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) 2006 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
Bruce crouched on the rooftop, watching Selina as she put the baby to bed.
"So, is she yours?" The voice was harsh--and one he'd given up ever hearing again.
He whirled. Diana stood half in the shadows, her hair much longer than he remembered.
"Hello, Bruce." There was absolutely nothing happy in her greeting.
She joined him at the edge of the roof, watching silently for a moment. "Is the child yours?"
"Would it make a difference to you if she were?"
She turned away without answering.
"Have you seen Clark?"
"You came here first?"
He waited for more, but she didn't give it to him. "Go away, Diana."
"Fine." She didn't even stand, seemed to explode from her crouch into the air, disappearing into the night like a bat.
"Fine," he muttered. He looked over at Selina's apartment. The lights were out. Selina and her child had gone to bed.
"She's not mine," he whispered.
He wondered if Diana would even care.
Clark got the feeling that someone was watching him again. He'd been feeling that way off and on all day. He got up from his chair, walked to the window, and scanned the other buildings with vision that could no longer be called super.
"What is it?" Lois came over, her smile dying as she saw his face. "Is something out there?"
"Someone, I think."
He saw a tightness come over Lois's face. A tightness he hadn't seen for almost a year--not since Diana had gone away.
"Oh," she said.
He wasn't sure what to say.
"So, you can just tell it's her? Or has she made contact?"
He looked down.
"Great. You can just tell." The old brittleness was back in her voice.
He winced at the sound of it. Their life had been so sweet when Diana had been gone.
He hadn't really missed her.
Had barely thought about her.
Not till this minute, when he knew with every fiber of his being that it was her somewhere watching him. He turned back to the window, mouthed, "Diana?" Then closed the drapes, shutting her away from them.
Lois walked over and opened the curtains back up. "Do we have to hide from her now?"
"Lois, that wasn't what I was doing."
She held her hand up. The old sign that she didn't want to talk about this.
He nodded, following her to the couch, pulling her in to cuddle, even though she was mad and hurt and probably didn't want him touching her.
He sighed and tried to pay more attention to his wife than to the other woman out there on a neighboring building.
Cassie sat by Connor's statue, plucking weeds from the grass. She heard the hiss of movement behind her, the familiar sound of armor and lasso rubbing. Then the gentle touch of soft red boots on hallowed ground.
"Go away, Diana."
"I know you're angry with me."
"I'm not angry with you, anymore. That's the beauty of all that time alone. I got over it--got over everything."
Cassie wanted to turn and fly at her. Wanted to punch and kick and hurt Diana the way Diana had hurt her when she'd abandoned her. When she'd left her all alone the time she'd needed her the most. "I'll never be over Connor. But I am over needing you."
Diana sat down next to her, the movement effortless. "That seems to be a trend."
"You left us."
"I needed time."
"Well, you got it. A year is a long time." Cassie pushed herself to her feet. "I've got to go. There are still villains out there. Criminals and the like. You remember those, Diana? Those things you used to fight."
"Before I became a killer?" Diana didn't sound as if the idea bothered her. She'd made peace with it, apparently.
She could take her peace and stick it. "I never called you that. I defended you."
"Maybe you shouldn't have." Diana studied her. "You've changed."
"It's what we wonder women do." Cassie knew she'd changed. When she looked in the mirror, she didn't see a girl anymore. Grief would do that. Grief that came from love, tasted only for a moment then lost on a battlefield when her lover had given his life to save everyone--including this hard, cold woman who stood before her now. "I have to go."
She didn't wait to see what Diana might say. She just took off, flying fast.
And didn't look back.
Donna woke with a start. The draperies billowed out, a warm breeze blowing through them. It felt good, except for the fact that she was sure she'd shut the window.
Her sister moved into the light, and Donna smiled, joy filling her. Until she took in Diana's expression, the lack of light in her eyes, the tight set of her mouth. Vacant--she looked like a body with no soul.
"Sit." She scooted up, leaving room for Diana to sit on the end of the bed, like when they'd been younger.
Diana crossed her arms over her chest and turned away.
Donna waited for her to say something, but she said nothing. "You came to me, Diana. Why?"
"I don't know why."
"Maybe because you missed me?"
