Warning: SPOILERS for Adventures of Superman 636 and for WW issue 212.
Resigned to Nothing by Djinn
Part 1 - Three Heroes
Diana waited outside the Fortress. She was angry--as angry as she'd ever been at Kal--and all she wanted to do was get in the plane and fly away. But she knew that Bruce would need a ride home. She'd been the one to drag him up here; she'd be the one to get him back.
She stood in the frigid air, barely registering the cold as the wind blew against her face. Her hair flowed around her, and as it flipped across her ears, it changed the sounds. In battle it could throw her off. She'd have to start wearing it in a braid, like she had toward the end in Asgard after one too many monsters had grabbed her by her hair.
Would she survive Asgard now? She thought so. She didn't think Kal would agree. Although he might like that she'd find it harder to kill things. His stupid rule--damn him and his stupid rule.
She turned a little, so the wind was blowing her hair straight back, and the sound regulated again. Her skin itched under the blindfold she'd put on. She wasn't sure why she was wearing it. Maybe for the sense of control it gave her--the idea that she had chosen this unrelenting darkness?
She also thought it made her fellow superheroes uncomfortable. It wasn't very charitable of her, but she enjoyed their disquiet because she was very angry. She felt bitter inside like spoiled fruit, and she knew that holding it in was a mistake. She'd rot if she didn't let this rage out, would fester until the only thing left inside her was poison--like the venom that had made her blind in the first place.
Venom that she'd embraced. She'd done this to herself. She'd done it for a reason. Blind, she could kill the gorgon. Blind, she could triumph. It was over; it was done.
She was blind. End of story.
But it didn't have to be the end of her story. Her sight was just one part of her. It wasn't as if she had nothing left to offer.
Although you wouldn't know it from the way her colleagues were acting.
She heard Bruce coming. In the past, he might have managed to sneak up on her. But not now. Not when hearing was becoming her sense of choice.
"You waited," he said, sounding surprised.
"You stalked out not knowing if I was still here?"
"You know me and dramatic exits."
She turned to him. "Levity? From you?" She smiled, knew it was bitter. "Are you turning over a new leaf or just trying to make me forget that Kal's an idiot?"
"Does it have to be one or the other?"
She laughed. "Two jokes? This has to be a personal record."
"Can we discuss it on the plane? I'm freezing." He took her arm, and she planted her feet.
He let go of her immediately. "I was just being a gentleman."
"You were going to lead me. I don't need a guide-bat." She pushed him out of her way, moved to the plane, which she could feel welcoming her. It wasn't that she heard it or smelled it or even sensed vibrations from it. She just could just...feel it; she could feel it opening up to her. Climbing the ramp, she sat in the pilot's seat and heard Bruce take his place in the co-pilot's seat.
"Gotham City," she murmured, and the plane lifted off slowly.
"Now that I don't have to sweat over how you're flying this, I guess we can talk." His voice was very gentle.
"We could talk about how gracious you weren't...when I saved your life this evening?" She could tell he was looking at her--his cowl made a soft shirring noise as he turned--and she shook her head at what she knew he was thinking. "Yes, I do know night from day, Bruce. Night has a different feel. No sun on my face. No birds singing. Cars sound different, people too. They laugh less, walk with more purpose."
"Were you afraid when that man tried to empty his gun into me?"
"I was afraid, yes." Bruce was very quiet, no telltale squeak of fabric to tell her which way he was looking this time.
"You were surprised that I saved you?"
"I'm not sure about that. I was surprised that you found me in that alleyway."
"I could find you in a haystack," she said with a smile. But the truth of it was she wasn't exactly sure how she'd found him. She just had.
"I'm hardly a needle." He reached over, taking her hand and she would have jumped but she'd heard him coming.
The touch though...the touch was unexpected. "Bruce?"
"I should have come right after..." He sighed. "I did come, but I couldn't bring myself to go to the door. I guess..."
"You didn't want to know how bad it was?"
"Maybe so. You know what a chicken I can be where my heart's involved."
"I sometimes wonder if you have a heart." She immediately regretted saying such a nasty thing.
He sighed, a long, slow exhalation of breath that translated into pain. "What's happening to us, Diana?"
"Well, other than that I can't see your scowl, nothing."
"I don't mean you and me. I mean us. The three of us. We're the heart of the League. I know Clark doesn't like to admit it, but we are."
"You heard him in there, Bruce. He won't kill--not even this man who plans to kill everyone he cares about. And what he wasn't saying directly was that he's judging me because I did kill." She touched the blindfold, pretending to adjust it--she found it a comfort somehow to play with it. "And he's not just talking about Medusa. For one thousand years, I had to kill for him."
