Now, if I were more clever I'd have posted this last year, when I wrote it Anyway...I wanted to try writing a holiday fic that didn't suck. I'd recently finished Shadow Play, but that had a holiday (Halloween) as more of a background detail than anything else, so I didn't feel that counted. It turns out my family's Christmas get togethers had stopped after my aunt had died, so I was like "hey, put that on a character and make a fanfic out of it!"
So I did.
I may have taken liberties with Argent's background...but with as little as she actually appeared in the series, I think that's kind of unavoidable.
The twin doors slid open, allowing Argent to walk into the ops room of Titans Tower.
She had expected at least one of the Titans to be there, since it was the middle of the day, but the room appeared to be unoccupied, like the rest of the Tower. And what she did see, she would never have expected.
Not that she was unfamiliar with Christmas trees, or the arrays of lights and shiny ornaments that identified them as such. Nor that she was surprised to see such a tree at Christmas time. But this tree was a branch-less trunk, with a cluster of large fan-like leaves coming out of the top.
"Is that a Christmas palm tree?" she skeptically asked no one in particular. Jump City was well in range of conical needled trees that were standard Christmas trees, she'd seen them the last time she was here.
A pink shape leaned out from behind the trunk, eventually revealing it to be someone sitting on the couch on the opposite end of the room. Meaning technically, there was one of the Titans there, after all.
"Oh hey," Jinx said. "Need some help?"
Argent tilted her head slightly, and tried to maintain a relaxed posture. "Why would you say that?"
Jinx lowered an eyebrow. "If it was an emergency or typical social call," she said with some annoyance, "you'd have called ahead. As it is, I'm guessing you want to make an imposition, one important enough that you need to present it person. Would also explain you trying to dodge a simple question."
Argent froze for a second. She certainly hadn't intended to ignore the question...."No, I don't need any help; I happened to be passing through and thought I should stop by. You're right though, I should have called ahead."
Jinx's expression relaxed. "Not like I'm Miss Manners," she replied with a shrug. "Anyway, Robin and the rest should be back in...less than an hour, I'd guess. So come, have a seat, I'm getting tired of talking over the width of this room."
A knot started to form in Argent's stomach as the thought of spending an hour alone with Jinx came to mind. She thought of how to get out of the uncomfortable prospect. "Thank you, but I should probably be on my way if they aren't here."
"If you came in the front door, they'll know you were here. And if you're gone when they get back, I bet Starfire'll track you down. Probably better if you wait for them to show up."
Maybe coming here wasn't a good idea, Argent thought. "Maybe I should call them now, instead?" she asked with a slightly sheepish tone.
Jinx's face took on a full-fledged frown. "If you have a problem with me," she snarled, "spit it out."
Argent's eyes widened in surprise. Was it really that obvious? "Of course not!" she proclaimed indignantly. "I just...." She paused to take a deep breath. No sense not talking about it now...."I thought you'd be cross about the misunderstanding with Kid Flash," she added with a hint of dejection.
Jinx took a deep breath of her own. "I'm not upset about it anymore. And I was never mad at you, in the first place. Now, sit."
Argent sighed. Great, now that she's being gracious about it, I'm just an arse if I refuse. She flew across the room, giving the unnatural-looking Christmas tree a wide berth, and alighted near the right end of the sofa before sitting.
"FYI," Jinx said nonchalantly, "I don't bite." She then turned back to the book in her hands, which hadn't been visible from the opposite side of the room.
The front cover of the book was easily visible from where Argent was sitting. "Jekyll and Hyde? A fine story, but don't you think it's a bit peculiar for Christmas reading?"
Jinx glanced up at her. "I guess, but I need to fit in my reading whenever I can. Kid Flash is lousy at 'quiet'."
"I'll bet he is," Argent agreed. "Is he with Robin and the others? What are they even doing, anyway?"
"Kid Flash is doing...some sort of 'family time' thing back in Keystone City. Robin said the rest of them were getting some last-minute decorations."
Argent had been trying to ignore the arboreal monstrosity in her peripheral vision. "Please tell me they're getting a better tree."
