Disclaimer: =D. Also, this chapter might be a bit more risque than my usual fare. Just saying.
Patrol was the plan.
But now that they were back in the cave, Diana was trying to convince him not to go.
"Are you sure you're ready, Bruce?"
"I'm as ready as I will ever be. The rest I'm going to have to learn through actual experience."
He watched her draw her lower lip between her teeth. "And you know how to operate yo—"
"I am physically and mentally capable of performing all the duties of Batman. And even if you can't trust me, J'onn and Clark would not have cleared me for patrol if I hadn't passed all their tests."
Her eyes drifted down to the bat symbol on his chest. She wore a matching one. It had been agreed that she would stand beside him as a member of the Batclan, not as Wonder Woman. The idea had been hers, not his. He hadn't cared what she wore.
"Were you always this worried when I went on patrol?" he asked.
She pulled her cowl on, hiding her face, and leaned back against the console of the Cave's computer. He quickly learned he despised the white lenses. If not for all the valuable technology and protection they provided, he would have considered them a design flaw.
Thankfully, she answered his question.
"Yes, I was; I just never said anything."
"Did you not think me capable?"
If the tightening of her jaw was any indication, they had had this discussion before.
"That's exactly why I kept quiet. Why does my worrying about you getting hurt have anything to do with your abilities? Bad things happen to people all the time, and as much as we prepare, there are things that are out of our control…I don't want you to get hurt. That's all."
He took a step forward, wanting to assure her that everything would go well, but suddenly stopped, remembering the unspoken agreement to keep their distance. "I'll be fine. And if something happens, you'll be there."
He barely heard her mutter, "Thank, Hera," under her breath before taking the seat behind him in the Batmobile.
"Are patrols usually this easy?" Bruce asked, as they sat up on a rooftop watching the goings on below, which was tantamount to nothing.
"It seems the gods have smiled on you tonight," Diana answered, with a small smile of her own.
And just like that, the illusion of security was taken from her.
Bruce had seen it before she did. A solitary man heading into an alley across the street, followed by three others with ill intent.
Diana shifted her weight, ready to take to the ground, but Bruce's hands stayed her.
"My turn," he mouthed, then reached for his grappling hook. Her fingers gripped his wrist, and he looked up at her, questioningly and slightly annoyed. "What?"
"Remember, this isn't another training drill. Their guns are real."
"I know," he groused, shaking free of her hold.
"Just be careful. Please."
Bruce nodded his head, then aimed his grappling hook and fired. Swinging down into the alley, he disappeared after the criminals.
Prayers and her heart stuck in her throat, Diana flew over to the opposite rooftop, careful to stay out of sight.
She gripped the edge of the roof, but relinquished her hold after Bruce dispatched of the three bad guys. It took him all of eight seconds. There was nothing left to do but wait as Bruce readied the criminals for pick up by Gotham's finest.
Not wanting him to see how worried she had been, Diana elected to sit down. She had just decided where to rest when the sound of gunshots echoed in the alley below.
In a flash, Diana flew down behind the man holding the gun and knocked him out. Eyes darting across the alley, the first thing she saw were the three men Bruce had tied up.
Diana's eyes widened in horror.
Why had she assumed that the man they had followed into the alley had been innocent?
Trying to breathe, she scanned the rest of the alley. There! Just past the trussed up and unconscious criminals was Bruce, lying face down on the ground.
Rushing over to him, Diana turned him over.
Hera, let him be alright. Hera, let him be alright. Hera, let him be alright.
The cold lenses stared up at her; she was on the verge of panicking.
She noticed the bat emblem on his chest rise and fall; she was able to breathe.
He coughed, which turned into a groan.
"Are you alright?" she asked.
He didn't answer. As gently as she could in her frantic state, Diana hauled him into her arms.
"Tie him up first." Bruce's words were weak, muted by pain.
She wanted to argue, but he was right. Besides, there was no way she would allow this man to get away with almost killing Bruce. In less than a minute, the criminal was captive, Bruce was in her arms, and she was about to leave the ground.
"No." He stared pointedly at the tied up criminals. One of which was starting to stir. "We drive back."
Darting across the street into the opposite alley, out of sight from the criminals, Diana argued "There is no chance they will see us. We will get back faster if I fly us home."
"I'm fine. Take the Batmobile back." His voice sounded stronger, but she wasn't exactly convinced.
"Are you sure?"
"The Kevlar stopped the bullets."
She stared down dumbly at his chest, stomach churning at the sites of impact. His uniform's top layers had been torn, but not penetrated through completely.
"Now put me down. We'll drive back."
Too relieved to argue, she set him down next to the vehicle. Offering him a hand to help him into the passenger's seat, he surprised her by refusing her assistance and taking the driver's chair.
The drive home was tense, to say the least.
Diana couldn't keep from checking up on him, stealing glances when she thought he wasn't looking. The rest of the time she just stared out the window, watching the scenery blur by, trying not to think of Bruce being shot.
Once the batmobile was parked in the cave and the top pulled back, Diana jumped out. Turning back to Bruce, she extended her hand to help him out, but he ignored it.
