Disclaimers - characters belong to DC Comics. Specific instances from JLTF 7-8 and 24, as well as MM Annual 1, are referenced. The situation is of my own devising, written for fun, not for profit.
The tall, broad shouldered detective in the doorway raised an eyebrow and entered, closing the door behind him.
"So why didn't you tell me you had taken a case for Wayne Enterprises?"
That gave the man pause as he hung his trench coat on the coat tree. "I -" he began, but he was cut off by his partner's laughter.
"It's okay, Jones, I've learned better to expect explanations. But you must've done a good job for them."
Jones crossed to the coffee maker and filled a chipped mug.
"That's old," his partner remarked.
Jones took a sip with a grimace. "Tastes like the sludge from our cop days."
"That's what you get for wandering into the office at 3 in the afternoon."
Jones shrugged and settled into one of the client chairs. "You were saying about the Wayne case?"
He got a throaty chuckle in response. "That's you all over - straight to business. But yeah, you must've impressed, because a Mr. -" she shuffled the paper on her desk, pulling a business card from the corner of the blotter - "Jeremy Caulfield of WayneTech, Denver stopped by yesterday. Mentioned they were looking for an external agency to handle background checks on potential new hires and that the home office had been impressed by work you'd done for them in Gotham."
Jones took a thoughtful sip of coffee. "Your call," he finally decided. "The legwork would mostly fall to you."
His partner nodded. "Yeah, I figured. He offered a real nice retainer."
"Enough to cover rent and sundry expenses every month."
"Think it's worth it?"
She hesitated. "I think we'd be ripping them off."
"Wayne can afford it," he pointed out.
"True, but still..."
"Diane, if you think it's work you wouldn't mind doing, I don't see why you shouldn't take their offer."
A smile blossomed on Diane's face. "I'd hoped you'd say that." She opened a drawer and pulled out a file folder. "I took the liberty of drafting a contract."
Jones again raised an eyebrow.
"Hey, I can play your mysterious game, too," she defended, folding back the folder and presenting him with the document and a pen. Jones set down his coffee and signed the indicated line.
"Anything else interesting while I was away?"
"Just one thing," she said as she accepted the folder back and set it next to her phone. "There was a young lady in here asking about you. Couple days ago. Hold on -" Now she flipped through a note book. "Here it is. Name of Cindy Reynolds. Seemed real anxious to - you okay, John?"
Jones had stiffened in his chair, his expression faintly stricken. "Yeah, fine," he said distractedly. "Cindy Reynolds, you say?"
"Yeah. I told her you were out of town and she was anxious to know if I had heard from you--"
"What did you tell her?"
"Just that you had left word that you planned to be back in town sometime soon. Is there something I should know about this?"
Jones shook his head. "No, just an old friend. I just - wasn't expecting -" He stopped, apparently lost in thought. "Did she leave any contact information?"
"No. She didn't even really want to leave a message. Where are you going?"
John Jones was already pulling on his trench coat. "I remembered there's some other business I need to take care of. I'll be in touch."
Diane Meade sighed as she watched her virtually invisible partner disappear yet again through the office door.
Which in turn meant that there had been enough information floating through the superhero gossip mill to get her worried.
The question was which of the events of the past three weeks had prompted her to track him down.
Figuring out that question left him distracted enough that he overshot his apartment building by two blocks.
He backtracked and entered the building, mounting the steps and turning down the hall to his rarely occupied apartment. He paused outside the door, searching his memory for a moment for the exact specifications of the door key, and then frowned. He didn't remember leaving the TV on.
She froze suddenly, aware of a key rattling in the lock. She quickly blended in with the sofa, practically holding her breath as the door opened. She listened to the two deliberate footfalls and the closing of the door. There was a long silence, and then a familiar voice said, "Gypsy."
It hadn't been the reaction she intended, but she flew off the sofa and into his arms, squeezing him tight and pressing her cheek against the red harness. He was alive! Relief rapidly turned to anger, though, and she slammed the side of her fist into his chest and pulled away from him. "Do you have any idea how worried I was!" she scolded.
He faced her with inscrutable calm. "Very?" he ventured.
"Oh!" she vented. "You make me so crazy! People were saying you were at death's door. I caught the rumor through the Europe network and I looked everywhere. No one has seen you for weeks! And then you just walk in here, cool as can be-" She scowled, crossing her arms over her chest.
"You didn't call the Watchtower," he pointed out.
Her scowl deepened. That was true. She could have. But - "That's not MY JLA," she spat.
