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The New Apprentice

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The collar felt strangely heavy around Jason’s neck. It looked so different from everything else about him, so expensive and elegant. That strip of handsome black leather, decorated with bronze metal and a scarlet gem stone at Jason’s Adam’s apple only made his torn and dirty clothes, unkempt hair and generally scruffy appearance look even worse. He raised his hand nervously to the gem, surprised to find it strangely warm to the touch, a faint, rhythmic tremor reverberated through his fingers and he looked down puzzled.

 

“A heartbeat.”

 

It was the first words his new master had spoken to him. Even at the Showing he’d simply watched Jason from across the market place, until finally, only two hours before midnight and the official end of the gathering, his manservant had come to talk to him.

 

An old man, a foreigner judging by his accent, with white hair and mustache and kind, intelligent eyes had approached him, pointed the sorcerer out to him and asked him, in an eerily polite sort of way if he would like to become the mighty Deathstroke’s new apprentice. Jason had had to process that for quite some time, but with patient, if a little amused, answers to his repeated use of the word “What?”, the old man, Sir William Wintergreen, as he later introduced himself, had managed to convey the message to the bewildered boy. Jason had looked around at the handful of other boys yet to be indoctrinated into some sort of trade, then at the cloaked figure still watching him and had told Sir William that, if anyone else didn’t want him by the end of the night he might as well accept the offer.

 

In retrospect, making one of the most dangerous magicians in the history of all the DeeSea kingdoms wait on him was probably the most suicidal thing he’d ever done and, given his reputation, that really was saying something. But the next hour had went by without any repercussions and without anyone so much as looking at him and he had soon found himself sitting in a carriage and heading out of the city with two very formidable men and a brand new magician’s apprentice collar not long after that.

 

“Sorry… What?” Jason floundered, his voice cracking embarrassingly, his gaze shooting upwards and his eyes catching on the single, ice blue iris still staring at him.

 

A small smirk tugged at the corner of the sorcerer's lips as he replied. “The pulse you feel beneath those grubby fingertips of yours is a heartbeat, boy. My own to be precise. That ruby you are wearing binds us together, master and student. An ancient ritual among those who possess the gift of magic. I give you my knowledge and my passion and you give me your respect and loyalty.”

 

“Have you lost your heart to a lot of underage boys, then?” The words were out of Jason’s mouth before he could stop them and he looked up at Slade, his expression mildly terrified. The way people described the sorcerer really hadn’t been exaggerated. He was intimidating. Taller than any other man Jason had met, with broad shoulders, an eyepatch and silver hair and beard. He was strong, that much was obvious. A clear threat in any situation, with or without his famous magical prowess. And Jason had just insinuated that he fucked kids… He was going to die, wasn’t he?

 

The deep, rumbling chuckle that bounced off the carriage’s four walls, shocked Jason. “That mouth really must get you into trouble, kid.” the man pointed out, grinning at him. “And if you’re asking whether I have other students, I do. A boy, a few years older than you. I’m sure you’ll meet him once we reach my home.”

 

Jason let out a breath that he didn’t remember inhaling and relaxed the tiniest amount. So the giant could take a joke, that was a relief, not that he should probably test how far he could push him. “You’re not mad? I’ve gotten punched for less, uh, sir.” he checked, looking at Slade with uncertainty in his blue-green eyes. “With your… reputation I’d have thought you’d be a little more defensive.”

 

Slade raised an eyebrow and the boy across from him flinched a little as his voice turned to a slight growl. “If I wanted a terrified, obedient idiot in my home I would have bought a slave. You’re free to speak your mind with me, boy, and make whatever jests you like, so long as you are respectful and willing to listen when it counts.” His voice became softer and a flicker of something near to pity bloomed in his single eye. “People who need to use brute force to protect their own ego and enforce their superiority over others are weak and stupid. Just because that sort of thing is easy does not make it effective.”

 

Jason stared at him, there were a mixture of feelings building in his own chest at the man’s, Slade’s, words that he couldn’t quite place. Anger was there, but that was nothing new, he’d been angry most of his life, but there was also a fierce sort of satisfaction. Someone had put all the thoughts that had been growing in the corners of his mind into words and it felt good. “Yeah...” he said, his voice quiet and dark, his eyes locked with Slade’s own again. “Yeah, you’re right.”

 

The man smiled and leaned back again in his seat. “I know, boy. I think you’ll find that I usually am.” he said and Jason rolled his eyes.

 

“For a guy who has a lot to say about other people's egos your head sure is pretty big, sir.” he snorted, grinning at Slade. “And it’s Jason. I’m almost sixteen, I’m not a child.”

 

The sorcerer looked at him quizzically, before smirking again. “It’s only egotistical if you’re wrong, ‘Jason’.”

 

“I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works, si- master.”

 

._.

 

Jason tugged at the stem of a stubborn purple-petalled plant, swearing loudly as he fell onto his ass in the dirt, his hand slipping through the leaves and ripped a few of the bell-like heads off. He glared at the herb, his teeth gritted. “You’re a fucking nightmare, you know that, right?” he growled and snatched up the book lying on the ground next to him.

 

The text next to a well drawn picture of the current bane of his existence told him that the plant was called “Lamium” and informed him that it had both healing and poisinous properties, depending on which part the plant was used and that it grew well in the shade. It did not, however give him any tips on how to unearth the fucker and add it to the small pile of herbs he was collecting on the ground beside him.

 

Honestly he’d been having a pretty good day until now. He’d woken up in a comfy bed that stood in a room bigger than most houses he’d lived in and had found a bath drawn in the bathroom next to his bed chamber and a pair of deep red robes ready for him on the dresser beside it. The material was expensive, that much he could tell and it felt smooth and comfortable on his skin. Breakfast had been the next great event. He’d been allowed to eat more food than he had ever been given in the calm company of Sir William, who had told him Slade and the elusive “Master Richard” had already breakfasted and were training somewhere else in the large castle. Jason felt a pang of reproach at that, but the old knight, seeming to sense his mood had told him that the sorcerer had wanted him to get as much rest as he needed before they started his training that evening. After that Sir William had let him roam around the grounds for a few hours, which had been something very close to amazing.

