Standard disclaimers apply.

Holiday Drinks, Holiday Cheer

**

The snow fell silently outside. Pink and green and yellow Christmas lights blinked outside Barbara Gordon's windows. Their warm glow spread through the frost and fog on the panes, giving everything a holiday glow.

Opening her last can of diet soda, she chugged quickly, keeping her eyes on the screen. A green dot blipped twice, then went out.

"NIGHTWING?" She both swallowed and spit at the same time, and ended up choking furiously.

"Too cold!" A teeth-chattering reply came. "Making electronics. Go bye- byes."

Barbara shook her head. "Look, just take 'em out and go home. They don't have any information we haven't already surmised." Did she just say surmised? "And then get on your machine at home and start talking dirty to me, cause I'm beginning to sound like Bruce."

There were some sounds of bone crunching, gun fire, metal being slammed every which way. It didn't last long, then there was a great silence.

"Too. cold.to. breathe," Nightwing said with false panting. "I sweated, then it froze, and I'm stuck to my costume."

"You offering a strip-tease when you get home too, Short Pants?" Barbara rolled her eyes. He was so melodramatic. Reaching for the can of soda, she realized it was empty. For a moment, she stared out the glowing windows, thinking that this was a poor way to spend any Christmas Eve-with a can of diet Soder, a package of saltines and a Former Boy Wonder who wasn't generating enough body heat to keep his equipment from freezing.

She wouldn't have even had the lights up if Dick hadn't gotten insistant that she celebrate the season in SOME fashion-Or Else. The Or Else probably involved a plastic fiber optic tree. Compared to Dick's tacky taste in decorations, the lights were. permissible.

After Dick decided to pack it up, the evening was quiet. The Justice League didn't need her sage advice, though Kyle did bug her twice just because he was on monitor duty and obviously bored. The Bat-folk were quiet. It didn't mean that Batman and Batgirl weren't out there somewhere, they were just keeping to themselves. This meant that Barbara had plenty of time to think about just how much this holiday sucked.

Kyle lost at hangman AGAIN, and Barbara cut the connection. She dialed her dad. This holiday was hard for him too-probably harder. "Hey, old guy," she said before he could even say hello. "I'm spreading late-night cheer."

Jim yawned, and she hoped she hadn't awakened him. "Shouldn't you be asleep? How can Santa come."

Barbara made a face."Ha. Ha."

"Merry Christmas, honey." He sounded cheerful, and still. there was a sadness there. It hadn't been so long ago that he'd lost his wife at this time of the year.

Barbara was glad she'd called. They both needed this, even if they'd already talked this afternoon. "You know. maybe you should bring pumpkin pie instead of sweet potato." Still. it was weird.

"I have pumpkin. I bought it after I talked to you."

"Oh."

"What's wrong?"

Barbara bit her lips-the way she used to when she was a teenager, and he was questioning her about what had put her into her most recent angst- ridden mood. "Mmm. nothing," she said finally. "Just wanted to make sure you were ok."

"Yeah, right."

She gave a tired laugh. "I'm fine, dad, really. Just. the holidays, the lights. wish tomorrow would get here already so we could have dinner."

"Oh." There was a bit of silence. "Tomorrow'll come quicker if you go to sleep."

Barbara had to chuckled. "All right, I can take a hint. 'Night, daddy. Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas," he replied, then hung up.

Sighing, Barbara went to the fridge for another soda. Her dad was right, it was time to pack it up and lay in bed staring at the ceiling till dawn came and they could go to morning services. There was no more soda, she realized. There was no more anything. There was the ham for tomorrow, a can of pineapple, yams, jelled cranberry sauce, and that was IT.

Barbara always supposed she could eat a stick of butter, if worst came to worst. Sighing, she closed the refrigerator door and opted for a glass of water. Purge the system and all that.

Holidays were good for nothing. She still had to work, even though the caseload was cut down to only the most boring or idiotic of tasks-take tonight for instance. Surveillance for Dummies. Then there was exchanging gifts with people you didn't really like. Thank GOD the Justice League had refrained from the childish "Secret Santa" thing they'd done last year. She wasn't sure HOW, but it had to be Kyle and Wally's doing-somehow.

"Hey, Babe!" a voice came in over her system. "Turn off the Bat-fryers on the roof!"

Sighing, she rolled over to her computer. "Don't feel like facing my wrath tonight, Grayson?" usually Bat-people saw it as a challenge to get past her system.

"Carrying stuff!" he said.

"Batman could manage it," she retorted as she shut down the security systems to let him pass.

A few minutes later, a huffing Nightwing appeared in her living room. "Nope, because Batman couldn't cope with bringing a bag of cheer ANYWHERE." He set the paper bag down on the coffee table, taking out a thermos of apple cider (spike of course), two mugs, and a can of whipped cream.

Barbara didn't even pretend to be peeved.

"Figured I'd warm BOTH of us up." He sat down on her sofa and started pouring.

"I thought you were going to go home and talk dirty to me."

Tearing off his mask, Dick grinned. "Why have phone sex when you can have the real thing."

Barbara rolled her eyes. "You're a piece of work, Dick."

"I try." He made a production out of squirting the whipped topping, then handed the mug to her. "I gotta tell you this because I'm so excited-ALL my Christmas presents are wrapped and ready to distribute. Including your present." He winked, letting her know HE was her present. Barbara wouldn't mind unwrapping him.

"Oh yeah? Good job." She remembered years prior when he'd rush home from patrol, wrap, then appear unshaven and unkempt at her door to present a gift. "There's hope for you yet." He pulled his best girl onto the couch with him and kept his arm wrapped around her.

