The Watchtower's main monitors were set to Slivonia's capital city, the images full of people lining up for their first free election in decades. No one was really expecting trouble, but the League had offered to monitor things from afar. Diana knew she wasn't needed; she'd done her shift with J'onn and should be headed home. But she'd settled in by the window in "observe the observers" mode, and was watching Bruce and Zatanna work.
"Sectors four-seven-nine through six-nine-eight check in clear," Bruce said, not looking at Zatanna as he made some adjustment to his election observer protocols.
Diana knew Bruce was waiting to hear the tappity tap of keys, but Zatanna didn't seem interested in being his personal secretary.
"Voice recognition software, sweetness," the younger woman said. "It's the wave of the future."
"Just enter the data." His voice wasn't exactly a growl, but Diana had heard rabid dogs sound friendlier.
"Don't you ever have any fun, Batman?" Zatanna asked, her tone teasing.
Diana glanced at Bruce, curious how he was going to answer. She expected his mouth to set in a grim line, his eyes to turn even more forbidding. But he surprised her. He gave Zatanna a half smile as he shrugged.
"We really should do something about that." Zatanna winked at Diana. She at least was including Diana in things. Bruce was acting like she wasn't even there.
Diana didn't try to wink back. She'd mastered a lot of new things during her time in man's world, but winking was not one of them. "Batman is all work and no play, Zee. You know that."
"Once upon a time he was more fun. A lot more fun." Zatanna drained her cup of coffee and relinquished her chair to Diana. "I'm going to take a break."
"Take a long one," Bruce said, but his voice wasn't half as rough as before.
Once Zatanna was out of earshot, Diana said, "You two have a history."
He ignored her observation.
"One of a sexual nature, I think."
"But it's over." She came off a little shaky on that one. She'd meant to say it with more finesse, with more certainty.
"Very good, Princess. I see you've been watching the daytime soaps Flash recommended."
"I have not."
"Oh, so you're new astuteness is due to...?"
"I'm not blind. I see the ways people find to pair up." She hit him on the upper arm. "And stop calling me that."
"Workforce brutality will not be tolerated." But then he smiled again--that cute little half smile. And he murmured, "Diana," at the end of the admonition in a way that made it anything but.
She tossed her hair back as if using it to make a statement. "I leave the brutality to Hawkgirl."
"Right, because there's nothing warlike about your approach to a problem." This time his smile was annoying. He was probably compensating for having said her name in quite that way.
"You object to my approach?" she asked. "It's saved your ass a few times."
"I'm not sure your new ease with the vernacular is a good thing, Diana."
"I'm sure you're not." She began to enter the data that Zatanna hadn't wanted to deal with into the computer. "Why don't we have voice recognition software?"
He chuckled. "We do. I just like to irritate Zee."
She stopped typing. "We do?"
"Yep. It caught my update; you don't have to type it in."
"What else did it catch?"
He grinned; this time it was a full-on smirk. "Oh, you know...things." As she pretended to ready herself for a massive punch at the console, he shook his head. "You're safe. It's not recording everything we say."
She turned in her chair, crossing one leg over the other and letting it swing. "So..."
He glanced at her. "So?"
"So, you were with her?"
"A long time ago."
"She's not that old, Bruce."
"Well, not compared to you." He laughed at her expression. "She was old enough."
"And you two were close?"
"But you're not interested in her?"
"She's a beautiful woman, Diana. Who wouldn't be interested in her?"
"Yes, she's very attractive but--"
"So you're interested in her?" He seemed to be trying not to grin.
"I didn't say that."
"Logically, it makes sense. That you'd prefer women." He sounded as if he was giving a lecture on methods of harvesting toadstools rather than girl-on-girl stuff, as Flash called it. Flash always seemed to get quite aroused by the girl-on-girl stuff. Why wasn't Bruce aroused? Was it Diana? Did she not arouse him?
"After all," Bruce said, "you grew up on an island full of nothing but women; you might yearn for that again."
