Iron To Iron

As iron sharpens iron,
So one woman sharpens another.

friendship and forgiveness

The rules had changed.

She didn't understand why Shayera had chosen to take her out after First Blood had been called. Blood Retribution went to First or Last Blood and that was all.

This was new.

So, too, was the fire in Shayera's eyes as the other woman launched herself into the air. Her movements were definite and assured, without the hesitance they'd carried before. This time, Shayera was not paying lip service to Diana's need for something to hit; this time, the other woman was out for blood.

Diana's blood.

She let Shayera initiate the attacks this time, content to block and dodge and parry, without any punches or ripostes of her own. Before, she'd been acting on instinct, battle rage moving her with powerful force, now she took a few seconds to judge Shayera's state of mind.

Her reluctance to strike was confusing the Thanagarian. Shayera had never known Diana to sit back and watch and calculate; she was more accustomed to seeing her wade into the fray, fists flying

Bruce had been more of an influence on her than he knew.

Then again, Diana could feel him watching them from the observation room. All the workout rooms had them, allowing playback and study of a warrior's fighting style and weak spots. In addition to that, this workout room had an observation gallery, and Diana had already seen the multitude of colours, shapes and sizes that indicated that they had an audience.

The audience didn't bother her. This was between her and Shayera, and one way or another it required settling.

As she dodged Shayera's swing of the mace, Diana tried to do as Batman had taught her: take a step back and analyse why she felt as she did, what was causing her discomfort with Shayera's re-entry into the League.

When the vote turned out in the dining room of Wayne Manor, Diana had felt betrayed anew. Not by Shayera, not even by J'onn or Flash, both of whom had made their partisanship clear, but by Clark. In truth, she had expected Clark to be with her and Bruce on the matter of whether Shayera should stay or go. He'd made his opinion of Shayera's betrayal quite clear earlier.

She'd been surprised when John chose to abstain - surprised and not a little relieved. For all that Green Lantern was a soldier, aware of the sometime conflict between personal and professional, Diana knew how well that emotion could break down the professional mien of the warrior. She'd seen it among her own people.

Her own people.

They'd exiled Diana for breaking their laws - bringing men to the island and standing between them and the penalty. No forgiveness, no going back.

All actions had consequences. Since Diana had been reluctant to let the consequences fall upon her friends, she had taken the consequences on herself and accepted her exile.

The kick caught her in the belly. Momentary nausea threatened, before she pushed it away. Her eyes tracked the Thanagarian's flight, the way she held her mace, the look on her face as Diana evaded her again.

Something in her was surprised that the men hadn't yet intervened. She would have thought John or Flash, perhaps, would have something to say about their continuing fight, but there was silence from the observation gallery on that point.

They hovered in the air, and Shayera's lips pulled back in a Thanagarian war cry, an ululation of intimidation and terror. Diana met the blow of the mace with a single hand, although the nullifying sphere of the mace's head numbed her fingers.

Blue eyes stared into green, fierce will against fierce will, and there was no backing down.

Diana's fingers were losing sensation. She lashed out with her leg, swiping Shayera to the side. The kick forced the other woman into a dive and swoop to maintain her balance before she could turn to face Diana again.

Why had Shayera hit out with the mace once Blood Retribution was ended? Was it another sign of untrustworthiness in the Thanagarian? Another betrayal of Diana and everything she stood for?

Betrayal was the key. Shayera had betrayed more than just her people. She had betrayed the League - a double-cross of mammoth proportions. Shayera had betrayed Diana, because Wonder Woman had stood before the people of the world and assured them that the Thanagarians meant them no harm, because Shayera said so. And because the world's populace believed that Wonder Woman's judgement was sound, they had trusted Shayera and the Thanagarians - until their allies became their jailers.

Clark had done the same: stood before the people of the world and given them his word, based on Shayera's guarantee. His betrayal was as great as Diana's, greater perhaps. Superman was known throughout the world, acknowledged as the foremost of Earth's Heroes. Earth was not his home world, but he had made it his own, and protected it in his own way.

Yet Clark had forgiven Shayera, had opted to give her a second chance.

The thought made Diana lash out hard as Shayera came for her again. Her boot connected with the other's jaw, a light kick, without the kind of force that could break a neck. A warning, not an ending.

In the months since Shayera had vanished from the face of the planet, Diana had wrestled with her refusal to forgive and forget, with the nub of anger she held against the other woman. Amazons did not forgive, it was not among their tenets, it was not in their nature.

