And so it ends. Thanks to everyone who reviewed this fic…I learned a lot.
And I want to once again thank Jenn who kept me on the straight and narrow. I appreciate your help more than you know.
Diana sat on a couch in the commissary aboard the Watchtower replaying the day's events in her sleep-deprived mind. She couldn't get back to sleep after hearing the message that Bruce had left for her and, after several unsuccessful attempts at contacting him at the manor, she decided to abandon the apartment for the Watchtower. With the Watchtower's time roughly the same as Gotham's, it was quiet, with only a few members even up and about. The commissary wasn't her first choice as a location to wallow in her anger and self-pity but her quarters were too confining, and not even the spectacular view of the Earth from her favorite gazing spot in the Arboretum could lift her spirits. It was on the way back from there that she glanced in to see the couch, which she suddenly found very inviting.
She sat on the couch in the common area, her arms crossed on her chest in a pose more reminiscent of someone hugging themselves against an arctic wind instead of an act of defiance, anger or contemplation. Her legs were stretched out in front of her and her feet rested comfortably on a small table as she replayed Bruce's message in her mind over and over again.
"An Oreo for your thoughts", came a deep voice from over her right shoulder.
Diana smiled despite her foul mood and turned to regard her fellow League member and friend, only to come to eye level with an Oreo cookie nipped between a Martian thumb and index finger. She moved her gaze upward to see the smiling face of J'onn, though the smile wasn't a happy one; it was more of the type of smile that you would see from someone who knew you were hurting and why: sympathetic and kind.
"May I sit down?" asked J'onn quietly as he pointed to the empty spot next to her on the couch.
Diana took the offered cookie in her own hand and responded with a heartfelt smile. "Of course, J'onn, but be advised I'm probably not the best of company right now." Her hands rested on her upper legs and she stared at her cookie as though it held the secret of the universe.
J'onn sat down to her right, picked a cookie out of the bag and lifted it to his mouth as he said, "I gathered as much." He munched on the cookie and caught her questioning stare out of the corner of his eye. He swallowed the cookie quickly and clarified. "One hardly needs telepathy to see that you are not in the best of moods, Diana." He placed the bag of cookies on the table next to her feet and turned to face her as she looked to the table. "In fact, one doesn't even have to be a great detective to see it."
Her eyes shot back to J'onn, trying to determine if there was a hidden meaning to his detective comment or if it was simply benign. A moment later she realized the same thing she found out every time she tried to read the Martian when he was deliberately trying to be vague…she couldn't read him at all.
"Sorry, J'onn", she said apologetically. "It's been a long night." She glanced around to make sure that no one was close enough to listen, not that that was really pertinent when many of the Watchtower's inhabitants had enhanced hearing. She was relieved to find that they were in fact the only two people around. "I went to see Bruce, and it didn't go well." She hesitated and turned the Oreo around between her fingers.
Out of the corner of her eye she saw the Martian nod. He leaned forward and pulled another cookie from the bag on the table and popped it into his mouth as he sat back. He knew Diana well enough to know that if she needed or wanted to talk about it she would. In fact, rarely did he have to seek Diana out when she was troubled…she usually came to him, especially when her problems were centered around a certain pointy-eared Gothamite.
As he surmised, a moment later she took a deep breath and continued. "He thinks…he suspects…" She shook her head and whispered, "He thinks that I..."
J'onn remained still, not letting Diana know that he knew more…a lot more…than she suspected.
Diana glanced at her friend and tried not to let her tears spill onto her cheeks. "He is", she took a sharp breath, obviously struggling with her thoughts and emotions, "I don't know what he is."
