I don't own Young Justice.
Friends, 'Flakes and Firsts
"It's cold," Conner objects as Robin and Wally drag him into the open-air hangar, one on each arm; they're barely recognizable under all the mismatched jackets and scarves and hats and gloves, but he knows it's them by the way one is vibrating with excitement and the way the other is grinning that ever-irritating Bat grin, his mouth the only part of his face exposed.
"Hot duh it's cold," Wally responds, his voice muffled under the scarf he has wrapped around his head. "That's kind of, you know, the point."
"So why are we going outside?" Conner frowns.
"'Cause it's snowing."
"And this is supposed to be exciting?"
"We're giving you retroactive childhood memories, Supey," Robin says, pulling off one of his hats and standing on tip-toe to pull it over the clone's head; he's a little too enthusiastic, and it ends up covering Conner's eyes. "Oops."
"No, no, leave it," Wally urges as Robin starts to correct his mistake. "We'll play this surprise-party-style."
"I know what snow looks like," Conner points out. "And I can hear you."
"Knowing what something looks like and actually seeing it are totally different things," says Robin, taking the clone by the hand. "Trust us. Just follow our lead."
"Do I have a choice?" Conner grumbles, but he obeys anyway, letting them pull him along.
As they approach what must be the hangar exit, Conner feels the cold intensify, feels the wind begin to bite at the exposed parts of his face, feels many somethings, small and wet, stinging his cheeks. And then one step is concrete and the next is not, and something crunches faintly beneath his boot, and it's a new sort of texture, this crunchiness that for once does not mean he's broken something.
"Ready?" says Wally's voice.
"Ready," replies Robin's.
And the two whip the hat off his head, sending his hair fluttering in the wind, black on white white white, and he opens his eyes.
Conner isn't one for sentimentalism, but it's beautiful. Not just the way the grounds have been reduced to this enchanting, austere grayscale, white snow on black trees on gray sky, but the way the stuff is falling – it's so gentle, drifting down from above like even gravity can't bear to be too strict with it. He tilts his chin up to watch and blinks as a few flakes strike the skin around his eyes, but he doesn't look away. He's transfixed.
At least until Wally ruins the moment:
"If you stare long enough, you can pretend you're pushing the Enterprise to warp speed!"
Conner looks away as Robin and Wally began to bicker about whether the Enterprise or the Millennium Falcon better services this thought experiment, and spots the rest of the team emerging from the hangar, similarly bundled up.
M'gann floats over to him, her clothes morphed to a classy, well-matched winter ensemble even though he knows she can't be bothered by the cold. Probably she based it off of something she saw in a movie.
"It's so pretty!" she exclaims, landing beside him with a wondering look all around. "I mean, of course I'd seen it on TV before, but this is…different."
He smiles faintly, reaching out to flick the pom-pom on her hat –he's a little confused about its function, but it's fuzzy and vaguely amusing, and the gesture makes her laugh, in any case.
"We have to do everything right," M'gann decides, turning to Wally and Robin, who are now tussling in an attempt to shove snow down the back of each other's necks. "All the things Earth teenagers do in snow, you have to teach us how to do all of them."
"I'm not sure they're the ones you want tea– " Conner begins, but he's interrupted by Robin, who stops harassing Wally long enough to grin and give a thumbs up.
"No way," he says. "We got this. You're in good hands."
"Absolutely," Wally agrees, and the two share a wicked grin.
Artemis snorts as she approaches; Conner finds it strange to see her without the ponytail, which she's tucked up into her hat: only a few strands of hair have escaped, curling around her face and flickering in the breeze. Her nose is red and her breath fogs the air as she wraps her arms around herself for warmth. Kaldur looks similarly uncomfortable, but for different reasons – the Terrible Two have dressed him in about eight layers and four hats, insisting he'll catch his death of cold, and now he looks decidedly overheated.
"Dude, snow is water," Wally says suddenly, looking to Kaldur. "Can you like, make a snowman without touching it or something?"
"Snowman?" the Atlantean repeats, confused.
"Um, like a person, but made out of snow," Robin laughs. "Exactly what it sounds like."
Kaldur shrugs and lifts his arms; he doesn't have his waterbearers, but this doesn't seem to be a problem as a nearby snowdrift begins to move, reshaping itself at his command.
"Awesome," Wally says admiringly as Kaldur finishes and drops his arms back to his sides. "Not exactly what I meant, but uh, yeah. Sweet."
"A little more…realistic than your typical snowman," Robin comments, tilting his head to one side, and the three humans burst out laughing – Kaldur's snowman has arms and legs and a neck and a face and is decidedly more human-shaped than a snowman is supposed to be.
"At least it's not anatomically correct," Artemis offers, and Robin and Wally laugh harder. Kaldur just looks confused.