Jinx snorted. "I wish, that thing looks miserable. But Cyborg said this was their compromise with Starfire, who wanted some sort of alien shrub instead. I wouldn't put any bets on a replacement this year. I'm...just going to enjoy the utter lack of snow around here."
"I know what you mean, it was getting muggy on the other side of the equator."
Jinx sighed, then set the book down beside her. "Not so good with quiet yourself, are you?"
What the...."Excuse me?!" Argent yelled, pushing herself onto her feet for good measure. "You tell me to sit with you just to be quiet?! Who do you think you are, telling me to sit down and shut up like a dog?!"
The frown had planted itself on Jinx's face while Argent was still talking. Jinx hissed in annoyance, just before covering her eyes with her hand. "You're right," she admitted with a sigh, "I'm sorry."
A voice in the back of Argent's mind reminded her that she'd usually accept a sincere-seeming apology like that one. But this was hardly a normal scenario: There wasn't any good faith established between the two of them, and she had already tried to be nice, just for Jinx to want her to be quiet. Four words of apology weren't any more respectful than what Jinx was apologizing for. "Why don't you tell me what's got you in such a mood, then?" Argent countered, not quite managing to keep the growl out of her voice.
At that, Jinx practically jumped off the couch into standing position herself. "You have no idea what you're talking about," she sneered, "and it wouldn't be any of your business if you did!"
Which was true, but also kind of the point of asking in the first place. "So you're apologizing for the way you normally act?"
Jinx growled, before she started blustering sentence fragments. "I'm trying to—I can't believe—you have no right—"
It took most of Argent's willpower, but she managed to fight the instinct to shout back over the top of her, silently frowning at her instead.
"FINE!" Jinx suddenly yelled. "I came here specifically to avoid being around Kid Flash's family, okay?" she explained as she plopped back down on the couch, looking sullen.
Argent was stunned for a moment. She hadn't really expected it to be something she could relate to. "Why is that?" she asked calmly as she sat back down on the couch, an inch closer to Jinx.
Jinx frowned at her, then rolled her eyes. "Sick of feeling like I'm just an extension of him. Is that so wrong?"
"Honestly...I'm avoiding my own family for similar reasons," Argent answered, looking down at her knees.
Through the corner of her eyes, she saw Jinx blink a couple times. "Really?" she asked, puzzled instead of annoyed. "You...don't seem the type."
Argent looked back at her, ignoring the urge to challenge her on the basis of her correct assumption. "I know, I'm a little embarrassed about it myself. But it isn't as if I....I guess need to explain now, don't I?"
Jinx waited as Argent took a deep breath and mentally arranged her thoughts. Argent was a little surprised that she'd managed to talk herself into edging out of her comfort zone, again. But she had gotten Jinx to talk, however briefly, and it was only fair to do the same herself.
"It's been rough. A few years back my aunt and uncle died, and since then their families have been drifting away from each other. Used to be that we'd all have a big all-day get-together on Christmas. It became Christmas morning with Mum's family and Christmas evening with Dad's. Both wanted me to swing by, which I thought was nice...until this year. Now Mum's family is living on a different continent, so it wasn't even possible for me to go to both places at the same time."
"That's gotta suck," Jinx offered sympathetically.
"Yeah. For the past month they've each been trying to convince me to join them on Christmas, they know I can travel on short notice. But I realized a few days ago that they're really sniping at each other. Being fought over as a prop instead of a person doesn't make me feel good about myself, if you know what I mean."
"Yeah," Jinx said softly, "I do."
"I'd just go to my parents'," Argent continued, "but they said they'll be celebrating with Dad's family so I'd still be picking a side. And I'm not asking them to change their plans for me. So I decided to put a lot of distance between myself and all of them."
The next few seconds were filled with an awkward silence, as the two of them stared out the large window of the ops room. Argent hoped Jinx would say something, since she didn't feel she had anything else to add, but it seemed both of them were at a loss. Although it was a vast improvement over the yelling match they'd had just a minute ago.
Argent took a deep breath through her nose. "But enough about my problems," she said as she turned to face Jinx. "Tell me about you and Kid Flash's family."
