The baby was swimming in blood and Jason’s instincts are screaming.
Servants come to clear the dead nursemaid away, but they are harmless compared to the alpha currently cradling his pup. Jason doesn’t—can’t remember much. He doesn’t know who the mother, Talia’s mate, is. Jason doesn’t know much of anything besides what he’s been told since he burst through the oily slick surface of the Lazarus pit.
Talia hands Damian to Jason and he immediately begins to scent the child. His skin itches, telling him to pull the pup closer and to run. It hurts to hold his legs still, but he manages only because there are no tears in his pup’s eyes.
“If only you were not my Beloved’s.” Talia tsks and strokes his hair gently. Normally it feels nice, like the touch of a parent, but Jason still sees her dropping his pup into a pool. “You would make a beautiful mother for our warriors.”
Jason doesn’t think he would mind being a mother, but he does not want a mate. He already has a pup.
The baby in his arms falls asleep with his nose tucked against Jason’s scent gland like he agrees. Jason snuffles the top of his head, searching for the milky sweet scent under the tang of diluted blood. His pup needs to nap and Jason wants to nest, but he doesn’t dare leave just yet.
Talia gives another quiet hmm, tuts proudly as she strokes his cheek, and then dismisses him. “My pretty boys. Go along and nest. I will see you at dinner.”
Jason bows as deeply as he can with the pup and then begins the winding path to his nest. He’s positive Talia and Ra’s know where he’s taken up residence, but he’s pretty sure no one else does. Deep in the abandoned portion of their residence on infinity island, in a dead end, there is a small servants room.
Within it he has used the furniture and heavy blankets and furs to create a cave-like tent. The inside is padded with soft furs, down pillows, and silk—gifts from Talia or stolen during his few missions outside of the League’s walls. There are a few glittering trinkets given to him by alpha’s hoping to earn his hand from Talia. Most courting gifts he rejects, but he’s kept a few when his pup enjoys playing with them or Talia forces him to.
He settles his pup, Dami, in the center of the pile and tucks in pillows and blankets around him to keep him secure. Only then can he finally begin cleaning away the tainted water from his baby’s skin. Jason laps away some of it and uses soft blankets to clean the rest.
By the time he’s done, Dami is giving sleepy baby purrs. Jason takes just a moment to admire his pup before curling close around the tiny body and starting up a purr of his own.
He’s not sure how, but he knows they need to leave.
By the time he has a solid plan in place, he has begun to remember a few things from before.
Grayson and Gotham.
What they mean, he’s not sure. Grayson is the man who protected the pups that invaded the island. Gotham is a place, perhaps it is where the Grayson lives.
At any rate it’s not a bad place to start his search. He hopes that if the Grayson was willing to fight Ra’s for grown pups Jason’s age, he will be will be willing to fight Ra’s for a small pup like Dami.
Dami is growing bigger. His pup now eats solid food, cooked and mashed up. Jason hates that he had to wait so long, but it was important that Dami not need a wet nurse when they leave.
When Damian begins to take his first steps unaided, Jason knows it’s time. He saw the sword, more like a knife, that Talia is having made for the pup. While he loves Talia, he still remembers the blood in the water when she dropped his pup into a pool.
They cannot stay.
It hurts like blistered welts on his skin to wait until Talia leaves for a mission somewhere in Europe. She left Dami with him, now there’s no need for a nursemaid she’s finally given Jason almost complete care for his pup.
Just days later, Ra’s gives him the opportunity he needs. He’s being sent to assassinate the president during his re-election campaign.
A servant is to be given charge of Dami, but she’s also an omega and unlike Jason she was bred to be soft and pretty. She’s dangerous, but she has not been honed to the same sharp edges that Jason has. It takes little effort to slit her throat and stash her body in an alcove.
Damian, he’s forced to drug. Though his pup is unnaturally quiet, he can take no risks. If he is discovered, Jason will be killed and his pup will be subjected to the horrors of Ra’s’ plans. Once his pup is sleeping soundly, he sets him in a specially constructed box that has been padded with as much of his nest as he dares to take with him.
The jeweled courting gifts have been tucked in among the layers. They will have to serve as their source of money once they have left the League.
Then he packs Damian’s box among the others on the plane and prays no one will notice Damian’s disappearance until after they have escaped. He thinks the odds are good. While Ra’s is interested in Dami’s development, he prefers meetings to be on a weekly basis while Dami is still just a pup.
The plane ride goes smoothly, escaping his handler is harder. Still, he manages to sneak away while the assassin is busy with a prostitute in a shady club. Jason has never given indication that he is capable of original thought and he’s reaping the benefits of that now.
