December 24, 2013
The red leaves surrounding the fist-sized cyathium smacked Nightwing's face. He swiped at the vine-like stalk with a Batarang, cutting the stem and freeing his vision. A vine wrapped around his leg and he ducked to cut it. More mutated poinsettia swarmed over him. He had delivered his present to Tara Ross earlier this week, so no obligations beyond saving Gotham City from the eco-terrorist and her mutated holiday decorations, but Christmas! Peace on Earth, goodwill towards man, leave the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree alone, Christmas! He cut his leg free and dodged to the left.
The giant, mobile poinsettias descended from the rooftop gardens of the British Empire Building and the La Maison Francaise. The leaves formed a wall blocking Fifth Avenue access to the plaza. The vines swept the wire and LED-light angels from the Channel Garden as Nightwing sprinted toward the ice rink. The civilians had cleared it and the rest of the buildings when the greenery exploded. Say what you want about Gothamites, but they knew how to run. He didn't see either redheaded woman he was looking for. "I should have packed a chainsaw today."
Multiple vines shot at him like they understood exactly what a chainsaw did. His job was to keep them occupied and himself out of reach of the eco-terrorist until Batgirl ended this. The noon-ish sun beat on his black armor and reflected off the white cement as he ran toward East Twentieth Street.
A mass of green descended and blocked that street entrance. He scrambled back, but a vine snagged his waist and pulled him into the mass. He slashed with the Batarang but his left hand was restrained before he could pull another one off his belt. Sap coated his arm, but more vine-like stalks closed in the gaps. "Come on Batgirl." A vine got around his throat and tightened against the armor. Breathing was uncomfortable and he stabbed at it with the Batarang.
Something red moved down outside the mass of green. He batted away what he thought were more leaves. His hand didn't contact them and the red had blue too. He gagged and tried to focus. "Let me help," a man said.
Nightwing didn't recognize that voice or the blurry face above the blue and red, but he was sure he saw the man's eyes go red. There was fire above his head and the vines went limp and dropped him onto the pavement. He yanked free with gulps of air. The figure in a red cape landed next to him. The poinsettia vines yanked back and shook their flaming leaves. That didn't put out the fire. Nightwing realized his help was Superman.
The poinsettia bonfire blazed past the point of smothering when a woman screamed. Red leaves parted for Poison Ivy as she ran onto the largest vine growing from the British Empire Building's roof. The red-haired woman tore off her green coat. "MY BABIES!" She flung her coat on the flames. "MURDERERS!" A vine wrapped around her waist to keep her from toppling to the pavement.
Nightwing climbed to his feet, tugged Superman's arm, and pulled him down. His eyes were blue when they weren't shooting flames and were very confused. "Did she just call those plants her babies?" Superman asked.
"Don't get her started on Christmas trees," Nightwing said. He reached for his comm unit, but tugged Superman back when he stepped toward the screaming banshee. "Stay upwind. She turns men into drooling idiots. It's a proximity thing, so let my partner handle it."
Superman's attention was distracted by a black cape figure swinging down from the 30 Rock observation deck. Batgirl grabbed Poison Ivy's shoulder, spun her around, and slammed her fist against the screaming woman's jaw. The screaming stopped. Poison Ivy slumped, but Batgirl grabbed her before the vine let go. She kicked off and swung out. The vines reached for the pair. Batgirl's voice filled the ear piece speaker in Nightwing's mask. "How about setting the rest of these on fire?"
"I heard her," Superman said. He hovered higher and fire blasted from his eyes again.
Nightwing grabbed the skin on his uncovered jaw, but his gloved fingers didn't give a fine enough grip to actually pinch himself. "Plants on fire covered," he said into his microphone. "Find a safe place to land and sedate Poison Ivy."
"Working on that," she said. "What's Superman doing here?"
"Didn't get a chance to ask him, but we better remember the kill the plants with fire tactic for next time."
"Dr. Pamela Isley has a hate-on for Christmas that rivals the Grinch." He stretched his neck as much as he was able. He was going to feel that choke hold later. "So fire and chainsaws if she wants to steal Christmas next year."
"I'm asking Santa for Gotham to have a normal Christmas next year. We deserve it at this point." Batgirl unspooled her grapple line before the Christmas tree and the two figures lowered toward the ice.
