Minefields by Djinn
Part One: Decisions
My husband loves me. I know this. I've always known this. It's just that he loves someone else too. Someone who's beautiful and powerful. And his equal in a lot of ways.
He loves me more though. I'm fine with that. Really. I believe that he loves me more.
But...what is more? I was never great at math--always tended toward the written word as anyone will tell you. But I can work the math on this one. You have one hundred percent--that's Clark's love potential. Not all for me, but most of it is. So...is that most as in ninety-nine percent? And she only gets one percent? Or is it most as in fifty-one percent to forty nine? A few points off and I'd be the one loved less?
I try not to think about it. And it's easy.
Okay, it's not easy. But I still try not to think about it.
He married me. He chose me. It's just...
This is why I try not to drink wine at dinner. It makes me maudlin. It makes me doubt. He's Superman. He'd never hurt me.
He'd never cheat on me.
He'd never be so worried about her that he'd only think of her. That he'd do anything to stop her.
I wonder if she ever has? Made love, I mean. Is she a virgin? That would make sense, in some sort of classically Greek way. Virgin sacrifice, peace comes from it. It would make sense.
And does it occur to Clark that he could have been there first? They dated. It was in all the papers. Our own included. They dated.
Damn it. Did they ever...? Has she ever?
This is ridiculous. It doesn't matter if she has or hasn't had sex. Not to me, not to Clark. He's not thinking about that, he's not obsessing about that.
Just because it's pretty clear he's obsessing about something does not mean it's her. Or that it's that man's offer to her--one night with her for peace. It's mythic. Just like she is. And why shouldn't she do it? How hard would it be?
Unless she's in love with someone else? Like, oh, say, my husband, maybe?
Damn it. I will not do this. He's in the other room, and okay, he's distracted, but he is not with her, and he is not going to be with her. He's here with me.
I love him; he loves me. We're soul mates.
End of story.
I can taste Diana on my lips. I don't have to close my eyes, I don't have to pretend. I can feel her--in my arms, lips bruising my own, the way they did the first time we met alone, no cameras, no publicist, no dire emergency. Just us, all by ourselves, in the frigid air. Kissing.
It was too much, too soon. What the hell was I thinking? And why did I run from her later? Why did I think I couldn't have her?
Not that I regret moving on...I have Lois. I love Lois. We're married, and that means the world to me. Normally, I don't sit in my study and fixate on what Diana is doing. Or with whom.
Will she make love to him if that is the price of peace? Will she let him touch her, let him...show her what love feels like? But it won't be love...it will just be sex.
I told her there was another way. She didn't listen.
I tried another tack. "Diana, can't you see? He's just using you. You can't be sure he'll even keep his word."
"He made a promise."
"And once he has what he wants, once he's had you, what reason will he have to keep that promise?" I tighten my hold on her hand, can practically feel her pulse beating in my palm. "He's not like us."
"I know," she says. And I wonder if she is thinking of more than just his ethics. He's only a normal human; he doesn't have our strength--doesn't have our appetites.
Maybe she's thinking the same thing as I am. That if I made love to her, I wouldn't have to hold back. Not at all. Except that...yes, I would. At least at first--because she's never done it. Or she hadn't when we first tried to make things work.
We didn't try very hard. Why didn't we try? She regrets it too, I think. I see it in her eyes sometimes. That we gave up too soon, that I ran and that she let me go. Why didn't we try just a little harder, back when there was no Lois to hurt, or at least not the way it would hurt her now.
I won't hurt Lois. I won't. Diana can sleep with the entire war council of New Vladonia if she wants. I'm a married man, and what Diana does or doesn't do is of no concern to me.
It shouldn't make me happy that if she does make love with him, she'll have to hold back. She's powerful, and this Alcmaeon--well, he might be immortal, but he's just a human. Not super strong. Not like me.
Diana is in love with me. That's what I've always believed. She hasn't said it, but I think she is.
But...how can she do this if she loves me?
You wouldn't always know it, but there's not a lot that Superman and I can't talk about. We've been friends for too many years, been through too much together. He's like a brother to me. A bigger, stronger, irritating brother, but a brother.
