Tea Time

by Chicago

Follows: Telling Tales out of School, and Synthesis comes shortly before and Darklady's Thanksgiving is for Family"

Thanks to Darklady for pointing out the gaffes in this so I could fix them. If it's still messed up, it's my fault, not hers.

Disclaimers: Characters owned by DC Comics and borrowed strictly for fun (because you KNOW they'd never do this to them).

For thems that have read it, I've sort of incorporated Homecomings into this a bit.



"I still wanna know what was going on on the 6th hole," Jim Gordon commented over his beer mug before taking a sip.

"You aren't the only one," Bruce agreed. "I haven't bogied a hole that badly since - well, since I was trying to impress this girl..."

"By sucking at golf?" John asked, raising an eyebrow.

"I still ended up with a better score on 18 holes than you did today on nine," Bruce retorted.

Jim chuckled. "Jones, you're all right. I'll golf with you any day." He wasn't quite sure how he'd managed to beat the Denver detective, given the weakness of his swing as his back muscles still struggled to recover from the shooting, but he was in too good a mood to question it.

In fact, Jim wasn't entirely sure why he had agreed to this outing. Bruce Wayne had called out of the blue saying he'd hired John Jones and just found out they knew each other and wouldn't Jim like to play just nine holes since it was 70 degrees in mid-November? Jim had blinked, thinking of his back and the cane and the things he'd planned for the day and had surprised himself by answering, "Sure."

Now? Now he couldn't believe he had considered NOT coming. The company was pleasant, the weather perfect, and his back felt better than it had in months. He watched his companions, still quibbling good naturedly about John's miserable golf and Bruce's idea of impressing girls. Almost perfect, he thought. Just one more thing...

He grinned and pulled out his cell phone. "I have an idea," he announced, getting his friends' attention. He punched in the code for his daughter's number and hit send as John and Bruce watched him curiously.

"Hello?"

"Barb, honey, it's Dad."

"Dad! I was just about to call you! Where are you?"

"Out at Bruce's club."

"What? What are you doing there?"

"Well, I was golfing. Now I'm having a beer. And you'll never guess who Wayne's got working for him."

"Who?"

Jim smiled broadly. "John Jones."

"You're kidding!" Barbara exclaimed. "Isn't he still based out in Denver?"

"Yeah, he's been doing some investigative work for one of Bruce's companies out there and just flew in to give his reports. I thought maybe I could bring him and Bruce by-"

"Of course! In fact, that's part of why I was going to call you. Dick's brought over some steaks and is breaking out the grill-"

Jim's smile faded. "Oh."

"Dad?" The looks from John and Bruce matched the question in Barbara's voice.

"I mean, if you kids have other plans-"

"Dad, what are you talking about? I just invited you!"

"But you probably want to hang out with your friends or-"

"Dad." He could almost hear her eyes narrowing. "What's wrong? Dick and I - OH! You're worried about Dick and John."

"Well, yeah," Jim admitted.

Barbara snorted on the other end. "Please, Dad. John already knows about Dick. And vice versa. Besides, that was almost two years ago. Plenty of time between them and all that."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, Dad, I'm sure. Now are you coming with your posse or not?"

"Hold on." Jim pulled his cell phone away from his ear. "Guys, you up for steaks on the grill at my daughter's place?"

John patted his stomach. "You have to ask a man from Colorado if he wants beef?" he quipped. "Besides, I haven't seen Barbara in ages."

"Bruce?"

"Steaks on the grill. That sounds like my son's doing." Jim noticed that he said the word "son" with a certain deliberateness, almost as if savoring it. The adoption ink was still fresh, he thought.

Jim shot a concerned glance at John. "Yeah, Dick's there."

"Dick Grayson? I'd like the chance to meet him."

Bruce gave a faintly startled look in John's direction. "That's right. I forgot you've never met him."

That was a bit odd, unless Bruce had hired Jones before - which was entirely possible. That would explain the chumminess.

Bruce turned back to Jim. "Are they sure we're not interrupting a romantic dinner for two?"

"She says no, she was going to invite me anyway. You in?"

