His Secret Heart Something is bothering the Batman, and Diana is determined to find out what it is. ************* JLA Watchtower, The Moon. Wonder Woman walked toward the lunchroom, intent on getting something to eat. She had been on a mission for the last couple of days, and had hardly any time to do much of anything but work. She entered the dining area, relieved to find that Green Lantern had ordered pizza. "Hey, Di," he said, smiling. "Want some?" "Oh, yes," Wonder Woman said gratefully. As she reached for a slice, thanking Kyle for his efforts, she noticed Batman sitting alone in the corner of the lunchroom, his back facing her. She couldn't put her finger on it, but something was very different about him. Quickly grabbing two slices from the pizza box, she then slowly made her way over to where he was seated. "I'd leave him alone if I were you, Di," Kyle yelled in her direction. He isn't in a very good mood right now." 'Is he ever?' Diana thought to herself, rolling her eyes. But she couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't quite right with the Dark Knight. She crept over to his table and stood directly behind his back. "What do you want?" Batman asked sternly, but quietly. Too quietly. "Can't say I didn't warn you..." she heard Kyle mutter behind her. "You hungry? I brought you a piece of pizza," Diana said, placing a slice on a napkin under his nose, sitting down on a chair beside him. "No," he replied. She tried to look into his face, but he turned away from her. "No, thank you." Diana looked up as Kyle left the room. She turned back to Batman. "Is something wrong?" Diana asked softly. Batman was silent for a long time. Finally, Diana got up to leave. As she turned her back to him, she heard his voice call out from behind her. "Where are you going?" Batman asked her in a gentle, almost inaudible tone. If she didn't know any better, Diana would think that he was pleading with her to stay. "I have to go catch up on my case files. It seems I've been so busy, I haven't had time to update them." "Oh." Batman said flatly. Diana stared at Batman in the eyes for fifteen minutes. There was definitely something going on with him. Never before had he seemed to notice, or even care about her, let alone what she was doing. Finally Batman turned back around in his chair to stare at the wall.

"Thanks for the pizza," he said finally. Diana gave Batman's back another fifteen-minute stare, and then slowly turned around and left.

Traffic was heavy on the road back to Manhattan. This is one of the times Diana thanked the Lord that she could fly. She often looked down upon the crowded streets and watched each of the people in their tiny metal universes, going about their own way. Upon reaching her home, Diana went straight to her bedroom and laid herself down. She reached over across the bed to her nightstand and turned off the light.

Diana awoke to a knock at the door. She sat up slowly, rubbing her eyes. "Wha..?" She gave a sideways glance to the clock on her nightstand. The bold red letters said 3:00 AM. Slowly coming back to reality, she noticed the sound of the rain beating softly on the windows and roof. 'Who in the world could it be at this time of night?' she wondered. She walked to the door and opened it cautiously, to find a drenched Batman at her door. Diana blinked. "Batman?" she said quietly. "What are you doing here? Is Cheetah in Gotham again?" Slowly Batman shook his head no, remaining silent. "Well, why are you here, then? Don't you realize how tired I am after that mission?" Batman shook his head again, and turned to leave. "Wait," she called after him. "I'm already awake. At least tell me why you're here." Batman opened his mouth, then closed it, as if he was trying to say something but his mouth wouldn't work. Diana then realized that she was making her teammate stand out in the rain in thirty-degree temperatures. "I'm sorry," she told him, holding the door open, motioning for him to enter her home. "I can be so thoughtless sometimes. Please, come in." Reluctantly, Batman stepped past her through the door and stood dripping wet on her inside doormat. Diana disappeared into the house and came back with two big bath towels. Batman removed his cape and boots at the door and followed her into the living room, where he just stood staring at her. "Well don't just stand there, dry yourself off! You're getting my carpet wet!" Diana cried, throwing the towels at Batman. He caught both in one hand and wrapped them around his shoulders. "Now, I'd like to know what this is about," Diana replied, sitting on a couch near where he was standing.

"Sit down."

