Nancy's Advent Drabbles
(Just some drabbles I wrote over the holidays. I needed the exercise. All over DCAU continuity.)
"'Twas the night before Christmas, and … "
"You're not seriously going to read that to him, are you?"
John put down the book. "It's about Santa."
"Santa doesn't exist."
"Don't say that out loud," he hissed, putting his hands over Rex's ears.
"He's not even verbal yet."
"Not the point." He picked up the book again.
"You're intentionally fostering belief in an imaginary being, knowing full well he'll find out later you've lied to him. Why?"
"It's tradition." He went back to the book. Shayera stood in the doorway and listened. There were, as she'd feared, sugarplums.
Nothing had gone easy since Shayera's return, nor had she expected it to. She tried not to dwell on what she'd been doing a year ago, as the northern hemisphere darkened into winter. She hadn't many new friends, and her old friends remained aloof. She adjusted to being alone.
When J'onn summoned her, she expected to hear she'd pulled watch tonight in order to give another a holiday.
"Come," he said instead, and took her hand.
They stood together outside the brightly-lit building, listening to strange alien songs as snow came softly down, and it was a perfect gift.
The moment Barbara knew she loved Dick was when they went out for pizza once her junior year. The place had one of those machines that sold cheap toys in clear plastic bubbles. Dick put in a quarter. When he saw it was a police badge, he pinned it to her shirt and smiled that goofy grin.
A month after they started dating, she and Sam stopped for lunch at a diner miles away from Gotham. He dropped fifty cents into the toy machine outside, and when he gave her the little badge, she knew she would love him forever.
Green, red and purple are banned from Wayne Manor. Even certain shades of white make Tim blanch, so Alfred covers over pictures, brings out blue candles and tablecloths, and finds new ways to prepare sweet potatoes and carrots.
Now the world is dressed in garish hues, and holly berries (strung on practically every surface in Gotham) are red like the gash of a mouth, and the leaves are as green as his terrible hair. Tim stays indoors, and Alfred lets him light the candles – just these nights – but he has no breath for blessings and no room for hope.
The guilt slips in this time of year, so Helena has been trying to make Advent services. She sings along as the choir leads the aging congregation. Women old enough to be her grandma bleat out "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," and spare smiles for her. Afterwards, they ask if she has a young man, if she'd like to meet a nice boy.
It's why the guilt doesn't linger much after Epiphany.
Back at her apartment, he's pacing because the wires in stiff holiday bows are actually transmitters for the CIA, but Helena listens patiently and waits for better times.
The Legion is so very nice to her, treating her like a long-awaited guest instead of a temporal refugee, and Kara finds that her memories of her life in the past are fading into a muddled dream. She remembers the Kents and Clark, and she hasn't forgotten any of her friends from the League, but she's losing details.
She holds fiercely onto her memories of home. She makes herself remember her mother's face, her father's voice.
On the longest night of Earth's year, she says the ancient prayers to Rao: protect the beloved dead, watch over her, return soon.
It's their first Christmas since Kara left, and Clark can tell all three of them are trying too hard to be cheerful. Ma's spent days baking pies to give away to friends. Pa's been cleaning every tool in the barn until even the pitchfork gleams.
They keep her bedroom door shut. They don't talk about her.
On Christmas Eve, Clark hears Ma crying, hears Pa soothing her, and it's too much. As he's about to head outside to go fly around the world fifty times just so he can sleep, the phone rings.
"Clark? It's Barbara."
They talk until sunrise.
Lantern Stewart has invited Kai to share the winter holiday with his family. The apartment feels like a space not often occupied – it exists so that Rex may attend school – although tonight the rooms are filled with tinsel and the smells of delicious food.
As they eat, Kai tells Warhawk and her son about the New Year festivals back home, and Rex laughs at the butter sculptures. Kai thinks Rex is laughing at him, realizes only later that the gentle teasing is another tradition of their family, like reading the poem about the jolly man while Warhawk rolls her eyes.
Dad used to have custody on Christmas Eve, and he'd make both boys dress in their itchy suits to go to midnight Mass. Later, when Matt was almost asleep, he'd gently ring sleigh bells, just like he did when Terry was little.
The first Christmas Eve after Dad's death, Terry spends most of the night tracking down a mutant with some Grade B fire-throwing powers. When he drags himself home, singed and tired, he forgets the bells.
"He came!" Matt shouts an hour later, waking him.
Matt points to the sooty footprints, and his face lights with joy.
Diana learned to weave and to stitch as a small girl, so the extravagance of purchasing a completed garment amazes her every time. Her fingers brush through cotton and wool and silk, piling them on the counter for the pretty clerks – not hiding their awe of her – to ring up and charge to the slim plastic card Bruce gave her a year ago.
Wally is waiting outside with his van.
When they arrive, the women are wary, but Wally is with Diana as her guest and friend. He smiles at her as they help carry the clothes into the shelter.
Ivy has very little patience for the holidays, but Harley insists every year. If Harl's been working, they buy gifts. If she's not, Ivy makes a point of robbing a toy store. They always travel light, and one year the tree (alive of course) was a bush Ivy rescued from the snow, draped in tinfoil.
