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even while we fall apart

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Gotham, the land of steel and magic. Known for her rich mineral deposits and the multitudes of mana veins that run beneath her in a complex, intertwining system.

Gotham is ruled by omega Kings and Queens in a monarchy that has spanned over fifty thousand years, supported by a spellcrafter with the title of the Gray Son, and a court of 24 lords and ladies from Gotham’s oldest bloodlines.

The island kingdom is majorly isolated from the rest of the world, self-subsisting on magic and her people’s resourcefulness. Gotham’s survival relies heavily on the Gray Son’s capability to channel the mana veins underneath her, which powers the whole city and ensures sufficient yearly harvests as well as the continued production of rare metal ores sought after by Gotham’s neighbouring lands.

The Gray Son of Gotham can only be identified by the eye of the rightful ruler of Gotham, currently the 708th King Bruce Wayne, also known as the Bat King of Gotham.

As a child, Bruce’s parents, their Majesties, King Thomas and Queen Martha Wayne, were assassinated by dissenters from the northern kingdom of Metropolis. Following their death, Bruce was coronated and became the youngest King of Gotham - at the tender age of eight. However, he was unprepared to handle the rapid decline of order among his people and was secreted away to a monastery in Tibet, while the Gray Son at the time, Alfred Pennyworth, struggled to maintain peace within Gotham’s borders in his place.

In Tibet, Bruce was trained in the art of war, ruling and lethal combat by the Guild of Assassins, a neutral faction led by the mysterious and deadly, Ra’s al Ghul. Ra’s, barely a man himself at the time, raised Bruce as his own alongside his daughter, Talia.

Under Ra’s’ demanding tutelage, Bruce thrived, returning to Gotham as he reaches the age of 20. His return to his birthplace is kept hidden, and as Alfred carried on with playing the role of Ward of the Court, Bruce restored order on the streets under the guise of the Bat King. Using magic and the knowledge he had gained from Ra’s, Bruce eradicated crime and silenced rebels intent on causing dissent under the orders of a banished lord known only as ‘the Jester’.

Eventually, Bruce reveals himself to his people, and takes back the throne, picking up where his parents - and Alfred after them - had left off. Under Bruce’s reign, with Alfred as his Gray Son, the kingdom prospered once more.

Ten years later, Alfred falls sick. Bruce must find a Gray Son of his own, whether he likes it or not, and although it is unexpected, he finds one in a travelling circus that makes a stop in the heart of Gotham.

Richard of Haly is an alpha - and an unregistered moonchild. Bruce sees the mark of Barbatos in his eyes, and attempts to invite Richard to join Gotham’s court. Richard refuses; he is a free spirit and a kingdom like Gotham is a cage for him, and the circus is his home, his family. Bruce takes the rejection in stride but promises that the position of Gray Son will always be open to him.

A week since the circus’s arrival in Gotham, a riot breaks out, incited by the Jester’s men. The circus burns to the ground, leaving Richard as its sole survivor; saved only by the grace of the magic that flows in his veins.

Bruce is enraged by the tragedy, and hunts down every one of the Jester’s men and banishes them beyond Gotham’s walls. He once more offers the position of the Gray Son to Richard, who accepts for several reasons; but mostly due to his gratitude towards Bruce, and the vengeance Bruce had reaped in his name.

Fast forward another ten years; while Gotham prospers, she also gains more enemies envious of her wealth. Their worst foe? The Jester.

Bruce is stretched thin trying to maintain peace and order for Gotham’s people, even with the support of other allied nations. He has aligned himself with Metropolis, Star, Jump and even Central. Yet, the Jester has his own ties and there are several other nations that vie for Gotham’s wealth.

As Bruce tries to rally more of their closer neighbours, he is forced to bargain with Lady Shiva, the ruling baroness of Gotham’s sister kingdom to the north, Blüdhaven. Blüdhaven had once been a part of Gotham, until it was annexed several generations ago to become its own independent nation.

While the separation had been on peaceful terms, there are prejudices that run deep between the two lands, and Bruce knows that Shiva is a calculative witch with her own agendas. Even though Blüdhaven suffers at the Jester’s hands as well, she will not easily ally herself with Gotham.

Unless Bruce gives her Gotham’s favoured Gray Son.

Many of the mana veins running through Gotham run through Blüdhaven as well, and while Blüdhaven doesn’t rely as heavily on them as Gotham does, they do have their own brand of magic in their court. By her logic, having a Gray Son of Gotham in Blüdhaven will not only prove Gotham’s sincere intention to mend ties between their peoples, but also provide Blüdhaven with a new conduit of power.

