Chapter 36: Truth's Impact

Bruce's loved ones present him with their gathered evidence, proving that Hannah isn't who she says she is.

He still almost couldn't believe that he'd agreed to this. It caused him to wonder internally just how much busier life might become as a result. If he'd had his way, he'd cut everything back so that he could continue from where things had been left while he'd been in India. Completed business deals aside, he'd gotten to enjoy the bit of quiet time he was able to spend with his fiancé. It was a refreshing reprieve, finally having a chance to step back and breathe, and just enjoy one another's company.

He even found that he preferred staying in their hotel room instead of going out on the town to celebrate Wayne Enterprise's latest successful venture. For behind his hotel room door, he was able to take in just how full of life Hannah seemed to be, and how it just seemed to rejuvenate him. Her exuberance was perhaps one of the things that he most enjoyed about her. However, it still came with a warning. Hannah's energy also served as a good part of why Bruce had to cherish the very few quiet moments they had together as well.

Hannah had been incredibly active with charities and was always looking toward planning the next event. She almost bordered on obsessive with the amount of time and effort she would put into a single event, and she often took on a little more than she could handle without receiving some help to meet deadlines. He couldn't blame her though, she'd openly shared in her belief that it was better to bite off more than one could chew in attempting to achieve something great than to just nibble on mediocrity and be content with just getting by.

She wanted to make a real and positive difference around the world, and in Gotham City especially. She'd told him in the beginning that she wasn't trying so hard to prove that a person didn't require a cape and cowl to do so, but she did admit that her main inspiration was Bruce himself, and the example he'd set with his own actions. Based on that admission, he let any potential argument go and did his best to help her when he could spare a moment, even putting personal plans aside if necessary.

Now, however, although this was a personal matter, it wasn't a time that he could or would set aside. Instead, he knew he'd just have to find spare time elsewhere. This was of the utmost importance, for he was on his way to meet Diana to celebrate their baby's first birthday.

He thought back to when Diana had asked for this time, purely for Alessa's sake. She'd wanted them to focus on making this first birthday a special event, and she'd politely requested that it be just the three of them on this day; with the promise that this would be the only instance she where would make such a request. Then if they so desired, a different date with an actual birthday party could be planned.

Bruce hesitated at first, but only for a moment before he agreed to spend the day with her and Alessa. There was no arguing that this wasn't a special day, and making free time for it was something that he was only too willing to do for his little angel. He knew that the memory would be more for Diana and him than Alessa, but it was still something that would never happen again. She'd never turn one year old again, and if they captured it for her, she would at least have images of the celebration to fall back on. For that reason alone he wasn't about to miss it. In fact, as the building housing Diana's apartment came into view, he realized that he was even going to be a little early.

Diana peered out her apartment window, looking for and eventually locating Bruce's mirror-shiningly black Mercedes Maybach just as he pulled up to the front of her apartment building. She glanced over at the clock and discovered that he was actually almost ten minutes earlier than he'd promised over the phone when he initially agreed to meet her.

Seeing him pull up caused a sudden sensation to hit Diana in the pit of her stomach, and she wasn't sure what to do about it. The feeling was similar to being extremely nervous, and she wouldn't have to question why that would be the case, all things considered. She'd always been terrible at hiding things, and especially so when Bruce was involved. Today was supposed to be purely about their daughter, but she couldn't help the strong wanting desire to pull him aside as soon as she saw him to tell him about her discovery regarding Hannah.

Ever since she'd conglomerated with Dick, Alfred, and Kal; all she'd wanted to do was run straight to Bruce and confront him with the undeniable facts they'd uncovered. Hannah had been on Themsycira. She'd shot Bruce when he was trying to evade her sisters while he'd been seeking out her own whereabouts. That was almost indisputable. But most importantly, ever since Hannah had held a role in his life, he had been fundamentally changing who he was. There were just too many coincidences to not at the very least question Hannah as to the level of her likely involvement. At the very least, she wasn't the person she appeared to be.

However, aside from Alfred, no one had been fortunate enough to get Bruce alone so that they could present him with their evidence, and Alfred had already worn out his welcome with such topics just off his earlier suspicion alone. Bruce had made it abundantly clear that Alfred was to drop the topic of discrediting the woman of the house. Alfred had told them as much when the other three tried to convince him to intervene as Bruce's closest confidant. Alfred believed without a doubt that if he were to try, Bruce would only shut any attempt down as soon as the topic of discussion was revealed, and had to convince them to come up with another plan of action.