Dick used to treat him like a favorite uncle. Alfred still treats him like he's my long-lost sibling, fawning all over him whenever he deigns to visit Gotham. "Oh, master Clark, would you care for some milk?"
But he's open that way. Open, innocent. One great big lug of a superhero.
Except where she's concerned. Diana. We don't talk about Diana. Which is probably a good thing. I'm not sure he'd be thrilled to know that she and I have been spending time together. I don't mean we're--I mean she's Wonder Woman and I still annoy the crap out of her, but she's been trying to convert me to her message of peace.
It'd be funny, if I didn't enjoy the time I spend with her so much. I can see why Clark obsesses over her. Only he hates that word. That's my word. Batman obsesses, not Superman.
But hell, if there was ever a man who obsessed over a woman, it's the big blue flying guy for our princess of wonder. And the strange thing is, I know how much he loves Lois. As in flat-out, passion-filled, truly adores his wife.
He just loves Diana too. Or maybe it's not love. Maybe it's something sort of dark. Which no one would probably believe except maybe Clark, me...and Diana.
She doesn't talk about him to me. Ever. Not even good things, normal, everyday gossip things. She just doesn't mention him. Well, if it's business, she will. If she's dissecting a battle, it's not like she leaves out Clark's contribution, but other than that, he's a forbidden subject.
I wonder if she even realizes she does it? I've often wondered what happened between them back when they were splashed across every tabloid from Seattle to Miami. Did they...?
The mind boggles at what sex might be like for the two of them. I imagine they'd have to hold back with a plain old garden-variety human. But with each other? Talk about fireworks.
I've thought about it. Sex with Diana. She's so...limber. A man can't be blamed for thinking along those lines. Clark never appears to notice. He's always so busy being stalwart. But I've caught him at other times. Usually when she's laughing. She has this habit of throwing her head back, exposing her neck, when she laughs. He watches her then, as if her neck is the most alluring thing he's ever seen. And I'm supposed to be the bat-man.
I said that to him once. Made a joke about vampires and him and me and Diana's neck. That's when I learned that he and I can't talk about her. That was back before I had any reason to want to hide things about her from him. Like how in the dark, her hair shines when the moon lands on it. I've seen it, going from roof to roof with her. It glistens.
And never more than when she is with him. She lights up around him. I wish...well, she never lights up that way around me. But then I am the dark knight. No reason for her to light up, and I'm the only one who gets to see her gleaming in the light of the moon. He'll never see that.
At least, I don't think he's seen that.
Have they done it? Have they made love? I wish I knew. I bet Lois wishes she knew too.
I would have guessed they hadn't. If anyone had asked me, even just a few days ago. But that was before this Alcmaeon came along with his bargain. That was before I saw Superman's eyes go distant, as if he was remembering something...something personal. Something private. Something--
God, this must drive Lois nuts. It's driving me nuts, and I'm not in love with any of the possibly guilty parties.
Okay, maybe a little in love. But just a little. I'm not all wrapped around the axle over whether Diana does this or not. It's her decision to make, her body to give or not. And it's not much of a price, really? If you think of it that way. One night to save all those people? If it's her will, her desire to help, why should I tell her no?
I tried to tell her that. I'm not sure she understood me. You do what you can; you do what lets you sleep at night. And everyone has different limits. If she can do this and sleep at night, then more power to her.
I think I could too. But then my world is darkness, where color fades to be replaced with shades of gray. I'm fine with ambiguity.
Clark lives in a primary-colored world. Right and wrong, good and bad, yes and no. There are no maybes in his sunlit world. There are no "I can sleep at night with this, but not with this."
I imagine he's not sleeping at night at all right now.
I just hope Diana is finding it possible to rest. She's going to need it.
Kal does not approve of what I am about to do.
I hate that I am so saddened by his disapproval and by his frown when he told me there was always another way. Perhaps for him there is. For a man who will not kill, no matter what, perhaps there is always another way.
