Exorcising Demons by Djinn
Old Eyes, Young Face
I was born of earth. Tamped down by shaking hands, dirt held in place by the tears of a woman who wanted above all things a child to love. A daughter-I was hope in the form of a small clay child. I was my mother's future. The child she could never bear herself because her body would not hold life. She told me that and in the same breath told me that she wished she'd given birth to a more normal daughter. She stopped short of telling me she wished that I'd never been born. She wasn't very happy with me at that moment.
She was often unhappy with me, from the moment I defied her to get to man's world to the day she died. I disappointed her as often as she disappointed me. But is that not the way with mothers and daughters? It didn't stop me from loving her, or her from loving me.
Nor does it stop me from loving my own children, even though they have at times frustrated me and disappointed my hopes. As I'm sure I have done to them. My daughters and sons. None of them born of my own body-like my mother before me, I was denied that. But then I never expected to be given the power to create life. After all, I was born of dust and tears, and reborn of some kind of divine fairy dust when the gods thrust me out of Olympus and gave me back my life.
My rebirth. I remember it even now. People still ask me what my first thoughts were as I looked out on the Earth-my home once more. I tell them all the right answers, that I felt relief, determination, a renewed sense of purpose, and hope. That I could not wait to be reunited with my mother. But it's not true. I thought of those things...eventually. But my first thoughts were of him. My husband. But he was not my husband then. He was someone else's husband then.
Kal. Kal-el of Krypton. Superman. My love.
I must have said his name out loud, for he looks over at me, his smile quizzical. He holds his hand out to me, and I go to him. His arms are strong-age has not dimmed his might although there is some gray in his hair and deep creases at the corners of his eyes. But they still shine as blue as the first time I saw him. I fell in love with him the first time I saw him.
I could have had him then. But he scared me. I spent a lot of years regretting how I ran from him. He has told me that he spent a lot of years regretting that he rushed me.
Souls have a way of recognizing their mates. Minds have a way of overthinking such a treasure trove. Feet have a way of running the hell away.
"What are you thinking about?" he asks as he pulls me to him for a kiss.
"Could you two stop?" Lina, our oldest daughter, is sixteen. We found her shortly after our wedding, wandering hungry and cold in the northern reaches of Russia when she was only six. We have found all our children that way. Lina is not super, not a wonder. But for all her mortality, she is more amazing than Kal and I will ever be. All of our foundlings will be. They'll live, they'll die, and they'll find a way to pack a world of experience into that space of years-years that will go by slowly for Kal and I. We will outlive them all. We will mourn them all. And someday, we'll bury our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren too. I can already imagine how it will feel to do it, but it will be the love that makes it all worth it. As well as the hope and the dreams and the knowledge that somehow we have all made the world better. Us by finding them, them just by living.
We teach them something but not as much as they give back to us. They are the link that keeps us tethered, that keeps Kal and me from flying away forever. It was Bruce's greatest fear. Our disassociation, our potential detachment. He hated the thought that we'd pull away and become something apart. Before he died, Bruce made me promise that I wouldn't withdraw to the island or to Kal's Fortress. Bruce never had any illusions about my ending up with Kal. I think he was just glad to have gotten in the way of that for a while.
That makes him sound terrible. And I do not mean to do that. He loved me. As much as it was possible to love someone, I think he loved me. And he made me stronger. But it didn't start out that way. It started out darker. And I do not want to think of that now. I will focus on our last days together, when our demons had been laid to rest and he was just the old man I loved so much. The old man who was watching a still-young woman sit by his deathbed. My tears were real, and he knew that. He'd spent years jealous of Kal, but I think when Bruce was dying he knew that the part of my heart he owned would never be shared territory.
"Find a way to live," he said. "Find a way to keep in touch with the pulse of humanity. Clark won't give you that. For all his diving into a normal life when he was with Lois, he does not understand what it is to be human."
Bruce was wrong. Kal knew what it was to be human because he knew Bruce. Bruce was the living symbol of everything Kal aspired to be. The determination in the face of overwhelming odds, and the ability to get up from a fight, ignoring broken bones and torn muscles simply because he was needed. Everything Bruce did was hard. There was nothing super about Bruce. But he made it look effortless.
I loved him. So did Kal. They were best friends. Only I was Kal's best friend too. Not Bruce's though, not at first anyway. It is confusing trying to chart the tendrils of any relationship, let alone one as odd as our little trinity.
Kal pulls away and studies me. "You look so sad."
"I was thinking of Bruce."
He smiles, but there was a time when he would not have smiled at such an admission, and I would not have been comfortable making it. There was a time when I kept what I felt about Bruce to myself. That time is gone, thank all the gods.
"I miss him, Diana." He hugs me close, and I hear Lina sigh in a dramatic teenage way. Kal chuckles, a rumbling sound that reaches to my bones. He nuzzles my ear, his breath making me shiver as he asks, "Would you rather your mother and I didn't talk, Linishka?"
She laughs. "Yes. It's embarrassing the way you two can't keep your hands off each other." But she doesn't sound as mortified as she would like us to think.
I steal a look over at her; she is smiling and looks down quickly so I will not see. She has a boyfriend, or will have soon. A young man has been nosing around the Embassy as Kal describes it. He is much more protective of his daughters than I am. Much more suspicious of the boys who come to pay court. But then he was a boy once too-even if never a human boy. He understands their urges.
Lina stands up. "I have a friend coming over tonight. We're going to watch movies."
"We'll watch them with you," Kal says, all interest in me fleeing in the face of the invasion of the adolescent daughter-snatchers. "And you're babysitting tonight."
I smile, lean in and whisper, "You're no fun."
"She's sixteen," he whispers back.
"That's not what I meant." I tell him what I had planned for the evening-it involves a deserted beach and very little clothing. I seal the deal with, "I asked Artemis to baby-sit. She could drop in on Lina and her friend a few hundred times during the evening to make sure they're not misbehaving?"
"Have fun tonight, Lina. Your mother and I are going out." Kal has a silly, dreamy look on his face, and Lina shakes her head at me, but she laughs when I wink at her.
She is singing under her breath as she leaves, closing the door with a wink of her own, which makes me smile. I am not worried about our daughter. She knows there are limits. And if she forgets where those limits are, I know Artemis can remind her better than I can. Artemis says I have gone soft over the years. Needless to say, she has not.
"Do you remember when you were that age?" Kal asks.
I nod but don't meet his eyes.
He pulls my chin up gently. He seems confused by my evasion. "You were a virgin when I met you."
I roll my eyes. "I had never had...intercourse." It is a technicality. Two bodies joined in the way he is thinking, that is what I had never had. But there are other ways to love, as he well knows, not that I plan on discussing them with him when his eyebrows are already going up farther than I've ever seen them go. I laugh and trace them. "Have I shocked you, Kal?"
"I thought Bruce was your...first?"
Even after so many years, I can tell it still hurts him to say that. Bruce was my first, and in Kal's mind it should have been Kal.
"He was my first man." I move so I can straddle him.
He kisses me deeply. "This conversation probably shouldn't be turning me on, but it is."
"You're such a typical male under that superhero exterior."
He laughs, and looks at the door with great concentration. Smiling, I push myself out of his lap and walk over to turn the lock. Despite his sudden belief in his abilities, telekinesis is not one of his superpowers.
"I'd have gotten it," he says, from behind me, turning me and pushing me against the wall. He pulls my clothes off, and I return the favor.
"You are turned on," I say, pressing against him. "Did I do that?" My smile is probably very satisfied. After this many years, I know exactly what I do to him.
And he knows exactly what he does to me. He thrusts into me, does not check to see if I am ready for him-for all I know he can smell that I am. I've never asked him; it's more romantic to think he has some lover's sense of that than that my scent changes when I am aroused.
I wrap my legs around him, and he steadies me with one hand, the other braced against the wall as he moves with a force that might injure a mortal. I only smile, throw my head back with abandon. I love making love with Kal. We waited for so long, and it could have been awful when it finally happened. But it wasn't. It was everything I'd ever thought it would be.
He slows, his lips finding mine, tongue questing and I hold him tighter, riding him this time. I can feel his lips turn up as I kiss him as fiercely as I'm moving. He loves this passion between us. He told me once that even though he adored having sex with Lois, he was always aware of how he had to take care with her. He could never really let go, not like he can with me.
"So," he says, as he pulls away just enough to watch my face. "Tell me more about your evil adolescence."
"Pervert," I say, then I don't say anything more because I can feel completion crashing in on me.
He holds me while I ride the pleasure out, and when I collapse against him, he brushes my hair back, his eyes soft. "I love you," he whispers as he begins to move again. Then his expression grows wicked. "Now. Tell me about you with a woman."
Blood of the Moon
"Princess, pay attention." Meleke's voice holds more disappointment than irritation. I am usually a good student. Today, I have not been able to hit the target in my normal fashion.
She takes the bow away from me, steers me to the nearest bench. "Tell your Aunt Meleke what's wrong."
I squirm out of her gentle touch. I have imagined her hands on me for months. The moon's blood may never come on me, but her fever has marked me. I feel something stir-something deep in my belly-when I think of Meleke.
"You're sixteen now."
I nod. It is well known how old I am. The whole island celebrates when I achieve another year. I am everyone's child here.
I hate feeling caught somewhere between being a child and being a woman. Mother has told me I won't be a woman until I bleed.
If I don't bleed, will I never be a woman?
Dirt does not bleed. Clay vessels sweat, but they do not bleed.
I know in my heart that I will never bleed.
"What is it, Diana?"
"If I were a woman, would you be interested in me?" I do not mean to blurt it out so roughly. "I mean...I have these thoughts about you..." I can feel that my face is scarlet. The blood that will not come out of me has no problem finding my face.
Her smile is tender. "How long have you been feeling this way?"
I shrug. Not a very mature way to answer, but I am suddenly mortified that we are having this conversation.
"Diana, I have a lover." Meleke leans down, kisses my cheek. As if to make me feel better. To ease any discomfort.
It is far too late for that. I can feel myself blushing even more. "I didn't know."
"It is a new thing. I am happy."
And I am miserable, but I nod and try to smile for her.
"Go do something fun. Lessons are over for today."
I try to show some enthusiasm for the freedom she is giving me, only I can't help but wonder if she just wants the time off so she can be with her new lover. I walk away from her and can hear her whistling softly as she puts the equipment away.
The palace is quiet, activity sounding from mother's council chambers but silence reigning in the living quarters. Kessia sees me come in and leaves the fountain she is sitting by.
"Diana?" Her smile is soothing. She has been my closest friend for so long. "Is something wrong?"
I sit down at the vanity in my room, staring at myself in the mirror. Meleke found someone else while I loved her. How could she? Am I not pretty enough? My mother tells me I am beautiful. Even among all these lovely women, I am considered one of the most beautiful. Why am I so hard to love?
"No one wants me."
Kessia sits down on the bench next to me, and leans her head against mine. She smiles at me in the mirror. Her blonde hair lies in stark contrast to my own darkness, and I reach up and stroke her fine locks. My hair is coarse, not silky like hers.
"What do you mean no one wants you?" She closes her eyes as I continue to stroke her hair.
"Meleke has found a new lover."
Her eyes open. "I wasn't aware you were interested in her."
I nod miserably.
"I'm sure she's sorry she didn't wait till she heard that." Kessia laughs huskily. "Silly goose. Don't you know we all love you?"
"Not that way. No one loves me that way."
"Some do." She smiles at me again, her eyes very soft.
"Is it because I don't bleed? Because I'm not a woman?"
Her smile turning into something that is not innocent, Kessia says, "I hear you at night. Touching yourself."
I look down. "This is not spoken of," I mumble.
"Yes, it is. We all speak of it. In the old days it was when a girl bled that we told her...showed her things." She sighs. "But it is not the old days and it has been so long since any of us were young. We've had no one to initiate."
"Who initiated you?"
Kessia smiles. "Daria."
I frown. "You don't even like her."
Laughing, Kessia shrugs. "I like her...we just don't get along."
"You still see her for that?"
"Not anymore. But I used to."
I lean in, resting my lips on her neck. I can smell the Sillis flower she has rubbed on her neck; its heady fragrance is a smell of comfort. "Why not anymore?" I let myself kiss her. Her skin is so soft under my lips.
She goes very still. "I'm interested in someone else."
"Lucky woman." I pull away immediately-why is everyone interested in someone else?
I reach for my hairbrush, and she stops my hand, wraps her own around it. "No, Diana. I would be the lucky one if she was interested in me."
I meet her eyes in the mirror. I have to turn to see her face in truth, touching her skin, memorizing the planes of her face. "You will initiate me?"
"I will." She leans in, her mouth soft on my neck. "It would be my deepest joy to do so."
I twine my arms around her, just as I have for years. But now it is different. Now she is more than just my friend. Why have I never thought of her for this? As she pulls me up, I frown. I love Kessia. I care for her deeply. But I do not feel the disconcerting passion for her that I do for Meleke.
"I do not...my feelings for you..."
She lays her fingers over my lips. "I know. That is better. For an initiation, it is better. Trust is good. You do trust me?"
I nod. That is an easy question.
Smiling, she stands up.
"Will my mother approve of this?"
She looks down at me, as if she does not understand why I would ask.
"She says I am not yet a woman."
"You are. You are just...different."
"Can I tell her that we did this?"
"If you wish." She pulls me up to her. "So many questions. That is good. But perhaps we could kiss before you ask more?"
I laugh as she draws me to her. When I am nearly to her, she stops. I realize she is giving me the choice. I imagine the initiation will be like that. Her offering, me choosing to take. I close the distance between us, feel her lips open under mine. It feels nice, but I am strangely detached. But then she begins to touch other parts of my body, her hands roaming gently, and any distance I feel is gone.
She urges me to the bed, works her way in stages until I am naked. My robes come off only after they've been peeled back slowly. She is doing the same thing to me with her mouth and tongue and fingers. It is the same way I touch myself. Fingers finding places that respond, places to touch and explore. But it is different having her do it. It is better, even if I feel very vulnerable spread before her.
But as she touches me again and again, as I cry out and lay back against the pillows with a sated sigh, I begin to feel a confidence fill me. When she reaches for me, I say, "No. My turn."
Her smile is beautiful. I kiss her and then push her to her back, removing her robes the same way she removed mine, touching her the way she did me. And when she cries out, her fingers clenching the sheets and my hair, I smile in triumph.
