Disclaimer: Young Justice is the property and creation of Greg Weisman and Brandon Vietti. This is a nonprofit work of fanfiction.
Author's Notes: Merry Christmas to the most wonderful, diverse, hilarious, friendly, talented, encouraging, crazy, enthusiastic, absurd, spectacular fandom I've ever had the privilege to be a part of. Please excuse the fact that I'm beating this trope with a stick.
So I'm offering this simple phrase, to dorks from one to ninety-two! Though it's been said many times, many ways, merry Christmas, merry Christmas, merry Christmas to you. :)
Post-Christmas Notes: This was written for the Secret Santa Fic & Art Holiday Exchange on Tumblr, so I couldn't post it until now, when the reveals went up. Oh well. Hope you still like it despite the fact that Christmas is over!
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas,
with every Christmas card I write.
May your days be merry and bright,
and may all your Christmases be white.
"Snow?" Artemis screamed to the point of a break in her voice.
"I am afraid that that is the case," Red Tornado affirmed. The jaunty Santa hat that M'gann had perched on his head did nothing to help his somber tone. "Each of the exits is almost entirely blocked, and the storm continues to rage. They will not be cleared until tomorrow morning."
"And Cap got out just in time! Lucky son of a…" Zatanna hissed under her breath before being cut off by a scolding whack to the elbow by Robin.
"You're – joking," Roy growled tightly, eyes squeezed shut in a poor attempt at containing his fury. "There's – there's no way I'm snowed in with the Junior Justice League."
"Lighten up, killjoys!" Wally exclaimed with delight, throwing his arms out and beaming joyously at the others gathered in the living room. "We should be celebrating! It hasn't snowed here in decades!"
"So why is it snowing now?" Artemis shrieked, clutching her head. "We're on the coast, for Pete's sake!"
"Who is Pete, even?" Robin interpolated with genuine curiosity. "And why has his sake been so important that it's birthed a common colloquial phrase?"
"I-It's not so bad!" M'gann attempted to reassure the group hesitantly, hanging off of Conner's arm. "Maybe it will… let up by tonight!"
"M'gann, it is tonight," Artemis groaned. "It's like, six!"
"It seems unlikely that the storm will lessen," Kaldur murmured dejectedly. Zatanna nodded forlornly in agreement.
"What about telephone communication?" Artemis demanded of the android.
"All lines are down. Cellular phones will not operate properly, nor will land lines."
Artemis looked, briefly, as if she might cry, but she swallowed down the expression and replaced it with stewing anger.
"W… What's the big problem?" Superboy inquired, frowning. "It's… just a holiday, right?"
All heads creaked in his direction except for Roy's (his was still straining with rage at the weather report on the radio). M'gann blinked owlishly up at him.
"Um, Conner, it's… Christmas," she supplied in a low, gentle voice.
"What makes it so much more different than any other holiday?" Superboy asked, raising an eyebrow. After a moment's stretched pause, Wally began to bark with laughter, throwing his head back blatantly, garnering unnerved stares from everyone in the room.
"Oh, Supey. My adorable, naïve young disciple. Christmas is not just a holiday. It is the holiday," he declared with a flourish.
Before he could elaborate, Roy had shoved his way to the android, a look of desperation in the whiteness of his domino mask.
"Red Tornado, can't we just use the zeta tubes?" he demanded.
"Negative," Red Tornado replied immediately. "All power has been extinguished by the storm. The backup generators are providing electricity currently, but they are not hardy enough to sustain a machine using zeta radiation."
"Perfect," Roy growled, sounding on the brink of genocide. "Absolutely perfect."
Wally zipped over to his side, slinging an arm over his shoulder. Roy's eyebrows twitched with noticeable danger.
"Cheer up, Debbie Downer!" the speedster exclaimed, clapping Roy's back. "Who better to spend this esteemed holiday with than us?"
"Anyone. On earth. Ever," Roy retorted, roughly shouldering Wally off and stalking away toward the hallway to the gymnasium. "I'm going to go hit some things. Things that aren't alive."
"What a heartwarming change of character," Zatanna commented aside to Robin, who giggled.
"They grow up so fast," he said. She grinned with mirth.
"I'll never understand," Artemis grumbled to herself, "why people write songs about this stuff. Snow. It ruins everything."