 

Jason had always lived in a city, where the only plants that survived where the weeds and the occasional wilting herb garden next to an apothecary. He knew some of the richer neighbourhoods had gardens attached to their houses, but he’d never actually seen one. The rolling hills and meadows that surrounded the borders of Slade’s own grounds would have impressed him, but they were nothing compared to the carefully sculpted bushes, beautiful patches of flowers and the maze and large lily-covered lake he came across as he bounded around the castle.

 

Eventually, Sir William had found him sitting next to the lake and watching the fish and frogs swimming in the water in front of him. The corners of the old man’s eyes wrinkled as he smiled down at the boy. “Enjoying the view, Jason?” he asked softly, startling the boy out of whatever thoughts he’d been having.

 

Jason looked up at him and grinned, flashing his teeth at the old man. “It’s beautiful...” he said, awe in his voice and his eyes looking around him in a dazed sort of way. “Did… did he make this?”

 

He was surprised when the knight laughed and sat down beside him. “Slade? Gods no… He doesn’t particularly care for plants that he can’t use in some sort of potion, or poison. Never really been one for, well, enjoying things that, in his words, are just pretty and nothing else.” he chuckled and Jason snorted. “No. I take care of everything in the grounds, except the herb garden, that’s his and Master Richard’s job. And yours now, although I wouldn’t say no if you wanted to help me out with the less useful plants, too.” he said, endearing himself to the teenager forever.

 

Jason grinned and nodded. “Yeah, that’d- That’d be nice, sir.” Sir William really was a contrast to Slade. You could tell he’d been a good fighter in his prime and he was surprisingly agile for his age, but instead of the aura of danger and intimidation that hung around the sorcerer like a revengeful spirit, the knight genuinely made Jason feel welcome in the vast castle that was probably going to been his home for the foreseeable future. That is if he didn’t fuck up, at least.

 

Wintergreen patted him on the shoulder and got up. “Call me Billy, or Bill. Sir is a little formal, I haven’t fulfilled my knightly duties in some decades now.” Jason felt something warm flutter in his chest. “Speaking of the your upcoming duties, however, there are some things Slade wants you to fetch for this evening’s lessons.” He drew out a small book from his pocket with a piece of parchment tucked into the space between the cover and the first page. The title read “A Guide to Herbs Most Useful and Magickally Potent”. “He wants you to collect some herbs before lunch. Here.” He handed Jason the book. “There’s a list in there of all the things he needs and the book is alphabetically ordered with pictures, so it’ll help you identify what he means.”

 

Jason nodded, again, getting up himself. “Yeah, that doesn’t sound too hard. I was expecting to have to fight a dragon, or some shit like that, or I dunno, curse someone’s crops.”

 

“Oh I’m sure he’ll let you do all that in time, but he’s starting with the basics.” Billy chuckled, putting a hand of Jason’s back and guiding him towards the back of the castle. “For now the only thing you’ll be fighting is weeds.”

 

Jason smirked, brandishing the book like a sword and swiping it through the air. “Well, beware, foul nature! I shall defeat you!” Admittedly it was one of the most embarrassing things he’d said in his life, but it was worth it to see the old man laugh.

 

And that was how he’d ended on his ass, in the dirt, in the biggest herb garden he’d ever seen. It had taken him ages to find the plants written down neatly on the parchment, even with the book as help. They all looked so fucking similar. Pulling them up roots and all, or clipping certain parts of them off, depending on what Slade’s instructions told him, had been the fun part, mostly, but his back was starting to get a little sore from bending down so much and he wished he’d been given gloves, or something. Some of the more magical plants actually snapped at him when he tried to touch them.

 

He grasped the lamium again and tugged, only to again fall on his ass. With a frustrated shout of “Fuck you, nature!”. A laugh from behind him made him jump up and turn around hastily, slipping on a patch of mud beside him and landing on his knees. Standing in the gate to the large garden was a boy that looked like he’d come straight out of an illustration from “The Goode Child”, a book the only priest idiotic enough to stay on Crime Alley had plagued him with since he was six years old. He was more than a few inches taller than Jason, with curly black hair, bright blue eyes, tanned skin and fucking dimples. He was wearing a robe like Jason’s only in a a deep blue and a collar with a gem of the same colour. He currently had his hands clapped over his mouth and was obviously trying to stifle the giggles shaking his entire body. Jason glared at him, his cheeks turning pink.

 

“Stop fucking laughing at me!” he growled, his tone far more aggressive than the situation really deserved, but still. This was obviously that ‘Richard’ guy, which meant he’d have set all the expectations Jason would have to live up to and starting off this the dickhead laughing his ass off at him was not giving him a leg up on the competition.

 

The older boy stopped, not completely, but he clearly made an effort. “Sorry.” he said, looking a little guilty, which really only made Jason more pissed off. “No, listen, I really am.” he reassured, obviously noticing the way the younger teenager’s glare had gotten even harder. “It’s just, well… I don’t think I’ve even seen someone shout insults at a plant before...” he giggled, stepping forwards into the garden. “I could give you some tips, you know, sorcerers always give that plant to their apprentice when they’re new as a kind of test, because it’s horrible to try and dig up. Listen, if you just dig a bit around it, and loosen the soi-” He was a breath away from Jason now and reaching towards the plant.

 

Jason batted his hand way, slightly harder than he should have. “I was doing fine! I don’t need your help, especially if it’s some sort of test! I could have figured it out on my own!” he glowered at the older apprentice and the boy looked at him in shock, before drawing away.

 

“Uh, sorry… I didn’t mean to insult you, or anything, I was only trying to hel-”

 

“Well, don’t.” Jason said, coolly, turning back to the stupid plant and reaching for a small trowel to attack the soil around the roots with. There was a long silence after that, in which Jason could almost feel the older boy hovering around behind him and holding back suggestions. Finally, he got the bloody thing out of the earth and reached for the list again, looking at the name of the third to last plant he needed to fetch 24 flowerheads of. Feverfew, he knew that one, his mum had used it to treat him whenever he got sick and he’d used it on her later when-.

