Thank you Djinn, Heybats, and Athena Phoenix for the beta.
NOTE (Please read to better follow the story): I wanted to go back in DC time to tell a story when our heroes were young and somewhat naïve. Therefore, in this story, Dick Grayson is ten years old and is Batman's partner Robin. Wonder Woman is still fairly new to Patriarch's world and its customs, having only been here for a few short months. I'm using mostly the 'Trinity' universe, but will also implement some story elements of Gotham Knights and Wonder woman Volume 1 Issue 1.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own much, but if I owned any of these characters, I'd probably own a heck of a lot more.
By DC Lady
It was dark and cold. Once, she'd been impervious to both, now she shivered as she walked beneath the dim and broken street lights that cast uneven shadows in her path. She'd taken the only shelter that she could afford after leaving the embassy -- after her duties as Themysciran Ambassador were taken from her. Now she walked these filthy streets trying to clear her mind. Planning her new life.
A life away from Themyscira.
Her breath hitched as unbidden memories of home flooded through her. She exhaled in a puff of white as the cold air met the warmth of her breath, and the realization of her plight took hold. She missed her home -- her mother, her sisters. But, in her short time in man's world, she'd discovered a sense of purpose that had eluded her on the small island. She'd always been loved, but now she was needed. She had a destiny to fulfill, whether the gods approved or not. She'd won her title. She was Wonder Woman.
She slowed to a stop, remembering when she'd first arrived in Patriarch's world as Wonder Woman, investigating a nuclear submarine explosion near Themyscira. She'd falsely accused Superman of carelessness, and recalled her relief when he explained that he hadn't been the cause of the explosion. She was instantly smitten -- captivated by his passion for justice which rivaled her own.
But now, Diana began to doubt her decision to remain in this world -- doubted her motivations when she refused the gods' command to return home. They'd felt that she'd lost her way and was settling into the customs and attractions of this world.
But, had she lost her way? Had she let her personal feelings guide her mission? She touched the lasso that remained steady under her coat. Would it even work for her now that she was devoid of the blessings of her Amazon heritage -- searching for deceit in the secret corners of her heart?
She sighed, resuming her walk. Listening as her heels clicked on the cold, damp pavement, echoing in the silence of the night. It was late and she was alone. She'd never been this vulnerable. Closing her coat tightly against the winter cold, she trembled in discomfort at the elements -- a constant reminder of what she now was: a mortal woman.
The hint of movement ...
The gods had taken away her power, but her instincts had not diminished. She was a trained warrior -- trained from birth. So, when the uneasiness of the night hit her gut with a familiar dread -- a dread she'd often felt before battle -- she was immediately on the defensive. Danger was within reach, and she braced herself as the sound of footfalls echoed behind her.
Calling upon her Amazonian training, she decided the element of surprise would be her weapon. As the yet unseen assailant closed in on her proximity, she abruptly stopped and turned -- obtaining a much needed advantage as the thug took an instinctive step backwards.
He was a big man, whose attire told a story of drugs and desperation, and her anger boiled at his willingness to take advantage of the helpless for his own selfish needs. She also smirked inwardly at his pending doom -- she wasn't helpless.
"What do you want?" she asked.
"I ain't lookin' for no trouble." His gaze shifted from side to side. "Just hand over the cash and no body gets hurt." When he seemed certain that they were alone, he pulled out a knife and held it up in warning.
"Is that supposed to scare me? Or does possessing such a weapon make you feel like a man? A man who preys upon helpless women in the middle of the night?"
The thug was nervous.
"Just hand over the cash, bitch. I ain't got time for no naggin'."
She took a step toward him and grinned, like a hungry tiger circling her prey. "Then, let us put an end to this."
Grabbing his wrist with both hands, she cracked it upon her knee, causing the knife to fly from his grasp and hitting the cold pavement with a metallic ping. He threw awkward and clumsy punches, trying to make contact with any part of her body. Rolling onto the ground, she escaped the impending blows, springing again to her feet. Her agility seemed to surprise him, and she used his hesitation to knee him in the groin, and then followed with a swift kick to his face as he doubled over in pain -- sending him backwards onto the grimy pavement.
