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Chapter 5

"He’s using you, ya know."

Plastic Man had pulled Catwoman aside when she and Batman had arrived at the Watchtower for his shift on monitor duty. Plaz thought it a little strange that Catwoman had accompanied the Dark Knight, but he figured Ol' Dark and Broody was working on a case and with her and monitor duty was just an inconvenient change of venue. When he had seen the two of them enter the monitor womb, he was a bit taken aback, but immediately shifted his face into a strangely stoic and grim expression. As soon as Batman had moved to the other side of the room to log in for duty, Plastic Man had pulled Catwoman aside to talk to her.

"I just wanted to make sure you understood that before you continued… working with him."

Catwoman looked at the strange man of plastic, her face unwavering. It was an odd way to open a strange discussion, but Selina had been in more that a few of those recently. With things… progressing the way they had with Bruce, she knew that some run-ins with the League were inevitable. But she hadn’t been exactly looking forward to this little trip to the Watchtower in the first place. Yes, things were progressing in the… relationship with Bruce, but it was still relatively new. Even in 'normal' relationships—between two people who haven’t been enemies for years—there is always that slight bit of awkwardness surrounding how you will look in front of other people, especially in front of your significant other’s friends and colleagues. Add in spandex, universe-sized egos, and some pretty extreme notions of Right and Wrong, and the prospect of meeting your new beau’s "work-mates" becomes a venture bordering on terrifying.

It’s not like she hadn’t met or even talked to these people before; she'd worked with the JLA and several of its members on occasion. But there had always been a strange undercurrent with any conversation involving Catwoman and the Justice League, especially as it pertained to Batman. The Hero Rumor Mill being what it was, long-standing debates over the nature of the relationship between Catwoman and Batman had produced some of the strangest theories since the Grassy Knoll. Before, the rumors had been easy to deal with: a little mysterious taunting, a sly little smile and a dash of innuendo—mostly because underneath it all there was nothing to tell.  Now, though, some of those rumors were actually coming true, and Catwoman found herself a little out of sorts when it came to how to handle the questioning stares and whispered rumors. She had even gone so far as to confront Bruce ("What are we supposed to tell them, Bruce. That we're 'Just Enemies'?") who’s typically dismissive response ("Who cares what they think!") did little to allay her anxiety.

So instead, she found herself stuck in what could laughingly be referred to as an "intervention" by one of the craziest "White-hats" in the business. She realized pretty quickly, however, that Plastic Man was still smarting a bit over the whole "Protocols" affair. She put on her best "Okay, I’m listening patiently and politely, waiting for whatever inane drivel you have to tell me" Wayne-Foundation-Party look. (This look adapted from the "Okay, I’m listening patiently and politely to your rigid, short-sighted, hero-addled take on this" face used on rooftops, museums, and jewelry stores)

"I don’t know what you two are working on or what case he has you looking over, but I’m just warning you that once it’s done and he’s done with you, don’t expect anything. He’s a duplicitous, conniving, scheming, back-stabbing prick who only cares about having things his way. Whatever he’s promised you… whatever he’s told you to expect… don’t!  Don’t believe a damn word he says…"

Selina stared, waiting to see if he was finished or just catching his breath. At least he was being completely up front and sincere with her. It was how he felt.  Granted, his view may have been a bit skewed, but it was honesty nonetheless, a rare and admirable quality in the costumed community.

"Listen, from one former criminal to… well… a current one," Plaz managed a weak smile, "I just wanted to give you a heads-up. Just because I used to be like you… just because I used to live on the 'wrong side of the law'… just because I’m 'reformed', doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the mindset anymore. And no one likes being used. I just thought you deserved to know."

She could tell he was hurting, that much was obvious. And it was that insight that was keeping her from ripping him into little pieces of plastic confetti at that moment. Normally, a quick "'Understand the criminal mindset' my ass!" would put the kibosh on whatever self-righteous indulgence Whatever-Man decided to delve into.  But something was out of whack with Plastic Man at the moment. This was the guy who was normally the first one on the joke, the first one to make an off-handed or joking remark about anything, and yet there he was, exposing his own pain in the hopes of preventing pain in another.