 

He got up and walked past the other teenager, ignoring the friendly smile he gave him as he passed. He soon found the daisy-like flower and began clipping off heads to collect in the front of his robe. The other apprentice sat down beside him.

 

“Your name’s Jason, right? I’m Richard Grayson.” he introduced himself, holding out a hand that Jason ignored in favour of hacking off another few flowerheads. “Most people call me Dick, though.”

 

“I can see why...” Jason muttered and to his annoyance Dick laughed.

 

“Hey now, no need to be mean. I was actually really excited when Slade said that he found another apprentice, it’s been a pretty long time since I’ve gotten to hang around someone who isn’t ancient, you know? At least for longer than a couple of days. I was hoping we could be friends.” Dick nudged him, playfully and Jason huffed.

 

“We’ll see...” he replied, pursing his lips. Most people he’d met that were his age had been assholes and he wasn’t keen on being some pampered rich kid’s new entertainment. “Wait a minute...” Realization dawned on him and he looked at the boy next him. “’Grayson’? Aren’t you the apprentice Wayne threw out? I head about it in the market a while back. There was a huge fight at some Sorcery Council meeting and he kicked you out the next day.”

 

The friendly smile was gone in a flash. Dick glared at him, with a clenched jaw and tense shoulders, bright eyes narrowed. “I left of my own accord, actually.” he said, testily, folding his arms defensively. “Not that it’s anyone’s business.”

 

Bingo. Look’s like Jason’d hit a sore spot. He smirked and went back to his work, before saying. “You sure about that? You’re pretty annoying, I can’t say I’d blame Wayne, if he wanted to get rid of you.”

 

He was dragged upright by his collar in a matter of seconds, Dick glaring heatedly at him. “What the hell is your problem?!” he damaged, looking decidedly pissed off. “I’ve only been trying to be friendly with you for the past twenty minutes and you’ve been nothing but hostile!” he shouted, clear hurt in his brilliant blue eyes.

 

“I’m not here to be your friend, okay?!” Jason yelled back, pushing the older boy off him, snarling. “I’m not here so you can have some fucking entertainment! I’m here to learn and I don’t give a shit about what you think of me! Honestly how Slade can stand your constant talking is beyond me! You’re just lucky he pities your rejected ass enough to keep you around!”

 

The punch hit him squarely in the nose with surprising force for a rich brat. He staggered back clutching his bleeding nose and staring at Dick, who was looking as shocked as he felt. “Oh my Gods! Jason, I’m so sorry! I shouldn’t ha-”

 

Jason launched himself at him.

 

It was a short fight, but a brutal one, they rolled around, crushing herbs as they went and punching, and, in Jason’s case, biting every bit of each other they could get at. The scuffle stopped abruptly when they were pulled apart by an invisible force and hoisted into the air. “What is going on here?” The voice was low and calm, but it radiated enough animosity to make Jason cringe into himself. Slade was striding towards them, holding both hands up to keep them aloft and a look of clear displeasure on his face.

 

Dick immediately began to talk, of course. “Slade. I’m really sorry, but he started it! I didn’t-”

 

“You fucking liar!” Jason hurled at him, trying to fight the invisible bonds holding him were he was.

 

“Enough!” Slade did raise his voice now and they both flinched in unison, Dick hanging his head and looking sheepish, Jason glaring away from the angry sorcerer. “Richard you are the elder of both of you, an adult now, I expect you not to rise to whatever schoolyard taunts you shot at each other.” The man dropped Dick from the air, who landed gracefully enough, wincing a little. “Go and ask Billy for some chores to give you until nightfall.”

 

Dick nodded, glancing guiltily at the man he was bound to. “Yes, master. Sorry, master.” he scurried off, ignoring Jason, who still wasn’t looking at either of them.

 

There was a pause, then the younger apprentice let out an indignant shout as he was dropped from the air and landed painfully on the ground. “Hey, what the fu-!”

 

“Jason.” Slade’s voice was deadly quiet and Jason shut up instantly, glancing up at the man, his breath catching in his throat. “You are my apprentice and you are, despite what you seem to think, still a child, not to mention this is your first day here. But let my make myself clear when I say that none of that gives you a free pass. Your behavior was immature, idiotic and impulsive. Do not let this happen again, are we clear?”

 

“Yeah.” Jason answered, looking sullenly at the ground in front of the sorcerer’s boots. There was a long, pointed pause, before he coughed and glanced up, correcting himself. “Yes, master.”

 

Slade rolled his eye and continued. “You will be fixing the mess you made here and uprooting, clipping and storing any plants too damaged to be replanted, in addition to collecting the rest of the plants I wanted and any more I can think of needing. Billy will bring you a list.” he turned on his heel, the black and bronze cloak he was wearing flowing out behind him as he made his way back to the castle.

 

 

._.

 

It was nearing dust when Jason finally finished and he was almost too tired, sore and hungry to drag himself up to the castle Slade had obviously sent him a list of the most annoying plants he could think of and now his hands were covered with scratches, burns and green goo from a strange yellow flower that had vomited on his hands when he tried to clip it’s leaves. Billy was waiting for him at the side entrance, a very sympathetic look on his face and what looked like a bowl of left-over stew and a wet hand towel in his hands. Jason put down the basket of herbs, before he reached for the towel. Finally he wolfed down the stew, gratefully, sitting on the steps with Billy beside him, smoking a pipe. “You might like Master Richard, you know, if you tried to get to know him.” the old knight finally broke the silence with. Jason half-heartedly glared at him, as he continued. “He can be a little overbearing, but he’s genuinely a nice person and he’s loyal to a fault.” There was a strange look in the old man’s eyes as he said the last part.

 

“I’m not here to make friends.” Jason muttered, reproachfully, putting down the stew, which Billy recollected, along with the towel.

 

“Oh, I know.” The old man chuckled. “But it can’t hurt… Come on,” he beckoned Jason towards the door. “Slade wants to see you before you go to bed for the night.”

 

Suddenly all the tension of the previous confrontation with the sorcerer was back and Jason nearly tripped over again while getting up. “Uh, why?” he asked.

