A/N: What does the man who has everything give the man who wants nothing? The first Christmas that followed the 1989 movie "Batman".
"Vicki, I need some help." Vicki Vale could tell the voice on the other end of her telephone was desperate, but there were very few people that knew how to get ahold of her in Gotham.
"Bruce?" she guessed.
"Yeah." Bruce Wayne's voice sounded as though he was in dire straits.
"It's Alfred." Alfred Pennyworth was Bruce's butler, chauffeur, valet, confidant and surrogate father figure.
"Oh no! What happened? Is he alright?"
"Alfred? He's fine. I need to buy him a gift."
"A gift? You called me like your life is in danger and want me to help you buy a Christmas gift?"
"Good, you understand. I was really worried it would sound weird or something."
Vicki sighed. Bruce was smart, heroic, and generous - but there were certain things that completely defeated him. "What did you buy him last year?"
"I, ah, don't remember."
"How about the year before?"
"Too long ago. Can you help me find something for him?" he asked. No - he almost begged.
"Tell you what; I'll come over and we can try to figure it out. Go hide yourself in your hobby area and I'll come over. While Alfred escorts me down, I'll see if I can get any hints out of him."
"Good idea. Use the front entrance."
"YOU'RE the only one that uses the back way."
"Goodbye Bruce," Vicki said as she hung up. Bruce really needed to work on his people skills, but she liked Alfred and wanted to help so she got herself together and drove over to Wayne Manor. Inside the iron gates, she parked her car and rang the front doorbell. After a remarkably short time, Alfred answered the door.
"Miss Vale! What an unexpected pleasure. Mr. Wayne didn't mention you were coming over today."
"I thought I would surprise him. Is he home?"
"He usually is during the daytime," Alfred said with a smile. "One can hardly say at night, though. Won't you please come in?"
"Thank you." Vicki entered the mansion, and was still impressed with the size and grandeur of the place. It was almost like being in a museum, except there were no ropes to keep you away from the objets d'art. She engaged Alfred in seemingly casual conversation as they made their way through the mansion and down into the caves below; she thought of it as the Bat Sanctum, but wasn't sold on the name yet.
Eventually she found herself in the cave where Bruce sat. Alfred excused himself and closed the door behind him on the way out; if Mr. Wayne was seeing visitors, it was a step in the right direction.
"Thanks for coming. Any ideas?" Bruce asked after he was sure they were alone.
"I don't know if there's anything you can get him. He says he has everything he could ever want or need; a lot of people just say that, but I really think he means it. It probably means that a good gift isn't a thing. But the most important thing is surprise; you need to give him something he doesn't expect."
"I don't like surprises."
"Most people do; I'm not saying you should jump out from behind a door and go 'Boo!', but it needs to be something he would never consider for himself."
Bruce thought about that for a moment. "We could spring it on him on a different day; say, the twenty-third or something."
Vicki laughed a little. "That's not bad - the timing is good. What do you normally do on Christmas?"
"He reads Dickens to me, we have some mulled wine and talk about how we'd really like the world to be. He used to help me set up track and play with trains when I was a kid, but I kind of outgrew that. At some point he'll call his brother to wish him a Merry Christmas, and maybe we'll watch a movie or something with a big bag of popcorn. Then we brush our teeth and the evening is over."
"Do you have a telephone down here?" she asked with a sudden burst of excitement.
Bruce pointed to his workstation that was full of monitors and electronic equipment; three phones graced the desk in front as he pointed them out one by one. "President, local, and international - take your pick."
Vicki gingerly picked up the middle phone and listened - a normal dial tone greeted her. She dialed a number and waited. "Hello, Allie? Yeah, it's Vicki...no, I haven't dumped him...I'm calling from his place...that's none of your business...yeah, he's here with me. Listen; you tried to impress me that your father was from England - is that true? Uh huh...good. What do you know about Boxing Day? What? Let me put it this way - how's the grant working? I thought you'd see it that way. Wait, I'm going to put you on speakerphone..." she said as she pushed a button and hung up the receiver.
"Yeah, can he hear me now?" Alexander Knox asked through the speaker.
"Loud and clear," Bruce answered.
"Thank you, Mr. Wayne. Always willing to help, heh heh. My father said that Boxing Day is the day after Christmas, and in old times..."
Christmas morning, Alfred came to wake Bruce only to find the bedroom empty; his employer had already gotten up. He checked the kitchen, the cave, and the study but didn't find the man of the house. He was just about to check the garage when he heard voices and laughter at the front door. Before he could reach it, the large door opened and Bruce and Vicki tumbled through.
"Merry Christmas, Alfred!" Vicki shouted as she approached the man and hugged him gently.
Slightly embarrassed, Alfred smiled. "Thank you, Miss, and the same to you. It is a joy to see you in the holiday spirit, Sir," he addressed Bruce.
"Vicki helped. She wanted to give you this for Christmas." He opened a very large bag and pulled out a smaller suitcase, which he handed to Alfred.
"It's very nice, Miss. I shall look forward to using it someday."
"You'll pack it today, Alfred," Bruce said as he put his hand on his butler's shoulder. "You shouldn't go see your brother without a change of clothes at least."