"Gypsy," he replied, a warning tone in his voice.
"It's not! Besides, they weren't saying boo. Crimson Fox tried to get information and they totally stonewalled her."
A faint frown crossed his features. "When was this?"
"A couple weeks ago," she confessed. "But that's not the point! You could've contacted me."
Now at last there was a hint of contrition on his face. "I know. I'm sorry. I just didn't realize-"
"What? That there might be someone out there who cares about you?"
Okay, she hadn't particularly meant to say that either, and as satisfying as it was to see his expression falter, she felt bad for saying it.
"Don't," he said, clearly catching the thought. "I am ... honored ... that I was missed."
The pause in his speech, the familiar hesitation as he sought the right word, brought a lump to her throat. "J.J.," she said helplessly, letting her hands fall to her sides and looking at him entreatingly.
Now he stepped forward, sweeping her into the familiar folds of blue cape. "I deserve your anger," he said softly. "I was thoughtless." She felt the press of his cheek against the top of her head, and for a moment she was 14 years old again, sheltered by a gentle mentor who had accepted her when it seemed no one would again. She shuddered, admitting to herself that she had not called the JLA for fear of confirmation that he had died, that this sole remaining link to her troubled past would be gone forever. He tightened his embrace reassuringly, then released her.
She looked at him questioningly. "J.J.?"
He smiled a little, although it didn't chase the sadness from his face. "You haven't called me that in a long time."
Hadn't she? She thought for a moment. No, not since Detroit, when they had all followed Vibe's lead in lightly twitting their leader, before it had all gone sour. She met his eyes and knew he was remembering, too, and regretting.
"J'onn," she ventured, "what happened?"
He seemed to shake himself, then crossed to the television and turned it off before taking a seat on the sofa. Gypsy sat on the opposite end, facing him expectantly.
"I did almost die," he began slowly. "You must know we brought the moon into the atmosphere, capturing Protex and his followers in a perimeter of fire."
"I knew about the moon thing, but not the details."
He nodded as if in self-confirmation. "We forced the White Martians to make a choice - perish in the flames, or accept banishment to the phantom zone. They did not make their decision quickly."
"I knew it was a close thing," she noted, "but-" she paused in sudden realization. "You were in the fire with them."
"Yes." His expression grew distant. "The League was barely able to rescue me. I was ... slow ... to heal. I had heard they were guarded about the information, but..."
She took his hand and gave it a little squeeze. "But you're fine now. Right?"
"Right," he agreed, his tone relieved.
"And all this time, you've been hidden away, healing?"
She was surprised to see him start, and his face took on an expression she recognized as the Martian equivalent of a blush. "J'onn?"
"I went back on limited active duty about a week ago."
She frowned. "But I tracked down about every secret identity of yours that I know about. I even called Bea and had her put her feelers out. Your partner here was the first person who suggested you'd even been in contact. Don't tell me you spent all that time on the moon."
"No," he admitted.
"Then where -"
"Shall we go for coffee?" he suggested suddenly.
She eyed him narrowly. He wasn't quite evading her question - he was more adept at that and was more likely just to express a desire to drop a topic than change the subject. This was more of a postponement. "You'd rather talk about this in public?"
He shrugged. "It just seems like a conversation that would go better with coffee."
She gave him a blank look, then acquiesced. "Fine."
He stood and morphed - not into John Jones as she expected - but into a female form. "Call me Alana," he directed as he opened the door and made a sweeping gesture with his arm. "After you."
The man at the head of the conference table allowed himself a smug internal smile. By now J'onn would have heard about the offer from Wayne's man in Denver. Yes?
I have a ... situation ... to discuss with you.
We need someone to handle the background checks since Pinkerton-
Not that. There was a surprising hint of impatience in J'onn's mental tone. Gypsy is here.
Gypsy - Bruce scanned through his memory, remembering the girl who had been in the Justice League too young, during the G. Gordon Godfrey fiasco. Who had later been a key member of J'onn's task force. Who - other memories crowded in now, not his own - J'onn regarded as a daughter. Oh.
She wants to know where I've been.
Bruce hesitated, realizing what J'onn was asking. She doesn't know, he pointed out flatly.
I realize that. But she has a right to.
J'onn... He rubbed his forehead, feeling the start of a tension headache.
"Mr. Wayne? Are you all right?"
He glanced up at his assembled administrative staff, at the questioning look of Maggie who had paused in her notetaking. He smiled apologetically. "I'm not feeling so great," he confessed. "Are we almost done?"
