- Lady Night -
Diana Prinze hovered over the city she thought of as her own.
The skyscrapers gleamed by the rays of the setting half-moon, their blue glass silvered in the light, and she hovered between them, nearly motionless to the naked eye, and surveyed her city.
She thought of it no less possessively than Crusader thought of Gotham, although she was less territorial about it. Boundaries, my foot! Yes, Diana much preferred the proud beauty of Metropolis to Gotham's antique architecture: a question of taste, no doubt - but then, most things were.
As the last rays of moonlight poured over her, the reflected sunlight rebuilt the strength she'd used this evening, both at the charity function and in the alleyway. Pouring her energy so totally into the otherself had been dangerous for even that short time. Usually, she retained enough connection between the self and the otherself she created to continue breathing; this time, urgency had required her to draw upon her being so completely that respiration had halted, resulting in the good doctor's attempt to resuscitate her.
Dr. Wayne's attempt had been kindly meant, although he had been unaware of the nature of her physiology, assuming her to be human.
Diana Prinze was no more human than the Martian Manhunter.
She had learned to be human, brought up by humans, taught their language, and shown their ways. Her adopted parents had been wealthy beyond imagining, a once-proud house of a European dynasty, but the traditions of obligation and responsibility to the less fortunate had been passed down through that dynasty until it came to the childless couple.
Ari and Lyta Prinze had taught that code of honour to a girl whose strength and abilities could have made her a tyrant to breathe terror into the hearts of governments everywhere. As she looked at the world around her, Diana could well conceive this world under her command: no law but her own, no will but her own, no rule but her own.
Thankfully, for her own sake as well as the world's, such a scenario had not come to pass. At least, not as many feared it might.
In a way, Metropolis was 'her' city. She imposed her will over it, but followed the laws of the land. She did not act the goddess, claiming the right to judge good and evil; but she did what she did to make this city safer for the innocents who lived in it.
In the same way, Diana claimed the whole Earth as her own. She had been protector and champion as required, and was proud to be counted among the 'Earthlings' for all that her lineage came from another planet in another solar system. Until Kal arrived, there had been no one hero to challenge her physically, although Green Lantern might come closest, and Crusader would be a dangerous opponent.
She breathed deeply as the setting moon's last rays washed over her, and caught a hint of the dawn on the wind, mere hours away. The night was nearly past. There was a little time to return to her apartment and rest a while, before the dawn came upon her and she rose to make the most of the sunlight hours.
Besides, she thought as she flew for her apartment complex. Anne-Marie would have woken from her evening nap and would be waiting for her return. She might even have news of tonight's function and the outcome of it.
Diana's life as a socialite was insipid, in too many ways. It was the way of life she learned from her mother, and while it could be a life of value when the cause was good, it was not enough to fully occupy her time. Yet she had established herself as Diana Prinze, and there was no escaping that persona, for all that her soul chafed against the constraints of the personality she had assigned it.
There were times when she envied Kal's unity of being. He had no questions of who he was or his mission; he held the purity of his beliefs and retained the innocence of his people's isolation from the rest of the world. And when duty called, he had no need of excuses to leap into the fray.
Still, her disguise as the Lady Diana Prinze was effective for its purpose. She was not Kal, sprung from a race of warriors out of nowhere, heir to a tradition of honour and protection that was old when the Ancient Egyptians were building their pyramids in Giza. She had been sent to Earth as a refugee, supplicant of a planet that had long since burned to dust and ashes.
Diana was not human, but she had lived as such - more or less - until she was eighteen. That gave her advantages over Kal in understanding the way human minds worked. More than he, she comprehended Crusader's paranoia, Green Lantern's military dedication, Flash's suggestive teasing. Diana knew how to ease the fear she saw in the faces of so many, how to deflect the worship in others - still things of which Kal had to learn.
And a part of her was glad she had 'someone else' behind which to hide when the crowds clamoured for their heroes.
Nobody would associate the cool efficiency of Lady Night with the fluttering, sex-kittenish Diana Prinze whose 'toil not, neither do I spin' attitude earned her the envy and scorn of those less fortunate, whose weakness was men, and whose flirtatious ways were legendary. And in that persona, she earned herself a little peace and a little influence among the common people.
She was halfway across the city when her commlink beeped. She didn't even check to see who it was; there was only one person on the face of the planet that would call her on this device at this hour.
"Lady." His voice was gravel and velvet, hiding the cold steel soul beneath. It seemed that, for all the success of the night, Crusader was not a happy camper at all.
"You're welcome," she said, smiling in spite of herself. Her team-mate had already been well-established in Gotham City when she first arrived in Metropolis as the Lady Diana Prinze. Their paths had crossed within a matter of weeks, and a wary alliance had been formed through the years. But they struck sparks off each other as flint to steel, strong personalities that inevitably clashed.
"I told you-"
"To stay out of your city," she returned calmly. "Yes. You have repeated it more than once tonight and I am well-informed of the transgression. However, I was in the vicinity when the gunfire broke out, and you were not to be found."
