DISCLAIMER: The Justice League of America characters are the property of DC Comics. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2005 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
Nothing Left to Lose
The last thing Diana hears is the triumphant laugh of Athena. The last thing she feels is Hermes's soft kiss on her cheek. The last thing she sees is everything--she can see again.
Olympus disappears, and she is swallowed in blackness. The others went on ahead; she came back here to face the gods alone. Athena wanted to reward her in private. She granted her the wish of her heart--Martin's life restored, all the lives Medusa took trying to get to Diana restored. And then for Diana's selflessness, the goddess granted her the restoration of her sight as well.
"To make you whole again is the wish of my heart," Athena said, as she held Diana close. "You have done well, daughter of the Amazons. I have never been prouder of my champion."
Diana wonders if she would have fought as hard for Athena if she had not hoped the goddess would finally bring Martin back to life. Diana also wonders if Athena knew this, and that was why she had refused her up to then, because she needed Diana to be very motivated to successfully navigate the realm of the dead.
Diana wishes she didn't have to question the motives of her gods. She wishes they were just benevolent beings the way gods should be.
The way the metas are told they should be. Aren't they gods too of a sort?
"Thank you," Hermes whispered. He had always been kind to her, had always been one of her favorites. She was glad she could help him.
Then they sent her on her way. Back to Earth.
She appears in the middle of the Embassy. Jonah is the first to see her. His look is one of shock, and she is suddenly struck by the idea that he appeared too easily in her life. Made himself too indispensable. His "Aw, shucks, ma'am," routine suddenly seems too good to be true.
Peter turns around next. She begins to smile, wants to ask him about Martin, but she doesn't see the little boy anywhere. Did Athena lie?
She steps toward Peter, and he seems to freeze, staring at the blindfold she still holds in her hand, then at her eyes.
"You can see?" he asks, anger rising in a way she can feel from where she stands across the room.
"I can. Athena restored--"
"You bitch!" The words erupt out of him, and she flinches. She has been called that before, but never by one who loves her.
"Peter, I asked for Martin--"
"Then where is he?" He takes a step toward her. "You lie. You give us words about love and hope and peace. You spin such poetry, and we don't realize until too late that it's poison. My son is dead because of you. Because you engender more hatred than you do love. Because your words are empty, and you won't protect even a child if it's not in your interest."
She said words like that to Athena once. She thought the goddess might smite her down in her rage. Peter seems to have no such fear.
"Peter, he's alive."
"Where? In my heart? My heart that you tore out of my body and shoved into stone with my little boy. My heart that I sold to the devil the day I came to work for you?"
In his eyes, there is no regret. Nothing but anger and a hatred that suddenly appears ancient.
Then the door crashes open, and Martin rushes in. He is dressed in the clothes he was wearing when he was turned to stone. He moves easily, and there is no sign that he was ever cut down in the midst of his childhood. "Dad!"
Peter turns around. He looks back at Diana, and there is shock and utter remorse in his face. He starts to say something, but she holds up her hand.
"You've said enough for now, Peter."
Turning, she walks away, down the hall to her room. She feels every muscle in her body complaining. She finally feels her age, in the ache of her heart, in the complaining joints. She has abused her body. And for what? To restore a son to a father who lost sight of why his child was even important. Does he love Martin or does he just hate Diana?
"Ambassador..." Jonah touches her arm, then he pulls her into his arms. "I'm so sorry."
His hand is warm where it rests on her back. His lips even warmer as they land on her neck.
She has the lasso around him before he can realize he is caught. "Who do you work for?"
He does not want to answer; the lasso does not care. A moment later, he says, "I don't know. An organization of some kind. They want...they want to bring down the metas. All of you who think you have the right to look out for us--to judge what we need and what we don't."
She drags him into her study, yanking so hard he falls, and she doesn't care. "Tell me everything."
He does. He unfortunately knows very little. She is not surprised. In her enemy's place, she would not have told anything of importance to a minor operative working in such close proximity to her lasso. She has the urge to strike him. To make him pay for trying to leverage her loneliness against her.
His kiss felt good. His arms were very warm.
She is so cold. How long has she been this cold?
"Get out. Never let me see you again, or I swear I will kill you."