A few looks passed between the executive officers, then Rocqueville answered, "I'm sure there's nothing left on this agenda that cannot wait until tomorrow. Right?"
There were slow nods all around, and Maggie stood. "I'll make some tea."
Bruce shook his head. "No, no. I'll just call it a day. Thank you all for coming. We made some real headway here today." And they had, delegating Lucius' responsibilities for the foreseeable future. Bruce would still need to take a more active hand in Wayne Enterprise affairs, but at least the most urgent day to day operating issues had been cleared up. He rose from the table and left the conference room, Maggie close behind despite his objection.
"Bruce, are you sure you're okay?" she asked, just as J'onn was saying, Bruce.
A moment, he stalled, offering Maggie a weak smile. "I just need to lie down for a bit. Why don't you get the meeting notes typed up and distributed?"
She pursed her lips, but nodded and allowed him to enter his office unaccompanied. He closed the door, his face taking on a grim expression that did not belong to "Brucie" Wayne.
There are reasons for a secret identity, he pointed out tersely.
I know. J'onn paused just long enough to underline the point. I'm introducing her to Alana.
Bruce. We told Dick. And Tim. And Cassandra. And Alfred.
Each name added to Bruce's growing headache. That's different. They already know -
Gypsy can be trusted.
He frowned. I know you believe that, but-
He sat down in his desk chair. I don't like it.
There was a pause. Then, quietly, I know.
There was conflict in J'onn's voice, and Bruce felt a stab of guilt. He wasn't being fair, but... he sighed. What are you planning to tell her?
The truth. Alana Jones has fallen for Bruce Wayne.
That won't satisfy her.
I know. She will question my deception and your reputation. It will make her unhappy with me. There was an unspoken "but" in J'onn's statement, and it echoed more loudly for being left unsaid. J'onn would accept her misunderstanding of the situation. He would, for the sake of Batman - Bruce frowned.
Why not tell her about you and Batman? That would be...
The silence after Bruce trailed off began to get uncomfortable, giving Bruce too much time to consider his unfinished thought. Easier? Less risky? Only for Bruce. His mind went unbidden to the memories J'onn had shared with him of his relationship with Gypsy, in its own way as troubled and complicated as Bruce's relationship with Dick. To ask J'onn to give her only half answers ... J'onn?
You are right. Perhaps it would be best if I came up with some fiction.
Bruce felt unexpectedly stung. Deny their relationship? It was one thing to leave unasked questions unanswered, but to lie about it? To one of their own, not just an oblivious public? He leaned forward, pressing his hand against his forehead. No.
Bruce, I -
No lies. He lent the Bat's weight to his mental growl. Tell her everything.
Bruce, I'm not -
J'onn fell silent, waiting. Why is Gypsy there?
The question seemed to surprise J'onn. She'd heard rumors, thought I might be dying somewhere. She tracked down my identities until she heard from Diane that I'd called into the office.
Bruce nodded. So she's there for you.
Another tiny pause. Yes.
She loves you. A statement of fact, unanswered for a long moment.
I wasn't looking to gain a daughter.
J'onn, I've made my decision. Am I happy about it? I couldn't lie to you anyway. No. That doesn't mean it's the wrong decision, it just means... He paused, feeling the Bat loosening his grip. Or - expressing a desire? Logic had come down against him, leaving a chink in his armor, letting Bat and man share a particular swell of feeling.
I love you, J'onn. That comes first.
Warm emotion flooded his mind, a Martian response that couldn't find words. It buoyed him ecstatically for a moment, an odd mingling of gratitude and regret and apology and - above all - love. He shivered as a mental caress brushed through his senses, promising care and discretion and a rapid return to the Manor. Then with a lingering sweetness, J'onn quietly retreated from Bruce's thoughts to deal with his "situation." Bruce leaned back in his chair and swiveled it to face out over his city. It was only after several minutes that he realized that his headache was gone.
That didn't mean J'onn's tendency to keep his own counsel wasn't infuriating. She still wasn't sure she had forgiven him for von Mauler, even after she understood that J'onn had been right, that she'd needed to defeat him on her own. She shook off that line of thought, watching the slim female walking beside her out of the corner of her eye. No, it wasn't his silence.
