Disclaimer: I don't own any of these guys. Warner Bros./DC Comics does
(do?). I just decided to borrow them to cheer up a friend.
Rated PG (13) for some language
Pride and Ice Cream (or Some Things are Easier to Swallow than Others)
By Chicago"Of course, Miss Barbara. My disagreement with Master Bruce never extended to the rest of the family. By all means, stop by."
"Umm," Babs hesitated, "where are you?"
"Oh!" Alfred actually chuckled over the phone. "I've taken a position at Brentwood Academy looking after one of the young masters here. After the Manor, it feels like a vacation."
"I can imagine. You sure you don't mind-?"
"Not at all. It will be nice to have company."
"I'm pretty grumpy, Alfred," Babs warned.
"Miss Barbara, I believe I have handled grumpy before."
Babs couldn't help it. She laughed. Then she got directions and hung up with a sigh. She wheeled into her war room for one final check of her messages, trying hard to ignore the adamant "off line" blinking on one screen. She warned the Cave that she was going out, then headed down to the garage.
The drive to Brentwood was uneventful - almost pleasant. Alfred's directions were impeccable; she found his address easily on the sprawling campus. He greeted her warmly, leading her to a cozily appointed apartment. "I've prepared a spot of tea..."
"So," Babs asked as she spooned fresh cream and strawberry preserves onto her scone, "you get to babysit one of Gotham's junior money bags?"
"I've a good share of experience in that department," Alfred reminded her, a hint of humor in his tone.
"Is he a spoiled brat?"
"Master Timothy? Not at all. Quite a studious lad, actually. You would like him."
"You always see the good in people, Alfred."
"Miss Barbara, you didn't come to talk about me."
Babs sighed and set down her half-eaten scone. "I had a fight with one of my operatives."
"Oh my. And not just any operative to gauge by your tone."
"Yeah. She's - she's become my friend -"
"She. So not Master Dick, then."
Babs gave Alfred a half annoyed look. "I do have friends other than Dick. And no, it's not Dick. Although give me a minute or two on line with him and I'm sure I can piss him off, too."
"Miss Barbara, you exaggerate."
Babs shifted the scone on her plate. "No. I was stupid. Let my pride get the better of me, was arrogant and demanding."
"Ah, the monster pride. You'll need to swallow that and apologize, lest you appear too much like our mutual friend."
"I know. I -"
"Hey, Alfie, you think -"
Alfred and Babs turned to the source of this voice, a young man rounding the corner into the kitchen. He froze when he saw Babs.
"Hello, Master Timothy. I-"
"What is this? Did he tell EVERYONE? Here Tim, you're doing such a good job I'll just spill all your secrets to anyone who happens to ask?"
Babs blinked. "Umm, maybe this is a bad time-"
"No, Miss Barbara stay here. Master Timothy appears to have forgotten his manners," Alfred said sternly. "Master Timothy, this is Miss Barbara, a dear friend whom I met through my previous employer. I would thank you to greet her like a proper gentleman."
Tim stared at Alfred, then back at Babs. "So you're here - to see Alfred?"
Babs nodded, feeling faintly bewildered.
Tim pulled out a chair and slumped his head down on the table with a groan. "I'm sorry, Babs, I just thought -"
Alfred cleared his throat pointedly. "Master Timothy."
Tim looked up to see a smile of growing recognition on Babs' face, and he smacked his forehead. "So I go and blow it. Man - "
"It's okay, Timothy," Babs comforted. "I-"
"Tim," Tim corrected. He held out his hand. "Tim Drake. I'm pleased to finally meet you, Barbara."
Barbara accepted his handshake. "Likewise. But it sounds like you're having a rough day."
"I'll make some more tea," Alfred decided.
Tim bit his lip and stared at the table top. "How do you deal with him?"
"Alfred?" Babs teased gently. "I just eat his scones and bore him with stories of my sad life."
"You know who I mean."
"The grumpmeister. He on your case? You want me to bitchslap him into next week for you?"
Two identically confused expressions blinked back at her. Babs heaved an internal sigh. She missed Dinah. "Never mind."
"He TOLD the Spoiler who I was. Just - hi Steph, go talk to Tim."
"He did what, Master Timothy?"
"I just couldn't believe he'd do that. It wasn't his decision to make! And he's acting like it's all okay -"
"Mr. Selfish strikes again," Babs muttered.
"Well, he said he was worried -"
"I must agree with Miss Barbara on this one," Alfred interjected. "It would do him no harm save to his pride to pick up the phone and call me."
Babs started. "That's right, which reminds me - Alfred thanks for tea, but I'm going to have to go. Tim, call Dick. He should be off shift in another half hour or so."
"Memorized his schedule, have you?" Tim teased, looking up from his dejected slump.
Babs stuck her tongue out at him. "He emailed it to me - photographic memory."
"You sure you don't want to stay, Miss Barbara?"
"Alfred, I need to go eat some humble pie. I'll be home later, Tim, if you want to talk."
"Sure, Babs. I'm glad we finally met, even if it wasn't the best circumstances."
"Me, too. Bye, Tim. Bye, Alfred."
The desk guard looked at her skeptically.
Babs reached into the bag in the back of her chair and pulled out a pint of ice cream. "See? Groceries. Remind her that she ordered New York Super Fudge Chunk."
The guard reached for the phone. "Miss Lance? I've got a grocery delivery for you here. ... That's what I thought, but she insists you ordered ice cream. ... What kind?" The guard looked at Babs again, who helpfully held up the pint so he could read the label. "New York Sup - yeah, that's it. So should I send her away? Okay, I'll send her up. ...Spoons. Got it."
The guard hung up the phone and looked at Babs curiously. "She says to go on up. And she's got the spoons waiting."
Babs felt herself smile as she thanked the guard and wheeled to the elevator. Alfred was great, and Tim was real sweet, and Dick was just - well, he was Dick. But all the Batboys in the world could not replace one best friend.