Hippolyta didn't really know what to think about Diana's sudden but not unexpected disappearance from the celebrations. She had never been one for large gatherings like this one, she had always been more interested in battles and training instead of big social gatherings, or at least not those so big so she wasn't exactly surprised to see her leave. It had happened before and she didn't mind.
But knowing where she was going, watching her leave left a bitter taste in her mouth.
She had taken great care in observing her in the past week, as she examined how Steve acted. It was like turning time back one hundred years, to a time before Diana had left for Man's World. Somehow, the veil of sadness that had blanketed her ever since she had left the first time seemed to be gone, and her bright smile had returned in its purest, most sincere form. And Hippolyta couldn't be happier about it, but there was still something that felt wrong to her.
She wanted to believe Diana's words about him, that he was different from other men and such… but her own experience was clashing with the notion that there could be a man that could be different from the lot.
She was also curious to meet him. Very curious. In the past few days he had behaved impeccably, showing nothing but respect for everyone on the island, taking great care of respecting hierarchy and addressing the higher ups with the appropriate rank, also he never spoke unless someone spoke to him first, except with Diana of course. Even Menalippe and Artemis were praising his attitude, with the former admiring his curiosity and will to learn and the latter his skills in combat. He didn't stand a chance with the less capable Amazon soldier, yet he showed signs of improvement and most of all the desire to learn. Practically everyone she had spoken to had at least something good to say about him, deep beneath the prejudice born from his gender.
Artemis' voice pulled her out of her thoughts. "Yes?"
"You can go, if you want. Check on them, I mean. We can hold on our own here."
She sighed. "Am I really that predictable?"
"Well, it's not like we have lots of experience with children, but we all helped raising her, together. And right in this moment most of us want to know what those two are doing. Unless they're having sex, then I don't want to know," added Menalippe with a disgusted smirk. "Go, see how he is around here when we're not around, ready to slash his throat if he only dares to treat her unfairly."
"You think he's that kind of man?"
Artemis shook her head. "No, he's not that kind of man. He adores her, he probably worships the earth where she walks, I highly doubt he would ever raise a hand on her other than to touch her in the most reverential way you can think. Also, she would probably kill him, if he tried. But you need to see for yourself, so go."
She shook her head and sighed. "Alright, I'll go. Diana told me he wants to talk to me, one on one. I'll see how he is around her then I'll decide if he deserves this conversation."
Menalippe nodded. "Good idea. Just… be kind on that boy. He's a man, and we know we have a bad history with males but he's different, Diana's right. He's one of the rare ones that actually admit when they're wrong."
"Right, I'll see what happens." With that, Hippolyta stood and excused herself. Not that many people cared about her leaving, between the music, the food and the mead flowing like a river, the Amazons weren't really interested about the whereabouts of their Queen.
She hurried to the cliff where she and Diana had spied on Steve and Penthiselea about a week before and managed to get there a little while before Diana got to the dock. Steve was quietly sitting beside the fire, reading a book. From the distance, he looked at ease, if only a little tired, as he concentrated on his reading. For what she could see, he was simply relaxing a little before going to bed, but deep down, Hippolyta felt that if she let her guard down, that man would once again bring misfortune to the island, just like the other time.
It didn't matter much if he did it on purpose or by accident.
Just as she saw Diana approaching him on the beach, she felt a gust of warm air behind her, then the sound of heavy footsteps coming closer. "They're cute, aren't they?"
She took a deep, steadying breath before she spoke. "Zeus, what are you doing here?"
"Just checking on my daughter."
"Zeus, you made it clear the night we conceived her that she isn't your daughter!" she exclaimed, turning towards him.
She found him in modern clothes, from what she could tell. Dark trousers and a white shirt, with sleeves rolled up to his elbows. He just shrugged his shoulders. "What can I say, after I met her I kind of grew attached to her. She's a great girl, you did a great job raising her."
"Well, thank you very much," she replied with a soft grunt. "What are you doing here, for real?"
