Lavender Gaia: Thank you for constantly supporting me, putting up with my long intermissions before I can update. I think I should worship you than the other way around. Also, thanks for the Fire/ Ice suggestion. I wouldn't have wrote about it if it weren't for you. Thanks.
ccabello: Even if it wasn't much, your support helps me.
alittlesummerwine: Thank Lavender Gaia for the sudden Fire/ Ice pair. She's cool.
CatGirl R and S fan: Thank you, thank you for waiting so long. Hope this is rewarding enough. :P
oneredneckgoddess: My friend, thank you for all the suggestions and encouragements you've said to me. I'll return the favor… soon. ;)
SarahC4321: Thank you for the wonderful review!
klutzyspaz: Aw… you don't really mean that, do you? Thanks so much!
She wistfully turned away from him, a sigh escaping her lips. "I apologize for the toilsome circumstances you've had to go through." She approached him. "You could have been less insufferable if you only tried."
"I try, but being insufferable is who I am, Diana," Bruce answered her quietly. "You have to understand that this is what I've chosen. The Batman is my life, he's me. I can't change because you simply want me to. It doesn't work that way. I don't work that way. That's what I've been meaning to tell you, but my temper got the better of me that night." He closed his eyes to relax his strained eyelids. The white light was overpowering his eyesight and he wondered how Diana could bear it. On second thought, she was a being of mystical origins. It was no surprise if she didn't blink every three seconds.
Diana wearily shook her head. "Okay, I get that. But," she touched his arm, her eyes misting over. "Are you willing to push me away, Bruce? Do you wish to forget the people who've cared and loved you? Like… your mother and father?"
Bruce stepped back, muttered, "I've never forgotten about them. I don't even understand how they ended up in Lethe." He rubbed his stiff shoulders, felt like it weighed a ton all of a sudden. "Looking into a gun barrel at gunpoint or beating the crap out of the Joker has constantly reminded me of… the same night my parents were killed." He turned away from her. "Yet, it could be an illusion to trick my mind."
"What are you saying?"
Still not facing her, Bruce said, "Persephone could have staged the whole thing. A couple of souls could have easily impersonated them."
Diana touched his shoulder. "Honestly, could a tormented soul touch your cheek as how your mother always did before you went to bed? Could a forgotten, remarkable actor of a ghost flash a kilowatt smile at you? Tell me, Bruce. Could a couple of souls act so much like your parents?"
Bruce sharply turned to her. How could she have known about his mother caressing his cheek before he went to bed? Bearing in mind that small hitch, he said, "Cupid mentioned that the Orb of Apathy is transmissible through skin contact. Last I heard, Donna pulled it away with her bare hands. She doesn't have any protection against it."
Diana smiled. "Always digressing from the subject when tough questions are bounded at you." She shook her head. "Cupid sprinkled protective dust on her before we were sent to earth. All gods have that. It is like their vitamin supplement against the dangers of their own creation."
"Flash didn't have protection. That was why Cupid had to stop you from reaching me. He must have missed that detail," Diana interrupted him as if she already knew his next question. Bruce arched his brow.
"You're not Diana," Bruce said, stepping back.
The Diana-copycat grinned. "You are bright. What gave me away?"
She morphed into Apollo. Bruce scowled. "You know too much."
"That's who I am. I'm the God of Truth. I should know better," Apollo brushed a wisp of stubborn hair from his forehead. "I told you I want the truth. But you're failing miserably."
"I care for her, I know I'm not lying about that."
"Not good enough."
"She means so much to me, I can't jeopardize her life as well."
"She's smarter than Hades, braver than Cupid, has a heart of gold as Persephone. You're not captious enough. Try harder. This time, with more feeling,"
"This isn't ballet class."
"Of course not. This is where Diana's life is dependent on. Should I fail you now? I could. This test is getting old anyway."
Bruce growled at him. "I… love her. But it would only complicate things."
"Really? How so?"
"Don't play dumb with me. You already know how it's going down."
"How rude. All right," Apollo waved his hand, and a wisp of smoke rose from the floor. "Come here, and I'll show you your future."
