This story is dedicated to John and Jim. the two fruitiest guys on the list. You go girls.

Blame Sarah. And I really mean it this time, guys. This story is about the grown up Dick from her story coming to grips with his deep-seeded hatred of fruitcake. The first few paragraphs are all hers too. Standard disclaimers. And remember. There's a little bit of fruit cake in all of us

Fruit Cake in All of Us

**



...Batman vaulted over the railing to the floor below and sprinted

across the water-puddled floor to the vat his young partner had

fallen into. Dim lights came on as the bakery's emergency

generators kicked in. The giant mixer hummed to life again, but

for only a second before Batman hit the off switch. He hoisted

himself up and over the lip of the vat, searching desperately for

the boy.

"Robin!" he shouted.

The green-gloved fingers of a small hand broke the surface,

waving frantically. Batman jumped to the center shaft of the mixer

and plunged his hand below the surface, locking his fingers

around Robin's wrist. He pulled up hard, and the boy emerged

from the goo, intact with the exception of his cape.

Out of the vat and onto the floor, Robin choked and spat up

vanilla flavored batter and bits of nuts, candied cherries and

citron. He coughed and sputtered, then began drawing clear

breaths. Beneath the gentle rain of the fire prevention sprinklers,

Robin sat back, wiped the melting goo from his eyes and looked

forlornly up at his partner.

"Batman," he gasped, "I really, really hate fruitcake!"

Before Batman could comment, Gotham City firefighters ran into

the room to assess the extent of the emergency. The dark

detective turned to the firefighters and waved at them. "Excuse

me, you want to hose him down?" he called out, pointing down at

Robin...

Dick woke in a cold sweat, screaming, and writhing in his soaked sheets. Untangling himself, he looked at the clock on the night stand. It was only four in the morning. He could patrol again, he could call Babs. he could. Have a few hard drinks.

He needed to do something, to clear the dream from his head-horrible memories of Christmas's in his youth with Batman. Bruce tormenting him by letting him believe he'd received fruitcake in the mail from Superman's mom.

Nervously, Dick got to his feet and went to the fridge. Drink early, drink often. It was his new technique for surviving the holidays.

* * *

Dick was due in Gotham this fine Saturday morning at eleven for final shopping, helping Tim find a present for his stupid girl friend, last minute wrapping, decorating and generally allowing his life to be ruled by Bruce, the Grinch of Christmas past, present and future. He swore to God this year, he was going to get the big guy a light up tie and make him wear it. It'd serve him right.

Grabbing his coat, Dick flew out the front door.

Tumbling down the hall, he pulled his coat around him and began pondering where he could stop for coffee. That little nightmare from his past had cost him the first night's sleep he had been prepared to have in over a week. He hated the holidays. Bruce was a pain in the ass, Barbara wouldn't know holiday cheer if it bit her, and Tim constantly angsted over what to get whatever girl he happened to be attached at the hip to at the time.

Flying down the steps, Dick found his sun glasses and his gloves. It was a nice day, but it was still suck-o cold. He was still determined to ride his bike.

A few tenants walked by with mail-cards, packages. Even that cute little blond girl who always ran around in nothing but a short green robe had gotten some mail and was concentrating wholly on it as she traipsed up the steps. Dick slid around her, because he KNEW she wouldn't move out of the way for him.

Maybe there'd be something good in the mail, Dick thought, going to his box.

Maybe it'll be more bills.

Dick shoved his key into the lock on his mail box door and pulled it opened. There were the prerequisite cards in red and green envelopes, a bubble-envelope from Roy and Lian, and a smallish box that he couldn't find the address on. The mail room was dark, his sun glasses were dark, the paper was dark, and the writing was even darker. He slid it into his coat pocket and decided to take a look at it outside in the sun.

The package from Roy was fudge, which was a great gift. Food in any form was acceptable to Dick, but Roy made some damned fine fudge. The card inside said that Lian had helped this year-hence the red and green sprinkles. Dick smiled and pocketed the fudge. He knew he'd just found breakfast.

Walking to the parking garage where his bike was kept, he tore opened the cards-he wondered why people he was going to see in two days were sending him stuff through the mail, but still thankful that someone thought of him.

Finally was the other package. Making a decision, Dick decided to be surprised. He turned it over and opened it, then slid a box out of the dark brown wrapping. Closing his eyes, he lifted the lid on the box.

Fruit cake.

Angrily, he turned the wrapping paper over and looked at the return address- it was from Martha Kent.

He knew why he was getting this-years ago Bruce had been thanking Mrs. Kent for her thoughtfulness at Christmas and added jokingly that Dick had been hoping for fruit cake. Dick kept moving-and Mrs. Kent kept finding him. Or at least her fruit cakes did.

Swallowing his anger, and the urge to hurl the log through a window or at a random passer-by, Dick closed the lid on the box and slid it into his pocket. He didn't necessarily want to be NEAR it, but he had plan. The guilt of being a regifter aside-Dick had the perfect present for Tim to give his girlfriend Stephanie.

