When I was a boy in England, prepping for Christmas involved writing lists, and dreaming of what was under the tree. In Gotham City, things are a little different.
Oh I buy Bruce, and the boy’s gifts, decorate the tree, and plan the Christmas festivities. Of course with Bruce, or Master Bruce, as I call him in public, Christmas events are better planned as Christmas brunches. Like Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, he tends to work nights.
This Christmas, it all started with an auction. I don’t know if you’ll ever read this Commissioner, but I’ve always suspected you figured out long ago who we all are. You’re too good a detective not to, especially since my adopted grandson is in love with your Barbara.
I suspect that one day, between Bludhaven and the watchtower, they’ll be a Grayson Gordon Wedding. Once they discover they’re biggest nemesis might be commitment, and not Deathstroke. They’ll get there, probably before my Bruce.
I had finished orchestrating a Wayne Foundation dinner, while Lucius Fox stepped in for Bruce. All I had to do was whisper “Nigma is loos”e, and Lucius understood. I said goodbye to the caterer, clicked on my Bluetooth, and checked in on Batman. “Where are you now?”
“Not a good time Alfred. Riddler has got me pinned down. I should be free in a minute, if I can just reach the blade in my belt.”
“Click the left thumb, I refilled the acid canister this morning. Riddler always likes to tie you up. He thinks it shows he’s smarter than you.”
“Thanks Alfred. Did you place the bids I asked you too? Will they be in on time?”
“Your welcome. I did. Do you have to ask? Though I think Dick would prefer the suede jacket, Barbara prefers black to cashmere.”
“That means you ordered the black already. Which Chess set did you get for Tim? I hope it was the Lithuanian one? What about the others?”
“I got both sets, you can give one to Clark’s son. Also, the lightning cuff links for Mr. Allen, the painting for Mr. Queen, and the vintage camera for Mr. Parker. As for the others, I got them all. Bruce, have you picked up the Commissioner’s gift yet?”
“I tried, but it was sold out. I’ve been all over trying to find it. I hate to get him the same thing as last year.” The rest of the conversation was about one of your gifts, which you know about by now. A book, and a hunting rifle that belonged to Teddy Roosevelt.
He burnt the ropes through while we were talking. Then he slipped into the river, defused Riddler’s chemical weapon before it released the water toxin. Next he climbed onto the helicopter, and deposited Riddler in Arkham.
The few nights which followed were just like it, typical Gotham events. Scarface, Freeze, and the Tweedles. December 15 was unusual, nothing happened. Bruce had a night off, and it was driving him crazy.
If the boys had been home, it would have been fine. Superman had called Nightwing in to consult on a case involving one of his old foes Luther had hired. Tim was off world fighting Brainiac with the Titans.
Bruce made a remark that his boys were growing up. I agreed, secretly glad my boy, for all his amazing talents, still needed me to keep him company. We wrapped a few gifts, played some chess, and watched Miracle On 34 Street again. He’d never admit it, but he loves that movie.
I tried to get him to go to bed, since he could actually rest, but he couldn’t sleep. I knew it would be at least two in the morning before he would actually accept the city didn’t need him for one night. So I brewed some coffee.
Finally about 1:30, I almost suggested he pay you a visit. I figured you were up too, Gotham was too quiet. About 1:45, he passed out. I covered him with a blanket, and slept in the recliner, just in case he got a call, or a signal.
The rest of the nights were busier, and by December 24th, everything was ready. The boys were scheduled to be there Christmas Day. You had scheduled the bachelors overlapping shifts, because you knew Batman had a special mission on Christmas Eve.
He started at midnight, at the Orphanage. Stockings, toys, game systems, clothes, and coats. Next, the shelters, the neighborhoods, and the docks. He met you to exchange gifts and a cup of coffee at 2:00.
Later I asked him if by chance, he heard sleigh bells, or saw Santa in the night. He said, “No, not unless you count the Commissioner. Minus the red outfit, and the beard, he’s the closest I got to Mr Moore’s description. He was the only one I talked to tonight that has never giving me a reason to dread.”
Next on the agenda, he headed for the Iceberg Lounge, Blackgate, and Arkham, and a man, who physically at least, more closely resembled the right jolly old elf.
“Wack, Batman! Couldn’t you at least knock on Christmas? I gave all but fifty of them the night off.”
“Me knocking is sort of like you using a parka instead of an umbrella. It’s bad for the image. How’s your Christmas Penguin?”
“Quiet. I fed the boys, the birds, the dolphins, and the polar bear. Even read through to Ebenezer delivering the goose, all while waiting for you. I even wrapped your gift this year instead of a bag and tissue. Merry Christmas Batman.”
“Merr Christmas. Thank you for my gift, here is yours. I hate to ask, but is mine safe to open? Should I scan it first?”
“Not on Christmas. Besides Blackgate serves turkey on both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Grandmother was English, I prefer goose on Christmas. Open it here, if it was deadly I’d say ‘do not open til Christmas Day.’ Wack, wack.”
It was the a first edition of Audubon’s Birds Of America. In it, for a bookmark was card, the same color as a Chance Card in Monopoly. It had a picture of a death trap with an X through it.
“It means in our next battle I won’t try to kill you. It’ll make it more interesting. Plus, if you want to return the favor with a get out of jail free card, it would always be welcome.”
Batman smiled. “Thank you for the gifts. I didn’t get you a card, but I think you’ll like each of my choices, you might say they’re birds of a feather. Merry Christmas Oswald.”
“Merry Christmas Bruce. Give my regards to Alfred. Also, share greetings with Harvey, Victor, and Edward.”
