Title: Tasting Flight
Disclaimer: None of the Justice League characters belong to me and are simply borrowed to quiet a nasty little plot bunny that has been romping in my brain for a little under two years.
Summary: Justice League Cartoon, Season 1. Takes place after "Secret Origins", but before "The Brave and the Bold." A short vignette delving a little into the beginning of Batman & Wonder Woman's friendship, with a hint of maybe something more.
Author's Note: It always bothered me that, for someone so unfamiliar with Man's World, Wonder Woman was often tapped to pilot the Javelin in the series. And more importantly, in "The Brave and the Bold" (season 1, ep. 13 & 14), we see - for the first time - Batman's impenetrable stoicism crumble only when Diana is buried under the missile she was trying to stop. Up until that point, there is little hint that they had gotten close enough for her potential death to affect him so. I always wanted to explain how they had gotten closer in my head canon, and to me, this is where it started…
Special thanks to Shawn30, who has never given up on poking, prodding, and otherwise demanding that I continue to write.
"Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."
~ Leonardo da Vinci
As he silently shifted his position under the console to ensure a better vantage point, he knew even the least astute observer would have seen through his feigned interest in the tangled mess of circuitry above him. But with no one else in the room, he stared brazenly at the subject of his investigation. She stood motionless, the breathtaking image of an ancient Greek goddess once carved of marble and now brought to life before his eyes. Her dark eyes reflected in the glass, sparkling with the first light of day as the sun slowly began to rise above the distant curve of the Earth below. She was utterly mesmerized by the scene, her tiny gasp of wonder betraying his absolute certainty that this was exactly the twenty-first time she had viewed the sunrise from the Watchtower.
She was an enigma, and despite his surreptitious observations in the three weeks since the Imperium had been driven off Earth, he was still infuriatingly confounded. Having never faced a puzzle he had been unable to solve, her very presence on the Watchtower set his nerves on fire. She acted as a child would to the world, eagerly delighted by the smallest things - chocolate or mechanical pencils, for instance - yet, when gathered together with the other members of the League, she offered shockingly deep insight, lending brilliant tactical stratagems and diplomatically critical advice borne only of decades of wisdom and experience. She was an absolute conundrum, one that he was driven ever more to decipher as each day passed.
He had visited the Watchtower nearly a dozen times since that desperate worldwide battle, and each time, he had pointedly ignored her, outwardly busying himself with some upgrade or install. The Martian, the only other long-term resident of the Watchtower, had long-since ceased questioning his recurrent arrivals and unannounced departures. While he had spent years training his mind to avoid intrusion, he suspected J'onn knew more than he was letting on about the caped crusader's true intentions for these frequent trips into space.
For the most part, the members of this new "League" were effortlessly transparent, easily investigated and catalogued in his mind. Superman outwardly seemed the boyish American hero, but was unable to hide the way he imperceptibly analyzed each situation with journalistic insight. Green Lantern was a perfect second, able to fearlessly face down enemies three times his size, but with the creativity and improvisational skills to construct not only limitless weapons, but their own team foundations. The Flash was often exasperating, constantly chafing his nerves with his clowning frivolity, but it didn't take much effort to recognize the genius forensic mind he kept so carefully hidden away below. Even their two alien members - the Martian Manhunter and Hawkgirl - were both similar and yet opposites. The former stood stoically alone, the last of his kind, while the latter kept apart by her overt aggression; yet both were formidable members of the team.
But Diana - the Wonder Woman, as she was now called - was something different. Or, more precisely, she was eerily alike them all. She possessed the tactical mind of the Green Lantern, the outward innocence of Superman, the charm of the Flash, the insight of the Martian, and the intensity of the Hawkgirl. And if he were truly honest with himself, perhaps even some measure of his own intelligence, from what the reports showed of her detailed network searches throughout the day.
And that was to say nothing of her own shockingly powerful metahuman powers. Powers, he feared, that rivaled Superman himself.
He knew that trusting others had never come easily, but this impossible woman boasted to be of a long-dead civilization, had utterly devastating powers, and no obvious weakness. There was no equivalent kryptonite or yellow hued light that he had yet found to control her. As his eyes narrowed in thought, his fingers moved of their own volition, the console above him flickering to life. None of these metahumans had his full measure of trust, although Superman likely came closest. Frankly, he wasn't even sure he could truly trust Dick, despite being his adopted son. The boy was too impulsive sometimes, too ready to - His body instinctively went on alert, imperceptibly tensing only a split second before a quiet voice interrupted his thoughts.
"May I assist you?"
He had barely heard her approach - yet another troubling feature of this Amazon in their midst - yet there she was, crouching only a foot or two beside him. She smiled slightly, and he couldn't be sure it wasn't because she had sensed his reaction. Damned perceptive, that woman.
Everything about her set his instincts firing into overdrive.
"I'm done," he responded gruffly, sliding out from beneath the console and standing. This trip had been yet another failed mission. While he had brought another system online, he had learned nothing new of the maddeningly cryptic woman.
He began striding towards the closest lift, purposefully steeling himself against reacting to the quiet tapping of heels behind him. She was following him. Was she aware of the true intent of his frequent visits? How astute had she become?
He grunted loudly in acknowledgement, but refused to slow.
There was a long pause before what seemed to be carefully measured words. "Could you spare a few moments… please?" He could sense how difficult that last word was for her, as if she was wholly unfamiliar with the concept of asking for anything.