JLU's Season two: The Epilogue
"And yet my dad wound up murdered," he dropped on the cushioned chair, his eyebrows furrowed in silent frustration. Just like his old man. "Anyway, don't you get it? No matter what you did or didn't do, I was gonna end up as Bruce's carbon copy. It's fate."
Amanda Waller approached the annoyed, young man. "You know, the Lord's been a great comfort to me all these years. Try not to look so surprised. Yeah, I've got a lot to answer for when I meet him, but I'd like to believe that for all the harm I've caused, I've also done some good. Maybe the angels need a sharp sword too." She touched his shoulder. "Like the good book says, He moves in mysterious ways. His plan is a mystery but here's what isn't."
Terry McGinnis leaned his elbows on his knees. "He gave us free will," Amanda Waller continued. "We choose our own fate, for good or ill. I've known Bruce Wayne for over fifty years and I've been keeping an eye on you my whole life. You are not Bruce's clone. You are his son. There are similarities, but more than a few differences. You don't quite have his magnificent brain, for instance. You do have his heart though. And for all that fierce exterior, I've never met anyone who cared as deeply for his fellow men as Bruce Wayne, except maybe you."
She started limping away from him. "You want to have a little better than your old man's? Take care of the people you care about… or don't."
"I'm quite surprised to see Amanda Waller vouching for me by injecting my DNA into an unsuspecting individual so my legacy will continue. It's uncanny. And your innuendo is what exactly?" Bruce stepped out of the column of smoke where he had seen his predestined old life.
He could feel himself shuddering, his nape's hair standing on end. Dammit. Seeing his senior self all wrinkled, spotty, and too weak to uncap a medication bottle gave him the chills. Hermes was wrong; Apollo wasn't tough. He was a sadist.
"You've seen a clip of the future. And you made a major cut in the scene just a minute ago. Don't tell me you don't understand my innuendo here. Amanda Waller even spelled it out loud. Want me to rewind it again for you then?"
Bruce scowled at him. "Fiction or not, I hate movies. Or TV." Bruce pinched the bridge of his nose. He could feel a migraine shooting up his forehead and spreading to the back of his head. He hasn't hit fifty yet and he felt like he needed medication already. He cursed silently, looked up. "If I choose the other way, if I choose… Diana, wouldn't the future be wrecked?"
"Not wrecked exactly. More like… a change of direction. It's like taking another route to your destination. If you choose the normal route, and hear that traffic's clogging your way, would you follow the usual avenue or take another way? It really depends. Life is just the same. Mortals' will, free will; your decisions aren't tangled up in fate. You're manning the wheel; the paths in front of you are your choices; the journey is your life; and the terminus is your future, a product of what you've chosen. Take your pick, Bruce. Your move is next."
Bruce pursed his lips. "Before I detour my way out of here, how'd my parents end up in Lethe?"
"Finally, he asks for directions. A first." Apollo waved his hand and an armchair materialized behind him. He sat in it, offered an empty one for Bruce. As usual, Bruce declined it. "Yes, the night of the murder forever haunts you. And your love for them is boundless to the point that you channel it through justice and overwhelming detective work. But then, when a person starts emanating love for you, and butterflies begin to flutter in your stomach, what do you do?"
He waited for Bruce to answer, but the Batman kept silent.
"You hide, you crawl into your Batcave, or in your humanly manner, you abruptly end a possible relationship before it even starts. You don't want to love, and love is the root of your existence and upbringing. Are you willing to lose it?"
"What does this have to do with my parents?"
"A parent's dream is to wish happiness for his or her child. Tell me, and be frank, are you happy with your current life? Seeing yourself sixty years from now, are you thrilled about your future? Please tell me, and the truth will set you and Diana free. Unless… you turn the other way."
"I still don't see why they ended up in Lethe," Bruce stubbornly said.
"They seemed different, more luminous than the others." Apollo smiled lightly. "You honor them, you love them. But you force yourself to forget the years before that fateful night happened. You killed the boy they loved and made. I wonder if he really is far gone, or maybe just struggling with the Batman inside?"
Bruce didn't answer him.
"The road is constructed right in front of you. Where will you go, Bruce?"
