Wally West was not one to easily admit defeat, but even he couldn't deny the fact that he was in way over his head. There was no explaining how it happened; generally he just wrote off things like this as another item to place on the Official List of Superhero Sacrifices. But this time…this time was different. He shouldn't have forgotten. He'd spent a solid week trying to convince her to participate in the annual Teen Titan Secret Santa party that Cyborg had so carefully organized, and finally, finally she'd agreed (after he'd endured many hex-dodging bouts).
And now this.
Maybe he'd gotten busy. Crime rates had been up over the last two weeks. Perhaps he had been completely unsure of what to buy for someone like her. OR maybe, just maybe, he'd been so caught up in getting his friend in the Christmas sprit that he'd forgotten about the part where he was supposed to get Jinx a present because he was her Secret Santa. What killed him was that he'd pumped her up so much for the event that she actually seemed to be awkwardly happy about the upcoming Christmas-oriented get together; a dramatic turn around from the Nazi she'd been a week ago. Wally had a feeling that if he told her that he had no present for her, she'd brush it off with a vague flick of her hand but be somewhat less stable on the inside. He'd found that Jinx, behind her harsh words, sarcastic remarks, and persistent scowl, was a little more delicate than she ever really liked to admit. He knew that in forgetting, he would disappoint her, and if there was anyone he hated to disappoint, it was Jinx.
Unfortunately, Wally had only realized that the gift had slipped his mind when he was half way out the door with Jinx, who was trying to hide her anticipation with impatience, urging him to hurry up from behind. He was the fastest boy alive, and he could probably run and pick up something from some store and hit Titans Tower before Jinx was even a quarter of the way there. But then she'd know that he had forgotten someone's gift, and when she found out that she was his Secret Santee, it would only cause what Wally would have been trying to avoid.
And so they trudged along the cold, snow-covered streets of Jump City on their way to Titans Tower, Wally growing more anxious by the minute.
"I'm a little freaked that Raven might be my Secret Santa," Jinx mused casually, casting a withering look at a wreathe tied to a nearby car's bumper, almost as though she were reiterating the fact that she still did hate Christmas and nothing anyone did would ever change that. "I think she still hates me for wearing her cloak that one time."
"I'm sure she's over it," Wally's fists were clenched, and it had nothing to do with the cold weather.
"You do know that the only reason I'm going to this thing is because I get a gift out of it, right? And I get to hang out with, well, some people that like me."
"No, really, I still hate Christmas. It's a bad holiday."
Wally laughed despite himself. "Would you please just tell me why you hate it so much?"
"…Bad memories," Jinx shook her head and brushed a stray lock of pink hair behind her ear.
"Way to be specific," the speedster glanced at his friend with a smile and noticed with a tinge of sadness that she was shivering. Why hadn't he recognized that before? "Cold?"
"Liar," Wally wrapped his arm around the sorceress protectively, and he could've sworn that he felt her lean into him ever so slightly. She didn't say anything, and she didn't have to. It was a moment where silence seemed vital.
But then a motorcycle screeched by them, and suddenly the two were back in the city.
"When I was five," Jinx started hesitantly, eyes on the ground, "I got my first Christmas present. My family always believed in Christmas, but without the gifts. Think old school Puritans."
"Harsh," Wally remarked.
"Yeah. For my immediate family, Christmas was about going to church and worshiping God. All day," the sorceress laughed darkly. "I think that's why I became an atheist. Anyways, when I was five years old, my cousin came to visit me. She knew about my parents rules when it came to Christmas and gifts. But she gave me one anyways, in secret. When my parents found out, they got mad at me. Said I should've rejected the gift. My mother nearly disowned me, my father borderline beat me."
Wally's arm around her shoulder hugged her a little closer, and she didn't seem to mind. "Was the present worth it?"
She offered another mysterious chuckle, "Nah. It was a rodent of some kind, maybe a mouse. Didn't matter either way, my dad killed it and chucked it out the door of our house calling it a messenger of Satan." Jinx smiled quickly at her friend, knowing how twisted it sounded. "Two years later I broke my leg and fractured my ribs when I fell down the front stairs of the church on Christmas. My mother was complaining that I wasn't going fast enough, so she pushed me forward. I haven't held out much hope for the holiday after that."
"So now you hate it?"
"So now I hate it."
Wally shifted uncomfortably, and then something caught his eye. Something smallish and green and dangling from a telephone cable that hung over an alleyway. "C'mere."
"Where are you-?" Jinx felt herself being steered to the left, about midway into a large alleyway. Her friend had detached his arm from around her shoulder and they were now standing face to face.
"I forgot your gift."
"I'm your Secret Santa, and I forgot your gift. And after hearing all that, I feel even more awful than I did before when I first realized that I'd forgotten your gift."
"You forgot my…" a nervous giggle escaped Jinx's lips. "I told you Christmas was a bad holiday for me."
"Look, I'm sorry, but I swear I can make it up to you-"
"You don't have to."
"I'll do whatever you want me…what?" Wally looked his friend over, surprised. She wasn't giving him a flippant gesture or sarcastic remark, in fact she didn't seem to mind much at all that he'd forgotten. She looked almost…peaceful.
"You already gave me my gift," Jinx bit her lip and tapped the heel of her shoe on the snow-covered ground. "You saved me."
"From myself," she put a hand over his mouth before he could say any more. "Before you, I liked stealing. I enjoyed it. I liked the rush. You've just given me a different kind of rush. A better one." The hand came down.
"…Was that supposed to be sexual?"
"Funny," Jinx sighed, head in her hand. "Look, I owe you more than I owe anyone I've ever met. You changed me. And I'm glad." Her expression changed, and the familiar scowl seemed to be fixed back into place. "Can we go now? If we keep standing here I think Frosty's gonna try to hook up with me."
"Yeah, yeah," Wally began to walk, but he paused when he remembered the object that had drawn him to the alley in the first place. "Hey Jinx?"
"Check it out," he pointed upward, and as soon as her eyes fell on the mistletoe her face took on an incredulous look.
"Don't tell me you actually believe in that crap about kissing under the mistle-" she didn't finish, because Wally West had pressed his lips to hers, and for some reason she couldn't figure out, she was responding positively to his actions.
"Do you?" He asked as soon as they'd broken apart.
Jinx considered him for a moment, then smiled hesitantly. "I'm starting to."
"Good. Merry Christmas from your Secret Santa," Wally's arm resumed it's position around her shoulders, and they continued on their way to Titans Tower with a little more holiday cheer than when they had left their home.
Merry Christmas, everyone!