Red Tornado returns to "den mother duty," as Robin and Kid Flash are fond of referring to his position as, in late April. Batman informs him about everything that has happened during his absence, and he observes that the team's growth is commendable. Batman nods and leaves with Robin, who shoots a look behind his back as the zeta radiation glows yellow-white around him.
It begins twelve days, seven hours, and thirty-four minutes after Red Tornado had returned to his post. On his afternoon round through the Cave, he passes Miss Martian and Superboy in the hallway, whispering. This event is not unusual in itself (Batman -- or rather, Robin -- informed him of the two's intimate relationship), but the way Superboy's eyes flicker between him, Miss Martian's face, and the floor is. Superboy is straightforward. He is not inclined to secrecy or nervousness. Red Tornado catalogs this incident as something to discuss later, should it reoccur.
Not twenty minutes later, he happens upon the rest of the team in the common area, lounging on the couches. Zatara's daughter Zatanna is with them, and they appear to be debating about something, exchanging words quickly and a little sharply. Red Tornado's auditory sensors are easily able to pick up normally-pitched human voices across a room, but he knows that humans are disinclined towards eavesdropping.
Kid Flash's voice, though, can not be considered "normally-pitched." A trait of all Flashes, Red Tornado thinks, for Barry regularly speaks at a volume the average human considers "shouting."
"I'm just sayin', Rob, that's not something he'll appreciate," Kid Flash says, gesticulating wildly.
"What do you mean he won't appreciate it?" Artemis asks, her voice increasing in volume (as was her tendency when engaging in conversation with Kid Flash). "It's not like it's going to be a huge deal, or anything-."
"Not a huge deal? Dude's been gone for what, eight months?"
"It doesn't have to be homemade," Zatanna interjects. "I can always conjure up something, if you give me enough time."
"Not homemade?" Kid Flash sounds aghast at the suggestion. "It has to be homemade. You will be violating a time-honored tradition, magicking up some--."
"Is something the matter?"
Kid Flash whips around toward the door, his jaw dropping and working so that he looked "like a fish," as Artemis had once commented. His face turns a shade of red similar to his uncle's suit. Robin snickers.
"N-Nothing, RT! We're just, you know, chatting. Uh, how ya been?" Kid Flash scratches the back of his head.
"I am well," Red Tornado says. "I will leave you to your 'chatting.'"
The next day, Red Tornado once again encounters members of the teams grouped together, discussing something with urgency and secrecy. This time, Aqualad, Artemis, and Miss Martian are outside the training room.
"We have a similar custom in Atlantis," Aqualad says. "I remember, in school, we were instructed to make seashell necklaces."
"So everything really does have to be handmade, doesn't it?" Miss Martian says, ecstatic. "Oh, this is going to be so fun, my first Earth-."
"M'gann!" Artemis hisses. "Keep it down!"
Three days later, Red Tornado enters the kitchen area to discover an enormous plate of cookies on the island. The cookies are artfully arranged, and the plate (clearly homemade) is decorated in red, blue, and yellow stripes. There is a large sign placed behind the plate that reads, in Miss Martian's loopy cursive, "The cookies are from me (obviously) and the plate is from Superboy. Wally, do NOT touch them."
He does not require human sustenance, but Red Tornado admires the arrangement (the cookies are stacked into a giant T) and the plate. He notes that the colors match his exactly.
Outside the room he has reserved for recharging (or, as Kid Flash says with a snicker, "power naps"), he finds a small box wrapped in shiny red and gold paper and tied with a black bow. There is a card tucked underneath the bow, and he removes it.
"I know Wally said everything has to be homemade, but it counts if I got it from the Batcave, right?" It read. "I did have to ask Zatanna to conjure up one thing though. Please don't tell her dad! Anyways, these are for you. Hope your day is heavy on the aster and light on the dis-. --Robin."
Inside the box is a small, powerful battery -- the kind that Batman always seems to have -- and some accessory parts. It is a very useful gift, and Red Tornado decides to put it to use right away.
The rest of his day passes without incident, and Red Tornado observes no further secretive discussions. When he, following human practice, returns to his room for the evening, he finds more objects outside his door: two small boxes, both wrapped in nondescript brown paper, and what appears to be a poster.
He picks up one of the boxes first. Unlike before, there is no card, so he unwraps it and finds a conch shell. A slip of paper tucked into the shell reads, "I felt that you would not appreciate a necklace of seashells as much as my mother did when I was younger, but I hope that you can still admire the beauty of the sea." This must be from Aqualad. Red Tornado's aesthetic sensor is not highly sensitive, but he concedes that the shell is worth admiring.
The second box contains no note, though it can only be from Artemis, for unwrapping reveals a miniature, mechanized crossbow.
Finally, Red Tornado picks up the poster. It is not a poster, but a large sheet of construction paper on which someone has drawn what appears to be a representation of him and the team in front of the cave. They are all smiling, even though Red Tornado is not capable of contorting his facial plate into such an expression.
Taking the drawing with him, Red Tornado ventures into the common area, where, despite the late hour, the entire team is gathered around the TV.
"Why did I receive this drawing?" he asks. The team turns to face him. "I appreciate the sentiment, but I do not require material gifts. I do not have a day of birth in the human fashion, and therefore hold no annual celebration upon which I expect presents."
Kid Flash makes his "fish" expression again (though Red Tornado still does not see how a metahuman teenager can resemble an underwater creature) before he vaults over the couch and throws his arms around Red Tornado's middle. The rest of the team quickly follows suit.
"Happy Den Mother's Day, RT," Kid Flash says, his voice muffled against Red Tornado's torso plate.
Red Tornado is puzzled by his collection of gifts, but if he could smile, he would.