Damian had expected this. When he went to bed last night, there was an uncomfortable tingle in the back of his throat, but he’d hoped it’d be gone when he woke up. A foolish hope, but it’s not like he could do anything else.
And now he’s awake, glaring at the alarm menacing him. The mildly annoying feeling in his throat has evolved into a painful scratchiness that hurts every time he breathes in. When he coughs, the pain amplifies in his chest and makes his head pound.
Damian isn’t weak like Drake, who has to take a week off every time he so much as sneezes and blames it on his spleen, or lack thereof. Damian was raised and trained by assassins, trained by Nightwing, trained by Batman. A little cold is nothing.
As soon as his feet touch the cold wooden floor, he’s curling back into the covers, thinking nope nope nope fuck that.
He shivers as he burrows further into the blankets, already counting how long he has. The alarm goes off at six, showering and dressing takes fifteen minutes at most, and then he sits down at the table for breakfast. He had a post patrol shower last night, so he can skip that and just put on his uniform. That gives him ten or so minutes to brace for the cold.
Damian falls back asleep in three.
It feels like only seconds have passed when he feels a hand gently shaking his shoulder. He blearily opens his eyes and peaks his head out from his blanket cocoon to see Grayson grinning down at him. The sight makes Damian want to stab him because how dare he be having a good morning while Damian feels like he has sandpaper in his throat.
“Did your alarm not go off?” Grayson looks at the clock, still plugged in and functioning as it usually is. “You’re usually up before anyone else. Well, except B, but I don't think he actually goes to sleep so I’m not sure that counts.”
Damian takes a look at the clock himself and blanches at the time. How did an hour and a half pass by so quickly? School starts in another hour, and he hasn’t even had breakfast yet!
He quickly sits up, but a second later, he’s doubled over coughing violently. His throat burns and the constant movement of his chest makes him want to cry, but he’s not Tim ‘my tummy hurts and I’m dying’ Drake. He’s completely capable of pushing through this ridiculous cold.
“Aw, did you catch something?” Dick is on him in a second. “Do you feel well enough for breakfast? We can go have some toast and then watch a movie. Do you wanna watch Lion King again?”
Maybe… maybe Damian will stay home after all.
“We can stay on the couch or in your room, whichever you want, and I’ll bring the big fluffy blanket down for you. You look cold, here, have my hoodie-”
Damian doesn’t even get a chance to speak as Dick dictates how their entire day is about to go. Then he’s being covered in a hoodie that goes down to his knees and he has to stick his arms out to stop Dick from picking him up and carrying him downstairs.
“It’s just a cold, I feel fine,” Damian’s voice is quiet and scratchy. “I do not need you coddling me.”
“Of course not,” Dick begins folding up the sleeves of the hoodie so Damian’s hands are actually visible. “So Lion King or Zootopia?”
“... Lion King.”
Damian throws in a few more protests throughout the morning, but they’re mostly to keep up appearances. He has to make sure Drake knows this isn’t his choice, Drake needs to know that Damian is better than him, it is essential. Once Drake has left the manor however, he is happy to be swaddled in blankets, lying on the couch watching every Lion King movie.
Dick doesn’t leave, despite the fact that he should have work to get to. He plants himself on the couch next to Damian, and dutifully keeps his hands to himself even though he can see them twitching every time he coughs. He’s probably using all of his self control not to smother Damian in hugs.
The mixture of cold medicine and warmth makes him sleepy though, and he eventually leans into Dick’s waiting arms to close his eyes. Damian doesn’t like sleeping in front of other people, it’s an easily exploitable vulnerability, but Dick has always been the exception. Nothing and no one could ever hurt him if Dick is there.
So Damian doesn’t bother fighting it. He lets Dick rub circles into his back and falls asleep as the lions fight off some evil crocodiles, mumbling about inaccuracies between the movie and real life animals.
He’s woken up a few times, for lunch and more medicine, but for the most part, Dick just lets him rest. His head feels foggier as time goes on and things become less and less clear every time he wakes up to Dick’s soothing words.
The last time he’s startled awake, it’s by being lifted up in the air. He lets out a noise of distress when he realises he could fall, but Dick’s voice is calming him down immediately. “It’s okay, Dami, it’s just me.”
“Why am I high?” Damian mutters, blinking at the faraway ground.
Dick laughs lightly. “I figured you’d want to go back to your room before the others get home.”