He headed down the stairs to the concourse level ice rink. Batgirl laid Poison Ivy on the ice and pulled the jet injector from her belt. He strapped on the gas mask before striding onto the ice near the Prometheus statue. The tread on the boots kept him from slipping. His partner smirked. "We put an inhibitor in the sedative, remember?"
"I'm taking no chances with aiding her escape with that voodoo that she does." Nightwing pulled the cuffs off his belt.
Batgirl rolled her eyes. "She has mutated her bio-chemistry--"
He cut her off as he cuffed Poison Ivy. "If I still don't understand it after the last five times you have explained it, it might as well be voodoo. And Superman's here."
She watched the newest cape pluck the poinsettia roots out of the rooftop garden and set them on fire too. "Because he's alien, Isley might be an alien too?"
"Not ruling out any possibilities." He slung Poison Ivy over his shoulder to get her off the ice before she got frostbite. Superman caught the mess of the former angels and stacked them at the corner of the La Maison Francaise building. "Wow, the footage they showed from Metropolis proved he's fast, but wow."
Batgirl didn't answer as she led the way up to street level. Superman finished his cleanup and they saw that camera crews had set up on Fifth Avenue beyond the police cordon. He floated down toward them. "Is she contagious?"
Batgirl shook her head. "Nightwing's paranoid. Isley altered her body's chemistry to have a hypnotic effect on men, but the inhibitor in the sedative counteracts that."
"It should," Nightwing added. They hadn't tested it when Batgirl and Fox created it.
"Anyway, thanks for the assistance," Batgirl continued. "I doubt Gotham has enough Round-Up to kill what she planted up there."
"Glad to help. I was in the neighborhood looking for Batman."
Nightwing felt Batgirl freeze as hard as the rink ice. "Not here, man." Superman's eyebrows knitted together. Nightwing sighed. "We have to turn Poison Ivy here over to police custody. Meet us in the Sheal Docklands."
"I know where that is." He nodded and rose into the sky.
Two police officers dressed in hazmat suits approached them from East Twentieth Street's entrance. Nightwing passed Poison Ivy to them. "Better get her out of the cold. Now our shift is over and we'll see you after dark as usual."
Batgirl remained silent until after they were inside the Tumbler, Nightwing had removed the gas mask, and the vehicle had turned onto Nineteenth Street. "You want to take him to the bunker."
"We left our stuff in it last night. And the bunker means we don't have to explain the bats at the cave."
"No, we just have to explain why Batman hates me." She slumped in the passenger seat.
He knew this would come up. "Batman doesn't--"
"Save it, John! You and Mr. Fox both say the same thing, but Batman hasn't even sent us an email since he returned from the dead. And now you want to out our identities to the guy who flies around with a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who outed him as an alien and whose travel history Oracle had to scrub out of NORAD's database."
He idled at a stop light and ignored the gawkers. "You didn't tell me about that."
"The world didn't end and it was easy money."
It was a lot easier to keep Bruce Wayne's secret when he was convinced Bruce was dead. He had shared everything else with Babs, their success rate would have never gotten this high without her, and she had earned the right to know. But Bruce remained silent and he wondered if she was right about the disapproval but wrong about who Bruce disapproved of. Traffic thinned out the deeper they went into West Side. "Okay, I'm for being friendly. People can go ice skating tomorrow, thanks to him. Maybe it'll turn out to be something we can help him with without revealing anything."
"And Batman continues ignoring us and we pretend we don't know where he is."
"I'd love to take you to Italy, Babs, but you're the one who makes all the money in this partnership."
"If you took that job Mr. Fox keeps offering you, you could take me to Italy."
"You promised not to bring that up until after New Year's."
"Sorry," she said in a singsong voice that meant she totally wasn't sorry. He hit the sensor scrambler as they turned into the shipping yard that hid the bunker. The cargo container's doors that hid the elevator opened and Superman flew inside before they closed. He carried a woman wrapped in a stylish wool coat in his arms. Babs waved her hand at the monitor. "He brought the reporter."
Nightwing drove the Tumbler forward as the lights turned on inside. "Be nice."
"You be nice. Somebody's gotta cover the Gotham glower."
Superman set Lois Lane down while the top of the Tumbler slid open. Batgirl climbed out first and stalked to the computer station. Nightwing sighed. "We don't give interviews. No offense, Ms. Lane."
Her grin was sunny. "I'm sure it's because no one has asked the right questions, Nightwing. Like why didn't you chose Batwing as a name to operate under?"
