Merry Christmas Everyone! I posted this on Tumblr, thought I should put it here as well.
Christmas for eight-year-old Sally Crawford was a sad time of year.
Her parents didn't have the funds to make it special. They tried, a tinsel tree they'd picked up from a discount store extra discounted because it was broken, a roast ham with trimmings brought on discount from the local butcher. A small toy.
Sally grew up with the knowledge they didn't have much. Both her parents worked hard. Long hours and empty home and Sally spending time in care after school. She knew how hard they worked to make ends meet, the dark rings under her mother's eyes, the sadness in her father's posture, but they always smiled and hugged her tight when they returned home.
They tried. She knew they did. They loved her. She loved them.
It wasn't their fault her brother Michael got sick. It wasn't their fault he had been in and out of hospital since he was born. It wasn't their fault the medical expenses had drained all of their funds and now her parents were scraping to get by. It wasn't their fault when Michael died, leaving them with massive debt.
It wasn't Michael's fault either, Sally knew. Her Grandmother said it was God's Will. She didn't know who or what God was, just that it was his fault for everything bad.
This year all Sally wanted was a bike. Then she could get a paper route to earn some money to help her parents. She'd saved hard, all her birthday money from relatives. All her meagre pocket money she'd earned from doing odd jobs for people in their apartment building. Everything she had and it hadn't been enough to buy the one she wanted. She'd seen a rusted one in the pawn shop for fifty dollars, but she only had thirty and the pawn shop guy wouldn't budge.
So she went to Santa in the shopping centre and asked him if he could please help her parents get her a bike. She offered him what money she had to make it easier, sad that it wasn't enough.
Santa didn't take her money, but promised to do his best.
The bike hadn't been under the tree.
Sally had feigned happiness with what presents she received. Second hand clothes. A new, bright pink winter jacket for her ever-growing body, she'd been excited to see that. Boots which were a size too big. A patchwork doll which she recognised as the one her elderly neighbour Cecil had been working on and trying to hide. She knew her parents had worked hard to give her what they could. But she couldn't help feeling a little betrayed by Santa.
She'd asked for help. She never asked for help before. She'd asked for help and she hadn't gotten it.
The day after Christmas, she munched on a minced pie and sat on the stoop of her building in her new jacket, watching the snow falling and tried to ignore the sound of her neighbours arguing. Mom had sent her outside with the pie to 'get some fresh air'. Frigid snow-air, more like, Sally thought with a shiver.
That's when it happened.
The T-Car pulled around the corner of her street, pulling a large, red sleigh. In the sleigh was a large sack of… something… with Raven perched on top.
The Titans protected the city. Sally knew that. She'd seen them all before, fighting criminals or playing games in the park. They were wonderful. Starfire had talked to her and given her a hug when Michael died and it had been nice to cry with someone who didn't ask her to be strong for her parent's sake. Cyborg had, in a group of other kids taught her how to play football. Beast Boy's free elephant rides in the park during summer were amazing. She'd always wanted to try Robin's trapeze class but her parents said it was too dangerous. And Raven… Raven was her favourite.
Sally stood up, wanting to wave to them. All the kids waved whenever the T-Car went by, as long as it was safe to do so. They could tell if it was safe by the speed it was travelling.
Except they stopped. They stopped outside her apartment. And Cyborg got out of the car, smiling at her.
She shifted, suddenly nervous. "Hi."
"Did you have a nice Christmas?"
"Um… yeah… It was okay." Cyborg's grin was infectious so Sally amended, "It was fun."
The grin widened. "Have any presents missing?"
Sally frowned. "Umm… I dunno?"
Cyborg thumped the top of the car. "Out you come!"
The passenger door opened and Sally's eyes widened.
The Grinch got out. Furry and green, wearing a ratty Santa suit and a sullen expression. He stood there, arms crossed on his chest and kicked at the snow.
"What do you have to say for yourself?" Raven prompted.
"Bah, humbug," the Grinch said, sour. "It's because I'm green isn't it?"
"It's because you stole all these presents—" Raven patted the sack she sat on, "— from the kids of Jump City."
"You stole presents?" Sally asked. "That's mean."
"Exactly," Raven said while the Grinch pouted.
Cyborg grinned as he came around the car to stand beside the Grinch. "Starfire, Robin and Beast Boy are at the hospital making sure all the presents get back to those kids. Raven and I are making sure the Grinch apologises to everyone else he stole from." He gestured. "Well?"
