Authors' notes: Whoo. Here it is, finally. My apologies to Aquaman fans: I've never really liked him and I needed a voice of contention. Urmmm...once again I have a reeealy late update, but Y'all probably expect that by now. I'm very sorry. Please don't kill me, I've been obsessing over some other things lately. Anyways I don't own the DCU. Other people do, and they are very nice.

Chapter Nine

Bruce sat at the huge, round stone table that took up much of the Council Chamber in Caer Wayne. Modeled after the ancient tales of King Arthur, the shape of the table was intended to give an impression that all who sat at it were equal, but to the King of Gotham, it had a second, equally important use. He had a very good view of everyone at it; hed know of any attack well before it happened.

At the moment, many of the seats were taken up by his nobles, who were most of them in various stages of arguing with each other. The King sighed. The meeting had, he supposed, begun well enough. But soon, civil conversations degenerated into contests on who could shout the loudest; opinions were shot own before they could even be properly discussed, and many were not even given the chance to present their before being overpowered by those of higher rank, or those who were simply louder.

Generally, he did not interrupt meetings; as the King he had the final say in the matter regardless, but he usually wanted to hear everyone's thoughts before he made a decision.

Usually, however, things were nowhere near this unruly.

In fact, as far as he could tell, almost the only person in the room who had said nothing so far, was Diana. She simply sat, listening, her lips pursed into a thin, white line. He wondered if having her in the room was the reason for the uncharacteristic chaos of the Council. Whatever the reason, he didn't care. He had let this go on for too long anyway.

And the King had had enough.

Bruce stood up and slammed one of his fists down on the wooden table.

"I will have silence!" He shouted. Almost immediately, the noise died down. All eyes turned his way and he met them, glare for glare.

"Now," the King said, "This will be discussed in a calm, rational manner, or it will not be discussed. Is that clear?"

"I still don't see why it is being discussed in the first place!" Someone shouted. Bruce slowly turned to meet the eyes of Orin, Lord of Atlantis, One of Gotham's coastal provinces, but Orin continued, undaunted. "Treverus was neither popular nor strategically important. If he was killed, it was his own fault for not defending himself. Let the issue of his death rest.

There was a quiet murmur of agreement from a few nobles, but most in the room looked outraged at thus statement.

Bruce saw, from the corner of his eye, Diana's eyes narrow in rage, but luckily Kal spoke up before she could react to the statement of the Atlantean Lord.

"So we should simply ignore it?" Kal 's voice was hard. "The Amazons came here, invaded our country, killed one of our nobles, and we are supposed so simply let them believe that we will do nothing about it? Where is your sense of honor, Orin?"

Orin bristled visibly and started to stand, but the King stopped him with a look.

"Lord Kal-el is right." Bruce said firmly. "We must not let this blatant disregard for the laws of our land go unchecked and unchallenged. Whether or not we would react was never in question, my Lords, but how we would react."

"And just how, my King, do you expect us to get to the isle of the Amazons?" Orin continued, determined, it seemed, to be a vexation to all at the gathering. "It cannot be found! All men know this."

"I can find it." Diana's voice was low, but pitched to carry. The room fell silent and all eyes turned to look in her direction. Diana met them, unflinchingly. "I grew up there," She continued, undaunted. "I know how to find it."

"And why should we trust you, woman?" Orinsneered. "You lied to us all this time, and now suddenly you expect us to be dependent on you to navigate us across an ocean to slay your own people?"

Bruce bit the inside of his cheek to keep from responding to the Atlantean Lord's condescension. It wouldn't do to have the King taking sides this early in the argument. Fortunately, his had no such compunctions.

"Orin..." Kal's warning growl was low and menacing, but Diana interrupted him.

"Kal, don't." She looked around the room. "Lord Orin is not wrong, save when he refers to the Amazons as 'my people'" She said decisively, meeting the eyes of all assembled, one by one. "I no longer consider myself an Amazon. But I did lie to you, and you are justified in hesitating to trust me." She sighed, "But unfortunately you have little choice. I am the only one who can get you there, and I want revenge on the Amazons as much as you do."

She looked around, took a breath, then continued. "He was my husband. I loved him, and the Amazons took him from me. I have as much right as any of you do to claim vengeance, and more reason. So with or without your help, I will exact retribution. The question to me was never whether or not I would avenge my husband, but whether any would stand with me while I did so."