Diana knew that she couldn't put off this confrontation with Bruce for long. He'd obviously been under Hannah's influence too long already, but she once again wasn't about to use their little girl as the means to pull Bruce aside. At the most, she'd decided that she would only request an audience with him, and leave it at that. She only hoped she could keep her desire to set him free from surfacing until the time was right. This day was supposed to be about Alessa, and Diana wasn't going to do anything to change that if she could help it.

So, she focused on the task as any warrior would, and pushed such thoughts aside as one would an unnecessary distraction. There were more important matters, and she held an undeniable truth of that fact once she picked Alessa up along with a travel bag before heading for the door.

Bruce walked into the lobby area just as the elevator doors opened, revealing the two ladies he was going to spend the day with. The first thing he noticed was how amazing Diana looked. There was an essence of complete control about her, a diaper bag slung over a shoulder with a car seat in one hand, and their baby pressed protectively against her chest with her other arm. It seemed completely obvious that she had a firm handle on being a mother, but she was still as radiant as ever too, even while dressed in a simple shirt and jeans.

He stuck his hand up in a casual waving motion until he grabbed Diana's attention, and he couldn't help but notice her inviting smile as she ever so slightly altered her path to point straight in his direction. It was then that he realized he'd stopped moving and shook himself from where his feet had begun to plant themselves firmly to the ground.

They met in the middle of the lobby, and Alfred's teachings had Bruce instinctually reaching for the car seat to help Diana without even giving thought to his actions. Her smile grew upon realization of his attempt at chivalry. "I'm glad you could make it." She said as he began to lead her out of the apartment building.

"Well, I have to admit, it's kind of difficult to even fathom saying no when our baby girl is involved." Bruce responded as he unlocked and opened the passenger side door before fastening in the car seat for their child.

"I know the feeling." She said as she watched him meticulously securing Alessandra's seat base into his car. "I almost fear that our little Alessa will be the most spoiled girl the world's ever seen. Even my mother dotes over her when she's in the same room."

"Alfred's the same way," Bruce said within a chuckle. "It seems they're both reveling in their roles as the spoiling grandparents. I just hope neither of them decides to pump her full of sugar when she gets a little older. I can't think of anything more frightening than a sugar loaded child with a mixture of our personalities to contend with."

"Hera forbid," Diana replied with a shudder at the thought of such a possibility. "I know mother wasn't much for allowing me sweets as a child, but..."

"That was when she had to deal with the effect herself constantly." Bruce finished for her. "Now she might take advantage of being able to sugar our baby girl up and then just hand her off for you or I to deal with."

They shared a knowing look at the very distinct possibility that they were going to experience such a joy before each of them settling into the front of the vehicle. Bruce waited until everyone was buckled in before he spoke again. "So, since this is your town, I thought it would be best to leave the agenda for today open. Any ideas about where we should go for a baby's first birthday?"

Diana hummed for a moment as she paused to think things over. She'd almost expected Bruce to have a plan of action for the day set up, and was slightly surprised that he was giving her the option to decide. "Well..." She began. "Alessa shouldn't need to be fed again for another couple of hours, and I'd really appreciate the opportunity to have a few photographs taken to capture the memory if you don't mind."

"Certainly," Bruce replied. "We could get her a new outfit too if she happens to have a mishap of some sort before we can get to someone to take the photos."

"So, she doesn't just spit up her food when I have her?" Diana jokingly asked. "Her clothes are always spotless every time I pick her up from the Manor."

"That's Alfred for you." Bruce answered.

"Then I really need to talk to him about laundry detergents at the very least." Diana said, earning a laugh from Bruce as he pulled the car out onto the street. Diana raised an eyebrow in question while Bruce continued to laugh at her.

"Sorry." Bruce eventually said as he composed himself. "The picture of a superhero discussing laundry detergent brands was a funny mental image to think about is all."

Diana briefly glared at him, but it quickly faded into a smile as she too thought of the scenario and envisioned Shayera or even Kal in the same scenario. "I can certainly see how it could be an unexpected topic amongst the populous. Especially so with the media heads." She said.

Silence fell between them as Bruce continued to drive, and in no specific direction. Normally he would've had everything planned out down to the most seemingly insignificant detail, but he found that he actually wanted Alessa's birthday to be special in a more natural way. There'd be plenty of instances as she grew where he could fall back to his excessive planning. He didn't want the day to be about him.

Curiosity started to grab at him when he continued along a random path and Diana remained silent. Eventually, he happened a glance over to his passenger and saw a contemplative look in spite of her staring forward. Her posture was stiff as if she were in an uncomfortable or unwanted position. "Is everything alright, Diana?" He asked.

