This story is based on the Justice League animated series. It is highly recommended that you view these episodes to better understand the story: Maid of Honor, Starcrossed, For The Man Who Has Everything, and Kids' Stuff.
A special thank you to HeyBats. His patience, guidance, and help in every aspect of this fic is greatly appreciated. I could not have done this without him.
And to Darth Yoshi. Your insight proved of great help and thank you for the kind words.
Summary: Diana discovers the secrets of Bruce Wayne and how he became Batman.
Diana, also known as Wonder Woman, sat in the large kitchen of stately Wayne Manor, quietly waiting as Alfred poured her a cup of tea. She opened her mouth to form the question that was poised on her lips then paused, opting to wait for him to pour his own cup. She watched as Alfred spooned some sugar, then squeezed a drop of lemon into his cup, before delicately raising the antique Chinese porcelain to her lips. The tea was hot on her tongue but nevertheless delicious and she savored the taste of the Earl Grey. Neither one of them spoke. In the silence, Diana reflected on the events of the past few weeks which had brought her to Bruce Wayne's home this evening.
'Bruce', she thought. 'Not Bruce Wayne or Batman.'
She called him "Bruce" in earshot of the original Leaguers now; "Batman" around the newly inducted members who weren't 'in the know' as to his identity. Given their familiarity, Diana was more comfortable calling him Bruce. Lately he'd opted to call her Diana instead of the 'Wonder Woman' appellation used by the media and other people who treated her as an icon rather than as a human being.
Diana raised the tea to her lips again, glad that Alfred was allowing her to compose her questions at her leisure. Since their mission in Kasnia, Diana and Bruce's relationship had advanced from a professional level to something resembling adolescent flirting. Deeper feelings had evolved during the Thanagarian invasion, however any romantic involvement was put aside as the rebuilding of the League and the construction of a new Watchtower used up any free time they might have had to explore their new relationship. Their friendship, or rather their undefined relationship, had blossomed. But the recent turn of events with the Black Mercy and their battle as eight-year olds against Mordred had triggered a reaction in Bruce that confused Diana. Until earlier this morning, she hadn't seen or heard from him since their mission against Mordred.
That same morning, Diana had waited for the arrival of Batman on the Watchtower View Deck. She asked for a moment of his time after his scheduled watch was complete, wanting to discuss the growing distance between them. She was purposefully dressed in all of her Amazonian splendor in a white Grecian, ankle length gown with gold sandals. The outfit was a change from her Amazonian Champions uniform she'd been wearing an hour before when she found him on monitor duty. She knew the view deck was the perfect place to discuss the growing distance between them as there was no place to escape from the room. She checked her watch and realized that his scheduled watch was complete and her stomach tightened with anxiety at the upcoming meeting. Composing herself, she took a moment to gaze at the panoramic display of stars that illuminated the blackness of space.
Diana's thoughts had soon drifted to Paris on the night that she had made the discovery that changed her life. "May I have this dance?" an incredibly handsome man, with deep blue eyes and jet black hair, had asked of her. There had been instant realization concerning the identity of the man that took her in his arms. While his physical stature and athletic build had been obvious clues, Diana's cheek had briefly pressed against his face. Her nostrils flared, she had detected a familiar, masculine scent she'd only experienced once before: when she kissed Batman in Gorilla City. She could not help but smile in remembrance of that night and her discovery of Batman's identity.
Her eyes closed again as she remembered the kiss she gave Bruce as a ruse to hide from the Thanagarian soldiers during the invasion. While she was surprised that their deception was successful, she had been even more surprised by the flood of emotions that had stirred within her during the kiss. The scale of the battle had been so great that only in its aftermath did she have time to confront her feelings, which had presented a strange challenge for the Princess. A born warrior created in the image of Athena, her experiences to date had not prepared her for the complications that a man - a co- worker, no less - could bring to her life. Love - romantic love, at least - was something the Princess had avoided at all costs until now. Her dalliance with Steve Trevor during the mission against Vandal Savage in 1944 was something she'd enjoyed during the heat of battle, but the experiences were juxtaposed: every action of Steve Trevor was made on a whim while everything that Bruce did was mysterious, calculating. Diana admitted she enjoyed the mystery that Bruce brought to her life and she had vowed to herself to see this experience through to the very end. Something, she was confident, that Batman was prepared to do as well. That is, until the recent events at the Fortress of Solitude and more recently with their battle against Mordred.