For a moment, all was still.
With hands on her hips, she inhaled deeply, trying to catch her breath. She wasn't used to the exertion level of her now mortal body, and was distracted -- and thus surprised when he grabbed her from behind.
He pulled her tightly to his broad chest, and pressed the knife against the flesh of her neck. "Bitch! Don't move or I'll cut you good," he said, riffling through her purse with his free hand.
"I don't think so." The thug froze when a form in red and blue hovered in front of him.
Dropping the knife, the thug stumbled away, only to find Superman now blocking his escape. He lowered his head, apparently trying to bowl over Superman, but only managed to knock himself unconscious. Ripping a parking meter out of the sidewalk, Superman used it to secure the attacker to a lamppost. He then turned to Diana, who was busily rubbing her arms trying to stimulate much needed warmth through her limbs.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
She was ashamed. Ashamed that she needed him to rescue her from a common thug. She was Wonder Woman. She belonged in the sky at his side, not here in the gutters requiring his aid.
"What are you doing here?" Her voice trembled slightly from the cold.
He unfastened his cape, placing it around her shoulders. "I could ask you the same thing. I went to your quarters at the Embassy after you called. They said you'd left." When she wouldn't meet his gaze, he lifted her chin with his hand. "I've been looking for you for hours. They said you remained in the city, but didn't leave a forwarding address."
"The gods have rescinded my ambassadorship. I no longer hold an official title to remain at the Embassy. I left this morning."
"When you called, you told me that you'd lost your powers. What exactly happened?"
She frowned. "The gods felt that my presence here in man's world was not garnering the attention they desired for themselves, and became jealous when my name became known above theirs. So, they called me home. When I refused, my powers were stripped from me."
"Why would they do such a thing? Can't they see the good you've done?"
She smiled sadly. "Their goal was to obtain this world's adoration. My accomplishments meant very little to them."
"I see," he said.
The silence was awkward.
He took in the surroundings, and Diana could tell that he was using his enhanced vision to see the goings on in this less than savory neighborhood. He frowned as he rubbed his brow. "Diana, do you have a place to stay?"
"Yes, Kal. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself."
He glanced over at the thug secured to the lamppost. "I can see that."
Her face grew hot in a mixture of embarrassment and anger. "I would have obtained the advantage. I merely underestimated my new level of strength. I will learn to adjust my technique."
He folded his arms across his chest. "How?"
"What?" His question took her by surprise.
"How will you learn to adjust?"
"I'm not a novice, Kal. I'm a warrior, trained for generations by great warriors."
His tone softened. "You're a highly skilled fighter, Diana. I'm not questioning your abilities. But you need help. Someone who can teach you to use the skills you've acquired with the level of strength you now have."
She slipped the cape from her shoulders, handing it back to him. "I can take care of myself." She turned to leave.
He put his hand to her shoulder and her resolve faltered at the warmth and caring she felt from a simple touch. "Diana, you can't do this alone."
She turned to face him. "I have no other choice. The gods have abandoned me. I will not, in turn, abandon my mission."
"I'm not asking you to abandon your mission. Just let us help you."
Her brow creased in confusion. "Us?"
"Myself… Bruce. If you let us."
She laughed. "Bruce? Bruce doesn't approve of me."
"He's never said that, Diana. Bruce admires you."
"He can barely stay in the same room with me for more than a few minutes at a time, Kal. How can you say that he admires me?"
"Well, Bruce isn't much of a people person. It's his charm, really."
She raised her eyebrow in amusement. "Really?"
He grinned sheepishly. "Well, no," he said. "But I know he cares, he just doesn't like to show it." He saw her skepticism and continued, "Why else would he fight with us?"
"And just what can he teach me that I don't already know?"
"A lot, actually. I'm still learning a thing or two from him myself. Setting aside the fact that he's a brilliant detective, he knows every martial arts technique there is and then some. And he's not super powered." Superman fastened the cape to his shoulders. "Let's face it, Diana. Do you know of anyone else who can hold his own against super--powered beings?"
She shook her head. "He'd never agree to help."
