The funeral pyres burned bright that night on the island as the Amazons cremated their dead according to ancient ritual. It had been over 2,000 years since one of the race had perished. The loss of one-third of the Amazonian population represented a heavy price for the tribe. As the Gods had protected Themyscira for so many years, the women had grown accustomed to the idea that they were immortal, haughtily dismissing the mortality of Man's World. As the tribe watched the cremations, Hippolyta could sense their growing unease at the fact that their immortality had been disproved that morning.
She stood before the tribe, as well as a contingent of Diana's League teammates. In light of Diana's previous encounter, J'onn chose the group carefully. Over half of the League members presently on the island were women, including Supergirl, Huntress and Fire. The second team arrived half an hour after the battle's conclusion. Once the craft set down, the team of superheroes instantly switched gears from battle mode to medical technicians. Supergirl coordinated the triage, raiding the available supplies on board the plane to render medical assistance to the injured Amazons. While some of the injuries were severe, the Amazons were healing quickly, another gift of the Gods.
The League had also helped perform the more gruesome task of morgue detail. They were careful to allow the Amazons to pick up their own dead while the League tasked themselves to place the Dorian dead onto their ships, now moored at the Harbor. J'onn and Lantern spent the next few hours gathering wood sufficient for a mass funeral pyre. By twilight the Amazon Queen initiated the final task of cremating her sisters, touching a torch to the bottom of the pyre. After she called out the names of the fallen warriors, Hippolyta turned to address the mass of warriors watching the blaze.
"Sisters," Hippolyta began. "The events of this day will live in infamy. It is important you are aware Ares and Circe were ultimately responsible for this attack. I have appealed to the Gods for protection. Ares is under lock and key on Mount Olympus while Zeus decides his fate. Additionally, Apollo and Athena are hunting Circe as I speak. There has been much loss, to be sure, but when I think of how close we were to genocide, my heart leaps with thanks for the swift rescue by Diana and her teammates."
Hippolyta turned to Diana, Flash and Orin, who stood in the foreground of the League members. "We are truly grateful for your help. It seems that we have grown reliant on the assistance of outside help in recent times. Some of our views on Man's World may need to be revisited in light of these events. But those things will have to wait for another time."
Hippolyta bowed her head and murmured a prayer in the Ancient Tongue to Athena, begging the Goddess to watch over the souls of their fallen warriors. Her Amazon subjects echoed their Queen's prayer, then realizing there was nothing more to be done, filed away from the pyre one by one. Slowly, the women trudged their way through the battlefield back to the residential quarters. Despite their superhuman strength, they desperately needed some rest. In the morning, they would bury the Dorian soldiers now laying on the decks of their ships. Hippolyta seriously considered the idea of floating the ships out to deep water, then burning them as floating coffins. Unless someone came up with a better idea before dawn, the Amazons had one more funeral detail in their future.
J'onn returned with Diana and Hippolyta to her quarters while the rest of the League returned to the Watchtower in the Javelin. Batman, sans cape, cowl and belt, was resting comfortably in the bedroom Diana had slept in since she was a child. The room was decorated with only a few flourishes befitting a Princess. J'onn immediately noticed the lack of décor and raised his eyes in question when they entered the room.
"Thought it would be more impressive?" Diana asked with a smile. "I was never all that comfortable with the trappings of royalty, to be honest. I made it a point to decorate my room in the same manner as my sisters."
"A commendable action for royalty, to be sure," J'onn murmured as he knelt down to inspect his comatose friend. He deftly ran his fingers over Bruce's cranium, searching for signs of damage.
"How is he?" she asked.
"Lucky for us, the bump is raised, not an indentation as I feared." He replied. "Epidermal hematoma, rather than the more dangerous subdural."
"What's the difference?" she asked, unfamiliar with medical terminology.
"This injury won't cause any long-term damage to his brain. The impact was sufficient to render him unconscious however. While concussions aren't my specialty, I assume he should be up and around within a day or two."
Relief washed over Diana's face for the first time that day. She knelt down on the bed and traced her finger over Bruce's jaw, "He looks comfortable like this. Is he dreaming?"
"I make it my policy not to try and read his mind, Diana," J'onn said grimly. "I made that mistake one time and my head still aches from the attempt. Even Doctor Destiny couldn't invade his thoughts for more than a second at a time, and he was standing only five feet away. That should give you some idea as to the extent of his willpower. Ultimately, I'm not concerned about this concussion." He tilted Bruce's head forward to close the airway then dribbled a small amount of water from a cloth into the man's mouth. "It is important that Bruce remain hydrated…can you perform this task again before you go to sleep?".
