Air of December, part 9

by Chicago

Disclaimers and other information in "part 0"

"Oh wow!"

Gypsy turned her head away from her own rather overwhelming stack of presents to see Dick Grayson staring in awe at... a greasy bit of internal machinery?

"J'onn, where on earth did you find this?"

"Christchurch," J'onn answered simply. "A friend of a friend is a motorcycle aficionado. It's a replica part, I'm afraid."

"Doesn't matter," Dick dismissed admiringly. "You can't even get replicas made anymore. I thought I was going to have to juryrig something."

"I think you just made his year," Barbara commented, smiling fondly at the man at her feet.

"Oh my god, yes!" Dick agreed. "Thanks, J'onn!"

Gypsy watched the slow, pleased smile that unfolded across J'onn's face. She was seeing a lot of that smile this visit - more than she remembered seeing it before.

"You're welcome," J'onn acknowledged, floating serenely above his own collection of gifts.

Gypsy had felt self-conscious about the bounty that seemed to overwhelm even the generous tree that graced the Wayne Manor main hall. Her budget - and the weight restrictions on her flight - would not allow for such extravagant gifts as whatever was in the head-high box next to Cassandra. Her collection of stocking stuffers seemed woefully inadequate when present after present appeared with her name on them.

Cassandra had reassured her on Christmas Eve as they watched in wide-eyed wonder as Bruce and J'onn unloaded dozens of packages from the Bentley, but still...

"Miss Gypsy!" Alfred's voice came from behind her. "How did you know?"

She turned her head to find that Alfred had unwrapped the collection of market spices that she had smuggled through customs, things she knew would be hard to find or painfully expensive (at least to a non-Wayne) in the States. Gypsy shrugged, caught between being pleased and embarrassed at the sudden attention. "Bruce always mentions your cooking when he and J'onn visit," she explained. "I just figured..."

"Well, you figured correctly, young lady," Alfred declared, his eyes eagerly studying the various bags and bottles. "What a marvelous gift!"

An elbow to her ribs got her attention, and Gypsy saw that Cassandra was grinning at her. "See?" she whispered. "Little presents are GOOD."

"Bruce!" Tim was suddenly objecting. "You did NOT just figure that out two seconds out of the box."

A faint upturn of the lips shifted Bruce's expression as he tossed the puzzle in his hands to Tim. It wasn't the lightest toss, but Tim reacted more or less instantly, catching it and commencing his examination in one fluid motion. So strange, Gypsy considered, to be in the presence of so many heroes, their other lives only evident by an unexpected fluidity of motion, an almost unconscious readiness for anything - and of course the unremarked presence of a large green alien in their midst. Odd to feel regarded as a part of it, even if she wasn't quite sure she felt ready for it yet. It had been so long...

"You know this took me two hours to figure out," Tim complained. "I thought I finally had one that would get you..."

"Loan it to Dick," Barbara suggested, laughter in her tone. "He'll find a way to drop it in the Sprang River on patrol before he solves it."

"Babs!" Dick protested. "That was years ago! And an accident."

"Uhn-huhn," Barbara murmured knowingly.

They were so easy together - and so different from the way she imagined the Batclan at home.

You imagined me shacked up with Batman in a cave? a teasing thought came through to her, and she bit back a smile.

Maybe, she confessed.

"Gypsy," Bruce interrupted, and for a split second she wondered if he realized she and J'onn were having a private tete-a-tete. "You haven't opened my gift."

She gave him a startled look. "I thought - you flew me here - that -"

"That was just Bruce getting his way," Barbara put in dismissively. "See what he got you."

Gypsy watched Bruce for some reaction to Barbara's remark, but he seemed unconcerned. She glanced anxiously at J'onn, who gave a wry smile. "I think bringing you here was a present for me," he explained, "or maybe just a way to get me to promise to spend the whole holiday in Gotham." He glanced coyly toward Bruce, who still seemed untroubled by the questioning of his motives. "Go ahead and open the present," J'onn urged.

Gypsy picked up the small, cubic box that had been overlooked in the pile of clothing boxes and larger packages and began peeling away the paper, acutely aware that she had become the center of attention with this gesture. How long had they been waiting for her to find this?

The paper came away to reveal a watch box which held exactly what it promised: a watch. A silver, bangle-y type timepiece, inlaid with... little bats?

She looked up at Bruce questioningly.

A satisfied smile was curling the corners of his lips. "Press the one closest to six o'clock."

She obeyed, and the watch gave a slight vibration in her fingers and the onyx of the face became a midnight blue.

"That activates the tracer if you ever get in trouble. You can turn it off by tapping it and the one near twelve simultaneously. The twelve o'clock will remotely connect to your old JLA communicator - it'll work with a Titans' communicator, too - and open up a direct line to our network."

Gypsy blinked. "Your network -"

"You're family now, Gypsy," Bruce explained. "We can't have you out of the communications loop."

Gypsy stared down at the watch, disengaging the tracer and watching the face of the timepiece fade back to black. She sensed a sort of breathlessness in the room around her as she digested Bruce's words.

"You can call me on patrol," Cassandra finally burst out. "We make fun of Tim."

"Hey!" Tim protested.

"Hazards of being the youngest," Dick mock-sympathized.

"They'd pick on you, Sweetheart, but you're too easy," Barbara consoled.

"Heh - hey! Wait a minute!"

"See?" Barbara observed for the others.

Gypsy only half-listened to this exchange, still studying the watch. She was dimly aware of the conversation petering out, then Alfred asked, "Miss Gypsy?"

Gypsy looked around and then rose to her feet, intensifying the growing silence. She picked her way through discarded boxes and wrapping paper, weaving through a maze that led her to the chair Bruce occupied. He watched her steadily, his eyes carefully neutral.

Finally she stopped to one side of his chair and took a deep breath. "Mr. Wayne - Bruce," she corrected. She thought she could hear the filaments sparking on the Christmas tree lights over the hush in the room.

She looked once more at the watch in her hand, then swiftly, before she lost her nerve, she leaned over to kiss Bruce's cheek. "Thank you," she whispered.

She stepped back in time to witness the pleased surprise that briefly flooded Bruce's face, and a quick glance at J'onn revealed that the Martian was beaming at both of them, quite possibly happier than she had ever seen him.

"Well, let's see how it looks, then," Barbara ordered as Gypsy slipped the bangle over her hand and broke the spell over the room.

"Pretty," Cassandra noted critically. "Fits your look."

"Another in a fine line of Bat Accessories, TM," Dick added. "Cufflinks to brooches, comm gear for any occasion."

"And man, that brooch looks good on you," Tim quipped.

"Oh, yeah?" Dick challenged, taking a swipe at Tim and initiating some good natured wrestling.

"Gentlemen!" Alfred barked. "Take that behavior downstairs."

"Cool!" Tim cried, already pulling off his tie as he raced down the hall, Dick in hot pursuit.

Gypsy stared after them, startled at the sudden exuberance. She caught Alfred's eye as he shook his head fondly and tsked after the two young men. "I did try to instill manners," he rued, smiling at Gypsy. "Perhaps another lady in the family will help curb them. Welcome, Miss Gypsy."

Gypsy smiled shyly, feeling honored and suddenly very much a part of this bizarre gathering. Then Cassandra had her by the hand and was half-pulling her after Dick and Tim. "Come on," she urged. "Alfred said they need curbing. We get them in line."

A laugh rolled out from those remaining in the family room, and she hung back only long enough to feel J'onn's gentle encouragement.

"Remind Dick he's got to work at four," Barbara's voice trailed after them, and Gypsy found herself laughing as she raced down to the Cave, for the first time in a long time a part of family again.

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