Alfred raised an eyebrow. "My brother? I haven't even spoken to Wilfred yet today, Sir."
"That's okay - we have. He's expecting you in..." Bruce said as he checked his watch "...about twelve hours. Or maybe less; there's that time zone thing I didn't try to figure out. Oh, you'll need this..." he added as he pulled an envelope out of his coat pocket and handed it to Alfred. "Non-refundable round-trip tickets and a little extra for cab fare over there. The way I figure it, you have to leave for the airport in about an hour. At least that's when I told the taxi to show up."
The older gentleman tried to object. "That's very generous of you, Sir, but I don't really need anything for Christmas."
"Christmas? Who said anything about Christmas? Did you say anything about Christmas?" he asked Vicki.
"I did WISH him a Merry Christmas - that's probably where the confusion comes from."
"Good point; I should have been more clear. Alfred, this is for Boxing Day. I'm kicking you out today so that you can have at least a little time with your family. I expect you back on the twenty-seventh."
"But...you're my family, Sir."
"Yeah, and I'll be here when you get back. Listen - I've got everything handled. Go see your brother, catch up on old arguments or whatever, and then come back before you overstay your welcome. I insist. And don't try to call, either."
Alfred looked at the envelope, then at the suitcase. He seemed to hesitate. If he had known he was going, he would have prepared meals for his boss.
Vicki leaned close to him. "You have fifty-five minutes now," she whispered.
"Well, I suppose I...ah...best be packing."
Less than an hour later, Bruce and Vicki managed to finally get Alfred to actually enter the taxi. Looks of joy and trepidation took turns washing over his face, and he waved solemnly as the cab drove off. "What do we do first? I'm hungry," Bruce said as he stopped waving.
Two days later, Alfred stepped out of the taxi as it sat in front of Wayne Manor. He paid the fare, tipped generously, and took in the manor before him. He quickly noticed the rutted and muddy tire marks marring the yard's thin layer of snow; there seemed to now be a broken window on the upper floor as well. He sounded the knocker on the front door rather than using his personal entrance - he felt it best to check in with his employer after his return.
Bruce opened the front door, which stuck slightly. "Hello Alfred, welcome home. Did you enjoy your visit."
"Immensely." The butler noticed that Mr. Wayne seemed to have backed up and become rooted on a spot; there was a slight crunch underfoot. He stared at the spot for a moment and then looked back at Bruce. "I trust you didn't have too many problems while I was gone?"
Bruce looked off for a moment. "Oh, a minor bump here and there. You know how it is. Just the occasional snag."
"How many bumps, Sir?"
"A few. I didn't count - it was pretty busy for a little bit. Oh hell, I might as well tell you; you're going to find out anyway. Things got a little out of hand while you were gone."
"I thought as much. Would you prefer to list them geographically, chronologically, or in order of repair cost?" Alfred asked.
"How should I know how much things cost?" Bruce said; as he moved his foot, broken tile could be seen on the floor. "Okay, here's the highlights: I flooded the laundry trying to wash some clothes because I wanted to surprise you, I started a small fire upstairs that the firemen told me came from a fondue pot, I think I killed at least one house plant with too much fertilizer, and there was something else I'm forgetting."
"Perhaps the broken window, Sir?"
"The one in the front or the one in the back?"
"I see. Should I ask about the fish pond?"
"We have a fish pond?"
"I'll have any dead bodies removed. I take it the wheel ruts in the yard are from the fire truck?"
"The big ones. The smaller ones are from that small snow blower we have; you know, it doesn't drive nearly as well as the Batmobile," Bruce lamented.
"Nor does it go as fast, if you managed to get it on the road."
"Of course I didn't - I bounced off the fence. We might need a few bricks there."
"Speaking of transportation Sir, dare I ask about the Batmobile?"
"Oh it's fine - I never even took it out. It's been pretty quiet around here - except for those few things I mentioned."
"I'll keep it in mind. Unless you have immediate need of me somewhere, Sir, I'll unpack and get to work surveying your...modifications...to the manor. Would you care for something to eat first?"
"Uh, I could use a bite - I think something went wrong with that fondue and I haven't been able to eat anything since." Bruce made a sour face at the thought of his own cooking.
"Very good, Sir." Alfred started towards his living quarters, but paused and addressed Bruce. "I'd like to thank you for the best gift ever, Sir."
"You liked visiting your brother that much?"
"Oh, heavens no. I do care for my brother, but we tire of each other after a while when we've run out of news and conversation. No, I refer to your adventures while I was gone. The knowledge that you wouldn't make it without me positively warms me to the core, giving me immense satisfaction...and assures me that I have security in my position. Assuming the oven still works, lunch will be served in forty-five minutes." He turned back and walked away, leaving Bruce at the door.
"Merry Christmas, Alfred," Bruce thought to himself.
A/N: Hey, I hadn't written a Boxing Day story yet for the holidays so I started looking around for a suitable fandom. I remember in the 1989 movie how Bruce told Vicki how indispensable Alfred was, so I tried to show the truth of that statement.
This somewhat ignores the sequel, which DID take place during the Christmas season; for purposes of this story, "Batman Returns" takes place at least a year after this.