"You know Master Bruce, if you had told me we'd have guests this morning, I would have prepared myself to welcome them."
Alfred's scolding tone didn't fall to deaf ears, though the four heroes gathered around the table in the Manor's kitchen didn't seem inclined to reply to the butler's sarcasm. He took a quick peek at the group and shook his head, trying to hide the sardonic smile curving his lips.
Bruce, cowl-less and gloves forgotten God's knew where, was sagged in the chair holding a mug of steaming coffee, his hair wet with sweat flopped on his forehead. Arthur sat on the chair straddling it, arms crossed over its back, eyes circled with dark shadows and beard and long hair all messed up with rubble from the fight sticking out of his mane. Barry didn't seem to be even marginally affected by the gruesome battle they had just endured, his suit didn't have a single scratch while theirs were torn and dented. Diana, like the true princess she was, was more composed, but she was just as tired as they were. She had fought nail and teeth and she had been the main reason they hadn't all lost their lives, even with Superman's recent return from the world of the dead.
"Uh, silence. I guess I should have expected it. Should I keep the coffee flowing, while I fix you something to eat?"
"Thanks, Alfred," she replied with a warm smile. "It would be great."
He nodded. "The guestrooms are all ready to be occupied, in case you prefer to sleep here, rather than return to your homes. This night was awful, you deserve some rest. By the way, may I ask where Mister Kent is? And Mister Stone?"
"Vic disappeared," said Barry. "He mentioned something about checking on some family, you know, because of the damage. Superman though, I have no idea."
"He went home to Lois," added Bruce. "He spent a long while in the realm of the dead, I assume he preferred to see the woman he loves more than a bunch of tired, dirty, sweaty superheroes."
"Hey, I'd love to see my wife too, but I didn't want to dump you like that, wouldn't be polite." Arthur spoke for the first time after a long while. "You're a bunch of funny guys and gal, I like you!"
"Feeling's mutual, Arthur," replied Diana.
"Sorry to interrupt, I hope chocolate chip pancakes will do, for now. You must be starving, I have enough for bacon and eggs for all of you, maybe I can fix you some waffles too," stated Alfred as he set the plates, then he placed a fresh pot of coffee, sugar and creamer in the center of the table.
"Pancakes will be great, Alfred. Don't fret too much."
"Oh Master Bruce, preparing breakfast doesn't make me fret. Repairing the Batmobile after you wreck it does, though."
Everyone in the room laughed, softly.
"Hey, now that I think of it… I have a girlfriend, Vic has family. Superman has a girlfriend and you Arthur are actually married to the Queen of Atlantis, right… but you two?" he asked looking between Bruce and Diana. "What about you?"
"Bruce Wayne has a list of exes long enough to run around the Equator line, Mister Allen," Alfred answered instead of Batman. "There was a girl, a long time ago, but it didn't work out. Too bad, she was smart, beautiful…"
"And the daughter of a mass murdering ecoterrorist. It would have never worked out."
Alfred sighed. "Yes sir, I know sir. But let me tell you, that woman had the gall to keep up with the Batman and the sass to keep up with Bruce Wayne. You two made a great pair. What about you, Miss Prince? Anyone special in your life?"
She sighed and a sudden, invisible weight made her shoulders sag. "Yes, there was someone, a long time ago."
"He's not in the scene anymore?" asked Arthur as he mixed his coffee and the creamer.
She shrugged her shoulders and wrapped her fingers around her own mug, as if to draw courage from it. "No he's… it's a long story, boring even. You don't want to hear it."
"Try us," said Bruce. "Hey, I'm the king of broodiness, but I learned from my mistakes. I can listen. And I'm too tired to sleep anyway. With Barry and Arthur's permission, I think you can fire away."
Then Alfred came and set a huge pile of pancakes beside the now empty coffee pot, before he retrieved it to prepare some more. "Go on Miss Prince. They're like children during recess, if you don't tell them, they'll pester you until you do. Or snap their necks."
Again, she sighed. "Sometimes I miss Themyscira." She traced the brim of the mug with her finger, then gently tapped her closed fist on the table. "Well, so be it. Time to explain where I come from."
They let her speak, as they chewed on the lush breakfast Alfred was serving them, and she paused only when she ate a bite or drank some coffee. A couple of times, towards the end, her voice broke with bottled up emotion, as she relieved her memories of her first steps as Wonder Woman, as people called her.
And when she got to the part where Steve boarded the plane, well, everyone in the room stood still as she recounted the explosion that tore the sky and described what she called the worst pain you can feel, but not in your body, in your heart, as if someone had ripped your very soul apart, like a piece of paper, and threw it in the trash can, like it meant nothing to anyone.
Barry felt horribly, for having brought up the subject. Bruce deflected the question, but Diana was honest with them, in a way that made him hurt for her. Even after nearly a century, she still hurt for Steve Trevor, the american spy that literally crashed in her home, brought havoc and wreck there and then proceeded to steal her from the place she had grown up in, only to show her the worst of the world right before he had died, saving the day, but leaving her heartbroken. A heartbreak that still she didn't seem to be able to fix.
Tears fell freely from her eyes and her shoulders shook with the effort of containing the hiccups.
