Disclaimer: I own that I do not own the Justice League, though I do not own that the owners who own to owning them are actually their own owners. I trust everything is now clear.

Superman glanced out the Watchtower window at the Earth below. "What time would you say it is in the Great Plains right now?" he said. "About eight-thirty?"

J'onn followed his gaze. "About that, yes," he said.

Superman nodded. "I ought to be going," he said. "I promised Ma and Pa I would drop by Smallville before they tucked in for the night."

"I should probably be heading home, too," said Batman, closing the dossier on the Unimaginable that he had been updating. "Robin's probably waiting for me right now with the box of Lauschas in his hand."

"The box of what?" said the Flash.

"Antique glass ornaments from Germany," said Batman. "Very valuable, very fragile. Dick always wants to put them on the tree, and Alfred and I are always afraid they'll get broken, so we've worked out a compromise: we put them up on Christmas Eve, and then we take them down again on the 26th."

"Huh," said the Flash. "Well, that's cool. Sort of like a tradition, huh?"

"Sort of," said Batman dryly. "How about you, Wally? What are your plans for the Eve?"

"Oh, I've got a date," said the Flash. "The Keystone City Music Hall's putting on Handel's Messiah, and Linda wants to go see it for some reason." He sighed theatrically. "Three hours of old dudes in tuxes sawing on violins. The things I do for love."

"You mean three hours of young women in strapless gowns sawing on violins," J'onn said. "The Keystone City Chamber Orchestra is approximately sixty percent female."

The Flash turned to him with a sudden spark of interest in his eye. "No kidding?" he said. "Is that official?"

"It is if the program that Mayor Brandel is looking at is correct."

"Well, what do you know," said the Flash. "Maybe I'll be able to stay awake, after all."

"Your aesthetic sensitivity is awe-inspiring," said Batman dryly.

Superman chuckled. "So, J'onn," he said to his Martian colleague, "looks as though you'll be holding down the fort again tonight."

"So it would seem," said J'onn.

There was a note in his voice that caused Batman to dart a discreet glance in his direction, and his eyes to soften in sympathy beneath his cowl. All he said, however, was, "You'll open the gate for our honorary member when he drops by, J'onn?"

"Naturally," said the Manhunter.

The Flash blinked. "Honorary member?" he said. "What honorary member?"

"Oh, just someone who helped out on one of our early missions, before you joined the League," said Batman. "He doesn't visit the Watchtower much, but he generally pays us a call every Christmas Eve – before he gets started on his big trip."

The Flash's jaw dropped. "Woah," he said. "You mean... I didn't know he was a member."

"He's not," said Batman.

"But you just said..."

"The other one, Wally," said Batman. "We're the Justice League, not the Mercy League."

And, with that cryptic comment, he strode over to the transporter, set the coordinates for Gotham City, and, with a sparkle of gold and a swish of black, disappeared from his colleagues' ken.

The Flash glanced at Superman. "What the heck was that supposed to mean?" he said.

A look of surprise that could not have been more obviously affected crossed Superman's face. "Don't know what you mean, Wally," he said. "It seemed perfectly straightforward to me. Didn't it seem straightforward to you, J'onn?"

"Eminently," said J'onn with a smile.

Superman nodded. "You should pay closer attention, Wally," he said. "Well, so long, Wally, J'onn. Merry Christmas." And he followed his fellow World's Finest into the transporter and vanished likewise.

The Flash rounded on the Martian Manhunter. "What was Bruce talking about, J'onn?" he demanded. "What other one? Who else takes a big trip on Christmas Eve? And what do justice and mercy have to do with anything?"

J'onn seemed to stare past him into space, as he often did when reading some distant person's mind. "Dear me," he murmured. "Linda Park is certainly a hot-tempered young woman, isn't she? I would not have a female thinking such unpleasant things about me, simply because I was running late to an auditory-art performance, for the entire Solar System."

The Flash glared at him. "You really know how to infuriate a guy, you know that, J'onn?" he said.

J'onn smiled enigmatically. "Merry Christmas, Wally," he said.

The Flash disdained to reply, and a millisecond later J'onn was alone in the Watchtower. With a sigh, he shifted into his private form, drifted over to the Christmas tree, seated himself beneath it like a green, cross-cultural Buddha, and gave himself up to thought.

What sort of things he thought, it is probably impossible for an Earthling to say. Perhaps he recalled his own family and friends, now long since mingled with the dust of the Red Planet; perhaps he reflected on the origin of the holiday that his friends on Earth were celebrating, and remembered his own curious experiences in a certain Judean village. Whatever sort of thoughts went through his mind, they were soon interrupted by a buzzing from the Watchtower's command console.

He rose, resumed his public form, and went to the console. Yes, just as he had expected: Unidentified spacecraft requesting clearance to dock. He gave the necessary authorization, and went down to the docking bay to greet their guest.

The sleigh was just settling down into a landing position when J'onn arrived. He noted with mild interest that there were only four reindeer drawing it – perhaps on the theory that, since the Bishop and his massive sack were still back at the Pole, there was no need to risk the entire team in interplanetary space.

But he did not think much about this, for his attention was focused on the figure in the sleigh – which was, indeed, a figure that drew the attention. A tall, muscular Negro, dressed in the garb of an unusually flashy Spanish Moor, was sitting behind the reins; a birch rod was slung over his shoulder, and in his face, as he grinned up at the Martian Manhunter, there was an unsettling suggestion of the imp or mischievous sprite. One got the impression that here was a pure creature of Nature, essentially non-human and essentially amoral: long tamed, no doubt, and no longer likely to do harm to anyone, but, for all that, no nearer kin to the naughty children he chastised than they were to their puppies or goldfish.

"Evening, J'onn," he said, in a deep, thickly accented voice. "I shan't be staying long; old Nick wants us on our way within the hour, and the gifts still have to be loaded up. But I'd be a poor sort of honorary member if I forgot our tradition, wouldn't I?"

J'onn bowed. "The eggnog is in the usual place, Peter," he said.

"Excellent," said Zwarte Piet. "Pour me out a glass, I'll be there shortly. Easy does it, boys; Blitzen, mind your antlers."