She took in the smell of apples and rum, then sipped at the cream and cider. This was more Christmas than a tacky tree or anything else she'd had going this season. It was good. LIFE was good. "Good stuff."

"It pays to have friends who work in a bar. It's all about being connected." He dared reach out and kiss her cheek. It was his lot in life to be around people who didn't take holidays seriously. "The goal is to get you seriously plastered, then take advantage of you."

Barbara twisted her hands in his. "Oh yeah? Well, you can't do that, Munchkin, if I slip you the Mickey, then have my way with YOU!"

"Yeah, well, you can't do that if I abduct you and tie you to a chair and-- " his boasting was cut short by the door bell ringing, followed by a voice coming loud and clear over the intercom.

"Barbara. I know you're still up. Feel like letting your old man in?" Across the room, she could see her father's image on the security monitor. What's Christmas without family?

Dick slapped his forehead. "This is part of the conspiracy against me."

Barbara looked around the room, then to the items on the table. Handing Dick his mug, she pointed to the opposite end of the room. "The closet!" She couldn't put him out on the ledge, it was too cold, and her father WOULD look out the window at her Christmas lights-he'd been doing it every time he'd come over this season. And if he went up on the roof, he'd probably just leave, and there'd go her Christmas present..

"What if--"

"Just go! And be quiet!" She pushed him towards it, and kept watching him until the door closed.

Barbara buzzed her father up. It took a few minutes for the elevator to creep it's way upwards, then her father came in. He was a little wet from his time outside in the snow. "Just figured I'd stop in and spread some cheer."

YIKES. That's what DICK had said.

Just as she grabbed Dick's mask off the coffee table and shoved it in the cushion of the couch, he handed her a gift bag. Pulling back the tissue paper, she found a small bottle of wine. Dick was going to kill her and kill her until she was dead for not letting him go outside.

"I figured you wouldn't go to bed. SO I brought something to help you sleep."

Barbara smiled patiently at her father. He was really thoughtful. Too thoughtful.

He took off his coat and began walking towards the closet on the other side of the room.

She almost let out a cry of anguish. "Daddy! Don't put it in there. You'll get all my stuff wet. Hang it over that chair," she said, pointing to a hard backed wooden chair next to the table she threw the mail on. "There's a heat register over there. It'll dry really fast."



"What do you have in the closet," Jim asked in good humor. "My Christmas present?"

Barbara laughed. "Yup. So don't go in there. It's not wrapped."

"You said you'd wrapped everything."

Her stomach knotted. Was there a reason her father was a detective? Besides to torment her? "Well, I found ya something else, so I traded you up. Just came in the mail yesterday, and I didn't have a chance to wrap it. You know. last minute cataloging and stuff like that."

Happily, Jim hung up his coat and sat down. He looked at her mug of cider. "Looks like you've started the party without me." Picking up the whipped cream container, he gave it one shake, then set it back down. "I brought some glasses. But you know what? I forgot my pocket knife. Can you get your cork screw?"

Barbara didn't move for a moment. She just stared at her father vacantly. "Uh, sure, daddy," she finally responded. "No peeking." Ever so slowly, she wheeled herself to the kitchen. Once she was past the threshold, she moved as quickly as possible to the third drawer to the left of the sink, tore it opened, dug for the cork screw and.

And heard the creaking of the hall closet.

"I'M ARMED!" she heard her father cry out.

There was a reason why Barbara Gordon hated holidays.

"Daddy!" She called out, forgetting the cork screw, and rushing as fast as her arms would take her. "Daddy, don't hurt him!"

The closet door was fully opened, and Jim Gordon had pulled his weapon, and was aiming it at a very naked Dick Grayson.

"Uhh. Merry Christmas?" Dick asked cautiously, lifting his mug of cider.

"Get the hell out of my daughter's apartment," Gordon said stonily, never lifting the gun from the young man's heart.

Dick looked to Barbara for some help. "Uh. Daddy. Dick was just."

"Leaving," Jim finished for her.

"Umm." Dick couldn't believe he had found the nerve to speak. With his hands and mug lifted in the air, he took one step out of the closet. "I was just. doing my impression of Baby New Year's for Babs. Sir. You know."

That was bad, Barbara thought to herself. She needed to think of something- some reason why she had a naked man in her closet. Then, to make matters worse, a shadow landed on her window sill outside.

"Grayson, I'm going to count to ten. You're going to walk out of that closet, and keep going straight for the front door."

"But I'm naked!" Dick was horrified.

"Daddy! It's cold outside!"

Jim scowled, never taking his eyes, or his gun, off the young man. "He should of thought of that before he became a-a FLASHER."

Dick and Barbara exchanged glares. Finally, Dick had no choice but to mosey on out of the closet-into full view of the shadow on the window sill- because Gordon had just started counting.

"Eight." Dick paused behind the sofa. "And don't think I won't shoot you, boy," he ground out with all of a father's indignation. So much for grabbing the blanket off the back of the sofa, Dick thought.

"Daddy. did it ever occur to you that I. approve of Dick's nudity?" Barbara was going to kill herself when this was all over with.

"No, Barbara, no you don't," Jim informed her.

Finally, Barbara realized what Dick wanted, and wheeled herself to the couch, pulling off the knitted cover. "Daddy. you're being a brute."

When they both looked back to Gordon, the gun was no longer drawn. He was pulling something out of a gym bag on the bottom of the closet floor. "Oh," Jim said sarcastically, throwing the black and midnight blue bundle towards the naked young man. "You forgot something. NIGHTWING. Now get the hell out of here." He lifted the gun again, not willing to let the young man dress.

Outside, there was a crack and a lurch, and the big black shadow slipped and fell off the window sill.

Bah, humbug.

The End