Christmas Spectacular: By Charlene Edwards

"Stop! Right where you are! Do not make another move, young man!"

He stopped at the older man's command and turned around. He could feel the heat rushing to his face. He was caught.

"Where do you think you are going?"

"On patrol," Batman responded, trying desperately to sound dark and ominous rather than sheepish. He knew he was failing.

"You most certainly are not. I have specifically reminded you EVERY day this week that Master Dick's Christmas pageant is tonight. And do not try to tell me you FORGOT. March right into that uniform vault and put on the clothes I laid out for you for tonight. NOW!"

Busted. He knew he was busted. He didn't say a word. He just complied with the order. Alfred may call him 'Master Bruce' out of a sense of propriety, but there was no question who the unadulterated master of the house really was, and it wasn't Bruce Wayne.

He looked at the clothes Alfred had laid out for him -- Khaki dockers, Brown polo sweater -- everything matched a little too well. Why were his clothes laid out in the uniform vault? It was scary how well Alfred knew him. If only Alfred had been a few minutes later, he could have escaped. He could have been on patrol, stopping bad guys. Now he was heading toward Bristol Elementary to watch the students, and particularly his fourth grader, participate in the Christmas pageant.

"Really Master Bruce," Alfred began as he was putting away the Bat suit. "You would have broken the lad's heart if you hadn't went tonight. Every minute the lad's not been down in this cave practicing for the absurd plans you have for him -- "

"Alfred he wants --"

" -- he has been practicing his singing in the kitchen with me. Every night for the past month, while I have done dishes that little boy has sung to me."

"Singing? He's singing?"

"He has a special act in the pageant, not just as part of the group. He has been working VERY hard for this -- for YOU. Now hurry up, we have to leave in a few minutes, he has to be there early."

As they walked out of the uniform vault, they found Dick sitting on the stairs. Bruce noticed the sad expression on the young boy's face. He walked over and put his hand on Dick's shoulder. "What's wrong?"

"It's okay Bruce, you don't have to go. It's just a stupid school thing and you've got more important things to do," Dick said, his eyes never leaving the baseball cap he held in his hands.

Bruce sat beside of Dick, draping his arm around the child's shoulder. "Nothing's more important than going with you. We're partners. We watch out for each other, we're there for each other."

Dick looked up at Bruce, "Really? You mean it? You wanna go?"

Bruce looked into the hopeful eyes, "Yes, I want to go. Now shouldn't you be dressed by now?"

Dick's face broke out in a wide grin as he jumped up spreading out his arms, "I am dressed. This is my costume."

Bruce surveyed the boy's clothes -- jeans, red sweatshirt and a baseball cap in his hands. "Costume?"

"Yep. Cool huh."

"Yes, it's -- cool," Bruce replied with a smile.

Bruce watched as Dick ran up the stairs. No squirming out of this now. With a shrug, he followed the boy.

"Master Bruce, don't forget the video camera on your desk," Alfred called behind him as he ascended the stairs.

'Video camera? Like I'm going to want to watch this more than once,' Bruce thought to himself.

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Dick leapt from the car just as it stopped. He grabbed Bruce by the hand when Bruce was partially out the passenger side door of the SUV, pulling him toward the school.

"Come on! I'll show ya where to sit. Where ya can get a good seat and see me," Dick excitedly said.

"Okay, Dick, slow down," Bruce said as he allowed himself to be pulled into the elementary school and down the hall. Bruce had never been inside Bristol Elementary. Alfred had always come when it was necessary. He looked at the bulletin boards as he was pulled past the rooms. Childish art work adorning the blue walls of the hall. Dick was proudly spouting off to Bruce where his room was, where the cafeteria was, where the principal's office was "Although I NEVER go there because of something bad" he had added. Descending five steps and turning a corner to the right, Dick finally slowed down as they approached the double doors to the auditorium. Bruce couldn't help but smile as he watched Dick peep through the glass on the door.