Once more, she met every set of eyes in the room, before finishing, in a soft but strong voice. "Who will stand with me?"

Bruce stared at Diana, admiring the way she had taken control of the proceedings, appealing to the honor of every man in the room, addressing them as one of their own, not as an Amazon; invoking the right of vengeance for a dead loved one, something every man in the room could understand.

Kal stood up immediately. "I will stand with you." He declared.

Another noble, Sir J'onn, steward of the H'ronmeer holdings rose. "I, too, will stand with you."

The King was intrigued by this . J'onn was a difficult man to read, though he seemed to generally have great insight into what others were thinking and feeling. He was trusted by many; his support of Diana boded well for her cause.

Bruce stood up "And I." He said. Let his nobles think it was because of J'onn's endorsement, but the truth was he would have gone with her anyway. He didn't let himself think about why.

One by one, every noble in the room rose and pledged to go with Diana, until finally only Orin was left sitting with all eyes trained on him. At last, grudgingly, Orin stood.

"I will go." He said grudgingly, "But I will not be blamed when this ends in disaster."

"Your support is appreciated," The King replied with the barest hint of sarcasm hidden in his voice. Then he looked around.

"If we are all in agreement, we will sail in a fortnight."

When no one objected, the King inclined his head towards Diana.

"Meeting adjourned."

One by one, each nobleman bowed to him and filed out, until only he and Diana were left.

Diana looked up at the King. He continued staring at her, his face calm and unreadable.

"Do you need something?" He asked at last.

Diana started, slightly. She stared at him for a moment, trying to decide what, if anything, to say to him. In the end, she just bowed.

"No, your Highness." She said and left.

((Two weeks later...))

It was late in the evening and Diana stared out of her window onto the Gotham Harbor. The largest ship in the Royal fleet, The Watchtower, was ready to depart from the Gotham coast. The past two weeks had been spent in a flurry of activity: storing supplies and foodstuffs, arming men, and, for her at least, avoiding the King.

Not that it was hard, really, she thought with a touch of bitterness, quickly suppressed. After all, it wasn't as though he sought her out. On the occasions when they were in the same room (when they were discussing battle plans or planning the voyage or learning the terrain of Themyscira) he did not speak to her if he could help it, and when he could not he was as brusque as he could be without being impolite.

Diana rested her cheek in her hand. She couldn't really blame him. She was the one who had rejected him, after all. Not because she didn't want him, far from it. But she didn't deserve him because of what she planned to do.

Immediately she brought her thoughts away from that. She wouldn't think about it, not yet at any rate. It would be dealt with it when the time came, not before. Brooding on it now would only weaken her resolve, and that she could not afford.

These and other petty platitudes flitted through her mind as she turned and walked across and out of her chambers. They seemed suffocating, very suddenly.

The night was clear and cold, and the stars glittered. The King trudged along the castle wall staring into the darkness. He wished she could sleep, but he'd had enough practice going without it that it was no great concern.

The Watchtower would set sail at dawn the next day. He would be commanding the armies, over Kal's strenuous objections. If Diana had an opinion on it, she had not shared it with him.

Diana...there was a subject that had kept him sleepless for more than one night. He had never felt for another woman quite what he felt for her. Their steady mutual friendship had crashed into deep, hot desire with a tiny amount of what could be love. In some ways he blamed himself that she had rejected him after their first lovemaking. It had happened far too quickly and abruptly and he had been the one to initiate it.

That thought made him stop his steady stride for a moment and moodily reflect on it. It wasn't like him to initiate anything without a careful plan of action well thought out beforehand: the fact that she could throw him off balance so much and so hard was something he was unused to. It was worrisome that she could affect him in a way no other woman had. Belike it was because she was strong and intelligent and beautiful all at once that made her so unusual, so desirable.

He wasn't foolish enough to believe that she was anything but one of the most dangerous people he knew, not after she had hidden her identity from him so well and for so long, and certainly not after she'd seen her husband and child die, hardened herself to it and set out to get revenge on her own people. She was a woman worth pursuing, but she was hiding something, still keeping secrets and though he trusted her instinctively, he didn't know how to get close to her.

He stopped once more and stared out over the wall, out at the harbor where the Watchtower waited, sails furled, ready to sail to the Island of the Amazons. Once more he reflected on Diana, then sighed. It was not the first, but certainly one of the only times that the King of Gotham, called The Bat, did not have a plan of action.