"I am not yearning."
"No?" He didn't even look at her. Just kept on what he was doing. "Do you yearn?"
"Not a hard question, Princess."
"I get lonely." She shifted her legs. "Don't you?"
"All work and no play. You called it."
"Big liar." Diana heard the click of heels coming down the hall. "Not a long break."
"Guess she missed us."
"Missed you, you mean." Diana realized she sounded sulky.
Bruce seemed to think so too, because he glanced over at her, then gave another of the little half smiles--had she really thought they were cute?
She slid out of the chair as Zatanna came into the room.
"What did I miss?" Zatanna asked, taking her seat back.
"Nothing but one of Batman's mind-fucks."
Zatanna laughed out loud, and Bruce turned to look at Diana; his expression--what she could see of it under the mask--was one of stunned amazement. Or maybe horror. Or possibly demonic delight. With him, who the hell could tell?
"How do you like my vernacular now?" she muttered as she walked out of the room.
Diana sat next to Flash, resting on some rough grass as the flood waters finally receded. They'd rescued everyone that had been cut off when the river had surged over its banks, and this was a prime outdoor recreation area, so "everyone" had been a lot of people.
"I'm bushed." Flash lay back on the grass. "And I could seriously use about thirty mochas."
She nodded; mochas sounded good.
"We could get some." Flash shielded his eyes from the sun and looked over at her. "You and me. Just the two of us."
"I don't think so."
"You must be tired. That lacked your normal disdain."
She frowned. "Disdain?"
"You want me to call it something else? Okay. Snobbishness. Exclusivity." He sat up. "I just don't measure up."
She touched him on the arm, tried to smile gently. "It's not that."
"No? Because it sure was at first."
"You're a good man. A fun one. But you are attracted to every woman you meet. I've watched you try to work them."
"You say that like it's a bad thing." He gave her a sheepish look, then it changed, became more serious. "Well, if it's not me keeping you from saying yes, then it must be him."
"Yeah, you know, him." Flash's eyes were sparkling.
"Which him?" She was smiling now, couldn't help it. He was so obviously trying to get her to admit her preference in the Superman versus Batman pool.
He laughed. "Now you're just yanking my chain, aren't you?"
"I learned from the best." She wished she could take that back. She'd sounded way too bitter.
"Aha, so it is Bats who has your socks rolling up and down. So to speak..." He glanced at her boots. "You don't have socks on, do you?"
"Yes, big, ugly white sweat socks. It's a very sexy look."
He laughed. "See how well you're settling in? Humor's tough, but you're catching on quick."
She wished she'd caught on to the whole man/woman thing just as quickly, but it seemed to be eluding her.
"So, Diana, it is Bats, isn't it?"
"He hates it when you call him that."
"Not an answer, Princess."
She looked away.
"If it helps, I think he digs you."
"And you base this on...?"
"My keen powers of observation. My vast experience in the field of romance. And the fact that he can't take his eyes off you when he thinks no one is looking."
"Nope. I see a lot when I race through for milk and cookies. I'd say the look was longing. Maybe even mournful." He grinned.
"How can you tell the difference between Batman's usual look and mournful?"
"Hey, I admit it's a challenge, but it's there." He got up. "Okay, if you won't have coffee with me, there's a little blonde I rescued earlier who's saving me a seat."
"Go." She turned back to the river.
Flash was gone, then just as suddenly he was back. "Look, it's none of my business. But I've found that if you want to find out if someone likes you, the best way is to just ask. If you're me, you get truths you don't like a whole lot of the time." He winked at her. "But if you were to ask the humorless one, he might surprise you." He laid a warm hand on his shoulder.
She put her hand over his, pressing down gently. "Maybe that's what I'm afraid of?"
He laughed. "I can't help you with that one, Princess." He gently pulled his hand away, then he really was gone.
"Aaaaaaa-choo." Bruce fumbled with his belt.
