Air of December, part 2

by Chicago

Disclaimers and other information in "part 0"

Dick strode briskly to the front door of the Clocktower and hit the button marked Gordon, inspecting the sidewalk as he waited for her to answer. The snow removal service had done a good job, he conceded, carting off the feet of snow they had removed from the sidewalk, scouring the concrete clean of any patches that might ice up in the cold. Of course, for what they charged, they had better be the best - but it wasn't as if Dick was on hand to do the shoveling himself. He had been on stranded motorist and abandoned car detail.

"Hey, Dick, come on up," Barbara's weary voice came through the speaker, and the door buzzed.

Dick stepped into the lobby, removing his sunglasses but still forced to blink away lingering snow blindness. He skipped the elevator to dash up the stairs two at a time.

Barbara was waiting for him in her doorway, shaking her head as his partly winded form appeared. "I know you missed your morning run, but really, Dick-"

He grinned at her, leaning down to claim her lips and increase his pulse rate even more. Still he noticed how the lips against his were working with a desperate kind of quality, tired and hungry for contact.

Under his fingers, he could feel the pillow crease on her cheek and the lankness of her hair. He pulled back reluctantly. "I woke you, didn't I?"

She nodded slightly and ushered him into her apartment. "I think I was still running on adrenaline when I called you," she confessed. "I just thought I'd lie down for a few minutes before you came..."

"I've been there," he sympathized, settling on the couch and studying her face. He reached out to cradle her cheek and she turned her face to kiss his palm. "You wanna cancel brunch at the Manor? I'm sure Alfred would-"

"No, no," she said, pulling back with a hint of crossness. "I don't want to screw up for Bruce when he's thinking right for a change. He and J'onn won't be back until tomorrow, and someone should be making Gypsy feel welcome."

"She's arrived then?"

"Oh, I forgot! You were on duty when her flight came in and then things got so hectic-"

"Shh-" Dick interrupted, leaning in for another kiss. "You're exhausted."

Barbara slumped a little, her lack of protest betraying exactly how exhausted. "Yeah."

He smiled gently. "You're right about Gypsy, but you need sleep. How about this? I'll go on and make your apologies. How soon will J'onn and Bruce be back?"

"On planet? Five or six hours."

Dick gave her a suspicious look. "On planet," he repeated flatly.

Barbara threw up her hands. "J'onn wants to go Christmas shopping in Metropolis. And Bruce doesn't want to give away the surprise, so-"

"They're going straight to Metropolis. Great. Okay, so I'll go have brunch with them while you nap, and I'll bring Gypsy back down here for the afternoon for some shopping - except I'm going to have to go on duty at 4."

Barbara gave an exasperated sigh. "Dammit! Why can't alien warlords intent on destroying the Earth wait until after the damned holidays!?"

A moment of silence reigned, and then both Dick and Babs began laughing uproariously. Neither noticed a slim figure sneak in through a window until a voice asked, "What's so funny?"

In an instant, Dick was on his feet in a defensive stance and Babs had her escrima sticks out. Then both relaxed. "Geez, Cass," Dick complained, returning to the couch.

Cassandra shrugged fluidly and perched on the arm of an easy chair. "You laugh too much to hear me. What's so funny?"

Barbara shook her head and gestured widely. "Life. The universe. Everything. What's up, Cassandra?"

The teen shrugged and pulled her knees up to her chest, somehow maintaining her balance on the chair arm as she did so. "Christmas music too loud on street. Can't sleep."

"Too loud? Can't you seal off the cave, soundproof it?" Dick puzzled.

"Still need to breathe," Cassandra pointed out, resting her chin on her knees as she wrapped her arms around her legs.

Dick slapped his forehead. "Of course. Breathing. Silly me. Why haven't you told Bruce you don't want to live there anymore?"

Cassandra scowled at him. "I like cave. Just too noisy right now."

"Don't argue with her, Dick," Barbara advised. "You won't win." Her voice sounded heavy with experience.

"Still, it wouldn't put Bruce out to set you up with an apartment somewhere or-"

"Don't want apartment!" Cassandra spat vehemently, causing Dick to recoil slightly.

"Oookay." He looked at Barbara. "She doesn't want an apartment."

Barbara rested her chin on her hand. "I know. We've been through this. Although -"

Cassandra tilted her head curiously, and Dick asked, "What are you thinking?"

"This could solve our problem, actually. Have you eaten yet?" she asked Cassandra.

The teenager scowled, and Dick reflected that she was getting more rather than less teen like as she got older. "Time for sleeping," Cassandra said pointedly.

"Right," Barbara acknowledged with the kind of resigned patience that reminded Dick how much time the two women spent together. "Well, that's good, then, because you can have brunch at the Manor with Dick and -"

Cassandra had straightened into attention on her perch. "Alfred brunch?"

"No, they're letting Dick cook," Barbara shot back.

"Hey! I can cook!"

"Yes, dear, we know," Barbara replied. "But then you can just let Cassandra stay at the Manor for the next few days. It'll give Gypsy some company and avoid the loud Christmas music problem."

Cassandra jumped up from the chair. "Good plan." She grabbed Dick by the elbow. "Let's go."

"Cass!" Dick objected.

"I'm hungry," Cassandra urged.

Dick ignored her. "Are you sure, Babs? I was kinda hoping we could spend some time together-"

Barbara smiled. "I know, sweetheart. But I need to catch some sleep or I won't be any good to anyone. And besides - wait. Did you get your schedule yet?"

"I emailed it to you," he said, "but it looks like Christmas Eve at your dad's is a go."

"Okay, then." She caught his sleeve, drawing him down for a final kiss. "I'll see you Christmas Eve, and," she added, dropping her voice to a purr, "we can spend the night here unwrapping presents."

Dick grinned and gave her a last peck on the cheek, turning to Cassandra. "Okay, Miss Impatience-"

"I patient. You slow."

"Fine. Sleep well, Babs."

"I will. Bye, guys."

Dick smiled to himself as he closed the door behind them and heard the locks snick back into place. Cassandra was already well ahead of him, eager to be gone. It was like a bad cliche, juggling family obligations for the holidays, trying to find even a moment to breathe - and despite the aggravation, he was loving every minute of it.

back to previous partend part 2next part