Bruce nodded. "Sure. I can't think of better company."

"What about Misti?" John teased. "Or did she find out you're a better golfer than you let on?"

Jim shook his head and put his phone back to his ear to hear Barbara's laughter. "I take it you got all that," he remarked dryly.

"Oh, yeah," she confirmed. "So it's a go?"

"Yep. We'll be there within an hour or so."

"I can't wait. Bye, Dad."

"Bye, Sweetheart."

He hit the end button and slipped the phone back into his pocket. Bruce was already draining his "mineral water with a twist of lime" and rising to his feet. "Well, let's not keep the kids waiting," he decreed.

John and Jim looked at one another with amused shrugs and - taking a moment to finish their beers - went to join Bruce in the car.



Dick crept quietly down the access stairs from the roof, managing to catch Barbara with her back turned when he entered the kitchen. With a grand gesture, he swooped his arms down past the back of her chair to catch her in a from-behind hug, leaning in to kiss her cheek.

"Hey!" Barbara protested, startled, before she turned her face to meet Dick's mouth.

He finally broke away with a grin, lifting the plates from Barbara's lap. "Grill's fired up and the potatoes are on. I'll go-"

A shrill buzzer interrupted him. "Or -" he decided with a "hey, it worked" grin, setting the stack of plates on the table, "-I'll go get the door."

"Dick, I can -"

"Nope, you need to think about salad. I'll let the 'rents in."

"Make sure you check," she reminded him unnecessarily.

Dick shook his head as he went to the foyer. She always reminded him, as if he'd ever forget. He looked to the security monitor by the door.

It was them, all right. He pressed the answer button. "Hi guys! Come on up." Then he buzzed them through.

It took a couple minutes for them to come up the elevator, but when they arrived, it was Bruce first through the door, laden with a couple of bottles of wine. "Hi, Dick!" he greeted cheerily, holding out his offering. "Gosh, it smells good in here."

"Babs is baking bread." Dick took one of the bottles and inspected it. He raised an eyebrow. Pricey stuff.

"John's idea, Bruce's budget," Jim Gordon remarked, clapping Dick on the shoulder. "How are you?"

"Well, I think my steaks are going to blush to be on the same table with this wine, but otherwise I'm fine. And yourself?"

"Dad, Bruce!" Barbara greeted, wheeling in from the kitchen to accept a kiss from her father and a smiling hello from Bruce. She laughed as the latter brandished the bottle of wine still in his hands, accepting it and tucking it into a pocket of her chair. Her voice took on a softer tone when she looked past the pair to the man still standing in the door.

"John," she said, holding out her arms invitingly.

John stepped forward into the embrace. "Barbara, you look lovely as always."

"Flatterer!" Barbara objected, giving him a gentle sock to the arm as he straightened away from her. "You're not looking too bad yourself. A little grayer maybe..."

"Happens to the best of us," John replied philosophically, his eyes dancing.

"John, I'd like you to meet Dick Grayson. Dick Grayson, John Jones."

Dick stepped forward to shake John's hand, noticing the laughter dancing in John's eyes. It was the situation, he knew, not mockery. Bruce had already mentioned that J'onn enjoyed meeting and re-meeting people in their various guises, and for years J'onn had played a game of approaching Bruce in any one of dozens of identities just to see if Bruce would catch him out.

And, strangely, he felt not an ounce of jealousy for the weekend Barbara had shared with John years prior. He had at first, but then when Barbara had laid it all out for him, the way that Bruce had kind of set it up... the more he learned about the various interactions of Bruce and J'onn over the years, the more Dick wondered how he hadn't seen it coming. Of course, now he and Babs were having the chance to return the set up.

"Mr. Jones," he said, "I've heard a lot about you."

"Likewise. And please, just call me John."

"Dick," Dick replied. "Now, let's not just stand around in the foyer..." He shut the door and gestured the others toward the living room where Barbara had already set out a platter of cheese and crackers.

Barbara relieved him of his bottle of wine.

"I'll go put this stuff in the kitchen."

"You want help?" he offered.

