Traveling: Because it's not only about the destination, but those you meet along the way.
"So, now what?"
"What are you doing this Friday evening?"
"I'll be here. I have monitor duty..."
"No, you don't. You'll be out with me, letting me give you that dance I've owed you for a while."
"I will, will I?"
"You won the bet, right? Looks like you'll have some time off for the next few weeks. I can think of some things to do with that time, can't you?"
"I sure can. Just as long as it involves nothing stronger than iced tea."
- Interrogation Tactics - Chapter 7: Confessions
Diana looked at herself in the mirror, inspecting the dress she chose for that night. She changed in her room on the Watchtower instead of her place in New York City. She wanted to use the transporter to get to the cave, and she had a stop to make before she left. She wished she had her sister with her, though. It would have been nice to have the moral support.
Diana shook her hands to get her blood flowing. She thought to keep it simple; red dress with fitted, plunging top, three thin straps on each shoulder, and a flowing skirt that ended at her knees. She finished the ensemble with a pair of slim, strappy silver heels. She hoped she could dance in these. The heels were higher and thinner than her boots. Her ever-present magic bracelets adorned her wrists.
She adjusted the thin straps along her shoulders, worried that the low-cut neckline was too revealing. She realized that the dress actually covered her more than her uniform did, and that the bodice fit her about the same as her armor. She also chose the red color because it was close to what she already wore every day. Maybe should have chosen something different? Blue, black...green? An entirely different type of dress? She truly doubted Bruce cared what kind of dress she wore.
She sat on her bed and closed her eyes, clasping her hands to her lap. She glanced at the altar of gods on her bureau, each glowing softly in the candlelight she had lit for each of her patron deities. She didn't kneel as she usually would have, but she gave each one a glancing thought until she came upon the particular goddesses she wanted to address.
"Mighty Athena, I don't know what you will do when I finally consummate my relationship with Bruce. It will happen, but I don't know when. I hope you'll forgive me that I'll no longer be the virgin warrior you ordered us to be. I will still fight as strongly, and defend those who need protection. And he's a warrior for justice that you would be proud to patron. I just can't deny my heart any longer. I love him, and I want to be with him. I wonder, if you had been given someone as wonderful as Bruce, would you have given up your eternal purity?"
"Sweet Aphrodite, I'm sure you've enjoyed watching my fumbling for the past few days. Know that I trust you to give me the instincts to love Bruce correctly - through my body, my mind, and my heart. Also give me the insight to know when he's showing me that he loves me, even if it's not in a way I would recognize. And know when the time comes, I will honor you with the entirety of my soul." She paused with another thought. "May I ask you for a favor? Can you make sure that when it happens, that there are no interruptions? I would greatly appreciate it."
She glanced at the rest of the pantheon on her bureau. Blowing out each god's candle, she touched each idol in turn. "Okay, here we go. Give me luck!" She picked up her shawl, draping her shoulders with the shimmery, silver fabric. She adjusted her hair, making sure the length hadn't caught in her dress straps. With a last breath, she walked out of her quarters.
Diana couldn't help but notice the looks she was getting as she walked down the corridor. She didn't know why they were staring at her; she wore less than this everyday. She wiped her nose, tugged at her dress, and covered her bosom with her shawl, but she was still getting those looks. What's wrong? She was glad when she finally arrived at her destination. Diana entered the monitor room, hoping a familiar winged figure had made it there.
Shayera turned at the sound of the door opening. She was sitting in the high back chair, reading a neatly bound paper report in front of her. Seeing who had entered the nerve center, she rose from the chair and approached the formally dressed princess.
"Diana! This is a pleasant surprise. I didn't think I would be seeing you today. Figured you would be avoiding this place like the plague, especially since you had a better place to be."
"I wanted to stop by and see you, Shay. And thank you."
"Thank me? For what, you won the bet fair and square. I'm here covering for you as agreed."
"No, for having the fortitude to interfere with the two people who doubted you the most when you returned. Your bravery and total disregard for what anyone thinks is what helped me have the guts to approach Batman with what's been simmering between us for so long." Diana gave Shay a sidelong glance. "And for you having the nerve to dare me do such an audacious thing with him in the first place...priceless!"
