Diana sighed in relief as the Javelin came in for a smooth landing at the Watchtower satellite. Flash was piloting the ship back with Green Lantern, Hal Jordan, in the copilot seat. She, Hal, Wally and Superman were on a deep space mission that took them away from Earth for two weeks.
Upon return to Earth, they were caught in an asteroid storm. Flash was piloting and even though the Javalin shook violently under his control, he didn't want to put full control of the ship in Hal's hands. He argued he had enough skill to pilot the ship during the storm. Hal argued with him, citing his piloting expertise. They bickered like a couple on a long trip.
Diana couldn't help feeling a little unnerve at the constant shakes of the ship. She wasn't scared but she didn't want the ship to split apart in space either. Sitting next to her was Clark who briefly squeezed her hand and assured her it would be all right.
Diana also knew if something were to happen that she couldn't handle, Clark would be there for her. He was always there for her.
"See? I told you I can fly in an asteroid storm!"
"Without a few close calls," Hal chastised Wally. "The fourth engine is blown out, the left wing is dented and when you turned left when I said right, an asteroid hit the emergency brake! It's a miracle we're still alive!"
"It's not like we needed it! We landed without the emergency brake!" Wally argued. "We also got Superman on the Javalin. You think we will die with him on board? And you got your ring. You could've flown us back if we got in real trouble."
Wally was correct but Hal wanted to win the argument. "In other words, you deliberately made an ass out of yourself as usual because Superman got your back. This is why women like Diana will never take you seriously."
"Oh, like she would go for a one night stand cad like you!"
Diana unbuckled her seatbelt. She and Clark exit the ship leaving Hal and Wally to argue.
"Rough flight," Clark joked. "But I've been through worse."
"Any landing you can walk away from…." Diana mused as they exit the hangar.
"And back to normal life."
Normal life. Diana thought of what was waiting for her in her 'normal life'. "I think I rather be on Anuk again than deal with the business waiting for me at the Embassy."
They walked down the hall to the elevators, saying hello to fellow Justice League members. "Lots of work?"
"Yes. I have meetings with donors, sponsors, Ambassadors, Prime Ministers and charities, waiting for me. I have a speech to write and give at a dinner the Embassy's giving in two weeks. I'm also speaking at Vida Lacre Women's College two days after. There are also my duties to the Justice League and a vote in the Themyscira Senate I have to take part in. "
Clark whistled at Diana's busy schedule. "Well, you're only given what you can handle." Arriving at the elevator, he tapped the up arrow to open the doors. He allowed Diana to step in first.
"Thank you." Wanting to get the topic off her, Diana asked, "What about you? What's waiting for you in Metropolis?"
"I hope the apartment I was looking at isn't gone. I wasn't able to make a deal before I had to leave."
"I'm sorry I brought it up." Diana wanted to kick herself. Clark was going through a divorce with Lois. He probably wasn't anxious to get back to his life in Metropolis.
"No, it's okay," Clark assured her. "My marriage to Lois was over years ago. I guess I didn't want to admit it but when Jimmy told me Lois goes out for drinks with Richard White every time I'm on a space mission or if I'm working a night shift with the League, I knew something was wrong."
"But Lois didn't have an affair with Richard."
"Not physically, but the fact she never said anything was cause for concern. In fact, Lois lied to me. I always asked her what she did while I was gone. Lois said she worked, went to the movies or stayed home. She didn't have to lie."
"Maybe she did because she worried you would be upset with her having drinks with Richard?" Diana assumed.
"I trust Lois. If she said she and Richard had drinks, I wouldn't have thought anything of it but her lying caused me to do so." Thinking back on it, Clark couldn't believe how naïve he was; how he missed so many signs. "And that caused the arguments, the silence...the tension. I went home one weekend and saw how happy my parents were together. I realized Lois and I never had what my parents have. We love each other but we slowly grew apart. When I got back, we talked and that's when I learned Lois had an emotional connection to Richard."
Diana saw the sadness in Clark's eyes. She wanted to hug him but resisted. She always had to hold back in expressing her feelings with him. "Lois confessed being married to me wasn't all she imagined. It was a lot harder than she thought it would be. The long nights waiting for me to come home; my abrupt departures were very hard on her. She said it's very lonely being married to me and my ways of making it up to her wasn't enough."