"What're you griping about, Blondie? Worried that you'll miss your date with Jacob Marley?" Wally jibed, nudging her repeatedly for effect. "Ooh, that was a good one. Praise me."
"In your dreams," Artemis snapped. She threw her hands in the air and stalked off after Roy. "I'm going to go hit things, too. I'd hit you, but you're not worth the effort."
"And you're not worth the pain!" Wally shouted at her retreating silhouette. "Also, what is 'hit things' a euphemism for? Stay away from Roy!"
"I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused," Red Tornado told them all very abruptly, and his metal head bowed infinitesimally.
"It's not your fault, Red Tornado," M'gann cooed kindly, giving him a sad smile. "And this won't be so bad. We'll be out of here for Christmas Day, right?"
"Hopefully," Red Tornado confirmed. "However, should the snow not lessen, the League will be brought in to dig us out."
Superboy winced at the prospect of being dug out of a snowdrift by Superman. It seemed disturbingly comical.
"M'gann's right; this'll be okay," Zatanna piped in. "I mean… we have a tree, and a fireplace, and I can whip up some hot cocoa and things…"
"And I can cook us a Christmas dinner!" M'gann squealed, and horrified expressions flashed across each of the faces of her teammates for the briefest of seconds.
Red Tornado pivoted around to leave.
"You may all do as you please," he told them, "provided it does not involve property damage, vandalism, arson, murder, or jaywalking."
"Aye aye, captain," Wally cried, saluting the retreating form of the android. As soon as Red Tornado was out of earshot, he whirled on the others with a wide, worrisome grin. "We. Are going. To have a party."
"No," Kaldur interjected desperately. "No parties—"
"We all have presents for each other, right?" Wally elaborated, flailing with enthusiasm. "And and and, and Green Cheeks can cook, like she said! And I can help! And Miss Chalant over here can conjure up some festive treats, and Rob can build a fire, and we can watch Christmas movies!"
"Wally…" M'gann attempted to comment cautiously, lowering her hands in a feeble attempt at placating him. "S-Slow down…"
"And then come tomorrow morning, the snow'll be gone, but there'll be enough for us to mess around in! And we can stay up until like four in the morning and do Christmas things and eat! M'gann can make a turkey! And mashed potatoes! And ungh," he finished off his enthused tirade with a salivated noise. "Guys. This… this is destiny."
"I wouldn't go that far." Robin was smirking.
"Shut up, Robin; your opinion is invalid on the grounds of excess troll content," Wally hushed him, tossing out a hand. Robin snorted.
"Well, we'll… we'll need permission from Kaldur," M'gann said hurriedly, turning to the Atlantean with hopeful brown eyes.
Kaldur's expression was tangibly conflicted, his trepidations showing blatantly through a twitching muscle in his jaw.
"Please, Kaldur?" M'gann asked softly.
Wally spontaneously appeared at Kaldur's feet, kneeling reverently and clasping his hands, fixing the Atlantean with nothing short of a puppy-dog pout.
"Pleeeeeease?" he intoned pitifully.
Kaldur grimaced, closing his eyes and pursing his lips. There was a momentary silence before he finally exhaled.
"Very well," he muttered, and Wally leapt to his feet, whooping. "But if anything is destroyed, you will all be held responsible—"
"This is gonna be so great this is gonna be the best this is gonna be awesome!" Wally wailed gleefully, running in haywire circles. Superboy rolled his eyes and reached out, catching the collar of the speedster's shirt in passing and lifting him bodily off the ground.
Wally's legs were still feverishly moving for a few seconds before he noticed that he wasn't going anywhere.
"Put me down in the name of Christmas!" he yelled, and the occupants of the entire room laughed.
Artemis strode adamantly into the gym from the locker room, finishing off the hairtie that was holding her locks in a messy bun. Roy was already there, furiously assaulting the punching bag, mouth set into a hard, grim line as he jabbed.
Artemis squinted suspiciously at him and approached the weights without saying a word to him. Silently, she reclined on the bench and began to bench-press, inhaling and exhaling rhythmically.
She was vaguely aware that the movement originating from Roy ceased. He was looking at her.
"Something wrong, pretty boy?" she snapped, lifting. Her muscles were pleasantly tight.
"You're stronger than you look," he commented bluntly, sounding somewhere between impressed and skeptical.
"Aw, thanks for letting me know."
"No need to get snippy…" He paused, thinking. "She-devil. Is that what Wally calls you?"
