TITLE: You're Only Human (Second Wind)
PERMISSION TO ARCHIVE: Please ask.
CATEGORY: Romance, Batman/Wonder Woman
SUMMARY: Office romances are difficult enough, but when you're dating Batman.
CONTINUITY: This takes place after "Starcrossed" but before "Initiation." It also takes place not long after my story "Hesitation Change," which you should read first. (It's available on my website.)
DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to DC Comics and various TV people. I just fantasize and worry about them.
NOTES: This story is a response to Smitty's long-ago "Billy Joel Title Challenge." This is a conversation I thought needed to happen in my own view of the animated universe. Thanks to Redhawk for the beta :)
It wasn't as if Diana was homeless after the destruction of the Watchtower. She had an apartment on Earth, just like the other Leaguers, but somehow every evening she found herself returning to Wayne Manor. Sometimes one of the others was just leaving after a meeting with Batman, sometimes he was alone in the Cave.
Eventually, she knew, the rest of the League would catch on and explanations would be in order, but for now, they could count on the rebuilding of the Watchtower and the Earth as a suitable distraction.
Alfred never turned a hair, that astonishing man. He would just take her coat if she had one, and inform her of Master Bruce's whereabouts and mental state. Diana suspected he was accustomed to doing this for the others. Not the League, but for the members of Batman's Gotham family: Batgirl, Robin, Nightwing. Alfred's obvious acceptance of her made everything else easier to bear.
"Master Bruce is in the drawing room," Alfred said as she entered the mansion two weeks after the routing of the Thanagarians. "I believe there has been a contretemps with Master Clark, and I would advise you to tread lightly."
"Thank you, Alfred." She strode down the hall, pausing in astonishment when she realized she knew exactly where the drawing room was. In fact, she could locate every room that might conceivably contain Bruce. This bore thinking about.
Shaking her head, she continued on. Bruce turned from his contemplation of the recently repaired windows when she entered the room, his eyes automatically getting Bruce Wayne's appreciative glow at the entrance of a beautiful woman.
"I take it you were at a society function today," she said.
Frowning, he turned back to the windows, looking out on the front lawn. "Yes, a charity luncheon for the hospital. I'm sorry, you're dressed like...one of them."
Diana glanced down at her simple black dress, and considered reminding him of his insistence that all League visits be incognito. Instead, she went to stand by his side and admire the sea of expertly-maintained lawn and oak trees.
"I know, Bruce. I understand," she said. "Sometimes your ability to compartmentalize concerns me."
He ignored that.
"Have you had dinner yet?" she asked when he showed no signs of moving.
"Alfred brought me some sandwiches earlier," he said.
"Was that lunch or dinner?" He obviously had no idea and she shook her head. "I'll tell Alfred you're ready for dinner now."
Her feet made no sound as she crossed the heavy Oriental rug that covered most of the center of the room, so his voice seemed loud when he stopped her halfway. "Perhaps you should go home."
She stopped. "Pardon me?"
When she turned around, his face was set in the grim expression of Batman, incongruous in the luxurious room full of yellowed books and Ming vases. "I said you should go home this evening."
This was not a conversation she wanted to shout across the room, so she sat on one of the couches, the leather soft as silk against her arms and legs. "Am I no longer welcome in the Justice League?" she asked.
"Don't be ridiculous." His face turned even more grim.
"Then perhaps I am no longer welcome in Wayne Manor?"
Bruce hesitated, then sat on the love seat diagonally from her. "You are welcome here."
"Then I am no longer welcome in your bed." She made the phrase as matter-of-fact as she could.
The small twitch in his right hand was as good as a flinch in any other man. "It's not...I've just been reconsidering the advisability of our relationship."
Diana sighed--she'd been expecting this and the only surprise was that it took two weeks to reach this point. "What are your concerns?"
"I would think they were obvious."
He was quite obviously suppressing a scowl. "It's a bad idea for people in our position to be involved. Just look at Lantern and Hawkgirl."
"I don't think the cases are parallel, unless you think my mother is planning to invade Man's World."
"That's not my point."
"What is your point?"
His eyes narrowed and she marveled at how he drew around him a cape that was still in its cabinet beneath the mansion. "I cannot allow...us to get in the way of the mission. What we do is too important."
Clasping her hands in her lap, Diana struggled for calm. She hadn't needed Alfred's quiet advice several days before to realize that Batman (and Bruce) would never yield before emotional appeals, but could be persuaded by logic. "In what way has emotion stood in the way of duty?"
"I trusted Hawkgirl." He held her gaze, one of the very few men she knew able to consistently do so with no sign of unease. "I trusted her because of the team. I trusted her because Lantern did. For that reason, I was slow to realize the Thanagarians were deceiving us."
"Slow? Without your work, we wouldn't have realized until it was too late! There was nothing you could have done earlier, without proof."
"I disagree. My emotions," he practically sneered the word, "interfered with clear thinking."
The setting sun cast one last beam of light into the room and Diana looked out at the orange sky for a moment. "And I think you are, as always, too hard on yourself."
"Believe what you will, but I was insufficiently paranoid and the Earth was nearly destroyed."
