Trine by Djinn

The island comes back to life after an afternoon rain storm, steam rising off the ground, off trees and vines, and even off Diana's boots as she walks through the wooded area to get to the clearing her mother loved best. She makes no sound as she goes; animals that would come to her if they knew she was there do not even mark her passage. She first learned to move so silently under her mother's tutelage and at the hands of other Amazons--teachers and treasured mentors. During her time in man's world, she has honed this ability to walk softly, to leave no sign of her passage and not advertise her advance. It has saved her life more than once.

She is not sure, anymore, if that is a good thing.

When she left the island, life was very simple. There was good and there was evil. And she was good. She was pure. She was the avatar of peace. Of truth. Of Athena's wisdom and honor.

Now...now she is not sure what she is. She is Athena's champion. She is Wonder Woman. But those things no longer mean what they once did. She can live with what she has become--and what her goddess has become--but she is not sure the world welcomes her anymore. At least, not man's world. This world--her mother's world--seems to have no problems with her evolution.

She passes two birds on a low branch, their heads nestled softly. They seem to be mates. Lovers. Sweethearts. She once thought she knew what that meant, once thought she understood love. But the men she loved turned their backs on her. Even if they still fight at her side.

She makes it to the clearing, notes that it has grown less clear in her absence. It has been a long time since she came here, a long time since she beat back the jungle and let the sun shine in. She has to work hard, has to work up a sweat to put things back as they were. She uses no tools, only her hands.

Grabbing a vine, she twists. It cracks. Cracks like bone. Like the bones in the neck of the man who would have killed everything she loved. Who nearly did it anyway, through his death.

The man she killed. There was a time, when she would not have killed. When she thought killing was unimaginably wrong. At any time, for any reason.

Would the old Diana have killed Medusa? Would the old Diana have fought OMACs through this war--saving many, yes, but not all. Not all.

She imagines what her mother would say: "Was it the only way, Diana?" Her mother always stressed that there were possibilities. No situation had only one answer.

Diana thinks about this. "Yes. It was the only way."

She imagines her mother frowning. This would not be the right answer.

"Was dying your only choice, Mother?" she asks a mother who is no longer there to judge her. But Diana knows that with the choices her mother faced, there had only been one choice. Sacrifice.

Her mother died to save others.

Max Lord thought he was dying to save others.

Sacrifice--Diana hates sacrifice.

"What are you doing?" A harsh voice. One of a woman surprised to see her back.

"Artemis, this is private time."

Her sometimes-friend, sometimes-nemesis strolls into the clearing, red hair trailing behind her like a living thing. "Why are you wasting energy clearing this spot?"

"Why are you wasting energy talking to me about clearing this spot?"

Artemis does not react, just stands, watching Diana work. "Your men were here."

Diana ignores her. She has no men.

"The super one told me you were back. And where to find you."

Diana's hand slips on the vine she is trying to rip; her skin burns as it slides along the rough surface. "Kal? Here?"

"And the other one. The bat."

Diana looks around, as if they are somewhere near. As if she will see them waiting. Kal, with his tender glances. Bruce, with his almost angry glances that probably would be tender--if only he could let go.

"They were here. They no longer are."

"What did they want?"

"For me to tell you to come to the Fortress. As soon as you were done with whatever it is you're doing." Artemis does not look happy to be Kal and Bruce's messenger girl. Then again, she never looks happy. "You know where 'the Fortress' is?"

"Yes."

"Don't go." Artemis looks angrier than normal.

Turning to clear more vines, Diana is shocked to feel Artemis grab her, pulling her close, Diana's back to her chest.

Nestling her chin against Diana's neck, she whispers, "They judged you, Diana. They judged you, and we never did. After all this, can't you choose us? Can't you come home?" She rubs Diana's arms. Up, down, then up again before she stops, her hands tightening for a moment. Until she pushes Diana away.

Turning, Diana can see that Artemis has an expression of nearly equal parts longing and anger. As if she cannot believe she has just caressed a woman who irritates her. A woman she is probably not even sure she likes.

"Why now?"

"Is there a better time? Will there be? Because you're never here." Artemis spits the words out as if she is challenging Diana to a duel to the death.

