AN: I'm giving myself a break, before the impending, nerve wracking laboratories happen two weeks from now. Just in case I have a problem with this site being disconnected at my place of work (I write during breaks, heh), please visit my blog (link posted in my profile). I'll try to post there too.
"You called?" A loud clank reverberated inside the quiet room when the cyan stained sword slipped from her grasp, creating the irritating noise, somewhat like that of a big, spinning coin. "Sorry, it's a little…slimy."
She fought the urge to rub her sticky hands on her hips as Superman tried to disguise a trivial amount of amusement.
Her answer was a grunt and a shrug as she eyed the soft cushions of the welcoming chair but decided against sitting down while the vague reflection she cast on the thick glass separating the room from space gave her a not so reassuring visual of what she must look at the moment. Though vanity was never a concern for her she felt the tiniest bit insecure knowing her hair was sticking out in all directions, with grass and pieces of hay probably clinging to her, not to mention stains of sticky, luminescent liquid that spurted from the alien craft she dismantled an hour or so ago which now adorned most of her uniform. While the very immaculately attired man across her was regarding her closely.
"Rough day at the office?" Superman's brow rose, before an apologetic smile displayed on his face. "Sorry I wasn't much of a help."
"I thought you weren't back until tomorrow."
"The negotiations were short…in a good way." He motioned to the chair.
She flexed her muscles and felt soreness in her arm. And everywhere else. "I'd love to sit down but…"
A look of concern registered on Superman's face. "Are you alright?"
"Yes, I'm good," she dismissed. "It just feels like a hundred splinters in my butt will bury deeper if I sit. And this part of my head…" a hand motioned to the affected part. "Feels like another head is coming out of it. But the most hurt is my pride."
"What happened anyway?"
"A little weapon malfunction." Her feet nudged at the tip of the sword, prompting the weapon to fling upwards into her grasp. Slowly, nursing her sore arm, she swung the blade in the air, making an arc around her before bringing close the tip of the weapon for closer inspection. "It doesn't slice as clean as it should. It got stuck midway, while I was cutting through thick, alien metal, so the automaton shrugged me like I was a troublesome pest. An unfortunate barn bore the impact of my fall and I skidded all the way outside, along patch of grass…stopping about a foot from a pile of hot, smelly…cow poop."
"Good thing you did not land on livestock."
"Thank you for the concern…" she feigned hurt before the face of Hephaestus appeared in her thoughts. "Anyway…I think I need to see someone and have this sharpened before-"
"You fall on…cow poop."
There was something funny in the way her friend said it. "Say it again."
"Sorry". There's just something amusing about the Big Boy Scout saying…cow poop. She looked around before assuming a sober expression. "So? What am I called in for?"
"Yes…about that…" Superman began to look around. "I…"
Her brows raised in inquiry as she waited for the next words from her friend. "You…what?"
Superman held her gaze for a while before his eyes travelled to the top of her head. He moved forward and plucked something from her mane. "Hay…you have hay in your hair."
"I told you, I fell on a barn."
"Fell on…fell inside…"
"Why are you suddenly the grammar police?" She had the feeling he was purposely delaying something. "Kal, are you stalling? I know the reason you called me here was not to remove hay from my hair because if it is, there are hundreds of splinters embedded in my butt that require more att-"
Then the lights in the room all went off.
Then glowing lights materialized a few feet away.
And what followed was an all masculine and out of tune but heartfelt rendition of the birthday song. And she could not help but stifle a chuckle at the sight of J'onn's green, stoic face as the Martian tried so hard to keep his voice in melody. While John, who had a good singing voice, she had to note, took lead effortlessly as Wally balanced a birthday cake in his arms while tugging on the hand of a stuffed bear and singing with such enthusiasm.
"Make a wish," Superman smiled and urged her as the song ended.