"I'll take care of it. But first things first. Where are you staying?"
"Up the street." She nodded toward the trash--lined street to her less than favorable hotel.
He sighed. "You can't stay there. It's not safe."
She lowered her head. She felt like a child, lost and alone, dependent upon the kindness of friends and strangers.
"I have no place else to go," she whispered hoarsely.
"Come on. Let's go and get your things. We'll call the police and let them know of our friend, here, then I'll take you to a hotel uptown." He held a hand up and stopped her protests. "At least until we can sort through this."
"You don't have to do this," she said.
"You're not alone, Diana. We'll figure something out."
Small shadows flittered across the expanse of the cave as the bats stirred from their perches, signaling his presence. Then Clark noticed a larger shadow that loomed in the distance, sitting quietly on his throne in the dark. He'd never understood the calmness the dark invoked in Bruce -- a darkness that Bruce had embraced.
"What are you doing here, Superman?" It was Bruce Wayne who spoke, sitting at the massive Cray computer, dressed in a tuxedo with his tie pulled loose. Clark smirked, thinking that he'd never seen Bruce in the cave without the cape and cowl.
"Just getting back from a party?" Clark asked.
"I don't think you're here to inquire about my personal activities. What do you want?"
He sighed at Bruce's abrasive tone and flew to the computer platform to face him. "Are you always this rude to guests?"
"Only to uninvited ones."
Clark had learned to ignore Bruce's abrasive manner -- they were friends, of this he had no doubt. But, sometimes Bruce pushed the limits of his patience.
"I'll make this quick then -- she needs your help." He stood his ground, arms folded. Diana's survival in this world depended on Bruce's cooperation.
"Does my reputation reach as far as Metropolis?" He remained focused on his task as he spoke.
Clark could feel the heat rising in his face, both from embarrassment and frustration at Bruce's nonchalant attitude. "You know who and what I mean, Bruce."
Bruce swiveled his chair to face Clark, and steepled his fingers to his lips. "I don't see how I can be of help. I can't restore her powers. She should have gone home."
"Maybe. But she didn't. She wants to stay. Wants to make a difference."
Bruce laughed. Clark didn't think he'd ever heard Bruce laugh before. But he knew this laugh wasn't one he'd want to hear again.
"Just how does she intend to do that?" Bruce asked.
"You do it. Why do you think she can't?"
"Because she depends too much on her powers and her ties to her past."
"She knows she needs help. Who better to teach her, train her, than you?"
Bruce closed his eyes in apparent thought, then stood to face Clark. "Why don't you train her? I'm sure you'd both prefer that arrangement."
Clark's anger flared at the insinuation. "What are you implying?"
Bruce gave him a smug look before walking past him. "Don't be coy, Clark. It doesn't suit you."
Clark followed him -- he always seemed to be following this man. "Okay, I admit to an attraction. Who wouldn't be attracted to her -- she's Wonder Woman. But there's nothing else."
Bruce turned to face him at the foot of the stairs leading to the mansion. "Are you sure?"
"Does it really make a difference?" Clark asked. "Why are you suddenly interested in my love life, anyway?"
"Don't flatter yourself, Clark. If I'm to train her, there can be no outside influences, especially from you."
"And am I such a bad influence, Bruce? The only reason I don't train her is because, like her, I depend on my powers. There's nothing she can learn from me." Clark was angry and frustrated, and then more than just a little relieved when he realized that Bruce was setting the ground rules for training Diana.
"That's why you're a bad influence. You're a reminder of what she once was." Bruce began his climb to the Manor. "Have her come to the Manor tomorrow morning. I'll tell her of my decision then."
He disappeared behind the door, leaving Clark alone in the cave. Clark rose up into the air using his enhanced vision to navigate in the darkness, thinking that as confrontations with Bruce went, this wasn't as bad as he'd expected.
Diana shifted uncomfortably while waiting for Batman, and she wasn't certain why she was apprehensive. Kal had said that he'd spoken with him and was reasonably sure he would help her to achieve the skills necessary to continue her mission. But she was uncertain, and she didn't know if it was because Batman might not help her, or that he actually would.
