There are few things in this world that she takes true delight in, anymore. The laugh of a child, the blush of first love between a young couple, the first fall of snow every year - these things make her smile, remind her of a past she takes care not to reminisce on too often, but they do not delight her.
This. This is a delight.
He picks his way through the room, fingers drumming against every surface he encounters, eyes taking everything in, and she’d always noticed this about him, his attention to detail, his easy acceptance of every outlandish thing before him, the way he paid notice of how things worked. She’d taken him here because she needed proof that she was not being deceived, but instead she finds herself watching the fall of his hair over one eye, the impatient way he brushes it aside only for it to fall straight back into place, like it belongs there; the way he takes a startled step back when the screens blink to life before him, and the way, moments later, his gaze darts to the touchpads on the desk, the quizzical furrow of his brow as he tries to puzzle out how it all works.
“You wanna explain to me why there’s a dead man wandering the Bat Cave?”
Diana turns her head to catch sight of Bruce out of the corner of her eye, watches him as he carefully moves too stand beside her. The corner of her mouth slides up and she shakes her head back and forth, once, twice, before returning her eyes to the bank of screens and the man standing before them.
She nods, then, and turns her gaze to meet Bruce’s. “He’s real, then.”
“Heartbeats there, brain activity is normal. Nothing to suggest he’s a metahuman or... created. And still no explanation from you.”
“No,” she reiterates, following his gaze across the room, and she raises an arm to stop Bruce as he moves toward Steven Trevor, who has moved on from the bank of monitors to a glass case filled with artifacts.
The truth is, even if she could explain to Bruce how she’d come to find the long dead Steve Trevor alive and well, she isn’t sure she would. He’s always been a suspicious man by nature, always the first to question how a good thing could possibly be, and though she’d come to him specifically for that skillset, she has no desire to think too hard on why.
Bruce sighs beside her, turns to look at her fully, and she knows without having to look that he is about to lecture her, something so incredibly typical about his behavior that it makes her want to scream, to pull out her lasso and ask him every unbearably uncomfortable question she can think of just so he will understand that they all have secrets they wish to hold to their hearts.
She is pleased when a hiss of noise interrupts his words, and they both turn to stare at Steve, standing before, of all things, a coffee maker that is spewing hot water all over the heating tray, no pot in sight.
Steve turns to look at her, eyes wide and impossibly blue, and he gestures vaguely at it, gaze darting to Bruce for a hint of a moment. “I didn’t touch it!”
She bites her lip to keep from smiling too wide, but he catches it anyway, tilting his head as he purses his own lips. “Yeah, yeah, laugh it up, Princess of Themyscira.”
Bruce’s footsteps echo beside her as she moves to meet Steve near the sideboard, where the coffee maker is set up beside a small refrigerator she knows is stocked with nothing but the horrible energy drinks Bartholomew likes to keep here, and she wastes no time pressing a few buttons to stop the flow of water. The coffee pot itself is lying in the sink, an inch of almost black liquid sitting muddy in the bottom of it, likely left purposely by Mr. Curry, an act of petty spite against the ever tidy Bruce.
She grins at him while he stares her down, his fingers tapping out the same pattern in the air she’d just used to shut off the machine, and she remembers this, the way he noticed things, the way he remembered them, the way he tucked them away for future reference. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” he asks, darting his gaze around the room, like he means to remind her of all the things he doesn’t quite understand just yet. He will, though. She’s had a hundred years to learn the world of men, she’s lived through every technological advance, and none of this is foreign to her any longer, but Steve has always been a quick study.
She bites her lip again, eyes wide and innocent - an act, a thing she learned first from him, and he rolls his eyes, not believing it for a second. She drops the act, and tilts her head. “Yes. It amuses me to see you acting as the fish out of water for once.”