After dosing Damian again, this time so his baby won’t feel the pain of the knife, he extracts their trackers and leaves the metal pieces in the hotel. He transfers most of the box’s contents to a satchel and constructs a baby sling out of one of the blankets he’d brought.
Then it’s as simple as walking out of the hotel and slipping into the throng of people on the Columbus streets. He stops by a pawn shop to be rid of all the highly identifiable jewels before picking up some extra clothes for both of them at a thriftstore. The employees are happy to direct him to a dollar store where he purchases a few days of baby food that won’t need refrigerated.
Then he takes a bus, sitting towards the middle where he can snuggle his sleeping baby. No one pays him any mind except an alpha who snaps, “He’s not going to wake up screaming is he?”
Jason’s quick shake of his head seems to placate the man who shrugs and turns back to his newspaper. After that he is left alone to nuzzle Damian’s soft cheek and coo comfortingly when it seems nightmares disturb his pup’s sleep. The bus ride is short, a little over an hour, and when he gets off, he hunts down somewhere to spend the night.
A school proves ridiculously easy to break into and he constructs a makeshift nest for them in a storage closet. It’s not the most comfortable, but it will do well enough for a night. He feeds Damian as best he can in the cramped space and then soothes his pup back to sleep. He manages to snatch a few hours himself and then he wakes at dawn, packing up and leaving before anyone can catch him.
He travels slowly with the pup, zig zagging a little in an attempt to throw the league off. He knows they’re tracking him, but by some stroke of luck he manages to get to Gotham two days later. At that point it’s easy to slink into the slums there and disappear.
It takes three more days to find the Grayson, but Jason sees a picture of him, a familiar man, and a small boy framed on the wall of a shelter they spent the night at. Jason squints at it.
The man is... a bee?
He cannot remember and it hurts to try, like sharp nails being driven through his eyes.
Shifting his hold on Damian to his other hip, Jason uses his free hand to tug on a shelter worker’s sleeve. It takes him a couple seconds to form the words, but this shelter has kind workers and they are patient with his clumsy tongue. It’s why he’s come back to it. “Grayson?”
The woman frowns just briefly before it clears and she nods with a smile. “Yes. Dick Grayson founded this shelter in honor of his brother.”
“Grayson... pup?” Jason asks haltingly, indicating Damian with his head.
The woman’s smile turns sad. She speaks slowly, like Jason is stupid. It would make him angry, except that it helps him some. The buzzing in his brain sometimes gets too loud to even think properly. “Do you not want your pup?”
“I want.” Jason snaps. The words come quicker than normal; his scent thick with offense.
“Mr. Grayson wants to help you keep your pup. That’s why he built this.” The woman answers, rubbing his arm gently. “He won’t take your baby.”
Then she guides him to a class on child care where an older omega shows him how to change a diaper and cook pasta. It is dull, but it gives him time to plan for Grayson.
In the end, Grayson comes to him.
One day while Jason is playing with Damian in their little room, as an omega with a pup he gets his own, a shelter worker appears to usher them downstairs. The beta woman is buzzing with excitement that makes his head hurt, speaking words too fast for him to keep up. Then she leaves him in a large class room with all the others in the shelter.
One of Jason’s friends is there, an omega in her eighties. She gestures for him to join him, a question in her soft smile. When Jason nods, she leans in to scent him thoroughly. She doesn’t try to talk to him, just tucks him in close against her side once she’s done.
That’s why she’s his friend, she never forces him to speak.
Damian quickly grows restless. He is a prince, meant for palaces and manors. Jason hopes that one day his pup will forgive him for taking those riches away. It’s a vain hope, but he desperately wants to believe that Damian might even appreciate the path he took to keep his pup safe. In the end though, he is more than happy to settle for his pup being safe.
There are a few other pups in the room and while they don’t compare to Jason’s pup, they make decent playmates for Damian until better ones can be found. After one last nuzzle to the top of his pup’s head, Jason lets the little boy toddle over to his companions.
That’s when the door opens.
Grayson looks tired, without the mask to hide his eyes. Still the alpha appears cheerful, greeting everyone by name. Or, at least Jason assumes he uses the right names. Names are still hard for his brain to hold onto.
Jason turns to his friend. “Grayson?”
“Little Dickie Grayson.” The woman agrees with a sigh. “He's a nice boy, likes to come visit every so often and do what he can to help.”
“Help.” Jason confirms. The word tastes sweet on his tongue but fades like ashes to bitterness. Grayson will help, but he will also take. Once Jason gives Damian to the alpha it will be over. Damian will be safe with Grayson and Jason will have to leave the state to draw the League away.
He calls out to Damian and the pup comes toddling over to nestle against his side. Jason lets himself cuddle the pup close just a little longer, scenting the boy thoroughly. He knows that Damian will forget him, but he wants his claim to last as long as possible. He waits until Grayson has left the room and they are told they’re free and then he slips out with their important belongings to follow the alpha. He gets only a few blocks before Grayson ducks into the alleyway and vaults to the rooftop.