 

“Your guess is as good as mine.” Billy simply said, leading him into the castle.

 

They passed through the kitchen where Billy put down the bowl, adding. “Don’t mention that I gave you this, I’m fairly certain keeping you hungry through lunch and dinner was meant to be part of the punishment.”, before they continued through various dim corridors and down into the basement. Billy stopped at a grand wooden door, illuminated by two torches on either side of it. “This is were he brews potions, be careful not to touch anything that’s bubbling, or an unnatural shade of green.” He knocked on the door, waiting for affirmation before pushing it open and calling. “Jason’s here to see you and for the last time, Slade, please let some air in here, it reeks.”

 

He was right, it did smell, but not necessarily bad, granted not particularly good either, but the all around variety of the smells made it hard to tell what was good and bad. Fumes poured off bubbling cauldrons, glass bottles of strange powders, plants and the occasional severed body parts decorated two of the walls, the other covered ceiling to floor by a bookshelf full of various leather-bound potion books and the one next to that was devoted to cabinets obviously containing different sorts of potions, poisons and salves. Everything was labeled and meticulously organized. Jason stared around, eyes wide, before spotting Slade. He was bent over a cauldron, inspecting it’s contents and muttering something under his breath, the metal ladle inside the vast black pot was stirring of it’s own accord.

 

Jason gulped and walked towards the turned back of his master, all the nervousness he’d been feeling earlier intensifying with every step. Was he going to get sent away, punished, maybe even killed?

 

He brandished the basket. “I got the herbs you wanted, master.” he said, his voice cracking and breathy. Slade didn’t look at him, merely motioning towards the counter near him. Jason hurried over to it, carefully placing the basket on it and waiting. It took a while fore Slade to finally turn around and when he did he still didn’t speak, just stared at Jason, his gaze hard and calculating. After almost ten full minutes Jason cracked. “Look, I’m sorry, okay?! He was just being annoying and I don’t see why I have to put up with that! He’s just some pampered rich kid who thinks he can get whatever he wants and I-”

 

“Did Billy give you some stew?”

 

The question was so out of the blue that Jason had to stare at Slade open mouthed for a few seconds before actually registering what Slade had said. “Yeah.” he answered automatically, before he had a chance to think better of it.

 

“Good.” Slade said simply, moving towards the basket and looking through it’s contents. “I don’t want to you badmouthing Richard, he’s a far better man than you might think, but in the end whether you two like each other is none of my concern. But you are to be civil to each other, or stay out of each other’s way, if you can’t do that. You both live under my roof and I will not have you damaging any of my property during your fights. This childish bickering is not just annoying, but it is also disrespectful towards me, your master. Do you understand?” While he was talking he was pulling out various plants and laying them on the counter, then reaching up towards the bookshelf and retrieving a book named “Healing Potions and Salves”.

 

“Yes, master.” Jason actually felt guilty now, and as much as he wanted to deny it, Slade was right, he shouldn't have started the fight and he shouldn't have ruined Slade’s herb garden, no matter what he felt about Dick.

 

Slade looked at him, before walking over to him with a bundle of plants in his arms. Jason took a step back, his head tilting upwards uncomfortably to be able to look the man in the eyes. He was huge, even bigger when standing up and Jason gulped again, biting at his bottom lip nervously.

 

“Good.” Slade said again, before handing the plants to Jason, who took them in confusion, and thumbing through the pages of the book until he found what he was looking for. He showed Jason a simple salve recipe for healing cuts and bruises and said. “Here, this should help with that black eyes and whatever else Richard managed to give you during your scrap.” Jason took the book and was about to thank him when a big hand cupped his chin, a thumb running across his already swelling under eye. The gem around his neck glowed and blood rushed to his cheeks as he stared up at Slade, who had a small smile on his face. “You know, I partially trained him to fight, he’s quite good at it and you still managed to land quite a few hits on him. Not bad, kid.” The hand was gone a few moments after that and Slade was already walking to the door. “Make sure to follow those instructions to the letter, do it right and your bruises should be gone by morning, do it wrong and you might loose an eye. Trust me when I say that that’s not fun.”

 

The door shut with a click and Jason raised his hand to his own cheek in bewilderment. A whole range of emotions were fighting for a hold on his hastily beating heart. Bewilderment, relief, pride and something else, something that wanted to feel Slade’s hand on his skin again. No. He shook his head, staring up at the ceiling and trying to calm down. He couldn’t think like that. If Slade found out why he’d wanted to leave Crime Alley so badly in the first place, the rumours about him and Roy… He’d be kicked out for sure. He couldn’t afford to loose this place. This type of protection.

 

Turning to the counter, he began to work on chopping up and measuring the plants Slade had given him, definitely not letting his mind wander to other peop- things he could be doing right now.

 

 

._.

 

Surprisingly, despite his distracted mind, the salve turned out to be easy to make, even the incantation he cast over it seemed to work without a hitch and when he spread it around his eye it vanished after a few seconds like it was supposed to and he couldn’t see any of the purple boils the book had warned him about. A cool numbing sensation spread over the affected areas and he sighed in relief, before leaving the room, grabbing a torch and heading off to try and find his own bedchamber.

 

That turned out to be easier said than done, but after nearly half an hour he found himself on a corridor that he was pretty sure was on the same level as his room. He walked to the right of where the staircase ended, which he wasn’t entirely sure about, but it was worth a shot. As he passed a room he heard voices coming from the the slightly open door that warm light was spilling out from. “-behaving like a wild animal!” That was definitely Dick and he sounded pissed. Jason peered into the room and his eyes went wide. Sitting on top of a desk, robe pulled down to his waist, naked upwards save for his faintly glowing collar was Richarad Grayson and standing next to him, applying what looked to be the same salve Jason had just finished making to his tanned skin was Slade, who was smirking at his apprentice in very obvious amusement.

 

“He’s just a child, Richard.” Slade said and Jason realized with annoyance, but not very much surprise that they were talking about him. “A scared child at that. He’s afraid I’ll kick him out if he misbehaves, or doesn’t live up to my standards, standards he thinks were set by you. Of course, he’s going to lash out.” Jason scowled, angrily. Slade was right, annoyingly right, but that didn’t mean he had to tell Dick. “He’s not an animal.” Slade ran his fingers over a bruise on Dick’s hip and Jason was surprised to see the older boy barely reacting to a touch he would have been scarlet from.

