IN DARKEST LIGHT

By Meljean Brook (mickerella@yahoo.com)

Archiving: Go ahead, just send me an e-mail letting me know where, and keep my name and e-mail address at the head of the story. No editing without written permission and an approved edited sample (if you want to change it from an R rating to PG, for example).

Continuity: No specific continuity. Generally, after Wonder Woman #174. Primarily, I've changed Batman continuity around so that Officer Down takes place after OWAW and this story. I've changed things and made them up as needed. Last Laugh never happened in this universe.

Disclaimers: This work of fiction is blatantly infringing many copyrights, but it is a work for which I am making no money, nor receiving any other form of compensation (except, of course, personal gratification and greatly appreciated reader comments). I do not own the characters herein, nor claim in any way to own them. All characters, representations, and likenesses are owned by DC Comics and Warner Bros.

Chapter 1: Costumes

Kyle Rayner, the Green Lantern, was craving double chocolate walnut fudge ice cream. He headed to the kitchen for the third time that day to get a bowl of it. He wasn't sure why last month he had started craving the ice cream, but it was so bad that he had stocked the freezer in the Watchtower's kitchen with several more gallons than it originally had, and had noticed a slight weight gain under his skin-tight, green, white and black uniform from his several-times-a-day ice cream binges. Kyle thought that no one else had noticed the extra ounce or two that he was carrying, but he was sure that in the next day or so Batman would probably say from some dark corner, "Too many Doritos, Kyle?" with an accompanying stare that would send the Green Lantern running to the weight room to burn off the four gallons of ice cream that he had eaten in the last week.

He strode through the kitchen's swinging door and was halfway across the room when he noticed the scene that was playing out on the kitchen table. He froze. Wonder Woman--naked, Kyle's mind registered ecstatically--with her head thrown back, hands clenched in the hair of the man whom she was straddling, moaning softly from whatever it was that his mouth was doing to her breast and his body was doing under her.

The couple must have sensed Kyle was there, because they stopped mid-thrust, looked at each other, then at Kyle. Kyle forced himself to look away from Diana's body and into her glazed eyes, and at her face, which registered confusion as she looked down at the man she was astride, then back at Kyle, then down at the man again. And then Kyle realized at whom Diana was looking. Bruce Wayne. The Batman.

In one fluid movement, Batman rolled over, pulling Diana with him, toward the chair where his black cape was draped over his cowl, body armor and Wonder Woman's uniform, swept the cape up and covered their nude forms. Kyle filed away the information that Diana was wearing only her red boots and bracelets for later self-erotic use, then felt his stomach jump into his throat when Batman turned to look at him. Kyle would rather have had Diana crush his skull with a flick of her hand than to receive *that* look from Batman.

"Eep," said the Green Lantern, wielder of the universe's most powerful weapon.

"Get out, Kyle," the Batman said in his softest voice.

Kyle got out.

***

Superman, the Flash, and Plastic Man were scanning for unusual incidents in the Monitor Room when GL burst in, white as a sheet, stumbling over his feet in his hurry. He skidded to a stop, and said, "I just saw Wonder Woman naked!"

Wally jumped up. "Wherewhichroomisshein?"

Plastic Man's chin dropped, literally, to the floor. He pulled it up again to say, "You lucky bastard."

"Not so lucky," Superman said mildly, "if his fear is anything to judge by. I suppose she threatened the life out of you and then threw you out?"

"No, that was the Batman." Kyle looked fearfully toward the door of the room as if he expected the Dark Knight to come through it at any moment. "Man, she was naked on top of him! And he was naked, too," he added, almost as an afterthought.

"Oh, man, I can't believe I missed that," Plastic Man lamented.

GL threw himself theatrically at Superman's feet. "Please, Supes, you gotta protect me when he comes after me."

"Get up, Kyle," Clark said absently. He scanned the Watchtower with his x-ray vision, stopping when he saw Diana and Bruce in the kitchen, pulling on their clothing. Diana looked slightly stunned; Bruce's lips were drawn into a thin line. He heard Bruce say, "Diana, I'll figure out what happened."

She looked at him, figure stiff, eyes stricken. "I've never..I don't know...." She shook her head, composed her face. "We'll both figure out what happened. One way or another." She ran her hands through her hair. "Maybe we should start with the security discs in this room." Superman saw her grin. "Before Kyle distributes them over the internet."

