Disclaimer One: I don't own these characters, and I don't make money off of this story.
Disclaimer Two: Batman and Wonder Woman will seem out of character, though I tried to minimize it as much as possible (meaning, I rewrote a huge chunk of this story). Some of it is intentional, some of it is due to my own inability as a writer, though I am trying to improve.
This takes place in the episode Grudge Match. The line in bold is from the episode. I had first intended to write something humorous about Bruce Wayne attending the Meta-Brawl, but it turned into this angsty little thing below.
As always, thanks to Kipling-Nori. Don't blame her if your favorite heroes are acting out of character. But blame her if you like this story, as she helped me reshape and retool this sucker. In gratitude to you, KN, I give you a chocolate covered HC, to do with what you will. I look forward to hearing what that is. : P
Balancing the Scales
When Diana came to, she was surprised to find Vixen's and Hawkgirl's heads mere inches from each other. She was even more shocked to realize that she was the one about to bash their skulls together.
"I hope you two have an explanation for this."
But before any answers were given, Shayera said, "First, let go of our hair, and then we'll talk."
"Oh, sorry about that." With that, the Princess released Green Lantern's ex and current girlfriends. Both ladies began to rub their sore scalps, as Mari provided the explanations. "Roulette and Sonar created a signal and used our com-links to control us."
"To do what?"
Shayera waved her arms wide. "Look around, Diana."
What Wonder Woman saw was enough to make her angry. "They had us fighting for their amusement?"
"Don't be so offended. We fight for fun all the time."
"But for training purposes, not to …."
"Not to what, Diana?" As she asked the question, Hawkgirl's lips turned up at the corners in an impish smile.
As for Diana, her nose wrinkled in disgust. "You know."
Shayera and Mari's silence indicated that they didn't know, or, more likely, that they were pretending not to.
Diana fumbled for the right words, "Men exploiting and manipulating women. Robbing them of control for their entertainment…Like mud or jell-o wrestling," she finished lamely.
The other two women didn't seem to share her outrage.
"Just be glad that they didn't dress us up in bikinis. Oh…," Mari's voice trailed off in embarrassment as she looked over at Diana's uniform.
Shayera was quick to provide the reassurances. "Don't feel bad, Vixen. Diana couldn't care less that she prances around in a swim-suit. It's just that she doesn't want to do it for 'man's pleasure'. At least, not just any man's pleasure. I bet-"
Diana had long ago grown sick of people talking about her little crush on a certain dark-cloaked figure. She had hoped that avoiding Batman for the past few months would have made these comments disappear, but obviously she hadn't succeeded.
"Enough. Was there anyone else involved?"
"Fire, Black Canary, and Huntress."
Diana's eyes widened in surprise. "They were able to control six Justice League members?!"
"Well, there's nothing to worry about now." The three women's heads turned to see Huntress walk in with Black Canary. "We took care of it. But we need to go get Fire. She got pretty banged up."
After the women had found their Brazilian friend, they began to walk out of the wreckage that was Roulette's Meta Brawl. On the way out, Diana let the others go ahead, deciding to visit the place that was the source of the signal to see if there was something they had missed.
Wonder Woman flew to the control room, but stopped in the doorway. She was in the middle of walking away, when his voice accosted her. "Hello, Diana."
"I never thought I'd see you here."
"Really? This seems like the perfect place for me." A tall, broad-shouldered tuxedo-clad man straightened to his full height before turning around to see Wonder Woman. "Nothing's better than watching women wrestle with each other. Well, almost nothing."
The way he was eying her gave Diana some pause. She knew he had noticed her growing coldness, and figured he was using Bruce Wayne to get back at her or further alienate her. Trying not to let that bother her, she archly noted, "I'd ask you if you enjoyed watching us beat each other to a pulp, but the look on your face says it all."
"I think it would be more accurate to say I enjoyed watching you beat them up."
The statement was a little ambiguous, and Diana wasn't going to try to figure out its true meaning. "Why are you still here?"
He pointed to the floor down below, where she saw Canary and Huntress going at it. Diana shook her head in annoyance. "There's no one up here for you to need to pretend."
Bruce raised his arms in the air in a wide shrug. "What can I say? At the end of the day, I'm just a man."
Her cold blue eyes regarded him unhappily. "I would have expected that from Flash, not you."