"Diana. You're such a good student."
I laugh. She has always praised me for that. I doubt she ever thought it would apply to this situation.
As I cuddle against her, I ask, "Have you wanted me for a long time?"
She studies me. Then she nods. "But you only saw others. And I did not want to push it." Stroking my face, she whispers. "This initiation. It is for one night only."
I can feel my face falling. "You don't want me anymore?"
She smiles, kissing me quickly. "No, I don't mean that. If you want me for a lover, it will be up to you to tell me that. After you have had time to think. After the rush of pleasure has worn off."
I nod, and reach for her again.
She frowns, as if she is not sure I am understanding. "What I mean is that you owe me nothing."
"I will always owe you," I say as I nuzzle her chest.
"No. This was freely given and freely accepted. There is no obligation." She pulls me up, kissing me almost desperately. "But I love you, Diana. I shouldn't say that, but it's true."
"I love you too."
Her eyes are sad. "You don't even know what love is yet, my dearest. Tell me that in fifty years."
"I know what it means. And I do love you. You are my greatest friend."
"That does not mean I am your greatest love...the other half of your soul."
I look down because I do not want her to see that I don't believe she is the other half of my soul either.
"Let's go to sleep, Diana," Kessia says softly, and I realize that the initiation is over.
"I have made you sad."
"No, Princess. If anyone has made me sad, it is I."
I can feel the distance between us; she is using my title like a wedge to open a space in the bed we share. "Kessia, I don't want-"
"-Go to sleep, Diana. Choose later. When you've had time to think."
"So, did you choose her?" Kal asks as we float in the water, watching the sun go down. The island I have picked out is deserted, and the water is warm.
"Yes. But she turned me away for the first three nights. She was never sure of me." Like Bruce was never sure of me at first. Always expecting me to be gone, to go running off to Kal, but part of that was just his furtive outlook coloring our early interactions.
"She must have missed you when you left?"
"She didn't agree with my decision to compete for the right to be Wonder Woman. She wanted me to bow out. She and my mother had remarkably similar outlooks."
Kal turns me so I'm facing him. We are naked, and the moon shines down on us, lighting the night as the sun is swallowed up by the sea. Kissing him, I forget the past.
But he does not seem inclined to let it go. "They wanted to control you."
"They loved me."
"I love you. I don't try to control you."
"Well, not now you don't. There was a time though..." I smile. "Besides, you have the advantage. Being my soul mate, you've never had to doubt."
His face changes. "I've doubted. When you married Bruce..."
"You knew I still loved you. I never stopped."
"But I lost part of you that day. Actually, I lost it before then, it was just official that day."
"The part of me that Bruce held. I don't think that was yours to have."
He looks surprised at such candor. Although Bruce is not a sore subject any longer, we do not share these kinds of truths. But it seems to be a day for truths.
"I can't begin to describe what it felt like to see you with him."
I stare at him as if he's a moron. Which at times my husband is. "No? I can describe it to you. It's how I felt every time I saw you and Lois together."
"We had a chance. Before Lois. But you pushed me away."
"You practically ran in relief."
"That's not true." Kal is agitated. He does not seem to realize we are not floating in the water anymore but in the air. And going higher. I look up. At our current speed we should hit thirty-five thousand feet just in time to give a passing jetliner a moonlit look at our various assets.
"Love, we're naked," I say, pointing to the approaching plane, "and I'm not interested in becoming the main attraction of their in-flight entertainment."
"Oh. Damn." He is blushing the way only a Midwest farm boy can.
I laugh, kissing him. "What were we arguing about?"
He lets us float back down closer to the water. We hover above it, the same way we hovered above the frozen ground that first time he kissed me. When we met alone finally.
"Remember that first kiss?" he asks, following my thoughts with an ease that used to surprise me but now no longer does. His ability to read me has saved our lives more than once.
He touches my cheek and smiles, but I notice that the past leaves lines of pain on his face. "I don't know why I rushed you that way."
"Because you were excited, and you acted on impulse. I understand it now. Back then...I didn't understand it at all. Love was a mystery."
"But you loved Kessia, didn't you?"
"I loved her. I was never in love with her. She was with me, but I had the power. I was the one who loved less."
He nods sadly. It is a lesson everyone eventually learns. That the politics of love can be terribly unfair.
"I never felt the uncertainty with her. There was no fear." I touch his face, kissing him the way I should have then but didn't know how. "You terrified me."
"You terrified me too." He looks down. "I think I might have been..."
"Trying to sabotage us?"
He pulls me close. "Back then with Lois, I had it both ways. She loved Superman; Clark loved her. Whichever thing I wanted to feel-however much power I wanted-I just picked the clothes and went with it." He shakes his head. "But you, you were so...open. So innocent. Lois understood the game. You weren't even playing it."
I laugh. He's not wrong. It took me years to understand the game. Even more years to master it.
"We barely said hello and you were kissing me."
"That's not really showing much basic understanding of the game, you realize?" I laugh at his expression. "Sorry, Don Juan. Hate to burst your bubble."
"Okay, so I wasn't the most experienced. Not compared to a millionaire playboy." His voice has the caustic edge that I thought we'd gotten beyond.
"Kal, I didn't mean..."
He sighs, lets us float back down to the water. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't...but he was so much better with women."
"And he dated Lois before you did." It was a story Bruce liked to tell me when he was in the mood to hurt me-or Kal.
"Yes. He did." Kal releases me, swimming away from me.
I let him go. He needs to work out the pain he hasn't ever let go of. He won't take it out on me; it's not his way. Normally, he'll hold it in and stew. Since it's an improvement to see him pushing himself, letting the energy go in a less destructive way, I lay back and float while he swims super-laps around me. I pity any of Arthur's subjects who get in Kal's way.
Arthur is another subject that Kal is not very comfortable with. I should probably not bring him up tonight.
All the men of the League have the potential to be a sore subject with Kal. Most of them desired me. Some of them even liked me. A few felt real love. Of them, Bruce and Arthur were the ones who seemed to threaten Kal the most. I think he knew the odds were good that I was not going to end up with Wally or Kyle. I liked them both but we never had much connection other than a professional friendship. And J'onn was too much like a big brother to think about that way. And I'm not sure I could live with a man who could read my every thought. It's bad enough sometimes living with the super-voyeur.
"You getting tired, sweetheart?" I call out as he passes me.
As he pulls away from me, I can hear him laugh at my choice of words. He gets almost out of sight before he slows and turns. He swims back to me and I wait, treading water as he approaches.
"Do you remember Asgard?" he asks as he pulls me to him, easing me back onto him.
"It's a little difficult to forget a thousand years. Especially with a man you're desperately in love with."
We are floating to shore, and Kal leans back, ending up lying on the sand with me astride him. He stares up at the stars the way he did by the fire in Asgard.
"I wanted you so badly." He pulls me down, his mouth locking on mine, hard and possessive.
I know my lips will be bruised in the morning. He slides his hands off the back of my head and finds my waist, moving me up and down, helping me find a rhythm that is almost violent.
Apparently, we are exorcising all our demons tonight.
He breaks the kiss, his eyes closed. "I could hear you in your tent when you touched yourself. You called out my name."
I can't talk, can only ride him. Harder and harder.
"But it wasn't always my name," he says. "I'm not sure which was worse."
In a thousand years, a girl can get quite creative with her fantasies. For Kal's sake, I hope that I didn't call everyone's name out. By the look he gives me, I think I may have.
"Diana, I...I..." He is at the point where he can't talk anymore either, but he's still trying.
"Shh, Kal, shhh." I kiss him as I come, kiss him until he does too.
When he can speak again, he says, "Diana, when I got home. When I made love to Lois that night, I pretended it was you. I think...I think I almost hurt her." He closes his eyes, as if he cannot stand what he has just said.
"You never told me that."
"How could I? I resisted you for that long and then I do that? What kind of man does that?" He opens his eyes; they meet mine with the hard honesty that is his best quality. He does not lie. He is capable of self-delusion and evasion and omission. But he does not lie outright. "She didn't know we'd been gone. I pulled back as soon as I realized that I'd let go too much. I think she thought I was still upset over the argument she and I had over you that morning. She had no idea I'd been faithful for so long."
"Not until I told her anyway." Not one of my smarter moments. Although at the time, I was still stinging from Trevor's rejection.
"I had a hard time explaining why I hadn't told her. I think that was when she finally figured out what you meant to me. When she thought back to the sex...and then I wasn't there for her when she needed me."
"There was a war going on. You had more to defend than just her...or her father." Even now, this makes me mad.
"Your mother instead of her father? As far as Lois was concerned, I chose you, Diana."
I nod. It is old ground. I still feel angry because I still feel a little bit guilty.
"We almost split up. But we worked it out. I guess we wanted that enough." He stops, as if he is not sure he should say what he wants to, but then he says it anyway. "And you had Trevor."
"Yeah. That went well." Trevor. Nice man. Whiny as hell. But nice. I don't know if I would have slept with him. I wonder what life would have been like if I had?
So much unsaid. I look at Kal, wonder if he can follow my thoughts this time. I expect him to push me off, to cuddle in his arms instead of letting me stare down at him, still connected to him. Sometimes he doesn't like this much closeness and scrutiny when the past intrudes, but instead he pulls me down to lie against his chest.
His voice is so low, I can barely hear him. "I want us to talk about everything, Diana."
"Why?" It is a cowardly thing to ask. But we've been doing so well dealing with things slowly. Pulling the arrows out gently.
"We need to," he says. "We're strong enough to."
It does not surprise me actually. Despite a tendency to wallow in pain, Kal has always been a man who prefers to yank the arrows out. Which is not to say he won't obsess over this for weeks-possibly longer. But it will all be out.
"Where do you want to start?"
Smiling, I lie motionless on top of him. Of course he starts with this; it's always been Kal's way to attack the strongest foe first.
"Yes. All right. But let's just lie here for a while?"
His arms tighten around me. "I love you. I wouldn't want to talk about it if you weren't so important to me."
"I know." I ease my head up, rest my chin on his chest. How long have I loved this man? Did I love him before I even knew him? Isn't that what is meant by the other half of our soul? That we love that person no matter what?
He smiles at me. It is the smile that won me. The smile that charmed me utterly when we first fought together. A combination of "aw, shucks, ma'am" and the utter certainty that he is the most perfect male on the planet. It's a deadly combination. I think it's why Lois could never shake him. Kal's personality seems obvious to the casual observer, but once you scratch the surface, he is a mass of fascinating contradictions.
Like loving me for so many years when he loved his wife just as much. I always knew that he adored her. Sometimes it made it easier. Sometimes not.
I imagine Kal felt the same way about me and Bruce. He knew I loved his best friend. It must have set him free. And broken his heart. All at the same time.
"You want to know everything?" I ask.
"I never really knew how you two came together. My view was imperfect."
"Even with super-vision?" I smile to take any sting out of the question.
"I didn't watch. I learned my lesson with Alcmaeon."
Another painful chapter in our lives.
He is reading my face. "Bruce was there for you then."
"Yes, and you weren't." It was the first chink in the armor that plated my heart, that marked me as Kal's-that he could believe so little in me. But back then I still didn't understand love. Didn't understand what it could make you do to the ones you loved.
"Was that when it started?" he asks.
"No, it was after Trevor, after the book came out, and Daniel Keyes was killed."
Kal nods, then he asks, "Did you love Trevor?"
I have told him before that I cared for Trevor, but obviously he wants more now.
"In my fashion." It is an answer that has no real meaning.
"Which means he was a convenient way out from us?" Sometimes, Kal's ability to leap to the right conclusion is annoying.
"He never seemed right for you. Always complaining."
I see his grin. It is not a nice one. "Were you spying on me?"
"I wasn't the only one. Bruce and Arthur too." He laughs-Trevor is evidently an easier subject to address than my first husband. He still doesn't laugh about Bruce.
"Trevor was taken away before I was anywhere close to deciding."
"Is it bad to admit I was happy about that?"
"Then I'm a bad man. But you still ended up with Bruce."
I touch his face. "Bruce and I came later. And our coming together probably wasn't how you think."
"No? He didn't wine and dine you?"
I smile. "Every time he had the chance, he ran. You know we almost hooked up before that? When we went back to find Arthur?"
"I knew something was going on. Super-hearing can be a bitch."
I imagine overhearing us didn't help Kal understand what was going on. Bruce wouldn't talk about it, and I was too inexperienced to push him the way I should have. All Kal would have heard was a lot of careful questions and uncomfortable pauses.
"He ran away from me."
"Stupid man." Kal smiles. He doesn't look terribly sorry for Bruce or me. "So tell me"-he kisses me, as if letting me know he's serious-"how it did happen."
Shot Down to Earth
"Is there a reason you're in Gotham?" Bruce won't look up from the bat-doohickey he is fiddling with.
I'm not sure why I came to the Batcave. It's clear from Bruce's body language that he isn't happy I decided to pay him a visit.
"I like what you've done with the place," I say softly. "It has a real welcoming feel. Are those new cobwebs?"
"What do you want, Diana?"
I sigh and sit down next to him. He still won't look at me. "Did I do something to make you mad?"
"No." He reaches for a tool, but his aim is off, and he won't look up to find it.
I hand it to him. "Why are you being like this? You helped me figure out what happened to Keyes. Without your help-"
"-Yes, I was invaluable. If you're here to thank me, you didn't need to do that."
He has the ability to throw me. His coldness sets my nerves on edge. Part of me wants to smack him. The other part wants to go into a corner and cry-if the Batcave even has a corner. "Sometimes, I hate you, Bruce."
He stops working. "Sometimes, it's mutual." He does look up then, and his eyes are angrier than I've ever seen them.
He wrenches control back around him like it's his cape. "Get out, Diana."
I am trying to figure out what I did to irritate him, but our interaction up to now seemed normal. Dysfunctional, sure. But that's normal for us. Walking over, I touch his shoulders gently.
He flinches as if I have struck him. "Diana, don't."
It is as if he has dared me. I tighten my hold, begin to massage his shoulders the way Kessia liked me to do.
He is sitting so still he could be a statue. "Diana, I'm warning you. It's a bad night for me. You don't want to push this."
"I'm just giving you a friendly massage. Isn't that what we do, Bruce? 'Friendly' things? Isn't that what you wanted?" I lean in, notice that my breath on the back of his neck makes him shudder. "You don't want me, remember? You walked away."