She leaned forward. "Bruce, you're not--"
"Superhuman? I'm well aware of that." His jaw clenched.
"I was going to say 'required to be perfect,' but if you wish to put words in my mouth, go right ahead." The silence was nearly deafening and she waited for his response.
He stood, pacing to the window. Watching him, Diana wondered how anyone could ever mistake him for ordinary--he was a marvel of repressed energy. "I am only human, Diana."
"I'm not clear on why that's a bad thing. You know that we would ask you to lead the League if we thought you might accept." She smiled, thinking of League meetings here at Wayne Manor. "At the moment, you do lead us. Your status as a non-powered being has no bearing on the matter."
He turned to face her, eyebrows raised. "You realize, even Clark generally can't take me quite that far off-topic without my noticing immediately."
"I didn't think we were off-topic," Diana said, crossing her legs and watching his movements closely. "You are concerned because you believe you cannot be both Batman and in a relationship. I think you vastly underestimate yourself. And me."
Bruce turned to stare out the window again, although she doubted he was inspecting the scenery. The sun dipped even lower and she wondered whether to turn on the lights, finally deciding she didn't want to distract him from whatever he was thinking.
As he thought, she watched him and remembered that first night in the Watchtower, his low voice cracking as he admitted that she was dangerous to him, that she made him act without thinking. Perhaps she'd underestimated how terrifying this was to a man as controlled as Bruce. She'd believed that he'd come to terms with it, but obviously that was not so.
Although, she acknowledged, looking at the stiff lines of his back, recent events might have been designed specifically to strain their relationship. If he'd been upset at her discovery of his identity, he'd been infuriated by the necessity of revealing it to the remaining League members who didn't know. That it was necessary made little difference, she supposed.
And the betrayal of one they believed on their side was enough to make even the least paranoid man uncomfortable.
"You don't understand," he said, drawing her attention back.
"What don't I understand?"
"How to make the hard choices."
His quiet voice held a surprising amount of venom and she fought her natural instinct to respond in kind. "Is that so?"
A more cowardly man might have been worried by her toneless delivery, but not Bruce. "During the invasion," he said, "you endangered the mission by saving that couple. If we'd been captured before we reached the Cave, we would very likely have been defeated and the Earth destroyed."
"I don't have your ability to sacrifice the innocent in the short term," she said softly.
Bruce shook his head. "Could you let Flash die to save the world?" He paused, watching her, and she waited. "Could you let me die? Do you understand that I would let you die for the sake of the mission?"
"If I die, I die. But I believe that if it is possible, you will find a way to save everyone."
"I wish I had your faith."
"You don't need to. That's why I'm here." She raised her chin and considered him. "Perhaps this would be an appropriate time to discuss the necessity of sacrifice."
He shook his head, just a touch of anger in a twitch of his lips. "Superman and I have already had words, but I expected better of you than to second-guess my decision on the Watchtower."
Mimicking him, she raised her eyebrows. "Putting words in my mouth again?"
"Fine." He crossed his arms, jaw tight. "Go ahead."
"You truly believe I would chastise you for quick thinking that saved us all? Perhaps you don't know me as well as you thought." Shaking her head, she waited for light to dawn. His eyes widened slightly. "You made the right decision with the limited time you had."
"You would have left me without a word." Finally, she let her emotions show, standing, nearly shaking with the force of her anger. "You think so little of me that you did not give me the option to say goodbye. Or offer to take your place."
His jaw dropped, more of an emotional display than Diana had ever seen from him. She pressed her advantage.
"You asked if I could let you die." Stalking toward him, Diana enjoyed the unusual sight of a completely speechless Bruce. "If it was necessary, then yes, I could. But I demand an apology for your actions."
He shifted not an inch as she approached him. "Apology?" came out low and gravelly, much more Batman than Bruce.
"For not giving us a chance to come up with another plan. For not giving me a chance to say goodbye."
He stared at her.
"Hera," Diana muttered. She hadn't intended to lose her temper, but he was so infuriating, so...
So stunned. As she glared at him, he swallowed convulsively. They were at another impasse, she realized. The last time, Batman had yielded to Bruce, but now Batman had to make a choice.
She was an Amazon. She would not beg.
"Diana, I..." Bruce paused. "I'm sorry."
"Accepted." She waited, willing her breathing to remain steady. If necessary, she could stand here all night while Bruce and Batman fought it out.
His eyes were distant, considering factors she couldn't begin to guess. Maybe she shouldn't have pushed him? No, if she'd acceded to his fears, that would surely have been the end.
What would he do? Perhaps--
"Master Bruce?" called a voice from the doorway.
They both turned. "Yes, Alfred?" Bruce asked.
Alfred turned on the lights and Diana blinked. She hadn't noticed it had grown so dark. Alfred inspected them for a moment. "Will the lady be staying for dinner?"
Bruce stared fixedly at Alfred, then turned slowly to look at her, expression more unreadable than usual.
"Yes," Bruce said after a long moment. "Yes, I believe she will." Extending his arm in a courtly gesture, he waited.
A smile spreading across her face, Diana tucked her arm in Bruce's and allowed herself to be escorted to dinner.