"Nah, you entertain our guests for a bit, then I'll take over when we send you out to grill."

Dick smiled and bent to kiss her. "You're the greatest."

"I know," she replied with a saucy wink, turning her chair and disappearing back into the kitchen.

Dick turned to where the older men had already descended on the cheese and crackers, lounging casually on the sofa and chairs. "Since I talked to Bruce earlier this afternoon, you must not have played a full 18 holes," Dick remarked, grabbing a cracker and flopping into his preferred overstuffed chair.

Jim chuckled. "Instincts like that you'll make detective in no time." John looked up in sudden interest. "That's right. Bruce told me his son was a cop."

Dick nodded, giving Bruce an appraising look. His son, eh? "Yep. Bludhaven PD. Of the rare, clean variety."

"Better be, if you're dating my daughter," Jim growled, although his eyes were amused. "John here used to be a cop, too."

"Yeah, so Babs told me. Denver, right?"

John nodded. "Fifteen years. Then I figured I needed a bit more control over my hours."

Jim snorted. "I know that feeling. Some days you feel the force is living off your life blood."

"I'm glad I missed the days of 48 on, 24 off," Dick remarked, leaning forward for some cheese.

"Shiftwork?" John asked, discovering a small stash of Chocos amongst the crackers and taking a couple.

"More or less. Plus on call time."

"I was never quite sure about the shiftwork option. For all it's rough points, you really have a chance to bond with your team on the on- off system."

"I think my partner might kill me if she were stuck with me for that long."

"Classic ballbuster, eh?" John remarked with a grin. "I had one of those."

"Man, how'd you handle it? I mean, Amy's great but -"

"-she manages to be mother hen and tough as nails at the same time?"

"Yeah."

"Yep, that's Diane. There were days I thought she'd chew me up and spit me out. Of course, now she's joined my agency."

"You're kidding."

"Nope." John found another Choco.

Jim laughed. "Y'know, I've worked with a lot of lady cops." His tone grew wistful. "Fell in love with one even." A pall fell over the room for a moment.

John broke the silence. "I lost a partner. We weren't - close - that way, but I know -"

Jim looked up with a terse smile. "Sorry, guys. Sarah'd be the last one to want me moping about it. Talk about your ballbusters. I remember this one case..."



Bruce quietly slipped away from the shop talk and made his way to the kitchen. Barbara looked up from her cutting board as he entered.

"Bruce!" her tone was surprised.

"Hey, Barbara. Thought I'd see if you could use a hand."

"Not at all. Just going to finish chopping up these peppers and then the salad can go in the fridge. Besides, I've heard what you're like in the kitchen."

"I can boil water, you know."

"And not much else according to Dick." She paused in her teasing to give him a sidewise look. "You okay?"

He didn't bother with the airy "Brucie" smile, but his face wasn't too grim. "Fine. Just can't really join in the conversation."

"Talking cop stuff, aren't they?" Barbara asked sympathetically, dumping the peppers into the large salad bowl.

"Yeah." Bruce was silent for a minute. "It's kind of weird."

"What? That there are so many cop types in my life?" She wheeled to the fridge to put the salad in. "Or seeing J'onn as John Jones?"

Bruce started. Was he that transparent?

Barbara picked up a pot holder and went to the oven. "You don't have to tell me about it. In fact, don't, because that would be really weird. But I can imagine it's pretty confusing, since John Jones is pretty much all man."

She pulled two loaves of bread out of the oven and set them on the range top. "He's still J'onn though," she added.

"Yeah, that's kind of hard to miss." Bruce shifted uncomfortably.

"It's okay, you know."

"Pardon?"

"Sit down, Bruce," Barbara ordered, settling her wheelchair at the table across from him. "It's okay."

"What's okay?"

"Being confused. Wanting and not wanting at the same time."

"It's not not wanting. It's -"

"Don't explain. J'onn's better at this stuff than I am and I'm just too weirded out by the idea you might bare your soul in my kitchen."

She smiled, half apologetic and half teasing. "But Dick takes enough after you that I can imagine what's going through your head. And it's okay."

