A/N: Hello! Another installment for you. A little more action – with still more to come. I want to thank everyone who reviewed. A very special thank you to my new Catalonian friends. Gràcies per la lectura. Més comentaris si us plau!
As always, much gratitude to DaisyJane for her time, encouragement, and betas.
I've not mentioned this lately – chapter titles and content taken/inspired by songs by Lifehouse. They are heavy on the drama, so it works well. YouTube codes get you to the songs. There are sometimes plot hints in the lyrics btw.
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters, events, and music are the property of their respective owners. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. No profit is being made.
Just Another Name
YouTube - pL4e9vsbTHg
She groaned as a horrific smell assaulted her senses.
Diana's mind was hazy; she barely registered the sound of the person speaking right beside her waving smelling salts under her nose. She opened her eyes just long enough to register the fact that it was now dark outside and she was laying on the ground in a wooded area. There was a steady pounding behind her eyes so powerful she felt like her whole head might split in two.
A hand brushed the hair back from her face.
"You scared the Hell out of me." For a second she was comforted by the gruff, irritated sound. Then it all came flooding back.
Very slowly, she opened her eyes. She was still in clearing at Robinson Park. Above her was a familiar masked figure. Not trusting what she was seeing or feeling, a flash of fear tore through her. Diana gave the man a firm shove that sent him back several feet. He landed on his backside and stared at her with what appeared to be shock and surprise.
"Who are you?" she hissed.
She could see the man's eyes narrow behind the mask, but he said nothing. After a moment, he slowly returned to his feet and moved to squat beside her as he had been moments before. As he moved, her hand automatically moved to find her lasso. His eyes followed her movements and she could sense him tense defensively. When her hand touched the silk cashmere of her dress, Diana finally remembered that she was not in her armor.
"Who are you?" she said again, louder. She was beginning to feel her equilibrium returning. And her anger. Sitting up slowly, Diana leaned forward with her hands raised, reaching out with the intent of removing the man's mask. Understanding her intention, he recoiled, causing her to hesitate. She watched as he leaned back and turned his head from side to side, scanning the trees that surrounded them.
"Go ahead, Princess. It's ok."
Diana slowly slid the mask back, bringing her hands to rest on either side of his face. Two pairs of eyes met in a burning blue gaze that conveyed fear, anger and love. She wasn't sure if she'd ever been happier to look into those intense ice-blue eyes.
Bruce nodded slowly, sagging slightly with relief.
Blinking back tears, face ashen, Diana felt herself begin to tremble. "I'm so sorry."
Forgetting his mask, Bruce's obvious concern came out in a heated rush. "You were gone for six hours and I had no idea. It wasn't until the Watchtower called that I even knew you were missing. Then I tried to track your comlink. When it was offline…I went back retraced your steps."
Bruce suddenly pulled her to him, enveloping her in his arms. "My God, Diana."
The feel of his arms around her was instantly comforting. "He must have taken it. Or destroyed it, after I passed out," she replied, finally beginning to calm. "It must have been the champagne."
"What – champagne? Who did this?"
She buried her face in the armor that covered his chest. "You did," she said, her voice muffled.
He pushed her back gently, his large, leather-clad hands grasping her shoulders tightly. Bruce's blue eyes bore into hers, blazing with fury. "Me?"
Diana's anxiety began to spike again and she tried to calmly answer his question. "It was you. He…looked…exactly like you. But I knew something was wrong. It was you…it looked like you. But the things you said…he said…"
"But I wasn't sure if someone or something had gotten inside of you or if it wasn't you at all – "
She froze when she felt the touch of his gloved hand popping open the top button of her brown silk cashmere shirtdress. The movement suddenly gave focus to her scattered thoughts. His gaze had dropped to her cleavage. She barely registered the brief look of horror on his face before he recovered his typically stoic expression.
"Where did you get this?"
Just then, she felt it. Something heavy and hard hung from her neck. She lifted her hand, but before she could touch it, he grabbed her wrist.
