This is the third, and last, in a series of Vignettes (Alfred's Prayer, Dinner, Dinner Date). The stories are written in the animated "Justice League" and "Batman The Animated Series" continuity. There is a minor reference to the "JLA" comics (see if
you can find it).
Disclaimer: I not own any of the Bat-characters or subsequent franchise licenses. This was just for fun.
Dedications: Thank you for the Beta, Heybats.
Champagne, red roses, soft music. Alfred thought of everything. He'd even placed an impeccably decorated table in the den so that the massive expanse and formality of the dining room wouldn't detract from the romantic setting. All of his efforts so far were wasted however, as the candlelight and flowers had done little to put the evening's host in the mood for romance.
"Wonder Woman," he murmured to himself. "Am I out of my mind?" The inner turmoil raged between the Batman's practicality and Bruce Wayne's carnal desires. The battle normally simmered below the surface, sublimated by his will. Today the battle was a heated one that threatened his sanity. The clock advanced rapidly towards the top of the hour, but the man in question still did not yet know how he would handle this impromptu date. "How did I get myself into this?" he asked rhetorically then grimly answered himself in the same breath, "Alfred. It's his fault."
Bruce Wayne, the playboy, would take advantage of this situation. After all, it wasn't everyday that he had a date with an Amazon princess. While the Batman would scoff at the nonsense and irrelevance of such self-indulgence. There was the mission to consider. Nothing else mattered. Then there was Bruce. The man. The person who longed to be worthy of his parents' memory. Would he ever fulfill the dreams they had for him? He knew Alfred hoped that Bruce would dine with Diana tonight instead of Batman or the playboy. Unfortunately, Gotham had long been his first and foremost priority, his oath to protect the city the downfall of any romantic involvement he dared to consider.
The circumstances called for more brooding time than he was allotted before her arrival.
"Don't be wearing red. Don't be wearing red," Bruce whispered to himself, his self-restraint hanging by a thread. He poured himself a rare shot of bourbon for courage, throwing it viciously to the back of his throat, then waited for her entrance.
Alfred stood in the doorway, always the prim and proper butler. But, tonight he wore a look that could only be classified as smug'. Although the Major Domo's expressions were stoic to any and all he encountered in such formal situations, Bruce knew better. He knew smug' on his father figure when he saw it.
"Miss Diana, sir," he informed before she came into sight. The scene unfolded in slow motion as the beat of his heart kept a noisy rhythm in his ears. Holding his breath, he watched as Alfred moved to the side, revealing a vision of Diana in red.
"I'm a dead man," he muttered under his breath, desperately trying to control what little resolve he had left.
"Hello, Bruce," she said warmly.
He stood, frozen.
It is a dinner, Master Bruce.' he remembered Alfred saying. It is neither a commitment nor a proposal of marriage. Simply dinner with a colleague and friend.' But, then as he left the room Alfred had murmured, Who knows...this may even be the beginning of
many intimate dinners for you and the Princess.'
His thoughts coalesced in the span of time it took him to walk toward Diana, taking her hand and placing it around his arm. "So good to see you, Diana. And don't you look tasty?" he leered, opting for the playboy persona as her dinner companion.
Bruce caught a glimpse of Alfred's disapproving glare, giving him momentary pause at disappointing his surrogate father. He left the room in silence. To his amazement, Diana was taking it in stride. She had yet to have real exposure to this particular persona. Batman intrigued her but her desire was to know the man behind the mask. It
was Bruce who held her interest. Bruce Wayne the playboy was a stranger.
"Thank you," she said politely.
"Can I offer you a drink? A glass of Champagne, perhaps?" he asked moving toward the bar.
"Ginger ale would be nice."
"You're positive you don't want something a little stronger… to fit the mood?" he asked suggestively.
Diana stared at him, measuring her response. "Perhaps…later. Ginger ale is fine for now."
Bruce filled the crystal goblet with ice and poured her beverage, mentally reviewing his plan to deter any romantic entanglements for now and in the future. 'This shouldn't take long', he thought. Taking a seat next to her the plan was nearly forgotten as her
intoxicating scent overwhelmed his senses. The Batman's strong will scolded him for the momentary lapse of control.
"It's a lovely night. Did you fly here?" he asked, recovering his wits.
"And risk the Batman's wrath?" she laughed. The curl of her lips enraptured him. "No, I checked into a hotel in the city then took a taxi here. Of course, you'll end up paying for it one way or another since you gave us those charge cards." She laughed, then took a sip of her beverage. "And dont worry. I was wearing a blond wig until I entered the house. I didnt want you to have to explain why Wonder Woman was dining with Bruce Wayne."
"Blond wig? That could be fun. Although I doubt my attention could be taken from the way your dress enhances other aspects of your beauty," he growled then noticed a confused expression cross her perfect features.
She must have decided that a change of subject was in order. "I must say, I was surprised when Alfred called. I thought the Batman didn't date?"
"But, Bruce Wayne needs the distraction."
'That did it,' he thought. Hoping that she'd leave with the minimum of bodily harm to him.
"Is that what tonight is supposed to be? A distraction?"
"And just what were you expecting it to be, Princess. I'm a playboy, after all. Or haven't you heard?"
"You reputation is well known. But it is a cover for your true self, is it not?"
"Ah. So Batman is my true self?"
"I don't know. He's certainly a part of you. I was hoping to learn more about you without the mask."
"What you see is what you get, Princess," he sneered, leaning closer and placing a hand just above her knee.
She abruptly stood. He braced himself. An Amazon's wrath could be lethal. But, he was unprepared for what he saw. Not anger, but hurt...disappointment...the down turned lower lip...
