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That year finishes out without any more of the sudden departures that signal his family attacking. The voyage around the Mediterranean finishes with two long, beautiful weeks in Greece, white sand and paradise, Ra’s’ hand at the small of his back and sliding up the line of his throat. Tim sits at the large picture windows that overlook the sea in the room he and Ra’s share at the villa, wondering if maybe, just maybe, Ra’s had actually managed to throw Bruce off the trail. Surely his family would be taking advantage of the building’s lack of fortification, its extensive vulnerabilities, to come and get him otherwise?
The next year passes, and there are no attempts. Three years. Four. Tim has long since realized the truth: they’re not coming.He kisses Ra’s with a smile, straps on his swords and knives, and goes to get them, instead. He can ask Ra’s for anything and receive it, and his Beloved has only asked for this.
(Sequel Two to Barcelona)
Tim’s weight is back up to healthy levels, and he’s sleeping more than two or three hours a night again. He’s smiling easier than he has since he was fifteen, talking easier, laughing easier. His skills haven’t degraded a bit for his captivity, either – in fact, they’ve improved by leaps and bounds. Ra’s had several League members train and teach him, Tim said, and Ra’s played strategy games with him regularly: an effort to keep him from getting too bored or feeling too trapped while still keeping him under guard. It hadn’t helped, apparently, but Tim wouldn’t turn down the chance to improve. He’s reaching out to his brothers again, bonding with them over the systematic destruction of the League’s bases worldwide. Life is good.
Tim is happy to be home. Bruce is grateful to have him safe and sound again.
But it leaves the worst taste in his mouth to realize Ra’s al Ghul had taken better care of his son those months than Bruce has done in years.
(Sequel One to Barcelona)
They’re in an open air market in Barcelona, Spain in the middle of a hot summer’s day when Ra’s winds one arm around Tim’s waist and pulls him back against his chest. Tim just rolls his eyes and allows it. It’s been over half a year his kidnapping; he’s had time to get used to these things – a proprietary hand on the small of his back, fingers brushing overly-long hair out of his face, a body warm against his in bed. Tim had fought it all at first, of course, but it had been made very clear that he wasn’t getting away on his own, and Ra’s was, unfortunately, extremely charming, wonderfully intelligent, and an engaging conversationalist. After seven months, it was easier just to enjoy the man’s company.
“Close your eyes and open your mouth,” Ra’s murmured into Tim’s ear. His voice, like auditory chocolate, rich and deep, made a shiver run down the teenager’s spine despite himself. That was another thing that had become distressingly harder to ignore lately – just how damned attractive the pseudo-immortal was. Tim glanced up at Ra’s, an eyebrow raised pointedly. He refused to show that he was effected.
“Next thing you know, you’ll be asking me to trust you,” he drawled wryly. Ra’s smirked back down at him, just as amused.
“I’ve put far too much effort into successfully caging you to destroy you now, Detective.”
Tim couldn’t argue with that, not with sweat pricking under the thick metal bands circling each of his wrists. For all that they looked like decoration – silver and inlayed gold in intricately wrought designs, glittering in the Spanish sunlight, unmarred by even a single visible seam – the electronics inside of them will taze him into unconsciousness for days if he leaves the radius Ra’s has set for him. He knows. He’s tried.
It’s a gilded cage, full of light silks, soft linens, gorgeous weapons to practice and train with, rooms full of books. Anything Tim could possibly ask for is his, as long as he isn’t asking for his freedom. The decadence doesn’t make the cage any less apparent.
His family has to be getting close again by now, though. This apparent pleasure voyage around the Mediterranean on Ra’s’ yacht had been too sudden for it to be anything but an attempt to evade them without continuing to change bases every few days. Tim hasn’t lost hope yet, not when he knows they’ve almost succeeded a few times before. If nothing else, Bruce won’t accept being beaten.
“Close your eyes,” Ra’s tells him again, and Tim wants to hate him a little for the way he sounds like an indulgent – Tim takes a second to pick the right word, unwilling to accede to the first choices (husband, lover) that come to mind before settling on suitor. Ra’s sounds like an indulgent suitor. Tim gives Ra’s one last, narrow look, then sighs dramatically and faces forward again.
“If you put anything disgusting in my mouth, I’m going to make tonight very unpleasant for you,” Tim warned, finally allowing his eyes to fall closed. His arm came up to rest against the one around his waist, the confirmation of Ra’s grip reassuring. Tim hates Ra’s for that a little, too. Ra’s quiet chuckle rumbles against his back.
“I would never. How would ever I fall asleep without your cold feet tucked under my legs?” Something rounded with smooth, fibrous skin pressed against Tim’s mouth. “Bite.”
Grasping Ra’s wrist with his free hand to stop it from moving, Tim leaned in and obeyed. Bright flavor exploded across his senses, sweet and tart and just slightly citrusy. Mango. He hummed his approval, swallowed and pulled Ra’s wrist in so he could have another taste.
Across the marketplace, Bruce watched Tim lounge back against the Demon’s Head, looking relaxed and comfortable tangled so intimately in the man’s arms as he was fed. Ra’s leaned in closer to say something into Tim’s ear that made him smile and tilt his chin up to look over his shoulder, eyes fluttering open. It made something in Bruce’s chest ache to see it: Tim hadn’t looked quite that content in a long time.
And as he lifted his hand to contact the others, Bruce abruptly didn’t know if he was going to order an attack…
Or a retreat.