Bruce suddenly grinned. "J'onn's telling me lecture 2." He shook his head. "One month and he's already got ten set lectures."

Barbara snorted. "No offense, Bruce, but I'll bet he's had those lectures on file in his head for a lot longer than a month. He just had to wait to get with you to number them."

"Or to get me to number them," Bruce admitted. "That bread smells wonderful."

"Ted's recipe. Whatever else you can say for the man, he knows food."

"So here's where you wandered off to," Dick's voice interrupted.

"God, Babs, that smells good. We still got Soders in the fridge?" He was already leaning on the open refrigerator door.

"They should be-"

"Found 'em!" Dick emerged triumphantly with five of a six pack.

"And Babs, Bruce, you guys should come out here - Sports Classics is rerunning the '73 snow game."

"Oh, I knew that, too. I meant to tape it. Come on, Bruce."

Barbara pulled back from the table and sped out the door that Dick held open for her.

Dick grinned at Bruce. "Isn't she the best?" he beamed.

Bruce found his own face smiling, realizing suddenly that although Dick had talked about how much he loved Barbara, he'd never before acted as if he expected Bruce to share in his admiration of her. He put a hand on Dick's shoulder. "Yes, chum," he replied, taking pleasure in the way Dick seemed to get impossibly happier, "you've done pretty well."



Barbara was glad she had made the salad as she surveyed the remains of their meal on the table. Meat and potatoes, all completely demolished save for a few wilting leaves of Romaine lettuce in the wooden serving bowl.

Bruce leaned back from the table with a satisfied sigh. "Alfred will complain about my diet."

"From what I hear, you worked it off today on the 6th hole," Dick ribbed.

"Hey!" Bruce protested. "All right, Jim -"

Jim held up his hands. "I didn't tell him."

"John."

The Denver PI merely smiled and ate another forkful of potatoes.

"Hey," Barbara interrupted. "There's something I always wondered. If you're a subpar golfer, is that good or bad?"

The sound of a beeper prevented an immediate answer, prompting each of the men at the table to check their belts. It was Dick who groaned.

"That's me, guys." He stood. "Can I -?"

"You have to ask? You know where it is."

"Right." Dick left the room to return a few minutes later with a subdued expression.

"Well, so much for the night."

"You have to go?" Barbara asked, already knowing the answer and managing to keep a smirk from her features. Sometimes Dick was a surprisingly good actor.

He nodded and looked almost surprised when Jim Gordon checked his watch and rose to his feet. Barbara had set her computer page perfectly.

"Y'know, I think I'm going to have to go, too. I promised some of the guys-"

Barbara chuckled. "Go ahead, Dad. I'll make Bruce help me clean up."

Jim smiled and kissed her forehead. "I love you, baby," he murmured. Then he straightened and raised his voice. "Dick, can I catch a lift?"

Dick grinned. "You're lucky I brought the car today."

"What, you think the old man couldn't take the motorcycle?" Jim rolled his eyes. "Kids today."

Bruce chuckled and extended his hand. "Tell me about it. Thanks for coming today, Jim."

Jim shook Bruce's hand and then John's. "Wouldn't have missed it for the world. Dick, you done smooching my daughter yet?"

There was muted laughter as Dick stood. "I'll call you," he told Barbara. Then he looked around the table. "Bruce, see you soon?"

"You know it," Bruce affirmed, and Barbara saw from the glint in his eyes that he suspected what they were up to.

"And John," Dick accepted a handshake from the other man. "Good to finally meet you."

"Likewise. We should do this again sometime."

"Absolutely." He directed his attention back to Jim. "Ready to roll?"

"Coats?"

"In the front closet. Later, guys."

The two men left amid a chorus of goodbyes that faded to companionable silence around the table as the outer door closed behind them. Barbara surveyed the table for a moment. "Well, I guess we'll have to clean up then."

Nobody moved for a long moment.

Finally, John stood with a sigh. "I don't know if I've ever been so tempted just to levitate everything to the dishwasher," he remarked, stacking plates. "Bruce, you'll get the grill?"