Nightwing ignored her and focused on Superman. "You said you were looking for Batman. Why?"
"It's a long story," Superman said with a smile. "Actually, the one we want to talk to is Wonder Woman and she was last seen with Batman."
"Can't help you expose her too," Batgirl said with a growl almost as low as Batman's. "We don't know who she is."
"Expose her?" Lois' hands fell onto her hips. "What kind of reporter do you think I am?" Neither Nightwing nor Batgirl answered her, and Lois' scowl deepened. "Woodburn and his ilk have so much to answer for. Look, I practice journalism ethics and I don't give up a source that asks to remain anonymous."
"You told the whole world about Superman," Nightwing said.
"Yes, but I only told them about Superman. I didn't tell what name is on his driver's license."
Batgirl turned to Superman. "You have a driver's license?"
"I do," he said with a smile at her scowl. "I don't drive much, but I do have one. We aren't here chasing a story. This is personal."
Batgirl's stance relaxed with the puzzle. "You think Wonder Woman is a survivor of Zod's group?"
Nightwing stepped back to her. "No, Zod's group got here at the end of August and Ms. Lane's story was published in early July." Batgirl's blue eyes winced. "Wonder Woman was already here. She could have been an advanced scout, but soldiers in my experience aren't subtle and there's no way in hell Batman would team up with someone genocidal."
"So you're looking for a potential Kryptonian survivor like you," Batgirl said. "Someone who was sent away before Krypton blew up."
Lois looked at Superman. "The Bat-kids are quick."
"The Bat-kids are grown adults, ma'am," Nightwing answered. "How sure are you? The news report had Wonder Woman going through a wall, but humans are capable of that with shoddy construction."
"She flew. My editor took it out of the published story, but she can fly like he does." Lois jerked her thumb at Superman.
"Okay, that does make you sure." Nightwing leaned against the cement desktop. "But we've been incommunicado with Batman since the bomb blast, so we can't help you."
Superman looked resigned, which was such a sad shift that Nightwing wanted to give him a back slap out of it, but Lois looked thoughtful. "No, you are too smart for that. You know where Batman is but you're waiting for him to reach out to you." Her gaze roamed over the bunker and the open rooms. "Did you two borrow his stuff and start patrolling Gotham without his permission?"
"No wonder you got the Pulitzer," Batgirl said with a bitter chuckle. She pointed to Nightwing. "He's the appointed one; I'm the one operating without permission."
"No, you're my partner." Nightwing huffed. "He left."
"Yeah, we stepped into it, Lois." Superman said. "We didn't come here to make trouble for you. Regardless if Batman approves or not, you two are doing good in Gotham."
Batgirl looked suspiciously at him. "You aren't calling in a favor for helping with Poison Ivy?"
"No, you two had that in hand. I just cleaned up the mess."
"And saved me from getting strangled," Nightwing added. "Thanks for that."
"I'd do that for anybody. We'll find Batman some other way, and tell him to call home. It's not right for him to put you under this cloud of doubt."
Nightwing pictured Bruce holed up sporting a new goatee and Superman delivering uncomfortable facts to him. Bruce had accepted it when Blake did it, maybe this time it would work as well.
Lois sighed. "And how are we supposed to find him? It's a big planet. You should know; you've flown around it a couple of times."
Superman shrugged. "I assumed Batman is broadcasting on the same frequency they are." He jerked his head in Batgirl and Nightwing's direction. "Or more accurately, the metal devices implanted in their necks are broadcasting. It'll take a while, but I don't need that much sleep."
Batgirl jolted. "You can hear that?" Superman nodded. "Well, crap," she said faintly.
"So much for leaving us out of it." Nightwing shook his head.
"I promise to stick up for you," Superman said. "I can't help it if I acquire different observations, thanks to my not-human senses."
Nightwing pressed his fingers against the domino mask covering his nose. He owed Bruce loyalty, but he owed Babs more. But telling without Bruce's permission after all this time, he gritted his teeth. It looked like the only way to deal with it was round two of uncomfortable truths for the recluse.
Batgirl crossed her arms again. "There's no point in keeping our masks on with you? No matter how badly we want to keep our loved ones safe."
"I think we got off on the wrong foot here." Superman stretched his hand out to her. "Clark Kent, I live in Metropolis and I work at the Daily Planet with Lois. And your loved ones are safe from me."
She pulled off her cowl and shook her red hair before shaking his hand. "Barbara Gordon, but you can call me Babs."