The Grinch sulked. "Don't wanna."
Raven floated away from the sack. With a flick of her hand, she opened the sack and then something was pulled out from it. Something big. Something hidden by Raven's dark powers. Something which floated gently down to the sidewalk. "I believe Santa intended this for you."
Behind her, Sally heard the door click as it opened but Sally couldn't take her eyes off the something, anxiously waiting for it to be revealed.
The Grinch made a grab at the object. "But that's mine," he wailed.
Cyborg prevented him. "No, it's Sally's."
Raven retracted her powers and Sally gasped in shock.
It was shiny. Red. Shiny and red. And brand new. Shiny and red and brand new and with a metal basket on the front filled with wrapped presents. And a bell.
And her name painted on the down tube in bright silver letters.
"I'm sorry I stole your bike, Sally," the Grinch said. "I won't do it again."
"Do you like it?" Raven asked as she alighted on the ground beside the bike. She gestured. "It's yours. Come and see."
Sally couldn't contain her excitement anymore and rushed over.
Behind her back, where she couldn't see, the Grinch gave a happy smile and thumbs up to Sally's parents. He murmured, "Christmas doesn't come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more…."
"Dude, are you gonna trot that out every time?"
The Grinch grinned, revealing a single fang. "Yup."
"A hundred stops, two hundred presents, a month worth of organising and seven undercover Santas. It seems the wish list gets longer every year," Robin said, putting his feet up on the table.
"Agreed," Starfire said, her head buried in her arms as she rested them on the table beside him. "Perhaps next year we should conduct the Grinch returns over two days?"
Raven nodded. "Might be an idea. We are barely managing to squeeze in time with each kid before rushing off to the next one."
"You could always paint yourself green next year," Beast Boy said, loosening the belt of his Santa costume and allowing the jacket to hang open. "We split up anyway, you could be a Girl Grinch for a while."
"But you do it so well," Robin said and stroked his hand tenderly down Starfire's back. Angling forward he tried to see her face. "Hey. You okay? Nap time?"
Starfire shook her head. "I require the sunlight collection."
"With all this snow lately, your reserves must be pretty low," Cyborg said, reaching over to pat Starfire on the shoulder. "Did you want a lift above the clouds?"
"I'll do that," Robin said.
"You sure?" Cyborg asked. "I don't mind."
"Yeah, but I'm sure Bee will be here early," Robin said with a grin. Hoisting his feet off the table, he placed both his hands on Starfire's waist to help her up. "C'mon beautiful, let's go."
Beast Boy stretched, hands behind his head to relax as Robin carted Starfire away to recharge. Cyborg trailed after, under the guise of making sure Robin did the start-up sequence correctly and not at all to keep an eye out for Titan's East's craft and his girlfriend.
Raven lifted her cup from her saucer to take a sip of tea.
"Today was fantastic," Beast Boy chirped. He felt so tired, a good sort of tired, the type of tiredness which had been earned. "The looks on their faces, they were all so excited."
"I wish we could do more," Raven murmured.
"Yeah," Beast Boy said, his mood fading. "Me too."
Raven lifted her cup back to her lips. "You did well."
He glanced at her to check her body language, trying to discern if she meant it or not. Seeing nothing, he said, "Thanks."
"Sooo…" Beast Boy drawled after a moment's silence. "I managed to get Jinx for the Secret Santa."
"Don't tell her though."
"Wouldn't dream of it."
"Who'd you get?"
Raven raised an eyebrow. "You do understand the meaning of the word 'secret', right?"
Beast Boy shrugged. "Yeah. But it's no fun if no one knows."
Raven regarded him. "You didn't get a joke present for Jinx, did you?"
"Me?" he asked, disbelieving and pressed a hand to his chest, feigning being scandalised. "I would never."
"You would. I remember last year when you got Kid Flash that exploding hotdog. And the year before that Bumblebee got some honey. And the year before that—"
"Okay, okay, so some of my secret Santa presents haven't been that hot—"
"I have a list."
"I wouldn't joke present with Jinx," Beast Boy conceded. "I don't have a bad luck wish and she'll find out who her Santa is, you know she will. So, I got her a tiny crystal unicorn."
Raven nodded in approval. "Nice."
"Think she'll like that?" Beast Boy asked, hopeful.
"I think she'll love it."
Beast Boy grinned. "So, who'd you get? Let me guess, you got Argent."
Raven shook her head, smiling slightly.