Artemis scowled at him. He was standing over her, staring grumpily down at her. She blew a strand of hair out of her face.
"Yeah," she answered, jutting out her chin. "And I might let him get away with it without making him impotent, but you won't be so lucky, so choose your next words wisely."
"What gives him such a right to call you that?" Roy demanded. "I thought you hated him."
"Not that it's any of your business, Speedy," Artemis growled, lifting. "But I don't hate him, and you're stupid. I just dislike him intensely."
Roy snorted uncharacteristically. Artemis was beginning to grow very uncomfortable with him towering over her.
"You ever take that thing off?" she asked, indicating his mask with her chin. "Or are you Robin-status?"
"I usually don't unless I'm off-duty."
"Which is never, knowing you. What makes you so obsessive about the job, anyway? Trying to outshine Arrow-dad?"
Artemis was startled when Roy abruptly grabbed the weight and held tightly to it, leaning roughly down until their eyes were inches apart.
"Don't talk about Green Arrow like you know him," he hissed, "because you and I both know that's not true."
"I'm shaking in my boots," Artemis said sarcastically before slipping out from under the weight and bounding to her feet, fists raised at the ready.
"What're you doing?" Roy demanded, setting the weight down.
A smirk curled over Artemis' face.
"I haven't had a good spar in a week. Maybe you can make up for being a retentive jerk by being my partner."
It only took a moment for Roy's expression to mirror her own. He crouched and stalked forward, raising his hands.
"If I win, you take off that mask," she declared.
"And if I win?" he asked.
"You can have my helping of eggnog," she offered.
"I hate eggnog," Roy said flatly. Artemis snickered.
"You must be a real hit at parties, Red Sombrero. Pretty girl walks up to you and tries to make small talk, y'know – 'oh, hi! So, air, I like it!' and you just go, 'I hate air.' Ladykiller."
"Shut up," Roy ordered, "and let's fight."
Artemis grinned. "Fine by me."
Robin and Zatanna spent much of their time in the kitchen causing mischief rather than helping M'gann, and so most of the cooking was done by the Martian girl and Superboy while Kaldur monitored the pots of water with diligence.
"Is the water boiling yet, Kaldur?" M'gann asked.
"Not yet, but soon," Kaldur assured her.
"Ooh! M'gann, can we make cookies?" Zatanna suggested enthusiastically.
"Shhh. We don't use the c-word in this house. Last time someone said it, Wally flattened a few innocent pedestrians on his way over," Robin quipped.
"Sure you can," M'gann giggled, ignoring Robin. "Oh, Conner, can you peel these?" She handed the barrel-chested boy several potatoes, which he frowned at with apathy.
"Sure," he answered, taking a knife and carefully shearing them of their skin.
"I didn't know Supey could cook," Robin commented dryly.
"At least all of his dishes have a personal touch of unbearable rage," Zatanna said.
"Not much else to do around here," Superboy grunted. "M'gann and I do a lot of things to keep ourselves busy."
"Oh, a lot of things," Robin muttered under his breath. Zatanna elbowed him in the ribs. Superboy shot him a warning look, but M'gann was humming obliviously, preparing a turkey for its journey into the oven.
"Why don't you go start a fire?" Superboy suggested threateningly to Robin, who beamed.
"Whereabouts, good sir? The living room? The roof? The basement? City Hall? I can handle anything."
"The fireplace, idiot!"
"Oh. How boring! First-world problems," Robin lamented before trotting off to retrieve kindling and firewood from the basement.
"I'll help him," Zatanna said, following Robin rapidly. Superboy frowned after him.
"How does she even know where she went?" he asked pensively. "He was out of sight, like, half a minute ago."
"She just has a sixth sense for Robin, I guess," M'gann supplied with a smile. Kaldur nodded in agreement.
"Indeed." He blinked. "The water is boiling, M'gann."
"Jeez, this place is creepy. Norman Bates status."
Robin jumped, nearly dropping the heap of firewood he had gathered in his arms, and whirled around to find the source of the intrusive voice. Zatanna was standing at the foot of the stairs, her black hair illuminated dully by the swinging light bulb.
"Thought you could use a hand, Boy Wonder," she said with a wink.
"I'm fine," Robin responded, wriggling around to properly balance the stack of wood.
"Right. I can't even see your face. Siht tfil!" Robin's view was cleared as four of the logs floated indolently off of the stack, held up by Zatanna's magic-wielding fingers. She smirked.
