I don't own Young Justice. This was written in response to a request on the anon meme for "cavity-inducing" fluff. Enjoy. :)
"Guys," Wally moaned as he trudged up the ramp into the Bioship, staring at the empty compartment in his costume where his backup food was supposed to be. "Guys, I don't know if I'm gonna make it."
"Don't be such a drama queen," Artemis muttered, but she too looked a mess – her hair was matted with mud, her uniform was dirtied and torn, and her very last arrow clinked pitifully in her quiver as she followed the speedster into the ship.
M'gann turned a pitying look on Wally as she floated towards the open hatch, her singed cape fluttering behind her.
"I think there's still a few protein bars in the ship's store, Kid Flash," she said kindly.
That got Wally up the rest of the ramp, at least, but his face fell as he opened the compartment behind the pilot's chair, his frown deepening until he looked like he was actually about to cry.
Robin leaned over behind him, laying a hand on his friend's shoulder.
"I think you ate them on the way over, KF," he said. "Sorry."
"You will have to endure until we reach the Cave," said Kaldur apologetically. "Let us hope the flight is less…eventful than the last."
Conner grunted in dark agreement, looking even more sullen than usual. It had been a simple enough mission – Robin had actually protested to Batman that their talents were being wasted, originally – but as it turned out, the sewers of Sydney were a much more exciting place than they had seemed in the briefing. The kind of place that had tech-disrupting ray guns and secret underground weapons hoards and a lot of flamethrowers in confined tunnels. The latter of these had not made Kaldur or M'gann particularly happy (or useful), but they'd all worked it out, and the threat was subdued, so theoretically, this time, no one was going to shut off the Bioship's transformative abilities from a distance and disable the landing gear.
"She's still a little shaken," said M'gann as she slipped into her seat, patting the controls gently. "But she should be okay now. I think she just wants to go home."
"She and I have that in common," said Artemis, flopping onto her chair.
The flight back was silent, save for the hum of the Bioship's engines and the loud rumbling of Wally's stomach. Both Artemis and Conner slept, the archer with her seat reclined all the way, the clone nodding off with his chin on his chest, while M'gann piloted the ship with the occasional concerned stroke of the controls. As Wally shifted endlessly in his seat, seemingly too hungry to sleep, Robin and Kaldur stared out the window, though one was watching the sky and the other the ocean below. Then, hours later, they were finally, finally crossing the last of the American borders, approaching Happy Harbor, and Kaldur was nudging the sleepers awake, and they were home.
Wally was first out, stumbling towards the kitchen like he hadn't eaten in a week (which, on his biological timeclock, he probably hadn't). The rest trailed behind him, battered and bruised and quite thoroughly exhausted, but grateful both to be back and to be alive.
"Showers first," Conner decided, voicing what all of them were thinking. It had been a sewer mission, after all, and no one was smelling like roses at that particular moment, least of all to someone with super-smell. "Then food. "
They nodded and split up, heading for their respective locker rooms.
"Nose goes on cooking dinner," Robin groaned as he stripped off his uniform, revealing a seriously bruised right shoulder.
Kaldur did not understand the surface phrase. Fortunately for him, neither did Conner, so neither of them could be declared the loser as Wally zipped into the room with a finger on his nose, still chewing on whatever it was he'd grabbed from the pantry.
"What are we nose goesing on?"
"Never mind," Robin sighed as he slipped under the shower spray and began to scrub at the sewer grime coating his arms. "We'll just order takeout or something."
"But that'll take so looong," whined Wally.
"You just ate," Conner muttered, throwing away his ripped and ruined shirt as he decided it was unsalvageable.
"That doesn't mean I'm not still hungry."
"We will figure out what to do about dinner when we are in a position to do something about it," Kaldur cut in, ending the discussion. His tone left no room for argument, and the boys settled in to shower in silence, letting the water ease tired joints and aching muscles.
A short while later, as they filed back into the hallway in clean civvies, M'gann floated towards them from the direction of the kitchen, an uncertain frown on her face.
"Is something wrong?" asked Kaldur.
"Um, there's…well, a strange man. In the kitchen," said M'gann, touching down in front of them just as Artemis emerged from the girls' locker room, her hair dripping wet.
"Stranger than Wally?" she asked. The speedster glared but for once, seemed too tired to retort.
"What do you mean, a strange man?" Robin frowned, hands in his sweatshirt pocket. "Strange as in weird, or strange as in you don't know him?"
"Both," said M'gann. "It's…an elderly gentleman. He was wearing, um, an apron. Over a suit. And pulling something out of the oven. I don't think he saw me."
"Weren't you just in the kitchen?" Conner asked Wally, who shook his head.
"Nah man, never made it there, just grabbed a few snack bars from the rec room. It was closer."
"I think the six of us can probably handle an intruding geriatric," said Artemis, rolling her eyes and brushing past the boys. "We're not going to figure anything out standing around. Let's go. I'm hungry."
"For once, I have to agree with her," he admitted, following the archer towards the kitchen.
Kaldur turned to the other three. M'gann and Conner looked uncertain, but Robin had an odd look on his face, impossible to read fully behind the sunglasses.
"You know something," Kaldur accused. The Boy Wonder just shrugged and walked after Wally and Artemis without a word, whistling idly, then with a collective sigh, the non-humans of the team followed the rest of them.
