I do not own these characters, nor am I making any money off of this story.
Before you read...
A special thanks to Kipling-Nori, my wonderful beta. Thank you for your corrections and thoughts.
This story takes place after the events in Paradise Lost I and II. I know Diana is very strong, but I assumed there must have been some emotional fall-out from losing her home and family in one day. This is how I pictured that collapse, and the beginning of her emotional restoration.
The title of both this fiction and the first chapter come from books authored by C. S. Lewis.
In Greek mythology, Atlas is the son of a Titan who sided with the Titans against the Olympians. When the Titans lost, he was forced to hold the sky on his shoulders.
I like Jane Austen, so I mentioned some of her works below. I refer to a scene from Pride and Prejudice where the hero, Mr. Darcy, insults the heroine, Elizabeth Bennet, though he is unaware that she is listening.
I also mentioned Bringing Up Baby, even though I don't like it. It's a hare-brained caper where two people lose a large feline named Baby and a ton of hijinks ensue while they try to find it. That movie stresses me out.
As always, I appreciate your reviews. Please keep them coming. Thanks!
A Grief Observed
The Problem of Pain
I am worn out from groaning;
all night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
Diana sat quietly as she waited for the others to fasten themselves in the chairs of the Javelin. She felt uneasy knowing that they were all watching her, waiting for her to break down. Raising her chin defiantly, she resolved to never let them see her cry. She was an Amazon, after all.
Or was she? Could she honestly consider herself an Amazon when she had just been exiled for breaking the most sacred of their laws? Her people, her queen—her own mother—had disowned her, banishing her from the only home she had ever known. She had no right to identify herself with them, and that thought weighed down heavily on her heart.
When she exited the plane, she marched straight to her quarters. In the privacy of her room, the tears which she had been so valiantly fighting while in the others' presence fell unchecked.
Diana braced her hands on her altar, leaning on it as if she were Atlas. "Hera," she sobbed brokenly, "Why?"
She had tried her hardest. Had done everything in her power to aid the Amazons; only brought the men as a last resort. She didn't doubt that the gods understood all this, nor did she doubt their love and favor, but she didn't understand it at all. And that was the worst part. If she just knew why this was happening, she could bear it.
Still, she refused to be angry with her gods. Just because she didn't see the reason for her suffering, didn't mean one didn't exist. And if she was to ever be restored to her people, she knew it would be through their mercy. She would never reject them, and they would never forsake her.
But the Amazons had.
Well, she would banish them too! Diana quickly removed all traces of her ancient home, pausing only to wipe her eyes when it became too difficult to see. As she forced herself not to think about each object as she efficiently laid them to rest in the chest, she couldn't dismiss the feeling that she was attending her own funeral.
Each of her belongings had special value to her—they were on display for a reason; they reflected their owner. Each item was inextricably linked to some person, place, or event that shaped who she was. And while she refused to dwell on the reason why each memento was cherished, that didn't stop the images from rising unbidden in her heart.
Diana locked the chest and put it at the back of her closet. She had considered burning the contents, but panicked at the thought. Even though she wouldn't acknowledge it, there was a tiny part of her that still remained hopeful.
She heard a knock on the door. "Not now," she barked.
Whoever it was left without saying anything. Good. She was in no state to receive visitors.
Exhausted, she lay down on her bed, and tried to process everything, again. She knew she was being irrational; she loved her sisters and her mother. But the box remained in the closet. Staring at her possessions would only remind her of what she had lost. Out of sight, out of mind. Hopefully.
Diana tried to console herself with what was still hers. She had a place in Patriarch's World, her home away from home. And she considered the Justice League her second family. But knowing that she should be comforted by this and actually feeling that comfort were two very different things.
Diana had never experienced pain like this before. Coming from an island of immortal warriors, and having been born relatively late in their history, death wasn't something she ever gave a second thought to. Now that it stared her in the face, she didn't know what to do. True, she was still alive, but, she certainly didn't feel it. They had pronounced her dead the second they had banished her. After all, she thought, isn't death just perpetual estrangement?