Bruce does not want to give his son away to anyone, but war is fast approaching them. The Jester will not rest until Gotham is crushed under his heel and Dick knows this as well as Bruce. Bruce may not have a son at all if that happens.

Dick volunteers, and Bruce is selfishly relieved. A few years earlier, Bruce had found a second moonchild, one born and bred among Gotham’s high society elites; Timothy Drake. Dick reasons that Timothy, given a few more years, will be as adept a Gray Son as Dick had become. Losing Dick to Blüdhaven will not affect Gotham at all.

The resulting talks between Gotham and Blüdhaven end with the arrangement of Dick’s marriage to Lady Shiva’s eldest omega son, Jason Todd. It’s an ideal solution for both kingdoms, but far from it for Dick himself.

Because Dick is an alpha with an attraction for other alphas, and he’s been in a secret relationship with his best friend and head of his personal guard, Sir Wallace West, for several years. He knows he has to sacrifice his own happiness with Wally for the sake of his people, but it’s much easier said than done; especially when he has to be responsible for breaking Wally's heart too.

Enter another unexpected complication in the form of Jason’s own personal guard, alpha Slade Wilson, and Dick can only hope that he’s strong enough to maintain the charade without irreparably jeopardizing relations between Gotham and Blüdhaven.

Chapter Text

Dick stares at the embers of the dying fire from across the room, his tumultuous thoughts keeping him wide awake even though he feels bone-tired.

The warm body behind him shifts on the bed, and then a strong arm wraps around his waist and pulls his back flush against a solid chest.

“What’re you thinking about,” Wally mumbles against the skin at the back of Dick’s neck.

Dick rests a hand over Wally’s arm, smiling despite himself. “Nothing. Go back to sleep.”

His chest aches when Wally hums tiredly, his nose tickling Dick’s skin. “Can’t sleep when you’re thinking so loud,” he complains.

Dick chuckles, patting Wally’s arm soothingly in apology. “You have training early tomorrow,” he reminds his lover. “Do you really want to explain to my father why you won’t make it on time?”

Wally snorts, his arm tightening around Dick’s waist. “Only if you explain to mine.”

Dick squirms when he feels Wally hardening behind him, nudging insistently between the dip of Dick’s cheeks, and pinches Wally’s arm in warning.

“It’s a natural reaction,” Wally whines, nuzzling his nose against Dick’s neck. “Ignore it, it’ll calm down.”

“It better,” Dick says wryly. “I have meetings tomorrow with the court.”

“Of course, your highness.”

“Cheeky.”

“I learnt from the best.”

Dick’s smile widens, and he can’t help but lean back, pressing closer against his lover’s welcoming warmth. Wally settles down, and Dick tries to focus on the sound of his breathing, on the damp feeling of it against his skin. 

Slowly, it calms his thoughts, grounds him enough that he starts drifting off too, despite the ache still present in his heart.

Dick can’t bring himself to look at Wally the next evening, as Bruce calls Dick to his side during the banquet and clasps his shoulder with a solemn smile. Dick returns the smile with the ease of two decades’ worth of practice.

Bruce knows. Dick is sure he knows. But Bruce is King and he will say nothing of it, not unless it interferes with Dick’s ability to perform his duties.

Not unless Dick protests against the decision Bruce has made.

The role of the Gray Son is both a burden and a privilege. Duty must always come before your feelings, Master Richard. Remember this always. It is your first vow to your King.

“In two months, my son, Gray Prince Richard, will be wed to his grace, Duke Jason Todd of Blüdhaven. Preparations for the ceremony will begin immediately and our lands will be unified once more at the turn of spring.”

Bruce’s declaration is unorthodox, as they often are when they affect the ancient laws of the land. The banquet hall is silent and still following his words, but only long enough for them to sink in.

Then there’s a round of raucous applause, approval in every cadence of the sound deafening Dick’s ears, and Dick can do nothing but smile bashfully; as expected of him.

He successfully keeps his eyes trained on everything but the red-haired knight standing guard in the corner of the massive hall, as Bruce continues to wax poetic on the political implications of Dick’s marriage to Blüdhaven’s most eligible bachelor, and how it will benefit Gotham for the foreseeable future. 

But Dick has always been a glutton for punishment, and it’s not long until his gaze meets Wally’s.

