Serving on Monitor Duty was always quite the boring process. No hero found enjoyment from sitting behind the monitors surveying the happenings of the world, and everyone with the exception of Batman and J'onn looked for ways to pass the time until their shift would end. Diana was also guilty of this practice, but her way of passing time was to focus wholeheartedly on any ongoing mission. She tried to live vicariously through the heroes meeting the call of defending others.

She was always at the ready when a mission was under way, even trying to remain vigilant during the closing moments. Anyone else might have accused her of hoping something went awry just so that she could react. In reality she was only trying to keep the energy level up, knowing full well what awaited her when a mission officially closed.

As it happened, an instance such as that had currently been in progress. A mission had been put forth by a US government liaison who requested League intervention. Diana had sent the active team of Shayera, Red Tornado, and Stargirl down to investigate the identified issue outside of Gotham. Of course being so very close to his territory, Batman had expectedly arrived for the assist, and served to complete the team while simultaneously taking away the spot Diana could have assumed.

She tried not to let being left behind grate at her, but it was obvious that she hadn't been needed. The crisis had been resolved, and the Beta team was returning via Javelin to the space station sans Batman, who simply returned to his city.

Aside from that lone mission, it'd been a very quiet night, and as a result Diana was still itching for a reason to stretch her legs with the hopes that she wouldn't have to serve the rest of her shift in inaction. She started to serve her part in following the protocols behind the debriefing process. As the person on Monitor Duty, she had the responsibility of focusing on the security feeds as any team returned from a mission.

She knew full well from past experience how troublesome some people had been when it came to maintaining their home base's integrity. They'd had many enemies that would stoop to countless, desperate measures for any opportunity to take down the Justice League. Various scans therefore had to be performed to the inside and over the hull of every returning vessel, and then focus was to be shifted onto each returning member.

Everyone who returned had to be vetted to ensure that they weren't an impostor, and it was at that moment when Diana stopped simply watching her three fellow teammates as a part of protocol, and instead began to focus more on their demeanor. She quickly noticed how everyone's body language was different than normal.

It wasn't difficult to conclude they weren't imposters, but even the android known as Red Tornado appeared to have a somber demeanor about him. The slumping of Shayera's shoulders was also quite the noticeable trait that didn't correlate with the winged warrior's normal stance. Even a person who barely knew the angelic hero would've picked up on it.

Shayera simply wasn't the type to wear her emotions for anyone to see aside from perhaps anger or frustration. Sure there were times where she had shown other emotions, but those moments were few and far between. In fact, aside from Batman; Shayera was perhaps the most professional of the group when it came to keeping emotions separated from a mission. She was certainly the best at compartmentalizing her emotions amongst all of the full time League members.

Based on that, Diana concluded that there had to be something about the mission which had rattled them, but what could it have been? She tried finding that answer by going back to double check the radio transmissions, replaying them where both her teammates and the government liaison had spoken of the mission's success. Each recording indicated that they'd stopped the threat with only minor damage, and not a single injured innocent bystander to report. If that had been accurate, then she wondered why the three of them all would be acting as if they'd failed instead of succeeding.

It seemed almost as if the victory had somehow been hollow. Diana knew and acknowledged that there were times where hollow victories unfortunately had occurred before. They'd all been involved in a number of occasions where in spite of all the power and the best of efforts of the Justice League, some innocent lives simply could not be saved. It was a horrible inevitability that each person had to accept at some point. But even so for those not quite as experienced in handling the loss of life, normally that emotional response was held in check until they were behind closed doors and away from prying eyes.

Curiosity continued to grab at her as Diana studied the trio solemnly marching toward the Monitor Womb. She'd figured as much based upon the progression of cameras she kept having to switch onto in order to continue watching them. She'd figured that they were likely heading there in order to write up their official mission statement reports. Perhaps then she could question what'd caused their gloomy disposition. The question was who to approach.

She concluded quickly that Red Tornado wouldn't be the right one. Being an android, he typically had more questions about human behavior than answers. Stargirl would very likely spill to details, but she was so young that it was difficult to tell at times how much she might embellish on details. Many of her mission statements to date had to be rehashed or rewritten once she'd had some time to allow her emotions to settle. That left Shayera as the only legitimate option.