M'gann reaches out to touch Conner's arm; the clone is drifting, looking around and tuning out the others as he is often wont to do.
"Sorry," he mutters. "It's so…quiet."
And he's right – the normal noises of distant traffic or of the Cave's mechanisms are lost in this winter wonderland, muffled by the thick blanket of snow that the sky has draped over it all. Even the waves on the shore below are but a hushed murmur, and to someone with super-hearing, the difference is arresting. With a smile, M'gann unwinds the scarf from her neck and drapes it around his instead, using her hands when she could just as easily use her mind. He doesn't miss the distinction, and meets her eyes to return the smile.
"Not sure pink's your color," Robin snickers as the others turn their attention away from the Snow Man, but he shuts up at a stern look from Kaldur.
"Soooo," Wally grins, hands behind his back. "Who wants to learn the next winter lesson?"
No one dares reply.
"What, no takers?"
"If you think for a second that any of us don't know you have a snowball in your hands, think ag-mmmmph!"
Artemis is cut off as the projectile strikes her right in the mouth, showering into chunks and flakes that the wind whips away in an instant.
"Oh, you are a dead man, Wally West," she growls, wiping the remains of the snowball off her face and lunging for him. He turns to speed away, but Robin sticks out a leg and the speedster tumbles into the snow with a surprised yelp, giving Artemis the opening she needs to pin him to the ground and shove a fistful of snow "right – in – the – big – fat – flapping – mouth."
Wally spits out snow and gasps as he manages to throws the archer off him, staring at Robin in shock.
Robin just grins.
"That implies I had allegiances in the first place."
And the Boy Wonder proves his point by suddenly whirling around to pelt four small, perfectly-crafted snow missiles at Conner and M'gann, who are too surprised to do anything about it in time. The attack hits home and they gape as snow slides off their faces, cold and stinging and utterly unprovoked. Then Conner's stunned expression shifts to vengeful bloodlust and he bends down to gather material for a counter-assault, but before he can finish it, Wally is at his side, tugging at his arm and at M'gann's hand.
"This is war, man, you gotta do it properly!"
Conner straightens out and hurls his snowball at an alarming speed – Robin barely manages to roll out of the way in time, and loses his hat in the process.
"Define 'properly!'" the clone demands he crouches to make another, when another attack strikes him from the side. It's Artemis, and there's a challenge glinting in her eyes, as she flees to the safety of the fort Kaldur is constructing, Robin close on her heels.
"Like that!" Wally yells, and he yanks the two aliens away from their exposed ground, back towards a drift. "Megan, fort, now!"
She's flustered but manages to throw a wall of snow upwards in time to thwart the barrage the others have just unleashed.
"More permanent!" Wally urges as he assembles an arsenal, his hands a blur in the snow. "We need you on offense, too!"
"Hey KF!" Robin's voice rings out across the lawn. "What's the matter? Too scared to play no powers?"
"What, are you too scared to play with?" Wally yells back as he straightens up to fire off several shots at once; one of them strikes Artemis on the shoulder, much to her irritation, but the others go wild and miss. He has the Martian and the Kryptonian. No way he's playing non-meta with that advantage.
"Not at all!" Robin calls in reply, and Wally can practically hear the smirk in his voice. Suddenly, something moves over his head, but it's too late – before he can get out of the way, much less warn his teammates, three sizeable snowballs snake in from above and wheel around to strike them all in the back, knocking them forward with surprising force, and a mitten-muffled high five sounds from the other side of the field.
Right. Maybe the Atlantean is a good one to have, too.
"Okay, you're asking for it," Wally growls, and begins to bark out orders. This is war.
The mêlée rages on for a good half hour, neither side willing to admit defeat, even when Artemis's impeccable aim begins to falter with the shaking of her achingly cold arms, or when Conner manages to figure out an angle and speed that Kaldur just isn't fast enough to counter-control. At some point, the whole thing dissolves as their normally fair-fighting team leader shifts an entire wall of ice and snow off the ground and sends it flying towards the opposite side; M'gann uses her telepathy to counter with her own, and the other four slack off to watch the two powerhouses duke it out, battling for control of the whole freezing mess suspended in the air between them.
It's damn close. For all intents and purposes, it seems like a battle of wills, the outcome dependent only on who will blink first. Then from out of nowhere, a single snowball whizzes out of the sky and strikes the Martian in the side. She shrieks in surprise, and only Wally's swift intervention saves her from the icy onslaught that follows as Kaldur presses his advantage. Conner, not so fortunate, digs himself out of the snow a moment later, spluttering as he looks for the source of that last surprise attack.
"This wasn't really the kind of backup I was expecting to provide," admits Roy as he hops down off the helicopter pad to land in the snow beside Robin. "But a promise is a promise."