She could tell he was looking at her again. In fact, she imagined she had his full attention.
"Asgard," she said, remembering the reverence Thor had always placed on the word. "You know the legend?"
"Well, it's not a legend. We were there. Kal and I. Stuck there. Fighting. Over and over and over. And he still wouldn't kill. I pulled double duty."
"You and Clark were there for a thousand years...alone?"
"We had warriors with us." She realized what he was getting at. "Nothing happened."
"I'm not lying." She turned to him and reached out, feeling him take her hand and squeeze it gently. "I wouldn't lie about that. I'm not sure I could lie about that. You know how I feel..."
"Yes, I do." His voice was muted, as if he'd turned away, was talking to the window. But she hadn't heard the cowl move--he'd figured out she was tracking him that way. Figured out and adapted. Even now he had to maintain the upper hand, keep one step ahead of her and everyone. Or did he not want her to know that she had just hurt him?
"Bruce? I'm sorry."
"I know he comes first with you. It's why he makes you so angry."
"No, him being stupid is what makes me angry." She pulled her hand away. She could feel the jet slowing; a slow beep-beeping told her they were within proximity of the city. "Where do you want to go?"
"Home with you."
There was a very long silence in the cockpit broken only by the beep-beeping as the plane reminded her again that they were close to Gotham city.
"I'm sorry," he said. "That was out of line."
"We had a chance. You didn't want to take it."
"I thought it was a mutual backing off."
"It was clear you weren't going to let it happen. What could I do but agree?"
This time she could hear the cowl swish. "You wanted a relationship?"
She brushed the blindfold, laughing bitterly. "Maybe. But what does it matter? The old Diana is gone, right? Now I'm only a remnant of myself."
"Stop it. I never said--"
"--You said I had to be re-evaluated for membership in the League, Bruce. You said it, and everyone else is going along with it, because we all know you're the brains of the outfit. So of course it must make sense."
"You'd do the same to me." He brushed her cheek gently.
"No. I wouldn't." She pushed his hand away. "Where do you want to go, Bruce?"
She could hear him moving closer, could imagine his lips on hers the way he'd kissed her before, when they'd faced what had seemed to be their final stand. She put her hand out, landing unerringly on his lips, and whispered, "Be careful, Mister Wayne. I might actually need you. Might want something from you other than this careful friendship we've worked so hard at."
He kissed her fingers, then pulled her to him. "Diana," his voice came out raspy, as if breath had deserted him.
She let him pull her closer, even dropped her fingers. But as she felt him moving in, she whispered, "Do this after I've passed your stupid tests. Not now."
He stopped. Slowly, she moved away.
"If you don't want me, all you have to do is say so." His tone was falsely light. The playboy saving face.
"I thought I just did."
She knew she'd scored a hit. The air in the cockpit practically oozed pain. "Tell me something, Bruce. Will we play bullets and bracelets during this 'reevaluation'?"
She heard him swallow.
"Will you be the one to pull the trigger?" She leaned in quicker--quicker than he would be expecting--and pulled him to her.
He didn't fight, didn't say a thing, just wrapped his arms around her and let her kiss him. Her lips were hard, fierce. Anger coming out. Anger for not being able to see him, anger for little Martin who would never see or do anything again because she had been too late to save him from the monster. Anger at Kal for judging her for killing that same monster, and at Athena who could fix this if she wanted to, and at the world for having watched her fall--and get back up.
Bruce let her work her pain out on him. Holding her, his hands tight on her arms, he didn't fight her, just gave in and gave back whatever she needed. When she opened her mouth to him, he let her in, answering her anger and turning it into passion.
She pulled away quickly, knowing that if she didn't, she would let him in and admit that she was terrified. That she was hurt and angry and lonely. That above all else she wanted her mother to be there, to not be dead. Wanted to feel her hands on her forehead, the soft voice saying, "There, there," as she had when Diana had been a child.
She felt his hands on her hair, brushing it back gently in an uncanny echo of how Hippolyta might have done it. "I'm only going to say this once, Diana. I'm sorry. I'm sorry for everything that's happened."
She nodded, unwilling to risk trying to answer.
"And I'm here for you. If you need me, I'm here."
"Here? In a city you told me to get out of earlier?"
"That was then. Now, my city is yours. If you need me, you come. Or you call, and I'll come." His lips touched hers again, this time the kiss was sweet and gentle and it nearly broke her in two--she thought he knew it would. "I love you," he said, as he kissed her forehead, over the blindfold. Then he let go of her. "You can drop me off here."
"You heard him," she told the plane. "Land."