* * *

"Dick, I can't give her that!" Tim complained as they walked through the mall.

"We've been here two hours, and you haven't found ANYTHING. Give her the fruit cake and be done with it, man."

Tim stopped walking as they approached the water fountain. Christmas music played softly around them. "You've got some kind of issue."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Dick said innocently. He took a penny out of his pocket and tossed it into the fountain. It skipped twice before sinking to the bottom. All the money went to free hospital care at the local Children's Hospital, so he found some more coins to toss.

Tim put his bag from the book store down. He'd found some nice educational type stuff for his dad and step mom, it was just this girlfriend thing he was angsting over. Girlfriends were so hard to shop for.

"Look, you don't like her."

"I didn't say I didn't like her."

"You don't like her," Tim continued. "But that doesn't mean you. you REGIFT."

Dick sighed, rolling his eyes. "Timbo, it isn't. regifting, necessarily. It wasn't in red and green wrapping paper. And besides-you're going to be giving your girlfriend official Martha Kent baked goods. You can't BUY that kind of wholesomy heart-land baked goodness."

Tim thought about it. "How's it wrapped?"

"Cellophane, then inside a nice box. Alls you need is some wrapping paper."

"No, I mean. I wanna taste a piece. Before I go giving my girlfriend a holiday cliché.

Digging the package out of his jacket, Dick opened the box and pulled back the celephane. Using his silver pocket-knife, Dick cut off an unnoticeable sliver.

Tim lifted the piece of brown cake speckled with fruits to his mouth, Tim amended himself. "Not that I don't trust Mrs. Kent or anything. I don't know. There's just something that feels wrong." he sniffed then inhaled the cake. "Holy crap!"

So much for pawning off the cake to the Brat-Wonder.

"You're giving this UP?" Tim ripped the box out of Dick's hand, then grabbed the pocket knife. He unwrapped the cake again then cut off another slice-this time a bigger hunk.

"What about Stephanie?"

"I'll get her jewelry. Chicks dig jewelry," Tim informed him as he chewed away merrily at the bane of Christmas.

Dick sighed. He'd gotten rid of the log, at least. and he had gotten through the 'what to get Tim's girlfriend' issue in record time this year.

* * *

Dick sat at the kitchen table, wrapping the last of his Christmas booty, sipping spiked 'nog, and listening to Alfred clatter away as he did the dishes. Said shopping was finished, cards were licked and sealed, the Boy Wonder had scored big time with a tennis bracelet, and Dick was currently wrapping the tie box that contained the flashing tie.

Dick had been smart this year. It wasn't a Christmas tie that Bruce could say 'I'll wear next year', this one was of a dark night, snow falling on a house in the woods. He could safely wear it until February, at least. The snow flakes glowed several different colors thanks to the fiber optics weaved into the tie. And Dick was going to make a big deal about Bruce wearing it. He was going to complain to Lucius Fox that his dad didn't love him because he wouldn't wear the tie Dick bought. It worked when Dick was eleven, and it'd work now.

Biting his lower lip, Dick Grayson folded the wrapping paper and used the double-sided tape-just like Martha Stewart did on TV. He seriously dug that chick. Even if she was old, and a home-making Nazi.

The phone rang, and Alfred dried his hands, moving to it. Not really listening or paying attention, Dick inspected the tie box. He ruled. He ruled-AND he'd gotten a major check-mate going with Bruce and the tie.

"Master Richard," Alfred announced, bringing the cordless kitchen phone to him. "It's Master Bruce. For you."

He thought Bruce and the Boy-Geekwad were on patrol. Why would he be calling to a house number?

"What can I do for ya, old guy?" Dick began pulling out silver ribbon to tie the box with. He was going to kick ass all over the place this Christmas season.

"WHAT did you DO to my PARTNER."

Maybe Dick wasn't going to rule Christmas this year.

"No-othing," Dick said tentatively. "What is he accusing me of?"

"He has bothered me seven times since the start of the afternoon to make introductions for him with Martha Kent. He's called the Watch Tower twice, wanting to know if Superman had his mother's Fruit Cake recipe. Every time I turn around, he's buying fruit cake, consuming the entire log, then complaining it isn't as good as Mrs. Kent's. What did you do to that boy?"

Dick couldn't help it-he started laughing, right in Batman's face-er, ear. "ME? I got it in the mail-he ate it! End of story!"

"I want you to find the wrapper that that fruit cake came in. I want you to run a full analysis on it. And I want you to do it NOW." There was a click, and Batman was gone.

Right. Like Martha Kent is going to poison anyone. Bruce was totally paranoid.

* * *

One full analysis later, Dick was sitting in the Bat Cave, a straw and cookie in hand. With his finger over the top of the straw, he continually rammed it into the sugar cookie, until he had a straw full of cookie. He was saving that for later. He had a plan.

