Waiting for the Sun by Djinn
The room is shrouded in shadows, the silence broken only by the slow pinging of the heart monitor, the hushed and rhythmic pumping of the respirator. The woman on the bed lies quietly, her sheets lumpy over bandages and tubes draining the wounds from multiple bullets. Her bracelets shine dully, as if they realize how they failed her. Only they didn't fail her, she failed them. They would have stopped the bullets. If she hadn't turned. If she hadn't left herself open.
She had a choice, and she didn't choose herself. She lies now in the chasm between life and death that is the consequence of selflessness.
Two men sit near her, one on either side. A blue and red uniform dulls down to muddy colors in the darkened room, barely different from the other's gray and black. They are both dark--hair, eyes, costumes. All dreary and lifeless in this tomb of a space. Both have her blood on their uniforms, although they have washed it off their hands.
Clark sighs softly, hoping the sound isn't as loud as it seems to him in the quiet room. Bruce glances over at him, wondering if Clark knows how many times he's made that sound since they brought Diana in--it gets more forlorn with each soft exhalation.
"Her breathing seems stronger," Clark says. He wants it to be so. Wants her to wake up and smile at him. He's grown used to seeing her triumph, grown accustomed to thinking of her as his equal. Impervious to harm. But she's not. She's strong, but she's not invulnerable. And she's skilled, like Bruce, at keeping harm away. But this time she didn't. This time she turned to stop the villain who would have gotten by her and paid for it as his henchman mowed her down.
Clark had never seen her bleed that way. He went a little crazy. So did Bruce. The henchman may not survive his moment of triumph.
"She'll be fine." Bruce knows he sounds shaken, and he tries again. "She's a fighter." Better. Bruce knows Clark needs that. Needs strength and certainty. So does Diana. She can hear them. She has to be able to hear them.
Standing, Bruce touches her hair softly, checking to make sure that the tube is not chafing the corners of her mouth. He hates those tubes--they always hurt, always rub even as they carry life with each painful breath.
Clark watches him. Sees volumes in the way his friend looks at Diana. At the way he touches her as if she is the most precious thing in his world. He knows Bruce loves her. He wonders if Bruce knows that yet. He knows Diana doesn't think he does.
He loves you, he tries to send to her. I love you too.
She is their friend. She is their love. It has always been this way, he thinks. He has Lois, and he has never betrayed her. He does not think he ever will. But that doesn't mean he isn't in love with Diana, too. Loving Lois doesn't mean that he doesn't dream of Diana, of having her some day. He tries not to; he knows it's a betrayal of his wife. But Clark can't stop his heart from wanting, even if he can stop his hands from reaching.
Bruce makes himself sit down, folds his cape around himself as if he can find warmth in it. He has not felt warm since he saw Diana go down, since he heard the bullets hitting something awful--not the cool, Amazonian steel of her bracelets, but flesh proven soft by the damage the deadly little projectiles have done to her.
She fell. She didn't scream. She didn't make a sound. She stopped the villain, giving the other bastard the chance to make her pay. She fell, bleeding, to the ground and Bruce couldn't get to her to break her fall. And once he did get to her, he couldn't stop the bleeding. Clark did it, cauterizing the wounds, which they had to reopen to get the bullets out once they got her to the watchtower. J'onn held her mind in his as they worked on her, kept her spirit there with them as they dug metal out of her flesh.
J'onn looked worried, as if he were afraid he might not be able to keep her with them. Bruce has watched Diana die once. He doesn't want to do it again. Ever again.
He shivers, and Clark looks over at him. "If you're cold, she might be too." Clark knows he is the wrong one to judge. He's always fine. His metabolism is super just like the rest of him. He wishes he could feel the pain Diana must be in. Wishes he could take that from her and give her complete rest. But he can't, and neither can Bruce, and J'onn was too exhausted after the surgery to keep the link with her open. So they have pumped her full of painkillers that will let her sleep, let her own strong system do the healing for her.
She looks beautiful. Even lying there so still, she is the most beautiful thing he's ever seen. If she dies...
If she dies...
She did die. He died too. Death is something survivable, or at least the first time. He doesn't think it will be survivable this time. If she dies...part of him will die too.
"Do you think she's cold?" he whispers.
"Maybe." Bruce sounds unsure--Clark has never heard Bruce sound that unsure about anything.
He gets up and pulls a blanket out. He's about to settle it over her, when Bruce says, "What if she's not?"
"Cold. What if we make her too warm?" He is staring at Diana as if he doesn't know what to do. As if the blanket has become a life or death decision.
Maybe it has?
Clark touches her arm. She feels cool. "I think it will feel good. Just here..." He lays it over her legs, covering her pelvis but not the bulky bandages. He peeks through them with his super-vision, sees that the wounds are seeping. But in a good way. Draining.
"She's so strong, Bruce."
Bruce doesn't think she looks strong. He thinks she looks like a broken doll lying on the bed. He's used to being the one waking up hurt. Hanging out with metas can do that to a regular guy. Diana is usually the one taking care of him, the one who leans over him when he wakes up. He's not sure how to care for her.