A small cough interrupted their conversation and the two of them turned to see Hippolyta standing at the door. J'onn quickly bowed to the Amazon Queen as she entered the room, then J'onn turned to Diana, "I should be getting back to the Watchtower. Diana, I will return with the Jet at your summons. If he doesn't regain consciousness by morning, call me. I'll return with the Jet and run an intravenous line if need be."
Diana and Hippolyta watched as the Martian exited the room, then Hippolyta studied the features of Diana's boyfriend for the first time. "He's certainly handsome," she stated, objectively studying his features as if she were looking at a statue.
"I'm glad you find him attractive." Diana replied sarcastically. "His looks are an added benefit; I loved him before he ever removed the cowl."
Hippolyta froze in her tracks as she contemplated her daughter's statement. She decided to switch gears in an attempt to thaw her daughter's icy mood. "Any change in his condition?"
"None, I'm afraid." Diana replied coldly, her voice reflecting her anger at her Mother's earlier, callous comment. "What do you want, Mother?"
Hippolyta looked at her daughter, calmly calculating the extent to which she was willing to carry the upcoming argument the same evening that over one hundred of her Amazon sisters were slain.
"Diana, I apologize if my comments were out of place earlier today. Your admission…" she stammered, struggling to find the most diplomatic words she could offer, "Surprised me. I hoped you would avoid relationships with men entirely, given my experiences. You're right, of course. This man has acted heroically, to be sure."
"He and Orin saved us from that artillery barrage." Diana retorted, her anger still evident. "Without his actions, it's doubtful that there would be an Amazon still alive to tell the tale about this battle."
"Again, I apologize. Please, Diana. It's been a long day." Hippolyta pleaded, her majestic tone softening for the first time since Diana had known her.
Seeing her mother finally shed some of her regal burden, Diana's countenance softened as well. "Very well, Mother. I accept your apology on his behalf. I too acted poorly. There are many ways to describe this man, but 'mere mortal' is not one that does him justice. Come to think of it, out of all of my teammates, he's probably the most dangerous man on the planet."
"Diana, I find it touching that you would treat a man that you are romantically involved with so reverently, but don't you think you might be overstating his capabilities?"
Diana sighed wearily, linking fingers with her comatose lover. "Mother, it's important that you know exactly how I feel about him. I love him. I feel lucky to have him. He's the most brilliant, driven man I've ever met, or ever will meet for that matter, but he chooses to use that drive to help his fellow man. If he used his mind for evil, he would make Alexander look like a paper tiger."
Hippolyta was stunned by her daughter's admission. "You are in love with him? I assumed that it was a lark…an affair perhaps."
"I am most certainly in love with him. He reminds me of Hector in many ways." Diana replied, a touch of pride evident in her voice.
"You speak of the Prince of Troy, I presume?" Hippolyta asked.
"The very same." Diana replied.
"Hector was slain by Achilles outside the walls of Troy." Hippolyta countered. "I fail to see the comparison."
"Hector, a mortal, single-handedly managed to hold together an entire city under siege by an Army ten times the size. Hector managed to hold the Trojan army together by the force of his will alone. When he faced Achilles on the field of battle, Hector knew he was facing a demi-god. Moreover, he knew his chances of winning that battle were almost nil, but he tried anyway. Why? Because he had the honor of a warrior! Batman…Bruce… does the same thing in his city, Gotham City, every night. Even while he fights that battle, he still finds time to contribute as a League member."
"What will happen if the Bat falls in battle then? To an Achilles in Man's World?"
"First of all, his name is Bruce," Diana replied, raising an eyebrow. "Additionally, since I've been in Man's World, I've come to realize how precious life really is. The battle today served as an unfortunate reminder that sometimes, even immortals can be killed, given the right set of circumstances. Bruce and I battled an alien three months ago who was proportionately stronger than I am to Bruce. Had it not been for Superman's intervention, that alien could have crushed the life out of me. It was a first-hand lesson as to the extent of my own mortality. I would rather have loved and lost this man rather than never having loved him at all."
"Would not Orin represent a more suitable mate?" Hippolyta protested. "A joining of the kingdoms of Atlantis and Themyscira would be well received by the Gods."
"Mother, Orin is married, obstinate as Hades, and worse, he is ten times the aristocrat that you would ever hope to be. I'm glad that we are teammates, but I would rather kiss a Wookie."
Hippolyta did not know the meaning of Diana's last remark but chose to pursue the thread of conversation anyway, determined to talk her daughter out of a long-term mistake. "What about Superman? I thought it was fortuitous he returned alive."
"As did I, Mother. Superman…Kal is truly one of my best friends. He is also probably the most powerful alien or human I will ever encounter. His legacy on Earth is unsurpassed, but I do not view him as a potential mate."
