Home for the Holidays

by Chicago

Disclaimers: Characters and settings belong to DC Comics. I just think they deserve to be happier, so I let them hang with me. Borrowed for fun, not for profit.

Canon notes: Frank was John Jones' first partner on the Denver PD according to one version of canon. Frank was killed in Gotham and Batman and J'onn teamed up to find his killer in the JLI Annual #3 (1989). J'onn talks about hanging out with Frank and Janet and their kids: "I remember my first experience of Christmas. The lovely rituals. I didn't completely understand..." (for those who doubt the slashiness of J'onn/Bruce in canon, this is one issue you should see). To me, snickerdoodles are Christmas cookies, and as we saw in Action Comics #797, J'onn likes to bake snickerdoodles. So I blended the two bits of canon lore.

Continuity note: This is posted out of order to answer nw chick's "Christmas Song Fic Challenge.

Rating: G

Sunset came too early this close to solstice. There was too much night, and too many responsibilities at Wayne Enterprises. Bruce was tired.

He downshifted as he began the ascent to Wayne Manor, relieved that he had closed the Riddler case so swiftly. Yes, he would need to patrol tonight, but it wouldn't be like last night.

The signal had gone up almost as soon as it was dark enough to see. Had there been a Thanksgiving dinner to disrupt, Bruce might have been more upset. But Dick had drawn the Thanksgiving shift, and J'onn was covering the Watchtower. Tim's parents had wanted him home this year. Barbara dined with her father, and Bruce was almost grateful to be chasing Edward Nigma with Batgirl when any sane patriarch would be carving the turkey.

The chase had lasted almost the entire night, with Riddler wrapped up for the GCPD only a couple hours before dawn - too late really to go back to the Manor. Bruce had sent Cassandra home and called Alfred to let him know he was going directly to Wayne Enterprises to get some work done, earning the standard, "Very good, sir."

He should probably sleep tonight.

He stopped the car at the estate gates, noticing with a start that the holiday wreath had been hung. Of course - the day after Thanksgiving. Alfred had undoubtedly had the landscapers and decorators out to get the Manor appropriately seasonal.

Bruce nodded in approval as he drove slowly up the driveway. The pines in front of the Manor were not as tall as the ones that had grown there before the quake, and the Manor itself was a bit different than the house his great grandfather had purchased. But nonetheless, the white lights that graced the noble pair of pines and the single candles in each front facing window imitated exactly the decorating scheme his mother had developed.

He pulled the car into the turn around rather than directly back to the garage. Shutting off the engine, he walked to the front door and opened it, breathing deeply the scent of the fir branches that made up the wreath on the door. The big fireplace that graced the main hall was filled with a double row of white poinsettias. Holly and ivy trimmed the mantelpiece, and a couple of candles - electric, Bruce noted with approval - sat atop it.

There would be little touches throughout the house, Bruce knew, that would evoke the holiday, although none so strongly as the smell of cookies baking that caught his attention now. Bruce smiled a little to himself through his weariness. Trust Alfred to have just the right thing to cheer him.

He strode through the halls of his rebuilt ancestral home toward the kitchen. He paused as he arrived outside the door, startled to hear Alfred's voice: "...his happier affairs may be, are to me unknown; but I have missingly noted he is of late much retired from court, and is less frequent to -"

Bruce pushed open the kitchen door. "Alfred?"

He was surprised to see Alfred glance up from where he was sitting at the table, expecting to see him by the stove. "Master Bruce! I am sorry I did not hear you arrive."

"It's my fault, Bruce," interjected a low baritone, and J'onn J'onzz smiled at his lover. "I asked him to read A Winter's Tale to me."

Bruce simply blinked, staring at the tall green alien occupying his kitchen. There was flour dusted across one cheek, and spatters of batter showed against the blue of the apron he wore. His hands were busy rolling balls of dough and pressing them onto a cookie sheet. One counter was covered by row upon row of cooling cookies. "J'onn?"

"Just stay there a moment," J'onn directed, plopping another bit of dough onto the cookie sheet.

Bruce nodded, puzzled. "You're ... baking?"

"Snickerdoodles," J'onn explained. "Frank's wife and kids taught me how to make them all those years ago."

Bruce felt an internal wince for the J'onn's old partner, senselessly slain so many years before by a Gotham junkie. Bruce had been so angry for J'onn then, so frustrated to have to tell his friend that Frank had died for nothing. J'onn had taken the news philosophically, explaining that all things happened according to a plan for the ultimate good. Bruce had refused to understand then; now it was easier to believe. Knowing more about J'onn, about Mars...

He watched J'onn's hands working, putting one last cookie on the sheet. A part of him wondered how it could not hurt too much, to perform this skill that recalled someone lost too young. He knew the answer, though. It was related to why the holiday decor of Wayne Manor had not changed in over 30 years.

Retain the good, the memories, and keep the spirit of home and hope alive.

A timer went off and J'onn opened the oven door, switching out a tray of finished cookies for the one he had just finished loading up. He set the hot cookie sheet on the stove top as he closed the oven door and finally turned, rubbing his hands together and dusting them off. "Good," he remarked with a little smile, "you didn't move."

Bruce watched as J'onn crossed the kitchen and leaned in close. His arms wrapped around Bruce and his mouth claimed Bruce's, leaning Bruce back. A startled moment of surprise gave way to eager answer as Bruce felt J'onn's tongue slip into his mouth.

"Ahem," Alfred's voice sounded, and J'onn straightened up with a smile, leaving Bruce blushing. "Master J'onn, that sprig of mistletoe isn't that big."

J'onn chuckled a little and moved back toward the stove. "Quite right, Alfred," he agreed.

Bruce glanced up to realize he was standing under a bit of mistletoe, hung where he couldn't have seen it when he entered. He looked at Alfred with a perplexed expression, and the gentleman's gentleman merely smiled. "Master J'onn does have some lovely ideas," he remarked enigmatically.

"Have a cookie, Bruce," J'onn added, pressing a still-warm snickerdoodle into Bruce's hand.

Bruce brought the cookie to his lips and took a bite, relishing the buttery sweetness of it. It tasted like the holidays should taste - warm and seasoned with family.

We'll do better for Christmas, J'onn promised solemnly, speaking directly to Bruce's mind. And Thanksgiving next year.

Bruce crossed to the table across from Alfred, pouring a cup of tea from the pot Alfred had brewed. "Keep reading, Alfred," he urged, settling into the warmth of his kitchen. "I'm appreciating the things I am thankful for."

Alfred looked at him for a moment. "As am I, Master Bruce," he said. Then he reopened his volume of Shakespeare and began where he had left off.