"Just how can we ensure that Bruce won't bring Hannah along?" Diana asked.

Alfred gave her a look that she didn't like one bit, and he didn't need to speak his thoughts on that matter. It was plainly obvious.

"I don't want to use her like that Alfred." Diana stated firmly. "She's innocent in all of this, and not some bargaining chip."

"Please believe me Miss Diana when I say that if I believed there were any other way to guarantee Master Bruce would isolate himself, I would suggest that method instead." Alfred replied. "It just so happens that the young Miss is closing upon her first birthday and that cherished moment could well be the only opportunity before it's too late."

Diana spun away from the faithful butler and began to pace back and forth. She didn't know what to do or how she could accept using their daughter to get Bruce into a position where they could potentially devastate him. Surely, everyone there in the cave with her knew that even if these feelings Bruce was tricked into believing were manufactured, it would still feel to him like having his heart ripped to shreds. What if he tied those feelings to his daughter simply because they used her for such a purpose?

Surely someone else would side with her on this topic, and she looked to Dick before moving onto Kal. Only what she found in their expressions were doubts around there being any other way. Dick was shaking his head while Kal was avoiding making eye contact and seeing the reactions from them sickened her to her core. "There has to be another way." She argued.

"I'm sorry Di, but I think Alfred may be right." Dick said. "Ever since Hannah's walked into his life, she's almost been attached to his hip."

"I did practically have to block her path to him when you tried talking to Bruce on the balcony during that charity gala." Superman added. "She even tried walking through me at one point, and I was trying my best to keep her engaged about her role in the charity. She wasn't having any of it."

"If you can think of another way Miss Diana, then I assure you, we are all ears." Alfred chimed in.

Diana's eyes widened for a moment as she snapped back from her thoughts. "I'm sorry." She replied, using a tone that sounded more like she hadn't paid attention to what he asked.

"What's wrong?" He asked again.

Diana hesitated for a moment. "Nothing." She eventually answered, and put on a smile that he could easily see never truly reached her eyes. She knew she'd failed to appease him, but made an attempt at simply evading the question. "Where would you like to go first? There's a number of stores not too far away from here that we could go to."

"I'd like to go back to wherever you were just a moment ago." He responded. "What was on your mind?"

Diana stared over to the man driving them down the road. His tone was of absolute concern for her, and it nearly broke her heart. She hadn't wanted to bring up the topic of Hannah while they were spending the day together for their baby girl. She'd never forgive herself if Bruce were to be reminded of such betrayal on the day of his daughter's birth. There was already so much difficulty revolving around their daughter's birthday, and if she could prevent any more, then she was inclined to do so.

"I don't want to focus on anything aside from us celebrating Alessa's birthday, Bruce." Diana finally said as she turned to face him fully.

"Unfortunately, it's a little late for that." Bruce replied, his detective mind starting to kick into overdrive. "It's obvious that whatever you're struggling with has to do with me or our daughter in some way, and that whatever it is, you for some reason don't want me to know about it. Or don't want me to know about it right now. Are you thinking of moving away?"

"What?" Diana asked in instant confusion. "No, I'm not moving away from you. I'd never do such a thing to our daughter, or you for that matter."

"And there's nothing wrong with Alessa, or you?" Bruce continued to ask. "Physically or emotionally?"

"We're both fine Bruce." Diana said, becoming slightly offended by the questions he was presenting. "I'd never hide something like that from you either."

Having realized that he'd started to upset her, Bruce became silent as he continued to drive. He instead kept his questions to himself, deciding to work out all the angles out before he confronted her again, and he was confident that by the time the day was over, he would have his answers.

After a few more minutes, Diana pointed over to a clothing store where she'd picked up some cute outfits before, and Bruce pulled off to park the car. They walked the short distance into the store, baby in between the parents as they made their way to the little girl's section of the store. Diana allowed Bruce to hold onto their daughter while she focused a bit more on the selection of outfits, and after moving around a handful of clothing racks, things seemed to focus back entirely onto their daughter.

Still, though, Diana struggled internally with letting go of her concerns. She knew that she would have to pull Bruce aside and tell him the truth about how he was being deceived sooner than later. Had it been just her and Bruce, she already would've informed him, but things were different between them now and they would forever be different.

If Bruce chose to hate her for stepping in to break his heart in the name of truth, then Diana could handle that. What she could not handle was breaking his heart now and their daughter's over the course of her life along the way. Alessa would surely be an intelligent girl, and she would more than likely be able to pick up on the painful reminders Bruce would have to try hiding from her as she continued to grow up. Aside from the fact that this innocent girl would be the means of pulling Bruce away from whatever influence he was under.

