Disclaimer: I do not own Justice League, the characters, or anything associated.
A/N: This was mainly written so I could get a feel for the characters' dialogue. I guess it's really just a tidbit of fun. I hope you find some joy in it, and please review, because I'm thinking of starting a BatFlash multichapter, and I find reviews very persuasive. ;)
Bruce didn't like Christmas.
It reminded him of times he kept hidden under layers of deception and downright anger. It was something about the season. It whirled itself in, a pleasant reprieve under the guise of long-wanted presents wrapped in a façade of purposely garish wrapping paper, a mind-numbing haze of joy and goodwill, the aspects of humanity that lay buried every other day of the year.
Then it whittled its way into the brain, forcing open the tiniest crack in defenses and pulling back out repressed memories, thoughts of melancholy and depression that were normally subdued under numerous new Arkham inmates.
Normally, when jolly ol'Saint Nick came a'knocking, Batman would push the nuisance out of his way so he could get off on patrol. If he noticed any sleighs with flying reindeer on the horizon, he would shoot them down and take the Joker back to his cell. That was how Batman celebrated his Christmases,
This, however, was a Christmas of firsts. It was the first time there was still snow in Gotham that hadn't been beaten down into flattened, black, soiled slush. It was the first time every high profile criminal and psychopath was locked behind bars instead of celebrating with deaths in abandoned warehouses.
It was also the first Christmas Bruce was spending with Wally.
The occasion brought a mix of feelings. Wally had already pleaded with Batman not to go on patrol, stating it was a time for family and traditions. Batman had pointed out that patrolling had been a tradition for the past eight years, but Wally had only declared that those didn't count through his king-sized bag of potato chips.
Every Christmas, the Flash visited children in the orphanage, a tradition that, according to Wally, had some merit. As Wally had explained, or whined (depends on who you were asking), the trip only took an hour tops, but it was enough to bring grins to faces that usually had nothing to smile about. While the anecdote was not enough to bring Batman to cheer up a bunch of kids on Christmas Eve, he couldn't remain as stolid against the sight of Wally's pleading green eyes.
That's why Batman found himself staring up at a dilapidated building, one that contained two broken windows repaired with duct tape. There had once been a sign proclaiming, "Central City Orphanage," but the letters had long fallen off and left faded imprints behind.
Flash stood beside him, grinning almost as brightly as his costume, and he cocked his head towards the door eagerly.
"Ready, Bats?" he questioned, dancing on the balls of his feet as if he was already wanting to speed ahead and leave Batman in the dust. Batman wished he just would.
He knew that admitting that was as foolhardy as digging his own grave, so he only grunted. This prompted a pull on his reluctant arms from Wally, who began dragging him towards the door.
"Come on! We don't want to leave the kids waiting!" he warned cheerfully, not put off when Batman yanked his arm back to its proper place. He stormed forward, morose cape trailing behind him, as unhappy as its owner. Flash sped in front of him to lead the way, jerking to a sudden stop that sent his body into a motion blur.
"Remember to smile," he ordered, and Batman pictured the image.
He wondered how many of the children would have heart attacks.
Out of fear.
Wally pulled the door open, almost toppling over at the wave of grabby hands that tumbled out. There were joyous cries of "Flash! Flash!" and the omnipresent, "Merry Christmas!" In the rush of red and green, Batman stepped backwards into the shadows, praying to a nonexistent deity that he would be forgotten.
"Hey guys!" Flash grinned, his smile spreading so far that it must've hurt. He gave them all strong hugs and embraces before stepping back and gesturing widely.
"I want you to meet my friend…"
He trailed off at the empty hallway behind him, and Batman mentally gave thanks for his years of training in stealth.
"Where is he?" one outspoken little boy asked, one hand reaching up to pull on his tousled blonde hair.
"One sec," Wally said, racing over to Batman's hiding spot and forcing him over before anyone else could blink.
"He's a little shy," he warned with good humor, prodding Batman in the side none-too-gently when no words came out of the clenched jaw.
"Whoa," a little girl gasped, tripping over her own feet to hide behind a bigger boy with short black hair. "Is that…is that Batman?"
"I thought he only was in Gotham," an older child demanded, his pudgy hands clamped on his hips.
Batman almost nodded in agreement, but Wally decided his own answer would be more appropriate.
"He wanted to come with me to visit you during the holidays!" Wally announced in a cheery tone, ignoring the dark look that was sent his way.
"He doesn't look very…Christmas-ish," the same yellow-haired boy as before stated, his blue eyes widening at the black trail that led up to a glowering face.
"He'll probably scare off Santa," the fat one laughed meanly, nudging his friends until they giggled awkwardly with him.
"Aw, come on guys," Flash admonished, waving a finger at their behavior. "That's not the holiday spirit."
Shifting his face in a downcast expression, Wally sighed overdramatically.
