Author's Note: It's almost six years now…and I'm still hooked. Bruce and Diana will always be my favorite couple. Just thought of writing something after Reflections, since it's the time of year again, just to keep the flames alive (I had to listen to "Superhuman" over and over again just to finish this in time). Happy valentines to all.
Her blue eyes stared at the miniscule jigsaw puzzle piece, flipped it over a few times, and strangely found herself fighting off a smile at the notion that the tiny part looked like a semi messed up version of the gingerbread man. But after a few seconds, the tinge of humor was replaced once again by a frown when her gaze returned to the nine hundred ninety nine more pieces of its brothers and sisters sprawled across the center table.
No instrument to inform her of the time in her line of sight, she estimated that she had been in the room for more than an hour now and all she was able to manage was to connect the sides and join a few pieces of the puzzle.
With frustration etched all over her beautiful face, she leaned back on the chair and stared absentmindedly at the elaborate though uninteresting-at-the-moment pattern etched on the ceiling thinking she would gladly hear Wally's lame jokes than this deafening silence. She imagined him all over the room, poking here and there, causing such disarray that would make even the normally stoic green face of J'onn frown.
And with that thought, she decided to entertain herself for a few minutes. Passing by a floor length mirror, she was able to catch a quick glance of herself in a white, long sleeved shirt and a pair of faded denims, her hair tucked away from her face by a small ribbon.
Next, she stood by the antique bookshelf with the scent of old pages reminding her of the libraries she visited. She was about to inspect a particular hard bound when a voice halted her movement.
Have you finished your task? J'onn inquired.
You mean my punishment? Not yet. And honestly…she paused while returning the book. I really don't think putting a jigsaw puzzle together will help curb my temper. If anything else, it only seems to make matters a little more… difficult.
She dragged herself back to the chair, remembering the incident that brought about the consequence at present. And a wave of embarrassment fleetingly swept over her when she recalled what prompted J'onn to take this action.
How was she to know that feeling a certain part of one's anatomy was the way the alien visitors' express their gratitude? Naturally, all her Amazon instincts would take over.
If you weren't superhuman…I'd safely conclude that it was just PMS. Or…
She could almost see J'onn smile.
Lack of any physical interaction that is not part of your job description.
Count on J'onn to be blunt in an obscure way. But her friend's suggestion momentarily made her conscious as she shifted her gaze slightly.
If you are not a Martian, I'd say you must be joking, she countered. Now, get out of my head so I can finish this.
She was about to sit when she stilled, with a heartfelt smile hovering over her lips when her name was spoken in a faint whisper, as in a dream. And with renewed inspiration, she resumed to face the matter at hand. Half an hour later and more success than she thought she would have, almost a third of the puzzle was assembled and the foliage of the landscape was visible.
She was just congratulating herself when something prompted her to look forward.
"Hello," she greeted.
Bruce did not reply. She was not sure if her presence was welcome or an intrusion.
"J'onn insisted that I stay until you regain consciousness."
His piercing blue eyes were emotionless as he stared at her. "How long have I been out?"
"About two hours."
He looked away and she could see a nerve twitch at the side of his face. Though his face lost none of its appeal, so did the visible upper half of his magnificently toned body, the exhaustion was faintly visible. And high fever could definitely take its toll.
"Do you need anything?"
From the sound of his voice, something told her she'd better get going.
"J'onn will be here in a few minutes." One by one she started placing the small gingerbread men back in the box.
She shrugged. "J'onn said it was supposed to calm my temper…teach me some patience."
"I heard about the incident." He turned slightly to his left to face her. "And frankly, I think it was inappropriate."
For the love of Athena, I don't need another lecture on superhero etiquette…please, she thought.
"How in Hera would I know that feeling someone else's behind was a thank you?" She was tired of asking that question for three days now.
"I was going to say that I think it was inappropriate that they did not inform you firsthand about the alien race's customs."
If embarrassment had a face, she would be wearing it at that precise moment. To lessen her mortification, she went back to clearing the table.
"Why are you in such a hurry to go?"
A knock on the door saved her from an answer.
"I took the liberty of preparing the princess dinner," Alfred smiled as he wheeled in the food cart. Then he turned to his charge. "And for you Master Bruce…chicken soup. Before you complain, just be glad it's not Jell-O."
She wanted to say she would not stay for dinner but she just could not disappoint the older man. "Thank you."
"No, I have you to thank…your highness. It's very seldom that Master Bruce is in this…condition," Alfred mentioned. "If you're not here, he may just be tempted to…sneak out."