She tries to take the lasso off him, but he has looped his hand over it. "I love you, Diana."
"Everyone loves me, didn't you know? Everyone loves me and still they hurt me. Now, if you like having hands, you will release my lasso."
He lets go, and she cracks the lasso, causing it to fly up and off. He will have a nasty rope burn on the back of his neck where the rope grazed him. She did that on purpose.
He hurries away. She sees two of her aids coming toward her. "Let me be," she says, slamming the door. She catches a glimpse of her reflection in the mirror and walks toward it.
Beautiful. She is so beautiful. Even now, covered with the dust and blood of fighting her way through Hades on her quest to rescue Hermes, she is beautiful.
Beauty gets her nowhere. Beauty means nothing. She slams her hands into the mirror, the glass breaking into huge shards and crashing to the floor. One large, spiderwebbed piece clings stubbornly to the frame. Her reflection is all askew, the cracks causing her face to look like a Picasso drawing.
She thinks it the more accurate reflection.
She left Themyscira to do good. To be an example. To fight for things that are right and good.
Like Peter who hates her. Like Martin who died because someone hated her even more. Like Jonah, who betrayed her and still believes he loves her.
She is sick of it all.
A chiming sound interrupts her moment. She can hear Bruce paging her on the JLA communicator. She finally answers.
"Where the hell have you been, Wonder Woman? I've been paging you for hours."
"Sorry, Batman, I was in the underworld. No service there, I guess." She laughs softly, feels as if she could break out into hysterical laughter if she lets herself.
"We need you."
"I'm not a member of the JLA anymore, remember?"
"You left before you could let us come to a decision."
"It was obvious what your decision would be."
"You know that I don't believe you're diminished in any way. But what I believe doesn't matter here. It's what the others believe. They will look out for you. Even if it's done subconsciously. Superman especially." He takes a deep breath, dragging it out so it comes easily across the connection. "We don't have time to argue about this."
She can imagine how put out he must appear with her, how forbidding his expression will be. She is making things difficult. He hates that.
"Diana, I called about Superman. He needs our help."
"You've got full-time members who aren't as handicapped as I am. Ask one of them."
"Okay, maybe needing our help wasn't exactly the truth. He's out of control."
"And you want me to stop him?" Kal shot at her. He picked up a gun and, not knowing if she could still deflect bullets or not, shot at her. Until now, she pushed her anger at him deep down.
Until now, she also pushed down her anger for Bruce, the architect of the plan, the one who made Kal shoot her. She heard him that day as she was fighting. Giving Kal the gun, making him do it. Saying he couldn't. Their brilliant mastermind.
Their cold-hearted bastard.
"Get up here, Wonder Woman." Bruce has taken on the tone he uses with junior heroes, and Diana does not like it.
"Give me a few minutes to clean up."
"We don't have a few minutes."
She can feel the teleporter taking her without her permission. They will have words over this. She practices them as she strides to the monitor womb.
But her anger is temporarily put on hold when he looks up from a screen and a huge smile crosses his face. "Your eyes."
"Can I be reinstated now?" She loads as much disdain as she can into the question. Pushing him aside, she watches the monitors. Kal an hour ago, taking down everyone who tried to stop him. Kal just a few minutes ago, heading for a building in a mountain of ice.
"Who is he after?"
"Does it matter? He's out of control."
She thought of the battles she fought in Hades. At times, she felt out of control there. When Hades trapped her in his maze, when she wandered for what seemed like a hundred days, but was only a few minutes, she felt as if she might go mad.
If Kal is feeling that, then she sympathizes.
"I'll send you to him. He might listen to you."
"Why? Because he loves me?" She says the word "love" with such bitterness that he turns to stare at her. "You love me too, Bruce. Don't you?" She stalks toward him, her jaw set, and he takes a step back. "You want me." Her voice is very low, and she sees him swallow almost convulsively. "This is the last thing I will ever do for you. Or for the League."
They stand very close, and she grabs him and kisses him the way he did her when he thought they were going to die.
The kiss means just as little.
They stare at each other, and then he gently reaches out for the blindfold. He takes something from his belt, working on the fabric. Then he hands it back. "Put it on."
She does. She can see through it perfectly. "Why?"
"Because he will react to you better with it on."
