Gotham; September 10th, 23:46 EST
She skipped down the hallway, humming a tune that only she could hear in her head. She lightly swung her baseball bat as she made her way to where he was no doubt waiting for her, a large bag slung over her other shoulder. She knew that he was probably growing annoyed the longer she made him wait, but she had a very good reason…or at least she believed so.
Her blond pigtails lightly bounced with her skipping; a grin plastered on her face. She knew that he was going to be so happy with what she’d been able to get for him. This was going to be the biggest plan that he’d ever come up with. She for one couldn’t wait to see how it was all going to play out. Gotham was going to be utter chaos…well, more so than it usually was.
Mistah J was an absolute genius.
He would be the love of her life no matter what happened to them, no matter who tried to tear them apart. They were like two halves of the same whole, two jigsaw puzzle pieces that fit together so perfectly. Making him happy made her happy. She couldn’t imagine a better life than this.
She happily skipped her way into the room to find her boyfriend leaning over a table, the palms of his hands flat on top of it as he looked over some plans that were sprawled out over it. “I’m back, puddin’,” she announced in a sing-song voice. “Did you miss me?”
“What took you so long?” he bluntly asked her without looking up. “Did you find what I wanted?”
Pushing aside the jab of hurt that sprung up inside of her, she came to a stop on the other side of the table opposite him. “Of course, I did, Mistah J,” she replied. “Would I ever let ya down?”
“You have before,” he stated, finally looking up at her.
“It’s not always my fault and you know that,” she insisted with a pout. “You know Bats gets in the way sometimes.”
“Well, he’s not going to see this coming,” he told her. “By the time he figures it out, it’ll be far too late to do anything about it.”
“I must say this is your best plan ever,” she agreed with a nod.
“Of course, it is,” he said as if it was plainly obvious. “I just wish that I had thought of it a long time ago.”
“Well, ya thought of it now and that’s all that matters,” she reassured him.
A sickening cackle filled the air as the Joker tipped his head back. “Oh, Batsy,” he uttered with a gasp of amusement. “I wish I could see the look on his face when it all goes down.”
“If this doesn’t push him over the edge, nothing will,” Harley told him.
“Oh, this will most definitely do the trick,” he agreed. “Where’s the stuff you got?”
“I set it over there,” she said as she pointed to the large bag she had laid down on a nearby chair.
“This is only the beginning, Harl,” he said with definite glee. “This is just the beginning.”
Underworld; September 12th, 05:04 EST
He sat on his heels in the corner of the throne room, a thick chain around his neck that only allowed him so much leeway. Lit candles throughout the room flickered and danced, never completely burning down as they cast an eerie glow about the extensive space.
His gaze constantly shifted, always searching as thoughts churned over slowly in his mind. Memories of a cherished past rose in his mind at any given moment, a life that he was no longer allowed to be a part of bringing up the harsh reality of his current existence.
He was consistently looking and waiting, biding his time until he could find a way of escape from this hell he found himself in. He was not going to accept this as his fate. He would not give up trying to find a way out of here no matter how long it took him.
He had forever to break free, but he refused to wait any long than absolutely necessary.
He’d memorized the lay out of the throne room from the moment he’d first been brought here and chained next to the throne like some animal. He wasn’t about to let Hades continue to threat him like this for much longer. Soon, he would get his revenge and Hades would lament the day that he had brought him here.
He tried to focus his thoughts on his wife and family, afraid that he was going to forget them—their faces, their laughter, the sound of their voices, the way his little children’s eyes would light up when he came home from work. They helped to keep him grounded every time he felt his sanity was beginning to slip from his grasp, but it wouldn’t help him forever.
He felt his mind vacillating the longer he was down here. The hold that Hades had had on his mind had been broken before he had brought him to the Underworld, but it was growing more difficult to remember details and names, memories already becoming blurred at the edges…fraying…becoming tattered and worn.
He couldn’t lose himself down here or he’d never escape.
He had no idea how long he’d been down here. It could have been days or weeks…maybe months. It felt like an eternity anyway that he looked at it. A deep ache lived deep inside of him now, replacing the sense of happiness and peace that his family had created within him.