"Maybe I wanted to find out more information about why you were acting the way you were." Bruce covered the space between them in three long strides, bringing himself much closer to her.
He had done this before--tried to unsettle her—but he had never done it as Bruce Wayne. Though his methods were very different from Batman's, she assumed they had the same end.
Still, she refused to give an inch. Raising her chin, she brought their faces closer together, but to her surprise, he didn't retreat. Focusing on why she was here, Diana asked, "Did you find anything?"
"What use would you have with such a device?"
"I'm sure I could think of something."
Diana raised her eyebrow. "External mind control doesn't seem up your alley, and you appear to be doing fine without it." His ability to always be in control was one of the first things that had attracted her to him. It took longer for her to realize that his need for control unfortunately came with an inability to trust. At first, she had tried to break through his barriers, but as she opened up more to him, the more pain she felt when he repeatedly rebuffed her. She was learning to accept he would never trust her with anything that wasn't work related, and had been working on lowering her expectations.
She supposed she hadn't been trying hard enough at her new goal, as the smirk he gave in response made her want to hit him.
It was time for her to wrap this up. "Well, as there is nothing to see here, I should head back to the Watch Tower."
"I bet a grand on you to win."
Diana halted in the doorway, stopped by her anger. She turned around and regarded him icily. "How flattering. Though I would have been more impressed if you actually did something to stop them, rather than just sitting back and watching your teammates almost destroy each other."
"Sometimes inaction is the best course of action. If you wait long enough, eventually the problem solves it self, or just disappears. It's too bad that I didn't get to collect my winnings, though." He looked at her as if she was supposed to be his consolation.
"Poor billionaire. I'm sure that you have enough money to buy whatever you want ten times over."
"Not everything has a price."
"And what is it that you can't buy?"
"I think we both know, Princess."
Diana opened her eyes innocently. "Happiness?"
Bruce's eyes narrowed, though his voice stayed flirtatious. "I suppose in a round about way, I would be gaining that."
"You're going to have to be a little bit clearer, Bruce. I don't like it when you speak in riddles."
"You know what I want." He took her hand in his own, caressing it for a moment, before twisting it behind her, bringing her body into contact with his. He leaned over her, smiling smugly at her. Diana had to bend her neck backwards to continue staring him down.
Her lips pulled back to reveal two even rows of gleaming teeth set in an unfriendly snarl. "I don't care what you want. I'm not going to fight."
"That doesn't sound like you, Princess."
"Perhaps I am learning how to better pick my battles, Bruce. What if someone were to walk in on us?"
He laughed at her concern. As if he hadn't already thought of that. And he doubted she really cared about that either; just assumed he would. "All they would see is you and me rolling around on the floor. It wouldn't be the first time I've been walked in on."
He knew he had scored a direct hit, as her blue eyes grew brighter, though she tried to hide it behind a scowl. "Ok, Mr. Wayne, you can stop now."
"Nothing would 'please' me more than to smash your face in."
"I'll let you do whatever you want, so long as you kiss it better." He knew he was pushing her harder than he normally did, but he wanted her to break. She hadn't spoken to him about anything other than work for nearly three months, and he wanted to know what had changed.
He chose that second to twist her arm even harder.
"You'd better be careful, Bruce. I'd hate for that nice suit of yours to end up in tatters."
"I can't say I feel the same way about yours."
Deciding it was time to end this, Diana slowly raised herself off the ground, increasing the discomfort in her limb. She hissed as the pain brought about by their dangerous game of Uncle increased, but she knew he would also release her rather than risk breaking her arm. And she was right.
She began to circle around him, floating a few inches off the floor, sizing him up. If this was the way he planned on getting her to open up to him, it was a misguided attempt.
He also began to move, and waited for her to make an ill-advised move.
But to his surprise, she just kept hovering around him. She began to move in tighter circles, drawing closer to him. Bruce sensed she would soon fly away, so he was prepared when she broke for the door. He was just able to grab one of her passing legs.
She fell to the floor, and he flipped her on her back. He stood above her, still holding on to her foot, then slowly moving his hands up her leg. "Smooth, Princess."
Diana drew her leg back quickly towards her head, throwing Bruce over her.
As she stood, she watched Bruce roll into a standing position.
He loosened the bow tie around his neck.
Diana sighed. "Bruce, this is ridiculous. You aren't dressed for this."
