Damian always peered into the room before entering. Mother had insisted upon caution; her newest pet could become quite agitated. Damian was certain that he could handle the much larger teenager, but Mother did not want her foundling damaged further.

Besides, when the older boy was calm, he could almost be considered good company. He was quiet, a good listener, and mostly obedient. He liked to pet Damian's cats, and sometimes Damian's hair.

Damian often took his lessons into his Mother's quarters. She was never there of course, but Jason never left. So if Jason seemed to be in a good mood, Damian would wedge himself under Jason's arm to read.

The teenager would pet whichever rare breed of wildcat that Damian had absconded with for the week and listen. He seemed indifferent to most of Damian's literature choices, although Shakespeare had earned a snort that Damian had previously considered the damaged teenager incapable of.

Damian put considerable effort into reproducing the sound.

Mother was often very busy; her instructions to his tutors were all she could really manage right now and that was understandable, but Damian's tutors were rather insufferable. Jason was always available, however. He would be there late at night when it wasn't safe for Damian to sleep in his own quarters. He would be there on the rare occasions when Damian missed a former caretakers, and he would be there when Damian wanted to play at being Father (or having Father).

Father was somewhat of a mystery to be solved, but that did not lessen the appeal of the game.

Jason was an adequate substitute. Damian would perform some great feat to win the teenager's approval or laughter. Very occasionally, he would make a very deliberate mistake to earn Jason's worry and anger. Then he could smile smugly at whatever hapless minion suspected of harming him from the safety of Jason's side-pinned there as he was by Jason's strong arm.

. . . because Jason was very strong. He could knock the breath out of Damian if they rough-housed and he could beat the assassins that infiltrated Talia's quarters. He could catch Damian when the younger boy threw himself off of things and Jason could not be subdued without Talia's direct intervention.

The teenager was very clearly not-Father, of course. Father was stronger, taller, braver, and much, much smarter. Father was not damaged, because Father was perfect. Mother said so.

Jason was . . . a suitable companion.

He listened to Damian. He protected Damian. He used his few words to praise Damian.

Jason could perhaps be a brother, even if Damian had no brothers and only knew about their behaviours from his books. Jason would not be a brother like Edmund or Antonio, but maybe something akin to Peter in the stories that his last caretaker had read to him.

Jason was worthy of such an honour.

In the teenager's calmer moods, he was perhaps Damian's second-favorite person in Mother's home-after Mother herself. Unfortunately, Jason's upsets did not diminish, but perhaps grew in intensity with Mother and Grandfather's arguments. When Damian was sent away again, Jason did not come with him. When Damian returned at his mother's side, Jason was no longer there.

There was no Jason in Gotham, and Damian had better brothers now.

He had no need of Todd.