He whips around faster than I've ever seen him move. I am standing over him one moment, pulled into his lap the next. And he is kissing me. With more anger than love, but still kissing me.
Then he throws me away from him-I keep my feet. Barely.
He goes back to his repairs. "You think I don't know why you're here?"
"I don't understand. We worked so well together." It has been nice working with him again. It's been like it was after he kissed me the first time-or the second time, if you count when we first met...that strange, spontaneous kiss he gave me when he caught me bathing in Paradise Island. Two kisses, both when I least expected them. The first time he was lucky I didn't kill him. But the second...I would have tried a relationship, would have let him in, if he hadn't backed away. I never stopped being sorry he didn't want to try. And I thought that this time it might work between us-we've had such ease on this last case.
"I'm not in the mood for games tonight, Diana."
I am about to answer when I hear, "Miss Diana?" I whirl; I have not even noticed Alfred approaching.
He does not seem alarmed at my expression. "Perhaps you would like to come upstairs before you leave." He shoots me a look that seems to say: "Get out while you can."
"Diana can see herself out, Alfred."
"Yes, Master Bruce. But she's never seen the house." It's a lie; Alfred gave me a tour of the house the time Bruce invited me over for dinner and then stood me up.
But Bruce doesn't know that. "Fine. Go see the damn house."
I follow Alfred up the stairs. "What's wrong with him?" I ask when we are safely out of range.
"You don't know what today is, do you?" At my look, he points up to the portrait of Bruce's parents.
I realize the way he is pointing looks like a gun, and I feel a little sick. "I didn't know, Alfred." Bruce and I aren't friends. He doesn't tell me things like important dates. Not even the most important date.
"He had a run-in with Catwoman today too, miss. That always leaves him surly."
I hear something in his voice. "He likes her?"
"Like would be such the wrong word." Alfred walks to the bar. "Can I offer you a cocktail?"
"I don't drink," I say, walking toward him. "So he loves her?" How long has he loved her? Why didn't he tell me he loved her?
Why aren't he and I better friends?
"I'm not sure love is the right word either." Alfred pours water into an exquisite crystal glass and hands it to me. "He is attracted to her. But she...infuriates him." He frowns, then shoots me a small smile. "I might say the same thing for you, Miss Diana."
I put the glass down; I'm not thirsty. "Does he have any normal relationships, Alfred? Other than with you?"
Alfred chooses not to answer, instead pours himself something golden. Breathing deeply, he seems to be drinking in the liquid through the aroma alone before he takes a long sip. "Don't tell him I'm into the bourbon, miss. I only do this once a year. And not to excess."
I nod, it may not be very charitable of me, but I don't care what or how much Alfred drinks. He's always been the soul of responsibility, and I imagine even falling down drunk he'd still be someone you could put your full trust in. "Why is he mad at me? I don't understand."
Alfred looks at me, an intense look that holds none of his normal deference. "You really are an innocent, aren't you, my dear?" Walking away, he stops at the window, staring out into the night. "He's mean to you because he wants you so terribly much."
"So if I walked back down there...?"
"Oh, I don't recommend you do that."
"But if I did?"
"He's in control...but only barely. And of anyone I've known, you seem to slip past his defenses. It's a dangerous combination tonight. If you go down there, he'll take what you're offering."
I feel my face turn red. "What if I'm not offering anything?"
He turns, full of his own kind of darkness. "Don't play foolish games, child."
My blush only deepens. "I'm not a child."
"Oh, but you are." He walks over to me. "He's in love with you. And this is the one night you don't want to be near him. I've told you, and now I'm going up to bed. What happens now, that's up on you." Chucking me under the chin, he smiles. It is an expression full of weary experience. "And you won't like it."
"He's not going to hurt me."
"Not physically, no." He sighs. "I've learned to leave him alone on this night. If you're as smart as you're reputed to be, you'll leave him alone too." He walks up the stairs, his steps slow and heavy, as if his honesty has cost him something vital.
But he waves me away.
I should leave. I should listen. But I've never been good at obeying orders. I've always found another way...a better way. My way. And my way is to reach out. Bruce has always been the one to pull back.
I walk to the hidden door. I am about to open it when it opens on its own. Bruce is there. He knows I'm waiting-he would never have opened the door without checking to make sure the coast was clear.
His expression does not change. "Were you coming back down?"
"Alfred didn't give you the disaster briefing? He must be slipping."
I swallow hard; I do not think I like this Bruce. "He told me some things."
"I'll dock his pay for that."
I can't tell if he's kidding. It doesn't seem like a kidding sort of night. "Don't. He cares."
His eyes are dead as he looks at me, as if he's waiting for me to say more, something that matters.
"Doesn't that move you? How much he cares about you?" I step closer. "How much I care?"
He laughs. It is a mocking laugh and makes me stop in my tracks. "Nice try, Diana but the role of seductress wasn't made for little girls." He walks to the bar. "Or for liars. If you care about anyone, it's not me." He pours a glass of bourbon and throws it back. As he pours another, he looks over at me. "The old man thinks I don't know he drinks this. Well, I know."
In a strange, darker echo of Alfred, he walks to the window and stares out. I stand frozen, nearly paralyzed by the overwhelming bitterness that permeates this house. I've never felt it to such an extent; tonight there does not appear to be a single warm thing in the mansion.
"You think you can help me, don't you?" he asks.
"I'm not sure anymore."
He turns to me. "That's the first honest thing you've said all night." Throwing back the drink, he walks to the bar and barely slows as he sets the glass down on his way to me. "You're off balance. Unsure. And I like it." He licks his lips, and I don't know if it's to get the last bit of bourbon or if it's in anticipation.
I back up and keep going until I hit the wall. He is smiling, but it is an ugly expression.
"What did you see? In J'onn's machine?" He is close to me now, his body pressing against mine. "Did you see this? Hmmm?"
I could push him away, could stop him with one blow, and we both know it. Alfred was right. This isn't physical intimidation, even if Bruce is standing much too close. He's going for my mind and my heart.
"I saw us," I say.
"Yes? Were we happy, Diana? Was it all rosy sunsets and white picket fences?" He reaches for my hair, twists a strand around his finger. Licking his lips again, he presses in and says, "Did you tell me you love me? Did you delude yourself into thinking you meant it? Or did I have to share you with Clark?"
"Bruce." My voice breaks. I have never seen him like this. And up to now, I thought I'd seen him as dark as was possible. I should have listened to Alfred. I'm not ready for this. I don't know what to do.
But I do know what to do. I should do what I've always done. Reach out. Or at least try. I can't let him push me sniveling into an emotional corner.
I touch his cheek, gently as if he was a deer about to bolt. "Kal wasn't there." My voice is low, soft.
He looks up at me. For a moment, I think I've reached him, but then he laughs again-I hate that damned laugh.
"Well done, Princess. I almost believed you." Walking away, he sits down on the couch, his arms spread out over the back, one leg crossed over the other. He is the picture of disinterest. "Do you want my theory on you why you're here?"
I cross my arms and wait.
He smiles. "Well, your boy-toy Trevor was unfortunately removed from the playing field. Now you are down an escape hatch. So you've come to the next-most-likely candidate to relieve you of that annoying virginity and help you loosen the chains you've let Clark put on you. And it's easier if it's not someone you like. Because if that were the criteria, you'd have chosen Arthur a long time ago." He smiles. "And we can't have that. You might actually fall in love with someone else."
I feel as if he's stabbed me. Does he really think me so cruel? "You're horrible."
"I've never doubted that. Maybe it's time you realized it. Or do you still think you care about me? Do you still think you can make me whole, Diana?"
I shake my head. I can't speak, am trying hard not to cry.
"Oh, poor princess."
"Poor masochistic princess. Why don't you leave if I'm so horrible?" He seems to not be sure about that one.
It is the only opening he has given me. "Because I do care."
He drops his leg, leans forward. "Really?" His voice is a little warmer. Not much, but a little.
"Come prove it. Show me. Give me whatever you want to give me."
"Do you even want it?" It is not what I meant to say; it slips out before I can stop it.
"Oh, I've always wanted it, lover." His smile is strange. "Lover. Does that idea make you shiver, Diana? Me. Inside you?" He is staring at me intently, and I am both attracted to him and repelled.
He seems to realize it. "Go home, little girl."
I make my feet move. Not to the door but toward him.
"Ooh. Bluff called." He leans back, pats the couch next to him. "Come here, girl."
"I'm not Lassie." My voice is tight. It is the first time I've let the anger I feel out, and he laughs.
"You certainly aren't, Diana."
I expect him to pull me down when I get close enough. But he just sits, staring up at me blandly. Then he pats the sofa again. I sit slowly.
"Aren't you going to kiss me?" I ask, laying my hand on his thigh.
"No." He leans his head back slightly. "If you want it, come get it."
I know that I should give up now. I am too off balance to keep up with him. "Please, Bruce, meet me halfway."
"That's a fair request." He sits up, meeting me exactly midway. His eyes dare me to close the gap.
I can never resist a dare. Our lips meet, and I expect more games from him, but he pulls me to him. His kiss is as good as I remember. His lips are surprisingly soft, but the pressure is not. He kisses me for a long time before he nudges my mouth open with his tongue.
He pushes me down, and I feel dizzy. As his body covers mine, I feel a moment of panic, and I fight to keep it in check. Taking a deep breath, I flinch as it comes out as a sob.
He stops what he is doing and stares down at me. For the first time tonight, I see the Bruce I know-the Bruce I love. Then the anger comes over him again, and he pushes off the couch, moving quickly to the stairs. "Go home, Diana."
I'm up and after him, grabbing him and pulling him back to me before he can escape.
"No!" He tries to push me away, but I'm too strong. So he goes limp, sliding down to the floor, taking me down with him.
"You can't hurt me, Bruce."
He stares at me. "Oh, yes I can. I just did."
"You won't. You stopped." I brush back his hair-it's damp with sweat and his skin is hot. "Bruce."
"Not your first time, Diana. I'm not the man for it. Wait for Clark." He closes his eyes. "Let me go. Please?"
I do not expect the "please," and it nearly breaks my heart.
"Bruce." I kiss him as gently as I can. "Please?" I say it exactly as he just said it to me. "Don't make me let go."
He is shaking his head and saying "No" over and over.
I pull him closer, holding him. "I'm sorry. You never told me what this day was. I wouldn't have come. I didn't know." I am crying, and I try to stop.
"Diana." His voice is different now. Soft and broken and tired. Terribly tired. "I want you so."
"Then take me upstairs."
"I'm not the man."
"You are." I haul him to his feet. "I know you are, Bruce."
"But you see, I get like this. You won't know when... or even why."
I smile slightly. "I bet Alfred does. He'll warn me."
"Aren't you afraid of anything?"
"I am. Lots of things. You're just not one of them."
He kisses me then and it's a tender touch, one that moves me more than I expect. I feel dizzy again but not off balance-kissing him is like floating.
He pulls away. "I know you love Clark."
There seems no point in evading this. He knows me and Kal too well. "I love you too." Stroking his cheek. "Kal knows I love you, Bruce. He's not going to like this."
It is the right thing to say. I am learning how to play the game. Only it's not a game anymore. Tonight, the stakes feel much too high to be anything but life or death.
I lean in, press against him in a way I'm relatively sure he won't be able to resist. I'm not wrong. He groans heavily.
"Will you show me, Bruce? Show me what it is to love?"
"I'll show you what it is to make love. I'm not sure I'm anyone's idea of a teacher for how to love."
"Well, I'll teach you that." Even though I'm not sure I'm qualified either. "Or better yet, we'll teach each other."
That makes him smile. "Did you come here to do this?"
"No. I came here to spend time with you. I mean other time...not seduce-you time." I am unsure why he is asking.
He smiles gently. "I have a practical reason for wanting to know. If this is your first time...you may not have..." He looks supremely uncomfortable.
I make a face, not understanding.
He tries again. "I know we're both up to date on our physicals, so I'm not worried about disease. But the League isn't big on maternity leave."
"Oh." I smile, touched that despite his mood he can think of this. "I don't...I'm not like normal women."
He suddenly looks concerned.
"No. I mean, that's normal." I am blushing and I hate it. "I don't bleed. I don't make eggs. They checked for years on the island. I was made of clay; the gods forgot, or maybe I'm not meant to have children." I pause to take a breath. "This is probably more than you wanted to know."
"It's not." He smiles, and it is the first real smile I have seen all night. "I'm sorry I hurt you." He kisses me again, pulling me close and holding on tight as if he thinks I might run away. "All I know how to do is push people away, Diana."
"I know." I kiss him this time. If we don't move, we'll never get upstairs. I wonder what Alfred would think if he came down and found us both on the floor. Knowing Alfred, he'd probably just ask me how I like my eggs.
"You want to go upstairs?"
I nod. Taking my hand, he leads me up the stairs.
"Your hand's sweaty," I say.
"Not very sexy." I consider pulling away from him.
He tightens his hold. "But very real."
His bedroom is down a hall and behind a substantial door. "Soundproofed?" I ask.
He nods, his smile gentle.
I look down. "You've done this a lot?"
He nods again.
I take a breath and look up at him. "A lot-a lot?"
"I'm afraid so." His look is resigned, as if he is not sure if I will turn around and leave at the news.
"Have you done this before? A first time?" It is ridiculous, but I want to be the first for him in some way.
He thinks about that. A long time. Then he smiles, a quirky little grin that fades quickly but is endearing while it is there. "I don't think I have."
"You're not just saying that?"
"I'm not just saying that."
"Well, good. I think." I am suddenly very nervous, and my hands feel even sweatier.
"Diana, we don't have to do this."
It's tempting. I'm so on edge that I feel like throwing up. And I'm relatively sure most men don't find women vomiting in their bedroom a turn-on.
But if I turn back, he'll just run away from me again.
On the other hand, if I do go through with it, he still may run away from me.
"Diana?" He moves closer, his eyes suddenly bleak. As if he knows I'm doubting him.
"Do you love me?" I ask.
"No. Say it."
"I love you."
Before I can lose my nerve, I take off my uniform. Standing there in front of him, I am suddenly sure that it is not good form to spontaneously become naked. I probably should have let him take the uniform off slowly. I reach for the uniform. "I'll put it back on."
He stops me. "I'd rather you didn't. Now that you've got it off..." He looks like he is trying not to laugh, and it's the first time I've seen that particular sparkle in his eyes.
"I'm glad I amuse you," I say, pretending to pout.