"I did. I missed everyone." Diana turned, but she was standing in the shadows, and Donna couldn't read her expression any better than if she'd still had her back to her.
"Where have you been?"
"You used to give less poetic answers."
Diana stepped out of the darkness. "You think that was poetry?" She sounded angry.
"Well, that or you were just being flip." Donna knew she'd hit a nerve, was trying to--anything to provoke Diana into opening up to her.
"I was being serious," Diana said. "I tried to help people. No one wanted my help. Or they did, but my help didn't make any difference. People die with alarming regularity."
"Well, as long as you weren't the one killing them..." Donna laughed, thinking such a harsh sound might make Diana let her in even more.
Diana covered the distance in a blur of color and black. She grabbed Donna by the throat. And then she stared down at her, as if she couldn't believe Donna had done that. As if she couldn't believe she had reacted that way to her.
Donna pried her fingers loose, just enough so she could talk. "Nice reflexes. Might want to work on the overreaction."
Diana let her go. "Why are you doing this to me?"
"Because you aren't acting like the Diana I know. The Diana I love. Look how long you've been gone. Cassie needed you. She was all alone."
Diana glared at her. "Where were you? Why didn't you help her?"
"Cassie and I were never that close."
"Then why do you care?"
Donna looked up at her, trying to load every ounce of disappointment that she could in her eyes.
Diana sat on the bed, her hands clasped as she stared at the floor.
"I'm glad you're home," Donna said, touching her shoulder very gently.
"You're the only one, then."
"Maybe if you were a little happier to see us...?"
"I am happy to see you. All of you."
"It's not really coming through." Donna smiled at Diana when she finally glanced over her way. "Maybe you need to work on that, too?"
She'd been hoping for even a small smile out of Diana. Instead, she burst into tears and reached for her, sinking down on the bed, her head in Donna's lap as she wept.
"It's okay, sweetheart." Donna stroked Diana's hair, her other hand over Diana's, where it clutched the sheet over her leg. "I love you, Diana. I'm so glad you're back."
Diana's weeping slowed, gave way to little sobs, and then there was silence. Donna realized her sister had fallen asleep. She sighed, brushing Diana's hair off her face, studying her in the low light. She touched something rough, realized there was a long, deep scar on Diana's neck, just along her hairline.
"What happened to you?"
But there was no answer as Diana slept on.
Bruce crouched on the rooftop, cursing the rain, as he sat his nightly watch while Selina put the baby to bed.
This time he heard Diana coming. He imagined she wanted him to.
"You never answered me." Her voice was soft.
"She's not my child." He made his voice just as gentle.
"Then why this vigil?"
"Because she could have been." He looked over at her, expected to see judgment or anger or something.
She only looked sad. Water dripped down her face, and where it fell on her cheeks, it looked like tears.
"Where have you been?" His words came out rushed, as if something inside him wanted the question asked and was afraid the more cautious Bruce would interfere.
"Hell." She leaned forward, pulling her long hair away from her neck. Reaching down, she took his hand, ran his gloved finger over a long scar. "Some people never forget."
"Who did this to you?"
She laughed softly. "I did." She let her hair drop but didn't push his hand away. His arm was covered in the drenched black curtain of her hair, and he moved his hand back along her neck, pulling her to him.
"I think I wanted to die." She laughed, a sound both frightening and heartbreaking. "I survived that entire crisis, and I wanted to die." She laughed again; it was shrill, like nails on a chalkboard.
He kissed her to stop the sound. Or that's what he told himself as he found himself pulling her to him.
Her lips were soft under his. Like the few times he'd actually kissed her. Like the thousands of times he'd fantasized about it.
"I've missed you," he said, his mouth forming the words against her cheek, as he kissed her skin, licking up rain that tasted like salt--she really was crying.
She pulled him away from the ledge, back to where the roof was flat and the shadows were deep. She pulled his uniform off and then took hers off. She started to draw him toward her, but he said, "No," and she let go of him.
Taking her hand, he pulled her into a place where the shadows did not dominate, where he could see her better. She stared up at him, a resigned look on her face.
"Why?" he asked. "Why this? Why now?"
"I want to feel something."
"Does it matter what that something is?"
She closed her eyes.
He snuggled up against her, letting his arm rest on her belly. The rain splashed down around them. The water they lay in was cold.