Bruce closed his eyes, willed his mind to turn blank. What will it be? Where should he turn to? My life, my choice, my future.
After what seemed like an eternity, Bruce opened his eyes, stared into Apollo's intelligent, green eyes. And he answered the most-awaited answer that had everybody from above nearly falling off their seats. It was his life, his choice, his future.
He would forget what he saw in his probable future, but the image of his parents sacrificing their lives for him, loving him, singing to him, smiling at him, kissing and hugging him, scolding him… the past reminded and taunted him. The past made him for who he was now. He was, and always be, the Batman.
"Come any closer… Achoo!... I'll pull the trigger," Helena blew her nose into the tissue while precariously holding up the heavy crossbow.
Q ignored her chilling threat and approached the bed with a bowl of soup. "Eat some. It'll help."
Helena ignored him, turned her back to him, crashed her head on the pillow. "Leave. I want to be alone."
He placed the bowl on the bedside table, plucked litters of soggy tissue from the bed and dropped them in a trashcan next to the table. "You shouldn't have visited Dinah. The flu is as contagious as contracting malaria from a bucket of water. And that's no conspiracy."
"I doubt that."
"Mosquitoes breed in water."
"Shut up, Q. Just shut the hell up."
Q walked out of the room with the trashcan in hand, and returned a minute later with a glass of water and tablets. He brought it next to the soup.
"Might as well take some medicine if you'd rather starve yourself."
Helena ignored him.
Q checked his watch. "I have to go. I'll see you later."
She didn't make the slightest budge.
Before stepping out of the humid bedroom, he said, "Sorry about the other night." And left.
Helena sighed and sat up. She smelled the soup he'd brought for her and tasted it. Not bad. She blew her nose, grimaced when mucus slimed her fingers. Nevertheless, she grinned.
Ollie slung his suit on the floor, let his shoe hit the wall when he kicked it off his foot, and hurtled his spinning head on the pillow. That was the last time he drank three shots of vodka. For a rich, tough guy, drinking wasn't his brightest agenda when downing his sorrow in a promiscuous bar was the assumed absolution from his relationship woes.
He sighed, turned to his side when he heard a knock on the door. He compelled his body to move but it was just as stubborn as Dinah. Crap, her again. Go away! Vodka was supposed to get rid of her tonight. Instead, it came back to haunt him, head-on. Damn!
In the name of God, I rebuke you! He didn't know how he ended up unlocking the door, but the sight of Dinah in his doorstep made him dizzier by the second. He groaned when dots sprung in his vision and he barely moved when he found himself lying in his bed again.
Moments later he felt warm compress being laid on his forehead. He squinted his eyes open, and moaned. Dinah tenderly brushed his locks aside, her gesture unusually gentle and loving.
"You do know that your system is punishing you for drinking again."
"My weakness is so lame. Have you told anybody yet?"
"It's our little secret… for now." She laughed when he hoarsely chuckled. "You sound like a scratched record. I can't believe you drink like a girl."
"I don't drink like a girl. My body's as fragile as a butterfly when alcohol is involved."
"So like a girl."
"Okay, tough bird, my logical side is slightly awake. So before I completely pass out on you, I know you're not here to dump me all because I drink like a girl. What are you here for?"
"This." She kissed his intoxicated lips, unbuckled his belt. "I've missed you." She nibbled his earlobe and she felt him tense up when she ran her hands down his chest.
"You're keeping me awake…"
"So I'd apologize first, huh?"
"Since it looks like I'll be rewarded generously, I'd say, 'I'm sorry about acting like a self-righteous jerk to you.'"
"Okay. Rich, pretentious, self-righteous jerk."
"And I'm sorry for losing my temper…" Dinah murmured while grazing his jaw lightly with her teeth.
"And for being damn stubborn when you tried to apologize the other day," Dinah slid her pants down her legs. She kissed him again, but before she could unfasten her bra, he was already snoring.
She grinned, sighed. She adjusted his head on the pillow, pecked his forehead, and fell asleep beside him. At least he was the first to apologize and the night didn't end with bloody screams and fistfights, it was all good.
