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CH.7: The Snowball Effect- Wherein the dynamic duo have some winter fun and snowball out of control.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything DC related.
Winter 2006—Dick is 10.
Snow crunched as the black BMW came to a perfect stop in front of Wayne Manor's front steps. Bruce stepped out of the driver's side in his dark suit and grey wool peacoat and grabbed his leather suitcase before slamming the door.
As Bruce made his way up the marble steps, he paused. Some thing was not right. He felt it in the air. He sensed it in the pit of his stomach.
Bruce spun around as a snowball came hurling at his head. Stepping sideways to avoid it, he blocked another snowball with his briefcase. White chunks crumbled to the stairs, leaving a wet smear on its soft leather.
The bitter chill in the air warmed with Dick's laughter.
Bruce lowered his briefcase to see Dick pointing at him from behind snow-covered hedge.
"I almost got you!"
The words of protests on Bruce's lips died when he got a closer look at what his ward was wearing. Dick was wearing purple coat so dark that it looked almost black and so puffy that the arm Dick was not using to point at Bruce, stuck out at an angle instead of laying at his side. He was wearing equally puffy snow pants. Bruce's eyes lit up with silent laughter. "You look like a plum."
Dick's smile faltered slightly. He stopped pointing at Bruce and he shifted awkwardly, but it was more due to his confinement in the coat than embarrassment. "Alfred made me wear this," he said gesturing to himself, but instead his arms flopped at his side. "I'm wearing, like, seven layers under this. You would think Gotham was in Antarctica! But you know what, Bruce? It doesn't matter, cause I totally almost got you!"
Bruce quirked an eyebrow. "If you say so." He looked back at the Manor. "Dinner should be ready."
"I'm soooo hungry."
Bruce turned back to see Dick walking towards the front door or, at least, that was what Bruce thought Dick was attempting to do. The boy was doing a strange waddle and he did not seem to be getting any closer. Bruce cocked his head. "Hey, Buddy, do you need some help there?"
"Nope," said Dick not really looking at Bruce as he concentrated on moving his legs. "I got this."
Bruce watched Dick not get much closer over the next few minutes, a smile crept up his face with every passing moment. After Dick fell backwards on the snow and wiggled around like a turned over turtle, Bruce put his briefcase down and jogged over to Dick. By the time Bruce had reached him, Dick had stopped his wiggling, exhausted.
"I got this!" Dick yelled when Bruce peered down at him.
"Dick . . . you are not moving."
"I'm moving so fast that you can't see it. I got this!"
"Stop saying, 'I got this,' before Alfred hears you and has a conniption at the improper grammar," Bruce said, holding out a hand for Dick to grab.
Instead of grabbing Bruce's hand, Dick crawled away like an inchworm. He had gone about a foot when Bruce shook his head in exasperation. "Why are you being so stubborn."
"Said the kettle."
"Dick, just take my hand."
"Noooo." Dick tilted his head sideways so that his head was away from the snow. "A kid's got to have his dignity."
"If only you could see yourself . . ." Bruce trailed off in a smile. Wasn't Alfred always complaining they needed more candid pictures around the house? He took his phone out of his pocket and held it out to take a picture.
"Bruce why'd you go all quite. You're not taking a picture? Don't take a picture!" Dick wiggled around so he could see Bruce. "Nooo! You can't do that. Batman doesn't take pleasure in the suffering of innocent people."
Bruce slipped his phone back in his pocket, but only because he had already taken the picture. "You are not suffering." He walked towards Dick again and held out his hand. "Batman also doesn't mind helping the plums of Gotham."
Dick blue eyes settled on Bruce with a mighty glare. Then a smile broke his face and he laughed. "I will wash the Batmobile for a whole month—no, two months— voluntarily, no complaints, if you say that during patrol tonight."
Gotham Docks five days later
Antonio DeGorgio of the Pegliasco Mob family looked up from his inspection of a new shipment of guns to see one of his grunts running his way into the warehouse.
"I just got done seeing Franco at County. I gotta tell you somethin' he overheard some guy say. This guy had a guy who said he heard the Bat say he was helpin' the plums of Gotham."
DeGorgio raised a scruffy eyebrow. "Plums of Gotham?"
"Yeah, Boss. Franco couldn't make sense of it. "
DeGorgio stroked his chin. "Perhaps, Batman's aligned himself with a new ally . . ."
"Like a new group of heroes in Gotham?"
"Whatever it is, we best stay away from it. Maybe it's time we set up shop elsewhere. Some city with no hero guarding it," said DeGorgio. A few of the grunts around him nodded. It was best to avoid the Bats attention as much as possible. "I'll notify Pegliasco."
Goshen, New Jersey
23 days later
Perry Plum, 70 year old owner of the Perry's Plums, farmer and distributor of delicious organic Beach Plums and plum products, looked at the very intimidating looking men in black blocking the exit of his store. "He looked at the other man in black in front of him. "When did you Health Inspectors get so serious?"
"We are not Health Inspectors," said the man in black. He flashed his FBI badge, before stuffing the badge back into his suit. "My team keeps tabs on vigilantes and superpowered persons. There has been chatter saying you know Batman. Who is he?"
Mr. Plum scratched his white hair. "Sonny, I don't know what you're talking about."
"You are the biggest east coast distributor of the Prunus maritima also known as the Beach plum."