The animosity in his voice was unmistakable, but there was something else. Something in his eyes, in his face, in the way he moved. Something oddly familiar…

Plastic Man looked to the floor for a second, his mind racing. His eyes flicked back up to hers, his face somber and almost pleading. He took a deep breath, let it out and added, "Because… you deserve better than that."

Selina’s face remained stoic while her mind immediately clicked onto the "something" in Plastic Man’s demeanor: he was smitten. She'd seen it before, countless times both as Catwoman and as Selina Kyle. She knew how to handle that. She swayed her hips ever so slightly as she took a step toward him and ran a gentle finger down his cheek.

"Thank you, Stretchy. That’s very sweet. But," She turned her finger slightly, her claw digging in, not enough not to break his skin, but just enough to accentuate her point. "I can take care of myself."

The slightly menacing gleam in her eye made Plastic Man suddenly realize that, regardless of what Batty’s intentions were, it was quite possible that Plaz was talking to wrong person about "Watching your back".  Plaz fought with all of his will to keep his physical shape upright instead of drooping down into a warm puddle of goo on the floor as the cool, sharp tip of her claw traced it’s way down his cheek and under his chin.

"Oh, and one more thing…" Selina purred, sending a lusty shiver down Eel’s jellying spine. "Regardless of what you used to do, you were never 'like me'!"  She gave him a quick wink, then turned and headed back over to the Monitor Womb chair, where Bruce was busy setting up the monitor settings to his liking.  Plaz watched her hips sway back and forth as she left and immediately collapsed into the aforementioned puddle of goo. He slithered out the door of the Monitor Womb and headed for the teleport tubes.

 

"WHO?!?"

"Catwoman!" Eel spat into the receiver. "She’s up there with him now!"

"Ok, let me get this right…" Wally was more than a little ticked at hearing Plaz’s news.  He was restraining himself from spinning around his living room like a tornado mostly out of respect for his sleeping wife in the next room. "…First, he comes up with these back-stabbing schemes to disable each and every member of the League. Then he allows those schemes to get stolen by an global terrorist, and now he’s bringing known felons to the Watchtower!?!"

"Yeah, that’s the long and short of it." Eel stretched out on his couch, holding the phone against his ear with one elongated finger. "I’m beginning to think the papers had the right idea!"

"No kidding!" Wally had read the newspaper reports, same as the rest of the civilized world. Most of the "investigative journalism" papers (read: tabloids) were reporting that Batman had been kicked out of the Justice League after the Protocols incident. Many of the mainstream papers had reported on the event and declared that he had either been suspended or was on temporary leave. The only paper to report the truth—that he had been yelled at by all the members of the team, but no official "punishment" was meted out—was the Daily Planet, which immediately after the article ran an anonymous editorial asking for Batman’s immediate resignation from the League.

Wally continued: "I mean, really… The DP is probably the most League-friendly paper on the planet, and when they're saying he should be gone…"

"Seriously!" Eel was actually starting to calm down a bit after his run in with Catwoman. It helped that Wally was seemingly as pissed as he was about her presence in the Tower.  At least it gave his knee-jerk reaction a little validity.  "I mean, I don’t know about you, but I've been on eggshells ever since… I just keep waiting for the other fish to drop."

Wally opened his mouth to question Eel’s use of aquatic life in the place of foot apparel, then stopped when it occurred to him again just who he was talking to. "I know what you mean, Plaz. I think we ought to 'bench' him for the next couple-a missions. I know there will be a few of the other members who will be wary just working beside him…"

"Yeah, I’m one of 'em," Eel interjected. "I mean, I just can’t see myself in a life or death situation with that… man at my back…"

Both ends of the line were suddenly quiet. Not an awkward or nervous silence, but rather the revered silence of two soldiers who know they've survived hell and high water together reflecting on their mutual respect and love for one another.