"The suit's Armani. It's tailored for comfort."
"And for fighting?"
"Mine is a very special suit."
Seeing that she was still unhappy, he tried to make a concession. He removed the bow tie, cuff links, and jacket. Then he took off his shirt. "Better?"
"Well, I'd take off the undershirt and pants, but then it really wouldn't be sparring anymore, now would it?"
Diana's cheeks became a light pink, but it was from anger rather than embarrassment. "That's not what I meant. This doesn't seem right."
"We could take this to the manor."
Diana's frustration was quickly turning into disappointment. "Or we could stop."
He eyed her sad face, and answered her quietly, "You've never stopped before."
"I'm just hastening the ending. We'll go in circles about each other, and then I'll try to make a move on you, and then you'll retreat, with the last word and a dramatic exit. Like always. It's getting a bit predictable, and I'm getting bored."
He had suspected this was the true reason for withdrawing, though he imagined it was bothering her more than she was letting on. However, having his suspicions confirmed only made him angrier with her. What did she expect him to do? "Then tell me, Princess, what do you want from me?"
"Hold nothing back. I can take it."
Intent on proving her wrong, he lunged at her. She side stepped him, and anticipating that he would quickly turn around, she met his chest with her fist.
He was pushed back a few feet, but remained standing. She didn't advance, so he bridged the gap between them, and when she was close enough, he feigned punching her. Expecting her to dodge and shift her weight, he planned on knocking her off her feet. But she didn't get out of the way. If anything, she leaned forward, as if accepting the blows. He would have actually missed, had she not done this, but instead she received his fist on her jaw.
"Princess, you are supposed to get out of my way, not lean into the punch."
"So you could kick my feet out from under me?" As she spoke, she landed a kick of her own. She had aimed for his hip, but only managed to get the side of his thigh. Bruce sensed she really wasn't even trying that hard, though it still hurt.
He advanced on her, throwing punches and kicks, but instead of attacking him back, she kept retreating and dodging. Finally, Diana was very close to one of the walls.
He had seen her in battle, when she had been backed into a corner. Bracing himself for a flurry of energy, he waited for her to blast her way out of the situation. When she leaned forward, he brought his arm up to ward off the blow that surprisingly never came. He moved his forearm up and placed it against her chest, pinning her against the wall. She didn't struggle against him, only waited for him to do something.
"You're fighting differently. And it's not working."
She stamped down on his foot, and partially out of pain and partially out of reflex, Bruce's elbow came up and hit her across the face so hard that the back of her head smashed into the wall.
Bruce saw her tongue probe her cheek, and he watched as a little blood appeared at the side of her mouth. The injury was nothing out of the ordinary, but he still felt badly for making her fight him. He had forced her into this, when he could have just talked to her.
"Diana." He reached out his hand to touch her mouth, but she pushed him aside.
"I think we're done." And then she began to walk away from him.
Angry that things had gotten out of control, and that he hadn't found the answers he was looking for or wanted, Bruce decided to try something different.
Diana was almost at the door, when from behind he crashed into her. They both hit the floor with a thud, and he maneuvered himself so that he was on top of her. "Normally, I use a bit more finesse than that, but I figured you liked it a little rough."
She looked up into his eyes and forced herself to breathe slowly and look unfazed. "Anything else, Mr. Wayne, because I need to get back to work."
Taking both of her hands, he pinned them above her head. Then he leaned down to kiss her, but she turned her face to the side at the last second, so that his lips grazed her cheek.
"Why so cold, Princess?"
On the contrary, Diana felt quite warm. But she was tired of Bruce's power plays. "Perhaps you should try a little harder. Then you'll know how I feel."
"I never took you for the type to give up."
"I can only handle so much."
"I'm counting on that."
Diana opened her mouth to answer, but her lips were embraced by his. Diana tried to stay stock still, not wanting this to end, but also not wanting to succumb only for him to withdraw again.
He kissed her angrily, as if he were trying to wound her. And since he seemed to forget about the injury he had earlier inflicted on her mouth, he did.
Eventually, Bruce got tired of doing all the work. His eyes blazed, but his voice came out light and breezy, "Not in the mood?"
Diana sat up, while he stayed on the ground, now lying on his side, looking at her back. The sarcasm in her voice was palpable. "Why do you assume that? I'm only treating you the way you treat me. Were you cold and aloof with me all those times I tried to flirt with you?"