"There's enough fake ones online about you that it wouldn't even make a difference," Batman said dryly. He turned to leave the room, hesitated, turned back. "Diana, are you all right?"

Her grin faded. "I should ask you that; we weren't exactly gentle."

"I don't mean physically." Batman grimaced. "I mean...emotionally."

"Oh, that." Diana waved her hand dismissively. "It wasn't exactly a bad experience, Bruce. I'm fine. Are you?"

Batman nodded, then leaned toward her, touching her bare hand with his gauntleted one. "No, it wasn't bad, Diana. But that doesn't mean it should have happened, or that it wasn't a violation of us both." He gave her hand a squeeze and let go. "I'll go get those discs now."

Wonder Woman watched Batman leave the kitchen, then sank to her knees, burying her face in her hands. "Great Hera," she whispered.

Superman looked away, feeling like a voyeur. Green Lantern was saying, "...wait until Donna finds out! She'll flip her lid, that's for sure."

"Donna won't find out," Superman said. His tone brooked no argument. "I'm not exactly sure what has happened, but I don't think it was of their own volition."

"Ah, man," Wally said, sinking into a chair. "You mean we are in possession of the best piece of gossip since Clinton had that thing with Monica, and we have to keep quiet?"

"I mean," Superman said, looking at each one of them in turn, "that if word of it gets beyond this room, they'll find tiny little pieces of each of you floating around Pluto." They could tell he wasn't kidding. "In other words, you'll have to answer to a very disappointed and furious me."

"And me," Batman said from the doorway. He strode silently across the room to the security station. GL, the Flash, and Plastic Man looked at each other, and started to edge toward the door.

"Stay away from Diana," Batman said without turning from the console in front of him.

"Okay," the three said in unison, then ran out of the room. Superman had the feeling that they probably wouldn't even look at Wonder Woman for three weeks; Batman's tone had been low, very dangerous and deadly serious.

***

Clark sighed as he returned to hall outside of the kitchen. Diana had been less forthcoming than Bruce about what had happened, and that was saying something. Bruce had sidestepped his carefully phrased questions, and asked permission to take the security disks for the kitchen area for the last couple of weeks and destroy the backups. He knew Batman wanted the discs to look for clues as to what had happened in that room as well as keeping them from falling into the wrong hands. Clark had readily agreed; he also did not want the video of his two best friends doing...whatever...to get out to anyone, and he definitely wanted to know what had caused them to act so uninhibitedly.

"Did you find anything?" he asked.

J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, materialized beside him. "No. There isn't a single sign of an outside influence or chemical imbalance in their minds. As far as I can tell, they just acted on feelings that they already had. Perhaps we should look at the magic angle?"

"I hate magic." Clark looked thoughtfully at the door to the kitchen. On feelings they already had? Clark decided he would ponder that statement later. "Have you noticed anything strange in there? If it is magic, is it specific to Bruce and Diana or is it everyone?"

"Except for my unusual craving for your mom's apple pie instead of Oreo cookies and the abundance of ice cream in the freezer? No." J'onn paused. "Someone could be trying to disrupt the JLA, to divert our attention away from something else."

"That's what I've been thinking. Keep an especially watchful eye out, and I'll get in touch with some of the magic users." Superman eyed the man next to him wryly. "I'm not sure how to explain the problem we have without explaining the situation to them, but hopefully one of them will know of something similar and can give us a clue."

"I wouldn't be surprised if Batman has beaten you to that."

"Neither would I." Clark hesitated, then asked, "How are they?"

"Bruce and Diana?" At Clark's nod, he continued, "They are . . . ok. Both are confused, and guilty. Neither is sure where their self-control went, and they blame themselves. They are distracting themselves, of course. Batman is already investigating and reviewing the discs, and Diana just went to the training room to beat the photons out of the holograms. I'd say they are reacting normally."

"Did she go in with her sword?"

"Yes."

Superman's shoulders drooped. "I'll call Steel and have him get a crew ready to do repairs to the room."

***

Wonder Woman cocked her head, listening to Superman and the Martian Manhunter. They didn't have a monopoly on super-hearing, and she wasn't sure if they had forgotten that or thought that she was too distraught to listen. So they thought she was reacting normally? How was a woman supposed to act, she wondered, after she has come onto a man like a cat in heat? Was there a precedent for this sort of thing that made her reaction fit into the category of 'normal'?

