Disclaimer : I don't own these characters, I am not making any money out of this and copyright infringement is not intended.
Promise Me A Miracle
A year after the incident on one roof, during one night…
On another roof, under almost the same circumstances…
She was partly hidden by the dark, by the shadows around her, in a world owned by someone dear to her, in a world that was so slowly becoming familiar, so very familiar…
The starlight lent its gentle glow as it outlined her sitting figure as she gazed down the street below. It was a beautiful night, people went their different ways, others held the hands of the ones they loved, some with their cherished family, and some alone…like her. The thought of being alone, all her life, a very long life…made her cast a glance at the man who was a few feet from her.
They were teammates. They were friends, at least she considered him her friend, but in actuality, she saw him more than that. But what am I to him? He treats me the way he would the others, but sometimes…there's a look, there's a touch, there are words that show he sees me more than a teammate, more than a friend.
What am I to you?
It took her a great deal to suppress the urge to let the words slip out of her lips. But it had been the question that kept tugging at her heart.
He appeared to be intently awaiting the appearance of their enemy, ignoring her, oblivious to her inner thoughts. Inwardly, she chided herself for ever thinking that this evening would be different, that somehow, because he specifically asked her for assistance, he had something important in his mind. He had something important in his mind alright, work.
She almost shook her head at her foolishness. But instead, she slowly turned away and buried her feelings inside. Just then, as she resumed watching the people below, a couple walked by. They were laughing as they walked before they stopped and kissed. And against her better thinking, she imagined herself and the man beside her caught in the same embrace.
They were walking hand in hand, sharing laughter, sharing strawberry ice cream, she thought with a smile. She could see his intense blue eyes because he'd be without his cowl of course, they will be in civilian clothes, like ordinary people, with ordinary lives.
He would stop and make her turn to him, he would lift her chin and look deep into her eyes, say something totally romantic that would make her blush all over before he kisses her in such a passion that would take her breath away. Then, they would pull apart and smile at each other, a smile that promised a great love. Afterwards, they will turn and walk again, as his arm circles around her slender waist and her head rests comfortably on his broad shoulder.
"How romantic," she sighed.
"PDA," his deep voice cut his silence. She looked at him, confused.
"Public display of affection."
"Oh." She could not hide the smile when she knew that he was watching the couple too. "Don't you---"
"Ever wish that I was down there?" he interrupted. "We've been through this before."
His dismissive voice hurt her, as if the thought of the last time was so horrible. "I'm sorry."
She shifted. Why don't these villains show up already? she thought.
Fighting was a lot better than making small talk with a man that was blessed with no social skills. But, she had to correct herself, he had social skills. To be Bruce Wayne, he had to have a lot of social skills, not to mention, other skills as well. She took a deep breath as a sudden hint of jealousy at the thought of his alter ego rose from within her.
From the corner of her eye, she could notice that he was studying her.
It was a moment before he broke the uncomfortable silence.
"Someone has to make…sacrifices," he said in a voice tinged with sorrow. "So that they, down there, will be safe…live their lives…"
"I know," she agreed in a soft whisper, not bothering to look at him. He was right. Duty before anything else. "It's a cause we've dedicated our lives to. But that doesn't mean I can't dream an ordinary life too."
Her answer seemed to have surprised him. "You want an ordinary life?"
"Nothing about you can be ordinary."
"I'd take that as a compliment." She was still not looking at him.
"Diana…" She slowly turned to him. He was a lot closer now. "Maybe when the world is a safer place…" his voice trailed off.
Was he offering something?
"…we can talk about this, about the chance…for us, again."
She tried to hide her grin. "Are you sure you are willing to wait that long?"
A smile finally formed on her lips. "You're asking me that? An immortal?"
His answer was a little out of character for him. He smiled back.
Asking for the world to be a safer place was like shooting for the moon and the stars. But she had all her life to wait.Wayne Manor, half a year later…
It had been almost five hours since the explosion at the docks. He was still unconscious after Alfred sedated him against his will as the elder man took care of his wounds. She was by his side, all the while.
Sunlight was filtering through the heavy curtains adorning the windows to keep the room dark. She stood up and fixed the drapes, slowly tugging against the silk fabric to bring them together to keep the light out. When she returned to the chair by his bedside, she was surprised to see him awake and studying her intently.
"About three hours."
He took a deep breath. "Alfred shouldn't have done that." He tried moving his body. "He knows I don't—"
"You were practically cursing," she reminded him. "If he didn't stick that needle I would've been happy to…shove it. Stop moving around," she added when he attempted to sit up and immediately looked away when the covers fell from his body. She heard a soft chuckle.
When she looked back at him, he was decently covered already. But without the costume on, without the mask covering his eyes, it was hard to dismiss the fact that he was Bruce Wayne, billionaire playboy. It seemed easier talking to him with the cowl on, than like this. The room suddenly felt too small for her, and it suddenly felt too warm. She stood up and prepared to leave, sure that he was back to his old self now.
"Where are you going?" he asked.
"The world needs saving," she answered and stepped away.
"What about me?" She turned just before stepping out of the door.
"I can see you're well now." Then she added with a smile. "I was just making sure you're keeping your promise."Five months after, the Watchtower…
"Do you, John Stewart, take Shayera Hol to be your lawful wedded wife…" J'onn's voice spoke as the two lovers took their lifetime vows just after a few months when Hawkgirl returned. The Thanagarian clutched at the small bouquet of flowers and smiled.
