The sun was still shining brightly as Diana Prince left the main mall in Gotham and headed towards her car. For once she had taken a day off to do something completely human and completely feminine – go shopping.
She had shopped before, to get things that she couldn't get as Wonder Woman, but that was all practical and not the frivolous shopping she had done today that included long strolls through clothing racks, gazing at jewelry, trying new perfume, eating cookies, talking about getting a new cellphone, and trying on pairs of shoes.
She had spent over three hundred dollars, and she left the mall with her passenger seat stuffed with bags.
It was nice to spend a day away from the Justice League and all their problems. Yes, she would sacrifice everything to save every life she could, but she wanted a break from it. Two days ago, she had claimed she needed to spend time working on her own stuff, and Superman told her to take all the time she needed. Batman had given her a long look under his cowl, but she didn't answer to Batman and she could spend a day having fun even if he couldn't take a break.
But that was Batman for you. He hadn't wanted to join the League, and as soon as they got him to agree to join, he wanted to control everything.
"Power freak," she shook her head as she rolled her window down and let the wind stream over her long dark hair. She had worn human clothes today, but her outfit was tucked in the back in case she needed it.
Of course, she would catch hell from Batman if she stopped a crime in his city. He wouldn't like her shopping in his city either, but he couldn't stop that.
With a wicked quirk of her lips, Diana turned the car in the direction of Wayne Manor. Batman probably wouldn't be there, and she knew Robin was on a training journey with the Teen Titans, but she thought it would be fun to leave a mark to show she had been there.
She might rush around at top speed and mow a giant W into his yard.
When she got there, the place was locked up so she stopped her car outside the closed gate and walked around the edge, towards the secret entrance of the Batcave. The whole Justice League had been there once or twice, but Batman had stood over the place with crossed arms so no one dared touch anything.
"Possessive human," Diana mused as she flew over the water. "He's just mad he can't be the whole Justice League and have us sit around, useless."
She landed on the first floor of the Batcave and she was considering if she could take a small tool or gadget and see if Batman ever missed it when a crash sounded from up above.
In a second, Diana was at the top level, coming to a short stop. "Batman?"
He was leaning over the controls to the main computers, coughing and hacking hard. His mask was off and his cheeks were flushed red and his eyes were blood-shot.
"Bruce?" Diana approached him. "Bruce, are you sick?"
He looked at her, his face spasming in pain too hard to twist in anger. "Diana? What are you doing here? This is my home. Go away."
"You're sick," she reached a hand to feel his forehead.
He batted her away, but his movements didn't have the trained smoothness that she had seen a hundred times before. He almost lost his balance and had to grab onto the edge of the chair.
"Do you have the flu?"
"No," he snapped at her. "I don't get sick."
"No, I don't get sick. Well, not with human sickness. But you're human, and I think you're sick."
"Can't be sick. Got too much to do."
His whole body retched, and he gagged, but didn't throw up.
"Haven't been able to eat anything today," he said. His teeth started to chatter, but he gritted them together stubbornly. "I'm fine. I'll work in the Cave tonight. Go back to the League and tell them no one is allowed in my house again."
"Where's Alfred?" Diana looked at the intercom that connected the Cave with the Manor. "We'll see what he's says."
"He's gone," Bruce tried to stand straight. "He went to Washington to do something for me. I'm fine. I'll drink something and feel better."
Diana reached out and felt his forehead before he could stop her. "You're burning up. You have a fever."
"No, I don't."
"You can't keep going like this. What if you faint?"
He pulled up the side of his lip in his usual sneer. "I don't faint. And even if I did, I would wait until I woke back up and keep working."
"You're going upstairs to bed," Diana decided. "Take off the suit and let's go."
"Get lost," he tried to push past her.
Diana quirked one eyebrow at him. Then, faster than he could see, she swooped in front of him and kicked out, knocking his legs out from under him. Before he could fall, she caught him in midair and held him in her strong, Amazonian arms. Normally, they were pretty evenly matched as his strength and skill was further developed than almost all humans, but now he just stared at her for a second.
"Are you going to bed?"
"Never!" he tried to twist out of her grip.
She laid him on the ground and straddled his chest and began loosening the spiked wrist guards from his hands. She had seen him put them on countless times before, and her nimble fingers pulled them off in seconds.
