"You are one handsome devil." Roy pulled a strand of his red hair forward and carefully positioned it over his eye for that windblown carefree look. He smiled in the mirror and winked at himself. Brushing a loose hair from his V-neck green sweater, Roy walked down the curved stairway of Oliver Queen's Gotham apartment. He looked across the lavishly decorated penthouse, full of modern art and deco furniture. There was a sunken living room with a fireplace, a game room with pool tables and video games, and a whirlpool. "This should impress the others," he thought, especially Donna. But the apartment was a mess. There were socks on the floor, papers laying about, and the stink of chili aging in bowls and spilled on the stove.
Roy and Oliver had only been in town for three days, and they had been "baching" it. They hadn't called the servant staff this close to Christmas. Things probably wouldn't have been so bad, but a diamond heist had taken up the last day and a half. Now, he had three hours to clean the apartment, put up some decorations and get food ready for the Christmas party.
Roy had called Donna earlier at Titan's Lair, trying to charm her into coming over early to do the cleaning and cooking, but she yelled something about not being his "Wonder Maid" and hung up. "Oh, she is gorgeous," he sighed. Maybe he could convince her to stay after the party to help clean up."Well, if I can't get a woman's touch," he picked up the phone and dialed, "I guess I'll settle for getting it done fast."
"Hello?" a hasty voice answered on the first ring."Hey! How's my favorite Blue Valley track star?" "Just getting ready to go out the door." Wally sat on the bed, putting on his winter boots. "I still need to do my shopping before the party." "Weeelll, I was wondering if you'd want to come to Gotham early and hang around the apartment? I just got the Starfighter 3001 video game." "Played it. Too easy. Scored two million. It's nothing like the arcade version." "This IS the arcade game," Roy bragged."Oh," Wally perked up. "I'll be right over."
Roy dropped in the plush lounge couch, put his feet on the curved coffee table, and picked up the TV remote. He made a complete search of all the cable channels, then looked at his watch. He made a second loop through the channels, finding "It's a Wonderful Life" on two stations and the "Grinch" on one. He looked at his watch again. A brief thought of concern entered Roy's head, but midway through his third loop of the channels, the doorbell rang.
"Come in." "Man, is it slick out there!" Wally stomped his wet boots on the marble floor. "Halfway through Indiana, I started slipping and sliding. I was into Ohio before I regained my balance." Roy shook his head and smiled at Wally's gift of exaggeration.
While Wally began playing the video game, Roy started cleaning the living room. "Hey, could you give me a hand with this?" he asks as he lifted one end of the coffee table."Sure." Wally dashed over, picked up the other end, and they moved it across the room. Wally was back at the video game."You said you hadn't done your shopping yet?" Roy asked as he picked up loose newspapers."No," Wally worked the controls with blurred hands. "I guess I need to think about that soon." "Yeah," Roy looked at his watch and raised one eyebrow. "I would think so. I'll make a deal with you. You help me clean, and I'll go shopping with you." "Deal." Wally picked up the loose clothing and shoes and placed them in the laundry hamper. He arranged magazines on the table, books on the shelves, and loaded the dishwasher. Hung the Christmas decorations. Took out the trash. Polished. Dusted. "Anything else?" Wally asked."How are you at cooking?"
T T T T T T T T T T
Dick double checked the driver's license in his wallet. "It is getting quite cold this evening." Alfred approached, carrying a coat and scarf. His footsteps echoed through the dimly lit entry hall of Wayne Manor. The stone passage was decorated with armor, tapestries and classic artifacts."Thanks Alfred." He took the coat and put it on. "I... was thinking that I could drive myself tonight, since I have my license now. Besides, there's no reason for you to make two trips into town. Who knows when Roy's party will be over?" "I believe I heard Master Bruce say you were to be back at Wayne Manor at midnight." Alfred made sure that Dick also took the scarf.
"Midnight?!" He could already hear Roy teasing him. "But it's the Teen Titans Christmas party. Can't I stay out a little later? Please?" "You know what the Master would say..."