The closeness they shared had become evident to many in the superhero community. Batman had even accompanied Diana to the Fortress of Solitude to celebrate Superman's birthday, which had caused a stir of whispers among the new Leaguers. The event took an ugly turn, however, when Mongul gave Superman the telepathic plant known as "the Black Mercy". When attached to its victim, the Mercy reads their heart's desire and induces a perfect, dream-like simulation of that desire, symbiotically feeding off the energy of its victim until the victim dies from malnutrition. The plant had been initially attached to Superman, causing his desire for a family on Krypton to be lived out in a realistic, dream-induced trance. With Batman's heartfelt plea, Superman had rid himself of the Black Mercy. However, the plant had quickly turned to Batman and attached itself to him. When Diana had found him, there was a look on Bruce's face that she had never before seen: a look of pure joy. The stone mask of the Batman was transformed to the exuberant features of the man that sat before her. He was happy. Fear had risen deep within Diana. She had known that if she did not act quickly she would lose Bruce. She had tried with all of her strength to pull the creature from him, but to no avail. In a final, desperate plea, she had begun shouting his name until he had finally broken free from the creature's horrific hold.
In the aftermath of that battle, Diana realized how strong her feelings for Bruce had become and suspected those feelings were returned, albeit in the small ways that Bruce was able to express himself. But whatever events had been played out in Bruce's mind when that creature was in control had led Bruce to isolate himself from her and the rest of the league. She couldn't help but remember the look of pure joy on his face and only speculated what it must have cost him to let go of his heart's desire. As she waited on the view deck, she was determined not to let their relationship go down without a fight, or in the very least, an explanation.
Batman clung to the shadows of the view deck, watching as Diana silently gazed through the windows at the glorious display of stars. Surprised by her change of uniform, he was momentarily taken aback by the more feminine presentation of her beauty. Her grace was further illuminated by the magnificent display set before her. He hesitated, momentarily questioning his decision to nip this blossoming romance in the bud. Batman was all consuming. Since that fateful night when his parents had been ripped from his world, Bruce Wayne had become a shell for Batman to exist within. His behavior was reflexive now, instinctual in his need to preserve the Bat and he couldn't change. Not now. Not even for her.
He mentally kicked himself for playing with fire for so long; experimenting with flirtatious advances, knowing that it wouldn't, or, more importantly, couldn't, go anywhere. Batman steeled himself as he gazed at her beauty, calling upon every acting skill he'd learned so that he might dismiss his feelings to her as those of a professional acquaintance. Despite the heartache he might cause now, his intentions were well met. He must - no, he would - make her see that nothing further could transpire.
Stepping out of the shadows, he moved slowly toward Diana.
"Bruce! I was wondering when you were going to make your presence known," Diana exclaimed with a small smirk on her face. Unlike so many others, she had never been intimidated by his penchant for dramatic entries and exits. She had come to expect his sudden appearances and disappearances, and took delight in watching others' reactions.
"You wanted to talk," he stated simply in the monotone voice of Batman.
Diana, momentarily shaken by the callous tone in his voice, recovered quickly. Squaring her shoulders, she lifted her chin and responded. "Yes. You have been avoiding me. I want to know why," Diana demanded, determined to win back his heart, or at the very least his friendship.
"I'm busy, Princess." Batman turned to leave, knowing full well that Diana was not going to end this conversation yet.
"Bruce, can't you even bear to stay in the same room with me for more than five minutes? I want to know what happened at the Fortress and what was so traumatic about being an eight-year old. What was the heart's desire that you abandoned?" Diana asked, sensing the pain just beneath the surface of Batman's façade.
"That's none of your business, Princess," Batman returned.
"I thought we were friends, Bruce. I even thought that perhaps we were more. Was I so wrong?" Diana looked at Batman, hoping that she had not lost him so quickly. Seeing the hurt that clearly showed in her eyes, Batman removed his mask and softened his tone.
"Diana," he began, and then quickly turned away, unable to proceed. After what seemed like an eternity he turned around to face her again, the stone mask of Batman replacing the softened features that she saw just a moment before.
"Diana. I have nothing to offer you. The Black Mercy and Mordred helped me realize who I am and the reason why Batman exists. Nothing else, no one else can compete with that or share it."
Bruce quickly pulled his cowl back over his face, never once breaking eye contact with Diana. Turning, he walked purposefully out the door, leaving Diana stunned. But not defeated. Never defeated. He was hiding something and she remained resolved to find out what from the only person that knew Batman better than anyone.