"This isn't my place--"

"--Why not? What does that other place give you but pain?" She shakes her head. "And them--your men. The men who call you back now like a faithful dog. A dog they betrayed." She turns, strides away, into the woods. "You will choose them no matter what I say or do, so I will not waste any more of our time. Forget this ever happened, Diana; I plan to." Artemis disappears into the trees.

Choose them? There is no them for her to choose. Kal and Bruce deserted her just before they deserted each other. There is nothing left of the Trinity the others used to have such fun speculating about. There is nothing left of the love she used to have for the two men who broke her heart. The two men she spent the war fighting beside, knowing all along they abhorred her for what she had done.

What she had done for them.

For love.

Her mother would laugh. She would tell her that loving men is bad business--even if she loved her share, too. Maybe it is a family failing? Can they never be happy with women? Can they never settle down like good Amazons, content with the love of a sister, of an equal?

"Don't go," she can imagine her mother saying, but Hippolyta would know that Diana will not stay. That she can't stay. Even though there is a chance that the men she once loved are asking her to the Fortress to make her answer for her crime--as they call what she has done for them--she must go to them.

She is covered with sweat, with the sticky residue of vines and creepers. She does not care. Let them see her like this. A warrior's body after honest labor that has nothing to do with war. A woman capable both of brutality and this simple work.

She is ready to fly, but at the last minute she decides she cannot go to them dirty. They will read too much into that. As if she has lost the will to keep herself up. She will seem to them like a prisoner on a chain gang, forced into sweaty, hard labor. She will not give them that.

She takes the time to clean up before flying to the Fortress.

-----------------

Bruce limps slightly as he walks behind Clark. He'd like to pretend he's not injured, but they both know he is. Clark can see with a glance just how much damage he took--his leg the most recent victim--during the war with the OMACs.

"She won't come," Clark says, turning into his living space. "She's too stubborn."

"She'll come. She's too curious to stay away."

"She hates us."

"Possibly. But she'll still be curious." Bruce sits down gratefully, envying the way Clark is not affected. He has injuries--but they're of the emotional kind, not the physical. His body is still super, still fit and invulnerable. Unmarked skin while Bruce's bears a hundred more scars.

"I was sorry about Sasha." Clark turns to look at him as he mixes up an energy drink. Handing one to Bruce, he sighs. "She fought bravely. She was still human under that tech."

"She was more human than any of us." Bruce glares at Clark.

"Just drink that and save the stern looks for Diana."

Draining the glass, Bruce hands it back. "You don't know how I'm going to act with her."

"A stern look from you is sort of like a smile from Santa--a given."

Bruce sighs; Clark is no doubt right.

Clark looks toward the main entrance, head cocked as if he hears something. "She's here."

Having to take Clark's word for it, Bruce can feel his heart beating faster. She's been in strange moods lately. Has not shared anything with him, confided no secrets, admitted no desires. He does not know what bothers him more--that she may not have them anymore, or that she does but will never share them with him again.

"So. A jury of two?" She has arrived in a hell of a mood. Her gray eyes never sparkle the way her blue ones did. But they glare with even more effectiveness. Gray is a good color for somber dislike.

"We're not your jury," Bruce says.

"So you just plan to deliver me to one?" She looks ready to fight, but then Bruce sees something in her eyes--something that seems like defeat. It is gone quickly, leaving only defiance.

God, she's magnificent.

"Sit," he says, trying to be gracious, gesturing to a chair just close enough to be comfortable for all of them.

"I'm not your damn dog." Her reaction is odd, and she looks almost embarrassed. "I don't want to sit."

"Stand, then."

Clark has his back to them, is pouring things into a bowl. Turning, he holds it out to her, and she frowns deeply, as if she cannot figure out what his game is.

"They're all your favorites," Clark says, his voice very tender. It is a voice Bruce has not heard him use with Diana since she killed for him. "I found salmon berries. And blackcaps."

For a moment she stares at the bowls of berries, then she reaches for it. "And huckleberries?"

Clark nods. "Remember that time...?"

She laughs, and Bruce suddenly wishes he had berry stories to share with her.

Her amusement is short lived. She doesn't take any of Clark's offering, pushes the bowl back to him. "I didn't come here to eat."

"Why did you come, Diana?" Bruce wants to take control of this.

"Because I felt like it." Her look is bland, as if daring him to read anything into it.