Clark didn't dare mention to Diana his love life with Lois or rather, lack thereof and the means they had to go through to make love so he wouldn't kill her. "I made Lois suffer for years and I couldn't anymore. I also had to admit I wasn't entirely happy in our marriage either so we decided to call it quits."
Clark never spoke openly about his divorce. The few members of the Justice League that knew he was married knew his marriage was ending but didn't know why other than it wasn't working out. Diana felt very privilege and closer to Clark to be the keeper of his most private secrets.
"Was Lois angry?"
"No. She accepted it was over, too." Clark was very grateful Lois wasn't furious. It made the divorce process so much easier. "The divorce proceedings have been easy as well as dividing up property. We've already decided what we want and I've moved all my things to the Fortress. All I have to do now is wait for the divorce to be final and look for an adequate place in Metropolis."
"Is it that hard?"
"For a regular person? No. But when you are Superman, it is hard finding the right home." The elevator doors opened and two stepped out. They stopped off at a corridor near a window where the Earth spun before them. Clark stared at the precious blue marble he called home. "Sometimes I wonder if I should leave Metropolis. When he learned of our divorce, Perry offered me a Foreign Correspondent job. He offered it to me before Lois and I started dating and he offered it again, thinking I need a change in scenery."
"Are you considering it?"
"Actually, yes." He surprised Diana with that answer. "Metropolis is only one of the many cities in this world I protect. I think more villains started showing up in Metropolis because I live there."
"If you should leave and Superman starts appearing in the new city Clark Kent is living in, it won't take long for people to put the two together."
Clark had the very same thought when he moving first popped in his mind. "Clark can move and Superman can stay in Metropolis for a while and gradually fade out so it won't seem Clark and Superman left at the same time." Another thought came to him. "I could get Kara to impersonate Superman while Clark—" he stopped, noticing Diana laughing. "What's so funny?"
"You." Another laugh escaped her lips. "You are talking about yourself in third person again."
"Ha. Ha," he said dryly. "I do think I should move. I've been in Metropolis for twelve years and," he said soberly, "I'm going to be living for a very long time, Diana. I'm going to outlive my parents, Lois, Jimmy, and almost all the members of the Justice League, so I have to get use to moving around and starting new lives."
Diana touched his arm. Her eyes warm, her smile inviting, "Don't worry about the future, Kal. Just enjoy the moment now with your parents and our friends, and remember when the future comes, I'll be here. You won't be alone."
Touched, Clark drew Diana to him in a warm embrace. "I know, Diana. I know. You're my best friend, you know that, right?"
Diana smiled into his chest. "I know."
The quiet moment between them was cut short when Clark asked, "So, wanna tell me which city I should move, too? Best friends help with decisions like that. I'm too lazy to make a decision on my own."
Diana broke the hug to slap her hand across his chest. "No, Clark. You are an adult. You can make your own decision."
"You're so mean to me sometimes," he teased her.
"You may be Superman, but you can't get your way with everything."
"I'm a man, Diana. I never get my way." Her smile warmed his heart and he was always grateful this woman was his best friend. "Go home and I'll write the report up. You have a lot waiting for you."
Diana kissed his cheek. "Thanks, Kal. You are a true friend."
"Princess, welcome back!" Diana's assistant, Ana, welcomed Diana as she graced the marbled halls of the Embassy.
"Thank you, Ana." Diana gave Ana a friendly hug. The two parted and walked to her office. "How was it holding down the fort?"
"Eventful, but I managed it. I'm more than happy to let you take control again."
"And get home to your husband," Diana teased the newlywed as they entered her office. On her desk, rest a fresh bouquet of orchid flowers in a crystal vase, with an envelope and a red box beside it. "Oh, Ana, these are beautiful." Diana leaned over to inhale the flowers' wonderful scent. "My favorite. Thank you."
"It wasn't me, Princess," Ana grinned. "It was your secret admirer."