It descended, taking them out of the scary intimate place that the ride had become. She could feel the pressure changing as they moved toward the ground, could hear him getting up. He didn't touch her again, and she felt a rush of air as the plane created a door for him.
"Goodbye," he murmured, and then the air pressure changed again as the door closed and the plane ascended.
"Take me home," she said, wondering where the plane would think she meant. She decided she didn't want to know what it thought she meant. "Take me to the embassy. Fly slow."
She reached up, taking off the blindfold and putting it on the co-pilot's seat. Then, in the safety of her empty plane, she wept.
Part 2 - The Test
Diana could hear the rest of the JLAers leaving the room. But the one holding the gun hadn't moved. She heard him sigh, recognized the sound, but she'd known it was Kal shooting at her. Known it with every fiber of her being. Plus, she could count how many opponents Bruce had thrown at her, and Kal hadn't been on the floor with her.
Had Bruce planned this all along? Or had she given him the idea when she'd asked him about bullets and bracelets on the planet? And was it a measure of how much Bruce valued her or how much he resented Kal that he'd made Superman be the one to fire at her? Superman who never killed--and who could have killed her right then. But Bruce had known she could fight one bullet off. He'd seen her deflect many more than just one.
But Kal hadn't known she could still do that. Kal had fired at her not knowing if he would hit her or not. And it was probably killing him.
She found she didn't care. Turning to him, she took a step.
She waited, but he didn't follow it up, so she said, "Answer me this, Kal. If our positions were reversed, would he have tested you, as well?"
He moved closer to her, and she could smell him, the spicy tang of his skin. She'd spent a thousand years with him; she'd recognize him anywhere now.
"If our positions were reversed, Diana, I'd have already resigned from the League."
She turned away, felt the familiar anger fill her. She was getting used to it now, becoming adept at pushing it deep down inside her. But he seemed to call it out of her with no effort.
He pressed the gun into her hand. "I'll see you upstairs."
She heard him walk away. Her hand tightened as she tried to squeeze out the warmth of his hand that was still all over the gun. He'd touched her as he'd put it in her hand. It was the first time he'd touched her since the fight with Medusa.
She squeezed down hard, crushing the gun, dropping the pieces on the floor. "Damn you, Kal."
She could hear him stop walking. Then she felt his eyes on her. He thought he could watch her and she wouldn't know?
"Damn you?" She stalked forward. "You didn't fight me. Why not?"
"Close the doors. Lock them." The doors slammed shut; she could hear the locking mechanism slip into place. "We're alone here."
"No. The camera is on."
She turned and walked back, counting the steps. Bending, she scooped up a fragment of the gun. "Camera?" She threw the piece hard--very, very hard--and heard glass exploding. She bent for another shard, a bigger one this time. She threw it too, and the sound of metal crunching rang out. "What camera, Kal?"
"That's coming out of your paycheck." He sounded like he was desperately trying to find light ground--safe ground.
"We don't get a paycheck." She walked back to him. "Fight me."
Her first punch landed squarely on his chin. She could hear his grunt; it was full of surprise and maybe a little pain. He didn't hit back.
"Fight me, damn you." She landed another punch, and another.
He finally grabbed her hands, kicking her legs out from under her, using his momentum to push her back onto the floor. She turned her fall into a controlled roll, jerking him over her head and following him, landing on top of him. Straddling him, she hit him in the face again.
He kicked her off him.
She went flying, landing hard on the floor and laughed. "Finally. You grow a pair."
"Diana. Don't. It hasn't been a good few months for me."
"For you?" As she pushed herself to her feet and stalked back to him, she remembered Lois had been shot. She should remember--she'd flown her in her plane. Two months ago now. Lois was taking a long time to recover. Not super, this wife of his. Not a wonder who could get up from the battlefield and ride back home blind. On the other hand, Lois hadn't had Pegasus come to her rescue. "Did you watch my fight with Medusa from Lois's sickbed?" She swung, heard him jerk out of range, felt the rush of air as he moved and corrected for her next swing. "Did she hope I'd die?"
"Diana, for God's sake."
"I didn't hope she'd die." It was true. She'd never meant Lois any harm, had never meant to fall in love with Kal. And she'd always had this part of him that Lois couldn't. She'd fought beside him, was his trusted second, and everyone in the League knew it.
And now that was all gone. Because he was throwing her away.
She launched herself at him, correcting by feel as he zigged and zagged to get away from him. She hit him hard, barreling into his chest, forcing him against the far wall. He hit it with a groan, and she didn't jump off him, just wrapped herself around him, her hands tangling in his hair, pulling his head back. "I. Hate. You." Her voice caught on the last word.
