredded meat and gristle. Alexej screams, thrashing like a half-crushed insect.

Jay calls her name, worried, and it recalls Talia to her responsibility. Regretfully, she silences Alexej with a bullet to the brain. Better than he deserves, but she cannot linger.

“We've drawn attention,” she says, keeping her voice cold, clinging to fraying control and fragile sanity with a desperate grip. Talia tears the collar off, dropping it into the puddle of Alexej's blood, and does not think about the illicit thrill that ran through her because Jay was the one who put it on. Though she knows the steps to that particular measure in the dance of lovemaking, if not so overtly, Talia has always been the one to lead. Strange to finally see the appeal in following another's command now. It is her trust in Jason, her affection for him, and the insistence of rut that make everything with him seem a delight.

Everything but the memories of another's hands on her body, another's voice thick with lust. None of that is Jason's fault, of course. She arranged this deception, never thinking it would go far enough to wake her nightmares.

Talia continues, “There will be police, eventually. We must find and free any Omegas they have.”

Jay comes to her side, yanking off his hoodie, and he holds it out, trying not to look at her ruined shirt and her bare chest beneath it. “Are you okay?” he asks plaintively.

Such tender consideration, and she pockets the gun to take the hoodie, pulling it over her head quickly. It smells like him, like a worried and besotted Omega, and that calls her back a little further from the abyss of memory. “I am fine,” she lies. “Jason, we should hurry.”

He reaches out, cups her cheek, and brushes his thumb over the tear-stained kohl beneath her eye. “You're sure you're all right?” he asks again, infinitely gentle.

Talia covers his hand in hers, kisses his palm, feels his pulse speed up. She could distract him. It would not take much, nor cost them too much time: just nip at his wrist, his neck, until he forgets seeing her secret pain. Part of her wants to hate him for having seen it, ashamed of the past.

Part of her wants to tell him all of it.

Both parts are probably insane.

“We have work to do,” she murmurs, and releases him with another soft kiss to his hand. She can taste him, his fear, his desire, and she sees that other Omega behind her closed eyes. Talia opens them to see just Jason, the blood of evil men on his knuckles, and she manages a wan smile before stepping away.

The six Omegas they find in the basement are terrified by the smell of her, cowering away from the stench of old pain, fresh anger, and lingering sexual frustration. The scent of them gives her back her self-control, at least; they give her a steely purpose, so desperately in need of a true Alpha's protection, not the possession that is all they know. Talia sees how young they are with despair; the eldest cannot be more than sixteen. It's not enough to open the cages, they must escort these children to safety. “The German embassy,” she tells Jay, thinking fast. “They have very strong beliefs about Alpha responsibility. We can surrender them to those who can take care of them.”

He nods, and it's Jason they trust enough to pile into the armored car, him carrying the nine-year-old. Talia, who avoids close quarters with Omegas, finds herself in the driver's seat with seven of them perfuming the air around her, one in flagrant heat, all of them scared. As Alpha, it fans her wrath, but she's already killed the men responsible.

As herself, the aroma of lust and fear makes images she'd prefer to forget flash across her mind. Alexej looked nothing like the face of her nightmare, but he moved and spoke and smiled just like--

Jay in the passenger seat takes her hand, lacing his fingers through hers, grounding her in the present. “C'mon, T, we gotta go,” he prompts her gently. “Or I can drive, if you want.”

She takes a deep breath to steady herself, but it's him she breathes in. At least Jay is afraid for her, not of her. “I can do this,” she tells him, aware that once the weight of responsibility lifts, she's going to go to pieces. Not in front of him, she hopes falteringly, but Jay has already seen too clearly into her. It may be too late to preserve the illusion of Alpha self-control and poise.

They pull up to the German Embassy, attracting immediate notice from the guards, who brusquely order them out of the car. Only Talia complies, at first, the reek of frightened Omega following her like perfume. “I have six Omegas in my car,” she says, letting the Beta guards hear the Alpha edge in her voice. “My associate and I just liberated them from a trafficking ring. Most of them are minors, probably all abused, and I cannot care for them myself. Will you see them directed to the proper authorities?”

Six Omegas?” one guard says in dismay. The Germans understand what she's asking them to do, and set about it with typical Prussian efficiency.

Talia stands aside, letting them coax the traumatized Omegas from the car one by one, until one of the guards opens the passenger door and looks at Jay. “That one is mine,” she growls, and there are three guns aimed at her before the sentence is out. She holds back, barely; a fight now will jeopardize the children they just rescued. But oh, even the implication that they might take Jay along with the rest sends her flaring into savagery.

The first guard looks wary, but when she does not rush them, he returns his attention to Jay. “Sir, do you know this woman?”

“Yes,” Jay replies in passable German. “She's my Alpha. It's all right. I'm safe with her.” And that casual declaration makes her heart skip a beat, even if he only said it for effect.

“You're quite certain?” the guard asks again, looking him over suspiciously.

Warning anger rumbles in Talia's throat, and Jay looks over at her. “Relax, T, I wouldn't let them take me from you,” he says, with indulgent humor.

She steps back again, realizing how this looks to the guards. She's unsuppressed and in rut, obviously just come from a fight of some kind, and she had seven, not six, Omegas with her. Those facts do not cast her in a good light. Luckily Jay is relaxed, confident, unafraid of her, and after a few more questions the embassy guards release them.

The liberated Omegas will be safe now, and Talia lets out a sigh of relief as she gets back into the driver’s seat. “Drive, before they think to ask how we got them out,” Jay prompts.

“They know not to ask. We both have others’ blood on our clothes.” Yet she does hasten, driving back toward the hotel, impatient to wash the feel of Alexej's hands from her skin. Even now she knows it is not the gang leader whose touch and voice haunt her. The encounter lasted only moments, she was well aware the entire time that he would not survive it, and the pain he caused her is only an annoyance on the scale of hurt to which she is accustomed.

Still, that smug gloating voice. Those casually brutal hands. Talia remembers another, cupping her breasts and twisting her tender nipples until she cried out, growling words of possession against her neck. And the memory that follows on its heels is worse: an unwelcome hand between her thighs, pain and pleasure twisted together in the touch until she couldn't breathe, that voice saying they would enjoy this now but have her cut later. She shudders, gripping the steering wheel tighter, until her knuckles go pale.

“T, you're freaking me out,” Jay says worriedly. When she doesn't answer, and instead takes a corner too fast, he yips surprise. “All right, Talia, pull over and let me drive. We shoulda put the masks back on…”

Yes, they should have, but they did not, distracted by the necessity of saving the Omega children. And then Jay puts a restraining hand over hers on the wheel, trying to coax her into calming down.

Instead his touch sets off a flare of heat in her belly, and yes, giving in to the siren call of his scent will black out the memories she's trying so hopelessly to flee. Talia jerks the car to the curb, shoves the gearshift in park, and climbs into Jay's lap while he's still swearing about the abrupt stop. She seizes the front of his shirt and yanks him close for a desperate kiss, the taste of his mouth going straight to her groin.

“Oh fuck me,” he gasps in a broken voice, and she snarls, “I mean to,” against his lips. Talia tears his shirt from the collar halfway down his chest, and relinquishes the kiss only to catch his jaw and tilt his head back. Jay stretches further than her prompting, baring his throat in explicit offering. He also seizes her hips bruising-tight - another flash of memory, and she dives into his scent to silence it. Talia licks a wet line from the hollow of his throat, up to the curve of his jaw, and then buries her nose behind his ear for a long, vibrating growl of “Mine.

“Yes,” he gasps, arching up against her. “Yeah, c'mon, mark me … fucking God, Talia!” The last is a tight spiraling cry as she does exactly what he asks, her teeth framing his pulse. Biting kisses down his neck, feeling his hips jerk in reaction with each one, she rakes her nails down his chest. Talia finds the sweet spot just above his collarbone, and licks and sucks just there until his skin is red-purple and he's writhing deliciously under her. The whole car smells of rut and heat, and Jay moans, “ Fuck, Talia, how do you do that so fucking good ?”

