Another Sunday Dinner at Wayne Manor
A sequel to "Sunday Dinner at Wayne Manor". This story is not in continuity with any other of my stories. Can Bruce and Diana make a relationship work, in spite of personality clashes and outside conflicts?
All characters are the property of DC Comics. No money is being made on this story and no infringement of copyright is intended.
Alfred insisted on holding my chair as I sat down. Before he could retire to the kitchen, I asked, "Is this usual?" Or was Bruce deliberately avoiding me?
"Unfortunately, Madam. At least in your case, I am not forced to invent excuses for his absence."
"He leaves you to make up the excuses?" I asked sympathetically.
"It is actually one of my more entertaining duties. I doubt Master Bruce realizes how much I enjoy blackening his reputation."
I sighed. "I thought the whole point in having dinner so early was to avoid this sort of thing," I complained -- good-naturedly, I hoped.
"No doubt it is after dark in whatever hellhole he has tracked that dastard to."
I sighed again. " I would have been happy to help him." More than happy. I owed Ra's al Ghul from our last encounter.
Alfred opened his mouth to respond, but I waved him to silence. "I know, I know. To accept aid would be taken as a sign of weakness, implying he needed help to defeat him. And the Batman never shows weakness."
"It is not so much Ra's al Ghul he must convince, Miss Diana, as himself. If he were to admit he is only human, that he occasionally needs help, it might undermine his confidence in himself; and without that he WOULD be only human."
We turned guiltily to the doorway. Bruce stood there, smiling. He must have changed downstairs, for he was dressed in slacks and a turtleneck. He looked... terrible. I could see bruises forming on his face.
I smiled anyway. "Ra's al Ghul?" I asked.
His smile wavered slightly. "He escaped but it will take him months to rebuild, so my time wasn't completely wasted." His voice was hoarse and I suspected the turtleneck was chosen to cover injuries to his throat. He tried to saunter casually into the room, but he moved so stiffly that I guessed there was worse covered by his clothing.
Alfred came to the same conclusion, for he immediately responded, "Sir, you must let me see to your injuries."
"Nonsense, Alfred, I can't keep this beautiful woman waiting any longer. Besides, dinner will be ruined if we have to wait while you fuss over me."
"Bruce, I think you should listen to...." My voice trailed off as I saw the growing blood stain on his side.
He looked down. "Damn," he said mildly, "the bandage is leaking." He turned back to the doorway. "Alfred, start serving dinner. I'll just be a minute."
"Sir, please let me care for your wound."
"It's just a scratch. I've had far worse many times."
"Yes, and you've almost died many times. The fact that it may not be immediately life-threatening does not mean it does not need to be properly attended to."
Bruce shook his head irritably.
"Sir! I must protest!"
"Never mind, Alfred," I told him, "just meet us downstairs." I knocked over my chair as I stood. I swept Bruce up into my arms and flew down the hallway. If he hadn't been so tired and hurting, it might not have been so easy but, as it was, I took him completely off-guard.
I felt him tense and told him, "If you try anything, I will knock you out and carry your unconscious body down to the Batcave."
I halted in mid-air in front of the grandfather clock that concealed the entrance to the Batcave.
"So you know where the entrance is, but do you know how to get in?" he asked conversationally.
I grinned and moved the hands of the clock to the correct positions. The grandfather clock swung out of the way. "Alfred showed me. Serves you right for running out on me last time."
After that, he maintained a stony silence as I flew him down the long flight of steps to the Batcave and into the infirmary. Alfred was already there, evidently having taken some faster route. I laid Bruce down on the examining table and put my hands on the top of his turtleneck sweater. With one jerk, I ripped it in two, exposing the bloody bandage on his lower left side. Concerned that there might be other injuries still hidden, I tore his pants off next.
"Do you always rip the clothes off men on the second date?" he asked in his playboy voice. "If so, I can't wait to see what you do on the third date."
"Are you planning to show up for that one?" I asked playfully, then gasped as I took in the sight in front of me.
"Not pretty, is it?" he asked dryly.
Alfred bustled up at that point. "I am afraid this will hurt, sir," he said and pulled off the bandage. Bruce hissed softly. The wound underneath was not wide and the blood oozed rather flowed out, but I worried how deep it was.
"Knife?", I asked.
"Sword," he replied. "Ra's likes the old ways. If he had used a machine gun instead, he would have had me."
