A/N: This is my entry for the DCU_Bang on livejournal. Links to the artwork by miki_moo and c2ii will be made available on my profile page.


The Prologue

"Damian, have you not grown bored with those toys? Would not new ones suit you better?" Talia reached out to card a hand through her oldest son's hair. "Your birthday is coming up after all . . ."

Damian had stilled, but he did not immediately speak. "When it comes to my possessions, Mother," he finally offered in careful calculation, "I prefer quality over quantity."

Talia laughed, a pretty sound that shook her entire frame, and Damian relaxed marginally. "Touché, my son; I shall continue to think on it." Damian didn't comment; his fourteenth birthday would undoubtedly be as hellish as the thirteenth before it. If his mother didn't test him, Ra's al Ghul would.

"Damian," his mother remonstrated, and he straightened automatically. "Why don't you take your brother outside?"

Benjamin looked up quickly from his place on the other side of Talia. "I don't want to go outside, Mother," he protested, childishly as is the special right of the second 'born.'

Benjamin—the name is Hebrew and it means 'son of my right hand.'

In that quiet place inside his head where Damian kept all the things he dare not say out loud, the teenager called the child: Ben-oni—'son of my suffering.'

"It will be good for you, habibi," Talia coaxed gently. "Perhaps your brother will teach you something new." It is not a request, and Damian nodded obediently, training exercises already springing to mind.

Benjamin gave in with an exaggerated pout, and Damian held out his arms for the boy, easily swinging his brother onto one hip. Childish hands clasped around his neck and a sticky-sweet chin brushed against the side of his neck as the dark head came to rest sweetly against his shoulder. The picture they must make brought a smile to their mother's face—her sons together and obedient.

Damian only kept his heart rate and breathing even through sheer force of will. Though he could never betray his thoughts, it was impossible for the teenager to forget that he held an assassin in his arms.

"Mother," Damian nodded cordially before moving as if to leave the room. He took measured steps, deliberately slowing his pace, waiting, praying for permission . . .

"Take your toys with you," his mother commanded only when Damian lingered in the doorway a moment too long. Damian glanced back warily; the smaller smile—an expression of knowing and indulgence—currently on Talia's face never boded well, but she waved a dismissive hand.

Sometimes he had to take what he could get. So Damian shifted Benjamin's weight and commanded the others to follow him.

Jason Todd and Tim Drake obeyed in silence.