Wally’s familiar, bright green are an impenetrable wall of steel, and Dick has never- the coldness in them has never before been directed at Dick, and Dick feels his own smile falter, his shoulders tensing under Bruce’s touch.

His heart shatters into countless pieces, and Dick’s breath catches in his throat at the force of its fracturing.

His vision tunnels, and he watches in morbid fascination as Wally’s father, Lord West, speaks something into Wally’s ear, and the latter nods stiffly before turning and leaving the hall, his back straight, his chin held high. 

Lord West catches Dick’s gaze and Dick feels so, so much worse when the man offers him a helplessly sympathetic smile.

Dick faintly hears Bruce finish his speech, and shortly finds himself being ushered to the side, where Bruce squeezes his shoulder and looks into Dick’s eyes.

“I gave you time, Richard,” Bruce says softly, quiet enough that no one else could possibly hear. “It was all I could offer you. With the Jester’s forces encroaching on our borders, we can’t wait much longer to rally our neighbours.”

Dick has no right to cry, but his eyes sting as he holds Bruce’s gaze. “I know, father,” he manages to say. “I understand, I just couldn’t-”, break his heart, “- find the right time.”

Bruce sighs, tired and rueful, and squeezes Dick’s shoulders once before letting go. “You may remove yourself from the festivities,” he says, the only kindness left he can afford his son. “But I implore you; do what you must to keep the loyalty of our men. There are few we can trust in trying times. Lord West’s brood are among them. For now.

Dick’s throat has closed up with emotion, and it’s all he can do to nod weakly before Bruce returns to his seat at the table. Dick stands there alone but for the company of his guilt, and then musters the courage to leave the hall in search of Wally.

Growing up together has its multitudes of ups and downs. It means that Dick knows Wally better than Wally knows himself, and what makes Wally one of five people in the whole kingdom who knows the man beneath the facade of the Gray Son of Gotham. 

It means that Dick knows exactly where to find his closest friend when he’s upset, and predictably, Dick finds him at the Knights’ barracks, decimating a training dummy to splinters with his sword.

Wally doesn’t acknowledge his presence, even though Dick has made no effort to hide it. Dick sits down on an upturned barrel nearby and waits patiently.

The moon is full and high in the night sky, which is why Bruce had chosen tonight to announce Dick’s betrothal. In exactly 58 days - the bountiful number of fertility if old wives’ tales were to be trusted - Dick will be the husband to a noble omega of the highest Blüd breed, and not long after, the father to Blüdhaven’s next heir.

The thought makes Dick’s hackles rise, makes the usual sweetness of moonshine bitter and repulsive on his skin. He doesn’t want any of it.

What he wants is Wally’s love, sweet and pure, as only the Wests could ever seem to offer. Dick wants to be by Wally’s side, to bear Wally’s mating mark, to have Wally’s children and to wake up every morning to Wally’s untameable red mane glowing in the rising sunlight.

Dick is broken, in all the ways that matter.

An alpha that longs for the mark of another alpha, a prince that harbours selfish desires, desires that would forsake his own people. A Gray Son that craves the warmth of sunlight instead of the cold embrace of the moon.

Dick has spent all his life learning that everything about himself is wrong wrong wrong, that nearly every aspect of his true person must be hidden away from everyone’s sight because he doesn’t fit into the mould as he should. He has had almost two decades to pretend that he is something he isn’t, because of the expectations that come with his birthright.

But it doesn’t make what he has done to Wally right or any less cruel, and it doesn’t make it any easier to accept that he will never, ever truly be happy.

“How long have you known?”

The question is spat at him in a fierce snarl, and Dick comes back to himself with a blink, realizing that Wally is now standing in front of him. He towers over Dick while Dick is sitting down, and he’s breathing heavily, his face shining with a thin layer of sweat.

“Since the last moon cycle,” Dick says honestly, forcing his eyes to the ground so that he doesn’t have to see the agony in Wally’s expression. “Bru- his Majesty wanted to make sure that I had ample time to make the necessary preparations before I leave for Blüdhaven.”

Wally doesn’t say anything for a moment, and Dick worries at his bottom lip, wishing he could reach up and touch the Knight, but fearing that any attempt of the sort would be rebuffed. He hasn’t felt this unsure around Wally since they had both been children and strangers meeting in a strange land.

Dick flinches when Wally throws his sword to the ground with a frustrated growl and begins pacing agitatedly.