"Impressive," Robin complimented her with a smile. He shifted the wood before starting toward the staircase back upstairs. "Or, well, at least not pressive—"
He was caught off guard by a protruding stone in the dust floor and tripped, wood flying out of his grasp. He yelped and landed on the floor with a thud, the impact of which sent his domino mask skittering away.
"Ezeerf!" he heard Zatanna shout, and the logs were suddenly suspended in midair. "Are you o—aah!"
Robin blinked in astonishment, but paid her unusual response no heed, covering his eyes with one arm as he fumbled around for his mask in the dimness. He finally snatched it up and secured it back on his face, exhaling with relief and hopping back to his feet.
He froze. Zatanna was hiding both of her eyes behind her hands, head bowed. Robin cocked an eyebrow at her before shuffling forward and tapping her shoulder.
"Is your mask back on?" she asked, and it was muffled by her palms.
"Yep," he replied.
She peeked out at him with one eye through her parted fingers, and, when she saw that his eyes were once again covered, let out a sigh and dropped her hands to her sides. The logs fell with them.
"Sorry," she said hastily. "I just – I know we're not supposed to see your face, so…"
Robin stared at her with wide eyes, astonished. She blinked her blue eyes and chewed her lip.
"Th…" Robin paused. "Thanks for… understanding." He permitted himself a lopsided smile. "Y'know, you're pretty plorable, for a brunette."
"Oh, no prob!" Zatanna told him with a smile, relieved at his response. "I totally get it. Now help me pick up these logs, half-pint, the others are probably freezing up there."
Artemis shook out her loosened hair as she walked back in from the gymnasium, collarbone glistening. She began to meticulously braid it over her shoulder as she came into the kitchen where M'gann was rapidly stirring a bowl of unidentifiable batter.
"Artemis! Hi," M'gann greeted her joyfully. Her stirring slowed. "The others are all in by the tree, finishing up some decorating. How was your sparring with Sp—Red Arrow?"
"Oh, uh," Artemis answered absentmindedly as she opened a carton of milk in the fridge and chugged it. "It was okay. I guess. We didn't really say anything."
"Is saying things important in a fight?" M'gann asked rhetorically, chuckling to herself. Artemis bristled.
"No, I guess not."
M'gann stopped stirring to watch Artemis weave through the kitchen, fiddling with her hair and doing various odd tasks. She blinked slowly at her, and Artemis seemed to notice her staring, straightening up.
"What?" she asked self-consciously.
"You are very beautiful," M'gann decided, nodding in satisfaction and returning to her stirring with nonchalance.
Artemis' cheeks went pink.
"No, I mean," M'gann set the bowl down, attempting to elaborate. "In the sense of human physiology, you are an example of underappreciated beauty." She looked Artemis in the eye. "Artemis, I am very glad to know you. Have I told you so recently?"
"Is everything okay?" Artemis asked, stepping forward to feel the Martian girl's forehead. "Do Martians get delirious fevers?"
"I'm fine," she assured the archer. "I just… wanted to tell you. It's Christmas. I'm very glad we're friends; I'm glad that you…" She swallowed, gulping for the words she couldn't quite grasp. "I'm glad that we… are sisters. That you have let me be your sister."
"Sister?" Artemis blinked.
"My Earth-sister," M'gann elaborated. "I have always wanted one of those. And… is it not common for sisters to compliment each other? To be there for each other?"
Artemis visibly winced, and her face grew impossibly sad. M'gann's eyes widened.
"Oh, no, I've upset you! I'm so—"
"Yeah," Artemis whispered, fixing Artemis with a vaguely despondent smile. "That's what sisters do."
Inexplicably, she hugged the Martian girl, and M'gann, after a moment's pause, returned the gesture with a smile.
"Merry Christmas," she whispered.
Dinner was served at promptly seven o'clock, and M'gann alerted the scattered Team of this through a mind link whose presence was like a bell. Needless to say, Roy did not react pleasantly to the psychic connection, but he didn't give M'gann grief about it.
Wally was the first to arrive, sitting down at his seat before M'gann had even begun to place the food on the table.
"C'mon, it's getting cold!" he yelled.
"It's not even out of the oven yet, genius!" Artemis snarled as she placed the steaming dish of mashed potatoes down in front of him. Wally began drooling. "Ugh, wipe your mouth."
