Disclaimer 1: I own nothing.
Disclaimer 2: I have never read Batman: RIP, and since I hate the story line I don't ever plan on reading it. What little knowledge of the plot I have comes from wikipedia articles and the dcdatabase. So, some of the things I mention might be very close to the plot or very divergent. I took what I wanted and made up the rest.
Disclaimer 3: While this could be a very long story (which I might write at a later date), I am stopping it after the third chapter. There is some closure there and a semi-natural ending, but it leaves things very open ended. I thought I should finish Stranger in Paradise before I tackled another big story. Normally, I like to wait in between posting the chapters, but since I've been so terrible with updating Stranger, I thought I'd put these all up at once. Hopefully, it's a treat and not a punishment. :D
A/N: Thanks, Kipling (whoops, I almost wrote your real name, lol), for betaing this ministory. I know how busy you are, so for those moments where you can relax, I'm purchasing some massage chairs for the enclave. I plan on coming over to use them often. :D Also, thanks to Hepburn for giving me some suggestions to make my story more authentic to Diana's culture and vocabulary.
Rest in Peace
Down To Earth
Enjoying a rare day off, and an even rarer day of warm winter weather, Diana Prince and Tom Tresser were just returning from a stroll in the park. The sun was nearly setting, and Diana paused to watch the orange and pinks of the sky gradually fade to gray. Brushing her hair from her face, she noticed she was not the only one affected by the coming winds. The trees that lined the walkway of the Themysciran Embassy waved their bare branches at the returning couple.
"Not a moment too soon, huh? I think I felt a drop of rain hit me."
Tom followed her to the doorstep, his arm around her waist. Sensing that he wanted to come in with her, she turned and smiled. It didn't quite reach her eyes. "I'm sorry I have to cut this short. I have a meeting tomorrow and I should really go over—"
Tom placed a finger to her lips. "No need to explain. Go do what you gotta do."
"Always so understanding."
"That's why you love me."
She stared at him. Sandy blond hair, bright blue eyes, a very handsome face, and better yet, he was brave and kind. Everything she should have wanted.
He leaned in and kissed her goodnight, and she pulled away before it could evolve from a brief peck on the mouth. "One of these days, you will have to say it."
Diana laughed, the faint sound carried away on the wind. Slowly closing the door, she said, "Goodnight, Tom."
"I love you too, Diana," he shouted playfully through the wall of oak.
Diana crossed the entryway, cringing at the loud echo of clicks and clacks her heels made across the tiled floor.
"Diana? Is that you?" a female voice called out, arresting Diana's retreat.
"Yes. I'll be right there." Shucking off her civilian heels, she soundlessly made her way to the reception desk outside her office. "It's after five. Why are you still—"
Diana stopped mid-sentence as her secretary, Jessica, looked up, green eyes vibrant and wide. Her mouth was in the shape of a perfect 'O', but no words issued forth as she thrust a letter towards Diana with such force, the tight red spirals of her hair bounced up and down. It was a miracle Jessica had not toppled over in her nervous energy. Grabbing the letter, Diana turned the unaddressed envelope over in her fingers.
"Who dropped this off?"
"He wouldn't give his name, just said he was an old friend. He had an Australian accent, I think. Or maybe it was British. I'm not really good at telling them apart. I'm sorry." The secretary's voice grew weaker and weaker until her apology was barely audible.
"And he wa—"
Jessica stopped speaking again, mouth agape at her supposed faux pas. Diana waited a second, but Jessica didn't continue.
"Yes?" she prompted.
"Sorry for interrupting, but I just remembered. He was bald. I should have made him leave a note. I mean, I know he already did, but another note. You know…"
Diana intervened, putting Jessica out of her misery. "It's alright. You've only just started, and I don't expect you to know the ins and outs of the job yet. In the future, just leave me a message. It isn't necessary for you to stay past hours to tell me these kinds of things in person."
"Oh. Well, he said it was important, and nothing like that's happened before."
"Thanks for the letter." Diana headed out of the room, calling over her shoulder, "Goodnight."
Climbing up the stairs, Diana rolled her neck, feeling the tension melt away as she walked into her room. She threw all her mail onto the bed and began to run the bath. There was a meeting, but she wasn't going to study the notes.
Diana sat down on the bed with a sigh, rubbing her eyes. Taking a deep breath, she reached for her mail.
Trash. Trash. Trash. More trash.