"I'm not going to tell you."
"Aww. I told you."
"Unlike you, I know how to keep a secret." She placed her teacup back on the saucer. "I need to meditate before tonight." Rising gracefully, she returned her cup to the sink. "See you tonight."
"Save me a dance?" Beast Boy asked, hopeful.
"If you like," Raven replied and breezed from the room. "It's Christmas after all."
Beast Boy smiled to himself.
"Oh, come off it!" Robin raged, storming through a group of Titans to reach Starfire and Red Star. "Who hid mistletoe there? Starfire! Stop kissing everyone!"
"But Robin," Starfire said, blinking at him innocently. "This is an Earthen Christmas tradition, I am simply trying—"
"You know you don't have to follow it," Robin said, taking Starfire's arm and pulling her out from beneath the mistletoe which had suddenly appeared above the fridge. "If I find out who's been planting… FLASH! I saw that!"
Cyborg chuckled as he watched Robin's antics. "Spike's got his hands full this year."
Beast Boy laughed, his voice raised to be heard over the top of the music. "Well, it is the first year we've had a Titan party like this. There was bound to be teething problems."
"You and I both know Star knows what mistletoe is. Don't you remember last year?"
Raven smiled. "It was suddenly everywhere as she tried to get Robin under it, I remember that."
"That was funny," Beast Boy agreed.
"Didn't work though," Raven said.
"Robin played avoidance like a boss."
"Kids got mooooves," Cyborg added.
"Mistletoe never works," Raven said.
"Speak for yourself," Cyborg said, his eye gleaming as he rubbed his hands together and Beast Boy noticed a piece of mistletoe had appeared above Bumblebee's head. "I'll be back."
"We won't wait up," Beast Boy called after him, then turned to Raven. "Want some punch?"
Raven handed him her cup. "Please."
Beast Boy dutifully filled it up for her, then filled his own glass.
"Dude, dude," Speedy shouted from across the room, by the Christmas tree Starfire had painstakingly decorated with popcorn and candy canes, which had subsequently been eaten by the three speedsters upon arrival. Because Speedy hadn't assigned a name, most of the guys in the room turned to look at him. He bounced up and down eagerly. "Can we do presents now?"
Starfire clapped her hands together. "Oh yes!" She turned to Robin and gripped his arm. "Please?" she crooned, adding as much goo-goo eyes as she could.
Robin melted and Beast Boy was pretty sure little hearts formed on his mask. "Okay."
The Titans were all kids at heart and the moment Robin said 'okay' there was a general clamouring for the tree and its presents. Speedy took it upon himself to hand them out, calling people's names and throwing the presents to them with deadly accuracy. Joyous cries and laughter began to fill the room as wrapping was torn. Beast Boy cringed as he saw Jinx's present go flying through the air, fortunately she caught it deftly.
"BB!" Speedy called and tossed him a well wrapped present.
Beast Boy grinned at Raven, placed his cup on the counter and tore the wrapping paper off. "Wow."
It was an ugly Christmas sweater. Not just any ugly old Christmas sweater. The best darn ugly sweater Beast Boy had ever seen. The wool was soft and non-itchy. Rudolf's dorky nose flashed with a built in LED. It was scarlet, not just red. It was two sizes too big and there was an intricate snowflake carved over his left butt-cheek. Beast Boy was pretty sure someone had knitted it, not brought it from a store.
He grinned from ear to ear. "Check it out," he said, his hands smoothing down the front of his sweater. He spun around and wiggled his butt to make the snowflake dance. "This is amazing."
"Nice one B!" Cyborg said.
"Looks good on you," Raven mentioned, her finger tips brushing against one of Rudolf's eyes.
"Oh, oh," Beast Boy said, noticing another scrap of wool on the back. "It's a hoodie sweater!" He flipped the hood up immediately. "How do I look?" he asked, puffing his chest out.
Cyborg snorted. "Dude, you have horns."
"I know, right?" Beast Boy said, ecstatic. "Whoever did this really knew me."
"Okay, who's the prankster?" Robin complained and Beast Boy looked over to see the red-faced youth holding a box of condoms. Starfire regarded it with eyes too full of knowledge and intrigue.
"Someone's in trouble," Cyborg sang.
"Looks like it," Raven asked and sipped at her punch.
"What'd you get?" Beast Boy asked Cyborg.