She laughs against his skin, nuzzling up to kiss his jaw. With him marked as hers, she has sufficient breathing room to give an actual answer to that, wanting him to hear the promise of pleasure in her words. “I had read The Perfumed Garden, Lazzat Un Nisa, and the Kama Sutra in the original Sanskrit, all by the time I was fourteen. Lovemaking is like any art, my sweet Jason: best well-studied and oft-practiced.”

At least this bit of indulgence grants her surcease from the hovering nightmare. The past is just gone while they're touching like this, his scent wrapped around her.

His hands have slipped to her thighs, and he gives an appreciative squeeze of toned muscle. “Goddamn, that's just too fucking hot.” Talia smiles to hear the growl of lust in his voice, the same note of demand that called forth her nightmares, but from him it is no threat. He has proven to be as careful of her as she is of him.

Is it truly wrong, to use him like this to fight her demons? Jason has made it clear in words tonight and in hungry glances over the past months that he did desire her even before this, even if he was initially unsure when she arrived at his apartment. He has also been quite clear that he wants her now, and even thinking that makes her entire body shiver like a struck bell. As for herself … he has grown quite handsome, but it is the brilliant mind and sharp wit and secret tenderness at the heart of him that calls to her. Talia had never let herself think of crossing this particular line with him, but she cannot blame all of the desire heating her blood on biological imperative.

Even if he were not in heat, even if he did not smell like every delicious thing she's ever craved in her life, she knows now how she would have responded if he'd made overtures: with a kiss like the one she gives him now, sensual and yearning. It is wrong, perhaps, given her connection to Bruce, but when has she ever let conventional morality stand in her way? All that matters is what the two of them want from each other.

And then he pulls back a little, a mischievous glint in his eyes as he asks, teasing, “What does all the classical sex literature say about fucking in the front seat of a car on a public street?”

Humor can tame both of their instincts, just enough, and Talia gives a throaty chuckle. “Choose a better place and time,” she answers. “Not here. Not now. But perhaps you ought to drive the rest of the way.”

Chapter Text

Whatever it is that had her starey-eyed and gritting her teeth, it went away when she marked him. Jay knows about bad memories, has plenty of his own. Those almost ritualized bites helped her keep her cool, and he’s glad of that.

He slides across the bench seat to the wheel, letting Talia take the passenger side, and she watches him hungrily.  Part of him wants to say the hell with it, they could always move to the back seat, but he doesn’t want to deal with cops or more gangsters interrupting them.  What’ll happen once they get back to the hotel still remains to be seen - there’s a measure of sanity there, they can shower off and get masks back on, and decide exactly how far they intend to go once they’re both more capable of rational thought.  Jay hasn’t forgotten how wounded she looked, telling him she’d rather be wanted for herself - and until today, he’s been treating her like a mentor, not a lover. Not even being that grateful of a student, if he’s honest. The constant yearning desire he feels now is partly pheromones, and maybe she’s right, maybe it’d be better if they waited until they can make the choice themselves.

Not that he really wants to pass up this chance. He’d have to be blind to be unaware of how incredibly attractive she is; and even a blind man might find her voice alone alluring.  It’s just that the first time, in heat, with an Alpha, is about the only sexual milestone he has left, and the one that most people regard as primarily important to an Omega.  All the old love stories like Romeo and Juliet make much of that first encounter, promising that two such lovers will never be parted, and frankly his life has enough drama without adding that to it. Still, if he's going to be with an Alpha, Talia is the one he'd want to be with. Not just because she's unbelievably hot. Because she fucking cares. She cares what he wants, she cares about those Omega kids she never saw before, she cares whether he wants her for herself or just because of his heat.

Musingly, she says, “If we… We were not prepared for this.”

Jay barks a laugh. “Yeah, the Bat-motto is always be prepared, but I wasn't carrying condoms. I haven't even seen them in stores, here.” The image is ludicrous,  stopping at a pharmacy and asking at the counter, with him in heat and both of them looking like they've been in a fight as well as damn near rutting in the car already.

“Hm. My own preference would be contraceptives after the fact, but that decision is more properly yours to make,” Talia says quietly.

Taking Plan B the morning after means she'd have him bareback, a thing he's never allowed anyone before, but oh holy fuck does it sound hot. Jay grins; putting off consequences and just doing what they've both been imagining sounds about perfect. “Fine by me. Glad one of us is being responsible.”

She laughs softly at that, telling him, “I am the Alpha here.”

It's too fucking sexy, the way she teases him, and he wonders if she'll whisper something similar in his ear later on. To keep them from ending up in a wreck, Jay makes himself focus on driving, entirely too aware of Talia beside him, watching him as if she’s thinking about all the same things. Only a couple miles, and he tries to keep them both distracted with words. “You know, if you did all that reading that young, I kinda envy your first Omega,” he tells her.

And that somehow sucks all the warmth out of the car as Talia closes in on herself. “She wasn't mine,” she starts to say, and actually covers her mouth with her hand, as if afraid of what else she might reveal.

Jay reaches for her knee, meaning to offer comfort, and she jerks away from his touch. “Just drive,” she commands, and he does, deeply unnerved by the brittle whipcrack of her voice.

Whatever secret this is, it's ugly.

They get back to the hotel where she ordered her two Beta retainers to wait, and at first the men are just visibly relieved to see them both. Jay wonders what they thought might happen, doubting they know about whatever's haunting their employer. Maybe they thought the two would simply run off, and Ra's would blame them for his daughter's defection.

Then they get a closer look, and both of them wear matching expressions of dismay. It must be damning, Jay realizes, her wearing his hoodie, his shirt half ripped off, a trail of fresh hickies up his neck. Not to mention, they both smell like lust and aggression, heat and rut. “Speak of this to no one,” Talia growls. “And have the car cleaned by morning.” She strides past them to the private entrance, its elevator insulated from the rest of the hotel. Jay follows her, tentative, and when the doors close he starts to ask, “Talia, what…?”

Happened, would be the rest, but she snarls, “Be silent,” in the tone of command. Jay bites his tongue; he could defy her, but she so clearly does not want him to.

In the suite she yanks his hoodie over her head and tosses it indifferently at him. “I must shower,” she says, and picks up the bag of shopping which has another day's worth of clothes. “Do not leave the room. You are still not safe.”

Jay nods, watching her disappear into the bathroom, and hears the shower start up. He paces the common room, flicks on the television, turns it off when he can't find anything interesting. He reads the hotel guide left on the desk, checks the view of the city lights, and reads every one of the tasteful brochures on the table by the door.

Still the shower runs. For a second, he thinks Talia might be distracting herself, and Jay groans softly at the images his mind conjures. He has never seen a female Alpha nude and fully roused, outside of anatomy texts, and suddenly he wants to know what she has. Wants to see it, touch it, taste it … take it, that part that makes her Alpha, into the slick cleft that makes him Omega.

Jay shoves that thought aside, able to ignore the heat-borne ideas because she's been acting so oddly, and he goes to the bathroom door. “Talia? You okay?” he calls.

“Leave me,” she replies coldly, dismissive. And for a few minutes he does, but his worry returns to nip at him. Her voice sounds off; it isn’t like her to ignore him this way.

He goes back to the door and says, “Something's wrong, I can tell. Talia, let me in, talk to me.”

“Keep out,” she snarls, but the door is locked anyway, and her voice … is she weeping?

“Let me in,” Jay says, his concern growing by the second. “Either tell me you're okay and make it sound true, or let me in and let me help you, T.”

“I said leave me,” is her only response, and her attempt to command him fails utterly. Her voice is choked with tears, the sound of it making the bruises her teeth left on his throat burn like brands, accusatory. What is he doing, taking her mark and not helping her? With a frustrated noise, Jay steps back and kicks the door in.