After depositing all the requests for interviews and gala invitations in the garbage, she picked up the unmarked envelope. The cream paper of the stationery was heavy and sealed shut with wax, but there was no impression made in the cloudy fluid. Sticking her finger under the lip of the envelope, she tore it open.
It is with great sorrow and regret that I inform you of the passing of…
Her eyes scanned the opening lines, disbelieving. She stared at the horrible words for an age until they seemed to run into each other and ceased to make sense. They eventually disappeared as the letter drifted from her shaking fingers to the floor.
The shrill sound of the telephone ringing lifted her stupor. Diana reached for the receiver and managed a hoarse, "Hello?"
"I just found out. Are you alright?"
Bruce is dead. How could I possibly be alright? Her eyes began to burn, and she couldn't speak.
"Diana? Please say something. Do you want me to come over?"
"No," she choked out. "Do you…do you know when the funeral will be?"
"In the letter Alfred gave me, he said his body hadn't been found yet, but they are having a memorial service next week."
"Oh. I didn't read the rest of the letter. I should probably do that."
"Do you want me to do the press conference?"
"We need to tell the world—"
"That's not a good idea."
Diana heard nothing, and wondered if they had been disconnected. "Clark, are you still there?"
"The sooner we tell everyone, the better."
"But they still haven't found his body. He might still be alive. And if his city finds out that he's dead, there will be nothing stopping them from tearing Gotham apart. We owe it to Bruce to keep this secret."
"Diana, Alfred thinks it's best."
Defeated, Diana closed her mouth.
"I'll be doing it tomorrow morning. Can I count on you to be there?" Clark asked.
"I'll do the talking."
"I'm not going."
The sound of him exhaling loudly was harsh in her ear. "Whether we acknowledge it or not, Bruce is gone."
Her heart refused to believe it. How could she have lived three whole days without feeling any different? She would have sensed if he had been taken from her. Bruce could not be gone. Her heart raced and pounded against her chest as she gathered the courage to refute Clark, but no words would come. This time, reason won out.
"Diana, I know you don't want to go, but I need you." Pain infused his words, and for a second, she felt sympathy. But he had only lost a great friend and teammate; she had lost…Her mind seized as it searched a way to define what Bruce was to her, but it was impossible. There were too many ways in which they were connected. Had been connected.
"I'll be there."
"Thank you." The line went silent for a few seconds. When Clark spoke again, she had to strain to hear him, "I know you two had—"
"I'm really tired, and" Diana waved her free hand in the air, trying to grasp at the right words.
"Get some rest. I'll see you in the morning, at nine."
Before he hung up, the words slipped right past her lips. "Clark, I wasn't ready for this." She covered her mouth with her free hand and swallowed down her sob.
"It's going to be ok."
Diana pushed the 'end' button, staring down at the dead line before whipping it towards the wall. It tore right through the plaster, straight into the bathroom, skittering to a stop against her now overflowing bathtub.
"Oh, gods," she moaned, running into the bathroom to turn off the faucet. She grabbed a towel and fell to her knees, sopping up the hot water. "Could this day get any worse?"
The thought roared in her mind, beating mercilessly on her tired heart. The towel was soaked through and she got up to reach for another, slipping in the still large puddle. She didn't try to get up.
No, no, no. The words grew louder and louder, until she realized she was yelling them to the empty room.
Eventually her voice grew hoarse and she just laid there in the water, allowing herself to cry over her losses.
She heard the phone ring and ignored it. It must have happened five other times, but she refused to answer it. This was her time. She would share Batman with the world tomorrow, and they could partake of the League's grief, but this belonged to her.
Some time later, Diana's mourning was interrupted by the sound of someone running up the stairs. She was in the process of raising her head off the floor when that someone began banging on her bedroom door.
"Diana, are you in there?"
Tom was practically shouting, and she could hear the fear in his voice. "Diana, open the damn door!"
Diana turned over on the floor, staring at the porcelain of her tub.
There were three loud crashes against the door before Tom shouldered his way through the splintered wood.
The touch of his helping hands provided the energy she needed. Pushing herself off the floor, she wrapped her arms around herself the instant she was on her feet.
"What's wrong?" His voice was now soft and gentle, everything she did not want. His hands were on her again, but she couldn't suppress a shudder.
"Are you cold?"
She looked down and blinked at her sodden state.
"I must have called ten times. Why didn't you answer?"