"I can handle it now."
"Oh sure you can, sir…" Alfred chided. "What are you planning to do? Intimidate the bad guys with a sneeze…or threaten them with a bout of flu?" The butler ignored his charge's grunt. "If you need anything else, Princess, I'm just downstairs." Just about to step out of the bedroom, Alfred turned. "Shall I…prepare a room?"
"No!" It was too quick a reply. "I won't be staying long."
"She can't stand me, Alfred. I'm sorry."
"That's not what I mean…"
"Well, this would be a first. A woman who says no to Bruce Wayne," Alfred grinned before finally leaving.
With Alfred gone, she felt the awkwardness creep back in…it was evening, she was in his bedroom and he was staring at her intently.
How long had it been since they were this close and alone together?
A year ago…when he sat with her at the med bay as she recovered from her near fatal injuries. But the atmosphere was totally different then. At that time, she was bruised, disheveled and in agonizing pain that there was no room for any underlying tension. Plus, the entire area smelled of antiseptic that it totally ruined any romantic prospect.
It was such a sweet day, though. And tonight was totally different, from her point of view.
"You can stay and finish that if you want."
"I don't want to impose."
"It's my rusty way of saying I want you to stay for a while, Diana."
This was the closest he ever came to begging.
"All right." Carefully she retrieved the pieces from the box, fighting the very strong urge to tell J'onn that his technique was not helping.
"You're almost halfway through," he remarked as he sat up, the silk sheet falling lower, her inward reaction to the sight of his bare chest making her question her decision to stay. "Unfortunately, I can't help you since I'm no good."
She found that hard to believe as she grouped the remaining pieces by color. "I don't think so."
His pause made her look at him.
"I'm not good with…following through."
She knew it was not about the puzzle anymore.
He sat on the chair nearest to her. Though he was wearing silk, black pants, he did not feel the decency to cover the rest of his body. He was a stubborn patient and she dearly pitied what Alfred had to deal with.
He leaned in and tried to help. "I apologize for not being able…to buy you breakfast."
"You're not holding me to it."
"No…I'm surprised you even remember." She was trying to finish the green first because it was the easiest. "I can't hold you to something you were…forced to say."
"Forced, required…obliged. Whatever the word is…you're just trying to make me feel better at the time," she explained. "And it worked."
She did not think he was buying any of what she was saying because his stare was burning holes in her left cheek.
"What?" she just had to ask when she could no longer ignore him.
"In a subtle way you are accusing me of lying," his deep baritone remarked, though it had no trace of malice.
"I'm not accusing you of that." She looked at him in amazement. "Maybe you meant it, maybe you just said it to make me feel better. You're the only one who knows which is which. But whatever your reasons are, you're my friend. I'll understand."
"Yes." She tried to lighten the moment. "And please…put a shirt on. You're not going to get any better…half naked."
"Am I distracting you?"
If she could lie, she would to save face. "Yes."
He smirked and surprisingly did what he was told. "Now you know how I feel about your…uniform."
"After all the women, Mr. Wayne…you're complaining about my uniform?"
"Who says I'm complaining?"
Her gaze was fixed on her progress but she knew he was smiling. And it was hard not to smile in return.
"I have never seen a happier eagle," he muttered about her breastplate. "If that eagle could smile…"
She was stifling an incredulous laugh, reminding her that he was in this strangely cheerful mood because of his condition. And that remembrance made her touch her hand to his forehead just to check if he was not delirious.
He was a little warm. So that meant he was really, only flirting.
"Whatever in Hera's name did Alfred give you?" she joked.
"You should take it more often."
His gaze softened slightly. "Am I such a grouch?"
She sighed. "Sometimes…" She just could not resist. "Other times…you're plainly an ogre." There was a twinkle in her eye. "You're like the Hulk…only backwards."
"I think you've made your point the first time."
The puzzle was getting easier with each passing second. "Just making the most of the situation, Bruce…while you are under medication and…oddly talkative and cheerful."
Instead of another quick retort, he just smiled. It was the smile she missed the most.
He awoke to find her there, with a slight grimace marring her perfect features as she studied something on the table in front of her…tucking wayward strands of hair behind her ear…biting her lip in utter frustration. It was such a girl thing to do, so very unlike the strong-willed warrior she was. It was another side of her that only her close friends knew.
And to him, it made her even more adorable.
And with her, he was very vulnerable.