M'gann floated in circles around the table, siphoning out dish after dish – the turkey, the asparagus, the stuffed mushrooms, and the basket of bread – all of which warranted increasingly slobbering expressions from Wally. The others all filed in, taking their seats with varying visages of hunger; Robin plopped down happily at the end, followed by Zatanna, Kaldur, and Roy – opposite them were Wally, Artemis, Superboy, and finally M'gann after she placed a clear pitcher of water at the center of the table.
"So, um, we can just pass the food along clockwise, and…" she began, but stopped. Robin was laughing.
"Too late," he said, pointing at Wally, who had already taken approximately half of the mashed potatoes onto his plate.
"Hey! Leave some for us, pig!" Artemis scolded him, whacking the side of his head.
"I'm hungry, woman!" Wally whined, passing the potatoes to her. "Pass the bread, will you?"
"That's all the way at the other side of the table!"
"I always go carbs first! Then protein, then vegetables, then seconds, then thirds, then fourths, then dessert. Do not interrupt my routine."
Artemis opened her mouth to protest, but Roy was already handing her the bread from the other side of the table. With a roll of her eyes, she took it, and dropped it roughly on Wally's plate.
"It was nice of you to do this," Roy commented begrudgingly as he cut himself some turkey. M'gann flushed, pink against green.
"Oh… it's nothing, really! I'm just glad we could all be together."
"I'm not," Artemis whispered to herself. Nobody noticed except Wally, who glanced aside at her through a mouthful of potatoes but said nothing, returning to his eating with vigor.
"Right? At least we have each other," Robin agreed with subtle half-heartedness, digging into the asparagus. "Kal, pass the water, please."
"Oh, Gween Cheekf," Wally gnawed out inaudibly through his rotund cheeks. "You are juft – mmmff – ve beft…"
"Th-Thanks, Wally," M'gann answered with ill-concealed amusement. She glanced up at Superboy as if for confirmation for her enjoyment, and he cracked a smile, cutting fluidly through his turkey.
The food was delicious, for lack of a better word. Wally ate three times his weight in it, but thankfully, M'gann had made two turkeys and three batches of mashed potatoes for the occasion, and he had never felt better fed in his life. Even Artemis, who typically reserved herself to compact portions and healthy snacks, went through two helpings of everything; Robin, despite his tiny stature, scarfed almost as much as Wally. Though Roy's grouchy expression did everything to indicate otherwise, he hadn't eaten such good food in a while, and Kaldur's vegetarianism did little to prevent him from enjoying the meal.
"You are an angel sent to me from heaven," Wally announced, leaning over Artemis to plant a kiss on M'gann's cheek. Artemis made an indignant noise and shoved him back into his seat. "Artemis, stop being such a cockblock!"
"You don't have much to block," she bit back acerbically. Robin let out a hiss of approval.
"Okay!" M'gann clapped her hands. "Let's clear the table and get these dishes done, and then we can start opening presents. I've got some cookies and cupcakes in the oven."
Everyone groaned at the prospect of cleaning, but complied, shuffling into the kitchen with plates in hand.
No one knew how, but somehow, Conner wound up in Red Tornado's best frilly apron, a birthday present from M'gann. He did not object.
Miraculously, everyone had gotten a gift for everyone else, including the unexpected Roy. The archer begrudgingly dragged a pile of presents out of his bag and dumped them unceremoniously on the floor.
"That's why I came over here in the first place," he admitted grouchily. The others all stared at him in amazement.
"We originally weren't going to exchange gifts until the 27th," M'gann informed him for no particular reason. "But… why not do them now, while we're all here?"
"Fine," Artemis muttered, sitting down on the couch and glaring murderously at the innocent Noble Fir that they had all erected the week before. Its baubles glimmered with the rhythm of its colorfully flashing lights. The Batman-angel sulked at the top.
"Mine are under the tree," she grumbled.
"Well, you can't just leave them there; we need to pass them out!" M'gann cried, drawing her presents up telekinetically and causing them to float to their respective recipients.
Zatanna beamed and recited, "Stneserp, evom!" The gifts obliged her, zooming over to Robin, Wally, M'gann, Artemis, Superboy, Kaldur, and Roy, respectively.
Roy caught his with a derisively raised eyebrow over one blue eye. "You… got me one?"