She sheathed her sword and called up the highest training level on the computer. She wouldn't use her weapon unless she had to; it suddenly seemed more satisfying to pound the holograms with her fists. A simulacrum of Darkseid appeared and hit her with his omega beams before she could react, throwing her back against the reinforced wall, knocking the breath out of her. She flew toward him, dodging his energy beam, landing a punch that made her hand go numb but barely jarred the dark god. And who had given J'onn permission to scan her mind? She broke the neck of a parademon that tried to attack her from behind. Granted, it was probably in the JLA's best interest to know if there was an outside source influencing her or Bruce, but why hadn't they asked? Did they think she would break, that her sensibilities were so delicate that she would never recover from a direct question? Darkseid slapped her against the ground, stepped on her. She thought he might have cracked a rib, so she drew her sword and speared his foot. She breathed heavily while he pulled out the sword with two of his fingers. She yanked it out of his hand with her lasso and re-sheathed it. And what about the magic? Did they think that Batman would only give into her charms under the influence of magic? She dodged another omega beam, punched another parademon. Or that she was so sexless it took magic to make her give in to a sexual urge? Another rib cracked when she tried to come around behind Darkseid and he hit her in mid-air. Granted, it had been odd that *they* had had sex and it was out of character for them both, but--she threw a parademon at Darkseid's face, then used the split second his vision was blocked by the creature to kick him in the back of his leg, causing his knee to buckle--it had been nice. For the first time in a long time she had been swept away by a feeling, and it had been wonderful. She crashed against the ceiling when a parademon she had been unaware of rammed into her from below. She pulled off its head by wrapping her lasso around it and yanking.

Wonderful, but wrong, she admitted as the scenery around her changed from Apokolips to New York City. Circe and the Silver Swan appeared above her. Diana's heart constricted when she saw that the Silver Swan's image had been updated recently to show that it was now her friend, Vanessa, then used her bracelets to brace herself against the sonic scream that the Silver Swan issued. Batman would be more than happy to remind her, she thought, that someone as powerful as she is shouldn't be swept away by urges.

"And he's right," she said aloud.

"Who's right, Wonder Bitch?" Circe sneered as she caught Wonder Woman's lasso before it snaked around Vanessa.

"Batman," Diana replied, yanking sharply on the rope. Circe didn't let go quickly enough, and flew off of her glider into Diana's fist. Her nose crunched. The Silver Swan screeched and attacked. Wonder Woman blocked her flailing nails with a bracelet, kicking Circe out of the way. The witch landed on her feet, holding her nose.

"Where's your mommy, Diana?" Circe taunted. "Are they going to make her a goddess so that Zeus can fuck her whenever he wants, just like Herakles did? The retroactive Wonder Slut."

Twenty minutes later, Wonder Woman stepped away from the pulped body of the witch, and took a deep breath. She closed her eyes. "Computer, program off," she commanded. New York disappeared, but she could still see the carnage she had created in her rage. And she could still feel the alien touch that had been Batman's.

Mother, she thought, I wish you were here.

Her mother didn't answer her; Batman did. He said over her comm-link, "Diana, I think I've found something. Come to the cave."

***

Diana found Alfred waiting for her in the cave.

"Good evening, miss," the butler said. "Master Bruce was called away on sudden business. He said that he should only be away for two or three hours. He tried to reach you, but you were . .. . indisposed, and he felt that under the circumstances, leaving a message with the others telling you to delay your visit to him would be unwise."

Diana smiled slightly at the butler's polite unwillingness to mention that she had been in the shower, and acknowledged that Batman must have told Alfred at least the basics regarding their "circumstances." She was grateful for his tact; the Watchtower would have been abuzz with new rumors had they known she was visiting him alone less than three hours after GL had found them in the kitchen. She had taken a few hours to herself after Batman's summons to the cave; she felt she needed to calm down before she saw him again. She had written a letter to the Chinese government, contacted Artemis to discuss Cassie's training schedule while Themyscira was being rebuilt, then showered and taped her ribs. They would heal quickly, but the pressure of the tape eased the pain her movements caused her while they knitted back together.

"Would you like any dinner if you wait, miss, or would you rather return when Master Bruce does?"

