Author's Note: For those of you sweating out these dog days of summer, here's a little Christmas tale to stem some of the sweltering heat that is currently plaguing us. Oh, and I want to thank R.J. Croxton of Untold Tales for the suggestion that my inept crooks try to go straight.:)--Syl

Summary: Two ex-cons learn the meaning of Christmas.

Disclaimer: All the characters (except Twitchy and Jack) are owned by DC Comics and Time/Warner; this is an original story that does not intend to infringe on their copyright. Feedback is welcome!

Copyright: August 2000

Somebody Up There Hates Me!
By Syl Francis

The shoppers rushed hurriedly through the crowded Gotham streets. The weather report was snow, snow, and more snow. It seemed as if the great Snow God had unleashed its fury on the good citizens of Gotham City and was not about to relent just yet.

Snow banks piled along the roadways made it almost impossible for Christmas shoppers to make their way through the slippery, snow-clogged sidewalks. Parking was out of the question.

"Look at that one, Alfred!" Dick shouted, laughing in a high-pitched childish giggle. He pointed at a car that had been literally buried under a mountain of white by overzealous snowplow operators. "I don't think he'll be able to get out before Spring."

"Quite so, Master Dick," Alfred said drolly. "We're quite lucky that we have a permanent parking space under the Wayne Enterprises building. Others must make do, apparently."

"Alfred, why do we have to go to the bank, anyway?" Dick asked. "I thought you did all of the banking--how did you put it?--online?"

"Indeed I do, young sir," Alfred agreed. "However, today I'm here to inventory the safety deposit boxes that Master Bruce maintains here. I'm afraid that that is a job that must be done in person."

"Really?" Dick asked excitedly. "Do you know what kind of vault the bank has? A Remington or a Mosby?"

"I am quite sure that I do not have that information readily available, Master Dick," Alfred said. "But perhaps, if we are on our best behavior, one of the bank clerks might be persuaded to demonstrate the intricacies of the bank's security system."

In the previous month, the Dynamic Duo investigated a string of bank robberies that plagued Gotham City. This led to Dick's sudden interest in all matters of physical security. Alfred caught him crawling around the house on hands and knees with a large magnifying glass looking for weaknesses in the Wayne Manor security system.

So far, the junior sleuth had managed to pick more locked doors and cabinets than Alfred thought wise. In fact, Alfred finally put his foot down when Dick broke into the wine cellar, and Alfred found him toasting his victory with his newfound cache of 'grape juice.'

Alfred rolled his eyes at the memory. The boy's seemingly boundless energy was the equivalent of a hurricane gale-force wind, sweeping out the stale, stodgy air within the old manor. Alfred watched with tolerant amusement as the youngster, arms out on either side in simulation of airplane wings, deliberately slid down the sidewalk just for the pure fun of it.

"A most welcome, bright disturbance into our dark existence," he murmured.

A Christmas display in a store window caught Dick's attention, and he hurried to it. "Whoa! Alfred, look at that! We'll have to show it to Bruce when he gets back from Japan tomorrow!"

Alfred walked up and stood next to Dick, placing his warm, gloved hand on the excited boy's shoulder.

"Yes, Master Dick," he said quietly. "We shall indeed."

As Dick eagerly pointed out the different miniature landmarks of the Christmas Town, Alfred smiled down at him. Dick's first Christmas without his parents was a milestone that had worried both him and the boy's new guardian.

Now, watching Dick's face flushed with excitement, hope began to dawn inside Alfred. Perhaps, the young master was going to be all right, after all.

"Oh, lookit that, Jack!" Twitchy called out, pointing excitedly at a Christmas window display they were passing. "It's a bee-yoo-ti-fool Winter Wonderland!"

"Look around, Twitchy," Jack growled. "We're *living* in a Winter Wonderland. If the Parole Board planned to let us out of Blackgate, couldn't they have at least waited for Spring? *No*! They let us out in the middle of the Blizzard of the Century! Some Christmas--Bah! Humbug!"

"Awwww...come on, Jack," Twitchy said disappointedly. "When are you gonna get in the Christmas spirit? We was given parole, weren't we? And Ma's life sentence was commuted to twenty years. With good behavior, she'll probably be eligible for parole in another couple of years, and we'll all be together again." Twitchy looked at his brother with hope. "Our guardian angel has been looking out for us this Christmas. Somebody up there must really *like* us!"

Jack glowered at his younger brother. "Guardian angel? Bah! Humbug! If we have a Guardian angel, you'll probably find him passed out in some alley on skid row."