Kaldur's grin is uncharacteristically wide as he reaches out to clap the new arrival on the back.
"You came just in time, my friend."
Robin grins and holds up his hand for a high-five; Roy indulges him, at which point the Boy Wonder seizes the opportunity to shove a bunch of snow down front of the archer's snowsuit with his other hand.
The others reconvene as Roy roars something about "ingratitude" and "kids these days" and goes running off after his betrayer.
"Truce?" Wally offers, holding out his hand to Artemis. She flicks snow off her jacket into his face and smirks, ignoring his hand.
As M'gann brushes snow off of Conner's face and shoulders concernedly, Kaldur strips off several layers and tosses them aside with a relieved sigh. Artemis laughs, watching him flop down into the snow bare-armed; her teeth are chattering, personally, but it's clear he's been waiting to do that for some time now, and she takes the opportunity to steal one of his discarded coats for herself.
After a moment, Roy and Robin return, the latter of the two dragged to the others in a headlock they all know he could get out of if he really wanted to.
"I'm told we're doing stereotypical snow-related stuff," says Roy. "So let's see some goddamn snow-angels."
Wally obliges without hesitation, despite the fact that he's absolutely freezing. Artemis explains the concept to M'gann as the Martian watches curiously, and Conner watches the whole process with his usual skepticism.
"How do the Hawks make snow angels?" Robin wonders aloud, rubbing his neck as Roy finally releases him. No one has an answer, although no one thinks he was actually looking for one, either.
They keep at it. Wally makes it his mission to make a hundred angels before Robin can make ten, and doesn't bother to notice that Robin is actually trying to get Conner to make just one. Artemis laughs as M'gann sprouts another pair of arms to make her "wings" extra wide, while nearby, Roy tries to get Kaldur to participate, kneeling on the Atlantean's chest and laughing as he tries to pin Kaldur's arms in the right places, while Kaldur resolutely thwarts his efforts.
"I win!" Wally grins, zipping up to Robin and sticking out his tongue. Without asking what, exactly, the speedster has won, Robin tackles him to the ground, and they tussle until Conner pulls them apart and threatens to give them time-out (a concept he recently learned from Black Canary). Of course, the threat falls a bit flat when everyone notices that Roy and Kaldur are doing the exact same thing, laughing and roughhousing in the snow as if they were they youngest of them all, not the oldest. But it's too much of a treat to see the two usually serious heroes lighten up like this, so nobody stops them.
By the time the crew makes it back into the hangar, everyone is drenched. Artemis is shivering so badly that even Wally takes off his coat and wraps it around her without a word. Roy is carrying Robin on his shoulders, but drops the younger boy when the "little twerp" takes off his hat and shakes his head vigorously enough to shower them all with freezing water; Robin's grin is not exactly an apology, but they all know it's as good as they're going to get. Conner, M'gann and Kaldur linger a moment, looking out at the snow.
"It'll happen again," Artemis calls back, her voice unusually gentle. Her three teammates turn back; Conner nods and M'gann smiles, and they all head indoors.
"Fire up the cocoa," Wally orders the rest of them as they stagger inside.
"Fire up the fire," Artemis counters, gesturing at the big fireplace they've never yet bothered to use, perhaps out of deference to certain heat-averse members of the team.
"I'll do it," Roy volunteers as he strips off his jacket and gloves, tossing them aside in the entryway.
M'gann offers to make the cocoa, and soon there is a heap of wet snow-clothes by the hangar entrance and a heap of heroes-in-training by the nascent fire, which Roy is poking with practiced expertise. Wally and Artemis keep elbowing each other out of the way to get closer to the warmth, though the speedster is subtly letting her win, probably because her lips are blue; Robin finally clambers over them both and takes up residence right in front of the flames, giving them an excuse to team up and shove him out of the way. They end up shoulder-to-shoulder, and neither can be bothered to fuss. Out of their sight, Robin smirks.
Kaldur and Conner appear with armfuls of blankets and beanbags from the rec room just as M'gann emerges from the kitchen with a steaming tray of hot cocoa. Wally gets up to race off for the marshmallows, and in a rare moment of generosity, actually agrees to share them; Roy tries to decline, but the speedster sneaks them into his cocoa anyway, saying Roy could "stand to be a little sweeter."
And at last, they settle in, and Artemis's hair begins to dry from the heat of the fire as she leans against Wally's shoulder, and Robin makes a couch out of Roy and Kaldur, who tolerate it because that's what they do, and Conner leans back against the foot of the actual couch so that M'gann can curl up against his chest, and gradually, they quiet down and cuddle up, until there's just the crackle and hiss and pop of the fire and the warmth of seven bodies in a thawing heap, of seven friends at the end of a long, exhausting, wonderful day.
"Mission accomplished," Robin yawns, and promptly falls asleep.