Dick held his arms in the air and sighed. "How come it's no problem if I'm held captive, hanging upside down from a giant penguin's beak, but I can't be with some friends past midnight?" "You know what the Master would say if he were to find out." Alfred turned up one corner of his lip in a slight smile. "He won't be back from the Wayne Foundation Christmas Party until 2:00. And that is barring any nocturnal activities. So I suggest you return no later than 1:00." "Thanks Alfred," Dick clutched the car keys as he ran down the hall. "You're the best." "Ever faithful," Alfred muttered as he entered Dick's room and began to dust.
T T T T T T T T T T
The streets of Gotham were covered in dirty snow. Cars jammed the intersections, splashing sludge onto the sidewalks. Frantic pedestrians pushed and shoved each other. They yelled curses at one another in the "spirit of the season." Roy and Wally hurried into Golden's Super Store. It was a madhouse."How can the fastest kid in the world not find time to do Christmas shopping?" "I dunno," Wally shrugged his shoulders and made his way to the electronics department. Roy sighed. But he needed to do some last minute shopping also. He wanted to find something else for Donna, something special. He began to browse the jewelry department.
T T T T T T T T T T
Donna hung a glass ornament on the Christmas tree in the corner of the conference room. She held her finger up to her lips, and shook her head. "It just doesn't look right." She knelt down and grabbed the base of the tree, lifting it with ease. She was careful to keep it balanced, so no decorations would fall, and moved it to the center of the room. Donna stood back and smiled. "Perfect."
"I thought I might find you here." Donna turned her head, ponytail tossing around, to see Dick entering. "Hi, I didn't think I'd see you until later tonight." "I just wanted to stop by and check for any messages," Dick replied. He looked at all of the decorations in Titans' Lair. "They haven't moved the party here, have they?" "No," Donna replied. "I just wanted to make the place look festive. 'Tis the season and all that." She picked up an angel ornament and floated upward to place it on top of the tree. "I see."
Dick looked through the mail they had received. "Has there been any word from Garth?" "No," she said, returning to the floor and walking to the table. "I sent the invitation through the JLA over a week ago. But with the way things can be in Atlantis, I don't even know if he got it. I hope he makes it to the party."
Dick set the mail back on the table and thought for a moment. "Do you think he really left the Titans because his "Atlantean duties" were so important?" "I've thought about that," Donna said. "I know he really wanted to be part of the team. But at times he just felt like..." she shrugged, looking for a better term, "...a fish out of water."
"I really tried to make him fit in," Dick reassured himself as much as Donna. "You did your best," Donna said. "But even outside of the team, and his water limitation, there was a cultural difference. When the rest of us would be talking about school, new movies, or Roy and Wally played their video games, he just kind of stood quietly to the side." "And Roy's 'fishface' comments didn't help matters," he added. "Well, I need to get going. I have a stop to make before the party." "Oh," Donna perked up. "Have to give a special someone a present?" "No. Just someone I have to see."
T T T T T T T T T T
"You won't believe the stuff I found!" Wally exclaimed with wide eyes. Roy looked up from a counter to see Wally carrying a shopping bag. "Well, I'm glad your shopping is done. I'm still trying to get waited on." "Um, well," Wally squirmed. "I still need to get stuff for you guys, but I found two really cool games on sale for me." Roy rolled his eyes and looked back at the necklaces in the display counter. "Wow," Wally's eyes lit up. "Are you getting that for Donna?" "Yeah," Roy said assertively. "I am." "Hmmm," Wally began to look at the jewelry. "Roy, what do you think I should get for Donna?"
"Uh, Miss?" Roy called to a saleswoman. But she continued to help other customers. As another clerk rushed by him, "Excuse me, but could I. . . " Wally snickered.Roy glared at Wally. He walked over to another saleswoman who was frantically searching for a gift box under the counter. "Hello Miss," he sung sweetly as he leaned one elbow on the counter. "My friend and I were wanting some help." She stood up and looked at him with haggard eyes. "The line starts over there." She pointed to a group of over twenty people. "My, that is a lovely necklace you are wearing." Roy flashed a smile at her. "And I'm wanting to get one for a girl that is really special to me."She stood up, slapped a cardboard box on the counter, and glared at Wally and Roy. "Look, I don't care if your names are Comet and Cupid. The line is over there!" The pair humbly stepped to the end of the line.