"You know what's worse?" she added after a long moment of silence. "That I never had the chance to say goodbye. I couldn't hear, the explosion had deafened me, and my last words to him were… they weren't kind. I left him hanging, we had just argued… twice, over something I had been wrong about. And here I am, knowing that he died unaware of my feelings and… well, after an argument. Makes it even worse."
"I'm sorry Diana…" said Barry, rubbing her naked shoulder in sympathy. God, he really felt like he had murdered Steve again, making her relive it just to satisfy their curiosity. "I shouldn't have asked."
"God, that's…" Arthur's voice was gruff, but broken. "That's tough."
"Yeah…" murmured Bruce. "Now I understand why that photo meant so much to you."
"What photo?" asked Barry.
Out of nothing, a sleek black tablet appeared in Alfred's hands. He tapped on the screen a couple of times and then he handed him the device. "This photo," he explained. "Master Bruce found it last year, before the Doomsday incident, in Lex Luthor's personal files. Along with files about all the metahumans he had gathered."
As grainy as it was, Barry could clearly see Diana and four men around her. One looked like a First Nations man, big and burly. Then there was a shorter guy with a scoped rifle and a kilt, probably a Scot from the British army. A shorter guy with dark skin and a thin, well kept beard and a fez. Then, right by her side, there was a young tall man, his eyes were bright despite the grainy quality of the photo and they seemed to pierce through the screen. And Diana… well, she looked badass then as she had looked the night before.
"That him?" he turned the tablet towards her and pointed at the man beside her.
She nodded. "Yes, that's him. Captain Steve Trevor."
"And he died on November 6th, 1918?" he asked.
Closing her eyes, she shook her head. "Yes. Yes he did. Thanks for the bluntness, anyway."
Barry gave a good look to the photo again, then grunted. "Yeah, I can make it. Excuse me one second…"
The whole room was submerged in white statics and Barry disappeared. Everyone froze in their place, as the room was filled with an eerie silence broken only by the crackling of the residual electricity left by Barry's faster-than-light movements.
"Where the fuck did he go?" asked Arthur.
"No, fucking, idea!" exclaimed Bruce. "What the fuck did he run outside the house through the walls?"
He seemed flabbergasted, there was no other word to describe him.
"Seems like it, Master Bruce."
A second later, a larger, brighter electric charge exploded in front of them. When their eyes adjusted to the sudden blinding light, they saw Barry standing just inside the kitchen, carrying a man dressed in a heavy grey jumpsuit with fur-lined collar, a grey military uniform beneath that and a still smoking gun in his right extended hand.
"This your boy?"
Only then, the man Barry was carrying seemed to register the sudden change of setting. He blinked, once, twice, and then he turned his head and looked at the group in front of him. "What the fuck…" he screamed, suddenly jumping on his feet. "Where am I?"
"Better question is when, my friend," answered Barry. "Welcome to 2017!"
"But… the plane… the poison… I should be dead and…" he stopped in his rambling when he finally noticed a very distressed, speechless Diana Prince sitting just feet away from him, mouth open in total disbelief and shock. "Diana?"
She startled in her seat. "Steve? But…" She stood up and walked towards him. Her hands instantly grabbed the open lapels of his jumpsuit, touched his chest, his neck, ran her fingers through his messy hair, along his stubbly cheek. "How? You should…"
"Be dead? Yeah, I know! What the fuck happened?"
"I don't know…" she declared. "And I don't fucking care!" And she kissed him. Better, she climbed on him and he dropped the gun to the floor to wrap his arms around her and keep her close to him. Talk about enthusiasm.
Barry sat in his chair again, smiling. "Woof, caught him just in time."
Arthur threw him a mean look. "Is this the guy she was talking about earlier?"
"Considering the length of her tongue down his throat, I guess he is!" added Bruce, and that prompted a quick slap on his shoulder from Alfred. "What? It's true!"
"Please Master Bruce I raised you better than this. You don't go throwing lewd comments about two long lost lovers that have just been reunited. Mister Allen, I suppose your talent of travelling through time is due to your ability of making the quantum particles of your body vibrate at a certain frequency, am I right?"
"That and a knack for keeping the vibration constant for a certain amount of cycles before… oh man, it's complicated. But yes, I can travel through time. It's tiring and it's not an exact science, but I can. I actually had to go back and forth a couple of times before I got the timing right. First time I got there too early, he hadn't boarded the plane yet. Second time, it had already exploded and… guys… you don't know how bad it was to hear her scream her lungs out. No… just… no. Third time's the charm and I grabbed him just a moment after he had shot the bullet that made the plane blow. And here we are." He threw a quick look at Diana and Steve, now locked in the a tight hug, tears of joy streaming both their faces, still unable to believe they were finally together. Chuckling, he smiled again. "There, look at that! The quantum particle of love."
The four men lacked words to describe the scene in front of them. They were locked in their little world, as if a bubble surrounded them, and nothing else mattered anymore.
"Good thing quantum particles never change, they only aggregate together, into something bigger. Stronger," said Alfred.
"And that creates us all," added Bruce.
"Should I bring him some clean clothes from your wardrobe, Master Bruce? He looks about your size, if only a little shorter."
"That would be a great idea. While you're at it, show them to a room. One very far from mine, thank you."