Disclaimer: The characters involved do not belong to me; they are property of DC/Time Warner. I borrowed them and am making no money off of them.
Operation: Birthday Cake
In his capacity as Bruce Wayne's butler, or, as he preferred to be called, gentleman's gentleman, Alfred Pennyworth filled many roles. He cooked, he cleaned, he decorated, he paid household bills, he kept track of Bruce Wayne's personal assets, he organized Bruce's social calendar, he bandaged wounds, he did research, he served as Batman's assistant and most importantly, he was a friend and confidant to the Dark Knight and his acolytes, whom Alfred simply referred to as “the young masters”. It was a good life; one Alfred usually enjoyed.
“Oh, fiddlesticks!” Of course, into every life, a little rain must fall.
“What's the matter, Alfred?” Bruce Wayne asked mildly, wandering to the kitchen.
“Nothing at all, sir,” Alfred replied hurriedly, gathering the mail together as he stood. “I trust you are looking for a midmorning snack? Perhaps an egg white omelette with honey-wheat toast?”
“Sounds great,” Bruce said, casually glancing back at the stack of mail as Alfred set about gathering the ingredients for one of his famous omelettes. Reaching over, he discreetly slid a postcard away from the rest of the pile.
Happy Birthday, Alfred Pennyworth! The Department of Motor Vehicles would like to remind you…
Bruce hid a grin and pushed the corner of the card back in line with the rest of the mail. “Hey, Alfred, I'll be in my office for a couple minutes.”
“Very good, sir!” Alfred called, his head buried in the massive refrigerator.
Bruce went to his office. He shut the door. And then he turned on the computer.
“Give him the day off,” Dick suggested.
“I try that every year,” Bruce told him, shoveling in some omelette. “And he leaves breakfast before he leaves, stops back twelve times because he's 'forgotten' to do something, like dust the picture frames, and is back in time to make dinner.”
“Why don't we make dinner?” Tim suggested.
Bruce and Dick stared at him through the three-way feed and burst out laughing.
“What's so funny?” Tim asked, annoyed at their response.
“The last time Bruce tried to cook,” Dick wheezed, “I was nine years old and Alfred banned him from the kitchen for a month after that! He wasn't allowed to even walk through the door!”
“Oh.” Tim wrinkled his forehead. “But you can cook. Or we could just make a cake. A cake can't be that hard.”
“We'll need to get him out of the house until dinner time,” Dick said. “You got that, Bruce?”
Three days later, after seeing Master Bruce safely off to the office, watering the plants, and giving the kitchen a thorough scrubbing, Alfred gathered the pertinent documents, locked up Stately Wayne Manor and headed for the DMV.
“Snake Eyes, this is Storm Shadow, do you copy, I repeat do you copy?”
“Storm Shadow, this is Snake Eyes. I copy.”
“The Butler has left the Nest. I repeat—“
“Dick, I heard you the first time.”
“Oh, ok.” Dick dropped his Batnoculars and spoke into the communicator on his wrist again. “Ok, you go ahead inside and find the recipes. I'll call Bruce.”
“Ok.” Across the driveway, Tim Drake put down his own Batnoculars and stood up. Six feet away, Dick Grayson did the same. Tim waved at Dick and let himself into the mansion. Dick flipped open a cellular phone and called Bruce's office.
“One of the boys needs me,” Bruce called to Maggie as he breezed by his secretary and clapped Lucius Fox on the shoulder.
“I'm never going to get that man to stand still, am I?” Lucius asked Maggie with a sigh.
“It's one of the boys,” she told him confidentially.
“It's always one of the boys,” Lucius grumbled. “Or worse, one of his girls.”
“Situation?” Bruce asked, loosening his tie as he hit the kitchen.
“Alfred has a lot of recipes,” Tim answered morosely. “Look at all the cake ones. What kind of cake should we make?”
“Chocolate,” Dick answered immediately. “Everyone likes chocolate.”
“You like chocolate,” Bruce pointed out. “Alfred likes English pound cake.”
“English pound cake?” Tim made a face. “What about carrot cake? Alfred would like that—it has vegetables in it.”
“For as long as I've known him, his favorite cake has been English pound cake,” Bruce shrugged.
The boys sighed.
“Ok,” Dick capitulated. “It's Alfred's favorite, and it is HIS birthday.”
“It doesn't have any icing,” Tim complained.
“Neither does Alfred,” Dick snickered, referring to their friend's thinning pate. “Timbo, get us some eggs.”
“Excuse me?” Alfred blinked at the young lady behind the counter.
“Sorry,” she said, not sounding the least bit sorry. “You gotta take the eye test.”
“I assure you, my vision is 20/20.”
“Look,” she said, cracking her gum, “It's the rule. When you turn—“
“Very well, very well,” Alfred interrupted, unwilling to have the woman's strident voice announce his age to everyone in the long and grouchy line.
“Great. Come 'round here and look in the little view-master thingy.”
“It says we're supposed to separate the eggs,” Tim read from the cookbook.
“Why?” Bruce wanted to know. “Dick, it says to separate the eggs.”
Dick was struggling to pound a huge meat thermometer into a frozen roast he had found tucked away. Being the one with the most experience cooking on his own, he'd be elected In Charge of Dinner. “I don't know,” he answered irritably. “Just sit them over on the counter.”
Bruce and Tim looked at each other and shrugged. Well, if they were on the counter, they were separated from the rest of the ingredients, which were spread all over the island worktable. Made sense. Tim set the bowl of eggs on the counter.
“Sift the flour,” Tim read. “Sift it? Through what?”
“I've got some screening in the Batcave,” Bruce mentioned thoughtfully.