“How- why ?” Dick hears him grind out. “Why didn’t you-? Not a single, fucking word the whole damned time and-”

Wally stops moving abruptly, his back to Dick, and Dick grows worried when he looks up and sees Wally’s broad shoulders shaking. He’s- he’s laughing , a terrible, self-deprecating sound that makes Dick wish for punishment.

This is what’s been on your mind, isn’t it?” His voice is accusatory as he says this, turning around to glare down at Dick. His eyes are bright and shining with unshed tears. “I should have known. I should have pushed. If the King hadn’t said it, you would’ve waited until the day itself, waving at me through the window of a Blüd-bound car.”

Dick is ashamed to admit that Wally is right. He closes his eyes, clutching at his knees through the silk of his breeches.

“I love you,” he breathes through the pain. “I love you so much, Wallace West. I couldn’t- I never wanted to hurt you.”

“Don’t throw that at me,” he hears Wally snarl.

Dick doesn’t struggle when strong hands fist into the front of his tunic and lifts him to his feet. He doesn’t struggle when Wally shakes him, growling with fury, and he doesn’t struggle when he is dragged and pushed and held up against the remnants of the training dummy Wally had destroyed.

“You don’t get to say that to me, you bastard,” Wally chokes out.

Dick allows himself to open his eyes, and sees Wally’s head bent forward, an inch away from leaning against Dick’s chest. Hesitantly, Dick reaches up and rests his hand on the soft strands, and Wally twitches but doesn’t move away. His fists tighten in Dick’s tunic.

Dick runs his fingers through Wally’s hair, filing away the memory of how they feel against his skin because he will never- this is likely the last time Dick will ever touch him again, the last time Wally will ever allow him to touch him again.

The silence stretches - broken only by Wally’s harsh breathing and Dick’s own painful inhales - in the training grounds, and Dick wants to apologize again, but he’s afraid of breaking the stillness in the air. He’s afraid to anger Wally again. To hurt him again.

And then Wally says, in a desperate, pleading voice, “Run away with me.”

Dick’s hand freezes, his heart jumping with shock. Wally pulls away to look up at him, and there’s a manic look in his eyes that says he’s not jesting.

“Wally,” Dick says, but he stops himself before he can say yes yes yes.

“No, Dickie, don’t- if the next word that comes out of your mouth isn’t yes, I don’t want to hear it,” Wally says. “Please, let me take you away from here.”

The tears have fallen. The wet tracks they leave on Wally’s cheeks catch the moonlight clearly, and Dick touches them, wiping them away with the pads of his thumbs.

“Don’t ask me for that,” he whispers. “You know I can’t. You know why.”

“I don’t care,” Wally protests vehemently, leaning closer until their foreheads touch. His skin is feverish hot against Dick’s, and Dick closes his eyes again, breaths stuttering at the feeling. “I can mark you, I can- I’ll take care of you, Dickie. Please. Let me take care of you.”

Their lips meet and Dick’s not sure who had leaned into whom. All he knows is that he can taste Wally’s pain and love on his tongue, he can taste Wally’s despair as it mingles with his own, and Dick is so desperate to give in to temptation that he doesn’t even care if anyone were to walk by and see them right now.

The moon’s gaze on them feels like a damning brand prickling on Dick’s skin, but it’s nothing compared to how much he wants Wally’s touch. How much he doesn’t want to lose his touch.

They part only for air, panting against each other’s lips as Wally wraps his arms around Dick’s shoulders and pulls him close, and Dick curls his fingers around Wally’s neck.

“I can make you forget,” Dick offers to the scant space between them, even if- even if it hurts to say the words. “The last two years- heavens forbid, Wally, the moment you ever saw me. I can take it all back.” Please don’t let me.

Wally sobs, a choked sound that echoes in Dick’s ears like a gunshot. “Do you really think I’m that cruel?”

You should be. “...I never wanted to hurt you.”

“I love you too, asshole.”

 

Chapter Text

The journey to Blüd is four hours by car ride; six if you’re accompanied by a procession of servants and guards.

Dick is ready to leave before the first light of dawn, his meagre belongings occupying only a single bag that he’s owned since his days with Haly’s. Tim looks worse than Dick feels when he greets Dick in Bruce’s throne room, his eyes ringed with dark circles and his shoulders hunched tiredly in an unbecoming manner.

“I’ll miss you,” Tim says, wrapping his thin, bony arms around Dick’s waist and hugging him tight.

“I’ll be back before you know it,” Dick assures him, forcing a smile as he hugs back.