"You charm me. There's a difference."
I smile, feel immediately better about being without clothes when he is fully dressed. I suddenly understand his success with women. Then I realize he is studying me as if I'm something he might want to add to his collection.
"Would you like to see my teeth?"
He grins. "Teeth have their place. We'll go over when and how to use them, and-just as crucial-when not to."
He could be giving me a fighting lesson, his tone is that casual. It is exactly the right approach. I relax.
"I take it I meet with your approval, Mister Wayne?"
"Was there any doubt? You know you're perfect."
My smile fades. "I'm not perfect, Bruce. I'm just a person."
"No, you're not. Just a person could not have gotten in here."
"You were going to do this. Earlier. On the couch."
He looks down. "Yes. On the couch. Not up here."
"You were going to make us sleep on the couch?"
"We weren't going to sleep." He does not look up. "I was going to kick you out when we were done."
That hurts. "Oh." I can imagine what it would have felt like, how his derision would have cut me. I turn away from him, walking to the dresser, absently playing with the cufflinks in a small bowl. I'm having trouble seeing. "You were really going to do that?"
"Diana. That was then. This is different." He puts his arms around me, and the feel of them encircling me is strange. Kessia used to hold me this way, but Bruce is bigger, his bulk pushing against me makes me feel...vulnerable.
"You're not going to now? Because I don't think I could stand that."
He turns me, kisses me so tenderly I start to cry. Why are my emotions so volatile? I force myself to stop crying.
When he pulls away, his look is full of understanding. "You're just nervous."
"You said you weren't scared of me."
"Well, that was down there. Up here, I am."
He starts to take off his clothes. "Maybe it would help if I took these off. Make us more equal."
I nod. Then I realize he'll be naked. Gulping, I'm about to tell him to wait, but he's already naked.
And he's beautiful. His body is covered with scars and bruises, but I don't care. He's so...solid.
He looks down. "I know. Not a centerfold."
I realize he is embarrassed by the scars. "Wait a minute. How do you explain that?"
"To the lots and lots of women? Why the millionaire goof-off playboy looks like an ad for Soldier of Fortune?"
He shrugs. But when I glare at him, he says, "Well, I didn't say the lots and lots of women were recent."
"How long has it been?"
I am grinning, and he pulls me to him and says, "Stop that." The he kisses me even as he maneuvers me to the bed. What he does to me at first isn't any different than what Kessia taught me. As I lay back after the orgasm, I realize he is staring at me and frowning.
I frown too. "Did I do something wrong?"
"Not wrong," he says. "But...you've done that before, haven't you?"
I smile. "Well, yes."
He looks very put out. "What else have you done? Because I'm envisioning my teaching gig being a very short one."
I laugh. "Does it mean that much to you that you be my teacher?"
He has to think about that. "I guess it does." He looks mad that it does, but I find it sweet.
"I had a lover on the island. A woman."
"Ah." He seems to think about it for a while. "That's sexy, you know."
He laughs. "Oh, yeah. Guys really dig that." He is rubbing my neck as he moves closer, then he begins to kiss his way from my ear to my chest.
"Why do guys like that?"
He shrugs and keeps on with what he's doing.
"But you must have a theory. You always have a theory."
He glares at me. "Diana, we're busy here."
"We can't talk during?"
He laughs. Pulling me to him for a quick kiss, he says, "It's simple. We all think we'll be invited to join in."
"Oh." As he returns to his slow exploration of my body, I think about that. "Bruce, I don't think you and Kal would invite me in if I caught you in bed."
"Oh, we'd invite you in." Then he looks up at me. "Only you're not going to catch us in bed."
"Well you never know." I am joking, but at his glare I stop. "You seem awfully defensive."
"Don't go there."
"Something I should know?"
He seems to be trying to escape by heading for my toes, so I pull him up and give him the Wonder Woman glare. "Do I have to get the lasso?"
"It was a long time ago. Way before you."
"You and Kal?"
"It was a phase. A short one." He makes a face. "I don't mean that it was wrong...but it complicated things almost to the point where our friendship fell apart."
I wait for more. He smiles tightly, as if he knows I'm not going to let him off without a better story.
"Lasso," I whisper.
"We were so different. I think that was what attracted us to each other in the first place as friends and later as more. But those differences hurt us too. So we backed off. And then you came into the picture. We both fell hard for you and that was that."
"Do you love him?" I am finding the conversation fascinating, and I make him stop what he's doing and come up to lie beside me.
"Diana, correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't we in the middle of taking your virginity away? Why is this the time to discuss me and Clark?"
"It's a facet to you...and to him. Something I didn't expect."
"I love him as a friend. Sex with him...it was fun. But we were never in love."
I am staring at him, and he looks uncomfortable under the scrutiny.
"You've surprised me." I start to laugh then. "We really are the trinity."
"No," he says, rolling me under him. "We really are not."
I can feel him against me. He wants me. This talk of Kal has not changed that. Another facet indeed.
I kiss him. "I'm ready, I think."
He touches me and smiles. "Yes, you are."
"Will you show me how to please you?"
"You could lie there like a rock and it would probably please me. I want you that much."
"Well, I'd rather not lie here like a rock. And I meant...all the ways I can please you. Show me what you like?" That menu has suddenly widened with Kal's presence in his romantic history. I have a feeling I'll be reading up.
He seems to figure out what I'm thinking. "Diana. Forget Clark. Okay?"
"You're sure? Because if you want to-"
He kisses me. "Shut up. Please?" He shakes his head. "It's supposed to be more solemn than this."
"Why?" I let my hand roam down until I can feel what will soon be inside me. His body is so different than Kessia's. It is not like making love to another woman, all yielding and soft. I touch him again, and he groans, and I decide it is a groan of pleasure not of pain. "Will it hurt?"
"Probably." He waits.
"My goddesses are virgins. Artemis. Athena too." I let go of him as I think about that.
"Do you want to stop?" He sounds as if the thinks that a terribly bad idea. "Because if you do, I'd like to counter that Aphrodite is anything but a virgin."
"Good point." It sounds flip, and I meet his eyes. "I'm not making fun of my goddesses."
"I know you're not." He eases off me. "Do you think they want you to do this?"
"I don't know. And it's not like they'll tell me. Seems like they only show up anymore when they need something." I sound like a bratty teenager, and I cringe at my tone.
"You want to think about this?"
"No. If it's purity we're talking about, I stopped being pure when I was with Kessia. Why should this be different?"
"I think it is."
"But why should it? I stopped being pure when I started touching myself, didn't I? And why is that pure anyway? Is pleasure bad?"
"Well, I don't happen to think so."
I resist telling him Batman isn't known for being the happy-go-lucky hedonist.
He sighs, seem to realize he's in for a philosophical moment. "Do you think it's bad?"
"It's a way to connect. And a way to understand who I am. Why should my power be wrapped up in that?"
"Will you lose your powers if you-"
"You mean like Solitaire in Live and Let Die? No. And why should that have mattered? And what kind of psychic was she anyway if she didn't know that Bond had stacked the deck."
He is staring at me in a sort of horrified amusement.
"Some of my staffers are James Bond fans. I had to sit through the marathon over the holidays." I wave him off. "But it's a valid question. Why should it matter? Demeter and Hera and Artemis's Isis. All ripe women."
"Very true." He lies back, staring up at the ceiling.
"You don't have an opinion on this?"
"I feel I should stay out. I'm not precisely a disinterested party."
I let my hand run over him-he's not quite as interested as he was.
Groaning, he closes his eyes. "You want that lesson now?"
I lean in, so my ear is close to his mouth. "Tell me."
He does, and I do what he has outlined. Apparently I do it quite well. He is moaning. Then he is pushing me away.
"Not good?" I ask.
I feel a momentary surge of triumph. "I love the idea that I'm making you feel good."
He pushes me over, his hand finding me again. "You enjoyed doing that."
I smile. "You enjoyed having me do it."
"That I did." His kisses are soft and sweet, but they turn hard very quickly. He holds me down. He's not hurting me, but I can tell he would not normally let go to this extent. He's not as strong as I am, but he's turned his body into a machine that answers to his every call. A machine that I'm enjoying feeling moving over me.
"Bruce, do it."
"Mmmm," he says.
His hand is back down, touching me this time to excite. I buck and groan, moaning my pleasure into his mouth since he won't stop kissing me. Then I feel him pushing down, and I tense up.
"Relax. It's better to relax." He touches my hair. "Diana."
I let go, let him in. It does hurt. But not for long.
"Are you all right?" He is moving so carefully, as if I'm porcelain.
I nod, closing my eyes.
"Open your eyes," he says, and I do. He seems to be trying to make sure I'm all right.
"I'm fine." I keep my eyes open as I get used to the feel of him inside me. It is different than anything Kessia did to me. She was like me. He is like my mirror image, going out where I go in. We fit together, and the feel of his body spreading across mine is a most intimate form of connection. Intimate beyond sex.
He is staring at me, something lost in his eyes.
"I love you. I'm sorry for the things I said downstairs...I would never hurt you."
"You didn't hurt me."
His kiss is gentle. "But I did. And I will again. It's how I am."
"Maybe. But you're not hurting me now. So shut up."
He smiles. "Yes, Princess." He moves faster, watching me to gauge if he's hurting me
But it doesn't hurt anymore. It only feels good. I smile up at him, experimenting with different motions of my own, and he grins.
"I love you, Bruce."
He is moving faster and faster, then his eyes close and he is calling my name over and over. He seems to be in another world, but my name comes easily to him. It occurs to me that he may call it out when he's alone, which makes me smile even more. I try out some new muscles, clenching down, and I hear him call out again, and then once more, even louder. I hold him as he collapses, his lips finding my neck.
"Diana," he breathes against my ear.
I kiss his cheek.
He starts to pull away. "I'm too heavy-"
Laughing, I won't let him go-I don't want him to leave me. "I'm a superhero, remember?"
He smiles goofily, collapsing for real this time, his full weight on me. Despite super strength it is an odd feeling. Almost like being buried under him.
"Not so fun, is it?" He is grinning as he takes some of the weight off me. He nips at me, kissing lightly, his lips dropping on my neck, my cheek, my forehead, then my lips. As he nibbles on my ear, he whispers, "So, what did you think of it?"
I smile. He may be the experienced one, but he's needy too. "I loved it."
"It gets better. You'll get used to me."
I nod, suddenly tired. He looks wiped out too.
"Can we sleep?" I ask, because I can tell he is pretending he is not as tired as he is.
He nods, then he looks guilty. "It's your first time. I should be giving you hours of pleasure."
"Give them to me in the morning. When you don't kick me out." The last part comes out too arch.
He touches my mouth, his fingers tracing my lips. "I'm not going to kick you out. You can stay here as long as you want." He smiles at me. "Alfred will be pleased to see you in the morning. He loves you."
"He does?" After our conversation tonight, I'm not sure that's true.
Bruce nods. His eyes are closing and he pulls me to him, murmuring, "There's a bathroom behind that door." He points to the dresser. "And an extra robe in the dresser. Bottom drawer." He points to what must be the bathroom door.
I smile. "Okay."
He looks over at me. "Just so you know, I never share my robes. Pajama tops, yes. Robes, no."
I smile. "I feel honored."
"No, Diana. I feel honored." Kissing me one last time, he pulls me close. As he falls asleep, I expect him to let go of me. But his arms only tighten around me, and he mumbles my name.
I hope that we have given him a little bit of good to make the day bearable in the future. I kiss him, and relax against him, letting his soft snores lull me. But the noise is unfamiliar, and I soon grow too warm in the circle of his arms. I shift, trying to find a way to lie that does not involve some part of him poking into some part of me.
I finally doze. Sleep doesn't claim me; it teases me. I look at the clock, see that a few hours have passed. Bruce lies quietly, and I wonder if that is his normal way to sleep. I have always imagined he would be a thrasher. Normally I fall asleep easily, normally I do not wait for morning.
Morning. When he might still kick me out. The thought is unbidden and very unwelcome. He would not do that. Not after our night. He would not...
How much did he drink last night? Will he remember our night?
He lets go of me, shifting, but his hand still touches me, as if in sleep he is reassuring himself I am still there. I find the thought comforting and close my eyes. When I open them again, it is morning. I am on my back and Bruce is on his side, asleep still, his arm thrown across me. I sigh, watching him for half an hour as he sleeps, before he opens his eyes and looks over at me.
His smile is slow and sensuous. "It wasn't a dream."
I smile back. "I'm here."
He moves closer. "How do you feel? Are you all right?"
"I'm fine." I stare at him, trying to read him. I've always had trouble doing that. It's why his first kisses took me by surprise.
"If you wanted me to leave, you'd tell me, wouldn't you?"
He snuggles closer. "Do you even have to ask? Batman is not known for his social skills. You've told me that yourself."
"But Bruce Wayne is very skilled." I am not sure why I am saying this except that I have lain awake all night afraid of what morning would bring.
"Don't leave." He kisses me, and I can feel myself relaxing as his hand starts roaming. "I promised you hours of pleasure."
"Yes, you did."
"Then we better get started." His hand is moving down, teasing me as he goes, lingering on my breasts, my stomach, and then lower.
I sigh, and the sigh turns into a long moan as he touches me as if he's been doing it all his life.
"Did you think I'd let you leave?" he asks.
I look over at him. I realize I need to let him have the truth. We should have that between us from the start. "I thought you'd make me leave."
"Why?" he asks, not stopping what he's doing with his hand.
"I wasn't sure. Last night was a bad one for you. And after what you told me...about kicking me out." I sound pathetic, and I force my lips closed so I won't say more.
"I shouldn't have told you that." He nuzzles my ear. "I think I still wanted to hurt you. I'm not a nice man, Diana. You need to know that."
He has intensified his attack on my body, moving his lips down to my chest, going back and forth, licking, sucking, kissing me. I can feel the pleasure rumbling up from deep inside me, and I don't fight it, just ride it out.
"Do you have any idea how beautiful you are?" He pulls me on top of him, his expression so tender I have to lean down to kiss him. "Go slow. You may be sore," he says as he lifts me up and onto him.
I am sore. But it is the soreness of a good workout. I exhale as I sink down, the feeling a mix of intense pleasure and discomfort.
"Yes." I feel very exposed sitting on him this way; he can see so much of me. "What do I do?"
"Just move, find out what feels good. Play." He pulls me down for another kiss, then gently lifts me up to get me started.
