Grayson decides that the family needs to get away from the city. Father chooses on something far out in the country, an apartment by the name of the Pink Palace.
“They’ve divided the house up into three sections,” Grayson explains the night that he and Father go over their vacation plans. “The attic part belongs to some old circus dude” -he visibly bounces on his heels at that, beaming wide- “and the basement belongs to two older ladies. They all stay there over the summer, and this year, we’ll be staying in the main part of the house. It’s two stories- we’ll each get our bedroom and we’ll have to bring our own furniture.”
Drake bitches about it- especially when Grayson gets around to the fact that there won’t be any wifi or service down there. Damian doesn’t particularly mind the fact. He’s not dependent on electronics and staring at a screen for too long gives him a headache. It’s something he’s learned to swallow down so he can use the computers down in the Batcave, but it doesn’t mean he willingly uses his phone all the time like Drake does. That, and who needs technology when Damian’s going to have all of Mother Nature outside his door? Animals and beautiful, breathtaking sights galore- He’s so glad Grayson agreed to get him a new sketchbook before they leave next week.
“I don’t want you and Bruce to be working on cases all the time!” Grayson complains, when Drake protests it. He puts his hands on his hips, half-pouting. “If there’s something that you really need to do, print it out. Use paper like they did in the old days. I want this to be a family vacation. Not a work vacation. No Batman. No Robin- Red Robin- Nightwing.”
There’s no need to say Red Hood because Todd isn’t coming along on their little vacation. He’s sticking behind in Gotham to make sure the city doesn’t catch on fire or something. Brown and Gordon are to be working with him, or so Damian’s heard.
“No capes,” Grayson finishes. “Understood?”
Damian reluctantly agrees to the no capes rule. It’s not like there will be anyone to fight or save while deep in the forest.
While packing, Grayson goes through and eliminates any and everything tied to their hero work. Batarangs, costumes, smoke bombs and their utility belts. He leaves one tracker and com in each of their luggage, just in case. They’ll work no matter what conditions they’re thrust into, or so Father says. He designed them himself. Or something. Grayson allows Damian a short butterfly knife. That, though, is the extent.
Pennyworth bids them farewell the morning of their departure. Damian’s got two suitcases- one full of clothes and basic necessities, and his other chock full of painting supplies- watercolors, acrylic, charcoal; he’s got canvases and an easel, along with two sketchbooks and a handful of pencils and pens. He’s ready for a summer full of meditation and retreat. A summer full of color and imagination and a fleeting sunset ring.
He gets stuck in the back with Drake as they drive to the Pink Palace- a good seven hour drive that has Damian reeling. Grayson spends it trying to get everyone to humor him by playing car games. Damian totally does not end up playing out of curiosity, they’re simply good for memory and detective skills, thank you. He wins each one with efficiency that would make Mother bare a semblance of pride.
Drake, for the most part, ignores everyone in the car by plugging in his headphones and resigns himself for staring out the window. Father grips at the steering wheel, no doubt thinking of all of the trouble that the crooks in Gotham are getting into. He’s attached to his city more than his children, and Mother always said that it’s an admirable trait. Damian supposes that it is. Batman’s always been prepared to give his life for Gotham. It’s all Damian’s ever really wanted- Being able to love something so much that he’s willing to die for it.
He’s died for Grayson. He’s died for Gotham, for Maya and to make amends for his sins, for Mother. Do they count? Is he anything close to as great as Father truly is?
The car slows. Damian’s pulled out of his thoughts. It’s for the best.
They all get out of the car- Grayson and Drake after waking the latter up- and pull their bags out of the trunk. Father takes Damian’s before he can protest, gesturing for Grayson to grab Drake’s.
“The two of you can go explore,” Father says, as Grayson starts up the stairs. There’s one of those moving vans pulling in, no doubt full of furniture they need for the summer. “Dick and I will help the movers with all of our stuff.”
“You just don’t want us to choose our own rooms,” Drake utters, pulling out his earbuds. “I already said that I don’t care which one I get. I’ll help you guys out. Besides, it’s going to rain. See?” He points up at the clouds, hanging with an ominous grey.
Grayson lets out a laugh as he pulls open the door, gesturing for the family to go through. “Sure, sure. I don’t think it’s about the rooms, Tim,” he says, “it’s more about you getting to know the environment. You can help if you want, but I already know who’s getting each room. Damian, are you-?”
As much as he wants to complain about the fact that his room needs to have a good view of something, Damian swallows his words down. He won’t really be much help- They’ve got over five grown men with the inclusion of Grayson and Father. That, and he’s sure that Grayson won’t let him down when it comes to setting up his room. As long as Damian has that view and a bed, he’ll be content.
“I’ll go explore,” he replies, cutting Grayson off.
“It’s going to rain,” Drake says again.
“I’ll go explore.”
“It’s going to rain.”