"Ever the master manipulator."
"It might save your life."
"You're presuming I have a life." Her laugh is bitter.
"Be careful. Come back."
"Either Kal or I will die today. I'm not sure me coming back is what you want. I won't be in a very good mood."
He nods, and there is something unfathomable in his eyes. As she walks back to the teleport pad, she realizes it may have been sorrow.
The teleporter leaves her in midair, and she flies toward the man she has been sent to stop. Kal looks up, his expression one she has never seen him wear.
Bruce was right; Kal is out of control.
"Batman sent you?"
"He thinks I'll listen to you."
She shrugs. Kal loves her; she knows this. But Jonah loves her too. And Bruce. Ares might say he loves her. And Athena. Her goddess loves her most of all.
Love means nothing.
"They're afraid," she says.
"They should be afraid."
"What are you going to do?"
"I can't let you."
It's a good question. It might make more sense to join him in tearing up this thing he hates so much. "Why should I let you do it?"
"Because they're evil."
She laughs, and the sound is harsh even in her ears. "You're finally going to slay the monster?" She laughs again, remembering a thousand years worth of monsters he didn't slay. That he made her slay.
She should fight him just for that.
He has apparently tired of talk. He starts to fly, and she chases after him. He is pulling ahead, so she grabs his foot, holding on even as he tries to shake her off.
"I don't want to fight you, Diana."
"Not your decision."
She lands the first punch. He lands the next two. He is holding back. She is not. She sends him crashing to the ground with her next combination. He takes out three trees before he comes to rest.
Standing, he takes a deep breath. "Go away, Diana."
"No." Bruce was right about this, at least. She will never walk away from a fight. She will battle on until there is nothing left in her.
She knows Kal will too. It is, after all, how he died. It's how they both died.
One of them will die here today. She imagines it likely that it will be her. Unless Kal too has spent the last few days battling evil hellions in the underworld.
He flies at her, and when he hits her this time, there is no restraint. She feels as if she's just run into an oncoming freight train. She hits him back just as hard, a satisfying "Oomph," coming out of him as he flies backwards.
He stares at her, and she knows they have come to the moment from which there is no turning back. They will try to kill each other. One of them will kill the other.
The concussion, as they come together, probably knocks out the wildlife for a mile around them. He hits and kicks. His punches send her reeling. She gives as good as she gets.
And as the fight wears on, they both lose altitude, the battle coming closer and closer to the ground, their strength going into blows not into flying.
Then they are standing on terra firma, and his next blow knocks her back. She lands too hard, not able to turn the fall into anything productive. The back of her head slams against a rock and she fights the darkness that threatens her. How tired must she be for that to have nearly defeated her? A little blow like that?
He is staggering toward her, and she tries to get up, but she can't. He stands over her, his foot raised. He will stomp down, and her head will be crushed. And that will be the end.
She lifts her hands, willing them to be ready to catch his foot as it descends, to throw him off balance.
Her hands fall back, lie like defenseless fish on the ground. She moans at the feeling of helplessness. Forcing her hand back up, she rips off the blindfold, refusing to look away. He will have to stare into her eyes as he kills her.
His foot comes down but lands on the ground, not on her head. He tries to pull her up, but he lacks the strength and falls down next to her.
"You're my best friend," he says.
She pants, staring up at the sky. "We're not best friends. We never have been." She looks over at him, sees that he is staring at her. "It's just an excuse we use. It lets us stay close, lets us pretend that it's not something else we want."
"Yes. It does." He touches her face, and she sees his eyes open wider. "You can see." He smiles, his expression joyous--a strange look given the state they've put each other in. "You can see."
"I can see."
She hears her communicator go off. "Diana? Report."
Kal looks at her, his eyes narrowing.
She peels off the communicator, hands it to Kal. "Fry it." She is too tired to squash it. Besides, it sends Kal a message he may or may not want to receive.
He smiles, only one side of his mouth going up, as he lasers the communicator out of existence. "I got rid of mine earlier."
"Smart boy." She rolls to her back again, lying still and staring up at the sky. She knows Bruce is still watching them from the Tower.
Will he always be watching them?
"Do we keep fighting?" she asks softly.
"I'll stop you if you go after them again."
