Snapshots

by Artemis

Rating: PG

Summary: Diana deals with Donna's death with the help of her friends. 

Random Author Blatherings: Takes place within the continuity of WW #195 specifically.  I'm not sure where this falls in the JLA continuity, but since she has a book cover illustrated by Kyle in this comic, I'm assuming this was somehow pre-Obsidian Age storyline.  I guess.  If not, I don't particularly care. ;) :D  Also Bruce and Diana's first meeting is referring to Trinity #2.

Disclaimer: These characters belong to DC Comics.  This story was written purely for fun, not profit, and as such, no money is being made from this.

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"I'm fine."

The other Leaguers exchanged glances around the table.

"Wonder Woman—Diana . . ." Superman started, but Diana shook her head.

"Let's just start the meeting."  She smiled brightly and looked around the room.  Plas was, thank Hera, serious for once.  Flash looked at her sadly, his sympathy obvious.  Kyle was simply worried about her.  She could see it in his confused glance at the others and then his focused gaze on her as he frowned.  The Martian Manhunter watched her patiently, knowing she would talk when she was ready.  Arthur's face betrayed his anger, but not at her—she understood he was simply angry at the situation.  Batman's face was emotionless as always, but she was sure the detective was analyzing her every expression.  Kal's brow was furrowed and he looked as though he was fighting back tears himself.

"I'm fine."  Another smile from her, another exchange of glances, but at last the meeting started as the Man of Steel steadied his own emotions.  At that moment, Diana felt a pang of sorrow for him.  She hoped he didn't blame himself for not destroying all those robots when he had the chance.  No one had any idea of this happening.  She had learned first hand with her mother's death, that the Fates weave what they will and far be it for anyone, goddess or mortal, to tamper with those threads.

But why did the Fates seem to affect Donna's lifeline so often?

She caught herself just in time and halted her thoughts.  The smile returned and she paid careful attention to the rest of the meeting, even contributing her ambassador's perspective when needed.  Of course, they all regarded her opinions more carefully and quietly than normal, which annoyed her somewhat, but given the circumstances, she knew they only did so out of love.

But what she needed, what she craved, was normalcy.  She wanted Batman and Aquaman to argue with her.  She waited for Flash and Kyle to look bored when she started one of her speeches.  But none of that ever came.  They all sat, like good little boys, waiting for her finish her thoughts and smiled kindly when she sat back, done.

Finally, the meeting was over.  Thinking back on it, she knew deep down it was a waste; simply an exercise for herself to prove she could return to her routine as though nothing happened.

But something DID happen, a voice chided deep within her.  She tamped it down, reminding herself she had an embassy to return to and the UN had contacted her earlier about a mission for that evening.

Speaking of which, she spoke out to whatever in her that longed to mourn, you must get started on this mission.  Lives are at stake.  She had to move before the US troops stationed on the border grew too impatient and moved in themselves.

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The mission was completed fairly easily enough, although it took her a little longer to get inside the General's compound.  But fortunately the US forces did wait for her to emerge with the criminal.  They would see to his transport and the war crimes charges would be pressed.  It was no longer a matter requiring Wonder Woman and she could return to New York. 

Once back, she met her newest staff member, Jonah.  Somewhat star-struck, but she knew the relaxed atmosphere her other staff members provided would get him out of his shyness soon enough.  He survived meeting both Superman and Ferdinand in one day, as well as enjoying his first "flight" without losing his dinner.  He would fit right in.

Now she sat in her room staring at the walls and picked at the meal Ferdinand prepared for her.  Despite the delicious selection the Minotaur had provided, her appetite abandoned her as soon as she returned to the embassy.  She was surrounded with all the reminders of Themyscira, yet this place still was not home.  The pillars were built on her island birthplace, as were the busts of Amazons of old and the goddesses.  Flowers and plants native to Themysciran soil brightened the room.  The fabrics were woven from the best Amazon crafts women.

But this was not home.  "Home," in New York anyway, was a penthouse ten minutes away.  Home was where her sister still lived.  No one had cleaned out Donna's things yet.  Diana had refused any efforts by her staff to do so, stating simply that she would see to the task personally.  And that was the first and last she spoke on the matter of Donna's death to them.

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A restless night of sleep that left her tangled in her sheets inspired her that morning.  Her denial finally gave way to her stubborn sense of truth.