She was happy for her two teammates and recalled the incident months before. It was not a happy reunion at first, the taste of betrayal still lingered. But because of friendship, and because love conquers all, forgiveness was not hard to come by.
"Do you Shayera Hol, take John Stewart…"
She smiled and wondered, if in her lifetime, she would be given the same chance to love someone and be loved freely in return.Gotham Museum, four months after…
"Called for back up?" She bent and peeked over his shoulder as he was attempting to disarm a bomb planted by, who else, the Joker. She knelt beside him taking a look at the timer, then his face. "Looks like you're running out of time. Want me to hurl that thing out from here…to the sea, maybe?"
"Aquaman would love that." He finally spoke.
She smiled. "Just kidding."
He clipped the red wire. The timer stopped at a good two-minutes and three seconds. "There."
She prepared to stand. "Looks like you didn't need me after all." A gauntleted hand prevented her from leaving as a question filled her curious blue eyes.
"That's not the only reason why I called you." He looked around them. "Do you know that these are one of the very few instances when no one is within earshot?"
She understood as she remained close. "Security cameras?"
"Oh." So it was just the two of them then. She sat by his side.
He shifted so he was facing her. "What do you think about Kent's news?"
That was what he wanted privacy for, to have someone to talk to about Superman's impending marriage that came as a shock to most of them, and she had to admit, even to herself. But then, after the initial reaction subsided, she was happy for her best friend.
"I think it's just absolutely wonderful that he and Lois are engaged." Her eyes lit up as he remembered Kal-El telling her the good news. She pictured her friend's face. It was the face of happiness.
"I always thought he'd never get to it," he mentioned at her dreamy expression. "How did he ever do it?"
"Easy…" She cleared her throat and did her best imitation of Superman's voice. "Uhm…Lois? How do you feel about being…Mrs. Superman?"
For the second time she could recall, he smiled. "Mrs. Superman?"
She was trying hard to contain her laughter. "It's worse in my case…asking someone 'Do you want to be Mr. Wonder Woman?'" Then she let out her laughter as a thought appeared to her when she looked at him. "It's the even a lot worse for you…" She lowered her voice again. "Want to be Mrs. Batman?"
"Mrs. Batman huh?" he muttered as she let out another hearty laugh. Then all of a sudden, her laughter was cut short as his hands swiftly got hold of her head to pull her to him in a kiss.
Her initial reaction was total surprise as his lips covered her open mouth. Though it did not take long for her to melt with him, return what he was giving. It was the first time he ever took the initiative and this only served to fuel the fire that was now burning within her.
From the sitting position, they were now kneeling, bodies touching as she arched to him, pressing herself, trying to feel his heartbeat. Guiltily, she felt that he was trying hard to control himself, not allowing the kiss to deepen to a point when he would lose himself. Though her heart was still hammering wildly in her chest, she slowed her motions before they slowly pulled apart.
He breathed into her lips, "Mrs. Batman."
She dared not ask what he meant when he said that. She did not want to ruin the tender moment they shared. Though her heart was singing in a tune that she only could hear.
"The lives we live..." she smiled at him.
He stood up and extended his hand to help her, though unnecessary. "They'll start wondering what happened to us in a few seconds." He looked at her softly one last moment before the façade of the Bat returned. "Let's go."Five months after…Watchtower
"She's such an angel," she cooed to the infant she held in her arms. "Aren't you, little one?"
"Takes after the mother," Shayera proudly announced then dared her husband, who was sitting on the bedside, to contradict.
"No comment," was all John could say as J'onn smiled.
Females the Martian told him and the two men exchanged amused looks.
"Where's my goddaughter?" Superman entered the room and stood next to her, peeking at the infant from her shoulder. "My…she looks a lot like Jo---" He felt a gentle nudge on his side. "…you, Shayera."
"Say cheese!" There was a sudden flash of bright light as Flash took a picture of the two godparents.
The infant stretched and a small, chubby pink hand found her thumb and closed around it. She moved the enclosed finger back and forth, cooing more to the infant, swaying softly as she hummed a nursery rhyme she learned from Shayera's collection. The tiny lips stretched into a yawn and that small gesture brought a beaming smile to her face. Life was such a very wonderful gift.
When Batman came into the room, he stopped in his tracks. The sight of Diana cradling an infant in her arms was simply…mesmerizing. Then a thought occurred to him as silence fell on the room. It was evident that, if he was awed by the sight of her, everyone else was dumbstruck at the sight of him staring at her that way. He composed himself and greeted the new parents.
"Congratulations, John," he shook Green Lantern's hand. "Shayera."
The sound of his voice made her look at him. At the same time, he looked at her. Everyone else seemed to fade to the background.
"Diana would make a great mother," Shayera broke the spell. "Won't she Batman?"
He seemed to wake up from another trance as they looked away from each other. Just then, Wally shouted.
They all posed together, the original members plus one cramping the small room, as another flash of light illuminated the room for a brief moment. Then she sensed something as the infant was beginning to stir in her arms. A small hand reached out, feeling the front of her costume just below the breastplate. The baby girl was hungry.
She turned red as the hand almost found its little way to her breast. "I think she needs you now," suddenly uncomfortable, she was about to hand the infant to the waiting arms of the mother.
"Flash! Don't you dare!" But it was too late.
