I'm not happy I wrote a fluff piece either.
Ever Since Jason Died...
"The man I used to know...you're not that man anymore! Now you're just a bully. Always something to prove. Ever since Jason died..."
There were days where Batman cursed his eidetic memory.
The sharp red lights of the airlock, the murmur of debating voices next door, the stale and artificial air of the Watchtower's walls. One room over, his future with the League was being dissected bit by bit like a murder trial, and all he could think to do was to hurl insults at his colleagues, no; friends. Call them fools and naïve, scared little children, children who didn't understand just how scary the world really was.
He knew how the vote would go; knew everyone who would justify his actions or damn him as a monster before they had even returned to the Watchtower. He had started to make his way to the hanger before Superman had even sat down.
But then they appeared in front of him, blocking his path with arms crossed and an inferno behind their eyes. They glared and cursed and condemned, and he did everything except laugh in their faces.
And then she said those four words.
Other words followed, but something inside him refused to work, had instead marched him in a swirl of black towards the nearest exit without so much as a glance back. Her voice echoed with a low ring off the metal walls, but not a single word reached his ears.
Ever since Jason died...
For years, when the anniversary of Jason's death came round, he'd busy himself by sending a record number of street punks and gangsters to hospitals, letting the sting in his knuckles distract him until he'd collapse into a dreamless, void-like sleep. But after she'd said those words, after he stared Diana in the face and saw the kindest and most compassionate woman he had ever met snarl like a rabid wolverine, it became that much harder to drown out the day in the almost serene trance of combat.
That was almost an entire lifetime ago, and yet it haunted him like few other memories.
He shifted in his chair, felt the slight rustle of a restless bat on the back of his neck. His gloved fingers keyed in a command on the batcomputer, opening snapshots of Gotham's most recent serial killer until the screen was filled with names and faces. Names and faces that looked like little more than black smudges, like the residue you might find on your windshield after driving through a puddle. The screen blurred together until his eyes felt like solid marble in his sockets, surrounded by an encroaching wall of pressure from his temples. He tore his eyes from the screen and stared off into the dark, letting his mind wander freely for the first time that night.
In the dark he remembered her carrying his broken body to the operating table, holding him down as Alfred injected every painkiller he had stocked to keep his body from going into shock. He remembered sitting, bandaged and smattered with scars, as she told him, honestly and without hesitation, what she had to do to save him. And he remembered turning her away.
His eyes found the glass case that contained the old Robin costume, and he saw the ghosts of Diana and himself sparing with bamboo poles while Clark stared on. They danced around each others blows with smiles and jests, while his friends congratulated him, told him how happy they were to see him so...so alive. He remembered seeing his reflection in the glass, remembered seeing an honest to god smile underneath his cowl. He was wearing the old blue costume then, the one with small cylinders for compartments on his belt. He looked just as terrifying in the dark, but if he stood next to Diana or Clark, he still resembled something of a hero.
The man I used to know...
He cupped his head in his hands, kneaded his eyes with his palms. His finger found the computers off button without a second guess, and the pale blue light of the monitor disappeared, throwing a blanket over himself and his cave. A small clock nestled into the computers mass of controls read out the time: 11:45 pm.
Clark would be here in 15 minutes to check up on him, as he always did on Jason's anniversary.
Clark was a good friend, he realized. A better one than he deserved.
He stood in darkness and slipped his cowl over his head. He turned towards the batmobile.
Batman needed to be alone right now, in the solitude of Gotham's skyscrapers. Where Clark would know he didn't want to be disturbed.
Besides, being alone was what he was good at...
On some nights, he'd find the crisp breeze to be refreshing. Tonight though, everything felt static. The lights from the moon and the buildings seemed dull, like he was seeing it through a haze, and everything from is car to his grapnel felt sluggish. It didn't surprise him; he never found relief on this date. It was always like he had aged a decade in the span of one night; all his scars and sins finally finding purchase in his soul enough to drag him through the muck of his mind.
He grunted and disengaged his grapnel, gliding down silently onto the roof of building adorned with gargoyles. Normally he'd step out onto it's back, crouch low into a ball of shadows, watch through bone white slits for somewhere to pounce, like a readied predator. Tonight, he just stepped onto the edge of the roof, letting the almost non-existent breeze rustle his cape slightly around his legs. He stared down into the streets, filled mostly with trash and parked cars; looking, but almost staring past everything, into a world where all he could hear was the sound of his thoughts.
Just over a row of yellowing apartments covered in boards, the bell of Gotham Cathedral rang out, sending a flock of birds high into the night sky, signalling the coming of midnight. The chimes mixed with the torrent of thoughts in Batman's mind, each one a confession, each one a curse.