"Well, sure," Zatanna answered happily. "Can't leave Happy Harbor's happiest killjoy out of the party."
"I'm not a killjoy," Roy mumbled.
"By the way, the unmasked look suits you," Zatanna told him. "Any particular reason that you donned it?"
Roy exchanged glances with Artemis, who smirked at him. "No. Not really."
Robin leapt off of his perch on the back of the couch, zipping over to the tree and producing a bundle of neatly-wrapped packages, dashing among his teammates and handing them each a labeled gift. Wally followed suit, utilizing his super-speed to drop gifts in people's laps, and Superboy distributed his own with disgruntled slowness. Kaldur joined them.
"I did not have very good luck with… wrapping, so they are all only in boxes," the Atlantean told them regretfully as he handed out the white marble boxes.
"Man, the boxes are a present all their own," Zatanna commented quietly, gazing with deference at the cube in her hand. "Thanks, Kaldur."
"They are common gift-giving vessels in Atlantis."
"What about your presents, Artemis?" Wally interrogated Artemis excitedly. "Or did you not bring any?"
"I brought some, Kid Moron," Artemis snapped back. "Just because we don't all have super-speed…"
She stalked over to the tree and rummaged through the gifts beneath it, tossing them haphazardly to their respective recipients. The corner of Wally's bonked into his forehead, causing him to let out a cry of agony.
"She's wounded me! I'm bleeding!" he wailed.
"Don't be a crybaby, Wallace," Artemis grumbled as she threw the final gift to Roy. "Uh, so, all of these are, um, handmade, so…"
"Handmade bioweapons?" Wally demanded. "Handmade explosives? Handmade—"
"Shut up and open your presents," Superboy ordered.
"Is there going to be an order to this?" Zatanna asked M'gann. M'gann nodded, grinning, her freckles spraying up over the expression.
"Yes!" she said. "We'll go in a circle and everyone can open one at a time. Artemis, you first!"
"I… don't like opening gifts in front of other people," Artemis groaned.
"Too bad! Open it up, harpy."
"Open mine!" Robin cried.
"No, mine," Zatanna interjected.
Artemis rolled her eyes and sifted through the pile of presents in her lap before drawing out a small box wrapped in red, tied with ivory ribbon. Zatanna did a small fist-pump of victory.
"Okay, let's get this over with." Artemis unraveled the ribbon with ease and carefully pulled off the wrapping paper without tearing an inch of it, lifting the lid off of the box and drawing out… "A…nother box."
The box was rectangular, made of smooth cherrywood, with an image of a detailed bow and arrow carved into its lid. Artemis frowned. There was no visible opening.
"How do I…?"
"It's a secret," Zatanna told her with a wink. "Made that thing myself! It's, uh, mildly magical – you pick how it opens and that's the only way it ever will. Pretty much indestructible otherwise."
"What's… it for?"
"Holding secrets," Zatanna answered. Artemis' eyes widened. "You can just… stick them in there and let them go for a while. I thought you might… Y'know, that it'd be handy." She shrugged wordlessly, half of a bemused smile on her cheeks.
Artemis returned her gaze to the box, expression softening.
"…Thanks," she murmured. "I… think it will be."
"Next," Roy barked. Wally, without waiting, produced the flat box that Artemis had tossed at him earlier and ripped the paper off of it, grinning wildly as he lifted the lid off of the top of it and produced a burgundy knitted sweater.
His eyes went round.
"I was going to make it uglier," Artemis said begrudgingly, "but then I had a stroke of kindness and spared you."
"I've been needing a sweater!" Wally exclaimed, face splitting into a wide grin. "Dude! You made this yourself?"
"Uh… yeah." Artemis blinked, glancing askance at the gleeful speedster. "Finished it a couple of days ago."
"Thanks," Wally told her earnestly, and Artemis was shocked, because she had never heard a grateful word come out of Wally's mouth.
"Oooh, now I want to see my present from Artemis!" M'gann cried, happily unwrapped the squishy gift that Artemis had handed her. Inside was a cadet blue knitted hood-hat, with braided tassels at the end. M'gann made a noise of delight and plopped it onto her head immediately, tying the tassels.
"Artemis, thank you!" she squealed.
"It's… called a hoodeanie," Artemis supplied.
"Shut up, Wally."