"Jack!" Twitchy gasped in shock at his brother's irreverence. "Santa, he didn't mean that, honest," he added, praying fervently.

Jack jammed his ungloved hands in the pockets of his thin jacket and stomped away, slipping several times on the icy sidewalk. "God, what did I do to deserve this?" he muttered. A few steps later, he added, "Okay, but *besides* that!"

Twitchy sighed. "Sheesh! Talk about a Grinch," he said under his breath. Spotting an elderly gentleman with a dark-haired, laughing boy enjoying the Christmas window display, Twitchy suddenly felt better.

"What Jack needs is a nice Christmas gift--" he began, and stopped. His eyes popped open. He felt his heart start hammering his chest. He began hyper-ventilating and couldn't catch his breath. He opened his mouth to call his brother, but no sound would come out.

Gathering his wits about him, Twitchy ducked into the nearest doorway, and looked back at the well-dressed gentleman and little boy.

"It's *him*," he whispered, biting his nails. "Superman, Jr.!" Twitchy gaped a moment longer. Realizing that they were turning towards him, he pulled his stocking cap down lower over his eyes, and hurried after Jack, slipping and sliding on the icy sidewalk.

"Jack!" he hissed, catching up awkwardly, almost losing his footing at the last moment. He grabbed Jack for support and almost brought them both down. Fortunately, Jack managed to maintain his balance and somehow kept them both from falling.

"What's the matter with you, Twitchy?" Jack yelled. "You trying to get us both killed?"

In response, Twitchy clapped his hand over Jack's mouth and dragged him to the next available doorway. Seeing that it was a revolving door, Twitchy lifted his much smaller (and quite surprised, not to mention irritated) older brother and carried him bodily inside.

Before Jack could protest, Twitchy saw to his shocked dismay that the gentleman and Superman, Jr. were entering the bank. Grabbing Jack by the shirtsleeves, Twitchy pulled him to a customer convenience counter. There he took out a couple of deposit slips, handed his brother a pen, and pretended to be filling one out.

Twitchy made meaningful faces at Jack, squinting, staring pointedly, jerking his head in the general direction of the Preferred Customer service cubicles. In his mind, he was practically screaming, "IT'S THEM!! BE CAREFUL!!"

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Watching Twitchy's facial gyrations with a fascination bordering on fright, Jack had no idea what was running through his brother's mind. Indeed, he concluded that Twitchy had finally gone over the edge.

Deciding that humoring his baby brother was the lesser of two evils, Jack picked up the pen and pretended to be filling out a deposit slip. "You've really lost it this time, Twitchy," he muttered. "And when we get home, I'm signing the commitment papers." He sighed. "Wherever 'home' is," he added emptily.

The overhead lights caught and brilliantly reflected off of a finely chiseled crystalline angel topping the giant Christmas tree in the bank lobby.

"What are *you* lookin' at?" he growled.

"Go on," Alfred said to his anxiously waiting charge. Smiling broadly, Dick took off towards the security area where the safety deposit boxes were kept.

Twitchy's nervous eyes followed the boy. Glancing over his shoulder, Twitchy scowled when he saw the well-dressed gentleman sit down with a Bank Vice President.

"Jack, I think it's safe to--"

"*Get down*!!"

"*Everybody on the floor*!"

"*Freeze* or die, fatso!"

When the first harsh orders were shouted out, Twitchy and Jack dived for cover underneath the customer convenience table where they'd been standing.

"It's a bank robbery!" Twitchy hissed.

"Thanks, bro. I never would've figured it out if you hadn't told me," Jack replied irritated, slapping his brother.

"*Ow*!" Twitchy protested. He gave Jack his usual hurt look. "Jack, it's Christmas," he mouthed, pointing at a Santa poster.

Jack covered his eyes and shook his head. "How many times to I gotta tell you, Twitchy? There ain't no such thing as Santa Cl--"

"Please don't hurt us!" a man shouted.

"I said '*Get down*' and '*Shut up*!" the gunman screamed, shooting at a Nativity scene for emphasis. The crowd of customers and bank employees screamed in terror. The Christmas tree toppled dangerously, several decorations falling to the floor below.

Twitchy ducked under Jack's protective arms. "Amateurs," Jack muttered in disgust. "The whole GCPD is probably on its way, and they're playing stupid games. Papa woulda had the money already and been gone by now."

"Yeah, Papa woulda been halfway to Haven County by now," Twitchy agreed shakily, eagerly showing his brother how unimpressed he was by the robbers' technique.