The flames of the numerous candles in the throne room abruptly flickered, nearly going out before just as quickly righting themselves and telling him that Hades was approaching. In the next moment, the god of the Underworld swept into the room along with the shadow of someone following close behind him.
Batman kept his head lowered, portraying the obedient, submissive slave in order to buy himself time to plot his escape. Meanwhile, his focused gaze hidden behind the cowl kept a watchful eye on everything that was going on around him. While Hades believed that he held him under his control, his father-in-law still kept a constant watch on him as if to make sure.
“There’s my favorite son-in-law,” Hades boasted as he made his way to his throne, his deep baritone voice ricocheting off the throne room walls.
Batman internally bristled with Hades’ words of greeting but kept his expression stoic. He refused to reveal his hand until it was absolutely necessary. He bowed his head, remaining in place by Hades’ throne where he’d been left.
“The Detective is quite the specimen is he not?”
Bruce ground his teeth with the sound of Ra’s al Ghul’s voice, his anger rising. What was Ra’s doing here with Hades? Shouldn’t he be in the Pits of Tartarus right now?
“Yes, my daughter chose very well,” Hades agreed. “Unfortunately for her, Diana will never see him again. He’s a permanent resident of my realm from now on.”
Ra’s studied the father of his grandson Damian, wondering just how much control Hades actually had on him. Once he’d put on the armor, Hades’ power and essence had overwhelmed him, suppressing his conscious mind and making it difficult to remember what had actually happened.
His awareness didn’t return until he’d found himself in the Underworld with Hades, forever separating him from his daughter and grandson as well as the world that he had been fighting to save. Now, he just had to find a way to get out of here. He knew that if anyone could escape this imprisonment it would be the Detective. Unfortunately, he didn’t appear to be in any condition to do that at the moment.
“So, I must ask why you have brought me here,” Ra’s ventured, clasping his hands behind his back as he slowly wandered around the luxurious throne room.
“You were the only man able to reassemble my armor and release me from the Underworld,” Hades replied, pouring himself a glass of wine. “That takes a very powerful and intelligent human being to accomplish such an astounding feat.”
“That’s quite high praise coming from the god of the Underworld,” Ra’s humbly replied, hoping to garner special benefits while he was down here. He knew better than to try to go up against Hades. It was best to stay on his good side until he could escape his prison.
“So, tell me your story,” Hades requested. “I want to know what your plans were once you released me.”
Ra’s sat down in a chair near the throne, prepared to tell his story. He momentarily glanced at the Dark Knight, wondering what he was thinking. Was he fully aware of what was going on around him? Did he even recognize him?
Batman carefully watched the exchange taking place before him, hoping to find something…anything that he might be able to use to get out of here. There was no way that he was going to stay down here another minute longer than he absolutely had to.
If Ra’s happened to be his way of escape, then so be it. He’d do whatever was necessary to get back to Diana and his family. He had made a promise to her in France when they had gone to retrieve Hades’ belt that he would do everything in his power to come back to her and he intended to keep that promise.
Batcave; September 12th, 07:31 EST
“It’s been over four days,” Diana ground out. “I’m not going to wait another day to go after him. He’s already been down there for too long.”
“I know, Diana, but you have to make sure you’re fully recovered before going down there and taking on Hades,” Superman reminded her, standing firm despite the withering glare he was receiving from the fearsome Amazon warrior. “I’d go with you if I could, but I don’t think it’s a good idea for both of us to be gone to the Underworld. If something were to happen on Earth while we’re gone—”
“I know, Kal,” she told him, her frustration seeping to the surface. “I’m not asking you to come along. Artemis is coming with me. We’ll be perfectly fine.”
Superman released a low, slow breath as he considered his next words wisely. “Just…just be careful, Diana,” he softly said. “I’ve already lost one best friend. I don’t want to lose you too.”
“You won’t,” she promised him. “I’ll bring Bruce back…I swear on my life.”
“I know you will,” he agreed with a nod, his lips pursed into a grim line. “Just hurry. I don’t want you down there any longer than you have to be.”
