Christmas at the Tower
Author's Notes: Yes, this is after the due date for a Christmas Special, but that is because it was written in real time. If it appears rushed when you read it, that's why.
That's right, readers; everything you are about to witness, except Beast Boy waking up on Christmas Day, which actually goes into a flashback sequence about the day before anyway, was written in real time.
I wrote the Christmas Morning sequence on Christmas Morning, the Christmas Dinner sequence was written when the turkey was still freshly in my stomach (well, pork, but it's the idea that counts,) and the morning after was written the morning after.
This Author's Note is also being written on the morning after Christmas, and I would have liked to finish the entire thing on Christmas Day, but for two reasons.
One; it was bed-time and my parents were screaming at me. (I practically am still at school; PM me for details or ask in the review.)
Two; I wanted to put the idea that Christmas isn't just for Christmas, but should stay inside your heart for the other days of the year too, as Starfire rightly says.
So, please, read and review.
And, just one more thing; think about the very last part of the story itself. You'll know it when you get to it. I thought it was appropriate for obvious reasons, and it is a nod to my other one-shot 'The Raven Rewritten'.
If you think about it, the last part has a dual meaning. It can be construed as depressing, yes, but if thought about in the right way it can also hold hope for a certain relationship.
I'll be seeing you all in the year two thousand and seven, then. I very much doubt that I'll be able to post anything before then, even though I did write this in three days. I'm all tuckered out! What do you expect?
Oh, and before I forget;
Merry (belated) Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!
There were not many days of the year that you could have gotten Beast Boy out of bed even with the aid of thermonuclear devices, but there is one particular day of the year when all those who laugh at ribald jokes could not be warded off from getting up early on pain of having their Christmas tree burnt down.
He had spent most of the night awake in bed in any case, simply waiting with his child-like exuberance for tomorrow to arrive quicker; now it finally had he let out a titanic cry of joy, rolled sideways and fell to the floor with a heavy thud.
Outside, the uncountable fluffy flakes fell slowly down, almost invisible against the grey sky. Thankfully the wind had eased off just for this day, and all the city looked as though some new and demented supervillain had flown overhead with a cake-icing dispenser.
Beast Boy untangled himself from his odious bedclothes and stared about his room with wild eyes. For some reason all the air seemed to hold a quiet expectancy of things to come, and he could feel it vibrating throughout everything.
His only concern was that the others might not like the presents he got for them. Ah well; either they would or they wouldn't, and there was nothing that could really be done about that.
The real problem about getting presents for someone was that they might have one of whatever it was already, and of course the entire system of secrecy that shrouded the proceedings in shadow did not help. Well, that didn't apply to Starfire's presents, due to their particular nature, or the ones that would go between Robin and Bumblebee, but… forget it.
So Beast Boy had taken precautions; he'd sneaked through everyone's room in some animal form or other and made specifically sure that nobody had what he'd got for them.
It was so hard thinking up the presents for everybody. Thankfully there was no cost-limit, since the Titans got free everything, but that didn't make it any less difficult. Put yourself in Beast Boy's position and try to think of a present to give Robin. Do you see how hard it is now?
However, he'd thought about it long and… well, long anyway, and had come up with presents for everyone; even Bumblebee who Cyborg had invited over especially for the day. They had thought of inviting over all of Titans East, but Aqualad, Speedy and Mas y Menos replied that they had already planned something with others, which Bee should have been going to as well, but, as she'd put it;
'Christmas is a special time of year, and I have someone special to spend it with.'
Beast Boy sympathised; he had a special person to share it with too. He wondered impishly if Raven was awake yet.
He changed the clothes he'd not bothered to change out of last night and fallen asleep in, more worried about getting to sleep than changing anything, and dashed out of the door. Beast Boy suddenly realized how cold it was, now that he had darted out into the corridor, and ran headlong down the corridor to the main room.
"Good morning universe; how are you today?" he sang out, walking through the double-doors as they opened before him; he felt the warm air flow through from the main room that they actually bothered to heat.
The reception he received was somewhat flat, since the only person there was Starfire, who was also somewhat flat; flat-out asleep on the couch, the traditional fluffy red-and-white Santa cap she had been wearing resting beside her. It seemed she was holding a bauble that should have been on the massive Christmas tree in the centre of the main room.
And what a Christmas tree; it almost reached the ceiling of the cavernous main room and was flush with needle-like leaves; a deep lustrous green that did the Douglas fir as a species of tree proud.
All over it were various baubles and Christmas decorations, not to mention a grand display of lights. Every one of the five Titans had helped with it yesterday. Beast Boy smiled fondly at the memory, and sat down next to Starfire, remembering it.
This next part is a flashback. You may add the special effects and SFX as you feel appropriate, and rewind to the twenty-fourth of December; about half-way through the day…
"Alright," said Cyborg, standing next to the fir and staring up at the top of it in a way that made his neck bend back nearly ninety degrees; "we've got the tree. That's great. There's just one tiny problem."
He wasn't wearing any warm clothing unlike the others; Cyborg had internal heaters, as ever practical. Starfire, staring at the Christmas tree in wonder, was wearing an absolutely adorable winter set in red-and-white, replete with coat, scarf, gloves and pointy Santa hat. It was so adorable as to make one of a lesser courteous disposition disgorge.
Robin, standing next to her and almost smiling at the obvious consternation in Cyborg's voice, simply wore a red top and white trousers, obliging to Starfire's wishes that Christmas clothes be colour coordinated; they were made out of some synthetic fibre with some impossibly long name that, when you came down to it, was just designed to keep you warm.
Raven, as might have been predicted, had chosen a suitably dour coat, completely black and, a sin qua non, hooded. She was also wearing one of those knowing smiles she liked to wear when nobody else seemed to even know what it is she knew that they didn't know about.
Beast Boy, as ever with a natural flair for casual chic, had slapped on an ill-fitting gaggle of thermal clothing; a sweater and jacket, a scarf, a pom-pom hat, gloves and inordinately baggy trousers, all in a colour scheme that would have got him shot in some of the more fashion-conscious countries. He was just about to reply to Cyborg's statement by stating that which should have been obvious.
"How the heck are we going to get that huge tree into the tower?" he asked, pointing at the tree as though it had murdered someone. It sat there in the snow and stared back at him innocently.
"Hey; that was my line," Cyborg objected.
"'Was' your line," said Beast Boy viciously, an evil smirk all over his green face.
Cyborg, conveniently placed right next to Beast Boy, moved his elbow in the wrong way and sent Beast Boy into the snow.
"Oh, I'm sorry; I seem to have inadvertently knocked you into the snow," he apologised, smirking widely.
"Are you quite finished?" Robin asked, smiling despite himself.
"Indeed," Starfire agreed, "I cannot wait to begin the ceremonial decorating of the Christmas tree!"
"Then what are we waiting for?" Raven asked. "Azarath Metrion Zinthos…"
She closed her eyes to focus, and when she opened them again Raven's face was illuminated by the white glow emanating from her optical orbs.
The Christmas tree was covered over with dark energy and levitated to the level of the main room.
"Be careful with that Rae!" warned Beast Boy, shaking the snow out of his copious collection of clothing and rushing to stand next to her. "We can't get another one!"
"It'll be fine," she replied. "It might be easier, though, if you let go of my arm."
"Hey; can't a guy hold his girlfriend's arm anymore?"
Raven sighed deeply, and flicked the wrist of her free hand. There was an odd sound from above. Raven stepped to the right, breaking free of Beast Boy.
"What was-" he started, just before getting deluged with snow.
"Sorry; I had to shake off the snow before taking it inside."
Looking like some surreal kind of snow mummy as he emerged from the small pile of snow, Beast Boy looked around at the others.
"Oh yeah; so how come none of them got buried?"
"Let's just say that that was the first-ever use of a guided snow missile," said Raven, grinning. "Now stay off your girlfriend's arm and let her concentrate, will you? She has a tricky bit of tree-phasing to do."
Hearing something in the background about 'a real girlfriend wouldn't do that', Raven manoeuvred the tree through the window of Titans' tower and, flying up to make sure she had a good line of sight, placed it in the huge foundation they'd set for it, phasing it through the window with ease. She flew back down to the snowy earth.
"There; are you happy now, Cyborg?"
"Well, personally I would have used a hinged roof, a tree-harness and a Chinook helicopter, but then again I don't have nyctokinetic powers," he replied.
"Now please let us go upstairs so that we may truly bring the joy of Christmas to the tower," Starfire requested. "I have many decorations that I would like to share."