Now that intrigued him - enough to stop his tireless stride across the walkway. What could he offer this woman, or what did she think he could offer her? He turned to face her without a word, waiting with infinite patience for her to make the first move.
For the slightest moment, it appeared they were at an impasse, but she squared her shoulders, let out a long breath, and graced him with an endearing, nervous smile. "I have spent some time learning about Man's World -" she paused, then corrected herself carefully, "this world outside my home using the access you provided to your computer system. However, I would like to learn more. And I feel that this would be best served by walking amongst your people." She had clearly rehearsed this speech, presenting her argument carefully and respectfully. She paused, awaiting his reaction.
He merely blinked, unmoving.
Undaunted by his lack of response, she drew a breath and continued. "Do you feel that would be appropriate?"
He shrugged and turned to walk away. "Do what you want, princess," he muttered disinterestedly, but frankly, he was fascinated. Why did she feel she needed his permi-
In the blink of an eye, she was blocking his path, the toes of her red boots hovering just millimeters above the steel floor. Her raven hair floated down about her shoulders, and for just a moment, a lesser man would have been thunderstruck by the unearthly beauty of the scene. A lesser man who had not already shrugged off seduction by some of the most intriguing beauties in Gotham, of course.
"I - I can't." The pain in her voice at having to admit her own weakness to him - a man - was palpable. While he greedily catalogued this new information and all that it entailed, he was stunned that she did nothing to hide her vulnerability from him; she simply seemed embarrassed.
When he failed to react, she sighed in exasperation. "The Lantern, he simply creates a bubble of air and temperature around him. The Martian… well, I'm not certain what he does. And Superman appears to be invulnerable to the dangers outside this Tower. But I am not. I need your… your assistance." The word seemed distasteful to her, and he wasn't fully certain it was because he was male or because of her royal upbringing.
He raised an eyebrow carefully. "I am not a shuttle service."
She smiled widely, genuinely amused. "Actually, I was asking if you would teach me to fly the Javelin."
He blinked again, the only indication of his surprise.
He studied her furrowed brow, her look of utter concentration as she slowly took the controls, gently easing the Javelin forward through the emptiness space. He trusted his instinct for danger to warn him long before they began seriously veering off course, so focused entire attention on the woman beside him.
He couldn't exactly pinpoint when he had agreed to even enter the Javelin, let alone transition control into the Amazon's powerful hands a mere half hour later, but he had learned she was far more skilled a negotiator than he had anticipated. He was certain she had not used any sort of mind control - J'onn had privately insisted she had no such abilities. But here he was, watching as she methodically followed the exact safety checklist he had shown her just a few minutes earlier.
She was doing everything right, and still, his instincts screamed at him that something about her was simply wrong.
All the research and connections he had utilized had only returned legends and further mysteries. He now had no doubt that the island of Themyscira existed somewhere; he had living proof in front of him. But her true motivations? Her character? The newly designated leader of the League, the Man of Steel had spent time getting to know their new "teammates"; ever the naive farmboy, had related only praises of her over the past few weeks. She had even been perfectly willing to begin undergoing "tests" to measure the limits of her powers - limits he had not yet been able to determine - and still, she remained a mystery.
He watched her lips quirk upwards triumphantly as she turned the Javelin almost gracefully into a gentle but steep arc. Grateful as always for the masking cowl upon his face, she couldn't see the way his eyebrows rose in surprise at her natural talent and understanding of the controls. He had seen her pay careful attention to his words and actions as he guided the Javelin out of the hangar, but the way she took to the controls was preternaturally fast. "Easy there, princess," he growled. "Or should I explain how to bank a turn?"
To his surprise, she returned his raised eyebrow, as if able to see through both the cowl and his facade. "I have been flying since before I could walk. On this, I need no instruction." And with a grin he could only classify as impish, she suddenly pressed the controls, speeding dramatically and taking the Javelin into a series of complicated yet elegant twists through the open vastness of space.
He refused to grip the armrests, unwilling to reveal how startled he truly was. Everything about her was simply contrary. She had been perfectly willing to endure Lantern's jibes about her inexperience during the invasion, but clearly had significant wisdom and skill. There was no hesitation when she flew into that battle, or any of the small encounters he had tested her with afterwards, but she had seemed almost shy when she had followed him into the Javelin, suddenly his student. As she instinctively maneuvered the jet into a perfectly aligned orbit, she was laughing, her dark eyes glowing with an ethereal happiness. The unadulterated delight emanating from her radiated throughout the cabin, and despite himself, the corner of his lips quirked upwards in response.
And it was then that he realized what about her had been so unsettling.
His very existence, the design of the Batman itself, was carefully crafted and controlled to create a reputation that would strike fear in Gotham's criminals. He embraced darkness, turned it to his will, and thrust it against his enemies, bringing them to their knees. Every action he took, every reaction, every word, every sound - all were measured and considered to maximize the response he sought, even in allies. It mattered not if he was Batman or Bruce Wayne - they were both simply personas used to further his own goals.
But Diana was... pure.
Every action, every emotion, simply everything about her was utterly guileless.
And it had only taken a few minutes with her for that infectious brilliance to worm its way past a lifetime of darkness.
She was still laughing, thanking him for the most fun she had experienced since arriving in what she called Man's World, but he barely heard her.
This woman was going to be trouble.