Author's Notes: This story is part of the continuing series I dubbed "Under The Shadows Of A Portrait."
The series is written with elements in both the world of animation and comics.
Thank you HeyBats for the beta.
Disclaimer: Without Prejudice. The names of all characters contained
here-in are not mine. No Infringements of these copyrights are
intended, and are used here without permission.
By DC Lady
Diana gazed out the window of her childhood room, fondly remembering the gods of her youth. She watched the sun as it disappeared beyond the horizon, saying a silent prayer to Helios - the god of the sun - who rose each morning from the east, riding his chariot through the sky to descend in the west. He saw all things in his travels and she prayed for his knowledge.
"Bruce," She whispered, not realizing her mother was in the room.
childhood bedroom watching as the last of the sun's rays disappeared just beyond the "What is it, my daughter? Are you still unable to reach the Justice League?" Hippolyta asked.
Diana shifted uneasily. It was an almost impossible task to try to find words to inform Hippolyta of her intentions to return to man's world – or more accurately, to return to a particular man. Her initial response was to be evasive, but the fact that her mother had served as her one true confidant for more than a thousand years overrode her desire for secrecy.
"It is not the League that I am trying to contact, but a particular member."
Diana felt the fabric of her mother's white gown brush lightly against her back. "Is this member the one who has captured your heart?" she asked, her hands resting gently on her shoulders.
Diana looked up at her mother with a smile. "Am I that obvious?"
"Yes," she said and smiled. "I recognize the signs. I am no stranger to love, my daughter – or to lust." She kissed the top of her head. "Are you certain it is the former and not the latter?"
"Very certain, mother. It is my hope to make a life with him. I already consider his home mine."
Hippolyta moved to the other side of the room, sitting on the edge of the bed. "Which one of the Justice League heroes has taken your heart, my dearest?"
Diana moved and sat next to her mother, reaching for the hand that stroked her cheek. "Batman - his name is Bruce," she answered and her heart leapt at the sound of his name on her lips.
"Ah! I remember him well," Hippolyta said. "You are not so unlike your mother. You are attracted to the same darkness that had once allured me to Hades."
Diana's anger flared at the mention of Hades. When she'd first arrived on the island, she had confronted her mother about Hades' declaration that she was his daughter. Although Hades had been with her mother when she was formed into clay, much to Diana's relief, it was Hippolyta who petitioned the gods for her life – and Hippolyta alone, who raised her. For her mother to make such a comparison was fallacious.
"He is nothing like Hades, mother. The darkness that shrouds Bruce is not rooted in evil, but pain." She paused, turning to the window's view of the horizon. She was homesick. "He does not give his heart easily, but when he does, he gives it fully."
Hippolyta stood and lifted Diana chin to meet her gaze. "When will you leave?" she asked with a sad smile.
Diana took her mother's hand in hers. "When the sun rises."
She felt the gentle squeeze of her mother's hand as she stood to leave. "Sleep well, my child."
The cave was cold – however the owner's mood cast an additional chill felt to the bone. Shivering inwardly, Alfred stood behind the man he considered his son, determined to discover the events that led to his current state of reclusion.
He decided to try the direct approach. "Sir, Miss Diana has been trying to contact you," Alfred informed his charge. "May I ask why you are ignoring her calls?"
"I'm busy," he answered brusquely.
He placed a hand on the younger man's shoulder. "Too busy for the woman you intend to marry?" Alfred gently pressed.
Bruce stiffened under his touch. "She returned to Themyscira- her home," he answered icily, then returned to his log entries
Alfred clucked. "For a visit I presume? Wayne Manor is also her home." He turned the chair so that Bruce would have to face him. "May I ask if something has happened to change that, sir?"
"Where Diana is concerned, I wouldn't presume to stop you," Bruce muttered under his breath, then sarcastically added. "You've played the role of matchmaker quite adroitly."
Alfred had never allowed such behavior from him in the past – as a child – and he certainly would not allow it now. "You will not take that tone with me, young man. We are a family. Something has happened to change the course of your relationship with Miss Diana and I deserve the dignity of an answer. Your relationships not only affect you, but me and your son."
"I'm sorry," he mumbled and Alfred could see glimpses of the boy he raised in his demeanor. "It's just…not easy for me…"
Alfred rested both hands on either side of Bruce's shoulders. "Why is Miss Diana in Themyscira?" His voice was laced with sympathy.
Bruce looked down. "Her mother has allowed her to return to her home."
"Is her stay a permanent one?"
"She said there were 'issues' she needed to work out with Hippolyta," Bruce paused and Alfred recognized the difficulty of his next statement. 'That she was going home."
"She has been trying to contact you on the Justice League's communications system. It sounds that her visit was not as permanent as you seem to think."
"She called it home, Alfred," he whispered.
Alfred nodded in understanding. Emotionally, Bruce was still that young, frightened boy that was put under his care. His range of understanding in emotional matters was limited.
"You are also her home," he said gently and straightened his coat. "Do you remember when Master Richard first came to live with us?"
"It took him some time to consider us his family…to look upon Wayne Manor as his home."
"What does that…"
Alfred lifted his hand in a silent chastisement of the interruption. "In time, Master Richard not only considered the Manor his home, but now looks upon you as his father."
Again, Bruce nodded.
"But, when he recalls life with his parents, those memories are looked upon with great affection. He still considers the small circus and its people his family – his home," Alfred finished.
Bruce stood, turning his back to Alfred. "I'm not good at this," he admitted. "Maybe it's for the best."
Alfred suddenly understood Bruce's anguish. "Ah, so her returning home is yet another excuse to end the relationship?"
"I'm not an easy man to love."
"But, she loves you, nonetheless."
"She would only learn to hate me."
"There are times, I admit, that you try even my patience," Alfred said, trying to lighten the man's sour mood. "But as I have promised, I would never leave you."
Bruce turned around. "But you have left me. You've gotten angry, disappointed – you left." Alfred remembered when Bruce's back was broken by Bane and his stubborn determination to press on against all odds. He left, hoping that Bruce would regain his senses. He remembered other occasions when it became necessary to leave, for Bruce's own good, never his own.
"My boy," Bruce looked away. "I may have had to leave your services, but my heart never left your side. And, it is not as difficult to love you as you seem to believe." Alfred turned to leave, then thought better of it and lifted the phone off the cradle, handing it to Bruce. "Call her, before it is too late."
Alfred left Bruce to his thoughts. This was a decision he would have to make for himself. He could only pray that the guidance he had given would help him to make the right one. The younger man was still staring at the phone when he reached the Cave's exit.
To be continued…