As I sink back down, I moan. It is awkward at first, trying to find a rhythm, but then I get it, and he smiles as I settle down and ride him.
"That's my girl."
His girl. It's a sweet thing to say, and it surprises me that he can discard the worldly playboy in favor of this less sophisticated man. I feel another climax rumbling and ride him harder as I throw my head back and call out his name. He is watching me, and I keep moving even though it almost hurts to move so soon after coming because I am so sensitive. But I don't want to stop because he is close-I can tell that, and I smile at being able to tell that.
Clutching my waist, he adjusts my motion just a little. "Oh, god. Diana. Don't stop."
I don't stop, and soon he is crying out things that make little sense except that my name figures prominently. I smile as he finally lies still and looks up at me. Grabbing my hair, a large hunk that doesn't hurt when he tugs, he gently pulls me down to him. We kiss for a very long time.
Then there is a soft knock on the door, and Bruce pulls me off him and to his side, drawing the covers up. "Come in."
Alfred acts as if seeing me in his master's bed is an everyday occurrence. Handing me my phone, he says, "This was ringing when I went downstairs, Miss Diana. I thought it might be important."
"Thank you." I call the voice mail. It is the Embassy. They have scheduled an early meeting with the Secretary General-a meeting we've been trying to get for weeks. I look at Bruce.
"You have to go," he says.
"I can make you breakfast," Alfred says.
"I'll make it to go. By the time you finish your shower, it will be ready." He smiles at me and leaves, closing the door behind him.
"See. I told you he likes you. He doesn't make breakfast-to-go for just anyone, you know."
I laugh. "I don't want to leave."
"But you have to?"
"I do. I've got non-stop meetings this afternoon and an event tonight."
"Come back when you're done. No matter how late."
"You'll be up?"
He moves my hand down and waggles his eyebrows. "I'll be up."
"I love you." I laugh as I kiss him long and hard, in a way that I probably wouldn't have known how to do before our night. He has taught me more than he knows. I wonder if anyone will notice I'm different. I feel different. I feel...powerful. I feel like I finally own my body, finally understand what it's capable of.
"Diana." He strokes my hair. "I love you. Thank you for sticking around last night."
"I'll be back later."
He nods and lets me get up. "You're always welcome here."
When I finish my shower, he is asleep again. I kiss him gently and then pull my uniform on and leave him in peace.
Alfred looks up as I walk into the kitchen. The smile he gives me is radiant, and he hands me a small bag. "An egg sandwich," he says softly as I look inside.
And strawberries. He has packed me strawberries. I walk over, kiss his cheek. "You're a sweet man, Alfred."
For a moment, he rests his hand on my arm. "Normally, on this morning, I'd go down to the Batcave and find him at his desk, dead tired but still awake. Since his parents were killed, he's never slept through the night of their deaths unless he was injured. Not until now."
I can feel my eyes stinging. "I'm glad I didn't take your advice."
He smiles, but his eyes are suspiciously bright. "Oh, I knew you wouldn't. You're just like him. Stubborn." The way he says stubborn makes it sound like a good thing. "You'll be back tonight?"
"Is there anything about your diet I should know?"
"I'm a vegetarian. But you know that."
I yawn, and he smiles, almost in sympathy, as if he somehow knows the sleepless night I spent.
He walks me to the Batcave door. "Get some sleep tonight now that he's let you in. I don't think he'll ever shut you out again."
"I know him. What kind of man he is. And how he loves. And he loves you, my dearest." He straightens. "I won't keep you."
"I'll see you tonight."
"Until then." He is suddenly formal, but his eyes twinkle as the doors close between us.
I hurry down to the Batcave and out to the clearing where I call the plane to me. I am in a hurry to start my day because I cannot wait for it to end. I cannot wait to come back and learn what it means to love Bruce Wayne-and to have him love me.
Tides and Tales
Kal stares up at the moon. His eyes are hooded; he's turned away just enough so that I cannot read his expression. "I didn't know it was that day."
"I never told you."
"You never told me anything about the two of you. It was a closed subject."
"Well, it's not now."
He turns to me, and I see old pain in his eyes. "I hated that you wouldn't talk to me. You shut down when you hooked up with him."
I cuddle close to him. I can't make this any better. I did shut down with Kal, but it was so long ago. I can't fix it, nor do I really want to. Life was how it was.
"It wasn't all sweetness and light, Kal. He and I were volatile. Alfred was right. We were both so stubborn."
"I just thought you two were fighting like normal. You didn't even tell me, Diana. Why didn't you tell me?"
"It was...we wanted to keep it just for us. At least for a while."
He doesn't answer. Then he sighs and turns away.
"Why didn't you mention you were with Bruce?" I run my fingers through his hair, digging in and pushing it back over his ear-he loves this.
"I don't know. It happened so long ago."
"Did you love him?"
"Next to you, he was my best friend." He pulls away from my fingers.
I am not surprised that he is trying to escape. "And you always fall in love with your best friends, don't you? You can relax with us and with no one else."
He turns to look at me.
"You seem open on the surface, but you're not. You have a few choice friends and everyone else is kept at arms length. You guard yourself as carefully as Bruce ever did." I move closer, nuzzle his neck until he reaches for me again. "As the members of the League were killed or just got old and retired, you pulled away more and more. When Lois died..."
Kal disappeared for two months after her funeral. I still don't know where he went. None of us could find him. And we looked. He was just...gone.
Bruce knew he'd come back. I wasn't so sure, but Bruce was. "He'll come back because you're here."
And he was right. Kal did show back up in his uniform. But Clark Kent-he never came back. He was only Lois's. And I respect that. After all, Kal was mine.
"Bruce was good to me," Kal whispers. And he's right. Bruce invited him over and made Kal socialize when he finally came back. Bruce was old then, still mobile but in pain most nights. Sometimes I didn't sleep with him because it hurt him when I moved around. Other nights, he was better, and he held me the way he always did when we slept. One hand always on me, finding me, making sure that I wasn't going to run away or be taken away like his parents.
"Bruce loved you," I say, and my voice breaks because I have started to cry. I do not expect it.
Kal looks over at me. His eyes are full of tears too. "I never told you where I went when she died."
"No. You never did."
He pulls me close, squeezing me with such intensity that my ribs protest. Then he eases up. "There's a series of mountain caves in Nepal. If you go deep enough, if you go far enough, you can get lost. Forever. There are bones in the caves."
"Did you want to be lost forever?"
He nods; I can feel the motion against the top of my head.
"I always knew how much you loved her."
He is silent for a long time, just holding me. Then he says, "That's not why."
I pull away.
He traces my cheek, his hand stopping to cup my jaw. "I knew it was only a matter of time before Bruce would be gone too. I'd lost my wife, I'd watched her grow old and tired and crotchety. And I was watching Bruce do the same. And you were still there. Glowing with youth. A prize if I just waited long enough. When she died, I was so sad. And I was..." He drops his hand. "I felt so guilty. I missed her, and yet...I was thinking about you. Just like I had throughout our marriage. Somehow, once she was gone, it seemed the greater betrayal."
Bruce had known Kal was waiting for me. One night, when he was angry with me for something I wouldn't let him do, he said, "How long are you going to wait?"
I wasn't sure what he meant. "Wait for what?"
"How long are you going to wait after I'm gone before you fall into his bed?"
I ignored him, which made him angry. I ignored him because telling him I didn't know would only have made him angrier.
Kal and I waited six months. At the time, it seemed a long time. Looking back, I wonder if Bruce would agree.
I was a widow for six months. I still miss Bruce. Even with Kal in my life, I miss Bruce. There was a tension with Bruce that Kal and I don't have because usually he won't fight with me the way Bruce did. But he also doesn't hurt me the way Bruce could. And I don't tend to hurt him either. We're gentler with each other, Kal and I.
But Bruce and I rubbed at each other sometimes. We didn't always get things right.
Come to think of it, neither did Kal and I. Not back then.
Reflections of Older Love
The party is full of glittering people in slinky dresses and elegant tuxes. I wander on the perimeter, sipping at my water, smiling at anyone I know. The lights seem overly bright-they have ever since I got my sight back. It is strange to navigate by eye again. I wasn't blind for long, but I got used to relying on my other senses. Bruce thinks it has made me a better fighter. More dangerous.
Bruce and I have kept our relationship quiet, only the League and those who know both his identities are aware that Batman and Wonder Woman are a couple. But now he wants to come out, to slowly let Bruce Wayne the millionaire woo Diana, Ambassador of Themyscira.
Bruce wants to marry me. I would have expected it of Kal, but that Bruce wants to honor such a tradition surprises me. Since he can't marry me as Batman, our little dance has to be carefully choreographed-this is Bruce's and my coming out party. We've danced around each other at a handful of these fetes. At the first one, we talked for a little longer than was normal. In the next, we danced once. A photographer snapped us on the dance floor, and we were on the Gotham society page by the following day. At the next party, he danced with me twice. When we talked all night on the patio at the last one, people smiled with knowing eyes. Now at this party-the last party we will ever have to come to alone-I wait for him to arrive.
And I try to avoid looking at Kal. He and Lois are dancing, but he keeps glancing over at me. I look away, but not before I see his face tighten.
I am not even sure why he is here. Other than that he is a masochist.
It is not something I would have thought in the past, but I have become harder since I've been with Bruce. And since I was blind. Life was starker then, and Kal fell short of what I wanted from him.
Only Bruce stood by me. Only Batman supported a Wonder Woman who lived in his kind of darkness. He nearly quit the League when they were not going to allow me to continue. It was his idea to test me, and I passed his test. But they were still too uncomfortable with a blind Wonder Woman to let me remain. And they thought since it was his idea to test me that he felt the same way.
It was only because they could not afford to lose both of us that they allowed me to stay. I have still not forgiven most of them. I'm not sure I ever will.
Kal...Kal had his own reasons for wanting me gone. I know that I was a distraction to him.
"I can't protect you all the time, Diana," he said one night as I tried to get him to spar with me as he had in my sighted days.
"You don't need to protect me at all."
"Yes. I do."
"No, Clark." Bruce was behind me. I could hear the anger in his voice. The jealousy. "If anyone is going to protect her, it will be me."
And then he kissed me. In front of Kal. With no warning.
And I kissed him back. I could hear Kal's heart break from where I stood. And I didn't care.
Harder. Colder. More dangerous.
"Diana?" I turn, see Kal standing close. His expression is wary, as it probably has been since he had to learn of Bruce and me by being a voyeur.
"Clark," I say. I have stopped calling him Kal when Lois is around. When he and I are alone, I take no such care.
"I hate this." He is looking out at the crowd. Lois is at the bar, laughing with some other woman. But he is not looking at her, his eyes are trained on the entrance.
"Is that what you think my relationship with Bruce is?"
"You even sound like him now." He sighs. "I mean having to watch you two pretend to fall in love."
"We are in love."
He turns to me and his eyes gleam in way that on Bruce would be dangerous. "You know what I mean," he says.
I am feeling cruel. "Bruce and I will kiss tonight."
"Thanks for the warning. Too bad you didn't give me one when it really mattered...when it really hurt."
I turn to him and want to knock him across the dance floor. His wife is here, and he's lecturing me about hurt? "This isn't about you, Clark."
He grabs me, pulls me onto the dance floor. He is the only one stronger than I am. The only one who can hold me. "Make a scene, Diana." He is daring me. He knows my temper.
But if I do make a scene, it will spoil the real show of Bruce and I kissing on this same floor. "Kal," I say, not caring about Lois anymore. "Go back to your wife."
He pulls me closer, and I can feel he is aroused. I notice that now; I know things I did not before Bruce showed me the power in my body.
"I could kiss you first...beat him to the punch," Kal says, pushing even closer. If we were naked, he would be inside me.
"You forget yourself." I am trying to look as if I am a bit embarrassed, say rather loudly. "You've had a few drinks, haven't you, Mister Kent?"
I see Lois looking over at us. She does not look pleased.
And then I see Bruce. He is standing at the entrance, staring at me. His eyes are dead, his face set like a stone.
"Kal," I say so low that I know only he can hear. "You've done your damage. Let me go."
He doesn't look back at Bruce as he lets me go. Walking back to Lois, he takes her arm, drawing her onto the dance floor. He kisses her tenderly, and I have a feeling it is more for my benefit than for hers.
"Damn you," I mutter as I turn to look at Bruce.
He is working his way around the room. But he does not come near me. Not once. If I try to get to him, he changes course.
There will be no kiss for the paparazzi tonight. There will be nothing tonight.
Finally, angry and tired and not sure why he is punishing me, I head for the entrance.
As I walk up the stairs to the roof, my shoes begin to pinch, and I take them off and pad up the steps without them.
He is waiting for me on the roof. I have no idea how he has beaten me up there. Or how he found time to change into his Batman costume. But he has. He stands, arms crossed against his chest.
I slip my shoes back on. "Get out of my way," I say, as I push past him. The roof is immense, but it is typical of our relationship that I pick the spot of roof he occupies as the one I must pass through.
He grabs me, spins me to him, and we are dancing finally. It is not a pleasant dance as he holds me close, his teeth closing down on my ear.
I am tempted to send him flying across the roof. "Don't be an ass, Bruce. I've already danced with one of those tonight."
"Yes, I saw. He was practically screwing you."
"He tried." I push him off me. "Thank goodness for good American-made satin."
I stroke the icy-pink fabric, letting my hands run down my stomach, over my pelvis. Bruce follows my progress, his eyes cold. I picked the dress out for him. He likes me in this color. Likes me in the bias-cut dresses of the thirties. He doesn't seem to like me in this one tonight. He looks like he might rip it off me.
Or try to at least.
"Diana. Why do you let him-"
"-I didn't let him do anything. He's stronger, and short of compromising his Clark persona, I couldn't let on that he was keeping me there by force. And you know that." I move closer. "He ruined our evening but-"
"-Did he? Or did you let him?" Bruce turns, striding away until he gets to the side of the roof, then he just steps off. I rush over, see him slide down the rope he must have used to get up to the roof. He jerks it loose, and it falls down. Looking up, he stares at me.
I step off the roof and let myself fall, moderating my speed just enough to keep from plowing into the concrete when I land.
I see his face change. I rarely remind him how much stronger I am. But tonight...tonight it seems necessary.
Then I walk away.
He catches me in five steps, pushing me into an alley, deep into the shadows where we won't be seen as he pushes up my dress, and tears at his uniform, and presses me against the wall. He is kissing me frantically, and I'm kissing him just as desperately.