"Quiet!" Jack said, jabbing his brother in the ribs. "Remember what Papa always used to say. Never insult a guy with a loaded gun."

"But you said--"

"Never mind what I said," Jack hissed, refraining from punching his brother. "Remember what Papa said." Twitchy nodded solemnly. Papa had been the best in his days. He'd even made the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List, a source of deep family pride.

From their location under the table, all the brothers could see were a lot of bodies lying in various positions on the floor, with several legs running around, jumping over the prostrate forms.

"Junkyard! Check around. Make sure no one's being cute!"

"Gotcha!" Junkyard answered.

Twitchy sucked in a deep breath. Junkyard took off in the same direction as Superman, Jr. "He'll hurt him!" he said in a loud whisper. "Jack, we've gotta help him!"

"What--? Help who?" Jack's eyes widened in shock as he saw his brother suddenly start crawling towards the security area. "Twitchy! Come back here! Have you gone nuts?"

Twitchy kept going, however. Jack looked desperately around him, trying to find any of the bank robbers. He was in a panic. These bozos were amateurs and this made them doubly dangerous.

Taking one more look around, Jack started crawling after his brother's retreating backside.

As soon as they'd heard the shouts and screams coming from the front lobby, Dick and the nice safety deposit box lady hid behind her customer service counter. She put her finger over his lips and pressed the emergency call button.

Dick nodded, his eyes like wide blue saucers. He had to get away somehow and try to stop the bank robbery. He was Robin, the Boy Wonder, after all. Wasn't he? And Alfred! He was out there by himself. Making up his mind, Dick was forced to change it in the next instant.

Sarah, the nice bank clerk who'd befriended him so easily and offered to give him a tour of the vault as soon as Alfred finished his business with the branch vice president, suddenly gasped in a sharp intake of breath. She grabbed him by the arm and squeezed so hard she was hurting him.

He looked at her in alarm. "What is it?" he mouthed.

"My baby," she whispered. "I think he's decided to pick now to be born." If it were possible for Dick's eyes to grow even bigger, they would have.

"Now?" he asked, looking around in a panic. "You can't! This is a bank robbery. You can't have a baby during a bank robbery!"

"I'm afraid babies don't normally pick the most convenient of times to be born," she said, gasping between words. She smiled tremulously and patted him gently on the cheek. "You'll find out more about these things later. I promise."

A sudden noise above them made them both look.

"Well, lookit here. What do you know. A mommy and her little boy." He saw the glowing silent alarm button and his eyes turned ugly. He aimed his even uglier weapon at Sarah. "You shouldn't have done that lady. Now your kid is never going to get to meet his baby brother."

He started to squeeze the trigger.

"*No*!" Dick yelled, throwing himself at the gunman, deflecting the weapon as it fired. The robber grabbed Dick by the hair and threw him against Sarah. She held him to her, her arms encircling him protectively.

"You'll be following her, kid!" he growled, bringing the weapon to bear.

Dick twisted within Sarah's hold and turned around, hugging her tightly, trying to shield her with his own body. He squeezed his eyes tight, waiting for the gun to go off.

The sharp report of the 9mm Beretta made him jerk suddenly. Sarah screamed.

Twitchy saw the gunman taking aim. Not stopping to think about the consequences, he leaped at the armed man, knocking the gun out of his hand.

"Run, kid!" he yelled. Twitchy was suddenly struggling with the bank robber, and finding himself on the losing end. His opponent connected solidly with a right hook to the chin. Twitchy started going down but fought to keep his feet.

Suddenly, a moving train barreled into them. Somewhere in the background, a woman was screaming.

"My baby! Please, someone help me! I don't want to lose my baby!"

"Twitchy! Get up, bro! You've gotta help the lady," Jack urged. "I'll keep this loser busy."

Twitchy nodded, his mind still in a daze. He heard Jack yelling at the robber in that Special Voice he used when he wanted to scare others into doing what he wanted them to do.

"So, you like to scare pregnant dames and little boys, do you?" Jack growled. "Let's see how you do against someone your own size."

Twitchy smiled nervously, the familiar cold chill gripping the lower half of his abdomen. Jack rarely used that Special Voice on him, but when he did, you can bet Twitchy jumped.

Sarah was breathing rapidly, trying to regulate her breathing like she'd been taught in her birthing classes.

"Please, Sarah," Dick pleaded near tears, forgetting that a superhero wasn't supposed to cry. "You just *can't* have your baby right now. I don't know what to do."