When Tim pulls away, his expression is solemn, and he sagely retorts, “For a short while.”

Gotham’s mating practices with foreigners are odd, even to Gothamites. The omega’s family would first approach the alpha’s family and offer a dowry, or, if needs must, an agreement written in binding spells. If the offer is accepted, the omega’s family returns to their land, where the alpha must follow to begin the first set of bonding rituals.

Afterwards, the alpha would return with their omega bride, and complete the second set of rituals before their marriage is recognized, and Barbatos’s blessing is sought at a shrine.

They both know that Dick will not be staying once the rituals are completed for his and Jason’s union. It’s one of Shiva’s conditions.

It’s why Tim is now wearing Dick’s Gray Son robes. Why he will be fitted with his own as soon as time permits.

“Remember to synchronize your breathing in time with the pulse,” Dick says instead of addressing Tim’s insinuation. “It helps with your focus and keeps the veins from-”

“Overflowing, I know.” Tim smiles wanly. “I’ll take care of Gotham, Dick. Just worry about yourself.”

“I know you will, Timmy.”

It’s not a question of Tim’s capability, but Dick’s own apprehension at leaving what he’s considered his home for almost eleven years, the home that has depended upon his magic as much as he has depended upon it in all that time. They both know it.

Tim’s gracious enough to not point it out, and Dick is too ashamed of his own weaknesses to say it out loud.

“You’ll be fine, Dick,” Tim says instead, a necessary lie for both of them. They both know what he really means is, you have to be fine.

---

The car’s windows are blacked out with mana for protection, so Wally doesn’t get to see Dick staring out of it at him forlornly.

He neither sees nor hears the final crack in Dick’s shattered heart, but Slade Wilson does.

“You made the right choice, your highness,” he says, and Dick bristles silently at the smug, patronising tone.

He refuses to look at the other man, staring resolutely out the window as they pass through the people who have stood out on the streets to watch their Gray Son leave.

They think he’s a hero for what he’s doing, and Dick wishes he were. He wishes he could be doing this with an altruistic heart, but all he feels is pain and resentment at things that he cannot change despite the power that thrums in his blood.

It’s the bitterness that he can’t contain, however, and he says, “I had no choice.”

Slade chuckles darkly. Dick can feel him move close to him on the seats, and it makes Dick’s skin crawl but Dick refuses to show his discomfort by shifting away. No, he sits stiffer and glares out at the unsuspecting citizens of Gotham instead.

“You chose to reject that alpha’s offer,” he hears Slade murmur.

It takes only a brief moment for Dick to understand what Slade is referring to, and another moment to feel fear and apprehension at the implications.

He shrinks away, into a corner of the seats, turning to face the other man. But Slade moves faster than Dick’s ever seen anyone move, and Dick finds himself with his wrists caught in twin death grips and pinned up against the window.

Dick opens his mouth to chant the first spell that comes to mind but he’s stopped when Slade crushes their lips together. Dick’s eyes widen in shock, his whole body seizing as Slade’s tongue immediately delves into his mouth, and Dick doesn’t even realize that Slade’s let go of his wrists because he’s too busy trying to understand what the hell is happening.

His body only reacts when Slade’s hands release his wrists to smooth down the front of Dick’s tunic, slipping under his coat, and Dick pushes him away with all his might.

To his greater shock, Slade allows himself to be moved even though Dick knows he’s no match against Slade’s brute strength. Slade is smirking, licking at his lips and leering down at Dick suggestively.

Dick pulls his coat closed over himself as Slade moves back to the other side of the seats, feeling- feeling a number of unhappy things. 

“You- how dare you-” 

He can’t even form proper words, furious as he is, and it doesn’t help that Slade’s smirk widens and he leans back against his corner of the car in a lazy, comfortable sprawl.

“I suggest you play nice, your highness,” Slade drawls. “Wouldn’t want anyone else to know about your unique predilections.”

Dick feels his own cheeks heat up despite himself, and glares at Slade. “If you think you can do whatever you want just because you saw me, you’re sorely mistaken,” he growls.

Slade raises a brow at the threat before he chuckles. “I think I can do whatever I want because Blüd owns you now.” 

He gestures at Dick, or rather, at Dick’s hands where they’re still clutched to his chest.

Frowning, Dick looks down at them, and he feels the colour drain from his face at the sight of two metal cuffs encircling his wrists.

