God, I wish I owned the Titans. The royalties alone would pay my student loans. Oh, I don't own Nerf either. You'll see.
Christmas gift suggestions:
To your enemy, forgiveness.
To an opponent, tolerance.
To a friend, your heart.
To a customer, service.
To all, charity.
To every child, a good example.
To yourself, respect.
Let's Get Dangerous
It was Halloween Night and the Titans had just caught three diamond thieves while they were on their way to a costume party. Well, four diamond thieves, if you counted the getaway driver Raven captured with the abyss of darkness in her cloak. Hands cuffed with plastic binders, Richard Nixon, Jason Voorhees, and the Ghost-Face from Scream sat on the sidewalk waiting for the cops to pick them up while their accomplice in zombie makeup was curled in the fetal position babbling incoherently.
"Well team," Robin said. "It took thirty years but Nixon is finally in handcuffs."
Ghost-Face leaned to his partner. "I told you you should have gone with Clinton."
"So wait," Jason looked around at the Titans. "What are you guys doing wearing Halloween costumes? Don't you wear weird costumes like, everyday?"
"Those are our normal clothes," Robin replied.
"Speak for yourself," Cyborg cut in."Technically I kinda walk around naked."
"Then who are you all supposed to be?" Ghost-face asked.
Robin, with a purple suit, cape, and a wide-brimmed hat to go with his mask said, "Darkwing Duck."
Cyborg lifted the visor of his helmet. "I'm Alphonse from Fullmetal Alchemist."
Floating in the air in her pink dress, Starfire beamed, "I am Princess Bubblegum from the Adventure Time."
The three robbers looked to each other for explanations, and finding none, shrugged. "Yeah, none of us have heard of those people," Nixon said.
"I have a feeling there's a generation gap here," Raven noted.
"Well what about her?" Jason cocked his head at Raven. "Why isn't she dressed up?"
"I don't need a costume."
"Oh God, I think I saw forever!" Zombie blurted.
"Happy Halloween," Raven said to him.
"Correct me if I'm wrong," Nixon said. "But aren't you guys missing a member?"
Right on cue, Beast Boy rounded the corner in a tweed jacket and bow-tie, panting heavily as he jogged. "Dudes, sorry I'm late!"
"Beast Boy, where have you been?" Robin demanded.
"I got here as fast as I could, okay? I ran like, five blocks. Seriously Cy, you couldn't have picked me up?"
"Why didn't you turn into something that run can faster?" Cyborg pointed out. "Or...y'know, flew?"
Affronted, Beast Boy stiffened and adjusted his bow-tie. "I'm in my Doctor Who costume, not my Doom Patrol outfit."
Robin raised an eyebrow. "So?"
"So, don't you guys ever wonder why I still wear that thing? Finding a material that shifts with me is really hard to come by! If I transform in normal clothes I...uh..."
"You what, friend?" Starfire asked.
The changeling ducked his head, blushing. "I'd...be...naked..."
Everyone, Titans and diamond thieves alike, were dead quiet. All except for the zombie on the ground, who started speaking in a pidgin of Sumerian and the tongue of the Old Ones he had learned during his few seconds in the Void.
"And now that mental image that will haunt me in my dreams," Raven groaned.
Ghost-Face hung his head. "This has to be the weirdest heist I've ever been on."
Back Door Santa
Red X loved Christmas.
Not because of that crap about the 'spirit of giving' or 'peace on earth,' mind you. No, his reasons were far less immaterial. It was the avarice, the month-long frenzy of shoppers vying to grab whatever they could. The stampedes of shoppers, the wrestling over that last item on the shelf, fist fights and pepper spray.
When it was all over and they would settle around the Christmas tree and convince themselves it was all about the giving, but X knew better. The thrill of the hunt and chase, the challenge, the rush when you're the one come out on top; the only difference between shopaholics and master thieves was the quality of the high.
Christmas was the best time of the year professionally, too. All the merchandise and money flooding the market at once made it that much easier for X's...enterprising to go unnoticed in the fray of the season.
Of course, there was plenty of room for other, far less dashing entrepreneurs to take advantage of the situation too. Most were pretty harmless like DVD bootlegs or stolen electronics; he had trouble feeling sorry for the suckers that fell for internet scams- it's the internet, morons.
But a successful criminal career is a marathon, not a sprint. Whenever X finished a handful of big jobs he always dropped off the grid for a bit to keep the cops and the capes off his trail. After scoring a nice set of choice diamonds and driving off with some rich schmuck's quarter-million dollar import, X was planning to enjoy his spoils and take it easy until New Year's.