"I've heard that you're having a little trouble trusting Steve. I just wanted to come and see what the problem was, because when I met him, he didn't seem much of a problem to me. He's a better man than I'll ever be, if you're worried about that."
"And when the hell did you meet him? Diana spoke about meeting you, but said nothing about you meeting Steve!"
Zeus chuckled and walked closer to the edge of the cliff, hands pushed deep in the pockets of his pants. "Because she doesn't know. Steve too doesn't know too actually. I wanted him to feel free to talk about whatever he wanted, I didn't want him to change the way he acted around me, knowing who I was. I disguised myself as a businessman and we travelled together on a flight from Metropolis to Paris, for eight hours or so. We talked a lot."
"About what?" asked the Queen.
"Many things… fools and kings. Life, love, books. We changed subject every five minutes. He's very affable and can hold a conversation for a long while."
"Uh… and what's your opinion on him?"
Zeus took a deep breath and released it in one strong puff. "I think he's a good guy. I'm sincere here, Steve Trevor is a gem of a person. He's great, he's kind, attentive, smart and wise way beyond his age. He knows the meaning of sacrifice and he's ready to do things that most men would never even dare to think about, if he thinks it's the right thing. But the most important thing is that he loves her. No, better, Steve adores her."
"People keep telling me that," she added.
"Because it's true, Hippolyta. He's changed a lot for her, because of her. He turned his view on the world upside down because of her, in the span of a few weeks, did you know that?"
Hippolyta shook her head. "No, I had no idea. It's not like I knew him very well, before now."
"Then try to get to know him now, you'll understand what Diana sees in him."
"What if I don't really care about what she sees in him?" she snapped.
He closed his eyes and sighed. "Then you're going to lose her. And Hippolyta, please, don't lie to me. I've known you since your first breath, I've created you. I know you're not like this. You're not one to hold a grudge like this to someone that has never done anything to you."
"He took her away from me, Zeus! He took her away from the island and he made her suffer so bad that she was the one that really changed! She wasn't the same when she came back, only now I can see glimpses of the Diana I used to know!"
Zeus shook his head. "Hippolyta, he didn't take her away. He was merely a messenger from the Fates. It was time for Diana to come forward and do what we made her for. Remember what we agreed on that night, she's your daughter, but she's also my weapon. Steve… he was just unlucky enough to be caught in a game bigger than him. And unfortunately, it cost him his life. But now he's here, and like it or not he's here to stay."
They remained silent for a long while, just observing the two youngsters as they danced to the rhythm of the drums being played in town. When she heard Diana laugh, Hippolyta couldn't help but smile wide, despite her overall bad disposition towards Steve. It didn't matter that he was the cause of that laugh, she was just happy to hear her daughter laugh again, so bright and carefree.
"Oh, he's singing to her!" said Zeus, apparently very entertained.
"He's singing! Here, listen!" he waved his hand and made some kind of magic allowed her to hear them. "Oh my dear boy, you've got good tastes!"
"You know this… song?" she asked, trying to listen closely.
Zeus nodded. "Oh yes, it was a major hit thirty-something years ago. Listen to the words… they're magical."
"Then why is she crying?" she asked, flexing her fingers as if she was holding her sword.
"Oh shut up for a moment and listen! Diana isn't sad, she's moved. By the way, let's… enhance the experience a little bit."
He flicked his fingers and suddenly the air was filled with the rest of the instruments, sounds she had never heard but that formed a pleasing melody. As she listened, paying close attention to the words she actually understood why Diana felt moved to tears. It was a sincere declaration of love.
"Oh…" she murmured. "I see your point."
Zeus smiled. "I'm happy you do. Are you ready to give him a chance?"
She sighed "Do I really have to?"
"Hippolyta, listen to someone that knows a thing or two about estranged children. There's a rift between you and Diana, a rift I'm partially responsible for and that is getting bigger and bigger. We took decisions that in hindsight were just wrong, because unconsciously we undermined her confidence. And guess who's helping her getting that confidence back?"
"Exactly. If you show her you are at least trying to get to know him, the rift will start closing. It might take some time, but you'll get your daughter back," he explained. "Or at least you'll see the Diana you knew before she left way more often."
