Bruce was running before he could process the thought to do so.
In the wake of Ares' departure, the landscape had returned to its earlier peace. The gale force winds and thunder had left clear skies overhead. It felt almost profane in the face of the violence that had taken place only minutes before. Boots crunching the gravel and dirt underfoot, Bruce moved faster than he'd ever run before, until the heart in his chest felt like it would explode. For the first time into too many years, he felt fear and it ran rivers through him as he closed the distance between himself and Diana.
He followed the path led by the golden rope, lying against the ground after it had released its captive. The lariat led him back to it owner and Bruce prayed to a god he seldom had faith in, one not of Olympus that she was still alive.
He followed the path led by the golden rope, lying against the ground after it had released its captive. The lariat led him back to it owner and Bruce prayed to a god he seldom had faith in, one not of Olympus that she was still alive.
His first glimpse sight of her was that mane of glorious dark hair, now covered in dirt and blood. Her skin was red, raw, scalded and bruised all over. Remembering how magnificent she'd been when he first saw her, this made his stomach clench in outrage and though he knew he had no chance of surviving, he really wanted to take a swipe at the god that had made her this way. She was lying on her stomach, her face pressed against the dirt, her fingers still clasping the rope in her hands.
Skidding to his knees, Bruce was at her side in seconds.
"Princess," he said gently, taking her gently and rolling her onto his lap, cradling her wounded body in his arms. "Talk to me. Give me a sign here...please."
Her face was as ravaged as the rest of her.A normal human would be dead by now and though Diana had some measure of invulnerability, it was nothing like Clark's and certainly not against a god from the same pantheon of deities who had supposedly created her in the first place. That she had continued to fight inspite of all her injuries was a testament to her mettle. And she'd won not because she was stronger but because she had made a mad god see reason.
How could Bruce not love her?
Bruce's fingers shook when he moved the hair from her face, brushed away the tears in her eyes as he saw her eyelids flutter open and focus. She shuddered in his embrace with a start, as if suddenly remembering she was still alive. Eyes fixed on him, more tears streamed down her dirt covered cheeks, living pale streaks across her skin.
"Bruce, you Gaea," she whispered softly. "I thought he...he might..."
"Don't talk Diana," he said gently. "I'm okay. You did it Diana, you stopped him. You made him understand."
She blinked and heaved with relief before her eyes closed. "Bruce, I hurt."
She couldn't move, couldn't feel anything. Life felt like it was being bled from her body. Everything was agony, except him and it was him that kept from receding into the bliss of oblivion.
"I know," he said quickly, trying to assess what first aid he could give her. He carried a small supply of first aid implements but nothing to deal with the injuries she'd sustained. He suspected the damage he couldn't see was much worse than what he could see. "I'm going to get you out of here. Get you help. Just stay with me Diana."
"Oh Bruce," she reached for his face, her palm brushing the exposed part of his face. "It is alright. You taught me remember?" She said weakly. "That love is this, its sacrifice? A brief moment can last a lifetime." She repeated his words back to him.
"No it doesn't!" He hissed and realised that when he was the one hearing it, it was not an acceptable price at all. It hadn't felt acceptable when he lost Chloe and it didn't feel acceptable now. "The pain becomes overwhelming, until the only way you can live with it is to shut everything else out, until you feel nothing."
And that's how he'd lived his whole life wasn't it? The cowl had been waiting for him since that terrible day in the alley, bathing him in blood that his life was decided with a gunshot as surely as his parents' had been. It wasn't just them who died that day. Little Bruce Wayne was destroyed as well and all that was left was the Bat. It had take time for it to be fully realised but it was the truth. There had only been one moment, where he thought he might be saved from his dark destiny and that was when he met Chloe. She'd loved him, loved him for all his fears for all his rage. She'd given him a place in the light and while she'd been in his life, he thought that perhaps, perhaps he could be more. Her death had sealed his fate.
So he thought until he met Diana and suddenly, she had given him hope and reason to believe in more than his crusade.
"I don't want to feel nothing again Diana, I don't want to be reminded of what life was like before you were in it so I am not going to let you go Princess. Not me nor the people who can't do without you! Please."