A burst of anger flared in her chest as a thought occurred to her. "Maybe he's trying to drive me away to be with someone else, maybe his little cat." The thought was ludicrous and she knew it even before her lips finished the sentence. (She would later blame the outburst and underlying thoughts on daytime television and lack of rest). Judging by the amused look on J'onn's face he thought it was pretty funny too. She wiped her eyes with the back of her left hand and gave him a short, almost bitter laugh. "It would be simpler if that was it." She sighed and leaned her head back onto the back of the couch. "I'm so confused." Again inspiration struck and she lifted her head up quickly off the couch. Ignoring the head rush she declared, "Maybe he's the one who's confused!"
J'onn couldn't stand seeing his friends needlessly hurting. He longed to soothe Diana's fears and help her understand the true depths of Bruce's feelings for her, but could not betray the hard earned trust Bruce had given him by divulging his confidences. But that didn't mean that he couldn't lead her in the right direction with some well-placed hints. "No Diana, I sense many things from Batman, but confusion is not one of them. In fact, he feels quite certain of a couple of things."
Diana turned her head sharply in J'onn's direction, her hair flying around her to whip at her face with the movement. "J'onn", she began softly in spite of the loud thumping of her heart, "what is it?"
"Batman has trouble showing his emotions at the best of times." At Diana's knowing look he added, "But you would know about that better than I." He reached over and took another cookie from the bag and kept it in his hands, reminding himself that as soon as he took care of his friends he could take care of his cookies. "However, recently he has had more trouble than usual it seems."
Diana's voice was solemn as she spoke the name of the fourth reason. "Because of Kal."
A small, silent grin was the Princess' only clue that she was headed in the right direction as J'onn stood up and sat down on the table directly in front of her. He still held his cookie in his hand as it rested on his knee, within his field of vision…waiting.
"How can he think that I would leave him? For Kal? For anyone?" she nearly yelled.
The force of her voice, along with the fact that she rose off the couch as she came to this unhappy revelation nearly forced J'onn to fall backwards across the table. He maintained his position, however, and looked compassionately into the blue eyes that bored into his own so intently. "He is a detective, Diana. Feelings, even strong feelings such as love, can be shunted aside by facts and evidence, more so by Batman. He depends on what he sees."
Confusion and frustration warred within Diana for what seemed like an eternity until she finally realized that it was practically all the same. "I don't understand what this has to do with anything, J'onn."
J'onn nodded once and guided her further down the path towards enlightenment. "Diana, it has been fourteen days since Superman came back to the League." She nodded her agreement with that fact. "At least once a day for those fourteen days I have sought out Superman in order to", he paused to search his memory for the correct phrase, "catch up on things."
Still not seeing where J'onn was going, Diana managed, with more than a little annoyance in her voice, to say, "As have I, J'onn." She put her feet onto the floor and leaned forward, closer to him so he could not mistake the desperation in her eyes. "I don't want to talk about Kal, J'onn."
J'onn's head tilted slightly to his left as he mulled over her statement, and more importantly how she said it. He could easily sense her anxiety level rising. "I know, Diana, but his return is the at the heart of the matter." Diana sat back and looked again to the cookie still gently held in her hand. "We have all tried to spend time with Superman, to visit and ask about his time away."
Diana had enough. She was about to get up and leave before she seriously contemplated physically hurting her dear friend, but stopped when the Martian held up his hand to her. Her head bowed as she once again examined the Oreo in her hand and waited for J'onn to continue.
When he was satisfied that Diana was staying to listen to him, and that she wasn't going to try to deprive him of his cookies by physically injuring him, J'onn took a deep breath and continued. "Would it surprise you to learn, Diana, that of the fourteen times that I specifically went to see Superman while he wasn't working, you were with him nine of those times?"
Diana's head lifted slowly so that she could see J'onn's expression. Even before she saw the sincerity in his features she knew deep down that he was right…that he was telling her the truth. Before she could say anything J'onn continued.
"Would it further surprise you", he said softly, knowing that the knowledge he was about to depart was going to add to his friend's misery, "that, not counting tonight, Bruce's last four visits to the Watchtower were made specifically to see you?"
