Damian’s eyes looked unusually pink and he was holding a leaflet with an image on it of what appeared to be a large, fluffy, photoshopped bird. If he were not Damian, Bruce Wayne would have asked him if he had been crying and if he was alright.
“I would like to attend this year’s League of Assassins summit with Mother.”
“But the summit takes place over Thanksgiving,” said Bruce, puzzled.
“We kill turkeys for Thanksgiving.”
“I don’t understand,” said Bruce. “I thought we’d talked about this already. We eat meat, and you’re vegetarian. We all accept each other.”
“It is different. Thanksgiving is an entire day dedicated to the killing and consumption of turkeys. I do not want to be in the country.”
Damian sniffed and gave his father a fierce look. His green eyes started to water.
“I see,” said Bruce, although he did not. He sighed.
“Can we talk about this later, Damian? I have a Justice League telecon coming up in about fifteen minutes, and I’m really not ready for it yet.”
Lois Lane Kent wheeled the red shopping cart along the aisle. She pulled her woolly hat a bit lower on her forehead. It was flattering when people recognized her now that the new Planet Media show was taking off, she had to admit, but she would prefer it not to happen over a huge freezer full of frozen turkeys or in the company of the unkempt-looking boy swinging off the end of the cart with a tattered schoolbag hanging off one shoulder.
“Gross,” said Jon. He made a dramatic gagging sound.
“How about this one?”
“I think we’ll get this turkey.”
“Even, even more gross,”
“Jon, what is the matter with you today?”
“I hate turkey. And green beans. Yuck. Thanksgiving food is awful. Why can’t we have fried chicken and tater tots instead?”
“Because it’s Thanksgiving,” said Lois.
She bestowed a celestial smile on her only son, the same smile that Clark hated and that she was becoming accustomed to flashing around the newsroom after a broadcast that had gone especially well. Lois loved almost everything about Thanksgiving, except for the visit that they paid to Wayne Manor after dinner every year. And her father’s politics.
Jon’s face was serious. Krypto had been banished to the floor below so that they could talk without any slobber. A large map of the sewers surrounding LexCorp tower was spread across the floor, but they were not paying any attention to it. Jon was studying a dark blue leaflet that Damian had thrust at him a few minutes earlier.
“I didn’t know all this stuff about turkeys,” he said. “I thought they were just disgusting to eat.”
The expression on Damian’s face was intense.
“Do you agree that we need to defer the Luthor operation in order to disrupt Thanksgiving at my house ? Alfred is keeping four heirloom turkeys in the herb garden at Wayne Manor. They’ll be sent to be butchered four or five days before the twenty-eighth to give them time to age properly. Even Tim Drake’s parents will be participating in the dinnertime senselessness.”
Jon pushed his glasses back up his nose.
“I guess so,” he said. “But we’ll need to come up with something quickly. Thanksgiving is less than three weeks away.”
Damian folded his arms across the West-Reeve school sweater that he was still wearing.
“Bribing Alfred to allow the turkeys to escape is not an option,” he said. “Alfred is incorruptible.”
“What about the League of Assassins? Can’t any of your mother’s ninjas -?”
“No. But some of these ideas might be combined into an effective plan.”
Jon watched Damian’s face change as the thoughts shaped themselves in his mind. He was intrigued and also worried. As the unofficial leader of their duo, Damian was inclined to throw them both into challenges that were sometimes over their heads. It was often Jon’s role to act as the restraining influence and voice of common sense, which was not always easy.
A few minutes later, he had been browbeaten into submission anyway.
“This will be the worst thing I have ever done,” he said in a glum voice. “Maybe ever.”
“Think of the turkeys,” urged his friend.
Talia ran ringed fingers through her hair. She was no longer sure whether she was tense with anticipatory pleasure or tiredness. She adored her only son, but his sudden, unexpected requests could take a lot out of her, especially when they involved Bruce. More than ten years later, it was still difficult for her to think of him without a slew of mixed feelings. To add to that, the annual League of Assassins summit was always a demanding time of year, although she had the best event planners of the underworld at her disposal. Reorganizing a tight agenda of high profile speakers at about two weeks’ notice was a tall order, especially when three of them were on Most Wanted lists in a few different countries and had elaborate travel arrangements to consider.
It was lucky she was such a gifted cook, she thought, although it was a skill that her father had never valued much in her. He already had a stable of cordon bleu chefs at his disposal and was accustomed to flying in top sushi artists from Kyoto whenever the whim took him.
She looked down at the list she had compiled for her most trusted ninjas. Their work would be cut out for them, given the deadlines she had imposed.
“Let’s go through this again,” said Damian.
They had just completed a full reconnaissance of Wayne Manor’s herb garden and inspected its four gobbling inhabitants, who had now been named to Damian’s satisfaction. They had also picked out a large, flat and relatively protected area of the sprawling Manor’s roof.
Turkey Timeline, Jon wrote on a large blank sheet of paper as Damian peered over his shoulder. He had by far the neatest handwriting of the two, but just in case a large pink eraser was ready on the desk next to him.