"No, not yet. I need to make sure it's safe to take off. Don't move."
Reaching under his cape, he pulled out a small scanning device. Diana watched his impassive, controlled expression as he passed it around and over her neck twice before returning it to his belt.
"It looks clean. No explosives or defense mechanisms. But don't touch it yet. I may be able to pull trace evidence." As he spoke, his expression was impassive, but Diana could sense from the tone of his voice that he was having difficulty reigning in his emotions.
"What is it, Bruce?"
"Pearls," he replied quietly, evenly.
"Oh no," she gasped.
"To the manor?"
"No, Diana. Whatever you were drugged with was powerful…you're going to Watchtower so we can run some tests. J'onn is on standby." He rose to his feet, pulling his cowl back into place. "Can you stand?"
She nodded and reached up to grab one of his hands and allow him to pull her to her feet. Her hand remained clenched tightly in his as he raised the other hand to his ear to contact the Watchtower.
"Batman calling Watchtower Control. Need immediate remote transport for myself and Wonder Woman to the Tower."
Mr. Terrific immediately responded. "Copy that. Standby for transport."
Bruce released her hand as soon as they materialized on the transporter pad in the Watchtower. Batman grasped Diana's arm above her elbow and helped her down from the pad with what would be seen by the casual observer as a helpful gesture toward an injured colleague. He did not release his hold on her until they were in the infirmary, where he helped her change from her dress into a hospital gown. He sealed the dress in a clear plastic bag and tossed it onto a counter, presumably so it could be analyzed later for any trace evidence.
As soon as one of the lab technicians had finished drawing several vials of blood, Bruce overrode the door security mechanisms and locked down the infirmary to admit access to founders only. Diana watched him intently as he removed the cape and cowl and hung them over the chair sitting beside the bed. He then removed his gauntlets and pulled on a pair of sterile hospital gloves. After pulling a small black comb and two smaller plastic bags from a cabinet, he came to sit beside her on the bed.
"I need you to face away from me. I'm going to remove the pearls and then comb any trace evidence from your hair."
She nodded in response, turning her back toward him and lifting her hair with her hands. Bruce deftly unfastened the clasp on the strand of pearls and sealed them into one of the bags. He tossed the bag on the bed beside her. She looked over at it, and then reached down to pick it up.
"One of these is blue."
"I know. It's not a pearl. I think its turquoise."
"That's odd. What does it mean?" asked Diana, returning the bagged jewelry to the bed.
"It's obviously some sort of message or clue that he expects me to figure out," Bruce replied gruffly. He began to comb her hair a section at a time, pulling the comb through to the very end of the strands and into a plastic bag. Diana hummed in approval. Despite the situation, the action was oddly comforting.
"Which me was it, Diana?" he asked softly as he combed her hair with long sweeping strokes.
"Bruce Wayne, "she whispered, knowing exactly what he was asking her.
"How did you know it wasn't me?"
"At first, it was the things he said."
"Why? Did he say things that I wouldn't?"
"No, you would say them, I think. But you would never say them to me. It was as if only that part of you was talking to me. The Bruce Wayne the world knows. Not the one that I do."
"His face, Diana. There wasn't anything unusual about it?"
"Think back carefully. Do you remember seeing any scars?"
"No. His cheek was smooth. I remember thinking you must have just shaved."
Diana could sense Bruce's tension increase behind her. "What else can you tell me?"
"It was the way he touched me." Diana said cautiously.
Bruce stopped combing for a brief moment and she could hear him subtly attempt to calm his breathing. "How...did he touch you?" he asked, resuming his task. His tone was even, measured. But she knew better.
"He…he kissed me. That's when I knew for sure he wasn't you. It didn't feel...the same. It didn't make me feel as it normally does."
"But you didn't let on that you knew?" The anger had crept back into his voice.
"I couldn't. I needed to know what he was going to do."
"What did you say, Diana?"
"Very little. Like I said, I couldn't be sure, so I didn't mention Batman, the League, any of it. Not at all."