"Anyway," Eel finally broke the silence, "I just thought you should be aware of the… situation before you went up to relieve him from duty…"

"Thanks, Eel. I appreciate the call."

"Well, that… and I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t crazy reacting the way I did."

"Plaz," Wally replied, a small hint of returning humor sneaking into his voice. "You are crazy. Just not about this."

They both laughed, both feeling a bit of relief.

"Well, there is that," Eel agreed. "Anyway, I’ll talk to ya later."

"Later, Plaz."

Wally hung up the phone and sighed. He shook his head lightly, as if clearing his mind, then picked the phone back up and punched in a number he knew by heart.

"Kyle? Wally. Dude, you're not gonna believe this shit…"

 

"WHAT?!?"

"I just got off the phone with Kyle, and he told me that Bruce has Catwoman up in the Watchtower with him for monitor duty." J'onn repeated.  To call Arthur pissed at that moment was an understatement of oceanic trench proportions.

"What the fuck is she doing up there?!?" Arthur paced his throne room, his right hand rubbing his left forearm just above the harpoon.  J'onn immediately noticed a regal air about his longtime friend.  He paced like a king just hearing of an invasion of his kingdom.  J'onn supposed that, in a way, that wasn’t all that far from the truth.  He also recognized that part of it may very well have to do with their current location.  Per J'onn’s request, Arthur had cleared the room of aides and counsel, but J'onn knew that even if it were empty, the throne room always had Arthur in "king-mode".  J'onn moved toward the ante-chamber, motioning for Arthur to follow.

"Please, Arthur, I need to sit.  Being this far underwater has an effect on my Martian… sensibilities and it wears me down.  Let’s have this discussion somewhere a bit more… comfortable."

Most (if not all) of the beings in the hero community had a "game face"—the look, feel, and image of the soldier ready for battle. Most of the Leaguers had one and J'onn knew them all.  He'd just recently discovered, during the whole Protocols incident, that even Plastic Man had a game face.  He realized that this was part of the separation when it came to secret identities. This is what separated Clark from Superman, Kyle from Green Lantern, Wally from The Flash.  J'onn supposed that this was the true reason for the costumes in the first place.  Putting on the brightly colored spandex, the glowing outfits and the flowing capes helped people "feel the part", much like an actor on a stage.  J'onn had to admit from his experiences in his different "human roles" that the difference in appearance helped to put a person into the right frame of mind.  It’s difficult not to feel like the champion of Truth and Justice with that bright red "S" on your chest.  All of the outfits are merely the reflection of that "game face."

But there were a few that didn’t have a separate "face" when going into battle, but instead an entirely different personality in and out of costume. The most obvious, of course, was Bruce.  There was Bruce Wayne and there was Batman.  Two totally separate entities "sharing" the same physical body.  On countless occasions, J'onn had seen him shift from one persona to the other in the blink of an eye and continually marveled at how subtle and discreet and, at the same time, monstrously obvious the shift was.  The major difference with the Bruce/Batman shift was the costume.  J'onn knew that he had seen instances of Batman "dressed" in Bruce Wayne’s clothes.  But, to his considerable memory, he could never picture a time where he had seen Bruce Wayne in the cape and cowl. He imagined that Batman’s psyche would never allow it.

J'onn’s experience with the Bruce/Batman Duality Syndrome prepared him for what he saw next.  Arthur’s posture dropped almost immediately and his face softened.  In an instant, the man before him seemed to change into a completely separate entity.  For the first time in his long relationship with this man that he considered to be one of his closest friends, J'onn recognized that there was a Bruce/Batman style difference in Arthur.  It wasn’t the difference between Arthur and Aquaman—that difference was the same "game face" change as Clark, Kyle, or Wally.  No, this was the difference between Arthur and King Orin, Ruler of the Seven SeasArthur was a half-human/half Atlantian hero who sometimes spent his time fighting alongside other heroes in the Justice League.  King Orin was monarch and ruler of the entire undersea kingdom of Atlantis as well as 75% of the globe.  King Orin had powers and responsibilities that no single being on the planet could truly fathom.

