1) I still don't own anything associated with Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman or the Justice League.
2) I've mixed the comics, 'Superman Returns' and the animated series together. I hope it isn't too fouled up.
3) There are spoilers in this for 'Superman Returns'. If you don't want the movie experience spoiled, don't read ahead. If you haven't seen the movie I'd recommend it.
4) The reasons alluded to in the story are the three reasons that Batman gave Diana for not dating in the animated series episode 'This Little Piggy'. As you could probably guess, the fourth reason is an additional reason that resurfaced after Superman returns to the Justice League.
5) And most importantly, thank you Jenn for your time, effort, suggestions and comments in helping me with this.:)
Bruce Wayne sat in his chair in front of the massive computer that was the mainstay of the Batcave. He was in costume minus the cowl which laid within easy reach on the computer console.
He gazed absently at the immense monitor in front of him, the image he had frozen there nearly an hour before was nothing but a blur to him now. The security footage from the main conference room of the Watchtower was hardly something that would normally be considered important enough to occupy his attention. However, this particular footage from that particular day was anything but the usual mundane security footage.
The date and time stamp in the bottom right hand corner of the screen verified it as the day of his friend's return to the League after a five-year absence. Bruce's eyes focused and shot up briefly to where he was when the frame was taken, back against the wall near the door with his cape drawn tightly around him. Only he knew of the clenched fists hiding inside his cape as the scene before him unfolded.
They were happy to have him back, as they should have been. Superman's absence was keenly felt by all. His strength, his leadership and his sense of honor…even his innocence. Even Bruce missed the Boy Scout and what he brought to the League. In many ways, Superman was the best of the League.
His eyes wandered back down to the center of the screen, which in this case fell onto the center of the room as well. There he was, large as life, surrounded by his comrades in arms, including Diana.
She was affected most by his return. He always knew that Clark held a very special place in Diana's heart and it was easily seen in her reaction to his return. After getting over the initial shock of seeing him it was almost as though he hadn't left. She even got over the unresolved anger she felt towards his lengthy absence and the fact that he hadn't even contacted any of them. They all did.
It's not that he begrudged Diana her happiness at Superman's homecoming, but in the two weeks since his return to the League they spent a tremendous amount of time together. There had even been a few times in the last week when he had gone to find her, to be with her, only to find her alone with Clark.
He never interrupted them.
His right hand came up and the leather covered thumb and index finger rubbed the bridge of his nose. He suddenly felt tired…very tired. He leaned back in the chair, folded his hands together on his lap and looked up at the image once again. Clark's smile was enormous, matched in its intensity only by the smile that graced her beautiful lips. His right hand grasped Flash's as they shook hands. Diana was situated to his left, her left hand on his left forearm and her right hand resting on his shoulder. If he zoomed in and cleaned up the image enough, he suspected that he would find her right breast grazing his triceps.
He never bothered. It didn't matter.
Bruce always knew that Superman would return…it was as certain as the sun rising in the morning. He never made any contingency plans either for the League or for Diana. As far as the League was concerned, Superman was a permanent member on hiatus. He could come back at any time and resume his usual role. There hadn't even been a discussion about it, and Bruce had no quarrel with it. Not really. Well, maybe a little.
For Diana the answer was just as simple, if more painful. She would have a choice to make, and he would let her make it without any pressure from him. He knew it would be hard enough for her as it was. Bruce had no doubt that she loved him, but Clark…there was always something there for Clark, or Kal, as she called him so affectionately.
It hadn't even occurred to him that Diana wouldn't have a choice to make. It was a given. The choice between him and Clark…between the dark and the light, some would say.
He'd be one of them.
Unfortunately for him, she appeared to be making that choice just fine.
He reached forward and manipulated the image, cropping everything but the section of the two of them touching so…intimately. The red and blue of their respective costumes complimenting each other in a very aesthetically pleasing way. Two beacons of light…
The right corner of his mouth turned up in a resigned smile. "There it is", he mumbled as though it was one of his deepest secrets. Perhaps it was. "The fourth reason." The one he didn't tell her that night as they watched the Natural History Museum because it seemed unnecessary then. The one reason that appeared, at the time, to have the least bearing on the situation; the one reason that she could dismiss automatically because of Lois and the love she and Clark shared.
Now it was different. With Lois out of Clark's life in a romantic sense, it had all the bearing in the world.
He almost told her his fourth reason when she decapitated the gargoyle, looked at him and said so directly, 'Next.' He never got the chance to even decide whether or not to give her that reason…that excuse for avoiding a romance with her, as Circe appeared and ended up turning his beautiful teammate into a silver bracelet wearing pig.
A quiet clearing of a throat interrupted his reverie and made his finger automatically find the correct key to remove the image and replace it with a grid map of Gotham. His hands resumed their position on his lap. He didn't turn to see who had cleared his throat. It could only be Alfred.
"What is it, Alfred?", asked a voice that an in-between mixture of Batman and Bruce Wayne.
Alfred stood on the bottom step and frowned at the state of his ward. He saw the picture that Bruce was looking at, and it saddened and alarmed him. He had no doubt about how Miss Diana felt about his charge but Bruce, despite his confidence in his deductive and fighting abilities, still couldn't bring himself to be confident in her feelings for him. The picture on the screen, his posture and the fact that he was still in the cave this late were bad signs. Very bad signs indeed.
Just as he was sure of Diana's feelings, he was sure of Bruce's. He loved her very much, more than he had loved any other woman that had entered his life. Unfortunately, he was also more unsure of the foundation of their relationship than he had been with any other woman. It boggled Alfred's mind.