Shayera laughed at Diana's description of the body shot dare. "I'm surprised you actually took it. There's a rebel in you, too, Diana. Stick with me and I'll help you get her out more often." Shay took a good look at Diana. "Why are you covering up yourself so much? Come on, let's see you."
Diana lowered her shawl from her shoulders, letting it fall to her forearms. She turned around, letting the skirt flow around her. Her hair lifted slightly, and she felt as if she was floating on air. Looking down, she realized she was. Better not let that happen while I'm out tonight.
When she looked up, she saw Shayera staring at her the same way the others were in the hallway. "What?! Why is everyone looking at me like that?"
"You have no idea, do you Diana? Everyone is looking at you because they can't help it. You look absolutely stunning."
"Of course you do! Since when have you not? But tonight, you look so beautiful. I think it's because you're in love." Diana looked down at Shayera's comment. She found that her hands felt cold. She rubbed them along her arms to warm them up. She started when she felt Shayera take her hands and hold them in her own.
"Are you alright Diana? You look like you need to sit down."
"No, I'm okay. Its just, this is all so new to me. I know it just a simple date, but its like my life will never be the same again after this. Does this sound stupid?"
"No, it actually doesn't. I know what it feels like to be in love, and your world is turned upside down. Best thing to remember is that you can fly, like me. Just turn yourself right side up and you'll be fine." Shayera gave Diana a calculating look. "Or even better, think of this like you're marching into battle."
"Really? You want me to fight Batman?" Diana started laughing at the thought. Did that already. Wouldn't mind doing that again. At least the last part...
"That would be a sight to see, wouldn't it? But, this is more like preparing yourself to confront your fears. You know how we have to mentally get ourselves in the game before we hit a mission? We have to study the situation, know it in and out and work with our teammates to make sure we're on the same page."
"Being in love feels like that. You're going to be thrown all over the place, outside forces are going to try to tear you apart, even those who you think are your allies will unintentionally betray you," Shay ducked her head at this, "but in the end, there is still the mission and your teammate. You're in love and nothing will tear the two of you apart. Even if the one you're fighting is the one you love."
Diana thought about that last statement. Reviewing what she and Bruce had 'discussed' the night before, she thought Shayera's assessment was sound. It was going to take a lot of work to keep them together. But she was more than willing to take on the battle. Diana was so deep in thought, she jumped in surprise when Shay touched her on the cheek.
"Here, let me do something for you." Shayera ran her hand along one wing, lightly tugging at one of her feathers. She did the same for the other wing. She ended up with two feathers in each hand.
"This is a tradition within my clan. When its time to go into battle, we exchange parts of ourselves with those we care about so no matter what, we're never alone. We send two feathers with the ones we want to protect. One feather for strength in battle," Shayera took Diana's arm and tucked the feather into her bracelet. "The other for love and best wishes of returning home." She tucked second feather in the other bracelet.
"That's beautiful, Shay. How come I've never heard of this tradition?"
"Well, on Thanagar, only one other person received feathers from me, but I'm sure he's incinerated those by now. I carry no others since I'm among the wingless. As for those here, now three carry my heart with them. You're the third."
"I have an idea who that first person is. Is there something I can do for you, since you've helped me? I can talk to him, see if he'd be willing to..."
"No, he's made his decision. I don't want to spend energy where it's not wanted. But thank you for the offer." Diana's heart went out to her friend. She reached over and hugged the other woman. She realized she liked the feel of her feathers along her skin.
"Well, if you're on the market, any other guy would love to be wrapped in these wings of yours. They're so soft!" Shayera blushed, which made Diana smile. Seeing the tough warrior act shy was definitely a treat. Diana wondered who the second person was that got Shay's feathers. Probably Wally, since he was a part of their little group.
"Okay, off with you. You got somewhere better to be than being stuck in here. Go have some fun!" Shayera walked with Diana to the door. Diana took another look at her friend and gave her one more hug. As she held her, Diana whispered.
"Thank you, sister. I'm glad you're back with us." Shayera looked into Diana's eyes, close to tears. She violently wiped them away, smiling at Diana's forgiveness. She pushed the Amazon towards the door, moving her along her way.