Eventually she grew too tired to think. Rolling over, she waited for sleep to come and her tears to stop.
The next morning Diana woke and walked over to her vanity. Never in all her life had her eyes been so red. She looked awful, and her eyes burned. Filling the sink, she began to splash cold water on her face.
She went to go take a shower, and though she resolved not to do it, she began to cry the second the water hit her back.
After getting dressed, Diana made her way to the conference room for the scheduled meeting. She found Shayera and John talking with each other, and as soon as they saw her, they grew silent.
Shayera was the first to speak.
"Diana, you look terrible."
"Shayera!" John whispered harshly and gave her a less than gentle nudge.
"We are so sorry about what happened," he said as he made his way over to Diana. He was about to place an arm on her shoulder, when Diana sidestepped him. "Please, don't touch me!" she said a little bit more shrilly than she would have liked before taking a deep breath and sitting down.
She saw the looks of concern on their faces. "I'm fine. Really."
As the rest of the Justice League filed in and took their seats, Diana looked resolutely ahead, making eye contact with no one. Even though she counted herself lucky to have such wonderful friends, Diana knew that if she saw the sympathy and love in their eyes, she would start crying. And as far as Diana was concerned, she had shed enough tears to last her a lifetime.
They all sensed that she didn't want to talk about it, so the meeting proceeded as usual. When it came time to recap the prior mission, Diana forced herself to smile, knowing that her teammates would be scrutinizing her every expression--facial or otherwise. As soon as the meeting was closed, she left as quickly as possible, heading straight toward the training room.
A few hours later, she made it back to her quarters. She showered again, and sat down on her bed, facing the wall that used to have a beautiful painting of the goddess Artemis hunting a white stag--her favorite-- hanging on it. Gathering whatever strength she could find in the little time she had left, she waited for the inevitable.
About fifteen minutes later, she heard a knock on the door. As she stood, she cheerily called out, "Come in."
Superman walked through the door. He made his way over to give Diana a hug, but she held up her arms to stop him, though she hoped it looked like she was guiding him to a chair. "Superman, please sit down."
She sat back down on her bed.
"I brought you something—some books."
He offered his condolences, and then he began to tell her about himself and his origins. Some of it she already knew. Some of it she didn't. But all of it was told to her in the hope that she would be comforted. Diana nodded politely as she took it all in, but she was too emotionally spent to do much of anything but listen.
"Diana, please know that we all care for you, and would do anything to make you happy. You just need to ask. Ok?"
"Thank you, Kal. For your words and for the books."
"I'm serious. If you need anything, don't hesitate to ask." He smiled kindly at her before walking out of the room.
She stood up, walked over to where he had been sitting, and picked up the books. Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice. She had heard of the author, and figured now was as good a time as any to acquaint herself with the writers of Patriarch's World.
Laying back down on her bed, Diana opened Northanger Abbey. As she read, she smiled at some of the passages. The heroine's child-like sincerity reminded her of the Flash, and the hero's wit and charm entertained her. More than once she wondered why Superman would have such a book.
After a few hours of reading, she glanced at her clock. It was dinnertime, but she didn't feel very hungry. Rolling out of bed, she trudged to the cafeteria.
It was a quick meal. No one was in the kitchen, and she found that nothing tasted particularly good. She downed her food, poured herself a glass of milk, and returned to her bedroom and her book.
When her bedtime approached, she began to make her nightly preparations. After brushing her teeth, she walked over to her altar. She kneeled, said her nightly prayers, then turned off the light. Feeling exhausted, she tried to fall asleep, but her thoughts drifted back to her heartbreak, and she started to cry again, muffling her face in her pillow.
The next three days passed in nearly the same manner as the last.
Wake up. Wash face. Shower. Cry. Meeting (if there was one). Train. Shower. Receive guest. Read. Eat. Read some more. Pray. Lie down. Cry. Sleep.
Occasionally, there was some uprising or natural disaster that interrupted the routine.
Along with her missions, Diana was thankful for the friendly visits, if only to break up the monotony. She tried to make a little game out of it. Who would visit her next? She actually guessed the order correctly, but was slightly disappointed each time she opened the door and found that Batman wasn't standing there. She reasoned that he would be the last to see her, but that didn't stop her from hoping he would be the first. She didn't care enough to ask herself why.