"Where have you been, Diana?"
"I was everywhere." She put her hand over his, pushing it into her skin.
"I tried to atone." She looked over at him, a grim smile on her face. "I tried to atone without actually believing I needed to."
"Then why do it?"
"Because everyone else thought I needed to."
"You stopped me from killing Alex. You said it wouldn't be worth it."
"It wouldn't have been. For you."
She turned, her body pushing into his. "I set off Armageddon, Bruce. And if I went back in time, I'd do it again, because I wouldn't know how much it will hurt to lose everyone I love."
"We didn't push you away. You went away. To discover who Diana was. You seemed okay with that decision."
"I know. I was okay. Until I got away from everyone." She traced his cheek, moved up to his eyebrows. "I think I would have found out who I was less painfully if I'd stayed here."
"I wouldn't have been here."
She shrugged, as if the idea that her statement would make sense wasn't something she could worry about.
"You said you didn't come to me first."
"I lied. Of course I came to you first."
"Did you go to Clark? After?" It surprised him how much it still bothered him that she might love Clark more.
"Yes. But only from a distance."
"I'm sure he knew you were there. You know he's gotten most of his powers back?"
"Donna told me. That's good for him."
She sighed. She could probably recognize the old slap at metas.
"So, here we are." He was unsure why there were there, lying naked, on this sodden, icy roof.
"Yes." She kissed him suddenly. Her lips moving frantically against his.
"Diana. No." He pushed her away, reached for their uniforms.
"Don't you want me?" She sounded like a little girl.
He pressed against her, letting her feel that he did, in fact, want her very much. "I think you need to make your peace with the others first."
She let him go, her eyes distant. As if he'd turned her down altogether.
"Diana. I don't want to be your safety net."
"When have you ever been anyone's safety net?" Her words would have torn him apart if she hadn't pushed her face into his chest, as if she couldn't stand that she'd just said that to him.
He held her, indulging himself, enjoying the feel of her naked flesh against his own. His hand found the scar again.
"There was a mob," she said. "They were angry at me. I could have flown away."
"You let them take you?"
She nodded, the motion felt against his chest. "One of them cut me. It stung. It woke me up. I got away easily. I didn't hurt any of them. And I just let it bleed for a while."
"I didn't try to stop it. I thought if I'm supposed to be dead, I'll die. I was so disappointed when it stopped bleeding."
He nodded. He'd been there a few times. Or almost. He'd always crawled back to safety. He'd never just sat and let it bleed. But then, he wasn't a goddess, his wound wouldn't have stopped bleeding. "What happened then?"
"I just lay there. For days, I think. It healed, in its fashion."
Sort of like their relationship. Healed, in its fashion.
"I should go, I guess."
He didn't want to let her go. "Yes, you should."
She pulled away slowly, not meeting his eyes. Her uniform was on far too quickly, and he wondered if he'd ever see her body bare and open to him like that again.
If he didn't, he knew it'd be his own damn fault.
Clark flew over Metropolis, and the clouds gave way as he laughed, reveling in the feeling of flight. He'd missed this. God, how he'd missed this.
Then he sensed her, and looked for her out of reflex, expecting his vision to keep pace with his other reemerging powers.
"I'm here," he heard her say, and thanked God his ears were back to normal.
She was waiting for him past the clouds, a tentative smile on her face. He headed toward her, knowing he should make her come to him, but unwilling to do it.
"Hello," she said. Her voice was rough. As if speech was a hard thing.
"Hello." He smiled, wished he could pull back the overwhelming joy he felt at seeing her. At seeing her like this: Superman to Wonder Woman again. With Lois, he was Clark. In Metropolis, he was Clark. He'd chosen that life. He loved that life.
But up here. In the clouds. He was Kal. He was Superman.
He was Diana's.
"I missed you," he said softly.
"I missed you, too." She gazed down at the tall buildings so far below them. "How are you two doing?"
"We're doing great."
She nodded, didn't challenge the lie. He hated having to lie. He and Lois had been doing great, but they weren't now that Diana was back.
"Everything's different," she said. She met his eyes. She'd always seemed so fearless to him. The one thing he could count on. But her expression was shaken. As if she couldn't count on herself, much less take care of anyone else.