"Smile Princess." The lights flashed again, immortalizing her face as she embarrassingly pried the hungry fingers from her top and self consciously covered herself. Everyone else was laughing.
It was one of the happiest times.Somewhere in Metropolis, seven months after…
It was a quiet night. The only sound was the lonely song of the soft wind as it touched the leaves of the trees lining the pathway that swayed with its gentle urgings. As if, nature too, was caught in the sadness the week has brought. She hugged the dark coat to her standing figure, and walked the remaining distance, the sound of her footsteps merging with the hush in the darkness, as her thoughts drifted to her friend.What do you say to someone who lost a loved one? How do you comfort a grieving heart?
Kal-El knew that his love was fading away from him. He knew even before the secret engagement. But what they did not expect was the fact that she would be leaving too soon, as she gave in to her sickness. And when she was buried that sad day, Clark Kent was there, the loyal friend. But Superman was not. The truth was, he had not visited his loved one still after that day. Neither was he talking to anyone.
She halted when she reached the spot where the great love of the last son of Krypton now forever slept. She knelt on the ground and closed her eyes as she wondered how Kal must be feeling at this very moment, when one of the greatest reasons for his fight to make the world a better place was now taken from him.
Death was such a final word.
Against her will, she found herself thinking of the inevitable. One day, Bruce would be taken away from her too. It was the saddest truth she ever had to admit. How would she see life after that? Was there even a life worth living?
She looked at the small picture of a face that was once so full of life and touched her hand to the cold marble stone. Her voice whispered softly in the night.
"One of the few regrets I have in this life was that…I never got to know you better. But I admire your courage, your spirit. The world lost a great soul when you left that day, sister."
Tears dampened her cheeks and she let them fall, for herself, for her friend who was still not able to accept the truth.
"He will never be the same," a familiar voice whispered behind her interrupting her reverie.
She stood up and faced him. "Give him time to grieve."
He seemed surprised to see her crying. He slowly lifted his gloved hand and wiped a tear from her face. "Immortality is such long time to grieve." His voice was sad. "I am mortal, and I fear that I will grieve the loss of my loved ones up to the day I die. Imagine what that thought will do to someone like him."
Or to someone like me…she closed her eyes and shuddered at the thought. When she opened them, he was gone.During the following months…
While grief, rage and the strong desire for revenge was what drove Bruce Wayne to become Batman, grief, or the denial of it, motivated Superman to dedicate himself more, if that was possible, to the quest for justice. He did not talk ever about his loss, he carried on as if it did not happen at all. He never wavered from being the friendly and polite man that she came to know and care for. But there were times, when she would catch him with this faraway look, the sadness visible in the eyes that always used to smile.
She knew as a good friend knew that he was hurting so much inside, but he did not want to burden anyone else by showing his sadness. He was the greatest hero, but even the greatest need to grieve.
The months passed swiftly, as every superhero followed Superman's example. And one by one, the menaces of society were slowly taken care of. New, state of the art, prisons were built in record time to serve as the new home for these nuisances as others were committed to heavily guarded asylums. Only a handful of their enemies were left. And the night was becoming less of a threat. The world was slowly becoming a better place.
And she waited still for the moment that was promised.One day…
She found herself on the familiar shores where the whitest of sand lay bare in the sun as the bluest of waves danced forth with the wind. She breathed in the scent of fresh air and smiled at the memory of childhood and of growing up.
She turned around abruptly when she heard someone approach. She was not exactly welcome in this place anymore.
"Mother…my queen," she humbly bowed as the queen dismounted from her horse. "My friend J'onn told me you… asked for me."
"Yes," Hippolyta regarded her. "I just wanted to find out how you are doing."
They walked together by the shore, as the wind brushed her hair. "I am well. We are all well."
"I can see that." The elder woman smiled thoughtfully at her daughter. "Once in a while I find myself…out there. To check on…"
"To check on me? Mother!" her face was incredulous.
Hippolyta laughed. "You can't keep a mother from wondering." The queen's face softened. "And from what I've seen…"
She looked away, suddenly embarrassed to be having this discussion now.
"How is your friend?"
She sighed. "He's alright now, I suppose. It's been a while anyway."
"Such a loss," the queen mentioned. "How about your other friend?"
Her brows narrowed then her cheeks colored when the look on her mother's face told her that her mother had an idea of her feelings toward a certain mortal.
"I don't know," she shrugged. "I rarely see him nowadays."
The way she kept silent about anything else was enough for her mother to know that this was one matter she was not ready to open up to just yet. The queen stopped and turned.
"I have something to tell you." Hippolyta began. "The last time I ventured out to Man's world, it was…different. There was a sense of…if not peace, something similar."
The mother's hand touched the face of her only child. "I know that my daughter was one of the reasons for that…change. And I am very proud of you. I am sorry for ever punishing you."
"Mother…" She closed her eyes at the touch that she missed so much.
"You have proven yourself to be a true champion." Hippolyta's eyes beamed. "That is why, as queen, I am hereby freeing you of your punishment. You are no longer banished from your home, my daughter."
"Oh mother." She walked into the waiting arms of her mother as they embraced for a time. It felt wonderful to finally hold her mother again, like she never thought was possible since her exile.
"You can come home now." Hippolyta let go to study her face.
How she longed hear those words in years, how she waited. But during all the time she was exiled from the only home she used to know, she soon found refuge somewhere else. How could she tell her mother that she had a new home now?