"Get off me!" Bruce pushed at her knees. He tried to grab her by the waist and fling her off, but he didn't have the strength to do more than fumble his hands over her slim waist and squirm beneath her.
"You're going to bed," Diana pulled the second wrist guard off. "You are weak and sick and burning up and coughing. You can't even knock me off – don't argue, Bruce."
"Get off!" he made a fist and struck the top of her leg, but it glanced off harmlessly.
"You behave or I'll dump you in an ice bath first," she warned.
"I can't breathe," he complained. "I can't move – everything hurts. If you leave, I promise I'll rest some."
"Bruce," she took his strong jaw in her hand and made her look him in the eye, "I'm going to take care of you tonight so you don't hurt yourself. You're part of my team, and you're my friend. No, don't you shake your head. We're friends."
"Colleagues," he was almost pouting.
Diana pursed her lips together. "You have a choice here. You can get up and get undressed and go upstairs without fighting me or I will go get Clark and he will come back with me to take care of you."
"You can't threaten me."
"I don't have to. I know that, given your state, I could take care of you all by myself. But Clark will speed the progress up. And I know you don't want to see him and all his cheerfulness while you're lying here like this. So what's it going to be?"
He started coughing so hard that sweat broke out on his forehead.
Diana rolled off him and gently helped him sit up. He kept coughing, and she put a hand on the back of his sweaty neck to balance him. When he stopped, he was shaking so bad that he barely noticed as she began pulling the Batsuit off his torso. He was wearing his usual white tee shirt underneath with black boxers and socks. She helped him stand to take the last of the suit off.
"Are you going to be too cold to get upstairs?"
"'M Fine," Bruce chattered, his arms wrapped tight around his torso. "This cave is just really cold tonight."
Diana didn't point out that it was no colder than usual; she leaned against Bruce to help him to the lift and he actually put an arm around her as they went. He was warm all over, soaked in sweat, but he couldn't stop shivering in the cold.
Once they got to the bedroom, he didn't complain as she sat him down on the bed, but the moment he got there, he insisted, "All right, I'm in bed. You win. You can go now."
"Right," she quipped. "And as soon as I'll leave, you'll turn the TV on and the computer and try to monitor Gotham from bed until you decide that you can still drive, even with a fever. Where's a medicine cabinet around here?"
"I'm not telling," he said stubbornly.
For a second, Diana was tempted to give into a smile. She would never understand Bruce. He was willing to get bloodied and beaten to help the helpless, to go without sleep or food until the last person was safe, but the moment you told him what to do, he turned as obstinate as a teenager.
"Well, if I can't find stuff to treat humans, I'll have to rely on medical treatment that I use on fellow Amazons. Those are usually for women and of course Amazons, but they might work on a human male."
He sneered again but said, "Next hallway, third door on the right."
"Don't move," she pointed a finger at him.
Three minutes later, she was back with her arms bulging with medical equipment, bottles, and towels.
She put the stuff down on the bedside table and started pulling the covers off the bed.
"Don't baby me," Bruce growled. "I can't stand being babied."
"Yeah, yeah," she pushed him back on the pillows and pulled the sheet and blanket up to his mid-chest, tossing aside the thick comforter for the moment. "Open up," she shook out a thermometer and put it in his mouth.
He looked like he wanted to argue further, but he put his lips around the thermometer.
"I'm surprised you have a glass thermometer," Diana commented as she unwound the cord from around the heating pad and plugged it into the wall. "They make them digital. Kind of old school for you."
Bruce's eyes went wide in indignation. "I don' use un," he said around the thermometer. "Alfed –"
"Are you telling me that if you or Dick get sick, you make Alfred take care of you? He has to do all the work – cleaning the house, fixing the meals, patching you up from crime fighting, and nursing you back to health? By the Goddess, who takes care of Alfred?"
Bruce scowled which wasn't as scary as usual considering he was in bed with a thermometer.
Diana took it out and read it. "102."
"I sweat a lot in the suit."
"And my bracelets weigh me down when I fly," she retorted. "I don't want to hear any more fussing. Lean up and take these pills."
"I won't be able to keep them down."
"You will now that you aren't rushing around."
He took the pills and swallowed them.
"That will help with the fever. Where else do you hurt?"