His eyes crinkle at the corners - he’d told her, a few days before, how strange it was to hear her use idioms as she did, how different she’d become in the century that had passed between them. It had hurt, at first, to hear him say so, to think that her time in the world of men had made her unrecognizable, and he’d been quick to assure her she was still very much Diana. It had been one hundred years, and no one else had ever said her name like he did.
“Don’t get used to it. I’m good at adapting.”
His fingers drift across the counter top, closer to hers, and she crosses the distance between their hands, curling her fingers loosely around his. Her smile remains as they gaze at each other, words and sentiments crossing between the empty air between them. She is...happy, so tremendously happy, with him here, and though it makes no sense, though his presence has no explanation, though she knows she should be cautious, she cannot find it in her to question his being here.
She’d lost something, when Steve died, something she cannot explain, even to this day, and to have it returned to her now is disconcerting, and confusing, and brilliant and wonderful. She knows she will hold on to it desperately, will fight for it to the point of idiocy.
A cough breaks the silence, and they turn as one to look at Bruce. There is something in the mans gaze that makes Diana ache, for a moment, something understanding and painfully aware. Beside her, Steve squeezes her hand and lets go, raising both hands to gesture at Bruce. “So you’re the Bat Guy.”
The snort escapes her lips before she can manage to school her features, and as Bruce’s brow furrows in consternation she giggles, bright and carefree and so terribly enamored with Steve Trevor. Steve, for his own part, does not seem to grasp his misstep, but he is also so unperturbed by it that Bruce just sighs. She wonders if Steve had felt like this, guiding her through his world, amused too his very bones by the things she didn’t quite understand.
No. No, he hadn’t, had he - he’d taken her in stride, explained things to her with a warm voice and a soft look, without the bite of judgement so many people in this world would have shown her. Did show her, later on, when Steve was gone and the world was recovering and Diana, as a woman, was little more than an inconvenience.
(That wasn’t quite fair. Etta had loved her, had taken her under her wing, had dragged her to women’s marches and taught her so much about the capacity of humans for kindness and loyalty and fairness. Sammy had laughed with her, and not at her, and he had been a shining star of friendship and bravery. Charlie had introduced her to the people of his village, had taught her of endurance and courage in the face of the nightmares war wrought, had taught her how to play the piano and laugh in the face of insurmountable odds. And Chief had shown her wisdom and strength, had garnered her respect, had looked upon her not as a weapon or a warrior but as a woman who understood the horror of what men could do to each other but loved humanity despite it. There had been others, too, through the years, people she had tucked away into the corner of her heart and mind where Steve’s watch ticked, and Antiope’s voice rang loud and clear, and the press of her mothers lips bit into her forehead.)
Bruce’s voice cuts through her thoughts. “That’s me. Bat Guy.” Steve doesn’t miss the ironic lilt of Bruce’s voice, and she catches his gaze, nods subtly in a promise to explain later to him why his words had been so amusing. “You should know, this place isn’t exactly public knowledge. We’d like to keep it that way.”
There’s nothing particularly threatening about the words as Bruce says them, but there’s a tense set to his shoulders that belies the ease of the statement, and puts Steve on the defensive. “Well damn, and I was just about to tweet about it, too.”
Bruce cocks an eyebrow, surprised by the words, surprised, no doubt, by the fact that Steve not only knows about such a modern form of communication but can actually speak to it correctly.
“Buddy, I was a spy, I’m not gonna tell the world about your super secret lair.”
Bruce is all bravado, as are most of the rest of the League, and Diana has always felt a bit ill at ease about it, and now she remembers why, as Steve rolls his eyes and reaches for the lasso tucked at her hip, wraps it carefully around his wrist.
“I’m not spying on you, I don’t know how I’m here - don’t really care how, actually, and I got nothin’ to prove to you.” He doesn’t loosen the rope right away, and though he’s not been compelled to say anything else, his mouth opens again like he’s been asked a thousand questions. “This is crazy, you all are crazy, and I have no idea what you’re trying to accomplish but if Diana thinks you’re worth her time you gotta have something going for you. And speaking of Diana, I always thought her armor was out there, but you fight crime dressed up as a bat, pal, that’s weird.”
