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.
He watches Diana--actually, he watches them all, more than his JLA compatriots ever suspected. Or more than they expected until a few weeks ago, when the truth came out that he's not only been watching them but also planning how to take them down in case of an emergency. So now they all know he's been a busy little bat, but he thinks Diana doesn't realize how much he watches her in particular.
He's not particularly proud of how much he watches her. It would probably be considered stalking if she ever figured it out and brought him up on charges. But he doesn't think she'll do that. He watches her for her own good, and he thinks she'll realize that if the truth comes out.
He thinks he implied to
He supposes it shocked the hell out of Arthur. Bruce can see how it happened though. On that island, that wonderful, peaceful island. Arthur in the ocean--he has access to her the rest of them will never know. The sea, the sand, the sun--and this woman giving herself up to him. Oh yes, Bruce can imagine how it happened. Not that he would imagine...or fantasize about her. Not him. The Batman is all about control.
Unless she's involved. His control slips when Diana is involved.
He doesn't think she will
last with Arthur. It's not a charitable
thing to say, but he believes their relationship has a shelf life that can be
measured in weeks not years. He thinks
Diana has resolved to care for Arthur.
That she probably does care for him...deeply. He cannot imagine her having an affair with
anyone she does not love. But that
doesn't mean she's stopped loving
And Arthur is not the kind to tolerate sharing. And, while Bruce knows that he is out of the loop as far as what goes on at the watchtower, he's seen Diana and Arthur together other places. And they don't look like a match made in heaven.
Not when there's
Surprisingly, Bruce thinks
that he could deal with sharing her. He
knows enough of
Bruce has often wondered if that was what Diana was waiting for. Clark, all to herself. Lois dead, the JLA on its second or third roster change. And the two of them--Wonder Woman and Superman--ageless, powerful. And together. Together at last.
But there's still time for Bruce. Still time for him to have Diana. If he ever makes his move. If he ever reaches out.
He hasn't been willing to reach out. He hasn't been willing to do more than watch. And that may be his downfall. Forever losing her because he won't take that first step. He won't take that risk.
He'll throw his body into impossible situations. He'll twist his mind around the most challenging of puzzles. But he won't trust his heart enough to reach across the small chasm between Diana and him and hold on tight.
It's not that he doesn't trust her to catch him. He knows she wouldn't let him go. She's strong enough to hold him.
This is accomplishing
nothing. He is a master of brooding, but
even he has limits, and Diana is a closed subject. Just like he tried to tell
He turns, sees Alfred waiting at the top of the stairs. "I asked not to be disturbed."
He asks that every time he's in the batcave; it never stops Alfred from disturbing him.
"There's a young lady here to see you."
"Not in the mood."
"A young Themysciran lady."
He can feel his heart pumping harder suddenly, and sweat breaks out on his forehead. "Oh."
In the past, she would have come into the cave on her own, but not now, not when he's no longer part of the group. He takes the stairs two at a time, then realizes he probably looks much too eager to see her and slows his pace down.
Alfred does not look fooled. "I put her in your study, sir." Alfred's smile is just a few millimeters shy of a smirk.
"Surprised you didn't put her in my bedroom." He mutters it, doesn't mean for Alfred to catch it.
Alfred's hearing could be meta. "I did consider it, sir."
"Funny." He slips past Alfred, down the hall and into the room where he keeps his regular clothes. Pulling on a shirt and pants and some socks, he pads down the hall to his study. He will meet her as Bruce, the man, not Batman, the one who betrayed her. Even though Bruce and the Batman are one and the same, and she has never seemed confused on that point.
She's in street clothes also and is staring at the fireplace, standing close to it as if she cannot get warm. As he pushes the door closed, she turns. "Bruce."
Her voice is wary, her expression even more so. He helped them during their last mission, helped defeat that evil fairytale witch. But that doesn't mean he and the League are all right. Or that he and Diana are all right.
"Diana," he says, keeping his voice pitched low, keeping any note of hope or happiness out of it.
She doesn't need to know how pathetically glad he is to see her.
He looks down, where she is clutching her hands together. He wonders if she does that to stop them from trembling. She seems to realize he is staring at them, and moves them behind her, a perfect parade-rest motion. He doesn't think she realizes how that stance throws her chest out--more than normal. Gods above, she has a tremendous figure.
He forces his eyes up, to take in her expression. To read it and make sense of it. Why is she here? What does she want?
Deciding not to make it easy on her, he walks over to his desk and sits down. He's glad to put the thick piece of ebony between them. "Sit." He gestures to the chairs that are scattered around the study.
She takes the farthest one from his desk.
"So, to what do I owe this pleasure?"
"I'm not here for pleasure."
"What are you here for then?"
She glares at him. It's been years since she looked at him with quite so much ire. "The opposite of pleasure, I suppose."
"This isn't JLA business. Obviously, you need not concern yourself with that anymore."
"Obviously." Great, this is going well. She's at her most snide; he's at his most unhelpful. He gets up, walks over to her, and sits in a chair across from her. "What's wrong?"
"I need your advice."
He sits back. He can count on one hand the number of times she's admitted needing his advice.
Looking away from him, her gaze flits all over the study, anywhere but onto him.
He takes pity on her. "Advice about what?"
"Kal." Her voice is so low, he can barely hear her.
"What about him?"
"I know you see things, Bruce. I know you see practically everything."
"I can't get away from him."
"I wasn't aware you wanted to get away from him."
She stares at him; her eyes are hurt as if he's slapped her.
"Sorry, Princess. But that's my call on the subject."
"You don't know everything." She gets up, seems to need to put space between them. Walking back to the fireplace, she stands in front of it again, rubbing her hands together as if she is freezing in this room with him. "I love him."