Diana opened her mouth to say something, anything to express the fact that she had no idea what J'onn was talking about, but her vocal cords seemed intent on making a fool out of her once again. She couldn't remember the last time she saw Bruce aboard the tower for anything other than official League business. "To see me?"
J'onn read the confusion in her mind without fear of recrimination. Diana had pretty much been rendered speechless after all. "Yes, Diana. During the last week he has come searching for you four times, and all four times you were spending time with Superman…twice in the privacy of his quarters."
Leaving the cookie on her leg Diana rubbed the tears from her eyes with both hands. It all made sense. The fourth reason. It had always been in the back of his mind, and with Kal's reappearance it was brought to the forefront, and further exacerbated by her being with Kal so much. It didn't matter that each and every millisecond she spent with Kal was innocent, as a friend and nothing else, she had neglected the man she loved, and no matter how unintentional it was she hurt him because of it.
Diana knew Bruce better than most, the exceptions being his protégés and Alfred, and looking at the evidence as J'onn so aptly described it through Bruce's eyes, she understood…all too clearly. How would she feel if someone with whom Bruce shared a close friendship disappeared and reappeared five years later and he spent time…a lot of time…with her? Zatanna maybe?
Anger began to well up in Diana's chest and sinister plots of revenge and physical damage began to coalesce in her mind. There wouldn't be a hole deep enough on Earth for Zatanna to hide in. "Wait a second…"
"Hera, what have I done?" she muttered as she gently shook her head in disbelief. Even just thinking about Bruce comforting Zatanna made her insides catch fire with anger, and fear if she were to be honest with herself: fear that she would lose him to Zatanna. If she thought that way over a scenario forged of her own mind and dwelled on for a grand total of thirty seconds, what was he thinking in the reality of the previous two weeks?
"Nothing", replied J'onn sincerely, ignoring the turmoil of her mind and dealing directly with her verbalized question, "except be a good friend to someone who needed one."
Diana shook her head sadly. "But it may have cost me Bruce, or at the very least his love and trust."
J'onn reached over and placed his hand upon her knee, temptingly close to the Oreo she seemed to have abandoned on her leg. "Do not underestimate him, Diana. Bruce loves you and he knows that you love him. Talk to him…he will understand if his message was any indication. I have never heard him sound so…penitent." J'onn removed his hand, sat up straight and spoke confidently. "In fact, you may be surprised by how much he understands." He nodded as understanding began to creep across the beautiful face before him. "Some good may have come from your hardship tonight, Diana. How much depends on you."
A ghost of a smile touched at Diana's lips as she realized that J'onn knew more than he was letting on. "Where is he, J'onn?"
"I am sorry, Diana", he said seriously. "I promised I would not tell you where he would be." Before Diana could protest or plead he added in a hushed conspiratorial voice, "However, as a senior member of the League, perhaps you would be interested to know that there are very important upgrades being made to security station seven." A smile appeared out of nowhere on his face.
It was a smile mirrored by Diana as she caught the hidden meaning. Very important security upgrades were done by one person and one person only. She grabbed her cookie, oblivious to the flash of disappointment on J'onn's face and stood up. She leaned down and hugged J'onn warmly. "Thank you, J'onn", she whispered.
J'onn hugged his Amazon friend back. "You are welcome, Diana."
A moment later Diana nodded and without another word headed for security station seven. When she disappeared around the corner, J'onn sighed happily as he turned to the bag of cookies next to him and his smile grew wider. "Now my little friends, you have my full attention." He shook his head as he picked up the bag of Oreos and muttered under his breath, "Earthlings."
The doors opened to the small room that housed security station seven. Before her on the far wall was the station itself: a computer, multiple monitors, communications equipment and a chair, which was empty. She knew he had to be close by though…his gloves were on the computer console.
"I told J'onn not to tell you I was here", came his steady baritone from the left side of the room. She looked over to find Batman standing behind a redundant computer bank. He stepped out from behind it and walked to the chair, though he didn't sit down. Instead he faced her with those cursed emotionless eyes of the cowl.
