Author's Note- IMPORTANT! PLEASE READ! A new Batman fic for all! A few notes about the timeline of this fic. This totally disregards the Batman Beyond story line. That includes Return of the Joker. Also, I'm covering the events of Batman: The Animated Series Seasons 1 through 4, as well as Justice League Seasons 1 and 2, and Justice League Unlimited Seasons 1 and 2, excluding, of course, the Batman Beyond tie-ins. Also, B: The Animated Series Season 1's events—for all intents and purposes for this fic—took place in 1992—the year of its debut on Television—with Seasons 2 and 3 taking place in years 1993 and 1994 respectively. Because it says on the back of the season jacket cover that it is two years later, Batman: The Animated Series Season 4 takes place in 1996. As for Justice League Seasons 1 and 2, they take place in 1997 and 1998 respectively. For Justice League Unlimited Seasons 1 and 2, they take place in 1999 and 2000 respectively. The story itself that I am presenting here takes place in 2012. Also, if everything that happens in this chapter seems outlandish and you have no idea how they could have come about. Do not worry. I want it that way. Every other chapter will be a flashback—the date the flashback takes place will be the title of that chapter. The flashbacks will explain how everything that is going on in 2012 came to be. Also, as far for the order they will appear in, they will be going backwards chronologically. That means, I start with the first relevant event dating this closest to present day and move backwards. At some point, the flashbacks might end, but that won't be for awhile now. Please enjoy!
Dedication- This fic is dedicated to all my wonderful fans—both of my Batman and Justice League fanfictions and to the fans of all the rest—as well as my two best friends, SlinkyAndTheBloodyWands and KimmiGray. Doing Nanowrimo with the two of you as writing buddies is great! Also—and sadly, I have to deem this one most important—this is dedicated to two guys I have never met but whose misheard conversation—misheard to mine own ears—inspired this crazy story. Thank you and much love to you all!
Disclaimer- I do not own Batman or any other related character. They all belong to DC comics and WB. The quotes at the beginnings of these chapters will have proper credit with them. This will apply to all chapters.
Opportunity dances with those who are already on the dance floor.
--H. Jackson Brown Junior
Chapter One—Happiness of a Life after Crime
She tapped her foot impatiently. Glancing at her watch, she sighed. Had it broken, or was he late? Again? He was usually always late. He owned several watches, and—she joked—had no idea how to use them. She dropped her plain-looking brown briefcase lightly down to the ground and allowed her left arm—the arm best used for watch watching—to fall limply to her side.
She felt of her blonde hair, making sure that it had not fallen out of its low, professional bun. A few wisps—pieces of hair shorter than the rest—had fallen forward to make her look quite harried. However—with the exception of her ride's lateness—she was quite the opposite. Her job was stressful, but never when she had test days. Teaching basic level college psychology—at a community college--was not exactly a demanding job. However, doing things like keeping up with lesson plans, making sure they were approved lesson plans, and doing other silly little teacher-like things were stressful. By all rights, she really did not need this job. However, she liked it…Liked to know that she was making a difference.
Test days were especially easy because the events of all her classes were pass out tests, give basic test-taking instructions, accept tests, offer to grade them right in front of the students, either do it or do not do it, and then wham bam, thank you ma'am. She was done. For test days, there was only one stressful event: choosing what she was going to eat for lunch.
Scratch that, two stressful things. Choosing what she was going to have for lunch and worrying that she was going to be stuck on the front of the school's God forsaken lawn for eternity. She hated it when her ride was late. The weather was cooling in Gotham, and the night was falling. In past times, the front lawn of East Gotham Community College would not have been the safest place to be at any time of the day, let alone nighttime. She cast her eyes upwards and thanked the first appearing stars that that was no longer the case.
