Family Holidays Are Tough

December 15, 2016:

Most of the Batlings are summoned by Alfred to a family event at the Manor. No ice cracks, but it definitely thaws a little.

Wayne Manor

Characters

NPCs: Alfred Pennyworth

Mentions: Nightwing

Plot:

Mood Music: [*https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O07PusAU1os None.]


Fade In…

It's Christmastime, and the heart and soul of the Waynes— and the Bats— is making sure the glue that binds them all together is kept firm. Between the brooders, the sulkers, the planners and the introverts, it's not uncommon for residents of the Wayne Manor to go weeks at a time without seeing each other outside of working hours.

Alfred had obviated all of that by simply going around and turning off the Bat-Signal network after telling everyone 'Meeting At the Manor'— and sending Jason a quiet, imploring request to join him for cider and cookies, borrowing Bruce's communicator and signing it -A.

So, it's a fitfully awkward family descending on the Wayne living room, a bit broken and mangled in places, but perhaps reviving itself a bit. A fifteen foot tall tree, already decorated with tinsel and lights— a stepladder keeps getting shifted around it so anyone can climb up and string up more holiday cheer. Bruce, wearing an open-collared dress shirt and jeans, sitting on the sofa with a hot spiced cocoa balanced on the arm; and Alfred confiscating anything that remotely looks like a gadget, cell phone, or any sort of gimmick from anyone playing with one.

He looks at Stephanie and Bruce, and then clears his throat loudly. "Sorry to interrupt," he says, pointedly— there's been some crushing silence for a good two minutes— "but I'm going to nip into the kitchen to make some more cocoa now. Don't let me get in the way of the festivities," he remarks, before walking off with perfectly British posture in his spine. He's not gone long, and returns in short order with a tray in hand.

+MEET: Batgirl has arrived via +meet.

Stephanie was trying to snap 'family photos' with her phone, pouting when Alfred took it away. She wasn't even POSTING them anywhere. She just… wanted them… on her own phone. The one with the bedazzled Hello Kitty case. The pout lasted a moment before she goes back to her work. She's sitting at the coffee table, hair up in a high pony tail. There are rhinestone and sequins and beads and bottle of puff paint all over the table. And pre-made stockings, which she appears to be decorating with all of the afrementioned items.

She's finished Bruce's. It's set aside to dry and has a jolly snowman on it, with a top hat and a red and green scarf. glitter confetti snowflakes dot the 'scene' with little seed beads glued on as well.

Dick's got Christmas Trees, all decorated and shiny. All sorts of colors. Clearly, Stephanie might have added those tiny LEDs if she cold have figured them out. She opted to play it save for now.

Alfred's has Santa. and the reindeer. And jinglebells.

She's working on Barbara's as Tim's name is drying on his. See, the trick to making the best stockings ever? Do them in layers. One thing at a time, then set aside to dry while you work on someone else's. She's hunched over as Alfred takes his leave, tongue poking out of her lips in concentration. Must… get… tiny glasses on snowman..-juuuuuuuuuuuuust- right!

The message was delivered and Jason honestly wasn't sure if he would accept the invitation. It really wasn't until he found himself in Gotham and making his way up the long driveway that the decision was made and even then he paused and considered turning back more than once. But it was -Alfred- who asked and of everyone, that was the one he actually kind of missed. Or at least, admitted that he missed. He really only knew Bruce and Dick, the others were new even though they tried to help with that whole Alternate Life issue.

He had spent a great deal of time meditating alone after that was resolved, such as it was, but it wasn't really helping all that much. Maybe this would or maybe it wouldn't, but…Alfred asked.

The doorbell to Wayne Manor is rung and he stands at the front, hands in the pocket of his coat, sort of hunched against the cold…or is he expecting an even chillier reception?

+MEET: Tim Drake has arrived via +meet.

Alfred hands off drinks to people— a refill for Bruce, who mumbles thanks, and then one at Stephanie's elbow. He waits for her to take a sip, then patiently moves it out past the sweep of her elbow so it doesn't get knocked over inadvertently.

