Pairing: WonderBat (Wonder Woman x Batman)
Rating: T / 14A
Universe: N/A – Reader’s Choice
Previous Chapter: <- Chapter 14
This chapter is a little late because I am trying to figure out what direction to take this all in. Originally, I planned for a serious thriller of a story, but it doesn’t seem like that appeals to many readers. I worry that if I don’t have obvious WonderBat moments in most chapters, most WonderBat fans aren’t interested in the build-up of this plot. If I could get some feedback on this chapter/story, that’d be great. If people don’t like it, I can just abandon it, but I want to know what the consensus is. Thanks!
There was an itch at the back of her neck that she couldn’t seem to scratch. Diana had simmered in her fury since the night before and it made her feel like as though a rash was running over her body. Her so-called allies had spent the morning arguing with her about what they were supposed to do with Arthur’s trident, and how they should go about solving the mystery of it appearing suddenly in the back of Falcone’s shipping truck. The team she had collected to help Bruce suddenly turned against her when she arose that morning, with Dick’s words still ringing in her ears.
“You’re here because you’re worried about Bruce, right? Let us worry about Aquaman.”
Couldn’t she be worried about more than one of her friends at the same time!?
As devastating as the sludge monster infestation had been, the situation had simmered down considerably after Bruce stopped fulfilling his role as Batman. However, once she had decided to move into Gotham and participate in a solution, more and more concerns kept popping up every day. She had confessed to Jason how overwhelming everything had become, but that didn’t mean she wanted to be excluded from anything. Perhaps finding Arthur and Barry would lead to helping Bruce, which was definitely an area of interest for her.
“Ah, I was just about to go looking for you,” said none other than the billionaire she’d been thinking of, surprising her as he stood in the open doors of the elevator at Wayne Tower. Diana hadn’t realized that she’d been so deep in thought, she’d nearly missed her chance to exit the car. As startled as she was to see him, Bruce looked undeniably smug to catch her off guard for a moment. “I almost thought you’d called in sick or something.”
“No,” she promised a little too quickly. Diana fixed her rose-colored dress despite its loose fit while Bruce joined her in the elevator. He pressed the button marked forty-two and watched the doors shut at a rather sluggish pace. It was when she tried to peek over at him did she recall the pair of glasses she’d brought with her. Staring down at her clutch as she held it tightly under her arm, she knew she’d want to bring them out as soon as they sat down in his office.
“Did you manage to get any sleep last night?” Bruce inquired, breaking the silence.
Looking over at him with a pleasant smile, Diana answered him honestly. “Actually, I did. Only a few hours, though.”
He released a hefty breath, looking much more flummoxed than he had yesterday when she’d returned from the hospital. “That’s more than I expected. I can’t imagine what you went through in there.” Bruce admitted softly.
Despite his genuine attempt at empathy, his words actually struck her deeply. He did know what that kind of battle was like – the ones where you feel powerless in the face of an unknown enemy, where any slip up could be the end of you. The Bruce Wayne she knew had so much more experience with these types of matters than he ever gave himself credit for, however, he could probably imagine exactly what she’d been through with one of his many adversaries from his rogue gallery. Hearing him speak with such a lack of awareness of his own life experience left her speechless for the rest of their time in the elevator.
Luckily, the ride to the forty-second floor was rather swift.
They stepped out of the car in sync with one another, each with their right foot first. There was a large desk for a pool of secretarial staff divided by a hallway, leading to an impressive pair of black doors that was only a few feet beyond them. “Good afternoon, Mr. Wayne.” A chorus of voices greeted him, and a wall of sound collided with Diana as they passed the group.
“Afternoon.” He answered them emotionlessly. Instead of devoting a moment of his time to his staff, Bruce walked with a noticeable impatience down the length of the hall. When his hand reached the doors, he threw them open as if he was tapping into the strength of the Batman. Diana felt the rush to enter his office and heard the doors close behind her just as much as she felt them. “Someone’s eager to get started.” She was compelled to tease his sudden forcefulness.
Then, she looked around his office with wide eyes. The motif of the floor-to-ceiling windows was carried throughout the building it seemed, from the lobby to Lucius’ conference room to Bruce’s personal space. The walls were decorated with spliced shelves in the shapes of shadowboxes, some containing books while some held cultured accessories. His desk was the same wooden color, a deep brown shade contrasting the brightness brought in by the natural light of the sun. It was a modern room that was particular cold if she focused on it for a moment too long. But that was very Bruce-like, she acknowledged.
To appear distant while trying to be progressive.
