"Tiiiiired,” Wally whined as he pulled down some stray tinsel draped over the rafters of the Mount Justice rec room. Robin rolled his eyes at his friend: somehow, somehow, he and the speedster were the last ones left cleaning up after the week of holiday festivities.
A week of non-stop partying punctuated by the occasional patrol: Robin couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept. Well, he’d probably slept a couple hours at some point yesterday on New Years Day, but - for example - he didn’t recall pulling the ugly Christmas sweater he’d gotten at the Coal Party on … Thursday, was it? … to go sledding this morning in Canada with everyone.
And the Sunday before that there had been Secret Santa. Monday - A Three King’s cake. Tuesday - Christmas Pickle. Wednesday - traditional Atlantean Yuletide - the end of the Lunar Year meal. The Coal Party - where everyone handed out tacky, horrible gifts Secret Santa-style, and the recipient had three guesses to figure out who’d given it to him. Robin had nailed it on his first try. It was a pretty expensive, preppy ugly sweater with traditional embroidery patterns, and only Roy had the funds to pull that off. He was sure there had been an assist by Alfred, too, because it fit perfectly.
Snowmen and decorations. Then Martian summer games - M’gann came from the southern hemisphere, but her summer was not really that different from Earth winter. Caroling. New Years Eve. For starters.
It had been an amazing, spin-cycle of a week, easily one of the best of his life.
Now it was over, though, and he was here, “supervising cleanup.”
Kid Flash should have been the first out of there, superspeed and all, but no , he’d bitched and moaned and dragged on like cleaning would kill him or something. Robin suspected Wally hoped that - by being the laziest reindeer around - someone would eventually pick up his slack. No such luck, and as soon as as everyone else crossed their chores off the list, they melted away like a snowball in Florida. Or went home. Or whatever.
Robin was tired, see? Currently exhausted – he wasn't “ex” anything yet, so, “ hausted ”? Or, maybe, “hausted” meant “energetic”, and true, he was way past that. Hmmm .
The boy mulled it over as he gave in and helped tug down the rest of the torn Happy New Years banner. “We’re almost done here, Kid Lard.”
Beside him, feet braced on the outside of each strut on the ladder, the redhead slid to the floor and dismounted with a little hop and grin that were far too perky for his own good. Dick gently kicked some dried brown pine needles in his direction.
“I guess the tree needs to go out next,” he said. “Let's -”
“Aye, aye,” Wally saluted cheerfully and did an exaggerated about-face to pull down the Christmas tree. He suddenly had so much energy that the acrobat wondered if he'd snuck a candy bar between the ceiling and the floor.
The redhead maneuvered the giant evergreen onto his shoulders, blurring a little around the edges as compensated for the shifts in weight. Robin's eyebrows climbed his forehead: the speedster was really stronger than even the brunet gave him credit for. Robin had expected him to need help, but Wally didn't ask. It was much more fun watching him wobble beneath it as he balanced it out the door, anyway. Wally peeked out from under the branches with an impish, freckled grin that Dick couldn't help but return as he exited outside with a slam.
A heavy silence fell over the Cave.
This was probably the first truly quiet moment he'd had in eight days. No noisemakers as the ball dropped, no light giggling from the girls, no rustle of wrapping paper, clanking of silverware, singing, no raucous laughter, not even in the distance. So many people, so much food, so many gifts, so much to do. Wally would only be gone a minute, but Dick couldn't quite chase away the melancholy that washed over him.
Almost. Dick hauled the vacuum cleaner out from the hallway and paused, just under the entrance to the rec room.
The mistletoe. A poisonous plant from Europe associated with the ridiculous tradition of enforced kissing at Christmas time.
Dick wasn’t sure why he felt cynical about it today; mistletoe and its trappings had never bothered him in the past. In fact, it had been a common decoration in his family’s trailer at Christmas when he was younger, and he always found it funny when his dad would “accidentally” pull his mom underneath it every ten minutes.
According to Orthodox Christian tradition, the mistletoe stayed up until Februrary 2, the celebration of Candlemas - it was supposed to be the last Christmas decoration to come down. And it always was. Frankly, though, that probably had nothing to do with Candlemas, and everything to do with his Dad wanting an excuse for smooches. Dick wasn’t sure they had ever even been Orthodox Christian in the family’s nomadic history. Mostly they were just flexible.
He sighed a little and glanced around the room. Well, it wasn’t February 2nd, but it was January 2nd, and all the other Christmas decorations were gone, so. Candlemas comes early this year . Robin used the vacuum for a little leverage and jumped to pluck the withering plant down from the ceiling.
An odd feeling of relief followed.