The tray with refills passes anyone who needs it, and then the doorbell rings and Alfred moves to the door. He glances in the monitor, then clears his throat and braces himself with a short breath.

When the door swings open, Alfred immediately puts on his best, most inviting smile. "Well, young Master Jason," he says, loud enough to be heard. "Well don't just stand there freezing, young man, come in, let me take your coat." Alfred beckons Jason in with a little more authority than most would expect from the old butler, not giving him a chance to dither or argue.

"Now. C'mon inside, sit down, and I'll bring you a proper cuppa," he tells Jason.

When they walk into the living room, Bruce is already on his feet, his keen senses picking up the conversation at the door. "Jason," Bruce says, once the former Boy Wonder enters the room. A pregnant pause follows.

Bruce tilts his head towards the tree, inviting Jason into the room. "C'mon in. Merry Christmas," he adds— and though he doesn't quite /smile/ at his former ward, there's a softening around his blue eyes that implies that Jason is thoroughly welcome in the Wayne Manor.

The real challenge of parties like this, as far as Babs is concerned, this year, is the question of whether or not to use her chair. In public, as Barbara Gordon, she maintains the fiction of quadriplegia. But, at night on patrol, she's swinging from zip lines and sporting the old purple and yellow once more — instead of just a computer screen — thanks to the chip in her spine. Without capes and cowls, here, even though she's nominally in 'safe' company, there's always the possibility of unexpected guests (you know, like her Dad) she'd rather not have surprised. So, she brings the chair. Enters in the chair… but there's no guarantee she'll stay in the chair, depending on who she finds. "Merry Christmas," she greets lightly as she rolls in.

It takes Steph a moment to even realize there was a mug there. But when she does, the smile is bright and merry.

"OH! Thanks Alfred." she says with a happy little chirp to her voice. Sip taken, she returns to her work.. on the stockings for the fireplace. Alfred may have given her the craft store to keep her from hogging ALL the decorations… or rearranging them to they'd ''look more balanced''. The stockings were all hers for the moment. But the greetings and Bruce standing, draw the blonde's attention and she looksup at..

"Jason!" She remembers him from the Jason TV debuckle. debauchll… however you spell that word! Her smile is bright, happy to see him here and …well, she can't say normal cause Stephanie doesn't know what Normal Jason is like, but she can only imagine that everything is perfect and merry and brighter now that he's here. I mean. Bruce said MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!! That means World Peace is upon us and there wil lbe Good WIll toward Men. Should she clamber up to hug him? Yes. Yes she should. And so she does start to her feet.

Jason Todd does seem like he might argue and step away from the door, but Alfred doesn't really give him much choice, does he. "It's good to see you too, Alfred," is offered with a wry sort of smirk. There's hesitation when there's the offer to take his coat, but he finally allows it, revealing jeans and a hoodie that he's wearing. No need to dress up; maybe he never went back to his safehouses to collect other clothes.

There may be a tell-tale lump at his back that is the right size and shape for a gun.

There's not fear on him as he enters the room where the others are…it's more the wariness of entering an unknown situation. He even stays near the entryway as if stepping closer might sully the idyllic scene they have going on. "Merry Christmas," is offered back, his own blue eyes watching Bruce carefully. That is, until the blonde whirlwind starts to approach him and he somehow manages to stop his hands from automatically reaching behind his back. Someone is very tense.

Bruce clears his throat in a violent ah-HEM at Stephanie as the Blonde Marvel starts unwinding herself to hug the young man who's right on the verge of a violent reaction. "Stephanie," he says, voice interdicting her. "Maybe you can get Jason a /drink/?" Bruce says, rather pointedly. Alfred's cocoa goes over better than hugs in this family, anyway.

Spotting Babs wheeling herself in, Bruce walks over to the redhead and quirks the corner of his mouth at her, amused at the pretense she's keeping up. "You know, if you overdo it on holiday nog, you're /already/ in the chair," he tells Barbara, with that sly, dry humor of his. "We can just wheel you into a bathroom and let you sleep it off."

