This ficcy started as an answer to Adrian Tullberg's challenge:
Either Bruce or Diana get drunk - I'm talking new liver rat-arsed - and the other has to take them home.
Things are said. Revelations are made. And expensive items are chundered.
It sorta took a life of its own and soon became a missing scene to Gotham Knights issue 42.
Diana found him in a bar, an arm draped around another patron who was listening as if Bruce had the answer to all of life's questions.
Bruce threw the remains of his drink to the back of his throat and winced. "It's simple, really. You're born; you die. It's everything in between that gets so damned muddled."
Bruce's new friend nodded in an exaggerated motion that nearly had them both falling off their stools.
"Whoa. That was close." Bruce patted the man on the back. "Not to worry. I'll protect you." He winked and leaned in closer. "It's what I do. Barkeep, another round for me and my friend, here."
Diana, sans her uniform and in civilian attire, strode over to the two men, taking the empty seat across from Bruce.
He grinned when he saw her. It wasn't a friendly grin. "And bring one for the Princess, too. I'm in the mood for a toast."
"Don't you think you've had enough?"
"I haven't even started, yet, Princess." He said her title with disdain. She reminded herself that Bruce lashed out at those closest to him when he was hurting. And he was hurting. She just wasn't too clear on why.
The bartender placed a drink in front of Diana. A drink she had no intention of touching.
"What? Too good to have a drink with me?"
"Why are you doing this?"
"This is what I do, Princess. Or haven't you noticed."
"I've never seen you drunk."
"I've had a bad day."
"You didn't do anything wrong, Bruce." He'd fought well, today. They'd all fought well.
He stood. His eyes seemed to grow dark as he fixed his gaze on her, and slammed his fist onto the bar, hitting his drink and shattering the glass with the force of his blow. "Don't you dare stand there and tell me I've done nothing wrong! You don't have that right!"
She gasped as she looked down at his hand, now bleeding profusely.
"Damn. Alfred's going to kill me."
She grabbed the towel the bartender used to wipe down the counter and wrapped Bruce's hand. "Alfred cares for you."
"Alfred's old and damned tired of putting me back together." He sighed. "I'm old and tired, too."
She carefully opened a corner of the towel to take a look at the injury, dabbing away the blood as she did so. "You're going to need stitches."
He pulled his hand from her, just stood there for a moment, swaying, then reached into his trousers with his good hand, producing his wallet. He grabbed two one-hundred dollar bills, letting them drift one at a time onto the counter. Grabbing another bill, he turned to his friend, shoving it into the man's shirt pocket. "Make sure you get a ride home." He patted the pocket and tried to straighten to his full height, walking to the door with a look of concentrated effort.
She wasn't sure where he thought he was going, but he was in no condition to walk across the street, let alone get home safely. So she followed him outside.
She found him leaning heavily against the building as if he were trying to hold it up, not the other way around.
"Why are you here?" he asked.
"I wanted to know what happened. We fought a good battle today. Saved a lot of people. But you behaved as though the entire thing was a failure. Members of the League are still reeling from the lashing you gave us. Then you left. Without another word."
He pushed himself off of the building, nearly falling in the process.
"Disappointed I didn't give you a good-bye kiss?"
Bruce could be cruel at times. She knew this. Expected it even. But she'd never seen him like this.
She was about to say something when she heard him groan. He stumbled into the adjoining alley. She fought the urge to console him, rub his back while he vomited what sounded like the full contents of his stomach. She knew that such intimacy would only push him further away.
So she waited.
He finally stumbled back, looking a bit more sober and a lot worse for the wear.
He steadied himself with one hand against the wall. "You still here?"
"Looks like you could use a lift home."
"I don't have much of a choice. I seemed to have misplaced my car."
"You're in no condition to drive."
He stretched out his arms at either side. "Well?"
She moved closer, settling herself at his side, threading an arm around his waist. "I'll have you in Alfred's care in no time."
"No. I have a penthouse just a few blocks from here."
"But your hand…"
"I said no!" He took a breath. "Alfred's tired. I don't want to disturb him. Not like this."
She understood. He didn't want Alfred seeing him in his present condition.
She tightened her grip around his waist, drawing him a little closer than was actually necessary, and lifted them into the sky, following his directions. She wondered if the night air and altitude would make him sick again, but he seemed to take it in stride.