This Grayson will be a good protector for his pup.
“Who are you?” Grayson has unsheathed his weapons, two sticks that crackle and spark. “Why are you following me?”
“Mama!” Damian’s head pokes out from the sling Jason is wearing. He’s technically too large for it, but Jason has need of it for only a few minutes longer. His pup clings tight to him, staring fearfully at Grayson. “Mama no!”
Jason clucks soothingly, stroking his pups hair. The words are hard to form, but he does his best. “You are Grayson. You come... to island. My pup is not safe.” He swallow hard and looks up to meet Grayson’s eyes for this next sentence. “Talia is coming.”
The alpha’s demeanor changes instantly and he sheathes one weapon to tap on his ear. “Alfred, prepare the cave please. We’re going to have a visitor.” A pause. “A league assassin I think. He has a pup.”
“No mama.” Damian punches Jason’s chest with one tiny fist. Jason is very proud. Someday his pup will be a fine warrior, but right now he needs to stay a pup.
He hums a few bars of a lullaby, keeping a watchful eye on Grayson.
“You’re coming with me.” Grayson says.
Jason nods. It’s not a question, but he answers anyway. “Yes.”
They drive a long way. Grayson is concerned about not having a seat for Dami. Jason shows him just how foolish that is by cradling the pup closer to his chest once he’s seated.
Grayson doesn’t seem pleased by this, but he sucks on his teeth before sighing.
They exit the car into a... underground. The words are fuzzier than normal at the threat of leaving his pup behind. Jason looks around as best he can with Grayson watching. Once he’s completed his search, Jason nods approvingly. “It is... will hide my pup. Good.”
Grayson’s smile is too bright to be true, but it doesn’t feel mean either. “B will be down in a sec.”
“No.” Damian wails, smacking Jason’s chest again. He’s a smart pup. Most of his nursemaids have died near his cradle, Jason has been the only constant. Death is a hard thing to explain to a pup, but Jason has done his best to prepare Damian for their separation.
Grayson looks worried at the tears. “Is everything okay?”
“He does not want.” Jason replies simply. It hurts, but he has to let his baby cry. Comforting him would make Jason feel better, but this is about what’s best for Damian.
“Doesn’t want what?“
“I see you’ve brought us a guest, Dick.” The man from the photo, the bee, emerges from a hidden pathway. He looks stern, a strong protective alpha defending his den, but then it fades to deep sorrow and panic. “How?”
“Bruce, what’s wrong?” Grayson dashes to Bee’s side as the man sobs. It’s terrifying.
Jason turns and runs, left to curl tightly into a nook in the raw stone clutching his pup and his splitting head.
Hours later an old man finds them. Damian has long since stopped crying. He never sobs loudly, knowing Jason can’t help him when his head is too mushy, but tears streak down his face regardless.
“Oh, my boy.” The old man hesitantly touches Jason’s knee. “It is you.”
“Who... are... you?” Jason says with no small amount of difficulty.
The man remains stoic, but Jason can see the pain that tightens around his eyes. His mustache twitches into a soft smile. “I am Alfred. Are you hurt anywhere?”
Jason shakes his head and then shifts Damian up a little higher. A few more sniffles escape Dami, but Jason is able to pull himself together enough to groom away the salty tears. “My pup is hungry.”
“Well we can’t have that. Will you follow me to the kitchen?”
There’s no reason to trust him. Even his age means little. Ra’s is older than nearly anyone still left on the planet and there is no one that Jason trusts less. But the old man’s smile is kind and it makes Jason think of soft leather chairs, hot tea, and old books.
They wind up at a long table tucked into the corner of the large kitchen. Damian sits in his lap, happily feeding himself the mashed fruit with his fingers. Every so often the pup holds up a handful for Jason to lick from his tiny palm, waiting until Jason’s complied to babble a few baby words in Arabic.
“Where have you been?” The man asks after watching them. He’s weighed down, like the League’s omegas after their alpha and beta pups are taken for training.
Jason sucks on his teeth, searching through his muddy thoughts for an answer he can actually speak. “I... the demon.”
The man frowns deeply, but before he can push for a different answer the Bee is back.
“The demon.” Bee’s appearance makes Jason’s body tremble, but it hurts less this time. Bee isn’t much older than Grayson, but he has many lines across his face. His eyes are almost silver, turning pink and bloodshot from tears. Bee kneels in front of him, but doesn’t touch. “Ra’s had you?”
When Jason nods, Bee crumples in on himself with heaving sobs. It’s terrifying. Jason isn’t quite sure who Bee is, but he knows that Bee should never cry.