"Sure, why not?" said Robin as he was practically dragged through the snow by the arm. Starfire may have been somewhat naïve, and but she did have supernormal strength.
"Do I have permission?" Beast Boy asked in mock acidic tones.
"Of course," Raven obliged.
So he then brusquely took hold of her arm and marched off through the snow alongside Raven. The pompous manner he adopted made her giggle, and she ran off through the snow ahead of Beast Boy.
"Hey; get back here!"
Cyborg looked on with a delighted expression. As always, Christmas would go brilliantly, but for some reason this Christmas always seemed better than last Christmas.
'Man; even Rae's enjoying herself,' Cyborg thought as he trudged through the snow, taking his sweet time. 'Well, I suppose things are different this year for her, and for Beast Boy, let's not forget. I'm just glad he got over Terra and moved on…'
Since it turned out that Beast Boy was never going to catch Raven, especially after she teleported directly to the main room, he waited for Cyborg instead.
"So when's Bee gonna turn up?"
"Oh; she's not coming 'till tomorrow," he replied.
"And I suppose you're looking forward to it?" Beast Boy asked, avoiding eye contact.
"Of course; I hardly get any time to see her, what with Karen being head of Titans East and all."
"So can I take it that you two are an item?" he asked, throwing his eyebrows at Cyborg.
"You can take whatever you want Garfield; as long as you put it back. Hey; what are you doing?"
"Oh, nothing much," said Beast Boy, turning around and bending to reach the snow. "I'm only making a snow-"
He whipped around to throw a snowball at Cyborg, only to find an entire football's worth of snow already speeding towards him at meteoritic velocity. His entire world became white just before it turned black, as for the second time in a minute Beast Boy got buried in white sludge.
Cyborg let out a bark of a laugh and bounded away through the snow, an irate Beast Boy running after him as best as possible in enough clothes to sink a navy…
"I do not understand the concept of this 'Christmas'," said Starfire observantly as she flitted through the air and helped thread the lights out around the tree, the tasteful warm clothing substituted for her usual purple garb, save for the Santa hat. Everybody else had followed suit, save the Santa hat; the heater was making things rather toasty indoors. "I understand that it is derived from the words 'Christ mass', and that Christ is the son of God and the virgin Mary, so is it not basically a birthday celebration of someone who was born over two millennia ago by a means of artificial conception and whose existence is not even proven?"
"Well, a lot of people would argue that Jesus did in fact exist," Robin pointed out, baubling the lower foothills of the Douglas fir. "Many people have died to defend this idea."
"I find that highly irrational," she continued petulantly. "No real religion should make people die for it; X'Hal would never allow such a thing."
"Yeah; don't you have any celebrations for this X'Hal deity on Tamaran?" Beast Boy asked, temporarily human as he selected another bauble which he could put on to the tree as an oversized hummingbird.
"Yes, we do; roughly translated it is called 'The Gathering', in the sense that people gather as well as their emotions, since it is a celebration of emotions more than anything else; everyone is allowed to stop work for a day if they wish and simply enjoy themselves. It is much like Christmas here, I suppose, but the only gifts given are those of emotion. Any love declared or marriages carried out on or near this date are considered auspicious."
"What? No gifts?" Cyborg asked, using a telescopic arm of his own devising to plant the decorations on the Christmas tree.
"No. That is another thing I find unreasonable about Christmas; there is far too much commercialization and emphasis on buying during the Christmas season. I do not like it; it draws attention away from the real meaning of Christmas."
"Which is?" Raven asked, arranging decorations with dark energy, and occasionally flying up to join Starfire.
"Surely the real meaning of Christmas is simply to enjoy oneself and spread that enjoyment amongst others?" Starfire asked.
"Isn't that what you do all year anyway?" Beast Boy remarked, smiling. Starfire shrugged, and answered quite simply;
"It gives me joy to see others happy."
"And that is definitely true of you and I," said Robin warmly, making Starfire briefly blush.
"You guys keep going; I just have to go and attend to the turkey," said Cyborg, handing the telescopic arm to Robin.
"How many more baubles are there?" he asked. Raven walked over to the decorations box.
"About ten billion; give or take a million of course," she commented dryly.
"Joy to the world," remarked Beast Boy, just as deadpan.
"You probably shouldn't be spending so much time around Raven, Beast Boy; her dark nature is rubbing off on you," Robin joked.
"I don't think we spend enough time together, personally," he replied.
"What do you mean?" Raven asked in return. "I spend every spare moment I have with you; there's hardly any time left for me to read my books or meditate."
"Who needs to meditate when you could be with me?" said Beast Boy, dropping an arm over Raven's shoulders.
"Get off me, you joker." Raven laughed as she pulled away from him.
"See? I can make you laugh more than any book."
"That's as may be, but a book can teach me more than you would probably ever be able to."
"That is also as may be, because I know something that books can't do," said Beast Boy, putting his arms around Raven's middle from behind and whispering into her ear.
"Hey; if you're going to do any of that do it in private," Cyborg called jocularly from the kitchen area of the main room.
"You'll get your chance later; I promise," Raven said tantalisingly, going back to the baubles.
Robin flicked a glance at Starfire, which she returned.
"Hey! What's that supposed to mean?" Beast Boy questioned.
"That is for us to know and you to find out," Starfire returned enigmatically, smiling distractedly as she hung yet another of the myriad baubles.
"Unless, of course, you already know," Robin added. Beast Boy raised a finger as though to go on a massive session of haranguing, but finally he decided upon;
Starfire, giving the clichéd 'little-silver-bells' laugh, finished placing the last of the lights, and Robin turned on the power to them.
Instantly, all over the tree the little lights lit up, bathing all the surrounding objects in a multitude of colours; red, yellow, blue, green and, of course, white, each colour for one of the Titans. It appeared against the dark green of the fir as stars in the sky, twinkling on and off, dimming and brightening by turns and sometimes all syncopating to establish a pattern of dancing light all around the centrepiece of the main room.
"Is it not beautiful?" Starfire asked, hovering a few feet away from the tree and gazing up and down its length, her hands clasped in childish wonder.
"Yes, it is," Robin agreed as he stood surveying the lights. "What about the rest of the baubles?"
Beast Boy placed one on the tree, and fluttered down to the ground, powered by the rapid wing-beats of the hummingbird's form.
"I think that's enough decorations," he suggested. "Besides; the lights are more than enough. If we put on any more the tree would either snap in half or collapse through the floor."
"There's something missing, though," said Cyborg, walking over from the kitchen.
"What?" asked Starfire, fretting that she'd forgotten one of the more vital decorations. "I am sure I remembered all the Christmas tree decorations-"
"We forgot to put something on the top," he pointed out. "I'm pretty sure there needs to be a star or an angel on top or something."
"I'm just sorry I cannot ask Starfire to be the angel; you definitely are radiant enough," said Robin, smiling suavely. However, she was not in the mood for romantic comments, and was searching through the bauble box, practically upending herself into it.
"I have found it!" emanated a muffled cry from the box. Starfire whipped out a massive blue-white stylized star, spraying baubles everywhere which Raven collected before they did any real damage and put back in their rightful place.
"No wonder the baubles seemed to be so much more than they were; that thing was displacing them," Raven commented.
Glee practically overflowing from Starfire's heart and giving all those present a liberal dose, she flew to the top of the tree and carefully placed the crowning glory of the proceedings in its seat of power.
"There," she said, satisfied at a job well done. All the Titans stood in awed silence for a moment, and regarded the Douglas fir.
The tree sat in the centre of the room, casting its regal splendour over all barring none. It seemed to have some magnificence of its own, even without the suits and trappings of its outer decoration, and stood tall in the middle of the main room, a proud declaration of the joys of Christmas.
"So; who's for hot chocolate?" Beast Boy asked, rubbing his hands together in expectation.
"You really know how to ruin a moment, you know that?" Raven asked in only a pale imitation of annoyance, drifting after him. It was impossible to be angry in an atmosphere like this.
"What moment? I didn't see any moment, and if it was ruined it was like that when I got there. I didn't do it; you didn't see me do it; you can't prove anything."
"Come on, you two," said Cyborg, beckoning to Starfire and Robin; "aren't you going to join in the post-tree-decorating festivities?"
"Yeah, sure," said Robin, striding towards the seats only to have giggling Starfire scoop him up from behind and, after a brief aerial jaunt, deposit him in his respective place. "Wow, okay, slow down Star!"