“I don’t want to be away from my family for very long,” she confessed, rubbing her forehead. “Nicholas and Kaia are growing more and more anxious for Bruce to return home. Nicholas knows something is wrong, but he’s too young to fully grasp hold of what it could be. He keeps asking questions about where he is at. Kaia cries at night for Bruce to tuck her into bed. It’s breaking my heart, Kal. They both miss him so much.”
“They’re strong kids just like their parents,” he assured her. “Once you bring Bruce home, they’ll forget about the time that he was gone.”
“I hope you’re right,” she murmured, wrapping her arms around herself.
“I’ll check in on things at home for you while you’re gone,” he offered. “Maybe it would help if Nicholas and Kaia come over for a sleep over with Lara and Christopher for the weekend.”
“I don’t know…maybe,” she relented. “I’ll have to let you know.”
“So, when do you think you’ll leave?” he ventured.
“Tomorrow,” she decided. “I wanted to leave sooner, but Nick and Kaia needed me here. I can’t put it off any longer now, though. I’ve got to get him out of there. The thought of him being down there with my father makes me sick inside. There’s no telling what he could be doing to Bruce right now.”
“Try not to think about it,” he told her. “Focus on the fact that Bruce is a strong fighter like you. He won’t go down easily. He’s far too stubborn and cocky.”
Diana chuckled softly. “That’s true,” she softly replied.
“Have a safe trip and contact me the minute you leave the Underworld,” he instructed her.
“I will,” she said with a nod. “Thank you, Kal.”
“Any time, Diana,” he responded. “Good luck and stay safe.”
The computer screen went black, the silence filling the Batcave oppressive as she sat all alone in Bruce’s command chair on the platform. She slowly ran her fingers over the black leather arms of the chair, her thoughts consumed with her husband.
She missed the feel of him…his masculine scent, the way that he looked at her with such love and desire, his piercing blue eyes that seemed to see directly into her soul. She longed to feel him next to her in their bed, wanted his large muscular body wrapped around her and holding her to him in their own personal cocoon.
She rubbed her arms to ward off the chill of loneliness that had settled over her despite the fact her family was upstairs eating breakfast at that moment. Without Bruce here, she felt an overwhelming emptiness inside of her that only he could fill.
She knew it was her responsibility to find Bruce and to bring him back home to their family, to make sure the children had their father, the Batclan their leader, the Justice League their unspoken field general and commander. It felt as if the weight of the world rested on her shoulders.
While it felt oppressive, she wouldn’t have it any other way. There was no one that she trusted to get her husband back then herself. She and Bruce were partners in every sense of the word, and she would not let her partner down or go on in life without him.
The sound of her cell phone ringing drew her from her thoughts, forcing her to respond. “Hey, Shay,” she answered.
“So, you haven’t answered me yet,” she reminded her. “When do we leave for the Underworld?”
Diana released a sigh as she tilted Bruce’s chair back, bending her left leg and drawing it up under her. “Artemis is going with me,” she revealed.
“That still doesn’t answer my question,” she pointed out. “When do we leave?”
“Shay, I can’t let you go with me,” she tried to tell her, her eyes falling closed. She’d slept so little since her father had taken Bruce to the Underworld.
“Who said anything about letting me go with you?” she demanded to know. Her voice revealed her determination. “I asked when do we leave.”
Diana chuckled softly with her response. “Shay…”
“I’m not letting you go down there without me,” she insisted. “We took on the Underworld before, Diana. We can do it again and bring Bruce out with us.”
“I know, but I can’t ask you to go this time.”
“Okay, Amazon,” Shayera bluntly stated. “You’re either sleep deprived or you’re too busy thinking about Bruce to get what I’m saying. I am going with you whether you ask or not…whether you let me or not. It’s just a matter of telling me when we leave. I have a mace and I’m ready to fly.”
Diana couldn’t stop the smile from forming on her face as she glanced at the glass case filled with all the uniforms, her heart sinking with the sight of the empty space where Bruce’s uniform was supposed to be waiting for him. “I really appreciate it Shay, but—”
“No, ‘buts’ princess,” Shayera sternly said. “You need help. Artemis is great, but two of us with you is even better.”
“What about Rex and Isabella?” Diana asked.
“John’s mother is going to help watch them while I’m gone,” she informed her. “Now, I’m only going to ask one more time, Missus Wayne, and I expect an answer. When do we leave?”
