by Darklady-in-exile

Rated: PG

Universe: Chicago's J'onn-verse

Sequence: Uncertain. After the zook story. Christmas eve - year one - Wayne Manor.

Disclaimer: I don't own them.*sniff* But hey - Christmas is coming! Santa, I have been very good this year!

J'onn eased back, snuggling into the quilt-cushioned chair Alfred had set carefully near - yet safely apart - from the light decked tree. Electric candles this year. J'onn's detective- trained eyes did not miss the newness. Or the all but microscopic traces of wax hidden in the polished clips that echoed their more traditional inhabitants.

He gave a moments thought to that image. Hundreds of beeswax candles individually lit and clipped between the sparkling globes of fragile Victorian glass. Beautiful. Terrifying, but beautiful.

But the presumed candles had vanished without fuss - indeed without mention - and the tiny electrical cousins had appeared in their place. Three months before even those so-tame illuminations would have upset his scorched nerves - but now their golden light amused in their distraction.

Alfred's work, no doubt - but Bruce's thought. J'onn brushed his mind against the flawlessly patterned engrams of his lover, busy stacking the empties boxes in precise order. His collusion, if not his command. Nothing entered Batman's world without his consent.

Well, J'onn corrected, glancing at the replete sprawl of young terrans lounging around the room. At Dick, tangled with the Gordon girl in their own pile of pillows and throws. At Tim, restlessly resetting the lines of miniature train cars that chugged past the Victorian village neatly laid out around the base of the towering pine. At Cassandra Cain, newest and youngest, crouched in half-shadow beside him, her dark eyes eagle-sharp on the frosted porcelain display. At Jean-Paul and Harold - orphans even in a family of orphans - silent but not quite separate on the long sofa. All drawn here at this time of family. Even Helena Bertelli - officially the date of Jean-Paul Valley - perched uncomfortably on a divan with her emerald velvet skirts smoothed meticulously into perfect folds around her properly crossed ankles.

Nothing except these. Somehow these... people ... had managed to make their way in. Son and daughters. Students and friends. More then any who was not in this room would believe. And all come against his will. Officially. Because the Bat would rather battle alone. Take the blows himself rather then see another struck. But Bruce could not turn away. Could not walk away from a little boy in tears. From a larger boy in need. From a lonely girl looking for a father. From a woman hunting for revenge and a man searching for redemption

So he brought them here. To both his houses and both his lives. And somehow it worked. Somehow out of the kevlar and the darkness they built a family.

And now the family - malleable as a Martian xollok - had extended it's form to encircle one other. One sadly battered exile and sometimes detective and one-time father who was, against all reason - consort to the heart of this clan.

"J'onn?" Bruce's voice was soft, somehow hesitant. "I haven't given you your present."

Sending a wave of amused contentment, J'onn waved to the piles around him. Belgian dark chocolates from Tim. A Robo-Cop t-shirt from Dick. Harrod's premium coca mix from Alfred. Several not-quite-released CD's from Oracle...no, Barbara. A custom mug from Cassandra. The type printed in malls, but this one with his full Martian title recopied in careful script under the World's Greatest. Several hardbound novels in various languages from Jean-Paul. A device - H'rommer alone knew what useful thing it doubtless did - from the ingenuous Harold. Presents enough. Far more in one day then he had received in all his prior years on the this globe.

Bruce was holding out a plain white envelope, and the smile on his face was.... hesitant.

H'rommer, J'onn thought. Let this not be ... He was not certain quite what to put at the end, but Bruce had a severely traditional sense of family structure. With J'onn as the 'wife'. It had taken considerable diplomacy -and most of guardian honed patience - to convey that J'onn did not require that form of support. Emotional, yes, but not material. His physical needs were few, and on this verdant planet almost fulfilled automatically. He had been providing for himself on two planets long before Bruce's grandparents had been born. And that he already had Waynetech stock - having known a good thing when it became available. - and was more inclined to hand his proxy over to Bruce rather then increase his holding.

That said - J'onn know he could not refuse... whatever Bruce offered. Because it came from Bruce - and very much from his heart. Bruce's needed to care for his people was very much at the core of the man. To refuse that care would be to deny... something that J'onn wished very much to cherish.

"Thank you, Bruce." He echoed the simple worlds mentally, giving them depth and value that limited vibrations could never convey, whatever their art.

Unsealed. J'onn flipped it open and slid out the contents.

A single sheet of heavy foolscap. Linen white. Too light for deeds - too fine for legal papers.

J'onn unfolded it carefully.

Fourteen lines of script. Meticulously scripted in the careful copperplate known only to the very rich and very poor - those who have had the questioned benefits of an austere parochial education.

When, from the Darkness, you have called my heart.....

A poem?

A love poem?

No words. No thoughts beyond.....

Oh Bruce.


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