Saying that Diana and Shayera had ever really gotten back to being on the best of terms would be a severe understatement. Except for a pair of missions, they'd barely spoken to each other since Shayera's full return to the League after the Thanagarian invasion. Truthfully, Diana still held a bit of a grudge. Shayera had been her one true sister outside of Themyscira, and that had become especially important once Diana was officially banned from her homeland.

Even still, talking through the emotions of anything, even a mission had always been difficult at the best of times between them. But if she really wanted answers, she had no other available option. So Diana waited patiently as Shayera was the last to finish her statements. Shayera was always meticulous with her notes, and as such her lack of speed caused her to take the longest more times than not, and that fact was about to serve as a boon for Diana.

She waited patiently until Shayera stood up to make her exit, and then spoke up. "I'm sorry to bother you, but I have a question concerning this last mission if you don't mind." She said in as friendly a tone as she could muster.

"Look over my statement." Shayera snapped back at her. "I'm sure whatever critique you're..."

"It won't be in there." Diana said, interrupting her winged teammate. She saw the anger beginning to grow, but spoke quickly in an effort to diffuse any potential explosion. "Your notes are always the most accurate amongst us all. They even rival that of Batman's."

Shayera's eyes widened in surprise for a moment, but then she recalled that Diana wanted something from her and crossed her arms over her chest. "Then what is it?" She demanded.

"What's never in your reports are the emotions behind a mission." Diana explained. "Accuracy isn't what I'm curious about. It's what I noticed while vetting each of you upon your return that I'm curious about. You all acted as though you'd failed, but unless each of you indicated something different in your notes, then the mission was slated as a success."

"I think I see what you're looking for." Shayera said as she understood what Diana was getting to.

So Shayera sat down in the spare seat situated close to the Monitor Womb's main station, and turned to face where Diana was supposed to be seated until the Princess picked up on it and joined her. Shayera sighed and then began to tell the tale.

We'd just finished taking down the outer defences of the Royal Flush Gang, leaving only the most powerful of the bunch remaining. Once we finished subduing the rest of the gang was when Amanda Waller joined us. She was carrying a briefcase with her, and we all knew that the rest of the information she'd left out of her initial request for the Justice League's presence was about to be provided. Judging from the serious look on her face, we could tell that we weren't going to like it either.

That was when Amanda told us about Ace's rapidly deteriorating health and the potential repercussions if no one reached her and stopped her before she passed on. It turns out that this little girl had even more power than any of us could've imagined. We had no choice but to stop her, and inside that briefcase was what Waller said could do just that. The only issue was that in order to stop Ace, we basically had to kill her or risk even more damage being done.

I looked around at the four of us, and instantly concluded that I was the best option. I'd killed before in the name of protecting my home world, and this wouldn't be any different. I figured there was no chance Ace would let any of us get close without a fight, and with that assumption, it wasn't hard to deduce that Red Tornado would most likely not be able to get to her. He thinks too much about codes and possibilities, and this little girl could literally bend reality. You had to be able to think on your feet.

There was no way I was going to force Stargirl to take this on. She was too young, and hadn't had to face the hard task of taking another life yet, let alone a young little girl who didn't deserve her fate.

After all, Ace never asked for any of this. She'd been poked and prodded for virtually her entire life. She'd even had her mind twisted by the Joker for a time before she saw his true colors. I certainly couldn't blame her for the way she turned out. I don't think anyone in her position would've acted differently, or at least any less violently than she had.

That left only Batman or myself, and I remembered all to well about his one rule. His constant refusal to kill anyone, even if they truly deserved it. So I reached for the device, but then he surprised me when he stopped me and said that he'd do it.

I admit that I was too shocked to even try talking him out of it when Waller showed him how the device worked. She even warned him of what he was accepting, and I knew that if he went through with it, he'd never be the same. He's always been fair to everyone, even me when I returned. I'd tried to see it as though he'd actually been keeping an eye on me to see if I was going to betray the League again, but he was just protecting everyone. Even me when I didn't think I needed it.