And to her amazement, he did. For three whole minutes, he sat next to her silently. Diana was getting impatient. "If you don't tell me what's wrong, I will be forced to use the lasso on you," she sighed, exasperated. Batman then looked her square in the eyes. It was then that she noticed the tears that were streaming down his face. "I couldn't save him," Batman said quietly. Diana immediately regretted being so harsh with him. "Couldn't save who?" she said gently. "What happened?" Batman then put his head in his hands and began sobbing hysterically. Diana wasn't sure of what to do. The Batman was crying. This was very bad. She couldn't think of anything to say, so she just scooted closer to him on the couch and laid a gentle hand on his back. But her actions just seemed to make him cry all the harder. "Batman.Its okay." "No, its NOT okay!" he shouted. "Curse me, I should have done something! It's all my fault." Batman's voice broke. Diana slid her arm around his back, holding him gently close to her. "What happened?" she pressed again. When Batman's eyes met hers, they were full of anguish. "It's Superman," Batman cried. Diana gasped in dread. Not him. "What happened to Superman?" She grabbed Batman by the shoulders and began shaking him, hard.

"Answer me!" she all but yelled at him. "Luthor had him," Batman moaned. "He was keeping him in a containment field full of kryptonite. I found out and tried to set him free." Batman choked, then went on. "Luthor had the place rigged with a bomb. I guess Superman was too weak to tell me. I opened the containment field.and." "And the place exploded," Diana muttered, tears welling up in her eyes. "Yes," Batman sobbed. "The bomb opened up a huge hole in the ground. The armor in my suit protected me from serious injury. But.But Superman.The kryptonite must have weakened him. He was holding on to the edge of the abyss, but he couldn't pull himself up. I grabbed hold of his hand and tried to help him up, but.his hand slipped.and.." Batman's voice trailed off. After a moment, he glanced at Diana, who was now crying as hard as he was. "Are.are you sure he's really gone?" Diana whispered. "I found his body," Batman moaned. He watched Diana begin to cry louder, and stood up. "I.I think I better leave," he said softly. "Yes," Diana sobbed. "I think you better. And you are no longer welcome in this house. I never want to see you again." The words struck Batman's heart like a thousand daggers. "I'm sorry, Diana." He reached over to her to comfort her, but she slapped his hand away in anger, standing up. "Didn't you hear me?!" she shouted. "GET OUT!!" She threw a vase at Batman, and it shattered across his head and back as he ran out the front door of her apartment.

He was running, but he didn't know why or where. The cold rain beat against his face and stung the cuts from the glass, but he didn't care. One of his best friends was dead because of him, and the other hates him for it. Suddenly, he was a boy again, watching his parents get murdered in front of him. Then he was back on that terrorist site in Iraq, holding the lifeless body of his partner, and in that old amusement park, watching the love of his life perish in the fire. All this pain for nothing more than the will of a demented madman. And now it has happened again, with the death of his only friend. If he could even call Superman a friend. Finally, when his breath exploded from his lungs and his legs could no longer hold him, Batman collapsed onto the filthy pavement.

Diana sat on her couch, crying. Not only for Kal, but for Batman as well. As soon as Batman ran out the door, she regretted being so angry with him. It wasn't his fault he didn't have the strength to lift an 800 pound kryptonian. Diana raised her head and saw Batman's cape and boots still lying next to her with a puddle of water under them. In his emotional anguish, he had left without them. She stood up and walked over to where they lay.

Guilt overwhelmed her. Batman had probably come to her for support. And what does she do? She breaks a vase over his head. Real compassionate. As if the pain of feeling responsible for Kal's death wasn't bad enough. She opened the door and looked out, hoping by some chance he had come back for his things. It had been hours since he left, so maybe he remembered where he had forgotten them. But then she stopped. Why would he come back? She had told him he was no longer welcome in her house, and hit him. She definitely wouldn't have returned. Diana made her way into her bedroom and picked up the phone, dialing Batman's home number. The phone rang four times before the answering machine picked up. "Batman, it's Diana," she said softly. "Batman, please pick up the phone." Soon she heard the phone pick up. "Good evening, Miss Diana. This is Alfred," said the voice with the British accent on the other end of the line. "Hi, Alfred," Diana said. "Is Bruce there?" "I'm afraid I haven't seen him since he went on patrol," Alfred answered.

