Damian Wayne was not a simple, simpering, whiny child who demanded everything be exactly as he pleased. He was not weak, nor did he need special allowances to be made for him to be comfortable. The blanket he was looking for wasn't for his comfort, he told himself. It was simply because Alfred the Cat was more comfortable sitting on Damian's lap if there was a blanket.
No, it had nothing to do with the fact that even after four autumns in Gotham (despite being dead for one of them) he still wasn't used to the chilly air and the biting wind. It certainly had nothing to do with the fact that Damian didn't like the cold.
Finally, after searching through almost every linen closet on the main floor, Damian found a quilt folded carefully on the top shelf of the West Wing's bathroom closet. He pulled it down, wrinkling his nose at the musty smell. Couldn't Pennyworth be bothered to wash it?
The quilt was handmade, obviously. The stitching was uneven and the squares didn't quite match up anywhere. Couldn't his father afford to buy handmade quilts of better quality? But it was available, so Damian wrapped it around his shoulders and started to walk back to the main living room. He could mention getting rid of the old quilt to Pennyworth later, after Alfred the Cat was sufficiently comfortable on his lap.
He arrived back to the main living room a few minutes later, already feeling warmer. Alfred the Cat was waiting on the arm of a chair Damian had pulled close to the roaring fireplace earlier, waiting patiently for Damian to return.
"Good cat," he said quietly, patting him on the head. "Thank you for saving my seat."
Alfred the Cat tilted his head and blinked one long blink before meowing loudly.
"Yes, yes," Damian said. "I'm sitting down. Don't get all needy."
He dropped onto the chair, draping the blanket across his legs and lap, holding his arms and hands out towards the fireplace for a moment to warm them up. Alfred the Cat jumped down onto Damian's lap and circled once before settling down contentedly and closing his eyes.
Damian smiled fondly and stroked Alfred the Cat's back. He looked out the window and smiled slightly at the trees. He may not appreciate the colder months, but they certainly could be beautiful. The color of the leaves. The way they spiraled to the ground slowly when a large gust of wind hit. It was why he'd chosen to draw it.
He reached over to the table close to the side of his chair - careful not to jostle Alfred the Cat - and picked up his sketchbook and graphite pencil. The drawing of the landscape out the window was nearly finished. He just needed to complete a few more details. Add some more leaves. Draw in the gravestones barely visible from where he was sitting.
He set to work immediately, entering a kind of meditative state as he drew. In no time at all, Damian was finished. It was very good, if he did say so himself. He would water color it later, perhaps. Or he might leave it as a simple black and white sketch. Whatever he felt like later.
He looked at it one last time, nodding to himself firmly. Before he moved to set it down on the side table again, Damian looked down at Alfred the Cat, who was blinking up and him sleepily.
"What do you think?" Damian asked him. Alfred the Cat blinked again. "I agree. Thank you very much for your input."
"Cat give good art advice then?" a rough voice asked. Damian looked up in surprise, not that he let it show. "I may have to steal him for some help sometime."
"Todd," Damian greeted stiffly. "What are you doing here." He refused to let the slight blush he could feel spreading across his cheeks at being caught taking to Alfred the Cat affect him. Instead he stared at Jason blankly, waiting for an answer.
"What, you don't think Bruce invited me over?" Jason asked, placing a hand over his heart in faux shock. "I'm offended."
Damian tilted his head slightly and rolled his eyes. "How long have you been outside?"
"A few hours."
As Damian had suspected. Jason's cheeks and what little of his ears were exposed to the air at the bottom of the beanie he was wearing were quite red. So was his nose. It was the type of flush that come from a mixture of exercise and cold air combined.
"Dickhead sent me in to come get you," Jason added after a moment. "He said to get a coat and some gloves on. Hat too, I'd recommend. It's chilly out."
"Why does he need me?" Damian asked, narrowing his eyes.
Jason grinned, a twinkle in his eye, but he didn't respond. Instead he turned around and left, presumably to return outside. Damian growled to himself. Why was he so frustrating? Even Drake was less annoying, and he was Drake.
Damian resolved to remain inside, warm and cozy in front of the fireplace with Alfred the Cat on his lap. That resolve lasted for two minutes and fifty-three seconds before he pushed Alfred the Cat off his lap and removed the blanket, standing up and stretching.
He looked regretfully at the fireplace and chair one last time before heading towards the foyer to fetch his coat, gloves, boots, and hat. He put them on quickly and exited the Manor. The air outside was cold, but not unpleasantly so, he supposed. It could certainly have been worse. Jason was nowhere in sight, and Grayson was just as elusive. Where were they?