This entire thought process rifled through J'onn’s mind as they made their way into the ante-chambers. His concentration was immediately broken by Arthur’s much calmer voice.

"You're thinking too loudly again, J'onn."

"Sorry," J'onn responded with a slight chuckle.  He knew Arthur, with his limited psychic abilities, couldn’t hear J'onn’s precise thoughts. However, he could pick up the sensation of someone nearby in deep concentration… almost like white-noise in the dark.

"So he’s got Catwoman up in the Watchtower with him on monitor duty, does he?" Arthur interjected again, returning to the initial conversation that brought J'onn to his home.

"Yes," J'onn replied. "No one seems to know why, exactly…"

"And we probably never will," Arthur interrupted, turning to look at J'onn directly. "This is Bruce we're talking about."

"True enough," J'onn agreed with a slight smile.

Arthur turned toward his friend and sat down in the chair next to him. "So, the real question is: is he fucking with us again, or is he fucking with her?"

J'onn sighed. "I don’t know, Arthur. All I know right now is she’s there. The details are second-hand at best."

Arthur finally managed a small smile. "And we all know how the League Rumor Mill operates…"

"Exactly," J'onn chuckled.

"So," Arthur prompted, feeling that the topic of Batman’s inequities needed shelving until more info came in. "What brings you to Atlantis?"

J'onn shifted lightly in his seat, taking in the ambiance and splendor of the room while explaining to Arthur. "Well, I wanted you to know about the Catwoman thing before you started hearing any conflicting reports…"

"Oh, c'mon J'onn. You could have told me that over the comm units or even a phone call. Why the face-to-face? Why suffer the assault on your 'Martian sensibilities" to bring me a piece of League gossip?"

"What? Can’t a guy come and visit his friend anymore?" J'onn replied, half-jokingly.

Arthur turned a knowing eye in J'onn’s direction. "J'onn. Who do you think you're talking to?"

J'onn laughed. "Ok, ok. You caught me. The truth is…" J'onn paused, taking a deep breath. He wasn’t exactly sure how to approach an obviously sore subject. "The truth is… we need to talk…"

Arthur pulled his eyes away from his friend and focused instead on the floor in front of him. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees, his hand and harpoon drooping toward the floor. Then, he muttered the one word answer he knew J'onn was talking about. The conversation he had been expecting for some time had finally arrived.

"Diana."

J'onn watched Arthur’s mood shift and started questioning his own decision to bring the topic up. However, regardless of the pain of the situation, it had started to affect the team and J'onn and Clark had decided to step in. Considering who he was now talking to, he decided that he had gotten the better end of the deal.

"Yeah. Diana. What’s going on, Arthur?"

"Nothing. At least… not any more." Arthur sighed, his shoulders slumping even more. J'onn reached out and placed a gentle hand on his shoulder.

"Arthur, it’s ok. It’s me. Tell me about it."

"It started a few months back…" Arthur began, not taking his eyes off the floor. "I mean, you remember: we had always flirted around… little comments here and there. A little harmless rib now and again. Things like that. Well, let’s just say that the interest behind those comments was slowly building in both of us…"

Arthur stood slowly and let J'onn’s hand fall away. He paced over toward the side of the room, looking out through the domed top of the room and into the dark, blue sea beyond. "Then, after a particularly lightweight League mission, I invited her back here… I dunno, on a whim. We were both still a little riled up from the fight and we were both feeling a little let down that it had ended so quickly. I suggested we come back here and try a little sparring. We practiced fighting for an hour or so, teaching each other new moves and new techniques. Once we both started to wear down, I instructed some of the palace caretakers to prepare a bath for her while I went to the master suite to clean up and change. We had a lovely dinner, then retired to the study…"

He turned back around his face a mixture of sorrow, regret, and a little bit of bitterness. J'onn knew that this was difficult for Arthur to talk about.  Difficult?  More like impossible!  Arthur generally didn’t talk about these things; he preferred to keep them to himself. But J'onn also knew that he was probably the only being on the planet that Arthur felt comfortable enough talking to.