"Secret admirer?" Diana almost rolled her eyes. "Is this from Prince Renard? Or perhaps Sultan Soldano? Maybe President Wynter?" Those were Diana's frequent pursuers as of late who would not take no for an answer.
"No. No. No. This is someone new." Ana plucked the envelope by the vase and handed it to Diana. "Read it."
Diana took the envelope and pulled out a handwritten letter. "Princess Diana, I know you have many admirers but I implore you to give hope to a man who is hopelessly in love with you. You are a strikingly beautiful woman and like any male I was drawn to that when I first laid eyes on you but your beauty is only a sliver of the wonderful woman you are. Your caring heart and forgiveness of others inspires me and gives me hope when darkness enters my own heart. Your vivaciousness, your courageous heart of a lion and your intelligence drives me wild; drives me to think and feel things I've never felt before. I would like to court you, learn more about you not as Diana, Ambassador, Wonder Woman, Princess of Themyscira but Diana, the woman. I hope you accept my invitation in meeting a week from today. Until then, enjoy the gifts I will give you each day."
Ana sighed, "A week from today? That's Valentine's Day. Oh, this is so romantic."
"It's touching, but it could very well be a villain trying to lure me in a trap." Diana flipped the letter over, thinking something was written on the back. "It doesn't say anything about where he wants to meet."
"Not now but the next one will."
Diana placed the envelope back on the desk and picked up the red box. "I guess this is the gift." Diana opened the box. Inside were a card and a heart-shaped bottle with Diana's name scripted in gold. Diana read the card, "I created and named this perfume in honor of you. You are one of the rare jewels in the world that truly has her own scent: potent, magical, intoxicating, alluring. One taste from you and any man you want is yours forever."
"Oh!" Ana gushed. "This guy is the real thing! He's crazy about you, Princess. He loves you. Guys buy perfume. They don't make them."
Diana opened the bottle and dropped a dab of the perfume on her wrist. She brought it to her nose to inhale. "Oh!" Diana couldn't describe the unique smell except it was a spicy, almost fiery scent blended with orchids. It was a strong, yet soft and sensual. "It smells wonderful."
Diana gave Ana the bottle for her to try. "Wow. It smells so good." Ana dabbed some on her neck and wrists. "I don't know who he is, but I hope you meet him, Princess. He sounds like a great guy."
Diana wondered about that. Was he a great guy or was this a trap by her enemies? Who was he? Did he know her? Did she know him? Would she want to meet this admirer?
"It's Clark! I know it is!"
Diana hovered several feet in the air pursuing through the books on her bookshelf, wishing she had put the flowers and perfume in her bedroom instead of leaving them out on her desk. Donna stopped by for a visit when she noticed the flowers, the perfume, the letter and screamed it was from Clark. Diana pulled the book she was searching for from the shelf and floated to the floor.
"Why would Kal send this?"
"He's a writer, he's single and he's in love with you."
"He's a writer, he's in the middle of a divorce and he's my friend."
"All the more reason it's him." Why is my sister, gifted by Athena, so blind and stubborn? "He's available and is making his move now that his marriage is over."
Diana returned to her desk and opened her book. She really had to work on her speech and not think of the impossible. "We are friends, Donna. We were friends before he married. If Kal wanted me, why didn't he make his move before he married Lois?"
"Because he wasn't ready just like you weren't. You were so young and green to this world. You and Clark both have grown so much since you met twelve years ago."
For a brief moment, Diana wondered if it was possible then just as quickly, shook the idea away. It was foolish to give it a serious consideration. "It's not possible."
"Not possible or is it you don't want it to be possible?" Donna studied her sister, waiting for a reaction. She knew how her sister felt for Clark. Like everyone else, Donna thought Diana and Clark were best friends and nothing more but when Clark was thought to be dead by Doomsday, Donna learned the truth of her sister's feelings for Clark. She watched her sister put on a brave face at his marriage to Lois Lane, watch him go home to Lois after every space mission, some where he and Diana could've died while she went home alone. Now there was a chance for her sister and Clark to be together, Donna wondered why her sister wasn't grasping at this chance.