She landed on the balcony of a luxurious penthouse, high atop what looked like the tallest building in Gotham. Bruce pushed himself from her grasp and stumbled toward the double doors of his apartment. He fumbled in his pocket for a few minutes, finally producing a set of keys. On the third try he was able to get the key into its slot, opening the doors, and nearly falling into the room.
She took his arm to help guide him to a chair but he shrugged out of her grasp, falling onto the couch in the process.
She folded her arms. "I was just trying to help."
"I don't need your help." His voice was slurred, but rough.
He didn't deter her. "Why are you doing this? What happened today?"
He started to laugh. She shivered. She'd really never heard him laugh much since she'd known him. It scared her.
Then he became quiet.
She sat next to him, spoke softly, steeled herself for a hateful retort. "What happened today?"
He touched her cheek. "So beautiful."
She remembered the first time he'd said those words. He'd been sick with a fever. And now he was drunk. It made her wonder if being physically incapacitated was a prerequisite for displaying his feelings.
She placed her hand over his, which he quickly removed. "Go home, Diana."
"What happened today?"
He took a deep breath. "We saved lives today."
"Then why the dressing down? Why this?"
He shook his head, squeezed his eyes shut. "Haven't you noticed anything?"
"Bruce, would you please stop talking in riddles and tell me what's going on."
"I'm getting older. I'm not as quick as I used to be."
"You're being ridiculous."
"I'm being honest." He rested his head in his hands, probably trying to ward off the effects of the alcohol in his system. "Don't you think I've noticed how you, even Clark, watch over me in battle? You've both seen it, haven't you?"
"We've always watched over each other. We're a team."
"I'm slowing down. I'm a detriment to the team."
"That's not true…"
"It is true. You just refuse to see it." He stood, made his way to the room's stocked bar, poured himself a drink. He stared at it for a moment, then drank it in one gulp.
"Why are you here?" he asked again.
She stood. She wasn't sure what she should do next. Or even why she was here. Except that she cared for this man. More than she was willing to admit at the moment, at least to him. Not until he would admit his feelings first.
"Because I care."
His knees collapsed from under him, sending him to the floor. She ran to his side. Suddenly, he began to laugh. A real, hearty laugh that rose from his belly. She laughed, too.
"Did I just fall?"
"Yes. Yes you did." It felt good to laugh with Bruce. She'd never laughed with him before. She liked it.
But then he became quiet again, touched her hair. "So beautiful."
This time she didn't dare touch him, but instead leaned into his touch. "What do you want, Bruce?" She shocked herself with the question. There'd always been so much unsaid between them. So many feelings never expressed.
He leaned in and kissed her. There was nothing tentative about the kiss. It was full and passionate. He'd answered her in that kiss.
But then he broke away. "I'm drunk."
She laughed. "You think?"
"I'm old and drunk."
She kissed him lightly on the mouth. "You're not that old."
He arched an eyebrow.
She laughed again. "At any rate, I'm much older than you are."
"But you'll never show it. You'll be this way forever."
"Is that such a bad thing?"
"Nope." He grabbed her again, holding her in a tight embrace.
He didn't let go for a long time, but she wanted answers.
She pushed him away enough to see his face, look into his eyes. "What really happened today?"
"I don't like the idea of you and Clark watching over me. I can take care of myself." He looked away.
"This doesn't have anything to do with today's battle. Does it?" She touched his arm. "What is it?"
He shuddered and a single tear tracked down his face. "It's Alfred. He hasn't been well. He won't talk about it. Thinks I don't know. But I know."
"What do you know?"
"Are you sure?"
He took a shuddering breath. "I can feel it."
She stood up. "I'm taking you to the Manor."
"No. Please. Not tonight. Just stay with me here.
She nodded. She didn't think she could leave him, anyway. Not like this.
She looked down at his hand. "You have a first aid kit?"
He motioned toward the bedroom. "Through there. In the bathroom."
She returned quickly with her arms full of medical supplies. Not your run-of-the-mill first aid kit. Then again, she was certain that Bruce had seen more than his share of both minor and major injuries as Batman. The thought made her frown. He wasn't invulnerable. Sometimes she forgot that. He'd always made her forget that.
She cleaned the wound, and before pulling the needle through his flesh, looked up at him. "You want something for the pain first?"
"In my condition, I don't think I'll be feeling anything for weeks."
She laughed. "True."