"I know it's all of a sudden, Diana," the queen said as if sensing her trepidation. "I just want you to know that we will be here waiting when you are ready to come home."
She sighed, "Thank you mother. But the world…"
"Still needs you, I know," Hippolyta smiled.
They hugged one last time before she flew away. And as her figure disappeared from her sight, the queen said a silent farewell to her only daughter, her only child. But in her heart she knew that in time, her child would come back.One week later…the Batcave…
She stood for a while in the dark, contemplating whether to go ahead with her plan or cower away. Inwardly, she assured herself that this was a good time as any. Besides, the radar and security cameras installed in the cave already gave away the fact that she was there. With a sigh, she put one foot forward and the rest of her followed.
The imposing chair on which he sat was turned away from her. But the lights on the more imposing monitors were enough for her to see he was not wearing his cowl and costume as she neared to where he was.
"Hello," she greeted casually when she reached his side.
"Princess." He acknowledged her presence with a polite nod. Then he returned to what he was doing prior to her arrival. "What can I do for you?"
Something was amiss.
Ever since that dark and sad night at the cemetery, he had been…different. From that night, they hardly saw each other. She made a mental excuse for him, they were too busy trying to keep up with Superman. But after that, he made no other move but to distance himself.
Why? She wanted to find out. And that led to this night.
She thought of the right words to say. She turned to him. "I just wanted…to pay you a visit…since I rarely see you at the watchtower lately."
"I'm busy," was his curt reply.
"Busy?" With what?
"As Bruce Wayne."
"Oh." She turned her attention back to the silent images before her. "We…miss you." She took a deep breath and said in all honesty, "I miss you."
The soft tapping of his fingers on the console stilled. It was suddenly so very quiet. "Princess…"
"What's wrong Bruce?" She turned abruptly, her eyes looked at him, almost pleading. "You haven't called me Princess in a long time."
He remained still, his eyes never leaving the images in front of him. Then he resumed his work as if he heard nothing.
"Please…let me in." Her tone was begging for his attention, which she got.
"This is not the right time."
She just had to keep on trying. "When will be the right time? When the world goes back to what it was before?"
He finally looked at her face. "Not now, Princess."
He took a deep breath. His next words she never expected.
"What I said that night…I'm sorry." His eyes looked away. "Forget all of it."
It felt as if a thick slab of concrete hit her full force on the chest. She summoned all her will not to be angry, she begged her gods to give her patience, to calm the suddenly impetuous desire to smash the damn screen he kept looking at.
"Just tell me…Bruce…" Her even tone belied the inner tension she was battling. "What am I really to you?"
He was studying the console but his mind was somewhere else. He had to do this, sooner or later. He owed her the explanation, if that was all he could give. Though he never imagined that it would be this difficult.
He faced her with a stoic expression. "You are immortal. You will not age…grow old, nor fade away, like I would. You don't belong in this world."
"You make it sound as if it is a curse."
"A curse…a blessing…" He pushed a button and the screen turned black. "…Whatever you want to see it. It all adds up to one thing…we don't belong."
She needed to know. "Did you…ever have any feelings for me?"
"It doesn't matter anymore." He avoided looking at her.
"It matters to me," she said in a sad whisper. "Because I love you."
Once the words were out, she felt him tense. But there was no turning back now.
"I love you Bru—"
"I don't love you."
She could not prevent the gasp that burst out from her because of his blatant admission of his feelings. The pain coursed through her, as if a knife plunged deep into her chest, slowly twisting inside, making it very hard to breathe.
He stood up. "I have a dinner meeting in a few minutes. You're welcome to stay if…"
When he faced her, she took the opportunity and studied his face one last time, desperately searching for the traces of the man she fell in love with. Sadly, the man she knew, the man she fell in love with was nowhere to be seen as cold, heartless eyes stared back at her.
"I know my way out."
She prepared to leave and a few steps after, she turned, not able to hide her melancholic expression. He was watching her after all.
"Goodbye, Batman…Bruce."Three months after…at the Watchtower…
The lounge was unusually empty, save for the voices in the background relaying the past days' events coming from a screen located at the corner of the quiet room. She lowered her tired body on one of the more comfortable chairs and leaned after placing the glass of water by the small table beside her. She lifted her arms and stretched her muscles, tilting her head from side to side, to ease some of the tension. Her drowsy eyes searched for a clock and the LCD informed her that it was a little past three a. m. She leaned again, and though her flight dried her skin, her hair still felt damp from the rain. She just came in from Asia, assisting John and the others as a typhoon ravaged the small island of Manila.
She drank half of the water in the glass, quenching the thirst and exhaustion from seven straight hours of battling with nature. She stood up and made her way to the exit but something she heard from the news made her turn and look at the screen. A blonde female was reporting.
"The residents of Gotham, and most of the world were in for a big surprise yesterday when billionaire bachelor Bruce Wayne made a shocking announcement." The scene cut to Bruce, his face smiling for the cameras.
"I'm getting married early next year."
A feeling of dread washed over her, her hands were suddenly cold, all of her body was cold, as she stood rooted to the spot.
The female voice continued. "Wayne, who had been the target of many tabloids due to his numerous alleged affairs, was indeed settling down to the disappointment of many women…" various pictures of him with different women appeared on the screen before finally settling on a familiar face of a woman. "The lucky woman is one Selina Kyle…"
The voice drifted away as she shut her eyes, erasing her mind of the images of him and another woman. She went to the exit, almost dragging her tired limbs to the refuge of her small quarters. She sat on the corner of the bed, eyes forward, her hands gripping the half empty glass, as if holding onto for dear life.Diana…are you alright?