Diana raked her fingers back through her raven mane, feeling guilty about bring Shayera into this, but her presence would guarantee their success and she couldn’t take any chances with Bruce’s life. “Tomorrow morning,” she relented. “Be here and ready to go by eight.”
“I’ll be there,” she promised.
“Thank you, Shay,” she softly said.
“No thanks are necessary,” she told her. “You would do no less if it was John. Now, I’m going to go polish my mace. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”
“See you then,” Diana replied before hanging up.
Diana ran her thumb over the screen of her cell phone, a picture of her and Bruce looking back at her. She had caught Bruce unawares, snapping a picture in a rare moment of amusement. She adored the picture, but even more so the look of light and love that permeated his eyes as he stared at her. It was something that he’d only ever let show through at certain moments when they’d first married, and she had been able to capture it.
Standing to her feet, she tucked her phone into her jeans pocket, needing to get upstairs to take Nicholas to preschool before running a few errands. She lightly dragged her fingers along the top of the desk, anxious for the moment when she could come down here and find her husband working away on his computer again.
She had found him here more times than she could begin to count, threatening him with bodily harm if he didn’t come up to bed or if he didn’t get ready for an event they needed to attend. He would always give her his go-to response without even looking away from the computer screen.
She shook her head as a tender smile graced her face. She would be so exasperated with him sometimes, usually making them late to wherever they needed to be because of his dallying. Now, she would give anything just to have him here.
She forced herself to walk away, descending the platform and quickly making her way up the stairs and into the manor. Entering from behind the grandfather clock, she made her way to the kitchen, greeted by the sounds of her family chattering while they ate breakfast.
“So, do I get to go out with you tonight or what?” Damian asked, clearly disgruntled already this morning.
Diana smiled to herself. The newest addition to the Wayne family was settling in better than he had when he’d first arrived and yet it was definitely going to take some time to find full trust and acceptance. He was going to have to earn it.
“Maybe,” Tim relented.
“Maybe?” Damian questioned him. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means maybe,” Tim repeated. “Bruce never said if he felt you were ready to go out on patrol in Gotham.”
“I think I more than proved myself when that crazy Amazon attacked the manor,” Damian grumbled as he poked at his scrambled eggs with his fork. “Besides, my father isn’t here, and you need the extra help. I even heard you tell Jason yesterday that you think Joker is planning something huge. You need me.”
“Fine, we’ll see,” Tim decided, looking up to find Diana entering the kitchen.
“I can help tonight too,” Diana offered as she took her usual seat at the table.
“You have too much to worry about right now without helping patrol Gotham,” Tim said with a shake of his head. “When do you think you’ll…”
Tim’s voice trailed off, his eyes falling on Nicholas and Kaia who were intently listening in with curious eyes. Diana’s hand fell on the back of Nicholas’s head, gently stroking his hair. “Tomorrow.”
Tim nodded his head in understanding, his grip tightening on his fork. “I wish we could do more to help you.”
“You all are helping more than you know,” she reassured them. “Making sure that everything is taken care of here is a huge relief. I know you’ll all take care of each other and the little ones. That means a lot to me.”
“How long do you think it’ll take?” Tim cryptically asked.
“I don’t know,” she confessed. “It could be three or four days, or it could be a week or more.”
“I don’t want you to worry about anything, Miss Diana,” Alfred told her, squeezing her shoulder in reassurance. “Everything will be looked after here.”
“I really appreciate that,” she replied. “Nicholas, hurry up and get your backpack.”
Nicholas frowned as he slid out of his seat. “I want daddy to take me to school.”
“Daddy isn’t here right now,” she told him. “I’m going to take you.”
Nicholas stamped his feet, his hands balled into fists. “I want daddy to take me.”
“We don’t have time for this, Nicholas,” she sternly stated. “Go get your backpack. You’re going to be late for school.”
“I don’t want to go!” he cried. “I want daddy!”
“Daddy is gone, Nicholas…he’s not here,” she angrily snapped, her patience having run out. Nicholas began to cry, tears running down his face as Diana knelt before him and gathered him into her arms, guild overwhelming her. “I’m sorry, little warrior. I know it’s hard. I know you miss your daddy. I miss him too.”