She stuck the needle into his skin. He didn't flinch, so she drew the thread in and out in ten consecutive strokes. When she was finished, she held his hand and scrutinized her work.
"Almost good as new."
The only response she received was the soft sounds of his snores. She smiled, studied his sleeping face. He seemed younger, somehow. Maybe because in his sleep he was able to let his guard down, which served to soften his features. She stroked his cheek. He looked peaceful. Drunk, but peaceful. She almost hated to wake him up. Almost.
"She shook him. "Bruce? I'd pick you up and carry you to bed, but somehow I don't think you'd thank me for it in the morning." He'd probably lash out at her for manhandling him. The thought made her smile.
"I can manage," he said, but didn't move.
She decided that a little help couldn't hurt. She grabbed his arm and placed it around her shoulder, lifting him to his feet.
"See? Told you I could manage."
She grinned. "I can see that. Now let's see if you can walk."
"What's so funny?"
"Are you trying to take advantage of me?"
"What?" Then she realized that when she lifted him to his feet, her hand had settled on his ass. She moved it quickly to his waist. "Sorry."
She blushed, then shrugged, thinking he wouldn't remember much of anything in the morning. "Come on. Let's get you to bed."
"Is that an invitation, Princess?"
"I don't think you could handle me at the moment."
"I might just surprise you."
She layed him onto the turned bed, bringing the covers over his massive chest.
He grabbed her arm. "Are you leaving?"
"Not unless you want me to."
"I might take advantage of you."
She laughed. "In your condition, it would be I that could take advantage of you."
He pulled her on top of him. "Are you so sure of that?"
She kissed him on the forehead. "Yep. Pretty sure."
"You're probably right." He closed his eyes. She was pretty sure he would be asleep again in no time. "It's not how I wanted our first time to be."
"What?" she asked, but he was asleep again.
She shook him. "Bruce?"
He grunted softly. She wouldn't be able to get anything more out of him. He'd been thinking of her. The thought made her happy and afraid and…too many things to think about at the moment.
She started to move off the bed when she realized that he had a firm grip on her arm. She tried to pull away, waking him in the process.
He looked up at her with what looked like confusion. "Are you leaving?"
"No. I'm just going in there. On the couch."
He closed his eyes again. Couldn't seem to keep them open. "Don't leave me."
He held onto her arm, so she relented. Didn't have the heart not to. "All right, Bruce. I won't leave.
She sunk down into the bed, snuggled next to him, thinking that she could become used to this. Her heart sank because she knew that this wouldn't last. Would it? It was that small glimmer of doubt that had her seek him out in the first place.
She soon fell into an uneasy sleep, awakened when she felt him touch her face. She opened her eyes to find him watching her. "I thought you were asleep."
"You're so beautiful."
"So you've said."
"Why are you here?"
"You needed me." It was an easy answer, but apparently not the answer he was looking for.
"Oh." He released his hold on her arm. "In that case, I'm fine. You can go now."
"Do you want me?" There. She'd said it. And now, she would have to live with the answer.
"Do you want me?"
Not the response she was expecting, although she really didn't know what she expected. "I asked you first."
"It seems that we're at a stalemate."
She threw off the covers and sat up. "This is ridiculous. We're not children."
"No. We're not."
"So why can't we be honest with our feelings?"
He raised an eyebrow. "So, you do have feelings for me?"
"I could ask you the same thing, but then we'd be no further than we were." She swallowed. Hard. "Yes."
She noticed him swallow. Hard.
"Me too," he said.
He grabbed her to him, kissed her full on the mouth. But she pushed him away.
"What do you want, Bruce? I have to know. You need to tell me." She searched his face for the answer, but he was good at hiding things. "I don't think I could bear loving you, only for you to act like nothing's changed afterward.
He stroked her cheek. "I want you, Diana."
"For how long?"
He kissed her. More gently this time. Lovingly? "For as long as you want me."
He kissed her again, and this time, she kissed him back. Allowed herself to express her feelings in the kiss.
He broke away this time. Brushed the hair from her face. "I've waited a long time for this."
"About as long as I have, it seems."
"A lot of wasted time between us."
"We weren't ready before. We are now. Aren't we?" She hated that she needed his reassurance. Maybe someday, she won't need it, but today, she did.
"Yes." He kissed her again, his body pressing against hers. His hands exploring her. Touching. Teasing.
She smiled. "Yes."