Her emotions were too strong even for the Martian to ignore.
She blinked. Not now, J'onn. I need to be alone.
Too many emotions were confusing her, betrayal, jealousy, envy, anger, and all these feelings were choking her.
The sound of glass breaking made her look at her hand. A red line sliced through her palm, shards of broken glass puncturing her skin and blood was starting to drip at the floor, angry red spots dotting the immaculately white surface. But the pain she was feeling inside of her was too strong, she did not feel the wound. She had been punched, kicked, shot at, stabbed, thrown against a building. None of the pain those inflicted could compare to what she was feeling at this very moment.
She removed the glass on her hand, one by one, letting the pieces fall on the floor as her blood continued to flow from the wound. She let herself bleed, knowing that long before she lost a lot of blood, the wound would have already healed. Despite herself, she remembered the words, the echoes of the past…
"Maybe when the world is a safer place…we can talk about this, about the chance…for us, again"
"Are you sure you are willing to wait that long?"
Then she realized now, why he treated her the way he did the last time they talked. He was pushing her away, removing her from his life, with the harsh, the cruel words…
"You don't belong in this world."
"We don't belong."
"I don't love you."
She opened her eyes when he heard her door open. Only one person knew her code.
Superman looked at her face then the crimson liquid that now gathered on her feet. He quickly stepped inside then disappeared from her view. He appeared a few seconds later to patch up her wound and clean her mess.
She looked at the bandages that covered her right hand. If only her insides could be fixed that easily. Then her friend's face was before her as he knelt in front, covering her hands softly in his.
"I know what it feels like to lose someone you love." He looked up at her with a soft smile. "Yes…I know about your feelings. Just like J'onn, I can recognize the signs between the two of you that are not so hard to miss."
Then his expression grew serious. "I just don't understand why he did that." He took a deep breath. "When Lois…passed away, it felt like I lost the whole world. It felt like there was no more reason to go on."
His head bowed again as he looked at their joined hands, as if to hide his sad face as he finally opened up.
"But because I had to…I pretended that each day after that moment when she left was still worth living for…even if a part of me died with her. I pretended Diana…" His face searched hers for understanding. "I was pretending that I still cared about anything, about the world…even if deep inside, there was nothing left."
With her uninjured hand, she gently touched his face. He continued, "But I saw you…saw the others, and the world that still needed us. It was unfair to turn my back on the world that gave me a new home."
A tear dropped on her hand. "I thought there was nothing worse than someone you love dying on you." His face looked at her with compassion. "I was wrong. It's a fact that I should accept…because of what I am. Everyone I love will soon leave me, their mortality is beyond my powers. What's harder than that is…losing someone without even having the chance to love and be loved back…because of what you are. And I don't want you to feel that way…not you."
There were no words for her to speak. He said them all for her and he was right. At least, he had loved and he was loved before he even lost. She loved, but was not given the chance to be loved back.
She slid off the edge of the soft mattress and knelt in front of him as her own tears started to fall from her sad eyes.
And, only in a way the truest of friends could ever do, their hands found each other as they tightly embraced, one holding on to the other as they let themselves give in to this lonely moment. For the very first time in their long lives, the two strongest heroes of the earth knelt by the floor of a small room, comforting each other, releasing the feelings that they would never do to anyone else.
They held each other for a long time as they cried.Two months after…
It was the most wonderful time of the year, she heard a song once and could not help but agree as she strolled along the streets of Gotham carrying a stick of pink, puffy cotton candy. She never thought that a Gotham night could ever be this…majestic. What used to be dark, monotonous and threatening was now white as snow covered the rooftops, colorful as Christmas lights and lanterns decorated the houses and happy as children sang carols.
After finishing the cotton candy, she sighed and thought, a little sadly, about the things she would miss the most before her feet led her to a specific direction. On the way, she remembered Kal's surprised reaction, and the way he was restraining himself from preventing her from doing what she had decided upon.
It was very hard to say goodbye to the family that she had come to know and to love.
A few moments more, she was facing the very familiar door. She took a deep breath and with a gloved finger, she rang the doorbell. After a while, she heard footsteps approach before the brass knob turned.
"Good evening, Alfred," a flushed face smiled in greeting.
At first glance, the butler did not recognize her in jeans and turtleneck sweater. "Miss Diana…what a pleasant surprise. Please, come in." She took the invitation as the butler cordially led her to the living room. "Master Bruce will be in soon from one of his…so-called Christmas parties."
She looked at the very cozy and inviting glow of the fire from the fireplace then her gaze drifted to the grandfather clock nearby. "It's okay."
"Can I offer you some tea? Or coffee perhaps?"
She smiled, she would definitely miss coffee. "I would love a cup of coffee, thank you."
She followed the butler to the kitchen, her light strides soundless on the marble floor. She made her way to the counter and comfortably sat herself on a stool. When Alfred turned, he was very surprised to find her in the room.
"Your highness…seems you have been picking some of the master's habits." He placed a hand over his chest. "I'm afraid I'm getting a little too old for this."
"Sorry I alarmed you," she apologized. "And Alfred, it's Diana." She took two cups and saucers and placed one on front of her and the other on the opposite side. He poured steaming coffee on her cup. "Aren't you going to join me? Please…"
How can one say no to a face like that?, he thought. Only a bloody crazy bloke would, and he knew exactly who.