Isn't that the problem between them? He loves her with all his heart...and he's not sure how to care for her.
Getting up, he walks to the viewscreen, staring out at the stars. Diana loves this view. She told him that it made her feel small. She told him it made her believe in things bigger than metas. He hears the pinging of the heart monitor--wishes he believed in things bigger than metas. But he quit believing in an alley when he was eight. When God left his side and found some other little boy to take care of.
Diana has never stopped believing. No matter what she's lost, no matter how much she's been hurt, she still believes. He wishes he had her faith. He wishes he had her.
Turning, he stares at her, his hands on the sill, clutching. Clark wonders if he knows how helpless he looks.
"Have you told her?"
Bruce looks up at him, a question in his eyes. And denial. As if he knows what the answer will be.
Clark pushes on. "That you love her? Have you told her?"
For a moment, he thinks Bruce will give him a Batman answer. But then his friend pushes back the cowl that has kept his face hidden--or would have if Clark wasn't able to peek whenever he wants. "No. I haven't."
Clark looks over at Diana. She's beautiful. She loves them both, and he knows that. She loves Bruce. Wants Bruce in a way she won't let herself want Clark--not while he's with Lois. "It doesn't seem very complicated to me."
"No. It wouldn't." Bruce feels instantly bad for the comment, but Clark just gives him a sad look. As if the insult rolled off him. Or as if it really isn't complicated at all, and he pities Bruce for not getting it.
For not getting her.
"She loves you," Clark says softly. His eyes stray to Diana, then back to Bruce. This is hard for him to say, but he is saying it--it's how he is, and there are times Bruce wishes he could be more like his friend. "Would it kill you to love her back?"
Bruce knows the question is really will it kill her that he's refused her up to now. Will she die, drift off because she is alone, because she doesn't know she's one of the only lights in his life? That he loves her and wants her and wishes he were a better man--or maybe just a different man.
"She loves you too, Clark." It's easier to deflect than to answer.
"Not the same."
"But it could be. If..." It is too harsh to say it. Not when Bruce thinks so highly of Lois. He can't say that Diana would love Clark the same way if only Lois were gone.
"You're an idiot," Clark says, moving the blanket up a little. He is tired of Bruce's pain, tired of his reasons and rationales and pigheaded determination to be miserable. The woman lying under Clark's hand could make Bruce happy. And he runs from her.
"I probably am."
Turning, Clark sits back down, letting a long, slow breath out. He closes his eyes, prays--only he's not sure to whom. His parents raised him to believe in something bigger than himself. But it's hard. When he was dead...he can't remember exactly, but he thinks he was somewhere warm and soft and full of good things. He wishes he could remember.
Diana told him about Olympus. It wasn't warm and soft, but it was still a form of heaven, he thinks. She didn't want to be a goddess. If he hadn't been in love with her already when she came back to life, he would have fallen for her just because she wanted to be what he wants to be. Human.
Neither of them is really that. But she's closer to it than he is. Her draining wounds are evidence of that.
"Are you praying?" Bruce is surprised. He doesn't think Clark is religious.
"Whoever will listen."
There's nothing more to say. Clark has it right. Bruce should pray too. To whoever will listen.
"Do you think she can hear us?" Clark sounds like he doesn't think she can.
Bruce isn't so sure. He's been on that bed enough times, drifting from real sleep to the twilight sleep of the drugs to know that there are times the people around you are perfectly clear. That you can hear every word. Has Diana heard him say he loves her?
"Do you remember the first time you saw her?" Clark asks.
Bruce nods. He'd seen his share of beautiful women, but Diana still left him speechless. "She's changed so much since then."
Clark meets his eyes. "She's had to." He looks down then. As if they've had a hand in that change. As if they've hurt her.
Have they? There are things Bruce could have done differently, times he could have reached for her instead of pushing her away. Did Clark do that too?
"Tell me about Asgard," he says.
"Not much to tell. Lots of fighting."
"You were with her for a thousand years."
Clark nods. One thousand years of wanting her. And of knowing that once they were done fighting for Thor and his fellow gods, they could be sent back to exactly the moment they'd been stolen from. Diana had given him that from the start. The truth--she'd been the goddess of that, after all. And because of her, the truth was that he had to be faithful to Lois because he wasn't stranded with Diana, not really, not the way he wished he was. If Diana hadn't told him, he would have made love to her.
If she hadn't told him, she wouldn't have been the Wonder Woman he knows. His touchstone. His truth. Lois is his humanity, but this woman is his true north. He wishes he were more like her. Sometimes he wishes he could see the true thing and not just the right thing, that he could do the hard things Diana is capable of.
It is one thing to drop your guard in a hail of bullets when you know they can't hurt you. It is another to do it and know they will tear you apart. That the price will be pain and maybe even death. He isn't sure he could keep fighting if he had to be frightened of that.
"Clark? Where'd you go?"
He smiles at Bruce, over her, half-covered now by the blanket they think she needs. "Just drifting. We never made love."