For me, there is not. One night, just one night. And New Vladonia will know peace again. Alcmaeon has promised that.
He makes my skin crawl. The thought of my first time being with him--it makes me shudder, and not in the way he no doubt hopes. He had not come out and said that he will demand that from me, but what else can he mean by one night? What else can I expect? And...for peace, I will do it.
I wish...I guess it does not matter what I wish. I have become adept at putting my own wishes behind me, at focusing on the greater good. If this is not a case of the greater good, what is?
Still, I wish my first time was to be with Kal. Oh, why can I not be honest? I wish all my times were to be with Kal. I wish Kal were not married, that he was with me. Why did I push him away when I had my chance with him? Why did I see his eagerness as impatience? His candor as bluntness? Why did I not make love to him then?
Why was I so afraid of him?
He is out of my reach now. He is with Lois. Always with Lois. His wife, his mate, his love.
Yet...there are times I feel as if he loves me deeply. Times when he has taken risks for me that go beyond simply comrades-in-arms. There are times when I am laughing with the others that I see him watching me...and there is such a look of longing on his face.
I worry that I look at him that way sometimes. But I have never asked anyone. I don't discuss Kal. He is my friend. My good--no, my best friend. But nothing more.
Never anything more. Great goddess, I sound so pathetic. It's not like that. I don't sit and obsess over what might have been. I have a clear mission, a duty here in man's world. I don't worry about what might have been.
It's just every now and then, when he and I have worked particularly closely. Or when one of us needed help and without thought turned to the other. Those are the times I wish I had him in my life in some less-casual way. And now, with this decision looming in my face, it brings it home even more. That I wish it was Kal who was going to be my lover, not this fury-ridden immortal.
I try to imagine sometimes, how my relationship with Kal must affect Lois. I am not unmoved by her situation. Kal loves her. We all know that. And yet...she has to share some part of him with me. She does it graciously. Welcomes me into her world with nearly open arms. And still, I can't help thinking what I would do if I were her. Would I be so gracious? Or would I be reaching for a challenge sword and picking witnesses and a proving ground?
She is not like me. That is probably a good thing.
I have to stop thinking of this. I have made my decision, and it is time to get ready.
Clark is gone. He's not in bed, and I know if I got out of bed and wandered down to his study, he wouldn't be there either. The apartment has that air, the silent, "only one of you here" feel.
But I'm not going to get up; I'm not going to wander out. I don't want to know that he's gone. Not tonight. Not this night--the night Diana was supposed to spend with that man. The night Clark couldn't stay in our bed.
Whenever he's called away by the League, he wakes me up. He always wakes me up. He knows how I worry about him.
He wasn't called by the JLA. He wasn't called by anyone. His presence isn't needed.
If I were the kind who goes in for self-delusion, I could say he's just gone to protect her. That he wants to make sure this man doesn't hurt her. But this is Wonder Woman. She could break Alcmaeon's neck if he looks at her wrong.
Clark doesn't want to protect her. He wants to spy on her. He wants to watch--or doesn't want to watch. He wants to swoop in and grab her and take her away.
And then he wants to...he wants to...
It's funny, really. She's doing the right thing, I think. Why can't Clark see that? Why is everything so black and white with him?
How much does he love her that he left our bed like a thief in the night?
I can't stand it. I get out of bed. I walk down the hall. The light is on; he left it on, left the door cracked. Probably so I'd think he was there but not want to disturb him.
I leave the light on on, sit in the arm chair to the side of the window, which he's also left cracked. It's cold, so I pull down the throw and wrap it around me. I wait. And wait.
And finally he comes home.
"How is she?" I ask.
He whirls. Was he so lost in thought that his super-hearing let him down? "Lois. I got called--"
I have to give him credit. He can't finish the lie. Instead, he just looks down.
"You didn't answer my question."
"That's because I don't know the answer." He sits down in his desk chair, can't meet my eyes.
"Clark. This is hard for me to say, but I'm going to say it. Because I don't like waking up in our bed alone. You can't have us both."
He doesn't look up. "I know."
"You chose me. Are you sorry for that? Do you want a do-over?"
