Air of December, part 8
Disclaimers and other information in "part 0"
Bruce's callused hand smoothed across J'onn's scalp, prompting J'onn to raise his head and turn back to look at him. "You okay?" Bruce asked quietly, a wrinkle of concern briefly marring his expression of leonine contentment.
J'onn smiled and dropped a kiss onto Bruce's knee where his head had been resting. "Never better," he reassured, looking up to meet Bruce's eyes and let him feel his comfortable pleasure. Somewhere behind him, he felt a ripple of emotion that only deepened his smile. Barbara, watching them and feeling the gratification of a deeply hidden sense of romance.
Bruce reached to stroke J'onn's cheek, and J'onn closed his eyes to enjoy the contact. "Not a bad surprise, eh?"
J'onn nodded, turning his head now to join Bruce in perusing the assembled family. They were all dressed in the holiday finest - or rather, dinner finest, J'onn corrected himself, remembering the ball gowns and tuxedos that they all had tucked away - but they were still young people, their youthful exuberance almost contagious as they chattered away and waited for Alfred to signal that the midday feast was ready.
"...so we're giving chase," Gypsy was saying, her face animated and her eyes shining, "and all of sudden I realize the mook is just standing there on the street corner, swearing to beat all and bitching out this other guy, and a black and white is pulling up. Turns out the getaway car got carjacked, and someone called 9-1-1."
"Heh. The best laid plans," Dick remarked. "Bet the cop was almost as surprised as the crook."
"You aren't kidding," Gypsy agreed. "It was like this scene from a bad comedy sketch, everyone just staring at each other like 'what the -'" she shot a glance at Bruce and J'onn, editing her speech. "Anyway, Vibe had the first guy disarmed before anyone could think, and we let the cops take them away."
"Best kind of case," Tim declared. "We had this one with YJ - this group of thugs had hired this meta called - check this out - 'the Big Doof.'"
J'onn managed to keep his face neutrally amused, but Gypsy half-choked on her juice, unable to avoid meeting J'onn's eyes.
Tim hesitated, sensing the overreaction. "What? I mean it's funny, but -"
"Nothing," Gypsy dismissed, still grinning in J'onn's direction. "Go on."
"You know," Bruce put in, entering the conversation for the first time, "I had a case where the Big Doof was involved, too." J'onn felt Bruce's hand on his shoulder, amusement in his tone. "Totally bulloxed that heist, but I somehow couldn't manage to catch him."
Tim looked at Bruce, his brow creased in puzzlement. "Y'know, same thing with us. It was like-" Tim paused, realization dawning, and Barbara burst out in sudden laughter.
"J'onn J'onzz!" she cried out.
J'onn widened his eyes. "What?" he asked innocently, but now Gypsy was laughing again and Cassandra rose to cross to J'onn and clap a hand on his shoulder.
"I take him in now?" she asked, grinning.
J'onn smiled sheepishly and morphed into the form of the Big Doof. "All right," he sighed. "You caught me, fair and square."
Cassandra studied the beefy 'super-villain' for a moment. "You're right," she agreed, "but it is Christmas after all." She patted J'onn's shoulder and returned to her space on the couch.
"Well, that's a relief," Bruce announced. "I've grown rather attached to this big lug."
J'onn turned and batted the Big Doof's eyes flirtatiously at Bruce. "Really?" he asked.
Bruce stared at him and shuddered. "Not that attached."
J'onn's laughter joined the others as he morphed back to green and cuddled happily against Bruce's thigh.
"Talk about your Polaroid moments," Gypsy remarked, seeming to mean the Big Doof act but from her expression? Whatever ambivalence she had maintained about J'onn's relationship with Bruce had diminished over the last 24 hours, and the look she sent the contented couple now was one of pure approval.
"Can you see the headlines?" Dick teased. "'Bruce Wayne's Gay Prison Romance!'"
"Ugh! That'd do a number on the society pages," Barbara put in. "Although it might cut down on the aggressive socialites."
"Nah," Tim countered, "it'd just draw out the crazier ones."
"They haven't got a chance," J'onn interjected, wrapping his arms around Bruce's leg and morphing into the leggy form of Jasmina del Marte.
A rumble of laughter sounded from Bruce, and a gentle touch urged J'onn back to his Martian Manhunter form. It was all family here, after all - no day staff to hide from, no press to fool.
"So, Gypsy," Dick began, changing the subject. "what are you up to these days? Heroing wise, I mean." J'onn lifted his head curiously. There was intent behind this question, but it wasn't clear to him what it was.