"We talked. For hours upon hours, we talked. About nothing. About everything. About…" Arthur paused, then cleared his throat. "After that day, we became closer and closer. We started meeting together outside of League functions. A nice dinner down here, a quiet lunch at her place, swimming off the shores of Themyscira… Somewhere along the way, I suppose you could say we became a 'couple'. Things were going well… the sex was unbelievable…"

He paused again, suddenly very aware of what he was saying. In his mind, he immediately started to shut down, the walls of defense started building up. J'onn sensed the defense mechanisms coming up in his friend and decided to shift to a different subject.

"So what happened?"

Arthur looked to J'onn. "I don’t know. Honestly, I really don’t. We had decided that until we had a better understanding of the relationship ourselves, that we would… not 'keep it a secret' but more…"

"Not tell anyone?"

"Something like that, I guess. I figured: How could we explain what’s going on between us to other people when even we didn’t know! She seemed to be fine with that. We'd had long discussions about how what was happening in our private lives was really none of the League’s—or anyone else’s—concern. So we agreed that avoiding public displays of our affection for one another was off-limits. At least until we knew for sure. Then, out of the blue, she came to me one night and called it off! Just like that!"

"What did she say?"

"She said that she was tired of living the lie. She started harping on about being the Champion of Truth and that she felt like a hypocrite, lying 'to the League and to the world' about our relationship.  I… I tried to reason with her.  I told her that we could go public if that’s what she wanted. I told her I didn’t care about what people thought any more.  I told her… I told her that I…"

J'onn stood up and went to his friend’s side, placing an arm around his shoulders. Arthur felt the comforting gesture and instinctively shrugged J'onn’s arm away, returning to the window with his back to J'onn. His voice changed again. This time it was much colder, much more callous.

"She said it didn’t matter, that she couldn’t do it anymore. Then, she stormed out. That was, I dunno… a month and a half ago."

"Wait," J'onn interrupted, "You mean she ended it with you?"

"Yes."

"But if it was her decision, then why the erratic behavior? Why has she been so short tempered?"

"I don’t know. I don’t understand that one either.  At first, I thought it was just me, that I was somehow… hyper-sensitive to her mood swings because of… what I was feeling. But then you and the others all mentioned it as well…"

Suddenly, a cough at the doorway made both men jerk their heads around. One of Arthur’s top aides was standing at the door.

"S-sire?" the aide asked meekly.

J'onn watched as Arthur… no, King Orin turned and stepped forward. "Yes?"

"I believe we may have an… issue, sir?"

"An issue?"

"Well, sir, one of the palace caretakers was doing a thorough cleaning of Bedroom 3 and came across something that I think you may want to see, sir."

Arthur and J'onn exchanged glances, then stepped toward the man in the doorway as he reached over and took a small chest from the page standing beside him. He presented the ornately carved box, the Atlantian inscription marking it as a delivery parcel, and quickly averted his eyes. Arthur reached up and opened the box.

Immediately, a bright yellow light splashed across J'onn and Arthur’s faces, causing them both to squint. The light faded some and their eyes adjusted. Arthur took one look at the contents of the box and his eyes widened slightly, then dropped to the floor, his shoulders slumping. His right hand came up to his face, his fingers massaging the bridge of his nose. J'onn’s eyes had gone wide and stayed that way, his gaze transfixed by the glowing object. Without removing his gaze from the box, J'onn leaned over slightly in Arthur’s direction and started asking the many questions currently flooding his mind.

"Arthur? Is that…?"

"Yeah."

"But that means…"

"Yeah."

"So that’s why…"

"Yeah."

 

"WHERE?!?"