He doesn't answer, not at first. When he finally looks up, his eyes are angry. "You're my wife."
I suddenly realize that so much of Clark's life is categorized as possessions. My world, my home town, my parents, my wife, my city, my life, my friend Diana. My love Diana?
"That's an evasion not an answer." I've never put him on the spot like this. Oh, god knows, I've needled him, pushed at him, even yelled at him--all over her. But I've never made him choose. I get up. "I'm going to bed now. If you want to join me, you have to leave her out there." I gesture vaguely toward the window. "If you can't do that, then don't come to bed. Ever."
"A choice, Lois?"
"You made your choice, Clark. When you said, 'I do,' remember?"
"I can't make any promises right now." He must be able to see I am close to blowing up, because he gets up and shuts the window, pulling it tight. "I won't go back out. But I can't promise that I'm leaving her out there."
I toss him the throw from the chair. "Then sleep in here."
The hallway seems very long and very cold as I leave him alone.
Or not alone. That's the problem. We're not alone anymore. Tonight, she's there.
Will she always be?
Part Two: Repercussions
We stand at an impasse, Diana and I. Alcmaeon is dead. I watched it, watched with my super-vision as he burned the scrolls and lost his immortality--all for her, for love of her. I watched him die in her arms, held in her embrace, her lips on his, as he turned to dust and left her alone.
I called her to the Fortress. And she came. I was trying to be generous. Trying to understand. Trying to apologize. I didn't expect to be subjected to a verbal attack.
And I didn't expect her to cry. I didn't expect her to say that she wished I had trusted her more. That she really needed me.
She is still crying. But she is angry now. As mad as I've ever seen her.
I take a step toward her. "You and he didn't then?"
"You were the one watching. The super voyeur. Didn't you see it?" She practically spits the words at me, moves closer.
"I saw you kiss him. I...I couldn't watch the rest."
"You couldn't watch?"
For a moment, I think she is going to strike me, but I should know better. That is not her way, has never been her way.
Although it might make me feel better if it were.
She may not strike, but her boots land like slaps on the ice. She is so mad she steps wrong, slides a little. I can tell it makes her even angrier to lose control that way.
"Diana." I reach out for her. There is so much I want from her. I can feel my expression softening.
"Damn you!" She moves closer, sliding again in her haste to get to me. "You should have watched. He was good. He was so good." Her expression is hateful, and I turn away.
"That's right. It was good. He made love to me. He was my first, and it was good." She touches my shoulder, her fingers clawing into the nerves near my neck. It hurts, and I know she knows it hurts.
Only she could hurt me that way. Only she would know how to do it. But it doesn't hurt as much as her words do as they stab me in the heart. "Diana, don't."
"What's the matter? Is this painful? Well, it was a little painful for me too, Kal. My. First. Time."
"Don't." I can't bear to hear this.
"Oh, I admit, he was just a human. The earth didn't move the way I'm sure it would have with you. But it was damned close." She laughs, but there is a catch in the sound.
I whirl to look at her. She is crying, more tears than I've ever seen her shed.
"Why don't you believe in me?" She stumbles back.
"I saw you this morning. In his bed."
"Yes. I was in his bed. And he was out on the couch." She looks down, and I know it's not in shame or embarrassment, it's because she can't stand to look at me. "He didn't push it. I don't know why. He just didn't."
"You touched him." I see her look. "I mean...his heart. You touched his heart."
She sighs. "Yes. I did."
"I'm sorry, Diana." I hold my arms open. It's the way we've always apologized to each other in the past.
But she just stares at me. Her tears don't stop. "I can't be here."
Then she is off, this time she does not slip as she launches herself into the air.
I could catch her easily. But all I can see is her tears. All I can imagine is how she would feel in my arms. How it would feel to lie together on the bed in the Fortress that lies only a few steps from where our friendship just broke apart. All I want to do is fly after her and catch her up and carry her back here.
And make love to her. Be her first and her last and her always.
