Crocheting required vigilance, effort and patience to execute properly. Wally considered possessing one out of three reasonable odds, but his uncle and mentor insisted he apply himself. Barry invited him to participate in a local guild and learn the craft to improve his fine motor skills and control. He was prepared to refuse altogether because his guise as a class-act nerd was secure without the help of such a pastime, but his mother got wind of the suggestion and that was the end of that.
He was the youngest at the quilting store that played host to the circle and the second individual in attendance with a Y chromosome, the other of course being Uncle Barry. His relative was well-acquainted with the elderly ladies who visited – they were eager to pinch Wally's cheeks and coo over his 'ickle freckles' upon introductions.
Wally consoled himself with the fact that free homemade cookies were offered in abundance, and his uncle insisted that he attend at least a month's worth of sessions. He could hold out that long – he'd faced worse than grannies who bathed in their perfume. With only a handful of classes, Wally figured he'd be done before he knew it, and then he could forget all about his uncle's terrible idea.
I'll bet not even Robin has to conduct training like this Wally lamented, rolling pink yarn into a ball for one of the older women present.
By the second week, Wally wasn't so sure about his preliminary assessment, and by the third week he was convinced he hadn't survived anything this bad.
He'd heard of people suffering for their art, but he hadn't quite understood the depths of the meaning behind that phrase until he had to experience it firsthand. It was agonizing to learn – constantly dropping rows, getting his needle tangled and going slowly. It was frustrating to watch everyone else conduct themselves with ease, even Mrs. Pamila, who had arthritis in both wrists. This was getting downright embarrassing.
"How's it going?" Barry asked, looking up from his work, which consisted of a perfectly shaped sock. Now that his uncle was past dealing with the heel, he didn't need to concentrate; his fingers continued to move of their own accord. Wally sort of envied him.
He held up his own project, which was supposed to be the beginning of a square that could become a potholder or a scarf if he was ambitious. What it really resembled was a rat's nest.
"Lame, I know," Wally said, snapping, and moped.
After everyone left for the night, Uncle Barry sent him home with some books on the subject, a plastic bag full of string and instructions to practice until he perfected something. Barry said it with the same gravity he used when they performed missions together, so Wally tried to take him seriously.
He sat down on his bed and spread out his materials, staying up longer than he should, given it was a school night, and read each instruction manual and magazine, committing techniques and patterns to memory. Wally chose an article of clothing that was of interest, boosting his likelihood of finishing it when he actually cared about what he was doing. Due to the fact he was unsure about what he had to do, he forced himself to take his time, threading the yellow and red yarn carefully. Despite this, he'd been forced to ravel and unravel his project multiple times, accomplishing a bit more each time.
By the next meeting he had his first, completed venture – a single leg warmer. It was plain and designed with his uniform in mind, the majority of it a blaring yellow with a red zigzag racing around near the top. He'd had to call his uncle and request his mom for advice on how to execute a pattern as simple as that – and was that a humiliating conversation to hold, in both cases – but the result was worth the degrading strike to his pride because, in an odd way, he'd come to enjoy the challenge and was happy with what he'd accomplished.
Everyone at the crocheting circle admired and complimented his work, and he forgot all about it being the last official day he was required to attend.
"You know," one of the ladies who went by the name of Gertrude said as she examined his work more closely. He'd come to know that she had two teacup poodles named Sugar and Hellboy that she made tiny sweaters for. "You've got some serious talent here, sonny. I'll bet you could put together some mighty fine gifts if you wanted. Christmas is coming up soon – you should experiment with making different items that your friends need."
Wally laughed like he wasn't considering the advice.
He ended up coming back after the fourth seminar, but only because he wasn't finished with the second leg warmer. Wally didn't enjoy leaving projects half finished. That was all. If he just so happened to put the finishing touches on it and begin crocheting a hat, then that was to prevent the early onset of boredom.
"You should ask Agnes for advice on letter making," Uncle Barry suggested to him. Wally had asked him for assistance on patterns again. "She has five children and several grandkids, and she monograms whatever she gives them to keep presents straight. She has more practice than me and can probably be of help."
So it was with great reluctance he approached Agnes, a woman who didn't appear to own anything besides sea foam colored track suits and matching Crocs. She turned out to be a professional at lettering with a crocheting needle, though, and taught him how to do special lines next. She demonstrated using a skull and crossbones on her own project, reciting that she worried her oldest son got cold when he rode on his Harley. Apparently she knew this from experience, since she owned two of her own. He practiced alongside her, though he experimented with logos.