Still reeling from her encounter with Bruce on the view deck, Diana arrived at Wayne Manor an hour later. She stepped up to the huge doors at the entrance of the mansion and was momentarily surprised when the doors opened before she had a chance to knock.
"Miss Diana, what a pleasant surprise. Please, won't you come in?" Alfred asked, genuinely happy to see Diana. He had sensed a change in his Master's behavior since the Thanagarian invasion and suspected that Diana had somehow reached his charge. Alfred prayed that she might bring some semblance of contentment to his life.
"I am sorry, but Master Bruce is not in at the moment. He had last- minute business to attend to in Metropolis. I do not expect his return until tomorrow," Alfred explained.
"That's good, because I came to see you, Alfred. May we sit and talk?" Diana asked.
Seeing the determination in the beautiful yet steadfast features of the Amazon, Alfred invited Diana inside. "I just made myself a pot of tea. Would you care to join me?"
"Yes, please." She'd only met Alfred briefly during the Thanagarian invasion - and the immediate aftermath - but, because of the warmth that exuded from him, Diana had felt an immediate connection. She followed Alfred into the study where he excused himself to go and fetch the tea leaving Diana to contemplate her discussion with him. Alfred represented the only opportunity Diana would have to learn about the obsessions of Bruce Wayne.
Steeling herself to focus on the purpose of her visit to the Manor, Diana placed her cup of tea on the table. She made a valiant, but unsuccessful attempt to make small talk, nervously remarking on the complexities of the new Watchtower technology and lamely commenting on an incident where she and Lantern had actually gotten lost in the long hallways a day before. Alfred, sensing her unease, came to her defense.
"Miss Diana, I want you to know how pleased I am about your 'friendship' with Master Bruce. If I may say, I have never seen him look so encouraged about life and the prospect that a relationship may indeed be in his future. That being said, the past few weeks have been very difficult for him."
"What happened to him, Alfred? What dream did he forsake at the Fortress that has him so shaken?" Diana pressed, encouraged by Alfred's frankness.
"Miss Diana, Master Bruce has avoided any type of intimacy for nearly his entire life. Having said that, I have no doubt whatsoever that his feelings for you run very deep. I just don't know if he is capable of acting upon those feelings on his own. I was hopeful that perhaps he would embark on a relationship with you. But then that terrible creature…" Alfred let his remarks drift without completion, lost in his own thoughts, which piqued Diana's curiosity. 'What is it that Bruce is hiding?' she again wondered.
After a minute, Alfred continued. "There are some things, I'm afraid, that do not come easily to Master Bruce. The warmth and intimacy of human interaction may be quite natural for you and me, but not for him. From a very early age he has learned to shield himself from possible emotional entanglements for fear of abandonment."
"Why is he so incapable of such a basic human need?" Diana asked. "What has happened that would make him run from some semblance of intimacy?"
"Miss Diana, that is a long and difficult story," Alfred stated sympathetically. After a moment's pause he continued. "Master Bruce was a typical child; full of energy, the pride and joy of his parents. He loved to ride his bicycle, take long walks with his mother in the garden, rough-house with his father, very much a delight around the house. His hero was the Grey Ghost, a popular television series of the time. Another of his favorites was Zorro. How he begged his parents to take him to the movie theatre to see 'The Mask of Zorro'." Alfred paused, remembering Bruce's pleas to his parents. "Just before the young master's 8th birthday, his parents decided to give him an early present. They indeed took the young lad to see Zorro." Diana sensed his hesitation as Alfred relayed the story with a forlorn look. His love for Bruce was obvious.
"Young master Bruce was extremely excited by the announcement. It was all he could talk about." Hey Alfred, mom and dad are taking me to see Zorro...can you believe it? I'm actually going. Alfred found himself silently reminiscing about the excitement Bruce had displayed that evening. "After the movies, the family walked awhile in the moonlight. In an alley, a man appeared intent on robbing Dr. and Mrs. Wayne." Alfred paused. Diana felt a slight shudder as Alfred struggled to continue the story. "The man pulled out a gun and held it to Master Thomas, threatening to harm him if he did not hand over his wallet. Judging from the police report it seems that the robber's attention was drawn to the pearl necklace that Master Bruce's mother was wearing that evening. When the man grabbed the necklace, Master Thomas acted on reflex and grabbed the robber. The police have concluded that in a fit of rage the robber shot Dr. and Mrs. Wayne point blank.