"I don't think ya can go in now, but right there, see," he said pointing which caused Bruce to look through the door. They were at a side door to the auditorium near the stage. "That first row on this side. That's where you need to sit. I'm gonna be right there," Dick said as he pointed in the opposite direction of the side stage to the main stage. It was directly across from the seats he was pointing out to Bruce. Dick pulled on the door and it opened. His smile grew wider and he pulled Bruce into the auditorium.

"I thought you said we couldn't come in right --"

"See, right here," he pointed excitedly as he showed Bruce where he wanted him to sit.

"Are you sure we can sit here? These seats aren't reserved for --"

"No! This is where the parents sit," Dick eagerly responded.

"But, I'm not --"

Alfred smacked him in the back of the head. "I'm sorry Master Bruce, terribly clumsy of me. I tripped. Master Dick, I believe Master Bruce may be right, perhaps these are not the best seats. What about the center front row instead?"

Bruce turns toward Alfred, his mouth twisted to the side. Alfred's face never changed as he continued his mock debate with Dick as to where to sit. His eyes, however, were another matter entirely. Bruce understood the unspoken message they conveyed -- 'I can't believe that you started that sentence and if you don't get your act together there will be consequence look.' Bruce nodded in defeat. "I ... I think Dick's right, these seats will be fine." Bruce took the aisle seat on the short row of auditorium seats by the left wall.

He looked at Dick as he fidgeted in front of him. Reaching out, Bruce put his hands around the boy's waist and pulled him close to him. "Are you nervous?"

Dick shrugged his shoulders as he scuffed his foot on the auditorium floor. "I dunno."

Bruce watched as the boy seemed to grow reticent. "Go on. Tell me how you feel."

"Kinda excited! I mean, I used to perform all the time -- every night -- and ... But I wasn't nervous then, you know. 'Cuz my ... well ... 'cuz I wasn't alone. Tonight, I'm alone. It'll just be me. Before every show at the circus, my Dad would say 'do good kid' and then afterwards he'd tell me, IF I had done a good job 'you did good kid.' and ... well ... And ... and ... it's a different kinda performing, ya'know. "

Bruce looked at the boy. He was one big ball of conflicting emotions at this point -- excited, sad, nervous, happy to be performing again, and he was feeling alone. Bruce could sense it. That's why Dick needed him here. Alfred was right, Dick DID need him to be here. With a half-smile, Bruce looked into Dick's deep blue eyes, "You're not alone. I'm here. If you get nervous, just look at me."

The boy absolutely beamed when Bruce spoke those words. Throwing his arms around Bruce's neck, he gave Bruce a hug which Bruce warmly returned. "Great! I gotta go to my room now and get ready. After the show, I'll take ya and show ya my room and desk and stuff," Dick said gleefully as he ran out the door.

Alfred smiled at Bruce. "Well done."

"I'm learning."

Handing the video camera to Bruce, Alfred said, "I'll go to the door and wait for Doctor Thompkins."

"Leslie's coming?" Bruce asked.

"She wouldn't miss this for the world, Master Bruce."

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Bruce looked down at his watch. Thirty minutes before the program started. A few parents had started filtering into the large room, taking seats throughout. A few had smaller children with them who either darted up and down the aisles or squealed very loudly. Bruce fidgeted in his small seat. Why didn't they make these seats large enough for adults? If they were going to invite adults, they should have adult sized chairs. Periodically, he would turn and look behind him -- hoping to see Alfred and Leslie. This time when he turned back toward the stage, the woman standing in front of him startled him. Why hadn't he heard her? Sensed her? It had to be the noisy toddlers.

"Hi, I'm Ms. Wilson, the program director. I don't think we've ever met before. Are you a parent?"

"I ... am I ... parent? Am I am parent? I -- " then he remembered Alfred's stern eyes, Yes."

"What child?"

"Dick Grayson. Fourth grade."

"Oh, he's in the sketch. I should have known he was yours, you two look so much alike."

Bruce felt his mouth open to correct her, but something deep inside him kept him from speaking. What was it? he wondered.