"Okay, thanks Alfred," she said, before hanging up the phone. Walking out of the room, she just happened to glance out of the window to see the night giving way to daybreak when it hit her. It was daylight, and Batman had not returned home. Diana felt a sudden dread creep into her chest. Where could he have gone? Was he captured? Had he been injured? Or was he just staying at a friend's house? Then Diana remembered that Batman had no friends. Throwing on her costume and locking up the house, Diana set out to find her wayward teammate.

Gotham stunk. That's the only word that Diana could use to describe it. Even the cold rain that hit her face and ran through her hair seemed to smell. As she flew through the dank air of the city and past tall skyscrapers, she wondered how Batman could reside in a place this foul. 'This city may reflect Batman's outer appearance,' Diana mused, 'But it sure doesn't reflect his heart.' Diana realized, Batman may be the single most compassionate man she has ever met. Countless times she has witnessed him putting his life on the line for others without any thought of his own safety. And when others die under situations he cannot control, he tells himself that he could have, should have done something to stop it. Batman may be hard on everyone but the person that he is hardest on is himself. She glanced at her watch. It was nearly 7 AM. For hours Diana searched the dark city, without even a trace of Batman. She darted between alleyways and streets, all the time coming up with nothing. "This is ridiculous," Diana muttered to herself. "Why am I doing this? I, of all people, should know that when Batman doesn't want to be found, he won't be. He probably just needs a little time alone." With that, Diana made a quick U-turn and headed back to Manhattan.

He awoke to the feel of cold rain beating down onto his face and body. He was out for a long time, but exactly how long, he didn't know. He sat up, and looked around. It was now daylight and he was lying in an alleyway littered with garbage bags and soda cans. He began to shiver. His costume was soaked through, and he was chilled to the bone. Slowly, he tried to stand, but terrible pain shot through his side and his shaky legs refused to hold him. Dizzy and in pain, he sank back down to the freezing concrete.

He must have gotten injured in a fall. He reached down for his communicator to call Alfred, but then realized his belt was missing, as were his cape and boots. Robbed him. They robbed him while he lay freezing to death in the rain. Batman curled up into a ball, trying to conserve what little body heat he had left. If no one cared about weather he lived or died, they had a good reason. He was responsible for the death of a man who had captured the hearts of millions. A man, whose hands could crush diamonds to powder, yet still be gentle enough to save a crying child. The leader of the JLA. Superman. Even Diana, princess of truth and love, hated him now. Hated him so much she broke her best vase over his head. Told him he was no longer welcome in her home. That alone was enough to convince Batman that he no longer deserved to live. Suddenly, he heard footsteps near him. Batman leaned up onto his elbow, scanning the alley. He saw nothing, but his years of experience told him otherwise. Someone was definitely near. "Who's there?" Batman said. No response. He was about to chalk it up to exhaustion, but then the gang stepped into view. How many of them there were, Batman wasn't sure. His vision was going out on him. He guessed there were four, five at the most, judging from the sound of their footsteps, and he could tell that each carried a weapon of some sort. They were advancing on him, fast. "Well, well, well, look who's here!" one of them said, holding a 44 magnum to Batman's face. "You're a long way from home, aren't you Bats?" a second said, advancing on him with a club. "From the looks of you, I bet you wish you'd stayed in Gotham!" said a third. He forgot. He was still in Manhattan, and they obviously weren't afraid of him here. "But in case you're still determined to stay." A fourth gang member pulled out a butcher knife. Reacting almost without conscious thought, Batman lashed out with his foot, sending the gun flying from the first gangster's grip. Pain tore through his side and he flinched, grasping his ribs. The gangster then kicked Batman in the face. Batman's head slammed onto the asphalt and pain lanced behind his eyes. He fought to stay conscious even as the gangster with the club dealt a blow to his midsection. Batman doubled over and rolled to the right, also aiming to avoid the attack by the knife wielder. He was too slow. As the knife penetrated into his side, Batman gasped and slammed his foot into the gangster's chin. He then came up with a shaky uppercut to the man that used to have the gun.