"Alfred, I did not know. He never spoke of his parents," Diana said through unshed tears. "Did Bruce witness everything?"
Alfred cleared his throat. "Yes. When the police arrived they found the young master, kneeling between his parents. The police later told Dr. Leslie and myself that Master Bruce was holding his mother's hand, trying to give her the blood-stained pearls that were strewn on the pavement. He was in a state of deep shock." Diana covered Alfred's hand with her own, her eyes shining with the sorrow they both felt.
"Master Bruce has never been the same since that night. The joy of childhood was replaced with a life of recurring trauma." Alfred sighed. "He came home that night in a catatonic state. After some months I feared he would never recover. Slowly, he emerged from this state, but still did not speak for some time to come." Alfred looked at Diana, meeting her gaze. "Miss Diana, I want you to understand that what Master Bruce lived through that terrible night haunts him to this day. Trauma survivors are known to re-experience these traumatic events. Since Master Bruce was only 8 at the time, he will more than likely carry this burden for the rest of his life."
"Does he re-experience this trauma often, Alfred?" Diana asked, a deeper understanding of Batman's motivations dawning on her for the first time.
"On many levels. Certainly in his dreams but also in his daily routine, I'm afraid. The nightmares frequent him quite regularly, especially these last few weeks." Alfred sighed. "And there are other symptoms that have become more a part of who he is now, and actually help him in his never ending quest."
"Other symptoms?" Diana asked, curious.
"Yes," Alfred continued, "Feelings of agitation, and being on the constant lookout for danger. Batman was indeed created that night, and sometimes I fear that Bruce Wayne was lost," Alfred stated.
"That's it, isn't it? His heart's desire was to change what happened that night," Diana said. It all made perfect sense.
"Yes. The dream he experienced that day was too vivid a reminder of what happened to him. These past two weeks have been a struggle for him to control his emotions. Unfortunately, when Master Bruce experiences any of life's ordeals, his first tendency is to exclude those who love him. It is not just you that he is avoiding. He hasn't spoken to his son, Robin or Dr. Leslie since he returned from the mission against Mordred," Alfred sadly relayed, "becoming an eight year old might have pushed him over the edge."
Diana contemplated this newfound revelation then asked, "Who is Dr. Leslie?"
"Dr. Leslie was a very close friend of Dr. & Mrs. Wayne. It was their wish that both Dr. Leslie and I raise young Master Bruce if anything were to happen to them. It is a role that I wished we would never have to fulfill, but one that has also given me the greatest joy any man could hope for: a son," Alfred explained, a note of pride evident in his voice. "It is my sincere hope that you will be able to touch his heart and give him the life that his parents desired for him."
"I'm not sure how to reach him, Alfred. What do I do?" Diana asked.
"Don't give up on him. No matter how hard he pushes you away, stand firm. It will take some doing; I'm afraid he is not the easiest person with which to have any sort of relationship. But we have all learned that just beneath the surface lies something very special and for your own sake I hope it is worth the effort."
"Just like a little boy," Diana mused. "Where is he staying in Metropolis, Alfred?" Diana straightened in her chair with a look of determination that made Alfred smile. A thankful smile for someone who cared enough for his surrogate son to see past the façade of the Bat, to the real person hidden deep within the walls built by trauma.
After retrieving the address from Alfred, Diana hastened her departure to Metropolis to find Bruce. Flying in the stillness of the night, Diana glided to a Metropolis lamppost near Bruce's hotel, pausing so that she could better see the room number that Alfred had written for her on the piece of paper. She took notice of the rooms from the outside of the hotel, trying to determine which room was Bruce's, then rolled her eyes when she noticed that his room was actually the penthouse suite.
Flying up the rear of the hotel, careful to glide by the windows unseen so that Wonder Woman wasn't spotted making a midnight rendezvous with Bruce Wayne, Diana spied a small light in the living room of the penthouse suite. On closer inspection, she spotted Bruce sitting with his back to the sliding doors of the balcony. Diana began her decent onto the balcony, hoping not to draw his attention until she had time to compose herself. Comfortable that Bruce had not yet noticed her, Diana slowly checked the sliding glass door to see if it was locked. As she slowly slid the door open, Bruce, without turning, spoke. "What do you want, Diana?"