I can't go back to Lois this way. Not when all I want is Diana. The Fortress beckons, offering peace as it always has. And I'll be fine, as long as I don't think about how Diana looked with tears in her eyes--tears that I caused.
I don't know why I'm here, all I know is that I've followed Wonder Woman around the globe to cover the war in New Vladonia. As a reporter, it's my job. As Superman's wife, it's probably more like stalking. I don't care anymore.
I would have followed her to wherever she went a little while ago, only I had a feeling it was to meet my husband, and I found myself a bit of a coward. I didn't want to know. Plus, I can't fly.
But she's back now. Back and laying a rose on a grave in a field of too many graves. I don't know whose grave it is. But she does; I can tell from the way she's crying that she does.
Is it his? This General Lysander? Or Alcmaeon? Whatever his name was. The dead man who posed the bargain that is slowly splitting my marriage in two.
"Did she love him?" I wish I had a camera behind me. But my notepad will have to do. Starting to jot down the story, I feel a hand on my arm, stopping me from writing.
"It's not his grave." I didn't hear him come up. But then I never do. Clark thinks he's stealthy, but he's no match for Batman.
"This is a long way from Gotham."
He nods. "I had a favor to do for a friend." The way he's watching Wonder Woman, I can tell she's the friend in question.
Is there no one she can't bewitch?
"No Mrs. Batman at home, is there?" My voice is mean, and I'd normally cringe and try to make the words less painful. But I don't care anymore.
I just wish I could tell Wonder Woman what I think of her. And maybe I could, if I wasn't hiding behind a mausoleum.
"No, no Mrs. Batman." He is keeping to the shadows too. In the gathering dusk, it's easy.
"Does she know we're here?"
He shakes his head. "I think she's a million miles away."
Clear to an icy fortress, maybe? Up there in the frozen wilderness with my husband to keep her warm? I don't realize I'm holding--squeezing hard-- onto Batman's hand, until he pulls me close.
"I'm losing him. And I don't know what to do."
"You're not losing him. You have to have faith." He is warmer than I expect. He's always seemed so cold, this best friend of my husband's. This bat-man.
"Faith in what?"
"In your marriage. In that mattering to Clark." He is staring at me, and his eyes seem to be boring into my fears, bringing them all up. "Don't let him go."
"Are you saying that because you believe in my marriage?" I glance out at the woman kneeling in front of the grave. Even from here, hunched over and body shaking with sobs, she is beautiful. "Or because you don't want Clark to have her?"
His smile is impossible to read. "Yes."
Suddenly, Wonder Woman stands up. She wipes her face for moment, then she launches herself into the air. Headed north again. Back to Clark? I am ready to yell out, know that she'll hear me. I gather air into my lungs, but no sound comes out; Batman's gloved hand over my mouth stops the scream.
"Let her go. Let them finish this."
I take my anger out on him, pounding relentlessly on body armor that seems to disappear into the Vladonian night. "I hate you. I hate her. I hate Clark."
He lets me rant, lets me punch and kick, and it is only when I start to cry that he pulls me close and holds me until I stop. I can barely breathe when I stop.
He kisses my cheek, and whispers, "Believe."
Then he is gone.
It takes little time to get back to the Fortress. I wonder what Bruce would say if he knew I was heading back here. He'd no doubt tell me I'm a fool. And he'd no doubt be right.
The Fortress is locked up tight when I get there. There is no sign that Kal and I ever stood in the icy snow tearing our friendship apart. I touch the chime, hidden but there if you know where to look. And he showed me. Once. Long ago.
The door opens, and he stares at me. I know I should be strong; I know I should tell him I'm sorry for what I said, that I'm sorry for how we both acted. That we'll be okay in time. And I try to say all that, but the only thing that comes out is, "Kal," as I burst into tears.
And then he is pulling me in. Into the Fortress, into his arms. He holds me close, his lips on my hair, and I relax in his embrace. "Diana, I'm so sorry. I was crazy. Stupid. Forgive me."
I nod, holding onto him more tightly. I don't mean to push my body against his, but I do. I don't mean to look up at him, to reach for him, to pull his face down to mine. But goddesses help me, I do.