"That was two hours ago. I had to wait at the door for the security guard to let me in, and the rain is freezing outside. Stupid global warming. First it's hot, then it's cold, then it's wet. When is it going to make up its mind?...Diana, you're making me babble."
"Would you please tell me what's wrong?"
Needing to get away from him, Diana wandered over to her closet to get some dry clothes.
"Tom, I don't think we should see each other anymore."
"What?!" He shook his head, throwing damp, blond hair out of his eyes. "Why?"
"This isn't working between us."
"What the hell are you talking about?" The anger in his voice dissipated and once again Tom's voice was calm and soothing. "I realize you are having a bad day. We should talk about this later, not when you are upset."
"This has nothing to do with Bruce. I've felt this way for a while."
"Bruce? Who's Bruce?"
She turned to answer him and noticed him spying the letter on the floor. She quickly snatched it up.
Tom's eyes narrowed at the piece of paper. "What's that?"
"Nothing that concerns you."
"Who is Bruce?"
"No one." She turned away to dig through her closet, tucking the letter into the pocket of a winter coat.
"I got a call from work. Superman informed us that Batman is dead. I…I didn't think you were that close to him."
"I wasn't." The admission ripped her apart.
"Then why are you so upset?"
"I don't want to be having this discussion."
"Fine, but I'm not going to let you push me away because you're in a bad mood. We will sit down and talk this through like rational adults."
She wasn't going to change her mind. Now that she knew exactly what and who she wanted, it didn't matter that she could never have it. Tom would never be Bruce, and it was a waste of both their time to keep trying. But Tom deserved better than this.
"You're right," Diana said.
She started crying again when he held her in his arms, and he tightened his hold on her. "Do you want me to stay with you tonight?"
"I want to be alone…but thank you."
Tom took two steps back and dropped his hands to his sides. "Alright. I'll call you tomorrow." He rubbed the back of his neck, eyes scanning the floor. "I'm sorry about what happened and um, about the door. I'll tell the security guard you're ok."
As soon as she heard him walk through the doorway and down the stairs, she collapsed on her bed.
Staring at the warm clothes in her hands, she moved to get up. Methodically, she stripped down, removing each item one by one. The empty room filled with dull, monotonous thuds as her clothes dropped to the carpet. Completely undressed, she stared at her pajamas. The howl of the wind sent a tremor through her body, and before she could stop them, images of Bruce—dead, cold, and broken—assaulted her. The ugly visual stream was interrupted by the curious thought she didn't even know how he had died. The realization seemed to welcome with it countless scenarios of ever-increasing violence.
She fell to her knees.
How could she not have known? Lived three days without even feeling the slightest difference? She should have sensed he was gone, shouldn't have been able to enjoy the sunshine, while he lay in the dirt, covered with grime and frost, with no burial and no rest.
I can't stay here. Not tonight.
Standing to her feet, she spun around, and her uniform appeared. The tiara on her head was heavy, and she looked down at her body, now encased in the blue, red, and white star-spangled ensemble. Desperately, she grasped at the familiar golden coil against her thigh and gripped it with all her might.
Wrapping it around her body, she hissed as it burned through the chill that had settled over her heart. Within its shining circle, the truths she had tried to keep buried shone brightly, searing her mind as they scorched through her. She was in love with Bruce, had always been in love with him and only him. There was nothing she regretted more than not seizing the chance to be with him. But worst of all, there was nothing she could do to fix her mistake. He was gone.
Lashing the lasso to her side, she made to leave. At least I can give him a proper burial.
She walked towards the glass doors of her balcony and reached for the handle, nearly startled by her pale reflection. The dark night caused her twin image to appear faded, forlorn. She watched the muted princess before her, and nearly jumped when the reflection moved. Squeezing her eyes shut, she opened them once again, and saw the reason for her fright: Bruce. He was gazing at her through the window, as strong and handsome as she remembered him. Closing her eyes, she pressed her forehead against the cold pane and breathed in and out.
He is here to haunt me. The news was welcome, and she reconsidered the need to find his body. In this form, he could be with her forever. The lasso burned at her side. "Selfish," she heard it whisper. "Do not deprive him of his well-deserved rest." Diana released a shuddering sob, and with it all hope of keeping Bruce with her.
Wiping at the tears seeping through her closed eyelids, she opened her eyes and stared back at him.
Bruce's spirit opened his mouth, but even if he could speak, his words were drowned out by the howling wind.
He raised his hand, and the glass rattled with the impact of his fist.
"Diana, let me in."
To Be Continued