"I should have known that I couldn't sneak up on you," Diana said, and walked freely into the living room. Bruce continued to read the papers that were stacked in the open manila folder he was holding.
"Go home, Princess."
"No, I will not leave until we have talked," Diana said, striding over to the sofa next to Bruce's chair and sitting down, crossing her arms over her chest in defiance.
"There is nothing to discuss," Bruce replied, still not willing to make eye contact with Diana.
Refusing to be deterred, Diana straightened slightly and continued. "There is plenty to discuss, and I will not leave until you look at me and tell me why you are doing this."
Bruce let out an audible sigh then closed the folder and placed it on the coffee table in front of him. "I don't know what you want me to say."
"Tell me about your heart's desire, Bruce." Diana then patiently waited for his reply.
Bruce's eyes suddenly flared with anger. "You don't understand, Princess. There are too many things that have happened that you are not aware of, so don't come here hoping for me to open up my heart. I don't need a therapy session."
"No," Diana patiently responded. "But you could use a friend."
Bruce stood and walked over to the window, gazing at the Metropolis skyline, unable to face her again. "You don't understand," he whispered again.
"No, I don't understand. I don't understand what it must have been like for a child as young as you were to see their parents taken from them so violently," Diana began, as she slowly rose from the sofa, walking to stand next to him.
Standing in back of Bruce, Diana placed both hands on his shoulders, laying her head between his shoulder blades. "Bruce, I could never understand why your parents were so brutally taken from you. Why something so horrific would happen to an innocent child. I know the scars you bear from that night will be with you for the rest of your life. Batman was born that horrible night, but Bruce Wayne did not perish. He is still here inside you."
Bruce turned around, grasping Diana's hands as if his life depended on her touch. Diana's heart broke at the pained look that now framed his features. Struggling for composure, Bruce finally spoke from his heart. "How can you say that? I don't even know who Bruce Wayne is anymore." Letting go of his grasp he walked to the center of the room, then turned around to face her. "Batman was my salvation. He was the outlet for the rage that I could not contain. That day at the Fortress, the Black Mercy showed me what could have been. The battle with Mordred was a poignant reminder that my childhood was taken from me by a punk with a gun." Bruce stopped, momentarily questioning his desire to open his heart to Diana.
With his head bowed he continued. "I relived that night in the Black Mercy's induced dream. But this time was different. The robber approached us and demanded my mother's pearls. My father grabbed him and a fight ensued. This time my father was victorious, hitting the robber over and over again. I watched with such awe and excitement as my father saved us from certain doom." Bruce raised his eyes to meet Diana's and continued, "That is, until I heard your voice calling me. I wanted to ignore it but I couldn't. When I heard you calling my name, I knew that the end to my nightmare would not come. I wanted my life back. I wanted them back," Bruce nearly shouted, then walked to stand in front of Diana. With tears trickling down his face he continued. "When I heard your voice, I realized the vision wasn't real, but I knew that I had a choice to make. To stay and have my heart's desire, to have my family back, or to have the nightmare repeated again and return. It was then that I realized that if I stayed I would not see you again. I would never again hear you call my name. I suddenly became aware of another heart's desire in me: you."
Trying to compose herself, Diana finally managed to speak. "Then why did you push me away?" she asked as tears began to freely fall down her face.
"After I heard you calling my name, the robber obtained the upper hand against my father and killed him. Then I awoke. I felt as if I had actually relived that moment again. I didn't want you to see how weak I really was, or how damaged." Bruce turned around and walked slowly toward the snack bar counter placing his face in his hands.
"Damaged?" Diana asked. "Bruce, you are not damaged. You have endured more than any human should have to endure in a lifetime. But you have emerged triumphant. You have managed to turn this horrific event into something positive by creating Batman. Batman, who saved countless lives, and tries to make certain that no one goes through the pain that you endured. That's not damaged, Bruce. I would say that you are a hero."
Bruce suddenly turned to face Diana, shocked at her statement. He walked slowly toward her, tentatively placing one hand around her waist, drawing her closer to him. With his right hand, he lifted her chin and gently kissed her lips, the salt of their tears intermingling between them. He pulled back and looked deeply into her eyes, caressing her cheek. Bending down once again he kissed her more firmly, finally deciding to give her his heart. Diana responded quickly by deepening the kiss and wrapping her arms around his neck. Bruce again broke away. As he began to speak, Diana stopped him by putting two fingers to his lips.
"Shh. I know. You are my heart's desire as well."