Wally tapped on Roy's shoulder and asked, "Um, Roy, what should I get for Dick?" "I don't know. Maybe a social life?" Roy waited in line as Wally went to do more shopping. Roy waited in line as Wally played his new pocket video game. "Um, Roy?" Wally tapped on his shoulder. "I was just kind of wondering: if you could have anything in this store, what would it be?" "Wally," Roy sighed, "Ollie owns the Golden's chain. I can have anything in this store." "Oh."
Roy waited in line as Wally went to do more shopping. Roy waited in line as Wally finished a Rubik's cube. Wally tapped Roy on the shoulder. "Um, Roy, what should I get for Garth?" "Gillhead? Is he even coming?" "Well, Donna sent him an invitation." "But wouldn't the ink smudge underwater?" Roy laughed. "Who knows; maybe he'll be the life of the party, wear a fishbowl on his head or something wild." Wally said, "But do they even celebrate Christmas in Atlantis? What religion is he? He might be offended by the whole thing." "I don't know." Roy shrugged. "What are they going to give each other? Seashells?" He laughed.
Twenty minutes later, the pair exited Golden's triumphant with packages in hand. Roy stopped for a second and looked around at the evening Christmas lights, the decorated department store windows, and everyone wearing thick winter coats, mittens and caps. A light snow began to fall. "Isn’t Christmas great?" Roy declared, gift in hand. "Yeah," Wally agreed. "Especially if you're a millionaire's ward." "Oh, it is. Trust me," Roy stated with a huge smile. "You should see the stuff Ollie gets people for Christmas. You can just write out a wish list and count on getting everything."
As the boys walked along the sidewalk, a faint dinging began to get louder. They walked past a Sidewalk Santa with a donation kettle at his feet. As they walked further down the block the ringing seemed to get louder inside Roy's head. Roy bit his bottom lip and grabbed Wally's sleeve. "Hold on a sec." Roy jogged back to the false-bearded man and opened his wallet. He pulled out all of his cash, and without taking the time to count it, dropped it in the kettle. "Merry Christmas."
T T T T T T T T T T
Dick drove up a long driveway to an old brick house. He got out of the car and pulled a large bag from the trunk. As he concentrated on keeping his balance on the snow and ice, Dick failed to notice a shadowy figure drop from the sky behind him and hide behind a tree. From the front porch of the house, Dick could hear singing and laughing inside. He rang the doorbell. A woman dressed in black answered the door. A cross hung around her neck.
"Richard!" she smiled. "It's so good to see you." "Merry Christmas, Sister Katherine." He walked into the living room to see children playing games, eating cookies and singing carols. He opened the large bag full of presents. "Special delivery from the Wayne Foundation." "Oh," the nun clasped her hands together. "You are always so good to us." She and Dick emptied the bag, putting the presents under the tree. There was another knock on the door and Sister Katherine opened it to see Donna. She wore a long black winter coat and red earmuffs.
"Donna?" Dick asked with a puzzled look. "Hi," she waved a mitted hand. "I hope I'm not intruding. I just thought I would join you." "Please come in, dear." Sister Katherine placed a hand on each of their backs and ushered them into the living room. "The children always ask about you, Richard." "Well, we do have to be somewhere soon." "We have an hour," Donna said taking off her coat. "Children, we have visitors."
Dick leaned towards Donna and whispered, "You followed me?" "Guilty," Donna smiled. "But I know what it's like to be without family on Christmas too."
T T T T T T T T T T
Roy and Wally were in the penthouse kitchen with bags of food around them. There was cider warming on the stove, cola chilling in the refrigerator and popcorn in the microwave. "Here, slice some of these," Roy tossed a carrot in Wally's direction. Wally grabbed a knife and diced the carrot in mid-air. The pieces landed on a serving tray. Roy looked impressed and threw another carrot. Wally sliced it into little sticks and stacked them. Roy tossed a carrot, a celery stalk, and some cauliflower. Then using both hands, the teen archer aimed with pinpoint accuracy as the teen speedster carved the vegetables into bite-sized pieces and arranged them neatly on the tray."We'll have to try my William Tell routine sometime," Roy said.
A few minutes later, Roy started a fire and set the proper lighting. "Jingle Bells" played on the stereo and tiny lights blinked on the tree. "I'm bo-ORED," Wally whined. "Why don't you play Starfighter some more?" Roy asked. "I've already finished level 99 and gotten all ten HIGH SCORES," Wally said in a mundane voice. "Oh," Roy replied.