Light streamed through the filter of leaves, and it barely stung his eyes when he looked up. Autumn was beginning to paint the leaves bright orange and yellow, and John closed his eyes when the reminiscent color fell on him like he didn't see enough orange in one day.
"Dinner at the Italian place?" He broke his reverie by smiling down at his girlfriend.
"Why not?" Mari wrapped her arm around John's brawny arm.
Walking down the park in the waning afternoon, a cry echoed the wide park. They rushed at where a boy's cry alerted them. Vixen approached a boy who was crying next to a bench—he seemed lost—and tried her best to calm him.
John watched the spectacle and thought of Shayera… and his future son, Rex. Vixen held the boy's hand, started to walk with him through the park in search for his mother. John helped.
Less than a mile away and three minutes later, a woman in her early thirties cried and darted to the boy. The mother smothered him with her kisses, and her son returned them with fierce hugs. After a series of continuous thank yous and tears, both mother and son left John and Mari basking in the low moonlight's beam.
Mari immediately held John's limp hand when they resumed their walk. "Looking for the mother and calming the boy suddenly stole my appetite. Why don't we decompress in your place?"
John didn't seem to hear her. "Yeah…"
"You're spacing out on me again. What are you hiding from me?"
Blowing out a sigh, he faced her, said, "We need to talk." His future, Shayera's and Rex's depended on him now. He felt heavy at heart and mind, but he knew it was the right thing to do. He felt sorry when he had to disclose everything to Vixen.
But two things were certain for him now. One, he needed Advil right after 'The Talk'. And two, break-ups never were stress-relievers. Never, especially when Vixen gave him 'The Look'. Not good. Make that a whole bottle of Advil.
He shyly knocked at the door, raked back his hair when he heard the bolt being unlatched. His smile turned grim when Ice answered the door.
But he swallowed his embarrassed exterior and greeted cheerily, "Uh… hi! Ice, right?"
"Right." Ice leaned her hip on the doorframe, her hand on the doorknob. "What do you want?"
"Just wondering if Fire's 'round…?"
Ice kicked open the door, said without turning as she walked into the kitchen at the left corner, "Fire's cleaning up in the bathroom. I'll go tell her that you're here." She peered over her shoulder, saw that he locked the door behind him. She switched off the oven, asked, "Want some turkey while I call her?"
"Uh, no… no… I'm stuffed. Thanks though." Wally scratched his nape uneasily when Ice left him. He thumbed through the bouquet of lilies he bought from the stand a block away from his apartment. He sighed. He was sure his wallet would be collecting dust for the next few weeks, and how can he, The Flash, revel the two women of his dreams when he was now bankrupt? He fumbled in his pocket for change. With the exception of three quarters and a nickel—he sure as hell wasn't residing anywhere near the yuppie standard.
But for a poverty-stricken superhero, he had actually witnessed and basked in Olympia's rich sun and wine. Yeah, life was looking good for the Flash. He wondered how Diana was coping with Bruce's many, untiring reasons now though. He left Dick and Donna when Fire tried contacting him through the League's line. He darted fast to the metropolis, showered, suited up, bought flowers, and here he was now.
Smelling good and ready to explain to Fire why he didn't leave a note on the fridge, he stiffened when Fire came out.
"Wally! You're here!" Fire hugged him (amiably) and accepted the flowers Wally humbly gave her. "Lilies! How lovely! Thank you."
No kiss, a friendly hug… Wally wasn't naïve to know that something was up.
Fire blushed. "We need to talk."
Uh oh. Four dreaded words in the English language. "Shoot."
Fire turned her head slightly, and Ice came to her side, held Beatriz's hand. Wally's jaw fell to the floor.
"I'm sorry, Wally. But…"
Wally didn't even understand a single word she uttered as he gaped at the couple's heart-shaped eyes the whole time. He didn't even realize how Fire guiltily ushered him to the door, and how he currently ended up walking lifelessly along the damp sidewalk was a total mystery.
He was still dumbfounded when an Asian woman bumped into him.
A few cans of tuna and a bag of potato chips swam in a pool of rainwater. The lady in a trench coat cursed loudly and began picking them up, barely acknowledged Wally's presence when he handed her the tuna.