I didn't want him to sacrifice who he was, what he stood for, but before I found my voice again, the vines were pulling apart until a pathway cleared. Batman didn't even hesitate as he secured the device and ran in. Of course we all ran after him, but no sooner had the vines opened up, than did they shut us right back out. Ace was obviously allowing Batman in and no one else.

We couldn't protect our teammate, couldn't back him up if she defeated him, or worse. Instead we were being forced to wait and pray that Batman would follow through and do the one thing he'd always refused so adamantly to do before.

The next thing I knew, all the abstract things started returning to their normal state. Even the members of the Royal Flush gang became normal, powerless humans again, and then the next thing we see is Batman carrying this poor little girl toward us from what used to be her impenetrable fortress. Needless to say, I was back in a state of shock. I though that Batman had actually gone through with it and broken his rule. But then I saw the look on his face.

Even though his cowl covers a good portion, it wasn't hard to see that he'd chosen not to kill. I tried to get him to tell me what happened, and he did let me know some of it, but not very much before he left us all standing there.

What he told me was that he knew trying to reach out to her was the best way to get to Ace and have a real chance of her fixing everything she'd changed. I think that he might've known from the start that he wasn't going to kill her, and he told me that Ace said she knew he wasn't going to use Waller's device on her. I believe that may be why the girl allowed him to get so close to her. She somehow knew that he wasn't going to harm her. Instead he stayed with her until she passed away.

Life is just so unfair at times, and this was one of those instances. That little girl deserved the chance to live and find some form of happiness. I've read her file before, and she's never had happiness in her life. The only form of peace she got was at the very end from a man she'd barely knew.

"That was quite the risk." Diana commented once Shayera finished her story. "It would be hard to believe that lesser person would have taken such a chance."

"I'm not sure there's anyone else who would've once you consider how dangerous Ace had always been." Shayera said in response. "I know that I wouldn't have. The funny thing is, for as cold and calculating as Batman seems to be all the time... if you look hard enough, you can find rare moments like this where he turns around and does something to completely prove how much he actually does care about others."

"He definitely tries to make it difficult to believe." Diana said as she turned and glanced out of a star filled window, beginning to reflect upon what Shayera had just shared with her and her own memories of Bruce's actions. It didn't take long to realize that it wasn't so hard to believe after all. Bruce was always one of the most calculating individuals the League had and likely would ever see. Every action and spoken word from him seemed to hold a distinct purpose, even if that purpose might only be known to him.

But then there were some rare moments of compassion and extreme selflessness that he would display. Times such as when he tried to help an injured teammate who'd just been magically shocked without taking into account that the magical attack might pass into his own body as well. There were also other instances, such as understanding when there are times where speaking up to defend a comrade would only add to a painful situation, or times where he'd spent a late night sitting bedside to be there while a teammate is recovering from a serious injury. Even the way he acted when everyone else believed Superman had been taken from the world served as a good example.

It was so easy at times to forget that Bruce was still human, and Diana found that she was just as guilty of this as any other person. Even at that very moment no one seemed to take into account that Bruce might be suffering emotionally from his direct involvement in the last mission. The others had been affected by the end result, but as Shayera had stated, none of them were actually there when Ace passed away. No one was there...except for him.

Diana wondered what might he be going through right now? Was he coping with it well, or had he run back to the safety of his sanctuary? If that was what he'd done, would simply being there be enough for him to get through any emotional trauma? Of the last question, she was sure that he would, but the length of time it would take was more the question. Often times, after a difficult end to a mission, Bruce would refrain from League activities if at all possible. Sometimes it was a week or two, but others had begun to expand into months.

Having to sit by completely powerless as a child basically dies in your arms is an experience no one could possibly leave without some form of emotional scarring. And she was sure even the almighty Batman was not immune to this. She knew that he cared. He'd proven it with his actions time and time again despite how he carried himself around others, and she wondered if perhaps there was something she could offer to help him better get through such an emotionally taxing ordeal. Perhaps as a teammate, or maybe as a friend.