"He would be a better fit," Hippolyta countered, "especially given his strength and his abilities. He's more of a God than a man!"
Diana's eyes glowed then peals of laughter echoed through the hall a moment later. "Mother, that's precious! As if a God was more desirable than a man simply because of his nature. Do you not remember your own mistake with Hades? Kal is a friend but nothing more."
Hippolyta slumped into the corner chair as she considered her daughter's viewpoint. Frowning, she scooted to the edge of the chair, realizing she was sitting on Batman's cape. The cowl was draped over the armrest and she picked it up, running her fingers through the eyeholes.
"Of all the League members, you chose the only one without any extra-physical prowess? What is the attraction?"
Diana remained on the bed, considering the question thoughtfully. "He's the only one of my teammates who never treated me like royalty. Despite the fact that he is not physically my equal, he has always treated me as if he was. He backs down to no man, woman or alien. I've seen him intimidate enemies into submission just by looking at them. That quiet confidence is very attractive…it is to me anyway."
Hippolyta watched her daughter's face glow more brightly as she enumerated all of her man's qualities. "Can you make a relationship work with a man so obsessed with his job? When will he make time for you?"
"I will take whatever time he can offer." Diana replied, a weary smile creeping onto her face. "Besides, it's not as if I'll be staying at home every night, pining for his return. I accompany him on most of our missions now anyway. I try to keep my eye on him as he sometimes has an urge to crash his machines into our enemies. I've almost lost him twice that way."
"I take it your love for him means there is no hope for you to return to Themyscira?" Hippolyta asked, a touch of hope still evident in her face that her daughter would return to help her rule Themyscira.
"How can you even say that, Mother? Themysciran law demands my exile!"
"The laws might be bent for a Princess who has twice returned with a League of heroes to defend her Amazon sisters from an outside attack." Hippolyta replied. "I am not that rigid."
Diana considered the implied offer for a moment, then shook her head to dismiss the idea. "Mother, it is kind of you to make that offer, but it is something that I still must refuse. It would be too limiting to live on Themyscira when I have other parts of my life which are now more important."
Hippolyta sprung out of her chair as her daughter uttered what to her appeared to be a sacrilegious thought. "More important than your Amazon sisters?" Hippolyta seethed.
"When Aresia decided to undertake her war of genocide against men, Shayera… Hawkgirl observed that Aresia was only taking our code to its logical conclusion. I did not believe at the time that men served any useful purpose in Man's World other than to propagate the species. Those thoughts were vocalized by a naïve Princess who had never experienced the compassion men demonstrate in Man's World every day. They are fathers, brothers, husbands. Warriors. The list of the good things they accomplish is endless."
"What about rapists? Criminals? Enslavers?" Hippolyta retorted. "Or did you forget so quickly who invaded our shores this morning?"
"There are such men in Man's World, I grant you. They are far from perfect, but they are men to be admired, nevertheless. In fact, a common criminal killed Bruce's parents when he was just a little boy. I admire Bruce because he has chosen to honor their memory by rising above that adversity. He grew up in a world without love, but he vowed to do his utmost to ensure that no other children in that city would suffer the same fate. Now he's expanded that mission to save the world when he can."
"He must have been scarred for life!" Hippolyta reasoned, "Which reinforces my argument that the two of you are completely incompatible."
"Mother, we are so compatible sometimes that it scares me." Diana replied forcefully. "He knows me better than anyone ever has, or ever will for that matter. I have given myself to him fully, without reservation."
Hippolyta raised an eyebrow, realizing her daughter had just admitted to giving the gift of her virginity to this mortal. "I'm not sure I want to hear this." She snapped.
"Mother, if it were just the sexual attraction, it would probably make this situation much easier to dismiss as a lark or an affair. It's so much more than that it amazes me. I wasn't looking for a relationship, but after spending so many years with him, I have a passion for him that I cannot just readily dismiss as mere lust."
"I used to rationalize my attraction to Hades the same way." Hippolyta replied pointedly.
"Hades was a God. Bruce isn't. He's grounded and in turn, that keeps me grounded." Diana argued.
"Do you think that part of the attraction is the darker half of his nature, child? I may have passed on some of my intrigue with brooding men to you. If I did, I truly apologize as giving into that darkness resulted in my eternal shame." Hippolyta stated, a trace of sadness creeping into her voice.
"I've thought about that, believe me. I've come to the realization that he uses the darkness to inspire fear in his enemies, but the man I've come to love has probably the warmest heart of anyone I know. He would sacrifice himself for me, the League, a child in danger in Gotham, anyone. He's willing to give more of himself than anyone I've ever met."