"Good." She could hear his relief in that one word. His identity hadn't been compromised any further than it was already. "Then what happened?" he asked.
"You – he – took me for a picnic. But everything was wrong. You had takeout, not Alfred's cooking. You had champagne. I've never seen you drink, not really."
"You drank the champagne?"
"Just a sip. But not until after he did."
"Did you have anything else?"
"No. After the champagne, I started to feel odd. My strength left me. He tried to kiss me again, but I couldn't push him away. Then I must have blacked out. Then nothing until you found me."
Finished, Bruce stopped and sealed the comb into the bag with whatever trace evidence he had pulled from her hair. Diana turned around slowly to look at him. One glance at him told her he was furious. When his eyes met hers, she knew immediately that at least some of his anger was directed at her.
She lifted her chin defiantly. "Well," she said, "go ahead. There's something you want to say."
"When you take off the armor, you let your defenses down. Your judgment suffers from it."
"You don't have a secret identity, Diana. In or out of uniform, people know who you are. You can't let yourself become complacent. You aren't invulnerable."
She could feel her face heat from his rebuke. "I was trying to find out what he was up to."
"You should never have gone with him. You most certainly should have never consumed anything or let him touch you. It's not the first time I've seen you drop your defenses. Most recently at the hospital. With Vincent Scherzo, whom we've yet to verify the identity of. There's something off about him. You need to be more careful."
Diana dropped her eyes to the bed. He was right.
She looked up at him. He'd said his piece. His anger and frustration was dissipating. At least with her.
"We've all let our guard down at some point, Diana. We need to be reminded of the possible consequences when we do."
She gazed at him for a long moment. His eyes burned with his concern. She could only imagine how worried he'd been before he found her.
"Could it have been a spell?" she asked, changing the subject. "A glamour maybe?"
"No, I don't think so, Diana."
"You already know, don't you?"
Bruce went on to describe more details from the night he'd been poisoned in Arkham City. He described his former friend, Thomas Elliot, a gifted surgeon with a vendetta against the Wayne family. Tommy had surgically removed his own face in order to create a new one in its place. He had left murder victims in Gotham and from inside Arkham City from whom he had taken the skin needed to transform himself into Bruce Wayne. Bruce ended with a description of the conversation between Tommy and Batman, before his former friend had disappeared into the night. **
"So he doesn't know who you are?"
"Not then, no."
"He didn't look as if he'd recently performed surgery on himself, Bruce."
"I know. I'm not sure that's who it was. But I think so."
Before Diana could question him further, J'onn signaled his intention to enter her room, taking the time to disengage security rather than phasing through the door and interrupting their private moment.
Diana looked up at her friend from the bed, offering a welcoming smile. When he didn't return her smile and his face remained closed and serious, she felt a sense of unease. Something else was wrong.
"What is it, J'onn?" asked Bruce.
Glancing back toward Bruce, Diana could see that he too sensed that what J'onn had to tell them was something that neither of them would be happy to hear.
"We've completed the lab work on your blood, Diana. We found a large amount of flunitrazepam in your system."
"What did you just say?" Bruce growled softly.
J'onn looked toward him and nodded slightly. "But the levels that were still in your blood stream indicate that it was likely designed for use with metahumans."
In the silence that followed J'onn's statement, all Diana could hear was the sound of her heart pounding within her chest. She recognized the name. This drug in particular had a reputation for being used for a particular purpose and it often caused memory loss. She looked over at Bruce. He was glaring at J'onn in a way that caused a shiver to run down her spine. She remembered nothing that had happened to her and apparently, this was by design. Whoever drugged her wanted her either completely pliable or totally unconscious. And they wanted her memory of what happened to be impaired.
The silence in the room was broken when Bruce's restraint shattered and he raged, "HE GAVE HER ROHYPNOL!?"
Diana reached over and pried open one of Bruce's fists. When he relented, his fingers closed tightly around hers. If she hadn't been metahuman, he might have broken her hand.