He shakes his head, and Diana unravels the lasso from around his wrist as her laughter, bright and high and clear, echoes through the room.
Lois smiles at Steve as she greets them both in the coffee shop, and her eyes linger on their intertwined hands, on the way Diana stares at his retreating back as he offers to get their drinks, on the way Steve smiles at her across the table. Diana wishes there was more she could do to ease the pain behind her friends eyes, wishes she knew how to explain Steve’s presence here, wishes she could say without a shadow of a doubt “We can do the same for Clark.”
But it has been a week now, and Diana is no closer to understanding how Steve came to be here, or why it is now, a century later - she does not have an answer for any of it, and when she opens her mouth to speak of it, while Steve is eyeing the artwork on the walls halfway across the room, Lois reaches forward and grasps her hand.
“I’m happy for you, Diana,” Lois says, and her voice is shaky, her eyes watery, but Diana understands. She nods, and swallows back the words half formed in her mind, and squeezes back, and when Steve returns to the table he doesn’t mention the way the women clear their throats and glance away from each other.
The words sit heavy in her mind, later, as Steve flips through the photo albums that have lived tucked away in the bottom of a hope chest for decades. The chest itself was all the painful reminder she ever needed, a gift from Etta in the last few months of her life, it’s secrets revealed in a whisper as Diana sat at the edge of her bed - Steve had given it to her, ordered her to take it when she’d tried to refuse, an heirloom passed through the generations of Steve’s family, meant to be given as a wedding gift, and when his mother had died and left Steve as the last member of the Trevor clan, he’d taken one look at it and known it would never be his.
Now he sits beside it, and smiles at pictures of friends long dead, his fingers smoothing along the glossy wood while Diana tells stories of the photographs, of their old friends, of the lives he’d never get to see.
I’m happy for you.
Diana has understood happiness, in her life, brief, sharp bursts of joy, but this is new, and terrifying - she wakes with a smile, has to fight the curl of her lips on many an occasion, and her chest aches with the fullness of her contentment. Happy is not the right word for it. Happy encompasses too little, happy does not hit on the pang she feels sometimes when she wonders if it will all be snatched away from her, somehow.
She is terrified of waking up to find him gone.
“He really did it, huh?”
Diana stares down at the newspaper clipping, where she stands beside Sammy dressed resplendently, her smile warm as Sameer charms whoever had been interviewing him.
Her smile now is sad. “He tried. The world wasn’t ready for him.”
She’d been so glad to join Sameer on that red carpet, so proud to see him pushing the same sort of boundaries Etta had done with the suffragettes, she’d been so ready to watch the world change for the better once more.
Steve catches her meaning well enough. “It’s better now though, right?”
She tilts her head and holds his gaze, and she wants to tell him yes, wants to tell him that things have changed, that she has pulled the world up by it’s bootstraps, has helped to make it a better place. That humans are mostly good, and that race and creed and gender do not set people apart any longer.
Instead she stares at the newspaper clipping, running a finger over the headline announcing the films progressive casting, so hopeful and optimistic, so short lived.
Steve nods. “Yeah,” he says, like he understands, like her silence is all the confirmation he needs that every inch of ground they’ve gained has been a No Man’s Land.
That night, as he presses a kiss to her lips for the first time since he returned, as he curls a hand around her elbow and cradles her face like she is a delicate thing, as his heart beats under the steal of the skin of her palm, his breath a heartbroken whisper across her skin, he stares at her, eyes blazing, a promise in his gaze to be better, be more, to help make this world a better place.
This is what had been missing all those years.
She is not happy. She is determined, once again, to see the world through eyes she’d let fall into despair one too many times. She has seen so much death, and grief, and war, and despite all of that, when Steve Trevor looks at her he sees into her soul and finds hope there.
She will not turn her back again.
