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With the Fume of Sighs

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Jason Todd is in the middle of grooming his venomous spines when Damian al Ghul swims into the cave. The golden tattoos on Damian’s emerald green tail reflect in the water, lit by the phosphorescent algae on the rock walls. It’s distracting in a way Jason isn’t prepared for. In fact, everything about Damian is distracting now that he’s full-grown and of mating age.

“Back from your father’s kingdom for a visit?” Jason queries.

It’s been over eight thousand turns of the tide since Talia al Ghul sent Damian to train with his father. She wanted Damian to have the choice of which kingdom he would prefer to inherit and rule when he came of age: Gotham Reef or the League of Shadows.

Honestly, Jason isn’t surprised Damian has returned.

Because if Jason knows anything about Bruce Wayne, it’s that Bruce holds on to what he considers his so tightly that it inevitably struggles to escape, like a fish on a hook, or a whale calf fleeing an orca. Once that grip becomes so tight it feels like a net, like a trap, like being beached on land and left without air, it triggers the need to escape.

Just like what happened to Jason all those years ago.

“No,” Damian says.

There used to be a sick and twisted Clownfish Mer that called himself the Joker. Now, because of the very spines and barbs that Jason is grooming, there isn’t.

Bruce has never forgiven Jason for that, but Jason doesn’t care.

Jason is a venomous, blood-scarlet Lionfish Mer. Few have a stature of breeding and rarity equal to his own. He’s a tail-flip above even the great Bruce Wayne in societal and breeding value; he won’t allow the Mer to dictate to him. Not when Bruce likely only took him in because of his rarity. Considering Bruce had adopted Dick Grayson, a sapphire Flying Fish Mer, and Timothy Drake, an obsidian Orca Mer, Jason wouldn’t be surprised in the least to learn that Bruce’s ‘generosity’ was really just him collecting rare Mers for his Pod.

“I’ve returned to keep my promise, Beloved,” Damian states, swimming closer, stopping just out of reach of Jason’s flared spines.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” Jason whispers so softly that the air bubbles tickle his face as he speaks.

It’s not a matter of doubting Damian’s honor; it’s a matter of knowing that kids constantly change their minds. The vast majority of them, regardless of species, have the attention span of a Goldfish Mer. They’re easily distracted by new and shiny things.

So to hear that Damian has returned from Gotham to fulfill his childish promise of “You will be my mate when I am old enough!” stuns Jason harder than when he fought off an overly amorous Jellyfish Mer about seventy-seven turns of the tide past.

“Will you accept me, Beloved?” Damian asks, his confident voice doing nothing to hide the way his ebony hair sways in the water as he trembles minutely; it’s a tell no Mer can master. The water reveals all to those observant enough to notice.

Jason folds away his venomous spines and smiles at the Mer who’s always treated him with the respect he deserves. 

Smirking, Damian takes that for the unspoken permission it is. He darts forward through the water and claims Jason’s lips for his own. It’s a single kiss, the First Ritual of Mating, and the Ocean will never be the same again.

For what can stand against the might of a kingdom ruled by a blood-scarlet Lionfish Mer and an emerald Barracuda Mer?

Nothing.