"Enough of this," she muttered to herself. "Face this task as you would any other challenge."  Kicking away the sheets, she jumped out of bed, being careful not to trip over the pile she had just made on the marble floor. 

The water hit her skin in hot streams.  She would allow herself this indulgence before starting today's plan.  Besides, her frayed nerves needed a moment of relaxation more than she cared to admit. 

After toweling off and dressing quickly in casual jeans and white t-shirt, she tugged on a pair of sneakers and quietly slipped into the hall.  Avoiding any meetings and discussions about her plans today would be key to successfully reaching the penthouse.  If forced to linger and talk, she may lose her nerve.  She did have to tell someone she would be out and to re-schedule her meetings for today.  After the briefest of internal debates as to whether she could accomplish this via a scrawled note or explaining her plans personally, her sense of duty and honor won out of course, and she found herself heading towards the offices.  Rachel would be the one most likely to be awake and working at this early hour, and sure enough, there she was, cell phone to her ear, yelling at another ambassador's assistant.

Diana couldn't resist a smile as she watched the woman at work. 

"No, the Themysciran embassy had nothing to do with your office's shortcomings in preparing yesterday's vote.  Look, Diana wasn't even there to vote on the resolution . . . Hey, I don't care.  Clean up your own house and then we'll talk."  With a firm press of her thumb, the call was disconnected and Rachel turned in her chair.  "Ambassador!  You're up early.  It's only 6:30."

"I could say the same of you," Diana said with a smile before her face became serious.  "There are matters to which I must attend regarding . . . Donna . . . and I have put this off for far too long.  Could you . . ."

"Reschedule your appointments?  Sure.  Go.  You have a long day ahead going through her things."

Diana frowned, "How did you know?  I had allowed you all to believe I sold the apartment."

Rachel stood and crossed the small office, dropping the formality with her employer.  "Diana, you're the worst liar."

That brought a smile to Wonder Woman's lips.  "Thank you."

"Now if you'll excuse me, Madame Ambassador, I'm busy."  But her eyes twinkled with her teasing tone.

"Right.  Thank you." Diana beamed in gratitude and left the embassy, leaving Rachel to simply shake her head with a sad smile.

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The keys still dangled in her hand as she stood in the foyer and took in the empty suite.  Well, one room wasn't yet empty, but the living room, den, offices, armory, kitchen, dining room and Diana's bedroom were all empty and those contents moved to the embassy.  Slow steps took her to Donna's bedroom at the end of the hall.  She had shut and locked the door when the movers were there, but now, she didn't bother with the lock, simply pushing with a modicum of her super strength.

Diana closed her eyes and inhaled deeply.  Donna's scent was still here.  There was a lotion and soap she favored and the floral fragrance lingered in the stale air.  Her eyes opened as her head fell.  Donna must have cleaned recently, as the plush navy carpet she insisted upon for her room still had telltale streaks from a vacuum cleaner.  Diana, regretful that she had tread over it, lifted herself a few inches off the floor and floated to the bed.  She sat carefully on the edge and surveyed the room.

Donna's tastes were always much more modern than hers and the bedroom reflected that.  Whereas Diana's room was furnished by Themysciran design, Donna had chose furniture from local stores around New York, resulting in a sleek, contemporary look.  But as Diana ran her hand over the sheets, she smiled and recognized the Greek influence in Donna's décor.  Her sister shared her taste in luxurious fabrics; so the silky white linen with the stitched patterned edge matched a set of her own.

Diana shifted and her heel kicked something tucked under the bed.  Intrigued, Diana forgot her earlier concerns about mussing the carpet and was soon on her knees, lifting the linens to peek under the bed.  Rows of shoeboxes sat neatly before her.  Unaware her sister was such an aficionado for shoes; she pulled out a box and lifted the lid.  What she saw delighted her and her lips fell open in a soft gasp.

Stacks of glossy pictures were nestled inside.  Donna was a photographer by career, but Diana never realized how many photographs her sister actually took.  Eagerly taking a pile in her hand, she froze when she heard a soft knock on the front door.  Diana glanced regretfully once more at the picture on top and sighed before pushing herself off the floor and deciding that, yes, she should answer that.

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"Kal!"  Diana grasped his hands and kissed him quickly on the cheek. 

"Hey Diana.  Actually, I'm not alone . . ."