She didn't know, but she decided at that moment that she was going to find out. With her decision made, she finally looked away from the window, and realized that Shayera had apparently took the distracting thoughts as justification to make her exit. Unfortunately that meant there was now no one else still in the Monitor Womb to ask to cover the remainder of her Monitor Duty session. She would just have to wait until her shift ended.

As soon as Diana was relieved from Monitor Duty, she immediately went to the teleporters and beamed down to the Batcave. She hadn't expected Bruce to be there when she arrived, figuring that he would likely be taking out his anger and frustration out on the criminal element who happened cross his path. She might've felt sorry for them if not for the reasoning behind drawing Batman's attention.

Still, she glanced around the Batcave, keeping in mind that Batman often operated in a manner which would surprise anyone else. Whether he was there or not didn't matter. She'd already decided that she would wait up all night for him to return if that was what it took. Bruce might not have asked for help, but Diana had this feeling deep inside that told her he needed it.

"Miss Diana?" The voice of Alfred sounded, causing Diana to visibly jump in shock. "I'm terribly sorry for startling you Miss, but Master Bruce hadn't informed me that he was expecting guests this evening. If he had, I would've been better prepared for your arrival."

"Um, yes." Diana replied once her heart settled back down from where it'd lodged into her throat. "He didn't know I was coming over. In fact, I came of my own accord. I hope that's alright."

"Certainly Miss." Alfred said. "It's always a pleasure to have her highness honoring us with her presence. Would you like to wait upstairs in the Manor until the master returns?"

"No Alfred." Diana answered. "I believe I need to be down here when he returns."

"Need Miss?" Alfred asked out of curiosity.

"Yes." Diana confirmed. "I just have this feeling Alfred. I believe that Bruce might be suffering due to the outcome of a League mission he was involved with earlier this evening. I think he might need someone to be here for him."

"It's more likely he'd attempt to bottle up any traumatic event before allowing help from another." Alfred murmured as he moved over to the Cray super computer. He quickly pulled up a map of Gotham City and engaged the locator beacons of Batman's vehicles as well as his suit. "Or attempt to vent it out on Gotham's riff raff."

"I came to the same conclusion." Diana said as she stood next to the faithful butler, looking over the map revealing Bruce's whereabouts as he slowly moved about his city.

"I'm sure you are well versed in the fact that Master Bruce isn't typically the type to accept help from others." Alfred pointed out. "Even if he bloody well needs it."

"I am." Diana agreed. "But I'd still like to try. At the very least, he'll have no doubts that he has another option to help him through times such as this instance."

"Very well Miss." Alfred said just before his features changed to a slightly concerned demeanor. "But if you would take an old man's advice, I would suggest that you prepare yourself for any possible backlash. Bruce will in all likeliness lash out at you, quite viciously so as an attempt to deter you from trying to help him. Please also take the time before he returns to consider if you truly believe this will be worth the potential risk in damaging the relationship you both currently share. For as brilliant a mind as Bruce has, he seems to react to unanticipated emotion quite poorly, and I highly doubt this evening will have a different result from him."

"I will keep that in mind Alfred, thank you." Diana replied, taking a seat where she intended to wait for Bruce's eventual return.

Hours had passed by, and Bruce had yet to return. Sitting there was almost as boring as serving Monitor Duty, except that there was no mission to sink her teeth into this time. Instead, Diana had to pass the time by mentally going over her thoughts around Alfred's careful warning.

She felt that she was prepared for Bruce, as he would surely take offense to her even being there at all. But what she was still wrapping her head around was the risk Alfred had mentioned. It wasn't hard to determine what that risk was, but she hadn't yet determined just how high a risk it might be for her.

As a result Diana began to think about how her relationship with Bruce had evolved over time. In the beginning they were strictly professional toward each other. They'd only seen each other as teammates who were trying to feel each other out. There were a few awkward moments between them, but as time progressed and they began to understand how each other operated and thought, they started to work extremely well together. In the months they'd come to know each other, there were even times where not a word had to be shared between them, and yet they still knew exactly what the other was thinking.