"I am sorry; this 'Spirit of Christmas' has pervaded my psyche in a most efficacious fashion," she replied, taking a seat next to Robin and giving him a peck of a kiss upon the cheek.
"If we're not careful Starfire will be up and visiting Scrooge," Beast Boy remarked to Raven, gratefully taking his mug from the tray Cyborg bore.
"Who is 'Scrooge'?" Starfire asked.
"Ah; that's a reference to 'A Christmas Carol'," Robin explained. "It's a book by Charles Dickens; I think you've heard of him, yes?" She nodded. "Well, in this book there is a miserable old man who hates Christmas and all it stands for; he is a cheapskate even though he has pots of money and takes every available opportunity to be mean."
"How did this happen?" Starfire asked; an undertone of horror to her tone.
"That is not made clear until later," said Raven, taking over the explanation as befit her status of the resident bookworm; "the only thing we know about Scrooge's past so far is that he worked with a man named Marley, who one night comes back from the grave as a ghost to give Scrooge a dire warning. Marley used to be a business partner with him, and they made a good living off, basically, cheating people out of their hard-earned livings with extortionate prices and sky-high interest rates."
"But that is abhorrent!" said Starfire.
"Indeed; Marley warns him of this, and tells him that, if he does not stop following the path of meanness that he is already very far down, then Scrooge will be tied down in the afterlife by the chains he put on himself in this life, as Marley shows him; he is himself covered in these chains. In an attempt to sway Scrooge and make him understand the merits of leading a magnanimous life, he sends three spirits of Christmas to visit him between the hours of midnight and one in the morning. I think Beast Boy was referring to you as being the Ghost of Christmas Past; she is often depicted as a young woman with a kind disposition, though your current mood of riotous joy would probably be better suited to the Ghost of Christmas Present."
"Please, do not continue friend Raven; I would much like to read this book myself."
"Is that so?" Raven asked. "Well, that's one present sorted then."
"Oh; you are too kind Raven."
"I need to get rid of a few of my books; they're cluttering up my shelf to the extent that I can practically hear it groan with the weight each time I replace one."
"That's a thought though," said Beast Boy, snapping out of a rare moment of consideration. "Doesn't Scrooge only really change when the Ghost of Christmas Future scares him into thinking that everyone will celebrate rather than mourn his death? I mean; it's a bit ironic that he should be made a better person by the detrimental effects of fear."
"My; that's an astute remark for the tower's self-proclaimed most hardcore gamer," said Cyborg snidely, smiling at him over his mug. "You really are spending too much time in Rae's company."
"Doesn't that make it a bit like 'A Clockwork Orange'?" Robin asked. Only Raven seemed to understand what it was he was talking about; the others simply stared at him with a thick expression of incomprehension.
"I think you're straying from the point there a bit, Robin; 'A Clockwork Orange' is hardly a Christmas story."
"But there is a marked similarity between Scrooge and Alex; you have to admit. They both basically go through courses similar to Pavlov's experiments; they are taught that if they act in a certain way they will only ever experience bad things, so they are forced to act in a better way. This isn't so much Scrooge changing himself as other things changing him."
"Well, I suppose you have a valid argument, but that's not the point of 'A Christmas Carol', is it? It's there to instil the virtues of Christmas in those who read it; there's nothing sinister about it. The whole thing is basically a heart-warming tale, as childish as that sounds."
"I don't think you should go around saying heart-warming stories are childish when you spend so much time smiling these days," said Cyborg, still doing the same himself.
"Thank you; thank you," said Beast Boy, bowing in his seat. "I take full responsibility for that."
"Alright; I think they got the message a couple of months ago Garfield. There's no need to keep going," said Raven.
"But I'm proud of it!" Beast Boy objected in a tone of mock offence. "You are the best thing that has happened to me, and I'm not just saying that. Oh; is that a blush I see?"
"In your dreams," Raven retorted playfully.
"But you so often are in my dreams." She rolled her eyes.
"Where do you get these lines, Beast Boy?"
"Why; do you want to see them?"
"That's not exactly what I had in mind, but I suppose I'll have to be able to see them to destroy them."
"Why do you continue to argue as such even though you claim to be in an intimate relationship together?" Starfire asked, apparently appalled at the level of quickly building sarcasm surrounding the table. "Robin and I never engage in such trades of stinging wit."
Beast Boy and Raven looked at each other.
"I don't think 'wit' is quite the right word to use in Beast Boy's case," Raven commented lightly, taking a demure sip of the hot chocolate.
"In other words, we have no idea," Beast Boy translated for Starfire.
"But it is not logical," said Starfire. "Surely you would not say hurtful comments to the one you love?"
"But these comments aren't hurtful; not to us, anyway," said Raven. Starfire drew a massive blank on this, so she continued; "We both know that we love each other, if you insist on putting it in such romantic terms, therefore we both also know that there is no harm in us trading these comments, because all of it is in jest."
"Don't try to understand, Starfire," Robin advised. "You have a better chance of destroying your stuffed toy collection."
"But I would never do that!"
"That's exactly my point."
"So what shall we do next?" Cyborg asked.
"Don't we need to put the presents under the tree?" Raven asked.
They had decided that each of the Titans would simply place all the presents they were going to give to the others in a standard-sized box so as to avoid any prior identification, so at this point they all went off to their respective rooms to fetch them…
Beast Boy snapped out of his reminiscences.
"Oh, hey Star. I see you stayed up a bit to add a few more baubles."
"Actually, I spent most of the time rearranging them," she said, sitting up and stretching. After a massive yawn, she added; "Most of them were rather haphazardly placed."
He looked up, and noted that the baubles were definitely more systematically placed now in a diamond formation.
"Great work Starfire," Beast Boy remarked. "It looks a lot prettier." She gasped excitedly.
"Do you really think so?"
"Of course… um… are going to wear that Santa hat?"
"Do you want one? I have several."
"Oh; that would be great. Thanks."
"Here," said Starfire, somewhat groggily handing Beast Boy the hat she had been wearing. "I'll get one of the ones from my room…"
She drifted off a few inches off the ground through the door, winding from side to side as she forced her eyelids open.
'That reminds me,' Beast Boy thought; 'I was going to see if Raven was awake.'
Snickering quietly to himself, he ran off to Raven's room with all the stealth of a ninja elephant. There, he changed into a flea, and marched under her door, regretfully having to leave the Santa hat behind.
There was complete darkness in the room. Smiling devilishly, Beast Boy briefly morphed into a bat to make absolutely sure of the position of Raven's bed, and advanced quietly across the room.
He crept up to her bedside, savouring the moment for a few seconds, before transforming into a dog and giving an earth-shattering bark.
Beast Boy instantly changed back, and was about to start laughing at his prank when he realised that Raven was not, in fact, in bed, and had not been for a while; it was perfectly made.
Stepping back from the bed, Beast Boy whipped around to find Raven on a collision course with him. They both fell onto the bed, where Raven took a pillow and set about Beast Boy with it, albeit in a playful manner.
"That," said Raven, giving him a thwack over the back of the head, "is for trying to scare me awake."
"Alright, I'm sorry; I'm sorry!" Beast Boy laughed. As if to reinforce this statement, he instantly changed into the kitten with The Face and beamed up at Raven with wide, adoring eyes.
"Don't think that will work on me," she replied, setting aside the pillow. He morphed back, and looked up at Raven.
"Hey; what's with the wardrobe change?" he asked.
"I thought I should dress in a slightly more festive fashion," Raven replied, standing and giving Beast Boy a flamboyant slow turn. "Do you like it?"
"Yeah, I suppose so. That's the same white leotard you wore before, but where did you get that red cloak?"
"I borrowed it from Anger. Happy?"
"I'm always happy; I thought you would have known that by now," he answered, standing just before Raven and setting his arms about her; "especially when I'm this close to you." Raven laughed.
"Since you won't stop talking, I'm afraid I'm going to have to silence you."
"If it would help make your Merry Christmas any merrier, then by all means; do as you wish."
Still smiling widely, Raven moved closer to Beast Boy, reciprocated his embrace and moistened her lips for a kiss…
Starfire wandered along the corridors back to her room. Unlike Beast Boy, she did not hasten upon her course; all Tamaranians are able to survive the blood-chilling temperatures of deep space, and do not necessarily even have to breath, therefore the mere cold of a planet with a wonky axis held no terrors for her in regard to lack of heat.
She only wore the winter clothing like everyone else because they did and she didn't want to feel left out or offend them, and also because it was simply the cutest outfit there was to be found in the entire mall and can you believe it was seventy-five percent off?