The doorbell chimed. Roy opened the door and felt a rise of jealousy as he saw Donna and Dick standing there together. "Merry Christmas," Donna smiled. Roy held the door for Donna and took her coat. She wore a thick red sweater with a wide turtleneck. It had large white snowflakes scattered on the shoulders and sleeves. Her thick dark hair was halfway down her back.
"Merry Christmas, Donna. . ." Roy gave her a warm hug. He turned, nodded his head, and added in a short tone, ". . . Dick." "Roy," Dick replied with a nod as he entered. "Welcome to our Gotham penthouse." Roy opened his arms wide. "It's not quite as lavish as Queen Estates, but it's okay for a weekend." "It's wonderful," Donna gasped in admiration at the gold-tone wallpaper and crystal chandeller. "Let's eat," Wally interrupted.
They sat in the living room, eating the various Christmas snacks and talking about school. Roy and Donna sat on the couch, Dick in a side chair, and Wally sat crouched on the floor in front of the coffee table. In the background of their conversation, "It's a Wonderful Life" was airing. Again.
"You know," Dick said, finishing a gingerbread cookie, "Bruce has never seen this movie." "Seems like that guy doesn't enjoy life enough," Roy said in between bites of dipped vegetables. "He needs to lighten up, spend some time with Ollie. They could light cigars with hundreds."
Donna was noticing Roy's eyes were locked on her with hunger as if she were a small rodent. "Is something wrong?" "Oh," Roy looked at his plate and took a bite of celery. "No, nothing. I was just noticing your hair. I've never seen it down from the ponytail. It looks really nice like this." Donna blushed and looked away. She ran her fingers through her hair, letting it bounce on her shoulders. "Thanks."
Wally finished his third plate of food. "Okay, time for presents!" Dick was first to pass out gifts. He handed each of them an identical box, wrapped neatly. Before Donna could even touch the package, Wally had unwrapped his present like a buzzsaw. "It's a..." Wally stared at it. "...dayplanner?" Donna examined the ornate leather cover. "Goldplate with our names engraved." Her fingers brushed over the seal. She opened the cover. "And with a calculator, clock and radio inside the front cover." "And there's a place in the back for your Titans' communicator," Dick added. "How... thoughtful," Roy declared.
Donna handed out her gifts next. For Dick, she had a blue and green striped sweater. Wally was given a pair of remote control race cars, and for Roy she had a gold neckchain. "Thank you," he gave her a kiss on the cheek. Roy stood up holding a glass of cola to make his presentation. "And now it's the host's turn. Unfortunately, Wally has ruined his present. He's already mastered Starfighter 3001. So I guess I'll just have to ship him another arcade game." "Oh WOW!" Wally's eyes lit up. "How about Photon Attack? Or. . . uh, maybe TigerStrike? OH OH! I know---Banisher! That would be cool."
"And from one millionaire's ward to another," he handed a package to Dick. It was a large box wrapped oddly enough in newspaper. As Dick began to unwrap it, he notice the headline, "Visiting Heroes Save Star Diamond." The article continued to tell how Green Arrow and Speedy had stopped a jewelry theft in Gotham City. Inside the gift box he found a brown leather jacket, complete with matching gloves and a brown plaid scarf. "This is nice," Dick smiled. "Really, very nice." "For those motorcycle rides in Gotham," Roy said.
And for you," he handed a large bundle to Donna. She unwrapped it to find a giant plush panda bear. Around its neck was a necklace with a gold eagle ornament. "I saw it," Roy held the eagle, "And thought of a wonderful girl." "Oh my," she gasped as she looked at the piece of jewelry. On the bottom was an inscription: "To Donna: Ever charming -Roy." "This must have cost a fortune." "Yeah it did, and you're worth it."
Roy took the necklace off the bear and attached it around Donna's neck, catching a sniff of her perfume. He gave her another kiss. "Merry Christmas." Wally rolled his eyes and gagged on his finger.
The doorbell rang. As Roy went to answer it, Donna crossed her fingers and closed her eyes for a quick wish. "Garth!" Roy exclaimed. "It's good to see you." "Sorry," Garth removed his parka. "I got a little lost finding the place." "So you can navigate the Seven Seas, but can't follow a map of Gotham?" Roy kidded and slapped him on the back.