"Free lance, more or less," Gypsy shrugged. "There's a loose network of heroes in Africa, and we keep tabs on one another in case something big goes down, but mostly folks stay around their home base. Plus in Cairo, I'm close enough to Europe that the crowd there calls me in from time to time."
Dick nodded. "Makes sense. So you think you'd be too busy to add another team?"
Gypsy sat up straighter, and J'onn caught Cassandra giving Dick an approving look. Batgirl was turning into quite the conspirator, he thought, keeping the smile from his features. "I wouldn't say I'm really on a team now," Gypsy clarified carefully, watching Dick's face. "Why?"
"Well, we were having our annual Titans' review last week," Dick explained, "and we realized we've got a couple of glaring weaknesses on the team. Like stealth, for example. I'm good, but I'm not always available, and there are some kinds of infiltrations where you need a different kind of skill - more like Secret or J'onn." Dick offered a nod toward J'onn, and J'onn nodded back in acknowledgement.
"I never thought about that," Tim put in thoughtfully. "I guess I always figured Tempest's magic-"
"Not so great at casting illusions," Dick stated. "It's worked in a pinch. But it's moot anyway, since Tempest is pretty much on reserve status. Between Atlantis and the family-"
"Right," Tim nodded.
"I'm not-" Gypsy started, and J'onn could feel her trepidation. He wanted to reassure her - she was good enough, they would like her, it was a good plan - but he knew she would shrug his words off, not because she didn't believe him, but because she expected him to support what she wanted. She needed to hear from Dick that the Titans wanted her if she was going to do this.
"I checked your file," Dick cut her off. "Your powers have increased."
"Show them," Cassandra urged.
"I-" Gypsy looked around the room at the expectant faces, and when her eyes caught J'onn's, he gave her a faint nod. It was sweet, in a way, this hesitation to show a power that she had practically boasted to him when it had manifest. "Okay," she finally agreed, and in an eyeblink, there were two Cassandras sitting side by side on the couch.
"Whoa!" Tim exclaimed.
"Get J'onn going on that and we could play a shell game," Barbara remarked admiringly. "Will the real Cassandra please stand up?"
Both girls rose to their feet, glanced at each other, and simultaneously began to giggle.
"Oh, my," a new voice said from the doorway.
Gypsy immediately dropped the aspect of Cassandra. "I'm sorry, Alfred."
The butler merely smiled. "No apologies necessary, Miss Gypsy. It gives me ample warning of what new mischiefs our Miss Cassandra might devise." He shot a stern look at Cassandra, who answered with an overwide grin.
"Dinner is ready, incidentally," Alfred continued, "if you'll all reconvene in the dining room."
"Goody!" Tim said, rising to his feet and patting his stomach. "I'm starving."
"Just a second, Tim," Dick forestalled. "I want to hear Gypsy's answer."
"Would you be interested in joining the Titans? We could work something out so you can stay in Cairo if you like, just report back a couple months a year for team training, be on call..."
Gypsy glanced again at J'onn, and he gave her a go ahead nod, knowing she would understand that he would back whatever decision she made.
"Can I think about it?" she asked.
"Sure," Dick agreed easily, standing up. "I just wanted to make sure the offer was on the table. Shall we go eat?"
Cassandra leapt up. "Yes! I want to open presents!"
J'onn could feel Bruce smiling as Cassandra led the charge from the sitting room, Tim and Gypsy following close behind, their heads together as Tim quizzed Gypsy on her powers. Dick and Barbara followed more sedately, Barbara pacing Dick in her chair, both young people smiling happily. J'onn sat back from Bruce, letting him rise to his feet and then accepting the offered hand that pulled him up into Bruce's arms. "You have," J'onn began, kissing Bruce's lips softly, "a most impressive son."
Bruce beamed and returned J'onn's kiss, releasing him to lead him from the sitting room. "I hope his invitation means we'll be seeing more of your 'daughter.'"
J'onn nodded. "Me, too," he agreed. "This really is the best Christmas gift."
"I did good, then?" Bruce prompted, a gleam in his eye.
J'onn paused in the doorway, halting them both, and leaned down to claim Bruce's mouth more completely, relishing the faint mintiness of mouthwash and the sweet roughness of Bruce's tongue. For a split second he was tempted to join right there, fleetingly reaffirming their commitment, but...
"Aw, guys, come on! Save it for later!" Dick protested, clearly sent to hurry his elders to table.
J'onn reluctantly released Bruce's mouth. "Okay, Dick," he agreed, smiling down into Bruce's eyes. "Yes," he said softly, pressing one more kiss to Bruce's forehead before steering them toward the dining room, "you did good."