She looked back at J'onn. His eyes began to glow orange as he looked at Bruce. She quickly realized they were engaged in some sort of mental exchange his grip on her hand loosened slightly. When the orange glow faded, both turned to her.
"Do you remember anything that happened after you drank the champagne?" Bruce's eyes were again wild with anger, although his clenched jaw indicated his struggle to remain calm. "Anything more than what you've already told me?"
"No, I must have blacked out."
"Diana, I've called for one of the Watchtower civilian physicians," said J'onn. "As you have no recollection of what happened to you, we should do a complete physical exam."
"You can't do it? Other than being very thirsty, I feel fine."
When J'onn didn't immediately respond and walked away to pour Diana a glass of water, Bruce inhaled and deeply. "He can't do this kind of exam, Diana. They want to do a rape kit."
Diana looked up to stare at J'onn in shock. She had known the most sinister use of the drug found in her system, but hadn't considered that rape could have been the purpose for having been drugged. For some reason, she still didn't believe that it was.
A soft knock came at the door. A second later, she felt Bruce's calloused hand on her cheek.
She looked back at him. He was gazing down at her with grim, reluctant expression that sent an anxious chill through her.
"If we're going to do it, it needs to be done right away. With your healing ability and resistance to injury, they may not find anything even if something did happen." After pausing briefly, Bruce continued, clearly besieged by emotions he was trying desperately to contain, "It's up to you, but this could provide some additional evidence that could lead us to our killers."
Killers. The word hung in the air. Whomever did this wasn't working alone. Diana suddenly felt sick.
Bruce squeezed her hand gently and leaned in to brush her forehead with his lips. "I'll be right outside," he whispered before stepping away from the bed and pulling his cowl into place.
Diana sucked in a deep breath and exhaled slowly as she watched Batman exit the room and admit the female physician that J'onn had called to perform the exam.
As soon as he stepped from the room, Bruce realized that he couldn't just wait outside the door while Diana was undergoing a rape exam. He continued to walk down the hallway toward the observation deck, attempting to quell the rage and fear that he'd been struggling to control for the last several hours. He wanted to break something. Or someone.
Entering the observation area, Bruce secured the doors behind him and activated his communicator to call the cave. It was nearly three in the morning in Gotham. Robin should have returned from Robinson Park. He'd called and directed him to search the entire area for evidence just before Diana had regained consciousness.
"Come in, Robin."
"I'm here, boss. How's Diana?"
"She's still being evaluated, but she seems ok. Anything new to report?"
"Not much at Robinson Park. The ground was soft, so I found footprints. I took a cast. But that was it. Everything else was clean."
"What about the soil and water samples?"
"Yeah – when I got back the computer found a match between one of the soil samples and the pearls. It looks like they may have come from somewhere on the west coast of Australia."
"There's probably another pit there. I suspected that Ra's had been hiding a few more. Any common material with the sample from Stephanie Nevin?"
"Anything else to report?"
"Um. Yes. There was no DNA on the card Diana was given. It was all degraded."
"That seems to be happening a lot lately. Any other material pulled from the card?"
"No, since it was just skin cells and not bodily fluid, there wasn't anything else that could be pulled. I ran the prints again, still nothing in the system."
"I know. No match in any database. Criminal or otherwise."
"Unusual nowadays, isn't it?"
"Yes it is. Are you set to go for the prisoner transfer in the morning?"
"The transfer starts at eight. I'll be there."
"Ok, good. Now get some sleep."
"Headed up now to catch a few hours."
"Robin, remember. Just observe. Call for backup if there is a problem. Batman out."
Bruce had just cut the connection with Robin when the door to the observation deck opened and closed behind him. There was only person on the entire Watchtower - other than Diana - that would dare enter any room he was alone in without knocking. At the sound of the air locks engaging, he realized that he was about to be subjected to one of Superman's heart-to-heart discussions.
"Are you ok?"
He glanced briefly in Superman's direction. "Of course I'm not ok. I have no idea what happened to her tonight."