Diana grabbed her pen and resumed writing notes on pad. "I'm not going to make more out of this than you are, Donna. It's flowers and perfume from an admirer and I have plenty of those. No need to think it's from Kal when I'm sure it's not."
Diana reached for her book and Donna pulled it from Diana's grasp. She was growing irritated with her sister's blasé attitude. "How can you be so sure?"
Diana reached for her book again and Donna pulled her arm back. Seeing she would have no choice but to comply with Donna, she said, "For one, the handwriting on the letter and card isn't Kal's and it doesn't looks like he disguised it. Kal and I returned to Earth together. He was at the Watchtower writing a report of our mission while I was here. Ana told me the flowers and perfume arrived at noon. A day before we came back. It was left at the doorsteps of the Embassy."
Those were good reasons. "It's possible Clark arranged the gifts to be delivered before he came back."
Diana took Donna's distraction to snatch her book back. "Accept it, Donna. It's not Kal."
"Whether it's from Clark or not, you should give this mysterious stranger a chance. Aren't you tired of being alone?"
"How can I be alone?" Diana asked her sister. "I have you and the Justice League."
"I mean being by yourself," Donna elaborated. "Don't you want to be with someone?"
"You do realize an enemy could be sending me this to lure me into a trap."
Donna rolled her eyes. Now her sister was grasping at straws. "They know you wouldn't fall for it. You don't give off the impression you are looking for romance. You are all about your mission." She sighed. "You are so clinical at times, Diana; so all about your work that you don't see a good thing, a good guy in front of you. I think this guy truly cares for you and you should give him a chance."
"Let's say you're right. There should be a way for me to contact him instead of me waiting on him."
At least she was giving this secret admirer a chance. Donna was pleased to finally get through Diana. "No. He will tell you more about himself so you'll get to know him. It'll add up to the romantic mystery about him. It wouldn't surprise me if you know him and he's dropping clues for you to figure out."
Diana knew who Donna was hinting at. "It's not Clark. Do you need proof of that?"
"Yes. I say we trap him. Your admirer will be dropping off another gift tomorrow, right? Clark is many things, Diana, but he can't be at two places at once."
Diana wasn't sure of that but she was going to allow Donna to have her fun if only to prove once and for all Clark wasn't her secret admirer.
Diana also didn't want to think of how disappointed she would be if Donna was proven wrong.
Clark was surprised Diana suddenly invited him to the Embassy for lunch. Not that he minded. He liked spending time with a friend, but it was unlike Diana to call him at the last minute. Still, Clark wasn't one to turn his friends down. He arrived at the Embassy five minutes to noon, carrying two bags of Chinese boxed lunches for him and Diana. Members of the Justice League were a regular so no one batted an eye when Superman was spotted walking Embassy halls.
Diana looked up from her speech at Clark as he entered her office. He held up the Chinese takeout bags. "I got lunch."
Diana noticed the bags. "Chinese."
"Fresh from China." He noticed the papers and opened books on Diana's desk. "How's the speech going?"
Diana rose from her desk. "As well as it can be I guess."
"Well, if you need anyone to look over your work, I have some expertise in that matter."
"I may take you up on that. I'll wash my hands."
Clark went over to a round polished table. "I'll set the table."
Diana disappeared into a private washroom connected to her office. She was only gone for a minute as part of Donna's plan that was going into action now. When she stepped back out, Clark had the table set with the food laid out. Chicken lettuce wraps, wonton soup, Mongolian beef, kung pao chicken, banana spring rolls and a six layer chocolate cake for dessert and a pitcher of water ready to help wash the food down. "Show off," she remarked at his speed.
Diana was taking her seat at the table when a light knock tapped her door. "Come in."
Ana came in. She gave a polite nod to Superman as she went to Diana. "Sorry to intrude your lunch, Princess, but this came for you."
Diana shifted her eyes to Clark for a reaction. He was curiously looking at the bouquet of Orchid flowers and a red medium sized box in Ana's hands. Diana took the gifts from Ana. "Thank you."
Ana left and Clark asked as he folded his chicken wrap, "A boyfriend you forgot to mention?"
"No. A secret admirer."
Clark didn't look pleased with that. "A trick by Ares? Circe?"