"The bugger probably watches too many Errol Flynn movies," muttered Alfred. He looked worried, but he was clearly experienced at dealing with this sort of thing. For the next half-hour I was reduced to passing him a seemingly endless stream of sponges and staying out of his way as he worked.
It gave me plenty of time to study Bruce's near-naked body. Pretty it was not. The latest wound and the various bruises were nothing next to the evidence of earlier injuries. Knife wounds, bullet wounds and other, less identifiable, wounds littered his body. It was amazing the man wasn't crippled, let alone that he could still function as the Batman.
Finally Alfred put the finishing touches on a clean, and much neater, bandage. "You are lucky it missed the kidney," he muttered. "You cannot afford to lose...." He stopped suddenly and his eyes flicked to me.
I looked at Bruce. "What can't you afford to lose? Another kidney? Have you already lost the other one?" I looked and saw a bullet wound right about where his right kidney should be.
"Nothing so drastic," he assured me. "Most of that kidney is still intact and functioning."
"Most," I mused. "How reassuring."
"I would tell you to rest, sir," Alfred interjected, "but I know I would be wasting my breath."
"Don't worry, Alfred. I'll see to it that he rests."
"Rest," Bruce said, blinking up at me innocently. "Is that what they call it these days?"
Alfred looked from Bruce to me. "I'll leave you two to it, then," he responded cryptically and left.
Bruce started to raise himself up on his elbows. I put my hands on his shoulders and pushed him back down again.
"If you try to get up, I will wrestle you back down," I told him imperiously. "When you have had time to..."
He grinned lasciviously. "I always enjoy wrestling with YOU, Diana."
I cocked my head and looked at him. "Do you think your innuendoes will embarrass me?" I asked curiously.
"I wasn't trying to EMBARRASS you."
I colored suddenly, but refused to look away. "When you have had time to recover a bit," I went on, "I will carry you up to your bedroom."
"To REST!" I shouted.
"I'd be happy to REST with you," he said meaningfully.
"What has gotten into you?" I asked, confused.
"Actually, I was thinking about what I hope will be getting into you," he answered, grinning. It took me a moment to figure that one out. Then I started to laugh.
"We both know, Bruce, that if I took you up on the implied offer, you would quickly change your tune."
"Don't be so sure." He tried to raise himself again, then stopped and winced. "Then again, maybe you're right." He slowly lowered himself to the table.
"You are not indestructible," I lectured him, "and your body needs time to heal."
I looked at him. "It's true that I heal much faster than normal and I don't scar. Does that bother you?"
"Does this," his waved his right hand to indicate his scarred body, "bother you?"
I moved closer and started tracing the scars with a finger. "You asked me a question a while ago." I could see how tired he was in the length of time it took him to remember. "No, it isn't pretty." I moved my finger to a healed bullet wound in his shoulder. "It is, however, beautiful."
He looked at me questioningly.
I moved on to a long scar on his upper arm. "Each of these scars marks an occasion when you put yourself in harm's way to save another. How could it be anything but beautiful?"
"Most people wouldn't see it that way."
I traced the line of his jaw. "I am not most people."
"No." He turned his head and softly kissed my finger. I looked in his eyes and saw a profound sadness there. I was suddenly very afraid. I thought I understood, then, what he was doing. He was trying to drive me away, first by disgusting me with his innuendo and then with his (to his mind) disfigured body. Did he understand me so little? I was saddened by that thought, but it did nothing to change my determination. I had known this moment would come and had prepared for it. I would not go, not without a fight.
"Diana," he said suddenly, "this isn't working."
"Stop," I commanded. "I know what you are going to say."
He looked surprised.
"You are going to say that this was a mistake; that you cannot share even a part of your life with me; that it will only end in pain, like all the others.
"Can't you see that I am not like those others?"
Suddenly, there was no trace of Bruce Wayne in his manner. His face was the impassive face of the Batman. "Oh?"
"Yes!" I told him passionately. I held up my hand and counted off the points.
"First, I already know that you are the Batman. That secret can't come between us the way it did with Vicki Vale and I won't run away from it like Silver St. Cloud."
"I see Alfred briefed you thoroughly," he replied ironically. I ignored the interruption.
"I am not helpless. I won't die on you like Vesper Fairchild."
His voice was suddenly cold and harsh. "You can't know that. Our vocation is not exactly a safe one."