Damian relaxes into Dick’s hold, nodding softly. He thinks what he’s saying makes sense, but he still can’t quite understand it. He trusts that Dick knows what’s best though, and allows him to carry him back upstairs to his room, already falling back asleep.
“This is ridiculous,” Damian folds his arms over his chest, glaring out the window. “This car doesn’t even look roadworthy.”
“That’s why I picked it,” Jason is on his knees, leaning against the driver's seat as he hotwires the car. “No car alarm, easy to break into, and we’re not going to be hunted down by some rich fuck lamenting the disppearance of his sixteenth jaguar.”
“So we rob the poor,” Damian says.
“I’ll give it back once we’re done, I’ll even fix up all these dents first,” Jason says. “Unless you want to walk all the way back to the cave.”
Damian shivers at the thought of using one of the city cave entrances. It’ll be a long, cold walk back to homebase after a long night of dealing with Mr. Freeze when Damian wants nothing more than to crawl into bed with one of Alfred’s hot chocolates.
Instead of admitting defeat, Damian continues glaring out the window, this time silent.
A couple moments later, the car finally starts up.
“Got it!” Jason is up and in the car a second later, throwing his helmet in the backseat and turning the heater up as high as he can. It makes an awful clanging noise and the car smells vaguely like roadkill now, but at least they’re warm and they have a ride back home.
The victory is short lived.
About five minutes into the drive, they hit a rock in the centre of the road. At first, Damian thinks it was just a big bump, but then Jason is swearing as he pulls over. “Wait here, I need to check the tire.”
“A jaguar wouldn’t gain a flat tire this easily,” Damian comments.
Jason levels him with an unamused stare before he gets out of the car. He shuts the door behind him and Damian turns the heaters on Jason’s side of the car to face him instead. Something shakes the car, and he looks out the window to see Jason kicking it, because violence solves all problems.
Damian decides to ignore him and instead lean back into his seat, rubbing his hands together. His gloves can only provide so much warmth and the car heaters aren’t very good. It’s not long before Jason is opening up the door again, letting the cold air back in.
“Thing’s flat,” Jason announces. “It might make it back to the cave, but I don’t wanna risk it. There’s a spare in the boot, so get out here and help.”
Damian grumbles as he opens his own door and steps out into the cold night air. He can see his breath with every exhale and if it weren’t for how exhausted he feels, he’d fight Jason for putting him in this situation.
“Here,” Jason hands him… something. “You take off the lug nuts, I’ll get the car up.”
“The what?” Damian stares at the thing in his hand, it’s a weird metal cross with holes on the ends.
“The lug nuts,” Jason knocks his foot against the bolts on the wheel. “These things.”
Damian nods, then looks between the bolts and the metal thing again. “How?”
Jason stares at him for a moment, eyes squinted in suspicion. “Are you trying to get out of helping me or are you just stupid?”
Damian blanches, waving the metal object at Jason threateningly, “I am not stupid-”
“Stupid, then,” Jason confirms. “Or you wouldn’t get so worked up. Daddy never teach you to change a tire?”
“It is an irrelevant skill,” Damian says.
“Seems pretty relevant to me,” Jason kicks the tire again.
Damian doesn’t know what the thing Jason gave him is but it seems similar enough to a crowbar. He could at least do some damage with it.
“Alright, alright,” Jason raises his hands placatingly when he notices Damian’s stance changing. “I’ll just teach you, it’s not that hard.”
It is hard, Damian decides, three minutes later when he’s crouched on the ground in the freezing cold, struggling to turn the ‘lug nuts.’
“It’s called a tire iron,” Jason explains. “B’s got this automatic one at the cave, gets it done way faster. This is what you’ll have to use if you’re out and about and you get a flat.”
“Why are there four ends?” Damian asks. “I can only use one at a time, this is stupid and unintuitive.”
“Less complaining, more loosening.”
Damian rolls his eyes and twists the stupidly shaped tire iron faster. The sooner this is over, the sooner he can return to the warmth. “Finished,” he eventually says.
“Once they’re loosened, you get the car lifted up,” Jason kneels down on the ground next to him, feeling under the car for something. “Feel this solid bit? Put the jack there.”
Damian finds the spot easily, but it covers his hand in something black. He wipes it off on his suit and puts the jack in place before Jason hands him a small metal stick with a hook on the end. Damian’s already thinking of ways to use it as a weapon. The others have been trying to get him out of that habit, but it’s hard not to see objects like this as anything other than a weapon.