Present through Nov 23: Turkeys eat and play!
Damian stabbed a finger at the paper.
“Now write this down for me,” he ordered.
Jon made a few careful notes following Damian’s instructions. He rested his chin on his hand and considered what he had just written.
“I think you can do even better than that,” he said. He wrote down a few more words and looked up at Damian, who nodded in approval. Then he continued.
Nov 23: Day for turkeys to be sent to Murgatroyd’s, slawtered and put in Alfred’s oven bags to age
“You don’t spell slaughtered like that.”
“Does it matter?”
“Details are always critical, Jon. That is what Father would say.”
Jon rolled his eyes, erased ‘slawtered’, and replaced it with ‘slautered’. Damian snorted.
“Alright,” said Jon, ignoring him. “This is what you’ll need to organize on the night of the twenty-seventh. My Mom always cooks the day before.”
The boys conferred for a few more minutes and made several more notes before Jon wrote:
Nov 28: Murgatroyd’s delivers bags with turkeys to Wayne Manor on Thanksgiving morning to cook for dinner
“Excellent,” Damian said. He rubbed his hands together. “It’s a good thing that most people are not like Alfred.”
Granny and Grandpa Lane had arrived in the middle of the night before, as Mom was putting the finishing touches to the food. She always did almost everything the day before, even most of the turkey. Mom was a control freak who hated the word ‘chance.’
Jon heard his grandparents arrive in his dreams. He sat up and shivered, unsure whether it was in horror or delight. The things he did to keep Damian happy. He shook his head. Maybe, as Dad would say, it was a long-term investment in the next generation of the Justice League. That was what he was planning to say to Mom in a few hours anyway. He was not so sure about Alfred and the rest of the Batman family, but he had decided to leave that larger problem to Damian.
He slid out of bed. Gran was always up early, and with any luck she would have sneaked some fried chicken into the house for him. Gran understood the way things were.
“Turkey and politics,” she had said last year, with a wink of one of her bright brown eyes. “At least we can stop one of them from ruining dinner.”
Grandpa Lane did not like Lois’ new show at all, he said as they were sitting down to eat. It was all avocado toast-eating leftists and superhero interviews, and they should never have let Lois move to the East Coast all those years ago, and look at her now working for Perry White, who was not even white. It was lucky she had met a nice boy from Kansas like Clark.
Lois smiled her celestial smile and went into the kitchen to get the turkey, which usually stopped all conversation at least for some time. When she opened the door of the oven, she shrieked.
One of Talia's fingers hovered above a quick-dial button on her cellphone. It was early in the morning, but not too early, and she sat next to her father in the private jet that had just landed on the long, rolling lawn that fronted Wayne Manor.
Ra’as al-Ghul looked at her, impatient. The remains of the Kent’s turkey were deposited on a long silver platter beside him. Talia’s team of ninjas had made quick work of the bird after retrieving it from the Kent’s oven. A true ninja, as Mad Dog Kenji always said, is prepared for anything. That included roast turkey and stuffing for breakfast, with green beans and a lot of coca cola.
“Will you do this or not, my daughter?”
“I suppose you ought to ask them in,” said Alfred Pennyworth. “They can hardly sit in there all day while they make their repairs.”
“Oh yes they can,” said Bruce. Talia still provoked emotions in him that he would rather not think about at all.
Alfred coughed. “Manners aside, Sir, they are Master Damian’s other family.”
“Dammit. Then let the ninjas stay in the second kitchen area. Tag every one of them. And get Tim to re-activate the new infrared tracking all over the property. He can do that remotely.”
“I had the old cold storage area in the east wing in mind, Sir. It’s somewhat damp still, but I’m sure we can make them comfortable in there. And the steel refrigerator doors are still beautifully intact.”
“And now, if you’ll excuse me. Murgatroyd’s will be here with the turkeys any moment now.”
Damian, white in the face, stood in the main kitchen of Wayne Manor with his hands at his side. He had not anticipated this level of contained rage from Alfred or from anyone else. He told himself that Jon would be undergoing a similar ordeal at Lois’ hands within the next three hours. Besides, this was what it meant to suffer for one’s beliefs. It was worse than one of his maternal grandfather's punishments.
Bruce stood next to Alfred, tight-lipped.
“It has been said by some, Master Damian” said Alfred. “that you are a demon. On an occasion like this, I wonder if I should believe them.”
He was holding open a large oven bag that Murgatroyd’s had delivered a few minutes ago. It contained nothing but a large beach ball and a few feathers.
It had taken Damian several weeks of allowance, a visit to Bruce’s personal banker in central Gotham and another one to Murgatroyd’s, the upmarket butcher where Wayne Manor’s turkeys were sent for processing, but he had eventually negotiated their release. Under cover of night, Jon had flown the turkeys up to a small makeshift yard that Damian installed on the roof of Wayne Manor. Although Jon’s flying abilities were far from fully developed, it was an easy task for a boy with super strength to move the turkeys up there two at a time, one under each arm.