"Thank you, but no dinner, Alfred." She looked toward the huge computer screen at the center of the bank of computers. A fuzzy image of a large male pointing a gun at what looked like a bank teller filled one half of the monitor; the other side had a name and a list of stats.

Diana nodded toward the monitor. "Is that Bruce's 'business'?"

Alfred nodded. "A particularly nasty criminal element, I believe. He held up this teller this afternoon; just before you arrived, Oracle managed to track down this man, and Master Bruce went out to apprehend him."

Intuition made Wonder Woman ask, "It wasn't just a hold up, was it?"

"No, Miss Diana," Alfred said. "I'm afraid that the teller and a security guard were killed during the robbery. He didn't use the gun to do it."

Diana looked at the statistics for the man more closely. "It says that he's a metahuman. Class C strength and speed, Class B invulnerability," she read. She turned back to Alfred. "Why didn't he wait until I got here? Even with his belt of tricks, taking this guy down won't be easy."

"I don't expect it will be; I'm afraid that this might be another night spent bandaging and medicating him," Alfred said.

Determined, Diana walked over to the computer station. "Not tonight. Will you show me on this thing where to find him?"

"Of course. However, I would suggest that you do not go."

"Why not?"

"Master Bruce does not accept help often from what he calls the "flashier heroes" for two simple reasons, Miss Diana: flashy heroes are obvious targets that are dangerous for non-powered humans to be around, and, if word were to spread that the Batman needed help, he would lose that element of fear that, more often than not, gives him an edge over the criminals of the city."

Diana hesitated, then insisted, "But if he's lying bloodied and beaten, they'll lose their fear of him, too."

Alfred smiled. "He's walked away on a broken leg and breathing with punctured lungs, miss. He doesn't show them weakness, and they would consider help from a metahuman a weakness."

"By the gods, that man is stubborn!" Diana drummed her fingers on the console, thinking. Her gaze lit upon a Robin costume in a lighted tube. So damn stubborn, she thought. Even when Robin had been killed by the Joker--a boy who had practically been his own son--he had not sought comfort from anyone. Instead, he had embroiled himself deeper in his quest, shutting out nearly everyone for months. How in the world did she expect him to let her help with one metahuman, when he didn't accept help when his world was ripped apart? How would he--

Wait, she thought. The costume.

"Alfred, is there another Bat costume that I could use?"

Alfred didn't hesitate. "Of course, miss. We'd have to alter it slightly, though."

"Very slightly," she said, pulling off her WW breastplate. "We don't have much time."

***

Diana looked at herself in the mirror. The costume was too big; it hung from her loosely in several places. Alfred had taken out some of the body armor, zipped her lasso into a pocket in the cape lining--"just in case," he had said-- and covered her bracelets with the costume's sleeves and gauntlets. Diana watched as Alfred used a penknife to cut a slit in the back of the cowl and pulled her braided hair through the hole.

"That should suffice, miss," Alfred said, stepping back to survey his handiwork. "I have a locator that you can use to find Master Bruce. I use it when he needs me to send him one of the jets or collect him when he can't make it home himself."

"Hopefully this won't be one of those nights." She checked her image in the mirror again, amazed by the difference the costume made for her look and, she noted with some excitement mixed with trepidation, feel. She felt more powerful, more dangerous. "Any last minute suggestions, Alfred?"

"Two, Miss Diana." Alfred adjusted the cape so that it draped around her shoulders, hiding her body. "Try to make yourself look as big and as frightening as possible. Be theatrical, but don't use your powers in a flashy or obvious way. The point is not to seem metahuman."

Diana nodded. "And suggestion number two?"

"Amazons are hunters as well as warriors, aren't they?"

"The best in the world, Alfred."

"I suggest then, Miss Diana, that you change your demeanor and approach from that of a warrior to that of a hunter." He smiled very slightly. "Gotham is more like a jungle than a battlefield. If you go in as Wonder Woman, no costume can hide your identity."

"I *am* Wonder Woman, Alfred."

"No." Alfred turned her to look in the mirror again. "Tonight you are Diana, goddess of the hunt."

Diana smiled. "You are well versed in your mythology."

"There have been many nights when I've stayed awake waiting for Master Bruce with nothing to do but read, miss. Hopefully I'll sleep well tonight."

Diana picked up the Bat locator. "I'll do what I can, Alfred." She turned and flew toward the cave entrance.

Alfred watched her leave. "Happy hunting, miss."