Finally, she heard the sound of a car pulling up into the college's one-directional parking lot. It was a fine looking vehicle, a Bentley or some other such expensive looking car. It was a light brown, almost beige, in color, and it pulled to a stop in front of her. She gave a half-smile and approached the window—passenger side—nearest her. As the glass lowered, she bent and smiled at the dark haired driver. He was turned in his seat of rich, Corinthian leather, his right arm rested across the backs of the front two seats. His left hand rested on the steering wheel, and he smiled.
"What's a blue-eyed beauty like yourself doing out on a night like this all alone?" he asked.
She laughed. "And what's a handsome blue-eyed stranger like yourself doing out at this time?"
"Well, I am your Knight in Shining Armor. I saw you—a beautiful damsel in distress—and decided to rescue you."
"Really? Who says I need rescuing?"
"No one. Just a thought."
She laughed again.
"You know, my mother taught me never to talk to strangers," she said, reaching back for her briefcase.
"Aw, I am not going to do anything. So, what's wrong? Why are you stuck out here?" he asked.
She rolled her eyes—the half-smile still on her red-painted lips, "Waiting for my husband. He's late. Again."
"Ah," the stranger said, as if a great truth had been revealed to him. "Married, huh? Does he leave you standing by yourself often?"
"Unfortunately, yes, that's the case."
"Real deadbeat, huh?"
"Oh…I don't know. I guess he can be."
A little glimmer of some unknown emotion came into the driver's eyes as he replied, "Really? How so?"
"Well…" she drew out slowly. "He's a corporate business man. You know how they are."
"Rich men who lavish their wives?"
"Busy men who leave cold beds."
The stranger smiled at her a playful smile—one that hid massive amounts of laughter behind it. "Well, I can solve that."
"Well, I've got a few minutes of free time and an empty backseat here. You game?"
At this, the woman laughed loud and hard. Shaking her head, she said, "You ruined it, Bruce."
The driver—billionaire Bruce Wayne—laughed just as hard. Through his laughter, he asked, "Did I go too far again?"
"Kind of killed the romance," the woman laughed.
"Really? I thought the quickie in the backseat bit was pure gold, Harley," he said.
Doctor Harleen Quinzelle-Wayne grabbed her briefcase and got into the passenger seat of the car. She and her husband exchanged a kiss as she tossed the case into the backseat.
"The kids can move that when they get back there," she said off-handedly, staring back at it. Turning back to her husband, she added, "You have gotten better. You manage to fight the sex jokes longer this time."
Bruce shrugged and said, "Onward to pick up the kids?"
Bruce pulled out of the drive—shifting uncomfortably in his seat. Harley surveyed her husbands black suit. Although the weather was getting colder, it was still too warm for such a heavy business suit. He pulled at the red tie, loosening it. Once it was properly undone, he turned to her with a smile.
"So, how was class?" he asked.
"So let me rephrase that. How was lunch?"
"Eh," Harley replied, making the so-so gesture with her hand.
Bruce laughed. She loved it when he laughed. It was so good that she could now barely remember the times when his laughter scared her. Of course, that had been long ago, when he had been a different man. When she had been a different woman.
Harley gave an involuntary shudder and rubbed her arms. When Bruce gave her a questioning glance, she replied, "Cold."
"Oh. Do you want the heater on?" he asked, reaching for the car's thermostat.
"No, no. I think the cold was from something else."
She was being deliberately vague. She was unwilling to share the complete reason for her chill. However, her husband had once been considered the world's greatest detective, and—as the saying went—old habits die hard.
"What's wrong? Are you sick?" he asked, making a right turn onto Sycamore Street. Seven more blocks before the school that their two children attended, and were currently participating in the after-school tutoring program.
"It's nothing. Silly stuff. I just had a bad dream last night, that's all," she said, waving her hand superficially.
Bruce smiled. "A person who spent a great deal of her life studying Freud, and you are going to tell me that you think that dreams mean nothing. That a dream is just silly stuff? Isn't that a little hypocritical, Dr. Wayne?"
He was teasing her. He was trying to incite a playful game of verbal sparring. She would indulge him for a time. After all, it would—if only temporarily—distract him from asking about her dream. But only for a time, for nothing distracted Bruce Wayne from his target question for very long.