M'gann was right – there was a man in the kitchen, mostly bald, with a fastidiously groomed moustache and a dignified black apron tied over his crisp grey suit. He looked up when the young heroes came in, a subdued but genuine smile lighting his face as he gave the team a small, respectful nod of his head. On the long kitchen table was a veritable feast, innumerable dishes of steaming hot food completely obscuring the tabletop, and the smell of it filled the room. The table was set for six.
"Oh man," Wally said, eyes widening as he looked over the whole thing. "Please tell me this isn't some bad guy illusion where the second we touch any of it, we fall into eternal slumber or turn into guinea pigs or suddenly start kissing each other or any of that weird storybook stuff. Because this looks freaking amazing."
"It's not," Robin grinned, surprising everyone by walking over to give the strange man a hug, which was politely and affectionately returned. "Dig in, guys."
"You know him?" Artemis asked even as she slid into the nearest chair and began loading up her plate. The others followed suit a minute later, except Kaldur, who seemed uncertain still, and Robin, who was having a quick muttered conversation with their guest. With a final nod, he turned back to the team.
"This is my, uh, well, this is Alfred," Robin explained. "He's basically cooler than any of you will ever be. Including me."
As the Boy Wonder took his seat and Wally choked on a piece of chicken over the fact that Robin had just said someone was cooler than him, Kaldur paused with his hand on the last open chair.
"Will you not join us?" he asked their benefactor. "You must have been working a long time to prepare all this."
Alfred just smiled and shook his head.
"You are most polite, but a little bird informed me that you have all worked much harder today," he said, nodding knowingly at Robin, who grinned. "And furthermore, I have cookies to attend to. Do sit down."
Kaldur hesitated, but could not ignore his hunger and tiredness much longer. With a grateful nod, he slipped into the last chair and tucked in with a will.
The team fell into their standard routine, chattering and bickering and recounting the details of the mission endlessly. All the while, Alfred moved among them, refilling glasses and listening to their chatter and occasionally reminding Robin to keep his elbows off the table, which amused Wally to no end. Every so often someone would exclaim over how good the food was, emphasizing that it wasn't just that they'd nearly been fried to death in the underbelly of Australia some hours before, that it really was the best _ they'd had, ever, and everyone would chime in to agree, and Alfred would just smile and humbly deflect the compliments, insisting that they were exaggerating, at which everyone would protest.
By the end of an hour, everyone was kicking back their chairs, claiming they couldn't eat another bite, but it was only when Wally himself made that announcement that Alfred took them seriously and began to clear the plates. Kaldur and M'gann instantly rose to attempt to help, but he waved them off and told them not to be silly, and he sounded so damn British and so damn sure about it all that they sat back down and let him do it alone.
"I don't think anyone's gonna be able to eat cookies, Alfred," Robin groaned, rubbing his stomach through his sweatshirt.
"Young appetites are quick to recover," the butler replied dismissively, humming to himself as he filled the sink with warm water and rolled up his sleeves.
"Oh, you can't do the washing up too!" M'gann exclaimed, mortified at their rudeness, but Alfred waggled a finger at her and she sat back down with a guilty look.
"You sit right there, young lady," he said firmly. "You've had a very long day saving the world and getting yourself set on fire and doing all those rash things you heroes do. Washing up is the least I can do."
M'gann still looked distressed. Conner patted her arm awkwardly.
"Don't argue," Robin advised. "It's useless. Trust me, I've tried."
"All of you run along to the media room now," Alfred ordered as he began to scrub at the plates. "You may watch yourselves a film until a respectable bedtime. I will bring in the cookies shortly. Now shoo."
The team complied; no one stopped to question why they obeyed this man almost more readily than they obeyed Batman himself, but dutifully disappeared down the hall and traipsed into the media room where someonehad rearranged the couches and beanbags to face the TV, and conveniently left a DVD on top of the player.
"Can we keep him?" Wally asked hopefully as Robin inserted the disc and stole the remote out of the unsuspecting speedster's hand.
"No way," Robin grinned. "Loan only."
They settled in, M'gann and Conner on either side of Kaldur on the couch while Robin, Wally and Artemis flopped into the pile of beanbags on the floor before them, and the movie began to play. It was the Incredibles, and as they all soon learned, Wally knew every word. (They also learned that Artemis was not afraid to follow through on threats regarding kicks to the groin, but thankfully that knowledge precluded any further experience with it.)
A half hour passed, then an hour, then more.
Slightly after ten, Alfred slipped inside, a pan of fresh cookies in his oven-mitted hands.
"Oh dear," he murmured, though there was no hint of concern in his voice. Instead, he looked rather pleased, and not at all surprised.
The movie was long over, its menu graphics looping again and again, but the music fell on deaf ears. M'gann had shifted to lie with her head in Kaldur's lap, a blanket draped over her sleeping form as the Atlantean dozed above her with his head leaned against Conner's, which was on his own shoulder. At their feet, Wally was snoring loudly in a pile of beanbags, blissfully unaware that Robin was using his stomach as a pillow and Artemis had curled up against his other side for warmth. All six were out cold.
With fond sigh, Alfred set down the cookies on the entry table, then picked his way through the sleeping bodies, fetching the extra blankets from the side table and draping them over the sleeping teenagers one by one. When all were tucked in, he stepped back and looked over them all for a moment. Then, satisfied, he gently plucked the remote from a sleeping Robin's hand and turned off the TV, plunging the room into warm, silent darkness, and gingerly found his way through the black back to the door.
As he left, tray in hand, he eyed the cookies deviously.
"Well I suppose someone needs to eat them while they're warm," he murmured, and the echo of his footsteps disappeared into the corridors of the Cave.