She looked at the number of candles and thought that she was much, much older than that before closing her eyes and pretending for a moment that wishes did come true, in this sometimes harsh existence, before she blew out the candles with the softest of breaths. If she exerted a little more effort, the cake would mostly become a part of Wally's uniform. Not that he'd mind.
"What did you wish for?"
"It's supposed to be a secret," John countered Wally.
"No, it's not."
She smiled. "Fireworks…I wish I could see fireworks…" she sighed. "Not fireworks from exploding spacecrafts…just beautiful, colourful dancing lights in the night sky. It just…makes me happy."
"We can make one for you…" Wally offered.
"You don't have to," she began and remembered it was not exactly her birthday but the day she first came to man's world. And for all the years she had spent, seeing the best and the worst of the universe, moments like this made her feel like she was just like any other person who was blessed with the best of friends. "This is more than enough. Thank you…all of you."
"Sorry, but there's more." John produced a wrapped parcel that he hid from behind. "Shayera and I got this for you, she was supposed to be present via video conference but an asteroid shower ruined the transmission. Said she'll call you later."
"Thanks John…" she held out her greasy hand to accept the gift and hesitated a little, knowing she would stain the dainty covering.
"I'll take that," Superman stepped in.
J'onn stepped forward. "This is a healing stone," the Martian held out a beautiful, sparkly, green crystal.
"Wait a minute. Healing stone? J'onn, are you from Mars?" Wally interrupted. "The Princess doesn't need a healing stone."
"It's not the physical that it heals," J'onn contradicted. "And yes, I am from Mars."
"Oh…right…" Wally smiled sheepishly. "It's just an expression. Carry on."
"It's best to place it near the bed, to give you a calm sleep."
She knew it was one of the last reminders he had of his home. And he was sharing it with her. She was warmed by the gesture. "Thanks J-"
"And to keep Supes here away since it looks a lot like Kryptonite," Flash interjected to joke before not so amused faces looked back at him. "Not that he…I mean…sleeps in your…" If he was not holding the cake, Wally would probably have run out of the room by now. "Supes, are you okay…'cause that thing sure looks like Kryptonite to me."
"I'm fine, Wally."
"Good, good." Wally placed the cake on the table before quickly handing over the stuffed doll. "I got you that, Princess. It's a…"
"It's…cute. Thank you."
Wally eyed the other two gifts. "I wasn't able to wrap it as pretty as GL's…or it's not as historic and precious as J'onn's. But it's warm and fuzzy. Like me. You can place it on your bed too."
"Sure," she smiled.
"You can hug it…and remember me."
"Wally…" Three masculine voices warned.
"I can give you a hug now if you want."
It's one of those moments when Wally hesitated while met with that kind of an invitation from a female. The conflicted look he had on his face, as he eyed her messy appearance, was priceless. "I'd take…a rain check on that." Wally turned to Superman to change the topic. "Big guy…what have you got?"
Superman placed the gifts on the table. "Weekend lunch at the farm. But dinner first."
"Dinner?" Her inquiry was in tune with Wally's.
Superman smiled confidently. "Tonight at eight. And before anyone gets an absurd idea," he eyed Flash. "Lois will be joining us."
"Oh! A threeso-" Wally managed before an elbow to the side from John.
Superman shook his head before turning to her. "You don't have any plans, do you?"
She shrugged. "No…none."
"Princess…TV date, remember?" Wally reminded her. "It's the season finale of The Walking Dead. Don't tell me you're going to bail…"
John tapped his shoulder. "The Gov goes crazy ballistic, Milton turns and thinks Andrea is lunch and takes a bite before getting whacked. So of course Andrea bites the bullet, on her own terms. I read the spoilers."
She had to laugh at Wally's expression.
"GL! Man! Spoiler tags!"
"Anyway…" Superman disturbed Wally's misery. "Who wants cake?"
