Damian tried to hide his flinch as his tutor moved towards the other boy, who had obediently kept still, although he had aimed a pointed glare at the man. The tutor flicked his wrist, a long coil of a whip lashing out at the boy like a snake. Said boy took the blow with gritted teeth, sucking in a sharp breath, blood soaking through his shirt in a thin line across his back. The boy’s hands were clenched, and they seemed to be curling and unfurling at regular intervals as he let out a ragged breath.
“You may go now, Prince Damian,” his tutor said but coldly to the other boy who watched this situation unfurl. “You seemed to have understood your mistake.”
“Yes,” Damian snapped, and elegantly unfolded himself from his sitting position on the chair before breaking off from his royal etiquette and rushing towards the other boy. Damian’s well-manicured nails dug into his shoulder, and he ignored the yelp that came from the boy and ordered him to follow, even though he ended up half-dragging him.
Damian deposited the older boy at his private living quarters and tucked him into a chair, and ignoring the boy’s protests, he grabbed his shoulders again.
“Todd, you can not keep insisting to stay for me,” he hissed, before removing his hands and heading over to find his medical products.
“Can too,” Jason slurred. “Th’t’s what whipping boys are for.”
He wasn’t wrong. Since Damian was a prince, his tutors were not allowed to lay a hand on him. After his Father had noticed that he had made friends with a “street rat,” he snatched Jason up to take his blows instead.
Damian stripped Jason’s shirt off, dabbing at the blood with a handkerchief, and dipped a finger into a jar of healing cream. He rubbed the mixture into the whip-mark. He had even remembered taking a sojourn with his parents to an ancient League to obtain this sagacious mixture of native herbs, without knowing that he could use it for not just his own wounds. See, Damian was a warrior (his Mother insisted him in being disciplined in all arts), but Jason needed it more than him.
Damian suddenly fell quiet, his shoulders drooping. Jason immediately shot off his chair and knelt by his side, holding concerned expression as he cupped Damian’s face in his rough hands.
“Little D, what’s wr’ng?” Jason asked before Damian backed away from his hands.
“I apologize, Todd,” The prince’s eyes were trained on the floor, but those green eyes soon snapped back up to meet Jason’s. “I wish I could challenge those imbeciles in the Court and-” he cut himself off.
Damian hated the fact that every little mistake he made ended up hurting Jason. He hated that Jason still loved him despite everything Damian had done to him. He hated that Jason didn’t want to strangle him because it hurt less than what was happening right now. He hated that-
“Shh, I know,” Jason murmured, still kneeling at the same spot. “Y’r tutors are assholes.”
Damian couldn’t agree less.
“Your majesty!” A bright voice sounded from the doorway, starling both Damian and Jason. A girl with thick, golden blonde curls and enthusiastic blue eyes beamed at them, before she saw Jason, and her grin stretched with that even wider. “Jay!” she chirped.
Jason returned a shit-eating grin. “Heya, Steph’.”
She was carrying a basket of clothes that were piled up in the neatly woven bamboo basket. At least his other servant was adequate with clothes-folding, Damian mentally tutted, but he couldn’t stop the smile that was threatening to creep onto his face.
Stephanie dropped the mess on the floor with a loud thud , reaching down to wrap Jason in a hug. When Jason winced in pain as her hands pressed against his back, the blonde recoiled immediately with a concerned expression.
“Jay, what’s wrong?” she demanded, raising her eyebrows and putting her hands on her hips.
“Nothin’,” Jason smiled reassuringly, before Damian scowled at him.
“Did the scholar hit you again?” Without waiting for a confirmation, she spat, “Imma kick his ass once I get his hands on him.”
“ You’ll be the one gettin’ kicked outta th’ mansion for that,” Jason observed unhelpfully with a smirk.
Stephanie just sighed dramatically, putting the back of her hand to her forehead and swaying. She stopped suddenly and looked straight in Jason’s eyes - blue with flecks of emerald green - and said seriously, “You know that you could join us, right?”
“Nah, someone’s gotta care for Dami,” He grinned, reaching up to ruffle Damian’s hair. Damian growled and swatted at Todd’s hair, opening his mouth.
“I’m not a-”
“What are they doing in your room?” A new voice sounded from the hallway, right outside the door.
The three whirled around and froze.
“Y-Your Majesty,” started Stephanie, before Jason cut her off.
“It was my fault, sir,” he said steely, his eyes meeting the other’s eyes with no fear. “I distracted her.”
Bruce just stood, unimpressed, with his arms crossed over his broad chest, commanding in his strong, deep voice,
“Take him down.”
A clatter of metal could be heard as soldiers appeared suddenly behind their Lord, seizing Jason by the arms and throat. Stephanie had dropped to her knees, shouting over the noise that it was her fault , while Damian stood, still rooted to the ground, and cried out,
Jason simply turned his head and smiled.
Dick was a bit worried, he would admit - he hadn’t seen his little brother Damian much today. And between his servants that greeted him with polite curtsies and bows and the flashing clangs of wine glasses, no word of him spread, either. While the two princes always seemed to be the talk of the town, all of the gossips were of exaggerated events that happened days ago.
He smothered out his velvet blue coat, adorned with gold accents and a pin of a blossoming nightingale that was clipped to his breast pocket, and rose gracefully, tucking his chair in behind him. When protests arose around him, he just gave an apologetic smile and dismissed himself.
After leaving the room, he broke into a paced sprint, stretching his legs. Sure, it wasn’t necessary at all, but a little exercise outside of training every once and then never hurt. He approached a heavy, dark oak door, carved with fine detail from end to end, took in a breath, and knocked by tapping his knuckles against the engraved surface gently, twice.
The door swung open almost immediately, Damian at the handle. He looked irritated and irate, still dressed in his formal attire, although it was crumpled. He donned a dark sap-green blouse with a gold sash that dangled half-way off his shoulder, and a flying Robin of green, red, and yellow pin clung (a matching gift that Dick had given him, in which Damian just scowled in return. He was delighted to find Damian wear it almost all the time to his delight, as it made Damian's beautiful, dark skin tone almost radiate.) dark-red coat. The blood was almost invisible on that color.
“What do you want, Grayson?” His little brother all but snapped at him, and Dick took a step back, surprised. Damian just tutted at his reaction in scorn.
“What’s wrong?” The older prince asked gently, noticing his distress.
“They took Jason for something he didn’t do,” He accused, eyes softening a bit at the mention of his friend. Dick supposed that Jason was like an older brother he never had, and his blue eyes saddened slightly.
“You mean the street kid?” Was the frown in reply, and Damian didn’t answer, instead marching right past him, in the direction of the royal staircase.
Oh , Dick realized, his lips parted slightly.
Damian was heading for the dungeons.