Two months and five days later she is standing on a rooftop with Steve beside her as they watch the ground where he’d been standing not moments before swallowed whole, sinking in on itself. Her breath is ragged, not from exertion but from sheer terror, and Steve is staring at her, mouth bobbing open and closed like he does not know quite what to say.
He settles on, “Why didn’t you stop me?” It’s not an accusation, just a curious question, and Diana levels him with a look.
“Would you have ever tried to stop me?”
He laughs, eyes sparkling with mirth, and clutches at his stomach, the act of his laughter pulling at muscles strained with the exertion of the battle on the streets below. “Diana, you’re half god. Would it have mattered if I tried?”
“And you are Steve Trevor. Would it have mattered if I tried?”
He shakes his head, standing gingerly, the side of his mouth tipped up in a wry grin. “No. No it wouldn’t.”
Her expression falls serious, her hand reaching up to cradle his face. “I do not wish to lose you again,” she tells him, as an explosion rocks a building a few hundred yards away. “But I will not stand in the way if you wish to join me in this fight. I will never stand in the way of that.”
He blinks, and in his gaze she can see his dawning realization that she believes him to be her equal in all things, believes he has the strength of will to be a part of this fight.
She has never known a man quite like him before.
The bolt of the laser catches them both by surprise in the moments following, and Diana turns towards the source of it without a blink, shield held high to deflect the second shot - a moment later Barry has dashed across two buildings to engage on of the robotic things that are currently attacking the city, and Diana turns to Steve, to decide on their next move.
He’s holding his stomach, but the cringe on his face is not one of pained laughter, and Diana darts forward, reaching for the hand held against his body.
He is bleeding, a gash across the side of his body, and it makes no sense, she’s seen those weapons blast a hole through a person, seen the heat of it cauterize the wound, but Steve’s skin is knitting in on itself already, almost faster than she can see, and he gasps, cries out in pain, looking ready to keel over from the shock of it.
He stumbles and Diana reaches out too steady him, hand firm on his shoulder as he glances down at his side. There is a hole burned into his shirt on either side of his torso, but where the bolt had sliced through him there is only clean, unmarred skin.
Diana stares at him as he pulls at his shirt, yanking it up over where a mortal wound should have been, fingers pressing tenderly at his abdomen.
“Holy shit,” he says, and over the heat and the noise and the terror at the thought that she’d lost him, she can’t help but notice how quickly he’s come to enjoy this centuries profanity. “What the fuck?”
There’s no time, in the moment, to wonder any further at it - the city is under attack, and their own building is close to crumbling, and as Diana curls an arm around Steve’s waist and he holds on to her, all that comes to mind is thank the gods.
“He’s not a metahuman,” Barry concludes, his pen tapping out a rhythm against the glass of his desk. “He’s not...anything I’ve ever seen before. I mean. The closest thing his biology comes to is...yours.”
“So he’s a god,” Bruce is saying, but her ears are ringing, and her mind is whirring, and she struggles to pull in air.
“No, not a god, look, I deal in human biology and this is way beyond my paygrade.” Barry is rambling, which is not unusual, but she can tell by the rapid beat of his pen that he is both confused and unsure. “But I pulled a few blood samples - I’d like to point out that I broke a whole bunch of medical supplies doing this, his skin is harder than steal - and whatever his deal is, his cell regeneration is off the charts and -.”
“What does this mean?” Diana finally manages, cutting across him.
“It means the guy’s hard to kill,” comes the ever helpful voice of Arthur Curry, but Barry makes a noise low in his throat, shaking his head.
“No, that’s not - his cells don’t just react like that when he’s injured.”
“What are you saying?”
Barry turns too stare at her with wide eyes. “Look, I’m not saying the dude’s immortal, but...”
She pushes past him and out of the room, rushes past Clark Kent, risen from the dead himself, who gives her a grim nod as she practically runs by him, and up, up she goes, until she is out of the cave, pulling in deep, gasping breaths of air.