“You hook that around the hole there and start turning it,” Jason tells him. “It’s a scissor jack. Most cars’ll have those ‘cause they’re smaller. Trolley jacks do the same thing but they’re easier, you just pump them up and down.”
That’s what she said, Dick’s voice echoes in Damians mind and he scowls again. “How long will this take?”
“Longer if you stop to complain about it.”
Damian’s shoulders are already getting tired from repeatedly turning the stick around. Slowly, ever so slowly, the car lifts, and Jason puts a hand on his shoulder when he deems it high up enough. Damian quickly brushes it off as he goes back to the lug nuts, taking each of them off the tire.
“See? Not that hard,” Jason comments as he rolls the tire over to the boot and pulls out a smaller one. “Now you just do that in reverse.”
Jason actually helps him this time instead of just standing there. He imagines they make an odd scene, Robin and Red Hood changing a tire at three in the morning, but none of the cars that pass them stop. Some slow down a little, but no one is stupid enough to pull over.
Once Damian’s got the lug nuts back on, Jason spins the jack back around, and Damian can tighten them up. When they’re finished, they stand back up and look down at their handiwork.
“Good job,” Jason says and Damian pretends like the praise means nothing to him. “Now as long as we can avoid anymore stupidly placed rocks, we should be fine going home.”
Damian rubs his cold cheeks and nods. “If you were a good driver, it wouldn’t have been a problem in the first place.”
“Hey,” Jason says, ignorant of his insults. “You’ve got something on your face.”
Damian lets out a noise of disgust as he rubs at his face, trying to get off whatever substance was in the car.
“Calm down, it’s just a little grease,” Jason rolls his eyes as he approaches. “I’ll get it.”
Jason licks his thumb and Damian has war flashbacks to his mother wiping crumbs off his face in the same method. “I’ll handle it myself.”
Despite his protests, he is subjected to the cruel punishment of Jason scrubbing at his face with his thumb while Damian yells at him. He threatens violence of all kinds and is still not set free until Jason is done with him.
He sulks in his seat the entire way back to the cave.
Damian collapses when a blow connects with his knee. He hears a sharp click as he goes down, and he rolls away before his foe can take advantage of his prone state. The pain kicks in a second later, making his entire left leg unusable as he tries to hold his sword threateningly, warding off his attackers.
There’s three of them. Damian could theoretically take on three men, but when they’re all bigger than him and he’s already been out fighting other people half the night… he feels he can be forgiven for one misstep.
His opponents are not so understanding. They advance on his crumpled form, tauntingly slow as he backs up and hits the panic button on his watch. With one of his legs unusable, there’s no way he can win this fight on his own.
That doesn’t mean he won't try.
The second one of the men is close enough to try and grab him, he locks his hand around his wrist and pulls. With the momentum, he’s able to stand on his good leg, while sending the man careening into the wall behind him. He swings his fist into the next person in front of him, and lightly steps behind him to avoid any retaliation.
That one step is enough to send him back to the ground, pain exploding from his knee again. He knows that trick won’t work twice, but he doesn’t know what else to do when they advance again, much quicker now that they know he’s still willing to fight.
Damian is pulled up his shoulder, the fingers digging into his skin, probably leaving bruises. He raises his hand to do something, but another of the men quickly grabs it and twists it behind his back. The first lets go, and Damian lands on his feet, being held up by the person locking his arms behind his back.
He tries not to cringe at the shock his leg feels, but he can’t keep standing on it, and the man won’t let him go.
He starts formulating a plan to escape, calculating how long he might be able to stand on his leg before it gives out completely, how far the windows are, what his grapple can reach. The prospects aren’t good no matter how he looks at it. Nothing is close enough for him to run to before being tackled, even if he could run.
The guy he punched is in front of him now, scowling down at him as he wipes blood from his nose. “I’ll give you worse for that, little birdie.”
Damian forces himself to put weight on his bad leg for the sake of kicking the man as hard as he can in the groin. He crumbles like a sack of potatoes and despite the red hot feeling of his knee being stretched, he can’t help but feel satisfied.
“You-” the next man’s advances is cut off by a hand grabbing him by his hair and slamming him into the ground.
Before anyone can react, a shadowy figure is standing over the one on the ground, knocking him out with one swift kick to the head. Damian anticipates the knife being raised to his throat, a sad attempt at using him as a hostage to escape, and easily disarms the person holding him. He falls forward as he shoves the man back and Black Bat catches him before he can hit the ground.