He moved to her, not realizing what he was doing until she was in his arms. "I love you," he murmured, as he pulled her close.
She wrapped her arms around him for a minute, relaxed, but only briefly. "I love you, too." Then she pulled away.
He studied her. "You've seen Bruce?"
A small nod.
Bruce loved her. Clark knew this. He'd always known this. And she loved Bruce. She'd gone to Bruce, after Max Lord. She'd told him what happened, had wanted him to hear it from her.
Clark had always thought that Bruce's rejection had hurt her more than anything Clark had done to her in that terrible fight Lord had provoked. Clark had broken her bones; Bruce had broken her heart.
But then, she'd broken Bruce's, too. She was supposed to be perfect. Bruce had believed in her, when he believed in very few other things.
Clark suspected that Bruce was willing to believe in her again. Or maybe she'd be the one believing in him. Either way, Clark knew Diana wouldn't be free any longer. Somehow, he didn't think that would make Lois feel any more secure.
"Be kind to each other," he whispered.
She frowned, her eyebrows going up.
"It's what matters, Diana. It's what gets us through the hard times. Being kind to each other." Like he and Lois were being to each other now that this woman who made them question things had returned.
She nodded slowly, as if she had to think about it, to process it. His old Diana had been so quick.
His old Diana was gone.
"I've changed," she said softly.
"We've all changed."
"You look the same." And finally the old warmth was in her voice, the old tenderness in her eyes. "I'm sorry. For whatever role I played in the hurt and the pain and the destruction. I'm sorry."
He thought she was. Sorry that she'd had a role, but not sorry for what she'd done. The old Clark wouldn't have been able to see the distinction. The old Clark hadn't been through Hell.
"You were a pawn. Max Lord wanted you to be the one to kill him."
"And you did it to save Bruce."
"And me. And the world from me."
She nodded. "That, too." Then she surprised him, touching his arm, letting her hand linger. "I'm sorry about Connor."
Clark looked down. He tried not to think about Connor. Hated going home because there were still so many reminders of the boy in his parent's house.
Diana had never warmed to Connor. But Cassie had. He met Diana's eyes. "Do you know where she is?"
"No. She was at his statue when I first came back."
"She's with the Titans. But she's not the same." He shrugged--like he'd said: who among them was the same?
"I have to go find her."
He nodded. "Thank you for coming to see me."
"Thank you for making this easy."
He imagined Bruce hadn't made it quite so easy. But then that was probably why she loved Bruce so much.
She leaned in, kissed him gently on the lips. It was the sweetest kiss she'd ever given him. He knew right then he was losing her.
She pulled away, and he thought she knew what he was thinking. They'd survived a thousand years together.
He could survive her and Bruce.
He just hoped the same could be said for his marriage.
Cassie stood on the sand, watching the water break gently over her feet. She'd loved to do this as a child. Loved to race the waves, tempt fate, and make her mom yell at her to come in a bit.
"I shouldn't have left you."
She whirled. This time she hadn't heard Diana coming. The woman who stood before her looked like a different Diana than last time. Her eyes were shining with unshed tears, and her mouth wasn't set in a tight line. Compassion--finally, Cassie saw some damn compassion in her idol's expression.
"Cassie, I'm sorry."
Cassie backed up, afraid that if she didn't, she'd run to Diana. And she didn't want to do that.
She didn't need anyone, anymore. Especially not this woman she'd worshiped. This woman who'd deserted her when Cassie's world had been collapsing around her.
"I hate you," she said, but the words came out wrong. They came out, "I needed you."
"I loved him. And he died. And you left me alone to deal with that."
"I know." There were no hard words, no harsh stares. Just the endless love and compassion that had drawn her to Diana in the first place.
"I feel like someone carved me out inside, Diana. And put cement in there. I can't feel anything."
"Except the rage." Diana moved toward her. "And the pain. You feel that. I know you do."
She was within arm's reach. Cassie should move back again. But she didn't. And she didn't flinch away when Diana reached for her.
Warm, strong arms--the only arms strong enough to hold her--closed around her. For a moment, Cassie panicked. She pushed at Diana, realized how much stronger she'd become when Diana had to work to hold her.
"Let me help you," Diana whispered, then she moved Cassie's hair away, kissed her on the side of her neck. "Let me share your pain."