"Diana." His voice held a note of helplessness. He stopped trying to push her off, started to pull her closer. "Diana." He was brushing her hair back, his hands running over the blindfold, touching it gently as if he was memorizing how her face felt with it on. "I wanted to come to you. But Lois was hurt so badly..."
She could hear the agony in his voice, and the anger went out of her as it always did when he let her in enough to see his pain. "I know."
She leaned into his hands. "You flew by a number of times. Did you think I wouldn't know you were out there?"
"I should have known, I guess." His hands moved down, to her cheeks, then her chin. His fingers ran over her lips. "I didn't think I would be able to leave you if I came inside, and she needed me more."
She nodded. It was no doubt true. But it still had hurt when he hadn't come. She'd thought that he would. He always had in the past.
"You wouldn't resign from the League, Kal. Not for this." She touched his face, learning to read it as she'd tried to at the Fortress when he'd called Bruce and her to him. There hadn't been time--and she'd been too angry at him then--but now there was.
He sighed, allowing her get to know the planes and valleys of his face. When she touched his lips, he let out a small, tortured cry.
"If you lost your strength but could still fly, could still melt things and hear me from the other side of the planet, would you resign?" She let her fingers tickle his lips. "This is just one part of me that's gone."
"I can't stand the thought of anything happening to you." The feel of his lips moving under her fingers was unexpectedly sensual.
"What's the worse that could happen to me, Kal?"
"You could die."
"I've died. You've died. It's not as terminal as it appears."
"Don't joke about it. Don't ever joke about it." He turned abruptly, reversing their positions, and her back pressed painfully into the wall.
She realized he was giving that to her, not taking it easy on her. "I won't joke about it, if you quit acting like I'm not capable anymore."
"I heard the gun, Kal. Before you fired. You gave me that, didn't you?"
His silence was answer enough.
"Only Bruce trusts me enough to really test me."
"It's not trust, Diana." He pushed her harder against the wall. "We both love you in our own way."
She tried to answer, opened her mouth, but couldn't speak because he was kissing her, his mouth hard--his kiss seemed full of anger and frustration. But as she relaxed against him and tried to pull him even closer, his kisses changed, became sweet and tender.
He pulled away slowly. "I look at you and I feel like I'm dying. I can't protect you, Diana."
"You don't need to protect me. We'll do much better if you remember that."
The loudspeaker went off, Bruce's voice booming around the room. "Superman, we're waiting. Is there a problem?"
"No. No problem. I'll be right there."
"Is there something wrong with the camera?"
"The bullet ricocheted into it," Kal said quickly, and she smiled at his deviousness.
"Bruce-worthy," she whispered and reached up, reading his smile. It felt like she remembered it looking, sweet and open and full of desire he usually kept better in check.
"I don't remember it happening that way," Bruce said.
"I got mad and destroyed it." Diana smiled. It wasn't a lie.
"That I buy. Hurry up, Superman." Bruce's voice was mildly amused.
Kal leaned in and kissed her again. "I shouldn't do that."
She kissed him back. "No, you shouldn't."
"I won't stand against your continued membership if that's what the rest of them want." He sounded as if the assurance broke his heart. "It's all I can promise."
"It's enough." She leaned in, hugging him. "Promise me you'll spar with me? I need to stay sharp."
He pressed against her and for a moment she could feel every inch of him. "Because I'll want to do this." He let go of her, pulling away slowly. "Train with Bruce."
"Maybe he wants to do that too." It wasn't nice, but it was truth.
She could hear Kal swallow hard. "Oh, I know he does."
"And what? You're giving me to him?" She felt the anger rising again.
"I don't know what I'm doing anymore." He walked away, his steps heavy.
She imagined it was hard to be Superman in a not-so-super world.
She heard the door open and paced around the room, waiting for her friends to decide if she still had worth in their eyes. Waiting to find out if she still mattered to the League.
If they voted her out, she wouldn't just retire. She still had a job to do, a mission in this world. Either at their sides or on her own. It didn't matter.
And maybe that's what they needed to know? That she didn't care. That she could take them or leave them.
She walked out of the room, heading for the stairs. Ready to take her destiny back into her hands, the same way she'd done when she'd held Medusa's serpent to her eyes and watched the world go black in a blur of raging pain.
This couldn't hurt any worse--couldn't be any scarier--than that had been. It just couldn't.
But as she walked up to the conference room, as she heard them arguing, she knew that losing the League would hurt much, much worse than losing her sight had.
She wouldn't show them that though. Her back straight, her head high, she walked toward the conference room and toward her future.