The lights were low in the central control room of the Watchtower and when the doors slid shut behind Wonder Woman she did not stray more than a step or two from them as her eyes found that one lonely figure sitting at the main console. A familiar creeping began in her stomach and she drew a calming breath. She feared almost nothing, but this was a conversation she had hidden from for almost two decades. Finally striding forward, her steps were as confident as she could manage and she was able to control the shaking of her knees very well. It was not a long walk, but it sure seemed to take forever.
Finally reaching the occupied chair, she grasped it with one hand, the console with the other as she looked to the large view screen that was right in front of the man who worked the controls. Silence thickened the air around them and the tension mounted.
"Quiet night?" she finally forced herself to ask.
Batman's eyes did not stray from the monitor as he simply replied, "M-hmm."
She nodded. "We could use one once in a while."
Diana still would not look at him, but she smiled ever so slightly. "Remember that quiet night we had in here some time ago?"
"I remember," he answered dryly.
Loosing a hard breath, she finally took the chair beside his, finally looked to him. "Bruce, we should talk."
He entered coordinates to scan a different location, changing what came up on the monitor.
Frustration began to boil up in her and she suppressed it as best she could, venting yet another hard breath. "Would you at least look at me? Bruce!"
Batman turned his eyes down to the keyboard as he entered new coordinates. "This talk you want to have should have taken place seventeen years ago."
Turning her eyes down, she softly admitted, "I know. I was afraid. I
I thought it would
"Change things?" he finished for her. Anger was seeping into his voice and he continued, "You disappeared for more than a year without even a word. When you came back and you were so distant from me it was like you had never returned at all, you introduce me to my sixteen year old daughter for the first time and now you want to talk."
"I did what had to be done at the time," she informed. "Only a few people knew about her."
His eyes finally slid to her. "And one of those few couldn't have been her own father?"
Diana closed her eyes. "I wanted to tell you hundreds of times."
"But you didn't," he countered.
"If you didn't know," she pointed out, "then your enemies wouldn't, either."
"And one of your enemies nearly killed her," he pointed out with cold words.
Pivoting her chair away from him, she folded her arms and hissed, "That isn't fair."
Looking back to the monitor, Batman studied what was there for long seconds before replying, "I suppose that's not fair. But then, keeping my daughter a secret from me for that long"
"Bruce!" she shouted. Heaving another deep breath, she shook her head and grumbled, "I'd hoped you would understand. I never wanted her to come here and take up crime fighting."
"And yet here she is," he pointed out. "She even has her own identity as a crime fighter now. How long were you going to keep her isolated on that island, anyway?"
Springing to her feet, she stormed away, only to stop and yell, "I don't know! I didn't expect any of this to happen!" Spinning around, she shook her head when her eyes found him. "Bruce, I was afraid. I didn't know what to do. Do you want me to apologize? Is that it? Do I owe you an apology for trying to protect my
Slowly, he turned his head to look at her.
Her eyes darted away and tight lipped, she finished in a whisper, "Our daughter."
He stared at her for a moment, then looked back to the monitor. "You wanted to protect her. To that end, you did not want her to know about me or me about her."
Crossing her arms over her belly, Diana softly admitted, "No, I didn't."
Batman nodded. "And you really thought that it would be better that way. Run home, have our daughter, and then come back here and continue like nothing ever happened. Oh, except the part where we don't see each other anymore." He glanced at her. "We'll just go our separate ways as if those three years between us never happened."
A snarl took her lip and she hissed, "You clearly don't understand. Do you know what your enemies would do to her if they got her?"
"I know what Red Panzer did to her when he got her," Batman countered.
That stung and Diana ground her teeth and turned her eyes away from him.
"I missed sixteen years of her life," he informed coldly. "You wanted to protect her from all of the evils of the world, but I don't think it was for her benefit as much as it was for yours."