They’re thin, but three inches wide, and they’re so black that they gleam even in the shadows of the car. Each cuff has mana-infused runes engraved into them, and when Dick instinctively reaches for the veins underneath Gotham, the runes glow white and a sharp pain throbs through his mind.

Binding runes.

He hadn’t even felt them, hadn’t even seen when Slade had gotten them on him.

Without thinking, Dick lunges for the door, but Slade - again - moves faster, catching him by his waist and dragging him back onto the seats. Dick howls angrily, kicking and clawing with feral violence, but no matter what spells he shouts, nothing happens, and he can’t fight free of Slade’s hold.

Dick even tries reaching out for Barbatos, even though it’s early morning. The moon has just barely set, but the runes cut off even the slimmest of chances for Dick to reach his patron spirit, and he screams, his attempts sending blinding pain rushing through his head.

Slade wrestles him until he’s lying on his back, along the stretch of the leather seats, his large hands keeping Dick’s pinned on either side of Dick’s head. Dick tries to kick out at him, but his stupid robes don’t allow for much movement and Slade simply sits on him, holding him down with nothing but his considerable weight.

“This is treason, ” Dick hisses up at the man. “The King will find out what you’ve done, he’ll-”

“Do nothing,” Slade cuts him off confidently. “My Lady will still honour her end of the bargain. Blüdhaven will come when Wayne calls, and you’ll provide us with enough heirs to spare. There was nothing in your contract that said we couldn’t take extra precautions.

Dick stops struggling abruptly because- because Slade is right. Unless Dick turns up dead sometime in the near future, or Shiva deserts them in the event of a war- Bruce won’t even know, let alone be able to do anything about what’s happening. What’s already happened.

The agreement had been simple; fealty to Gotham, and blood ties forged. The conditions under which those two are to be fulfilled had been left ambiguous because Bruce has always been kind like that.

It strikes Dick then, with sudden, painful clarity, that he’s never going back to Gotham again.

“Good, you understand,” Slade says, a note of approval in his tone. “You’ll understand better once we’ve reached Blüd. Now, I’ll let you go but if you misbehave in any way, I won’t hesitate to exercise our precautions. Is that clear, your highness?”

(Dick has no choice.)

Stiffly, Dick nods, and Slade squeezes his arms once in warning before he lets go and settles back on the seats. 

Dick scrambles to the other end himself, curling into the corner despite how impolite it is to have his feet on the leather. But he’s scared now, he’ll admit it, and it’s the only protection he has left against this man twice his size. Dick is helpless without his mana, without Barbatos’s touch.

(The only reason he had been willing to leave Gotham for a foreign land had been because he’d known that he wouldn’t be alone, not with Barbatos watching over him. 

But he doesn’t even have that anymore, he doesn’t have anything, and it terrifies Dick that he will be so vulnerable at the mercy of people like Slade Wilson.)

“What does Lady Shiva expect me to do if I can’t access the veins?” Dick asks, resenting the minute tremble of his voice that betrays how he’s feeling.

“When she’s satisfied that you’re tamed enough to be trusted with mana, Jason will reduce the limitation on the runes.”

Tamed, like he’s some kind of wild animal instead of the Gray Son of Gotham. Dick feels indignation at the insult, but the fear outweighs it and he bites down on his tongue.

“In the meantime, I’m sure you’ll have plenty to occupy yourself with,” Slade adds, and his lips quirk up again in that leering smirk. “I think you’ll find that social customs in Gotham can be quite… archaic compared to the rest of the world.”

Dick doesn’t know what he means by that, and frowns, eyeing Slade warily. “What are you talking about?”

“I can tell you’re under the impression that Jason will be bearing your children.” Slade tilts his head, and the leering takes on an amused turn. “Were you aware that mana affinity is passed on to a child as they develop in the womb?”

Dick frowns deeper. No, he hadn’t been aware of that, and he’s not even sure if Slade’s words are to be trusted, or what relevance they bear to his situation.

Slade takes his silence as a sign to continue, and he does so with malicious glee. “Jason’s prowess in mana-weaving is one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen. But it’s not without years of dedication and training. Lady Shiva would rather the next ruler of Blüdhaven to have a more… natural talent for it.”

Dick’s still not sure what Slade is getting at, and it must clearly show on his face because Slade’s smile falls and he shakes his head with a long-suffering sigh.

“Any child from you will bear Barbatos’s mark, and by proxy, the capacity to wield his power,” he says slowly. “Jason will be fathering your children, highness. I’m sure I don’t need to spell out what that means for you.”