It was odd to see him so comfortably in female form. She knew he quite regularly used female identities, but every time she saw him in one, she was reminded of the Joan J'onzz incident. He'd acted so embarrassed! She knew now that making himself a target for the "girly-man" jokes had been all that had kept a particularly catty strike force from inadvertent self-sabotage, but she still occasionally laughed over the perfection of his act. Him ordering her not to tell Beetle, or Guy, or Booster - or heaven forbid! Batman...
She smiled again at the memory and noticed that a faint smile had also graced Alana's features. "Reading my thoughts?" she asked.
"Hm? No." He (she) opened the access door to the carport. "Sorry."
She shrugged. "Probably better you didn't know."
She followed Alana past a couple parked cars, then stopped when she put a key into the door of '92 Thunderbird. "What happened to the Impala?"
He opened her door and walked to the driver's side. "Off a cliff between here and Boulder."
She got in the car and ducked the automatic shoulder belt. "You weren't in it at the time, I hope."
Alana settled into the driver's seat and shut the door. "Actually, I was."
"Nice," Gypsy remarked, shutting her own door and pulling on the lapbelt. She watched as Alana frowned slightly and pulled the driver's seat forward. "Lucky for you it didn't explode."
Alana turned on the car. "Actually, it did."
Gypsy suppressed a flare of anger as Alana navigated the car from the carport and into the alley behind. She didn't have a right to be angry, she knew. They faced life and death situations all the time. That was their job as heroes. And it wasn't as if she called him every time she had a close scrape. Still, her recent worry was too fresh, along with the idea that no one thought to contact her when J'onn had been so gravely hurt. What were the odds that he might die one day, and she would not find out until someone thought to point her to an already grassy grave...
She scowled against this line of thinking, forcing her thoughts into the moment, watching the world go by as Alana drove through downtown Denver. "So. Is there a reason I'm going to coffee with Alana? Something to do with some secret life?"
She caught Alana start.
"Ooh, so it is!" This could be fun, she reflected. "Let's see. Two girls going out for coffee in the middle of the afternoon - we're going to dish about guys, aren't we?"
She expected one of J'onn's patented "No's" - always heavily imbued with patience and tolerance along with their thorough closing of the conversation. She did _not_ expect the fiery blush that darkened Alana's light brown complexion.
Gypsy felt her mouth drop open. "We aren't," she said incredulously.
Alana pulled into a parking lot and turned off the engine. "Here we are!" she said brightly.
Gypsy stared at him (her?). "We're really going to walk into that coffee shop, order a couple of lattes, and talk about -?" she broke off, unable to wrap her head around the idea.
"Yep," Alana confirmed, stepping out of the car. "Or I can go enjoy my latte and you can sit here." There was a hint of humor in her tone.
"Wait," Gypsy ordered, impatiently releasing herself from the seatbelt and exiting the car. "But - you're a Martian!" she blurted.
Alana laughed lightly, meeting the eyes of the small group of college aged people regarding this exchange curiously. "I keep telling you, Cindy. The women are from Venus. It's the men who are from Mars."
"Right," Gypsy agreed weakly before following Alana numbly into the coffee shop.
But he admitted to himself that as much as he agreed with Bruce, that there should not be a general announcement - new love was meant to be celebrated. And while sharing their news with Bruce's "family" had had its own quality of delight, there were few opportunities for J'onn to have someone be happy for him. There was Kal, but...
"So," Gypsy began hoarsely, interrupting his thoughts. She cleared her throat. "Who are we dishing about?"
J'onn took a sip of his latte, letting Alana's eyes glitter with delighted secrecy over the rim of the cup as he mentally prepared himself. He lowered the cup and finally answered, "Bruce Wayne."
"Bruce WAYNE!" Gypsy spluttered. "J'onn-"
"John's fine with it," he said pointedly, aware of the sudden attention of the counter worker at Gypsy's outburst.
Gypsy grimaced. "Alana," she corrected herself with a hint of sarcasm, "he's a snake! A different girl or three on his arm every week, and don't think I was too young to understand the way he broke up with Mari."
"I know," J'onn confessed. "In fact, we've talked about it." As he said this, he projected, And I've been the girl on his arm more than once.
Gypsy choked slightly on a sip of latte. "Wha- wait. You're DATING him?" she hissed.
Alana shrugged. "I don't know if dating is the right word." She took another drink.
"But - but-" She stopped, her confusion clear.
"Damn straight it is. J- Alana, you can't be telling me that you're involved with him. It's just wrong on so many levels-"
"But I am," J'onn replied simply.