Spinning around, Diana stormed toward the door, her hands clenched into tight fists at her sides as she shouted, "You just let yourself think that. Raising her alone was not all of the fun and games you seem to want to think it was!"
"She came to the mansion today," he said right before she reached the door.
Diana froze where she was, her wide eyes locked on the door before her.
Punching in a few new numbers as she watched the monitor, Batman went on, "She didn't quite make it with the Titans after all. Too many personality conflicts. She came and asked to work with me for a while. We had lunch, did some training
" He raised his chin. "There seems to be quite a bit about combat and hand to hand training that you didn't think to teach her. She learned quite a lot from me and we rather enjoyed the day."
Diana turned her eyes down, her fists clenching tighter. "You weren't seen with her, were you?"
"Probably not," he sighed.
Spinning around, Wonder Woman stormed back to him, barking, "Who did she spend that time with, Bruce Wayne or Batman?"
"She spent time with her father," he answered.
Reaching past him, Diana turned the monitor off and glared down at him.
His eyes slowly, calmly turned up to meet hers. "She asked me if she could stay with me for a while so that we could get acquainted. She also asked me to invite you to the mansion. It turns out that she likes the idea of having a whole family all together."
Pushing away from the console, he stood and faced her. "Elissa, her mother and her father." He turned and strode toward the door, calling back, "So you're invited. Dinner's at seven if you care to actually show up this time."
She watched him leave and watched the door for a moment after it closed behind him. She had dreaded this talk, knowing how badly it could go. If only she knew that it could have gone this badly.
Bruce did not watch the old clock as it rotated back into its place to conceal the entrance to the Bat Cave. He really did not have to. Back in his charcoal gray business suit, he was simply a wealthy tycoon again, one who had the burden of a world defender behind his eyes. Lost in his thoughts, he strode directly to his study, to his huge desk, and sat down. Wayne Enterprises always generated a lot of work for him to get himself lost in for a few hours, but even this could not distract him. He felt hurt and betrayed and this was evident on his face as he stared down at folders and charts left on his desk the night before. One thing was certain: He could never allow his daughter to know about this, even though she was a very perceptive girl and was likely to figure it all out on her own.
Evening had set in and the sun was down. Somewhere outside, beyond the high windows of very old glass was the crashing of the surf at the bottom of the cliff below the mansion. One window was partially open to allow the evening air and the sound of the ocean to drift in.
For some time he just sat in his chair and stared down at the unfinished work before him. There was nothing urgent awaiting him on the desk and nothing that would draw his mind away from the new turmoil within him. He needed distraction, but this simply was not doing it. What finally did was an aging butler who peered into the study.
His eyes shifting that way, Bruce greeted, "Good evening, Alfred."
The old butler finally entered carrying a tray with a teapot, a cup and a newspaper. Setting it down on one of the few clear spots on the desk, he picked up the teapot and poured the cup full, his eyes intent on what he was doing.
As Alfred handed him the cup, Bruce leaned over the desk to take it with one hand, then he leaned back and stared into it for a while.
"You seem preoccupied," Alfred observed.
Vending a hard breath through his nose, Bruce simply nodded.
"Should I leave you with your thoughts, Sir?" the butler asked.
"It won't matter," Bruce finally replied. "There will be one more for dinner, by the way."
"Anyone I might know?"
Raising his brow, Alfred observed, "Hence you are preoccupied. Dinner will be a little late tonight. I'll prepare something to tide everyone over until it is ready."
Bruce's eyes shifted to his butler. "A little late?"
Alfred turned toward the door with the tray and teapot and replied, "Miss Elissa was helping."
Rubbing his eyes, Bruce mumbled, "Oh, God."
Moments later he rose from his desk and strode out of the study himself. Heading to his private sitting room, he found his head throbbing at the prospect of the impending visit as well as what awaited him in his own home.