Jinx turned to Argent...or more accurately, turned her head towards Argent's general direction while avoiding direct eye contact. "After hearing about your family trying to tear you in half, mine feels really petty."
Argent shrugged her shoulders. "Doesn't bother me. Please, go on." Even if she had been feeling less charitable, she wouldn't have let Jinx get out of it so easily.
Jinx gave her a skeptical glance for only a second. "Well, they try to hide it, but they're clearly uncomfortable around me. Which I can understand, they look like an ordinary 80s sitcom family and I don't exactly fit in with my skin and hair color. I feel out of place around them, and I'm not even sure how much of my past they know about."
"What would your past have to do with it?"
Jinx frowned at her slightly for a few seconds. "You don't know, do you?" she asked skeptically as she relaxed her eyebrows.
Argent cocked her head to side. "Know what?" she responded, perplexed.
"Let's...just say I kicked the Titans out of the Tower we're sitting in a few years back. I'm new on the 'hero' side of things."
"Really? Does that mean you're one of those antiheroes?" Argent asked, hoping her enthusiasm wasn't apparent in her voice.
Jinx put a hand to her chin. "Can't say I really thought about it before. I'm gonna say...maybe."
"Cool!" Some of Argent's pre-adolescent fascination with 'dark and edgy' had clearly been retained.
Jinx rolled her eyes.
"Er, sorry to interpret," Argent said sheepishly.
"At least she took it in stride," Jinx muttered under her breath. "Anyway, " she continued, "they walk a little faster and less casually when I'm around. Their familial cheeriness grows quiet when I enter the room. And they talk to Kid Flash or...well, Flash....about me when I leave the room, instead of talking to me while I was there."
"Flash? They're relatives, then?"
"Yeah, he's Kid Flash's uncle, I think. He's not bad, though I'm sure he's gotten used to...unusual characters over the years. Has a way better sense of when not to joke than his nephew, that's for sure."
"That doesn't sound like a difficult accomplishment, to be honest."
Jinx snorted. "No, it isn't. But yeah, the rest of them are treating me like an extension of Kid Flash, instead of a person in my own right. I don't think you need me to explain what that's like."
"No," Argent agreed, "I don't." She sighed. "Bloody holidays, why do they have to cause problems like this?"
Jinx shook her head. "I...don't think it's the holiday that's causing the problem."
Argent lowered an eyebrow at Jinx. She was pretty sure the Christmas gatherings had a lot to do with Christmas. "How do you figure?"
"Well...The stuff with Kid Flash's family has kinda been there the whole time. We've just all been able to avoid each other until the holiday season came along. The holiday didn't cause any of it."
"I suppose so. But it still seems a little silly to have a holiday to emphasize it in the first place. The togetherness thing is supposed to be happening all year, not once a year."
"I think the two of us have our own examples of the 'togetherness' failing. The way I figure it, without a recurring event to remind people of the idea it'd be far too easy to forget about it entirely. This way, maybe a few of us will realize when something's missing before it turns into a disaster. Or at least I hope you aren't estranged from your family."
It was a thought Argent didn't really want to contemplate. "I...hope not, too," she said dejectedly. "This is literally the first year I can remember where I haven't seen all of them on Christmas. I have no idea how they'll take it." She took a deep breath. "Do you think I made the right decision?" She wasn't entirely sure she wanted to know the answer, but the guilt had been gnawing at the back of her mind for hours, she needed a second opinion.
Jinx looked at her for a second. "Are you sure you want to be asking me? I'm not exactly known for my congeniality."
"You seem fine enough to me," Argent replied with a slight shrug.
"Huh. Well, from what you've told me, there really isn't a right option. Both sides of your family have arranged it so at least one of them is going to be disappointed, and I think that in itself makes you unhappy."
Argent had expected to hear something of the sort. But Jinx continued.
"But if you're asking what I'd do, I'd ditch both of them just like you did. It's not like anyone can make you choose not to be who you are. You're a part of your mother's family, and a part of your father's family, and your own person. If neither side of your family will accept that, well, to hell with them; stick with who isn't trying to coerce you."