And he doesn't fight, he is eager, his lips on mine, tasting, claiming, branding me. Then his tongue is pressing against my lips, gentle and loving and I open my mouth to him, learning to kiss him the way he wants me to.
It is exhilarating. Why, oh why, did I run from this man?
"Diana," he murmurs, scooping me up and carrying me. He is kissing my neck, his mouth making me shiver.
I run my hands through his hair, the way I've always wanted to but never could. I've always had to settle for just ruffling his hair playfully. This is different. What I'm doing to him, what he is doing to me: they are the touches of lovers.
There is a bed in one of the rooms off the main hall, and he is laying me on it, and then he is there too. His hands roam up and down my body, over my uniform, under the parts he can easily get past. I hear a moan, realize I have made the sound.
"God, Diana. I want you so much. Thinking of you with him...it made me crazy." He is moving over me, still in his uniform, me in mine. Our bodies pretend to join, groins rubbing.
"Kal. This isn't right." It's a good thing to say. It's the right thing to say. It'd be more believable if I weren't kissing him so frantically.
"Tell me to stop." He begins to take off my uniform, and he slows to look at me, his eyes meeting mine.
And I see something beyond love. I see possession. I see obsession. I see us hurting everyone we care about just to have this, to have each other.
To own each other.
He has pulled one side of my uniform down, past my breast, and his lips touch my skin. I arch my body in automatic response; I want him--want him as I never wanted Alcmaeon despite all his charms.
I have never wanted anything in my entire life the way I want Kal right now.
I nearly weep as I whisper, "Stop."
I can hear his breathing change. He lifts his lips from my breast.
"Stop, Kal. We can't."
He stares down at me, as if memorizing what my body looks like without fabric in the way of his super-vision. Then he slowly pulls my uniform back up. Kissing the fabric gently, he sighs and lays his head on my chest. "I thought you wanted this."
"I did. I do." I pull him up, not an easy feat because he is dead weight, and I realize disappointment is making him act this way. "I do want you."
He rolls off me, but I follow him, and he catches me up, pulling me into his arms, curled against him in a way I've fantasized about more than once.
"Why?" His voice is nothing more than a whisper.
"Because this is for the wrong reason. It's dark, and it's not about love."
His expression is fierce. "Yes it is. I love you."
"And I love you." It feels so good to say it--and it hurts more than I can believe. "But right now this isn't about love, Kal. Right now this is about something darker. It's about possession and ownership and territory. And about you wanting to mark me forever. To make sure that nothing would ever be as good as my first time...as you."
He doesn't tell me I'm wrong, so I just cuddle against him. I feel something wet on my cheeks and realize I'm crying again.
He looks down at me, then he wipes the tears off gently. "I've dreamed of this, of holding you, of loving you. Dreamed, fantasized." He sighs, the sound profound in his long exhale. "I'm a married man, and I think of you."
"I know. But you love her, Kal. You will always love her."
He smiles. It is a smile of extraordinary bitterness. "I'll always love you too."
We lay there for a long time, not moving, except for his hand stroking my arm gently. Then, without speaking, we both let go. We leave the Fortress together, but we head in very different directions.
I wonder if we will always head in very different directions.
I'm not surprised to see her. The Vladonian night seems to glow just from her presence as I sit in the rubble of the castle, the place of her supposed sin. Lois has gone, taken the army transport back to the States hours ago. But I've waited here, in the night that has turned to nearly morning.
"I have another favor." She's been crying. Recently too. Maybe all the way back here from the Fortress.
"Name it." When did this woman become someone to whom I'd make promises without even knowing the conditions?
She moves closer. Her eyes are strange tonight in the torchlight that glimmers around us. They seem darker somehow. Harder. And lost. She seems lost.
"Diana?" My voice shakes, and I marvel at her power to move me.
"I have something I need to get rid of." She reaches for me, her touch on my cheek so soft--so welcome.
I don't like where this is going--it hurts that she thinks of me when she needs dark things done. Pulling away, I walk away from her and sit on what's left of a low wall, facing her. To be safe I cross my leg over my knee. To keep her out...and hide the effect she's having on me.