She successfully teleported to the coordinates given by her friend, but not before stealing a huge chunk of time into the supposed dinner to help evacuate victims of a collapsed building due to an earthquake. As her feet touched the solid matter that was the concrete flooring she knew something was amiss, that she was at the wrong location.
"J'onn…" She used her communicator while assessing the unfamiliar surroundings of a dark rooftop. Though she was already entertaining suspicions. "Can you check..?"
Something caught her eye, light flickering on the other side that was partially obscured by a decrepit wall. She walked towards the dancing shadows the light created.
"Yes Diana?" J'onn prompted.
She sighed. "Never mind. Thanks, J'onn."
She was not at the wrong address. Nor was it Superman and Lois that she was supposed to have dinner with. But Bruce.
She had not seen him in a while, nor heard his voice for a long time. So she was really surprised by this.
A candle was placed securely on a small makeshift table, whose one leg was shorter than the rest as evidenced by a folded paper inserted where the leg end cap was supposed to be. Delicious aroma was wafting through the air from a paper bag that was seducing her olfactory senses as well as her taste buds. Alfred's cooking, she mused.
But it was the small bouquet of pristine white roses sitting on top of an old wooden bench that caught most of her attention. No card, no note whatsoever…just three, beautiful roses. She gingerly lifted the blossoms to her face and inhaled their welcome fragrance and was instantly aware of the significance of this gesture from him. Then she closed her eyes for a while, imagining him…by himself, waiting for her.
She sighed inwardly and smiled to herself…happy in the thought that for the moment, this was enough. She knew, even without words, that she held a special place in his heart. Like he did in hers.
She blew out the candle and moved to the ledge. A soft gust of wind momentarily interrupted the quietness and she hoped that from the darkness he would appear.
But he did not.
So by her lonesome, she said "Thank you."
And then a burst of light interrupted the dark blanket of the night sky, followed by more colors exploding one after the other. The heavens were decorated by the spectacle for a few minutes and she marvelled at the sight, enjoying the scenery while it lasted. Then it was gone.
She lingered a few moments more before summoning J'onn.
A few buildings away he stood, the distance not at all a hindrance for him to see her. He was Batman, after all.
He told Superman it was going to be dinner because he knew the Boy Scout could not lie and that she could read Superman like an open book if he revealed the true intentions behind the plans. He tried to fight off a slight bout of jealousy at the realization of that bond between her and the Kryptonian.
Then he cancelled at the last minute, so that Superman and Lois could have a private moment together before asking J'onn to place her in the coordinates he gave.
Now she was there…smiling, with the roses still in her hands.
He knew that giving her flowers might reveal too much, but the sight of her beautiful face, radiant despite the darkness…how her eyes lit up as if she had not seen so much cruelty in this world…was worth it. But sadly, he knew deep inside that…it was the closest he would ever get to admitting his feelings for her.
Then he saw her blowing out the candle before moving to the ledge, gazing at the night sky, her raven hair flowing with the tug of the wind…still holding the flowers. As if she was silently wishing he was there.
Then he heard her say thank you.
How he wanted to say…"You are welcome."
But then she would reply, and they would talk more. And then he would have to wrestle with his feelings to prevent himself from firing a grapple and swing to where she was. Because he would want to be near, so close that he could see the light blue specks in her eyes when she smiled, so close that he could tuck the wayward strands of her hair, so very close that in one, swift movement…he could kiss her.
So he did the next best thing and pushed a button. Instantly, fireworks illuminated the sky. But he was not looking at the glittering display. He was looking at her face…how her features softened as she gazed at the sky as the light played on her beautiful countenance, how her eyes reflected the sparkle, how her lips smiled wistfully, knowing that the magnificence she was seeing was just fleeting.
Yes, it was fleeting. A few seconds more it was over.
And in a flash of glimmering light, she was gone.
But not from his mind…never from his heart. And even though she represented everything that he would not allow himself to have, he allowed the one truth to himself.
He loved her.
And would continue to love her…from afar.