"Here's a program. Enjoy the show," she said as she handed him the green cardboard brochure. In bold black letters were printed the words "Bristol Elementary's Christmas Spectacular." Bruce felt his eyes rolling. Then he opened the program. He quickly read down the list of songs the children would be singing. He didn't recognize half of them. He saw Dick's name -- part of a trio again. No wonder the boy was nostalgic.

"Hi! You're new! I'm Jennifer," the perky blonde suburbanite said as she took the seat beside him.

"That seat is reserved."

"Your wife?"

"No, I'm not married it's for ... "

"The grandparents. I know. So what grade is your child in?"

"Um -- uh -- fourth."

"Really? Mine's in second -- " Bruce smiled at her endless prattle. His many nights at the society parties he had to attend was paying off. He looked around searching for Alfred and Leslie. Please let them be coming. " -- never can get my Ex to come to these. So, you're divorced too?"

"Never married."

"But you have -- "

"Single father," ALFRED PLEASE!

"You will simply HAVE to start coming to the PTA meetings -- uh -- I didn't get your name."

Probably because you didn't stop talking long enough to ask. "Bruce," he replied turning around. With a smile, he saw Alfred and Leslie. "Uh, Jennifer, I'm going to need that seat."

She looked down the aisle at the older couple moving toward them. She smiled, "Grandparents. I knew it. Here's my number, call me if you want to get more involved in PTA."

He doubted very seriously that's what she wanted to get him involved with. He watched as she moved to a group of other mothers -- her friends he presumed. As they started talking excitedly, he noticed how they kept looking at him. Bruce had the sensation he was the prize piece of roast at the meat market. He sighed with relief as he stood to greet Leslie. "Am I glad to see the two of you." He let Leslie into the row and followed her, leaving Alfred for the aisle seat.

"Master Bruce, wouldn't you rather --"

"Nooooo Alfred, no. I want to safely sit between you and Leslie until this is ALL over."

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Bruce smiled as he watched Dick march in with the other students. Dick had been right. They had excellent seats. He was close enough he could almost reach out and touch the boy.

His mind wandered during the first few songs, although he tried to keep eye contact with Dick.

The group started on one of the songs Bruce was unfamiliar with. The young voices filling the room with the chorus:

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch You really are a heel, You're as cuddly as a cactus, you're as charming as an eel, Mr. Grinch, You're a bad banana with a greasy black peel!

Alfred leaned over and asked, "Do you like THIS song, Master Bruce?"

Bruce felt himself cringing in his seat. He started to slump lower and lower until Alfred elbowed him to straighten up.

"Perhaps you would rather have one of your new lady friends sit in my seat?"

"No," Bruce whispered as he sat erect. He shifted his attention to the program. Dick's special song was coming up next.

The three words that best describe you are as follows, and I quote,

"Stink, stank, stunk"!

They watched as Dick and two other boys -- one in a green sweatshirt and one in a blue one, moved to the center of the stage, along with an adult the program identified as Mr. Andrews. Bruce sat up interested at what was going to happen.

"All right you Chipmunks! Ready to sing your song?" Mr. Andrews asked.

"I'll say we are!" Dick said first as the other two boys followed with "- Yeah! -Let's sing it now!"

Mr. Andrews looked like a conductor when he started asking the children, "Okay, Simon?"

"Okay!" the boy in the blue sweatshirt responded.

"Okay, Theodore?"

"Okay!" answered the boy in the green sweatshirt.

"Okay, Alvin?"

Bruce noticed how Dick had turned around and seemed to be fiddling with -- something. What was he doing? He knew he was on. Why wasn't he paying attention?


Bruce was starting to get nervous as he watched the boy scuffing his shoes.

"ALVIN!" Mr. Andrews yelled.

"OKAY!!!" Dick shouted defiantly as he turned toward the crowd, which started applauding.