She gave her half-smile again and said, "Well, to quote Freud, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar."
Bruce shook his head. "He must have said that after being confronted with some crazy dream like—I don't know—having a conversation with someone about brain-eating amoebas or something."
Harley laughed. It was so great the random things he came up with. He always kept her on her toes. However, her laugher soon stopped as she saw that it was written all over Bruce's features that he was ready to discuss her dream. She sighed and shrugged.
"I can't even remember what exactly happened. It was just more of the feelings of the dream I remember. Fear, dread…those were the dominant ones. It just felt like—I don't know…"
"Felt like what, Harl?"
"Like something I've been trying to forget."
Instantly after she said it, she laughed. "Sounds like something out of a thriller film, doesn't it?"
He laughed and agreed with her. They were both still giggling when they pulled alongside the curb in front of their children's school. Their older child—Thomas James Wayne—stood there, holding his younger sister's—Pamela Martha Wayne—hand. He was saying something to her that their parents could not hear, but looked as if it could be some kind of warning or advice. When the car stopped, Bruce and Harley heard—through Bruce's rolled down window—Thomas say, "Okay, Lil' Pam, now you can go. You have to be careful. You're little, and cars can't always see you."
He released his sister's hand as she huffed and climbed into the backseat behind Harley from the back door on Bruce's side. Thomas followed.
The children were elementary age and said all the cute things that elementary children did. Thomas was a mere eight-years-old—only in the third grade—and Lil' Pam (called "Lil' Pam" because it was easier to distinguish her from her namesake that way) was only six—a first grader. Both children had Bruce's dark hair. However, in facial features, Thomas had the square, serious features of her father, and Lil' Pam had the round, bouncy, and fun-seeking facial features of her mother. Both children had their parents' inescapable blue eyes.
Harley glanced behind to see Thomas—the dear boy always watching after his sister—trying to help buckle her in. Lil' Pam, however, was quite offended.
"I can do it, Tom. I'm not stupid, you know," she said, snapping the belt with a quick, sharp click. "See? I did it without any help whatsoever."
Tom exhaled in a short snuff to show that he was agitated with his sister's sarcastic words. He crossed his arms—his seat belt already fastened—and turned his head to look out the window. Harley smiled.
"Everyone buckled in?" Bruce asked, smiling in the review mirror at them.
"Yes, Daddy," Lil' Pam said in her sweetest voice.
"Yes, Dad," Tom said, trying his best not to groan.
Tom loved his sister, protected his sister, and even got along with his sister. But even he, as any self-respecting eight-year-old boy, couldn't take too much of the sweet I-am-an-itty-bitty-princess routine that Lil' Pam, as a self-respecting six-year-old girl, put on with her father. She didn't even bother to try it with her mother, as Harley had once explained to her daughter that she had been six years old once upon time too…she knew all the tricks.
Bruce pulled the car out into traffic and made his way onto the highway that led to the suburbs and outskirts of Gotham City and Wayne Manor. Meanwhile, Lil' Pam decided to regale the family with stories of boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy kicks sand in girl's face, girl cries, and boy gets in trouble. Tom then took up the narrative, saying that Lil' Pam had hit the little boy who had kicked sand at her and one of her best friends. When Bruce asked if this was true, Lil' Pam had teared up, glared at her brother, punched him in the arm, and then began to cry. As parents, it was rarely easy to keep a straight face.
Both parents reprimanded their daughter and asked their son if he was okay. He nodded, not speaking and rubbing his arm. Through the rear-view mirror Harley could see that the boy was fighting tears, trying not to let anyone know that his little sister had actually hurt him. Harley shook her head.
The Wayne children were tough, strong, and intelligent. They spoke with no hint of baby talk in their voice—unless confronted with a new word, but then they learned it quickly enough. Both parents often worried that it would cause problems for their children to have the strengths of both their parents. However, secretly, silently, and very much together, they were both more worried about them having inherited their parents' weaknesses.