"Can't we just make Dick do it when he gets back?" Bruce lazed, turning his wine glass in his fingers.

John shot him a reproachful look. "That would imply we knew that that page was just a ruse." He put his first stack of plates into the sink and returned to the table to rest a hand briefly on Barbara's shoulder. "Besides, we let the kids do enough of the work tonight."

Barbara shook her head. "We should know better than to set up a telepath. I'll have to tell Dick he was right - it wasn't enough to pretend we were just setting up Dad."

John chuckled and crossed to Bruce. "Actually, you should know better than to set up the detective," he pointed out, leaning down to plant a kiss on Bruce's cheek. The contact prompted a fiery blush in his lover's face.

"I'm sorry, J'onn," he mumbled, staring down into his wine glass.

John knelt down beside Bruce's chair - looking every bit the line- backer preparing for a huddle, Barbara reflected - and put his hand to Bruce's chin.

"Umm, I'm going to go clean the living room," Barbara volunteered, unbraking her chair. When neither man responded, she quietly left the kitchen to do just that.

They remained silent even after Barbara left, Bruce steadfastly avoiding John's eyes until John startled him by saying, "You're cute when you're flustered."

"Wha-?" Bruce stared at his partner, meeting dark brown eyes that couldn't hide the spirit lurking behind them. John's rugged face wore a half-smile and he settled one hand just above Bruce's knee. He pushed up a little on his knees, leaning his face up to capture Bruce's mouth.

Before he knew what he was doing, Bruce was caught up in the kiss, swept along Martian currents - and suddenly aware of the chafing of stubble against his face. He pulled back. "John - I -" He sighed heavily and ran a gentle hand through John's hair. "I'm too old for a crisis of sexual identity."

The brown eyes took on a hint of sadness. "This is me, Bruce," he said heavily, resting back on his heels.

"Oh no, you don't," Bruce said quickly, pushing his chair back to drop on his knees in front of John. "This is not a rejection. Do you hear me? It's not." He put his hands on either side of John's face, pulling him forward so their foreheads rested together, as if proximity could force the telepathic touch he wanted. He closed his eyes, opening his mind invitingly. "I would never reject you, J'onn."

He felt the tentative touch from his lover's mind, hesitant, almost - fearful. He encouraged the contact, reaching his arms to stretch across John's broad back, lifting his face to kiss his cheeks. You can't keep expecting us to reject you, he lectured mentally.

He felt John relaxing in his arms, then expanding a little as John Jones gave way to the more comfortable and slightly larger form of the Martian Manhunter. I don't think Jim Gordon would approve, he projected, accepting Bruce's kiss.

Bruce laughed and sat back. "It wouldn't be the first time Jim Gordon didn't approve of my actions."

"He wouldn't approve of me," J'onn whispered disconsolately.

Bruce stood and offered J'onn a hand. "We need to thicken your skin, J'onn."

Dick's voice suddenly came through the room. "Babs, they didn't have The Philadelphia Story, so I got Lion in Winter. Hope that's okay."

Bruce raised an eyebrow as he pulled J'onn to his feet. "Barbara gave him a key?" he puzzled.

"We were just talking about approval?" J'onn remarked, his expression mildly relieved.

"Sounds good to me," Barbara's voice replied. "And you're right, they were totally on to us. How was Dad?"

"I don't think I've seen him so happy in months. His grilling wasn't even that harsh."

"You mean he didn't even try to talk you into working in Gotham again?"

"I didn't say that, but he was less grumbly about it. Should I set this up now, or is it too much to hope that you convinced the wonder couple to go clean the grill?"

Bruce smiled wryly, an expression that didn't match his Voice:

"This door isn't soundproof, Dick."

There was obvious laughter in Dick's response. "Bring it on, Dad."



J'onn stretched out his legs and pulled Bruce closer. His hair still smelled faintly sweaty from his impromptu wrestling match with Dick, a scent that thrilled J'onn's senses. On the other end of the couch, he saw Barbara nestle deeper into Dick's arms in the flickering light of the television. The air was thick with contentment, a richly unfamiliar taste.