"Christmas, Christmas time is near Time for toys and time for cheer We've been good, but we can't last Hurry Christmas, hurry fast Want a plane that loops the loop

"Me, I want a hula hoop," Dick sang solo and VERY petulant. Which Bruce was beginning to understand was Dick's "part".

"We can hardly stand the wait Please Christmas, don't be late."

"Okay fellas get ready. That was very good, Simon."

"Naturally," responded the child playing Simon.

"Very good Theodore."


"Ah, Alvin, you were a little flat, watch it."

Dick was NOT flat!

"Ah, Alvin. Alvin. ALVIN!"

"OKAY," Dick shouted again as he placed his hands on his hips and pouted his lips.

"Want a plane that loops the loop

"I still want a hula hoop," Dick sang out louder, in an almost defiant tone. Bruce couldn't help but smile.

"We can hardly stand the wait Please Christmas, don't be late. We can hardly stand the wait Please Christmas, don't be late."

Bruce watched Dick's face as the song finished and the crowd broke out into loud applause. Dick was beaming. He was performing again. A different type of performance, but a performance just the same. And as ever, the young showman was pleasing his crowd. Bruce shook his head, Dick was such a little ham. A part of Bruce was absolutely mortified that he sat here through the childish production. But another part was very proud of Dick.

After the program was over, Dick found Bruce in the crowd. Picking the little boy up, Bruce smiled at him, "You did good, kid."

Dick's smile grew even wider if that was possible, and he threw his arms around Bruce's neck. "Let me show you my room. I have lots to show you. Uh ... if you have time. I ... I know you have to get to ..."

"I have NO where I need to go tonight. Hey, we videotaped the show. You want to go home and watch it?"


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"Dick! I didn't know you were coming to Gotham tonight?" Tim asked as he saw his older brother walk in the Manor's front door.

"I don't tell you everything squirt. What's up?"

"I was looking Bruce, he wasn't in the Cave."

Dick's eyebrow shot up. Bruce not in the cave after seven P.M. That was strange. "He's not already out on patrol?"

"Not unless he walked, the car's still in the cave."

They turned when they heard Alfred clearing his throat. "Master Bruce is in the media room."

"Cool, thanks Alfred," Dick said as he and Tim headed off. Before they reached the room, Dick stopped frozen in place as he heard the strains coming from the media room -- "We've been good, but we can't last --"

Tim started laughing, "What is he watching?" Tim started for the door.

A panicked look came over Dick's face as he rushed for the door, throwing his body between Tim and the entryway. "No! You are so NOT going in there!"

"Dude, what's your problem?"

Bruce opened the door and stood behind Dick's outstretched arms. "Boys."

"Hi'ya Bruce!" Dick tried to smile as he turned his head to glance at Bruce.

"Dick went psycho on me all of a sudden," Tim replied as he still heard the Chipmunk song playing in the background.

"Dick, Tim would love to see your performance. Tim did you realize Dick was the first one in the family to play the part of 'Alvin'?" Bruce asked as he reached under Dick's spread arm, taking Tim by the hand. Pushing Dick from the doorway, he pulled the boy in so he could see the very large video screen.

Dick's mouth went into a silent gaping hole.

Tim broke out in laughter, "Dick was a .... a Chipmunk! Alvin the Chipmunk!"

Dick squinted his eyes as he glared at Tim. "Bruce," he growled, "why is this in the video player?"

"I watch it every year."

"Yeah right."

"Yeah. Right," Bruce replied as he put his arm around Dick's shoulder. "It's a Christmas tradition. I can't help it. You did good, kid."

Dick smiled as he looked at his father. Yes, HIS father, legally this year. But this wasn't the first year that Bruce had been his father. That day, fourteen years ago, was when he really felt like, for the first time, that Bruce was his father. They looked at the video screen together -- Alfred had caught them on it -- Dick in Bruce's arms after the show. "Well, if you insist. Lets get some popcorn and watch this thing from the beginning. Tim, wait'll you see Bruce slumping during Mr. Grinch."

Bruce stiffened, "Don't we have a patrol to go on?"

The End