 

“He bit me, Slade.” he insisted and brandished an arm, where there was indeed a curved bitemark on his smooth skin.

 

Slade chuckled, moving to take the arm and rub more salve on the mark, fingers following the curve with interest as he smirked down at Dick. “Funny… I don’t remember you minding that kind of thing.” he purred and both Jason and Dick did blush at that.

 

“That’s different, idiot!” Dick blurted out, pulling his arm away and trying to glare at his master. “You know it is!”

 

“Is it?” Slade moved closer to Dick, barely giving him enough room to breathe and spoke in a tone Jason had yet to hear him use. “He’s not a bad looking boy. Strong, he’ll probably outgrow you some day and I know how much you like that… Not to mention those eyes and that dark red hair of his. Isn’t red your favourite flavour?” Jason’s heart was thundering so loud in his eyes he was surprised neither of the men behind the door could here it. Did… Did Slade actually mean that, or was he just teasing Dick? If not… Did they both like men?

 

A pretty shade of pink was blooming on the tips of Dick’s ears now, too and he licked his lips nervously. “Fine, he’s cute, but even if you may be fine with sleeping with a fifteen year old, I’m not. You know the law, he’s not of age until he’s sixteen, at the earliest.”

 

Slade shrugged and Jason drew in a breath as he leaned in closer to Dick, their faces barely an inch apart. “Well, how about fucking someone who’s definitely not fifteen? Until our little red head is officially of age, that is.” He brushed his lips over Dick’s cheek, humming.

 

Dick frowned. “Please tell me you didn’t just bring him here for that, Slade. That’s low, even for you.”

 

“Don’t insult me.” Slade’s tone was far from flirtatious anymore, as he drew back and he gave Dick a quelling look. “Jason has more power than he realizes and he’s a lot stronger than most boys his age, both mentally and physically, besides, I’m not desperate enough to go all the way to Gotham just to buy myself a boytoy.”

 

Dick nodded, grinning, seemingly reassured. “Yeah, I suppose you really aren’t… You’ve got me, right?” He moved his hand to run through Slade’s hair, then down to his broad shoulders. pulling him closer.

 

“And I can’t tell you how pleased I am with that.” Jason watched as Slade took Dick’s lips in a rough, near to bruising kiss, something tight and warm building in his chest. Fuck they both looked… Good, really fucking good. The way Dick’s spine curved in a perfect arch and his bare legs hitched up the robe so he hook them around Slade’s waist. The way his tanned skin gleamed with sweat from whatever chore Billy had had him do and the way he let out soft, pleading sounds through the kiss as Slade’s hands moved across his form, tugging at a dark nipple. And Slade… His broad shoulders and thick torso under that fitted black robe he was wearing left Jason breathless. Those hands that had cupped his cheek down in the basement were big and strong on Dick’s body and the younger man was clearly ejoying every second of it. It was exquisite to watch as Slade claimed every bit of Dick’s mouth, before he drew away and a hand disappeared beneath the folds of the deep blue robe Dick was wearing.

 

“Ah… Fuck...” Dick moaned as Slade clearly found his mark and Jason was desperately grateful when, a second later, the other of those hands tugged the robe up to Dick’s stomach so he could see that pretty pink cock nestled in black curls. Slade’s hand worked slowly up and down the length, his thumb teasing the tip occasionally, before drawing away again. Dick was left to whine and moan and cling to Slade, looking at him pleadingly as he teased him past full hardness. “Slade… Ah! Please move your hand faster… I need more.”

 

“Patience, pretty bird.” The sorcerer purred and Jason could feel his own cock twitch between his legs at both the nickname and that low, smooth voice. “I’ll give you what you need in time, you just have to behave for me, can you do that?”

 

Dick nodded and kissed Slade greedily, before panting a soft “Yes master. Always.” in his ear. Something stuck in Jason’s throat at that and moved his hand to rub himself through his own robe, his bulge throbbing his palm. On a whim he reached up and felt the gemstone set in his collar, feeling that steady heartbeat against his fingers. His cock twitched again and he stopped himself just in time from groaning.

 

Slade’s lips latched onto Dick’s neck, just above the collar and Jason could imagine the rough drag of that short beard against his flesh. Just in time to muffle his own soft moan, Dick let out a loud whine and bucked his hips into Slade’s hand, who moved his other hand so that he was forcing that wonderful ass to stay on the table. It didn’t take long for Dick to try and resist it once Slade’s tongue reached his nipples. Jason watched, steadily stroking himself now as Dick moaned louder than ever, Slade’s teeth tugging on an erect bud. Jason felt Slade’s pulse quicken ever so slightly against his fingers and he looked at him intently, down past were Dick’s hand was clutching at his robe, past where his leg was wrapped around his waist and to the obvious bulge pressing against the fabric. Fuck… He was definitely proportionate, that was for sure, the size of that obvious erection made saliva build in Jason’s mouth, his cock jump again and that type build of warm energy in his gut spread even further.

 

And then Slade was kneeling, his mouth swallowing Dick whole an honest to goodness scream escaping from the younger man’s lips as he fell back on the desk, hands coming up to grab at Slade’s hair, his legs around his neck. Slade lapped at his balls, dragging his tongue from the base to tip of his throbbing cock, before engulfing him in wet heat again.. Dick let out a strangled sound and his hips shook against the desk, his back arching again and there were tears in his eyes. “Fuck, fuck, fuuuuuuckkkk! Slade! I’m going to- Oh shit- Please- I nee-” but Slade was off him before he could finish his demands and Dick looked like he actually might cry now. “No! You can’t just-”

 

“On the floor. Hands and knees.” Slade commanded, ingoring Dick’s protests, and Jason very nearly came right there. Dick stared at him with wide eyes, before grinning and getting up on shaky legs, then kneeling on the floor, his ass in the air and his now dark pink cock hanging between his legs. Slade grabbed something from a drawer in the desk, before kneeling down behind Dick. Then there was a loud rip of fabric and the robe pooled on the floor beneath Dick, ripped at the seams by some invisible force.

