As a group, Gothamites are not typically fond of Hallmark holidays. Any celebration aside from Christmas—actually, sometimes including Christmas—ends up getting pushed aside in favour of whatever crisis is currently terrorising the city.
But this Sunday is quiet. This entire week has been quiet. Incidentally, there has been no gang warfare, nor have there been any one-hit-wonder supervillains, or chemical threats, or hospitals exploding. Aside from Gotham’s customary background noise of petty battery and massive tax fraud, there hasn’t been any trouble in town at all. So for once, folks have space in their brains to think about the little things.
Like Father’s Day.
Bruce has not celebrated Father’s Day since he was thirteen years old, for reasons that are brutally obvious.
But each year, he finds himself pussyfooting about the holiday. He thinks and thinks about giving Alfred a card, or cooking him a Shephard’s pie, or sitting down and plainly telling him what he means to him. And every year he bails, the same strange emotion stifling him. He has never let himself address the feeling.
By now, Bruce is eighteen years old. He’s fought, and trained, and killed. So maybe he could stand to spend ten minutes thinking about his feelings.
As it turns out, he only needs one. The root of the issue can be whittled down to two twin emotions.
Firstly, the guilt of loving Alfred as much as Thomas—or possibly, he concedes with a wince, more. And secondly, the preemptive shame that maybe he’s not worthy of Alfred.
He could easily let the conflict fester within him. That is his default. But again, he gives it a couple minutes thought, and pacifies himself determinedly with logic... Neither of his worries hold any actual credence.
So Bruce lets it all go.
That’s how he finds himself poring over a blank Father’s Day card with a Montblanc pen on Saturday afternoon, the day before the holiday itself. He agonises over what to write. There’s no way to express his gratitude for what Alfred has done for him.
Writing the card actually takes up more time than psychoanalysing himself had. He clutches the fancy pen so tightly and distractedly that the ink leaks onto his hand, soaking his fingers black. His impulse is to fuss about the mess, but he ends up pausing for an uncanny moment to admire how the ink complements his turtleneck and jacket. Maybe he ought to start wearing black gloves when he scopes Gotham at night.
The next day, with his fingers still ink-stained, Bruce hands the signed card over to Alfred, trying to ignore the lump in his throat as he does so.
”It’s Father’s Day,” Bruce says uselessly.
Startled at the gesture, Alfred takes the envelope and regards Bruce. His expression turns soft and painfully paternal. Then he tears open the envelope with blunt fingers, tugging at the paper until he can get at the card within. He looks warm as he sees the front of the card, his eyes sparkling. “Master Bruce,” he says tenderly, “This is brilliant.”
It eases Bruce’s mind to see that Alfred appreciates the picture, especially since he’d gone to a good deal of trouble to find one so specific—a vintage print of Alfred’s favourite car, a 1937 Bentley saloon, with a Father’s Day message overlayed on top.
Alfred likes the front of the card, then. But he hasn’t yet seen the message inside.
Now, Bruce has a cursory awareness of his own cognitive distortions and he knows it’s irrational to worry, but the primary thought in his head right now is that Alfred won’t like the inscription. That he will frown, or scorn Bruce, or look at him with uncaring blankness. Bruce had not expected to be so tense about this.
Alfred opens the card, skims the words, and smiles. As it turns out, it’s the best thing Bruce could ever have thought to say.
Sorry your son is a goth.
With love and warmth, Bruce Thomas Wayne‘
Across town in the Van Dahl manor, Oswald is sitting primly at the breakfast table eating a blackberry and Brie croissant when there’s a knock at the door.
Or rather, a knock at the doorway.
The kitchen door is already open and Martin is standing there silently, looking at Oswald with those overly-perceptive eyes.
“Martin,” Oswald hums, setting his croissant down on the plate. “Are you hungry? Olga can make you egg and soldiers if you’d like. Or I think Ed will be dressed in a minute, if you can wait. I know his eggs are your favourite.”
Martin doesn’t sign a response. With a furtive look in his eye, he walks up to Oswald until he comes to a halt next to him. There, he stands up straight in his blue button-up and childsized Chanel sweater vest. Martin is exceptionally smartly dressed today, Oswald notes with pride, although the prissy perfectionist in him only wishes that Martin was wearing black, too.
It doesn’t really register to Oswald why Martin is acting so ceremoniously until Martin nods pointedly, and signs, “Happy Father’s Day.”
Oswald sobers, dumbfounded. For a moment he’s tempted to look over his shoulder, wondering flickeringly if Martin might be talking to someone else. Anyone. Olga, even. But the boy’s gaze is fixed straight on Oswald, not wavering for a second. There’s something like nervousness behind Martin’s eyes, and a piece of Oswald breaks clean in half at the sight.
“Thank you,” Oswald says, finding his voice damp. The blackberry compote that lingers tartly in the back of his mouth suddenly tastes sweet and mild.
Martin gives a formal nod. He breaks eye contact for a moment, then produces an envelope from behind his back. With his chin tilted up, he presents the envelope to Oswald, who all but restrains himself from snatching the thing from Martin’s grasp.
He accepts the envelope with determined grace instead, then turns it over in his hands, transfixed. He can already tell that it’s made from high quality paper, presumably lifted straight from his own cache of fancy stationery, and he feels another spark of pride that Martin managed to steal from him unnoticed. He opens the envelope, and inside finds an understated but stylish card, dark purple all over. It’s lovely.
Now, the funny thing is, Oswald never dreamed of having children. He hadn’t bothered. But with Martin standing primly in front of him and with this card clutched in his hands, he feels as if he‘s been waiting for this moment his entire life. (He almost feels bad that Edward is missing this—but at the same time, he wants this just for himself, something that he can lock up and treasure in his heart.)
Oswald finally unfolds the card, and reads the beautiful words within.
Once he has reread it (and then re-reread it several more times for good measure), he blinks the tears from his eyes, and sets the card lovingly on the table next to his carelessly abandoned croissant. He takes a restoring inward breath, then exhales, and holds his arms out.
Without hesitation, Martin throws himself artlessly at Oswald and squeezes him, giving Oswald a face full of pastel blue sweater. Once Oswald has recovered the ability to breathe unobstructed, he rests his hands on Martin’s small shoulders and sighs. “My dear son,” he says, his voice brimming with warmth. He glances over at the card. “I’ll treasure those words for all time.”
Martin smiles, breaking the hug to sign at Oswald: “They came from my heart.” And indeed they had.
’Happy Father’s Day, Ozzie.
Sorry your son isn’t a goth :(
Love from Martin’