"Hey Starfire; where are you going?"
She turned at the sound of Robin's voice and smiled to see him walking towards her, shivering slightly.
"I was just going to get another of my Christmas hats; I already gave one to Beast Boy."
"I was wondering about that," said Robin, drawing a hand out from behind him. It turned out to be holding Starfire's original Santa hat. "I found this outside Raven's door, which was locked."
He grinned at her in a certain way, and Starfire cottoned on soon enough.
"Oh; so friends Beast Boy and Raven are beginning the festivities slightly early then?" Starfire asked.
"Indeed. Let's get back to the main room; it's freezing out here," he suggested, handing the hat to Starfire.
"Happy Christmas!" was the cry that greeted Starfire and Robin as they walked into the room.
"Bumblebee," said Starfire, as ever practically exploding with jollity to see old friends; "I'm so glad you could come! Happy Christmas to you as well," she returned, giving the customary rib-cracking Starfire hug.
"Yeah… it's great to see you too," said Karen, trying to get some air back in her lungs. "So where are Beast Boy and Raven?"
Robin and Starfire exchanged sly glances.
"Oh," said Cyborg, winking. "I get it."
"Get your head out of the gutter," said Bee, slapping him on the chest and, of course, not making Cyborg move an inch. She sniffed. "I don't think I could go that far this early in the morning." Starfire seemed quite alarmed by this, and was about to loudly state something. "It's just a joke, Starfire."
"So did you bring it?" Robin asked Bumblebee.
"Oh, sure, I brought it," she answered, giving him a meaningful look which Starfire completely failed to understand the meaning of. "I even rode it here; the rest of the presents are in that bag there under the present."
"Rode it?" Starfire asked, bewildered. "It isn't a horse, is it?" she asked, an edge of shining hope in her voice.
"No, Starfire; my presents aren't like yours," said Karen, chuckling under her breath; "though I must compliment you on your originality."
"Well, I'm just glad everyone accepted them," she answered bashfully.
"How could we not?" Cyborg asked. "They were so well thought-out." "I was somewhat afraid that the idea would not be a popular one." "Well, there was no need; everybody loved the concept," said Robin. "I'm sure I'll love the one you got me."
"Robin! She is for both of us," Starfire reprimanded. "I know she should be just yours, but she was so cute that I wanted her, and… well."
"Don't worry; I don't mind sharing her with you."
There was one of those awkward moments when nobody is really sure what to say, and they cast about staring at random objects hoping that some topic will suddenly jump out and present itself.
"How about we go outside for a bit?" Cyborg suggested. "It's not that often you get such a beautifully snowy day like this."
"Oh, sure," said Bumblebee. "Just let me get my coat."
A few minutes later;
"Hello? Where is everyone?" Beast Boy asked to nobody in particular, striding into a room that was full of non-existent people.
"They went down to the snow," said Raven, floating over to the window and looking down.
"Hey! Is that a snowball fight going on down there?" Beast Boy asked, joining her. "Come on; if there's a snowball fight going on I'm going to be in it!"
"So you can lose?"
"Whose side are you on, anyway?"
"I'll be on yours, but only because I take pity on you."
"Oh, wait!" said Beast Boy burst out all of a sudden. "I forgot the hat I left outside your room."
"But there was no hat," said Raven, slightly confused.
"Then that means someone found it. I hope they didn't ask Starfire about that…"
"She gave it to me." Raven stared at her sceptically. "Ah; I'm just being silly. Who cares if they suspect us of doing what we did?"
"It wouldn't be the first time," she commented, smiling suggestively.
"Indeed not," said Beast Boy, grabbing his winter clothing putting it on as best he could while still moving towards the door. Come on; let's get down there so I can show them why it is I'm called 'The Snowstopper'." Raven snorted loudly at this.
"You're called that because you get stopped by snow, right?"
"You are incorrigible, you know that?"
By virtue of the fact that sound waves fade out after a certain distance, the bickering of the winter-garbed couple faded into the distance of the corridor…
"Booyah!" Cyborg shouted from his snow fortress after having successfully delivered a package of snow to the Boy Wonder's face.
His triumph was short-lived however, for a second afterwards he had an armful of snow dropped on him from above.
"Hey!" he objected to the rapidly fading giggle above. "We agreed no superpowers!"
"Don't worry Victor. If Starfire can use powers, so can I; I'll be your air cover," said Karen in mock malice, taking a snowball in either hand and taking off. She chased Starfire through the wintry air, her long coat flapping in the wind, and took Starfire by surprise with a snowy deluge.
"Look out behind you, Cyborg!" Robin called out.
"Oh no you don't; I ain't falling for that old-" That was as far as Cyborg got, however, for at that moment he was deluged by a flurry of snowballs, most of them briefly encapsulated by dark energy.
"Your high-tech sensors can't save you now, metal-head!" Beast Boy jested, scooping up snowballs at a respectful rate.
"Is that so?" Cyborg bellowed as he ran through the snowstorm Raven created and took out Beast Boy, ploughing them both into the snow.
"Ah! Get off! Some help would be appreciated, Rae!" Beast Boy shouted as Cyborg, cackling maniacally, made sure Beast Boy was flat and jumped back, releasing a weak sonic blast into the snow which more or less buried the green changeling.
"Sure, sure," Raven complied, tossing him high into the air in an explosion of dark energy and snow. After getting his bearings, Beast Boy changed into a falcon and swooped down on Raven, making her give a short shriek of surprise and fall backwards onto the soft white ground. He then changed back and rolled along the snow, not able to stand due to excess of laughter. Beast Boy opened his eyes.
"No! Robin; don't-"
Meanwhile, up in the higher altitudes, they had run out of snowballs and Bee swooped down on Robin and picked him up, Starfire giving chase as Karen sped along just above the snow. Robin took the initiative and Bumblebee's head, which he bent down, forcing them both to crash into the snow and create a large plume of freezing whiteness.
Cyborg, Raven and Starfire were now the only ones not floored, or snowed, depending on how you see it; each of the three couples had one representative still standing; or flying, in two cases.
"Go Rae!" Beast Boy shouted from beneath his snowy mound. Karen and Robin were still too entangled in the snow and each other to give any verbal support.
"Let's heat this thing up!" Cyborg enthused. He charged the sonic cannon and jumped high, letting the cannon blast straight down and unleash a conical snowstorm.
"I concur," said Starfire, blasting the snow with a low-level nova-blast that melted it instantly.
"Is that all you've got?" Raven asked, smiling devilishly. Knowing the full extent of Raven's powers, both Starfire and Cyborg turned to face the threat together.
A solid wall of dark-enshrouded snow rose from the ground and blasted outwards in a blizzard just as another two truckloads of snow were kicked up as Starfire and Cyborg utilised their respective powers. As can be imagined, the result was the very opposite of a winter wonderland; everybody ended up covered, if not totally buried, in frozen or unfrozen water.
"Let's… just… call it a draw," Beast Boy decided, staggering off back to the tower.
"What? Beast Boy doesn't want a rematch? Somebody call the papers; this is front-page news!" Cyborg commented out loud, giving his characteristically deep and booming laugh.
"Hey, Raven pretty much won that for me; I'm just giving you guys the benefit of the doubt," Beast Boy retorted, smiling despite his harsh words.
"Come on, you guys; we'd better go inside before one of us gets hypothermia," Karen suggested, dragging Robin out of a small snowdrift. "I'd be amazed if one of us hasn't caught a cold yet."
"I think I may have, if the chilling ache in my bones is anything to go by," Raven commented.
"Friend Raven has a cold?" said Starfire, appalled at the idea. Instantly she was by her side, emanating a globe of heat which flooded through Raven's system.
"Wow… um… thanks," said Raven, unsure as to what response to give. Then a thought struck her; "I thought you get your power from the sun. Doesn't that mean you can't get any during the winter months?"
"I only have to spend short periods of time in the ultra-violet ray emitter-"
"You mean the sun-bed, right?"
"Yes; as long as I do not use my powers too much then the risk of depleting my powers is rather low."
"Do you mind if I share some of that?" Beast Boy asked, feeling the heat as he stayed behind to talk with Raven…
"Well, that was definitely a lot of fun," Beast Boy commented, having rammed half a mug of hot chocolate down his throat. "What next?"
"What do you mean 'what next'?" Robin asked. "We don't have to be continually doing things all day."
"Yes we do! It's Christmas, ain't it? And when are we going to open the presents, anyway?"