 

“Slade!” Dick chastised reproachfully and the older man rolled his eyes.

 

“You have magic, Richard, do I really need to remind you of that? Mending that will take seconds, now shut it.” Dick was about to open his mouth to retort, but something slick and cool ran down the crack of his perfect ass. Jason watched, breathing heavy as Slade poured an excessive amount of oil on Dick, clearly enjoying the way it cascaded down his ass and cock, before dripping onto the fabric beneath him. Dick moaned and stuck his ass up, begging nonverbally for Slade to put his hands on him. When he did, Jason stared, biting his bottom lip as he watched the display. He’d never gotten this far with Roy, always just rubbing against each other and clumsy blowjobs, nothing as elegant and calculated as the way Slade worked on Dick. His fingers ran up and down the cleft of his ass, thumb rubbing at the dark puckered hole, before his index finger slid in smoothly. Dick groaned and pushed back against it, his cock twitching as another and another finger was added and curled lazily inside him. Jason wondered how many times they’d done this together, if Slade had bent Dick over the counter in the potion room, or had him up against the walls that surrounded the herb garden. The thoughts sent ripples of warmth pooling into his groin and he stroked it in earnest, panting against the doorframe.

 

Slade tugged open the buttons on the front of his robe, leaving enough space for him to slide his cock out of the dark material. Jason let out a groan loud enough he was surprised neither of the men reacted to it. Slade was even bigger than he’d thought. Thick and long with a dark red tip and veins pulsing on the side of his massive length. Dick, who was looking over his shoulder licked his lips and grinned at Slade. “Shit, I keep forgetting how thick you are… But I suppose that is why I’ve stuck around so long.” He murmured, voice teasing, but at the same time sounding almost drunk with need.

 

Slade laughed, but didn’t reply, instead he pulled the fingers he’d been playing with Dick with out of him with a squelch and a moan for the young man and smacked his ass sharply. Dick’s hips jolted forwards and he let out a whine, but didn’t complain, his grin wider than ever. The tip of that huge cock rubbed against his entrance teasingly, before Slade pushed forward into him, sheathing himself with a cry from Dick and a groan from himself. Dick panted, his head bending low until his forehead touched the floor. “Oh fuck… So full.” He managed, grinding his ass into Slade’s hips.

 

Slade reached forward and for a moment his hand clasped around Dick’s neck, pulling his head up, then a blue, glowing thread looped itself around his fingers and Slade, pulled away, tugged the thread taught, keeping Dick’s head up. Dick let out a choking sound and his cock twitched against his belly. Amazed Jason looked on, watching as Slade used the collar to ensure Dick was getting only barely enough air to stay conscious, before he began to move in earnest. Soon the slick slide and squelch of Slade fucking Dick at a near brutal pace and Dick’s choked cries filled the corridor, Jason knew both he and Dick wouldn’t last long, but he willed his body not to lose itself until the latter did too.

 

It only took ten minutes for Dick to spill himself over the robe and spasm against Slade’s rough thrusts, keening and panting, his body almost collapsing on the floor, the only thing keeping him upright the pull of that glowing leash. Jason was only seconds behind him. His sperm soaking the front of his robe and his groans were muffled as he pressed his hand to his mouth. To his shock Slade didn’t even halt, his hips slamming into Dick’s ass with bruising force. He reached down and cupped Dick’s limp cock, pulling whimpers and choked pleas from the apprentice as he stroked him hard and fast until his cock throbbed in his hand again. Dick was screaming now, tears streaming down his cheeks and mouth open in ecstasy too great for his body to handle. When he spilled himself for a second time Slade was only seconds after him, his thrusts erratic and heated groans issuing from his mouth. Jason’s hand flew up to the gem, feeling Slade’s heart hammer inside the smooth ruby as he filled Dick up, white fluid dripping from the rim of that stretched hole.

 

They collapsed on top of each other, both breathless, the leash going slack, the sputtering out between them, only the glow of the saphire remaining. Slade was the first to catch his breath, moving to turn Dick over and pull out, before the younger man stopped him, a hand clutching at his thigh. “Stay inside.” he groaned and Slade chuckled, working to maneuver Dick around without sliding out of him. A muttered spell under his breath and the sheen of sweat was suddenly vanishing from their skin, along with the milky white liquid pooling on Dick’s stomach and staining Slade’s robes. The wet sound as Slade hoisted Dick up and got him to curl his legs back around his waist while he walked them over to the large bed in the corner of the room told Jason that there was still something left inside the younger man and a weak surge of arousal passed through him once more.

 

“You’ll apologize to Jason tomorrow.” he head Slade say, accompanied with the creaking of a mattress and a small huff.

 

“He started it.”

 

“I don’t care. You’re ending it.” The sound of fabric being tugged off and thrown on the floor filtered into Jason’s clouded mind.

 

Sheets rustled and the mattress creaked some more. “Fine. I guess he was still fun to talk to, even if we did end up fighting.”

 

A chuckle, now all too familiar to Jason ran out through the room. “You’re a strange one, pretty bird.”

 

“Wow, if that’s coming from you I must be bad.” A yawn, then nothing but soft breathing.

 

Jason only realized after a few minutes of silence that he had fallen to his knees somehow and his thighs were becoming increasingly sticky. He got up, awkwardly and hurried off, this time in the right direction. He needed a bath and a clean robe.

 

._.

 

The next few days were a nightmare, if he was honest. A lot less hostile, but still a nightmare. He found it hard to look either Slade, or Dick in the eyes without turning scarlet, but they didn’t seem to notice, probably thinking he was still embarrassed about his fight with Dick.