Talia actually gives a strangled scream, clutching the shower curtain to herself and grabbing for the gun.

Chapter Text

The shower helps, hot water cascading over her, washing everything away: Jay’s heat-scent, her own rut, and the filthy touch of that animal Alexej. But it leaves her in grief, not peace. The relief she found in marking Jay was only temporary; the moment he spoke of that first Omega, all the memories rushed back in. She thinks despairingly that she will never be free of that night's memories, that it lies in her mind like a trap always ready to catch and rend her very soul.

Don't touch me, you animal, my father will have your hide for this!

Your father should thank me. This is what you need.

Talia does not want to leave the shower, she’s suddenly exhausted, tired of fighting her nature and evil men and a world that sometimes looks at female Alphas as freaks of nature.  Male Omegas have their place, certain countries have always kept pretty boys for entertainment alongside women for a legacy, but to that mindset, a female Alpha is a betrayal of the natural order.  A woman who looks exactly like any other woman, until that one last detail - a woman who might charm her way into a man’s trust, then steal his Omega lover from him.

It is not so, where Jason comes from, though even in his country female Alphas are often presumed to be inverts who seek out only their own sex.  Western literature sometimes calls women like her unnatural, but not with the same condemnation as she’s read elsewhere. And those grand works of love poetry she quoted to Jason, they celebrate the delights of a female Alpha, a woman who can both give and receive - at least, in their original form.  Later translations conveniently forgot those verses.

The worst part of being both female and Alpha is not how the world seems to have no place for her, forcing her to carve out her own with sword and guile.  No, it is that she must deal with twice the vulnerabilities: woman, and Alpha.

Talia sits down under the rushing water, and lets it sluice everything away.  Past, present, future, all fading beneath the soothing warmth. If she cannot have peace, numbness will suffice.

And then Jay is at the door.

She snarls him away once, twice, and his tender concern wounds her more deeply for how much she does not deserve it.

The third time, he kicks the door in.

Shocked, Talia snatches at the shower curtain and grabs for the gun both at once.  He takes the scene in one glance, sees her eyes full of pain, and even though she brings the gun to bear on him he slides to his knees beside the tub.  “Talia, please, let me help you,” Jason begs.

She knows what to say, how to hurt him badly enough to make him leave, but then he will be in danger, and she cannot risk that. So Talia drops the gun indifferently to the floor, leaning away from him. “You can't,” she says, and her voice is bleak to her own ears.

“Let me try,” he insists, pushy as ever, and Talia closes her eyes and turns her face away, drawing her knees up to her chest. This is exactly what she didn't want, naked and tear-streaked and miserable, every ounce of vulnerability on display to the one she should be protecting.

She's a failure. That's all it is, all it has ever been. She's a pathetic excuse for an Alpha, crying like a hurt child in front of this boy almost a decade her junior whom she's tried and failed to save.

He calls her name softly, then more intently, and chews his lip worriedly when she finally looks at him. “This started when … when they hurt you, at the warehouse. I shouldn't have let you do that.”

“It was my idea,” she tells him, hating the quaver in her voice. “I … I thought it would be amusing, to play the wounded dove and slay them for their error. I did not expect … that. For him to sound so… It made me remember…”

“Your first Omega,” Jason says grimly, and she nods, more hot tears squeezing past her dark lashes. He continues, carefully, “It got better in the car, when you marked me. Talia? Will it help now?”

And so asking, he puts his hand out, palm up. On his knees still, shower spray soaking his sleeve and shoulder, he offers her his wrist like a courtier of old. It wrenches another sob from her, and she knows she should not take advantage of him like this. Yet Talia cannot resist the promise of relief. She takes his hand in hers, kisses his palm, and finds the scent gland in his wrist unerringly. One lush kiss, for beauty's sake, and then she lets her teeth scrape his skin. The very essence of Omega in heat coats her tongue, and she can't help moaning.

Jay groans too, his body tensing as she licks at that tender spot. His knees splay out on the tile, an unconscious offering, and she thinks of taking him there in the ruins of his clothes. He has never been with an Alpha, not in heat like this, and she knows just how to make it so good for him…

The same way another made it good for her, whether she wanted it or not…

Talia chokes off a whimper, buries her face in his palm, and leans against his shoulder. Not even his noble attempt to distract her can silence her ghosts tonight.

Jay puts his other arm around her despite the shower spray and just holds her. She lets him, clinging to the comfort he offers, and for some time they simply sit like that.

“Talia,” he finally murmurs. “If you talk about it, maybe it won't be so bad. I told you about … well, about selling myself. You didn't pull back.”

“You did what you must to survive,” Talia murmurs, rubbing her cheek on his palm. “How could I think less of you for that?”

“Because you won't be the first Alpha to fuck me?” he hazards.

She manages to smile at him. “I care not who was first. I would be the one you chose.” A pause, and she adds despite knowing it's vain, “And the best.”

Jason laughs softly. “Doesn't look like you'll have any problems in that department, judging so far. I guarantee you nobody else bothered to read the Kama Sutra, much less in Sanskrit. Talia … you'd be good to me. I know that.”

If she was truly good to him, she'd have locked him in this secure suite alone. Her smile slips, and fades, and she kisses his hand again softly. Jason watches her, and says quietly, “What was her name? Your first Omega?”

“I never knew,” Talia says in a small sad voice. She knows where this is going, and its ending will drive him from her. Still, he deserves to know just how inadequate of an Alpha he's allied himself with. “She was not mine, Jason.”

He frowns, looking at her. “You said earlier… Talia, did she … did she rape you?” His voice falters on the question. That is the worst thing he can imagine. Poor, sweet boy.

She kisses his palm one last time, reverentially, before releasing him. So when he pulls away in disgust, he will not hurt himself. “No,” she tells him, and her voice breaks. “No, Jason. I raped her.”

Chapter Text

Jay flushes hot, then ice cold and almost numb. His ears are ringing as he stares at her, at those mournful eyes, at the gorgeous mouth that has just said the only thing he can never, ever forgive. Talia looks at him with guilt and grief plain on her face.

If that's true … there's a gun on the floor beside him, and she's in no state to defend herself. Jay has seen too many Omegas cowed by Alphas, too many bruised faces and haunted eyes. Those children today, their hopeless expressions. They had heard the fight and at first seen him and Talia as new captors, unable to believe in rescue. And in his own past, the misery in the Bowery, Omega boys and girls snatched up by pimps who hooked them on drugs and beat them until just the lack of a beating seemed like kindness. Jay knows too much; he can't let an abuser live.

But this is Talia, and he remembers how strained her voice was, ordering him not to open the door while her men rushed to bring them masks. How he'd leaned against the door, lost in her scent, and she used every ounce of command to stop him from letting her in, even while he could hear the hunger in her voice. How she killed in his defense, and kept forcing him away from her. How she used herself as bait instead of him, unable to let those bastards even think of having him.

He can only stare at her, as disbelief gives way to anger. “Bullshit,” he finally says, and it shocks some life back into her expression. “I don't fucking believe that. You're not a goddamn rapist, Talia. This whole time you've been using your Alpha mojo to keep me away, you've been doing everything you can to not even touch me and not let anyone else hurt me either. This would've been a helluva lot easier if you'd just come into my apartment, locked the door behind you, and asked me if I wanted you to help me. We both know I would’ve said yes. Hell, we'd probably still be wrecking every surface in my apartment right now. So if you won't fuck me when I'm asking for it, I don't believe you ever raped anyone.”

Talia swallows, and the hint of hope in her eyes is worse than the guilt. “It was rape,” she says faintly. “I held her down and bit her neck to bleeding while she begged me to let her go. She was a virgin; I took her roughly while she wept. I made her come for me a dozen times, screaming my name, and I never even knew hers. Or saw her again. She fled, as soon as she got free.”

“You're trying to chase me off,” he realizes. Every ill-tempered snarl, and now this awful confession, it's all meant to drive him away. Why? And if she's the rapist instead of the victim, why do her eyes look just as bruised as the Omegas they rescued tonight? “That's not the whole story. Talia, tell me what happened.