She doesn't seem to notice. "Help me?" Then she reaches out, her hand open. "Please, Bruce?"
I pull her down to me, my leg dropping so she can end up on my lap. It's an idiotic thing to do if I want to maintain control, but I do it anyway. How many chances like this am I going to have? "Help you how?"
She can't say it, can't spell it out. And god help me, I love her for that reticence. For that innocence.
And I suddenly hate my best friend for making her offer me what I know she'd rather give him. "This is about Clark, isn't it?"
She can't meet my eyes. Which is all the answer I really need. But she surprises me. She leans in and kisses me. It's a surprisingly good kiss, considering how innocent she is.
"Did Alcmaeon teach you that?"
She pulls away, as if she thinks I am mocking her. Then she seems to realize I'm only asking out of curiosity. "Not Alcmaeon." She touches my lips, her finger gentle as it travels across them. "Kal taught me. Long ago."
"And not so long ago, maybe?"
She blushes, and I sigh. It's hell being so smart.
"You and he never...? Long ago, I mean? Or...a little bit ago?"
She shakes her head; her finger doesn't stop its soft movement tracing my lips. "No, not with him. Not with anyone. I've never..." She looks down, then her eyes meet mine. "He wants that. To be my first. I thought that if I..."
"You thought that if you gave it away to someone else...?" I laugh softly, and somehow my hand has gone from supporting her to stroking her back softly.
She leans into me and nods slowly, but she is not meeting my eyes anymore.
"Look at me, Diana."
It takes her longer than I think it should. But then she does look at me.
"Taking something you'd rather give him--that's empty. I can't. I want to, don't misunderstand. But I want more from you than just stealing what both you and he think is his."
I shut her up with a kiss. When we finally pull away, I stroke her hair. It's time to indulge in all the things I've ever wanted to do. The things she usually only allows Clark to do, and then only when she's been hurt...or when he has.
"Let me tell you a secret, Diana. Clark doesn't just want to be first. He wants you period. He'll never stop wanting you. No matter how many men you have. Maybe he'll want you more with each new one?" I can see that actually. There's always been some masochist in Clark.
"But he's married."
"Yes, he is. And I pity Lois. If this is hard for you, then it's worse for her."
"I didn't mean to make it hard for her."
"I know. But if she hates you, don't blame her." I stroke her cheek. "If she's as smart as I think she is, she knows that you and Clark aren't getting any older. And it's got to be miserable to think that you two might be just waiting for freedom. Honorable freedom."
"You make us into monsters."
I smile, and I know what kind of smile it is even before she turns away at the bitterness in it. "You're superheroes. Sometimes, that's just another word for monsters."
Not answering, she puts her head down, curling against me the way she has the few times I've carried her off the battlefield. It's the way I've curled against her the times she's returned the favor.
"I love him, Bruce."
She looks up at me, and then leans in, and I can tell it is the last kiss of the night. We make it a good one, long and sweet, and I wonder for a moment if I'll ever enjoy a kiss this much again.
When we pull back, I smile. "How many men have you kissed in the last few days? Is this a personal record?" I'm not trying to hurt her. I keep my tone light.
And she's used to me after the time we've spent together. In the past, she'd have been offended, but now she just laughs. But her smile doesn't last very long. "You make me laugh. And he makes me cry. It's all wrong."
"No. It's just love."
She starts to pull away, and I let her go. My arms feel strangely empty when she is once again standing, and I can do nothing more than stare up at her.
She looks back at me, her gaze fearless as always. "The rose you gave me. It was lavender."
"What does it mean? The color has meaning, doesn't it?"
"It signifies rarity." I do not tell her it also means enchantment.
She smiles as she reaches down, capturing my hand. "You're a rare friend."
"I hope you always think so." There are things I've done, things she doesn't know about. That nobody knows about.
"I can't imagine not." Then she turns and walks away, her back straight, her head held high. Strong again.
I hope Clark stays away from her. He can break her this time. If he pushes it.