"Could you sneeze a little louder, Bruce? I don't think the bad guys quite heard you." Diana rolled her eyes at the glare he gave her. "Why did you insist on being my partner if you have a cold? You should have stayed home." In her opinion, he sounded like he had a whole lot more than just a cold.
"We don't stay home for colds."
"We do if they're making us sneeze and sniffle and cough loudly enough to spoil the stealthy part of sneaking up on someone."
"We're the rear guard. J'onn and Clark are sneaking up on the bad guys. We'll just pummel them once they know we're here."
"My mistake." She saw him open another compartment of his belt. "What are you looking for?"
"Kleenex. I don't suppose you have any pushed into that bodice of yours?"
"Yes, I pad with Kleenex, let me dig one out." She'd heard more cracks about her breasts when people thought she was out of earshot than she cared to think about. "Those can't be real" was the favorite comment.
"Dig a couple of them out; I'd like some spares." He suddenly put his head down, steadying himself on the downed log they were hiding behind.
"Are you all right?"
"I'm dizzy. It'll pass."
"Why can't you just admit you're sick?"
"Diana, leave me alone." His tone was harsh, his voice cracking from coughing too much.
"Fine. But you stay here. I'll come back for you when we finish this."
She threw her lasso around him. "Tell me, Bruce, if I were as sick as you are, would you let me go on a mission with you?"
"No." He sounded utterly pissed that she was doing this to him.
"And what would you tell me to do if I had insisted on coming and then proved too sick to be of any use?"
"I'd tell you to stay here and I'd get you when we were done."
"Well then, take your own advice, damn it." She flicked her wrist and the lasso came free. "I'll be back in a while."
She left him, could hear him cursing under his breath. His voice sounded congested in that way that made everyone sound sort of French.
Kal looked up as she flew in to join him and J'onn. "Where's Batman?"
"Convalescing in the hinterlands."
Kal smiled at her, then turned to J'onn. "You owe me a latte. I told you she could get him to stay."
"I should know not to bet against you. You only bet on a sure thing."
Unlike Bruce, who never bet at all, just made sure he controlled every variable in the game.
Kal nodded toward the cabin. "We're ready. Let's do it."
They made short work of the bad guys, who amazingly had not seemed to hear Bruce's hacking cough--although Diana had been able to make it out even from this far away.
Kal looked over at her as he trussed up the last bad guy. He indicated a private spot under the pines. "Bruce sounds terrible."
"He says it's just a cold."
"You'll take him home?"
"You're good for him, Diana." He touched her cheek, his eyes very gentle. "He needs you."
Kal nodded. "I think you need him, too. I don't like to think of you lonely." His look was pensive. He was her best friend; they were so close. And they both knew what the tabloids liked to say about them. Even if they'd never pushed friendship into anything stronger.
"I better go collect him."
"Yep, go get him."
Bruce was sitting up against the log, head lolled back. "Took you long enough." His tone was normal, even if his voice was very soft.
She didn't stop to ask, just scooped him up and flew towards Gotham. He glared at her as she held him in her arms.
"It's this or a fireman's carry," she said. "Your pick." She didn't think he'd relish that position.
He quit glaring.
It was a short trip to Gotham, even shorter to the outskirts and into the Batcave. Bruce fell asleep, cradled against her chest.
Alfred was pacing as she flew in, and she imagined him having been there since she'd flown in to pick Bruce up for the mission. "Miss Diana! Is Master Bruce all right?"
"I know. But he wouldn't listen to reason." He gestured up the stairs. "Could you fly him to his bedroom, my dear?"
She smiled gently at Alfred. "Of course."
"Then she's leaving," Bruce said, surprising her: she'd thought he was asleep.
"I don't have to leave."
"Yes, you do." Bruce's voice was like the crack of a gun.
She could feel her face turn red, knew Alfred was seeing how Bruce's words had stung her. "Then let's go. The sooner I get you up there, the sooner I can leave."