She didn't answer him. Her eyes were closed in surrender to her injuries.
Bruce swallowed thickly, feeling for a pulse and letting out a shudder of relief when he felt one. Gently, he lowered his lips to her bruised ones and planted a gentle kiss.
In the background, he heard the gust of wind and looked over his shoulder to see Clark land. The man of steel hurried forward, looking as exhausted as he but paused at the sight of Diana in Bruce's arms. How she had become so important to them in such a short time was a mystery but when Clark saw the pain in Bruce's face, it didn't matter. She just was.
"Diana?" He could hear her heart beat but it was sluggish.
"You have to get her help now," Bruce cleared his throat, the stoic mask falling over his features once more. "Take her back to Metropolis and her mother. They can probably help her better than our doctors can."
"Ares?" Clark asked as he dropped to his knees to take the unconscious Amazon in his arms.
"Gone," Bruce said shortly, reluctantly allowing Clark to take Diana from him. "The missile?"
"Gone," Clark answered with similar finality. He hoisted Diana in his arms, trying not to be affected by how ravaged she looked. It was almost as hard as seeing Lois in the hospital. "What about you?"
"I'll be fine," Bruce declared, "just get her to her mother."
Clark nodded and gave Bruce a look of silent promise, that he'd die trying. "I'll be back."
And with that, Superman launched himself into the air, disappearing into the blue sky, taking Diana with him.
Bruce watched until the blue and red streak was gone before he let out a deep sigh. Lifting his arm up, he activated the radio transmitter in his gauntlet. After a few seconds, when a light beeped its readiness to transmit, he spoke.
"Alfred, I need a pick up."
What happened to Diana after Clark took her to her mother, Clark didn't know.
The Amazons were understandably horrified by the state of their champion when Clark returned her to them. Hippolyta immediately took charge of her injured child and told Clark, albeit politely, that his assistance was no longer required. Diana needed the healing powers of island home, Themiscyra. As much as he wanted to debate the matter, particularly for Bruce's sake, there was little he could do but agree to the request. Besides there was much left for him to do in the so called Patriarch's World, he had to retrieve Bruce and help where he could with the damage caused by Ixion's rampage.
Of course when he reached the spot where he'd left the cowled hero, he found that Bruce had already gone. It didn't take him long after scanning the terrain that Bruce had departed leaving the costume behind. Resourceful as ever, Clark surmised that however Bruce had left the area, he'd done so protecting his identity. Leaving the man to his own devices for the moment, Clark returned to the States because there was still much for him to do, not merely as Superman but also Clark Kent.
To his chagrin, he'd discovered that Lois had checked herself out of hospital instead of returning to it after she'd recovered from Eris' poisoning. Worse yet, he found her not at her apartment getting some rest but at her desk at the Daily Planet, hard at work. The place was near empty except for her since everyone else in the bullpen was still at the hospital recovering.
She still looked pale as she sat at her desk, pounding away furiously at her laptop, a huge Styrofoam cup of coffee to keep her company. He wanted to sweep her off her feet and take her home before she could blink but there were some risks not even Superman was willing to take.
"I suppose it was too much to expect that you'd go home and get some rest?" He asked, zooming into the chair of the desk nearest to hers.
Lois looked up and broke into a smile. No matter how sick she was, that glorious smile lit up the room and his heart all at once. "Only if you're there." She retorted, getting up from her hair to promptly plant himself in his lap, arms wrapped around his neck. Technically, they were partners and their love affair was a secret but with the bullpen quiet, Lois risked a little exposure when she leaned forward and caught his lips in a deep, grateful kiss. "Are you alright?" She asked, remembering how he'd been the last time she'd seen him.
"I'm better," he answered before adding, "though I won't lie to you. I could actually use a good night's sleep tonight after today." In truth, he rarely needed to sleep more than an hour or two but its beneficial effects on him were more psychological rather than physical.
They'd known each other since they were teenagers, since she'd run into him in that cornfield in Smallville, Kansas, she knew his moods better than she knew herself. If there was anything Lois prided herself at being good at, it was loving him. She did that better than she was a reporter, she sometimes thought secretly. She could see the shadow in his eyes and the worry. "What about Bruce and Diana?"
