Air of December, part 5

by Chicago

Disclaimers and other information in "part 0"

"Is this okay?" Gypsy asked, standing in the doorway to the room Cassandra had claimed.

Cassandra turned and studied the other woman's skirt and blouse combination. "Alfred approve," she decided, "but get hair out of your face." She gestured Gypsy into the room to sit at the vanity.

"I know," Gypsy sighed, taking the suggested seat. "It's in that growing out stage. I can't wait until it's long enough to pull back like yours."

Cassandra selected a barrette from a case on the vanity and began brushing back the sides of Gypsy's hair. "Curls take longer to grow," Cassandra pointed out.

"Tell me about it. Sometimes I'm just tempted to hack it all off again."

Cassandra secured the barrette and considered Gypsy critically. "It make you look older," she said.

"Yeah, maybe," Gypsy conceded. "Thanks."

"Sure," Cassandra acknowledged, flopping back onto the bed. She brushed at imaginary lint on the black velvet swing pants that Alfred had finally allowed she could wear for meals that weren't dinner.

"How did you get used to this?" Gypsy asked.

Cassandra glanced up, startled. "Get used to what?"

Gypsy gestured around her. "This. This house. Alfred."

Cassandra smiled, hiding a hint of ruefulness. "Easy. I don't live here."

"You don't?"

"No. Have cave."

Gypsy blinked. "You live downstairs?"

"No. My own cave. Downtown."

"But still, you seem so comfortable here. Isn't it weird, having someone waiting on you? Especially after-"

Cassandra gave Gypsy a patient look. "It's about teamwork," she explained. "Alfred is part of team. He does hardest job, really. And he's proud, so it's hard to help. He thinks he should not need help for his duties. That if we all do our jobs then it works like a well oiled machine." Cassandra smiled again. "Only problem is he works when we rest."

Gypsy nodded slowly. "I miss being in a team."

Cassandra felt a wash of sympathy. She had learned enough about Gypsy by now to know that she, like Cassandra, had no family left save whatever team she was with. And although J'onn had stepped into her life much as Bruce had done for Cassandra, it seemed like Gypsy had more of Dick's independent streak. And actually, even Bruce did not try to keep up with J'onn. He never stayed in one place long enough to offer a stable home; not because he didn't care for Gypsy, but because he cared for so many others as well.

It had been interesting to listen to Gypsy talk about J'onn, about the letters that arrived every two weeks no matter what - save for that one stretch a year and a half ago that had prompted her to track him to Denver. It was different kind of family than Bruce crafted, Cassandra realized - looser, requiring less constant presence. But still important. She felt a hint of pride in Bruce that he had realized that.

Cassandra glanced at the clock and then went to the window. Prompt as always, the Bentley was rolling up between the walls of snow that framed the driveway. "They're coming," she told Gypsy. "Let's go."

She was to the head of the stairs before she realized Gypsy was not behind her. She retraced her steps. "Don't be a non sequitur," she lectured.

Gypsy blinked and laughed, although there was a brittle edge to it. "I just lost a button," she explained, holding the edges of her collar in her hands.

"Oh!" Cassandra crossed to the vanity and opened a side drawer. "Well, take it off so I can fix it," she ordered, pulling out a needle and cream colored thread. "You see where the button went?" She swiftly threaded the needle.

Half out of her blouse, Gypsy suddenly ducked down to pluck the button from the thick carpet. "Here."

Cassandra accepted it and then the blouse and Gypsy went to the window to peek out. "The car's pulling up," she said nervously.

Cassandra worked hastily. "We'll beat them," she stated confidently.

"Alfred's getting out."

"Done! Just let me knot it... Here!"

Gypsy snatched the proffered blouse from Cassandra's hand, pulling it on and fumbling with the buttons. Cassandra stowed the needle and thread.

"Now?" Gypsy asked, smoothing her blouse.

"Perfect," Cassandra declared, glancing out to see Bruce and Alana and Alfred mounting the Manor stairs. "Race ya!"

She grabbed Gypsy's hand and pulled her along into the hall, and both women were laughing as Gypsy followed Cassandra's lead and launched herself down the banister. Cassandra had to half catch her as she vaulted herself past the newel post, and both were breathless as they straightened.

"HA!" Cassandra cried. "Dick thinks he's the only one who can do that."

"Ahem."

Gypsy's face paled and Cassandra squeezed her hand and gave her a wink. "Alfred," she began as she turned, only then remembering the source of their hurry in the first place.

Alfred had stepped to one side and had crossed his arms over his chest in an appropriate display of displeasure. But his eyes were sparkling, and his attention was half focused not on Gypsy and Cassandra, but on the couple still frozen in the doorframe.

Alana had brought her hand to her mouth, staring past Cassandra in raw surprise. "Gypsy?" she whispered.

Gypsy stepped forward, dropping her hands to her side and smiling tentatively. "Merry Christmas, J'onn."

Almost faster than she could track, Alana had disappeared, and the Martian Manhunter had swept Gypsy into his arms in an unreserved embrace. Cassandra beamed, close enough to hear Gypsy reveal that Bruce had arranged this moment, alert enough to see that Bruce had swiftly closed the front door of the Manor and now stood smiling at J'onn and his surrogate daughter. For a moment, Bruce's eyes caught hers, and she read approval in his glance. Alfred busied himself putting Bruce's coat away, passing near Cassandra as he crossed to the closet.

"Well done," he murmured as he walked by.

Cassandra's heart gave a little skip, and she decided that despite the loud sidewalk music, she really did like Christmas.

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