"I thought we agreed that would be after Christmas dinner," said Cyborg. "Oh; that reminds me; just need to go check on it."
"Don't worry Vic; it'll be fine," said Karen, using her arm on his shoulders to hold him down in his seat. "Stop worrying about things for once and just enjoy the moment."
"I don't suppose there's any way of getting you to tell me what present you got for me, is there?" Beast Boy asked Raven.
"How about 'no'?" she replied. He shrugged lightly.
"It was worth a try. So to get back to the topic; what are we going to do next?"
"Don't do; just be," Robin advised.
"Sage words," Karen commented. "However, I agree with Garfield; this is getting a little boring."
"But I cannot think of anything that all of us could do at once," Starfire pointed out.
"Who said all of us had to do it at once?" Beast Boy asked, moving up against Raven. "We could just take it in turns; two at a time."
"We did enough of that earlier on, thank you," she replied, pushing him further away down the couch. She realised that everyone was staring at them awkwardly. "We only kissed, okay?"
"Fine, fine," said Cyborg. "We believe you." He grinned and stared at the ceiling absent-mindedly.
Raven was about to pursue the matter further when Beast Boy cut in.
"Don't worry; just let them think what they want. It's not our fault if they're immature." He smugly finished off the mug.
"Immature?" Bumblebee asked. "You're the one who keeps making obvious romantic suggestions to Raven."
"How can I help it? This is Raven we're talking about."
"Why can't you be more like that?" Starfire asked teasingly, poking Robin.
"What; you want me to bother you with romantic clichés the whole day?"
"I would take it as a compliment," she said, making eyes at him.
"I don't have to tell you how beautiful you are."
"It's contagious," Cyborg commented.
"It seems we're the last bastion of defence against the forces of immaturity," Bee replied.
"I don't know why, but that reminds me of videogames," Beast Boy announced.
"Everything reminds you of videogames," Raven pointed out.
"Only because nothing reminds you of videogames; you've only ever played them with me, like, twice."
"And I beat you once of those two times."
"Oh yeah?" Beast Boy asked indignantly. "So there's something we can do then; to the Gamestation Two!"
Raven rolled her eyes, but didn't resist Beast Boy's attempts to drag her to the television screen.
"Hey; wait up for me!" Cyborg called out. "You game for a game, Robin?"
"I guess so. You don't mind, do you Starfire?"
"Not at all, Robin," she replied.
So, while Raven and the boys went off to play some mindless multiplayer racing game with fiery explosions galore, Karen went over to sit with Starfire.
"So how have things been going in Titans West since I was last here?"
"Very well, friend Bumblebee. In fact, just the day before yesterday we defeated a new supervillain; he was attempting to rob the very superstore that later bought us this tree as a thank-you gift…"
The Christmas shoppers poured into the shop in the usual last-minute rush to buy presents that they'd been planning to buy all the winter only things got in the way; you know, time just seems to fly by sometimes and anyway this is the best present we could get you in the limited time; yes, we know it's a bit tacky but you must admit it is good for a present that we only had one day to get.
However, there was one particular customer who was planning to use savings other than just the normal Christmas ones; a five-finger discount was more up this particular person's street.
To the amazement of everybody there, the dark-haired man flew up into the air on a pillar of blue-white ice and cast off the large brown coat to reveal an armour of frost. It grew to cover his face, but the cold blue eyes remained in sight.
"Freeze," he commanded loudly; suddenly the entire floor was covered in ice and the customers could not move their feet one inch; several screams came from the crowd. "I will now allow the till people to move. You will take the plastic bags and unload all the money from your till into them, but if I see anyone try to call for help your customers will suffer." The ice was already starting to grow up the citizens' legs; the screams started up again. "And stop squealing, god damn it!"
The till people were freed and they moved to get plastic bags… but one of them at the very far end of the store hit a special button under the counter. No alarm sounded, but there was now help on the way.
"Come on; move faster! I don't have all day, and neither do your clients," he added maliciously, savouring the power he had over these pitiful normal humans. Their pace definitely quickened; the money spilled out over the bags and even onto the floor in some cases. "Hey; don't drop any!"
The supervillain then skated along the tills lackadaisically, scooping up the moneybags as he went. He tossed them into an ice trolley that scooted alongside him, and then brought it to the very front of the store. This took quite a while, but he didn't exactly seem to care. He raised himself up on another icy platform and gave a small speech;
"Thank you for being so cooperative," he shouted to the crowd. "Not that you really had a choice, of course, but at least you'll have a tale to tell your kids this Christmas! You can let them all know that you have just been robbed blind by the Ice Mage-"
The Ice Mage suddenly found out what it's like to have a small explosion in the small of your back. He gave a cry of pain as the ice armour was partially destroyed and the Mage was tossed onto the floor.
Cyborg placed his sonic cannon to the ice freezing the citizens in place and, with several bursts, cracked it all to ice-cubes.
"Get outta here!" he bellowed; they didn't need telling twice.
The people flooded out of the supermarket. The Ice Mage would probably have tried to stop them had Raven not decided to take a personal dislike to this particular villain.
"The 'Ice Mage', huh?" she asked viciously. "Let me introduce you to Darkness."
She struck out with a sharp-edged blade of darkness which cut into the Mage's armour, spraying all around with fine shards of ice.
He leapt back and fired a small hailstorm at Raven, which she simply phased through.
"You might want to look behind you," she suggested.
"Ha! Get real; do you think I'm gonna…" The Ice Mage saw the large shadow loom over him from behind and only just dodged in time.
"Dude, why did you give that warning; I would've had him!" said an annoyed Beast Boy, changing back from the massive gorilla form.
"You were too slow; it's not my fault. He didn't believe me anyway."
"Fight now; argue later."
Starfire deluged the Mage from above with her own style of hailstorm; the Ice Mage established a dome shield about himself which instantly disintegrated under the onslaught. However, after the shield disappeared… so had the Mage.
"Where the…?" Cyborg asked, casting about in an attempt to find where the Ice Mage may have possibly gone to. The ice trolley full of money was still firmly in place, so he wasn't gone yet.
"Shut up tin-man," said a voice behind him. Cyborg spun around and delivered a wild swing which hit the Mage's face without even looking; something that probably saved his life, since the Mage was already halfway through swinging a large ice sword.
"If I told you how many times I've been called that I wouldn't have time to kick your butt!" Cyborg roared as he delivered a potentially lethal stomp to where the Ice Mage's head was a moment ago; he swung around and floored Cyborg.
Then Robin's quarterstaff came to bear; he gave the Mage a hefty smack over the back of the head, making the icy helmet crack. However, the blow didn't faze him enough, and a blue-white fist grew out of his back and grabbed Robin by the arm, throwing him off into the distance.
Of course Starfire caught him before he hit the ground, and she wore an expression that should have been accompanied by a growl.
"Stand back, my friends," Starfire snarled. Nova-energy streamed forth from Starfire's hand and eyes; it was a veritable torrent of green power that surged towards the Mage just as he set up a shield wall.
When the smoke cleared, the Mage was revealed in his true form; a black-haired, blue-eyed man with a few day's worth of stubble and a ragged shirt and jeans.
"So this is the notorious Ice Mage, is it?" Raven taunted. "I was expecting someone a bit… oh, I don't know; less pathetic, perhaps?"
"You'll regret you were ever born, witch!" he roared. The ice armour crept over him again, and he smashed a hand into the ground which once again froze the floor.
Beast Boy leapt up before the ice reached his legs, flew to the Mage, and then deposited the considerable weight of a polar bear on top of him. While the Mage was busy, Starfire released some of her nova energy to the floor and melted the ice in seconds.
"Thanks, Starfire," said Robin. "This guy is turning out to be tougher than I thought, though. Neither frontal attacks nor sneak attacks work; not even Starfire's nova-blasts work on him, even though they should by rights both melt his armour and decimate the Mage himself. How do we beat him?"
Beast Boy flew by at this moment, but not of his own volition; Raven gave him a soft landing by virtue of dark energy as their minds raced. The Ice Mage was already getting up and preparing his next move.
"Wait," said Cyborg loudly; "I know what to do! Raven; I need your help. Come with me!"
Raven shrugged and followed Cyborg off into the supermarket.
"What should we do?" Beast Boy shouted after them.
"Stall the Mage; I only need some time!" he called back over his shoulder.
"I think we can do that," said Robin, turning back to the Mage and grinning unsettlingly. "Starfire; it's time to use the move."
"Indeed," she responded, glaring at the Mage viciously.