She had been surprised at Crusader's absence when the thugs broke into the ballroom. Expecting his presence, she had remained still and quiescent, playing the terrified socialite until she realised he must be elsewhere, that these men had chosen their time and target well. Then necessity had required the otherself.
"And the second time?"
"We were there, Superman and I," she said simply. "Were we to leave a team-mate to battle such forces on his own?"
"I could have managed."
"Of that we have no doubt. However we have a vested interest in the well-being of your city as much as we have vested in you - or you have in Gotham. And I do not doubt that Kal welcomed the chance to vent his spleen on the men who made him powerless before." A gust of wind whipped around her, tugging at her lariat, pulling at the strands that escaped the coil into which she had wound her hair. "Do you have any further dressing-down to give me? It is late, and we cannot all lie abed come morning."
He snorted at the way she implied she knew his identity. It was a game between them, this attempt to draw each other into the open, to seek out each other's secrets. As yet, there was no winner; Diana was sure of it.
"Very well, Lady. But in future, remember whose city is Gotham."
"As if you would give me the opportunity to forget," she answered, easily. Possessive and unyielding and quite masculinely pig-headed, her team-mate was both well-respected in her sights, and a cause for great exasperation. It had always been so between them. "Good night, Crusader. Sleep well."
"And you, Lady."
At least he was not beyond politeness. Diana switched off the commlink with a flick of her thumb and headed for her penthouse apartment in a luxury complex. J'onn would telepathically contact her if she was required for League business; he knew all her secrets, and she was glad enough that at least one of her team-mates knew who she was should the time come to it.
As she landed behind a screen of bushes on the penthouse balcony, she observed the lights in the apartment. Anne-Marie, it seemed, was up this evening, and waiting for her mistress.
Her aide and personal maid glanced up from the desk where she was sorting through papers. The middle-aged woman slept in four-hour blocks through the day and the night - during hours where Diana could fend for herself. Anne-Marie Kaleffska had served Diana's parents for many years, and when the daughter of her employers had chosen to immigrate to America, she had faithfully followed her charge.
"I hear you had a busy evening."
"Just a little. Most of it in Gotham."
"The news was all over it. I received a call from the Daily Planet's gossip column."
Diana laughed as she pulled the mask from her head. "What did you expect?"
"A little sense," Anne-Marie returned, shuffing papers into neater piles. "You were not yet back from the function - what could I possibly have to tell them that they could not find out for themselves from the news?" She regarded the young woman critically. "I saw both the otherself and heard that Dr. Wayne had to perform resuscitation on you. You drained too much into the otherself?"
"There were too many of them," she answered, feeling defensive before the barrage of questions. "I needed more strength to deal with the thugs."
Pale brows drew together in a frown. "You used to know the exact strength that you could leave behind to keep your body breathing. Lately, you have misjudged more than once. Did that mother of yours leave any information about Themiscyran hormonal changes in the early twenties?" As swiftly as the question was asked, it was waved away. "No, answer later. I'll wager my salary you didn't eat anything at that function of yours - too busy flitting around playing the socialite. I'll prepare you some food while you wash."
Diana's mouth twitched, "Am I permitted to ask how much we made at the function tonight?"
"You are," Anne-Marie said without a smile. "The contribution from Dr. Wayne got us over the two hundred mark. You must have pricked his pride well." She glanced up, eyeing Diana sharply. "Go! Wash!"
Thus ordered, Diana submitted.
Her costume peeled from her skin as she shimmied out of it and the bathroom filled with steam. Beneath it, her skin was smooth, unblemished, her figure slender and well-curved, but also muscular. The Themiscyrans had been a warrior race of women, warriors birthing more warriors while their menfolk held the house. Diana's body reflected a thousand generations of women trained in the art of war, and war they had made upon each other, tribe to tribe, until their world could stand it no longer and destruction took them.
She, alone of all of her people, had been sent to safety. She, alone of all her people, had found life on another planet, a home in another people, a purpose in another mission.
But at the time her tiny vessel crashed to Earth in the high reaches of the Swiss Alps, the suspicion regarding aliens and alien types had been strong, and so her parents had quietly adopted the 'foundling' who looked human enough and yet was not.
Water poured over her body and she scrubbed herself down with the loofah and shower gel and rinsed through her hair. As she did so, she considered the matter of her secret identity and the trouble it had lately caused - not just tonight's difficulty with Dr. Wayne, but other, more disquieting rumbles.
Of late, Crusader had become more intent on discovering her origins and other identity. Given his investigative nature, he'd be most interested in her ability to create the 'second self.' While she might trust him to guard her back in battle, she was not so sure she trusted him to resist his curiosity regarding her powers. And she had no desire to become his guinea-pig, experimented on to see what she could withstand.
The pressure of impending revelation of her identity had prompted her to find some leverage by which she could balance out the power struggle. And the only thing of which she had hopes was Crusader's private identity.