3 A.M. phone calls to the Kent household were not that uncommon. Whether it was Perry or a possible story lead phoning for Lois or some global emergency for Clark, being awakened in the wee hours by the annoying ring had become a regular part of their lives. That still didn’t mean that Lois had to like it.

"Ok, so what is this about again?… uh-huh… yeah, ok.  Whatever.  I’ll tell him… I said I’ll tell him!  Fine. Bye!"  She slammed the phone back onto the cradle, then rolled over and glared at her husband, who was quickly withering under 'The Stare.'

"Who was it, honey?" he asked timidly, already relatively sure of the answer.  Lois’s glare softened slightly, replaced by overwhelming exhaustion.

"That… was Queen Bitch.  She said there’s some League thingy she needs to talk to you about. She’s on the roof of the Daily Planet waiting for you."

"The Planet?  Why…" he was cut off by Lois’s hand shooting up and covering his mouth.

"I don’t know, I don’t care, and I don’t want to hear about it when you get back!" she muttered, before slamming her head back down onto the pillow, almost immediately falling back to sleep.

Clark crawled out of bed, his ability to wake and be ready in an instant far more advanced than his now sleeping wife.  Faster than a speeding bullet, he got dressed and quietly flew out the window.  As he sped across town, he started preparing himself for whatever global or alien threat was approaching.  The fact that it had been Diana that had called stuck in the back of his mind though. Wasn’t Bruce on duty tonight?  Plus, Lois said that "she" was on the roof waiting, not "they."

He landed on the roof of the Daily Planet, scanning the area for his compatriots. When he saw no one, he called out.

"Diana?"

She stepped out from behind the spinning globe on the rooftop and sauntered over toward him. "Hello, Kal."

Something was wrong.  Very wrong.  The way she moved, the way she talked… it was all wrong.  A quick microscopic x-ray scan confirmed that the bone structure, cell structure, and even DNA structure were all correct for Diana.  Either this was in fact her, or an unbelievably exact copy.  Almost as if she sensed his concerns, she immediately straightened, resuming a more professional stance.  When she spoke again, she spoke as Wonder Woman.

"We have a problem up at the Tower," she stated flatly. "Batman has that… harlot up there with him on duty."

"Harlot?"

"Catwoman!  He’s got her up in the Tower right now!  After all that we've been through with him for the last week and now he’s got that…"

"Whoa!  Diana!  Slow down.  I’m sure there’s a reasonable explana…"

"NO! There is NO explanation for that!  NO justification for that!  She’s a criminal!  A thief and a liar.  And right now, she’s sitting three feet away from some of the most important and powerful information in the known universe!"

"Diana, Batman would never allow…"

"Don’t do that, Kal!  Don’t defend him!  Don’t you see?  Can’t you see what’s happening?!  He’s tearing us apart!"

The phrasing of her statement, as well as her tone, caught him off-guard for an instant. "Us?"

"Yeah, us!  You, me, the rest of The League… we're all fighting and second-guessing each other!  It’s like the whole team is falling apart around us…"

"Diana, it’s not that bad. We were dealt a difficult situation and we handled it. Just like we always do.  Look, if it will make you feel better, I will talk to Batman about visitors to the Tower, ok?  If that doesn’t work, we can discuss it at this week’s meeting. It'll all be ok, I promise."

She hung her head slightly, her demeanor changing instantly again. She looked back up at him, her eyes sparkling lightly. "Ok, Kal. Thank you. See, this is why you're the leader of this team…"

"Diana, I’m not the leader. We're a team. We decide things as a team. We act as a team…"

"Oh, don’t sell yourself short, Kal. Everyone looks up to you. You're a born leader. You're our rock, our foundation. Without you, I’d… we'd all be lost."

Not liking where this conversation was heading and deciding that the main topic of the discussion was finished, he decided it was time to cut his losses before this got any… stranger.

"Ok, thank you, Diana. Is that all? Was there any other reason you pulled me out of bed at three in the morning?"