In silence, the two walked back towards the Manor. Diana was on her way to the infirmary, but stopped when she realized Bruce wasn't following her. He was sitting in front of the computer.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Entering my patrol report."
"You're injured. That can wait."
Ignoring his protest, Diana said, "Should I get Alfred?"
The dismissal was clear in his tone, but she didn't move. As he continued ignoring her, she felt him slipping away. She had prepared for this. It was why she had held Bruce at bay. The return of Batman equaled solitude, distance, regret. She recognized the pattern. He was pushing her away, punishing himself for being weak, wishing he hadn't let her see him fail.
There was no room for her.
This was always how it was going to end. She had to accept it. She thought she had.
She hadn't noticed when he had stopped typing, but her attention was fully on him when he turned in his chair.
"I just need to tape my ribs. I can do that myself. You should go to bed."
His earlier coldness was gone. Without thinking, she held out her hand. "I'll do it."
He pushed back his cowl, and she did the same. "Are you sure?" he asked.
She led him over to the med table, leaving him only to gather the necessary supplies.
Easing him out of his uniform top, she tried to stay composed at the sight of the two bright flowers of purple blooming across his chest. The surge of emotion was ridiculous. She had seen much worse on the battlefield and during missions. He was safe; the bruises would disappear in a few days, a week at the most. He would be out patrolling the next night. Could have kept on tonight if the sun weren't about to come up.
She made no move for the tape, just stared down at his bruises on his otherwise perfect chest. She closed her eyes, shutting out pictures of future scars and injuries he would receive if he continued down this path.
"Why are you doing this?" she asked.
"Gotham City needs a protector."
"But you don't need this anymore." The old Bruce did. This one had no recollection of his parents, no motivating factor for being Batman. The graveyard had proven that.
"But you do."
"…You're doing this for me?" she asked, startled. Part of her had suspected, but it was another thing seeing him almost shot because of her.
The right side of his mouth twisted upward, tempered by the sadness in his eyes. "It's the only way you would remain in my life. The only way you would accept me."
She opened her mouth to argue, but the words would not come. Bruce was right. And she now realized how utterly wrong she had been about him.
He did love her. He knew what he wanted. Only she had been too hurt and angry to admit it. Too scared.
Injuries forgotten, Diana stood in front of him, eye to eye. "Tell me you love me."
His jaw clenched, probably expecting her to reject him at the sound of those words. She lifted her hand and gently traced the twitching muscle in his cheek. "Please."
The first time he said it, she closed her eyes and let the words wash over her. Something deep within her rose up and battled the words. Having spent so many months telling herself not to believe, to keep her hopes low, it was difficult for her to accept this. But with each declaration the walls she had built up against him began to crumble, until finally her heart lay bare before him. Open, vulnerable, aching. She had given him so much, never asking for anything but for Bruce to let her love him. She knew his old self had been broken that day in Crime Alley, and so she had learned to be content with whatever small part of himself he could offer. Goddesses, she had not known until this moment how much she had wanted him to love her back with the same intensity and passion. How much she needed him to love her fully.
And as Bruce kept telling her of his love, it occurred to her that maybe she wasn't the only one in need. When was the last time Bruce had ever allowed himself to love with abandon? How many years had it been since he'd let his heart dictate his actions? Even that first and only time they'd been together he had censored himself, too afraid to give voice to how much he cared for her. He had always kept back a part of himself, fearful of repercussion, rejection, or impending loss.
But not tonight, Diana vowed. Bruce would give, she would receive, and they would be healed.
True to her word, Diana kept silent as he kissed her. Cherished the words as he whispered them against ear and neck. Kept perfectly still as Bruce undressed her with unsteady fingers and lifted her up beside him with trembling arms. Waited patiently as he gently pushed her back onto the table, stretched his body over hers. Lacing their fingers together, he held them down on either side of her head. The metal of her bracelets clanked against the stainless steel of the med table, the sound dampened somewhat by their harsh breathing and her hair, which he'd spread out around her like a halo of ebony.
Realizing she had closed her eyes, she opened them and found Bruce staring down at her. His own eyes shone like sapphires, darkened by passion and lit inside with fire. Diana's breath caught in her throat. Hera, he was beautiful. And he was hers.
He said her name again, but she still couldn't breathe. Could only give a slight nod of her head, the indication of her surrender. Her years long struggle to forget how he had made her feel, how they'd felt together was over. Only this was better, because it wasn't memory. Taste, touch, sight, scent, and sound. Every sense was deluged, filled and overwhelmed by Bruce. Diana's head fell back against the table, eyes unfocused on the ceiling. Unable to keep still any longer, she arched underneath him, sighing his name as he moved against her.
By the time he stopped speaking, words were no longer necessary. Every touch, every kiss, every gasp and movement was a declaration. Action and thought were one.
They were one.
Afterward, he lifted his head from her neck. He searched her face, his brow furrowed with concern and insecurity. She had forgotten. This was his first time. And there was something she still hadn't told him.
Diana traced his brow with her thumb, soothing the lines of worry as she gently brushed away the hair that clung to his forehead.
"I love you, too. Always."
Bruce smiled, his happiness brilliant even in the dark.
To be continued