The news had reported that agents of the terrorist group November 17 had somehow broken into three high security installations across the globe and nearly provoked a nuclear war by launching missiles from China, Russia and the United States. Only the presence of Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman had managed to stopped disaster. Satellites images had captured scenes of Superman and Wonder Woman diverting the perilous weapons into the atmosphere preventing detonation. She knew there was more to it and it showed in Clark's haunted expression.
"Bruce is alright," he answered quickly, aware of the close friendship between the two. "He was alive the last time I saw him in China. Knowing him, he's probably on a jet on the way home now."
"And Diana?" Lois prompted, convinced there was more to it than that.
Clark met her eyes, "I don't know. She went head to head with the war god..." Clark had told Lois about Diana's quest and after what she'd seen of Themiscyra, she believed him. "He hurt her...badly. I don't know if she'll survive. She stopped him though, she made him see what he was about to do."
"And he believed her?" Diana asked, hesitant to think it could be that easy. Of course, Clark's worry indicated it was anything but that.
"He almost killed her," Clark retorted, "but yes, he believed her."
Lois embraced him hard, seeing that he needed a hug. Diana had come to mean a lot to him and though she'd insecure about their relationship in the beginning, she saw that his affection for the Amazon Princess was more fraternal than romantic. Diana was just like him, in strength and spirit. They shared the same values and Lois recognised now that he saw in Diana a kindred spirit, like he'd seen in Bruce when they'd first met.
"I'm worried about Bruce," Clark admitted. "He cares about her. I'm afraid what will happen if she doesn't make it."
"Diana's strong Clark," Lois said quickly, refusing to let him entertain that thought too deeply. "The Amazons are amazing healers. Menalippe was able to help me against those poison apples right?" She nudged his chin with her finger so that he'd meet her eyes. "I'm sure she'll be able to help Diana too."
Secretly, Lois worried about Bruce too. Clark hadn't been there when Chloe died, he hadn't seen how Bruce had withdrawn into himself. They'd nursed each other through the losses of their lives five years ago but Bruce had never made peace with his sorrow. He just walled it up, in the same place he had put his grief for his parents and disconnected from everything. She did not want to see him broken that way again.
If Diana died, it may well come to that.
Diana was absent for the furor that followed the November 17 terrorists attacks.
For weeks the media was filled with the news of the hunt for the group's members but November 17 had been a group veiled in secrecy and only, Bruce, Clark and Diana were ever aware of their affiliations with the war god Ares. It was all a cover of course.
The truth of the events in the three installations were considered classified and the world had no idea that a god had been responsible for the near annihilation of the human race. November 17 seemed to be the convenient scapegoats and there was enough blood on their hands to be culpable.
Bruce Wayne found himself a different kind of torture as he sought any news of Diana's fate. The days that followed left the dark knight distracted and irritable as the silence stretched into weeks and as it was Bruce's nature to assume the worst, he blamed the silence on the possibility that Diana had not survived her fight with Ares. The thought of her death was too much for him and Bruce refused to think on it and followed the safe course of withdrawing inside himself, so he could feel nothing.
Clark had did what he could to help but even the man of steel was limited in this instance. The Amazons had withdrawn from the Patriarch's World, cutting short their tour in the wake of Diana's injuries, citing the need to return home to attend to their Princess before further contact could be made. The bridge between the two worlds been closed and even if he wanted to go find her, Clark had no idea where to start. Furthermore, Lois had revealed that unless permitted, no man could cross the veil between the worlds to reach Themiscyra uninvited. Still Clark and Lois had tried to assure him that Diana was strong, that she'd make it but Bruce couldn't allow himself to believe it.
He'd given up believing in anything a long time ago.
To combat the despair that lurked in the wings when even his ruthless control could not abate it, Bruce threw himself into his work. He was out every night, immersing himself in the depth of Gotham's cruelty, leaving a trail of wreckage in the cities underworld. The Bat was on the rampage, the mob bosses and the scumbags were claiming and Bruce might have agreed with them, if he'd bother to listen.