“Take a raincoat,” Grayson pipes up, gently pushing Drake inside. There’s one in my bag- It’ll be a little big, but you’ll make it work, won’t you?”
“Of course I will,” Damian nearly hisses. Grayson sets down his suitcase to unlock the car for him. Damian rushes over, barely listening to his older brother’s directions as he reaches over to the passenger seat.
Grayson’s raincoat is a dull, musty, navy blue. It’s old, that’s for sure. He must’ve got it sometime when he was in his teens. While he still fits in it, there’s a rip in the seams down towards the bottom and a couple buttons are either loose or just completely gone. Damian shucks it on and the fabric shifts loudly. He’s never really liked raincoats- Gotham calls for them all too often and he’d never had to wear them before with Mother. Raincoats are a form of protection from the elements- an al Ghul doesn’t need such a thing unless it’s needed to blend in for some sort of mission.
Without a goodbye, Damian makes a bee-line for the trees. There’s no need to meet the neighbors, Grayson will force him to do that much later when they’re full moved into the house. Besides, Damian could hardly care less about their new neighbors. Crazy folks who lived without anything other than a car- no connection to the outside world. Did they even know superheroes existed? Did they know that the world almost ended? What did these people do all day? Certainly not leave their houses, that’s for sure. The garden in the back, as Damian can clearly see, is dead and overgrown.
He scoffs and reaches for a random stick on the ground. It was shaped in a Y, so much like those dowsing rods. He recalls Grayson telling him about some sort of well, far off in the woods somewhere. Damian pulls the twig up with him and holds it out. Dowsing rods probably don’t even work, he thinks, as he steels himself. He sets off, hand-me-down converse slapping against the ground as he takes off.
Randomly, he twists as he navigates the forest. Every so often he pauses to pull out his phone, snapping pictures of things to sketch and places to come back with his supplies. When there isn’t the looming threat of rain, he’ll even break out the watercolors.
Eventually he comes across a small clearing covered in mud. There’s a small ring of mushrooms circling around something, and despite the stories that Grayson’s told him, Damian crouches down to brush some of it away. The mud is cold, but clears easy enough. It’s more like dirt- it doesn’t cling to his hand once Damian pulls his hand away, to reveal a small circular wooden well cover. There’s a little hole cut into the wood, which he peers down while trying to keep his weight off of the cover. All it is down there is completely dark. He reaches over blindly for a pebble and drops it down, pressing his ear down to the wood.
He never hears it hit the ground.
Damian rocks back onto his heels, and-
And then there’s the familiar roar of a bike and a war cry of some kind of teenager. Damian pulls up fast, cursing himself for not noticing the motorcycle and it’s rider up on the hill to his right. He holds the twig in his hand like it’ll save his life as the teenager- with some kind of skull-like helmet on his head- comes rushing down the hill in a flurry. His breath sweeps out of his lungs as he lunges back, narrowly avoiding being hit by the kid.
Grayson said there wasn’t any need for capes or vigilantes here. Damian will be sure to let them know that he completely begs to differ.
He drops low into a fighting stance as the motorcycle spins to a stop. The rider pulls of their helmet- a foolish move that Damian will be sure to make this man pay for- revealing dark eyes and a mess of brown curls.
“I wouldn’t play around with that, if I were you,” the teenager says. He doesn’t look much older than Damian- possibly fourteen or fifteen. He slouches despite his obvious height, shoving his hands in his pocket as he sways. “Grandma always says that that well goes down so deep, you can see the stars down there, even in the middle of the day.”
Damian picks himself up, not gathering any sense of threat coming from the boy before him. If he had to, Damian could drop him easily. “As if,” he scoffs. He grips the dowsing rod tighter in his hands. At least he found the stupid well. He’ll tell Grayson when he gets back.
“You must be the new tenants, huh?” the boy remarks. “I’m Wybie.”
“Short for Why Born,” he grins.
Damian suppresses his wince- His mother had called him Hafid and Ibn for a good while, but she’d never really been so explicitly rude with her names. The insults came in the form of words, of course, just not like that.
“Damian,” he decides to say. “My name is Damian Wayne. I’m from the city. We’re staying for the summer.”
Wybie cocks his head to the side. “Wayne as in Bruce Wayne? Rich folk?”
“Yes, rich folk.” Damian tries not to roll his eyes, but whatever he was going to say next gets cut off by a woman’s cry of Why Born!
“That’s for me,” Wybie says, as if Damian couldn’t figure it out himself. He swings onto his bike and reaches for his helmet, looking Damian over one last time. “Rich folk,” he says again, in a mutter. “That’d explain why you’re still holding on to that poison oak.”
Damian drops the twig quickly, glancing down to his hand. It’s already starting to grow red. He grits his teeth- Father won’t like that at all. Drake will probably laugh at him. Grayson, at least, won’t be so cruel. He looks back up, intent on at least scoffing out an insult to Wybie-
Wybie's already gone.