The gangster with the club saw Batman's midsection open as he dealt the uppercut, and once again smashed the club into his stomach. Batman staggered backward and collapsed onto the ground, doubled over. "You're not so tough," said the first gangster, picking up his gun and aiming it at the Dark Knight. Batman was too weak to move. He heard the gangster cock the gun. He would die here in a filthy alley, just like his parents. But he deserved it. He let Superman die. As he heard the gun go off, Batman closed his eyes. This was the end.

Diana breathed a sigh of relief as she entered her own hometown. The air quality was much better here than at Gotham. Suddenly, the reality of Superman's death hit her like a board. She remembered how her, Clark, and Batman formed the JLA. Of Kal's sweet smile, and his gentle touch. How they used to go on flights together, just the two of them, or sit and talk with each other when their lives became too complicated. She would never see him again. Once again, she felt herself begin to cry. Who would take over for the leader of the JLA? Who would protect Metropolis? Who would love her? Diana wished she knew. Her tears mixed with the rain ran down her face as she flew around her beloved city. BLAM! Diana was shaken out of her memories by the unmistakable sound of a gunshot. Almost fast as the speed of light, she raced in the direction of the sound.

Batman's eyes were closed as he felt the bullet penetrate his shoulder. His body spun from the impact and his face slammed into the ground. He felt three of his teeth go. Suddenly, he heard shouts from the gangsters, and sounds of fighting coming from behind him. He tried to move, but he couldn't. "It's her!" they shouted. "Kill her--mmph--!" He then saw a gangster's body sail over him and crash into the pavement, out cold. The fighting continued for only a little while longer, then stopped. Batman heard the sound of high-heeled boots coming toward him, and felt the gentle touch of a female hand upon his neck, then turning him over slowly onto his back.

He couldn't see well, couldn't think. His brain felt molten hot. Batman weakly reached up to the newcomer and she took his hand. He began to get so cold he couldn't stop himself from shivering. The woman must have noticed this, because he felt something warm cover him. He heard her speaking to him softly, but he couldn't make out the words. Finally, after a couple more seconds, Batman passed out.

She knew there was something wrong as soon as she heard that Batman wasn't home. When she had seen him in that alley after she heard the gunshot, she was sure the gangsters had killed him. He already looked bad when she first saw him; the blood running down his face, his swollen black eye, and the way he was pale and shaking. But then the gangster pulled a gun at Batman and aimed it right at his forehead. And he did nothing. He did nothing but close his eyes. It was almost as if he wanted the gangster to shoot him. Diana had gotten there, though, knocking the gangster's gun away from the direction of Batman's head. For a minute, Diana thought she was too slow. Batman's body spun with the impact of the bullet, slamming him headfirst onto the asphalt. Blood began to seep out from under his still form. Diana, horrified, ran to help him. But the gangster grabbed her shoulder. Diana spun around and struck him square in the jaw with a roundhouse kick, knocking him unconscious immediately. Two of the gangsters took the opportunity and began running as fast as they could out of the alleyway. However, the fourth wasn't so smart. He held the blade up to the Amazon Princess, smiling. It had Batman's blood all over it. "I guess you want the same fate as your buddy down there," he smirked, motioning to Batman. Diana lifted the gangster up by his shirt with one hand, and with the other hand she decked him with all her might. He sailed over the injured Batman and into the street. Immediately Diana raced to Batman's side and knelt down beside him. "Batman?" she said softly. He didn't respond. She cupped the back of his neck and gently turned him onto his back. To her relief, he moaned. He was alive. Diana laid her hand on Batman's face. He looked up at her, but he didn't seem to see her.