On this particular night, he was on the trail of a designer drug dealing gang that had taken to raiding chemical companies to replenish their supplies. They'd already hit several factories in the last two weeks and had left dead, two nightwatchmen. Tracking the gang was exactly what Bruce needed to keep his mind of Diana's absence. As he remained in the shadows of a large chimney stack, watching for signs of mischief in the facility, the rain pelted down hard, creating grey puddles across the grimy concrete courtyard.
He'd studied their pattern and was convinced that Axis Chemicals would be the next target of the Red Hood gang.
Despite the rain and the thick, grey clouds above, the moon could be seen in its fullness, its light bouncing off the wet ground. It was chilly in Gotham tonight and vapour from his warm breath battled to survive in the teeming rain. Patiently he waited until an hour had passed and then he saw movement.A group of three men made their way across the compound. One was tall, lanky and wearing a suit, with a bow tie and a cape with hood. The other two were shorter in comparison, one was thicker around the waist, the other carried himself like a younger, fitter man. He saw trainers, indicating youth.
The one in the hood, after which the gang was named seemed uncertain. He paused while his companions moved up ahead. They whispered but in this light and obscured by the rain, he could not read their lips well enough to understand what they were saying. The man in the hood followed reluctantly when suddenly, a strobe of light came out of nowhere, falling on the men like an accusing finger. An alarm went off and Bruce surmised that the security in this facility must have paid attention to the recent robberies of their contemporaries.
Bruce started moving forward, hoping to avert a shoot out which was what was going to happen if the plant's security guard came on the scene. Leaping onto the nearest ledge attached to one of the lower building, was on his way to the compound to deal with the three himself when suddenly, he heard a voice shout from a door at the rear of the compound, exciting the situation into fever pitch
"YOU THREE! STOP!"
Terrific, Bruce thought sourly as night security and the whole affair went to hell. The two who weren't in the hood began shooting and Bruce flinched seeing one of their bullets catch a security guard in the shoulder. Reaching for his batarangs, he threw them in quick succession, piercing one in the hand, forcing the man to drop his weapon. The other landed on a knee, bringing him down.
"Get the f**k up Bob!" The young one in the trainers cried out, turning his head just long enough to see to his companion. However, when he turned back, he was just in time to see the bullet that caught him between the eyes and killed him where he stood.
Damn. Bruce cursed. He had wanted to do this without interference, without lives being lost.
Meanwhile, the Red Hood himself, had no gun and was not trying to fight back but had taken off. Curious Bruce thought as he went after him and heard the man's muttering as he descended some stairs at the edge of the compound.
"HOLD YOUR FIRE!" Bruce shouted and as he moved across the compound, the light fell on him long enough for Bruce to hear one of the guards cry out. "Its the bat!"
If nothing else, it shocked them from thinking this was the goddamn wild west show, allowing Bruce to go after the Red Hood. As he went after the man, he heard a frightened voice muttering, in a frantic chant.
"I shouldn't have done this! Oh Jeannie, I'm sorry! I'm so sorry! I keep screwing up!"
There was a pathetic edge to the voice that made Bruce question how this could be the leader of the Red Hood gang. The man's terror had forced him to keep up a good pace and he was nearing one of the waste treatment pools were residue from the various units in the plant facilities were dumped before distillation into the a more benign form before being purged into Gotham River. At present however, the water was a toxic sludge that was extremely hazardous.
The Red Hood cared for none of this, running straight across the railings surrounding the foul smelling water from plant workers. He was searching for any escape and Bruce realised that he might be frightened enough to think that treatment pool could give him a way out of this place. Reaching for his grappling gun, Bruce saw the man near the edge.
"Don't!" He called out preparing to take aim, "that water is toxic!"
However, the man's response was near hysterical gibberish as the Red Hood turned and saw him coming. "Oh God, what have you sent to punish me! Oh God, please don't let it get me!" He mumbled to himself.
Jesus, the man was becoming unhinged and Bruce fired the grappler at the Red Hood but the man denied him the rescue, plunging into the greenish grey water and disappearing into the depths with a splash and loud turgid bubbles. Bruce almost went after him but the suit would not protect him and he could hear sirens screaming in the distance as more and more people flooded into the scene. It was more attention than he liked and as he tried to spot the Red Hood in the fetid drink, there was nothing left to do but leave.