"When will you believe that I love you?" I say as he lifts me up onto him.
He is violent tonight, terrible and strong and I revel in it. He has to put his hand over my mouth to muffle my cries.
I have to return the favor a few moments later.
He lets me down, the dress falling back down around me as he leans against me, his head buried in my hair. "Should we go back inside?"
"There'll be other parties." I kiss him. "Let's go home."
He smiles. Home is his house, sometimes alone, sometimes sitting with Alfred. We watch television together, the three of us. And Alfred makes fun of us when we do not understand the teenage phrasings he seems remarkably adept at deciphering. He has become hooked on teen dramas while waiting up for Bruce. I find it utterly charming.
"I'm sorry," Bruce says.
"I know you are." It is the truth. We are always sorry after we've fought. Or at least after we've made up. And we always make up the same way-with passion. "I'll see you there."
He nods. As I turn, he says, "Diana?"
I look over at him.
"I love your dress."
Smiling, I fly up to the roof to call the plane and head back in the direction of New York before doubling back. It is a lot of subterfuge just to get to his house. Tonight was supposed to end that. I was supposed to ride away in Bruce Wayne's sports car, and he was supposed to take me to dinner in a very visible place. Many people would have seen us falling in love.
I beat him home, and Alfred frowns when I walk in.
"I didn't hear the car," he says.
"The night didn't go exactly as planned."
A frown is his only answer. He can say more with a single expression than anyone I know.
I give him more. "Clark showed up."
I shoot him a look. "Ah?"
He nods. "You're Joey. They're Dawson and Pacey."
Unfortunately, I know what he's talking about. He's made me watch his DVDs. "And which one is Clark?"
"Oh, Dawson, of course."
"I see." I squeeze his shoulder. "Not everything is like TV, dear Alfred."
"No?" He turns to the door. I heard the car before he did, but not much before. "Here's Pacey now."
I laugh as Bruce steps in.
"What?" he asks.
"Alfred's just telling me about Dawson's Creek." I walk over to him. "You owe me dinner, Bruce."
"There's lasagna staying warm in the oven," Alfred says as he turns the TV on.
I look at Bruce. He shrugs but makes a beeline to the oven. We both love Alfred's lasagna.
I walk over to the old man, who is studiously ignoring me. "How did you know?" I ask as I lean over him.
"I saw Clark's name on the guest list."
"And how did you see the guest list?"
"A good butler never reveals his sources."
I walk away from him, back to Bruce. "He knew we'd be back."
"Seems like." He grins at me, holding out a forkful of lasagna, his hand cupped underneath it to catch the drips. "Not sure I like that we're that predictable."
I open my mouth, closing my eyes in appreciation as I savor the lasagna. "We need to work on that."
His rubs tomato sauce on my lips and kisses it off. "Yes, we do."
I slip in close, pulling him to me, holding him tightly. "I don't know why Kal did that." But it is a lie. I do know why Kal acts like that. I know, and Bruce knows that I do.
"Maybe I need to talk to him. Maybe if I'd talked to him in the first place..." He sighs. "I wanted to hurt him when I kissed you in front of him."
"I know. And I think I was fine with you hurting him. Maybe he had it coming?"
"No. He just loves you. He can't help it." He kisses me again, his lips soft and sweet, as they always are when he is feeling tender-and contrite. "I love you."
"I love you too." I pull away from him. "I'm starved."
He hands me a fork and puts the dish of lasagna on a trivet on the counter. We sit on stools and dig into it, laughing as we feed each other bites.
Alfred walks in and shakes his head as he gets a bottle of water from the fridge. "We do have plates."
"Mind your own business, old man," Bruce says, but he drops a hand on Alfred's arm as he passes to go back to the TV. And he stares fondly at him as Alfred sits down heavily-he is getting older, and I know it worries Bruce.
"Once he's done taking care of us, we'll take care of him. Always."
Bruce looks over at me, as if surprised that I know what he's thinking. Then he smiles.
I smile too. We may fight like tigers, but we're finally becoming friends.
Burying the Dead
Kal holds my hand as we walk in the surf. "When did you first realize that you looked younger than Bruce?"
"The opening of the second Wayne wing at the Gotham University Medical Center." I don't have to think hard; it was not a happy time for Bruce and me.
He nods. "I remember the pictures."
"He was angry when he saw them. It took him days to tell me why."
"He looked like your father."
"I didn't think so." I squeeze Kal's hand. "You and I were both a little older than he when we all met. Do you remember?"
He nods. "He caught up. Then he pushed past us. You looked like his granddaughter at the end."
"I bet it hurt him. He was so proud. And he loved you so. Loved you from the moment he set eyes on you, Diana. We both did."
"Back then I only saw the cape...all that blackness. Always behind you." I don't resist as Kal pulls me closer, and I snuggle against him as he drops an arm around me. "I only saw you at first."
"That hurt him."
"I hurt him a lot in the early days." We walk in silence for a moment, then I laugh. "Do you remember when he kissed me on the Island?"
"I thought you were going to kill him."
"If I hadn't been so stunned, I might have." There is a sound overhead, and I say softly, "Listen."
He cocks his head the way he always does when he's listening to something, then he begins to chuckle. "Bats."
"He's watching us."
Kal nods. "He always was. He was so sure we were going to fall into each other's arms."
"We never did." I look up at him.
"We did damn near everything but."
He's right. Before I married Bruce, Kal and I talked until midnight, walked off our demons together, we flew far away, high up in the air. Never touching-or at least never touching anywhere we touch with such abandon now. Sometimes, we held hands as we flew. But never for very long. Kal had a wife, and I respected that. I always respected that. Even if Lois may not always have believed that.
"When did you notice you looked younger?" I ask.
"When she wanted to get plastic surgery."
"You never told me she wanted that."
"I never talked about it to anyone. I barely talked about it to her. It...hurt. In so many ways. For her, for me, for us as a couple. She was outpacing me. As Clark, I was pretending to get old, but she was really getting old, and it was painful." He touches my cheek. "But women can keep up better, I think. In bed, I mean..." He doesn't say more, and I realize he probably doesn't want me to think he only wants to hear that Bruce couldn't make love to me at the end.
Even if it is probably exactly what he wants to know.
"Things weren't always good" is all I'll say.
"I bet not. Bruce judged himself harder than anyone. To not be able to..."
"Have you ever not been able to?" I have trouble imagining him not able to.
"When I lost my powers, just before Lois called off the wedding." He looks down.
"But never as Superman?"
He doesn't meet my eyes.
He starts to pull away, and I hold him close. "Kal?"
"On your wedding night. I shouldn't have tried to do it, because I only ended up hurting Lois." He shakes his head. "I kept trying. It kept not working." He seems very far away-a place that is filled with hurt. He looks at me and there is anger in the look too as he tries to push me away-I don't budge, just stay locked in step with him as we walk. "I didn't hear her cry very often, but she cried that night. In the bed, turned away from me. Silently. She thought I was asleep, I think."
"I didn't know."
"Why should you have? We were barely talking back then. Not after that party, after what I did. Bruce was furious with me. He told me to stay away from you."
"Oh, yeah." Kal relaxes and stops trying to push me away. "I can still remember him stomping into the monitor room, cape billowing behind him. 'I'm going to marry her, Clark. And there's not a damn thing you can do to get in the way of that. So stop trying.'"
I laugh. It's the sort of thing Bruce would do: confront Kal alone on neutral ground. Alpha male to alpha male.
"It wasn't funny then. I'd lost you, and I was nearly frantic." He sits down in the surf, pulling me down next to him. The nearly transparent scarf I've wrapped around me soaks up water and clings to my body. He pushes me to my back, pulling the scarf taut over my breasts and leaning down to kiss one of them through the material. I can feel his lips closing over me, sucking hard, and I dig my fingers into the wet sand.
"I had these elaborate fantasies of stealing you and taking you...anywhere. I would have gone back to Asgard. Gladly. I would even have killed the monsters if it meant having you all to myself."
He shifts to my other breast, and his hands smooth the fabric down lower, his fingers teasing it over me, using it to rub me, making me moan.
"I would have done this. Over and over and over until you couldn't remember who Bruce was much less that you wanted to marry him."
He suddenly yanks off the scarf, pushing my arms over my head, forcing them into the sand. Then he is on me, in me. Moving harder than he ever has before. It almost hurts.
"You're mine." His voice is ragged, raw with emotion and effort.
I do not argue; just call his name as I succumb to what he's doing to me, the relentless pounding calling up my own pleasure. As I collapse in bliss, he stretches my arms a bit more.
"Try to get away."
I am still groggy with sensation, but I struggle half heartedly.
"Try harder," he says, increasing his tempo.
I try harder. "I can't get away, Kal."
My words seem to be more than he can stand. He pumps into me, saying, "You were mine," over and over until he finally crumples.
We are both breathing hard, and he lets go of my arms. Looking deep into my eyes, he says again, "You were mine."
"No, Kal, I wasn't. Before and now-yes. But not then. I was Bruce's then."
"Yes," he says, burying his face in my hair. "You were his."
He is shaking, and as I run my fingers lightly down his back, I feel him shiver even more.
"I love you, Kal."
"I know." He lifts his head, stares down at me. "I used to have to imagine you with him."
"I used to have to imagine you with Lois." I suddenly hope that Lina never has to know this terrible kind of passion. I hope that love, when it comes for her, is something sweeter and gentler.
"I was sure I'd show up at the Watchtower to find out you were pregnant."
I just smile. He knows better now. But then he didn't know I couldn't have children. Although I went one thousand years with no period, and he was a married man who had no doubt been sent out on a few emergency supply runs. He should have figured it out.
"Did Bruce want children?" Kal asks.
Bruce never talked about it. He knew I couldn't from that first night. I don't think it ever occurred to him to worry about it. If we were supposed to have kids in our life, we'd have them. And we were so happy just the two of us-three with Alfred. But I don't tell Kal this.
"He had kids," I say. "Dick, and Barbara, and the others he took in. And Helena was like a daughter to him, even if they drove each other nuts."
"What about Catwoman? Didn't you worry about her?" He laughs. "I used to have this fantasy where you came to me crying because you'd found Catwoman in bed with Bruce."
"If I'd found Catwoman in bed with Bruce, I'd have killed her. And possibly him too."
"Well, I didn't say it was a fantasy that made sense." He grins at me.
I laugh. "I was never sure what was between the two of them. He'd be in a mood every time he had a run-in with her. Alfred told me to let go of the jealousy."
Actually, Alfred insisted on using another TV reference. "She's like Faith. You'll always be Buffy. Live with it."
I still miss that dear old man.
I do not tell Kal why I'm chuckling. The reference would be lost on him. But I do say, "I was just thinking about Alfred's knack for handling Bruce. And me. He could get me to do nearly anything, no matter how opposed I was to whatever he suggested. He had a genteel bullying style that was impossible to resist."
"Bruce was lost when he died."
"We both were."
Alfred died quietly. He wrapped his passing with the same loving dignity he'd shown in his life. And his last thought was of Bruce. "Take care of him, Diana," he said. He knew that in time I'd have to watch Bruce die too.
"I loved Alfred. He was our family." He and the bat-kids who traipsed in and out. Or who we ran into when we patrolled Gotham. Foundlings just like my and Kal's little brood. Only the bat-kids were like Bruce. Super by way of intent. Wonders by means of will alone. No meta in them, but they were the leaders, like their bat-father before them. Leaders because of their cunning and their wisdom-and their control. Bruce always taught them control.
It had been the thing he hated the most about getting old: losing control.
Going Not Gently
The bedroom smells stale and sour. Bruce is finally sleeping, and I walk to the window, opening it slightly, trying not to wake him as I do so. He sleeps so fitfully now.
I'm not stealthy enough.
"Don't open it, Diana. I'm cold."
"Some fresh air would be good."
"You can air out the room as soon as I'm gone." He is crotchety today.
I am worried by that. He has had so little energy lately, and now this burst of irritation. The doctors have told me this often happens just before the end, and I'm not ready for the end.
I turn to close the window and spend a long time fiddling with it so I can get myself under control. He does not need my tears.
"Are you crying?"
Wiping at my eyes, I turn. "No."
"Liar." His voice is tender suddenly. The voice of the man who loves me, not the old man who resents that I am still young while he is stuck in bed. "Come here, Diana."
I go and sit by the bed, taking his hand. His eyes gleam strangely, and I feel as though I have a lump that begins in my stomach and runs all the way to my throat, making it impossible to swallow.
"It's time, Diana."
"No." My voice breaks-there is no Wonder Woman here, just plain old Diana whose heart is shattering. "Stay with me."
"We've had a good life."
"Yes, we have." I try to find the man I first loved in the face of this old man. He taught me so much, my Bruce. And I taught him things too. And I can still see him if I look for the love in my husband's eyes. "I love you, Bruce."
His smile is tinged with the pain that never leaves him now. He shifts slightly and starts to cough.
I realize this is the end, and I feel a wave of dizziness.
"I know you and Clark..." He closes his eyes.
"No, this must be said." He squeezes my hand; his grip is feeble. "It's all right. I know he'll come for you. Eventually, the two of you..."
"Bruce, don't waste strength on this." I put my fingers on his lips.
He pushes my hand away. "You have to know that it's all right."
"Diana, I haven't been a true husband to you for years. You deserve happiness. You've given me so much."
"I wasn't just the giver. The love you gave me, Bruce-I wouldn't be the person I am if I hadn't loved you."
I cannot stand this so I lean down and kiss him. But his lips are hot and dry, and they barely press back on mine.
I pull back. "Bruce?"
He tries to lift his hand but can't, so I reach for him. He squeezes. I can barely feel it.
He coughs again, then says, "My life started when you came to me that night. I have never regretted loving you." His words are hard to hear. He is talking so softly that I have to strain.
I wish I had Kal's super-hearing; I don't want to miss anything he says. "Bruce, I'm glad I came too. It was the smartest thing I ever did." A tear slips down my cheek, and I dash it away.
"It's all right, love. You can cry."
"I'll cry later. Bruce, stay awhile."
His smile is so sweet and sad it would break my heart if it wasn't already breaking. "I'll stay," he says. "For you, I'll stay." But then he glances away, his attention caught by something at the end of the bed. His face wrinkles in confusion for a moment, and then he starts to smile. "Is my uniform ready, old man?"