Argent breathed a sigh of relief. "That makes sense. Thank you." She still felt it was a selfish decision, but hearing that Jinx would've come to the same conclusion eased her worry that it was an irrational decision, particularly since she could accept Jinx's reasoning. At the same time, she didn't want to make another selfish decision and let her own problems dominate the conversation. "So what are you going to do?" she asked.
Jinx sighed. "While today was a nice break from it all, I think I have to suck it up and head back there for tomorrow. There's no way they're going to get used to me as a person if I'm not even there. And as much as I'd love to avoid the issue, that'll only make him have to explain why his girlfriend won't spend time with his family. And that's not fair to him. Just because I'm myself doesn't mean I'm not his girlfriend, after all. Kinda like how that tree behind us is a symbol of the Titans' willingness to compromise, but that doesn't mean it isn't hideous. And I'm not going to let the arboreal abomination be more accommodating than I am."
Argent was slightly amused at the tree alliteration, but she suddenly got the feeling she was missing something significant. "So what are they doing tomorrow?" she asked.
Jinx suddenly stared at her, eyes slightly widened.
"What?" Argent asked after a couple seconds, hoping she didn't sound as annoyed as she felt.
"You came over here from...Australia or somewhere around there?"
"New Zealand, yes," she answered, confused at the apparent change in topic.
"So you crossed the International Date Line getting here?"
A light went on in Argent's brain. "...It's Christmas Eve here, isn't it?"
"Sod it," Argent muttered as she shook her head. How did she manage to overlook something as obvious as the date? She'd felt a little relieved once she thought it was too late to get to England in time for Christmas morning, but that wasn't the case now that she found an extra 24 hours. Plus, she'd need to arrange for some type of overnight accommodations now.
"I won't tell you forgot if you don't," Jinx offered, as she picked up her book and continued reading.
On the other side of the room, the doors slid open.
"Argent!" Starfire exclaimed as she flew across the room. "How joyous to see you here!"
"How unexpected, too," Raven droned.
"Er, sorry about the lack of notice," Argent said as she stood up and turned around, "but it's been a...complicated last few days. Speaking of which, I just found out this turned into an overnight trip and...I need somewhere to sleep."
"Oh?" Robin said. "Well, we do have spare quarters here in the Tower."
Argent wasn't thrilled with the quality implications of the word 'quarters'. "Well I don't want to impose on all of you," she tried to backtrack.
Jinx exhaled sharply, still looking at her book. "Sound a little more gracious, will ya?" she said in a hushed tone.
"Well if you'd prefer," Cyborg offered, "I bet we can find you a spot in one of the hotels around here."
"You don't think they'll be fully booked this close to Christmas?" Raven asked.
"At least one of them's got to have a suite free, right?" he replied.
Argent lowered an eyebrow in disbelief. Was that supposed to be less imposing? "I...think I'm OK staying here. But I do appreciate the offer."
She saw Jinx nod slightly in her peripheral vision.
Robin looked like he was about to say something, but Beast Boy stepped in front of him. "So what do you think of our tree?" he asked.
Argent had actually been trying not to look at it. "I think it looks...distinct."
"Huh, that's what Jinx said." he replied.
"Exactly what Jinx said," Cyborg added as he gave a skeptical look in Jinx's general direction.
Jinx didn't bother looking up from her book. "I promise I did not use the word 'distinct' when I was talking to her."
Cyborg rolled his eye, as Argent failed to suppress her smirk.
"Well anyway," Cyborg continued, "let me show you to your room. Ma'am," he added sarcastically.
Argent shook her head. "Please don't tell me I come off like that."
"We won't tell you," Raven said flatly.
Before Argent could decide whether that was a joke or not, Cyborg exaggerated the sound of clearing his throat, before slowly walking towards the door. "If you'll follow me please," he said in what Argent assumed was his best concierge impression.
Argent walked around the couch to follow Cyborg. "Merry Christmas, Jinx," she said sincerely before directly following Cyborg.
Jinx looked over her shoulder, an almost imperceptible smile on her face. "To you too, Argent."
As she followed Cyborg at his mock-formal pace, she heard Beast Boy's voice.
"Hey Jinx," he was saying, "what do you think about the Carol of the Bells...sung by gorillas?"
"Meh," she said.