Silence surrounded the unhappy heroes before Bruce finally answered, "Yes."
Diana didn't turn around, so she missed the regretful look he gave her.
"Goodnight, Bruce." Then she flew out of the room as quickly as she could.
In the safety and comfort of her shower, Diana had a little cry out. She would allow herself to shed tears for him now, hoping that as she expelled them, her feelings for him would similarly disappear. And if they didn't, she was still going to continue to move on. It was just taking longer than she had expected.
Once out of the shower, she pulled on her sleeping clothes, brushed her teeth, said a quick prayer, then crawled into bed.
She reached over to turn off the lights, hoping to escape her horrible day in sleep. "Goodbye, Bruce," she whispered into the darkness.
Diana nearly jumped when she heard him answer, "I'm not going anywhere."
"Why are you here?"
"Don't worry. I didn't see anything that I haven't already seen."
She had grown tired of the ambiguity hours, even months, before.
"Why are you here, Batman?"
"Fighting amongst colleagues is less than ideal in the workplace, so I wanted to apologize for earlier."
"Apology accepted. Now leave."
"That's not all I wanted. We need to talk."
"We needed to talk months ago. And I might not be as familiar with Man's World as you, but last time I checked, throwing me to the ground to make out with me isn't talking. Did you really think that doing that would get you the answers you wanted?"
"Maybe a little."
The humor in his voice irritated her. Diana rolled onto her side, so that now her back was facing him. "It doesn't work that way."
In a more serious tone he asked, "Then how does it work?"
Diana squeezed her eyes shut so tightly that stars began to twinkle behind her eyelids. He was right when he earlier said that she wasn't one to give up. But she wasn't stupid either. As she weighed the consequences of any course of action, his hand found her shoulder in the darkness.
His voice now came lower, gruffer. "Please, Princess."
That sealed it.
"Well, you wouldn't only come to me in the darkness or use our work as a pretense to see me. You wouldn't always play with my emotions and heart, but you'd realize that I am just as vulnerable as you are, and you'd use that information to love me instead of wound me. And my sexual inexperience wouldn't be used as another way for you to prove to me that you don't need me or that you can control me. But most of all, you'd accept me and my love, because I do love you, Bruce."
He didn't say anything, and Diana regretted that she had been so open with him. Again.
She heard rustlings in the darkened room, but refused to open her eyes. It was enough to hear him leave.
But she didn't hear the door open. Instead, there was a small click, and even from behind closed eyes, Diana could tell that the room had become brighter. She finally opened her eyes again when his weight caused the mattress to depress. Bruce had removed his cowl and gauntlets and was now looking down at her. For once, his eyes weren't hidden behind indifference.
He reached out and gently took her chin in his palm, lightly running his finger over the bruise that had formed on her jaw and her slightly swollen lips. "I'm sorry for hurting you, Diana."
Her lips trembled slightly, but she didn't speak. He leaned down and left a tiny kiss on the purple-tinged skin. And from her chin, he moved to her lips.
To Diana, it felt much different from his kisses earlier that night. They had been all about his control over her. Right now, Bruce was kissing her more slowly and softly, waiting for her to open up to him.
He paused to look deeply into her eyes. He didn't smile, but she knew he couldn't. The seriousness and intensity he was directing at her excluded any kind of levity. And her apprehensiveness did not escape his scrutiny.
"What is it, Diana?"
He had opened up sufficiently enough for her to feel safe enough to admit, "I'm scared that as soon as I accept you, you will leave me."
His eyes met her, but instead of giving her a challenging glare, she was greeted with his continued earnestness. "Test me."
And then he began to kiss her again.
She wanted to believe him. She really did. And for his part, he really wanted her to believe too. But he had let her down so many times before.
The longer she refused to respond, the more desperate he became, fearful that he had finally pushed her too far.
"I will only leave if you tell me you don't want me to be here."
Diana looked down at the space between them and whispered, "I can't say that."
She fully expected him to give her one of his cheeky grins or smirks and say "I know."
Instead, he sighed in relief and said, "I was hoping you'd say that."
She rolled onto her back and stared up at the ceiling. "Bruce, has something changed?"
"In me, probably not. I still feel the same way about you as I always have. But it seemed like you were pulling away, and I thought I'd lost you…I don't want to lose you."