"And Di? Knock him out." Diana smiled at her and started walking down the corridor.
Diana noticed the looks again, but saw them differently. She realized that Shay was right; they weren't looking at her as if something was wrong. Something was so very right. She lowered her arms from their guarded positions near her bosom, and let them sway naturally at her side.
She entered one of the lifts, where Booster Gold and Plastic Man were already inside. She noticed how they kept trying to ogle her without being obvious, which was very obvious indeed. When she stepped off the lift, She heard Booster's whistle and saw how Plastic Man melted, literally. She grinned at their antics, a little length finding its way in her step.
As she passed through the promenade, she noticed how the crowd was parting for her. This embarrassed her a little, but she lifted her chin and kept walking. When she spotted Green Lantern with Vixen, she perked up a little at seeing a familiar face. She strode over to greet them.
"Oh, honey, look at you!" Vixen checked out the lines of her dress and how it fit her. The former model's approval made Diana feel better about her choice of dress.
"Hey Vix, can I borrow GL for a minute?" At Mari's nod, Diana took John aside.
"You set me up! You knew that access shaft went only to one place. You told Batman I was going there and he was able to catch me by surprise."
"What, are you complaining?" John asked, crossing his arms across his chest. Diana reached up and kissed him on the cheek.
"No, I'm thanking you for your deviousness. It was a nice, uh, surprise."
"I helped you, I helped him. Call it even. I'm an equal opportunity meddler. "
"Right. I'm going keep my eye on you from now on. Of all my friends, you're the most dangerous one. The 'quiet one'."
"Well, you know what they say about those." Green Lantern leaned down to whisper in Diana's ear. "It was my pleasure to help you out. I was watching how he kept looking at you and it was driving me crazy that he wasn't doing anything. I'm glad to see that all my hard work has come to this. You look beautiful tonight. I'm sure he'll agree with me wholeheartedly."
Diana smiled at John's confession. She glanced over at Mari and had an idea. Walking over to his girlfriend, Diana put her arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer. "Sister, our friend there did me a great favor but I don't think I have it in me to thank him properly. If you could, would you..."
She then started whispering in Mari's ear. Vixen's face went from curious, to surprised, then a large smile lit her face. She looked at Diana and then whispered in the Amazon's ear. Diana's eyes widened, then a blush colored her cheeks. "Is that even physically possible?" Mari shrugged her shoulders. They both glanced over at John and gave him an appraising look.
"Well then, I guess I'll leave you to it." Diana walked up to John, patted him on the shoulder, and grinned. "Have fun! Hope the recovery time is short." John looked back and forth between the two women, not sure he wanted to know what they said, but sure he'll be finding out in a few hours.
Diana realized that she was starting to feel comfortable with the stares. If they saw her in love, then she would show it off to the world. Except...who should she say she was in love with? Her steps slowed down at the thought, her mind starting to spin at the possibilities and the danger...
'You will stop that line of thinking right now, Princess. This is your night. Don't darken it with thoughts of what hasn't happened yet.' Diana smiled at the familiar feeling of the person speaking to her telepathically.
'Thank you, J'onn. Guess I've let all of this get to me. Its happening so fast, yet it feels like its been building forever. Glad to know you'll be there to help me work it out.'
'Live in the moment, Diana. That's all you have. Build the memories that you can call upon later when things do get difficult. They'll help you through those dark times when you need them the most.' She could feel the wisdom and experience through the Martian's thoughts. She hoped he would be able to start building new memories of his own.
'Don't you worry about me. Being here has already filled me with memories for lifetimes to come. Some of them quite...entertaining. By the way, thanks for sending over the Oreos. Double stuffed...yum!'
'It's the least I could do for you since you've pushed Bruce my way. Thank you.' Diana thought she could hear his contented munching before he cut off his mind link. She grinned at the lightness she felt after talking to her Martian friend. She lifted her arms, twisting her body back and forth, letting her shawl flow around her while she walked.
She was approaching the cafeteria when she felt a wind blow past her. A flashing light suddenly blinded her. "Ooh, here she is! Look at her! Let's get some pictures. Come on, give me surprised. Yes, you look so surprised! Now give me blinded...oh yeah. You can't see a thing! You got it. You're a natural!" Once Diana's eyes cleared, she could see Flash crouched in front of her, digital camera in hand.