"Just hold my hand, Dicky," she gasped. Dick nodded. He could feel the perspiration running down his forehead.

"Kid," Twitchy said, laying his hand on Dick's shoulder. "We've gotta get your Ma outta here. Ma'am, is there a safe place we can take you?"

"I--" Sarah screamed suddenly. "No! Please, not now!" She painfully squeezed Dick's hand. He grimaced at the pain, but didn't cry out. He looked helplessly at Twitchy.

"What should we do?" Dick asked.

Twitchy averted his eyes instantly. He couldn't let the boy recognize him. The sounds of fighting behind them galvanized Twitchy into action. He hurriedly lifted the pregnant woman, and looking around desperately he spotted the vault, noting its heavy-gauged steel door.

"This way, kid," he said. Dick saw what Twitchy intended and nodded, following him into the vault. It was a risky move, but at the moment it seemed the lesser of two evils.

When the vault door closed behind them with a resounding clang, Dick felt a momentary stab of fear.

"I hope," he muttered.


Gordon impatiently looked around, trying to find the source of Bullock's voice. The GCPD had responded to the silent alarm and stopped the robbery. However, at least two bank robbers were still missing, as was a large amount of the loot. Almost forty-five minutes had passed since they'd received the alarm.

Gordon finally spotted Bullock. The rumpled police lieutenant was supporting Alfred by the elbow. Alfred meanwhile was holding a bloody handkerchief to his temple.

"Alfred!" Gordon called out worriedly, hurrying to him. "Montoya! Get an EMT over here!" Montoya nodded and rushed off.

Alfred waved him off in a failed attempt to maintain his dignity. "I'll be quite all right, sir," he managed. "But Master Dick. Where is the young master? I can't seem to find him." Alfred wobbled slightly and Gordon immediately steered him to a seat.

"Was Dick here with you?" Gordon asked.

"Yes, sir. He was curious about the bank vault." He laughed slightly. "You know how boys can be." Alfred paused, swallowing. "He went on ahead to the security area where the safety deposit boxes are kept."

"Bullock, have it checked out," Gordon said.

"On it, Commish." Bullock turned and called out, "Lopez! Panopoulos! With me!" As soon as Bullock and his officers left, Montoya arrived with the emergency medical technician.

A few minutes later, Lopez was back. "Commissioner, we got two injured in the secure area. Gunshot wounds."

"My word!" Alfred whispered. About to follow after them, Alfred's eye caught the Christmas treetop angel lying broken on the floor, the head still intact. The angel's beatific expression was meant to offer solace to the troubled heart, but all Alfred felt was fear.

"Please. Not now. Don't take him from us."

"Ma'am, you're gonna have to help us," Twitchy said soothingly. "I never done this before. And, well, I don't think your little boy here has either."

Despite her circumstances, Sarah still had the presence of mind to answer. "Dicky's not my little boy," she gasped, her eyes tightly shut, squeezing Dick's hand. Her face bright with a soft sheen of perspiration, she smiled suddenly.

"But if I have a little boy, I hope he grows up to be just like him." She opened her eyes momentarily and held Dick's. He smiled sadly in response. His gaze took in both adults.

"I don't have a mother," he said softly. "She got killed."

"Oh, Dicky," Sarah said, her eyes filled with pain. "I'm so sorry, sweetie."

"She and my dad are both in heaven," he said. Looking suddenly lost, he whispered, "I've never had a Christmas without them before." Feeling the tears about to start, he bit his lower lip.

Before Sarah could take him in her arms, Twitchy beat her to it. Awkwardly hugging the boy to him, Twitchy held him in his arms for a moment.

"I'm really sorry, kid," he said. "I lost my Papa when I was just a little older'n you, but I got Ma and my brother, Jack. He's a little gruff sometimes, but he loves me and takes care of me."

Dick nodded, wiping his eyes. "Bruce and Alfred take care of me," he said. "I know they love me, but--" He stopped, unsure how to explain how he felt without sounding like a crybaby.

"But it's not the same," Sarah finished for him. He nodded, feeling as if he were betraying Bruce and Alfred. "Give it time, Dick. It may never *be* the same," she said. "But it'll be different in a nice way, because--"

"--Because Bruce and Alfred are different in a nice way, too?" Dick asked. Sarah nodded. All three smiled, sharing in the sudden feeling of mutual camaraderie.

Sarah suddenly gasped in pain, breaking the moment.

"I-think-it's-time--!" she got out through clenched teeth.

Continue To Chapter Two

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