"We'll figure it out. You'll figure it out. But right now, enough with the angry brooding. She needs you."
Bruce turned away and pushed back his cowl, again staring in silence through the window. Only the Earth below, pulling them along in low-orbit, broke the vast star-spattered blackness of space. After a long moment, he replied softly, "It's my fault this happened."
"My city, my responsibility. She was targeted because of me."
"We're all targets, all the time. Whoever did this – wasn't you. I'm not going to waste my breath trying to convince you that there isn't a thing for you to feel guilty about, Bruce. But I will tell you this – your focus right now needs to be on her, not on yourself."
He shot his friend an angry glare. "It is on her!"
"Then why are you in here brooding?"
Bruce turned back toward the window. "They're doing a rape kit, Clark."
"I know. I also know that with her meta-healing ability, they won't likely find anything conclusive. When they finish, she'll be waiting for you. She needs you."
"She doesn't need me. Not really. She wants me. I have no fucking clue why, but she does. I can't fathom what I could ever possibly bring to her life that would make it better."
"For God's sake, Bruce. She may be immortal and superhuman – but she is still human. I'm not human, but I had the chance to live a human life. A very normal human life up until my powers began to emerge. Diana is human but comes from a rarified world that is far removed from most humanity. The loving familial relationship she has with her sisters is very different from what most humanity can claim to have. Others from her world – especially her Gods and Goddesses – they engage bizarre behavior in an attempt to connect to their humanity. It's difficult for them, as they also believe they are superior to humans. Their myths are simply human virtue and vice at their very extreme. It would be so easy for Diana to slip into those same patterns – to become like them. Beings that look down on the mortal world from their mountaintop, yet still they want so very much to feel human. To feel what humans feel."
Clark paused for a moment to release an irritated sigh. "Bruce, that's what you give her," he said, pointing through the window at the Earth below them. "You tie her to her humanity and make it easier for her to connect to it. I can't think of one other man – human or meta-human – on the face of the Earth that could ever manage to do that for her."
Turning his head slightly, Bruce shot Clark a glare laced with blatant skepticism. "You done?"
"You really don't see it, do you?" Clark asked angrily. "Why she's drawn to you and has been since the day you met? You stare down and defeat GODS, Bruce. You aren't intimated. You outsmart them. She sees you as an equal in every way possible. You understand the lives we live and sacrifices we make. But you also have this deep, personal understanding of human frailty and human strength. With you, she can be everything she is and everything she wants to be. Everything she needs to be. Who else but you could possibly accomplish that? It shouldn't even be that hard for you. All you have to do is love her and let her love you back."
In the midst of his friend's lecture – one that was dangerously close to sounding like some contemporary romance novel – it suddenly became crystal clear to Bruce exactly why Lois was the center of Clark's universe. Lois was stubborn, brilliant, and brave woman that appreciated everything that Superman was, while at the same time feeling no need to join the legions of hero-worshipers that fell at his feet. The godlike Superman didn't intimate her and she, like his parents before her, brought out the best in Clark Kent, the man.
"Is any of what I'm saying actually getting through?"
Bruce stepped back from the window and looked at Clark, staring impassively as he pulled his cowl back into place.
Clark's forehead wrinkled as he studied him. Slowly, his eyebrows rose with surprise. "It is getting through. Isn't it?" A half-grin emerged on Superman's face.
"Thanks, Clark" replied Bruce as he walked across the room toward the exit. He paused briefly before stepping through the door. "Watch you don't get too smug," he said. "I don't want to have to take out the Kryptonite." Then he left the room, leaving his friend behind.
Back in the cave, Bruce sat back in his chair and rubbed his eyes. It had been a rough night. Thankfully, Diana's exam had yielded no evidence of assault. However, those results did not mean that something didn't happen. She still had no memory of what had happened and J'onn's attempts to uncover something psychically had been unsuccessful. Diana had apparently been completely unconscious until he'd found her in the woods. There were no memories to uncover.