“Are you okay?” She asks, eyes still on the man as he tries to run for the exit.
“Possibly dislocated knee,” Damian says. “I will need a pickup.”
Cassandra nods and raises her hand to her comm. “Robin is fine, but can’t walk.”
There’s a pause and then Cassandra nods, turning back to him. “Batman will be here soon. I will help you outside-”
They’re interrupted by the sound of crashing as the escaped attacker trips over the various wires strewn across the warehouse floor. Cassandra squeezes Damian’s shoulder before stalking after the man. He rushes to pull himself up and comes face to face with Black Bat once he does.
Damian takes pleasure in the fear that flashes across his face, and even more pleasure in the click he hears when Cassandra grabs the man and smashes her foot into his knee. He drops to the ground again as Cassandra returns.
“It will be okay,” Cassandra holds out a hand. Damian takes it, expecting her to help him limp outside, but she uses it to manoeuvre him into her arms. “Your sister will protect you now.”
Damian does not have a single knife on his person and that is not okay. Father had argued that he can’t bring a weapon to a high profile gala, Damian argued that his face is stupid and he can do what he wants.
He did not win the argument.
He huffs again, making sure it’s loud enough for Father to hear, and does another sweep of the building. He already knows all the exits, all the places an assassin could hide, and all the potential weapons. Damian may not have a knife on him right now, but he will change that by the end of the night.
“Damian,” Father draws his attention back and Damian quickly puts a scowl back on his face, just for his benefit. “I need to leave for a moment. Will you be okay on your own?”
“I’m not a child,” Damian stomps off to the snacks table, ready to prove just how capable he is on his own. Plenty capable. He’s fought trained murderers on his own. A gala is nothing.
Damian tears into a croissant as he watches everyone in the hall. He doesn’t know most of the people, though some have familiar faces. The only people he really knows are Father and Drake, both of whom have annoyed him today. Father with his no knives at public events rule and Drake with his general existence.
“You’re really enjoying those croissants, huh?” A man sidles up next to him.
Damian stares at him as he finishes his croissant and picks up another. He holds back a scoff and instead nods. Insulting rich people leads to shouting and then Drake will have to come over and drag him away and tell Father and-
“You’re Damian Wayne, right?” The man asks. “I thought you were actually his kid.”
Damian doesn’t talk with his mouth full because he’s not a degenerate like Todd. It’s a near thing though, he wants to ask what that’s meant to mean. Turns out he doesn’t need to, because he keeps going.
“Who’s your mother?” He asks. “If you know, of course. I know many flings will either use their children to gain money or just drop the kid with the father. You don’t look alike though, are you really his?”
It seems like the man’s off in his own world, imagining his own version of events that lead to Damian joining the Wayne family. He doesn’t care what the man thinks, but he is offended at the notion that he couldn’t be Bruce’s son. He’s been told they share a lot of similarities, Ra’s always said he took more after his father than his mother. Except for his eyes and skin…
“Yes, I am his biological son.” Damian wants to grab another croissant, but he has to explain himself to this fool instead.
“Of course, forgive me for my concern,” he says. “It’s just that perhaps your father should look more closely into the situation-”
“Brian James,” a voice from behind them interrupts and Damian tenses at the hand that lands on his shoulder. “It’s surprising to see you this evening, I thought you’d be occupied.”
Damian recognises Drake’s voice and relaxes a little. He still doesn’t like the fact that Drake is touching him, but the gesture seems more reassuring than a way to keep him trapped in the conversation. He could easily push him away if he likes.
“Occupied? No, I’d never miss a gala at Wayne Enterprises,” he laughs lightly. “I was just talking to your brother here.”
Drake hums and Damian looks up at him. There’s a glint in his eyes that he normally only has when they’re flying across rooftops at night. Damian turns back to the man with a small grin, ready for whatever hell his brother is about to unleash.
“That’s wonderful, I’m sure you’ve heard all about his school's art competition,” Drake says. “They displayed his piece for the whole school, and he won lessons with a French artist. I heard your son also entered, it’s a shame he didn’t win those lessons, he could have used them.”
The man stiffens almost imperceptibly as he realises he’s under attack. He doesn’t have time to counter before Tim is throwing his next spear.
