Looking over Zeus's shoulder -- and the robot's -- Diana could glimpse the smoking rubble of what had been the Monster Truck Arena. Superman was buried in there, somewhere. She hoped he'd figured out which way was up.

She shook her head to clear it and focused on the smirking Greek god of the skies.

"No wonder the robot didn't shut down when Batman disrupted the control frequencies," she said. "You didn't need them. And you didn't need to be inside, either."

Zeus nodded proudly, glancing at the robot. "Electricity," he said. "It's like thunderbolts. Only you can do far more interesting things with it." An odd expression crossed his face: nostalgia, tinged with embarrassment. "Do you know the most interesting thing I did with thunderbolts in the old days? I got drunk at one of Dionysius's parties and fried an entire herd of Apollo's sacred cows." He laughed. It sounded hollow, forced. "And I thought I had power then. I had *nothing.* These mortals. Today, the poorest peasant in this city throws a little thunderbolt across the room at a whim, just because he wants to read a book before he goes to bed."

Diana met his gaze evenly. "But you still have power over me," she said.

He nodded with satisfaction. "Yes," he said happily, "I do."

"Is that what this is about?" said Diana. "Delayed revenge for Omphale's long-ago slight, just so you can remind yourself that you're a god?"

"Being a god is overrated," said Zeus. "Prayers to answer, sacrifices to accept, temples to maintain..." He shuddered with distaste. "No, I'd accustomed myself to a peaceful retirement some time ago. And then you came along. Traipsing around in your little star-spangled outfit -- your adoptive nation just *loves* that, by the way... actually, come to think of it, so do I. Woof." He smirked at her. "If you weren't one of those Themysciran bitches, I might actually make you mother of a demi-god."

"Thanks, but no thanks," said Diana.

"You wouldn't be in a position to argue," Zeus said. He paused for reflection. "Though I can't say it's an easy decision as to what position you actually would be in."

Diana almost laughed; would have, if his fingers hadn't been like iron around her neck. "That's the emptiest threat I've ever heard," she said. "You like your women willing. Not to mention pliable, overawed, and easily impressed."

Zeus casually lifted Diana off the floor and shoved her hard into a wall. Powerless from the bond he'd placed on her wrists, Diana couldn't resist. The wall crunched around her and cascaded dust into her eyes and hair. She felt a knot rising on the back of her skull. He pushed harder, and Diana sank deeper into the wall. Easily impressed, she thought groggily.

Zeus held her tightly by her throat and let her hang.

"I read the news stories about you," he said. "Did you think I wouldn't? You paint my son Hercules as a gross beast, a despoiler of women... and the mortals love you for it. He's one of their greatest legends; your presence proves his deeds are true -- but do they honor him? No. They're mad for Amazons, Amazons, Amazons."

He dropped her. Diana fell out of the wall and onto the floor, where she lay, desperately trying to suck air through her battered throat. Zeus, watching her, laughed scornfully. "Well," he said, "let them see. See what a pathetic thing is an Amazon. How weak. How frail their vaunted female warrior, who at every step needs to be rescued by *men.*"

A dark shadow flitted by the window.

"Ah," said Zeus. "A case in point."

He grasped Diana by her bound wrists and hauled her to her feet. Diana leaned against the wall for balance. Her legs were wobbly. "Why now?" she managed to rasp.

"An opportunity presented itself," Zeus said. "You might tell your acquaintance Mr. Luthor that if he doesn't wish his activities to catch the attention of the gods, there are wiser places to build a hidden cache than a cave on Mount Olympus."

Where Zeus's power was strongest. He'd walked right through Luthor's vaunted security, thought Diana. And used her weakness because he knew it, and the giant robot to hide behind because it was there and big and because Batman was right: he *was* an idiot.

Unfortunately, he happened to be an extremely powerful idiot.

"That opportunity's lost now," she said.

"Only for the moment," he said. "But I'll come back every so often. To make your life more interesting. To *remind you of your place.*"

He would. And she'd never really beat him. Zeus was immortal and possessed of godly powers, and for all his mental inadequacies he was terribly single-minded. He'd just come back. And come back, and come back, and come back. Like Batman's obsessive foes, she thought. Perhaps she was dizzy from the knock on her head, but it seemed like quite a demotion: from king of the gods to just another supervillain.

And then Diana saw past the powers, past the godliness, past the vanity, and saw the petty core of Zeus's motivation.