"Batman," Diana called again. "Batman, it's me, Diana. Are you all right?" Batman's body shuttered under her touch. He still didn't speak, and a look of confusion was on his face. His skin was ice cold. Diana looked around for something to cover him with, to prevent shock. Her eyes rested on a filthy blanket that was stuck underneath several trash bags. The bags had pretty much protected it from the rain, so it was mostly dry. It was better than nothing. As Diana pulled the blanket over Batman, she noticed a deep stab wound in his side, and not too long after, the gunshot in his shoulder. Batman reached up to Diana weakly. Diana gently took his shaking hand and held it to her chest. "I.I'm sorry, Batman..." Diana cried softly. "I know it wasn't your fault.I was wrong to blame you." Batman's eyes glazed over and his grip on her hand weakened. "Batman," Diana called. "Batman, stay with me." Batman's grip got weaker, and his eyes closed. His head rolled toward her, and he lay limply in her arms.

"The fever is breaking. He should be all right." Batman opened his eyes, but found it very hard to focus them. He tried to sit up, only to have two pairs of strong hands push him back down again. "Don't try to move. You're badly hurt." Batman tried to move anyway but was too weak to resist the hands holding him. He did as he was told. Finally, when his vision cleared, he saw J'onn and Diana standing over him. He relaxed slightly, knowing that he wasn't in the hands of an enemy. "It's all right, Batman. You're in the Watchtower medical bay," J'onn said.

"You were almost killed," Diana said softly, walking up to his bedside and laying a hand on his shoulder. "How do you feel?" His vision was clearing and he saw that Diana's face was red and streaked with tears. He reached up weakly and touched her cheek. She gently laid her hand on his. Suddenly all the memories of what happened a day ago returned. "Diana." His throat felt constricted, and his voice came out strained. Despite being in front of J'onn, he felt the tears begin to run down his face. "You...You saved me...Why...?" Batman asked. "I...I thought you said...you never wanted...to see me...again..." Diana squeezed Batman's hand, that was still pressed to her cheek.