They were upstairs in record time, and she dumped him onto the bed and then stalked away without tucking him in or doing anything else that might be unwelcome. She met Alfred on the main stairs. "Good night, Alfred."
She stopped and turned to look at him.
"He didn't mean to be unkind."
"It's just that he doesn't want to have me around?"
"No, my dear. It's that he doesn't want you around when you might see him weak."
"If you say so, Alfred."
"I do say so," he said, and she heard him even though she was halfway to the stairs that led down to the Batcave. "Don't give up on him, Diana."
She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and flew home to New York.
"Your form's off, Diana." Bruce's voice held nothing but criticism as he watched her and Kal work out.
"Her form is fine," Kal said, picking himself up from where she'd lobbed him into the wall. "Trust me on that."
Bruce shot him a glance that could have frozen boiling oil.
"I meant her fighting form, you moron." Kal met Diana's eyes and sighed. "Why don't you spar with him? Getting thrashed by you might be good for his mood."
"I'm not sparring with anyone; I'm assessing. Get back to work." Bruce sat down on the mats against the far wall.
Diana realized he must still be weak from the virus. He'd come back to the Watchtower much too soon; she'd heard him coughing at the end of his shift the day before--not that she was listening for that.
"Why don't you go?" she said to Kal, in the nearly subvocal way they'd perfected for when they were on a mission. There weren't many who could hear them when they talked so low.
Kal nodded and headed toward the men's locker room.
"So. You afraid to fight me?" She put her hands on her hips, giving Bruce the classic Wonder Woman pose.
"There is no reason for me to fight you." But he pushed himself to his feet, and she suddenly felt very guilty at the effort it seemed to take.
"Bruce, if you're still sick...?"
He walked onto the mats, no weakness evident in his movements. "I'm not still sick. I have a lingering cough, which is normal for this type of respiratory virus."
"Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to fight Amazons in this phase of recovery."
His only answer was to kick her legs out from under her.
She landed hard, not expecting him to attack when she was lecturing him about his health. "Damn you."
"Sympathy for your opponent is never wise, Princess."
"I'm certainly learning that applies to Batmen." She let her anger fill her to give her the rush of adrenaline she needed, then dialed it down so that her brain could resume strategizing.
They circled; he tried to kick her legs out again, but she wasn't there. He whirled but not quickly enough to avoid a punch straight to the solar plexus.
It had been a light punch, but he fell like a stone, then began coughing to the point where she thought he might throw up.
The guilt resumed. "You damned, stubborn, arrogant man."
He kept coughing, but he fell back to his hip, his legs sweeping out, dumping her on the ground again. He pinned her, but the coughing was real and he couldn't hold her. She threw him away from her lightly, careful to make sure he landed on the mats and that the landing was not very hard.
"You're holding back," he said between hacks--she thought his eyes were watering under the cowl. "Don't."
"Bruce, for Hera's sake, stop fighting."
He stared at her. Then he pushed himself up and walked toward the locker room.
She raced after him, managed to get in front of him. "What is wrong with you? I'm only trying to help, and you keep pushing me away."
He moved around her.
"Why are you being so mean?"
He didn't turn around. "Look Batman up in the dictionary, Princess. It doesn't say warm and fuzzy. It doesn't say boyish and aw shucks."
She frowned, pulled him back to her when he tried to step away. "Are you jealous?"
"Of Kal and me?"
"Is there a Kal and you?"
"Fine. Then I'm not jealous."
"Maybe you should be. You're not much of a friend."
"Who said I wanted to be?" The line would have been heart shattering if he hadn't started coughing in the middle of it. He looked like his legs were going to buckle.
"It should hurt being as stubborn as you are." She put her arm around his waist, tugged his arm over her shoulder. "I'm taking you home."
"I have monitor duty in an hour."
"I'll cover it for you."
"What? You're not going to sit by my bed and watch over me?" His voice oozed sarcasm, giving clear indication of what he thought of such devotion.
