When Wonder Woman returned to the armory, she found Batman standing outside with his arms crossed. He had been waiting for her.
"Did you take care of it?" he asked her brusquely.
She nodded as she landed near him. She had found Shade scurrying away just at the outskirts of the city, and without much effort, had delivered him to the Luxembourgian police.
A few feet in front of her, she saw the blond-haired scientist being taken away on a stretcher. To her immense relief, she saw that the scientist was wincing noticeably, indicating that she was in pain, but that she would be all right. In the same procession, there was a man in uniform being pushed in a wheelchair, blanket over his shoulders and canteen in his hands. He must have been the other person left behind in the armory. So Batman had also taken care of it. Diana stole a glance at him; he seemed oddly incomplete without his utility belt.
"You knocked him out very thoroughly," called an admiring voice from behind them. Recognizing the source, Diana crossed her arms, mirroring her friend's stance. "Polaris is still out cold, Batman," exalted Commandant Desmarais, "Well done!" He moved so that he faced the two Leaguers.
Batman's expression remained indifferent. "That was my doing, Commandant," stated Wonder Woman coolly.
Determined not to acknowledge her, Desmarais continued, "All's well that ends well, I like to say."
Those words were too much. "How can you say that?" cried Wonder Woman, clenching her fists and displaying her fury on her face. "Two insignificant rogues were able to infiltrate a facility where you keep your 'useless' weapons and were going to kill thousands of people with them!"
"Let me tell you something, Wonder Woman," said Desmarais, unable to ignore her any longer, "The fate of our world is in the hands of smart, capable men. Don't let your female emotions about peace and understanding cloud your view of reality."
"That's enough," growled Batman. He leaned forward and narrowed his eyes at Desmarais.
Diana looked at him, surprised. While she longed to give Desmarais a piece of her mind - in her eyes, he was in the same class as Polaris - she was touched that Batman had interfered on her behalf. A warm feeling slowly spread through her limbs and down her spine, causing her to stand up even straighter and stronger.
"Let's go," said Batman finally.
On the shuttle, Diana remained quiet. And as Batman was the least likely person in the world to initiate a conversation, she welcomed the idea of listening only to the reassuring hum of the engines, knowing that she could enjoy peace at least until they reached the Watchtower. After the mental strain caused by the last couple of hours, she longed for the calm.
So when Batman spoke, she looked up, visibly startled.
"You shouldn't alienate people," he said.
"Are you sure you should be teaching me this lesson?" she wryly replied, crossing her arms in defense.
"Let's try again," he said simply, "You shouldn't alienate people like Desmarais. We have to work with them." Batman waited for a retort, but when none came, he continued. "He's not the one who dictates policy, Diana. Someone once told me that the context of the object in question is just as important as the object itself."
Slowly, she lowered her hands and dropped them into her lap. "I won't waver in my beliefs," she said flatly, "but unless I'm in an appropriate venue, I won't express them." After considering for a moment, she added, "In words."
A brief smile flickered across Batman's face. She returned it with one equally fleeting and looked away.
She was both surprised and pleased when he resumed the conversation. "Did Polaris manage to empty my belt before he destroyed it?" It was a rare admittance of vulnerability from Batman; his unguardedness made her feel the same way. She suddenly remembered her nightmare on Sevubir, and then the way that he was sprawled on the floor after Doctor Polaris had slammed him into it. Upon reflection, she realized how harrowing the whole experience had been - the feelings that she had expertly disregarded as she stood in the shadows of the armory now flooded her mind all at once. To her utter shock, she felt a tear fall from one of her eyes.
Her face still turned away from his, she answered, "No."
"You're upset," he observed, as curiously as he could allow.
She was. But she was also embarrassed that he had seen in her in one of her most intimate moments - crying was something Diana almost never did in front of others. To her, it was indicative of such depths of despair that reemerging was all but impossible. It signified a kind of desperation that she found frightening, even loathsome, which is why she tried her best not to cry even when she was alone and her dull longing for Themyscira became so gnawing and vast that it consumed her every thought.
But the thought of Batman's death had managed to wrench such despair from her, even if it was just a single tear. She regarded him - his face had softened, which meant that he wanted her to speak.
"When I saw you and that scientist on the floor of the armory…" she said dully. Almost dutifully, she relayed to him what had happened on Sevubir - how she had fallen asleep after he had warned her otherwise, how she had seen her mother's dead body, how she had seen his dead body. Diana noticed that Batman raised his thumb slightly when she told him the last part. She didn't blame him for being taken aback.
The truth was that she was puzzled by the contents of her nightmare as well. Her mother was the most important person in her life - but why was Batman also embedded so deeply in her subconscious? She knew that sitting next to her, he was mulling over the same question.
However, she felt too exposed in the shuttle as she was seated only inches away from the object of her thoughts. She changed the subject with the same weary tone of voice as before, and Batman obliged. Before long, they fell into one of their customary, comfortable silences. Perhaps this was why she valued him as much as she did - while she had carefully analyzed and memorized his every mannerism, she knew that he had done the same for her. It meant that the most poignant moments of their interaction were completely wordless.
Several days later, Wonder Woman was on monitor duty again. Behind her, Batman was doing maintenance. As much as she tried to otherwise, her attention kept wandering over to the view of the Earth. There was her tiny Themyscira - it was hidden from man's eye, but Diana had more than enough practice in locating it.
Her eyes then darted to Gotham and Metropolis, which she had visited countless times and under many circumstances. Next she shifted her attention to Luxembourg. And then, to the rest of the world.
The world was in the hands of smart, capable men, Commandant Desmarais had said. As much as she prayed for hope, she also knew that her gods were patriarchs. When she looked at the way her small, fragile planet glittered innocently, she was filled with a certain sense of dread.
But there were some men that she could put her faith in, she remembered as Superman landed gracefully on the deck of the monitor womb. Two of them were standing right there with her.
"I just read your report about your encounter with Doctor Polaris and the Shade," said Superman by way of greeting. Diana walked towards him while Batman remained where he was, working. "Throwing a landmine into space? That's quite impressive, Diana."
In spite of herself, she blushed.
"Was there a resulting shrapnel shower?" inquired Superman.
"No," answered Batman, without turning from his repairs.
Superman and Diana exchanged looks, the former cocking an eyebrow and latter trying to hide a smile. "No," she repeated Batman.
"Great!" Superman declared. "Well, I stopped by for a reason before I head off to follow up on the Sevubiri relocation." He handed her a slip of paper. "Batman here thought you might find this interesting." He took his leave of them and flew towards the hangar.
She read the paper - it was an invitation to a benefit at the Air and Space Museum in Paris in six weeks' time. She looked at Batman, still occupied, and then back at her invitation.
Although the benefit was to raise awareness about some problem - after two years, the concept of "raising awareness" still perplexed the princess - she knew that dignitaries, diplomats, and other people of consequence would be in attendance. An appropriate venue for her to voice her beliefs, she realized, and an effective one at that. While she had met with many world leaders in official assemblies, she had very little interaction with them otherwise. This could be her chance to share her thoughts with them, perhaps even influence them, for while she was born a warrior, she was also raised a politician.
When she looked up again, she saw that Batman was quietly inspecting her. She nodded her thanks to him and turned to the view of her planet again. This time, her eyes did not linger only on Themyscira.