Was Diana still an Amazon, though?

She blocked Shayera's blows again and again, firmly, but without undue force. And as she did, she frowned.

There were some lessons that could not easily be unlearned. How to defend oneself, how to take out an opponent. Yet even an Amazon could learn to pause and take stock before she entered the fight. An old dog could be taught new tricks and it only took one psychologist to change a light bulb, or so Flash assured her, as long as the light bulb wanted to change.

Did Diana want to change?

She hurled Shayera across the room, watched the other woman tumble and dive, regaining her balance before swooping up once more.

She saw again the sparkle in the green eyes of her opponent. Shayera's blood was up and coursing through her at this fight, with a spirit that Diana remembered, even through the clinging sting of betrayal.

They'd fought like this many times before. Unlike most of the men - even Clark who had grown up in Man's World, and with the exception of J'onn - the two women were alien and stranger to the world they inhabited, with the training for battle and a fondness for action over debate or thought. They'd been kin of a sort, with the same kind of upbringing and the same fierce passion for life: warriors both, with a warrior's need for practice in battle and a worthy foe.

Diana remembered the bouts with a kind of pleasure, a degree of satisfaction that no other fight had rendered her since Shayera's departure from the League. When they fought like this, no fate of the world relied on their winning; their blows were hard, but not harsh. They were opponents, not enemies, and their purpose was united: to bring the other low.

They fought, more or less evenly matched, although Diana had the advantage in strength and manoeuvrability, and Shayera had the advantage in ferocity and ruthlessness.

Earlier, Diana had been the dominant one in emotion: her anger fuelling her blows. In truth, she could have ended the battle earlier, but an easy win had not been her goal. Blood Retribution was not about winning: it was about paying debts and taking consequences. Shayera had owed a debt to Diana.

Did the continuation of the Blood Retribution mean Diana owed a debt to Shayera?

The question stopped Diana dead in the air, and Shayera's mace caught her hard along the jaw, cracking her head around and casting her to the ground. Without superhuman strength, the blow would have broken Diana's neck, and the fall would have left her incapacitated for weeks. As it was, her neck muscles would ache for several hours, and the lip that seeped rusty blood into Diana's mouth would not heal until sunset.

She propped herself up on one elbow as Shayera landed before her. "First Blood," the Thanagarian said, and the pleasure of the half-smile spreading across her lips was matched by an emotion Diana had not expected to feel after such a defeat: tolerant amusement.

"Second Blood," she countered, and saw the other woman nod in acknowledgement. "Are we finished?"

Are we finished?

The words implied that each side had been repaid what needed repaying.

Are we finished?

They implied an ending, a conclusion, a completion.

Are we finished?

The question was honest, and an honest answer was given, seen in Shayera's hesitation, a momentary return of the uncertainty.

Diana wanted it finished. She was not among her people - of them, but not among them - not anymore. New patterns must be learned, and this was one way to set them. Forgiveness would not come without a cost to Diana, but Shayera had paid her own price to return - in self-assurance and certainty of her place.

Let it be finished.

"Yes." Shayera held out a hand, and a small, fierce smile with it. "We're finished."

And what went unsaid between them was that they were finished, but not ended. One chapter was now closed and another opened.

It was there in the gleam of the other woman's eyes, reflecting Diana's own satisfaction, and in the way they turned towards the door in unison and walked out, not touching but clearly together.

Outside, people pouring out of the gallery - newer colleagues, not their original team-mates. None of these newer members approached them, both intimidated and wary of the pair. But, alerted by a sixth sense, Diana turned her head and saw Batman's nod as he stood by the observation room door, caught the faintest quirk of his lips in a wry, lopsided smile before he moved away. For what it was worth, he understood.

It was only when they were in the lounge, Shayera with her beer and Diana with her lemonade, that Superman and Flash joined them.

Diana gave Clark one steady look, and he nodded, finally seeing what he had not comprehended in the meeting room before. The fight had been necessary, to repay the old debts owing and leave the slate clean. She'd known he didn't like the idea of the two women fighting, but he could not argue with the results when presented with them.

Flash was more verbose, true to his nature, putting his puzzlement to words. "Wow, that was some fight, Di, Shay? I thought you two were never going to forgive each other."

Neither woman corrected him. But Diana turned her head a little and caught the gleam of tolerant amusement in Shayera's eyes, even as her friend made some delicately pointed reply.

For them, the fight was forgiveness.

- fin -