I try to see what he's seeing, but there is no one there. "Alfred?" I say, and I can almost feel a ghostly hand touch my shoulder. "Alfred, don't take him yet."
"Is it time to go?" Bruce's grip on my hand is weakening.
But he looks down at his phantom Alfred not at me, and Alfred must be telling him another story. "I have to go, Diana."
And I can see that he is already half gone, but he is fighting it and I know it is for my sake. "If you have to, Bruce, then you should." I take a deep breath. There is an order to these things-a rightness-and I must play my part. Leaning in, I say, "Safe journey, my love. May the afterlife be all that you want it to be."
He turns to look at me and smiles. This time he does lift his hand, and I lean in so he can touch my hair. "Diana, you glow. Did you know that you gl-"
I can almost see the life slipping out of him as his hand drops. I hear a terrible ripping sob and realize I have made the sound.
His eyes are open; I close them. "Goodbye, Bruce." I sit with him for a long time, not speaking, not really even thinking. I feel numb. And lost.
I've had him for so long. First to love and fight with, then to love and grow old with. And finally to love and take care of. Now there is no Bruce. There is only me and this shattering pain that descends on me as I open the door. Falling to my knees, I weep huddled against the door, my back to my husband's body. I cannot look anymore. I want to pretend that he is alive. I want to pretend that he is more than the husk on the bed.
I hear footsteps, then hands are lifting me up. "Diana."
I think it is Kal and I strike out. "Get out! Get out!"
"Diana. It's me. It's Dick."
The hands on me are not so strong as Kal's. And he is thinner as my arms go around him and hold on for dear life. This is Nightwing, not Superman.
Dick belongs here. Even if he is too old to be playing superhero anymore. I hate the thought, force it out. Young, Dick is young. They are all young. Bruce too. Bruce is young. Bruce is alive.
Bruce is dead, my mind relentlessly tells the part of me that wants to create fantasies. Bruce is dead.
"I'm sorry," I whisper, hating myself for ruining Dick's moment with Bruce. "I didn't know you were here."
"Barbara and Helena are downstairs too. We didn't want to intrude. We just wanted to be here for you."
"And the others?"
"Out fighting. Evil doesn't stop for the death of an old crimefighter."
No. Nothing stops for that. Not even my heart even though I think it should.
"I'll go down to them." I touch Dick's face. "You say goodbye now."
I leave him alone, walk slowly down the stairs. My legs are shaking, and I feel as if I might fall.
Helena hurries to me. "I'm sorry, Diana."
I nod, let her take care of me. She seems glad to do it, and it is not hard to let her. In fact, I probably need her to, because I can't think what to do now that I have made it safely down the stairs.
And I know there are things I need to do. Steps I need to take. But my brain refuses to plan even what I will do tomorrow. I probably should call the lawyer. Bruce knew I did not want to live here without him. He left the mansion to Dick. We talked about it; Bruce took care of it all. I should not have to do anything other than be the grieving wife.
I am a widow. That thought is horrible as it falls around me like a black shawl. I have lost a husband. I have outlived a husband.
"He's gone," I say, the words coming out as little more than breath.
"Yes," Barbara says.
I get up, walk over to the door to the Batcave. It has not been opened for so long. I hear Dick coming down from the bedroom and turn to him. "I should call this in."
"I can if you want."
But I want to shake off the fog that seems to be trying to drown me. "No, I'll do it." Only when I call the non-emergency number to report Bruce's death, I can't remember the address of the mansion.
"Ma'am?" the young man on the line is waiting, very gentle with me, very patient.
"Let me, Diana." Barbara takes the phone away from me and gives the dispatcher the information he needs.
"I know the address," I say. "I just can't remember it right now."
"You're tired." Dick leads me away from the phone, back to Helena.
I hear her saying, "Sleep, Diana." She is pulling me down to lie in the couch, my head in her lap.
I protest that I am not tired, but she ignores me. As she strokes my hair, I close my eyes for a moment.
And suddenly, I am with Bruce. He is young again and being dragged away from me by something I can't see.
I run after him, grabbing for him as he disappears into the shadows. I catch hold of his foot and pull, tugging almost hard enough to hurt him. Finally I manage to free him, and I drag him back into the light.
As the sunshine hits his hair, and he looks up at me, I realize it is not Bruce-it is Kal.
I jerk awake.
I am alone. I push myself to my feet, walk to the window that Bruce and Alfred used to stare out of.
How could I dream about Kal?
I whirl. I did not hear Helena come in.
"It's okay," she says. "I didn't mean to startle you."
"You're still here?"
"Dick and Barbara too. They're with the EMTs."
I didn't hear them arrive, was too lost in my dream. "Oh. Okay."
"And Superman's here."
"He shouldn't be here."
Helena smiles at me-it is a pitying look as if I make little sense, but she forgives it. "I called him. He was Bruce's friend."
That's right. He was Bruce's friend. And his lover once. He's not here because he loves me. He's here because he loves Bruce. "Where is he?"
"Upstairs. I wanted him to see Bruce before they take him away."
I just nod.
Helena pats my arm, then turns and heads back upstairs.
I go back to my study of the night.
How could I mistake Dick's voice for Kal's?
"I'm sorry." His voice is low and cracks with emotion.
I turn. Kal's eyes are red. He has been crying for Bruce.
"He's dead." If I say it enough times, it will seem real.
I feel dizzy, but I don't sit down. Even being dizzy is better than the fog that seems to hover around me.
"I've got you," Kal says as he eases me into a chair.
"I'm all right."
"Yes, you always slump down the wall that way." Despite his words, there is no humor in his voice, just concern and his own pain. "Let me get you some water."
"I don't need water." I don't know what I need. Except for my husband not to be dead. That would be a thing I need.
"Do you want me to leave?"
He starts to move away.
"Yes." He stands where he stopped, not moving toward me, not turning to leave. He stands there as only a Superman can, while I state the obvious in elementary fashion and the bat-kids who look at least twice our age bustle around being useful.
Finally, he moves. Taking the chair across from me, he exhales loudly. "Do you need anything?"
"No." My response is immediate; horrified. I keep seeing Kal in the dream.
"I mean do you need anything done?"
"Oh. No. Thank you." I am fading into the fog again.
"I'm going to go now."
"That's a good idea," I say, trying to muster up some emotion. But all I feel is numb.
He stands up, then reaches over and touches my hair.
He jerks his hand away.
"He was my friend too."
He was more than a friend-our relationships are too complicated to be contained nicely by that word. But I choose not to say that. Or maybe the fog won't let me. Either way, I just nod.
"If you need me..."
"I know where you are," I say as he leaves.
Kal has moved into the Fortress full time. He is already pulling away like Bruce feared he would.
Bruce didn't want that for me. Bruce wanted me to feel.
I hope he won't mind if I let the fog take me over...just for tonight. For tonight, I don't want to feel anything, especially not this terrible emptiness as I watch the EMTs take my husband away in a bag.
I close my eyes and will myself to feel nothing.
It doesn't work.
Specters of the Future
"You avoided me for weeks," Kal says,
"I avoided everyone for weeks."
He shoots me a look, and I smile.
"Okay, I avoided you especially." I reach into the backpack we've brought with us and pull out some fruit the chef at the Embassy cut for us. She's new and I like her. But she's no Ferdinand.
"Mmmm." He moves closer as I hold the bag out. "You know what I want?"
"I am not peeling you a grape, Kal."
He makes a pleading face, and I relent, peeling slowly, laughing as his smile grows. I finish and admire my work. He opens his mouth.
I pop it into my own mouth instead.
He moves toward me. "Do I have to come get it?"
I nod, my mouth closed around the grape. I haven't bitten down; it rests whole and juicy on my tongue.
"Open up," he says, then he kisses me, his tongue pressing gently until I let my lips slide open slightly, teasing him.
He can get his tongue in enough to touch the grape, but he can't slip it out of my mouth. So he just kisses me for a long time until I open wide enough for him to steal the grape from me. I let him enjoy it and grab another one from the bag. Biting into it, I split the firm skin and let the sweet juice roll over my tongue.
"Did you feel guilty?" he asks. "Is that why you avoided me?"
"Like you after Lois died? Yes, I did." I munch on a slice of apple.
He digs around in the bag, coming out with pieces of plum and peach. "You wouldn't even talk about him back then. I didn't know what you were feeling..."
"I couldn't talk about him."
"He was my friend too. You weren't the only one who lost something."
I thought of that often back then and had felt even guiltier that I was punishing Kal for being what I wanted. "I know." I snuggle closer, and he holds out the peach to me.
Taking a bite, I close my eyes, just enjoying the fruit and the night and the fact that I am spending it only with him-and a bunch of ghosts. "I didn't want to talk about him. I was too busy holding him close inside me. I didn't want to let go."
He touches my lips, wiping away some juice. "I understand that."
"And then you'd get mad if we talked about him."
"No, I didn't."
"Yes, you did." I watch the plum. In the past, if we'd been having this argument, he'd have squeezed the life out of it by now. But it sits unhurt in his hand, waiting for one of us to eat it.
He looks down. "See. I'm getting better." He polishes off the plum. "Not that I didn't want to squash the hell out of it, mind you. It's going to take a long time before I don't hurt over Bruce." He holds up a hand when I start to protest. "I know, I know. I had Lois. I didn't have a right to hurt over you being with him. I understand that. I even believe that. Unfortunately, I never could convince my heart of that."
The way he strings words together can be very sweet. I kiss him, and he tastes of plumy peaches. Pulling me onto him, not minding the bag of fruit that we are crushing into the sand, he kisses me. He is unhurried, takes his time, making me moan as his hands find places that love to be touched. Reaching over into the bag, he pulls out a piece of plum, then rolls me to my back. Squeezing juice over my belly, he licks it off.
"You're going to make me all sticky." I am teasing. He is leaving nothing behind him in his quest for juice.
"There is a very big bathtub just thataway," he says, cocking a thumb toward the sea.
I am about to say something smart, but his tongue has left my belly and found more sensitive places to explore. I moan, and soon I am doing much more than moaning. As I spiral down from where he's sent me, he squeezes out more juice, into my mouth this time. He knows how dry my mouth gets after I come. Then he holds the fruit to my lips, and I suck at it for a moment before eating it. Lifting my eyes to his, I let them roam lower and lower, bound for naughtiness.
"Now, what are you thinking about?" He smiles as I push him away from me and onto his back.
I don't bother with fruit as I kiss around his groin, getting closer and closer and teasing him terribly before I finally take him. His hand tangles in my hair gently, not holding me there, just connecting with me as I send him to heaven.
I notice his toes are curled and smile. They don't call me Wonder Woman for nothing.
Lying down on my back next to him, my arm touching his, I stare up at the stars. "While you were waiting for me, Kal. After Lois died. Did you ever fall for anyone else?"
"Nope." His hand finds mine, holding softly. "I only wanted you."
"Love was that simple for you?" I ask, looking over at him.
"Diana, loving you has never been simple." His hand tightens on mine.
"Was I worth the wait?"
He looks over at me, smiling gently.
"I'll tell you a secret." He rolls to his side, pulling me to mine so we face each other. "If we hadn't been kept apart for so long, I'm not sure it would be this sweet now." He touches my cheek. "I never take us for granted. I don't think I ever will."
"I'll have to whup you if you do," I say, affecting a silly southern accent.
He laughs. "Yes, you will." He stares into my eyes, which with anyone else would be utterly sappy, but with him it just seems right. Then he closes the distance between us and kisses me. It's a kiss full of love, full of promise. A kiss that mends the tears and rents in our souls-damage we did to each other and to ourselves.
"Do you remember our first time?" I ask.
He smiles. "I'll never forget it."
Thunder and Lighting
"Are you all right?" Kal's voice is low as if he thinks that I'll bolt if he talks too loud.
"Yes." I am all right, but it's odd to be back in the watchtower again.
We stand in the conference room. Our chairs are occupied by others now, but I'm standing on Kal's right, his second still. Even if these youngsters don't seem very glad we helped out on this latest mission.
"You're welcome to stay for the meeting if you want," Domino says. But it is clear he is not interested in having us hang around.
"We'll just take a quick tour and leave," Kal says.
They all look relieved.
He turns, and I follow him. In front of this younger version of the League, I want to appear to be in lockstep with him. They think they don't need us, but they do. But like Bruce grew weary of superheroes, I find I have too.
"Were we that arrogant?" I ask.
"Probably." Kal smiles at me and holds his hand out to me, and I take it.
I let him back into my life a few months ago. I expected him to rush things the way he had the first time we met alone, but he's taken it at Smallville speeds. Dinners, walks in the park, long talks by a roaring fire, and easy, gentle good-night kisses. He's not rushing me this time. It's nice.
It's also making me wonder if he wants me the way he used to.
"Working together again," he says, as we walk through the Tower. "It's good."
"It is." We sparred again. It's been decades since we did that. It felt good to let go that way. To fight someone who was my equal. To not have to be mindful of brittle old bones.
I feel a quiver of guilt. I loved Bruce. And it's not a betrayal to admit that he grew old, that I had to be careful. It's not treason to be happy with someone who can keep up with me.
And Bruce gave me permission. He said it was all right.
I pull my hand from Kal's.
"Just...just give me a minute, all right?" I head into the women's locker room. It is empty, and I rest my head against the mirror, breathing hard.
I want Kal, and I feel bad about wanting Kal. It's been years since I've made love. And the fighting on this mission was so intense, and Kal was there always looking out for me, just as I was looking out for him.
I think both of us will be damned if the other is going to be taken away before we touch.
"Diana?" He is at the door.
"Women's room, Kal."
"You're the only woman in here." He walks up behind me, meeting my eyes in the mirror. "We look pretty together, don't we?" He says it matter-of-factly, as if he's commenting on the clouds in the sky.
And we do look pretty together. My black hair matches his, our eyes shine the same blue in the harsh light of the locker room. Red and gold and blue costumes compliment each other. He is slightly taller, much bigger. And we are both staring at each other with the same helpless look.
"I haven't rushed you," he says as he strokes my arms, then sweeps my hair off my neck.
"If you don't want me to do this"-he leans down and kisses the back of my neck-"then just tell me and I'll stop."
The feeling I get as he kisses me is electric, and my knees buckle.
He catches me, holding me until I find my feet again. "I guess you do want me to do that?"
A moan is the only answer I give him.