And so it went – Superboy and Kaldur both received respectively green and blue scarves, Robin a tightly knit gray beanie that made his large ears even more noticeable, Roy a pair of crimson fingerless gloves, and Zatanna an oversized white beret. No one thought to ask Artemis how she found the time to make all of them, but they were all knitted with diligence and sturdiness.
"I didn't know you knitted, grandma," Wally teased her, now sporting his sweater, and she huffed, but there was a fond smile hidden behind the roll of her eyes.
Superboy gave everyone chocolate; that was no surprise – M'gann gave Wally a new pair of goggles, Kaldur a print of a woodcut Japanese painting of an enormous blue wave, Robin a dictionary of little-known words; Artemis a hardcover, almost archaically bound copy of Robin Hood; Zatanna a Slytherin scarf, Superboy a new pair of motorcycle boots ("To replace the ones you lost in the Tower of Fate," she said), and Roy a cutesy book called Things to Smile About, which was permeated with photos of kittens.
Zatanna's gifts for the Team were, shockingly, not infused with magic. She gave a pair of Ray Bans to Robin (he was astounded, he said, by her taste), a copy of the first Scott Pilgrim book to Wally, a dainty silver necklace that was a duplicate of the titular character's in Hello Megan! to M'gann, a DVD of The Iron Giant to Superboy ("I heard it was your favourite," she said with a wink), a stuffed orca to Kaldur, and a tie for Roy.
"A tie?" he asked flatly. "Really?"
She shrugged. "That's probably what you got for all of us, so…"
Robin had given everyone astonishingly nice gifts – a silver Scorpio ring for Artemis, a small telescope for M'gann, a standup punching bag for Superboy ("Resistant against all super-strength! That's what B-man said, anyway…"), a dainty peridot stone at the end of a gold chain for Zatanna, a pair of silk socks for Roy, a beautiful conch shell for Kaldur, and—
"A lump of coal?" Wally squawked indignantly as he produced the contents of his gift box from Robin. Everyone burst into laughter.
Kaldur gave everyone hanging glass balls that contained small plant habitats, which garnered many sounds of awe from their recipients.
"These are gorgeous, Kaldur!" Artemis breathed. "Thank you so much!"
"I am glad that you like them."
Zatanna turned out to be incorrect – Roy's presents for everyone were not ties but First Aid kits.
"Just…" He swallowed, attempting to keep on a glower. "In case you ever… get hurt… on the job, and I'm not around—"
M'gann leaped up and threw her arms around his neck, hugging him.
"He cares!" she cried joyfully. Roy patted her very awkwardly on the head against a chorus of gratitude from the others.
Wally beamed as the presents from him were opened – M'gann squealed as she unwrapped the complete first season of Hello Megan!, holding it reverently against her chest. Superboy managed to forge a smile at the sight of the three different superhero t-shirts Wally had given him – one of the Flash, one of Batman, and one of the Green Lantern. Zatanna giggled at the silly Harry Potter glasses in her gift box, and Robin let out a mirthful cackle after opening a set of five Nancy Drew novels, as though recalling an old joke. Kaldur beamed at the labeled bottle of "Brain Bleach," also as if it was something of an inside joke, and Roy couldn't help smirking at the turquoise guitar pick and new strings from the Hard Rock Café ("Ran over there just yesterday!" Wally proclaimed).
All eyes finally turned to Artemis, and she awkwardly and carefully pulled apart the wrapping paper and ribbon from hers. Wally was thumping his foot anxiously.
She produced a book titled Dirty French 101 and, after a moment's strained pause, burst into loud, raucous laughter.
"You can use some of that on me," Wally suggested with waggling eyebrows, and Artemis tossed a ball of wrapping paper at him. Everyone followed her lead, even Roy, and soon, there was a wrapping paper war occurring. Red Tornado attempted to enter the room at one point, but the flurry of brightly colored paper caused him to pause momentarily before turning right back around.
At some point during the festivities, Robin vanished, and it didn't take Wally long to notice. He managed to slip away from the chortling group and stride down the hallways, toward the Boy Wonder's quarters, his stride rhythmic and sharp. He came to a halt outside the barely ajar door and knocked on it softly, poking his head in.
Robin was seated, slouched and hanging, at the edge of the bed, head drooping. His sunglasses were on the floor.
"Hey," Wally said as he sat down next to his friend.
Robin blinked rapidly, blue eyes glistening dully.
"You okay?" Wally asked quietly.