"I'm sorry," Diana sobbed. "I was upset when I said that to you. I didn't mean a word of it. I shouldn't have blamed you for what happened." Batman closed his eyes as the tears ran down his face and the pain threatened to overwhelm him. Diana lowered her head. "Who will break the news to the rest of the Justice League?" J'onn asked. "I will do it," Batman said through his tears. "Since it was my fault he died to begin with." "No, it wasn't!" J'onn said. Batman glared at J'onn. "You don't know. You weren't there." Batman became glazed over. "I saw him take his last breath. Saw him reach for me, panic in his eyes. Begging me to save him. And I couldn't do it. I couldn't." "But you tried, didn't you?" Asked J'onn. "You tried your best to-" "IT WASN'T ENOUGH!!!" Batman screamed. "It doesn't matter in the least, how hard I TRIED! The only thing that matters, is that I FAILED!" Diana put her hand softly on his shoulder. "You can't save everyone, Batman," she whispered. "Everyone will die, sooner or later. Even super people. It isn't anyone's fault. It's just the flow of life." Batman sat silently on the bed. "Call the meeting," Batman commanded softly. "I will break the news." "Are you sure you can do this?" Diana asked. "I have to," Batman replied. ----------------- The entire Justice League sat around the table. They had all been called in for an emergency meeting. The only two members that were missing were Batman and Superman. Flash stood and stared at Diana, who's face was red with tears, and J'onn who looked extremely sad. "What are we waiting for again?" Flash asked Green Lantern. "Bats isn't here yet," Kyle replied. "Well, as soon as he walks in, I should puff up my chest, walk over to him, and in my scariest most meanacing bat-voice, say" (Flash puffs up his chest and in a theatrically low voice mocks Batman) "You should know better than to be late at such an important meeting, Wally. You need to learn your priorities. These matters must not be delayed." Kyle was busting up laughing at Wally, who imitated Batman's trademark Bat- glare. He was near tears with laughter, until the real Batman walked through the door. The entire room hushed as Batman walked slowly to the center of the room, stopping behind Superman's chair. His normally perfect posture was gone, replaced by a slouch. His shoulders sagged and he kept his gaze to the floor, not lifting his head once. He stood there for a full minute, with the entire Justice League's eyes on him. Finally, he lifted his head, to reveal the tears that streamed freely down his face. And he made no move to stop them. Every present leaguer's eyes got big as dinner plates, except for Diana and J'onn, who already knew. Batman opened his mouth to speak, trying to form words, but no sound came out. He hung his head again, in defeat, and shame. Diana stood from her chair and walked up to him. She touched his shoulder softly, and leaned her face over to his ear. "Are you sure you can do this?" Diana whispered. Batman nodded grimly, and made no effort to remove her hand from his shoulder. Finally Batman looked up at the team, once again. "W.we have all lost a very kind, well-respected member this day," Batman began. "I . I bring you very bad news." Batman stopped, choking on his tears. The team looked at each other and a terrible feeling of dread grew inside each of them. "I regret to inform you of the passing of." Batman squeezed his eyes shut. Superman's dying expression was etched clearly in his mind. "Superman," Batman whispered. Gasps of dread and disbelief filled the room. "What??" cried Hawkgirl. "How did this happen? What could kill the Man of Steel??" Batman's posture seemed to deflate even more, and he explained to the team what had happened. "You mean Supes is gone?" Flash said, disbelievingly. Batman lowered his head. "Yes." Aquaman stood up. "You just let him fall? Didn't you try anything to save him?" "His hand slipped from mine," Batman said in monotone. Aquaman walked over to Batman, standing chest-to-chest with the Dark Knight. "And you didn't use your grappling hook, to try and pull him up?" Aquaman demanded. "There wasn't time," Batman stated. "I bet you didn't WANT to pull him up. You wanted him to fall. So YOU can be the leader of the group," Aquaman accused. "No, it didn't happen like that." Batman started, but Aquaman cut him off. "I bet it did. You selfish, arrogant, pompous idiot. I can see right through you." "ARTHUR!" Diana screamed, shoving Aquaman away from Batman. "It wasn't his fault!! And how DARE you call anyone ELSE arrogant!" "DO NOT TOUCH THE KING OF THE SEAS, SURFACE DWELLER!!" Arthur growled at Diana, and raised his fist to hit her. Before Aquaman could do anything, he found himself slammed against the wall. "You hit her, and I'll do things worse than just touch you," Batman warned angrily, holding Aquaman by the throat against the wall. "You get your filthy hands off me." Aquaman growled, and lunged at the Dark Knight's head with his hand hook. Batman moved, but the hook caught his cheek and tore a deep gash across his face. Batman snapped. Quick as lightening, Batman began pounding the King of the Seas, hard. He hit him again, and again, and again, and started screaming very loud, in anger and frustration. Anger at the world, anger at Aquaman, but mostly, anger at himself. "BATMAN!" he heard Diana scream, from far away. "Batman, STOP!!" Diana grabbed Batman's arms and pinned him to the wall, and he struggled and growled in anger like a contained animal. Eventually, Batman's struggling slowed, and finally ceased. As Diana cautiously let him go, Batman slouched down and hung his head in shame. "Excuse me," Batman whispered to his stunned teammates, and walked out the door quickly. A dead silence filled the meeting room as the JLA exchanged glances with wide eyes. "J'onn, you take care of Arthur," Diana said urgently. "I'll go talk to Batman." And with that, she flew out the door. *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* Diana