Her eyes raise to the skies, her limbs shake, and she wants to scream, to rail, to cry out in confusion, but there is nothing but blue sky above, no one to hear her bewilderment.
She does not know what it is she is feeling, until she returns to the small room where Barry has been conducting his tests, does not know how to describe the frantic pace of her heart in her chest or the shake of her hands until her fingers are clasped against Steve’s and he’s glancing up at her from his spot nestled against pillows Diana is fully aware Bruce smuggled in for him. Somehow, Steve has charmed even Bruce Wayne, and of all the incomprehensible things in her life as of late, this is the one that breaks her, makes her laugh amid tears while Steve pretends this is normal behavior from her.
She explains all that they know in fits and starts of laughter, and Steve takes it all in stride, nodding along like this makes any sense at all, and when she has run out of things to say, he closes his free hand over the one pressed to his heart.
“Well, that’s neat,” he says, and Diana’s eyes well over with tears as they both laugh again.
“Go for Trevor,” Steve says as he rolls away from the circle of her arms, his phone cupped against his head, naked as the day he was born. Diana enjoys watching the pull of his muscles as he nods along to whatever is being said on the other end of the line, and she ponders what it would take to tempt him back under the sheets with her. “Yeah, okay, slow your roll Bat Dude, I just woke up.”
Diana pulls a pillow over her mouth to hide her grin.
“This is not an emergency, is it?”
Steve turns then, to make a face at her, his hand opening and closing as he rolls his eyes, and Diana presses further into the pillow.
“Bruce, buddy, pal, I told you unless it was an end of the world type situation I needed, like, a week without hearing your voice. You know I love you, but a man has to have his space.” Steve hums at whatever Bruce is saying. “Okay, here’s the - Bruce. Bruce. This Selena bird sounds great, but I am on my honeymoon. Can we wait to creepily stalk her like any normal, totally sane man would until I get back?”
Diana sighs as Steve continues to make noises of acknowledgement, and rolls away, reaching for the robe hung on the bedpost.
She shuffles into the kitchenette, humming to herself as she half listens in on the one sided conversation happening in the bedroom, beginning the process of brewing coffee, toeing across the hardwood floors of the apartment they’d rented for the week to find the phone she’d abandoned on the stove the night before, when Steve had curled an arm around her waist and pressed a kiss to her neck, whispering truly filthy things in her ear.
There are fifteen notifications blinking at her, seven text messages from Bruce, two missed phone calls besides, and three emails she opens to find blurry footage of a woman scaling the walls of the Wayne mansion. The last three are messages from Barry, and she gets the full picture of the non emergency Steve is currently fielding.
not a 911 but someone broke into the Bat Cave
she punched bruce in the face
i think he’s in love
Steve shuffles into the kitchen a while later, looking defeated, and Diana smiles as he presses a distracted kiss to her forehead on his way to the freshly brewed coffee.
He settles in across from her, pulling out his phone, and Diana watches him, a smile on her face until he glances up to meet her gaze. “What?”
She tilts her head. “It’s nice.”
Shaking her head, she gestures vaguely around them, her heart swelling at the look in his eyes, warm and quiet and full of promise for a future neither of them ever thought to have. “Having breakfast. Reading the newspaper.”
He chuckles, holding up his phone. “You know, when I said that, this wasn’t quite what I had in mind. Never guessed I’d get my news the same way I got to deal with a guy dressed up as a bat having an existential crisis over a pretty thief.”
Her smile is wide as she reaches for his hand across the table, finding it still warm from his earlier grip around the mug of his coffee.
“Not everything is different,” she tells him, voice low, and his eyebrow jumps in anticipation.
“You still have to make babies the same way.”
He laughs, and pulls her half across the table, meeting her lips for a quick kiss. She chases his lips when he pulls away.
“That is categorically untrue, Diana, but I like where you’re going with this.”
She swallows his laughter against her tongue, and neither of them speaks for a while.