Batman didn’t wait for Cobblepot to open his gifts, it would have been too embarrassing. In addition to a rare bird statue Bruce owned, which Cobblepot once tried to steal, he had found some archival news footage from one of the local tv news stations Wayne Enterprises owns. It was decades old.
A community piece, several neighborhoods in Gotham had been filmed.Caught on camera was a young Mr and Mrs Cobblepot putting up the sign to their pet shop. She was holding little Oswald.
I suspect it had the rare ability to make Oswald speechless. Yes, he figured out years ago who Batman is, but Batman saved his son’s life. Batman never told anyone Oswald had a son, and Penguin promised to never share the secret of Bruce’s identity with anyone. He even helps now and then, when forced too.
Everyone in Bruce’s Rogues Gallery got a special gift, as Batman did every year. Two Face got a rare Prussian two headed eagle coin. Selina, a cats eye opal necklace. Mad Hatter, a baseball cap from Joe DiMaggio.
It was the most dangerous stop that proved interesting. Joker was brought up from his cell in the second basement, to the first level basement. “Howdy Bats. Is it that time of year again? You know I don’t like gifts.”
Batman smiled, which always worried Joker. “This isn’t for you, it’s for Harley. Christmas dinner with her fella. I got you a Netflix subscription, once you get your tv privileges back in June.”
“Whatever you say Bats. At least I know I’m your last special stop. Your Arch nemesis is your final stop. Hahahaha.”
Then Batman started laughing. “You’re not even my next to the last stop Joker. Hush, Riddler, and Clayface are the last on my list.”
Joker looked, not angry, not maniacal, but hurt. Batman may not be Santa Claus, but it was Christmas. “Relax Joker, you are the only one I got this gift for you.” Joker smiled at the black wrapped box.
“Batman, Mr J actually looks happy.” Harley smiled. She was happy too.
“Well Of course. Harley, isn’t the Joker supposed to be? You know him best.”
“Supposed To Yes, but not usually. He’s sad most of the time. Especially when Mr J is bored.”
Batman watched him open his gift. A pull apart Batman stress doll. Which made both Joker and Harley laugh. Batman knew his cue, he left them laughing.
“Hello Thomas, Merry Christmas.” Hush looked at him with disdain. “Keep the mask on. I like it better when I don’t see your face. I like it better when I don’t see you at all.”
There was no present for Batman, but there was one from him. What do you get a man who dislikes both your identities? You give him something he does care for. Thomas Elliott is a surgeon, so Batman gave him a doctor’s bag once owned by Joseph Lister.
For Riddler, it wasn’t so much what he gave him, as how he gave it. Batman had the first few years of Riddler’s riddles published, giving Nigma the rights, and the profits. He gave it to him in the form of four riddles. Riddler laughed hysterically.
Clayface, the actor Matt Hagen, received a portrait of Edwin Booth, another famous actor. He also got something else, an early pardon. Bruce arranged it. Clayface had stopped a crime spree, to save a child’s life.
Bruce fought hard to open the doors of Hagen’s cell, and the papers came through on Christmas Eve. Batman doesn’t talk much about his Christmas visits, he lets me eavesdrop at Christmas because I insist, on the count of the potential danger. Still, he did remark the next day, “Hagen smiled, and shook my hand.”
I always greet, my unofficial adopted son, though wholly mine in my heart, when he returns Christmas Day morning. He jumped out of the Batmobile, the flawless Caped Crusader. After he removes his mask, he is an extremely tired Bruce Wayne.
I hugged him, wished him a Happy Christmas, and handed him a hot cocoa. Just as I have every Christmas morning since he was a boy. Then I gave him his pajamas, robe, and slippers. He slept til breakfast was ready.
Dick was in a hoodie and jeans. Tim was in sweats. We laughed, ate, I told stories, and we had a good Christmas brunch. Every year, before opening the presents, Bruce has me read the Gospel Of Luke Chapter Two. An each time, after I read it, he smiles and bows his head.
You may not think Batman a believer, but I’ve seen him pray. I’ve seen him pray as a child, when he had a thousand questions. I’ve seen him pray as a young Father, when one of his boys were in danger. I’ve seen him pray as Batman, who everyone expects him to have all the answers, and he didn’t know what to do. Yes, Batman believes, he knows this world could not survive on its own, he’s seen man’s frailty.
I know, I’ve prayed with him. I’ve prayed through bullet wounds, dastardly plots by crazy men, and nightmares of events long ago. To know, we can look higher than ourselves, has held us both through many a dark night.
I mentioned gifts he had me buy some presents he picked out, but Bruce doesn’t only rely on me for all of the boy’s gifts. He picks out one very special gift for each of them. Bruce gave Richard a small box, in it was a watch of Thomas Wayne’s. He told him, “Every Wayne for four generations has been given that watch on the Christmas after their twenty fifth birthday, Merry Christmas son.”
Tim was given the deed to an apartment in Paris. “Every crime fighter needs a place to get away. The city of light seemed a good choice for yours.”
Bruce’s gift to me Commissioner, brings me back to you. He said he wanted to give me something he greatly admired. He gave me Clark Kent’s first biography. Bruce had suggested the subject to Clark. It is the life of Commissioner James Gordon. That’s the book I mentioned, besides your rifle. Batman wrote the forward.
“People call me a hero, I’m just a fighter.
Heroes are selfless, men of quiet strength, and kind.
They are men of integrity, conviction, and hope.
Heroes are men like James Gordon.”
You Commissioner are not only one of my son’s heroes, but one of mine. He may watch over Gotham, but you help me watch over him. You make it possible for him to take Christmas Eve off, to do the work he wishes he could do all year long. Thank you Commissioner, for making possible, my son’s Gotham Christmas.