"But all the times before when you thought you had me, I didn't exactly feel as if you cared. You were cold to me, and you never opened up to me. And if that's what it means for us to belong to each other, I don't want it. It's not enough for me. You can only have me on my terms."
"I'm willing to discuss them with you."
"I'm not willing to negotiate."
"Fine. What does it mean for us to belong to each other?"
"I want to know that you love me. That I'm not a distraction. That if you could, you would choose me every time, over everything and every one. Because that's how I feel and think about you."
"Diana, you know that Gotham has to come first."
Diana sighed in frustration before continuing. "Look, Bruce, I understand your duty to Gotham and mine to the world. And I understand that our work is too important to put ourselves first. That would not change. But you've never even told me that you wished it could be different."
He didn't respond for what seemed like an eternity, but when he finally he did, it sounded as if he were choking on his words, "Every night I wish it were different."
The emotion she heard caused her to look over at him. Scared, but brave enough to try again, she uttered, "I do, too."
Sensing a change in her, Bruce took her face in his hands and promised, "It will be different."
Then he kissed her, said, "I'll be back later," and walked out of her room.
Diana didn't know what to think, but that didn't stop her from pondering the events for nearly an hour before falling asleep.
Hours later, Diana woke up, but kept lying in her bed. Her eyes felt too heavy to open, and she didn't want to leave the warmth of her covers. Eventually the self-disciplined Amazon within forced her to open one eyelid. And though her vision was clouded with sleep, she could still make out Bruce's familiar form, though in unfamiliar sweats, sitting in her arm chair.
Suddenly, Diana didn't feel quite so tired.
"I got us breakfast."
At that moment, she was greeted with the aroma and sight of pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, and orange juice.
"I don't know what to say."
"Then don't say anything. Let's eat."
He stood up and walked over to the table, where Diana joined him.
"So, is this going to be an every day occurrence?"
"Probably not. But there are other meals in the day."
"I thought breakfast was the most important."
"I usually sleep through it, and I seem to be OK."
As her mouth was filled with food, Diana only smiled at him.
But Bruce had read her mind. "Well, aside from my latent rage, constant paranoia, and severe distrust of everyone."
Her mouth now empty, Diana was able to let out a loud laugh.
"So, who do I have to thank for the food?"
"Really, Bruce? Alfred had nothing to do with it?"
"Who do you think pays Alfred? Besides, I also made the eggs."
"I thought they were a little runny."
"Those are the best eggs you have ever tasted in your life."
She didn't answer, but smiled brilliantly at him before she downed some orange juice.
Diana continued to eat, as Bruce sat there, content to watch her enjoy the rest of her breakfast.
When she finally finished, he asked, "So, I brought you a gift; what do you have for me?"
"Normally, that would be enough, but I skipped sleep to do this."
"Then go to bed."
He looked over at her bed, then at her. "Will you join me?"
Walking over to his chair, she sat down in his lap. Her head came to rest on his shoulder, as she said, "No, but I'll be here when you wake up."
Bruce was in no hurry to leave his chair, and so he held her, breathing in the scent of her hair as she snuggled deeper into his chest, further into his heart. He didn't know how long he had been asleep while holding her, but he came to when Diana shook him. Even though his eyes were blurry with sleep, he managed to place her gently in the chair he had earlier sat in, before stumbling into her bed.
Diana got up to shut out as much light from the room as possible, so that he could sleep. Then she walked over to his bedside and placed her hand on his face. "I love you, Bruce." He moved his head, so that his lips were touching her palm. "I love you too, Princess." Then he let out a yawn, and Diana decided it was time to return to her chair, so that she could watch him just as he had watched her.
If you are wondering why Diana is getting beaten up by Bruce, it is NOT because I don't think she is as good a fighter as he is. She can withstand his blows, and if she wanted to, she could pummel the snot out of him. But in this story, she has basically given up on Bruce, so she really isn't going to put forth the effort to fight him or fight for him.
If anyone is interested about Until Somebody Loses. I have begun chapter 9, and all without having finished that book I said I would finish before I started writing it. But I am mostly finished with said book and hope to have the ninth chapter up within the next two weeks.
I hope you enjoyed it. If not, well, could you tell me why you didn't? It helps me a lot. Thanks for reading.