I'm not sure what I will do about it if he does hurt her. I'm not sure what I think I can do.
I only know I'll try. For her, I'll try.
He's waiting for me as I get off the transport. Clark. My husband. The night is nearly gone--I wonder how long he's been waiting for me. How long ago did he leave her?
He seems about to hug me, but then he sees my expression. I've had a lot of time to think on that uncomfortable plane. It was cold. Almost as cold as I feel inside.
"I know you were with her." I brush past him, get in the cab that the pilot was nice enough to call for me, and let Clark worry about getting home on his own.
He beats me home. But he's in his den, not waiting this time.
I want to go straight to bed. I want to leave him alone. But I've been hearing Batman's voice ringing inside my head since he left me.
Believe. Believe. Believe.
I walk down the hall, the hall that's been ours for such a short a time. We could bring it all crashing down now. If we want to, we can end this marriage. I push the den door open, see Clark is waiting. He heard me this time, no sneaking up on him.
"I was with her."
His admission feels like a sledgehammer to my gut. How can four words hurt so goddamned much?
I decide I don't want to know. I decide I don't want to believe. Batman is a fool. "Then be with her. You've made your choice."
"It wasn't like that."
I turn, not sure what he means. How could it not be like that? I can see the misery on his face. He has "I just cheated on my wife" face, and I hate him for it.
"Do I want to know what you mean by that?"
He looks down. "She wouldn't. She stopped me."
These words hurt even more than the others. Is he an idiot?
He looks up at me, and there are tears in his eyes. "I want to tell you that I stopped it. I want to tell you that she threw herself at me, and I told her to go to hell." He shakes his head. "I want to be the best husband. I want to be heroic and a superman. But I'm just a man. And not a very good one."
I know I'm crying, and I hate it. I hate showing weakness, hate it even more that I'm doing it now.
His honesty hurts the most. Because I know he is telling the truth. He does wish he were a superman in this too.
Sighing, I sit in the chair by the window. I pull the throw down around me, trying to warm up
Will I ever be warm in this room again?
"Lois, I'm sorry."
"We're not all right."
"We may never be all right again."
"I know that too."
I find it impossible to meet his eyes. The earnest misery in them makes me want to walk over and throttle him. Not that I could. Only she could.
"This has never been her fault, has it?"
He shakes his head.
"Then I hate you."
He nods again, quickly, as if happily accepting that role. The hated. The one who did wrong.
I stand up, flinging the throw down. "Damn it, she's not blameless either. You're two frickin' superheroes. What ever happened to restraint? What ever happened to fidelity?"
"I don't care." I'm screaming. I'm screaming, and I know the neighbors are hating me the way I've hated my neighbors when they held noisy fights in the wee hours of the mornings. "Damn you! Damn you both!"
He looks down, but not before I see a look of such sadness in his eyes that I realize he is already damned. He and Diana both?
He doesn't just love her. I sit down, knocked back to the chair by the realization.
He doesn't just love her; he is in love with her.
"We're a long way from all right." My voice is unnaturally composed, hides that my insides are now made of broken glass.
"I don't want to lose you."
"I'm really not sure why." I don't take pity on him as I stand and calmly fold the throw, placing it neatly over the back of the chair. "I'm going to bed."
He starts to get up. Without turning, I say, "The bed is off limits."
I hear him sit back down.
"One day at a time, Clark. Maybe one minute at a time. That's all I can deal with right now."
"All right." His voice is low, raspy, as if I've hurt him. "I love you, Lois."
"Yes. And you loved me this whole time, Clark. I'm not sure what that means anymore."
I leave him then. Leave him and walk down the hall, and lie in our big bed, and wonder if I'm going to leave him for good. And wonder what she's doing.
I'm wondering about Wonder Woman. It'd make a great end line in a column. But this isn't a column. This is my life.
My life that suddenly seems filled with more jagged rubble and unexploded mines than New Vladonia.
Maybe someday Clark and I will be all right again.
Maybe someday love will mean something again.
But not tonight. Nothing means anything tonight.