She did not know it, but she may be his weakness. That was why he tried to avoid her for the past year.
And now, she was so close…he could smell her hair…it was intoxicating. And he could see the bright blue sparkle in her eyes that he missed. It was genuine happiness that he could see, a rarity…considering her eyes have seen such cruelty, such pain. He thought she would have been jaded by the world.
Like he was.
Though he did not feel as jaded when she was with him. She gave him hope.
Hell…she was even able to make the corniest words in his vocabulary come out. It may have been partly due to the drug like she said, but he was the master of control.
But not so much where she was concerned.
In comfortable silence, they worked together, as the clocked ticked away, as the prepared dinner became stale…until they were both sitting beside each other on the floor too engrossed to care about the closeness, until only two pieces were left. He gave her the chance to place the last piece.
"We finished it…" she whispered almost in awe. She had to congratulate herself because she did not think she could make it this far.
Though he was not as vocal as she was, she could feel almost the same sentiments from him.
"You were smiling all throughout."
I'm just…happy, she nearly said it aloud. "I have to admit it was…fun. And congratulations to you…you were able to start, follow through…and finish something after all."
He studied her face for a long time. "For what it's worth, Diana…I wanted to have breakfast."
It might not have been the words she envisioned in her mind that he would someday say to her. But in the world they lived in, big, passionate words and feelings that were normally associated with them came a distant second to duty.
It was enough that he had admitted the truth, medication or no medication.
He grinned. "I thought I was just a friend."
"You are." She could not resist looking at his lips.
"Then why are you blushing?"
She shook her head in dismay, with a rueful smile on her lips. "I'm…too old to blush."
She heard a soft laugh.
"I know. I've never been this clichéd even as Bruce Wayne."
And to prove his point, he reached out and held her hand softly. Her eyes followed the small movement, looking at their joined hands…nothing in between. And the significance of it all.
"Where are we exactly, Bruce?"
"In the middle of yes and no."
"Or…nowhere." It was such a forlorn thought.
"After all these years…" he began. "I wanted to kiss you."
"But you haven't." And she knew he would try not to. The way his blue eyes stared deeply into hers was laced with an unspoken apology, for a fault that was not his…nor hers.
"I'll let you make the move first, just like the first time," he tried to lighten the gloomy circumstance.
She remembered the Thanagarian invasion. "I had to do it."
"So if it was Wally you're with…" His brow rose. "That will still be your strategy?"
"Wally, John…Kal…" She smiled when she felt him tense a little.
"Do not tease or I'll be forced to change my mind."
"Then why don't you?" she challenged.
He answered truthfully. "Because I'll just be reminded of what I can't deal with…at the moment."
At the moment…meaning for a long time.
"An ordinary life." She answered for him. "Can't we just pretend to be like two ordinary people for five minutes?"
"I'd want more," he admitted, before taking a deep breath.
She remembered J'onn's earlier observation and decided to take action. "I can give you more."
"Do you realize what you are saying?"
"For Hera's sake, Bruce…" She was starting to be frustrated with his misplaced chivalry. He was Bruce Wayne, billionaire playboy, for crying out loud. So she did what she was not supposed to do. She leaned in and kissed him.
For the briefest of moments she felt him struggle, but he lost to the force of passion as his lips moved together with hers. It had been a long time since and she made him feel exactly just how much she longed to feel his touch again.
Aphrodite would have been very proud.
"You said you wanted to kiss me… but you'll only do it if I make the move first…" she whispered against his lips.
There was a hint of humor in his eyes. "But when I told you that I've wanted to kiss you for a long time I was just trying to remain…PG 13."
She laughed at his expression. "If you get better…I might just make the first move again."
"Give me a week's option…" he joked.
Well then…I'll give you a week's option…those were his words a year ago.
Then his expression sobered as if reading her thoughts. "Just in case I haven't told you this yet, I want to you to know that…you are the most amazing woman. And if ever I have the chance…it's only you I want to be with."
She smiled. "That…I'll hold you to."
"I'm counting on that." He kissed her forehead. "Just be patient with me, Diana."
J'onn's technique may prove useful after all.
"I will. And Bruce…" She remembered something as the clock's alarm signaled the beginning of a new day.
They kissed again. And this time, he did not need to wait for her.
And after a while they remembered dinner.
And somewhere not far away, a green face was smiling…and a pair of orange eyes was very hopeful for a promising future for two people who have sacrificed so much, for two people who deserved happiness together.
For two people who have been very much in love with each other for a very long time.