Hippolyta's eyes sparkled dangerously as she returned a glare worthy of Batman. Here he was, the man who had her daughter's heart and was, subsequently, the object of her fathomless hatred.
"Leave us," she commanded her subjects.
"Hawkgirl," Bruce growled, his eyes trained on Hippolyta.
The Amazons disappeared in a flash, while Shayera made a face before morosely making her way towards the jet. If she didn't know better, she would've imagined they were on the set of a Western, preparing for a duel amidst tumbleweed and swirling dust.
Except there was definitely no tumbleweed or dust. Nope, none at all.
This was real.
Hippolyta and Batman maintained their stiff postures, both refusing to tear their gazes from the other, both waiting for the other to make the first move. The wrong move.
"I could have you imprisoned for speaking to me with such little deference," Hippolyta finally said spitefully.
Batman's mouth remained in a grim line, his face set in a mask revealing nothing. Moment by moment, the queen was becoming more infuriated by the silence.
Hippolyta continued. "I allowed my innocent daughter to enter Man's World with the greatest reluctance. Despite my disinclination for her entry into your dirty world, into your world infected by deceitful men, I gave her leave. Diana left Themyscira the perfect warrior, courageous and diligent, without a chink in her armor."
Batman detected Hippolyta's sandaled feet inching closer towards him across the gleaming sand.
"In Man's World, she found you. You and your Justice League. Are you aware of what you did to her?" The queen's voice was trembling.
Bruce wanted to scream, Yes. Yes, I know she's not the same naïve girl who left your paradise… and I know we - I - contributed to changing her. Don't think I don't have this debate every day in my head. But he stayed silent.
"You broke through her armor. She was… is… meant to be my successor, to rule Themyscira by our morals. Now… now my daughter loves you. She loves a man," Hippolyta repeated. Her face was contorted into a grimace, a sorrowful look crossing her regal features. "Diana refuses to abide by Themysciran rules because of you." The distressed, vulnerable expression abruptly vanished from her face, and Bruce was taken aback.
"For that, I can never regret the order to have you, and your parents… murdered," she spat.
Diana walked briskly through Persephone's garden, her eyes skimming over the rare flora as her mind was preoccupied with Hades' request for an audience with her. What did the hateful god want now?
On the edge of the Asphodel Meadows, she noticed Thomas and Martha Wayne conversing. Seeing her, their spirits greeted her with enthusiastic waves reminiscent of Wally's farewells. Diana could only return a small smile before she turned to enter Hades' throne room.
With an indolent grin gracing his scarred, masculine features, Hades looked like a fat cat who had just finished a bowl of cream.
Can't compare gods to overweight felines, Diana mentally berated herself. Even if we're talking about Hades.
"Queen Persephone is most pleased with your performance as a handmaid, Princess," Hades chuckled to himself. The glaring differences between Diana's social status then and now was a hilarious joke to him.
Her face grave, Diana solemnly nodded.
"You have been so obedient," the god said, "that I have decided to reward you with news from above."
Diana's head shot up.
"Ah, interested, I see. Shall I tell you of your mother's day in Themyscira? Or shall I recount the tale of how your Batman flew his mortal, foolhardy self far, far, far across the oceans to that little island you called home?" Hades asked in a sing-song voice.
"Hades…" Diana's voice shook. Putting Hippolyta and Bruce together, especially with his newfound knowledge about his parents' deaths, was a recipe for disaster.
"Yes, child?" Hades taunted.
Diana's voice rang out, thunderous and angry. "What in Hera's name has happened, Hades? I'm not incapable of wringing the truth from you with my bare hands, my lord, and I will do so if I must."
As Hades opened his mouth to reply, Diana cut him off, saying, "I don't care about the repercussions!"
The god of the Underworld raised his eyebrow. "I would have imagined that time down here, away from your delightful Man's World," Hades remarked bitterly, "would have deadened your dreadful temper, Princess. Perhaps not." He paused, a thoughtful expression flitting across his face. "I am feeling magnanimous today, Hippolyta's daughter, and so I shall forgive your outburst. However…"
Hades unexpectedly materialized an inch from Diana's nose.
"… I will not tolerate it again, handmaid. I am still a god, and you are still in my realm."
Diana turned her head.
"Evidently, your caped vigilante traveled all the way to Themyscira to negotiate with your mother. I am unaware of the details - frankly, such paltry matters are not my concern - but evidently he left the island on speaking terms with Hippolyta," Hades drawled.
"How? Why?" Diana asked.
"Little princess," Hades sneered, "perhaps you will ask them that come summer next year."
Batman twisted Hippolyta's arm viciously against her back, locking the Amazon queen in his grip within seconds. Hippolyta jerked against his suit in an unsuccessful attempt to rid herself of his hold. His face was hidden from her view, and for a moment the queen panicked in uncharacteristic nervousness.
"Your Majesty, I have bested your daughter in battle before. Don't deceive yourself and think you'll be freed easily.
"I ought to injure you so gravely that you can never competently rule this land again," he snarled in her ear. "I ought to force you to live the rest of your immortal years in pain and guilt."
Hippolyta stilled, in fear or in anticipation he did not know.
"Unconditional love. Unconditional support. Have you given Diana either? Correct me if I'm wrong, Your Majesty," Batman whispered provokingly, "but I thought those were integral to healthy familial relationships.
"I'm not a reliable source, though, Queen Hippolyta, because I did not have a mother growing up."
I have been the best mother Diana could want. How can this cretin have the courage to assume otherwise?, Hippolyta thought angrily. "You dare touch me, you mortal man!"
Batman groaned inwardly in exasperation, though he maintained his cool façade. Manhandling Diana's mother, a queen, was not his preferred form of attack, but the woman refused to listen to his message.
He bent her arm further until he imagined he could hear her ageless joints creaking.
"Your Majesty, if I had more time, if I did not need to return to Gotham, if I did not need to find your daughter, I might force you to understand how terrible a mother you are, tell you how you have altered my life by having my family killed. Instead, I'll only say that I seem to care about Diana more than you do, and by god we will collaborate to find her if it destroys you and me," he seethed.
Shoving the queen away from him, Bruce stalked towards the jet, where he could see Shayera's copper hair peeking out from a half-open window. He allowed himself a grin. For a guy whose emotions were sealed in a heavy-duty safe residing somewhere in his chest, he was rather impressed with his lecture on motherly love.
Motherly love. He thought back to his parents' remarks about his second career choice. Ironically, they were rather similar to Hippolyta. They simply hadn't been constantly present, and so they didn't understand.
"Batman," a voice called out hoarsely from behind him.
Turning, Bruce saw that the Amazon was straightening out her tunic as she gave him a fierce stare.
"If my daughter is lost, we will find her. I…" she cleared her throat. "I cannot risk losing her. If it means I must work with your kind, then we will work to help her…
Bruce masked his astonishment as he finally saw the striking resemblance between the defiant queen and the lost Amazon he knew he loved.
A/N: Slowly cranking out the chapters! Thanks to beautifulbrainiac101222 for sending me that little PM to push me to get this chapter out!
Thanks for reading, and please review!