Much to her chagrin, Zeus was right. There was a rift between Diana and her, for which he was one of the causes because of decisions they had made a very long time before, not really knowing what would happen or what kind of twists and turns destiny had undergone through, changes they hadn't predicted or hadn't thought about, and most of all, he was right about how she could help that rift close.
By accepting Steve Trevor and stop showing animosity against him. Animosity he had done absolutely nothing to deserve. Given her past experiences and what Zeus had said about Steve being a messenger from the Fates, everything that had happened from Diana's birth to that very day was probably part of a bigger plan that except for little glimpses here and there was hidden even from the Gods. But considering the past one hundred years, she could take for granted that Steve was indeed written in Diana's fate, no matter how much she could despise it.
It would only take her a little effort on her part to start mending a wound that still bled profusely, even after a century, give or take a few days. Diana had tried multiple times, but she had been too proud to see her daughter's attempts to come clear with her.
Gods, I've been so stupid...
Standing up straight, she nodded. "I'll give him a chance. I just wish none of this had happened."
"You mean you wish she never fell in love with him?"
"That too. I thought I had made sure to bring her up in a way she'd never tie her existence to someone else, so that she would rely on herself and be independent but I guess I made a mistake or two here and there."
Zeus, chuckled and ran his fingers through his hair. "What if I told you everything you did was right, and that falling in love with Steve was written in Diana's destiny the day she was born?"
"Yes, I've considered it might be an option." Folding her arms across her chest, Hippolyta turned to look at him with a twisted smirk stamped on her face. "Why am I not surprised? You Gods tend to have a sick sense of humor, I've learned that a very long time ago. I wouldn't be too surprised if you already knew what comes next for them."
He groaned. "Of course I know! I checked if anything had changed the moment her friend Barry went back in time and brought Steve back before we could go forward with our reincarnation plan. Let's just say they'll soon have their hands full," he said, very amused. "Way sooner than they think to be honest."
Hippolyta felt the blood drain from her face. "You mean she's…"
"Not yet. Not that I know of at least," he replied, shaking his head with a sly smile. "But let's say they came here as a couple, but they might leave as a trio."
"Oh come on…"
"Hey, it's not sealed yet! It isn't bound to happen right here, right now, you know better than me that the fate of a person isn't exactly set in stone so things may still change, I just wanted to warn you. Don't tell me you hadn't thought of this possibility!"
She gave him one of those killer looks she knew scared the crap out of everyone. Right on cue, he grimaced, finally wiping that smug grin from his face that gave her a not quite so metaphorical heartburn from the sheer frustration. "Right, got it. You thought about it. And I guess you're not happy."
"Should I be?" she asked him, bitterly.
"I don't know… it would be nice to have a child on the island again, you know… for a change. Don't you get bored here?"
For a brief moment, the prospect of seeing a child again on Themyscira didn't look too bad, but then she remembered they were talking about Diana and most of all about Steve Trevor and such a prospect didn't look so good, all of a sudden. "Don't…" she started. "Don't make me think about that. It's too soon. They're not ready yet."
"Ninety nine years, nine months and twelve days, Hippolyta. She's been in love with Steve for that long. Not infatuated, mind that, but in love. Aphrodite is still giddy about it, she calls them one of her greatest accomplishments as a matchmaker. I think it's long enough. Also, were you ready to have a baby, when you had her?"
The Queen groaned in frustration. "What about him? What if one day he realizes he doesn't love her and leaves?"
Zeus sighed again and pinched the bridge of his nose, frustrated himself. "Hippolyta, what part of it's their destiny, or Aphrodite's greatest matchmaking accomplishment isn't clear? They're bound to be together for the rest of their lives, unless something catastrophic happens. And by catastrophic, I mean something way worse than Steppenwolf, like… ten times, no better, a million times worse than that. Don't worry about that, we've got that covered."
"Well allow me to be a little skeptical about your concept of covered. Last time you said you had it covered your son nearly annihilated us all, and you had to go into hiding!" she replied, words seething through clenched teeth.