"I'm sorry," Wally apologized for the nth time. "I didn't… see…"
"'Course you didn't," Linda grimaced at the soaked bag of chips. "Eck. Just what I need. Soggy chips." She finally looked up, narrowed her eyes at him.
"You look awfully familiar…"
"Wally West… crime scene analyzer. How are you?" Flash held out a hand. He grinned, and the horror of what he'd seen in Fire's apartment was vague history.
Linda Park accepted it. "Ah, yes. Wally. Hello," Linda smiled at him. "You look blue tonight." She tilted her head upward. "Earlier's rain must have mirrored your recent sentiment."
"And you seem cheery about that."
"I love the rain. Sloughs off the pollution collecting in the air." She adjusted her purse, shook his still outstretched hand. "I have to go. I'll catch you later."
But Wally interrupted her. "Wanna grab something to eat before you transfer soggy chips into your thighs?" Coffee, maybe? Cake?"
Linda grinned. "Cake would still take residence in my thighs."
"Yeah… but they taste a lot better than soggy chips."
Linda thought about it. "Mmm…"
"Flash isn't here to scold you. Don't worry."
Linda's eyebrows shot up. "Sounds like you know him pretty well."
Wally blushed at the slip of words. But he ignored it. "You can say that… so," he offered his arm to her, took the soaked shopping bag from her. "I know this great coffee place if you don't want cake liquidating into your nice legs."
Linda laughed, teasingly slapped his arm. "I hope you're buying."
Wally's eyes widened. "About that…"
Linda feigned a frustrated sigh. "You owe me then." She wrapped an arm around his. "While you're at it, tell me about him."
Wally gave her a lopsided grin. "He's definitely a great guy, good-looking, and incredibly sharp."
"I'd say we're both fans."
Wally shrugged his shoulders in humble surrender. "Guilty. I'm mad about him. Like really loco-loco for the guy in red."
"He has a sexy ass, too."
Wally reddened, felt his blood boiling when Linda saw his expression. "My gawd… you resemble a cooked tomato."
"No… not really."
"You're right, more like the Flash's uniform."
Wally laughed. "Guess so." He opened the door for her, stepped into the ventilated place. "Uh… how much would I owe you?"
"Let's worry about that later." Linda stood behind a burly man, read the menu on the wall. "Or we could share a cake. That way you only owe me one date, and you're paying when that day comes."
Wally staggered behind her. "Date?"
Linda looked at him. "Unless you're gay and have a bf, I'd love to go on a date with you."
"Sure. The Flash is my heart's lover but waiting for him takes forever. I take it he's slow in that pitch. And…" Linda cleared her throat, mumbled, "You kinda remind me of him. Weird, huh?"
"Uh… I'd love to." Wally privately laughed to himself. "It's okay if I order for myself though."
Linda stared at him questioningly.
"I'll owe you two… three dates to make the score even."
The man behind the counter beckoned Linda to order soon since a long line was picking up fast. Linda nodded, winked at Wally.
"Okay," mimicked Wally, and he felt like he'd been better off here than anywhere else. Even Olympia couldn't have made his feet any lighter as that special night.
"You're mad at me, aren't you?"
"They're not kids anymore, you know that."
"I don't see why you'd let them pilot my jet…"
"And me agreeing to carry you by the armpits as we fly our way back to Watchtower is no problem." She smiled. "As long as you don't sweat on me, I won't drop you."
He scowled up at her. "You don't get it."
"I'm hurting you?"
"I didn't say anything," he muttered.
She adjusted her hold on him, wrapped her arms around his chest. He stiffened when he felt her breasts stroking his back. Her soft lips occasionally nipped his ear and he felt his heart palpitating.
"You're making me feel worse."
"You whine too much."
"All because you're making it so difficult."
"Okay, if you don't quiet down, I swear I'll drop you."
He looked down at the calm sea below them. The image of the shark chasing after him a few hours ago raced through his head, prompted him to renege.
"How can I make it so difficult when you came at a bad time that evening?"
"Oh, so now it's my fault that I flew to Cupid for help, wore the orb, transformed into a deadly, psycho-Amazon, you risking your life to save me, and now, I'm holding you like a teddy bear as we make our way back to Justice League headquarters. You were the one who couldn't control the temper."