Reluctantly, he withdrew, resigning himself that his meeting with the Red Hood would have to wait another day.
The last thing Diana remembered before surrendering herself to the will of Oneiros was seeing Bruce above her. Though he wore his mask, she could imagine his eyes. She thought she tasted his tears. She wanted to tell him not to weep, that his earlier words were true, even if he did not believe himself. He would endure if she died, he would cherish their time together, just as she would carry him into the Elysian fields of the underworld with her. She'd wait for him to join her.
Perhaps for him that might be enough, Diana knew for her, it had to be.
After she succumbed to the grace of Oneiros, her dreams became disjointed and vague. She thought she dreamed she was home in Themiscyra, submerged beneath the crystal waters of the river Antianeirai, where many of her sister drew water and bathed. She was floating within its blue depths staring at the sun above, admiring the dance of light reflecting on the surface as tiny fish with silvery bodies swam past her. It look beautiful and transcendent.
The injuries she'd sustained in her battle with Ares, seemed less, Antianeirai's cool embrace doing its work to diminish her pain until it felt distant. Her senses seemed dull but she worried little for she was home with people who loved her. She heard voices whispering in her ear, telling her that she had fought bravely. They told her to rest and listen to the voice of rejoicing about her, to revel in the celebration she had brought about by defeating Ares and giving them all a future. Diana listened but paid little attention to this. She had done what was necessary and if she was finished so be it.
But she wasn't finished and when Diana awoke, two weeks later to find her mother and Menalippe at her bedside, she learned what had transpired since she'd succumbed to her injuries in the Patriarch's World. Menalippe revealed how she'd been returned to them by the son of Krypton. Kal,Diana thought with a little smile, the closest thing she'd known to having a brother. A very different relationship than what she'd been accustomed to with her sisters on Themiscyra but no less dear to her.
Diana learnt that upon return home to Themiscyra, a vision from the gods had told the high priestess that Zeus himself had decreed that Diana's life should be saved. Under their instruction, she had been placed in the waters of the River Antianeirai in the forests of Themiscyra. Onced there, Poseidon's servants, the Nereids, had healed her battered body. Her mother and her sisters had waited for two days by the shore as the Nereids did their work, praying and maintaining a vigil for the return of their champion.
When she was returned to them, she was whole and they had brought her home to the palace, placed her in the room she had slept in since childhood and waited for her to awake.
Once awake, Diana felt renewed and it was good to feel her mother's embrace once more, to hear the laughter of her sister at play, at work, going about the business of life. She had been the only child born to an island of women and they allcherished her. In her youth, she had many teachers and while she was their champion now, she was also their child first. After the harsh, brutality of the Patriarch's world, Diana was overjoyed to be home.
It soon became clear that her mother wished her to remain on Themiscyra permanently. That with the madness of Ares now passed, there was no need for her to return to the Patriarch's World, where so much danger and corruption existed. Diana accepted this because Hippolyta was not just her mother, she was also her queen and Diana was conditioned to obey her demand.
Except she still missed Bruce.
Try as she might, Diana could not forget him. She could not forget how he quickened her heart when he kissed her, the memory of it warm on her lips. She thought about his true face, the one who had danced with her, who had rescued her from the frenzied reporters that night. Nor could she forget than when she had faltered, it was Bruce that made her remember what she had been born to do. Even though she was stronger than him in flesh in every way, he had surprised her by the strength of his will and how vulnerable he was because of her.
However, Diana knew her mother feared for her in the Patriarch's World and her duty to her people came first, no matter how much it hurt not seeing Bruce Wayne again.
"She flies but she does not soar."
This, Menalippe observed of her princess when she looked up into the sky and watched Diana flying above, lacking the usual exuberance with which Diana took the air. Riding next to her queen, the high Priestess and Hippolyta were astride their mounts, taking their daily ride along the shore when they came upon the Princess in flight. Diana's flight seemed adrift and Menalippe had recognised a sadness in the young woman's eyes that had been present for longer than just today.
"She misses him," Menalippe declared, aware that this was a truth that her queen had been purposefully ignoring though it was obvious everyone else.
