A previously unwritten chapter of the JLA Christmas episode, "Comfort and Joy."
The Justice League and all its associated characters were created by D.C. Comics. The cartoon series Justice League, on which this fanfic is based, belongs to Warner Brothers and Cartoon Network. Well, I'm not sure who exactly owns what, but in short, I didn't create it, I'm just borrowing it.
If you want to reprint this story in whole or in part, please let me know first.
Bruce sat at the main console in the watchtower, looking out the window at the panorama of stars, sun and Earth. Earth looked about the same as it did every other day. The watchtower, however, did not. Flash had decided that it needed Christmas decorations, and had set to the task of putting them up with all the enthusiam and determination he usually put into his stupid ideas.
He'd put up red bows and wreaths, decked the halls with bows of holly, the whole nine yards. He'd even put a ten-foot-tall Douglas fir on the main level of the watchtower control room, with a blinking angel on top and mock presents underneath. Bruce had agreed to endure the decorations without complaint, on the condition that, come January 2nd, Flash would take down all that junk as quickly as he had put it up, or else. And January 2nd was a concession – Bruce had originally wanted them down on December 26th, but Superman had talked him into extending the deadline.
So Bruce just did his best to ignore the gaudy decorations. At least it was quiet. Nobody would try to force any holiday cheer on him up here.
He heard the hum of the elevator in the shaft behind him, the hiss of the doors opening, and the distinctive footsteps produced by high-heeled boots on the metal floor. There was only one person it could be.
"Diana," Bruce said by way of greeting.
"Hello." She walked towards him until she was in the periphery of his field of vision: he noticed that she was carrying a present, a little square box about the size of two fists, wrapped in shiny green paper and tied with a red ribbon. He wondered who had given it to her, and why she hadn't opened it. Perhaps she'd been instructed not to open it until Christmas day.
Diana put the box on the floor and perched on the edge of the console next to him. "I thought you would be celebrating, like the others," she said. Before Bruce could reply, she added, "For about a second, before I remembered that you don't...what did you say to Flash? You don't do Christmas."
"No, I don't," Bruce confirmed, turning his chair to face her. "I haven't celebrated Christmas since...well." Diana knew his real identity: he wasn't sure whether or not she knew about his parents, but either way, he wasn't going to elaborate. "Not for a long time," he concluded.
Diana clasped her hands on her knees and regarded them thoughtfully. "I never have. We don't have Christmas on Themyscira."
"Didn't think so," Bruce said.
Diana was quiet for a few moments – a thoughtful quiet, and one that he found vaguely unsettling, although he couldn't really say why. "Audrey's invited me to her Christmas party," Diana finally said, as if she were admitting to something mildly embarassing.
"As in Queen Audrey of Kasnia?" The two women had been friends since he and Diana had saved Audrey from the disastrous consequences of her marriage to the meglomaniacal Vandal Savage.
"Yes," Diana said. "I'm not sure what to expect – a royal ball or..."
"...the kind of party Audrey liked when she was a princess," Bruce supplied. Privately he supposed that it could very well begin as the former and turn into the latter somewhere along the way.
Diana chuckled. "More or less. I'm hoping I might learn something from it." At Bruce's quizzical look, she explained, "As holidays go, I find Christmas to be intriguing but very confusing. I've read about it, but Audrey said I'd have to celebrate it to really understand what it's about."
That settled it – Audrey's holiday celebration was almost certain to be the other kind of party. "Don't let anyone get you under a mistletoe," Bruce warned, not just for the sake of Diana's dignity but out of concern for the health and well-being of anyone who might be drunk and/or foolish enough to try and pull that on her.
Diana blinked at him. "What? Why not?"
"Just don't," he said firmly.
She frowned at him, evidently wondering whether or not she should demand a further explanation, then decided against it and asked a different question. "While we're on the subject...what's a Scrooge?"
That one threw him for a moment. "Scrooge is a character in A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. Why'd you ask?"
Diana flushed slightly and abruptly turned to look out the window. "Just something I heard," she half-muttered.
After a few moments' thought, Bruce put the pieces together. "Flash called me a Scrooge, didn't he?"
"Yes, he did."
"Ah." Bruce half-smiled, more amused than offended by the whole thing.
Diana seemed to sense that and relaxed a little. "I know you don't celebrate Christmas," she said, slipping off the edge of the console and standing up, "But from what I understand, it's a time to show your appreciation of those closest to you. When I came to man's world, you were willing to trust me and fight at my side, even though you didn't know me. I undestand just what that means." She picked up the green box Bruce had seen earlier. The one that he'd mistakenly assumed to be a gift to her from someone else. "I consider you a friend as well as a comrade. There's a tradition among Amazons of giving a ceremonial gift to one's closest friends. I don't think I could ask for a beter time than this to do it." She held out the present to him.
Bruce was suddenly struck with an acute sense of embarassment. "You didn't have to," he said. Coming from him it was not a courtesy but more like an expression of absolute desperation. Fortunately he managed to make it sound like the former, rather than the latter.
"I didn't have to, but I wanted to," Diana replied. "Isn't that the point?" Her eyes flicked towards the present, urging him to take it. Since he had no other option, he did. The little package was surprisingly heavy for its size.
"You're going to be here after midnight?" Diana asked.
She smiled. "All right. I doubt I'll be back until late tomorrow. Just promise me you won't open it until after midnight." With a smile at him, she started down the walkway to the central pillar containing the lift. She punched the button to open the door.
"I won't," Bruce agreed. "But Diana...why didn't you give me this before, when everyone else was exchanging presents?"
Diana paused at the door of the lift and turned to face him. Bruce was a man not easily touched by anything, but he felt his heart jump a little at her smile of amusement and rare affection. "If I had, you'd've been even more embarassed about it than you are now," she answered.
In spite of himself, Bruce returned her smile.
She stepped into the lift and pressed the button for her destination. When the door closed on her, Bruce felt as if some enchantment had been broken. He shook his head to clear it and looked at the box Diana had left with him. Then he put it on top of the console, to wait the few hours until midnight.
Bruce was a man of incredible will, but also of incredible curiosity. As the minutes went by, he found his thoughts and his eyes returning time and again to the box. Once or twice he caught himself in the act of out his hand, intending to pick it up and feel its comfortable weight: then he would snatch his hand back and frown at himself. It was childish, really, to be so impatient for a present. He would keep his promise to Diana, and wait until after midnight.
The moment the digital clock on the console read 12:00, he plucked up the present, untied the red ribbon and remomved the green wrapping – carefully, so as not to tear it, because his precise nature demanded no less. Inside was a simple white box, and in the box, something nested in tissue paper. He reached in and pulled it out.
The object was a smooth, dark grey stone of some mineral he could not immediately identify. It was oval-shaped and smooth, as if it had spent a long time in a river somewhere, but he thought it too perfect to be natural. On one side it was smooth and featureless, but the other displayed breathtaking craftsmanship. Or more likely craftswomanship, because upon closer examination of the stone Bruce was almost certain that it had come from Themyscira.
On the decorated side of the stone was a design and a message, flanked by an inlay of two Ionic columns wrought in silver. The design was a knotted silver rope, its every detail perfect, each end held up by two birds in flight – a mother-of-pearl one on the right, and an obsidian one on the left.
The message beneath the birds, written in gold letters, consisted of two words in what looked like Greek script.
Bruce could read Greek, but the dialect was ancient and unfamiliar. It took him some time and the watchtower computer's translator to work it out. But in the end, it was well worth the effort. He smiled when he finally worked out the meaning behind the words.
A Testament of the Bond Between Friends.