At first she cannot speak, her throat working, heartbreak plain in her gaze, and he takes her shoulders. In a voice as full of intent as her command, he insists, “Tell me.

That breaks the dam. “It was Bane,” she sobs, covering her face as the tears pour down and the words rush out like pus from an infected wound. “Bane wanted me, I refused. He tried to force me, I fought. But he was so much stronger, thanks to Venom, I never stood a chance. He beat me, tied me to the bed…” Her voice falters, Jay's stomach churns, and her words stagger on like someone gut-shot who doesn't yet know they're dead. “He dosed me with aphrodisiacs and brought in the Omega girl, already in heat… He chained her up next to me so I could not help but smell her … and when still I struggled to escape he … he covered his hands in her scent and held them over my face 'til I could barely breathe… And then he untied me. I couldn't stop…”

The last is delivered with such guilt and shame that Jay climbs into the tub with her, holding her, ignoring the water soaking his clothes. Just hearing this makes him nauseous, and she lived it. She's reliving it now. “It wasn't your fault,” he tells her. “C’mon, Talia, you have to know that.  It wasn’t your fault, Bane did this to you. You never asked for it. You're not a rapist, you’re a victim, too.”

“Tell that to her,” she sobs with a jagged, bitter laugh. Her hands fisted in the ruins of his shirt, her voice tear-choked and broken.  “It was nothing like … I was so cruel. And Bane … Bane raped me while I had her, then raped her for good measure, just because he could… It went on for hours, I wanted to kill him but every time I tried he’d force me on her instead, and oh she was so sweet, Jason, I couldn’t resist … I couldn’t stop…”

It sickens him to hear, and Jay’s almost glad when she subsides into harsh, wracking sobs.  He holds her, rubbing her back, distantly aware that this hotel must have a really big hot water tank for the water raining on them to still be warm.  

He never knew or guessed at this, but it explains everything.  Why Talia has been vehemently against claiming him from the first, why she gets so angry every time he comes on to her.  She blames herself, and he's seen that before, too. Probably no one ever told her it wasn't her fault, mostly because she'd never let anyone find out it happened. Hell, this even explains why she avoids Omegas so much that the love of her life is a goddamn Alpha.  She is … really, really fucked.  Fucked over by Bane, fucked up by what she did to the poor Omega girl.

Just like he was fucked over by Bruce, letting him fall, and fucked up by Joker and that bastard’s crowbar.  The only way it could’ve been worse would be if he’d come into heat; Joker is an Alpha, after all.  

And Jay kicks that thought brutally aside.  He’s currently holding an Alpha who needs him as much as he needs her, and Talia would never do that to him.  She’s proven it a dozen times today.  No matter what she thinks of herself, she’s not a rapist.

Chapter Text

Eventually Talia’s sobs quiet into hiccups, and she feels utterly drained.  Talking about those memories is almost as awful as having experienced them, and she did not even tell it all. She remembers the smell of incense calculated to enhance the scent of heat and rut; the taste of aphrodisiac herbs in strong wine, forced down her throat until she had to swallow simply to breathe again; the pain of struggling hopelessly against her bonds, chafing her wrists raw trying to get just a little slack, just enough to slip them… And then Bane bringing in the frightened girl, no more than fifteen, and even while Talia's mind shrieked in outrage her body sang with desire. Fighting, still, nearly dislocating her own shoulders in desperation as Bane chained the girl down, tore her dress open, and forced his hand between her legs. The girl's pained cries, and Bane shoving his slick fingers under Talia's nose, into her mouth. She'd bitten him, her last act of defiance before rut roared to life in her at that irresistible sweetness.

It had been the first time she'd had sex like an Alpha, pinning the girl down and thrusting brutally between blood-stained thighs, her head swimming with overwhelming pleasure.  So wrong, but it felt so good - for both of them, the Omega girl swiveling her hips up to meet her even while she whimpered in pain and fear. And Bane had laughed, his hands on her body, leaving bruises in the shape of his fingers on her shoulders and breasts and hips. She'd had no will to resist him, only enough sense left to hate him and herself in wild helpless rage, even while she did exactly what he wanted.

To her everlasting shame, after shuddering fulfillment into the girl, she'd actually arched up to him when he took her. Everything felt good in the grip of rut, and Talia had cried out at the strength of the climax Bane gave her - but what she called out was 'I hate you!’ And Bane had chuckled richly, biting her neck and telling her she belonged to him. Telling her she would learn to love this, to love him. Telling her she had wanted this, despite her denials, and then forcing her nose against the Omega girl's neck where the scent overwhelmed her again. The girl had stopped begging to be released by then - in fact she begged for more, until it was over - but despite her slim legs wrapped around Talia's hips and her spiraling cries of ecstasy, her tears had never stopped. Brutal, vicious, to be given in sacrifice like that, and Talia had never been able to find her to make any kind of amends. Not even after Bane was gone.  She swore she'd never have another Omega, never take that kind of advantage again.

She will not tell Jason any of that; what she admitted already was bad enough. He has not abandoned her, but she should worry over the damage she’s done to their relationship, the trust she’s broken.  Just now, she is too hollow to care. She turns her face into the shower spray, letting it wash away the tears. “I must look pathetic,” she says, her voice bleak.

“No, you look fucking hurt,” Jay tells her.  “The fact that you’re still functioning at all, much less being a badass assassin and taking care of my fucked-up zombie self, shows how strong you are.  Talia, pathetic is the last thing I’d call you.”

She gives him a wan smile.  “You’re very kind.”

“I'm being serious,” he says. “Talia, there's something you need to hear, okay? Because I've watched Omegas in the trade hate themselves. And I'm sorry if this hurts, if it's crude, but it's true, okay?”

Her eyebrows have been steadily going up as he speaks, and he can feel her tensing to defend herself, but Jay goes on anyway. “It wasn't your fault. Not even if you liked it. Hell, not even if you came like a freight train, because you probably did. I'm a guy, I know how good it can feel. That doesn't change the fact that you didn't want that. Or that Bane's a rapist who needs to die slow. You got me?”

She blinks, and for a second everything inside her comes crashing down, every denial and defense. Jay knows … and he absolves her. At the price of accepting that she had been a victim, yes, and the horror of being the perpetrator is almost better than that stain. Still, she is seen, her pain known.

He recognizes that vulnerability in her; she sees it in his eyes, and hastily barricades herself behind sarcasm. “I do hope you have no intention of pursuing a career in crisis therapy. Your technique leaves much to be desired.”

He sighs and hugs her tight.  Letting it go, as she hoped he would. “Come on, let's get cleaned up.  We both need some sleep.”

“Yes, we do,” she admits, and hesitates.  Just now, the constant rush of water is carrying away both of their scents - and emotional distress has largely knocked her out of rut, for the moment.  It will come back, the moment she gets a deep whiff of his scent, for he will still be in heat for another day or so.

For now, at least, she can think clearly.  “I should leave you here,” she admits. “Take another suite, so I am close enough to protect you.  Bring in more Beta guards. But I should not be in the same room with you while you’re in heat. Once I smell you…”

He scoffs, and gives her shoulders a little shake.  “Oh, get over it already. You’re not a fucking rapist, T.  Stay with me.  I don’t want you to be alone, not with this shit in your head.  Beside, you’re not gonna rape me, because you can’t rape the willing.”

He is trying to joke, and she tenses in his arms, her eyes going cold.  This, for her, is no joking matter. “An Omega in heat would say that to almost any Alpha.”

“Bullshit,” he argues.  “I was in a room full of fucking Alphas and all I wanted to do was kill them, because they were hurting you.  And we did kill them, remember. Even when you came into my apartment, I had a gun in my hand, ready to fight one of those gangsters. I didn’t go offering my throat to anybody but you, Talia. It's not because I'm in heat. It's because you're you.”