Nightwing pulled off his domino mask and stretched out his hand. "John Blake." Clark's handshake was firm and didn't reveal his awesome strength.
"Let's leave my dad out of this." Babs turned to the computer screen and called up a program.
"A pair went active with no names assigned in early April," Blake continued. "They went separately into Uzbekistan, met up, and then went to Italy." Babs focused the map on Europe, then Italy's peninsula, and finally on Florence. "One has stayed put there since and one took a trip to Australia during Zod's invasion, but we don't have any details about that."
"So now we've got to go to Italy," Lois sighed.
Blake squared his shoulders. "I'm going with you."
"Do you still have the Bat plane?" the reporter asked.
"No, that blew up with the bomb," Babs answered. "But Clark flies?"
"I'm not so aerodynamic with suitcases."
Babs glanced at Blake. "I've been squirreling funds in the Grayson account. It should be enough for one round trip ticket. I can't leave Dad, not on our first Christmas since the divorce."
"That's money you've made." Blake rubbed the back of his head.
"And I put it aside for crime-fighting expenses. This qualifies." She focused on the computer screen. "Don't worry about Gotham. I'll keep patrolling."
"We need to finish our reports, check out of the hotel, and find a flight." Lois pulled a couple of business cards out of her pocket. "Here's our cell phone numbers. Meet you at Gotham International Airport?"
Blake accepted the cards. "Yeah, I need to pack."
"See you in a few then. How do we get out of here?" Superman glanced around the bunker.
"Get back on the lift and I'll send you up." Babs opened the lift controlling program while Blake snagged his civilian clothing and headed to the bathroom. By the time he changed and packed his suit (because with his luck he'd need it), their visitors were gone. "I guess it's a good thing you didn't have Christmas plans," Babs said in an artificially cheery voice.
"These things work out. So anything in particular you want from Florence, or should I just grab a tacky T-shirt?"
She stared at the multiple computer screens, but her gloved hands curled into fists on the desktop. "Oh the tacky T-shirt, I won't make you promise what you can't deliver." Hurt bled through the cheery sarcasm she painted over the words.
Damn it. He crossed the bunker. His hands grabbed her shoulders and turned her to him. "You are my partner." His cheeks heated, but he kept his eyes focused on hers. "What he says about that does not matter. The only way he can stop us from crime-fighting is to move back to Gotham and lock up all his toys and we'll take our toys and move to Bludhaven. And yes, it will be us because you are my partner and I've got your back." He cupped her face. "You are my partner."
Her bright blue eyes widened before she wrapped her arms around him and squeezed. "Thanks, John. You better go pack."
It didn't take him long to squeeze two more outfits into the same hard-backed suitcase with the Nightwing suit. What took time was getting through Midtown and Uptown and all the traffic that had blossomed since Poison Ivy had been locked away. It was twilight before he parked the motorcycle in the secured parking lot at the airport.
Clark wore glasses when he wasn't wearing the Superman suit. And he tousled his hair while typing on a laptop. Blake joined him at the restaurant table overlooking the concourse. "Holding the fort?" He asked as he sidestepped the rolling suitcase and garment bag.
"Checking that our editor got our first submissions. Lois is getting tickets. According to her, I'm too easy-going to get anything done in Gotham." Clark smiled and his laptop beeped.
"Okay, wake me up when I've got to pay for something." Blake supported his head on his crossed arms as he slumped over the table. The clicking keyboard blended into the bustling drone of the travelers. Blake zoned out with no regrets. It had been a long night learning Poison Ivy's science and a longer morning looking for where she was threatening Christmas. He needed rest before confronting Bruce again or considering how to handle that diplomatically.
His nap lasted until Lois said, "Deck the hells, I hate the holidays." A heavy purse slammed into the neighboring chair and Blake jerked up blinking. The older redhead frowned. "We missed the last direct flight to Rome by an hour. There is a plane going to Paris tonight, but it is completely full as of right now. I put us on stand-by but the ticket people don't expect seats to open up." She shifted the purse to the table and sat. "You got more good news?"
"Perry likes the Gotham half of our rebuild stories, but wants to run it after the holidays," Clark said and offered her a water bottle. "And he thinks we're going to Smallville."
"As long as we don't use the expense account, he doesn't care where we go." Lois guzzled some water. "How do you feel about pulling a sleigh?"