"Flash...what are you doing?"
"Capturing the moment! Come on, give me some more. Give me annoyed...yes! You got it, gurl. Work it...work it...oh! What was that look, Di? I don't think you should be giving ME that look." Flash stood up, rubbing the back of his neck. His exposed face was as red as his uniform.
"Just getting into the role, Flash. I want a copy of that one, too. Then...you will delete it."
"Yes, ma'am." Diana didn't believe one word he said. She wondered how long it would take for that picture to make it around the Watchtower. He trotted up to her and faced the camera towards the both of them. "Smile! Say 'cheese'!" She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, putting her cheek up against his.
"'Wally!'" He snapped the picture before he could stop himself. She's sure he just took a picture of his surprised look along with her wide grin. "What? It's the same as saying 'cheese.'"
"Let's try that again...without the sass." They posed again, both cheek to cheek, soft smiles on their faces. Wally brought down the camera and pressed the preview button. They inspected the picture that he had just taken.
"Now that's a keeper, for sure." Wally looked into Diana's eyes. "You look so happy. I hope he can live up to your expectations."
"Thank you for your concern, Wally, but I'm just glad for the chance to have expectations. And I think I've learned enough of him to know that he will try his hardest to meet them. And his own."
"You deserve nothing less. But if you need anyone to give him a talking to..."
"I'll make sure not to call on you."
"Whew! Thank you! I'm fast, but I'm not impervious. But I'm here for you if you need anything else...even just for a hug."
"You are precious, you know that, Wally?" Diana remembered how a whole parallel world went to hell because it lost him. She could see how that happened.
"Aww, shucks. Now you're trying to make me blush."
"Hey, Reds! Move out of the way! We don't want you in the picture!" The two looked up to see a crowd of heroes and technicians standing in the cafeteria door way. Each was holding up a camera phone or communicator, aiming it at the duo...or more like at her.
"Jeez, looks like you're the only one showing me love, Di." Flash slumped away to join the crowd of JL paparazzi. Having had experience with the real vultures, Diana gave her best 'model pose', smiling into each camera as best she could. The giggles and sighs were the main thing that separated them from the real image poachers.
"Hey, Di! You're going to let me borrow that dress sometime, right?" Black Canary called out to her from the back of the crowd.
"Of course, Di. Just let me know when you need it." Diana could see Ollie's grin at her offer. She was sure he was picturing Dinah in the dress already.
"So, where are you going looking so hot?" Ollie called out to her. The crowd seemed to be holding its breath at her answer.
"Nunya business." Diana laughed as the group's collective let down. She continued walking towards the transporter room. She didn't know she was giving the crowd a show as she was walking away, her hips swaying ever so slightly.
"Hot damn! Whoever she's meeting with, he's gonna get something sweet!" Ollie grunted at Dinah's elbow jabbing into his rib. She had a small idea of who it was. Now she'll be watching.
Diana slowed as she let the transporter room door open. She nearly jumped out of her skin when she was wrapped in a strong, steel tight hug.
"Thank Rao you're here! He's driving me batty!"
"Kal! Where..who...what are you doing here?"
"I'm here because HE asked me to. He wanted me to transport you to the cave so no one will know where you're going. I've been here for a little while waiting for you."
"Oh, I'm sorry Kal. I kept meeting with people along the way. If I'd known you were waiting for me..."
"Oh, no. I was fine. I could have waited a little longer, too. I'd just run a diagnostic on the security system or something. Still can't figure out why it didn't catch the containment unit being launched into space. But, it's Bruce that can't wait. He's been blowing up my communicator for the past half hour!"
"Are you serious?" She looked at the chronometer on the transporter control panel. "I'm actually fifteen minutes early. He's been bothering you that entire time?"
"Here, take a look." Diana took the offered communicator, scrolling through the history of texts.