He paused in the doorway and folded his arms. This was a comfortable and well furnished room with four high backed chairs covered in leather, a love seat of the same leather and a long sofa along the far wall. All of the sitting faced the same spot in the center of the room and it was clearly meant to entertain small parties and the chairs and love seat were spaced far enough apart to allow guests to be served cocktails or whatever the occasion called for. Expensive paintings hung on the walls, very high windows were along one side, a door out on the far end, a fireplace on the other end and a huge rug covered the floor beneath the sitting area.
There, lying belly down on the couch, was what he sought.
Elissa did not notice him standing there and was reading some magazine, which had her full attention. Her long black hair in a pony tail that rested on her back, she was dressed in short red running shorts and a white tee shirt. She was barefoot and her muscular legs were bent at the knees and crossed at the ankles, slowly kicking back and forth as she read and her eyes panned back and forth on the pages. Wires coming out of her ears led to a tiny, flat box that lay on the arm of the couch and her head slowly bobbed from side to side to some unheard music.
Bruce leaned on the door jamb and folded his arms, and a little smile found his lips. But for the gold colored gauntlets that were snugly around each of her forearms, one would never guess that she had been raised on the island of the Amazons, that she was a warrior trained, immortal fighter and a miniature version of the Princess of the Amazons herself. No, this was a vision of a quintessential teenager, a lovely young lady who lingered somewhere between girlhood and womanhood and did not seem to realize the destiny ahead of her. Listening to her music with her eyes sweeping along the pages of the magazine she studied, she looked like any other girl, but this one had a connection to him that he could no longer deny.
A moment later Elissa's big blue eyes slid toward him, then she quickly raised her head and looked fully to him, and a big smile overpowered her lips. Pulling the wires from her ears, she sprang from the couch and darted to him, squealing "Daddy!"
He stood from the doorway and only took a single step toward her before she reached him.
Elissa wrapped her arms around his chest and hugged him as tightly as she dared, burying her face in his neck as she did so.
His arms slowly wrapped around her back and that rare smile he wore broadened. He was unaccustomed to being greeted in his home with such enthusiasm but he was sure that he could easily get used to it.
Pulling away from him, Elissa took his hands and backed toward the sitting area, her eyes locked on his as she asked with a girlish eagerness, "So how was your day? Kick the crap out of any bad guys today?"
He followed her easily and shook her head. "No, Angel, it was a quiet day."
"What about tonight?" she pressed as they reached two of the chairs. "We're still going out tonight, aren't we? Oh! And is Mom coming? You said you'd ask her."
He sat down in one of the high backed chairs and nodded as he watched her sit cross legged on the couch across from him. "I asked her," he replied, "but I don't know if she'll be able to get away tonight."
Elissa's mouth tightened and she nodded. She was trying to hide her disappointment but was unable to keep it completely at bay.
"I'm sure she'll make it if she can," he added quickly, "but this is an unpredictable business we're in."
"Yeah," she said, nodding again. "The bad guys can be really inconsiderate, can't they?"
"So what happened with dinner?" he asked suddenly.
Her eyes shifted away and she informed, "Well, I tried to help." Looking back to him, she smiled again and went on, "Alfred was making something wonderful with duck and
" She shrugged. "Who knew brandy was that flammable?"
Bruce smiled again. "I can see where a little detail like that would take you off guard."
"It sure did," she mumbled. "Anyway, we ordered pizza after that and I helped clean up the kitchen
Your fire extinguisher makes an awful mess, by the way!"
Listening to her with all his attention, Bruce found himself consumed by the ramblings of this girl who talked to him about her day, what she had seen and done and how much she was enjoying her time at the mansion. Everything else seemed to just melt away. There was no Wayne Enterprises, no Justice League, no Batman or Wonder Woman
There was only Elissa, his daughter, the sweet, bubbly teenage girl who wanted nothing more in this moment than his attention. Many people clamored for his attention every day, but always because of who he was. In this most precious moment he was not Bruce Wayne, not Batman. He was Daddy.