Cyborg laughed. "New waffle iron." He glared at Speedy who was busy laughing with Aqualad over the packet of sea monkeys he'd received. "I know who's responsible." Shaking his head, he fixed Raven with a teasing glance. "Still love waffles?"
She gifted him a smile. "More than life itself."
"Breakfast's on me," Cyborg said, his hands on both Raven and Beast Boy's shoulders for a moment. "Hey, Bee!" he called and wandered in her direction.
Beast Boy noted with pleasure Jinx seemed to be entranced with his little gift. It made him feel all puffed up and good, finally getting one of them right. Turning his attention back to Raven, he asked, "What'd you get, Rae?"
"Vouchers for my favourite tea shop," she replied, showing him the envelope in her hands.
"That's not very Christmasy," Beast Boy noted.
"No, but I like it. I prefer useful presents. This tells me they at least gave some serious consideration to my present."
"Yeah, but Christmas is a time for merriment and being silly."
"Which is why you got that for her," Raven said, nodding to Jinx. "Besides, I'm wearing a Christmas hat."
He grinned. "And you look smashing in it. Very festive. Does it light up?"
"Starfire's wearing one which lights up. And jingles."
"Starfire is wearing a Santa costume styled like her normal suit which she had—"
"Tailor made," Beast Boy said, appreciatively. "I know. Robin was so pleased. He's a midriff guy."
"I'm not wearing one," she said reproachfully.
"But you look nice in red," he responded.
Raven arched an eyebrow. "You do remember what I am in red, don't you?"
Beast Boy shrugged. "You still looked nice."
"Didya wanna dance?"
Raising an eyebrow, she glanced at the dance floor Cyborg had set up. "No one else is."
"Promise I won't step on your toes."
"Do you even know how to dance?"
"I can do the robot!" Beast Boy exclaimed proudly as he demonstrated.
"C'mon. It's Christmas," he said and held out his hand. "Dance with the dorky guy in the Rudolf sweater."
Raven teleported her present away with a flick of her fingers, then placed her hand in Beast Boy's. "Alright."
With a grin, he dragged her onto the dance floor. Once there, uncertainty filled him, but he forced it aside as he faced Raven. With sweaty hands, he placed them on her hips and stepped closer, hoping she wouldn't send him into the next dimension. Even though the music asked for a livelier dance, he was hopeful she'd appreciate a slow dance.
All he got was a raised eyebrow and her hands sliding to his shoulders. With his hands on her hips, he could feel every movement she made as she swayed from side to side with him.
Cyborg seemed to like the idea of a slow dance, the music soon changed to a more agreeable tempo as he dragged his lady to the dance floor too. He was quickly followed by a giggling, jingling Starfire and lovesick Robin, before the rest of the Titans chose dance partners.
He rested his cheek against hers, glad for the growth spurt he was going through. It wouldn't be much longer before he was taller than Raven, but now she still had half an inch on him. Not like it used to be, forehead to chin, or worse, nose to collar bone.
She had such nice scents around her collar, which was hard for a scent-dependant boy growing into his hormones. She still had nice scents. Cherry blossom in her hair, lavender soap on her skin, some sort of gentle perfume. Heavenly.
Raven made a noise which he regarded as her version of a girlish giggle.
"What?" he asked, raising his head.
"Nothing," she replied, forcing a straight face.
"What?" he asked again. "What's so funny?"
She sighed. "Kid Flash is playing a joke."
He looked around, seeing Titans around him struggling to hide their smiles (and Robin with a death grip on the suddenly eager Starfire). "I don't get it."
Raven looked him in the eye, then pointedly looked up.
Beast Boy followed her gaze, tilting his head back to look up. "I can't see anything."
"You're so dense," she said fondly.
"But—" He looked back down at her, only catching a very brief image of Raven with her eyes closed and her lips puckered before theirs met.
Beast Boy froze.
Right up until Raven shifted closer to him, her hands on the back of his neck and over the top of the silly, reindeer horn hood, to pull him closer. Freed from the spell, Beast Boy wrapped his arms around his girlfriend so tight he could almost touch his own ribs, lifting her off the ground.
"Told you his horn would work," Cyborg called, high-fiving Kid Flash.
Beast Boy broke the kiss long enough to whisper, "Merry Christmas, babe, I love the sweater," before diving back under the spell of the mistletoe.
Merry Christmas everyone! Hope you have a wonderful day!
The first part of this story is based on a headcanon I saw on tumblr.
Also, the Christmas Store quote is from the Grinch who Stole Christmas.