She'd never before been trained by a man -- a mortal, no less. And although she'd considered Batman to be an important ally in her quest, she questioned his methods, and even his motives. He wasn't like Kal, whose abilities and methods were so much like her own. But she had to admit that she'd never taken the time to know Batman's motivations -- to know who he was beyond the mask.
She turned at the clearing of a throat to find Bruce's servant carrying a service tray of tea.
"Master Bruce will be down shortly, ma'am." He placed the tray on a small table and motioned her toward a seat. "I thought you might like some tea while you wait."
"Thank you…Alfred, isn't it?"
"Yes, miss." He poured the tea and handed her a cup, to which she promptly added a teaspoon of sugar.
"Are you Ba…Bruce's servant?" She wasn't used to calling Batman by his given name.
"Yes, madam. I am his butler. I've been in service to the Wayne family since before Master Bruce was born."
"That is a long time. They must treat you well." She smiled and took a sip of her tea.
"Yes, ma'am. That they did."
She looked up from over her cup, curious at his use of the past tense in his answer. But before she could raise her question, she noticed Bruce standing quietly at the door -- watching.
"Were you planning on greeting me, or do you prefer to watch?" She stood as he approached.
"You'd be surprised at what you can learn by watching," he replied.
"And what have you learned?"
His gaze fell upon her hair, which hung loosely at her shoulders, and for a moment he didn't move. Then he began to circle around her, inspecting her from head to toe -- methodically, almost mechanically in nature. Gauging her appearance.
"You have expensive tastes, Princess," he said, coming full circle to stand in front of her. He knew a thing or two about women's designer clothing, it seemed.
"I'm not sure if there's a compliment in there somewhere, but I thank you anyway," she said.
He reached out and took her hand in his, and she expected him to kiss it -- as countless men had done, mostly at boring social functions she'd attended as the Themysciran Ambassador. But she was surprised when he grabbed the sleeve of her blouse, tearing the delicate fabric up to her elbow, exposing Wonder Woman's silver bracelet.
He dropped her arm and turned away. "Lesson number one, Princess -- you are no longer Wonder Woman. Those bracelets will attract bullets from thugs looking to test your abilities. Unless you're as proficient in deflecting bullets as before, lose them."
"Why, you insolent man!"
"And you aren't royalty, either. Not anymore. So lose the regal snobbery."
She turned to leave. "I did not come here to be insulted. I thought you would help me."
"I am helping you."
"By offending me?"
He walked past her and stopped at the door. "If you do as I say, it just may keep you alive." He turned to Alfred before leaving. "Show her highness downstairs. We'll begin with the basics."
"Yes sir." Alfred turned to Diana. "This way, miss."
Diana had no intention of following Batman's bidding, but Kal's words echoed in her mind, "You need help, Diana."
She looked at Alfred, who stood waiting. She swallowed her pride and then followed his lead.
Bruce knew she wouldn't leave; her pride wouldn't allow it. Her devotion to Clark and his concern for her well being wouldn't allow it either. He wasn't certain which carried more weight. It didn't matter. If she was serious about continuing her role as Wonder Woman, then he would teach her how to survive. She was, after all, a talented warrior. She could be of use.
He heard the click of the door and watched as Alfred guided her to the foot of the stairs, where he waited.
"Here. You can change in there." He handed her a package and motioned toward a room to the right of the uniform vault.
"What's this?" she asked.
Without a word, she took the package and walked to the dressing room.
When Diana was out of earshot, Alfred stepped forward. "Sir, I fear her adjustment to the role that she must play will be a difficult one."
"It should be difficult. She has to know what's she's getting into."
"And do you know what you are 'getting into'?"
Bruce looked at Alfred, confused. "What are you getting at, old man?"
"She is a woman with very little of life's experiences to guide her. You must make the necessary adjustments in dealing with her."
"She is a warrior, Alfred. She was born to this life."
"She is first and foremost a woman -- a mortal woman. Something she has yet to confront." Alfred paused before continuing. "Her naiveté could lead to her downfall."
Bruce nodded his agreement. "I know that."