The butler smiled at her, before turning away. Just when she thought he would decline, he turned back carrying a teacup.
"I prefer tea." He poured himself a cup. Just about to sit down, he remembered something. "Where are my manners…Miss Diana. I haven't offered you dinner."
She laughed at the butler's worried expression. "Thank you, Alfred. But I just…ate."
"What about dessert?"
Actually that was all I had, she wanted to say but he had already disappeared on the door of the huge refrigerator. When he emerged later, he was carrying a whole cheesecake.
"Please try a slice. It's good, I assure you."
She looked longingly at the offered cheesecake. Addition to the list of things she was going to miss. "I would love a slice."
Alfred sat opposite her after he placed a generous slice on a plate for her. She heartily consumed a big bite. In a few more moments, the pastry was gone.
"Another slice your highness?" He appeared amused.
She patted her tummy. "Thank you, but I have to refuse now." She sighed contentedly. "It was indeed delicious, Alfred."
"Finally…someone who appreciates my cooking," he mentioned. "The future…" he suddenly became embarrassed upon mentioning his charge's fiancée.
"Mrs. Wayne?" She finished for him.
"Yes…" He was surprised and relieved that she did not seem to mind. "She doesn't…eat much. But then, she would not be able to climb those buildings if she did."
She chuckled. "I prefer to believe she's changed." Her expression sobered. "For Bruce."
"I certainly hope so." He took a sip of his tea.
The eyes that earlier had the hint of amusement was now gone and was replaced by a somber façade. And he had spent too many times with Bruce to know the sign of suppressed emotions when he saw one. There was something beneath the blue eyes that told of sadness.
"Miss Diana…is there something you need to tell me?"
She traced the abstract pattern on the counter. "Alfred…the reason I came here is to talk to you." She looked at him thoughtfully. "There's no one else I admire more in the league than Bruce…don't tell Kal though…" she joked.
The butler smiled.
She fiddled with her fork. "He is an extraordinary person…a very extraordinary person." She reached across to hold his hand. "Thank you."
He was confused. "Whatever for?"
She smiled. "For…being a good…father to Bruce."
"If I were a good father…he wouldn't dress himself up like it's Halloween every night."
She laughed. She was not able to laugh in a while. But after the laughter subsided, her faced turned somber.
He eyed her ruefully. "If I were a good father…I wouldn't have let him…make the decision he made."
When Bruce told him about his plans, he was surprised. No…he was shocked. He always thought that this woman he was talking with at the moment would be the future resident of the manor. He only knew her from her short visits, in addition to his musings, but that was enough to merit his approval. There was obviously something in her that brought some light into his life. Maybe, she was the light.
It was good while it lasted. Then all of a sudden, when Gotham finally saw the light, Bruce was already blinded by the darkness.
"He has…the right to chose whomever to spend the rest of his life with. He owes it to himself to be happy."
"Happy?" The aged eyes studied her face. "I remembered a time when he used to be happy…it had something to do with you." He paused. "Forgive me for asking, Miss Diana…but…what happened?"
"Maybe it has…something to do with me."
What sane man could think that about her? But then again, Bruce's sanity was always in question.
"I don't know Alfred. That's something only he can answer." She took a deep breath. "All I know is that…I wish him only the best. And I pray that you have a longer life…to watch over him, be there for him."
"That's a promise that I made to myself a long time ago. I've resigned myself to the fate," he smiled. It did not take too long for him to know what her purpose was for the visit. "You are…going somewhere, Princess?"
"Yes," she admitted. "I finally earned the ticket for the trip back. I am no longer exiled by my own mother."
He was supposed to be happy for her. But he was not. She should be here fighting for him. "Congratulations," he forced himself to say. Then on a more serious note, he added. "But…why leave? Why not fight…for him?"
"I've been fighting for him…for a while now," she answered truthfully. "Believe me, Alfred. He doesn't want to be won…at least, not by me." We don't belong.
"You will be greatly missed."
"Soon…they will forget that I was even here."
"I find that very unlikely."
She smirked at him. "We'll see…in a few years. Besides, all my friends…they all have their own lives now."
She thought of them, the lives they had, so different from today, from what they expected.
She remembered something funny. "Wally complained one time that he was the youngest, that he should've been the first to get hitched. I don't know his future plans, but there is a girlfriend." She smiled at the recollection. "John and Shayera are proud parents now, J'onn…he has someone special even if he tries to deny it."
"Martians," Alfred interrupted as they laughed.
"Kal…he seems to have found a new meaning to life and to that I am very thankful. He deserves a second chance. He frequently visits the farm nowadays because of a certain childhood sweetheart." The smile was still there, even if what she was about to say next caused her a lot of pain.
"And Bruce…he has finally worn the costume for the last time."
"I would not count on that," the butler remarked. "I asked him, after he pulled that…stint, what shall I do with the uniforms. He told me in not so many words to stay away from them."
She grinned and recalled that he was still, after all, a member of the league. There was still no formal resignation. But she knew that soon, there would be one.
"At least…he has found someone."
"And I thought he'd turn up to be an old grumpy man," he added.
"I'm glad he has you." There was a pleasant expression on her face.
"What about you Miss?"
"I'll try to find my happiness back home."
There was a moment of silence. Then, somewhere, the halls were filled with the loud chimes of the grandfather clock announcing the time as it struck nine times, as if warning her.