As missions began to add up, it became inevitable that they eventually learned about each other on a more personal level. But there had been one thing that stuck out between them longer than anything else. Bruce had been extremely paranoid, secretive, and incredibly protective over his secret identity. Early on, it used to drive Diana mad with how distrustful Bruce still was, and even more so when she discovered that Kal had been in the know since before the League had started. Still, her every experience with Bruce told her that he trusted her with his life, and in truth she felt the same way with him. She'd just wished that he'd let his guard down a little when around his comrades.

Eventually she felt the level of trust growing, and along with it, a good measure of respect as well. And it seemed almost uncanny at times how their names began to come up more and more often whenever each of them was assigned to a mission. She'd already known how involved Bruce was with how the scheduling was done, and figured it wasn't just a mere coincidence. She also wholeheartedly believed there was absolutely no way he was using his sway to protect himself by keeping one of the most powerful teammates with him on missions.

There was one instance in particular which revealed just how much trust he had in her. She hadn't quite put her finger on it at the time, but when he'd quietly gone to her for advice concerning some evidence which pointed to a fellow Amazon as the likely suspect, Bruce hadn't gone through official through League channels. Instead he went straight to her. He'd shown how he respected her opinion then, even if she'd angrily threw his evidence back at him.

Surprisingly, her reaction hadn't truly held against her, and also brought to her thoughts of another trait which had grown over time. Concern for her well being. He'd went out of his way later on during that same mission trying to protect her as an approaching bus was about to potentially slam into her. Sure, she could've taken the punishment with ease, but he'd displayed a concern for her that she hadn't seen with some other members. She would've though that as one of Kal's closest friends, he would've reacted in a similar fashion, but she'd repeatedly seen instances where he did just the opposite with Kal. When it came to her being in a precarious spot, he seemed to let concern drive his actions rather than cold, hard logic.

It hadn't been long after that when Diana started to feel the initial sliver of friendship growing between them. They'd even started spending time working on their craft as heroes through sparring sessions. They shared healthy debates with one another over a variety of different worldly topics, even though when it came to the safety of humanity, they always seemed to be on the same page. But she still hadn't been able to if he honestly trusted her fully. By that point, he still hadn't given her clue one as to who lay beneath the Kevlar.

Just a few weeks later however, he actually approached her without the mask. His likely intention was to provide an escape from what seemed like an endless chorus of questions from onlookers and media types. But even if his intentions weren't to reveal his identity to her, she instantly knew. Bruce's presence around her gave off the same aura of Batman even if the mask was just his face. If he hadn't wanted her to figure it out, he certainly shouldn't have danced with her. The dance had provided ample time to study that jaw, and she was often close enough to gather a good perspective of his build. He'd of course later deny it, but from that point on he never corrected her when she called him Bruce in private.

By then she was certain that they were friends, but things continued to progress still. They began to flirt with each other, both openly as well as behind closed doors. It had been innocent for the most part, and never went above general teasing or subtle suggestions. As this continued though, things around them slowly started to escalate. She'd never been more certain of that than when she kissed him as a ruse to help hide them from the Thanagarians who were hunting after them.

She'd been pleasantly surprised at how Bruce responded to her then. She'd really enjoyed kissing him too, and hadn't honestly apologized for kissing him. She was actually apologizing because deep down she knew that she might've risked changed the relationship between them. He was quick to settle any opportunity for doubt though as he completely bypassed any need for apologies to be shared with two words and that trademark smirk of his.

Much to her relief, it hadn't seemed to change the dynamic of their relationship. Bruce certainly didn't seem to be affected, as he continued to flirt and tease when others weren't lurking, and Diana had been happy to keep things in the comfortable nature they shared with one another. She greatly enjoyed their banter, and looked forward to the times where they could spar or work together. She even convinced Bruce on one occasion to fly with her to the Fortress of Solitude in celebration of Kal's birthday, and he'd surprised her with how quickly he accepted her invite.

Normally, Bruce wouldn't even have considered such a thing as celebrating someone's birthday, but de didn't even question it, and the next thing she knew, there he was walking alongside her trying to pry what Kal's gift from her was. Of course, birthdays were completely forgotten once Mongol revealed himself and what he'd "gifted" to Kal. Just the thought alone of what that alien plant had done to both her friends on that day still sent a shudder through her.