"We're home!" Bruce declared, pulling up the long, curving drive until they could see the immense garage attached to the manor.
However, another car had beaten them home. It was not as fancy or expensive as the car that the Wayne family currently occupied, but it was a car that all of them knew. Seat belts in the backseat flew off as the two children threw themselves upon the back of their parents' seats.
"Uncle Tim!" they cried in unison, bouncing in place.
"Kids, what have I told you about unbuckling your seat belts before the car stops?" Bruce said, his voice warning.
However, they were not listening. As soon as the car had stopped—stopped, not turned off—both of them piled out. They charged the front door of the manor, almost pushing over Jervis as he had come out to greet them all. Both children shouted apologies to him. Harley and Bruce exited the car, shaking their heads.
"Sorry, Jervis," Harley said, approaching him. "We all know that they have better manners than that."
"They just get so excited when their Uncle Tim shows up," Bruce shrugged, coming up behind Harley.
"That's quite all right," Jervis said, flattening down his blond hair and returning to his respectful how-may-I-serve-you pose.
Jervis Tetch, once a brilliant scientist at WayneTech Labs only to turn to a life of deranged villainy due to a crush and an obsession with Alice in Wonderland. Now, through a mishap, he was the Wayne Family's loyal butler, taking over once Alfred had retired. As to how he went from villain to butler—to trusted butler—was a very long story in itself. And one that Harley rarely liked to think on.
Jervis stepped aside to allow Bruce and Harley to enter before him. They did so and followed the delighted squeals of their children to the kitchen's dining room. There stood Tim Drake, playfully spinning Lil' Pam round and round while Tim's wife, Amelia, tried to bend down around her fruitful belly to give Tom a proper hug. Finally, Tom just wrapped her arms as far as he could around her stomach—gently.
Tim stopped spinning, setting Lil' Pam down, saying that he was quite dizzy. Harley laughed, that semi-smile on her face. Tim looked up, smiling warmly at her. Amelia also smiled her own odd little smile. Even though Harley never smiled fully anymore—with the exception of certain occasions—she still thought Amelia's smile was strange. There was just something about it. It was not fake, but rather…reserved. Stranger still was that once, some time ago, it had been Thomas who had pointed out to his mother what was so weird about Amelia's smile.
"It's her eyes," he had said. "You know, Mom, how eyes light up when you smile? Hers only light up halfway. Kind of like how your smile is always ever half. When Aunt Amelia smiles, it's like looking at a glass that is sitting in front of a sunny window that is only half full of water."
Tom had been right. Amelia always meant her smiles, especially when she smiled at her family; however, she just could never make the smile fill her eyes. They were restricted.
Lil' Pam was now tugging on Amelia's gray maternity shirt, wanting her attention. Amelia looked down—her straight, dark hair falling in front of her face (Harley remembered when she used to keep it cut up to her earlobes).
"Yes?" she asked.
Amelia's voice, however, was a different creature altogether from her smile. Her voice was bright, even musical. Even when she was sad, she could make you think of the brightest, flowery springtime afternoon.
"I learned how to braid hair from a girl in my class today, Aunt Amelia. Can I braid yours and Mommy's hair tonight?" Lil' Pam asked, hope and childish pleading in her eyes.
"Well!" Tim said in mock indignation, "What about my hair? And after I spun you around…you don't even want to braid my hair."
Lil' Pam looked at her uncle—or rather, at his short cut black hair—and laughed.
"Oh, Uncle Tim, you don't have enough. Besides, you're not a girl! Only girls get their hair braided!"
Tom and his sister began to laugh hysterically as Tim pretended to be wounded by this. The adults chuckled. Finally, Amelia looked back at Lil' Pam.
"I can't speak for your mother, but you can braid my—" at this, she stopped. Her voice had changed. He had gone from her bright, happy voice to a sad, monotone voice.
