It was a cold, rainy night in San Francisco, but all the windows of Titans Tower were adorned with blinking lights which cut through the gloom and illuminated the empty monitor room with warm colors with every flicker. Damian Wayne punched the button to close the door behind him so he wouldn't have to listen to the sounds of laughter and Christmas music drifting in from the main hall.
"I can't believe that these losers don't understand that crime never takes a holiday," Robin grumbled to himself as he sulked over a computer and scanned the emergency logs looking for something, anything to give him an excuse to leave the party. "Or that egg nog is absolutely revolting."
Forty five minutes later, there still wasn't anything more exciting than shoplifters or drunken fender benders coming up on the scanner and Damian was debating whether to leave the tower to stake out a few of the more disreputable areas of town. The door swished open, and he looked over his shoulder hoping it would be Wonder Girl ready to mobilize the team on a new mission. Pounding on a super villain would be so much more fun than singing those lame Christmas carols!
He rolled his eyes and looked back at the monitor when he realized his visitor was just Beast Boy. "Logan, you look like a total moron in that Santa Claus costume. You should have dressed up like an elf to go with those ridiculous pointed ears."
"Ho, ho, ho! Silly Damian." Paying him no mind, Gar's large bell-trimmed sack jingled as he hoisted if off his holder and set it down; he then pulled up a chair to sit next to the boy at the computer. "We make Dick be the elf every year because he still has the short pants and curly toed booties."
Damian tried to suppress a smile. "I wouldn't be caught dead in that old Robin costume."
"If you think that was bad, make Dick show you his first Nightwing disco jumpsuit. You'll laugh for a week!" Gar looked over at the computer screen. "It's a slow night. Why don't you take a break and join us?"
"Pass. I don't do Christmas. It's nothing but crass consumerism masquerading as a religious celebration. The hypocrisy makes me want to vomit."
"Yeah, I used to really hate Christmas, too." Gar looked rueful as he pulled off his Santa hat and beard and brushed his fingers quickly through his hair.
Damian snorted, giving Gar's oversized red velvet suit another distasteful glance. "I doubt that. Weren't you the one who insisted on putting mistletoe in every doorway in the tower?"
"Oh, I fully admit that I love it now. But when I was a kid, even younger than you…"
"I am not a KID," Damian growled, his eyes narrowed into slits.
"…I had the worst Christmas in the history of Christmases, and I didn't think I'd ever want to celebrate it again."
"Oh, please." Damian dismissed him with a wave of his hand. "Your father is a multi-billionaire, even richer than my father. What, were you disappointed you only got one private jet instead of two?"
Beast Boy's lips tightened into a straight line, as he tried very hard to hold his tongue. Dealing with Damian's sarcasm could always be a challenge, so it took him a moment before he could continue. "This was before I was adopted, back when I was living with a legal guardian. He was very…uh, let's just say he made Ebenezer Scrooge look like Mother Teresa." He fidgeted nervously with the trim of his Santa hat he held on his lap.
His curiosity piqued, Damian pulled up Beast Boy's dossier on the computer. "Nicholas Galtry. You lived with him for six years. It says he's serving a twenty year sentence in federal prison for kidnapping and attempted murder." He highlighted and expanded the man's photo onscreen.
"That's him, all right." His face fell, and it was obvious Gar did not enjoy seeing the man's picture. "Nice guy, huh?"
"At least he wasn't in the league of assassins."
"Thank goodness for small favors, I guess. At first I was hoping he would be like a father, but I learned pretty darn quickly that he hated me, and only wanted me around so he could steal my inheritance. My first year with him was really miserable. But when December came around, I had something to be happy about. Even though Galtry wouldn't let me hang a stocking, or decorate a tree, or show me one iota of kindness, I believed with all my heart that Santa Claus was different. He wouldn't let me down."
Before Damian could pipe up that there was no such thing as Santa Claus, Gar stopped him with a look.
"I told you, I was a little kid! I believed in miracles. I will never forget that Christmas morning, when I bounded down the stairs absolutely convinced that I'd find a gift waiting for me, only to find nothing. I looked all over the house, thinking maybe Santa had hidden my present so Galtry couldn't take it away from me, but it was no use. And the whole time Galtry just…laughed at me. Laughed at me and told me that I was wasting my time because nobody, not even Santa would ever care about a worthless freak like me."
Gar shrugged his shoulders slowly as if trying to shake off the memory. "So, that's how I learned how to hate Christmas," he said softly, looking down at the hat in his hands.
Taken aback by Gar's story, Damian's normally stern tone softened. "By your own admittance, Santa Claus is a sham. Yet here you are, dressed up like him. Why on earth would you want to remind yourself of that time in your life?" he asked, genuinely confused.
"Because I realized later, during my first Christmas with the Doom Patrol, that it was never the presents I was missing every year…it was family." Gar smiled warmly at the memories.
"Rita and Steve gave me a beautiful tree overflowing with presents, but I barely even noticed because I was so thrilled to be with people who gave a damn about me. I finally understood the miracle I was wishing for all along." Gar picked up his Santa hat and stuffed it on Damian's head.
"It's okay if you think all the trappings of Christmas are stupid, because it's not about any of that," he said as he smoothed the furry brim over Damian's hair despite his scowl of protest. "You have your own miracle to rejoice this year. Your father is back, and there's a room chock full of Bat-people and Titans out there who give a damn about you, too."
"Well, except maybe Ravager," he said giving Santa Damian's head a final pat. "And Batgirl wasn't too thrilled when you told her she should lay off the gingerbread or she wouldn't be able to fit into her costume. But everyone else would love it if you stuck around the party for awhile."
His reluctance fading, Damian grinned. "Well…maybe I could be persuaded if I could get hot cocoa with some peppermint in it. But the first sign of any trouble in the city, I'm out of here!"
"You got it. Oh, wait a minute." Gar stood up and grabbed his velvet sack from the floor, rifled through it and pulled out a brightly wrapped gift marked "Damian." He winked and put his finger beside his nose as he handed it over to the clearly surprised boy.
"Don't worry, kiddo. I made sure Santa didn't forget about you this year."