But then again, Bruce was extremely intelligent himself. He'd more often than not do whatever it took to make things right, and he would use whatever means were at his disposal to reach that goal. Perhaps he would see that the only way to get away from Hannah and free him from her hold was by using Alessa as that means. Perhaps he'd only hold it against Diana, and not their little girl. They could still get along when Alessa was concerned, couldn't they?

Diana looked up from another outfit toward their daughter and to Bruce then. She was still conflicted, but that feeling dissipated ever so slightly as she watched Bruce interacting with Alessa. He was sticking his hand into the baby carrier, being ever so gentle with his touch. She could see the unconditional love emanating from him. There was no way he'd hold the truth against their little girl. Of that, she was sure of.

Her uncertainty lied with how he'd react to herself.

Bruce followed Diana throughout the store as she searched for some outfits that he was more than certain Alessa would be adorable in. Sure, he was a biased parent, but there was no doubt in his mind that like her mother, Alessa would be able to look good in anything. And with Diana in mind once again, he briefly glanced up to look into her eyes.

She'd again become somewhat lost in her thoughts, and just like before in the car, it would likely take him gaining her attention to snap her out of it. He was becoming more troubled by the minute because of how Diana seemed to keep spacing out a bit. Normally, she wasn't one to dance around an issue. He remembered her as being more of the type to confront a conflict head-on rather than try to mask and avoid it.

In fact, the only times he could recall her not acting in her normal manner were when her gods decreed it so, and the last time that happened was when they took her away from him...

Bruce startled himself as that thought popped into his mind. He wondered where it had come from, but didn't take more than a moment to shake it from his mind. They were in the store in search of suitable outfits for their little girl, and that was where his thoughts should have been focused on. But thinking of Alessa brought him right back to where he'd just been, with thoughts revolving around Diana and her deities. He couldn't help but to go back to that, as they all had a direct impact to where he and Diana were.

Had her "gods" not forced her into going after a time changing tyrant, she would never have met the other version of him, would never have fallen for that Bruce, and then neither of them would even have gotten to know their little Alessa. In fact, he still wanted to be angry that she allowed herself to make such a choice, but at the same time, he couldn't be angry either.

Bruce loved Alessa with all of his heart, and he couldn't count on himself ever being with Diana in a romantic fashion. They'd never even gone down that path to see what might come of it. He'd never wanted to risk such a thing. Plus, he was happy with Hannah. He was finally allowing himself to heal, and he altered his mission into an expanded role of allowing others to take advantage of his assets. Surely a well run Gotham Police force with the finest equipment and some of the highest compensation in the country would do more than his one-man war on crime ever had. Eventually, even Dick would be able to retire the mantle. He was sure of it.

Besides, he was the father of a beautiful little girl, and she was going to be the most high-profile child he'd ever have to protect. The child of billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and the world-famous Wonder Woman was going to attract more attention than any of his adopted children before, both good and bad. Alessa deserved the most attention from him and continuing on as Batman had the potential of leaving her without a father. Her mother was going to be taking on enough risks as it was.

He'd always been concerned for Diana's well-being in the past, but now he actually had a more justifiable reason. Alessa deserved to have her parents while she grew up, and if Diana was going to continue on with her mission, then he had no choice but to leave the cape behind. He only wished someone would be able to convince Diana that there were other options or choices that wouldn't present such a risk that could so deeply impact what their baby girl might have to deal with as she grew up.

For a moment, Bruce wanted to start up that dialogue, and in fact, even opened his mouth to speak up until he recalled Diana's initial stance once she'd heard from him about his own retirement. He then recalled just how stubborn she could be. There'd be no one who could change her mind once it was made up but her.

Unfortunately for Bruce, Diana happened to glance over to him at the very moment that his mouth was still hanging open. "Cat got your tongue?" She teased.

Knowing he was caught, he had to come up with some sort of answer. The first thought was to try lying, but this was Diana. She'd see through it instantly. She was one of the select few who actually could do that with him. So he knew it was best just to come clean, and he let out a defeated sigh before finally responding. "I was thinking about opening back up the discussion about the more violent and dangerous choices and unnecessary risks that heroes take, but..."

Diana returned an outfit she didn't like as much as she initially thought back onto the clothing rack, and raised an eyebrow up at him. Was he talking about himself, or her? "But?" She repeated.

He hesitated for a moment, internally debating the best approach. "But, I'm sure you've already considered your options."