They make do. Jason gets to open presents.
This year, Harley bought him paints and paper. Also brushes, which Bud and Lou ate. Jason fingerpaints happily, as Ivy coaxes tendrils to grow towards Harley's head. Ivy hasn't much use for Christmas, but she likes mistletoe.
"You never called back."
"Does the phrase 'night chant' mean anything to you?"
"That's why I didn't call."
The two cellphones make distant crackles between them.
"Speedy … "
"Sorry. Arsenal. Look, we should talk."
"I don't have time to talk. I've got my own team now."
"The League'd like you to be an auxiliary. We could really use you."
"I'm tired of being used, Ollie."
"Think about it. Hey, Christmas is next week. Do you want to … "
"Not my thing." click
Ollie hits Redial.
"I'm sorry," he says. There's a long empty pause.
Bruce is out of practice choosing individual gifts, and fed up, he makes Terry pick out presents for the adults, lets Terry's brother shop for the children. Dick's grandchildren.
He invites them all, even Mary and Matt, and maybe because he and Tim are finally speaking again, they come. Dinner, candles, a tree, and a toast to absent friends.
"Heartless," Barbara called him when she walked out. Bruce watches her now with Sam, smiling at Dick, and he knows none of them understand. He didn't drive them away for lack of love. He let them go because of too much.
Inza is half-sick of snow. All the worlds Kent touches or creates, all have been cold and brittle these last few years. He's weary of the world, of his duty, perhaps even of her, and the cold of his heart reflects in the things he makes and does. He's cold when he touches her, rarely as that is anymore.
She recalls a time when the curve of his smile was like the sun returning in spring, remembers reposing with him nude on untouched beaches.
Now his heart is frozen, and she's forgetting the feel of sunlight on her face.
After the invasion, most of the toys bearing her image were taken away by angry parents. But there were always collectors, even for these, and forty years later, a small handful existed. It just took time and money.
John had patience, and the expense would be well worth it.
At the crack of dawn, Rex was awake and fumbling greedily with his overstuffed stocking. When he'd emptied it, he picked up the two most unusual toys and brought them into Mommy and Daddy's room. Mommy and Daddy were still asleep, so he played quietly with their small plastic images instead.
She's been waiting for this. Not Christmas, because her family wanted her at home and slipping away would mean too many questions. Tonight they think she's staying with a friend, and in a way, they're right.
Max slips the mask over her face for the first time.
She expected to feel … different. Terry is always different under the mask, more confident. The old man was even crazier. Max feels the same, with a side of "Oh my God, what am I doing?"
She breathes, nodding to Terry.
The new year is born, and the new Batgirl hits the street.
The last of Kyle's pencils are dying on the page but he is going to capture the shape of Katma's lips if it kills him. All his pinks went to a portrait of Kilowog. He spent his blues on Droxelle's image. He's completely out of green.
This planet's orange trees bear seeds that look like pinecones He made a paper chain and sprinkled the pinecones with sparkles. Silly stuff, he knows, but he's homesick.
He gives the pictures to his friends. Kat and Droxelle both smile familiarly, and Kyle remembers he's not the first human to spend Christmas in space.
"You're doing it wrong," Shayera says.
J'onn morphs his form again. "No." He tries again. "Still wrong."
"I surrender," he says at last, and they continue their work on the damaged Javelin.
This planet's customed nudity bothered her briefly, but self consciousness isn't her strong suit, and anyway, J'onn was technically always naked. The climate is mild, and J'onn's attempts to mimic a male Thanagarian are providing plenty of amusement while they try to fix their transport home.
"Like this?" he asks, an hour later.
"Nope. Pass me that wrench, will you?"
As he bends over, she grins.
This isn't going to last. She knows it just as surely as she knows the snow falling outside tonight will eventually melt and run off into Blüdhaven's sewer system. Barbara shivers and closes the curtains tight.
She walked out on Bruce two months ago. That she came directly here was probably not a surprise. That she already sees the shape of her next departure is.
The tree is small, and trimmed with small bulbs and a star on top. Tim's here. Dick has cocoa ready – Alfred's recipe – and Dad called an hour ago.
It's close enough to home for now.
The snow grows deeper every day. Kara remembers sunshine, from when she was a child, but that was long ago. She tries to recall the sight of green growing things and only comes up with pictures from books.
Mother says their supplies are too low, even if they cut their rations again. She looks so sad, telling them it's time to go into the pods.
Mother and father kiss her on the forehead, one last time. As the pod closes around her, she's warm for the first time in an age.
Kara closes her eyes and dreams of the sun.
By necessity, many things are different here in Atlantis than on the surface, and Arthur is always surprised each time, though he shouldn't be after ten years.
It's bedtime. The children gather around him. He lifts the youngest onto his lap and tousles her dark hair. So many things he's lost over the years, and so many he never knew he wanted until he found them.
His wife folds her arms. "So what is this, again?"
Arthur touches the precious pages of the book, rare as sunlight down here.
"My grandfather loved this story," he says, and begins to read.