“Perhaps that’s why you’ve been spending so much time with Linda Sterling,” Drake continues. “I hear she’s a talented artist. Are you interested in hiring her to tutor your son? There can’t be any other reason for you to visit her every weekend.”
“Your wife is here as well, right? I’ll talk to her about it, you can get those art lessons set up in no time,” Drake smiles brilliantly and Damian washes the blood drain from the man's face.
“No, no, I, uh, I can handle it,” he stutters. “It was… lovely meeting you, Damian. I, uh, I should get going.”
The two of them watch as he scurries off, tail between his legs and pale faced. Drake grabs a croissant off of the table and takes a bite as he leans against the wall.
“I already sent the photos to his wife before interrupting,” he pulls out his phone, opening up the camera and setting it to video. "Sucks they don't serve popcorn at these things."
"I believe this will be entertainment enough," Damian watches a woman storm up to the man in question and grabs another croissant. Now he understands why Tim spends so much time digging into people's history, it's good for spicing up a boring gala if nothing else.
"Show's starting," Tim presses record just as the yelling begins.
Letters of the alphabet have no business being in his math class. Math is numbers, it is plus and minus signs, it is hell, but it is not letters. And yet, x, y, and z are constant thorns in his side whenever he even tries to look at his algebra homework.
Damian has a lighter in his bag, one he stole off of Todd. Setting fire to his homework may not be the best idea, but it will grant him some satisfaction watching the misplaced letters go up in flame. Pyromancy is okay in small doses.
“You alright there, Dames?” Duke slips onto the seat next to him, dropping his bag by his feet.
“There are letters,” is all Damian says.
“Sure are, bud,” Duke takes a closer look at the paper. “Oh, yikes. Algebra, huh?”
Damian nods pathetically. “Algebra.”
“Well, hey, I’ve got a free period, I can help you out,” Duke says. “And if we don’t finish it off today, we can finish it at home.”
Damian doesn’t want to do his homework, he wants to pretend it doesn't exist and then politely remind his teacher that his father is the richest man in Gotham when she tries to give him detention for it. He’s already had three meetings with the principal about threatening his teachers though, so maybe he should just bite the bullet and accept his fate.
“Fine,” Damian miserably stabs his pen into the metal table. “What is x?”
“It depends? I think?” Duke looks over the paper. “It’s a placeholder, right? We don’t know what the number is, but we can figure it out with the other numbers.”
Joy of joys. More numbers.
Duke spends his entire free period helping Damian figure out what the various letters are meant to represent. They’re both confused and tired, but they manage to make some solid progress through his homework. Damian’s not going to bother double checking to make sure everything is correct, he doesn’t even want to do this once let alone twice.
It’s not as horrifyingly boring with Duke there to help him. He shares his snacks and doesn’t mind taking one minute breaks to give their brains a rest before diving back into the number-letters.
“This is reminding me why I decided not to take math anymore,” Duke mutters.
“You can opt out?”
“Only in your fourth year, sorry Dames,” Duke says. “First three are compulsory.”
Damian slumps in his seat. “We’ll see what’s compulsory when I mention that my father is-”
“Damian, you know the principal is getting tired of this,” Duke interrupts. “She’s one more vague threat away from giving you detention.”
“She wouldn’t dare.”
They both know she would. They also both know Damian would raise hell if he was forced to stay longer than strictly necessary. He already gets in arguments with teachers that try to keep him past the bell. It’s not his fault none of them understand time management.
Not much more progress is made before the bell is ringing and they can already hear students heading to their next classes. Damian begins packing up his work with Duke’s help.
“We’ll get it finished tonight, promise.” Duke claps him on the shoulder, an act that would get anyone else punched but as his second favourite sibling, Duke can continue living. “See you later.”
Damian gives his own quick goodbye before heading towards his next class. He will find some way to thank Duke later on, once number hell is over and he can do something worth his time. He’d gift him a bunny, but he’s not allowed to give people animals anymore because Father realised it was just his roundabout way of getting the animals he wants.
Or he could return the favour. Damian will help Duke with his work when he asks for it, like a good brother would. Because that’s what Damian is.
He helped Grayson when he got sick because he was too stupid to leave Damian alone when he had a cold. He helped Todd put the new tires on that old car they stole so they could give it back in mint condition. He helped Cassandra hunt down the drug dealers that shot her in the arm the week previous. He even helped Drake… in the form of stealing his phone and backup alarm clocks so that he would sleep in for once.
Damian is a great brother. The best.