Disclaimer: I do not own any of the following characters. DC Comics owns them and I have taken them for a quick run down Fan Fiction Lane for a Christmas story. I haven't made any cash off of them either, incase anyone's worried.

Dear Journal
By The Seitz

From The Journal of Alfred Pennyworth
Wednesday December 25th, 2002

Dear Journal,

Another Christmas is upon us here at Wayne Manor, and unlike the ones that have always seemed to plague us in prior years, there is no underlying tension in any of my young wards.

I would like to say that it is this welcome relief is due to a final reconciliation between Master's Bruce and Dick's past troubles, or perhaps the possibility of neither a fight between my two oldest, that would cause Timothy to feel he needs to pick his side between the two. I would even settle for the possibility that Miss Cassandra's presence here has eased some of the tension out of Master Bruce, thus keeping him form making some offhanded remark that would most surely begin an argument between himself and Master Dick.

I know however, that none of those is the case. This holiday has been quiet because there isn't anyone here to begin a fight.

I should correct myself. Dick and Barbara had decided to spend Christmas Eve and morning at Jim Gordon's, and Tim is with his father. Miss Cassandra did spend the night here, but given her preference for quiet, her presence here would hardly have been enough to begin any type of argument. Not that I'm complaining mind you.

Well, maybe I am complaining just a bit. Despite the problems every Christmas argument of past had caused, they at least gave these old grounds some sense of life. Not that watching Cassandra force Bruce to watch Christmas movies until he fell asleep on the sofa, but still it's. . .different, for lack of a better word.

But I am rambling again, I chalk it up to old age. I try not to show it around the children, but the years are beginning to catch up with me. My fingers are beginning to stiffen with either old age or arthritis and the small shake that had always seemed to infect my hands has grown noticeably in the last year or two. Leslie has given me some medication that I have taken to hiding from Bruce, God knows that man has enough on his mind during the day without worrying about me.

I suppose that is why I've been writing in these journals so much. As the end draws closer I feel the need to get as much of this down as possible. So I have taken this opportunity to write up the current times of my little vigilante circle, a "State of the Family," if you will.

As I sit here writing, I can see two of my charges. Both Bruce and Cassandra are still sleeping on the sofa in the media room, Bruce rests squarely in the middle of the sofa, his head tilted back at such an angle as for me to discern that when he wakes up he will have a terrible neck ache. His feet are stretched out in front of him and his left arm lies spread across the back of the couch. His right arm is currently draped across the small form that lies sleeping next to him. Miss Cassandra has curled up into a ball and currently is using Bruce's chest as a pillow. She is still wearing her Batgirl suit, minus cape, cowl, gloves and boots.

It's strange really, Bruce sheds his "nightwear" the second he can make it to the nearest shower. I have watched Miss Cassandra closely in her all too few visits to Wayne Manor, it seems that the child would wear her suit all day if she was given the opportunity. She is a rather unique child, but I will speak of her in greater detail later. I have gone far enough off my original point already.

To fully discern this little family you must stat with Bruce. The son of Thomas and Martha Wayne, secretly the Batman, is the reason we all do this night after night. I've watched him through the years and it has never ceased to amaze me how the man has done what he has done for the city and for himself, and not gotten burned out. I feared when he began this crusade years ago that he would eventually wind up in Arkham, but, to my delight, he has not. He has kept his secret crusade going through these many years and even managed to start a small family (outside of myself) with which he can draw strength and support. I am most grateful for that, for I am not sure what Bruce will do when I am gone. I do, however, know that he will need to draw upon the strength of those around him and keep from withdrawing further into himself as he deals with my loss.

What can one say about Bruce? He in many ways is my son. We have never had a discussion stating that fact but I believe we both know it. I know that is how Tom and Martha would have wanted it. He has changed so much from the small boy I had to chase around the manor from the day he learned to walk all those years ago. He has grown even farther from the weeping little boy I pulled away from his parent's grave day after day. He had long ago proven himself a man, and a good one at that. Aside from his work as Batman, Bruce donates hundreds of millions each year to numerous charities, and organizations. He eventually surpassed even Lex Luthor's monetary contributions in the rebuilding of Gotham, and has since personally seen to it that the economy of Gotham City is restored back to its proper strength.

But still I worry for him more that I do for any of my other young wards. I have sworn to keep record of every one of his events as Batman, both wins and loss', and this is now my fifth diary. Looking back it seems that the man has seen, done, and undergone more than any one person should ever have to. From his co-founding of the Justice League to young Jason's death, to his back injury, to the earthquake, to David Cain's attempt at ruining him, the man had done too much and he isn't even forty years old yet. And through it all he has never broken the rules he set down for himself. He has never killed a man, neither in self defense nor in a fit of rage. I suppose that is why I stay o with him year after year. I respect him more than anyone I know, because no matter what happens I know he will never break his own rules, simply because he doesn't want to disappoint two people who were taken from him many years ago.