"Do you want to go to the Fortress?" He is watching me in the mirror.
"Yes," I say, and then I close my eyes.
This moment has arrived finally, and I want him so badly. But I'm afraid. I'm afraid that I'm going to lose Bruce if I move on to Kal.
"If you want to wait, I will. I've waited this long; I can wait till you're ready."
I turn in his arms, and stare up at him. Part of me does want to wait. But waiting won't help-I'll always feel guilty about this. Until it's done, I'll feel guilty. Maybe even after.
But Bruce said it was all right-it's becoming a mantra.
I take Kal's hand. "Let's go."
He swallows suddenly, then turns and leads me to the teleporter. As we walk, he whispers, "He's here. Tonight. Can you feel him?"
"Yes." I wasn't going to say it, but I've felt him since we got back to the Tower.
"He's the heart of this place. The heart of the League, even if those young yahoos are too sure of their strength to ever understand his message."
"Kal, can we not talk about him?"
He looks hurt but nods quickly, and I worry that I have just ruined our night. He doesn't look at me as he programs the teleporter and pulls me into it with him. It sets us down in Metropolis, on the roof of the Daily Planet, and I wonder at his choice. As far as I know, he has not been back to this building since he let Clark Kent follow Lois to the grave.
"This was my home for so long."
"I was happy here."
"Maybe you could be again?" I am not sure what he wants me to say.
He looks over at me. His face is a mask that would rival the best Batman blankface.
His smile breaks through the blankness like the sun peeking out from a cloud. "Diana, don't you know the only place I'll ever be happy is with you?"
I find myself smiling too. "You've been going awfully slow. I wasn't sure if you still wanted me."
He moves closer, puts his arms around me, then lifts off. As we slowly fly south, he kisses me gently. But I can tell the passion we've denied is trying to break through.
We land in front of the Fortress. It is ages since I have been here. Kal's hand is firm on my back, and he kisses me again in front of the entrance before he signals for access. As the door opens, he surprises me, scooping me up and carrying me over the threshold of his lair.
He doesn't put me down once we're inside, but carries me slowly, kissing me the whole way through the Fortress as he heads for the habitat area. I expect him to carry me to his bedroom, but he turns and walks into the living room, dropping into a chair, never stopping the kiss as we sink into the soft cushions.
His hand is roaming down my side, and I am running my fingers through his hair, digging into his scalp. He moans, and we finally come up for air.
"Diana." He looks lost. Utterly and completely lost. As if I am everything in his life-the only thing in his life. "I love you so."
"Kal. My love." I touch his face gently, the way I have always wanted to. Tracing his lips, running lightly over his eyebrows. Connecting the pale freckles that you can only see on his nose when you are this close.
His eyes are half closed, and he lets out a sigh. "So long. We've waited so long."
"Yes, we have." I kiss him again. Kiss him because we have waited so long, and we don't have to wait any longer.
Our kiss this time is different. There is fire between us now, and it pushes us to go faster, to kiss harder, to hold on tighter. Kal pushes me off his lap, and I pull him up after me. He takes my uniform off carefully, yanks his own off with much less care. We stand naked before each other.
He doesn't tell me I'm beautiful, and I think it is because he's been looking at me for decades now. What was a surprise for Bruce has never been hidden to Kal and his super-vision. But I've had no such preview. And Kal is beautiful with his supple skin and perfect build.
I move toward him slowly until our bodies are touching. Skin to skin, finally. I groan, hear Kal echo the sound.
We sink together to the rug, and he is kissing my neck, then he begins to move down my body. He stops frequently, kissing, sucking, licking. I am writhing by the time he gets to the heart of me. When he finally touches me there, I nearly scream. I hear him chuckle, can imagine the smile he is wearing.
"I love you, Kal," I murmur as he teases me, taking me to the brink and then pulling back. I am twisting underneath him, practically begging him to finish it, but he does not. The exquisite torture goes on for what seems like forever until he finally lets me come. I am shaking violently when he pulls away from me.
He moves back up to lie next to me, and there is a strange look on his face as he leans in to kiss me.
I can taste myself on him, and I taste right on him. I was worried that this might not work. That after all this time, we'd find out we were all wrong together. "Kal?"
"You will never forget this, Diana." His eyes burn into me. "You will never forget our first time."
I know why he is doing this; he has had months to plan this. And I think it is motivated less by love for me, than his anger at what Bruce had from me-what he thinks Bruce stole from him. But Kal's shaky motivation for making me die from pleasure does not mean he is not right. If what he just did to me is any indication, then I will never, ever forget this night.
But two can play that game. When I can move again, I slide down his body, my hands massaging him and scratching lightly. At first, he just smiles, but then he starts to moan. I know from experience that the feelings this technique call up will build slowly. Bruce taught me this. I do not think he will mind that I am teaching Kal. If things had been different, maybe he would have done it himself.
I have worked my way past the critical areas without touching Kal, and I am now down near Kal's ankle. He is moving slowly, as if he cannot lie still. I work my way back up the same side and he reaches for me, trying to tug me onto him.
I resist. And I am strong enough to resist. I may be the only person who can resist a Kal this aroused. I push his hands away. "Behave," I say softly.
"Shhh." I go back to my massage-torture, and he is soon writhing under my hands as I work my way down his other side. If I've done my part right-and judging from the red patches on his chest, I think I have-he is so sensitive to my touch that he will jump with anticipation every time I drop my fingers down on him. I get to his foot and start to work my way back up, his skin twitching as I go.
I can tell he thinks I'm going to start over. But I don't. I lean down, my mouth relentless on him.
And he lets out a startled cry as I press down even more, increasing the pressure.
He is too aroused to last long. And when he lets go, his cries are very loud.
I crawl back up to him. "Kal?"
He looks over at me. His eyes are glassy.
"You will never, ever forget-"
He bursts out laughing. "Come here," he says, as he pulls me to him with a little less of his normal vigor.
I ended up squashed against him, but I don't mind. I kiss him, and I know that he can taste himself on me. When I pull away, he smiles, licking his lips slowly.
"Sex is a messy thing," I say.
He gives me a silly smile. "It is if you do it right."
"You feel better?" I ask. Despite making him laugh with the statement, I do want him to move past the hurt and anger and enjoy this-enjoy me and the love I feel for him. The love I know he feels for me.
He nods, but he is suddenly not meeting my eyes.
"I understand, Kal." He is complicated, but I have had over a thousand years to get to know how he thinks.
"I know you understand, Diana. That's your best quality...and your most disconcerting one." He is rubbing my arm now, tracing words that I cannot decipher on my skin.
"What are you writing?"
He grins. Then he does it slowly. It says "SM+WW" and I smile.
"Silly." He shrugs.
"Not silly. Sweet. I love it." Kissing him, I let him push me over. I can feel him against me. Ready for me.
We don't say a word as we press our bodies together. We fit perfectly, and I close my eyes at the sensation of being joined with a man I love after so much time.
"I know." I can barely talk. It is cliche to say I'm overcome, but I am. I feel his hand on my chin, making me look up, making me meet his eyes. I feel as if I'm drowning in them. Then I can't see him anymore, and I realize I'm crying.
"It's okay," he says, and I know he realizes I am crying for several reasons.
I am crying because this is so damn good. I am crying because the longer Kal is inside me, the more he is pushing Bruce back to the far reaches of my heart, back to the past. And I am crying because in a way that is a relief. I want to live again.
And I know that Bruce would want that too.
He gave me permission.
Kal is watching me, his expression so tender that I sob softly.
"I have loved you forever. I will love you at least that long." He kisses me hard and fast, and he is moving the same way, thrusting against me in a way that only someone as strong as I could take.
And I do more than take it. I respond to it. I've never felt like this. I let go, let myself claw at him, feel him groan in reply.
We are like wild things, pummeling each other with our bodies, and when pleasure takes us, it does so with a wild vengeance.
We crash together and lie panting. Kal pulls down a throw and covers us with it, and I realize I am shuddering.
He holds me close, kissing my neck. "I love you," he says, his lips lingering on my ear, his breath warm and making me shiver.
"I love you, Kal." I turn to meet his lips with my own. "I think neither of us will ever forget this night."
He grins and says, "Yes, but will either of us survive it?" His hand dips down to touch me and I jump because I am so sensitive.
"I don't know."
His grin only gets bigger. "Wanna find out?"
He knows I can't resist a challenge. "Okay." I am grinning as broadly as he is as I crawl on top of him. I have a feeling we may survive this, but I'm having serious doubts that when our first time is over, I'll remember how to do anything complicated like walk or think.
Or remember my own name. Hopefully, I won't need to know it anytime soon.
The Embassy is quiet as Kal and I arrive home. Artemis looks up from a book she is reading. I see her stick it into the pillows and know that it will be a horror novel of Lina's. Her aunt, the terror of Themyscira, is seemingly addicted to trashy fiction that scares the pants off her.
"You're finally home," she says.
"Yep." Kal smiles at her and gets little back. But then he's used to it. Artemis has never warmed to him. But he doesn't mind-she didn't like Bruce even more.
She gets up, and I notice she has pushed the book even more into the cushions. I walk over, see that it is Lina's book, and pull it out.
"Artemis, don't you want to know if they get back from Mars?"
"Oh, I wasn't reading it."
I toss it to her. "Finish it. It's a great book."
Her eyebrow goes up. I just grin. It's not just Lina's aunt who's addicted to certain kinds of fiction.
Kal is peeking into the TV room. It is dark. "Lina?"
"After I caught her having sex with that boy and his friend, I sent her to bed." Artemis can say something like this with a straight face. She does not even break in the face of Kal' s double-take. "I am kidding. She is upstairs asleep."
Kal relaxes. He does not understand Artemis's sense of humor. Actually, he is not convinced she has one. Screwing with his mind does not constitute humor in his opinion.
"Did you like her young man?" he asks her.
"No." But then Artemis doesn't like any young men. She's not too fond of older ones either.
For his part, Kal doesn't look unhappy about her opinion. He can't stand the thought that he will lose his little girl someday.
"Not sleepy," I hear from the stairs. It is Mafuto. He is the newest addition to our brood and is still not comfortable with the idea of us leaving him alone. Not that we let that stop us from leaving.
But we always have some making up to do with his little four-year-old heart.
Kal walks over and swings him up, and Mafuto's grin is immediate, as he scrunches down in his adopted father's arms.
"He had a nightmare," Artemis says softly. "I decided not to make him go back to sleep."
I nod. Since we rescued him from the refugee camp, he's had a lot of nightmares. But they're becoming less frequent and less violent. It still shocks me what can be done to a child. And how much a child can endure without breaking. If he needs a little extra attention when we leave him alone, it's to be understood. His mother went out one day to get food for him and never came home. We found him foraging among the garbage cans of the relief workers' enclosure. With no surviving family members, he was as much a pariah as those dogs that skulked on the outskirts of town. And nearly as hostile.
The smile he gives Kal is a welcome sight. When we first brought him home, we weren't sure he'd ever smile.
Kal looks over at me. "I'll take him up and tell him stories of Bruce until he falls asleep."
For some reason, Mafuto finds bat-tales soothing.
"You smell like sex," Artemis says as she walks by, the book tucked under her arm.
"That's because we had sex."
"All night." Artemis sounds more disgusted than envious.
"You don't know what you're missing."
"No. I don't. And that's the way it should be. We're Amazons, Diana."
I look down. I'm at peace with who I am. An Amazon who's not quite what she should be.
"I'm not like you, Artemis. Not a proper Amazon. I was formed of clay. And this world has molded me." And pain has fired me. And love has scored me and made me beautiful.
I was born of earth. And I am dirty and damp and full of things that nice little Amazons might be scared of. I am a woman; I am Superman's woman, and I was Batman's before that. And I am my own woman.
I belong first to myself, then to the men I love and the children I have found. Then to the world. And whatever is left, that can go to those who hold outdated notions that I can't lose myself in the way Kal's body feels against me, or that I can't enjoy memories of racing along Gotham's rooftops with Bruce, knowing we would be ripping each other's clothes off once we finished our sweep.
If they think I regret the turns my life has taken, they are wrong.
I am surprised when Artemis turns around and smiles at me. She holds the book up. "Will I like the ending?"
I think of how it surprised me the first time. "Oh, yes."
She nods, then takes the portal home to Themyscira; the book goes with her.
I put the backpack in the kitchen, then wander upstairs. I hear can hear Kal's voice, low and sweet as he tells Mafuto bat-bedtime stories. I peek into the other rooms, checking on the others. Ana and Mei and Tara all sleep soundly, but when I open Edvard's door, he turns to me.
"What is it?" I ask softly.
He reaches out, and I go to him. His eyes are covered with a film where they are not pinched with scar tissue, blind and strange looking. I never tell anyone, but I feel a deeper connection with Edvard than with the others-and I love them all with a fierce devotion. But this child touches me deeper, touches me in the part of my heart that is still blind.
"Mafuto had a nightmare," he says.
"I know. It's just a remnant."
Edvard takes a deep breath. "It was about a man who hurt him."
"Did he tell you this?"
He nods. Then he says, "Will the man hurt me?"
Edvard didn't start out blind. But acid does terrible things to eyes.
"No, love. No one will hurt you. They'll have to get through me to find you."
He seems to take comfort in that. "I love you, Diana." Unlike the others, he has never wanted to call me "mother." He remembers his mother. She stood by while the man she lived with blinded her only son. Mother, for Edvard, does not stand for good things.
"I love you, sweetheart." I settle him back in bed and leave him.
Kal is coming out of Mafuto's room as I open Lina's door. She is asleep too. It is a ritual to check on them all this way, even if Kal could do it for us in a second with his super-vision.
Kal holds out his hand. "Bed?"
I am suddenly very tired. We won't be able to sleep long. We stayed for hours more than we'd originally intended on our little island. Re-creating our first night together.
"I love you," he says. Then he looks around. "I love our family."
When he kisses me, it is with tenderness not passion. We've burned the passion out for one night.
"Let's go to bed," the other half of my soul says, and I follow him into our bedroom.
I would follow him anywhere. And I know he'd follow me too.
We're lucky. Lucky he fell to Earth. Lucky I was created from it. Lucky that when sky and ground collide, they make love.
I glance over at Kal. He grins back, and looks down, waggling his eyebrows.
I roll my eyes, as if I'm only doing this as a favor for him, but I'm already pulling his clothes off as he closes the door.
Maybe passion isn't quite burned out for the night.