That one look of disappointment caved his resolve around him. He turned her to face him. "I'm sorry."
"And just who am I speaking to now? Is there another personality I should know about?" she spat.
"I guess I deserved that." He paused before deciding to continue. "I'm not sure you'll care for the real me any better," he stated with a pained look of sincerity.
"I'm not certain I will, either. But, how will we know if you are not honest with me? Or do you even want to find out?"
"I'm not sure I do want to find out," he stated then looked up to meet her gaze. "I'm just being honest, Princess."
"It is all I ask," she said, then smiled. A smile that warmed every fiber of his being. "Why did you ask me to dinner?"
"I didn't. Alfred did." He opted for the direct approach.
"Without your knowledge?" she sighed.
"I see." She turned to leave. "I won't be bothering you any longer."
He instinctively reached out to stop her no longer willing to end this by hurting her. "You've never been a bother to me, Diana."
"What is this, then? Is this some sort of game to you?"
"No. It's no game."
"Then what? Please. Enlighten me," she demanded, folding her arms.
"I've never meant to lead you on, Diana, if that's what you're implying," he stated firmly.
"Implying? I imply nothing. I am simply stating facts."
"If that's what you think, then I apologize. It was never my intent," he said, unconsciously retreating to the fireplace mantel to stand beneath his parents' portrait.
"It is not what I think, Bruce and you know it. You can delude yourself into thinking that you hold no feelings for me, but don't take me for a fool. I deserve more respect than that," she said confidently, unmoving from her spot.
"You're right. You're no fool. I am the fool. But, I'm not fool enough to think that a relationship between us would work. You deserve better."
"Why? Do you think that I am not capable of making that choice?"
"Maybe I don't want to take the chance of you deciding against me."
"I don't know if you are telling me the truth or making fun of me." She was confused by his behavior and wanted the truth. She refused to leave without it.
"Oh...I'm being honest, Princess. Are you certain that you know what you want? I've seen how you looked at Longshadow."
"What are you trying to say? That I am interested in him?" she asked with a laugh in her voice.
"What's so funny?"
"You're cute when you are jealous."
"I'm not jealous, just practical. Why would I involve myself with someone who obviously doesn't know what she wants?"
"Oh, I know what I want, Bruce. I have compassion for Longshadow and his plight. I cannot imagine what it must be like - not knowing if you might breath your last breath within the next hour, or day, or week. Friendship is all I feel and have ever displayed toward him." She walked over to him.
She stood close. Her scent again filling his nostrils. "If you want me to leave, I will. Just tell me what it is you want?"
"Why, Princess? Why are you here?"
"Because I see a man who dedicated his life to a worthy cause. The same cause that I have also dedicated my life. A man who holds no special power, but is the most feared among those with great power. I see a warrior, but I also see you. A man who loves deeply and feels deeply, although you hide it well. You are quite an inigma, Bruce.
"I'm also rude, insincere and most comfortable in solitude." He replied darkly. "Worst of all, I push away those I care for."
"And yet you still crave companionship," she observed with a smile. "The Bat-clan is legendary for its recruitment efforts."
"It would never work, Diana. We have too many responsibilities that take precedence in our lives."
"Why won't you allow yourself to be happy?"
"It won't last, Princess. It never does."
"Who was she?" she asked realizing his excuses were a cover for his heart.
To his credit, Bruce didn't flinch. He knew from experience that Diana was perceptive. He moved from under the watchful eyes of his parents to gaze out of the massive windows.
With his hands firmly tucked in the pockets of his pants, he sighed. "No one that matters any more."
"Did she leave because of Batman?"
"I was going to give up Batman for her," he admitted softly.
She placed a steady hand on his sunken shoulder. "What happened?"
"She couldn't give up 'her' quest. Revenge tore us apart and eventually consumed her."
"Don't be. It was a long time ago."
"So, where does that leave us?" she asked, her lips taking a downward turn for the second time this evening.
He faced her and leaned close, feeling her breath against him. "What do you want, Princess?"
"The truth," she whispered.
"The truth can hurt," he whispered back, huskily.
"Will the truth hurt, Bruce?" She parted her lips, waiting.
"No. Not today." His resolve was always in question in her presence. But, tonight what little resolve he'd maintained melted. A gentle kiss. A partial promise to try. It was all he could give and yet it was more than he had given in a very long time.
They were interrupted by the distinct clearing of one's throat. Bruce rested his forehead against Diana's, annoyed. "The Bat signal I presume?"
"You presume well, sir," Alfred remarked with a gleam at having encountered such a display of affection from his charge.
Before he could speak, Diana stopped him, her hands held up in understanding. "Go. Gotham needs you. I may have to do the same thing someday."
And he knew that she did understand as only another warrior could. "Lunch here tomorrow?"
"I'd like that," she answered, bussing his cheek lightly. He turned and made his departure but hesitated at the clock, giving her a shy wave she found irresistible. It was a start.
Alfred came up quietly behind her as soon as the clock swung shut. "Thank you, Alfred. It worked like a charm. It is amazing how a simple pout can so swiftly control the actions of Batman," Diana stated as she pushed her hair up into the blond wig.
"As I knew it would, Miss. If you were to get angry, it would have made it easier for him to turn away from you. Now you have as big of a commitment as I've seen him make in quite some time, even if it is only for lunch tomorrow" Alfred stated.
"It's a start," Diana smiled giving the butler and personal relationship advisor a kiss on the cheek. "I'll see you and Bruce tomorrow."
"Good evening, Miss Diana. I look forward to it." Alfred shut the door with his own smile. A butler's work is never done.