"But - hell, he's just a guy." Gypsy was clearly searching for words, although her thoughts were painfully clear. Another reason for the public location - to make her think through her reactions as she tried to argue with him. "And didn't you explain to me that you just couldn't get involved with ... that kind of person? Given your past? Your culture?"
J'onn shifted in his seat. "I believed that, yes. But Bruce knows about my past. All of my past."
Gypsy blinked, then stared hard at him. "Even the green-?"
"Oh, that's just swell. So he's got a kinky streak to go with his willingness to use women. And you! How-"
Gypsy, he said warningly to her mind. Then with Alana's voice, "He loves me."
Gypsy snorted. "Yeah, I bet he says that to all the girls." Then she paused, a concerned expression crossing her face. "You said you'd almost - you had... difficulties... back during that weird alien invasion thing a few weeks ago. Do you think...?"
She trailed off, but J'onn picked up the unspoken thought easily enough. "It does have something to do with that," he acknowledged. "But I really am thinking clearly about it."
"I don't see how that's possible," she objected. "I mean, yeah, I understand how you get lonely sometimes, and I know how much you miss your ... family, and god knows me and some of the other girls have hoped you could find someone, but-"
"Really?" J'onn interrupted, surprised that members of the hero community had worried about his loneliness.
"Don't look so shocked," Gypsy scolded. "I told you before, there are people who care about you - and not just about the work you can do. You. The person. And I'm saying that for you the person, a flaky billionaire playboy... although..."
"That's it! A little game. You know he'll get tired of you, so it's not like you're using him, but you also-"
"No," J'onn denied flatly.
Gypsy threw up her hands. "Then you're delusional, and I'm thinking maybe someone should have a talk with the ... with your colleagues. Because there is no way this is healthy."
J'onn took another deliberate sip of his milky coffee, sending an image to Gypsy's mind as he did so. He watched her stiffen, and she suddenly reached for Alana's hand. "Oh," she breathed.
"You know how grim it looked for me during that whole situation a few weeks ago," he pointed out, referencing the image. "I am very lucky I didn't get killed. As it was, it looked like my recovery would take a very long time."
"You've always been a quick healer," Gypsy pointed out, although her hand tightened on Alana's slim fingers.
"Not this time." He returned the squeeze and gave her a reassuring smile. "If Bruce hadn't been there-"
"Wait," Gypsy interrupted. "How on earth could Bruce Wayne be there?"
"Well," J'onn began, "his money and his medical equipment helped. And he heard about my case - so -" He shrugged Alana's shoulders as he projected a very different account directly to Gypsy's mind, how Bruce had risked his own sanity if not his life to help J'onn, who Bruce really was...
Gypsy let go of his hand and stared at him with saucer-round eyes. "Bruce is..."
"My knight in armor," J'onn interrupted smoothly, letting Alana's features take on a romantic cast.
Gypsy propped her elbows on the table and buried her face in her hands. "I don't believe it," she moaned.
Her face shot up, eyes burning darkly. "So that's it. You just go and fall in love with him."
"More or less."
"But you've always - I mean, before, when -" She stopped, and J'onn sensed her replaying scenes from their past. She took a long draught from her cup. "That should've been whiskey," she remarked as she set the cup down. "Man, J'o - Alana. How long-?"
"Just a few weeks," he reassured her.
"He's going to hurt you."
"He hurts everyone else."
"That's not true, and you know it."
"Dammit, Alana! This is such a bad idea. You're never easy to understand, I'll grant you, but I can see he's got you so hooked - and he's just not even capable of the kind of emotion you're looking for!"
"No, he's not! Of all the people-"
"He is the one who answers my loss."
She stared at him. "You believe that."
He met her eyes. "I know it."
It fit. It really did. Everything - that Batman would be the one to help him, that J'onn would feel so deeply for him. She remembered how carefully she and Batman had tolerated each other during the brief time they were both in the League, admitting to herself now that Batman had been acting as much for J'onn's sake as she had. Still, Batman was so ruthlessly rational, so cold - and J'onn...
Well, she'd never really understood J'onn. He made the damnedest decisions some times, and reacted in some pretty odd ways. But he wasn't cold. Even when she was angriest at him, she'd realized how he'd agonized over necessary choices. He cared, even if that caring occasionally seemed more alien than any other aspect of him.
She realized with a start that she wanted to protect him, and that thought bothered her. J'onn just wasn't someone a person protected. He was this invulnerable, inscrutable presence in her life.
"Earth to Cindy," Alana said mildly, drawing her from her thoughts.