"I'm aware of that."
She turns. "Maybe I wasn't talking about Kal."
"Maybe not. If it's Arthur you're referring to, I believe you do love him. In a fashion."
She closes her eyes, but he can't tell if it's in frustration, surrender, or just exhaustion. "Fine. You know everything, Bruce."
He gets up and walks over to her. Against his better judgment, he puts his arms around her, pulling her close so his chest is pressing against her back. To his surprise, she leans back, tilts her head as if to give him better access.
Has Arthur taught her that? Bruce is suddenly filled with desperate envy for his old friend. To have her...to have this. God.
She seems to realize what she's done and pulls away. But not before he hears her sigh.
"It could have been us," he says. It is not at all what he meant to say. He meant to say something reassuring, not something so terribly needy.
But she surprises him. She says only, "I know. I think
And suddenly he suspects that might be why she picked Arthur. She does not want the Superman-approved boyfriend. She wants to break free. She's always had a rebellious streak.
"For what it's
worth," he says, "
"No? Why not?"
He moves toward her again. "Because I know how to love you." He pulls her closer, slowly, excruciatingly slowly.
She doesn't resist. "You think so?"
Their bodies are touching, chest to chest, faces so close he could kiss her if he wanted to. And he does want to. He has never wanted to do anything more.
"Arthur will want too much from you. And not enough."
She laughs then, and the moment is gone, and he steps back.
She is angry now. "You think you know that? You in your empty house with your empty batcave. You who can't even love your friends enough to trust us?"
"If this is about what I did..."
"Shouldn't we talk about it? You betrayed us."
"I betrayed you, you mean. I took a private moment between us and made it into your death." It hurt him to do it. To make the chip that would convince her she was fighting an invincible enemy. To make her fight so long and so hard she'd ultimately have a heart attack. And he learned it all from their workouts. In their sparring matches, when he saw that she would never, ever give up. That only death would stop her from fighting. Death from her exhausted heart.
Death from him.
He nearly killed her. And she's upset about it. There is nothing he can do to make it better between them on that score.
Pushing aside the guilt he doesn't want to admit to, he moves closer. "Do you think you wouldn't do the same thing if you had to? That you wouldn't take every single one of us down if it was for the greater good?"
"The greater good? We weren't all nearly killed for the greater good, Bruce. We almost died because you didn't trust us enough to let us know you had custom-made death waiting."
He sees tears in her eyes, tears that she dashes away. She can't meet his eyes, and she murmurs, "I thought I could trust you, Bruce. I thought..."
The truth hits him like a sledgehammer. "My God. You're not mad that I almost killed you. You're mad that you were about to pick me. That's it, isn't it?"
"I would never pick you. Never." She tries to get to the door.
He blocks her.
"Bruce..." Her voice is full of a dark warning; he will pursue this at his own risk.
"You were going to choose me, weren't you?"
"No. Never." She tries to move around him, and again he blocks her. "Damn you, Bruce."
He is not thinking when he pulls her toward him, is operating on emotion--finally letting himself go just a little--as he kisses her. She moans, returns the kiss. For a moment. Then he is flying through the air and hits the wall hard.
He smiles as he crumples to the floor. It was worth it. A kiss that good is worth a few bruises or cracks or strains.
She stalks over to him, rage clear on her face. "Don't ever do that again."
He just grins up at her as he slowly pushes himself to his feet. "You treat Arthur this way?"
"I don't need to. He's a good man. He'd never hurt me."
"I agree. It'll be you who hurts him." He walks away from her. The conversation is ended, and it will be he who calls time. Not Diana. Not in his house.
"Arthur and I will endure."
He turns. "Arthur and you are like the sunset. Beautiful while it's happening but impossible to hold onto."
"How poetic. And how wrong you are. You'll see. We'll be fine."
He laughs; the sound is bitter and mean. "You and Clark, you're so powerful and so prone to self-delusion. Why is that?"
"Maybe we just believe in something?"
what?" He knows what she stands
for, knows what values
She has no answer for him, and he can see in her eyes that he has hurt her.
"I'm sorry, Diana. I call it as I see it. Good thing, I guess, that you didn't pick me."
She draws herself up. Diana the woman is gone; the princess has just entered his home.
He declines to perform obeisance, goes on the attack instead. "Arthur must be wondering where you've gone? Or is he accustomed to you keeping things from him?"
This time he scores a direct hit.
"You are despicable," she says as she hurries out.
A few seconds later, Alfred pops his head in, as if to reassure himself his master is still in one piece.
"Not a word, old man."
Alfred smiles, too used to his threats to be scared of him. "She seemed in quite a rush to leave. We do need to brush up on your charm."
"I can be charming." Alfred's words, on top of hers, hurt. "Do you think I'm despicable?"
"In what context, sir?"
Bruce laughs. Alfred knows how to get him to do that, is probably the only person who can make him laugh. Other than Plastic Man occasionally--but Bruce would rather die than admit to that.
"The context is that I told her the truth, and it hurt."
"Ah. Well, I don't think that's the way to win her--assuming you do want to win her. But your strategy for any challenge is, of course, your call."
"She's not a challenge. You make it sound like a conquest."
"Of course, sir. My mistake."
Bruce pushes past him, wincing as a rib protests. "I'll be in the batcave."
He does not say anything. There's no point. Alfred always gets the last word anyway.
It's a lesson he should learn with Diana. But all strategy flies out the window when she's around.
She would have picked him. His heart is beating faster just at the thought. Because if she would have picked him, she might again. Someday.
He knows he can't rush it.
He knows that even with all his skills, he won't be able to predict the day she's ready for him again.
But by God, when that day does come, he'll be ready.