Diana strolled over to her seat in front of his desk, loving the echo she heard from her steps. Bruce noticed right away, and even dared to make a joke. “Glad to know you had another pair of heels at home to wear, after losing your shoes yesterday.”
It made her feel much more comfortable to hear him say something so ridiculous. “My belongings haven’t arrived yet so I had to make sure I had at least one more pair of shoes on hand. Although, I was more concerned about one of the heels breaking, not losing them at a hospital.”
“Well, let’s get through this report quickly then, so we can go out and get you some more.” Bruce suggested while he clicked away on his computer, most likely searching for the forms they’d need to fill out.
“Mr. Wayne,” Diana stopped him right there with a sharp pronunciation of his name, “I really don’t need you to buy me anything.”
His fingers froze over his keyboard. Slowly, he turned to look at her and she immediately recognized the challenge in his eyes. It appeared as though defiance was a natural trait for Bruce Wayne, no matter what he could or could not remember. As he spun his body to face her in his seat, he brought his palms together and clasped them tightly, presenting himself as a firm, unmoving boss. “I thought we agreed yesterday that your belongings would be replaced by the Wayne Corporation, as an apology for the horrible incident you endured yesterday.”
“We did,” she agreed easily enough. Sitting up straight, however, allowed her to emit a strikingly powerful air as well. “But after careful deliberation, I realized that if I accepted your offer, it could look like favoritism for your new hire and could create animosity between me and my peers.”
“Why? I’m not going to tell them.” Was the reply of the CEO.
“That’s not the point.”
“Look, Diana, we replace many people’s belongings here all the time. From company pens to affordable housing, I’ve given out a lot of money. After what you went through yesterday, I doubt anyone would accuse you of taking advantage of the company if we offered you shoes in exchange for you not suing us over your first day on the job. Without any kind of insurance, there a lot of people who would do much worse than by taking our kindhearted gesture of a trip to a boutique–”
“But it’s not ‘we’.” Diana pointed out.
“What?” Unafraid to look unpolished, his expression of confusion shifted the entire look of his face.
Refusing to back down, she pressed on. “It’s not ‘we’, Mr. Wayne. It’s you. You’re offering me this kindhearted gesture verbally.”
Again, just as aloof as a CEO should not be, he answered, “So?”
It infuriated Diana to no end that he could be so full of himself whenever it best suited him. That itchy feeling crawled up her spines and rushed over her shoulders, forcing her to sit up straight to lessen the sensation. “There is most definitely a conflict of interests, then!”
There was an impenetrable pause after she shouted at him, so obvious that it made her bite back saying anything else. It was embarrassing that he managed to get a rise out of her over something she believed shouldn’t have been an issue in the first place. His ability to rile her up was yet another facet of his personality that was forever a part of him. What she wouldn’t give to spar with him in that moment!
As if he heard her internal wish, Bruce arose from his seat and walked around the length of his desk to meet her. He sat himself down in the seat next to her, silently observing her as he moved. It took him a moment too long to speak, in her opinion, when he finally responded to her claim. “I respect you, Diana.”
Unprepared for his sincerity, she didn’t have a response ready for him.
So, he continued. “I can appreciate how aware you are of your situation here, but you have to understand something: I’m not asking you for permission here.”
“Were you on company time when you lost your shoes? Were you doing something that pertained to your job here? Were you put in harm’s way while fulfilling your role as the Community Outreach Specialist for the Wayne Foundation? Yes? Then I have every right as both your boss’ boss and the man who funds that hospital more than anyone else in the world to do what I want. Now, you can either come with me and pick out a specific pair of shoes or trust my judgment, even though I do not claim to be a fashion expert. You don’t want me wasting hundreds of dollars on ugly heels, do you?”
For a few moments, she sat in awe of his argument. Then, she regained her consciousness and spat out, “You are the most stubborn man I’ve ever met.”
“Only when I need to be.” He smirked at her, proud of himself.
Eager to deflate him, she muttered, “I highly doubt that.”
Bruce hadn’t expected that response and nearly expressed his shock with a gaping mouth. Luckily for him, he caught himself before looking like a total fool, ready to blurt out the next obnoxious thing that came to mind. “If I wrote up a contract and we signed something physical, would that make you feel better?”
“It would make me feel ridiculous but much less ridiculous than if I simply agreed to your words.” She explained.