"You're not angry with me because of Hercules's reputation," she said. "Or that I publicized what was done to the Amazons. You're angry because I remind you of it. It's not the people's opinion of you and your son you're concerned with, Zeus. It's your own."

That was probably the wrong thing to say. Zeus bared his teeth in anger. He grabbed her throat again, lifting her off the floor, then drew back his other hand to form a new thunderbolt. At point-blank range, without her powers, it probably would take Diana's head clean off. The binding cord was snagged on her bracelets. If only she could get her hands to work -- all she needed was a moment of distraction -- where the hell was Batman?


Ah, thought Diana. The cavalry.

Batman stood at the end of the hallway. He held a grapnel gun pointed at Zeus, and his other hand kept a batarang cocked and at the ready. "Don't," he said.

Zeus lowered his hand. "Or what?" he said with real curiosity.

"Or you'll answer to me."

"Oh," said Zeus, sounding mildly concerned at the thought. "All right, then." He began to lower Diana toward the ground -- and then turned and cast his lightning bolt. It smashed into the floor where Batman was no longer standing. An open apartment door in the hallway testified to the direction he had taken.

"You're quick!" Zeus said merrily. "Nicely done. Though I should tell you, I'm a little out of practice."

"I'm not," said Batman. "Neither are my friends. Who should be along soon."

Zeus glanced out the window. Diana, hoping, looked with him. In the rubble of the arena, one of the few standing girders creaked and fell over on top of the already substantial pile.

"Yes," said Zeus doubtfully. "Well, that's nice for you."

"But if you leave her -- and us -- alone," said Batman, "I'm willing to offer you a trade."

Zeus raised his eyebrows. "Really?" he said, sounding astounded at the concept. "And why should I take it? When I can just embarrass her further and make her life miserable?"

"Because that's more trouble to you than it's worth. Because it takes time, and I don't see you as the patient type." Batman paused. "And because it's better for you than the alternative."

Batman's voice was closer. Diana was puzzled. She turned and -- oh. He was crouched on the robot's shoulder, not far behind Zeus. Zeus was visibly surprised. He looked at the doors Batman had dived out of, then into, then back over his shoulder where Batman lurked, just outside the window at the end of the hall.

"You *are* good," said Zeus admiringly.

"Yes," said Batman. "And I'm the weakest one in our group. Trust me: you don't want to take us on when we know you're coming."

Zeus considered. "What are you offering?" he said.

Batman held up something. Diana could barely see it. It was rectangular, small, and black, and about three inches square. Something in gold filigree that she couldn't make out. Then she realized what it was, and if she'd had the breath she would have laughed.

"And what," said Zeus, "is that? What is that that I could possibly want it enough to ignore the insult to the honor of my son?"

"Bruce Wayne's little black book," said Batman.

The iron pressure on Diana's throat eased, and the tips of her toes found purchase as Zeus lowered her back toward the ground.

"I see you know his reputation," said Batman. "Let me assure you this doesn't disappoint. They're all women. They're all famous. They're all beautiful. And the shower of gold coins bit? Trust me. Still works."

A grin slowly spread across Zeus's face -- and was just as quickly shuttered. "My son's humiliation --"

"Your son has ever-lasting fame," said Batman. "What's a small joke at his expense, to the glory of the man who beat the Hydra?" He paused. "And you're still a god. You have the power and the virility you've always had. With willing women -- and I guarantee there will be plenty -- " he waved the black book "-- you can make more sons."

There was a moment of silence. Then Zeus laughed, loud and long. "And my part?" he said. "Shall I let her loose? Or would you like her this way?"

"I'm not particular," Batman said. Diana made a mental note to get him for that, later. Maybe. Because his bargaining had given her the moment she'd been hoping for.

"I actually have half a mind to let you go," Zeus said to Wonder Woman. "Such a wonderful coda. Because it leaves your humiliation complete. You needed to be saved, yet again. By a *man.*"

Zeus's smarmy grin vanished as Diana's suddenly free hand grasped his throat -- and her other hand, a weak spot lower down. She squeezed forcibly and lifted the god of the skies easily off the ground. The loop of rope dangled limply from one of her wrists. Gods couldn't be killed, but they could be hurt. She took full advantage of the fact.

Then she powerlifted him over her head, slamming him into the robot's face hard enough to leave an eight-inch-deep dent, pulled him down, and threw him through a wall.

Wonder Woman didn't give him time to pick himself up. She tore through the wall and stamped on his ankle hard enough to dent tank armor. Zeus's yelp of pain was curiously satisfying. And it proved something she'd suspected from his words: retirement was hard on gods whose worship was forgotten.