Either he was being truthfully suspicious or he was a brilliant actor. Diana thought the latter. "No. I don't think it's their style. I think this is genuine."
"What makes you say that?"
"This is his second gift to me." She got up from the table and picked up the first letter from her admirer off her desk. She gave it to Clark to read.
Clark read the letter and handed it back to Diana. He looked concern, not envious or pleased. "Are you going to meet him?"
"I might." If it is who I hope it is. Diana held a hand out to Clark. "He also made this for me. I don't usually wear perfumes but this scent is incredible."
Clark took Diana's hand and brought his nose to her wrist, "Smells good. He really made this?"
Diana pulled her hand away and took her seat again. "He says he did."
"I'm not surprised you have many admirers." Clark took a bite of his wrap. "Who do you think it is?"
Diana smiled. He was playing his innocent role well. "I have an idea but I won't say."
Clark gestured to the box on the table. "Are you gonna open it? See what he got you this time?"
Diana's heart fluttered, nervously. She was certain her admirer was Clark. Why would he be so curious if not to see the reaction on her face? She would open the gift and confront Clark on her gifts and his feelings for her. "All right." Diana read the card on the box first. "Princess, this next gift will appear unorthodox but it was picked with love and I implore you to have an open mind. It's part of the ensemble of gifts I plan to give you this week."
Clark frowned. "That doesn't sound encouraging."
Diana agreed with that as she opened the box and peered inside. She looked at Clark whose shock matched hers. In that moment, she knew Clark wasn't her secret admirer. He never would've have gotten this gift.
A lacy red bra and matching lacy red panties.
Anger laced in Clark's voice, "What kind of gift is this?"
"An insulting one." Diana closed the box and tossed it. She couldn't believe she was duped. "Such a sick joke. Is he expecting me to model that for him?"
Clark read the card again. "I hope not," his initial anger was simmering down. "Well, he did warn you and asks for an open mind. I'll give him that but I don't like this at all. How many more gifts is he giving you?"
Diana groused, "Four more."
"I'm not supporting this guy's methods, Diana, but I would give him one more day to see he makes up for this. If he doesn't, toss everything and ignore any other gifts he sends. Until then, let me take his gifts back to the Watchtower. I can analyze this and search for any familiar prints."
"No," Diana didn't want him to do that. This was her problem and she felt foolish for listening to her sister ad getting Clark involved when it was clear he wasn't her admirer. "Don't do that. I will figure this out on my own. I'll find out who this admirer is."
Frustrated, Diana took the box and shoved it into her desk drawer. How foolish I was to believe it was Kal.
"Run it again," Diana demanded.
Donna played the video Diana set up in her office before Clark arrived for lunch. The cameras in Diana's office and the one hidden outside the Embassy were also used on the Watchtower so the women knew it would pick up Clark if he blurred out of the room. On the camera, Clark entered her office, Diana left and while she was gone, Clark blurred in the room setting up the lunch. Not one frame showed him leaving.
"Clark was in the room the entire time, Diana," Donna sighed and tapped a button on her laptop, switching to the camera outside the Embassy. "At the same time Clark was putting lunch out, this guy showed up." A figure in a suit, hat and a scarf hiding his face, walked to the gates. The figure was undoubtedly a tall male. He held Orchid flowers and a medium size box in his hands. He placed the items at the gate and walked away. "The cameras caught him going into a cab. I talked to the driver. He said he picked and dropped the guy off at the train Station. He paid in cash and never talked to him. I thought the admirer was Clark. Guess I was wrong."
Donna's back was to Diana so she didn't see the disappointment on Diana's face. "I told you so."
"Okay, I was wrong." Donna turned off the laptop and turned around in her seat. "But I think you should give this guy a chance."
"Even though he sent me bra and panties."
"Yes. It's probably part of an outfit he wants you to wear when you meet," Donna suggested.
Diana wasn't enthused by that idea. "I can dress myself."
Donna shook her head at her sister. "You've been blessed by Aphrodite but you do not have an ounce of romance in you. Stop being so stiff and loosen up! Can't you just enjoy the journey and see where it takes you?"