Before he knew it, Wally was involved in the crocheting guild like a regular, attending when his schedule would allow, even when his uncle was unable to make it due to work related obligations. His pile of finished projects had grown by the time the holidays arrived.
Their first Christmas as a team was an eventful one, each of them celebrating three days early since most of them would be gone visiting family or spending the rare reprieve at home. It was the first for M'gann, Kaldur and Superboy, since neither Mars nor Atlantis had reason to celebrate, and Superboy was technically only a couple months old.
There was great food, classic movies, music played and presents. Wally tried to hide his nervousness as he ripped apart wrapping paper and ribbon, discretely watching his friends' reactions each time they grabbed boxes labeled with their names. He received many thoughtful gifts, but he couldn't fully appreciate them while he waited. Despite the amount of patience crocheting had succeeded in instilling in him, he was both excited and worried about what everyone would think of their gifts.
M'gann was the first to discover the one he'd secretly given, setting aside the Easy Bake Oven to pick up a nondescript package stuffed deep under the tree. He'd sneaked them in as far back as when they'd bought the faux-pine tree days ago. Her face lit up at the Hello Kitty beret, a tiny bow adorning it, and she squealed with delight. She held it close to her chest, marveling at the soft feel in comparison to her organic attire.
"This is adorable! Who knew I love this cartoon show?" she asked, glancing at each one of them.
"The same person who did my beanie, I'd reason," Robin said, holding up a black and red hat, his personal insignia crocheted in the center with yellow.
Kaldur had a blue and green scarf with a wavy pattern flowing along the length of it, Artemis had been given ear warmers adorned with an arrow on each side, and Superboy found black fingerless gloves, a small Superman logo placed in red on the top of one. They each admired the gifts, and Wally slipped on his own gear – the legwarmers he'd successfully made.
"This is fine craftsmanship," Kaldur said, running his thumb along the scarf before looping it loosely around his neck.
"I can see this coming in handy," Superboy admitted next. He tugged the gloves on and made fists to test the grip, nodding in approval.
Artemis adjusted the ear warmers on her head, adding, "And these accessorize great!"
"We should test them out," Robin suggested, a smirk appearing on his face. "Snowball fight?"
There wasn't any snow in Happy Harbor, but with Kaldur's Water-Bearers, a hefty water bill and some hacking of the air cooling system, they made do.
Sometime later, Wally stumbled into Mount Justice's recreation room and saw M'gann hovering with her legs crossed in the air. She was watching the Do It Yourself Network, a lesson on knitting and crocheting playing on the screen. A hank of yarn was in her lap as she struggled to mimic the television hosts on the screen, her fingers jerky as she maneuvered the crochet hook.
He considered pretending he hadn't witnessed her attempts and continuing to the kitchen, but he noticed her wearing the hat he'd made her, and besides, he couldn't leave a damsel in distress.
Wally approached, leaning over the sofa as he asked, "What'cha doing there, Megan?"
"Oh! Hello, Wally," she started, seeming embarrassed to be caught. "I…I was trying to… It's so silly, but I wanted to try my hand at making clothes. I know I can form my own." And she did, demonstrating for him again how she could control the attire she wore, it being literally a second skin. "But this seems much more personal. I'd love to make presents, too! This is complicated, though."
She lifted her work up where he could see, the project a mess of holes and sloppy lines that reminded him of his own early attempts.
Smiling, he leaned in closer and asked, "Hey, want me to show you a secret? You can't tell a soul, though."
Perplexed, but intrigued, M'gann slowly nodded and listened to his explanations. Her expression brightened upon her discovery that Wally not only understood the task of crocheting, but was an excellent teacher, too. He started her small, eventually working her up to creating a small Hello Kitty handbag to match her beret. At one point it did get out of hand, with M'gann unleashing her newfound hobby to all reaches of their secret headquarters: doilies on the tables, handmade ornaments hanging from the ceiling, and even the bathrooms had cozies to cover the Kleenex boxes.
"You've created a monster," Robin remarked one evening, both he and Wally staring at the transformation the cave had gone through in their absence. Despite swearing M'gann to secrecy, Wally wasn't shocked to find that Robin had figured out who was behind the initial concept.
"Gotta admit it really warms up the place, at least."
"Yeah, I figured you'd say that, Kid Grandma."
"That doesn't even make sense," Wally protested. His friend would never let him live this down.