He rolls to his side, staring down at her. "I know you will. I don't want to go after them anymore."
And then he leans down and kisses her. It has been years since he has kissed her this way. He has never kissed her this way since Lois and he started seeing each other. Or since Diana's fantasy of a life with him, before his marriage.
"Lois..." She doesn't want to talk about his wife. She wishes she could just kiss him and enjoy it.
Peter was wrong about her. She's not the devil. She pushes Kal away.
"Do you see Lois here?" he asks.
"She's never here, yet she's always with us."
"I sent her away. She's not with us anymore." He looks exhausted, his eyes barely open as he talks. "I'm not that man anymore. I'm not her Clark."
Diana tries to sit up, can feel her body shaking, especially the abdominal muscles that protest the unwanted movement.
But they have to leave. They are vulnerable now, and Bruce might kill them both to keep the world safe. She knows him too well. He loves her, but that won't stop him from doing what he thinks is best.
Especially when she has failed him.
"Kal. We have to go."
He meets her eyes, and she knows that he has thought the same thing, that Bruce will kill them. Maybe he welcomes that? "There's nowhere to go, Diana."
"Yes, there is." She forces her muscles to obey her, somehow gets to her feet, and pulls him up too. "Think about Thor," she says.
"Think hard about Thor."
And then she begins the ritual chant. Calling up the god of thunder in a language she and Kal had one thousand years to learn.
The third time through, Kal joins her, his voice adding a low counterpoint to her invocation.
And suddenly the Earth disappears and they are in Asgard.
Thor stands before them. "My friends, you have returned." He seems to take in how bedraggled they are. "And it is a good thing that we are no longer at war. You would not last the day."
They collapse in a heap, and she hears Thor calling for warriors to help. One of them picks her up. It is Talvert. She used to play keep-away with him.
"You have come back," he says, joy suffusing his pale features. "You and Kal." He looks over at Kal. "You are both hurt. In all the years we fought, I have never seen you so hurt."
"In all the years we fought," Diana says, "we never fought each other."
"Ah. I would suggest not repeating the experience."
She hears Kal laugh softly. He is being half dragged, half steadied by Thor. The god must know that Kal will never allow himself to be carried when he can stagger home.
The stronghold smells of mead and fresh rushes on the floors. They are carried to a room high up, facing the inner courtyard. Asgard's strange golden light streams in from the windows, and Talvert eases her down to a pile of deep furs.
"Do you sleep alone as usual, friend Kal?" Thor almost sounds like he hopes Kal will say he does.
"I sleep with her," Kal says. And there is a world of defeat in his voice.
There is also the future in it.
Thor helps him down, then covers them both with a white fur.
"Bring us new clothes?" she asks, and Kal nods, even as he cuddles against her. "Like yours. Clothes like yours."
"It shall be done," Thor says, then he motions for Talvert to go. Crouching down, he meets her eyes. "You are in trouble?"
"You are sheltering runaways. We seek sanctuary."
"I cannot give you that." As her face falls, he lifts a hand, smiling broadly. "You do not need sanctuary, for you are home. I am not harboring runaways; I am merely showing the most welcome champions of Asgard to their rightful room."
Kal opens his eyes. "That's beautiful." He is trembling against her. The walk must have been nearly too much for him.
"I will leave you. Clothing will be placed outside your door. Come down when you are rested. And...tired of each other." Thor winks, then pushes himself up, leaving them alone.
"We are safe here," Kal whispers as if he does not quite believe it.
She is not sure he should believe it. "We are probably safe here." The gods can find them here, even if Bruce most likely cannot bridge a thousand years--she's not quite ready to say it would be impossible for him.
"I will not wait a thousand years to try to kiss you." His hand has dropped to her breast, where it rests lightly, and then he kisses her again, his mouth opening. It is the most possessive kiss he has ever given her, his hand dropping lower, promising more even as he shudders in exhaustion against her.
"A promise for later," she says, kissing him one last time, then pulling his head down to her chest. "Sleep, Kal."
He gives up the fight, closing his eyes as he buries his face in her hair and falls asleep. His hand is tight on her inner thigh, his breathing slow and even.
She puts her hand over his, then lets herself drift.
They are safe for now. And they are together. They will figure out their future some other day.