That gives her pause, exactly what she longs to hear spoken almost gruffly, and so plainly sincere. She regards him thoughtfully.  He is still young enough that she can read his expression easily, and she sees him steeling himself for what he says next. “Now if you don’t want to, I’m not gonna do that to you.  We’ve got the fancy soap, we’ve got masks, and if we have to we can bring your guards in here to chaperone.  If you don’t want me, Talia, I can stay out from under you for another day.”

She runs a hand through his wet hair, the shock of white in front startling against the black.  “Oh, under me is precisely where I want you,” Talia admits, and watches his pupils dilate.  “You already bear my mark. I want to claim you - but that would not be what’s best for you, and I must protect you.  That is what an Alpha is.”

“Let me decide what's best for me,” he replies. “Fuck, you need it in writing or something? I want you. And I'm not gonna regret it tomorrow or next week. I wanna know how the stuff I've been picturing would feel.”

She smiles, a little tired and sad, but his youthful optimism is welcome. And if he insists, perhaps she will let him be the balm that washes away those old memories. Every time she’s indulged today, she forgets everything except him. At least for a while. If she stays, if they give each other this decadent satisfaction, perhaps the next time she scents an Omega she will think of him, beautiful and deadly and so surprisingly kind, instead of the ghosts of her past. “I have arranged for your education in so much else,” Talia murmurs. “Why not teach you this, as well?”

He shrugs one shoulder, giving her a crooked grin. “You think we can get through the whole Kama Sutra?”

She only laughs at him. “A shower, first, and dinner. Then we shall see.”

Chapter Text

The shower itself is almost chaste, just helping each other get cleaned up, and Jay really thinks that nothing will happen afterward. He doesn't feel the heat as intensely as he did this morning; maybe it's already fading. The sight of her nude with water running along her sleek curves is inspiring, yeah, but he can control it, thinking about what she told him. Bane's a walking dead man. And after that confession, Talia is as far from aroused as it's possible to be and still be breathing. No, nothing will happen between them, but it reassures her to know that if it did, he'd be very much willing, so he’d stated the point bluntly.

He orders up room service while she's drying her hair, and when it arrives - very promptly - he's wearing the sleep-clothes her guards brought them. A cut above regular pajamas in comfort and quality, not that Jay wears pajamas. He's a boxers and t-shirt guy. This, though, the pants and shirt are loose and very soft on his skin.

Talia dresses in very similar clothes, and they dine together in the suite's common room. Neither of them has ever had much time for small talk, so Jay tells her about his last investigation, the trainer he just graduated from. She teases him, gently, for ordering two entrees. “Hey, I'm a growing boy,” he laughs.

“Are you, now?” she responds playfully, and it's good to see her smile.

“Sure,” Jay jokes back. “Lucky I have someone looking after me, making sure I eat my vegetables and get plenty of exercise and go to bed on time.”

“I will always care for you,” she tells him, and there's something about her tone that makes him look up from the meal. Her eyes have gone dark, solemn and intense.

“You are good to me,” he says, awkward at admitting such things. But hell, if she can spill her guts, he owes her this. “Talia … I never thanked you. Without you, I'd be the next thing to dead, still.”

“You are welcome,” she replies formally, and then, “You are worth all I have done, all I have risked, and more. To see the life in your eyes is worth risking everything .”

He's got no words to answer that, so he reaches across the table for her hand, and kisses her palm reverently. Talia sighs, and he means to release her and finish the meal, but what actually happens is Jay nuzzles his cheek into her hand and kisses her wrist.

“Jason,” she murmurs, her fingers curling in his inky hair. And with another kiss, her breath catches, her voice soft and dark and wanting. “My Jason.”

Jay can tell it's heat that makes him want to crawl across the table into her lap; it's snuck up on him quietly, but he can smell himself. And her, something sweet overlaid with musk and spice. He can choose to walk away, get the nasal filters, spill a little peppermint oil to cut through the warmth of desire they make together.

He can choose. And he chooses her. Now as long as she chooses him, too…

“You want this?” Jay asks quietly, without his usual sarcasm or deflection.

In answer, her hand cups the nape of his neck, and she leans across the table to kiss him. Slowly, thoroughly, and very well.

It leaves him breathless, and her eyes are luminous when she says softly, “Come to bed.” Nothing's ever sounded better.

Chapter Text

An hour later and somehow he's still got his pants on. Clearly she's trying to kill him. “Fuck, T,” he groans against her breast. He'd had some idea that she might be sore, still, from the way Alexej twisted her nipples so cruelly. The plan was something like 'kiss and make it better', but she's been telling him exactly how she wants them held, and caressed, and kissed, and licked, and he's been following orders like such a good Omega.

“I will,” she tells him, and that makes his cock jump. She can feel it, as closely entwined as they are, and purrs happily, swiveling her hips.

God,” Jay gasps, arching against her, half-mad with lust and unable to decide which he wants more: to fuck her, or to have her fuck him.

“Slowly,” she tells him again, carding her fingers through his hair. Her voice is a command, but there's so much warm desire in it - and just a little amusement - that he doesn't mind. “Make it last, Jason.”

“You're killing me,” he growls, and opts for defiance. Taking her nipple in his mouth, he sucks against it, flicking his tongue over the taut peak. His hips move of their own accord, beginning to thrust against her.

Talia moans softly, moving with him, and then growls in mock-frustration. “Impatient brat,” she scolds him, in tones sweeter than any praise, and Jay laughs.

Then she rolls him under, straddling his waist and smirking down at him. “I said slowly,” she chuckles, and bends to kiss him. Jay lets his hands rove over her body, and holy fuck she's magnificent.

And very, very wicked, taking her sweet time to kiss and lick her way down his chest, nipping gently at his toned abs, her hand on the waistband of his pants. Talia moves off of him only long enough to slide them down, Jay lifting his hips to help her. Passive isn't his style, but his instincts are telling him to let her lead and enjoy the way she takes such good care of him.

Her long dark hair brushes his belly, and he bites off a curse as she kisses him just above the fine trail leading downward. “Jesus, T, you do that and slow ain't happening,” he warns hurriedly.

“Do what, precisely?” she purrs, quirking up a brow. “This?” And licks him once, from base to tip, taking the head into her mouth for one glorious hot wet moment that makes him see stars with sensory overload.

Jay doesn't even have time to whimper assent before she says, “Or this?” And traps his cock under her hand, flat against his belly, so she can bend her head and glide her tongue along the wet folds just below it. Jay makes a shameless, greedy sound, pleasure tolling through him so strongly it practically makes his eardrums bulge.

“My sweet Jason,” she hums against sensitive flesh, and sits up. Her knowing eyes, her evil smile, and her voice only a little breathless as she asks, “Well, darling? Which is it that I must avoid?”

Jay growls, “I swear to God, Talia, if you don't fuck me right now…”

Quiet, ” she orders, and backs it up with her hand over his mouth. Her gaze is almost lambent with desire, her voice throaty as she adds, “I wouldn't want you to make a promise you cannot keep.”

“Talia, please,” he says hoarsely, as soon as she lets him, and watches the impact of the words darken her eyes with lust.

Her patience is gone, too, and she slips off her pants. Now he can finally see it, and she looks glorious to him. “Jason,” she says, almost sternly, even as she takes hold of his hips, pressing against his entrance. He's hungry for her, soaked and so far past ready it's not even funny. Still, she asks, “You have done this before?”

“Jesus fucking Christ, yes,” he tells her in frustration. It's not an entirely unreasonable question, despite what she knows. Most of his clients were interested in something quicker and more anonymous; he hid the fact that he was Omega even then. “With men, anyway, but don't you fucking decide that … ohhhh, God…

She cuts him off by claiming him, and she feels so fucking good inside him, his back arches up to take her all the way. Even as he trails off into a shameless moan, he's aware of her throwing her head back on a low cry of pleasure. He grips the sheets, his toes curling, all of that need and wanting concentrated at the core of him.