"I'm certainly not going to stop doing what I do or being who I am, Bruce." Diana said as she turned to give him more of her attention. "That's why I was so surprised by some of your decisions. I never would've thought you'd give up such an integral part of what made you who you are. Or, perhaps were, would be the better word."

"I'm still the same person, Diana." Bruce started to argue before pausing to take a deep breath. "I still play an active role in fighting for justice, but now it's just from a different setting. I still put in the same resources and effort in as I did before, I've just restructured how I go about it compared to before. There's nothing that says you can't re-prioritize certain things in your life when unexpected changes occur, yet still be the same person. For instance, I have a daughter now who needs her parents in her life to think about."

"How is that any different from when you took in Richard, Jason, or Tim?" Diana pointed out. "I've heard you call them your sons on numerous occasions."

Bruce initially gave her no response aside from an opening and clamping closed mouth. She internally marked that as a small point in her favor, but that small victory was short-lived, as then he said something that shocked her right to her very core. "I wasn't happy then."

Diana was beyond shocked. In fact, she wasn't even sure that she actually heard him say what he had. "What?"

"I said I wasn't happy back then, Diana." Bruce repeated for her. "They are my sons, regardless of our current relationship now. In fact, now I can see what it was that I didn't give them, and I'll never be able to forgive myself for doing that to them, even if I didn't know any better at the time."

Now it was Diana who was opening and closing their mouth in silence. She'd never expected Bruce to say something like that. This wasn't supposed to be real. It was supposed to be some elaborate scheme to get Bruce out-of-the-way for a higher purpose. He was the one from the League who was supposed to be able to see through the deceptions, but she could tell from the tone of his voice, that he actually believed what he'd said. He was happy now.

Doubt permeated her, as she took into account Bruce's feelings. Before, she'd been certain that he'd want to know about the ruse. Surely he would want to know the truth of the matter, wouldn't he? Or would any confrontation not only remove the claws that Hannah had sunk into Bruce, but also destroy the man Diana loved as well.

Everything else during the day had been a blur, and Diana wouldn't be able to provide any details about the day without the aid of the evidence to support it. There were bags of clothes and various toys, a picture of Alessa's face covered with icing from an individual birthday cake, and sales receipts. But no true memories of what actually transpired that she could recall on her own.

She zoned out, lost in her own mind as she debated with herself over what to do about Bruce and the situation in front of her. She'd gotten nowhere at all, as logic battled with her heart. She knew that she couldn't let Bruce marry this vindictive and manipulative woman, but there was no part of her heart that wanted to hurt Bruce the way this was going to hurt him.

Any walls he'd previously constructed for the protection of himself before would be nothing more than a stepping stone compared to how he would likely become. She feared that he would completely close himself off from everyone and anyone going forward. She wondered just how much more heartbreak his battered soul could take. He'd already lost so much, and she'd seen firsthand what that had done to him in two separate forms.

Losing his parents as a child had hardened him into becoming the fearful dark vigilante, cold and calculating. But then she'd also seen him having the experience of his parents being taken from him as an adult too, and the depths he'd went to once he discovered a means to bring them back. He'd also become incredibly distant when Jason had been killed by the Joker, and it damaged his heart, even more, when Ra'as brought Jason back from the dead.

It took years and Tim to even bring back some semblance of his former self, but even then he'd never fully opened up. What would the discovery that the woman who'd helped him to find what he believed to be true happiness once again do to him? In truth, she didn't know, and that scared her down to her core.

Before she even knew it, she'd traveled to Wayne Manor, and that structure was the only thing that seemed to bring her back to reality. By the time she'd gotten her bearings, Bruce was already out of his car, and in the process of removing Alessa and her car seat from Diana's. She had to jump into action at that point. If everything had gone according to plan, Kal, Dick, and Alfred would be waiting for Bruce to enter with all the collected evidence to present to him in an intervention of sorts.

Diana either had to be there to stop them, or to be there for Bruce in any capacity he'd be willing to accept. But before she could even speak, the front door to the Manor was opened and out came Alfred along with Clark and Dick. "What are you all doing here?" Bruce asked as soon as he noticed the trio at his front entrance.

"We need to have a word with you Bruce." Clark replied. "But I think it'd be better if we talk about this inside."

"Kal." Diana said quickly. "I'm going to need a word with you first."

End notes: Yes, I'm still alive, just like the story even if it has been an incredibly unacceptable time in between updates. We are so very close to closing the book on this story, so hold on for the fireworks and the resulting fallout.