Ever since Jason died...
A new noise; the slight scuff of boots on the roof behind him. He knew who it was almost immediately, and he should have taken to the sky, fleeing from the one who's voice kept echoing in his ears. But his body moved without the consent of his mind, and slowly he turned to face the approaching blue, red and gold costume.
"I was told that I shouldn't bother finding you," Wonder Woman said. "But friends don't let other friends travel alone in times of hardship."
She didn't wait for an answer; likely didn't expect one. She just moved towards the edge, stood next to him, matched his full height with hers, simply stared out into the expanse of Gotham City.
When he spoke, it was almost like a whisper.
"You were right," he said.
She turned to face him. "What do you mean?"
"Ever since Jason died, I've been a bully. You were right."
Her eyes showed a sense of trying to understand, then a flicker of recognition flashed across her face, and she quickly raised a hand to place it on his shoulder. "Bruce..."
"I poisoned my teammates, my friends, all because I thought I couldn't trust them."
"Bruce," she said, more forcefully this time. "We've all moved past that. It was a mistake, yes, but..."
"I hired Tim's girlfriend, just so that I could make him want to put the mask back on and be Robin. I put a young girl's life at risk for a petty grudge." Wonder Woman fell silent, though her hand was still on his shoulder. He continued, his voice growing louder the longer he listed his sins. "I brutalize and scare thugs even though I know the only kinds of people that works on are the ones too helpless to know better. I try to take command of every situation I'm in even though I know I'm not the only tactician the League has." He turned to Wonder Woman, stared her straight in the eyes. "And after someone risks their life for me, I kick them out of my cave."
To his surprise, she chuckled. "And yet you were the only one who tried to give me a good fight when I went blind."
"You shouldn't have even needed that test."
Again, a small laugh. "I'm almost certain that was for everyone else's benefit. You were convinced."
"I was convinced you needed to be tested. I shouldn't have thought that."
He shrugged off her hand and moved closer to the gargoyle. He could still feel her presence behind him, as unyielding as ever. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see her crossing her arms.
"You trusted me enough to handle Clayface alone and in your city. You never once belittled me when I was bound to protect Danielle; instead you stood your ground and treated me as an equal, even if we were opposed to one another." She was right next to him again, her hand again rested on his shoulder. "You told me you didn't need faith if you had me. You've demonstrated your trust for me many times over, Bruce. And then some."
Slowly, he turned his head, and he felt his emotionless mask peel away, revealing the angry and frightened man he so desperately tried to keep hidden away. "And then I went and created Brother Eye! I almost wiped out your entire people without even thinking twice!" He was snarling now, just like she had been all those years ago. "I've almost killed you and every other person unfortunate enough to know me, all because I'm not even human anymore! All those years of forcing away the pain and I finally managed to destroy whatever remained of Bruce Wayne the night my parents died. The only thing that's left is a control freak, a bully." His voiced dropped, and beneath his mask, so did his eyes, feeling heavy from fatigue and emotion.
"Before Jason died, all I could ever hope for was a world where someone like me was obsolete, an invention of a dark past. And I knew that if anyone could do that, it would be you. But now..." He trailed off, his voice mixing with what remained of the wind. "When you went into that machine on the Watchtower, I know exactly what kind of future you saw with me, because it's the only future I have. Loneliness, darkness, nothing but pain and misery. I'm just starting to realize how truly empty I am inside, and it's not fair to drag anyone else down with me. Not Dick or Jason or Tim, not Alfred or Clark...and especially not you."
Wonder Woman remained silent, her eyes slowly drifting down towards the ground. Batman eyed her hand; still on his shoulder, then looked back out towards the lights of downtown, feeling his fists clench as a wave of self-hatred flooded his mind, body and spirit. His hands found his grapnel, and he prepared to fire it away into the spires of downtown, to flee from yet another sin to remember.
The hand on his shoulder squeezed. Hard, yanking his arm away from his utility belt. He forced himself not to look back at her.
"Bruce," she said. He did nothing. The force of her grip increased, and she gave his shoulder a tug, forcing him to spin as she said, "look at me, please."
He did, and saw that her face was a mask of pure determination.
"You are the most single-minded and frustrating man I've ever met, and even though it came from an outburst of emotion, what I said about you all those years ago was the truth. You have become a bully. But the reason I'm mad now has nothing to do with any of that; it does have everything to do with the fact that even after everything we've been through, you still think I can't love you despite your faults. I'm a far better person than that."
All he could do was stare.