Bruce nods, accepting what his friend says. Clark has that look. The eagle scout look. The "I know it's outlandish, but I'm telling the truth" look. His friend spent one thousand years with Diana and never made love to her.
Now who's the idiot?
They sit for a moment, and he thinks they are both lost in their own worlds. Worlds where Diana is the centerpiece. Worlds where they contemplate what it would be like to be with her.
"Do you think I should tell her I love her?" He looks down. Where the hell did that question come from?
"Do you want to tell her?"
"Not good enough, Bruce. You know yourself too well to give me that."
"I'll just hurt her."
"No, you won't."
He looks over at Clark, even as his hand reaches out to Diana's, where it lies so still on the bed, as if he is already imagining holding it and telling her that she is his world. "How do you know I won't?"
"I know you." Clark has that look again.
Bruce swallows at Clark's look of pure support. Despite everything, despite all the things they've done to each other over the years, Clark still believes in Bruce.
"Besides, if you hurt her, I'll kill you, and you're smart enough to know that." Clark smiles gently. "Or, if you're not smart enough to know that, my telling you should make you smart enough."
"You don't kill." But Bruce can see that where Diana is concerned, Clark will probably make an exception.
"Tell her, Bruce. Take a chance. Maybe happiness won't be that bad?" Clark suddenly feels a pang. Does he really want to see her in his best friend's arms? Does he want to imagine them together--or worse, accidentally, or not so accidentally, see them making love?
But the pang goes away. Does he want to see them like this? Lonely. When they could be together. When it could be so good because they're together.
"She's lonely too, you know?"
Bruce nods. He's seen the look on her face lately. She's tired. She fights and she works and she meets with officials and dignitaries. And through it all she's alone. He's seen the loneliness written in the shadows under her eyes. In the way she sighs when he turns away too quickly from her, when he refuses her offer for coffee or dinner or even sparring anymore. He turns down everything because he wants everything, and he's afraid he'll be weak some day and take it.
And then what? Is Clark right? Would he be happy? Is that what he's been running from?
Clark leans forward, watching her as she breathes. "She's so beautiful. That's what I thought when I first saw her. But she's more than that, too. And it's easy to forget that. I think the world forgets it. They see the face--"
"--And the body." Bruce grins sheepishly at Clark's "Can I go on?" look.
"And the body. And they forget the amazing spirit that is inside her. It's why we love her, Bruce. Without it, without her strength, she'd be just...ordinary."
"Is that what Lois is? Ordinary?"
Clark looks surprised--and a little hurt. "No. I didn't mean it that way."
"Okay. Sorry." But he can see Clark is thinking about it. He's too much of a boy scout not to mull it over in his mind.
"Lois is anything but ordinary."
"Clark, forget I said it."
But Clark can't forget he said it. Does Bruce think that's how he views his wife? She's not less than Diana, even if she is human. She's his life and he's made a commitment to her. His place is by her side.
Or his place is by her side except when he's sitting vigil beside Diana's bed.
Sighing, he gets up, walks over to the viewscreen that had Bruce so mesmerized. "I love Lois."
"I know you do, bud. I didn't mean to imply anything."
Clark isn't sure what to say, so he settles for staring at the stars and not saying anything. He can see far--farther than Bruce, farther than Diana. He wishes he could see the future, see if Diana is going to wake up. "What if she dies?"
"She's not going to d--"
"--But what if she does?" There is a long silence. The starfield has begun to shimmer, and tears swim for a moment in Clark's eyes until he blinks them away.
Then Bruce says softly. "There there will be no light. Not anymore. Not here, and not down there. No reason to fight." He gets up, joins Clark at the viewscreen, his hand falling lightly on his shoulder. Then he grips him hard, shaking him a little. "And I'll keep fighting anyway. And so will you. Because that's what we do. And that's what she does. And if she dies, she'll expect us to keep going. For her."
Clark meets his eyes, has to blink again. "She's never been this hurt before."
"I know." Bruce's eyes are fine. Bruce doesn't cry, or if he does, Clark has never seen it. "But her breathing's stronger. You said so yourself."
Nodding quickly, as if trying to convince himself, Clark turns back to the view.
Bruce lets go of him and walks over to Diana. He wants to kiss her, but the respirator is in the way. He wants to love her, but he hasn't let himself. The respirator has to stay, but maybe he could get out of his own way?
He leans down, whispers in her ear, "I love you. Come back to me." He knows Clark can hear him say it.
"I should go home," Clark whispers. Then he sits down in the chair.
Bruce knows he's not going anywhere. Neither of them will go. Not until she wakes up.
Not until she smiles. And says their names. And chides them for sitting up too long with no sleep and no shaves and nothing healthy to eat.
Not until she's alive again. Truly alive again.
Then he'll tell her. He'll take a chance.
Just give me the chance, he demands from a God he doesn't believe in, but suddenly wishes that he did.
"Just give us a chance."
He doesn't realize he's said it out loud until he sees Clark look over at him and smile.
"Not such an idiot, after all," his friend says.
"I guess not."
They sit in silence, then, listening to the ping-pinging of the monitor as it keeps time with their ragged hearts.