"I'm really not." She walked faster. "Besides, even I have a limit for how much abuse I can take from you."
"If you think that was abuse, Diana, you're way too sensitive to spend time with me."
"Not that you'd want me to spend time with you. You've made that abundantly clear. Maybe I should take Flash up on his numerous offers. At least he'd be fun."
She felt Bruce stiffen and slow.
"Or maybe not," she said, hating the game they were playing. Why was this world so disingenuous?
Flash had told her to just come out and ask. But now was probably a bad time, given how riled Bruce was.
"Do you like Flash?" Bruce asked.
"Of course I like Flash."
"I mean like him in that way."
"Do you care if I like him in that way?" It wasn't total honesty; it was more the "shinny up the drainpipe and sneak in through the attic" approach to honesty. But whatever worked with this man was fine with her.
He didn't answer her.
"Too many words, Bruce? I'll cut some out. Do you care?"
His grip tightened on her shoulder and suddenly she was being spun around, her hold on his waist lost, her back slamming--but with nothing near the force he was normally capable of--into the wall of the gym. He pushed up against her, his hands tangled in her hair, pulling the strands in what would have been a painful way if she hadn't grown up on an island where wooden combs were the norm and the post-shower comb-out was an exercise in discipline.
She reached up and disengaged his fingers from her hair, twining her own with his leather-clad ones. "Do you care, Bruce?"
"No." But his eyes were burning into her. Until he suddenly leaned away, coughing furiously.
She let him go, supporting him again. "Let's get you home."
He didn't argue, seemed to be allowing her to help him now, rather than trying to do it all on his own. As they neared the teleporter, he said in his normal, growling fashion, "Maybe you should date Flash."
"You'll have fun."
"Don't patronize me, Diana."
"Wouldn't dream of it." She manhandled him into the teleporter, then set the coordinates for time delay to the Batcave and got in with him, holding him so he wasn't leaning on the wall. They appeared in the Batcave a moment later.
"Sit," she said, pushing him into his console chair and studying the control panel near the intercom. "How do I get Alfred?"
But Bruce was already doing it, hitting a series of buttons instead of using the intercom, probably because he was coughing too hard to speak.
Alfred came hurrying down the stairs.
"Call the doctor, Alfred. He's not getting better, no matter what he says."
Bruce glared at her. "You can go, Diana. We don't need your help from here on out."
"Speak for yourself, Master Bruce." Alfred winked at her. "The bedroom, if you please."
She scooped Bruce up, ignoring his creative use of swearwords. Some of them she'd never heard in that combination. He only shut up when he started to cough again. She closed her eyes, unwilling to see how much this was hurting him and how little he--or she--could do about it.
"I should have taken you to the infirmary." She'd been so hell bent on getting him home. What if home wasn't as good a place as the Watchtower?
"No, this is better. Establishes that Bruce Wayne gets sick. That he's just a normal guy."
"Always the strategist." She set him down in the chair by his bedroom door. This time she turned down the bed and fluffed the pillows. She waited for Alfred to come up and undress Bruce, but then realized he was downstairs calling the doctor. She could hear him talking, the words indistinct, but his voice heavy with concern.
She pulled Bruce to his feet, drew off the gloves, then the cowl. His hair was sweaty and his face flushed. His skin felt clammy and hot to her. She reached for the uniform, and he stopped her, whipping his hands up, grabbing her own.
"No." It was the Batman's voice. The Batman's control. Bruce was shuddering, but he wasn't going to let her help him. He also wasn't meeting her eyes.
She pulled him close, kissed him, her lips light on his, but there, definitely there. She felt him try to push her away with one hand, while he held onto her as if for dear life with the other one. He kissed her back, his mouth opening.
She heard Alfred coming up the stairs, and pulled away, easing Bruce into a sitting position on the bed. "Don't come back to the Watchtower until you're well."
"Are you coming back here?" He looked down, as if he couldn't believe he'd asked that.