"She'll forget him in time," Hippolyta said stiffly, not wanting to discuss the subject. However, her friendship with Menalippe was based on their ability to speak honestly with each other and on this occasion, the high priestess did not disappoint. Whether Hippolyta wished to hear it or not.
Hippolyta spoke with a mother's heart, Menalippe understood but Diana was no longer a child. She was woman grown and a champion proven. Diana had saved them all and had earned the right to make her own choices. "My Queen, it is not a sin for her to love a man. Our perception of them has been clouded by the brutality of Herackles. Things have changed in the Patriarch's World, perhaps not entirely but enough for us to have seen men and women building a life together, in love and harmony. If Diana wants that for herself, we have no right to deny this.
"I will not hear this," Hippolyta retorted, preparing to dig her heels into her horse's side so that she could put some distance between herself and Menalippe's infuriatingly well reasoned words. "She is a Princess of Themiscyra and an Amazon, I will not give her up to be some man's chattel."
"Diana is your daughter and would never give her heart to someone who would treat her so but my queen," Menalippe said kindly. "We have lived more than any mortal has been allowed. We have been out in the world and we've seen it. It is our choice to return home to Themiscyra to live as Amazons. Diana is young, she's not had the benefit of time as we have Should she not be given the same chance to make her own choices." With a pause, she added, "My queen, we both know that it is not Diana's destiny to remain here on Themiscyra," Menalippe pointed. "It never was. She needs to return to the Patriarch's World."
"And to him?" Hippolyta shot back but there was a hint of concession in her voice that had not been there before.
"If that is what she wishes " Menalippe nodded, "yes."
Hippolyta's answer was to dig in her heels and sent her mount bolting forward, away from Menalippe and the truth she didn't wish to hear. The High Priestess took no offense, knowing by now that when the queen responded in such a way, it was usually an indication that she had reached the right decision, even though it trouble her.
Menalippe gazed into the sky and watched her Princess fly and muttered softly, "be young Princess, be young."
It was a month.
A whole damn month and it felt like the entire world had forgotten she'd ever existed. The world that she saved continued as it always did, quick to forget that she almost died to save it. There were times when Bruce Wayne wondered what was the point of it all. Standing on a roof top, looking at Gotham below him, he wondered if it was even worth saving. Gotham, bloated with suffering, diseased with crimes, did its people need a saviour or was it better to let it go to its end. There were times, he thought the latter, when it seemed like everything he did had the effect of a wino pissing in the drain.
What was he trying to prove? He'd never get his parents back. They were gone, destroyed by brutality as she was. His attempt to fight injustice had cost him everything. His soul and the woman he loved. If Bruce had been with her, Chloe might have lived. He could have been a father to their children, husband to her. Instead, he'd been in Gotham, perfecting the mechanics of his crusade and he'd lost her. Now he went on, feeling the weight of an never ending purpose crushing his spirit with each broken body he found, with each victim he thought he was saving.
What difference did he really make?
A gust of wind behind him and Bruce stiffened, expecting to see Clark when he turned around.
"Are you lost?" He asked with a hint of a sarcasm.
"No. This is exactly where I wish to be."
Bruce turned around so sharply, he could have torn the cowl from the rest of his suit.
There she was, hovering just a little above the ground, her hair blowing lightly in the breeze, the moonlight bouncing off her shoulders while her costume gleamed. As magnificent as the first time, he saw her, Diana drifted to the ground, her feet touching down inches away from him. When she looked at him, he felt the granite heavy heart in his chest, feel just a little lighter.
"Diana..." he managed to say.
His answer to her name was a kiss. Diana closed the distance between them and pressed her lips against his, the yearning for him these past weeks now able to be satisfied.
When her mouth met his, it was as if she had never gone and Bruce heaved a breath before pulling her close to him, his cloak billowing around them as he took in her taste, her scent and the sheer relief of knowing she was alright, that she was here.
Their kiss could have lasted an eternity, Bruce lost all sense of time when their lips met but when he pulled away, it was only a minute or so.
"You're alright," he said, lifting a gauntlet to her face so that he stroke her cheek. "I didn't know if..."