"I might die," I admitted, "just like you. Neither of us knows how much time we have. That's not a reason not to love, Bruce. It's a reason not to put off, not to wait. Better to take a risk now, than to spend the rest of our lives regretting what we missed. And none of your foes will ever kill me just to get at you. THAT I can promise."
He grunted, clearly unconvinced. I continued.
"My father is not a megalomaniac out to take over the world, like Talia." Suddenly I chuckled. "That sounds like the plot for a cartoon. The odd-looking megalomaniac who keeps coming up with bizarre and impractical plans to take over the world and his loyal assistant who always manages, through incompetence or hidden guile, to ensure the plan fails."
"Already been done," he grunted.
"Oh. Well, finally, I'm not a criminal like Catwoman. The law will never come between us."
"She's reformed," he protested. "Well, mostly."
"Mostly?" I asked. "How can you 'mostly' reform?"
"She doesn't steal in Gotham City, except from criminals. I am fairly sure she still commits an occasional theft outside of Gotham, but I don't care about that."
"You don't care...." I was speechless.
He started to shrug, winced, and said, "I never did care about her stealing. She always picks her victims carefully. People who got their money unethically, if not illegally, or otherwise deserve what happens to them. I have far more important things to worry about."
I felt a cold panic coagulate in my chest. "Then why...?"
"The police cared and I have to work with them. Now that she has taken her crimes elsewhere, it's not an issue. And she has done a lot of good in the East End, among the poor and dispossessed. If she wants to play Robin Hood, that's fine with me."
It was getting hard to breathe, but I had to know. "Do you still love her?"
He smiled gently. "I thought we resolved the question of who I love last time."
I sighed and smiled back. "I suppose we did."
"And after such an impassioned defense, how could I think of going back on my declaration?"
A suspicion grew in my mind. "Are you teasing me?"
"Well, maybe a little."
"Why did you say this isn't working?" I demanded.
He had the grace to look embarrassed. "I meant Sunday dinner wasn't working. There are just too many things that can interfere. I was going to suggest that we meet for lunch one day this week. It's not as romantic, I admit, but it is less likely to be interrupted."
"You let me go through with my speech for nothing?"
"Not nothing, Diana. You have no idea how your eyes spark when you get passionate. I was struck dumb."
"Does this mean you aren't interested in meeting me for lunch?" A hint of uncertainty crept into his voice. He can have no idea just how endearing it is when the absolute assurance of his Batman persona cracks just a little.
"Of course not. Wednesday?"
"Damn. Wednesday is the one day I have a lunch meeting I can't skip out on."
"Well, maybe Friday if I rearrange some appointments." The problem was that, as ambassador for Themyscira, my days are normally packed. It's my nights that are relatively free, but I knew Bruce wouldn't take a night off just to be with me.
"How about mornings? Alfred can make us breakfast. His eggs benedict is divine."
I groaned. "Mornings are even worse. Unless it was very early."
"I am normally home, showered and changed by five a.m. I can't believe your diplomats, bureaucrats and their flunkies get to the office THAT early."
"No. If I skip my morning workout, that would give us at least three hours."
"Any day but Wednesday. I need time to sleep before the lunch meeting on Wednesday."
I thought quickly. Monday wouldn't be a good idea. Even if we could convince Bruce to skip patrol tonight, it would be best if he could sleep in tomorrow.
"Tuesday it is."
We stared at each other for a moment. Bruce made to get up. Irritated at his stubbornness, I leaned over him and pinned his shoulders to the table. Before I realized he had moved, his right hand was cupping the back of my head, pulling my lips onto his.
When we finally broke for air, he was smirking. He leaned his head back and said, "I think I'm ready for you to carry me up to bed."
"To REST," I reminded him.
He looked innocent. "Of course. I'm looking forward to ... resting."
"But it is so much more ... stimulating ... to rest together."
I had to suppress a smile. "Are you sure you're up to so much stimulation?" I asked skeptically.
He tried moving his left shoulder and grimaced. "I guess not. Maybe Tuesday. We have three hours, after all. Breakfast won't take three hours. We'll have to find something to do with the rest of the time."
"Perhaps," I replied non-committally, "if you are a good boy and do as you are told."
"I was hoping to show you just how bad I can be."
I shook my head as I carefully lifted him from the table. "You are incorrigible, Bruce."
He smirked. "I know."
Laughing, I flew him up the stairs to Wayne Manor.