"You told me not to last time. You didn't want me here, remember?"
"I may have been--"
"Wrong? Stupid? Mean?"
"I was going to say not thinking clearly. I was sick."
"You still are."
"I know." He glanced back at the stacked pillows, as if they were a little piece of heaven.
Alfred bustled in. He smiled at her, then reached for Bruce's uniform.
"At least wait till she's gone, old man."
Diana smiled at Alfred, then she turned and walked out, easing the door shut behind her.
She didn't mean to eavesdrop as she walked down the stairs. But she heard Bruce say, "I chased her away." And Alfred answered him, "No, you didn't, sir. She'll be back."
If Bruce replied to that, she couldn't hear it.
"So he reappears." Flash said, grinning at Diana.
"Don't rile him," Diana said, waiting for Bruce to make eye contact with her. She'd been to his house to see him while he'd been recovering. He'd been asleep every time.
Flash moved faster around the kitchen, adding a third mocha to his preparations. "Here," he shoved it at Bruce, then carried the other two over to the table. He chose the seat next to her, seemed to edge it closer with his knee, instead of sitting across from her like he normally would have.
"These are good," he said. "But not as good as those ones we had last night in Seattle."
Seattle? She'd been helping Kal move some refugees out of the way of hostilities in Africa. Not in Seattle.
Flash rolled his eyes at her, then pointed to Bruce, who was standing at the counter, his back to them. His very stiff back.
"I had a great time," Flash said, his voice dropping in a way that implied he'd been sampling more than just the mochas.
Diana tried not to laugh.
"I hope it was good for you, too?"
There was the sound of ceramic mug being crushed by sudden clenching of a Batman's hand. Mocha went everywhere.
Flash went into hyper mode, had it cleaned up in a jiffy and a new mocha in Bruce's hand. "Buddy, be careful. Guess you don't know your own strength now that you're all better." He gave Bruce a smile that could only mean "I just slept with your woman and boy was she fine" and returned to the table.
Bruce turned and studied Flash as if he was ready to challenge him to a duel, then he glanced at Diana. She was keeping a straight face, but her shoulders were shaking from the strain of holding in her laughter. His expression changed to one of chagrin and anger.
"Man, are you easy." Flash left--very, very quickly.
"Not funny," Bruce said.
"I didn't ask him to do that. I think we're his new pet project."
"There is no we." But he took the seat Flash had vacated, even managed to nudge it a little closer to her. "So you weren't in Seattle?"
"Check the logs. I was with Kal."
His look told her he wasn't sure that was much better.
"Working. I was with Kal working." She sighed, devoted herself fully to finishing her mocha. Why was this so hard?
"You stopped by while I was sick."
Alfred must have told him. "Yes," she said. "You slept through my visits."
"Not all of them. I just...I guess I figured if I was awake, we'd have to talk. And you know how well that goes." He sipped at his mocha rather desperately, too.
"Why is that?"
"You're not the easiest woman to talk to."
"Oh and you're the world's chattiest man when I'm not around?" She laughed. "Right."
"Diana, you like challenges. I've seen you on a mission; you never give up."
"You're not a mission, Bruce." She'd resign the league if he was. Clearly a no-win thing.
"It's the same principle. You can't have me, so you are intrigued. Just like with Kal."
"You don't seem interested in any of the men you can have."
She ignored him. "Why can't I have you? Technically, you're single. Or is there a wife you have hidden in a locked room in your manor house?"
"You know there's not."
"Then why are you unavailable?"
"I've told you emotion is weakness."
"Actually, you said sympathy was. I think emotion makes us strong. Gives us a reason to care."
"People we care about make us vulnerable."
"So you admit you care?" She smiled gently at him.
"It was a generalization." His voice was hard again, and he suddenly pulled his chair away from her.
"Bruce, would it kill you to feel something?"
He stared hard at her for a moment. Then he said, "No, but it might kill you."