"What makes you think J'onn told me anything?" she asked with wide-eyed innocence.
He smirked as he walked to her, gently took her right wrist in his hand and brought her hand up between them at chest level. "The only way to obtain an Oreo cookie aboard the Watchtower is to bring it aboard yourself, steal one of J'onn's, or for him to give you one." He released her wrist and her arm fell back down to her side and allowed his smirk to grow. "I know you're not fond enough of Oreos to bring your own, and I know you don't like them enough to risk stealing one of J'onn's, to say nothing of the fact that you wouldn't steal anything from anyone. That leaves one option: he gave you one, and knowing J'onn the probability is very high that it came hand in hand with a therapy session." He turned and walked back to the security station and sat down with his back to her.
"You are quite the detective." The smile that accompanied her playful remark was guarded at best even though he couldn't see it…unless he had installed some micro cameras in the back of the cowl. She wouldn't put it past him.
"Yes, but that had nothing to do with it." He picked something up off the desk he was sitting at and held up his own Oreo cookie over his left shoulder. "Personal experience."
She couldn't help but laugh a little. When the laughter ended Diana rested her hands against her lower abdomen with her left hand grasping her right wrist. "I'm sorry", was all she could whisper.
The typing he had engaged in after setting his cookie back down on the console didn't cease or even slow down. "For?"
Diana looked to Batman. "For spending so much time with Kal. For not spending enough time with you."
"He's your friend", countered Batman. "Mine too for that matter. He must be having a difficult time adjusting to the new reality in Metropolis."
"Yes he is. But that still isn't an excuse." She took a hesitant step towards him. "It certainly isn't a fourth reason."
His shoulders tensed and his typing hesitated for a long moment. He said nothing.
"I'm also sorry for letting my anger get the better of me and not listening to your message. If I had I might have saved us both a bit of grief tonight." She took another stride in his direction. "I was just so angry and frustrated with…"
She halted her explanation when he spun the chair around so that he faced her and in one graceful motion he was up and within inches of her. He didn't quite startle her, but it was close. "Enough", ordered the harsh voice of the Batman. "You have no need to apologize."
Batman lowered his head and slowly, almost uncertainly reached up and pulled back his cowl. He never raised his eyes to look at her and for a moment she was uncertain as to why. She couldn't recall Bruce ever being so seemingly unsure of what to do.
Finally he looked up and she saw something in his eyes that she had never seen before, something that if she saw it in anyone else's eyes she would call fear. She had never known Bruce to be afraid of anything and the fact that she saw it in him now weighed heavily on her heart.
When Bruce spoke it was with the voice she knew so intimately and loved so much.
"I should be the one..." Bruce's voice failed him and his eyes bore into hers trying to tell her just how sorry he was. His right hand came up and tucked her hair behind her ear and then let his hand gently caress her cheek. "There's no excuse for what I thought and what I did." His eyes narrowed as though he just thought of something. "You said if you had listened to my message it would have saved us some grief." He shook his head sadly. "If I had talked to you then none of this would have happened. If I hadn't automatically thought the worst then none of this would have happened."
"Talking is not your strong suit", Diana whispered half teasingly and half wearily. She closed her eyes and moved her face up and down so that her cheek rubbed against his warm palm.
"No", he agreed, "but it's something I should be working on." He took a breath and sighed and she opened her eyes again. His left hand made its way to her other cheek and he edged closer to her, close enough to kiss away the tears that threatened to spill from her eyes. "I thought…I was worried that your feelings for Clark were growing. Instead of making those assumptions I should have talked to you."
"Bruce, Kal's leaving had nothing to do with us…personally, I mean. It had nothing to do with how I feel about you and nothing to do with how much I love you." She smiled at him more out of amusement than anything else. "And his coming back has nothing to do with us personally either. My feelings for Clark are only feelings of friendship, Bruce." Her hands came up to hold his arms at his elbows. "I love you."