Damian slowly began his way around the Manor, leaves crunching under his feet the whole way, looking carefully for them. He had no luck until he reached the west wall, where he say Grayson and Jason, as well as Drake, Cain, and Thomas gathered. They were all dressed for the cold and leaning on sticks. Shovels, perhaps? Behind them was a gargantuan pile of leaves.
He approached slowly, glancing warily at the leaves stacked behind them. Everyone had large grins on their faces, even Drake, so Damian doubted anything bad was going on. If only he could figure it out.
"What do you think, Damian?" Grayson asked, making a flourishing gesture towards the leaves.
"It's good?" he said, unsure. "What is the point?"
Thomas gaped. "The point?!" he asked, outraged. "The point?! It's a pile of leaves!"
"I can see that," Damian said dryly. "But why did you make it?"
"To jump in," Cain said. "It is fun to jump in."
"Has Bruce never done this with you?" Drake asked incredulously. "You've lived here three years, Damian. It's like a tradition. He did it ever year with us."
"He was lost in time the first autumn I lived here. I was dead the second autumn," Damian replied. "And the third autumn I was slightly busy. We must have forgotten."
He sounded mean, but it hurt to know that this was something that had been done before, that his father had done with the others and never with Damian. He tried not to let it hurt. Tried. It still did, even though he wasn't sure of the point of making a giant pile of leaves yet.
"Well, now we're doing it," Jason said cheerfully. "So, let's all enjoy this giant leaf pile."
"How do you 'enjoy' a pile of leaves?" Damian asked.
"We jump in," Thomas said, sounding a tad smug. "From the roof."
"Is that why it's so large?" Damian asked, because really, it was taller than Jason. It was also, Damian noticed, strategically placed under the lowest area of the roof on top of the pool room, which was only a story high or about ten feet off the ground. "To prevent broken bones?"
"Yup," Grayson chirped. "It's so fun. Then of course we take turns getting buried and after that comes the leaf fight."
"A leaf fight?" Damian repeated skeptically.
"Just go with it," Drake suggested, grinning. It was an easy grin, not stressed or tense like most of Drake's grins were. Damian wasn't a fan of Drake, but it was a relief to see his - for lack of a better word - brother smile so easily.
"Fine," Damian acquiesced.
"I'm first," Cain said immediately after Damian's agreement, followed by groans from everyone.
"Com'on, Cass," Jason whined. "You always make us look so lame when you go first."
"Yeah," Thomas agreed. "It's totally not cool."
"I know," Cain said smugly. "That's why I'm first."
"You're the worst," Drake commented.
Cain grinned at him before running towards a ladder Damian hadn't noticed earlier leaning against the roof. She climbed it gracefully and made her way to the optimal jumping area quickly. She grinned down at them, waved, and jumped.
Her screech of joy was not something Damian had expected. Cain was quiet at the best of times. In fact, Damian didn't think he'd ever heard her make so much noise in his life. And she'd sounded so happy.
"My turn," Damian said immediately, running towards the ladder and climbing it quickly. He made it to the stop just in time to see Cain crawl out of the leaves, giggling. There were a few leaves tangled in her short hair and sticking to her sweater, making her look quite silly. Damian - despite himself - was grinning.
"Wait a minute to jump for us to fix the leaves," Grayson shouted.
"Okay," Damian shouted back. He watched at they all too the sticks, rakes, he now knew, and piled the leaves together again.
"Go ahead," Jason yelled once they were all moved back.
Damian took a step forward and flew. It was exhilarating. It was different from swinging between the high rises of Gotham as Robin. This was purely for fun. There was no duty here. A yelp of joy ripped from his throat as he landed in the leaves, sending them flying everywhere.
Damian stood up, feeling like his chest might burst open. Jason was already climbing the ladder to go next, but once he arrived on top of the roof he sent Damian a wink. Grayson waggled his eyebrows, and suddenly Damian was sent into a peeling fit of laughter. That had been amazing. He didn't even care that there were leaves down his shirt and under his hat. He didn't care he was laughing for everyone to see.
"Good, huh?" Drake asked.
"Shut up," Damian snapped, but it was without his usual vitriol, mostly because he didn't mean it and his voice was still high and joyful from his laughter. "Let's pile it for Todd."
Damian stood to the side after the leaves were piled once again and watched as Jason jumped into them, screaming curses that didn't sound bitter at all. This was what family felt like, Damian decided. Jumping in leaves and laughter.