Harley glanced at Bruce, whose eyes looked sad. Tim put a hand on Amelia's shoulders, squeezing them gently as she shook her head.
"I'm sorry," she muttered. She cleared her throat—as if that had been the problem (everyone but the children knew the truth)—and continued, "But you can braid my hair."
Lil' Pam clapped her hands in joy—not one moment deterred by the pause her elders had made, for the adults in this household often paused solemnly. She then turned on her mother. Harley beat her to her answer.
"Yes, Lil' Pam, you can braid my hair too. Now take your brother upstairs, and the both of you get washed up for dinner," she said, ushering her children out of the dining room.
"Ha!" Lil' Pam said, "I get to take you upstairs, Tom!"
"I know my way upstairs, Pam!" he said, the two racing each other out of the room.
"Careful on the stairs!" both their parents shouted simultaneously.
There was no reply but the sound of little footsteps pounding up the stairs. Tim laughed.
"I can't wait until this little one—" at this he indicated Amelia's belly, "is born. Hey, can we stay for dinner?"
"Of course," Harley said, sitting down at the dining table. "But first…I know you two had a doctor's appointment today. Do we know the sex of the baby?"
The other three sat around the table as well. Tim took Amelia's hand, and they both smiled.
"Well, we could know, but we want it to be a surprise," he said.
"But we are still discussing names," Amelia added as Tim nodded.
"Well, what have you got?" Bruce asked.
"Well, if it is a girl, we thought about Barbara—you know, after Barbara Gordon. And if it is a boy, well…we thought we would like to name him Bruce…if that's okay," Tim said, rather bashfully.
At this, Bruce's eyes widened. "Really? I would—well, I would be honored. Now I guess I am hoping for a boy, aren't I?"
The group laughed, and Harley stood. "This calls for a celebration. I will get Jervis to bring some wine for us, and some grape juice for Amelia."
Harley took a few steps towards the door on the other end of the dining room, the swinging door that led into the immense kitchen of Wayne manor.
"Jervis, can we get some wine and sparkling grape juice?" she asked.
"Of course, ma'am," Jervis replied. "Right away."
Harley came and reclaimed her seat. It was moments later when Jervis came out of the kitchen, balancing a sliver wine bucket—wine on ice inside—and a bottle of sparkling white grape juice on an equally as silver tray. Jervis always kept his hair parted and slicked down, and he always wore a black and white tuxedo with tails. His gloves were white and always amazingly clean. His shoes were shiny and black, and the same applied when discussing their cleanliness. The Wayne family had seen Jervis put out kitchen fires, walk through mud, and even carve fresh meat, and somehow, he always came out clean as a whistle.
Jervis placed the tray down on the table before the group. He removed the wine bottle from the ice bucket, and slowly removed the cork. Arranged around the bucket and the grape juice bottle were crystal glasses. He selected one, filled it with wine, and offered it to Harley first. He then did the same to Tim and then Bruce. He replaced the wine in the bucket and unscrewed the sparkling grape juice. He chose a glass and filled it for Amelia. She thanked him with a smile and her half-bright eyes.
"Will that be all?" Jervis asked.
"Yes, thank you," Bruce said.
"Very well, sir. Dinner will be ready in an hour," Jervis said with a curt bow.
The butler then turned on heel and departed back into the kitchen. Tim shook his head and turned to Harley.
"I know you don't like to think on it often, Harl, but was Tetch like that when he was a crazed villain? You know, all curt and proper, or was that Alfred's influence?" the former Boy Wonder asked.
This time, only Bruce and Amelia gave an uncomfortable pause. Everyone present knew that the past was a difficult subject to cover in this household. Bruce's eyes darted to Harley, wanting her not to be upset. Amelia, on the other hand, glared at Tim. It was as if she was willing him to read her thoughts, which were probably along the lines of "you should know better."
However, Harley gave her half-smile—Lil' Pam called it "Mommy's broken smile"—and said, "It think it's a mixture of both."