"Kal did the right thing," Diana smiled, leaning into his palm. "He took me to my sisters, they brought me home and I was healed."
"I'm glad, I was worried." He admitted, underplaying how distraught he'd been, how empty his life was knowing she might be dead.
"I know," she nodded, sensing his relief in the passion of his kiss. "I am sorry to have worried you but I am here now and I won't go anywhere."
"You're staying?" He asked.
"In the Patriarch's World yes," Diana nodded again. "Menalippe says my destiny is here." She didn't say with him but she was convinced he knew.
"Good," Bruce replied, grateful for that much.
"Bruce," she reached for his hands, both the one on her cheek and around her waist and squeezed gently, "I think we both understand that we will never be like other people."
He did. She was right, she had a destiny in the Patriarch's World, one far removed from his own grim crusade in Gotham. "Yes," he admitted, though he hated to.
"We both have our paths to follow but I think there is nothing wrong if we occasionally take pause, to remind each other why we fight?" Her eyes looked at him hopefully and Bruce was reminded how young she was. He was her first love and there was something very male in him that was proud to be chosen. However, even though she looked at their relationship with the eyes of an innocent, she treated it with the wisdom of someone older.
He could live with those terms and in truth, perhaps it was better this way. Neither of them were normal people, not like Clark and Lois, who had fully formed lives beyond the personal of Superman. Bruce's life was a mask that allowed him to do what he did as the Bat. Trying to shoehorn Diana into his world was unfair to her.. Furthermore, she had her own mission in the world and she did not need him to complicate for her.
"I would like that Diana," he said pulling her back to him, taking the opportunity to share in that pause she spoke of, to remind himself why he did what he did.
Why he still fought.
As expected, it was the first of the two visits on the roof top that week.
Clark found Bruce easily enough. One only had to find a screaming siren rushing to a scene of a crime to know that Batman had been there. The police had arrived to find would be liquor store robbers trussed up to a lamp post after the 911 call had been logged. By now, Gotham had become as accustomed to its own nocturnal hero as Metropolis was to seeing Superman flying around the city. Hell, a child had left him cookies on a window sill a few nights ago. Lois told him that he'd be giving Santa a run for his money. Clark tried to imagine Batman being left milk and cookies on rooftops, the image was disturbing to say the least.
In any case, Clark had a reason for seeking out Bruce this evening and for once, it wasn't because the world was about to end although he suspected that Bruce wasn't going to be thrilled anyway.
"Hey can I ask you a question?" Clark asked announcing himself as he landed behind Bruce on the rooftop of a tenement building across the street from the liquor store. The dark knight was watching the arrest and ensuring that the injured store clerk was being taken away by the paramedics.
"You would like to know where you can get a map to Metropolis?" Bruce looked over his shoulder.
Clark gave him a look. "Funny, actually I wanted to know whether you get left milk and cookies."
Without missing a beat, Bruce replied, "No, Santa." The man's lips curled into the faintest hint of a smirk.
"You've been talking to Lois," Clark glared at him through narrowed eyes.
"What can I do for you Clark?" Bruce asked, knowing Superman just didn't drop by for anything.
"We saw Diana today," Clark replied with a smile. "Lois and I went to the opening of the new embassy in Boston. Diana said she'll be in Metropolis next week for a few days during her good will tour."
"I know," Bruce retorted with a tone that indicated that Clark wasn't telling him anything that he didn't already know. Since her return, Diana had been working hard to build a relationship between the Amazon nation and the rest of the Patriarch's World. Part of this included goodwill tours, where she visited cities, giving talks about the Amazons and delivering their message of peace. She was slatted to make a stop in Gotham too. "So?"
"Well you know how Lois is," Clark reminded, bracing Bruce for the worst.
"Mad Dog Lane? No, not a clue." Bruce deadpanned.
"She wants us all to have dinner, you know a couples thing?" Clark offered him a smug smile because he knew Bruce had as much trouble saying no to Lois as he did.
Now it was Bruce's turn to stare. "You're joking."
"Oh come on, it will be fun. We can do mini-golf, get something to eat at a Denny's after.." Clark was exaggerating of course but it was worth the price of admission to see the aghast expression on Bruce's face. He so very rarely got to unbalance the man. "Look, since Lois and I have to keep our relationship at work a secret as you know. So we can't date like normal people. You and Diana are the closest thing to another couple we know..."