“Yo, you've put nasty stuff through that,” Dick objected. “Use something else.”
“What's the difference?” Tim asked. “I mean, it's already all powdery and stuff.”
“Maybe it's already sifted,” Bruce theorized.
“Yeah!” Tim nodded, enthusiastically. “Leave it to Alfred to have already sifted all the flour.”
Bruce nodded in agreement. “Alfred always thinks ahead.”
Alfred Pennyworth was quite relieved when he was finally able to collect his new license and exit the Department of Motor Vehicles. He had just entered his vehicle and started the engine when the phone installed in the car began to ring. He lifted the receiver and stated his name.
“Alfred, it's Bruce,” the harried millionaire told him. “Can you do me a favor? I forgot um, to send some stuff to Barbara that she needed for research. Do you mind picking them up and dropping them off?”
“Not at all, sir,” Alfred answered, trying to hide his sigh. “What is it you require?”
Bruce shot a look at Tim, who was frowning over the ingredients list, once more. “Um, some dirt from the docks, and um, a new fan for her CPU, and hey, why don't you pick her up some flowers, while you're at it?”
“Flowers, sir?” Alfred echoed, although it was the rest of the list that was truly odd.
“Yeah, something pretty. She needs flowers, don't you think?”
“I give her flowers,” Dick protested.
Bruce waved him down, hoping Alfred had not heard him.
“Oh, absolutely, sir. Anything for Miss Gordon.”
“Great, thanks, Alfred.” Bruce hung up and let out a sigh. “I'm good at lying,” he protested. “I'm excellent at lying. But I absolutely can't lie to Alfred!”
“No one can,” Dick sighed, looking over Tim's shoulder. “I don't know, Tim, it just says yolks. I guess you just put in the yolks.”
“Well, what do I do with the whites? Just leave 'em there?”
“Um…” Dick scanned the cookbook. “No, look, here you whip them until stiff and then mix them in.”
“Oh…ok, then.” Tim eyed the bowl of eggs, the yellow yolks floating on top of the albumen. “I guess I just pick them out,” he said, dipping his hand into the bowl and scooping out a ball of yolk.”
“Use a spoon or something,” Dick suggested, as Tim left a trail of egg white from the counter to the island.
“Not the good silver,” Bruce said automatically.
“I found a melon baller,” Dick offered.
“That'll work,” Tim ascertained, using the too-small object to scoop up yolks. One broke. “Whoops.”
“Um, thank you, Alfred,” Barbara said, studying her 'gifts'. “The flowers are beautiful. And um, the other stuff is…just what I need.” She didn't know what Bruce was trying to pull on Alfred, but she would try to play along.
“What's that smell?”
Our intrepid heroes rushed the kitchen, waving away the black smoke that billowed from the stove. Dick grabbed a potholder shaped like a fish and yanked the over door open. More smoke billowed out. Tim crawled up on the counter and turned the dial from Broil to Off.
“The roast's on fire!” Dick yelled.
“I've got the extinguisher.” Bruce came up behind them and sprayed the roast liberally with foam.
“I think the roast is done,” Tim said, as the three men stared in dismay at the hunk of black meat.
“At least the cake wasn't in there,” Dick said, although his expression showed that this was of little comfort. “Hey…” His face settled into a frown as he saw the temperature gauge. “Why is that set to…500?”
“I thought…well, maybe if I turned it up, it would cook a little faster.”
“Just a moment, please,” Barbara said to Alfred. “That's the Oracle line. I have to get this.”
“Of course, Miss Gordon.”
“Oracle, this is Arsenal, requesting private communication.”
Barbara glanced back at Alfred who discreetly made himself scarce and put on her headset. “Go ahead, Arsenal.”
“Hey, just wanted to make sure the butler was out of earshot,” Roy Harper returned. “Batboy just called me and wanted me to pass on the message—they need you to keep Alfred at your place for about an hour. Something about a birthday dinner getting burnt up, and having to order gourmet takeout.”
Babs smiled. So this is what all the fuss was about. “Thanks, 'Speedy', I'll do my best.”
“Thank YOU, babe. Arsenal out.”
As she cut the connection, Barbara wondered how she was ever going to delay Alfred for an hour.
“Alfred?” she asked, rolling into the next room. “Could you help me…with a recipe that's been giving me trouble?”
“Here's a tip, thanks a bunch,” Bruce said to the gourmet shop delivery boy, handing him a hundred dollar bill.
“Whoa!” the kid said, his eyes widening.
“It's worth it, trust me,” Bruce sighed. “Now scram, I don't want Alfred to see the truck.”
“No problem, man.”
Dick and Tim already had the table set and converged on Bruce, taking bags from his hands and piling food on the table.
“Bags in the kitchen,” Bruce ordered, referring to the once-spotless refuge that now resembled a war zone.
The boys quickly threw the evidence of delivery with the rest of the trash and ducked into the living room just as Alfred walked into the room.
“My word!” he exclaimed, taking in the dazzling array of food, china, silver, and a slightly crispy English pound cake.
“We wanted to give you the day off, but we knew you'd never stand for it,” Bruce explained. “So we decided that since you take care of us so well, we would take care of you one day and make you a birthday dinner.”
“And a cake,” Tim spoke up. We separated the eggs and everything.”
“My word!” A smile crept across Alfred's face. “What an unexpected surprise!” He regarded the spread before him. “I think I'll just go wash up before I sit down,” he said, turning toward the door to the kitchen, where the take-out boxes, the piles of flour and egg shells, and the carcass of the first roast lay sprawled indiscriminately across tables and counters.
Three sets of blue eyes exchanged horrified looks. Three highly trained bodies leapt for the door.
“NOT THE KITCHEN!!!”