"And you were the one who allowed Dick and Donna to pilot my jet!"
"Raise your voice again, I swear in Hera's name that I'll drop you."
"Donna was supposed to stay to help defend Themyscira," he muttered.
"An Amazon princess can have a life too, you know." She momentarily leaned her chin on his shoulder. "I bet you saw the glint in their eyes."
Even without turning his head, she could feel his eyebrows knitting together. "Glint?" he asked rather harshly.
"Sure. 'The Glint'."
"Remind me to skin Wally the second we land on earth."
She chuckled. "They're nice together. They've known each other for ages, it's not hard to imagine them seeing one another as who they really are deep within. Besides, Wally wasn't my only source and instructor from whom I learned your world's slang. It could have been Ollie, Clark, and Wally, of course. John's no anomaly too."
"I wholly bet on Wally."
"You're severe to him."
"He deserves it."
A mutual, contended pause rested over them.
"Your mother ignored me. Still, I don't blame her."
She nodded. "Zeus was a little skeptic but he passed fair judgment. And Mother didn't object when she saw Apollo and Artemis gathering around you. She always trusted their opinions."
"Hardly a surprise. They're very admirable."
Diana grinned. "Yes. Yes, they are. Excluding the circumstances, you're no different."
"Doesn't cross out the fact that Cupid disappeared the moment you woke up. Apparently he didn't want to see us together."
"A habit of his." Diana pulled Bruce closer when the wind blew at them from the East. "Give him time, Mother too."
Bruce only nodded. They were soaring over Bludhaven when Bruce said, "Why don't we make a stopover before we contact Mr. Terrific to beam us up?"
Fairly surprised, Diana stared at him. "Why?"
"I hate to admit it but my head's killing me slowly, I haven't had decent food for the past ten hours, my body is aching, and I'd like to get some sleep before night shift begins. If you'd rather go up now, you could. I'd rather sleep now than be caught dead sleeping in my chair."
Diana hugged him tighter. "Since I slept for the most part of the day, I could catch on some gossip from Alfred, make some tea before Superman grills us for being absent the whole day." She grinned, whispered into his ear coquettishly, "Or, I could knead you to sleep."
Bruce smirked, tried not to smile. "Alfred might hyperventilate when he sees us together… in bed."
"Don't you lock your door?"
"Alfred has the key."
Diana laughed, kissed his cheek. "Or he could just leave us alone. Knowing Bruce Wayne, he must've seen a lot of women in your bed back then."
"He doesn't favor them as much as he does to you." Bruce strained to turn his head to look at her. "And I've always trusted Alfred's opinion."
They watched as the harlequin horizon began to sip the sun into temporary slumber. Diana gently dropped him in his room's balcony. Bruce pulled off his cowl, opened the door, and the warm air and aromatic odor of Alfred's cleaning detergent in the room relaxed him.
"We'll surprise Alfred later," Bruce slurred as he pulled Diana in a kiss.
"You never fail in that field," Diana replied quietly.
He was, and always be, the Batman. But a small voice constantly pestered him that a superhero couldn't just witness happiness but feel it sparking in him, crackling with passionate fire inside him, consuming his entire soul. Yes, he was the Batman and in love with an Amazon.
Was that so unusual? Perhaps. But he couldn't let that small voice, that little boy's voice go unnoticed. He couldn't kill Thomas and Martha Wayne's son because Bruce Wayne was who he really was deep inside. He would continue his legacy as Batman, his honor to his family, but he would also prolong the Wayne legacy, his love for them.
Diana caressed his cheek. A gesture so familiar. "I love you."
Bruce smiled. "Ditto."
Diana laughed, cocked her head to the side. "We'll have to work on that later on."
"Whatever you say, Princess."
Author's Note: I hope you enjoyed it, and I'm sorry if it took me a while to update it. Thank you once again to my readers and reviewers. I can't thank you enough for all the support and comments you've given me. Also, if you've read Little Hearts, Overflowing Drool, it's not really the sequel of this. So, there you have it. Thank you, and have a nice day, or evening, or afternoon whenever.