Robin and Starfire joined hands, and the latter spun the former about hammer-style, releasing Robin towards the Ice Mage. He drew the quarterstaff and prepared to strike.
The Ice Mage laughed derisively and stretched a hand towards Robin; an icicle grew out of it that would surely spear Robin now that he was travelling through the air without control of his course.
That was where the Mage was wrong; Robin struck down with his quarterstaff and performed a mid-air pole-vault over the Ice Mage. Up until then, Robin had been blocking the Mage's line of sight, but now that he was out of the way the starbolt was all too obvious.
It hit the supervillain full in the face and, just to reinforce their point; Robin landed behind the Mage and delivered an almighty strike to his back which sent him sprawling on his front.
Beast Boy came in at this point; he picked up the Mage and threw him straight into the opposite wall, which collapsed on top of him.
"Minimal damage, Beast Boy," said Robin, wincing at the complaints he could practically already hear.
"Sorry. I just hope Cyborg does whatever it is he's doing quickly."
"Friends; he is recovering!"
"Do you really think you can beat me?" he asked, laughing. "I'm the Ice Mage; you don't even qualify as the Teen Titans with two of your number missing. Where are they? Did they run away from me or what?"
Starfire's eyes narrowed. Her anger was really being tested to the limit today.
She flew towards the Mage, releasing yet another nova-barrage upon him. He only just managed to block it without getting hit himself; the armour took all the energy. However, that wasn't the end of it; now that the Ice Mage had no defence Starfire picked him up by the throat and was just about to smash him into the ground when she felt her hand suddenly freeze.
"Silly little girl and your heat-based powers," the Ice Mage chuckled. "I thought Beast Boy was the stupid one, but I'm afraid you've forced me to reconsider." The ice crept along Starfire's hand and along her arm, and she gave a brief shriek. "That's right, precious; squeal. I want them to hear you suffer."
"Hey Popsicle Mage; I got a treat for ya!"
Cyborg had appeared from around a corner in the aisles; he had rigged up an odd contraption that was basically a large jerry-can of gasoline with a high-pressure garden hose attached. Raven stood beside the jerry-can, her darkness covering it and holding it high.
"Don't do it!" Robin shouted. "You'll get Starfire too!"
By now, the ice had spread nearly all over Starfire; only her head was left and that was rapidly going under too.
"Please Cyborg; fire now! I will not be-" the ice finally silenced her.
"Did she mean to say 'I will not be harmed'?" Raven asked.
"If she didn't mean it that freak is going to kill her anyway," Cyborg stated bitterly; "we need to take him out either way." He raised an index finger to the nozzle of the garden hose. "Now, Raven."
The gasoline spurted out of the hose just as Cyborg activated the welding lance in the tip of his finger; a monstrous fireball engulfed Starfire and the Ice Mage in an explosion of insufferable heat and red, orange and white light. The onslaught was relentless; it continued in a steady stream of fire until finally the jerry can ran dry, and Raven could find no more to send out.
"What did you think you were doing?" Robin screamed at Cyborg and Raven ferociously.
"Do not worry, Robin," said a calm, gentle voice from within the smoke. "I have apprehended the criminal."
"You see?" Cyborg asked, smiling out of triumph and sheer relief that Starfire was alright. "She's fine."
"Though I doubt that could be said of our icy friend here," said Starfire. "I'm afraid the sudden surge of heat caused him to pass out as he tried to resist it."
"I hope he's not too badly burned," said Raven; sarcasm practically dripping off her words.
"Nothing too serious, though I think he'll probably be shedding skin for quite a while," Starfire replied, equally as vindictively.
The police came in now that the danger had passed to arrest the Ice Mage.
"Keep him in a nice warm room with no humidity at all," Robin ordered as Starfire handed him over.
"What do you mean I can't get in?" said a voice from behind the police. "This is my store! At least let me thank them!"
"Hey dude!" said… well, you know. "The store owner wants to thank us! Do you think we can get a Christmas tree off him?"
"We'll just have to see, won't we?" Raven commented…
And so the day passed with various japes and jokes, until the Christmas dinner. Cyborg had ushered the others outside for a moment as he set it up on the table and kitchen top; they came back in from the cold to a real treat.
"…dude. That is… amazing!" Beast Boy remarked upon seeing the spread. "You cooked all that, Cyborg?"
"Well, most of it. I had a bit of help from a restaurant, but the turkey and a few of the other things were made by me."
"You really outdid yourself; even if half the stuff is from outside you sure knew the right place to get it from," said Bee. "And you arranged all of it, didn't you?"
"…yeah, I suppose so."
"Stop being so humble, Cyborg; you did a great job," said Robin.
"But nowhere as near as good a job as I'm going to do in eating it!" Beast Boy declared. "Come on; let's get to it already!"
"It's hard being with a boy who lives so frugally," Raven commented, taking a plate and joining the buffet-style line. Cyborg carved up the turkey and served them that; they then moved on to serve themselves the rest of the various delights at hand.
"You remembered the mustard!" Starfire cried joyously upon reaching the end.
"How could I forget?" Cyborg asked, laughing heartily. "Come on; let's get to the table. Remember Beast Boy; the faster you eat the sooner we get the presents," he reminded Beast Boy, eager to keep the errant joker under control.
"In that case, the only way I'm taking a long time eating is to go back for seconds."
They took their now respective places at table, said grace, and there was a silence broken only by clinking cutlery. It's easy to forget how hungry a person can become over the course of a fun-filled day.
"I don't think I really have to say it, but this is really delicious," said Karen.
"Thank you Captain Obvious," Beast Boy replied, his cheeks practically bulging with various foodstuffs.
"It is indeed delectable; thank you, Cyborg," said Starfire, only just having drained down a mouthful with her favourite Earth drink.
"It's interesting that someone who usually specializes in technology should be so good at cooking," Robin remarked.
"It's just another mechanical process," said Cyborg, shrugging. "A more biological one, granted, but when you split everything down to its most basic level everything is just action and reaction. If you understand the way they interact, then you can do just about anything."
"Is that how your mind works all the time?" Beast Boy asked, bewildered. "How can you possibly have fun with that going on in your head?"
"It's called 'thinking', Beast Boy; learn to live with it," said Raven dryly. Beast Boy smiled despite himself.
"I was wondering what had happened to you; you haven't insulted me for quite a while now."
"Sometimes you've got to work for it, and sometimes it walks right up to you," said Raven lightly. The conversation languished again, until;
"There; I finished. Can we open the presents now?" asked Beast Boy like a playful puppy straining at his leash.
"I think you know full well that the answer is no," Bee answered. "Everyone has to finish first."
"I must admit that I am very eager to see the presents, though that in itself presents somewhat of a paradox," Starfire supplied.
"What's wrong with being eager to open your presents?" Robin asked.
"Well, if you think about it most of the attraction of presents is the mystery behind them. They look so inviting; sitting there in the wrapping paper, but when you actually open them all the mystery is dispelled."
"Like Schrödinger's Cat Experiment?" Cyborg asked, drawing a blank stare from Beast Boy.
"Indeed; very much like that. Most of the enjoyment that is derived from presents is the anticipation of getting rather than the happiness from having," Starfire explained. "Like the experiment there is no way you can know what's in the wrapping until you unwrap it, which sort of defeats the object of opening the presents, really."
"I don't care so much about the philosophical side of presents; the physical one is good enough for me," Beast Boy answered, regaining his humour.
"You definitely do like the physical side; perhaps a bit too much." Raven realised everyone was staring at her. "I didn't mean it like that," she said, frowning. "You don't think enough, Garfield."
Like a cat, Raven was never abashed; she gave you a look as though to suggest; 'Who do you think you are?'
"Is everyone finished now?" Beast Boy asked a few minutes later.
"Yes, alright," Cyborg allowed; "we can open the presents."
Beast Boy let out a whoop of joy not dissimilar to the one he gave at the beginning of the day, and leapt from the table. His feet had started running before he'd even hit the ground, and Beast Boy powered over to the Christmas tree.
"He's like a little kid," Bee commented to Cyborg.
"Tell me about it; I have to live in the very same tower as him," he replied.
"Come on everybody; open the presents!" Beast Boy enthused.
"Alright, alright," Raven laughed, for the second time that day getting dragged off her seat by green hands.
"I shall go and retrieve your presents now," Starfire announced, stepping out of the main room.
"And of course you're going to have to join me in the garage later," said Karen to Robin. "We have a little surprise for you."
"Only a little one?" he laughed.