"I'm not a reindeer."
Blake's cell phone vibrated in his pocket. "Excuse me," he said to the others. "Merry Christmas, Mr. Fox. About that job offer, I've decided to take it."
"Merry Christmas to you too, Mr. Blake, and I'm glad to have you on board, but I wasn't calling you about that." The older man sounded amused. "I'm going to Europe for a few days, so I won't be available for consulting."
"You got a ticket?" Blake wouldn't have blurted that out if he hadn't been so tired. "Sorry, it's just some friends and I are trying to get to Europe and everything is booked solid."
"Are you at the airport right now? How many in your party?"
"Yes and three."
Mr. Fox chuckled. "I have to make a call to get you added, but it shouldn't be a problem. Come around to the VIP lounge."
Blake blinked at his cell phone and then at Lois and Clark. "I think I got us a ride."
Clark knew private jets existed; he just never expected to be offered a cushy leather recliner on one. Blake also blinked at the polished wood paneling while the flight attendant took his suitcase. Lois took the seat closest to Mr. Fox, and continued asking him about Wayne Enterprises' plans. Clark shook his head. "Lois, Mr. Fox is doing us a favor. He didn't ask to be interviewed."
"Nobody asks to be interviewed, Clark. And if they do, the real story is not what they want to tell you."
The older African-American man chuckled. "Ms. Lane, I'm glad you're not on the Board of Directors."
"Why? Does the current President of Wayne Enterprises have something to hide?"
"Only as much as you do." His brown eyes twinkled. "But Fredericks and I could have used you there when Bill Earle was CEO."
The names meant something to Lois and she recapped Wayne Enterprises history while the jet climbed into the air. He had put in the same amount of research she had before this whirlwind trip, but he had to refer to his notes constantly. He loved the way she retained everything and made the connections no one else could see. He opened his laptop, accepted the bottled water with an unfamiliar label, and went to work on his story about rebuilding Gotham City's police department. Lois had let him have it solo since he was looking for pointers on how to deal with Metropolis' police department that still considered him a military-level issue.
Commissioner Gordon had been open about how he started working with Batman. "All I was back then was a good cop surviving. Batman picked me out of the few good ones to work with, right before he delivered one of the biggest mob bosses with evidence Falcone couldn't lawyer or bribe around." Gordon chuckled. "He snuck into my office and put what I thought was a gun to the back of my head to ask his questions. He told me later it was my stapler."
Clark frowned. "Batman wanted you afraid of him?"
"Actually, I don't think he wanted me to see him before his disguise was perfected. I chased him to the roof and all he had was the armor and a ski mask." The memory made Gordon chuckle again before he looked serious. "Gotham before Batman was all fear. Good people afraid of what bad things could be done to them, and dangerous people feeding off that fear to grab hold of power and money. What did they have to fear when they owned this town? They couldn't own Batman and when they feared him, we learned they could be defeated. It was a different time then. Nightwing and Batgirl are both more visible than Batman ever was."
Clark needed to talk about that with John Blake. Were they gung-ho about scaring people? He couldn't ask now. The flight attendant moved between the cockpit and the cabin and Blake was curled up in his reclined seat with a blanket over his head, asleep.
Lois' eyes landed on the lump too. "What job did you hire him for?"
Mr. Fox's smile warmed. "Security for Wayne Enterprises and prototype testing. Just doing my part to keep a Gotham hero fed without hurting his pride." Clark looked alarmed at him referring to Nightwing openly and Mr. Fox chuckled again. "You didn't recognize him? John Blake is one of the heroes of the Occupation. He saved Commissioner Gordon's life right at the beginning."
"He's the Blake of the bridge convoy, isn't he?" Lois asked.
"Yes, he is, but he doesn't like talking about that event much. And I'm sorry to derail such a delightful conversation, Ms. Lane, but it will be noon local time when we land and I'm an old man who needs some sleep." Mr. Fox leaned his chair back, and Lois snagged a blanket for herself while Clark powered down the laptop.
The flight attendant turned off the cabin lights and Clark closed his eyes. Tomorrow was Christmas. His mother would eat dinner with Pete Ross' family, like she had other years when Clark couldn't make it back to Smallville in time. But this year he put finding Batman and Wonder Woman ahead of her. He felt the urge to find her something nice in Italy, even though he had already mailed her Christmas present two weeks ago. It had been a rough few months. She deserved two Christmas presents.