And she waits, the fucking tease, hilted in him she waits for him to meet her smoldering gaze before she starts to move again. So slow it's torture, her hips moving in gentle arcs that pulse pleasure all through him. Jay manages to rasp out, “Fuck yes, just like that, fuck me, that's so fucking good, Talia…”

“So demanding,” she purrs, bracing herself with one hand on the mattress and the other on his hip, leaning up the better to watch him writhe. “In case you hadn't noticed, Jason, I am fucking you.”

He arches at that profanity in her elegant voice, groaning, wanting more and faster and harder. To that end, he tries to taunt her, though his voice is panting. “So's this the first time doin’ this for you? With a guy, anyway?”

She laughs softly. “No, lover. An Omega's tastes are not so different from other men. You'd be surprised what men will do, when a woman like me asks them.”

He can't help wondering who she's referring to. He can't imagine Bruce taking it like this, or as close as he can get without the parts an Omega has. Who knows, though, because she's right - he'd give her anything she wants right now. Jay groans, and opens his knees further.

She shifts, gripping his thigh, and picks up the pace a little. Jay gasps because oh there, he thought it was good before, now she has the angle just exactly right and he might very well die from this. And be happy about it. “Fear not, you are still the only Omega man I've been with, the only one I want,” Talia tells him breathlessly. “And after tonight, the only Omega I will remember. If you knew how lovely you look like this…”

He feels wrecked, open and overheated, with all his natural caution subsumed by the desire to give her whatever she wants, whatever will keep her thrusting against that perfect spot inside him. Jay groans, feeling his cock throb, and trying to keep from completely submitting to her, he points out, “You're kinda … missing half the fun…”

She laughs, soft and rich and so frankly sexual it makes him bite his lip. “Do you intend for me to do all the work, Jason?”

He grins at her, a crooked laughing grin that's got to be the very definition of Omega high on his own pheromones, and retorts, “Well you are the Alpha here.”

Talia smirks, an evil light in her eyes, and purrs, “Yes, I am. And I would have you show some appreciation, Jason, for the way I spoil you.”

He's got a comeback for that, but she growls, “Touch yourself for me,” and the tone of command in her voice sizzles from his ears straight to his groin without even passing through his brain.

Jay moans, and grips his cock, stroking in time to her rhythm. And she croons to him how very good he is, how lovely he looks and how wonderful he feels, rewarding him with a stronger pace. Pretty soon he's outrunning her, moving his fist faster in an irresistible glide, and it's a race which sensation will spill him over first…

“Did I give you permission to come?” she says, her tone half-threatening. “Don't you dare, Jason. Not yet.”

“Oh, fuck, come on,” he groans, but slows his hand. A little. For now. “What makes you think … I'll listen?”

“You will obey because you are Omega, and I am the Alpha here,” she tells him, the command hazy with pleasure, and still somehow so terribly in control as she casts his taunts back at him. “Also because … if you're very, very good … I might let you have me like this.”

That pulls a strangled groan from him, his head falling back, and she's just too goddamn good at this. He's no more able to compete at her level than he could've out-shot the sniper he trained with, when he only had a month of small-arms work. So Jay is as obedient as he can be, arching under her until she growls and seizes his other hand. Her eyes are burning with lust as Talia growls, “Now,” and bites his wrist and fucks him harder, bending forward over him at an angle that's suddenly so fucking deep and so damned good it almost hurts and “Come for me,” half-muffled against his skin, and he shouts something like oh fuck yes but not even that articulate, spilling over his fist and spasming around her and feeling her go taut and surge into him one last time with a low cry in her throat.

She falls beside him, panting as heavily as he is, and it takes a long, long time for him to croak out, “Fucking God.”

“You do love that word,” she breathes, half-laughing. “But yes. It is accurate. That was divine.”

Jay rolls up on his side and seizes her chin and kisses her, hard, a little noise of surprise in her throat fading into a happy hum. And he draws back still panting to say, “Fucking hell, too, you are so fucking evil, you goddamned tease.”

Talia laughs, and cups his cheek, arching her body up to his as she kisses him again. “It is in the name, Jason, darling. Al Ghul - of the Demon. I don't know why you're surprised.”

“Then what's Talia mean?” he demands, stealing another kiss because he has not forgotten what she halfway-promised. “Goddess of great sex?”

She bites his lip in return, and that slight pain feels damn good because it comes from her. And then she looks at him, eyebrow raised, and smiles crookedly. “Honestly? Dew of heaven.”

Jay can't help it, he snickers. “Oh shit, that makes perfect sense, you really are both heaven and hell. Jesus, T.”

Her grin is lazy, sated, and quite content. “I will take the contradiction. Its other meaning is lamb.”

The sneer in her voice is plain, and Jay can't help laugh. “Lamb? You? Fuck, is that ever off the mark.” He watches her with a blissful haze of satisfaction, knowing this isn't over. In the past, his heats have always lasted two or three days.

This is just the intermission.

Chapter Text

Talia curls up beside him, her fingertips tracing aimless patterns over Jason's chest. He is the loveliest man she's ever seen, she thinks. His eyes, especially, that pale icy blue framed by thick dark lashes any woman would envy. The softness of youth is fading every time she sees him, his features becoming more chiseled, but those eyes will always be the same: hauntingly beautiful.

He's petting her side, his hand wandering along her curves, and Talia decides to simply enjoy this. Serious considerations can wait. Jason is in heat, she is in rut, and it feels like being pleasantly drunk. For once, she just wants to indulge. This intimacy should be cherished - he knows the worst of her, as she does him, and still they reach for one another. Being forthcoming about silly little details like the meaning of her name is more casually honest than Talia can normally allow herself to be. She must guard herself, always, ever alert for betrayal.

But not with him.

“After that, I could use a cigarette,” Jason sighs, almost apologetic. “And a drink, probably.”

She smiles at him. “So could I. And we never did finish dinner.” That’s how they end up raiding the mini bar, polishing off the last of the food, and then enjoying a post-prandial as well as post-coital smoke, curled up in bed again.

“Never figured you for a smoker,” he muses.

She takes a deep drag, letting the menthol fill her lungs. “I prefer shisha,” she tells him. “It tastes better. But this is far more convenient than setting up a hookah.”

Jay finishes his cigarette, stubs it out, and looks at her. “So that was what, chapter one of the Kama Sutra?”

His eager irreverence is quite refreshing, unlike any other lover she's taken. Talia smiles warmly, putting out her own cigarette. “Are you interested in chapter two?”

“Hell yeah,” he replies with bright anticipation that reminds her how young he is, barely into manhood. Still, not a child - Jason has not had the luxury of a child's innocence even while he was a child. He is old enough to know what he wants, and young enough to still find wonder in every new vista of pleasure she opens to him. All of which is most gratifying.

While this lasts, she decides to let herself enjoy it. Thoroughly. “Then let us find out how much control an Alpha really has, shall we?” she purrs, and his look of dismay makes her chuckle. He has no idea what she intends. “Put your hands on the headboard, Jason, and keep them there. If you move them, I'll stop.”

And so saying, she kisses her way down his chest. Jason makes a noise of surprise, and she laughs before putting her mouth to better use. Some might think this particular act too subservient for an Alpha, but Talia knows that she owns him just now. His entire world narrows to her mouth on his cock, and when his hips buck in reaction, she draws back just enough to command, “You will not come until I grant you permission.”

“Holy fuck that's not fair,” he whimpers, and she just grins.

Once she pushes him over the edge despite his best attempt at restraint, she can punish him with further sweet cruelties. Such as putting him on his knees before her, to serve her the same way she's pleasuring him now, and the thought of his demanding mouth between her thighs inspires her to greater effort.

This will be utter debauchery, her mind racing with all the lovely pleasures she can show him. They both have enhanced stamina thanks to the pheromones of their designations, which will give them plenty of opportunities to indulge.