While she did not personally care who Crusader was in his 'other life', her own concern and caution required her to have something to balance out anything he might discover of her.
It had been in her mind for some time that Crusader had to be someone living in Gotham. As such, she had gently pressed her charity organisations to take a greater interest in Gotham's well-to-do society - such as the charity ball this evening. However, a charity function or two would not give her the inside information she required to determine who was her team-mate. After tonight, perhaps she should work at cultivating a friendship with Dr. Wayne or his partner, Ms. Lane.
She considered that thought a moment or two. It seemed doubtful that Ms. Lane would suffer Diana's alter-ego - women tended to be less sympathetic to their own kind, but Dr. Wayne had been a little more forthcoming. Perhaps not the clueiest of males, but Diana was well aware of her abilities to draw out even the most reserved of men.
It would be worth a try, anyway.
Who knew? She would have fun, and it was possible that Dr. Wayne might even enjoy the drawing-out!
When she emerged from her room in a terry-towelling bathrobe, Anne-Marie already had a steaming hot dish of angel-hair pasta in a tomato marinara sauce laid out on the table, complete with fine china, silver cutlery, and napkin. No instant dinners for her charge! "No sign of Crusader?" Anne-Marie inquired, picking up the conversation again.
"None at the function," Diana reported as she sat down. "Although I got told off for imposing on his territory later."
Anne-Marie snorted as she poured a glass of water. "Males! Sheer egotistical stupidity."
Diana laughed. "They say they're good for some things," she teased her aide before taking another mouthful of pasta.
"I'll grant you that. But that one - pah! Even the crusaders for the holy land slept with any willing woman - and doubtless some not so willing - on their way to seek the cross!" Anne-Marie grimaced. "That one is all work, no pleasure at all."
Diana tried to imagine the too-intense Crusader pursuing a woman, and laughed at the image it produced in her imagination. Still, his dedication was admirable - especially in one who had no claim to especial powers or abilities the way the rest of their team-mates did.
"And I am all pleasure and no work - or so the gossips say," Diana pointed out, twirling more pasta onto her fork. "That does not make them right. He thinks of the city as his own."
"And treats it as possessively as a man treats his trophy wife," the aide snorted, now back at her desk and filing papers. "If the man has a wife, I pity her! To come second to a city...?"
"It would not be the first time a woman came second in a man's affections behind his work."
"You would not settle for it."
"I am not just any woman," Diana admitted. "Besides, any man would come second to my own responsibilities to the Earth, Metropolis, and the Justice League."
The aide's expression developed a wry look. "Many men would happily come second to all those if it meant sharing the night with you, Diana."
"And even in that they would be disappointed," Diana said firmly. Anne-Marie was an excellent aide to both the socialite and Lady Night, but for the habit she had of attempting to pair off her charge. It was probably partly at the behest of Diana's mother, who tended to call and ask about both Diana's night-time heroics and her night-time activities. Inevitably, there was much to speak of the first and nothing to speak of the second. "It is - what? Four in the morning? Not exactly the time every man dreams his wife will come home."
The older woman shut the final drawer and locked it neatly. "Then find a man who is not every man."
Diana sighed and changed the topic. Crudely and abruptly, but all she could do. "Would you schedule a medical check-up with Dr. Trevor, Anne-Marie? In the next couple of days, please."
"Dr. Wayne's insistence?" Anne-Marie smirked. "I heard he was working on you while you were dissociated."
"He was," Diana said. "And, before you ask, he wasn't kissing me." The words were firm; across the room, hazel eyes had taken a wicked glint to them. It didn't help that she quite clearly remembered that one second of Dr. Wayne's mouth against hers, never mind how impersonal and businesslike the contact had been. "He wanted me to go with the medics," she said, "I refused on the grounds that I was fine, of course."
"You are due for a session with Dr. Trevor shortly anyway."
"Yes. And I tired easily for the rest of the evening," Diana admitted, recalling the faint feeling of being drained that she had suffered through the remainder of the night.
"Then eat and do not talk."
Diana meekly ate.
She was so tired, she submitted to having an appointment made, and being reminded to contact her mother tomorrow. She submitted to finishing all the food, even though she wasn't that hungry, and being shooed off from the charity's paperwork.
She even submitted to being chivvied off to bed.
Anne-Marie had the soul of a bully.
She was nearly to bed when she remembered her plan to develop further contact with Dr. Wayne. Nothing terribly intimate, the man was a workaholic, from all accounts. She would merely draw him out a little, inquire about his clientele, flatter his ego, and get the information she wanted. He might have some valuable insights into Gotham's society.
Yes, tomorrow she would ask Anne-Marie about looking into Dr. Wayne's social habits.
- fin -
FINAL NOTES: The Trinity with a 120-degree twist! I know, it reads like a prequel to something, but I wouldn't hold your breath. Lots of muse; no time.