"Do you? There are some things that even you cannot teach her."
"What do you suggest? That I leave her to continue her path as Wonder Woman without the proper training?"
"No. But that you seek out help with those aspects of her training that are beyond you."
"Why, what a marvelous idea, Master Bruce. I shall call Dr. Thompkins and invite her to dinner this evening." Alfred began to climb back up the granite stairs to the Manor.
Bruce smirked at the retreating form of his butler. "Why? I'm sure you already made the necessary arrangements."
"Master Bruce, I am not a mind reader. How could I have possibly known that you would have derived such a brilliant notion?" Alfred asked as he stepped into the manor, closing the door behind him.
Bruce turned at the hint of movement behind him.
"Shall we begin?" Diana asked.
"No. I've arranged for someone to show you the basics. I'll become directly involved with the physical aspect of your training when your skills rise to a more proficient level."
Bruce studied her reaction. Her face hardened in barely controlled indignation. She had a quick temper -- something that she would have to learn to control.
"I am proficient. I'm no novice." He could almost hear the gritting of her teeth.
"Diana, Princess of Themyscira -- Wonder Woman -- is an easy target for any two bit thug wanting to make a name for himself. Not to mention your run-of-the-mill megalomaniacs like Cheetah." He stood and faced her. "You are no match for any of them," he said, then waited for the inevitable.
He stopped her fist from connecting with his jaw mid-swing, which only served to fuel her fury. With her free arm, she attempted the same maneuver, but he easily stopped it as well.
Then her knee sought to connect with his groin.
Dropping to a crouch, he swung one leg out, sweeping her feet from under her. The result was an unceremonious landing upon her ass.
He heard faint giggles from the uniform vault. "You will train with Robin, and master each technique before advancing to the next level." Dick emerged from the shadows and Bruce continued. "Dinner is at six sharp. We'll discuss your new job with the Wayne Foundation and lodging at that time." He left them alone, leaving no room for debate.
Her heart thumped widely as she tried to gain control of her emotions. Anger, disappointment, fear all fought savagely for center attention. Then she looked up and saw a boy approach, -- no older than ten -- garbed in bright red and yellow, holding out a green gloved hand to help her to her feet.
"Hi. I'm Robin. But you can call me Dick. Batman said you'd be training with us. And Bruce said it was okay that you knew my real name," he said in one breath.
She took his hand gratefully, rising to her feet. "You speak as if he is two individuals."
The boy smiled and she was sure that the room was suddenly brighter.
He shrugged. "You'll get used to it."
She rubbed her back side and she wasn't sure if she really wanted to get used to it.
"Come on. We've got a lot to do before dinner. And believe me, you don't wanna be late for dinner," he said.
"Why is that? Does Batman, or Bruce, get upset with you?"
He smiled again. This child seemed to love to smile. "Here's a trick to help you keep track of it. When he's upstairs, he's Bruce. When he's down here, even if he's not in uniform, he's Batman. And no, it's not Bruce you have to worry about upstairs. It's Alfred. He doesn't like it if you're late. Says its bad manners."
"I guess it's good that Bruce has his servant instill manners in his son," she said.
The child blushed. "Oh, I'm not his son. I'm his ward. And Alfred gets even madder at Bruce if he's late."
"What is a ward? Where are your parents?"
The boy's face suddenly fell. The sadness radiating from him was palpable. "My parents were killed two years ago. Bruce took me in. He understood what it was like."
She placed a comforting hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry."
"'Sokay," he said then smiled again. "Anyway, Alfred just doesn't like bad manners."
They both sat in the chairs facing the computer. "How is it that a servant has such authority?"
"Servant? Alfred's not a servant. He's family."
She frowned in confusion. "He told me earlier that he'd been in service to the family, not that he was related to them."
"He's not 'blood' related. He raised Bruce after his parents…you know," he whispered, and his face saddened again.
"Bruce's parents do not live here?"
"You don't know? Bruce's parents were killed when he was eight. Alfred became his guardian. Just like Bruce is mine."
Robin began warm up exercises as Diana mulled over this new bit of information. There seemed to be more to Batman than she'd realized.