It'd taken Kal weeks to regain that truly hopeful outlook he normally exuded so exquisitely, and Bruce did what he normally would. He delved further into his shell, and wasn't heard from or seen from again until a tip reached the League indicating that a rare item was about to be stolen from within his city. She knew full well that if something was going to happen within Gotham, there was no doubt he'd be involved.

Diana had sorely missed him, and that tip served as a prime opportunity to see him again. She even formulated a plan to try and help him come out from his doldrums. As she flew to meet up with him, she had the intention of reminding him of their kinship, and let him know that she cared and missed him. But she never realized how low a point he'd reached. He remained eerily quiet around her, and seemed content to just sit back and wait for the thief or thieves to reveal themselves.

She tried more than once to get him to open up and talk, but the most she could glean from him were one word responses. He also was giving off the perception that he didn't want to be around, not even with her. He didn't even want to "talk shop" as it were, and because of that, it didn't take long for Diana to become impatient with him. She'd done nothing to cause his cold attitude, and he certainly wasn't treating her like the good friend she believed that she was for him.

So she began looking for an escape, glancing downward to the happenings in front of the Iceburg Lounge. There she noticed how various couples were coming and going. Most had smiles on their faces and seemed to be enjoying one another's company, and it was then that inspiration struck her. Perhaps suggesting a friendly date with her would get a reaction out of him, and she'd been correct. It certainly drew his attention, but not in the way she'd hoped. Instead he chose to provide her with those damn dumb rules, or better yet, excuses because that was all they were.

And the sad thing was, she wasn't even looking at it as entirely romantic. At least not until he took it there by mention of his first point. She might've been hurt by way of his refusal, but then she discovered the lengths he went to in order to save her from a precarious predicament. He'd sung for her, and done so quite beautifully.

However it wasn't the quality of his singing, but the purpose behind it that meant the most to her. Circe had wanted him to potentially destroy the aura of fear that he'd worked for years cultivating. Her plan might've worked, but there was also a side effect that the witch didn't take into account. She'd actually re-established Diana's faith that Bruce held her in a special regard.

Soon enough they'd returned to their normal flirty banter, but by then Diana was taking note of how Bruce was reacted to certain situations. She'd seen how much it disturbed him to return to his youth thanks to Morgan La Faye and her spoiled brat of a son, Mordred. Then again when the League banished Doomsday to the Phantom Zone, and again when everyone believed Superman had died a the hands of Toyman. Each time Bruce would fall back into a shell, and each time it took him many weeks to return, and a number more before he started to settle back into his normal personality.

The last instance was when she'd decided that she was going to try in any way she could to keep Bruce from falling into that same place. It obviously wasn't a healthy place for him to be, and it appeared to take him longer each time to come out of his funk. He needed help, but her own reflection into the past had just created a realization within her. Before that very moment, she only believed they were the best of friends, but now she knew there was also an attraction between them. And now she found that she wanted to see where that attraction might lead.

At the most inopportune time for her, the sounds of the Batmobile's engine began to echo off the cave walls, and Alfred's semi-warning sprang to the forefront of her thoughts. Bruce wasn't going to take kindly to this "intrusion", and he was going to react accordingly. He very well might try to hurt her emotionally in order to get her to leave, and there was also a chance if he succeeded that it could also shatter what had been growing between them for years.

A moment of nervousness hit Diana like a brick wall. She didn't want there to be any negative impact on their relationship, but it was too late to slip away without being noticed as the tank-like had just come into view. She turned and stood from his computer chair, knowing that she was going to have to fight to get through to him if she wanted this night to have any chance of a positive outcome. She had to be the warrior she knew she was, and fighting was what she excelled at. It was up to her to ensure their relationship survived his hurting soul.

A/N: I had every intention of this story only being a one shot, but then I kept on typing and typing, and before I knew it, I wasn't even close to the end. So now it's going to be a two shot! Hope you all enjoy.