A silent sigh of relief emanated from Bruce and Amelia. Tim jumped in his seat and a slight yelp escaped his lips. It was no doubt that either Amelia or Bruce had stomped his foot under the table. It was at that moment that Thomas burst back into the room.
"Grampy Gordon is on television!" he announced, his tone clearly letting his elders know that he wished to be followed.
The four stood—Amelia a little slowly—and followed the young boy into the living room. Sure enough, there, on television, was Mayor James Gordon—the best mayor Gotham City had seen in a long time, according to the general public consensus. Harley had regained her practicing license about the time he began running for mayor and had been proud to vote for him. That had been one year after she had finally been able to seal away her past forever. As for life outside politics, James Gordon and Barbara were really close friends to the Wayne family. He was even Thomas's godfather, and—of course—the origin of the boy's middle name.
"Gordon is always on television, Tom," Tim said, sitting down in the chair behind where the boy was squatting on the floor.
Lil' Pam was sitting beside her brother, totally disinterested in what was going on on the television in front of her. Instead, she was playing with some of her toys. Of course, this was only because her namesake and godparent was not on it the screen. The roles were often reversed when Pamela was on.
"Sssh!" Tom said sharply. "Grampy is going to make an announcement!"
And indeed he was. Gordon was standing behind a podium perched on the stairs of City Hall. The Press was gathered all along the bottom steps, and Gordon was wearing an uncharacteristically sheepish look.
"Ladies and gentlemen of Gotham, in regards to the massive blackout that took place on Friday evening last week, I am pleased to say that very few crimes were reported, and no injuries whatsoever occurred," he said.
"I wonder if they found out what caused it," Bruce said pensively.
That was followed by another sharp "sssh" from Tom. He always really enjoyed it when Gordon was talking, whether he could understand it or not.
At the end of Gordon's last statement, a multitude of reporters' hands had shot up into the air. Gordon pointed one out and said, "Yes, you. What is your question?"
"Have you figured out the source of the blackout?" the unseen reporter asked.
At this, Gordon's face got a little red. Not the type of red that a face gets when it is angry, but the kind it gets when one is very embarrassed. At this, Harley and Bruce—who both felt they knew Gordon the best out of the four adults present—exchanged glances. Gordon, on screen, cleared his throat.
"Why, um, yes we have," he said.
"And?" the reporter said.
"It was…a squirrel."
At this, all noise seemed to cease. None of the photographers were even snapping pictures. It was just silence. It was as if the Press was trying to decide whether this was a joke or not. Finally, it seemed that someone just needed to know.
"What?" the very same reporter asked.
"A squirrel," Gordon repeated—and it looked like he had had to force himself to do so. "A squirrel got caught in one of the power boxes in Downtown Gotham. It—well—it caused a short that just kept shorting everything out."
Thomas was laughing, and it looked like the reporters were trying not to do the same thing. Gordon shook his head.
"Anyway, things have been sorted out. We have gotten the proper wires and such replaced. Next question."
At this, Jervis announced that dinner was ready. The television went off, and the family gathered back in the dining room. Harley helped the children into their seats, while Tim helped Amelia into hers. Once everyone was seated, they were silent for a moment—some semblance of saying grace for this family (the food was already out on the table). Finally, Bruce began carving the succulent pork roast that Jervis had prepared—Alfred had taught this butler how to cook. Once Bruce had carved and laid some pork roast on Harley's, Lil' Pam's, Thomas's, and Amelia's plates, Jervis gave a slight bow before him and said, "Allow me, sir."
Bruce passed off the carving knife, and Jervis served Tim and him their slices of roast. Jervis then continued to serve the family the potatoes and other vegetables that had been prepared with the meal. Finally, the butler gave another curt bow and exited the room.
It was silent for a moment as Harley sliced Lil' Pam's pork into smaller pieces, and Bruce did the same for Thomas. Then, as the family began to eat, a sort of babble of conversation arose. It began with Amelia sharing a funny joke her doctor had told her and ended up being about where everyone was during the blackout.