"Well I'll open my box first, since everyone else seems not to be so keen," said Beast Boy in tones of mock reprimand. He ripped up the wrapping paper as messily as was inhumanly possible, and pulled out Robin's present first.
"Is this an MP3 player?" Robin asked.
"You bet it is; it's got several songs from my favourite band already," Beast Boy answered. "You really need to learn to love music, Rob; I bet if you did you wouldn't be so uptight most of the time." Robin let it pass with an eye-roll.
"And here's Starfire's present… oh, wait; she's not here. I'll just leave it on the table… Cyborg; here's yours!"
"Wow; is that the Gamestation Three?" said an awed Cyborg. "I didn't even know you could get those yet!"
"Yeah, well, I pulled a few strings. It's even got a few test games with it; try it out. But remember; I can play on it whenever I want 'cause I got it for you."
"Whatever man; this is my present. You know; you really are good for something," said Cyborg kindly, ruffling Beast Boy hair and accepting the heavy box, which he set down by the television for later hardcore gaming sessions.
"For Bumblebee… just don't get mad at me, yeah? I though I should get something that suited you."
"…go on," said Karen warily.
"I got you a pair of musical bee antennae!" he burst out joyously, attempting to wedge them firmly over Bumblebee's head. "I even asked Cyborg and downloaded all your favourite songs onto it!"
"Oh… thanks Beast Boy; I didn't expect something like this from you."
"Because it's original?" he asked suavely.
"No; because it's a good present," said Bee. "Now come on; Raven's waiting for her present."
"Oh yeah; Rae, I'll give you your present later; it's a special one." He winked obviously at her.
"That's interesting… I was thinking of doing the same thing," Raven answered. "Anyway; you go next Robin."
"Alright; don't push," he said to Beast Boy. "Here we go… Beast Boy; your present is that videogame you always wanted but never got around to getting; I think the Gamestation Three is reverse compatible."
"Oh my…" said Beast Boy's voice faded. "Is that Mega Monkeys Five?" he asked in hushed tones of reverence.
"It is indeed. Knock yourself out," said Robin, tossing it to him. "And for Raven…"
"You really put a lot of thought into that didn't you?" Raven asked sarcastically, taking the book. "I suppose I should thank you anyway."
"I am honoured, Lady Raven," said Robin, returning the sarcasm. "Next I got something for Cyborg, which he said he would build if he had the time."
"So that's the entertainment visor, is it?" he asked.
"Bingo!" Robin replied, giving it to him. "I got all your favourite songs and movies from the database and put them in there."
"Cool! Audio and video; nice work Robin. Did you build it yourself?"
"I bought the separate pieces, but I did put it together; yes."
"You did a good job. I see those tips I gave you on working with metal helped," said Cyborg, looking it over and appreciating the work.
"I'm glad you like it. Bumblebee's present is in the garage and Starfire-"
"I have returned, friends!"
"Speak of the alien…" Beast Boy commented.
"Here is the African Grey parrot for you, friend Bumblebee," said Starfire. She opened the door to the cage and held it up to her arm.
Inside there was a predominantly grey but white-faced parrot, quite a large member of the species, with red tail-feathers.
"She is very well trained and answers to the name of Helen," Starfire explained.
At the mention of her name the Grey looked around at Starfire and, in a voice that was eerily similar to a human's, said 'hello'.
Next it sidestepped gawkily along the bar in the cage and out of the door; it took a firm but gentle hold on Starfire's arm.
"Here you go, friend Bumblebee. Helen; this is your owner now," Starfire said slowly and clearly, pointing to Karen. Helen followed her finger, and looked at Bee in the odd fashion of parrots the world over; head turned to one side with a single, staring yet intuitive eye.
"She can't really understand you; I've done research about this," said Bumblebee, letting Starfire unload Helen onto her arm.
"Perhaps not, but I like to pretend that she does."
"Thank you, Koriand'r," said Karen appreciatively, looking closer at Helen as she moved along her arm and up to Bumblebee's shoulder in its awkward sideways gait. "I've always wanted an African Grey; mostly because of the way they can talk like us."
"I'm just glad I could help. Next, Cyborg."
"You actually managed to get one?" he asked.
"I indeed did; here you go."
Starfire handed a small metallic dog over to Cyborg. It was, unlike him, completely metal, but once turned on it moved exactly like a real dog.
"The first realistic AI dog; thanks, Star," said Cyborg gratefully. "I didn't think it was possible."
"I wasn't sure if I could find it to start with, but the benefactor wants to get in touch with you."
"Is that so?" he asked, interest peaked. "Thank you very much indeed…"
Cyborg set the metal dog on the floor, and it barked with a very realistic timbre to it. It didn't move in the wooden way that most robots to, but moved with an easy grace and padded across the floor. It ran around Cyborg's legs, looked up at him and happily barked again.
"Man; this is a dog in everything but appearance. I wonder what I should name him…"
"Moving on; here is your pet Beast Boy."
His eyes widened in joy and surprise as Starfire lifted out from a cage a pure white ferret. Its eyes seemed to shine, and it wriggled in her hands with a playful vitality.
Beast Boy turned into a ferret himself, and the first one seemed very surprised that there was another of its kind in the room. Starfire, laughing, released the one she was holding onto the floor, and let it run around with its green counterpart. They played a rough-and-tumble game across the floor, much as two young children might.
The real ferret was once again surprised as it was scooped up by the ferret in front of it, which had accidentally turned into a human.
"What's her name?" Beast Boy asked, petting the ferret.
"How did you know she's a… oh," said Raven, quickly realising.
"Her name is Jasmine," said Starfire pleasantly, giggling as she watched the way Jasmine the ferret twisted and turned joyfully in Beast Boy's arms.
"Thanks a lot Star! A ferret is just the right animal for me; happy and playful."
"And lacking in thought capacity," said Raven, smirking.
"Here you go Raven," said Starfire, opening another cage.
Out of it walked a cat which stared up at Raven just as unreadably as she stared at it. It was black almost all over, except with a patch of white along its belly. The cat had eyes greener than Starfire's, and held its black tail up high. It gave an appearance of knowing so much more than everyone about it, and moved unhurriedly. It walked up to Raven and brushed up against her leg leisurely.
"His name is Felix," she said.
"Thank you, Starfire. Why did you think a cat would be right for me?"
"Yes, it is, but how did you know?" She picked up the cat carefully. "Hello, Felix." He looked up at her blankly and mewed softly.
"I just thought you wanted a quiet pet that kept mostly to itself like you, so the cat was an obvious choice to me."
"So where's the chinchilla?" Robin asked.
"Right here," said Starfire, opening another cage and picking up a rotund ball of fur. "Isn't she cute? Her name is Misha."
"Yes, she is," Robin agreed. "And I'd bet you'd look even cuter in the present I got you." He took a hand out from behind his back, and in it was a beautiful white tiara with several red gems set in it; the main centre jewel was larger and oval-shaped and was green in colour.
Starfire's hands paused on Misha; she simply stared wide-eyed at the tiara.
"Um… Earth to Starfire; please respond," Beast Boy half-joked, waving a hand in front of her vacant face. "Are you okay?"
"I am ecstatic!" said Starfire, so enraptured she actually put Misha down on a table for a while, resisting the cuteness without a second's thought, even when the chinchilla gave a small squeak upon being set down. "I never would have thought you knew about the am'r-kr'n."
"I didn't until a while ago. Don't you remember that week I asked you about Tamaranian culture?"
"You mean you listened to all of it?"
"Every word; I was sort of thinking about Christmas gifts at the time, so I thought 'why not'?"
Beast Boy set down Jasmine on the floor. Jasmine ran, or flowed, as ferrets seemed to do, up to Raven, and stared up at her and Felix warmly. Beast Boy tried talking to Misha, and turned into a green chinchilla. They then exchanged a series of chirps and squeaks together, but Misha didn't exactly seem all that willing to talk; especially since Starfire wasn't close.
"But…" Starfire took the tiara in hand, "…you do realise what this means, yes?" she asked in a hushed voice.
"Of course I understand, and I do," said Robin, looking her earnestly in the eyes.
It was hard to read Starfire's expression as she set the tiara on her head, the green gem all the more clear against her red-hair; it matched her eyes perfectly.
However, as soon as the tiara was on there came from within her boundless joy that knew no possible confines; her eyes became windows to a soul that existed in eternal sunshine and would now never be troubled again, because of what had just happened.
"And I do too," said Starfire, leaping into a heartfelt hug with Robin.