The Car pulled into the cave. It's engine died down and a figure in black approached. "Results?"

Dick shrugged.

"I was expecting you to call me as soon as they were ready." Bruce did not remove the mask as he usually did when they were in the Cave.

"Nothing to report. Mrs. Kent is NOT a deranged psychopath, Bruce. The kid just likes---fruit cake." Dick swallowed distastefully. "Speaking of which. where is that little darling?"

"At the Clock Tower. He wants Barbara to use her Justice League leverage to get Superman to get him more fruit cake."

Dick shuddered, putting the straw into his pocket.

"It isn't THAT bad," Bruce said, finally removing the mask and the cape.

"I have nightmares, every Christmas. If you wouldn't have stopped the mixer."

"It would have stopped when it jammed. Safety feature."

"So, after I was MAULED, it would have stopped. Great." Dick rubbed his forehead. "I was covered in it! And. And. you wanted to hose me down!" Dick was making himself sick, just thinking about it. The oil, the candied fruit. the batter.

He leaned back in his chair, getting sick just thinking about it. Slimy. sweet as eating sugar out of the bowl. and sticky. Beyond sticky. It had taken an hour in the shower to get it all off of him.

"Of all the things you've been through, and you worry about THAT?" Bruce had changed and was now wiping his face with a wet cloth.

Dick scowled at his father. "I. Hate. Fruitcake."

"SO? You gave the kid the fruit cake. While it might drive me nuts, it gets you entirely off the hook. Get over it. Move on. Next time you get a package from Martha Kent forward it directly to Timothy. Everyone's happy."

Dick sighed. No one understood.

* * *

Dick paced back and forth behind his girlfriend. Barbara continued to stare at her monitors.

"I mean. I can't believe you HELPED him."

"He bugged me for half an hour, then left. Dick, get OVER it." Barbara looked over her glasses, under her glasses then grabbed the electronics cleaner. She sprayed the monitor, then sprayed her spectacles. Taking a soft cloth, she wiped both clean. Bruce had said he was sensitive over the subject, but this was just stupid. It wasn't like. fruitcake could hurt you or anything.

"Ok. Ok. I'm over it. Right? See, this is me, being over it." He rammed his hands into the pockets of his tight jeans, then stopped and stared at her. She didn't move. "FINE. I'm going out. Nightwing doesn't need to take this abuse."

Without looking back to her Former Boy Wonder, Barbara rolled her eyes.

* * *

There was a break-in in progress on Addison and Wells. Nightwing swung through the air with confidence, the trials of his day forgotten. Landing in front of the bakery, he sighed. He'd had enough of the whole pastry gig to last him until NEXT Christmas.

It was all but pitch black on the inside, but somehow the two idiots behind the counter knew where the safe was. That's sad when you run an inside job to steal from a bakery, Dick thought. Then again, this was the time of year. A few days away from Christmas and the safe was probably full- everyone wanted to take cakes and pies to their relatives houses.

"Is this a private party, or can I join in too?"

The men trying to open the safe stood to their full height, which was a head taller than Dick. They were growing them bigger in this part of town, obviously.

"Come on, guys. It's Christmas. Lets just all go home and--"

An arc of electricity shot out of the wider of the two, and threw Nightwing backwards, through a case, and into a tray of-you guessed it-fruitcakes.

* * *

A scowling Dick Grayson permitted Alfred to pick glass and gooy crumbs out of his hair. He sat on a table in the cave, practically gagging on the smell of the fruitcake.

"That cut is going to need stitches, young man," Alfred informed him as he pulled the glass out of Dick's neck. "Of course, we'll need get you cleaned up first."

There was a laugh coming from the top of the steps.

"SHUT UP," Dick growled. "This is all your fault! I don't know how, but somehow, it IS!"

Tim came clomping down the steps, a package under his arm. "Lookit what Superboy game me! All the fruitcake Mrs. Kent's given him in the last three years. Good thing fruitcake's good forever, huh?"

Dick leapt off the table and dashed past Alfred, dripping fruit cake in his wake. A second later, Tim was on his back, fruit cake boxes spread around him on the ground. Dick's knees dug into Tim's stomach. Both of his hands wrapped around the boy's throat. "SHUT UP ABOUT THE STUPID FRUIT CAKE."

Tim grinned up at his pseudo-brother, then pointed at Dick's hair. "You've been slimed. Want me to lick it off ya?"

Dick pushed his brother away and reached for his pants, now folded on the table nearest the entrance to the cave. The contents of his pockets were stacked neatly beside them. Grabbing his straw, he turned back to Tim. The boy was starting to crawl to his feet.

Dick latched on to his heal and pulled him down, then grabbed him by the pant leg and dragged the boy towards him. Putting the straw to his lips, he blew hard and the white crumbs sprayed all over the boy's face.

Somehow vindicated, Dick jumped up, and marched up the Cave steps, sticky, fruity chunks and glass jingling as he stalked upward.

THE END