“Great,” Bruce sighed and immediately spun his computer screen around on his desk. Grabbing his wireless keyboard, he sat back in his seat, opened an empty document that was drawn up with a contract-like template, then began filling in the blanks with the terms they’d set. “I, Bruce Wayne, agree to replace the missing belongings of Diana Prince. Said belongings were damaged and have gone missing after an incident that occurred yesterday afternoon at Gotham General Hospital. The list of items to be replaced includes one pair of woman’s heels, one woman’s handbag, one cellphone…”
“One set of car keys,” Diana added, trying her hardest not to laugh. She realized she had lied when she said it would feel less ridiculous to have a physical copy of their agreement. It felt like they were teenagers that need the law to act as their parents, ready to intervene if things became obscure.
With a brow arched, he turned to her and asked specifically, “How many keys need to be replaced?”
Unable to hide her awkwardness, Diana accidentally chastised him personally. “Bruce!”
He didn’t appear disappointed by her usage of his name. Instead, he looked as though he was relieved to know she found the entire situation as hilarious as he did. “And one set of car keys. It is the responsibility of Mr. Wayne to provide transportation to and from any shops visited, as well as any meal that is consumed whilst shopping. When Miss Prince is satisfied with the purchases, Mr. Wayne is to escort her home.”
Diana leaned over the armrest of her chair. It was her turn to add her own legalities to the contract since her name would be on it too. Making sure she spoke with proper articulation, she stated, “Should Mr. Wayne fail to fulfill any of his obligations, he must provide Miss Prince with one week of paid vacation to any destination she chooses, all expenses paid.”
“What? What happened to being too virtuous to take any money from me?” Bruce complained immediately, indignation heard in his tone.
“A contract has clauses, you know. I’m merely protecting myself in our agreement.” She claimed, all while visibly fighting off the urge to smile. After the way he made her feel when he fought her polite refusal of his gift, it was nice to turn things around on him.
That would only last a moment or two, however. Typing furiously, Bruce read aloud what his clause would say in their contract. “Should Miss Prince refuse a replacement for all of her belongs, the transportation to and from any shops visited, the meal consumed whilst shopping and/or the escort to her home, Miss Prince will be required to…attend the 37th Martha Wayne Charity Auction.”
Instantly, Diana cocked her head to one side. “That doesn’t sound at all like a punishment.”
“Trust me,” Bruce scoffed as he typed away. “It is.”
“When is it?”
“Alright, I don’t have any plans.” Diana accepted the terms, sliding back into a proper seat. Having attended many galas and high society parties in her day, she knew that some could be rather mundane, but it wasn’t something she couldn’t survive.
Whereas Bruce would most likely suffer internally for years if she bested him and managed to get a free vacation out of their inane contract.
“By signing below, both parties indicate that they have read, reviewed and agree to the terms of this contract.” Bruce declared. Once he was finished typing, he stood up, returned his keyboard to his desk, and signed his signature on the touch screen of his computer. Following his example, Diana arose from her chair and did the same. Since the computer was positioned off to the side, she was forced to lean forward and cross over his personal space in order to reach the screen. She scribbled her name as quick as can be before looking up at him, shooting him a confident grin of her own.
But when she met his gaze, she didn’t see the jovial man she had been teasing a moment ago. The confidence that radiated off of him was something she’d seen before, in meetings where he would get his way, in moments where he could put down even the strongest Metahumans in the Justice League. She moved carefully so as to preserve the image in her mind, as it encouraged her to see the version of Bruce Wayne she was trying to save. The Batman existed inside of him even if she couldn’t reach him directly.
But this version of him, the one she would be spending her day with, had the charms of Bruce that she wasn’t always privy to.
Face to face, she saw a glint in his eyes that was mischievous, no matter how fleeting it was. He cleared his throat and offered her his hand, but Diana didn’t take it right away. She couldn’t help but feel like she was searching more, like she was greedy for… something. Everything she was doing – everything she had done with her civilian life and all of her resources as Wonder Woman – was all geared towards this enigma of a man. Having him next to her, alone, where she could truly marvel at the person he was beneath the Kevlar and the trickery was worth more than any pair of shoes they’d find at the mall.
And it made her feel flush in a way she didn’t dare acknowledge while standing with him in his office.
Carefully, she shook his hand and offered a cordially smile. Then, she said. “Before we can move on to fulfilling the promises of the contract, we have a report to fill out first, right?”
Bruce withdrew his hand and stomped around his desk in the blink of an eye. The absence of his presence was felt right away, but it was the coldness of his answer that stood out to her. “Yes, of course.” He dropped into his seat, fixated himself with his computer and began setting up the report file. It didn’t shock her to see him retreat into himself, but Diana noticed right away that it wasn’t such a harsh separation as she was used to with him.
Maybe, once the old Bruce returned to her, some of these softer traits of his would remain.