She smiled at the old man. "Time is up." She slowly stood up. "I have to get going now, Alfred."
He escorted her. "Are you absolutely sure, Miss, that you won't change your mind?" It was suddenly depressing to think that she was finally going away as he led the way to the front door. "I'd be glad to convince you through my culinary expertise."
She was definitely going to miss this man. "I will be back…if the world needs me again," she said as he opened the door.
"He needs you."
She turned to him. "He never said so."
"He doesn't have to," he pleaded. "Aren't you even going to tell him goodbye?"
She sighed. "I already did, Alfred." She embraced the butler. "Now, I'm going to tell you."
He had to fight, if Bruce was not willing to. "He loves you."
"He does not love me." The recollection was not as painful anymore. "That, he told me."
He was surprised at her statement but then thought that Bruce was capable of deceit. "He is lying."
She considered for a while. "Maybe…maybe not." She placed her hands in her pockets. "It doesn't matter now, Alfred. Let him be." She kissed him on the forehead. "Goodbye, Alfred. Take good care of yourself."
He stayed at the doorstep as she flew away, looking at the skies, at her form, until the vision faded from his view. It was an unhappy thought but it was probably the last time he would ever see her flying so majestically through the skies. He looked around, before stepping into the house, and realized that the world was suddenly a sadder place.
When the butler returned to the kitchen, he deliberately left the silverware and the porcelain that she used earlier untouched. There was something he needed to do.
A few hours later, Alfred heard the faint echoes of the familiar strides while he was preparing the dinner. The door opened and Bruce entered. His gaze immediately went to the unkempt counter.
"Did you have company, Alfred?" He eyed the butler with a suspicious look.
"As a matter of fact, I did," Alfred answered nonchalantly.
"May I ask who?" The look was still there as he loosened his tie. He took the seat earlier occupied.
The butler smiled. "The Princess was here earlier. You just missed her." For the last time.
The grin he was wearing was abruptly erased off his face. He was suddenly tense. "What did she want?"
"Oh…just to talk." Alfred took the coffee pot. "Coffee sir?"
He refused. "What about?"
It had been a long time since he heard that tone of voice. It was like the Batman was back.
"She just wanted to thank me…for being able to raise you into such a good gentleman." Sarcasm abound the statement. "She had such faith in me, in you…even your future wife."
He was suddenly confused. Alfred would not be lying to him, he may be sarcastic, but he was no liar. And Diana, she would not come if there was nothing important. But there was something the elder man was not telling. And it was obvious that no more information would be voluntarily given if he did not ask.
"What else, Alfred?"
"She said something about…not being in exile anymore," the butler forced a smile as his hands suddenly held onto the counter. "I believe she's finally going home."
If he gripped the edges of the table any harder, he was likely to break it. He was stunned and speechless for a while.
"Something wrong, Master Bruce?" Cat got your tongue? The butler pretended to be concerned. "You look…pale. What did they feed you on that party?"
"Did she say when?" He finally found his voice.
"Silly me…I did not ask," Alfred jeered. "Do you want me to ask---" The elder man was not even finished yet when he hurriedly stepped out.
The taunting expression on the butler's face slowly faded into a downcast sentiment. He silently prayed that all was not lost, that somehow there was a way, even if something inside him whispered that it was a little too late.Somewhere…in a familiar rooftop a few minutes later…
Tiny, featherlike specks of snow decorated the night as she stood on the very familiar rooftop. With tentative steps, she walked towards the snow covered ledge. A sad sigh escaped her lips and she allowed herself the last, precious moments to sit at the very same spot where she sat, when a promise was made. Involuntarily, her lonely eyes drifted to her left, a few feet away, as if expecting him to be there, just as he was before, brooding, ignoring her. She closed her eyes, trying to block out the sudden pain at the memory of an unrequited love.
She was about to stand a make her departure when she heard a faint sound of laughter. Her eyes gazed below, noticing an elderly couple walk hand in hand, sharing laughter. Forgetting her earlier thoughts, she smiled thinking that it was a little too late for grandpa and grandma to be walking around. But then, the world was a safer place now, so very unlike before.
As she continued to admire the couple, a sad realization returned. Growing old with someone she loved, holding each other's old and wrinkly hands, sharing the last sunsets together…those were moments that could never happen to her. She would not age, or fade away, and she would probably watch as the sun sets its last.
He was right all along, I do not belong here.
A solitary tear fell. She thought about the precious years she spent in this world, and her friends.
Shayera and John, who would have thought that they would be the doting parents? Now they are even planning a second child.
Wally…the way he embraced her when she said goodbye, it was hard not to give him her promise that she would be there on his wedding.
J'onn…he was the one who would never be that far out of reach. I'll just be a thought away.
Kal…dearest Kal. Up to the last minute, he was finding excuses for her to stay.
"No one could fill in for you." he said while watching her pack her things in boxes.
"There are a lot who could—"
"You've been my confidant, my trusted friend…"
She regarded him thoughtfully as she closed the last box. She smiled at his expression, the one only meant for her that he kept from the rest of the world.
At the moment, he was caught between being the greatest superhero and the boy next door who was to lose his best friend. His face was the face of uncertainty.
"Diana…I lost Lois, now---"
"I know it's unfair for me to say that," his blue eyes were begging. "I don't want to lose you."
"You are not going to lose me."