After Superman, Flash came. The next day it was J'onn, and the day after that Shayera and John. She'd predicted that, too.
All of them came bearing gifts and personal stories.
Flash had brought her iced mochas and some old black and white movie Bringing Up Baby. She didn't know much about the movie, but the funny anecdotes he shared with her before he left made her smile. As he was beginning to leave, she sensed that he wanted to say more, so she preempted him. "Thanks Flash. Your visit has really brightened my day. I'm going to watch the movie right now.' He left smiling.
J'onn, like Superman, told Diana about his past, and his ordeal nearly made her eyes well up. She didn't worry that he would extend a kind hand on her shoulder or that he would find her rude for avoiding any emotional or physical contact. Though he was a telepath, Diana knew he would not read her mind, especially at this time. J'onn was an empathetic individual who didn't need to able to read minds to understand that Diana needed her space. With a caring glance, he left her to ponder why the whole world was so full of sadness as she unenthusiastically chewed on an Oreo.
John and Shayera brought her the most interesting gifts of all: a blues record and a beer. Listening to John and Shayera tell their stories was like listening to the characters in Bringing Up Baby, except they talked much more slowly, and were funnier--like a comedic duo. They left her amused, but for the life of her, she couldn't remember anything they had said the minute they left her room. She supposed it was more their presence and bickering than the actual content of their stories. She was glad for the visit. It solidified her hope that things would return to normal. Eventually.
The sixth night, she waited for Batman to come. She tried to read her book to pass the time, but was finding it more difficult to enjoy Pride and Prejudice than the other book. Like Elizabeth, she was finding Mr. Darcy slightly odious. "Not handsome enough to tempt me." If she were Elizabeth, she would have punched him on his arrogant nose.
Unable to keep reading, Diana thought about the rest of her teammates again. They had all been so kind to her, but she still didn't feel like opening up to them. She knew Superman and J'onn were just trying to help her, but she just felt sadder after their visits. She still wasn't able to wrap her mind around why there was so much pain in the world. And for some one with the wisdom of Athena, some one who was so used to knowing all the questions and answers, this unsettled her greatly. As an Amazon, she was trained to confront the obstacle head on, using anything in her arsenal to defeat it. But she couldn't get past the problem of pain. She always thought in ideals, fought to make things right, but she was beginning to feel that no amount of work on her part could ever fix this disease, and she found that thought overwhelming.
Diana was surprised that she hadn't dealt with this beforehand. Though she didn't stay around to witness the aftermath of the evil plots she foiled, she had been in Man's World long enough to know that there were consequences for every action—good or bad. And with six billion people on this world alone, she couldn't begin to fathom how many heart wrenching tales existed.
Not to mention all the brutality of her own warrior nation. Their slavery to Hercules. Their battle against Hades. All of it she could recite by heart, like any epic poet, and yet, before her exile, she hadn't known the gravity of the words she had been speaking.
Why had it taken her so long to understand?
As Diana cried over her selfishness she told herself she would not speak with her teammates about the whole ordeal. Her friends already knew she was hurting. They didn't need the intimate details of her daily struggle. A true warrior bore the burden alone. The world had enough pain to go around, and most people were struggling with more than she could ever comprehend. No, she would keep it to herself.
As restless as her mind was, it wasn't long before she began to wonder why Batman hadn't come, and why his absence bothered her.
Diana reasoned that it was because, next to Shayera, he was the closest thing she had to an Amazon. And Shayera only edged him out because she was female. Diana figured that he too had a life of misery. It saddened her that so brave a man was probably driven by a tale just as woeful as hers, Superman's, or even J'onn's. And you don't see him crying, now do you, Diana?
Naturally, that set the waterworks off again, and this time Diana had no other thoughts to distract her.
In agony she pleaded, "Hera, give my peace."
She rolled onto to her side, closed her eyes, and begged for sleep to come.
To Be Continued With
Mourn with Those who Mourn