"Why?"

"Why not?"

He feels as if they are back on the watchtower sparring. Kick, a block, another kick, again blocked.

She goes on the offensive. "Why did you ask me?"

"I didn't. Clark did." Which is only partially true. Clark talked to Artemis, but it was Bruce who put the idea in his head to invite Diana to the Fortress. Not that he needed much convincing. Clark has been suffering without her--something inside him dying as if she really is his soul mate and necessary to his survival. Bruce hates that thought. "I'm just...here." It is a hard truth. He sees her blink in surprise and, he thinks, hurt.

"How honest of you." She turns to Clark. "Is this some kind of good superhero, bad superhero routine? You woo me with berries, and he pisses me off by just being himself?"

Clark smiles, but it is a half-assed expression. "I don't know. Is it working?"

"No, and you know why?" She walks to a chair, sits regally, perched on the edge as if she will have somewhere else to be at any moment. "It won't work because no matter how bad a superhero Bruce pretends to be, I'll still be worse." She looks over at him. "Won't I, Bruce?"

"You want me to judge you?"

"Just answer the question," Clark says, and the firmness in his voice surprises Bruce.

"Yes. You'll be worse." He looks down. "Or maybe you'll just be the least driven by doubts and self-loathing for what we've all become."

She is staring at him as if he is a particularly interesting specimen in a petrie dish. "If you hate yourself so much, Bruce, why did you fight so hard to survive the war?"

He meets her eyes, doesn't blink, doesn't look away. "If you were going to survive, I had to."

"Eloquent. Or maybe just your sense of competition coming out? I live, you live--it's as simple as that. I'm not sure whether to be touched or not." She turned to Clark. "What do you think, Kal? Should I be touched?"

"It's not for me to tell you that." Clark sits down heavily in the chair next to her. "Our friendship is in tatters."

She laughs, and it is the bitter sound of a rock crashing through glass, of steel across a jugular. Of a woman who hates them both. "Tatters? Tatters can be repaired. We can't." She gets up, walks over to the berries. Picking out a coral-colored berry, she pops it into her mouth, her eyes never leaving Clark's as she chews delicately. "Funny. I remember it being sweeter."

Then she turns and walks out.

Clark takes a deep breath. "I think that went well."

Bruce just stares at him.

"She didn't break any furniture."

"Is that our criteria for success?"

"Sometimes." Clark gets up, walking to the berries.

"Will you take those home to Lois?" Bruce sees something cross over Clark's face, finally realizes it is guilt. "Those don't belong to her, do they? They belong to Diana."

"Yes. To Diana."

"How much of you belongs to Diana, Clark?"

"How much of you does?" Clark closes his eyes for a moment, seems to be inhaling--can he smell Diana? "She'll be back."

"No, Clark. She won't."

Clark just smiles, eyes still closed. "Yes. She will. I know it."

Now he is the one with faith.

-----------------------

Diana watches as Bruce paces the Batcave. It's not something she's seen him do, not in the almost frenetic way he's crossing the floor, back and forth, as if he is seeking answers through the repetition.

She leaps down lightly from the ledge she stopped on. She has snuck into his lair. She's never done that successfully before. He's off his game. Or maybe he has no game anymore.

"I came to you first," she says.

He whirls, clearly surprised that anyone is there. He has the cowl pushed back, and she can see the many scars on his neck from the war. He has a long one down his cheek, too. He'll have to get that fixed if he ever wants to be Bruce Wayne again. She wonders why he hasn't had it fixed already, but then lets it go; it's irrelevant.

"I came to you first," she says. "And you threw me out."

His mouth tightens, lips pressing together in a firm, white line. But he doesn't disagree with her when he finally loosens them to speak. He says only, "Yes."

"No mercy."

"You're right."

"No forgiveness."

"No. None."

She laughs, can feel bitterness roiling up inside her like a serpent slinking up her body. "I should never have come to you. Then...or now."

"I forgive you, now."

She stares hard at him. "I don't need your forgiveness."

"But you want it."

And she hates him at that moment because he is right. She wants it. Turning away so he cannot read her anymore, she starts to walk into the shadows that lead to the way out.

"I need your forgiveness, Diana."

"You don't need anything, Bruce. That's your problem."