"Well do I have to remind you that out of all the Amazons that still live only Diana is trying to do what I created you for?"
Hippolyta grunted. "That was a low blow."
"It doesn't change the fact that it's the truth. But I'm not here to judge anyone, I gave you free will and this is what you chose. I'm just glad you came to help Diana and her friends last year, when they needed it. Listen, I've got to go and I'm quite sure you have a lot to do and even more to think about, I'll leave you to that. Just… give them a chance."
"Tell me something, Zeus," she prompted, after a brief moment of thoughtful silence. "Why are you so adamant about this matter? You never imposed your figure in Diana's upbringing, you barely know her and you've stepped down from your pedestal a very long time ago. Why coming up now and be their most strenuous paladin?"
The God shrugged his wide shoulders. "As I said before, I made errors with my own offspring and I learned I think or two about estranged children, in the past few centuries. Diana's probably my last chance to look back and say to myself that I actually did something good among the millions of mistakes, even though my role in her rearing was nothing more than providing an overpowered semen sample. And before you cringe, it Hera that invented the term, not me."
"Uhm," she chuckled, sincerely entertained. "I must say the definition fits you very well."
He smiled. "I knew you'd agree. And before I leave, one last thing. Diana may have not turned out the way you intended her to be, but she's grown to be the best paragon humanity could strive to be. And that's all your doing. I know you don't deem humanity worthy of her, but he is. Worthy of her, I mean. Now, goodbye Hippolyta, I'll leave you be. Call, if you need anything."
With one last quick nod, he walked away from the ledge and disappeared in a gust of wind behind her back.
True, she had a lot to think about, but she wasn't exactly keen on pondering on the matter, to be completely honest with herself. But looking down at Diana and Steve, swaying around the fire to the ghostly music of a song she had never heard of but they seemed to enjoy a lot, and they both looked so happy it made her heart burst with joy. She could hear Diana giggle, a sound Hippolyta had missed for the past one hundred years. It was heartwarming.
Doubt though still nagged at her, in the back of her mind. She knew that Zeus was right, that giving up the animosity towards Steve would help her and Diana healing the still oozing wound between them, but as a mother she couldn't help but fear that one day he could just get bored with time and leave her. Sure, he would lose his immortality, but he had already received a second chance, he could just be happy with it and forget her, live his own life as he wished. She dreaded that possibility with all her might.
"So? Any naughtiness? Scabrous details I wouldn't want to see?"
That was Menalippe, quickly climbing the decline that led to the ledge from the gravel road. "No, they're just…" Hippolyta looked down at the couple and sighed. "I guess that's what they call dancing in Man's World."
Her general looked herself and her face twisted into a puzzled grin. "That's… swaying, not dancing."
"Don't look at me, I'm as puzzled as you are."
"Uh… what's this sound?"
"Oh, that? It's Steve. He's singing to her."
"And the rest of the music?"
Hippolyta chuckled. "That's Zeus' doing. He just left, he wanted me to hear what he was doing, because apparently Diana loves this song and he decided to give them the full experience. And make me listen to it too. Seems quite a long piece."
"Uh… Zeus was here. Twice in a year, that's a record. When was the last time he visited that often?"
"Never happened," replied the Queen.
Menalippe remained silent for a while, just observing Diana and Steve down on the beach. "It's cute though. What he's doing. She seems happy, don't you think? Happier than I've seen her in the past century at least."
"Yes," she mused. "She does. Seems like it's their destiny, to be together. And apparently Aphrodite calls them one of their greatest matchmaking accomplishments."
Behind her, the second in command barely managed to contain a boastful laughter that sounded a lot like a cheerful told you so, but she decided to let it go. "Yes, I know. The Fates and the Gods have a strange sense of humor."
"I guess you're now forced at least to talk to him and hear him out. What do you think he wants to tell you? Do you have any idea?"
Taking a deep breath, Hippolyta took a step back from the ledge and turned towards Menalippe. "Oh I have a very clear idea of what he wants to tell me. And I don't like it one bit."