 

True to his word, Dick did apologize to Jason on his second day, cornering him after breakfast and spouting some probably very heartfelt shit that Jason barely managed listened to. Jason behaved this time, accepting the apology and even offering something close to one himself. It was the least he could do, after all, after he’d quite literally wanked off to him the night before. Dick had offered to show him around the castle after that and Jason had went along with it, to make Slade happy, obviously… Not because Dick was… attractive. He actually proved to be pretty decent company, if you ignored all the touchy-feely stuff and he was… very touchy-feely, Jason had suppress an erection every time the older man tried to hug him, or sling his arms around his shoulder, or ruffle his hair and that happened nearly all the time. At the end off the three hour encounter, Jason was more than relieved to see Billy walking towards them with a few chores Slade had told him to give them, chores the mercifully kept them apart for the rest of the day.

 

Slade was another thing, the time Jason spent with him was nearly worse than his time with Dick. Slade wasn’t as prone to touching, or teasing as Dick, but Jason was seeing a lot more of him now that his lessons had actually officially started and every time Slade did lay a hand on the small of his back, or his shoulder, or even tell him he’d done a good job, he couldn’t help but think back to all the things Slade had said about him, all the things he’d heard him say to Dick that he so desperately wanted to hear for himself. There was no suppressing the raging boner that that brought on.

 

So he spent the next few weeks as a frustrated ball of sexual energy, traveling from Dick, to Slade and back again in a loop, before he could finally disappear into his room and furiously masturbate. The only relief he got from it all was the few hours every other day he spent gardening with Billy. Slade had agreed to it, only because Billy had pointed out that he let Dick use he gymnasium every other day to do acrobatics and it was only fair to let Jason have some free time, too. Billy was good to talk to and seemed to understand a lot about Jason without him even having to explain it. He started bringing some novels along with him to the grounds when they worked together after Jason had told him about, or rather begrudgingly admitted to, his passion for reading. Jason would read to him aloud, or visa versa when there wasn’t much to do and Billy would let him smuggle the books into his bedchamber, providing he returned them as soon as he was done, so that Slade wouldn’t notice them missing from the library. Slade had told Jason he wasn’t allowed inside that particular room, until he’d learned to have more control over his powers, as some of the books were more like living beings, rather than just paper bound in leather and string, and would try to tempt any human who possessed magic into reading out their enchantments. Jason suspected that Slade, like with many ‘secrets’ Billy had with both him and Dick, knew full well what was going on behind his back but really didn’t care enough to stop it.

 

The lessons with Slade were hard, but fascinating. He was a strict teacher, quick to point out your mistakes, but make all the jabs and ridicule was made worth it for those few hard-earned words of genuine praise. Jason started to live for those moments were Slade showed real pride in what his student had accomplished and would sometimes spend all night trying to perfect a new spell, or technique that Slade had taught him. So much so that Dick had started to try and enforce a curfew on him, after he fell asleep at the dinner table on three different evenings.

 

Then the combat training had started. Slade was a famous warrior, a legend among most killers and mercenaries, very capable of inflicting some very fatal damage with, or without the use of his powers. Jason should have been thrilled to get a chance to learn from him, but after the first lesson he already knew this was not going to work out. Slade had managed to pin him a total of five times and every time he had felt the weight of that fucking monster cock pressing against him. It hadn’t helped in the slightest, when Dick had jumped in to show him how to get some leverage of Slade. Seeing the young man somersault up to wrap his legs around Slade’s neck and actually sit on his face was not a sight Jason was going to forget soon. The obvious flirting, passed off as teasing that ensued didn’t help either.

 

It had been a long day when Jason finally cracked. Two intense hours spend with Dick trying to cuddle with him on the grass in the grounds, followed by fours hours of combat training, followed by Slade taking him into his study to learn a particularly challenging spell. The Binding spell. It was something that any half decent magician should know for when they took on their own apprentice, or simply when they wanted a familiar and consisted of enchanting a collar to bind both the enchanter and being wearing the collar in a respectful, yet unequal relationship where the enchanter was the master. Slade had gotten Jason a small, very pissy ginger kitten for the occasion, saying that a familiar was quite important to any sorcerer and should match his personality. He’d introduced Jason to the copper coloured snake, Ikon, he was bound to himself, and she’d looked at Jason disinterestedly for a little bit, before nudging his palm and slithering back under Slade’s robes. Jason had already met the small, extremely noisy robin that followed Dick around wherever he went.

 

Try as he might, Jason wasn’t getting the spell and both him and Slade were getting increasingly frustrated. “I don’t understand.” Slade said, finally, jaw set and eye narrowed. “You’ve been doing extremely well lately and I thought this would come naturally to you. Why are you finding it so hard to concentrate?”

 

Jason had tried to bite his tongue, he really had, but he was close to tears now and he really didn’t appreciate the scathing way Slade was watching him. “Because of you, you overgrown fucking moron!” he snarled, turning to Slade with his fists clenched and his eyes narrowed.

 

Slade looked confused and then furious, taking a step towards the teenager. “Don’t you dare pin this failing on me, Jason. I’ve trained you well so far and you can-”

 

Against he better judgement Jason cut him off. “You don’t get it!” he shouted. “I saw you! You and Dick! The night after I fought with him! I saw you fucking and heard the things you said about me! I haven’t been able to think of anything else and you’re both so fucking oblivious to what you keep doing to me! Of course I can’t concentrate when I have your monster cock on my mind, can I?!”

 

Slade stared at him, more shocked than Jason had ever seen him and Jason blanched, turning on his heel and moving as quickly as he could to the door. Then he stopped, or rather something stopped him. “Stop doing that!” he yelled as he was pulled into the air and forced back towards Slade.

 

“Try again.” Slade said simply, once he’d landed in front of the table with the hissing kitten.

 

“What?! No!” Jason said, making for the door. Slade pulled him back and he nearly screamed in frustration.

 

“You’ve just gotten something off your chest that you’ve been suppressing for Gods know how long and your mind wants to focus on just about anything else. Try again.” the sorcerer insisted.

 

“Slade… I can’t. I don’t want-” Slade kissed him. He started gentler than the way Jason had seen him kiss Dick, but was no less domineering. The scratch of the beard on his cheek and the way Slade pulled him flush against himself had Jason melting into him, his hands tentatively tangling with his hair and his lips moving clumsily against Slade’s. They broke apart far too quick for Jason’s liking. “Fuck...”