"I want your forgiveness, then." He is coming up behind her, moving fast and she can hear a limp in his stride even at that speed. He is human, after all. He took so much damage in the war--and at Kal's hand before that--he should probably be dead.

It is no doubt a testament to his will that he is not. Or to his control. Or his sheer stubbornness.

Or his paranoia--who will watch the metas if he is gone?

Turning, she waits for him to reach her. He wears a look like Artemis did. Longing and anger melded into one expression.

"You desire me?"

"Yes." He is a man of few words, tonight. Does he think that will win her?

"I loved you," she says, backing away.

"Did you? Do you still?" His look is lost.

"You want me? In your bed?"

"Yes. God, yes, Diana."

"You never did before."

"I always wanted it. I just couldn't--"

"--Wouldn't."

He looks down, finally whispering. "All right. I wouldn't let you in."

"And you expect me to fall into your arms now?"

"Into my arms or even just back into my life. Diana, I miss you. I miss the ease we had."

I do, too, Bruce." She touches his cheek, her hand cupping his face, feeling his warmth. She brings her other hand up. "This is how I held his head, Bruce."

Something changes in his expression as she moves her hands ever so slightly, twisting his head only enough to demonstrate that she could do it all the way if she wanted to.

"Can you see it? Me in your bed. You on top of me, thrusting into me. Together. Finally, together. Just you, me...and the ghost of Max Lord."

"Don't forget Clark. He'd be there too in some fashion." He is angry at her, jerks away from her hands.

"I think you could get past Kal. It's Lord that's unforgivable." She leans in, hands tight on his upper arms, forcing him to hold still. "Is it because you feel guilty? Do you think I did it for you, and that's why you can't let it go?"

"I think you did it for Clark." He tries to pull away.

"He offered me berries, Bruce. Have you nothing to give me?"

His anger grows, she can read it in his expression, can practically taste it in the air between them. She holds him tighter, but he surprises her. He quits trying to get away, pulls her closer instead. And kisses her. The way he did the few other times he's kissed her.

She doesn't fight him, even returns the kiss. But as soon as he lets go of her, she gives him a smile. It is a cruel smile, and she knows it. The old Diana would never do this. The old Diana would love him.

"I have to go now." She pushes him away, harder than she means to. Hard into the console.

"Don't."

"Have to." She gives him the smile again, sees something else fill his eyes.

Hurt. She has hurt him.

"You're going to Clark, aren't you?"

"He and I have unfinished business, too." With a last look at him, she flies away.

------------

Clark sits in the Fortress, waiting for Diana to come back. Lois has called, but only once. She knows, he thinks. She knows that he is trying to win back this other woman and it should probably scare him that his wife no longer seems to care.

"Call when you're done," was all she said before she hung up on him.

When he's done with what? With Diana? He may never be done with Diana.

He can hear Diana opening the door to the Fortress. The security systems know her. They let her in without even notifying him. They wouldn't do that with Lois--oh, they'd let her in, but they'd sound an alert. Way up in dog range, but he'd hear it. Not that he'd be doing anything that required a warning that his wife was coming into the Fortress. Not that his wife could even get here on her own.

Diana walks in. She got here all on her own. No Man of Steel needed for her.

Has Diana ever needed him?

"I saved the berries," he says by way of a greeting.

"To hell with your damn berries."

He waits for her to sit down across from him before he says, "Your language has deteriorated since we first met."

He thinks she is tempted to show him just how much it has deteriorated, but then she gets up and walks into the small kitchen.

"They're in the fridge."

She doesn't reply, but he can hear her taking the bowl out, can hear her as she puts one of them in her mouth. He can't tell what kind it is, not by sound. But he inhales deeply, and smiles as the aroma of crushed blackcap fills his nose. Her scent fills his nose, too. And he is aroused by it.

But then, he always has been.

She walks back to the chair, sitting and cradling the bowl in her lap as she eats, not looking up at him. She seems like a little kid, working her way through the berries she likes, ignoring someone she doesn't. Does he not exist if she doesn't look at him?

The bowl is empty and she stares down at it. Then she looks up at him, anger visibly flaring as she throws the bowl at him. He deflects it easily.

"I hate you," she says, her voice so low that he would not hear her if he did not have super hearing.

"I hate you, too."