Grayson kneels next to Bee and hugs him close, looking at Jason’s pup. “Can you introduce us to your baby, little wing?”
The nickname settles around his shoulders like a comforting nesting blanket. Jason noses the top of Damian’s head, fighting the urge to join the hug. He stutters over the name. Several times he has to start over because he’s lost the thought completely. “Dami—Damian. Mine.”
“And the sire?” Grayson, Bee, and the old man all stare at him with expectant fear. They probably expect Ra’s.”
Jason struggles to make his tongue work. “Ta—Talia and... and... beeeeelov. Her bee.”
Here he gives Bee a pointed nod. Talia certainly talked about the man enough for Jason to put two and two together. Bee is Damian’s second sire, but that doesn’t make the pup any less his. Bee can fight him if he wants to take Dami.
Bee doesn’t really look up to fighting though, turning a pallid green. “What has she done?”
They make Jason and Damian sit through a series of tests that are, quite frankly, boring. Watching computers spit numbers and letters as it looks over his blood is certainly not what Jason would call a good time. Eventually, they get whatever answers they were looking for and take Jason and Dami upstairs.
The first room they take him to makes Jason’s heart try to break through his ribs. With his thoughts ground to mush, he refuses to go back into the room. If need be, Jason is more than prepared to sleep in a corner of the hall. He tries to tell the old man, Alfred, so and he recoils like Jason tried to kill him.
“Sleep in the hall—I never. I’ll have a room ready for you in under ten minutes, see if I don’t.”
Grayson won’t leave his side, wrapping one arm over Jason’s shoulders and rocking with him in the hall when his thoughts fade out into white noise. When Jason comes back, he’s curled around Damian in a soft nest. It’s perfect in a way that none of his nests in the league were. Grayson is curled around him, pressed along the length of his back.
Bee is sitting next to his bed, watching. He startles when Jason tries to sit up and leave the nest. “Jaylad, where... where are you going?”
“Demon... is...Coming.” Jason strokes two fingers across Damian’s soft cheek. “They follow me. Dami is... safe.”
“And what happens to you?”
Jason flinches and looks back down at his lap. “Worms and wood again.”
Bee looks sick when Jason sneaks a look at him. He reaches out and gently pulls Jason to his chest. Jason more than fits in Bee’s hold. He feels like he should struggle to escape, but his body refuses to do more than melt against the alpha.
“You’re my pup, Jason. Do you remember?”
Jason tries. He tries really hard, but inevitably he has to shake his head. Every attempt to find memories of Bee give him a headache and the fragments of thoughts slip through his fingers. All he can remember is a car and a tire iron and then later a crow bar and fire. He doesn’t want to remember more. “No.”
“That’s okay, Jason.” Bee presses a kiss to his forehead. “Maybe eventually you’ll remember, but you are my pup. I will protect you.”
“The demon.” Jason pulls away to impress the danger upon Bee. “He wants my pup. I go. He follows.”
“Ra’s won’t fall for that Jay.” Grayson reaches out and strokes his fingers over Jason’s shoulders. “ It’s better to stay here.”
Jason frowns. He doesn't have the proper words. “He kills. Many knives.”
Jason was a knife once. He would still be a knife, if it weren’t for his pup and the blood in the water. He hums unhappily.
Damian wakes with a startle. His pup is quiet, trained into silence by his sire-who-is-a-dam, as he pushes himself up into a sitting position. It takes Dami just a few seconds to realize what Jason has planned. He’s a smart pup, too smart. He gives a soft wail and reaches for Jason with grabbing hands.
Before Jason can lunge to comfort Dami, Grayson has cradled the pup to his chest and is bringing him to Jay. Grayson presses a kiss to Jason’s forehead. “Let us help you. We have many allies. We can keep you and your pup safe, little wing.”
“I distract.” Jason insists, one of the few coherent thoughts he can hold onto.
Bee nuzzles the top of Jason’s head before beginning to scent him. It makes warmth pool in Jason’s gut. It’s nothing like the scenting that alphas in the league would give him, closer to what he does with Damian. He’s not sure why he allows it, but it settles his thoughts enough they can start to take form. “It will be safer if you stay with us. Ra’s will know where you’ve gone. If you stay, we can fight together.”
“You will not kill me?” Jason confirms, voice small.
“You are pack, Jason.” Bee informs him sternly. “You are my pup. I won’t let anything take you ever again.”
Jason’s not sure he believes that, but his head is starting to hurt again. Damian is safe for now, and there is a humming purr rising from own chest without permission. He cuddles Damian closer and rests his head against Bee’s shoulder. With a shuddering breathe he lets his eyes fall closed. If nothing else, he needs to sleep before he leaves.
His thoughts will be clearer in the morning.