On the screen, Peter O'Toole and Katharine Hepburn faced off, a rapid fire dialogue of quick wit and commingled love and hate that any screen writer would be proud of. J'onn caught a scrap of thought in Bruce's mind and grinned, suddenly shifting shape. Bruce started in his arms and let out a surprised laugh.

Dick and Barbara turned toward the sound, and Dick gave a low whistle. "No wonder you're hot for him, Bruce. Ow! Babs!"

J'onn spoke in perfect Hepburn tones: "That'll be enough of that, young lady."

Barbara laughed and straightened up, pausing the DVD. "That's too cool. Do Audrey."

J'onn began to comply, but Bruce's arms around him constrained him.

"Uh-uhn," he protested mildly. "I want green."

Dick raised an eyebrow. "You sure that's Bruce over there?" he stage whispered to Barbara.

"You're still broadcasting your right roundhouse kick and your shiho nage's gotten sloppy," Bruce growled from the shelter of J'onn's arm.

"Guess he told you," Barbara chuckled, kissing Dick's nose. "And I think since we're taking this little break I should make us some tea." She started to sit forward, reaching past Dick to pull her chair around.

"Babs," Dick stopped her, pushing her back and standing. "Let me get it. Everyone want?"

"And Chocos," J'onn suggested lazily.

"I'll help," Bruce volunteered, disentangling himself from J'onn.

Dick looked at him skeptically. "Well I suppose there's water to boi- Hey!"

Dick ducked out of Bruce's headlock with a twisting move and caught his mentor's wrist. He was just turning his hips to throw when Barbara's voice rang out sharply. "Dick! Bruce! Not in my living room."

They released one another, and Dick rolled his eyes. "All right, mom."

Barbara tossed a pillow at him. "With honey and lemon. Step on it."

"Fine. Come on, Bruce."

Barbara watched them go, noticing J'onn's fond gaze also followed them. "You're good for him," she remarked.

He glanced over at her, and she thought she saw the Martian equivalent of a blush in his cheeks. "He is... special."

"Yeah. And infuriating. And demanding. And remote. And-"

"Barbara," J'onn rumbled.

She shrugged. "It's true." She pulled herself over to plant a kiss on J'onn's cheek. "And you've somehow broken through that."

"I-"

"No, J'onn. The last few years - he's been shutting us out. All of us. Because we're kids. Because we couldn't understand. Because it's his crusade." There was a hint of bitterness in her voice. "He's needed someone he can't shut out," she said in softer tones. "Not just for him - for all of us. For Dick."

J'onn looked at her curiously. "You knew."

She nodded. "You wondered why it didn't work between you and me?"

He sat back, thoughtful. "No. I didn't. Because -"

"You knew, too. From the first time you met him and let him keep the memory. He was the only one, back then."

"You know that?" J'onn sounded surprised.

"We kissed once, remember? And he was forefront in your mind."

J'onn shook his head ruefully. "I need to quit being so transparent."

"I don't know. I like you that way," Bruce returned, emerging from the kitchen with a tea tray in his hands and Dick on his heels.

"TMI, Big Guy," Dick grumbled, setting a large plate of assorted cookies on the coffee table.

In response, Bruce set down the tea tray, leaned down and kissed J'onn full on the lips. Dick squeezed his eyes shut with a groan. "So was that."

Barbara smiled and reached out to pull Dick down beside her. "I don't know. I think they're sweet."

Bruce suddenly stiffened, drawing his arms across his chest grimly.

"I am not sweet," he growled.

J'onn nodded. "Definitely not. More saltily pungent..."

"Babs, start the movie again, quick!" Dick ordered, covering his ears dramatically. But his tone was laughing, and as Bruce settled down with his mug of tea and leaned again into J'onn's welcoming arm he was only happy, and as Barbara unpaused the film her cares seemed far distant.

Family, J'onn thought, feeling a soul deep ache easing, if only for a moment. He took a sip of tea from Bruce's mug and unselfconsciously draped himself, blanket-like, around Bruce's unresisting form. It wasn't Mars, but somehow home seemed far less distant.

-end-

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