She glances up to make sure he's keeping his hands on the headboard as she demanded, and sees the tendons in his wrists standing out with the effort of resisting his natural inclination to bury his hands in her hair. Talia rejoices in that, in feeling so intensely wanted, and rewards his obedience by taking him as deep as she can, swallowing to get him past the back of her throat. Jason gives the most delightful whimper she's ever heard, arching helplessly up to her. She hums her satisfaction, and that too makes him groan and shudder.

How could she not give him everything both of them can imagine? Yes, later she'll lie beneath him and let him take her, the way Alphas are not expected to want to be taken, but she is a woman. She can be both, yin and yang, and with him it will feel so very good.  She wants him atop her just as much as she loves making him writhe under her like this. It will be good, not merely lust; joy and trust and a little playful laughter at how very sweet a couple of hardened killers like them can be.

It's going to be a very long night.

Chapter Text

When Jay wakes up and realizes his heat is finally over, he's at first disappointed. Spending most of a day and a half in bed with Talia was deliriously good. He's learned whole new fascinating things about himself; that he likes being dominated, if it's done right, is the main one. And the way Talia used her Alpha mojo to command him, again and again, was dominance done exactly right. Everything she demanded of him just made it better, even her insistence on taking things slowly despite his impatience.

And when she'd finally let him top - fuck, the way she stretched her arms above her head and arched up to him as if in surrender - she'd just about killed him with her breathy moans of yes and harder and please, Jason.

Yeah, that memory is gonna feature in his fantasies for a long damn time.

Talia is still asleep, a blissful smile curving her lips, and he watches her a moment. He's damn lucky, and he knows it.

He's also hungry, so he gets out of bed, wincing at every sore spot. His groin, of course, he's never been this completely worn out before. Also his neck and shoulders, which are thoroughly marked - his arms too. And he hadn't even known about the scent glands on the insides of his thighs until she marked them, too. He's got more hickies than he can count. He's most pleased by the red stripes down his back - from her nails, while she was beneath him, moaning in delight.

Talia has her share of bruises, from his hands on her hips, his mouth on her neck and breast, but he's the one looking the most like a wreck this morning. Still worth it.

Jay calls the concierge to have breakfast sent up, starts a pot of coffee, then pads into the bathroom to shower and brush his teeth. Talia's still asleep when he tugs on boxers and pants, going to the suite's door.

The same two Betas are still on guard, and they look at him with something approaching horror. He just grins toothily at them. “I'm expecting room service, and I don't wanna wake her,” he tells them.

“We'll handle that, sir,” one guard tells him, and Jay snickers. The fewer people see him looking so completely fucked-out, the less damage control they'll need to do later. Can't let anyone know the Daughter of the Demon just spent two days screwing her Gotham boy halfway into oblivion.

Jay leaves it up to them, and goes back in, making two cups of coffee. Black and sweet, the way she made it for herself yesterday, and Talia wakes as he approaches the bed. Assassin, of course, she has to sleep lightly. He'll never tell anyone how she cuddled close in the night, dragging his arm around her waist demandingly, wanting to hold and be held at once.

“Morning,” he says, sitting on the edge of the bed and holding out the coffee. She sits up, naked and gorgeous even with her hair rumpled, and accepts the cup with a gracious nod.

There are things that need to be said, and he hopes they'll dissolve her wary silence. “Well, heat's over, and I'm still very damn happy about you taking me to bed. No regrets here. You?”

“None,” she tells him.

Jay sips his coffee, and clears his throat, looking down for a second. But he makes himself meet her eyes before saying, “So … I had a thought. You and me, we could do a whole lotta good in the world. So maybe let's revive that Band of Thebes thing on a more permanent basis, whatcha think? We could hunt down the bastards who abuse Omegas and make 'em pay. Find Bane and put a bullet in his head, too.”

She blinks at the name, her eyes going shuttered, and Jay knows she would never have told him all that if they hadn't both been under the influence of pheromones. It doesn't matter. He knows, and he’ll keep her secrets, and if it’s the last thing he does he’ll take the shadow from her gaze and make her understand it wasn’t her fault.  “Forget the rest of them. We make a helluva team. Let's you and me do what we do best. What do you say?”

Talia smiles gently. “That sounds lovely.”

Chapter Text

Talia wakes to cold knowledge: one, she has given away far too many secrets; and two, her father will hunt Jason down and kill him, if he finds out.

First, the new intimacy between herself and Jason is frankly terrifying. Nightmares she told herself she would never share, not even with Bruce, she sobbed against Jason’s shoulder like a child. And he, who thinks himself such a failure, never turned away. Instead he has done all he can to alleviate her guilt.

Worse, her father. Omegas are a weakness, he has told her repeatedly; Ra's al Ghul keeps only Betas in his employ and in his bed. She understands his warning now, for she would remake the world to protect Jason. Even without the hormones of rut insistently beating at her brain, she wants nothing more than to twine herself in his arms until neither can tell where one ends and the other begins.

And as he brings her coffee, Jason lays out a plan for their future that warms her heart. Not only is he reassuring her, he seems entirely willing to cast aside his vengeance for her sake.

How she wishes she could agree.

Instead she murmurs appreciation, kisses him, and whispers against his cheek, “I forget how very young you are. Do not confuse heat with love, Jason.”

And watches impassively as his heart shatters before her.

He swallows, sitting back, and that's when one of guards comes in with the breakfast tray. The man is nervous, as well he should be. Talia will have to kill both of them by the end of the day, to keep them from spreading tales that will reach her father.

For the moment, she gives him a reassuring smile, half-rueful as if she means to invite him into conspiracy. “Put it there, thank you,” she tells him. And once he's set the tray on the bed between them, she adds in the same matter-of-fact tone, “We will be leaving today. First, I would like you to acquire two doses of emergency contraceptives.”

His eyebrows go up when she says two , and Talia gives a little shrug, meant to imply embarrassment she does not feel. They are both at risk, after all. Female Alphas often have fertility problems, that way, but it is much better to be safe. And that very personal admission will keep the guard thinking about leverage and blackmail instead of the fact that her only sensible action is to eliminate him.

He sketches her a bow and hurries out to do her bidding, letting her return her attention to Jason. He's gotten his expression under control, and dives into the food with his customary gusto - but with decidedly unusual silence.

“You have a goal,” she reminds him gently. “And I have work of my own.”

“Yeah, I don't think I hafta kill him,” he says, his voice a little flat. “I did figure out you were stalling me, you know. You're right, though, it's gotta be something more than just revenge. I need to make him see how bad he fucked up. It'll take more than a bullet to get that through his head.”

Talia nods, hearing the coldness and distance in his tone. It will keep him safe - and he is her Omega. She will do whatever she must to protect him. Even this.

“I have every faith that you will arrange matters to a satisfactory conclusion,” she tells him, nibbling at some toasted bread that is all her stomach will tolerate, just now.

He just scoffs a little, and Talia adds, “Should you encounter another such trafficking ring, however, do feel free to call upon me. I agree that such Alphas should be stamped out of existence, and it would be my pleasure to assist you.”

“I'll keep that in mind,” he says formally, but his smile is pleased.

Talia remembers then, and tells him, “Just a moment. I had brought you something, before we got so thoroughly distracted.” She slides out of bed, pulling on a shirt on the way to the purse she had carelessly cast aside once they arrived at this suite.

Inside is a plain black box, which she brings to Jason. He opens it, curiously, and his eyes widen at the sight of the dagger within. “That style is called a kris,” she tells him, “distinguished by the ornate handle and the multiple curves of the blade. It is Lazarus-forged, and should serve you well.”

He lifts it, letting the steel glint in the light filtering into the room, and then shifts to a fighting grip. It is well weighted to his hand, and Talia hopes he will treasure it.

“It's perfect,” he says, and she cherishes the look of wonder in his eyes.