Cassie felt something inside her break. Control deserted her. Anger retreated just enough for the grief to surge back up. She felt as if the pain would kill her. She felt as if Connor was dying in her arms again. She felt...everything.
Diana hugged her fiercely, rocking her, murmuring, "I'm sorry," over and over. And Cassie gave in. She wept. She let the pain out, to the only person who could bear it.
And Diana didn't run away this time. Diana held her, crying, too, sinking down onto the warm sand and keeping her safe while she grieved.
No one had been there to keep her safe. Why had no one been there?
She closed her eyes, trying to breathe through a stuffed nose, knowing her eyes would be swollen and ugly. Diana stroked her hair, not moving, not even shifting under Cassie's weight. Finally, Cassie took pity on her and sat up.
They stared at each other, and Diana frowned, as if just realizing something.
She touched Cassie's cheek. "You're a woman now. The girl is gone."
"She died with Connor."
"I know. I died with my mother on that battlefield." She played with her hair, near her neck, the same place she'd kissed on Cassie's neck. "Things would have been so different if I'd died instead of her."
"Different, but not better."
Diana smiled at her, and it was an expression full of such profound tiredness that Cassie pulled her close.
"I missed you so much, Diana."
"I shouldn't have left you. I don't deserve your forgiveness." She kissed Cassie on the forehead. "I'll work hard to earn it back."
"I'm not the same person. Maybe you won't want my forgiveness."
"I do." Diana pushed herself up, held a hand out to Cassie. "Come on. Let's walk. You can fill me in on what's been happening."
Cassie let her pull her up. It felt like old times. Or close enough.
Bruce climbed up the stairs from the Batcave, found Alfred filling the ice bucket at the bar. "We expecting company you forgot to tell me about?"
"I heard that Miss Diana is back."
"Back. Not in town. Not here." Although, he wished she was. Impulsive Bruce was kicking cautious Bruce heartily in the ass.
"I see." Alfred started to wipe down a perfectly clean glass. "But if she were here, would you be happy to see her?"
"That's a hard question."
"Is it? Why?"
Bruce turned to glare at Alfred. "Because you know why."
"Ah. Of course. Because you're you."
"Very funny." Bruce heard the doorbell ring. "Company?"
"Miss Diana stopped in a few hours ago when you were out. I told her to come back when you were here." He put ice in the glass, poured it half full of scotch, and handed it to Bruce. "I suggest you drink it quick, before you lose your nerve."
Then he was gone, and a moment later, Bruce heard him say, "Ah, Miss Diana. Yes, he's back." Alfred led her into the room.
She wasn't in uniform. She was in a cream dress that fell around her, managing to accent her figure without being obvious. Her hair was tied back loosely, and he could just make out the scar on her neck.
She smiled when she saw him. She looked...soft. "It took me a little longer than I thought it would. To do what you said." She accepted the glass of wine Alfred poured for her.
"It's good to see you again, my dear." Alfred took her hand, looking utterly pleased she was back.
"Do you two want me to give you some privacy?" Bruce turned away, sitting on the couch, wishing he could have a refill on the drink he had sucked down to give himself courage.
He'd been so brave in the rain. So wise lying naked next to her. Maybe that was the key? Maybe they had to be naked. In the rain. On a roof.
"He can be an ass. But don't let that deter you." Alfred touched her cheek gently, his eyes full of something that looked a lot like compassion. "He's missed you greatly." Then, without looking at Bruce, he left.
She walked over to the couch, sat down next to him. He took the wine from her, drank some and handed it back.
"You seem nervous, Bruce."
"Well, maybe because I'm the one making peace with my demons."
"Is that what I am?" He sounded way too bitter. "How did the visit with the Clark demon go?"
"About how you'd expect." She met his gaze with a look that gave him nothing back, and he sighed. They weren't going to discuss Clark, she was saying. Clark was off limits.
Which probably meant a lot of good things for Bruce if he could just forget that somewhere, probably years in the future, Clark was still there.
"This may not have been the best idea," she said suddenly, starting to rise.
He pulled her back down, pushed the glass up to her lips. "Drink some. You'll feel better. Hell, drink all of it. You'll feel a lot better."
She drained the glass, and he took it from her and put it on the table.