The brunet frowned at the bundle of leaves pinched between his thumb and pointer, sticky sap clinging to his fingerpads, the edges of the dried stem poking into his palms.
Hmm . He hadn't really had a chance to use it, but he didn't especially feel any pressure, to either.
And it wasn’t even that everyone else had used the mistletoe - there’s that feeling of relief again - mostly M’gann and Conner taken advantage, and they’d been relatively discreet. Everyone else - Wally and Artemis - had made a ridiculous show of dodging it. Even when Zee came to the parties, her Dad had insisted on stalking her all over the mountain. Dick smirked to himself; he was pretty sure she wouldn’t have avoided it under different circumstances. Which would have been nice - really nice -
- but … -
Dick’s head throbbed. Rubbing the bridge of his nose, he slipped off his shades and tucked them into his back pocket.
Last chances, new beginnings.
New Year’s, too. Zee had to go home at 10:30; Wally had gone out to get food; Dick had carefully avoided their two smitten alien friends in the corner as he passed out noisemakers to the League and his friends; Artemis had stared at the TV and smiled; Kaldur had shouted with everyone else; Wally had come back a second too late.
More … more inexplicable relief.
What was with all the kissing this time of year, anyway?
A sudden chill breeze, and the smell of evergreen and fresh snow rolled off the speedster as he snapped his fingers under Dick’s nose. “Earth to Boy Wonder.”
The acrobat started and blinked rapidly at his friend.
“Oh, hey,” Wally said in that tone, the mildly surprised - pleased - tone that invaded his voice whenever he saw Dick’s eyes. His red eyebrows quirked a little in amusement. “Tree situation handled . What next?”
“Look around for stray stuff, I guess,” he shrugged. “I’ll start vacuuming.”
“Cool.” Now Wally blurred through the room. “So, Robs ...” soda cans that had rolled under the fridge days ago miraculously reappeared, “... what do you want to …” bits of wrapping paper stuffed the in cupboards evaporated, “... do after this?” Wally dug through the couch cushions.
Was he kidding? Go to bed for at least three days . “I don’t know about you, but I was going to …”
“Hey, check this out.”
Robin glanced up from plugging in the vacuum. Wally struck a pose, arms akimbo, hips snapped, wearing a ridiculous Santa hat with LED lights flashing in the trim.
“Am I hot or what ?”
Wally was also wearing his Coal Party sweater. Now, Dick’s sweater was the sort of ugly that rich, spoiled snowbunnies would wear to an apres-ski party in the Alps. Wally’s, on the other hand, had a macrame Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer on it. With a 3D, stuffed red nose and antlers. And giant black buttons for eyes.
He hadn't guessed his Secret Santa.
The brunet snorted, and that dissolved into giggles, and Wally joined him. Dick dropped the cord and playfully tugged the brim of the hat down over his face and held it there: “ That’s an improvement.”
“Hey,” his friend protested, still giggling as he feebly squirmed away, and Dick laughed harder.
And maybe it was the haustion talking, but he just couldn’t stop , and soon Robin was laughing so hard he was hiccuping because Wally had gotten away but was stuck in the hat now. He almost couldn’t breathe by the time the speedster finally pulled it back up, frowning.
“Little help here, dude?” he said, cross. “And do you really have to laugh that hard?”
Dick hiccuped once more, snickering as Wally struggled not to break his “this-is-me-annoyed” face. He tried to say “Yeah, of course I do,” or maybe even “Sorry ‘bout that,” but instead, the mistletoe that he hadn’t put down was really sticky and pricking his left fingertips, and now his right hand was wrapped around the soft white fur of the hat again. And he was pulling it down, but this time he kept pulling down - toward him - and he didn’t stop until he felt the press of one of the LEDs against his nose and the press of Wally’s lips on his own.
They were sweet - he had snuck a candy bar at some point - and really soft, and his breath smelled like peppermint. And Wally tasted even better as Dick - still tugging the hat over Wally’s eyes - braced the hand with the mistletoe on the top of the speedster’s head and drew him in deeper, his tongue sliding into his mouth, warm and wet. Wally stood there, arms hovering out at his sides, not moving away, but not really ...
Dick was kissing Wally harder than he’d ever kissed anyone before; this had gone on way too long, even longer than it should have if it made any sense to begin with. What ever the hell it was to begin with.
Robin dropped the edge of the hat so quickly that Wally rocked back a little as he broke away. The thick trim still fell below his eyebrows, and the acrobat could just barely make out his best friend’s bright green eyes, wide with shock, beneath it. The sap from the mistletoe was starting to sting.
“Well,” the acrobat croaked.