"You're weakened, Zeus," she said. "You can sucker-punch me with a thunderbolt. Take me on when I'm tied up. But you're not the god you used to be. In a straight fight, maybe you'll win. But it'll take time. And I guarantee you'll be hurt. I don't like getting hurt -- but I've gotten used to it. You haven't."

Zeus shrank away, raising his hands in the air and cowering behind them. "The terms are clear," said Zeus quickly. "I'm willing to accept an accomodation -- "

"Really?" said Diana, drawing back her fist. "I'm not." She'd always wondered how long it would take a god to regenerate a punctured skull --

"No!" cried Zeus. "It's a deal! It's a deal!"

"Diana!" Batman said.

She turned to rebuke him for presuming to command her --

-- and realized what she was doing.

She turned and looked back at her fallen enemy. The pathetic, broken being that once was king of the gods. Cowering before her. Because, for all his power, he was desperately afraid of pain.

Diana was torn between contempt and an unexpected pity.

"How about that?" Diana said, lowering her fist. "He saved you, too."

Zeus seemed to regain some of his bravado as she stepped away. At least, he made a feeble effort. "You see?" he said. "Women! You have to control them! That was always *my* mistake."

"I'll bear it in mind," said Batman with a perfect poker face.

Diana touched Zeus's shoulder as he began to limp away. "Just be glad he made you an offer before I did," she said.

She enjoyed the sight of Zeus rubbing his tender spots as he left, tucking the little black book into an inside pocket. Perhaps a bit too much. She turned to face Batman's raised eyebrow. Which, she was surprised to note, he wasn't giving. He was looking down. Not at her bosom. Lower, to her wrist, where the loop of rope still hung. He looked, she thought, proud.

Diana pulled the loop free and balled it up. She tossed him the wad of rope. "A cheap trick," she said. "Houdini used to do it for a laugh."


From her perch on the edge of the desk in the Batcave, Diana watched as Batman updated his files on gods, Greek, and Zeus, last known address of. Occasionally, she glanced at one of the many computer monitors. NASA satellite footage showed Luthor's stolen robot -- battered, limping, but still functional -- making its way across the desert toward Las Vegas. Diana wondered whether Zeus had any passengers on board. Given what she'd seen of the women Bruce Wayne went about with, she decided it was entirely likely.

"I still can't believe you actually gave him the book," she said. "Aren't you the one who gave me that volume of Kipling's poetry? 'That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld / You never get rid of the Dane'?"

"I don't believe in paying Dane-geld," Batman said. "But I have no qualms about throwing the Dane something worthless and shiny, if playing with it will keep him busy. Besides, you're forgetting: I know those women. Bruce Wayne has been dodging them for ages. Trust me when I tell you that they and Zeus deserve each other." He paused, reflected. "Actually, Zeus may be getting the short end of that deal."

"Poor Brucie," she said teasingly. "Whatever will he do now?"

"There are always more eager would-be conquests," Batman said.

"*Really,*" Diana said icily. "Any in particular? Should I call Alina for this evening?"

He snorted. "Why do you think I was so eager to get rid of the book? She's in it."

Diana stared at one of the video monitors. "Not anymore, she isn't."

Batman looked quizzically at her, then followed her gaze. One of the cable news channels had picked up footage of the battered robot strolling along the Vegas Strip. Alina Montressori sat on the robot's shoulder, waving gaily to passers-by.

"That dress she's wearing is completely impractical," he said.

Yet another a very Bat thing to say. Diana was amused. "Is there a practical dress for riding into Sin City on the shoulder of one of Lex Luthor's giant robots that's been commandeered by a semi-retired Greek god?"


As Batman returned to his typing, Diana turned her attention back to the television screen. The sight there couldn't please Lex Luthor, a thought that amused her no end. She couldn't see Zeus -- he was, presumably, either inside the robot or awaiting it at its destination -- but Alina Montressori certainly looked happy. Perhaps Zeus and Alina really did deserve each other, but Diana had a sneaking suspicion they'd get along. It would be a pity if they were the only ones to get a happy ending.

"Well," said Diana, "I suppose this leaves us with some free time."

"'Free time?'" Batman said, as if it were something to be trod in by accident and then scraped off his boot with a stick.

Ignoring the warning sign, Diana plunged ahead. "Flash has been doing his level best to make sure I have a firm grip on the concept," she said. "Actually, i asked him for suggestions."