His nightmares didn't visit during the flight. The flight attendant woke them two hours before landing with an offering of pastries and coffee. Blake slicked back his curly hair with his hands and winced at the sunlight forcing its way past the blinds. "So how far do we have to go after we land?" he asked.
"Where are you trying to go?" Mr. Fox stirred creamer into his coffee. "You never did say."
"Oh, Florence, Italy." Blake took his coffee black and almost drained his cup in one swallow.
"That's where we're landing." Mr. Fox grinned behind his coffee cup.
Lois swallowed her bite of éclair. "No way, really?"
"Do you have a street address? I have a car waiting at the airport, but I think going with you will be much more amusing than waiting at a hotel."
Clark glanced at Lois, who tilted her head, not knowing the answer to his unasked question.
Blake dug out his cell phone. "I'm getting the feeling that you gifted yourself a little payback for Christmas this year." He opened up a program and passed it to Mr. Fox.
Mr. Fox's grin widened. "Me? I was invited by a friend who relocated to Florence after years of summer vacations there. But I'll venture payback is your incentive for this jaunt."
"Payback is too petty," Blake said. "And by now I'm used to being disappointed. But there's safety in numbers from who were about to drop in on."
"Definitely," Mr. Fox answered as he studied the cell phone screen. "This is Ms. Gordon's handiwork, isn't it?"
"She turned it into an app."
"And she's still planning to be a librarian?"
Blake smirked. "To quote, nobody suspects the librarians."
Mr. Fox chuckled and returned the cell phone before asking Lois if she had ever been to Tuscany. Lois' only trip to Italy so far had been to Rome. He kept the conversation on what landmarks they should see while in town and in Italy until the plane landed and they transferred into a black town car.
The address took them through the outskirts of the city among villas, olive trees, and pastures to a walled villa. The driver spoke Italian to the black gates speaker and the car was permitted inside once he mentioned "Mr. Fox." The driveway curved around a privacy wall and ended in a small lean-to carport against the tower looming over the property. The wall opened before it reached the tower. Ivy spread from the tower to the arches of the loggia of the L-shaped house attached to the tower. The driver deposited their luggage in the paved yard before the loggia before giving Mr. Fox his card.
A man whose hair had gone snow white opened the largest wooden door under the loggia. "Lucius," he chided in a British accent instead of Italian. "I wouldn't have kept you at the hotel all day." He recognized Blake with a cheeky smile. "The trackers, Mr. Blake?"
"The trackers," Blake confirmed.
"This will show them they should have opted for a pair of rings." His smile vanished when he turned to Lois and Clark standing besides the luggage.
Lois took charge like she did when anyone gave her an opportunity. "Lois Lane and Clark Kent with--"
"The Daily Planet," he interrupted. "This household subscribes."
"It's okay," Blake said. "They're not here as reporters. Well, you're not," he added when Lois spluttered. "Plus Ms. Lane gets mad when you imply she can't keep a secret."
"You have not seen me mad."
"My partner is a redhead. I know of what I speak. This is Alfred Pennyworth."
"Just Alfred is fine. Come in from the cold." Clark and Blake picked up the luggage, but Alfred made them put it down in a formal living room next to a set of stairs. "Everyone is upstairs." He led the way up the garland-decorated staircase. Clark focused his senses and heard four more heartbeats; though one was beating so fast he wondered if medical help was needed. A woman's voice carried down the stairs. "It would do you good to leave the house for a while."
"You don't want to go alone to the Christmas concert. Do you really think I can stay awake through it?"
"How many times were you told to go to sleep last night? By everyone?"
Alfred cleared his throat as they climbed into a more informal living room on the second story. Roasting goose combined with scents of cinnamon and nutmeg. More pine garland, red and gold ribbons, and candy canes hung from the exposed wooden beams in the ceiling. A large sprig of mistletoe hung over the doorway right before the stairwell. The Christmas tree sat in the far corner between the fireplace and the windows and was decorated with delicate red and gold glass ornaments, but a pair of pink baby booties perched on a center branch. The entire Greek pantheon in foot-tall bronze statuettes held court on the mantle with tumblers of wine set in front of three of them. Four miniature Christmas trees decorated with peppermint candy ornaments sat on the low wall separating the kitchen from the living room. A man and a woman stood in the sitting area before the fireplace as their group trooped into the room.