"Bruce?" She dropped Clark's hands and stared open mouthed at Bruce.  "What are you doing here?"

Still the Bat, even in a three-piece charcoal Hugo Boss, he glanced around at the elevator behind them and asked quickly, "Can we continue this inside?"

She grasped a hand of each of them and pulled them inside.  "Of course.  Forgive me for momentarily forgetting your paranoia in my surprise."

"Not paranoia.  Caution.  The three of us are public figures, and you don't use a secret identity.  And in answer to your question, Bruce Wayne has a meeting in three hours with a brokerage firm on Wall Street."

Knowing Bruce well enough and accepting his explanation, also knowing he'd never admit to being worried about her, she looked back at Clark, "And you?"

"I was in the neighborhood for a story."

"Neighborhood?"

"Covering the Pope's visit to Boston."

"This is New York."

"Well, you were on the way," he grinned.  "'Superman' stopped by the embassy and Rachel told me that you were here.  I changed and headed over, and found Bruce hanging out in your lobby."

"I was not 'hanging out.'"

"And how did you know I would be here?"

"Actually just coincidence.  I passed here on the way to my hotel and saw you enter."  He flashed a quick glare at Clark before continuing.  "I was attempting to wait a respectful amount of time, to give you some space."

Clark shrugged and his eyes twinkled behind his glasses.  Diana was fighting a smile herself.  The two often seemed at odds but she knew their mutual respect would always undercut any differences.

"And how are you?"  Bruce's tone softened and Clark studied her face as well. 

"I'm actually feeling better than I have in some time.  Really.  I found a stash of photographs in her room.  I was about to look through them."

"Should we leave?" Clark nodded to the door.

"No, of course not.  Some of these pictures may interest you two as well."

They stood there, despite her invitation, so she prompted them again.  "Come on.  I'd love the company."

Diana turned and started back down the hall, pleased to hear them following.  She continued talking, keeping her mood light, as she led them to Donna's room.  "Besides, it's been too long since we've been together without some sort of League business."

"Only in tragedy in seems," Clark mused quietly.

"Well, the Wonder Dome incident wasn't a tragedy," Bruce pointed out after a moment of silence.  "Strange, yes, but more of an affirmation of our bond."

If Diana was surprised by the men's attitude reversal in that brief exchange, she never showed it—too wrapped in her own denial and eager to project a happier outlook, she quickly agreed with Bruce with a nod and smile.

She entered the room and gestured for them to come in.  They did, but slowly and respectfully.

"She had just vacuumed," Bruce observed automatically, his eyes sweeping the room in a gaze that no doubt took in every detail.  Clark was watching Diana instead, and following her lead, he sat on the floor, his legs stretched out before him.  Bruce removed his suit jacket first and after folding it over a chair, sat on the floor with his legs crossed Indian style.

Smiling, Diana pushed the shoebox towards them.  "This first box seems to include the Titans."  She grabbed the stack she had started on before and gestured for them to dig in.

Clark asked casually, "So Bruce, when's the last time you did this?"

"Never.  Unless it's GCPD crime scene photos." He raised an eyebrow at Clark and deadpanned, "But next time I'll invite you over and we can sit on the floor of the cave."

On cue, Diana laughed, but stopped when she happened to look at the next picture in her stack.  "This is a good one of Dick as Nightwing."  Bruce leaned over and examined the outstretched photo.  "He's in uniform.  He should know better."  But his companions caught the small twitch in his lips as he studied his adopted son's image a moment longer before finally looking up.  Diana winked at Clark and set the picture aside.

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An hour later, there were two sizable stacks next to Diana and tears were streaming down her face, but not from sadness, but from listening to Clark and Bruce out-do each other with anecdotes, each inspired by a photo from Donna's collection.  Diana occasionally chimed in with stories about Cassie in her first year as Wonder Girl, and even some about Donna, but mostly she sat there laughing as Bruce shared some of Nightwing and Robin's best quips and Clark rattled off all the things Superboy and Supergirl had crashed into as they mastered flight.

Now they had segued into their own foibles.  "Oh I remember that introduction," Diana chuckled at the memory.  "I wanted to kill you."

"I even had a batarang out. . ." Bruce recalled.

Diana gave Clark a sheepish glance.  "And poor Kal stuck in the middle."

He shook his head.  "If you two really wanted to attack each other, I don't think I could have really stopped you."