She saw his mouth tighten, his muscles bunch as he prepared to get up. She touched his shoulder, but it didn't arrest his motion, or stop him from shrugging out from under her hand.
"Bruce, I'm tough. I'll be all right."
"You don't know that. And neither do I."
"And if you don't know everything, you just back off? You can't control this, Bruce. You just have to let go. To...run with it."
"No. I don't have to do anything." He got up. "Tell Flash if he does that again, he'll be sorry." There was no teasing in his voice.
Their eyes met, and she looked away. "He won't try it again. You're a lost cause. And I'll be sure to tell him that."
"You do that, Princess." He stalked away, in perfect Batman mode.
Diana suddenly hated that mode with all her heart.
The aliens that had been hitting Earth in lightning attacks then disappearing just as fast, appeared about a half mile out to sea, moving steadily inland. Down the shore, Diana could see the batplane lifting off. Bruce hadn't said one word to her that wasn't mission related since he'd stalked off a week ago.
She hadn't tried to reach out to him. She was sick of reaching out. He didn't care about her. Not enough.
J'onn mindvoice sounded, loud in Diana's head, "Attack!"
Diana looked at Green Lantern next to her, who grinned and said, "Let's do it, lady."
They launched themselves into the air, both intent on hitting the aliens before they could make land. Diana could hear the sound of battle all around her; she saw Bruce shoot down one of the alien ships. Hawkgirl took another out with her mace. John used his ring to swing one of the ships into another, while Kal flew fast and furious, his heat vision burning through the wings. J'onn phased in and out, removing components that the ships needed to fly on his way through, then he joined Flash on the water's surface, carrying any aliens who came out of the downed ships to land.
Diana saw an opening to get to what looked like the mother ship and took it, slipping past three of the other ships. The mother ship was bigger than the rest, and more heavily armed. And coming fast. Avoiding the defenses when she could, blocking the rays with her bracelets when she had to, she lassoed a part that jutted out and let it pull her while she drew herself hand-over-hand along the rope until she was on the top of the ship. They were almost over land, so she picked up the pace, tearing away anything that looked crucial or dangerous.
The ship began to tilt to the right, then pointed nose down, toward the rocky shoals at the shoreline. She lassoed the nose of the ship, leapt off and pulled it down with her. The ship fought back, but soon more of her damage began to take its toll. She pulled again, felt the nose follow her down, then catch up with her, pressing into her as the ship headed for the water.
"Diana!" she thought she heard Bruce yell through the mindlink just as she made contact, the water slapping her hard. The link went dead as she hit, and there was only blackness for a second while the ship obliterated the sun. She didn't fight the ship's thrust, used her strength to maneuver herself more on the side of the nose than below. As the ship hit bottom, she was thrown clear, and let herself float back up.
The ship had traveled farther than she thought before it touched bottom. When she broke the surface, gasping gratefully for air, she was out of sight of where the others had been fighting. She dove back down, waiting for the aliens to come out of the ship, to rise up in droves, but no one came. The hatches stayed closed; the ship listed slightly.
Diana rose into the air, skimming the water to conserve strength. As she flew slowly, she could hear the fighting end, saw Bruce's plane land on the bluff she'd taken off from.
She touched down in the trees behind where everyone was standing. Bruce was immobile, staring out to sea. His hands were clenched.
Kal stood behind him and put his hand on Bruce's shoulder. A hand that was shaking.
"Kal?" Diana said at their special volume.
He turned slowly, a huge smile lighting his face as he saw her. The others turned around too, all except Bruce who had pulled away from Kal's hand and stepped closer to the cliff.
Diana put her finger to her lips. "Take them away, Kal?"
Kal led the others away. They were all grinning furiously. Flash started to laugh and took off, probably so he wouldn't blow the secret.
"Oh and check on that mother ship," she told Kal. "There may be survivors inside."
"Will do, Diana." He grinned at her again. Clearly delighted to have her back. "Good luck with him."