Bruce tried to smile but just couldn't bring himself to do it. "I love you too."
"I know", she said with a teasing smile. "You wouldn't have acted so juvenile if you didn't."
He let loose snort of laughter and moved his hands down to rest on her shoulders. "I've been called many things, Princess, but I believe that's the first time in a while that I've been called juvenile."
Diana laughed with him and then her eyes and face became serious. "J'onn told me that you came up here a few times looking for me." He turned away and she used her right hand to turn him back to face her. "Why didn't you come to me?"
His jaw twitched and she spared him the answer. "You were afraid of what you'd find…what you'd see." When he didn't answer she leaned in and kissed him softly. "I would never hurt you like that."
He leaned in to rest his forehead against hers. "No", he conceded softly. "For some reason I just couldn't remember that you love me. Or that I trust you…and us." He leaned back so that he could look her full in the eyes. "I'm…sorry for that."
She smiled widely and kissed him again, a little longer this time. When she broke the kiss she muttered, "Given the extraordinary circumstances and my actions, I forgive you."
Diana closed her eyes and lost herself for a moment in the warmth generated within and around her by their physical contact. It always amazed her that something as simple as touching Bruce could make her feel so wonderful. "I wanted to kill Zatanna", she stated with a casualness that made Bruce move away enough to look at her. She nearly laughed when she saw his eyebrows had made their way to the middle of his forehead.
Diana slipped her arms around Bruce's waist, rested her head on his left shoulder and nuzzled her nose against his neck. Her warm breath washed over his neck and throat when she explained. "I tried to imagine how I would feel if you spent so much time with a good friend under the same circumstances." She smiled and felt her breath hitch when his arms moved to protectively embrace her. "I admit the thought was…well, it was not pleasant."
"Diana", Bruce whispered softly, unsure of what to say to that.
"All of this happened because we didn't talk to each other, Bruce", she whispered against his neck. "I didn't talk to you about what I was doing with Kal or even how you felt about him coming back, and you didn't talk to me about it either." Diana looked up into Bruce's eyes. "I didn't even realize I was spending so much time with Kal." Her voice turned almost childlike as she asked, "You believe that don't you?"
Looking into the crystal blue eyes of Diana he knew that she didn't realize it. She was helping a friend and that was it, and that was as natural a thing for her as breathing.
Instead of answering verbally, Bruce Wayne smiled a warm and genuine smile for the second time in a matter of hours, then leaned over and gently placed his lips against hers.
When the tender kiss ended a few moments later, Diana, her face aglow with relief and love, asked playfully, "Can I take that as a yes?"
Bruce's lip turned up in a smirk. "Yes…you can ta…"
He never had a chance to finish when Diana closed the distance between them initiating a passionate kiss that rocked Bruce all the way down to his Kevlar covered toes.
He responded enthusiastically and moments later the door to security station seven was locked with an override code that was non-countermandable except by Batman, and two distinct uniforms were strewn across the floor and over the machinery and furniture in the room with what appeared to be reckless abandon.
And somewhere, deep within the Watchtower, there was a smile that was witnessed only by a bunch of Oreo cookies awaiting their destiny.
Fourteen hours after Bruce and Diana engaged in their highly unauthorized activities in security station seven, Batman went in search of Superman. Diana had told Bruce that Clark needed him, who he trusted more than anyone, to talk to. Bruce was all for the whole 'trying to talk' thing…with Diana. But with Clark?
It wasn't a preferred option, but deep down he knew that Clark would be there for him if the situation were reversed. It was what friends did, after all. And despite it all, they were friends.
The door to the secondary observation deck opened with almost perfect silence. Batman knew, however, that the lone solitary figure standing at the observation port some twenty feet away heard the miniscule hiss of the door's internal hydraulic system.