Despite the economy, the hot Christmas item was some singing troll doll or something. As usual, everyone wanted one, there weren't enough to go around, and desperate parents were willing pay way more than what was sensible to get a hold of it. Then a reliable fence passed on some info that the toy company that makes the stupid doll was sitting on a warehouse full of the things. As it turned out they were purposely shipping limited numbers to keep demand up and make a killing. Apparently what worked for Saudi oil magnates worked just as well for toy makers.
X decided this was as good enough reason as any to break his own rule 'cause hey, he was all about breaking rules.
One stolen truck later, X was spending his Christmas Eve working his way down a list of Jump City's biggest orphanages and group homes.
It was pretty masterful, really. The only snag was around stop number five.
Half-way through arranging that house's presents under the tree, Red-X slowly turned to find a mousy, ginger boy probably no older than six staring at him.
Damn, really? I can slip into bank vaults and high-security labs without anyone knowing I was there and I get caught by some kid in Phineas and Ferb PJs?
Towering over the boy like a terrible wraith, X leaned towards him and pointed to his skull mask."Do I look like Santa Claus, kid?"
The boy blinked a few times, as if weighing all the evidence. Probably could have avoided the misunderstanding if X wasn't wearing a red Santa hat. "Then...who are you?"
"I'm..." an idea came to mind; he flourished his black cape and reached out for the kid menacingly. "I'm the Ghost of Christmas Future!"
Wide-eyed, the kid gasped appropriately and stepped backwards. "But...but...why are you here? Where's Santa?"
"Oh, Nick stopped making the deliveries himself years ago ever since people stopped using fireplaces. Now he just uses ghosts 'cause we can go through walls and don't need reindeer."
Kid seemed to be thinking really hard about this new information. X figured he better put an end to it before he started asking more questions, like kids always do. "Plus," he added. "If we run into naughty little boys and girls who stay up late trying to catch Santa, we get to eat their souls!"
Right as the boy opened his mouth to scream in terror, X said "Don't scream." and he clamped his hands over his own mouth. "Please don't eat my soul, Mr. Ghost, I like my soul! I promise to go to bed if you let me go!"
X tapped his chin thoughtfully as he considered the boy's offer, then shrugged. "Fine, I'll let you off the hook this time- just make sure I don't catch you next year."
"If I'm extra good, do you think you can get me a mom and dad, Mr. Ghost? I won't mind if you get me two moms or two dads either, Miss Zoe says they're just as good."
For a moment there, X just stared down at the simple, pleading look the red-haired boy gave him and had to fight off the distant memory that made the back of his head shudder. "I'll...uh...do my best kid. No promises."
Placing the last of the presents under the tree, X spotted a plate of chocolate chip cookies set on a table under the window. "I'll be taking these."
"But I thought ghosts couldn't eat people food."
"I'm hungry. It's either that or your soul."
"Don't forget the milk."
"Why was I not told about this?" Beast Boy demanded.
"About what? Nerf guns?" Cyborg said. "We...kinda thought you knew about them."
The shape-shifter gestured widely at the wall. "Not just Nerf guns, Cy! Since when have then been so...so...awesome?"
"I do not understand," Starfire said, looking over the shelves and shelves of colorful guns. "These are...toy weapons for children, yes?"
"Pretty much," Cyborg confirmed.
"Dude, they're not just toy guns!" Beast Boy picked up a massive box and held it for all to see. "Machine-gun Nerf guns. Machine-guns! When I was a kid they fired one- count it- one dart, then you had to reload and pump it."
Raven looked less than overwhelmed with this mind-boggling advancement in Nerf technology."Oh yes, the tragic fate of mankind to find ever more elaborate ways to shoot foam darts at each other. How the poets lament."
"It's just weird, y'know? I feel like I fought in the Revolutionary War or something with my old Nerf gun. Now it's like...like...uh...when were machine-guns invented?"
"Depends on what you qualify as a machine gun," Robin explained. "They had Gatling guns all the way back in the Civil War."
BB checked the box again. "This one has an ammo box feeding a belt of Nerf darts."
"That's World War One, then."
"Boys and their toys," Raven muttered.
"This is actually kind of disturbing," Robin said. "They look less like toys and are functionally more like real guns. Machine guns, clips, a Nerf sniper rifle- and look," he picked up a small box with two magazines full of Nerf darts attached to each other. "Double-clips. Commandos use double-clips."
"Rob's kinda got a point," Cy said. "It's like now they're trying to get toys as close to the real thing as possible."
"It is only natural for young children to simulate combat," Starfire said. "On Tamaran we made replicas of Okaaran battle-blades to play with."
Robin shook his head. "I just don't like guns."