"I guess I'll have to take back all those presents-"
"Presents?" the children shrieked, much to the chagrin of who Batman thought must be their keeper, a weary looking women with hard creases etched within her worn face.
"I don't see any presents!" a mousey-looking girl shouted, her upturned nose not enough to keep her large glasses from slipping around her face.
Batman let out a silent sigh, knowing that what came next would surely result in a devastating amount of noise.
"That's because they're right…" Wally's voice broke off for a second when he sped outside to grab the bursting bag he had left outside to unveil with a flourish, "here!"
The children squealed in happiness at the sight of the sack in his arms, and they grabbed onto him, pulling him inside with determined grips. He turned to give Batman a 'See, this is fun!' grin that made Bruce question Wally's mental health. Instead of voicing the opinion, he followed the captive superhero inside, taking in the fretful stare of the woman monitoring the children, her hands tangled in her graying hair betraying her caution.
"Over here, Bats!"
Batman turned his attention away from the woman, focusing on the Flash's waving hand. The crowd had crossed the room and was seated beneath a pitiful but homey attempt at a Christmas tree, covered with sticky, glue-leaking creations composed of felt and splintering popsicle sticks. The children surrounded Wally in an excited half-circle, their little bodies vibrating in excitement the way Wally's did when he had too much sugar, or pretty much all the time.
He strode over, preparing to stand in the back until Wally stared at him with waiting eyes that still held their power even through his mask. At their request, he went to Flash's side and sat next to him on the floor with obvious discomfort.
"Okay, who's first?" Wally asked, ignoring the clamors and demands from his loyal crowd. He dipped one hand into his bag, pulling out a colorfully wrapped green package topped with a huge blue bow.
"Sara," he announced, not needing to look at the tag. As the gleeful girl raced up from her seat, he placed the present in her arms with a, "Merry Christmas!" When Wally looked at Bruce, he grunted. Wally was satisfied and dug around for the next present.
"This one's for Billy," he said, holding out a box wrapped in silver paper that was really almost a gray. It was pretty obvious who had wrapped which presents.
But that nightmarish confrontation was a tale for another day.
The blonde boy came to get this one, leaping on Flash to give him a grateful squeeze. Wally smiled brightly, and when Billy retreated, he even gave Bruce a small smile before darting back to his seat to wait impatiently.
"Why don't you give out the next one?" Wally encouraged with another egregious nudge, and Batman was grateful his mask hid the rolling of his eyes.
A heavy gift bag attached itself to his gloves, and he dragged it out solemnly, not needing to check the tag for a different reason than the other. Memorization by photographic memory was different than having picked out each present special for every child.
"Jamie," he spoke, for the first time that evening. The deep rumble of his voice seemed to shock the group, as eyes widened and a few mouths dropped open. After a few moments and an impatient, "Well?" a short girl in an outgrown purple dress hurried to her feet.
She took tentative steps forward, her brown eyes focused unsurely on his face, but when she reached him, she held out her arms. Batman dropped the handles of the bag into her tiny fingers, and she drew it to her chest immediately as if she expected him to jerk it back.
Batman was unexpected for her to stay in front of him, pale face scrutinizing, like she was trying to see beneath his layers of Kevlar.
"Jamie," Wally urged her quietly, "Go sit down so we can hand out more presents, okay?"
The girl spared him a glance and nodded slowly, but instead she reached out a free hand and curled it around Batman's wrist. The rest of the children gasped, obviously waiting for her to fly across the room and into the garbage, like in the cartoons Wally had to watch every Saturday morning.
"Come," she said in a voice very low and hoarse. "Sit."
Batman's eyes flickered to Wally, who just released another patented grin.
"Go on, Bats," he suggested when Jamie tugged more earnestly, her hands slipping over the smooth material.
He acquiesced begrudgingly, uncomfortably following the girl back to her place. The others, understandingly, inched off in the opposite direction until the two sat like an island among the others. Jamie didn't seem to mind, just set her present on the floor and waited patiently for the others to receive their gifts.
"See?" Wally asked later when the kids where playing amidst an ocean of wrapping paper and shimmering bows. "Aren't you glad you came?"
"It was…" Batman paused, searching for the right word, "nice."
And it was. It wasn't horribly unpleasant, nor was it the way he would spend his free time if he could choose. The two of them were just different that way. Batman preferred to swoop in, incapacitate the enemy, and disappear into the shadows before he was forced to interact with the people he was leaving behind. The Flash would "save the day," but afterwards, he always stayed. He let the people thank him, or he would warn them how to be safer in the future. It was simply a matter of style, of trade.
"Can't wait to come back next year?" Wally wheedled, resting his head on Bruce's shoulder while the other let out an unexpected chuckle.
"Don't bet on it," Bruce stated. "Next year we spend Christmas Eve my way."
"Battling on rooftops?" Wally teased with a groan, the answer out-dated by only a year.
"No," Batman admitted, hesitating only a moment before draping an arm around the other when he calculated that no one was looking.
"We spend it home."