Batman waked into the room. It wasn't as enormous as the main observation deck, where most of the inhabitants of the Watchtower went to gaze upon the Earth; and it wasn't as crowded as the Arboretum. It was actually about a quarter of the size of the main obs deck, but both Batman and Superman preferred the view afforded by the smaller room.
"The view is still breathtaking."
Superman's voice was calm, bordering on serene as it sliced through Bruce's thoughts. Clark stood tall as he watched the Earth 'float' by. The usual red cape obscured Batman's vision of his friend, but if old habits die-hard then Clark was standing there with his massive arms folded across his chest and a somewhat dopey grin upon his face.
Some things never change.
Bruce managed to keep his smile in check when that theory was confirmed a moment later when he walked up to stand next to Clark. "Yes", responded Batman finally.
Batman caught the flash of a smile on Clark's lips and knew what was coming next.
Clark turned his head towards Bruce. "Still running under the daily word quota, Bruce?"
The shine in his eyes was still there, noted Bruce as he said flatly, "Yes."
That brought another smile to the larger man's face. He turned back to the observation window and the smile disappeared. "She loves him."
It wasn't a question, and who the 'she' was in the sentence was obvious to see. Lois.
"Yes", replied Bruce.
Assuming that that was the end of Bruce's reply, Clark opened his mouth to speak, only to be interrupted by Bruce when he turned towards him and spoke.
"But she will always love you, too." Bruce resisted the urge to sprint out of the room. He never was good at talking, let alone trying to make people feel better. "I suspect that if you never left to find Krypton that perhaps you would be with her now."
The Man of Steel flinched and Bruce immediately realized why. "Clark…I wasn't blaming you…what I meant was…well, if you…" He sighed and turned back to the window. This is why he never talked to people about the emotional stuff. "Damn."
Batman took a very deep breath. "I wasn't saying it was your fault, Clark. What I mean is that I don't believe that she would have fallen for him if you'd been here. I know it still sounds like…"
A hand on his shoulder stopped Bruce from continuing. When he looked to his friend he once again saw a smile there.
"I know what you meant, Bruce. Thank you." Clark slapped Bruce's back and laughed. When he settled down he looked at Bruce appraisingly. "You never used to be this…helpful." He smiled as he added, "She's been good for you."
Again, Bruce knew whom the 'she' being referred to was. Diana.
"I thought we were talking about you", tried Bruce before the conversation really went somewhere uncomfortable.
Clark shrugged his shoulders as he watched the Earth. "It was a brilliant attempt on my part to covertly change the subject."
Bruce nodded, intimately familiar with the need to not talk about things until the time was right.
"You've been good for her, too. She's very happy." Clark turned to gauge Bruce's reaction, which was not much. Some things never change.
"There have been…obstacles", Bruce said cryptically.
That elicited another laugh from his friend. "I bet", he said jovially. After a moment, Clark became serious. "But you've overcome them all. She's a special lady."
Bruce felt an itch underneath his cowl, and itch he came to know was the sting of anger in his cheeks.
"Whenever we've gotten together to talk since I came back she's listened to me babble on about Lois, my son, my mother…and God knows what else." Clark reached over and put his hand against the view port. "Did you know that she couldn't talk for more that sixty seconds without mentioning your name?"
That caught Bruce completely off guard. "Excuse me?"
Clark smiled widely at finally being able to surprise Batman. "All of our talks since I came back haven't been about me, you know." He lowered his hand and turned to face Bruce and looked at him with eyes that were warning and pleading at the same time. "She loves you, Bruce. Don't let anything happen to that."
Bruce's jaw twitched as he recalled that he had very recently almost let something very bad happen to it, but then the steely resolve that Batman was famous for took over with a passion. "I won't."
Clark smiled and nodded, immensely satisfied with Bruce's response. "I've missed you, Bruce."
Bruce allowed his mouth to form the barest of smiles as Clark began talking to him about anything and everything.
And somewhere, deep within the Watchtower, there was a smile that was witnessed only by a batch of Oreos, waiting for their destiny much as their comrades had the night before.