Chapter Text

He should've fucking known better, and from the moment she turns him down - gracefully, at least she didn't laugh - Jay shoves all those annoying feelings down somewhere inside. By the time her guards show up with Plan B and fresh clothes, they're ready to part ways, with Talia giving him a kiss on the cheek that's oddly formal.

He heads off to the next trainer, and the next, with Talia sending a supply of that herbal blend she mentioned. It helps, and timing his heats helps, but he spends them alone. Remembering, mostly, and kicking himself for being such a dumb sap as to think Talia al Ghul could fall in love with him.  Seems he's doomed to keep confusing heat and love, not that he'd tell her.

All the while she's financing him and feeding him information about what's happening in Gotham. He'll make his play there, in due time, but his life is more than Gotham now. Jay has concerns that span the globe. Every once in a while he'll send her an email with the subject line ‘Thebes’, and she always manages to meet up with him. He knows she's doing it to atone, even though the Omega girl long ago wasn't really her fault. He supposes that kind of guilt is one of those things, like being murdered, that no one ever really gets over.

Jay never lets her play bait again, though. He sprays himself in Alpha perfume and they both pretend to be buyers. Or he takes full suppressants, douses himself in eau d'Omega, and wears a collar while she holds his leash. That they end up in bed together after those trips - after every time they see each other, in fact - is something they don't discuss. It's different, without the pheromones, but still damn near addictive.

When Jay makes his big move against Bruce, it doesn't end the way he hoped, but he's used to his hopes being dashed by then. Jay struck a blow, there, one that will echo every time Batman hears about another villain killed by his wayward son. It'll have to be enough, because not even killing Joker is enough.

He does put the bastard down in the end, not for himself but for all the others Joker can't destroy once he's dead. All the times and ways he's imagined doing it, and when it finally happens he just empties his clip into that gruesome grin and torches the remains. It's not a joke, anyway, and not even revenge at that point. Just what you do to a rabid dog before it bites somebody else.

Bruce is devastated, he hears. Talia shows up in Prague where Jay is hiding out. She brings champagne, and when he rolls his eyes, offers sixty-year-old scotch instead. They drink the whole bottle, and don't talk about it, and he's grateful for her silent understanding. He knows she'd kill anyone who offered to harm him. It might not be like the stories, but the woman he still secretly thinks of as his Alpha is watching out for him, and that's all that matters to Jay.

Three years pass before Jay finally finds Bane. He calls Talia, and she's silent for a long time before agreeing to meet him and make plans. It's much easier than he would've thought, with both of them in the assault, and they bring down Bane's organization in a single night of bloodshed. Though Jay expects the kind of frenzied violence he wanted to dish out to Joker, when they get to Bane himself she does it clean, one stroke of her sword before the bastard can even speak.

The pair of them are standing over Bane's beheaded corpse when Bruce arrives. “Why are you doing this?” the Bat demands.

Talia wipes her sword clean on Bane's shirt and steps toward him haughtily. “This has nothing to do with you, Bruce,” she says coldly.

It's only then - when she puts herself between them and fails to call him Beloved - that Jay realizes she never actually said she didn’t love him in the suite together. Or that she didn't want to cast aside the Bat and the Demon and run with him. All she said was Don't confuse heat with love…

And then spent three years proving love is much more than words.

“Chill, Daddy Bats,” he says sarcastically to hide how that revelation rattles him, as Bruce looks nonplussed at Talia's dismissal. “Not everything is about you.”

They leave separately, because they've both got to shake the Bat off their trail, but he finds Talia again at a small private airport. She looks surprised to see him; usually after one of their Thebes missions, he asks her where she's staying, and she invites him to join her.

Jay always asks. Always. One does not assume, with Talia al Ghul, and still he would ask first. He presumes for no one.

When she came to him in Prague, he remembers, they slept together only in the most literal sense. She held him while he waited for nightmares of that laugh, that crowbar, and he slept dreamless and safe in the warmth of her scent.

Talia just stares as he hops into the copilot's seat. “Better hurry if we wanna outrun him,” he says, because two can play at leaving things unspoken.

She fires up the copter with ill-concealed impatience, and asks, “You did not have an exit strategy?”

“You taught me better than that,” is all Jay replies.

By the time they land two countries away, without him saying one word about why he's with her - without asking if his company is welcome - she's clearly unsettled. “Jason, what are you doing?”

There's about three different reasons, honestly, but the one gives her is, “Same thing you did for me in Prague.”

Talia's eyes go shuttered. “Thank you, but that is unnecessary.”

Jay looks at her steadily, standing on the airfield, the copter buttoned down behind them. She probably has a car stashed nearby. But apparently they're gonna do this now, so he tells her, “Good luck getting rid of me then, T.”

She stiffens. “What in hell do you think you're doing?”

“You shouldn't be alone,” Jay says, and takes a deep breath to add, “You're my Alpha. The whole taking-care thing goes both ways.”

She blinks at him, and there's a warning note in her voice when she scoffs, “I never thought you were the kind of romantic fool who believed in some sort of mystical bond between Alphas and Omegas. The legends are lovely stories, but science has thoroughly debunked them.”

“You brought me back from the fuckin’ dead,” Jay tells her hotly. “All that ‘you are here for some purpose’ shtick wasn't mystical? C'mon, Talia, I'll give you credit, you're the best bullshit artist I know. You had me fooled for three years. But it stops now. Whatever we have to do, whatever, we work this out. I'm not leaving you again.”

There's an instant where he sees all of it in her eyes - pain and yearning and miserable fear - and then she turns from him, tossing her hair over her shoulder arrogantly. “Men . You are all such fools. I saved you for his sake.”

“You didn't fuck me for Bruce's sake,” Jay points out, keeping pace with her.

“If he can bed half his precious League, I can indulge wherever I choose,” she snaps, her voice frosty. “You ought to be old enough now not to confuse good sex for love.”

She can't look at him and lie, and he remembers how she spoke the words that broke his heart against his cheek. Jay grabs her arm - risking his life by manhandling her - and spins her roughly to face him. For the first time he realizes he's grown taller than her. Even in the heels she wears, he has the advantage of height and weight.

Her face is full of horrified surprise at his presumption, and he glares at her despite knowing why even the hint of being overpowered turns her stomach. “Cut the bullshit. If it never meant more than just a good lay to you, then at least have the balls to say it to my fuckin’ face, Talia.”

The look in her eyes… Something breaks, he can see that, but what she says is, “My father will hunt you down and kill you, Jason! Do you not understand that? I cannot let you risk your life for me!”

“Too late,” he tells her grimly. “I'm not leaving unless you look me in the eyes and tell me you don't want me here. So if you don't love me, say so.”

She drops her gaze, and her mouth twists. “Why must you be so obstinate?” Talia mutters.

Jay shrugs. “I'm a stubborn bastard, always have been, always will…”

He doesn't get to finish the sentence because she grabs his collar and yanks him closer for a bruising kiss. All of the trust, the shared secrets, the witnessed pain, well up between them. And the love, too. He's been in love with her for years, he fell in love when she told him the truth, and it's never faded despite him trying to deny it. She loves him too, he can tell, that yearning kiss full of everything she dares not say, even to herself.

And when she lets him go, Talia glares at him. “You're going to get both of us killed, most likely. Do you understand that?”

Again, he shrugs. “I've been dead. There are worse things.”

“Yes, there are, and my father knows them,” she tells him. “If you are so determined, perhaps we have a chance of surviving this idiocy. And … you are right, it would be unwise for me to be alone just now.”

Jay smiles a little. Even that slight admission is hard for her who presents such a strong facade. He knows her better though. “Yeah, too many ghosts. But you know, anyone who tries to mess with my Alpha, I'll put a bullet in their head before that happens.”

That earns him a small smile, her hand cupping her cheek. “Just as ruthlessly as I would slay anyone who offered to harm my Omega,” Talia admits. “Come along, then. I have a safehouse here.”

It's not I love you and want you at my side for the rest of our lives, but for them, the meaning is the same.