"Wait… was that 'amarkun' thing basically a wedding proposal?" Cyborg asked. Beast Boy seemed to notice that something was going on even with the chinchilla's limited senses, and changed back in an instant.
"What just happened?" he asked upon seeing Robin and Starfire.
"Robin only just proposed to Starfire," said Raven.
"What?" Beast Boy asked, unable to believe what had just been told to him. "But you're still teenagers!"
"It is a promise of marriage that teenagers on Tamaran give if they wish to do so once they have grown up," Robin explained. "The boy gives the girl this tiara, or am'r-kr'n, literally translating as 'love-crown', and that more or less means a life-promise."
"But you love each other already; you don't need jewels to prove that," Karen pointed out.
"Maybe not, but this makes it official," said Starfire, still bursting with happiness. She gave Robin another hug just for the heck of it, and Beast Boy and Raven exchanged humorous glances…
"Beast Boy; are you awake?"
He opened his eyes to see the deep blue eyes of Raven looking down at him, their ever-present intelligence accentuated by the glittering early-morning sunlight. Everything about her face seemed to smile, more than just her lips; some kind of humour shined from within. Quite unlike Raven, her hair seemed to have stepped out of line and tried exploring parts of her forehead.
"Not now… I'm still too tired…"
"But you still haven't given me the present you said you would, and I still have to give you yours."
"What?" said Beast Boy, sitting straight up and waking Jasmine who had been sleeping at his side. The ferret looked up at Raven questioningly.
"Don't worry; Felix is back in my room."
"Forget Felix; I need to get you the present! How come I didn't give it to you yesterday?" he asked, pausing in mid-run.
"I don't know; I suppose we were just both having too much fun to remember."
Jasmine wandered up to Raven and nuzzled her hand expectantly.
"Okay… well, first you give me Jasmine, then we both go back to our rooms to get them and we'll meet back here, alright?"
"I don't know," said Raven, handing the squirming ferret back to Beast Boy; "I'd rather we meet back outside. It seems so… serene out there. That and I love a sunrise."
"But the sun has already risen," he pointed out.
"Some of the magic is still left."
Beast Boy thought about this briefly, decided it wasn't important, and rushed off to his room to retrieve Raven's gift…
"Raven!" shouted Beast Boy, powering his way across the snow as best he could.
She turned about slowly, turning away from the almost perfectly white light of the newborn sun, and watched as the green teen ran towards her. Just before he made it to Raven, however, he slipped and whatever it was he'd been holding in his hand lodged in the snow at Raven's feet. She couldn't help but laugh at the uneasy grace with which Beast Boy had fallen, and Raven helped him up, at the same time picking up the present.
"Do you like it?" he asked eagerly, brushing off the snow that had stuck to his clothes.
"Well…" Raven regarded the necklace.
It consisted of a myriad of medium-sized golden chain-links that lead down to the medallion, a perfect squat cylinder of some transparent material that had etched inside it the very same pattern that was on Raven's brooch; the bird's shadow rearing up against the sky encircled by a border. In this medallion the design was three-dimensional, and it did actually look like the blackbird was in front of the background, whichever way Raven turned it.
"It's beautiful," she finally decided. "Thank you, Beast Boy." Raven didn't have to undo the catch; it went quite easily over her head due to the chain's length. "How did you make it?"
"It was easy enough; I just had to make a few visits to some specialized shops in the mall and it was done."
"You make it sound a lot less than it is."
"Well, I don't know… I bet I looked really stupid when I fell over, though, huh?" he asked, smiling ironically. "That kind of thing never happens in stories; you don't get the hero running towards the heroine when suddenly-thud!-he's down flat on his face."
"Oh, you never know; one author somewhere may have thought of it," said Raven, returning the warm smile. "And here is your present, Beast Boy," she said, taking something out of a pocket in her long black coat.
"Wow… now that is weird… but pretty," he added quickly. Beast Boy took the bracelet in hand and observed it, being careful not to spike himself on the oddly jagged design.
It was shaped like a certain blackbird; the tail was shaped down back along Beast Boy's arm once he put it on, the head facing to the right and up towards the wrist, and the two wings were wrapped around the wrist as the main body of the bracelet. It was all as black as coal, except for one stone set in the very top of it where the face of a wrist-watch would have been.
"Why is that stone glowing yellow?" Beast Boy asked.
"That's another thing I borrowed from my emotions," Raven explained; "it's a stone from my mindscape."
"Oh, I get it; it changes colour depending on your emotions? Wow… that's…" he trailed off, watching the shining stone.
"Amazing?" supplied Raven.
"Yeah, sure," Beast Boy agreed; "that and more."
"I'm glad you like it," she said, settling down to sit on the snow but instead hovering a few inches above it, watching the sunrise. Beast Boy, with no ethereal powers to keep his behind from freezing, shrugged and sat upon the snow.
"You were right about one thing; even if the sun has already risen it still does retain some of the 'magic' from when it rose… sort of like Christmas from yesterday, really; I can still sort of feel it working. People are still just as happy today as they were yesterday; there's some kind of afterglow left behind."
"Yeah… it was interesting to see the presents given between Cyborg and Bumblebee, wasn't it?"
"Oh, the rings?" asked Beast Boy. "Well, I can't say I was completely surprised after Robin and Starfire's committal. Let's see… Cyborg gave Bee that gold ring and she gave him a holo-ring, so he could look like himself again, right? Did he put it on after I went to sleep?"
"Yes, he did; it took a bit of persuading but Cyborg finally did it. The ring was very good; it made him look just like the first one had."
"He broke that one, though. I hope he doesn't break this one."
"I don't think he will; it's from Bumblebee, remember."
Beast Boy glanced down at the stone set in the bracelet; it had become more white than yellow now. He didn't ask, though; the quiet serenity of the moment was too much for even him to destroy.
"So… how did the motorcycles go down?"
"The cycles were great; both Robin and Bumblebee were impressed by each others' handiwork. Cyborg helped with both of them, of course. Karen has gone back already, I think."
"Man; I can't believe I fell asleep before the party was even over. Did you guys keep going for much longer?"
"Not for too much longer; only an hour or so," she said.
"Where did you fall asleep?"
"Right next to you," said Raven, tossing a pleasant smile at him.
Again there was silence for a moment, as a sphere of astronomically large proportions complete with superhot exploding gases contrived to look somehow sacred as it crept higher into the sky.
"For once, you seemed to have learned how not to ruin a moment."
"Oh really?" he asked, looking at her in an odd way. "Well, there's still time to ruin it… or make it better."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Raven asked, raising an eyebrow inquisitively.
"You mean you're saying you don't know what I mean?" Garfield asked, standing and walking over to Raven. She stood too, and saw the familiar look in his eyes.
"I think I do now."
And so, the morning after Christmas, supposedly as opposed to the night before, Beast Boy and Raven embraced on the snow before the tower, and shared in a tradition even older than Christmas itself.
As they kissed, the stone on the bracelet glowed a brilliant red in stark contrast to the pure white of the snow beneath them; the Colours of Christmas.
"I don't know how you so easily pull me into doing this," said Raven in a brief pause.
"Well, when you split everything down to its most basic level everything is just action and reaction," recited Beast Boy, smiling widely. "If you understand the way they interact, then you can do just about anything."
"Stop talking," Raven answered, also smiling and pulling him back into another kiss.
And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!
(P.S.: Did you want to know what all the Titan's presents were? Well, here they are; each of the presents listed under the person who gave them.)
Beast Boy's Presents:
Robin – MP3 Player with several songs on it already
Starfire – Huge green stuffed bunny doll
Cyborg – Gamestation Three
Bumblebee – Musical antennae
Raven – (Need I say?)
Beast Boy – Videogame
Raven – 'Web' book
Cyborg – Entertainment visor
Bumblebee – Cycle
Starfire – Tiara
Beast Boy – Complete TT DVD collection
Raven – Electronic book pad
Robin – Training robot
Starfire – DVD collection on Earth
Bumblebee – Golden ring
Beast Boy – Ferret
Raven – Tuxedo cat
Cyborg – AI dog
Bumblebee – African Grey
Robin – Chinchilla
Beast Boy – Joke book
Raven – Football
Robin – Cycle
Starfire – Large stuffed bee toy
Cyborg – Holo-ring
Robin – Gorky Park
Starfire – A Christmas Carol
Cyborg – The Hogfather
Bumblebee – Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency
Beast Boy – (You already know about this one too.)
Ieuan Kazuaki Roach's Present:
To you, the reader – This one-shot.
(I hope you enjoyed it, folks! See you next year!)