Diana went back to her desk. She had so much work to do and she wasted too much time wondering about this admirer. "I said I will give him another chance."
Donna put her hands in her hair and screamed in frustration. Why was her sister so thickheaded and stiff? "You're sounding like you're cleaning the stables on Themyscira. Can't you smile? Be happy?"
Diana put up a quick smile and dropped it. "I smiled. Happy?"
Donna threw her hands upwards. "I don't know what I pity more. Your clinical attitude or the lovesick sucker who's in love with you."
Diana sat down and opened her notes. "If you are done, I have a lot of work to do."
Donna knew she had to leave or she would say something she would regret. "You can hide behind your work as Ambassador, Princess and Wonder Woman all you want, but one day you will wake up wondering if you missed out on anything in your life and it's going to be the love of someone and what life you could've had."
Diana watched her sister storm out of the room; slamming the door on her way out. Diana resumed her work but after five minutes of staring at the same page, pushed her work aside and leaned back in her chair. Like many times before, Diana's mind drifted to a fantasy of hers. No, not a fantasy. A dream. A wonderful dream of Diana on Themyscira, riding her horse along the beach. She looked upward, enjoying the warm rays of the sun on her body, marveling the skies above when the clouds parted. Someone was there. Someone was calling her.
Diana left her horse and jumped in the sky, going to the voice, this mysterious stranger. As she got closer, the clouds parted and she saw him.
Clark was in his uniform. His red cape ruffled lightly in the wind, his blue suit so tight against his skin, molding the muscles on his chest, stomach and legs. Standing behind the sun, he glowed, appearing like a God.
Clark took her hand and drew her to him. Diana felt herself moving closer and closer to Clark. His eyes were so warm and lips so inviting. Before their lips could meet, Diana awakened from her dream.
Alone in her office, Diana sighed, "I don't have to wonder, Donna. I know."
"Red panties and a bra? What were you thinking, Kara?"
If they were in Smallville and not the Fortress, the whole town would hear Clark's yelling.
"I was thinking Diana would need undergarments to wear under her dress." A smirk curved Kara's pretty pink lips. "Unless, you want her to wear nothing at all." Clark didn't find the joke funny. Kara scoffed. "Don't look so angry, Kal."
"You almost blew it with that gift! Of course I'm angry! You said, 'Let me get a gift for Diana. I can find something perfect for her.' Like an idiot, I trusted you and you got bra and panties!"
"Oh, hush! Diana will like the next gift you are giving her and forget all about the bra and panties. When you meet her, you can tell her and this silly plan of yours."
"It's not, silly."
"Of course it is," she berated him. "You love Diana. You've loved her for years. Your divorce will be final in a few days. Why not tell Diana how you feel and be done with it?"
"Because I blew it the first time on that failed date years ago. I don't just want to tell Diana how I feel, Kara. I want to show her, prove to her I'm not that same stupid, scared man I was years ago. I want to romance Diana."
"You're just soft," Kara teased. "I hope it works out for you and Diana, Kal. I really do. Diana would be really good for you."
"Thanks." Clark hugged his cousin. "Sorry for being angry and thanks for being my co-conspirator and dropping the flowers and gifts off the past two days."
"No problem. It was so much fun to do." She giggled at the memory of her in her disguises as she dropped off the gifts. "I still can't believe we fooled Diana and Donna."
"I know Diana very well but I think Diana was suspicious of me until she saw my face when revealed that bra and panties to me."
Kara wished she saw that, too. She knew her cousin turned all shades of red. "So it was a good thing I gave that gift."
Now thinking of his and Diana's reaction, even Clark found himself smiling. "I guess it was."
"Don't mess this one up, Clark," Kara warned him. "Diana is a great woman. You made a mistake with Lois. Don't do the same with Diana."
"I won't, Kara." Clark was certain of it. He was giving a second chance and he wasn't going to blow it. "Lois and I are making up for our mistakes by divorcing. It was something we should've done years ago but perhaps this was the best time to finally end our marriage. Years ago, it would've been in anger and jealousy but us being a few years older and mature, we can end it amicably. If I win Diana's heart, for us, it will be forever."
To Be Concluded