"He dresses as a Bat and he has defiled you!" Hippolyta replied forcefully. "He is not worthy of you. You are the Princess of the Amazons. You are my daughter!"
"Mother, he has never once defiled me. In fact, I pursued him. He spent months thinking up clever reasons why we shouldn't get involved. I finally got fed up with his objections and seduced him last month under the pretense that I wanted him to show me the new additions to the Watchtower Arboretum. I had most of his clothes off before we reached the lawn."
Hippolyta groaned at the thought of her daughter losing her virginity in a climate- controlled forest. She brought her hand to her forehead to massage the headache pounding at her temples. "What about children? Have you thought about what might happen if you two were to have children?"
"We haven't discussed it but it would not be unwelcome. At least not for me." Diana replied truthfully. "In fact, the primary reason I won't consider returning to Themyscira is the lack of children. Do you know how lonely I was growing up without someone my own age to play with? I even felt that way when I was an adult here on the island. All of our sisters treat us reverently, as monarchy, instead of with real friendship. I didn't realize how alone I've felt my whole life until I became his woman. He reached a part of me that I didn't know existed before I was with him. I'm his ally, his friend, his confidant, his lover. All of which I give freely, without reservation."
Hippolyta thought about that for a moment before replying. "I cannot feel guilty for praying for your birth, Diana. You were a blessing from Athena and I still thank her to this day."
"I'm not asking for you to feel guilty, Mother. Rather, I'm suggesting our laws and culture are inherently flawed if they do not allow for children or men. You stated during the eulogy tonight that perhaps there is room to consider changes to our laws. We've required the League's assistance on two separate occasions to avoid oblivion. Have you become so cynical, so jaded in your view of Man's World that you have forgotten both children and men can represent a blessing, if you allow them a chance to try?"
"Are you suggesting that I allow Men on Themyscira?" Hippolyta asked, incredulous at her daughter's suggestion.
"Mother, your opinion of Man's World is callous, cold and bitter. When will you allow yourself to realize that a man is already here, unconscious in your daughter's bed, after he risked his life to save your people? Yet he asks for nothing. Please understand the fact there are selfless men in the world. You should also consider this: if you want your grandchildren to visit Themyscira, there had better be some children on the island for them to play with. Besides, almost one third of your Army died today at the hands of the Dorians. Won't you need a new generation of Amazons to replace what you've lost?"
Hippolyta stood up then walked to the doorway. "Too many things have transpired today for me to make a rash decision in that regard. I'm going to bed. Do you want me to have an extra bed turned down for you?"
"I'm staying right here." Diana replied, patting the bed next to Bruce. "It's my rightful place now, regardless of his condition."
"Good night, then, Diana." Hippolyta whispered, a trace of sorrow evident on her face as she contemplated the empowered woman who now stood in the place of her formerly naïve daughter. Shrugging with resignation, Hippolyta turned and walked down the hallway.
"Good night, Mother." Diana replied wearily. Rising from the bed, she walked over to the door, closing it softly before securing the bolt. She stooped to blow out the candle on the wall, then sat back down on the bed. Groaning from the bruises caused by Ares, she untied the laces on her boots, kicking them to the floor a moment later. They clattered to the floor as she untied the breastplate and bodice, as well as her shorts, before she slipped naked under the sheets next to Bruce. She lay back on the pillow, exhausted, then cursed when she realized she'd forgotten to dribble more water into Bruce's mouth. She sat up and reached across him to grab the glass on the table. As she soaked the cloth, she gasped in surprise as a rough, masculine hand settled on her breast.
"Hello, pretty lady," Bruce whispered.
"How long have you been awake?" she replied, tenderly examining his head before she lowered herself to peck him lightly on the lips.
"Long enough to hear you planning our kid's summer vacations with your Mother. Alfred will not be happy."
She eyed him suspiciously. "What else did you hear?"
"I heard the whole conversation, but it was like hearing it in a tunnel. I kept concentrating on the sound of your voice and I finally came out of wherever I was…What hit me?"
"Piece of shrapnel from the cannon. You forgot to duck."
"Remind me never to go on a sabotage mission with Orin. He doesn't follow directions." He snorted derisively, then looked around at their surroundings, "Is this your room?"
"No, my room is at Wayne Manor. This was my room when I was a little girl. ."
Bruce thought about the implication of her statement. "So you want to go official then, tell the League and such?"
"We don't have to issue a press release, but now that my Mother knows, and since Flash can't keep a secret to save his life, the rest of the League already has confirmation of what they've suspected all along. In light of all of that, I would like to make it official, yes."
"You can have half my closet and 5 out of the six shoe-racks. Alfred buys me too many damn shoes as it is."
"Done," she replied, lowering her head on his chest. "I would have settled for less."The End