 

“Try again.” Slade insisted, looking down at Jason with a smirk tugging at his lips. Jason walked towards the table without anymore argument and raised his hands. He concentrated on the breathing technique Slade had showed him early, six second exhale, three second inhale and slowly chanted the words the sorcerer had drilled into his skull for the past hour. There was a meow and then he felt the nudge of a tiny nose on his hands and he looked down to see the kitten purring, the gemstone on it’s black collar glowing a bright green. He grinned and scratched it’s ears.

 

“I’ll call you Artemis.” he said, grinning and somewhere behind him Slade hummed approvingly. Big strong hands pulled him backwards and his back hit Slade’s chest. He sighed in relief, but the kitten started to hiss and jumped off the table to run over and try to attack Slade’s boot.

 

The sorcerer chuckled. “She’ll be a menace when she’s older.” he said, releasing the teenager to pick the kitten up by scruff of her neck and put her back in the box he’d retrieved her from earlier. Jason almost protested, but he thought better of it when the man stroked a thumb over his lips. “See? I knew you could do it.” he reached for Jason’s hand and the boy let him take it, still a little stunned. “Come on, kid.”

 

“Where are we going?”

 

“My chambers.” Slade said, as though nothing could be more natural.

 

Jason stopped behind Slade, biting his lip. “You know I’m not sixteen yet, right?”

 

“If you listened to the conversation I had with Richard three weeks ago, you’ll know I don’t care.” Slade said, glancing back at Jason. “But I’ll gladly wait another month if you want to.”

 

Jason grimaced and shook his head. “Fuck off. I’ll explode in the meantime.” he said and walked past Slade tugged at his master to make him follow him.

 

._.

 

Nearly a month and a half later, Slade woke with the moon still shining in the deep blue-grey of an almost dawning sky. He was warm, warm and relaxed, but his mind snapped into consciousness the minute his eye opened. There was a pull in the air, one he recognized very well, the pull of magic. The time was right, a certain hour between night and day, both moon and sun tentatively finding their respective places in the sky. No wonder his fingers itched to trace the runes of one of his books, his tongue longed to sound out the syllable of an ancient enchantment, to make it stronger, better in his vision.

 

He moved to sit up, but a soft sound and the tightening of limbs around his own stopped him. He looked both ways, watching the strange creatures curled at his sides. They were naked save for the collars on their necks, the gemstones still glowing their respective colours at his touch. In this light and with their eyes closed, they almost looked like siblings, both with dark messy hair and plump parted lips. But on closer inspection they clearly weren’t.

 

Richard had darker, tanned skin, his limps were longer, more elegant, his features softer and kinder and the way he slung his leg around Slade’s torso and arm around his neck spoke of a confidence that Jason didn’t quite have yet. The younger of the two was smaller, although Slade suspected that, given time, he might dwarf the older apprentice, his skin was fair, his hair had a reddish shine to it, unlike Dick’s raven locks and his features were rougher, more defiant, his limbs were skinny, but with some clear muscle and the way he rested his head of Slade’s chest and his hand carefully next to it spoke of his insecurities.

 

They were both beautiful, youthful and eager to please, of course, some of the main reasons Slade had chose to mold them, but he had had other motives, he always did. There was a lightness and ease in the way Richard controlled his powers that spoke of the potential to be very great indeed some day and Jason… Well, he may not know it yet, but behind the clumsiness at drawing out runes properly and the not so hidden hang-ups he had with actually certain types of magic, there was raw, almost overpowering magical energy. The likes of which he hadn’t come across for a very long time. They were destined to be powerful, that was for sure and Slade knew that that power would be his if he trained them properly. If they kept their collars firmly around their necks. They had his heart in more ways than one, he was not afraid to admit it, but he had theirs combined with the minds, bodies and souls that came with them. Wayne had been idiotic to abandon Richard and Jason’s father had been more than stupid to hurt him the way he had. But Slade could fix that, he could teach them to trust him and to obey him, with perhaps even more conviction than they already loved him. If he couldn’t give them the guidance they so clearly needed then no one could.

 

It took a lot of gentle coaxing and stroking of possessively curled limbs to get Richard to let go of him, whereas Jason was easily lifted from his chest, only uttering a single bleary-eyed protest before he drifted back off to sleep. Slade got up, pulling the bedsheets back over the sleeping pair. He pushed back the hair from Richard’s sleeping face his hand cupping his chin and eye traveling over the elegant sprawl of his body. Bright royal blue orbs watched him drowsily and a grin spread over the boy’s features. He accepted the kiss Slade gave him easily, mouth opening, hot and needy, and whining when he pulled away. Slade moved to Jason and ran a hand over the curve of his back as he looked down at the tight ball he’d rolled himself in, a turquoise eye shot open fearfully, his whole body tensed, before relaxing a little as Slade leaned down and kissed him gently on the lips, there was no immediate reaction, but a hand shot out of the covers to grasp at his own that he was using to prop himself up and squeeze. Slade smiled and moved to kiss him again, enjoying the clumsy attempt at reciprocation this time. Jason let go of him reluctantly as he moved away, but fell asleep again quickly enough.

 

The old sorcerer dressed speedily, having, as he felt, wasted too much of the time he could be casting already, and moved towards the door, only to pause for a moment to look back on the two. His eye widened a little to find them lying in each other’s arms now. Richard had obviously moved to hold the younger boy first, but the way Jason’s arms were wrapped around his waist and his head rested in the crook of his tanned neck was a definite improvement on his primary reaction when the older boy had first joined them in bed together, a few days after Jason’s sixteenth birthday. Richard’s hands were running soothingly over the smaller teenager’s sides and moving up to stroke through his hair. Jason’s cheeks were flushed, his eyes kept firmly shut and his body stiff, but a small smile was tugging at his lips. Slade was tempted to stay and watch the pretty picture longer, but the pull was getting almost unbearable now, so he relented, but made a mental note to let the boys, his boys, spend more time together. Somewhere he could watch.

 

Everything was moving into place nicely, he pondered, striding down the winding staircase leading from his bedchambers and towards his study. Under his tutelage the two apprentices would make an unstoppable team. Everything was turning out perfectly.