"Well, that's settled. Thanks for the berries." She is up, walking away from him.

And he knows that if he lets her go, she will never, ever come back. He flies, tackling her when he only means to stop her. She hits the ground, and they both slide into the wall. Reaching for her hands, he feels himself being launched over her, landing hard on his back. She is there, on top of him, hands reaching for his face.

The way she did with Max Lord.

Her look changes, and for a moment, he thinks he sees tears in her eyes. "I knew you'd think of him," she yells at him, getting off and running down the hallway toward the entrance.

"Lock doors." He has never felt so unnaturally calm. He knows what he has to do, doesn't hesitate as she begins to pummel the hell out of his reinforced doors.

"Damn you, Kal," she says as he gets close.

He moves so he is in the way, her fist coming down on his face.

It hurts.

She pulls back, shock on her face. "I didn't mean to..."

"I know." He takes her hand, puts it over his chin where it throbs from her punch. Then he moves it back, and down, to his neck.

She begins to shake.

He grabs her other hand, putting it on the other side of his head, where her remembers her holding it on Lord's neck. "Do it."

She is crying now. He knows she doesn't want forgiveness, but she never asked for this cruelty, either. He is hurting her. But he knows he has to do it.

She fights him, twisting frantically, trying to get away, trying to pull her hands away.

It takes all his strength to hold on to her. "Do it!"

Their eyes meet.

She falls against him. "I'm not a murderer."

Letting go of her hands, he pulls her into his arms. "I know you're not. You've killed, but you haven't murdered. It just took me a long time to see the distinction."

She is collapsed against him, and he picks her up, carrying her to his bedroom. She looks at where they are, her eyes resigned, no smile on the lips that reach for his.

"No."

"No?"

"Just...this." He sets her down on the bed and lies down next to her, pulling her close. Close like he should have held her when she needed him. When she killed to set him free--and to save everyone he loved.

He expects her to cry, but he is the one who has tears in his eyes. "I love you. I'm sorry."

She cuddles close, holding him, trembling in his arms. "Kal, I don't know what I feel, anymore. I don't know what I want."

"I know." He kisses her forehead, feels her wipe away the few tears he's let spill down his cheeks. "We've hurt each other. All three of us..."

She nods, her soft, wonderful hair rubbing against his chin.

"Bruce is hurting, too," he says.

"He's hurting more now."

He pulls away, studying her. "Did you two have a fight?"

"Not the way we just did." She laughs, a bitter puff of air. "He's not strong enough to hurt me the way you can, yet he always hurts me more."

"Maybe you love him more? Or want him more?" Clark hates saying these things. He has the woman he loves in his arms. He could make love to her--he wants to make love to her. But instead he's talking about Bruce and how she feels about him.

"Not more. Not less. Just...different."

He understands that. It would sum up how he feels about Lois. But there is such a thing as choice, and he made his when he said "I do." And he thinks Diana has made hers as well.

Diana looks up at him. "What should I do?"

"Go to him." The words leave scars. Scars that if anyone could see them would rival those that pepper Bruce's body. Clark does not want to send the woman he loves to a man who told him he was more inspiring dead than alive--but he's going to. "Go to him, Diana."

"What about us?" She is staring at him, her eyes gentle in a way they've not been since he beat up Bruce.

Her lips are so softly inviting that he has to kiss her. A deep kiss. Mouth opening to hers. Tongues twining. He's a man. Only human--or so he likes to tell himself.

They kiss for a very long time. Then he lets her go.

"I've missed you," she says, her voice breaking in a way that touches his heart almost more than the kiss they just shared did.

"I love you. Our time will come." It is a hard fact for those others they love. That their time will come--provided they both survive. But they survived the OMACs. And they've already died once.

"Yes." She touches his face, stroking back his hair. "Thank you for the berries."

He nods, letting her go so she can slide off the bed.

She stares down at him. "I am a killer."

"I know, and I'm not one. It's a difference we'll learn to live with."

Her smile is tentative, but it is real. "I'll see you later, Kal."

Once he is sure she is gone, he gets up and straightens up, picking up pieces of crockery from her bowl attack. Then he flies home.

Lois is sitting in the living room, the lights off, when he comes in. He can tell by her breathing that she is not sleeping. "You're done with what you had to do?" she asks.