They sat. The only thing making noise in the room was the clock, ticking on the mantle.
"I'm not the woman I once was, Bruce. I know you loved that woman. But..."
"But I'm not sure you ever really wanted her to be real. That other Diana who actually stood for something."
He looked at her, saw that she wasn't hiding anything. He touched her cheek, and she smiled sadly. "I'm not sure I wanted you to be real, either. You were the one thing I believed in. Especially whenever my own world threatened to spin out of control. I'd look at you, and everything would be okay."
"But I wasn't that person. I proved that with Max Lord."
He sighed. "The only thing you proved with Max Lord was that you were willing to do whatever it takes."
She looked surprised.
"Diana, I wanted to kill Alex. And I knew that if I had, you wouldn't have judged me for it."
"I wouldn't have."
"But still you stopped me."
"I knew you would have judged yourself."
"Because of how harshly I judged you?"
"Yes." Her voice was even. No anger in it. No pain. Just the truth. He remembered she'd been the goddess of that.
"I hurt you." He looked away.
"You did." She touched his hand, as if to acknowledge it. And maybe to forgive it.
"I've been saying that a lot, too, lately." She smiled gently. "Would you hold me?"
"That's an easy thing." He pulled her close.
"It's never been before for us."
"We're not the same people." He sighed; she felt so good pressed against him. Even with clothes on.
She relaxed a little more in his arms. "No. We're not the same people."
He buried his face in her hair. "I never stopped loving you."
"I never stopped loving you, either." She moved so his lips were against her own. Then she kissed him. And it held none of the desperation of the last time. This kiss was sweet and slow. And sure.
She seemed sure of him. And sure of herself. Or at least sure enough to try this for real.
They kissed for a long time. He finally pulled away, stroking her hair, gazing into her eyes like a lovesick fool. Only he couldn't feel foolish. She'd been gone for so long. And before that--he'd pushed her away so hard; she should have been gone forever.
Yet, here she was.
A discreet cough sounded. Alfred stood watching them. Bruce was not sure how long he'd been there.
"Sir, shall I set another place for dinner? Or would you like me to bring you something later? When you and Miss Diana have finished catching up?" He looked up the stairs--subtle, he wasn't.
Diana smiled. "Something later, I think, Alfred."
"Excellent, Miss. I remember that you're a vegetarian."
"I'm not," Bruce said.
Alfred ignored him and left. Bruce knew there was probably no meat in his immediate future, unless he caught and cooked it himself.
"So?" She stared up the stairs meaningfully.
"Are you sure?"
She nodded. Then she touched his lips with her fingers. "Do you want me?"
"Yes." The answer was out practically before she'd finished speaking, and she laughed softly.
"How long has it been since you laughed?" he asked.
"A long time."
He pulled her to him, kissing her hard, trying to make her realize how sorry he was. How much he'd missed her.
She pulled him up, kissing him as they maneuvered the stairs. But when they got up to the bedroom, she seemed uncertain.
"Have you ever?"
"No." She met his gaze. "No, I never have."
"Let's take this slow."
"We don't have to. It's not like you'll hurt me." Then she looked down. Because he had hurt her, and they both knew it. And he hadn't needed super strength to do it.
"Let's take it slow, Diana. We have the rest of our lives to get it right."
"To get a lot of things right."
"Yes. To get a lot of things right."
She smiled at him, and, for a moment, he saw the woman he'd idolized. Then her smile changed, and there was something harder in it, something hurt, too. And something that looked like forgiveness. And home.
"Can we still get naked?" she asked softly, her eyes gleaming, but her smile a little uncertain.
"I think it's required."
He undressed her, then she undressed him. She slid under the covers and he followed her. They kissed. He meant to take it slow. He was relatively sure she did, too. But they kept moving, holding each other closer, hands exploring, lips following.
They set a new land speed record for taking it slow.
She smiled at him lazily as he held her close. "Oops."
"That's not what I meant to happen." Although, God help him, he was very glad it had.
She yawned, and her eyes drooped, and he thought he'd never seen anything sexier than a sated Diana in his bed.
Until she whispered, "We can take it slow tomorrow." And smiled, a sensual, secure smile. One just for him, he thought.
He knew the one he was smiling belonged to her alone.