Bruce considered this a moment and nodded, "I could have hit you with the batarang if I really wanted to."

"Is that right?  And yet you didn't.  I suppose I should be overcome with gratitude," she teased.

"Oh I was just intimidating you."

Diana and Clark just looked at him, amused.

He soon amended after a beat, "Well, trying to."  But the twitch in his lips belied his rare self-deprecatory humor.

Chuckling to herself, she glanced again at the picture in Clark's hand that prompted the flashback.  Donna had somehow captured Wonder Woman and Batman exchanging glares.  It must have been after Ares and his children appeared in Gotham.  Diana had no idea Donna had a camera with her so often.

"Do you want a copy of this?  I know I do."

"Just the negative," was Bruce's distracted response to Clark's offer.  He was studying a picture from the open box nearest him.  "Diana, who's this?"

She took the photo from Bruce and smiled with her lips only, as it didn't reach her eyes.  She doubted there was anyone Batman didn't know about in any meta's life, but she appreciated what he was trying to do.  "That's Donna's son and husband."

"Cute kid," Clark commented genuinely as he leaned over to look.  "How old is he there?"

"Three."  Her eyes moved to the framed finger painting hung on the wall above Donna's dresser and commented, "That's some of his artwork."

As their heads turned, hers fell back to the picture.  Three bright smiles stared back—the perfect image of a happy family.  Except everyone in the image was now dead.  As this realization crossed her mind, a tear rolled down her cheek and splattered onto the image.  She frantically wiped away the offending drop that marred Donna's family photograph.  She realized her friends were watching her again.  Their eyes were sad, but with more understanding than pity.  In their lives, they so saw so much pain, Bruce especially.  And so it was he who offered gently, "You need to let it out."

"Oh, I've cried enough."  She quickly rubbed her eyes and sniffed.

He shook his head.  "I was referring to your anger and guilt."

She looked at him surprised, but then again, of course he would know. Clark was studying her reaction carefully, surprised by Bruce's assessment as well, but he could see from watching Diana that once again the Detective made an accurate one.

But she shook her head.  "I can't."

"You need to.  We can take it."

Clark's eyes flew quickly to Bruce, wondering what he was meant.  As the circumstances surrounding Troia's death surfaced in his thoughts, understanding did come and he joined Bruce in giving Diana an encouraging gaze.

"Go ahead, Di."

Her head turned sharply to Clark, surprised, but she nodded.  "Part of me does blame you for those stupid robots." Diana closed her eyes and shook her head, "But it's foolish—"

"No it isn't.  And it isn't anymore foolish to wonder why wasn't another member of the Titans killed instead."  Bruce knew grief too well.  "And it isn't unusual to blame yourself, asking why you couldn't protect her."

Diana knew he was thinking of Dick and Jason respectively, and knowing about Vesper Fairchild, she continued for him, "Or the fact that if she never knew me, never had anything to do with me. . . this would have never happened?"

"Yes, perfectly understandable.  But still not fair to yourself."

"She was part of my soul.  But she lived a life of tragedy while I had complete joy."   Diana shook her head.  "How can I not feel guilt?"

"Because that wasn't your fault."  Clark reached over and grasped her hand.  "No, it's not fair, but you couldn't change it.  And you couldn't have saved her."

"Anymore than you could have known. . ." she was unable to continue as the tears started again.  But she didn't have to, as it was a burden Clark was carrying himself, which was why he was such a frequent visitor to the Themysciran embassy.

His eyes glistened with tears as he finished, "That I could have known one of those robots would be used for evil and would kill."

"I forgive you.  I don't really blame you."

"I'll accept that if you can forgive yourself."

A weak laugh was forced from lips as her gaze fell back to the picture in her hand.  "That's a little harder."

"I still sometimes find myself shouldering blame for Jason's death.  But I have to face the fact that it was out of my hands."

She looked at Bruce, stunned at his admission.  She never thought he would admit his demons to her, nor did she expect him to acknowledge the futility of blaming himself.  His stare was even and his words had been said in complete seriousness however.  Clark was looking at Bruce admiringly.  "You never cease to surprise me."

Bruce's lips moved in a slight smirk as he delivered the gratuitous, clichéd response, "Expect the unexpected."

Diana just listened in gratitude.  The banter was familiar, even if the tones were gentler. 

Normalcy.

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the end