"I am." He does not use his super vision to see her. He pretends he is a normal human, finding his way by memory to the sofa. "I'm sorry."

"You have something to be sorry for?"

"Nothing new."

She laughs. A sadly wise laugh. "I'm not sure that's comforting, Smallville." But she moves down the sofa to cuddle in his arms. "I can smell her on you."

"No, you can't."

"I can't because my sense of smell isn't that good? Or because she wasn't in your arms?"

He stops to ponder the answer to the question. She does not usually prod this way.

Deciding to be honest, he says, "The first one."

To his surprise, she relaxes. "So you two have finally made up? I can quit worrying that you'll out-morose Bruce and go back to worrying about whether you're screwing her?"

He's not sure what the right answer is to that question. "Yes?"

"Good." She pulls him to her and kisses him. It's a great kiss.

"Lois, do you think I was more inspiring when I was dead?" He's never told her that Bruce said that to him. Or that, by her silence, Diana agreed.

"Who the hell said that? I'll kill them--"

He kisses her again to shut off the rant.

"Clark, who said that?"

"Just something I overheard." He nuzzles her neck, the familiar smell of her making him happy.

"They're just jealous of Superman," she says, pulling him down to her.

For a moment, he is afraid he will think of Diana as he's making love to Lois. But only for a moment, and then he is lost in his wife. When they finally lie quietly afterwards, he considers his ability to compartmentalize his love. It's probably not a good thing. But it's life as he knows it. It's normal.

And it feels great.

Until he thinks of what Bruce and Diana are probably doing right about now. Thinking about that feels a long way from great.

--------------

Bruce stands at the windows in his study, staring out at the rain. It's been pouring all day, ever since Clark flew him back from the Fortress. Ever since Diana popped in on him to show him that she will never forgive him.

"Master Bruce?"

"I said no dinner tonight."

"Yes, sir. You have a visitor."

Bruce turns, sees Diana standing behind Alfred. She is not in her uniform.

"Hello," he blurts, feeling like a teenager again. That gawky age when girls are suddenly more than just slightly taller playmates.

"Hello." Her voice is different. Softer.

Alfred moves aside so she can enter, then shuts the door, leaving them alone.

"Did you get your business with Clark done?"

She doesn't answer him. Just walks over to him, staring out at the rain. He turns, so they can share the view, if nothing else.

"What I do with Kal is my business."

"Fine." He wants to walk out, to leave her alone with her dammed private thing with Clark.

"What I do with you is our business." She turns, pulling him close, her hands on the same spot she held earlier, when she taunted him. But this time, she kisses him. And there's nothing cruel in her kiss.

"Okay, that's confusing."

She smiles--her old, brilliant smile--and it is the most beautiful thing he's seen since this whole damned mess started. "You're a smart man, Bruce. I'm sure you'll figure it out."

He thinks maybe he should ask for a little clarification on the whole private Clark thing, but she's pulled him back into her arms and he's finding it hard to remember why that matters.

When she finally pulls away, he has to lean against the window to get his bearings. She has left him shaken. He can't tell if he has left her shaken or not.

She walks across the room to the far corner as if they are fighters sent apart in the ring. She sighs. "You hurt me."

"I know. I'm sorry."

"You hurt Kal, too."

"Well, he started it." It's a stupid thing to say, but to his surprise, it makes her smile again.

Then her smile fades, and she is looking at him with that stern, royally disappointed expression he hates. "No, Bruce, you started it. You with your protocols and your paranoia."

"The mindwipe--"

"--I'm not saying you were wrong. But don't try to deflect the blame. You started this."

"Fine. I started this." He wishes they were still kissing. It was easier just to kiss. "Are we going to get past this, Diana?"

"No."

"Then why are you here?" She has him so off balance he feels as if the room is spinning.

"Bruce, this isn't something you get past. This is something you work through." She takes a step toward him. "It's hard. And it'll hurt. And we'll be angry at each other. We are now, even if there are other feelings--better feelings--inside us, too."

"I hate you," he says, the words coming from somewhere so deep inside him that he almost feels pain that he's wrenched them out.

Again she surprises him with a smile. "That's good. Honesty. That's good." But underneath the smile, she shows him hurt. And anger. "I hate you, too."