"Dudes, Star's right, they're just toys. I don't know about you guys, but I'm tempted to-"
"Bee," Cyborg interrupted.
A metal finger pointed. "I think you have a fan."
The team looked and saw a toddler standing at the end of the aisle. He was big for his age, with a black tangle of thin air, olive skin, and seemed to be utterly enraptured by the green boy in front of him. A man with glasses and a five o'clock shadow stood a little behind the boy, keeping watch but otherwise staying out of the way.
Beast Boy grinned with a mouthful of fangs and crouched down. "Hey pal, what's up?"
The boy smiled and made big, steady strides on his little feet and crossed the distance between them quicker than BB thought.
"Green," the boy said confidently. Starfire giggled.
Beast Boy nodded. "Yeah, I'm green, but you can call me Beast Boy. What's your name?"
A little hand made the 'peace' sign. "Two!"
"Two? That's a funny name."
Raven said, "I think that's his age, nit-"
The shifter didn't even acknowledge her. "Well Two, it's nice ta meet ya."
Beast Boy loved kids. He didn't believe kids were the epitome of innocent, but they were honest. Nice, selfish, loud, sweet, cute, and petty; pure people with all the good and the bad and not old enough to start trying to hide it. When he talked to kids he treated them like people, not like pets to be cooed over. Besides, baby talk was bad for their language development.
"Hey Two, can you say Beast Boy? C'mon, try! Beeeeast Booooy."
The rest of the Titans laughed.
"Hey, wanna see a magic trick?" At Two's curious expression, Beast Boy counted down with his fingers. "Three...two..."
"One!" He transformed into a big Great Dane, panting with his tongue and flopping his tail on the floor happily.
Two squeaked, "Doggie!" Walked closer to Beast Boy and patted his side. "Nice doggie. Good."
The Great Dane shifted into a cat, and after arching his back to Two's delicate pets, meowed and darted past him.
"Well what are you waiting for, little guy?" Cyborg encouraged. "Go get him!"
Two smiled up at Cyborg, turned around and chased after Beast-Kitty, laughing as he went.
For the rest of that day, gathering a crowd of kids of amused parents, the Teen Titans played in a toy store.
During her first year on Earth and with the Titans, Raven was pretty apathetic about Christmas. Being raised on Azarath made it hard to get very excited about ornaments, tinsel, or bad Christmas carols. The fact that Starfire was an alien and was enthusiastically diving in the season only increased her annoyance.
It just seemed so...contrived to her. Having to listen to everyone sing and go on about charity and good spirit and then watching them all run around in some mad rush to buy gifts.
And then that first Christmas morning at the Tower came and gifts were exchanged. Raven almost dreaded finding out what Beast Boy thought she would like and ended up speechless when she unwrapped Poe's collected anthologies.
Sure everyone was happy when they received their presents, but Raven's empathic powers told her they were positively beaming when a teammate opened up a gift from them.
Azar's blood, Beast Boy's stupid Christmas movies are true.
That next Christmas, Raven put extra effort into finding the perfect gifts for her friends.
Every year she spent with the Titans, the more she enjoyed Christmas. Not the stupid Christmas with all the frantic shoppers and petty religious arguments on the news; she just wanted that Christmas morning with the closest thing she had to family.
She never realized how much she came to depend of Beast Boy's enthusiasm for the season until that year it seemed he...well...wasn't...
One day she found him on their rock in the rain, watching the tide wash over the shore. She sat down next to him and extended the umbrella of dark energy to cover him, too.
"You'll get pneumonia sitting out in the rain," she told him.
"It's December," he grumbled. "It's December and its been raining all month."
"We live on the west coast, Beast Boy. Don't tell me you were expecting a winter wonderland."
"I know, I know, it's just..." He hugged his knees close to him and looked down at his feet. "It just doesn't feel like Christmas, y'know? Like we're just going through the motions."
"You're getting older, Beast Boy. When you start growing up, Christmas seems less like a magical time and more like...just a day you have to buy presents for."
"But it's not just another day, Rae. It's Christmas. Some of the best days of my life was playing in the snow with my Dad, drinking hot cocoa with the Doom Patrol," he looked up at her. "Christmas mornings with you and Cy and laughing at Star trying to get Robin under the mistletoe."
He turned back to the ocean and mumbled. "Grown-up Christmases suck."
That was when Raven decided what she was going to get him that year.
"Beast Boy! Friend Beast Boy you must wake up!"
The changeling groaned and tried to burrow further into his blanket. "Come on Star, it's Christmas. Just lemme sleep..."
"No friend, you must come see! It is a Christmas miracle!"