Donna ran up and gave Garth a big hug. "You made it! I'm so happy." Roy offered him the tray of snacks, but pushed the crab dip to the side. "Can I get you something to drink? Cider or cola?" "Water would be fine, thank you," Garth replied.
"Merry Christmas," Dick added and handed Garth his present. "And these are for you too," Donna gave him two packages, wrapped in colorful bows. Garth blushed at all of the attention. His purple eyes looked down shyly. He opened Donna's first present, to find several plastic tubes. "Joggers carry water in them," she explained. "I thought you could attach them to your belt; that way you could spend more time on land." "Thank you," Garth said, opening the second present. It was a small plastic dome covering a small town scene. "It's a snow dome." She shook it, stirring the plastic snowflakes. "When I saw it, I thought of Atlantis, and you. I know you don't have winter down there, but I thought it would remind you of us. And maybe you'd visit us."
"Um, Wally," Roy interrupted, hoping to skip the fact that he hadn't gotten anything for Garth. "Don't you have stuff for everyone too?" "Oh yeah, right," he stood up. "I need to wrap stuff. Be right back." He dashed into the rec room, and a few seconds later returned with a handful of presents.
Dick opened up his present to find, "A multi-purpose knife-can opener-corkscrew-magnifying glass-compass-flashlight." "Yeah," I thought you could add it to your utility belt. It has all kinds of cool gadgets and stuff." "I'm sure it will come in handy," Dick said politely. "And for Donna," he handed her a rather heavy package. She unwrapped it to find a pair of plastic bookends. One of a bright pink pegasus with silver stars on its back, and the other a neon blue unicorn with gold stars. "They’re...lovely," Donna forced the words out. "Thank you, Wally."
"And for the guy with everything," Wally zipped a package over to Roy. "You are gonna love it." Roy pulled off the paper to find a Robin Hood statue, standing on a platform, with a target a few inches away. "It's a bank," Wally explained. "You put a penny in his bow and pull his arm back, and then..." Wally released the trigger, flinging the penny into a small slit at the target. "You can save up and in no time, you'll be a billionaire's ward." Roy forced a smile, "You shouldn't have."
"And I didn't forget you, Garth." Garth pulled on the ribbon, and saw the others watching him. He had a quizzical look as he saw strange clay animal shapes. "They're Chia Pets!" Wally exclaimed.
"Thank you," Garth replied. "Oh, I nearly forgot." He handed each of them a package. They were wrapped in a form of parchment, probably a type of seaweed. Each of the Titans' faces widened when they unwrapped the shiny objects. "They're beautiful." Donna examined one of the four glass-like ridged ornaments hung by a string. "They're crystallized seashells," Garth said. (At which, Roy gave Wally an "I told you so" glance). "When the light hits them," he held one up, "they are like a prism." A beam of colored light refracted from the seashell lens and covered the wall with a rainbow.
"These must cost big bucks," Roy said. "No. I find them within mineral deposits in undersea caverns," Garth replied. "And when they are touched together. . ." Garth demonstrated. A chime of sound was emitted and hung in the air. "The sound is quite different underwater, but you can hang them as a mobile."
"Let me try something." Wally flicked a finger at one of his shells and then vibrated his hand at superspeed. Each set of seashells began to move and chimed in a beautiful cascading rhythm.
After a few moments, the unrehearsed melody and dazzling lights of nature faded, leaving the five teens standing in silence, each with a smile. "Thank you, Garth," Dick looked at the home-made gift of sea and earth in his hand. "The true meaning of Christmas."
They settled back into their places in the living room. They watched the crackling of the fire, and listened to the soft instrumental, "Silent Night." Various gifts and wrapping paper lay about the floor. Dick looked around at the others. Wally raced his remote control cars around the living room, vocalizing engine sounds and squealing brake noises. Garth fumbled with the controls to operate the second race car and laughed as they raced. Wally had tried to get Roy to pick up the second set of controls, but Roy had his arm firmly around Donna and wasn't about to move it. Dick looked at his watch. It was 12:45. He signed, "Sorry Bruce, being held captive by the four best friends in the world."