“We should not raise them to kill them,” said Damian, but his voice was very small. “The stores in Gotham are full of turkeys. They have too many to sell already. They throw them away after Thanksgiving.”
“Irrespective of what you believe, Damian, this is not alright. You’ve left a very large number of people without dinner and made us look terrible. We’ve talked about this before. You can’t impose your values on others, let alone our guests.”
A statuesque outline blocked the light at the entrance to the kitchen.
“What is happening in here?” demanded a husky, accented voice. “And what are you saying to my son?”
Talia shrugged, and crossed one long leg behind the other. Her back rested on one of the main kitchen’s Brazilian granite counters, and one of her hands rested on Damian’s shoulder. Despite the scowl on his face, he wanted to put his arms around his mother’s waist and collapse with relief into her black cashmere sweater. Murgatroyd’s had already been contacted again, but fruitlessly. So far as they were aware, there were no available, suitably dead turkeys to be had anywhere within a fifty mile radius of Wayne Manor.
“I see of course why you are angry,” said Talia. “And Damian and I must speak of this again later, my Detective. But it is barely ten o’clock in the morning. This is perfectly adequate timing for me to prepare with my team a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner for approximately thirty people and still complete repairs to the jet.”
Alfred raised his eyebrows.
“It is Thanksgiving, Ms. al-Ghul. The shops will all be closed or out of provisions by now. Where would you propose obtaining the supplies you need? I doubt we have the herbs and spices that you would require at the Manor, let alone enough legumes or vegetables.”
“It so happens that I have brought everything with me, including cooking utensils.”
“I see,” said Bruce. “I guess we have no choice then.”
The click of Manolo Blahnik heels sounded on Alfred's prized travertine tiles, and Talia stepped out from behind her son. Bruce allowed himself to look at her ankles and wonder how real the damage the Gulfstream's fuselage was. It was better not to ask.
Two beautiful, slightly slanted eyes gave Alfred a hard look.
“Then would you please allow my ninjas out of the cold storage to help chop carrots.”
Jon’s face was bright red, always a sure sign that he was lying or concealing information.
“I don’t know all the details,” he insisted.
He, Lois and Clark were huddled in the kitchen out of Grandpa and Granny Lane’s earshot. Luckily, there were only two people in the Lane Kent’s house who had super hearing.
“Ninjas stole Thanksgiving dinner,” repeated Lois. “A likely fu - story.”
“Yes. Ninjas stole your turkey.”
The Man of Steel had many astonishing abilities, but mind-reading was not among them. He folded his large arms across his chest and looked down at his son, whose Sunday best shirt had already worked its way half out of his chinos.
“And how would you know this, Jon?” he asked. Dad was always much quieter than Mom, but when he got angry it was bad.
“Damian told me it would happen,” he said, quite accurately.
Clark scratched his head.
“I don’t understand anything,” he said.
“That’s because you’re too nice,” his wife said. Her telegenic face was almost as red as Jon’s now. “Those two little fu - devils came up with this between them, Clark, I’m telling you.” Her voice took on the MId-West twang that it tended to slip into whenever she was absolutely furious.
“Call Bruce,” she ordered her husband. “And get the car ready. We need a full explanation. Now.”
“This,” said Jason Todd to Richard Grayson in the hall on the way back from the bathroom, “is frickin’ weird.”
The Waynes, the al-Ghuls, members of their extended family and guests were on a short break between Talia’s superlative cooking and Alfred’s dessert course, which was sure to be just as spectacular. Alfred's raspberry pavlova was famous. On the whole, things had gone remarkably well, notwithstanding the Kent’s unexpectedly early arrival and the fresh storm of emotion and explanations that it had provoked.
“Come on, you have to admit her tagine is outstanding, even if you hate vegetarian food. Clark Kent must have had at least three helpings of it.”
“No, doofus. I didn’t realize Bruce and Talia still had such a thing for each other.”
“And you’re calling me stupid?”
“All this ‘Beloved’ and ‘My Detective’ stuff is ruining my appetite. Someone needs to take the alcohol off the table. And punch those two super kids hard.”
The two super kids in question had been very quiet for most of the meal. Damian, for once, had nothing to say for himself and Jon, who was seated next to him, was just as silent. Alfred, Bruce, Lois and Clark had decided to postpone the discussion of a suitable punishment until Black Friday. The delicate question of whether and how to involve Talia would also be deferred until then.
Richard leaned against the dark wood panelling outside the dining room and shrugged. “At least the terrible grandpas hit it off over Fox News.”
“Talk about grandpas, Tim is the one I feel really bad for. His dad took one look at Ra’as and went into shock. And his mom hasn’t said a thing the whole meal.”
There was a knock at the door, and Jim Gordon went to open it. Richard Grayson had texted his daughter about forty minutes earlier.
Three sheepish faces peered at Gotham’s Commissioner of Police. Gordon already knew what to expect, but he had to ask the question.
“What can I do for you boys?”
“We’re refugees in search of leftovers,” Richard replied.
“Refugees from where?”
“Well, we’re not coming from Turkey.”
Next to him, Tim and Jason groaned.