He's not so sure the honesty thing is working for him.

"I hate," she says before he can tell her to stop unloading the truth, "that you hold me to such impossibly high standards. I'm a woman. And I'm human."

"No, you're not."

Her face goes blank. He has stabbed her to the quick with that one. But no meta is really human, anymore. Not once they've flown or burst into flame or turned invisible.

"Fine. I'm a clay statue. And once it's fired, clay can break."

"That's not what I meant."

"What did you mean?" There is raw anger in her voice; anger he thinks she is using to hide the deep hurt he is causing her. She looks at him, and there are tears in her eyes.

Tears that are his undoing. Words--words he cannot believe are his--start to pour out of him. "I meant that you're different. You weren't supposed to be like us. You were this pure, beautiful, evanescent spirit when you first came to us. You were everything good and true. I always knew, when things here got too dark, to look to you. You were bright. You were untarnished. But we dragged you down. We dragged you into our mud and our blood and when you came back out..." He can't say it. He won't say it.

"I came out a killer." She closes her eyes.

"Yes." He moves closer, afraid he has said too much, laid himself open too much. Afraid that when she sees the gaping chasm that is his heart, she will want to run and never, ever come back. "I never wanted you to have to be that. I never wanted you to be like us."

"But I am like you. This is what I've chosen to be. My life, the paths I've taken, they've all added up to this moment. And to that one moment with Max Lord. The one that haunts you."

"Doesn't it haunt you?"

"No. What haunts me is that you think it should."

He realizes she is not including Clark in this. "Clark is all right with this now? He's accepted?"

She nods. "As much as he needs to."

He can read in her eyes what she is not saying. That Clark will have years to process this, to accept this. Bruce's time to accept is now. Or never.

"Did you make love to him?" The question is not the one he should be asking.

"No."

"Would you tell me if you had?"

"I wouldn't be here, if I had. You know me, Bruce. I haven't changed that much." She is angry again.

Why does he always make her so angry? Why can't he just pick berries for her and accept that she's killed...and see her smile again.

When he doesn't say anything, she turns, walking toward the door.

"I love you." He considers taping his mouth shut. Things are escaping it that should stay inside him.

She stops walking.

"I'm not good at working through things, Diana. I feel something that I don't like, and I make plans and protocols and other paranoid things you hate, all so I never have to feel that way again. I jump over it. I get past it. I don't dwell on it."

"Fine, Bruce." She has not turned around. "Make some protocol that gets you over me. Because you can't just leap over what's happened. We work it out or we forget it." She is standing so still she might be a statue.

"Do you love me?" The voice that carries these words is the voice of the six-year-old child who saw his parents gunned down. A six-year-old who, from that moment on, closed himself off. Afraid to love. Afraid to reach out. Afraid to ask if anyone still loved him.

She turns. "I do." She is crying, and he hates that she is crying. He hates that he is the kind of man who probably makes her cry more than her makes her laugh.

"Don't," he says, shaking his head. "Don't love me." He wants to tell her to run away from him. To get as far from Wayne Manor as she can. But he can't tell her that because he's crossed the study in a rush, grabbed her up in his arms, and is kissing her again.

And she's kissing him and that's a good thing because if her lips are on his, he can't say anything stupid or hurtful that will make her run away. She is pulling his clothes off while she kisses him, so he pulls hers off, too.

"I do love you," she murmurs as they make love for the first time. Connecting as they've both wanted to for so long. As they might have done a long time ago if he hadn't been too afraid to let happen--and maybe if she hadn't been, as well.

"I've missed you. I've missed you so much." He can't get enough of her. Feels as if he is more than human the way he needs her to be with him. She is everything he's ever wanted. And her eyes don't shine with hurt, anymore, when she looks at him.

They shine with love. And he hopes his do, too. He hopes that she can tell how much he cares for her. How much she means to him. How much she still stands for--even if she doesn't want him to make her an icon. He does; he will; he can't help himself.

She has always been a goddess to him. Now she's his goddess, sleeping in his arms on the plush carpet that almost makes the floor a tolerable bed. She rolls, naked, curling into him. Her skin against his, holding him tightly as if she is afraid they will lose each other again.

He doesn't plan to ever lose her. He will work through what has happened. He will work through what comes. For her, he will do it.

FIN