Gypsy glanced up. "I'm not sure what to say. I know better than to try to change your mind."
"You'd like me to, though."
"Well, ...yes. I know you know your own heart better than anyone, but do you know his? You've told me before how incomprehensible..." She thought for a second. She couldn't say earthlings, not in this public venue. So- "... men are to you some times. He won't be an exception."
"And... has he thought it through? The... differences... between you, your cultures, your..."
"Enough to agree with me that it is worth a try."
She shook her head. It was insane. But...
She gave Alana a hard look. "Tell me this. Are you happy?"
Alana didn't blink. "Yes."
"He really - damn." Her cell phone was ringing. "Let me get this... hello?"
"Hi, Gypsy," a man's voice greeted. "Is Alana with you?"
She narrowed her eyes. "Who the hell is this?"
The response came in a voice she knew, invoking the cold feeling it always did. "Gypsy." She frowned and wordlessly held the phone out to Alana.
Alana looked at her curiously, but accepted the phone. "Hello? Bruce!"
The pleased surprise that crossed Alana's features could've been part of her cover act. Gypsy focused on her eyes, but they were in congruence with the rest of Alana's face. There was delight there, and a warm glow of happiness.
"Yes, but it was still a bit of a gamble on your part... " Alana shot a glance at Gypsy. "Well, she thinks you're no good for me..." She laughed. "Well, I think if I agreed, I would just hang up... I don't know... Well, that would scarcely be subtle." Another chuckle, warm and intimate. "Yes, I'm sure you could find an excuse to have something to do in any city... Bruce! ... Fair enough, I suppose I did... You'd have to ask her that... Well, you're the only person who can change that.... Mm-hmm... Okay, I'll put her on... I love you, too."
Alana pulled the phone from her ear and handed it to Gypsy. "He wants to talk to you."
"Me?" Gypsy puzzled as she accepted the phone. "Yes?"
The voice on the other end managed to be simultaneously warm and guarded. "Hi, Gypsy. I was wondering how long you were planning on staying in Denver."
She glanced at Alana, but there were no answers on her face. "Umm, well I've kind of already been gone from Cairo longer than I said I would," she hedged.
"Oh." There was a hint of disappointment in his tone. "So if I managed to find an excuse to fly in tomorrow-?"
She felt a hint of panic. She was having a hard enough time dealing with this as an abstraction. If she saw Bruce and J'onn together... "I - uh - I should probably actually fly back tomorrow." She tried to ignore the look of disappointment that flashed across Alana's face.
"I see. Well, business comes first sometimes. I can certainly understand that." Damn, she felt like a heel. Business shouldn't come before family. That was exactly why she thought Batman was so wrong for J'onn. But she jumped on the excuse.
"I'm afraid this time it has to. Maybe another time?"
She didn't expect the alacrity of the response. "That's a great idea! I'm sure Alana would love to see the Nile. That is, if you wouldn't mind us dropping in?"
She closed her eyes for a second, remembering how much it galled her that Batman was so skilled at getting what he wanted. "Um - maybe after the holiday season," she suggested. That would buy her a couple of months, at least, give her some time to process J'onn's revelation. Or enough time for J'onn to come to his senses. Either way...
"Good thinking. Late January or so, when Gotham gets so beastly. I'm sure both Alana and I will be quite ready for a vacation by then."
"That could work. I'd need some advance notice."
"Of course. And I know how things can come up sometimes."
"Yeah," she agreed, managing not to sound too ironic. "Listen, Bruce-" God, it felt weird to call him that - "I should probably get off the phone and quit ignoring Alana..."
"Absolutely. I'll touch base with you later."
"I look forward to it," she lied. "Bye."
She put her phone away and looked at Alana.
"So you aren't game for dinner tomorrow," she stated, sounding a little hurt.
"Too soon," Gypsy replied. "Too weird."
"He's really a wonderful man."
"I'm prepared to believe you. Just not yet."
Alana nodded, her expression distant. "I can accept that," she said slowly.
Gypsy studied her for a moment. "Hey," she finally said.
"Yes?" Alana's eyes refocused on Gypsy.
"I just want you to know... I'm glad."
Alana cocked her head.
"I just realized that since I've seen you - scratch that. Let's just say this. I'm glad you're still alive. I'm glad you're okay. And I'm glad-" She hesitated. "I'm glad to know you're not alone."
A sunshiney smile broke across Alana's face and she ducked her head a little. "Yeah," she agreed. "Me, too."