"It is getting late, Master Bruce", Alfred stated in a business like tone. "I would suggest that if you want the criminals of Gotham to feel the wrath of Batman tonight, you should stop worrying needlessly about Miss Diana and go terrorize them." Alfred reigned in his growing frustration. "It is after two in the morning, sir."
Bruce just managed to keep the shock and surprise from manifesting itself in any outward fashion. Interestingly, he couldn't immediately determine if his surprise was at the fact that it was so late, or that Alfred knew what was eating at him.
Definitely the former, he decided. He was well aware of the fact that Alfred knew everything that happened in the manor…and underneath it as well. He stood up and turned to look at Alfred, seeing for a moment a sympathetic cast to his features. It disappeared in a blink of an eye though, replaced by Alfred's usual veneer.
When Bruce found his voice it was his usual gruff tone. "Thank you, Alfred." He looked to the computer readout of the police reports for the night. "It's a quiet night. Perhaps Batman isn't needed tonight."
He took a step to the changing room to get out of his costume when the teleporter activation alarm sounded. Both men automatically turned to the device and watched specks of light coalesce into a solid form…a familiar and very beautiful form at that.
"Diana", whispered Bruce with the ever-dangerous combination of unfettered love and devastating dread. She was in costume and looking as radiant as ever. It took him a moment to realize that he was smiling…
Diana stepped out of the teleporter, let her eyes grow accustomed to the darkness and took in the sight before her. When she saw him standing there, with his dark blue eyes focused intently on her, a smile automatically came to her face.
For a moment she saw the same smile on Bruce's face…but only for a moment. She was used to that by now and had come to accept it as part of who he was. Diana had waited a long time for him to admit his love for her and agree to work at a relationship. As with most things with Bruce, once he committed to something he was in it for the long haul, and their relationship was no exception. If someone had told her when they first met years earlier that Batman was capable of any type of expression of love she would have laughed in their face. Wally still couldn't believe it, even after witnessing multiple examples of it.
Yes, it took a while, but for her the wait was more than worth it.
"I was hoping to find you here." She took a step towards him and stopped cold when she realized that Alfred was present as well. She looked back and forth between the two, trying to figure out why Alfred looked so concerned, never mind why he was even in the cave so late. "What's going on?" she asked in general, hoping that one of them would seize the opportunity to answer her.
She kept looking back and forth between Bruce and Alfred, neither of them moving much less talking with nearly identical looks of stony-faced stubbornness etched upon their faces. A few moments passed and Diana was becoming concerned. She decided that a change in tactics was required. She stepped towards Alfred, close enough for his sense of chivalry to demand that he look at her, which he did.
"Alfred", she began quietly, "is everything alright?"
Alfred smiled a smile that Diana had come to learn was his 'I'm not sure' smile, but he said nothing.
"Alfred", she tried, "why are you in the cave so late?"
Alfred looked beyond her shoulder to Bruce, and then returned his gaze to Diana. "I came to remind Master Bruce that it was getting late to start his patrol, Miss."
Diana felt her brow furrow in confusion. "He hasn't been out yet?" She turned to regard Bruce, who had as absolute a look of neutrality as she had ever seen etched on his face. He wasn't giving anything away. "Why hasn't he been out yet, Alfred?"
"I believe he was looking over some materials on the computer, Miss."
Bruce's jaw twitched. Not much, but she noticed. She looked to the screen but all that was there was a map of Gotham.
"What's going on?", she repeated and more loudly this time in the hopes that a show of annoyance would get some answers.
"Research." Short, not so sweet, and to the point.
"Research?", she repeated suspiciously as she faced Bruce fully. He didn't elaborate, nor did he move…she couldn't even be sure he was breathing from looking at him. "I come here after getting back from the Fortress with Kal, hoping to find you home for the night so we could spend some time together." She put her hands on her hips and hardened her gaze into something she usually reserved for super villains. "Instead I come here and find the two of you in some kind of…whatever it is. Now someone please tell me what's going on."
"You were with Clark…at the Fortress?" His jaw was clenched so tightly he was almost surprised he got it out.
Her eyes locked onto Bruce's, which, for some reason, had turned to ice, her hands still resting on her hips. The grating tone of his voice and the sheer anger in his eyes limited her answer to one word. "Yes."
"You were supposed to be helping Flash in Keystone City, Princess."
She thought she heard a little sound of disapproval from Alfred, and for a moment she thought that it was directed towards her. A quick glance to the elder man told her the opposite: it was aimed squarely at Bruce.
She turned her full attention back to Bruce. The way he said 'Princess' made her feel uncomfortable. It definitely wasn't said as a courtesy or an endearment, as was his habit. "Shayera went with Flash. Kal said he needed me..."
She stopped talking and watched as Bruce moved suddenly towards the Batmobile, grabbing his cowl off the console and pulling it over his head along the way with a grace and fluidity that would make a prima ballerina want to turn in her slippers and tutu.
She took a step towards him as he lowered himself into the car but stopped when she felt a gentle pressure on her left arm. She looked down to Alfred's hand holding her. She could have easily broken the hold, but something in Alfred's eyes stopped her. The Batmobile came to life and roared out the secret tunnel and she looked up just in time to see the flame from the afterburner disappear around the first turn.
Diana was confused, angry and shocked all at once. She turned to Alfred who had since released her, her mouth opening to ask the obvious question though she could make no sound at all. Well, at least nothing intelligible.
Alfred simply shook his head as he clasped his hands behind his back, releasing a tired sigh.
Finally Diana found her voice. "Was it something I said, Alfred?"
She meant it as something of a joke of course, something she heard from Wally a number of times, so when Alfred spoke the harsh truth his words shook her deeply.
"Yes, Miss", he said quietly, though his tone told her that she hadn't really done anything wrong. "I'm afraid it was."