"Forget it," Bruce declared even though he had a sneaking suspicion it was a futile gesture. Clark he could refuse, Lois was another matter entirely.
"How bad can it be?" Clark pressed, enjoying Bruce's discomfiture more than it was decent.
"I have blue kryptonite, I'll use it." Bruce warned.
"Okay well maybe not mini-putt putt then..."
He was able to look into the mirror without screaming.
Every time he stared at his reflection, he thought he might go mad. He thought he would die when he had jumped into the sludge. Fear had driven him but once he had sunk into the toxic depths and felt the stinging that made his flesh burn, he thought that perhaps this was his just reward. He had ruined everything in his life, destroyed the people he loved the most. Why should he live?
People used to laugh whenever he told a joke. He could captivate the whole lunch room with his antics. It made him believe he had talent, made him give his job as a lab technician to pursue his dream of being a stand up comedian. Christ, he was such a f**king child. What had he been thinking? Jeannie had taken the news with a smile, giving him the support he needed, telling him to chase his dreams. He never saw doubt in her eyes before that. He should have guessed that she was pregnant, that she worried about how they'd live if he failed.
Inevitably, he failed at his big dream and in the shit hole he'd left his pregnant wife, he realised he couldn't support them. So he went out and tried to make it big. Found some men who needed his knowledge of Axis Chemicals to do a job. Big money they said.
You'll have all the cash you need to set your old lady up.
He believed them and he agreed to their plan except that morning, Jeannie died.
The words uttered by the sympathetic policeman hardly registered. She'd been testing a baby bottle heater or something. There was an electrical short and she'd died. The baby, seven months old in her belly had gone with her. In one moment, his family was gone. He tried to back out of the job but they wouldn't let him and so he had went and that night, he turned into a circus freak with garish lips and bleach white skin. His hair almost green. He barely looked human. He could hardly stand to look at himself in the mirror.
Looking at the gun on the bureau, he knew there was only one thing to do. Time to check out before things got worse, before he really did gocrazy.
"Would that be so bad?" The reflection in the mirror asked.
He stared at it in stunned horror. "Oh god..." he started to whimper.
"There ain't no god buddy boy, haven't you figured that out yet? They created God to explain the shitty things that happen to you. To put a label on misery by calling it religion. Life screws you over? Blame God, not the fact that you're a complete screw up." His reflection taunted him.
"Shut up!" He snapped, covering his ears.
"Go crazy baby, go bugeyed, bugf**k crazy. Let it all go and just go with the flow! What have you got to lose? Everything that ever mattered is gone. You're walking around like a clown on a standby, stop bending over and taking it up the rear. You can do any damn thing you want, just let it go. Let your mind slip. Once you take that leap, once you pull the joker out the deck, you'll own the game."
"NO!" He aimed the gun at his reflection.
His reflection. A clown on standby. Jeannie wasgone. Taken by an electrical short. What a joke. If it wasn't so damn tragic, it would be funny. He lowered the gun and started to laugh at the irony of it. Yeah it was funny, people dying every day, thinking there was a higher power that controlled all of it. There wasn't. It was just random dumb luck. What a scam. Those people out there, they didn't get it but he did now. He knew saw the truth. He got the joke.
He started to laugh, small giggles at first, building up like a mad crescendo until finally he laughed so hard, it felt like there wasn't enough air in the room to breath.
He might have noticed that the reflection behind had changed shape, turned into fleeting visage of a goddess, full of spite and rage. Eris stared at her new creation, her own agent of chaos and discord.
Her instrument of revenge; wearing a harlequin's smile.
Author's Note: As much as I would like to take credit for elements of this story, I have to give credit to where it deserves. Trinity was based on a mixture of the Perez run of Wonder Woman and some elements of Alan Moore's magnificent Killing Joke. Those who haven't read these books, please go take a look. For me, Perez' version of Diana was the best iteration of the character ever and the Killing Joke speaks for itself. Thanks to all the people who enjoyed this fic and my apologies for its delays.