She turned back to watch Bruce. He was gazing out to sea, at the spot she and the mother ship had disappeared into. She didn't move, just stood watching him, taking in the clenched fists, the steely straightness of his spine.
He cared. Hera help them both, but he cared about her.
She wasn't sure what to say to him. How to start this.
"For God's sake, Diana. How long are you going to just stand there?" Bruce turned, pulling his cowl off, probably so there'd be no mistaking his expression. His eyes blazed, but he also seemed to be drinking in the sight of her. His lips were trembling, but she thought it was because he was fighting a smile and maybe the urge to yell at her.
"I just wanted you to realize you missed me."
"I've missed you all week." He moved quickly, far more quickly than she expected. He covered ground as if he was the Flash, pushing her to the ground once he reached her, kissing her frantically. And angrily. And with a great deal of ardor. His hands were never still, brushing down her legs, her arms, and then touching places he'd never touched before. Soon he was pulling her uniform off, pulling his off, too.
Oh yeah, he cared.
Then she stopped analyzing anything, as pure sensation overwhelmed her. His hands were gentle on her, and he slowed down. Franticness gave way to deliberate moves designed, she realized, to give her pleasure. Much pleasure. Mind blowing, "you'll never think of dating Flash or anyone else ever again" pleasure.
She reciprocated in kind. Let him try to think of Catwoman or Zatanna or anyone but her when he wanted sex.
They finally slowed, desire burning down to something cooler. Something sweeter. Bruce kissed her gently. The first time he'd ever kissed her that way. It was a sure kiss. One that said, "I like you," and not just "I want you."
"Did you think I'd died?" she asked softly.
"I did until Kal saw you. I felt his hand jerk. And I could practically hear his smile." He kissed his way to her ear, began to nibble and lick it, making her squirm and cry out. "Punishment, Princess. It was very mean of you to let me think you were dead."
"It was only for a moment. I just..." She pushed him back, so he'd have to look at her. "I just needed to know you cared. You haven't been very forthcoming with that information."
"I have, too. You just didn't want to see it."
"You were mean to me."
"Anyone who knows boys knows we're mean because we like you."
She snuggled against him. "But I don't know boys. I don't know boys, at all. Only men."
He chuckled. "Guess I should have considered that when you never seemed to get it."
"So much for the great mind of our time."
"Hey, you try being around divine beauty and think big thoughts."
"I'm not divine. I'm only a woman." She kissed his ear. "A very, very tough woman."
"Tough on the outside," he said. "Not so tough on the inside. You wound easily."
"Then quit trying to draw blood." She pushed him to his back, climbed on top of him. "I don't care what you say about boys and their dysfunctional way of attracting a mate. You were scared and you pushed me away."
He didn't struggle under her hold. Just stared up at her blandly.
"All right. I pushed you away." That was as much as she was going to get--he'd never admit he was scared. Suddenly, his eyes grew a little distant. "I still may push you away. At times. I'm not sure this is a good idea."
"It's good, Bruce. It's a very good idea." She touched his forehead, trying to get him to stop over-thinking this. "Promise me you'll give us a chance. Just a chance to be happy."
"I'm not used to happy." His smile broke her heart.
"I'll show you. I'll teach you. Okay?"
He stared up at her, and she couldn't read his expression. Then he seemed to relax, his eyes grew soft again and he smiled tenderly. "I promise."
"Okay then." She started to slide off.
"You can stay there. I feel...rested." His eyes sparkled in a way she wasn't used to seeing. And his hands were very gentle and sure on her waist as he resettled her to a location more conducive to what he had in mind.
"I love you," she said, not sure he was ready to say it back.
But he didn't hesitate. "I love you, too." And he pulled her down and kissed her and generally made her melt on that bluff under the afternoon sun with the sea breeze floating over them.
Typical Bruce: once committed, he'd throw everything he had at the game. In her own way, she threw everything she had right back at him.