Nicholas laid his head on Diana’s shoulder as he cried, tears wetting her shirt as she held him close. Tim swallowed hard, trying to keep a tight hold on his own emotions, but it was next to impossible with how his little brother and sister were struggling with Bruce’s absence. They were too young to understand. All they knew was that they missed their dad and wanted him back.
Damian kept his focus on his plate, finding it more than difficult to watch the scene playing out before him. His own mother had left him, abandoning him in order to follow his grandfather’s sadistic schemes. He couldn’t help wondering where she was…if she even thought about him or would ever come back for him and now his father was missing.
Seeing how upset Nicholas was at that moment, Kaia began to cry, wanting her daddy too. Tim picked her up, holding her in his arms as he rubbed her back. “Hey, daddy will be back before you know it,” he reassured her.
Alfred bit at his bottom lip, knowing just how deeply Bruce’s absence was felt by them all. He had only been gone for four days and yet it felt like a year or more. He felt such deep heartache for Nicholas and Kaia. They were so confused by all that was going on. All they knew was that their father was gone, and their lives had been turned upside down.
Hopefully, Miss Diana would be able to bring him home soon for all their sake’s.
“Do you want to stay home today with me?” Diana asked. Nicholas nodded his head, tightening his hold on his mother as he buried his face in the crook of her neck. Diana rubbed his back as she stood to her feet. “Why don’t we all go to the zoo today and go out for lunch? Would you like that?”
“Me want to go,” Kaia said with a sniffle, rubbing her nose on Tim’s shirt. “Tim go too?”
“Yah, I can go too, but I need to change my shirt first,” he readily decided, looking down at the tears and snot on his shirt.
“Okay, go get your shoes on,” Diana told them, setting Nicholas down who ran to find his shoes.
Diana rubbed her face with her hands as they left the kitchen to get ready, Damian deciding that tagging along was preferable to staying home alone. She felt an unexpected hand on her shoulder, forcing her to look behind her. Alfred gave her a gentle, knowing smile as he wrapped an arm around her shoulder.
“I’m such a horrible mother,” she murmured, fighting back her own tears. “My kids are falling apart and there’s nothing I can do to help them.”
“Nonsense,” he sternly reprimanded her. “You are a wonderful mother. This family would be completely lost without you and even more so the little ones. They’re trying to make sense of something that makes absolutely none to them. All they know is that their father isn’t here, and they miss him dearly.”
Diana released a ragged breath as she slowly shook her head. “I miss him too,” she confessed.
“If anyone can find him and bring him home, it’s you, Miss Diana,” he reminded her.
“I hope so,” she replied, the corner of her mouth curling slightly. “Want to come to the zoo with us?”
“I was going to do some cleaning and laundry today, but I think it can definitely wait,” he readily decided. “Family time at the zoo and lunch out sounds like a much better idea.”
A full-fledged smile appeared on Diana’s face as she took his hand in hers. “The kids will be thrilled to have you along.”
“I think spending time with you and the family is just what they need right now,” he agreed. “I’ll go bring the SUV around to the front.”
“Thank you, Alfred,” she said.
He squeezed her hand before removing his apron and heading for the door, leaving her standing there all alone. She drew a deep breath, steeling her resolve. She felt completely torn between her children and getting to Bruce. They both needed her so much right now.
She knew she was going to have to allow the rest of the family to make up for her absence in order to bring Bruce home where he belonged. She just hoped and prayed that she wasn’t too late in getting to him.
Gotham; September 12th, 08:46 EST
Artemis sleepily stretched her body before curling back under the covers, burying her head in the pillow beneath her. She smiled to herself, thoughts of how last night had turned out replaying in her mind and creating a warm flush that seemed to pulsate through her entire body.
She had helped Jason with patrolling Gotham last night, returning to his home around four in the morning. What had started out as an innocent kiss goodnight had turned more heated, leading to her spending the night in his bed.
Being with him had been amazing, sleep just about the only thing they hadn’t done. Her lips curled into a devious grin as she considered a repeat performance of earlier this morning, making her more than anxious to feel him inside of her all over again.
