Her reaction was somewhat expected, but still not very warm. She thanked me, cordially, coolly. She mentioned something to the affect of not needing expensive gifts. I took it under 'politeness'.
Little did I know…
"Really, Bruce," she said with sincerity, "you don't need to keep buying me things like this."
"You said you liked it," I protested. She was being difficult.
"I do… but I didn't say that so you would buy it for me!"
She did like the Monet, of that I was certain. She never turned away from it and there was an unmistakable sparkle in her eyes. The corners of her mouth didn't sag either.
"I know," I admitted. I had to get something out in the open. "I just… like doing things like that for you."
I probably said something wrong, because she finally tore herself away from the painting and looked at me suspiciously. I got the distinct feeling that I had stepped on some kind of feminist part of her that always seemed to get me in trouble.
"You don't think that you can… buy my affection, do you?"
There was real challenge in her question. I immediately denied that I had any such intention. I don't think she believed me entirely.
"Because you can't," she continued with clear resolve in her voice. "I'm not one of those… starry-eyed, arm candy, bimbette, flavor-of-the-weekend women that fawn over your pocketbook more than you."
How did I get myself into this?
"My loyalty and my emotions are not for sale!"
"I know!" I demanded, holding up my hands for effect. "Diana, I would never presume to… It's just that…"
It was one of those rare moments when I found myself flustered. I had come that close to opening up, to showing somebody something that I never wanted to share.
I considered moving the conversation to something else, but before I could, I made yet another mistake; I looked into her eyes. Such deep, feeling eyes. And all I could see was understanding and patience. She wasn't pressuring me to say any more, but she was certainly paying attention to anything and everything I had to say. Could she be reading me too well?
I sighed roughly.
Leveling with somebody is not something I do – especially to a woman I'm involved with. Part of my brain pointed out that she was different than the others because I wasn't in it for the tabloids or the media. I was in it because I liked who I was when she was around.
But I had never said so much to anybody in my life. I had never believed that I could feel what I did for her. Other women had tried, had told me that I deserved happiness too. It's not a matter of 'deserve', it's a matter of choice. I had chosen long ago that my happiness would be won when Gotham was once again a shining example of what an honest city could be. I had chosen that my happiness would come when others had it first.
And that was what was messing me up so badly. I truly was happy around her, and that didn't match my plans.
I had felt similar streaks of this feeling with others before – nothing to this degree, but similar. It wasn't difficult to end those relationships because those women didn't match my plans either. It was an easy choice to say that it wouldn't work out with them because there would eventually come a day when I'd be forced to choose between my self-appointed duty to Gotham and them. They'd lead me off my path.
But Diana… oh she was different, alright.
She'd never make me choose. She wouldn't play second fiddle, that's for sure, but she wouldn't make me give up something that had consumed most of my life. She didn't want to change me. And worst of all… or maybe best of all… she actually helped me stay on that path.
But how could I tell her that?
The only way I knew to show somebody that they mattered to me was to do things for them or buy things for them. Not that I've always been surrounded by materialistic people (the weekend hotties excepting, of course). But most of the people that I know or would consider close understand that I show my appreciation for them by helping them. I helped Leslie fund and build her clinic. Dick never wanted for anything in his life. Jim Gordon… well, he'll probably never know that his retirement fund is as big as it is until he actually retires.
But Diana… she was so damn hard to deal with. I tried so many different times in so many different ways. I planned our dates to the letter (with Alfred's considerable help, of course). I made sure the food was perfect and the wine was exquisite and the ambiance was comforting. I wanted her to know that I respected her Royal upbringing, even though I wasn't a firm believer in that way of life. I wanted her to know that I felt she deserved the best of everything and anything that was in her world.
I just wanted her to be happy. So, I told her that.
"I just… want you to be happy," I admitted. It was more difficult to say that I would have thought.
Difficult or not, the look on her face was much more of a reward than I deserved. She reached out and took my hands in hers and I let her. She locked her magnificent blue eyes on me and smiled the most perfect smile I have ever seen.
"YOU… make me happy. Not things, but you."
I had no answer. I couldn't even look at her. She meant it, and I didn't know up from down any more.
"I'm not faulting you for buying me gifts, Bruce. But I want you to understand, it's not the gifts themselves that I cherish, it's the fact that you were thoughtful enough to consider me and get them for me. I can buy anything I want too, you know. If I thought…"
A flag went up in my head.
She can buy anything she wants? I felt a smirk coming on.
"You can, can you? This coming from the woman that had to borrow money from Clark to buy the first jacket she ever wore?"
Her eyebrows shot up and she laughed that damn perfect laugh.
"You remember that, do you? Well, that was a long time ago, Bruce. I've made some wise moves with my money since then."
"Really?" I asked, probably a little to patronizingly – because she went on.
"Yes," she said positively.
My mind ran through the gamut of simple things a financial novice would consider 'wise'. CD's, stocks maybe. Too cute!
"In fact," she continued proudly, "after several years of struggling we finally got our company off the ground and now we have almost 16,000 employees…"
Something didn't seem right. She was describing a company.
"…And we've cleared over $13 billion dollars in sales in the last twelve months, with a 28 percent growth margin over the last five years…"
Now I was getting curious. She was speaking intelligently about modern business. She definitely had my interest. I turned and watched her intently to see if maybe she was pulling my leg.
"So, let me get this straight," I finally stopped her. "You're involved with a mult-billion dollar company…"
She nodded like she was agreeing that the sky was blue.
"When did you…" I started, but she held up a hand and interrupted.
"Don't tell me," she said, looking at me through raised eyebrows, "that you've never heard of "Amazon dot com!""