On the outside, Diana appeared as strong as ever, although she clearly could not have been comforted by this lack of information. He could sense her frustration and unrest at the gap in her memory. After a long time of tossing and turning in their bed, Diana reached for him. Surprised by this, he was initially reluctant, as he would have thought that sex would have been the last thing she would have wanted. Despite her whispered assurances that she was fine and that she was sure nothing had happened to her, Diana's movements had a feral quality to them he hadn't experienced with her before. After a violent climax, she collapsed onto his chest and the emotion finally overwhelmed her. He'd held her as she'd cried and eventually fell asleep.
He needed to find answers for her. And for himself.
When he was sure she was sleeping deeply, he gave up trying to sleep himself and made his way to the cave. Robin had come through on his way to observe the prisoner transfer to Arkham Sanatorium and Alfred had brought him coffee, but otherwise he sat alone scanning through the crime log from the last few days, looking for any activity that might be connected to Harley Quinn or their killers. The clock was ticking on another mass murder. Twenty more pearls. Plus one blue bead. Whoever hung it around her neck could likely answer all of his questions.
He glanced over at the time stamp on the computer monitor. 7:37 AM. It was early for her, but he needed information that she could provide. He hit a button on his workstation to activate the secure landline.
The connection rang no less than ten times before the call was answered. He had clearly disturbed someone's sleep.
"Whoever this is, it better be important."
"Bruce? It's not even eight. Too early. You know perfectly well I'm not a morning person."
"I know it's early. I need your help with something." A flashing light on one of the screens alerted Bruce that someone had opened the cave entrance from the manor.
"Again? Wait a minute, I just got this cell phone yesterday." Her voice took on a soft seductive, yet teasing quality that only she could pull off. "Should I be flattered or worried that you already have the number?"
"Hold a minute, Selina," replied Bruce, quickly muting the call. "Diana?"
He watched as she emerged from the darkness at the top of the stairs and slowly descended. As she drew closer, he could see her somewhat abashed, reluctant expression. He said nothing, but held out his hand to her and pulled her into his lap when she took it. After a brief, soft kiss, he went back to the waiting phone call.
"What the Hell, Bruce?" asked Selina, clearly irritated by being kept on hold, all the seduction gone from her voice. "Now tell me what you want so I can go back to sleep."
"I need you to look at something for me. I'm sending you several photos of a strand of pearls. There's a blue bead on the strand. Tell me what you know."
"Ok, ok, hold on…I have it. Ohhh. Nice pearls. South Seas. Weird. That looks like turquoise."
"That's what I thought. Exactly the same size and shape as the pearls."
"Well…unless it was worn by an Egyptian Pharaoh or something, a turquoise bead that size wouldn't be worth much. It's a nice enough stone, I guess. As far as turquoise goes, it looks high quality. It's a clear piece, with no visible veins. The color is highly desired – a smooth, robin's egg blue. It's not very large but – "
Bruce abruptly cut the connection and looked up at Diana, who was gazing at him with wide eyes and a horrified expression.
"Bruce," she whispered. "Robin's egg blue? Could it be that obscure?"
"Anything is possible." Bruce hit a couple of buttons on the keyboard, opening the comlink connection to the supercomputer. "Robin. Come in."
After a few moments with no response, he tried again. "Robin. Do you copy?"
For the second time in two days, he was gripped with the fear that something horrible had happened to someone he cared about. He'd been worried about Harley's next move. If he was right about this message, Robin was next on the killers' hit list. It might already be too late.
He felt Diana's hand on his shoulder. He tried again. "Batman to Robin. Come in, Robin."
The silence the filled the cave was deafening.
E/N: Oh yeah, I did.
What happened to Diana? Where is Robin? Who is behind this? You think you know. But do you? Next chapter is all action.
Trilogy1 – Yes, another cliffhanger. But I love, not hate. I just like a little (alot) torture now and then.
** If you have not played Batman: Arkham City, this code in the YouTube search will get you to the cut scene: gB7_54bqY2Q