Before she could finish that thought or begin to act on it, she felt the other side of the bed dip, a pair of warm lips caressing her bare shoulder. “Morning,” he murmured against her skin.
She sighed as she tilted her head, offering more of herself to him. “Morning,” she replied.
“Did you sleep well?” he asked as he pressed the length of his body against the back of hers, his hand caressing her side.
Artemis chuckled with his question, her amusement turning into a throaty moan of pleasure. “I don’t believe we did much of that,” she reminded him.
“Are you complaining?”
“Not at all,” she insisted. “In fact, I was just thinking that I’m tired of sleeping.”
“Oh, really?” he uttered with a hum, pausing to nip at her throat. “What exactly did you have in mind?”
Artemis swiftly rolled over, pushing him onto his back as she straddled him. She brushed a crimson lock of hair out of her face as she smiled wickedly down at him. Her hands came to rest on his muscular chest as she leaned in close.
“How about I show you instead?” she seductively teased.
“You can show me anything you want to, Red,” he told her with a lustful smirk.
She pressed her lips to his, taking her time kissing him senseless. His hands settled on her hips, hanging on for dear life. She had blown his mind several times since first making love a few hours ago and he was more than ready to do it all over again with her.
He could scarcely believe that she was actually here in his bed with him. He had wanted this with her for so long and now it was a reality. The worst part was knowing that she was leaving soon with Diana to go to the Underworld to rescue Bruce.
While he wanted Bruce back home where he belonged, he feared what could happen to Artemis while she was down there. He wanted to go with her and Diana, but he knew that he couldn’t. He needed to stay here and help Tim and Dick with Gotham.
Rumors had been running rampant the last few days through the streets of Gotham that Batman was gone, disappearing in the fight against Ra’s al Ghul and Hades. Crime had begun to skyrocket, testing the Batclan to see how much they could get away with.
Jason arched his neck, pressing the back of his head deeper into the pillow as she kissed and nipped at his chest. He swore he was going to do whatever he had to in order to keep her in his life. He had never known another woman like her, stirring feelings in him that he didn’t know he was capable of possessing.
He gasped as she began to make love to him, moving at a slow, methodical pace that was gradually building his pleasure to unbearable heights. He suddenly lunged forward, his arms wrapping around her as his mouth crashed into hers.
He flipped her onto her back, taking full control as he gripped her thigh. They shared the same breath as he made love to her, showing her how he felt about her even though he hadn’t been able to tell her yet. He just hoped she knew, could feel it in every kiss and every touch.
She threaded her fingers through his hair, pulling him in for another heated kiss that had them both coming undone. Jason collapsed on top of her, struggling to catch his breath. Regaining some semblance of control, he rolled off her, moving to his side to look at her.
“You had better make it out of the Underworld in one piece,” he threatened her, his hand coming to rest against the side of her face, his thumb caressing her cheekbone.
Her lips curved with his warning as she leaned in and kissed him. “I am a warrior,” she reminded him. “I do not fail.”
“I know you’re strong, Artemis, but you’re going into the Underworld to go up against Hades,” he pointed out. “It’s not going to be a walk in the park. You guys have no idea what condition Bruce could be in by the time you find him or what you’ll have to do to even get him out of there.”
“I know, but we will not give up until we’ve rescued him,” she swore to him. “I know you and Bruce have had your differences in the past, but he’s still your father figure. I promise you I’ll bring him home.”
“I appreciate that,” he admitted. “I just wish I could go with you.”
“No, you’re needed here,” she told him, hooking a long leg over his. “Tim and Dick need the help. Even I can see how restless the streets of Gotham are without Batman’s presence. I have a feeling you’re going to have a real fight on your hands while I’m gone. Besides, Diana’s little ones are going to need you to be there for them while we’re gone.”
“We can handle it all,” he reassured her. “You just worry about finding Bruce and coming back to me.”
The corner of her lips quirked as she gazed into his handsome face. “And why is that, Jason?” she coyly asked. “Do you like me?”
He couldn’t help the smirk that took over his face as his hand settled on her hip. “I guess…maybe a little,” he teased.
“That’s good because I kind of like you too,” she murmured as she pressed her lips to his once more.