"I was at home," Lil' Pam announced. "It was so scary! It was darker than usual inside and outside. I was scared, and I wanted to go find Mommy and Daddy, but I was afraid I would get lost in the house!"
There was a titter of laughter at this, as the family was not really sure if Lil' Pam had meant for her words to be taken humorously. They did not want to offend her; there was nothing worse than offending a six-year-old. However, she smiled appreciatively, and so the stories continued.
"It was sort of scary," Thomas put in. "I was at home too, but I thought I needed to be brave and not make a big fuss over the dark."
"Oh, Thomas! You came running into my room!" Lil' Pam said, outraged.
"I thought you needed to be comforted," Thomas defended while the others fought laughter.
"We were coming home from the doctor's. People in the city were rather calm about the blackout; Gordon was right about that. Quite a difference from the old days, huh, Bruce?" Tim said.
Bruce nodded once, solemnly. His children looked from him to their Uncle Tim, but neither man wore any sort of expression as to give away any sort of secret. The children sighed.
"We were at home, in bed. We didn't even know there was a blackout until the next morning. We'd been asleep," Harley said.
"Apparently some people panicked, though," Amelia said. "I mean, James had to make an announcement about it."
"Very true," Bruce admitted, now slipping into deep thought. "Why would he do that if there were no serious things to report?"
"Maybe the city pressured him into doing so," Harley offered.
"That makes sense to me," Tim said.
At that moment, Jervis entered, carrying a telephone on his silver tray. He set the tray down as near to the center of the dining table as he could—the roast was in the actual center. He pressed a button on the base unit of the phone and announced, "Alfred Pennyworth on the phone for the family."
At this, Jervis dutifully took a step back. All at once, everyone began to speak to their favorite retired butler. Alfred laughed at the din of noise and said, "I can't understand you!"
All the adults went quiet and the two children called, "Hi, Uncle Alfred!"
Harley often found it funny that Thomas and Lil' Pam called Alfred "uncle," but called Gordon "grampy." It was strange the associations children made.
"Hello, Alfred," she said, her chin resting on her raised folded hands.
"Harleen, hello, madam," he said warmly.
Harley always liked Alfred. At a time in her life when no one wanted to accept her as an important part of Bruce's—let alone Batman's—life, he alone made her feel welcome. When everyone still saw her as "Harley Quinn," his accomplice and ex-lover—she hated to even think his name now--Alfred Pennyworth was the only one who saw her as she really was, human and vulnerable.
"How is Florida, Alfred?" Bruce asked, smiling at the telephone as if could see his old friend, butler, and confidant. "Are you enjoying yourself?"
"Oh, yes, quite so. The weather is a bit warm for my tastes, but the scenery is beautiful. Is it only the four of you there?"
"No, Alfred. Amelia and I are here as well," Tim put forth.
"Ah, young master Tim. A pleasure to hear from you as well."
Tim and Bruce both shook their heads.
"You're retired, Alfred. You can stop with whole master/servant thing. Like you were ever just our servant anyway," Tim said.
Alfred laughed again. "Of course. Old habits die hard, they say."
Harley's half-smile faltered for a moment. As if he could see it, Alfred quickly amended his statement.
"But it is not like I believe every old saying that comes my way. I am trying to break that habit," he said.
"Thank you," Harley mouthed, hopefully out of sight of the others.
As Jervis was coming around and collecting everyone's empty dishes, they all spoke with Alfred of things going on both in Gotham and on the sunny beaches of Florida. Finally, Lil' Pam broke in.
"Are we getting any presents?" she asked, probably not as cute and bashfully as she had intended.
Thomas—ever the little observer—often pointed out that Lil' Pam was not as cute and innocent as she would have everyone believe. Harley had chalked up that statement to sibling rivalry. However, there were little instances—like this one—where she could fully believe that view on her daughter. Overall, Lil' Pam was a good child, but one just sometimes got the feeling that she knew more of what was going on around her than most six-year-olds did. Alfred laughed again.