Robin swallowed and nodded with little earnestness, wiping his nose with the back of his sleeve.
"I – will be. Just." He gulped again, closing his eyes tightly. His eyebrows were sharp and deep over his gaunt expression. "I… I feel like every year should get easier, but it doesn't. It's always the same, but – maybe it just… is less noticeable. But – but now that I'm… now that Batman's… at home, and I'm here, it's…"
Wally, without a word, lifted his arms and embraced Robin sideways. It was a bit of an awkward hug due to the angle, but Robin let his head loll onto Wally's raised shoulder anyway.
A sniffle. Two, three, four, and the crook of Wally's elbow was damp all of a sudden, and Robin's diminutive shoulders were shaking. Wally didn't let go.
"It's okay, Rob," he muttered, patting Robin's back. "We're all here for you this time around. Not just me."
"I hate not being able to tell anyone," Robin whispered. "I hate it."
"You'll get over it, Troll Wonder. Now c'mon. Let's go get some eggnog."
"My mom's all I have left. I'm all she has left. And I'm leaving her alone on Christmas Eve."
"Artemis, don't pull that. You know this isn't your fault."
"This… this would've been my first Christmas with her since she g-got out of jail. The first one since… since I was nine. And now I—"
"Whoa. Oh, jeez. No. No crying. Please no crying. Can we just have a little censor bar over the crying?"
"Wally, shut up and comfort me or something."
"Uh. Uh. Yes, ma'am. Okay. Are hugs acceptable or are you allergic?"
The final credits of It's a Wonderful Life faded from the screen to rousing applause from M'gann, and everyone pretended not to notice that Wally was blubbering in a corner, his head lolling over the back of the couch.
"So…" Superboy blinked. "When they were kids, was that the ear he couldn't hear out of? Or was he just pretending?"
Nobody quite knew how it started, but suddenly, at around eleven forty-five, all eight were lounging in the living room, lit by the dwindling fire and the flickering lights on the tree, softly singing Christmas carols as they dozed off.
"Chestnuuuuts roasting," Wally began, and the others joined in, "on an open fiiire… Jack Frost nipping at your noooose… Yuletide carols being sung by a chooiiir, and folks dressed up like Eskimooooos…"
"Everybody knows… a turkey and some mistletoe… will help to make the season bright… and tiny tots with their eeeeeyes all aglooow, will find it hard to sleep toniiiight…"
"Crap, what comes next?" Wally hissed.
"So I'm offering this simple phrase…" Artemis supplied in a quiet mezzo. The others all nodded and continued. "To kids from one to ninety-twoooo… although it's been said many tiiiimes, many waaays, merry Christmas… merry Christmas…"
To each other, they finished, "merry Christmas to you."
The song trailed off into silence and the fire popped. A log crumbled.
Artemis drew her knees up to her chin, eyes closing.
"Have yourself…" she sang softly, "a merry little Christmas…"
"Let your heart be light," M'gann and Superboy sang along, and the others joined in. "In a year, our troubles will be out of sight…"
Wally glanced aside at Artemis and noticed that her cheeks were wet. Cautiously, he put an arm around her shoulders and patted her.
"Have yourself a merry little Christmas… make the Yuletide gay. From now on, our troubles will be miles away…
"Here we are as in olden days… happy golden days of yore. Faithful friends who are dear to us gather near to us once more."
All of them locked glances, their faces set and earnest, as the wind howled outside.
"Through the years we all will be together, if the fates allow… Hang a shining star upon the highest bough…"
Robin, with a wry smile, gestured with a flourish to the Batman atop the tree.
"And have yourself… a merry little Christmas… now."
Midnight struck, and there were sleepy cries of triumph before everyone drifted off, piled in what M'gann would call a cuddle puddle in the living room, and Christmas came quietly on wings of stars and snow.
The snow had, for the most part, cleared by ten o'clock the next morning, and the power returned at nine. Everyone was out of the Cave in an instant, rushing home to the open arms of their families (except for Superboy and M'gann, who remained in the arms of each other and smiled privately), but before the group dispersed, they all lingered momentarily in the foyer, feet shuffling.
"Well," Wally was the first to speak. "Merry Christmas!"
At that moment, it was decided: they could stay for another hour, just one, to hold a snowball fight on the side of the mountain, shrieking and yelling and laughing as the lights of red and green blinked cheerily through the harbor.