The handsome man, about Lois' age, had gray already feathering into his brown hair. His face didn't betray his spike in heart beats that Clark almost missed as the man quickly calmed himself. The woman was beautiful like a Greek statue come to life, resplendent dressed in white denim pants and jacket. Raven curls spilled down from a loose ponytail onto her shoulders. Unlike her companion, curiosity furrowed her olive-toned brow.
"We have guests for Christmas, Master Wayne," Alfred said.
And Lois, unflappable in the face of aliens and the military Lois, volunteers to report in every trouble spot as soon as it develops Lois, her mouth fell open. "Bruce Wayne? You faked your death?"
Bruce looked at Mr. Fox, who sat himself in an armchair. "We're no longer operating under plausible deniability, Mr. Wayne?"
The look turned to Blake, who shrugged as he sat on the hearth. "I don't out people; it's rude."
Alfred ushered Lois and Clark toward the large couch. "Ms. Lois Lane, Mr. Clark Kent, would you like something to drink? Eggnog perhaps?"
"Yes, thank you," Clark answered.
"Not too much nog for me," Lois said.
"I understand perfectly." Alfred headed to the adjacent kitchen.
The woman raised her eyebrows at Bruce as she sat in the other armchair. "Sorry, Diana. This is Lucius Fox, president of Wayne Enterprises, and John Blake, I left Gotham in his hands. This is Diana Prince."
"Hello," she graced their group with a warm smile.
They echoed the hellos as Alfred returned with a tray of small glasses. Clark smelled the rum from Lois' glass from his seat. Bruce turned to Blake after he sat on the loveseat. "You're looking good. The incident at the Rockefeller Center didn't cause any harm."
"Poison Ivy did not wreck the Christmas tree." Blake pumped his fist. "And you're looking better than I feared considering you don't call or email."
"That's our fault," another woman's voice said from the doorway under the mistletoe. They turned to a brunette woman, still puffy from pregnancy, holding a newborn infant. "We insisted he take a vacation. Told him he was back on duty only if there was an alien invasion, and damn if that didn't happen."
"Zod was really inconsiderate that way," Lois said as the woman joined them.
A grin lifted the corners of Bruce's lips into his eyes. "Meet Helena Martha Kyle-Car-"
"WAYNE!" Both Alfred and the new woman yelled.
Diana laughed. "Will you relent already? Our little Amazon will have your name."
"That's not what her birth certificate says," Bruce argued.
"Yes, it does," the mother said. "Alfred brought the nurse back so I fixed it when you had to follow Helena to the nursery." She set Helena in Mr. Fox's arms.
He grinned with watering eyes. He looked up at the mother. "Seems to me Mr. Wayne got lucky several ways."
She blushed. "We both got lucky."
Bruce pulled her to sit next to him. "Selina, meet Lois Lane and Clark Kent."
Selina grinned. "I love your stories. Wait a minute, is this how you're planning to tell the world?"
"You and Alfred are the ones not happy with my perfectly legal alias," Bruce said.
"We'll deal with the ramifications of your resurrection later," Mr. Fox said as he rocked the infant. "She's beautiful. Is Helena your mother's name, Selina?"
She shook her head. "No, we wanted a Greek name for where she was conceived and one she can spell."
Diana pouted. "She would learn to spell Nikephoros."
"Okay, a Greek name I can spell." Selina leaned against Bruce. "Alfred got you over here, didn't he?"
"I was invited," Mr. Fox admitted. "But Mr. Blake and his party hitched a ride without checking where I was going."
"You were going to the right continent," Blake said.
Bruce frowned. "What happened? Is something wrong with you or your partner?"
Blake rotated his empty eggnog glass in his hands. "We need to talk about Batgirl before I leave, but this trip was a favor for Superman."
Lois set her glass on the side table. "Good, we're not ignoring the spandex-covered elephant in the room. He's Superman," she jerked her thumb at Clark, "you're Batman," she pointed to Bruce before focusing on Selina. "You must be Catwoman. I saw the kiss you gave Batman back in Uzbekistan. So that means you're Wonder Woman who carried Batman and Catwoman when you flew away."
"I thought you missed that. It wasn't in the story," Selina said.
"My editor took it out."
Diana sighed. "You're right, I did. The press calls me Wonder Woman."
Clark scooted to the edge of the couch. "Are you from Krypton like me?"
Her face fell and her blue eyes winced. "No, I'm Princess Diana of Themyscira, daughter of Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons and Zeus."