He paused only a moment before answering, "I'm still cold. My head hurts. I'm a little dizzy. I feel all achy. Jeez, I sound like Dick, whining all over the place."
"Okay, lean up for a second," she helped him sit up and placed a heating pad under his back. She eased him down on it.
Bruce drew a breath of relief, but he stopped himself from making any more noise.
"Does that feel good?" Diana's lips twitched in amusement.
She rolled her eyes at his stoicism, but she got him to swallow decongestants and antihistamines. He took small sips of water, and she wondered if swallowing hurt and if some of the pain he felt was from dehydration.
"Just a few more minutes," she promised, "then you can go to sleep."
After clicking the heating pad up to medium heat, she moved down the bed and reached under the covers to take his left socked foot. He started in surprise, but she began rubbing, drawing heat with her strong fingers.
"It'll help you warm up." She pushed his foot back and forth, gently popping it and relieving the stress that his hard boots put on his ankles.
At the head of the bed, Bruce had his eyes closed, his body braced against feeling anything.
"Oh, stop it," Diana scolded. "I know you're feeling better. You're allowed to feel better, Bruce. You don't always have to be suffering."
"Yes, I do," his voice cracked slightly.
She reached for his other foot and began working it under her strong fingers, drawing the stress out. "It's just the two of us. There's no League here, no citizens to impress, no criminals to stop. It's us. And I'm going to make you feel better because I care about you."
"Agh," he let out the smallest whimper of acceptance.
She tucked his feet back under the covers and then took up his left hand. His hands were bigger than hers, but she worked them over, massaging firmly and squeezing her hands up his wrists to his elbows.
The tension eased out of him; Bruce seemed to melt into the bed, and he had trouble keeping his eyes open.
"That's it," she encouraged. "I want you to rest."
She paused before going to his other hand and brushed the sweaty hair off his forehead.
Bruce opened his eyes, and she was shocked to see that they were filled with tears. For a stunned second, she looked in them, lost in their liquid blue. Somewhere, beyond the hard man that barked out orders and fought with fierce viciousness was the little boy that had watched his parents die. Those same eyes had seen so much grief, so much pain, so much hardship.
"Oh, Bruce," she caressed the side of his face.
He closed his eyes, and two tears streamed down his face.
"Shh, shh," she sat down on the edge of the bed and raked the hair back from his face.
He gave a low sob, and she took his other hand to start massaging while talking to him in a low voice, "It's okay. You're sick, and you don't feel good. I'm sure no one takes care of you because you don't let them in."
"If I let them in," he wiped his tears away with his free hand, "they get hurt."
"Not all of us are victims you have to save. Who was the last person that helped you when you were sick, other than Alfred? Who was the last person who sat beside you like this and made sure you were okay?"
His face crumbled. "My mom!"
"Oh, baby," she whispered.
"I miss her," he grabbed both her hands weakly. "I miss Dad, too. I miss everyone."
"I know, I know. It's okay to let it out but you're making yourself worse right now."
"I hate feeling this way. I hate feeling so raw and pathetic and stupid and useless."
The tears were quickly giving way to rage, and when he hiccupped, his whole body shook, and he started coughing again.
"Bruce, look at me. Look at me!" Diana put an edge in her voice. "You are not going to turn this in on yourself. You are going to breathe deeply and I'm going to stay here until you fall asleep. We can talk later, but right now your body needs to heal."
"But . . ."
"After you sleep for a while, you can get up and have a bath and something to eat, but for now you're taking a nap."
He hiccupped again and wiped away the last of the tears. She got him to sit up a little and move the heating pad from his low back up between his shoulder blades.
"Oh, that's good," he closed his eyes in relief. "But I shouldn't sleep. Need to go . . . patrol."
She pulled the comforter up over his shoulders, tucking him into the bed with firmness. She saw him resist for a second, fighting against his own body for control. Diana fought against a smile and ran a hand over his dark hair, stroking rhythmically. His eyes fluttered for a few minutes, and then he relaxed into sleep.
She stayed beside him for a few minutes to make sure he was finally down before letting out a heavy breath. Bruce was exhausting sometimes.
"Nothing is easy for you," she murmured as he slept. "Anyone else would have been practical and already gone to bed."
She got up, but he didn't stir. She turned the heating pad off so it wouldn't scald him while he slept. Then she went to raid his bookshelves for something to read while he napped.