Half-asleep and still in his pajamas, Beast Boy let Starfire take his hand and drag him through the tower. He only realized she had taken him outside when the rush of air hit him and he stepped in something soft and cold.
Not believing what he was seeing, he had to blink a few times. He looked to Starfire, who was nodded excitedly, and blinked a few more times.
It was snowing.
Their island was covered with almost a full foot of snow, and one look at the Jump skyline revealed that this freakish weather was localized to only the tower.
Then he saw Raven standing there in her heavy winter cloak and ran to her.
"It's about time," she said. "I was starting to think you were going to stay in bed all morning."
"Rae? What is all of this?"
"I'm told this is known as 'snow' in some areas of the country."
"No, I mean how did you do this?"
She lifted a finger up to the sky. "I called in Herald. He placed a small portal above the tower that leads to some remote tundra in Siberia."
Beast Boy looked around at all the pristine, glittering white. "This is all Russian snow? We're stealing snow like people steal cable?"
"They have plenty, I doubt they'll miss it."
They both turned when Starfire dragged Robin and Cyborg outside to see the 'Christmas Miracle.' Slack jawed, they glanced at Raven and laughed when she shrugged.
"So," she said to Beast Boy. "Is this a white enough Christmas for you?"
"Raven this is just...awesome," she didn't expect him to pull her into a hug. "Seriously, thanks so much for this."
Blushing a little, she pried him off of her. "Well, just remember to thank Herald too. He said the portal has a twenty-four hour decay rate, so we'll only have it for the rest of the day."
"I can work with that." He gave her the idiot grin she had been hoping for, then purposely fell backwards as if a strong wind had tipped him over.
"Snow angels!" Beast Boy said from the ground. "C'mon Rae!"
"I made the snow, I am under no obligation to enjoy it."
"Fine, be that way. Hey Cy! Rob! Christmas snowball fight!"
Cyborg whooped. "Oh it is ON, little man!"
Raven stood with her stolen Siberian snow as the the boys ran around throwing snowballs at each other like kids half their age. Next to her, Starfire stared at her and squealed with barely contained excitement.
Relenting, Raven sighed. "Yes, Starfire?"
"I said nothing," she said innocently. "I am merely thinking how sweet it was for you to do this for friend Beast Boy."
"It's not Christmas if Beast Boy isn't acting like a idiot."
And then a snowball smacked the side of her hood.
"Opps, my bad!"
Raven brushed the snow off and glanced at Starfire. "Boys versus girls?"
The warrior princess of Tamaran already had her arms full with a massive snowball. "I am ahead of you."
Robin has been thinking about doing this for a long time. It's only been a few months since he started seriously considering it.
Now it's Christmas Day. The rest of his team (his friends, his family) are busy playing in the snow Raven made and he snuck away to his workshop precisely to do this. Instead he's been sitting in his chair for the past fifteen minutes, staring at the computer.
He thinks about the impossible weather outside, just because Raven wanted Beast Boy to smile. Thinks about how Cyborg and him butt heads and argue but remembers there's no one else on this earth he considers a big brother. Thinks of Starfire baking Christmas cookies and smiling at him under the mistletoe.
Thinks about what's missing.
It takes another fifteen minutes to set up the call. The security protocols are a little different and it takes time for a secure signal to bounce across three satellites, twelve countries, and five states before being rerouted. It will have to do.
A puzzled British voice answers. "Hello?"
Robin realizes he was holding his breath. "I'm surprised my code still works after so long."
A surprised noise followed by a long pause. Then, heavy with emotion, "Our way of leaving the door unlocked, should you ever wish to come home. How have been, my boy?"
"I'm fine, Alfred. Wanted to call and see if you were having a merry Christmas."
He can almost imagine the smile on the other end of the line. "It has recently become quite wondrous, Master Richard."
Robin can't help but smile too. Thinks about the one day of the year he was allowed to sleep in, coming down the long stairs to Alfred's hot cocoa and a tree bristling with presents."Is...is he up? I know he usually sleeps in after working late."
"Under the circumstances, I don't think he'll mind being roused this one time."
What do you know, this took several months instead of several years, I must be improving. A little late for holiday junk, I know, but I hope you enjoy it all the same.
Sorry this couldn't have come out sooner, but I between graduating college and working in retail this holiday season I literally had no time to spare for sleep. But rejoice, for the hell of the holiday shopping is past and I am now a indebted college graduate ready to go out with my degree in...
Oh God I'm a college graduate in this market. Excuse me while I find some ice cream or something.
I hope you enjoyed your various holidays with friends and family, and I wish all you a Happy New Year- at least until the elections start up.