A trillion escape routes flew threw Dick’s head as he blinked away his panic: joke tired joke ijustwantedto aliens joke itsyourfaultwe’restillhere joke lastchance tired mistletoe newbeginning joke uh … no ...
He finally recovered, crossing his arms smoothly in front of him. “Training exercise failed.”
Wally’s mouth opened and closed twice like a trapped fish.
Robin spun on his heel toward the vacuum cleaner and crouched down, subtly wrestling with mistletoe he couldn’t neatly dispose of. Dammit.
Wally spoke very, very carefully, like he was testing new vocabulary in a language he’d never heard before. In an alternate reality that hadn’t existed two minutes ago.
Where the hell had ... what that was ... even come from?
The Boy Wonder snorted, already expertly navigating the mental tightrope that would get him out of this. “Well, yeah, if you can’t recover from something like that in the field any faster, then we’re all screwed.”
Apparently making crap up on the fly
Now can we get to the part where we pretend this never happened?
“Recover. In the field.” More of that new vocab.
The brunet ignored the gross residue on his hands and tossed the poisonous little plant the floor. He busied his hands with the vacuum plug and kept his eyes trained steadily at the wall. Dick wished Wally would just talk faster and get whatever he was going to say over with because he couldn’t pretend to plug in a vacuum forever .
“From a kiss.”
He flushed deep red, and, okay, he’s going to be testing the limits of his pretend-plugging-in skills because he sure as hell wasn’t getting up with his face this color.
Why was Wally even still here? Shouldn’t he be running away or something? Isn’t that what he does for a living?
Dick had always figured Wally would be gone someday, one way or another.
“Yeah,” he said, as nonchalantly as possible - he was feeling pretty damn chalant right now - but, frankly, the kissing thing was sort of true. “It, uh, happens all the time.”
Robin’s sincerity actually threw Wally: “Wait, what?”
“Sure,” the boy kneeling on the floor continued. “I mean, it happens to Batman constantly - Catwoman and Poison Ivy for starters -”
“Really?” Wally sounded a little awestruck and … maybe jealous. He would.
Okay, plug is in the wall, get it together. “Duh, so that wasn’t a totally crazy thin -”
“Has it happened to - to you?”
“ Ha! ” Robin snorted derisively and got up to face his friend. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, Bats is fast , but I’m more agile, an -”
The moment he stood all the way up, though, a breeze and a - now very familiar - pair of lips were against his, and Wally’s hands rested gently, gingerly around his hips.The brunet stiffened in surprise until his friend broke away with a triumphant smirk.
“ Well . It looks like someone else also needs -” the redhead started with his usual Wally-bravado, and Dick just gaped.
“- some, uh …,” his friend stuttered under the brunette's stare as bright red crawled from his freckled cheeks to his ears, “... you need some practice, too, uh, right?” he ended awkwardly.
The Santa hat still sat way too low over Wally’s eyes, and the LED lights blinked in a zig zag pattern across his forehead. Dick couldn’t breathe. Wally dropped his gaze shyly, studying one of reindeer in the old-fashioned embroidery pattern on Dick’s chest. “I mean,” he mumbled, “I know I do …”
The acrobat still hadn’t let out a breath as, trembling, he brought his hands to his friend’s cheeks and ran his thumbs over the sprinkling of freckles there. Dick’s spine felt like it was almost unwinding as tension he didn’t know he’d had melted away - so many subconscious anxieties, secret paranoias that evaporated under Wally’s touch.
“... we ... we should make it the highest priority training maneuver.”
Wally grinned, broad and bright. Capturing Dick's lips again, he gave him a little push backwards, and Dick stumbled over the vacuum cleaner on his way to the wall.
“You know,” his red-headed friend said between pecks - on Dick’s lips - “it's a good thing you,” - on his ear - “came to me” - on his cheek - “I make a great consultant” - on his jaw - “as sort of an expert on sexy and all” - on his neck -
“Oh, really?” Dick said, cocking an eyebrow. “And what, exactly, are your qualifications? That sweater?”
“Pfft, you picked it out.”
Now it was the acrobat’s turn to be surprised: “How did ...? You guessed wrong!”
Wally laughed and shrugged. “Who else knows my middle name? That way, you couldn’t bring it up or it’d give you away. ”
Dick’s mouth twitched in amusement. “So then ... are you qualified because your first kiss was about 90 seconds ago?”
Wally narrowed his eyes dangerously. “Okay, fine, that just makes me a prodigy, right? ”
Dick’s eyebrows climbed higher.
“Just … just shut up and kiss me,” Wally scowled.
And the acrobat tossed his head back laughed, light and airy and genuine, before he did just that.
Suddenly, he wasn’t tired in the least .