"What I saw in that machine," she said, "was a life of potential happiness that stemmed from a very deep bond you and I share, one I didn't want to risk because neither of us have any desire to live normal lives. But not once have I ever stopped believing that the hero I met was still alive inside you. I know because I still see it, even if you don't. And I'd never presume to force you to change, because I love you no matter what. Neither of us are perfect"... beneath the seriousness of her face, a smile began to grow, as bright as a harvest moon. "But that's what makes us human, Bruce."
He felt her hand leave his arm, felt the wind pick up in gusts as his cape coiled around him. They stared at one another; for how long Bruce didn't know. He was in a state of bewilderment, feeling as though he had prepared himself to offer his soul to the Devil, only to have an Angel step in front of him, place a light in the cold dark heart he had become painfully aware of.
The church bells rang again; half past the hour. Both heroes turned their heads to look. As they did, Bruce broke the silence between them. "There's a lot of things that need to be said. Apologies. Reparations."
"No," Diana said, "there doesn't. Not tonight. Tonight you have a son to mourn. Tomorrow, your path is whatever you wish." She leaned in closer to him, and briefly, he felt her lips press against his cheek. "No matter what, we're with you. I'm with you."
He was still silent, still staring at the church, still unable process his next action, his next choice of words. And yet despite what he expected, he wasn't afraid of that. Not any more.
He saw her move towards the edge of the roof, only to turn back and give him a smile. "You know what I noticed, when I was in that machine?"
His eyes met hers.
"It's the same thing I saw when my gods held your city hostage," she said. "And it's the same all your allies see in you as well, Jason included. Hope. You give us hope, even if you don't believe it yourself." Her smile grew. "Because what's more hopeful than seeing someone who still wants to do good, despite all the evil that's been thrown at him?"
She turned to fly away into the night, when his voice called out to her; laced far less with anger or sadness or fear. "If you're free," he said. "I would appreciate company. Jason too, I think."
There was only the slightest hint of a smile under his mask, but it was a smile non-the-less; something he hadn't had for far longer than he could remember. He held out his hand and felt Diana slip hers in between the fabric of his gloves. They squeezed their interlocked fingers as they lifted into the air. To Bruce, the lights of the city seemed all that much brighter.
"Thank you, Diana," he said. "Thank you. For everything."
So here's how I kinda view the relationship, personally:
Both of these characters are very nuanced (when written well), and both of these characters have similarities (that have differences) and differences (that have similarities), stretching beyond "they both punch people, and one guys dark and broody, the other is light and cheery". Beyond really getting into their psychology, where I think many of the similarities are (ex: who's more stubborn-Wonder Woman, or Batman? Tough answer really), one thing I like about them is the potential character development...and how character development might not be a good thing. Not just for publications sake, but in-universe too.
Wonder Woman is going to bring out Bruce's happier, lighter, more optimistic side, while Batman is going to bring out Diana's more rational, cautious, and skeptical side. Both of them have these sides, both of them tend to repress the other because of what they view their mission to be (ie be a Champion of Peace and a Bullet-sponge). I truly think that Diana is the least judgemental character in the DCU, and that Bruce really really looks up to Diana and what she's able to do, so I don't think either of them want the other to change. Diana understands how hard and painful it is for Bruce to move past his parents deaths, and how this tragedy drives him to do good in the world and give his life some meaning (existentialism mother fuckers). Bruce meanwhile holds Diana up as a paradigm of all the potential good the world could be, and doesn't want her to lose enthusiasm for her mission and all the good that she does. So there's this conflict where they love each other but don't want to risk changing the other person, even by accident.
I think that's pretty cool. Name one other ship that does that? (Honestly, supebat-that's the only other one I can think of).
I also like how both Diana and Bruce treat Batman and Wonder Woman. Diana knows very much who she is, flaws and all, and works to eliminate them, address them, and improve. But the public at large views Wonder Woman as this perfect Goddess (which in fairness, she was a goddess). Batman is kind of similar-Bruce spends most of his time trying to surpass his limits and become as perfect of a human specimen as he possibly can, while the public thinks he's this supernatural entity that preys on the evil etc etc. The big difference being that Bruce likes this myth about him since it helps him in his job, where as I get the feeling Wonder Woman wishes people thought of her as just "one of them", even though they can't. One of those "similar but different" things, where they also end up kinda complimenting each other. If tha t makes sense... It's early in the morning, and I just shot out 3500 words in about 2.5 hours, so...
Anyways, this story was about all those years where Batman was a massive douche-bag, and what that would mean for interpersonal relationships. So, I hope you enjoyed the read, and if it makes little sense...it's because of that whole "writing by the seat of my pants with no edits" thing...
Oh and the quote is from JLA #0 by Brad Meltzer. Yeah, the guy that decided to add rape to the JLA backstory.
Well a stopped clock is right twice a day right?