Elissa raised her brow and lowered her feet to the floor as she sat on the edge of her couch, holding her palms toward him as she warned, "Now don't be mad, but I found your garage and your motorcycle collection
" She trailed off as his brow tensed. "I didn't take anything off of the property!" she assured, "but I might have ridden one or two around the estate." She clenched her teeth and stared back at him for long, horrifying seconds.
"Which ones did you take out?" he asked in a calm voice.
She swallowed hard and looked away from him. "Well, there was the blue one, um, the red touring, the, uh
"The Harley?" he prodded.
Her gaze returned to him and she declared, "Daddy, I had to!"
Unexpectedly, he smiled. "What did you think?"
She was long seconds in answering, but finally she smiled and cried, "It was so awesome! My bike at home isn't anything close to that thing!"
"Yeah, when they thought I was Wonder Woman the police chief at the time and a few other people had a special bike made for me that I could use or patrols and to respond to calls and stuff. Wait, you know all of that. Anyway, it's supercharged and has everything, but that Harley! Dad!"
"Biggest engine they make," he informed. "I should also point out that it's Tim's."
She grimaced. "Oh. You don't think he'll mind, do you?"
Bruce assured, "I don't think he'll mind."
"I would so love to take it out on the highway or something!"
With a little smile, he assured, "I think we can see to it."
She responded with a tight lipped smile of her own as she declared, "Best Dad ever!"
Alfred strode in and announced, "Miss Diana has arrived, Master Bruce."
He looked over his shoulder and offered, "Thank you, Alfred. Please, show her in."
Elissa saw right away that his body language changed, that there was a shift in his whole demeanor. Strain came across his features as if he had been kicked in the gut, but he maintained his bearing as he had hundreds of times and drew a deep breath. Her perceptions saw through it, though, and she felt a nervous crawl in the pit of her stomach.
Still, it was not the time for a lot of tension and she intended to do whatever it took to alleviate it, and that meant calling upon the little girl in her to defuse anything that might arise. She beamed a big smile at the tall woman who strode into the room and stopped there.
Diana was not dressed as Wonder Woman. Instead, she entered wearing a knee length light blue skirt and a white button-up blouse with full sleeves. She wore her hair up in a bun with long locks that dangled from her temples. With long earrings dangling from her ears and a gold and diamond necklace was around her neck. She was an image of stunning beauty, and yet there was strain behind her eyes. Elissa got but a glance before Diana's gaze shifted to Bruce and remained there.
He was not looking back at her, but he did greet, "Good evening, Princess."
"Thank you for inviting me," she offered softly.
Bruce just nodded, then stood and turned toward the door. "Dinner should be ready shortly."
Alfred met him at the door and reported, "Master Bruce, the signal is up."
"Sweet!" Elissa declared as she sprang to her feet. "Let's go kick some bad guy butt!"
Half turning his head, Bruce corrected in the voice of Batman, "No, Angel. You and your mother stay here and enjoy dinner. I'll be back as soon as I can."
Disappointment dominated Elissa's features as she watched him leave. "Aw, come on, Daddy!"
"Let it go, Little One," Diana ordered softly, her eyes turning to the floor.
"But Mom! That's totally not fair! We're supposed to go out tonight anyway! Why can't we just
" She trailed off as her mother raised her hand to her. Still, she looked away and tightly folded her arms, grumbling, "It isn't fair. Why can't we go, too?"
Diana's eyes slid to her daughter and a slight smile curled one side of her mouth. "I didn't say we aren't going, Junior." She finished with a wink.
Elissa's eyebrows shot up, and when her mother raised a finger to her mouth, she smiled and did the same.
Reaching to a concealed pocket in her skirt, Diana removed her Justice League communicator and ordered, "Get changed. We'll just meet him there." Raising the communicator to her mouth, she called, "Wonder Woman to Watchtower."