The strange, almost seductive look returned to her eyes as she stepped up again, now getting dangerously close to him. "Would it be wrong of me to say that I've missed you?" she purred.

One of the many skills Superman had learned over his long tenure as a superhero was the ability to keep his cool in even the strangest of circumstances. This was definitely one of the strangest. Still, he maintained his composure as he looked down at her face, his own face a mask of stoicism.

"Diana?"

"Yes, Kal" she breathed, her voice coming out as little more than a whisper.

"What happened between you and Arthur?"

She paused for a moment, then her lip curled in an almost wicked grin. "What’s the matter, Kal. Jealous?"

His brow furrowed slightly. "Jealous?"

"The truth is…" she began, taking a step away from him, then starting a slow, deliberate walk around him, her finger tracing up his arm and across his broad shoulders in the back. "… Arthur and I had our fun. He was good company. He was a great friend and a lovely companion." She made it around to his other side, her finger never leaving his body as she came back around in front of him. She looked directly into his eyes as she continued.

"He was a decent lover. Very creative. Very… attentive."

Clark pulled his eyes away from hers, turning his head to the side. "Jesus, Diana. I don’t need to know that…"

Her finger continued its dance across his arm and down to his chest, where she began tracing the outline of the giant "S" emblem. "The only problem was…" she continued, ignoring his behavior, "… I have a hard time really enjoying sex with someone, when I’m constantly thinking of someone else."

"Diana, what the hell has gotten into you?" He turned back to look at her and immediately got caught by her lusty stare. Her eyes flicked down to below his waist for a split second, then she looked back up into his eyes, and said with a mischievous grin, "Nothing… yet."

He couldn’t believe what was happening. Sure, there had always been a bit of… tension between them. She had always hinted and flirted with him. But he had never in his life seen her this aggressive, this forward, this brazen. He had to admit that Diana was attractive; any red-blooded male had to admit that. But he was married now. Lois was the love of his life. Lois was his soulmate. Diana would never… could never… be anything to him other than a good friend and teammate. Outwardly, he kept his composure and decided to try and regain control of the conversation. He took a deep breath, then stared at her sternly.

"Diana? What happened in Kurdistan?"

She recoiled like he had hit her. She was instantly two steps away, anger flaring on her face for just an instant. Then, just as suddenly, her face twisted in confusion and regret. She started stammering.

"Wh-what do you mean?"

"You know exactly what I mean, Diana. What happened?

She seemed to think for a minute, as if trying to remember the events in her head. "I t-told you what happened. We must have missed a ship somewhere.  I though we had gotten them all, but I guess we didn’t.  I turned to come help you and next thing I remember, I’m waking up in the Med Lab at the Tower.  I mean we had made short work of most of the boats, but… "

Superman watched and listened.  Not to the story, but to her body. He pulse had quickened, her voice wavered slightly and small droplets of perspiration began forming at her hairline.  Her eyes darted around, never really looking at him directly.  From his many experiences with criminals over the decades, he knew exactly what was happening.

Diana, Princess of Themyscira, Amazon Ambassador to the World, Goddess of Truth… was lying.

At that precise moment, when the unimaginable happened, his subconscious mind clicked forward and screamed in his head. Consciously, aside from her erratic behavior, he hadn’t really noticed anything different about her recently. Subconsciously, however, his mind had picked up that something was physically different about her. Something was wrong, out-of-place… missing. He quickly catalogued her appearance, searching for whatever it was that had caught his eye as being wrong. His eyes locked on her waist for an instant, a motion that stopped her mid-ramble. Instantly, the sex-kitten returned as his eyes slowly scanned up her body. She inhaled, puffing her chest out. She knew, all too well, the effect that simple motion had on most men. His eyes continued travelling upward, until they locked onto hers. His voice was stern and stoic as he addressed her.

"Diana?"

"Yes?" she purred, cocking her hip slightly to the side.

"Where’s your lasso?"

To be continued...

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