"Let me guess," said Batman. "Tequila shots?"

"I asked him if he knew any good restaurants in Gotham City. There was one he mentioned -- he made it sound almost like a modern temple to Athena. Her bird was the owl, you know, and -- "


"Yes, that's it," said Diana. "Why don't we go there?"

Batman was silent. She could almost *see* the gears turning in his head.

"If you don't know what's wrong with that picture," he said, "there's no use in my trying to explain it to you."

"Oh," said Diana disappointedly. She reached into her waistband and pulled several bills free. She'd have to give them back to Flash with her apologies. "He'd asked me to pick up a T-shirt for Hawk Girl."

Batman stopped typing. He closed his eyes briefly, then pinched the bridge of his nose through the cowl. Diana eyed him with concern. "Do you have a headache?" she asked.

"Oh, there's a pain," he said. "But that's not where it's located."

"Ha," said Diana dryly. "I'll have you know that Flash was very helpful."

"I'm sure he was," Batman said. "But I have work to do."

"Well, then perhaps another time. I still have to learn padlocks, you know. Maybe we could make an evening of it. Dinner and lock-picking. Not necessarily in that order."

"You don't need me for that," he said. "I told you, Robin can teach you that kind of thing."

It was his pride. His stiff-necked Spartan pride. It had to be. There wasn't any other reason he was forcing her to say it. To ask, and hear his answer. She'd travelled to Man's World and other worlds beyond; fought mortal men and alien monsters and gods and -- yes, even giant robots. And she couldn't keep the nervousness out of her voice, or her hands from perspiring. Silly that such a little thing could make her feel a coward.

"What if I wanted to spend time with you?" she said.

There it was. Diana held her breath.

"Why?" he said coldly.

And that was that.

There was his answer. The rejection was worse for what she knew: he hadn't rejected it out of hand. He hadn't pushed her away by reflex. He couldn't; with her lasso, she'd ordered him not to. He'd considered it carefully. Examined his feelings, the situation. Looked into his heart and mind. Made his choice. And then coldly pushed her away. Not because he didn't care for her. Not because he didn't want her. But because he couldn't make her fit into his spare existence.

Robin had as much as warned her: *we never say it,* he'd said, though he was closer to Batman than anyone. But Robin had also said that Batman needed love. That he was human. Diana had just been a fool to think she could make him choose it. She didn't think she loved Batman, she *hoped* she didn't, but she'd begun to realize that she *could.* Infuriating as Batman was, as even the thought of loving him might be now, she could. And sometimes it could be so easy. He gave glimpses of something that felt both familiar and utterly alien. But when all was said and done, he didn't have the courage to take a risk. Some Spartan hero, she thought.

And then Diana realized she'd been right all along. It was only fair she tell him.

She looked at Batman evenly. "You know what I told Superman?" she said. "I told him you reminded me of a Spartan."

"Really?" he said. He sounded pleased. He would.

"I just realized it's one particular Spartan, actually."

"Leonidas?" he said. He sounded almost happy at the prospect. "Or Dienikes?"

Both among the martyrs of Thermopylae. One a king who, when Xerxes had demanded the Spartans turn over their arms, had replied, "Molon labe" -- "Come and get them." The other a soldier who on being told the Persian arrows would blot out the sun had laughed and said, "Good; then we'll have our battle in the shade."

"No," she said. "You remind me of the little Spartan boy. The one who found an orphaned fox kit."

"I know the story," he said. The warmth was gone from his voice now. "He stole it to eat, as I recall."

"That's one version," agreed Diana. "I heard growing up he took it for a pet. It ends the same. He couldn't show weakness, so when some older Spartans came along he hid the fox in his tunic. The fox was desperately hungry, and it gnawed on the boy's stomach. But he didn't show his pain, because he didn't want to admit the fox was there. And the fox gnawed him and gnawed him, and finally the Spartan boy bled to death. All because he didn't dare to admit that he had a heart."

"You're leaving something out," said Batman. "The Spartans honored him. They gave him a funeral befitting their greatest warrior. They wrote elegies of praise, and they sang his fame to the heavens as they committed his body to the earth."

"They buried him in honor," agreed Diana softly. "But Batman?" Her voice hardened, just enough to keep it from wavering. "They *buried* him."

He turned away from her then, the curt dismissal of the man who always knew best and never brooked disagreement. Diana felt a wave of anger -- and then it was gone, replaced with an aching pity.

She left him there, buried in his grave of rock and steel.

The grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
-- Andrew Marvell