He pretended to consider. "If you're leaving because of…him…"
She looked away and was amazed at how few her items of possession were by the five boxes that now occupied most of her bed, momentarily evading his question.
"It's not just about that," she faced him. "It's has been our mission in life to protect this world at the cost of our lives, Kal. We may live through the battles…but little by little, we slowly die…as we slowly pass up the chance to live ordinary lives." She continued as he intently listened.
"While we were busy saving the world… I almost died as a daughter when I broke a mother's rule. You almost died as a man, when you closed your heart to what you truly felt when you lost Lois." She tried to smile. "It was almost impossible to ask for the world to be safe…but, miracles do happen. And we finally have the chance to live our lives the way we only dreamed to before."
She paused for a moment before telling him her secret. "I always dreamed that…" She searched for the right words. "Bruce…told me once that…someday, if the world becomes a safer place…there might be the chance of the two of us…"
"He told you that?" there was underlying anger in his voice. "Then why..?"
"Kal… whatever his reasons are…I respect them" she took hold of his hand. "A broken promise…a broken heart, is a very small price to pay in exchange for what this world now has." She gave his hand a squeeze.
He smiled and looked at her in admiration. How could Bruce be so wrong by passing up the chance to be loved by this amazing woman?
"The world surely won't be the same when you are gone."
She had a smile of her own. "I'm sure of it."
He pulled her into a soft embrace as they both shared the last laughter together. She closed her eyes and thanked her gods that she was blessed with a friend like him.
In her own way, she loved this man, and she knew she was loved in return. It was the kind of love that never needed physical proof to be ascertained, the kind that was never confessed, only felt by the heart. It was the kind of love that was shared only by a precious few.
It was a while before they pulled apart.
"I'm going to miss you," he admitted.
"Same here. And Kal…" she remembered something. "One last favor…I don't know what to do with these." He looked at the boxes then to her.
"I'll take care of it.""So…this is it then." It was hard to say the words. "It's been an honor. Good—"
"Please…Diana," he silenced her as he smiled ruefully. "No goodbyes. Just say…see you later."
She kissed him softly, the first and last time. "See you later."
The sound of Christmas carols broke her reverie and chuckled when she noticed that she was covered in white gossamer snowflakes. She stood up and brushed herself off with an ironic smile. Funny how she longed before to finally be able to go home and now that she had the chance, it seemed that it was the hardest thing to do.
With one last longing gaze at the streets, she then closed her eyes and thought again about the family that she was leaving. In her heart, she knew she was going to miss them. She shook her head when a desperate thought took over. It was selfish to entertain a fleeting thought. But deep inside, she longed for the moments when they fought together, protected the world.
Despite himself, the way he denied the emotion deep inside, he found himself almost running to his car.
And Bruce…she knew she should have at least, told him goodbye herself. After all, if whatever unspoken feelings they shared were now buried and forgotten, at least by him, he was still a teammate.
He drove as fast as he could, through the snow, amidst the heavy traffic, and found himself silently praying that she would still be there.
She was still making up excuses to see him one last time. But because she knew it would make no difference, that she would be rejected like she was before, she made up her mind, ignoring the whisper of her heart.
In silent goodbye, she laid a black dress on the spot where she sat that night, the night he made his promise. It was the torn black evening gown that she wore in Paris, where they danced for the first time. She had initially planned on keeping it with her, as a simple reminder of what almost was.
Without the costume on, he had to make use of the elevators and the stairs to reach his destination, running, hoping against hope…
And it was so, on one Christmas Eve, the Princess of Themyscira said goodbye to her adoptive family, her best friend, her love and made the journey back to island with a broken heart, where the comforting arms of her queen mother awaited.A few minutes after…on the streets of Gotham…
He lost track of the time as he silently sat by the bench in his lonesome, his fingers feeling the soft fabric of the black dress that lay on his lap, watching, with sad eyes, the snowflakes fall, listening to the faint echoes of Christmas songs and holiday cheer.
He knew Alfred and his family were definitely worried by now, but going home to the manor, the big, suddenly lifeless manor, seemed the last thing on his mind.
There were a lot of things that he needed to do. Later, he would have to go home, eat the stale Christmas dinner that was probably waiting at the table hours ago. In the morning, he would have to call Selena and greet her, expecting the constant reminder and updates about the wedding preparations. Even later he would bury himself with paperwork.
But he would face all of that later. Right now, in all of his life, he wanted time alone by himself and his thoughts as he allowed his mind to drift, to reflect on the decisions he made.
He let her go.
No…he pushed her away.
He did it for her. It was for the best.
But why did it hurt so much?
He looked at the Christmas lights that adorned the streets and remembered that this was a time to be happy. Happiness…it was a word he was never accustomed to…until she came into his life. And now…
It was what he wanted…for her to stay away from his life…
His short life…he did not want her to grieve.
Though he never thought she would leave…so soon.
There was a soft rustle behind him as if someone…
He looked around but she was not there. His cruel ears and imagination were playing tricks on him.
He shook his head and closed his tired eyes.
No…the world does not revolve around her.
No…I would not miss her presence, her smile, her radiance.
No…I never loved her.
A cold feeling pricked his right cheek. His hand touched his face and was surprised to find it damp from a tear that escaped. A tear…he could cry after all.
A rueful smile appeared on his face. He had until sunrise to convince himself of his own words. Otherwise, he had all his life, all his suddenly empty life, to blame himself.