Babs chuckles dryly at Bruce's comment. "Well, you know… I know I'm not supposed to drink and drive, but it's handy to have the seat when walking gets questionable." Not, mind, that she's all that given to drink. Really… who here actually is? Buncha frickin' control freaks, the lot of them. She glances to Jason as he stops short of actually 'causing a scene', as it were, and raises her hand to offer Stephanie a less dangerous hug target. "You have glitter on your nose," she notes.

When you think of festive holiday cheer, the first place that comes to mind is Stately Wayne Manor, which like most places in Gotham looks slightly spookier than is strictly necessary.

It's not far, really, from the place where Tim Drake /used/ to live, the former Drake residence having been whatever passes for 'next door' when every lot is big enough that you need to drive to the house from the street if you want to get there in less than half an hour; this is the time of year that Tim finds himself thinking back on those comparatively simpler times, really letting the holiday melancholia settle in. Of course, it's not like he's the only one. It's supposed to be a time of year for family and all that, and these days his family is…

Tim's arrival is quietly awkward, scrubbing a hand though his longish hair as he looks in and sees… /People/, all gathered to get festive and put up a tree. He's not entirely sure he wants to do either of those things, but probably the time to back out has already passsed.

Stopped by Bruce, Steph grabs one of the mugs from the tray and offers it over to Jason with a smile. And then Barbara is chding her about glitte rnad holding arms out. Stephanie moves over to hug her friend before rubbnig at her nose. With a hand, with glitter on it, which means there's now MORE glitter on her nose than she started with.

"Is not," Steph retorts, eyes spotting Tim. Nothing makes someone slow down and refind their awkward like the Ex. Stephanie fights to NOT bite her lower lip, managing to win barely. She tucks her glittery hands behind her back, and smiles at the newest arrival.

"Hi, Tim." Squeak. Time to go back to stockings now! Stephanie ducks her head and heads back to the 'safety' of the craft table.

"You're having a family thing," Jason notes and starts to back up but pauses before he ends up in Barbara's lap, "I should…I shouldn't have come." He doesn't belong here any more if he ever did in the first place. A hand lifts to push some white-streaked hair back out of his eyes and he looks at the offered drink, "It was nice of Alfred to reach out," but maybe he just wasn't ready for all of this. He's not sure how he should be feeling, but just diving into 'Holiday Happiness' just isn't going to happen. It probably never happened. "Merry Christmas," he tries to back out.

This is a Relaxed scene. He hasn't Relaxed since he was a Robin, if he even managed then. He may not even be capable of it anymore as too much has changed. Too much about -him- has changed. Formerly dead killer Mafiosos aren't supposed to have idyllic, happy scenes.

"Master Tim!" Busted. Alfred's leaning out the front door while Tim skulks in the shadows, looking into the house— he's clearly on sharp lookout for the errant Batlings who are in favor of lurking, skulking, or otherwise loitering outside the wamrth and company of family.

Which Alfred considers mandatory.

"I've got soup on the stove, and I'll pour you a hot cuppa cocoa!" he calls, before going back inside, presumably to prepare a snack for Tim as well— and though many cold bastards abound in this little quasi-family, none of them seem to be able or willing to stand up to Alfred's relentless insistence that everything is going to be Quite All Right.

/Or else/.

Inside, Bruce shakes his head at Barbara, something like a chuckle escaping his lips, and gives her shoulder a squeeze. "Don't hurt yourself getting up," he advises her.

And then Alfred's there— again— intercepting Jason on the withdrawal. "Master Jason," Alfred says, somehow corraling Jason without ever actually putting a finger on him. "I'm a bit overloaded, would you mind taking this tray and we'll run these drinks over to the table? Much obliged," he says, passing Jason a tray and leaving Jason no option but to either follow in his wake, or be the sort of cruel bastard who wouldn't even help Alfred with the drinks.