"As a matter of fact, I have seen one or two things that have reminded me of both you and Thomas, Little Pamela. You will be receiving them in the mail soon, I believe," he said.
Both children let out squeals of delight. They loved gifts, but they loved them even more when they came from Uncle Alfred. Of course, Thomas tried to pretend that he had not squealed as loud or as excitedly as his little sister. He quickly cleared his throat and smiled appropriately. Tim—one of many who had noticed this—was trying not to spew his drink and turned to Amelia, saying that he hoped their child had the combined personalities of Tom and Lil' Pam. Both children beamed proudly at this, and Amelia laughed.
"Are you trying to get our house burned down?" she asked.
Both children scowled perfectly on cue. Bruce laughed.
"Well, Bruce, I'll be getting on now. Call me when the children receive their gifts. I believe I have included my new mobile number in the letter. A good evening to you all," Alfred said.
"Good evening," the group intoned, and there was a click on the other end of the phone.
Before Harley could even motion to Jervis to come and take the phone away, it rang again. The adults, a little stunned at the quickness of receiving another telephone call so soon after the last, did not think to move to answer it. However, both Thomas and Lil' Pam moved into action. It was almost as if in slow motion as everyone watched both Tom and Lil' Pam dive across the table. Then, innocent little Pam's hand ever so slightly came out from her side—pushing her palm against her brother's arm. The contest was quickly decided as Lil' Pam reached the phone first, and Thomas went sliding a little way across the table's top into his father's side.
"Pamela Martha!" Harley scolded as her daughter pressed the phone's receiver to her little ear.
"Sssh, I'm on the phone," Lil' Pam said sweetly. After a moment and a couple of "uh-huhs," she passed the phone to her mother, saying, "It is for you, Mommy. It is Big Pam."
"Big Pam" was what Lil' Pam's namesake—Harley's old friend, the former Poison Ivy—preferred the little one to call her. She did not want to be called "aunt" or "grammy." She said that that would have made her feel just a little bit too old. So, she said that Lil' Pam was to either call her "Big Pam" or just Pamela or Pam. Harley took the phone.
"I'm not done with the issue of you shoving your brother into your father, young lady," she said, giving her daughter a stern look. Then, she added, turning her attention to the phone, "Red? How are you?"
"Busy as hell, Harl," Pam replied, sighing. "I tried to reach you at work, but I only got your voicemail. You must have already left."
"Is there anything wrong?" Harley asked, concerned.
Bruce leaned forward, his brow furrowed in worry. However, as Harley heard Pam's replied, she half-smiled and shook her head.
"Nothing's wrong. I just need some girl time and a stiff drink. Want to do lunch tomorrow?"
"I don't know about that drink, Red—I do work before and after lunch—but I will go for that lunch. Where at?"
"Trowbridges, at noon sharp," Pam said happily. "See you then?"
"It's a date," Harley said. "Bye."
She replaced the phone atop the base, signaled for Jervis to take the phone away—which he did so, bustling back into the kitchen quickly—and smiled at her husband.
"Honey, I think I'll take the Bentley tomorrow to work."
End Notes: Okay, I hope that this chapter is not too rambling. I wrote this for Nanowrimo—that is 50,000 words in 30 days—so this is going to be long. The version you will get will be edited so that it is content orientated and not just word count oriented. However, I only got to finish three chapters of this before I had to stop doing Nanowrimo this year. I can't promise all the chapters to be this length, but I can promise that this will be a long story. Now, I hope that this chapter left everyone with a short of "what the hell is going on?" feeling. That's what I want to see. You get your first flashback in the next chapter. Also, the whole squirrel in the electrical box thing…that really happened, to some extent. It did not cause a blackout, but it did burn down a courthouse and almost burned down an adjoining jail. Seeing as no one but the squirrel died, it was a pretty funny story to read in my local newspaper. Also, I got the name "Trowbridges" from an actual diner around where I live. Anyway, hope everyone likes this chapter.