Master Richard Grayson is next on my list. There's plenty to say for that young lad also. Long time ago he swore his allegiance to Bruce and dawned the red tunic as Robin. Now, as Nightwing he still honors the same oath he swore all those years ago. I can not begin to describe how proud I am of him for that. I am doubly proud of him for finally winning the heart of Barbara Gordon. I have taken solace in the fact that, despite their absence so-far during this holiday season, it is only proof of how serious the two young lovers' relationship is getting.

And speaking of Miss Barbara, I can safely say she is a woman that deeply commands my respect. And she is anyone in this family deserves it. I find it ironic that Cassandra, who has had more bullets than I will ever know about pass through her body, can still be one of the fastest, most agile people around, while it only took one bullet to cripple Barbara Gordon. One of the cruel tricks of life I suppose.

But that does help in my overwhelming awe of her. Where most people would have given up in her situation, Barbara didn't. She made herself a stronger, more independent woman than she ever was as Batgirl. To say that bullet was a blessing in disguise certainly isn't true, however, it is safe to say that the Joker did not do nearly as much damage as he hoped he would have.

There is no doubt in my mind that Master Tim is quite a help to her also. I always enjoyed watching the lad grow up from afar, it reminded me that there was life and innocence outside of this lonely manor. Now I am even more overjoyed at seeing the young Master growing up with us, and grow up he has. He is by far the most intelligent of our Robins, preferring to use his brain when those who had come before him would have used athletic prowess or brawn. To my delight he is as fun loving as the two before him, yet still manages to work with Bruce without the constant arguing that I had suffered with both Dick and Jason.

It has also been my delight to watch the lad grow into manhood. He excels in his studies and takes responsibilities for his actions. He has also finally rid himself of the troublesome rouge he called his girlfriend and, if my old eyes do not deceive me, has quietly taken a shine to young Cassandra. This year as he was running down his ideas for Christmas presents with me, I smiled as he took and extra five minutes debating what he was going to get her, hopping he could find a gift that would some how express his hidden feelings, yet at the same time be of use to her. I had to laugh when he finally settled on an outfit with a large red heart stretching across the chest.

And as amusing as watching Timothy try and secretly woo Cassandra, it is even more so watching Cassandra try and express her obvious feelings for Timothy. I have observed her make a mad dash for the changing area and showers of the cave upon hearing his voice from the top of the stairway. It is even more humorous watching her as she tries to take up some of the same interests as him. The day that she spent with Bruce working on her hacking skills stands out most clearly in my mind. I have no doubt that she will eventually make her intentions known to him, most likely through the direct approach, which she has always preferred.

I am happier that the child has finally taken herself out of the protective shell she had been forced into. For the longest time I worried about her, not because of her speech or when she temporarily lost her fighting abilities. No, I worried most of all when I finally convinced Bruce to explain to me exactly what her father had done to her as she grew up. It scared me to see that a child that had been so tortured could so much resemble Bruce Wayne. That is what I think has made the two of them as close as they are. While Bruce never will make a claim to become her father, he has taken her under his wing in the same manner that I saw him use with Richard and Jason. Only now he is constantly aware of his past mistakes and refuses to make them again with this child.

It also excites me that she is able to convince Bruce to do things I thought I would never se him do again. Why last night, she convinced him to take her to see the Mass at the Gotham Cathedral. I admit I played a part in getting Bruce back to church, I am not sure he ever would have gone had she not so quietly asked him to take her.

The Christmas movies were another unexpected surprise. In all my years I have never convinced Bruce that the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" is worth watching, much less "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." Some how Miss Cassandra persuaded him to stay up with her after their patrol and watch all of these movies we have lying around the manor until they both fell asleep on the sofa.

This brings me back to the present time, me sitting here in my pajamas writing again and watching my oldest and newest ward sleep quietly. At the present moment Cassandra has woken up, no doubt by this pen scratching, but has not yet moved for fear of waking Bruce. She has just mouthed the words "good morning, Merry Christmas Alfred" to me.

And I suppose that is where I shall end today's entry. I must get ready for a full days work, Dick and Barbara and Tim will make their way here for dinner and I have a roast pheasant to prepare. So journal, I guess I shall leave you on a happy note.

There is peace in Wayne Manor, and all of my charges are seemingly set to have a very Merry Christmas, and after all of these years, that is as good a gift as I can ever hope of on any holiday.