"/We're/ having a family thing, Jason," Bruce says, his tone surprisingly gentle. "That includes you." Something humorous quirks his mouth. "And according to Alfred, that means none of us get a say in it," he remarks. "If it makes you feel better, you can draw a chair up in the corner," Bruce offers, looking at Tim then to see if the third Robin is going to make an entrance or beat a retreat.

Babs yeeps audibly as Jason lands in her lap. She has the quickness and wherewithal to steady him, however. "Don't worry about it," she tells him as he starts to get all flustered. She even helps to lever him up, proving that her upperbody strength is as fit as it has always been. "This family thrives on social awkwardness." Yep. He fits right in.

She for one, however, isn't going to dwell on it. Perhaps it's just too… normal in this world to really notice.

Indeed, she flashes Bruce a grin and, wheeling the chair back a foot or two to regain lost personal space, she levers herself to her feet and moves to steal a drink from the trays juggling between Alfred and Jason. "Merry Christmas, Alfred."

<repose>
Babs yeeps audibly as Jason nearly lands in her lap. She has the quickness and wherewithal to steady him, however. "Don't worry about it," she tells him as he starts to get all flustered. "This family thrives on social awkwardness." Yep. He fits right in.

She for one, however, isn't going to dwell on it. Perhaps it's just too… normal in this world to really notice.

Indeed, she flashes Bruce a grin and, wheeling the chair back a foot or two to regain lost personal space, she levers herself to her feet and moves to steal a drink from the trays juggling between Alfred and Jason. "Merry Christmas, Alfred."
</repose>

If there's some kind of cosmic rock-paper-scissors, then butler definitely beats ninjas or quasi-ninjas. Actually butler probably beats everything.

So Tim is thusly caught.

The young man gives a bit of a start as Alfred notices him, and at that point there's nothing to do but give a slightly sickly smile, because he knows now there's no escape, as Alfred goes about making sure everything is just right - really, whatever family there is here, if there's anyone it couldn't exist without it's old Alfred Pennyworth - which leaves Tim with no choice but to head in where the others are. This is surely only slightly awkward with Stephanie there, but since Tim is trying to be a Responsible Grown Adult who Handles His Problems, he lifts a hand in greeting to the blonde.

"Hey, Steph," he says. "And, uh, everyone." Whoever he expected to see here, Jason was probably not on the list. Maybe he and Dick switched places in some weird Christmas life lesson. "I'm glad this isn't tense," Tim contributes to the general mood.

If it wasn't Alfred, they might get a tray of cocoa spilled on them. But it -is- Alfred so Jason takes the tray that's handed to him and dutifully carries it to the table. Granted, the older butler might get a glare; he's onto your tricks, old man. After Barbara takes a mug from his tray, he sets it down on the nearest cleared surface, "I'm dead, remember?" Or was. He might not count.

It's been a while since he was required to be in a social situation like this…and when he was, he was putting on an act or there to kill someone. Or both. "I'm not awkward," he insists.

He lifts a mug of the cocoa to take a sip, but Tim's comment is perfectly timed so that he sputters and chokes a little on the cocoa.

"All right, since everyone's got a drink," Alfred announces, moving into the room. "I wonder if Master Bruce would join me for a little song." The butler settles in at the piano, opening the keyboard tray, and with a rueful expression, Bruce moves to sit next to him. It's a funny sight— big as Bruce is, for a moment, there's a shadow of the boy next to the butler as the two settle into place.

"Key of G, master Bruce," Alfred murmurs.

"I /know/, Alfred," Bruce responds, matching the tone of his butler. They take a few measures to get on beat, then the two men start playing out a familiar Christmas ditty— 'Deck the Halls'. After the first number, Bruce taps out and Stephanie takes his place, and Bruce lends his sonorous baritone to a rendition of Silent Night, then through a number of other Christmas songs. Some of the Bats join in, some don't— to each their own, as many of the Batlings prefer.

But for the first time in many, many years, as the night wears on, and people drift off to slumber or brood or guard the night, there's at least a little window of serenity and peace where there is no pretense— for a moment, they're the same family they've always been, joined together in the common cause of the holiday spirit.

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