::Hey, C. Can you go to the transporter room?::
::I want you to transport Di down. Keep it secret::
::Sure, B. No problem::
::Are you there yet?::
::You just texted me. Give me a sec.::
::Sorry:: ::Are you there yet?::
::I just stood up! Calm down!::
::Seriously, she could be there any minute::
::You want me to do this or not?::
::Then get there! Use your supersonic speed or something::
::Okay, I'm here::
::Great, thanks. Did you see her?::
::No, I haven't seen her since this morning::
::You think she's having second thoughts?::
::I doubt that. She's wanted this for a long time, it seems::
::Maybe you should look for her::
::I will not! She's coming. Don't worry::
::But what if she doesn't::
::She doesn't work like that. She said she'd see you::
::Okay:: ::Is she there yet?::
::BRUCE! STOP IT!::
::Did you just yell at me?::
::If you don't stop, I'll keep her here. Away from you!::
::Don't you dare. Have kryptonite. Will use it::
::That threat is losing its power. Find another one::
::Okay. I'll tell Lois you didn't know about Di and me::
::You're a mean bastard, you know that?::
::Gotta use what I have::
Diana laughed at the conversation between the two men. She knew they had a friendship that many didn't understand. Now she can see they were more like brothers; brothers who knew how to get on each other's nerves very well. Diana was about to give the communicator back to Kal when it chimed again.
::I'm nervous, C. What if I mess this up?:: Kal glanced over at Diana, reading the text over her shoulder.
"What do you think I should say, Di?" Diana ran her thumb across the communicator's display, as if she could comfort him by touching his words. She started texting herself.
::She loves you, very much. You'd have to be a complete idiot to mess it up:: She looked up at Kal before she pressed send.
"Sounds like something I'd say." She grinned and pressed the send button. The answering chime came a few seconds later.
::Thanks. I think:: chime ::Is she there yet?::
"My goodness, Di. Let's get you there and put him out of his misery." She handed him his communicator back. He texted...
::Yes, she just got here. And she's more beautiful than you've ever seen her::
::Hope she knows how to perform CPR. Might need it::
::Gonna talk to her for a sec. Don't die yet::
Kal rolled his eyes at Bruce "yelling" at him. He glanced at Diana, who was grinning at the conversation between the two men. Kal moved over to her and wrapped her in his arms, this time gently squeezing her shoulders in a brotherly hug.
"You're going to make that man very happy...or drive him crazy. Whichever comes first."
She wrapped her arms around his waist, giving a squeeze of her own. She wondered if anyone else could withstand the hugs they gave each other, or if they would have exploded from the force. "Do you think this is a good idea, Kal? Him and me?"
"Who am I to say? I'm trying to make a relationship work with one of the most volatile personalities I've ever met, yet I'm still head over heels for her. Some would wonder why I stick around someone so abrasive. But I love her, and I'm not going anywhere. I guess some would say you and him are a better pairing. You both have the same mission, passion, and sheer stubbornness to stick it out. But if you need someone to knock some sense into him..."
"I'll make sure there's something left for you after I'm done with him."
"That's my girl. Now, onto the transporter with you, he's waiting." Kal led Diana to the transporter, delicately holding her hand as she stepped up to the platform. She gave his fingers a final squeeze before letting go. She ran her hands over the skirt of her dress, adjusted the straps, fluffed her hair...
"Diana. Relax...breath." Diana looked down at her friend behind the transporter console. She took a deep breathe as ordered. She nodded.
"I'm ready. Send me down, Kal." The Kryptonian smiled at the Amazon. Pressing a few buttons, he activated the transporters. Before the sequence could be completed, he called out...
"And Di? BE GOOD!" He pointed a finger at her to emphasize his words. She stuck her tongue out at him just as she disappeared. She could feel the strange sensation of her molecules being broken down and then reassembled again. Felt sort of like being struck by lighting.
She took another breath, this time taking in the damp, cool air of the cave. She could smell the familiar scents of rock, artificial air, and car exhaust. She also could smell the comforting scent of Bruce. She looked down from the transporter platform...and smiled.
To be continued...
I knew you were afraid / Cause you've never been this way / So I led you / I took you to a place / Where we danced around and played / And you held me…
Don't let it slip away / It's not just a dream / It's another reality for me and you / Another reality for me and you – Slip Away – Si*Se