"Yes I am," said Mr. Plum proudly. "Been farming Beach plums most my life and now my grandkids—"
"Batman was overheard saying that he, and I quote, 'doesn't mind helping the Plums of Gotham." The man in black eyes narrowed. "Your company makes substantial sales in Gotham and your eldest daughter, Elizabeth Plum, lives in Gotham."
Mr. Plum shrugged. "What can I say? Gotham loves its Beach plum jam. My Lizzy has done a good job with marketing over there." Mr. Plum waved to one of his grandsons who was stocking jams on a nearby shelf. "Bring these fellas some jam!" He looked back at the man in black. "Do you like peppercorn crackers?"
The man in black ignored him. "Why would Batman say he was helping the Plums of Gotham?"
"Do you have an arrangement with him for protection?"
"I said I don't—"
"If you have any information regarding the vigilante Batman you must tell us."
"I don't know what you're talking about!" Mr. Plum glared. He picked up his cane laying on a nearby box and waggled it at the other man. "And if your going to be rude, you can just leave here and not get any jam at all. Now do you like peppercorn crackers you whipper snapper?"
Gotham, 5 days later
Commissioner Gordon stood in a blocked section of Broad and Third Street watching police go in and out of Jared. The jewelry story had been held hostage thirty minutes prior. Thankfully, Batman and Robin had intervened before anyone was hurt.
"Commissioner," said Batman from behind him.
Gordon startled. "I hate when he does that," he mumbled, before turning around to look at the Dark Knight. Noticing Robin, he gave the kid a soft smile which Robin returned. Looking back at Batman, he said, "Now that danger has passed, I need you to clarify something for me."
"What or who are the plums of Gotham?"
Robin smiled widely, but when the Commissioner turned to him, he schooled his face into a neutral expression.
"Why do you need to know?" said Batman.
"Well, for starters, there is a lot of underground chatter going on about plums for some reason."
Robin cleared his throat to hide a laugh.
"Also, it's rumored that the Pegliasco Mob moved operations elsewhere because of it, which is great. However, the FBI has been harassing poor Mr. Plum. He's the owner of that plum company of that plum jam in all the markets." Gordon folded his arms. "Well, he's threatening to stop selling here, because the FBI thinks he knows you and he's tired of the harassment."
Batman turned to Robin, his face hidden away from a Gordon, with an expression that clearly said: this is all your fault and do not dare laugh.
"So, what did you mean when you said what you said, if you said that at all."
There was silence for a moment. Robin was curious to what Batman would come up with. Batman could not say it was a joke. That would be all sorts of unprofessional.
Batman turned back to Gordon. "It is an acronym. It means . . ." Batman paused.
"People," said Robin loudly.
"Yes, people," said Batman, smoothly picking up Robin's assist, "living under malevolence strive."
Robin looked at Batman in amazement at his quick thinking, trying hard not to laugh.
Gordon stroked his chin. "People living under malevolence strive?"
Robin nodded. "Yes, you see . . . Batman felt the word victim was too strong."
"It has a negative undertone," said Batman carrying on like they both were not fabricating a story on the spot. "The violence is done and there is no fight left in a person. However, PLUMS, tells a story. A story that is not finished. People choose to stay in this city, despite the crime, because the will not give up on this city, they will not surrender, they will live. They may be victimized, but they are not victims."
Gordon cocked his head. "The people of Gotham are plums and you help them?"
Robin nodded vigorously then turned to the crowd gathered on the other side of the street behind the police barricade. "Did you hear that?" he said in a loud voice. "Batman says that Gothamites might be victimized, but they are not victims! We stay in this city, because we love it, and we will fight for it! We are Gotham strong! People living under malevolence strive . . . we strive for what?"
"Justice!" a man shouted.
"Hope!" a woman said.
"Love," another man said.
"A better future!" a kid shouted.
"We're PLUMS," said Robin proudly, ignoring Batman's new look which clearly said: do not turn this into a Thing. "We are all PLUMS and we will not give up on each other or this city!" He raised a fist and started pumping it in the air." PLUMS! PLUMS! PLUMS!"
The crowd outside the barriers started cheering along. "PLUMS! PLUMS! PLUMS!"
Gordon looked at a loss for a moment as he looked at the crowed. "I suppose we're plums now," he said lamely.
Later, as Batman and Robin walked away, chants of PLUMS following them, Batman shook his head. Robin had a broad smile on his face. "This is the best day ever!"
"Why did you have to turn this into a Thing?"
"It's inspiring and it's not a Thing . . . yet," said Robin seriously. "I've never been so proud of being a plum!"
"That sounds ridiculous," said Batman, though he did not mind if Robin's speech galvanized the crowd to help their community. He sighed. "This is going to turn into a Thing. Yes, it's a positive message, but the country is not going to hear that message. They will only hear Gotham calling itself fruit. It's bad PR."
"No one is going to think that."
Metropolis, 1 day later
The chant of "We are PLUMS!" could be heard as Clark Kent walked into the Daily Planet carrying coffee. Jimmy and Lois greeted him and both removed their coffees from the cardboard drink holder. "Why are people shouting that they are plums on TV?"
"I don't know," said Jimmy dismissively. "It's Gotham. Evil clowns, a guy made of mud, a man penguin . . . weird things are always going on there."
"Probably some new fetish," answered Lois. "Weirdoes, the lot of them."
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