stood in the doorway to the dark room, glancing around. All the way across, next to the window, Batman stood silently. He was barely visible, even to her keen senses. "Bruce?" The figure in the darkness did not reply, but the ever so slight movement of his head let her know he heard. "Bruce, please," Diana said softly. "Talk to me." Still no reply. Diana sighed. She floated over to him, and stood there, watching Earth from the window with him. "It is very beautiful," she said. "Yes." Batman said absently. Finally. She got him to speak. "He wouldn't want this, you know," Diana said to him softly. "He wouldn't want you beating yourself up continuously for something that isn't your fault. If he was here now, I bet anything he would tell you the same thing." Batman remained silent. "I know that you probably won't listen to a word I say. But what I say is the truth. What you are doing - it won't change things. Dwelling on past events won't change the past. The only thing you are doing is hurting yourself." No response. "I know that you feel terrible about this. But this self-imposed torture has to stop." For the first time, Batman turned his head toward her. "Why?" he asked. Diana looked at him sadly. "You don't realize a thing, do you?" she asked quietly. "You don't realize.that when you're hurting yourself like this.it hurts me, too." Batman stared blankly at her. ".Why..?" he asked again. "Because I care about you," Diana whispered. "You're a close friend, Batman, and it.hurts me so deeply.to watch you suffer like this." "Close friend." Batman replied. He turned back toward the window. "If only I deserved that title." "You deserve that, and much, much more," Diana whispered. Batman opened his mouth to reply, but Diana touched two fingers delicately to his lips. She leaned closer to him, looking dead into his eyes. "If only I had the courage to tell you." she whispered. "How much you mean to me." "What.are you saying.?" Batman said. The edge was gone from his voice, giving her encouragement. "Batman, what I'm trying to say.is that.well." Diana bit her lip. Suddenly she was aware of the soft sensation of something pressing against her cheek. She touched her face and realized it was his hand caressing her cheek, gently. She touched his hand softly in return, her eyes never leaving his. "I.think I love you." she blurted out. She then cursed herself. That sounded stupid, and he probably wouldn't even believe her. What would he do? Make fun of her? Ignore her? Or maybe just say one of his sharp comments to hurt her, to push her away? Batman continued to stare at Diana. His eyes seemed to bore into the very heart of her. Diana broke the gaze. "I feel so stupid, Bruce," she admitted. "Don't." The command was quick, harsh. Diana's head flew up. "What?" she said. "Don't. Feel stupid," Batman said. He walked over to the nearest bench, sat down, and motioned for her to sit down next to him. "Let's talk." he said. *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* Aquaman lay in the medical bay, swathed in bandages. J'onn, Flash, and Green Lantern were gathered around him. "What could have made Bats snap like that?" Green Lantern asked. He looked over at J'onn, who was looking at medical chart printouts. "I think he's finally gone over the edge," Flash said. "No," J'onn said. He lowered the medical chart. "Batman has a tremendous burden on his shoulders. He feels responsible for Superman's death." "But...there's no way he could have pulled Superman up!" Green Lantern said. "It can't be his fault..." "You know how Batman is. Once he is convinced something is his fault, there's no use trying to tell him otherwise," Flash said. "Can't say I exactly feel sorry for Aquaman, though," Kyle said. "The way he treated Batman was terrible. I would have hit him too, if I was Bats." "Wonder where he went?" Flash said. *-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-* Diana couldn't believe it. The time had come. When she could FINALLY express her love. Batman sat next to her on the bench, facing a beautiful view of the Earth from space. He stared out quietly at the sight. Diana couldn't take much more of this awkward silence. Finally, surprisingly, Batman was the one that broke it. "I miss him, Diana," he whispered. He hung his head. "I miss my friend." Diana moved closer to him, so that their shoulders were touching. "I miss him too, Bruce," she said. "At times like these, I... regret things. I said some things to him, before he died...some horrible things. Things I didn't mean. I was so full of hate and anger at the time...I guess I just didn't think." he hung his head even further. "I always seem to say things I regret later." "We all do," Diana said sadly, thinking of how angry she had been at the Dark Knight, and the things she had said and done. She leaned her head on his shoulder, and Batman jumped slightly from the unexpected touch. She put her hand softly on Batman's arm, and caressed it gently. Diana looked up into his face, dreading the bat-glare she thought she would most certainly get. It never came. Diana had never seen Batman look so passive, so...human. The pain he was feeling showed clearly in his eyes, something that was rarely witnessed by anyone other than his immediate family. But there was something else in Batman's gaze, that she couldn't name. Something gentle. Something almost...loving. Diana closed her eyes, enjoying the warm feel of Batman's arm against her cheek. Diana felt Batman shift under her weight, and she eased off of him. The last thing she wanted to do, was make him uncomfortable. But it was Diana's turn to jump, when she felt his arm gently wrap around her back and shoulders. Diana leaned into him again, resting her head on his chest. She could hear and feel his heartbeat under her touch, and the rise and fall of his muscled chest. Despite all the pain, Diana didn't think she ever knew peace like she knew in this moment. -------