Triangle Built For Two
The War Department
"Good morning, Steve!" Yeoman First Class Diana Prince called out with a smile as she stepped through the door of their office in the War Department just as she had nearly every morning for the last three years. Her dark blue wool uniform jacket was buttoned up to her neck, and her dark hair was pulled back into a neat and tidy bun. She set her hat and gloves sat on the chair against the wall, and then peered into her boss's office.
Steven Leonard Trevor was leaning back in his chair, his eyes closed, his breathing even. She couldn't help but smile. This wasn't the first time she had found him asleep at his desk, having worked all night. And, she mused, it most likely wouldn't be the last. She crouched next to his chair, resisting the urge to brush the brown hair from his forehead. "Steve?" she said softly, touching his shoulder.
"Diana!" His eyes flew open, and she reached out to steady him before the wooden chair could topple over. "I must have fallen asleep... What time is it?"
"It's after ten," she replied, perplexed. "Don't tell me you were here all weekend!" she chided him as he blinked owlishly. "Etta and I called your officers quarters Saturday if you wanted to take in a show, but they said you hadn't come in yet. She took me to see that new Danny Kaye picture at the base cinema —"
"I have to call General Blankenship."
"Steve, what's wrong?" she asked, alarmed. But he only grinned.
"Nothing wrong—for once, everything may be just right," he said as he picked up the phone. "Etta, can you put me through to the General?" he said into the receiver.
Diana began tidying up the papers on his desk, collecting mugs of coffee gone stone cold, and gathering an armful of top secret files to be returned to the office safe. There was such an undercurrent of excitement, she couldn't keep her mind on her duties as she studied Steve out of the corner of her eye surreptitiously.
From the first moment she had laid eyes on him, soaked through to the skin, battered, and bleeding on the beach of her Island, she had known he was a good man. She'd known it instinctively as she had tended him in the hospital, before he had ever regained consciousness. Something in him had spoken to her of honor and selfless bravery on the part of others, and she couldn't bear not being by his side. It had drawn her across the ocean, to this distant shore which surprised her every day equally by its savagery and its beauty.
Intellectually, she knew it was simply that he was the first man she had seen in her memory—the first man on the Island in hundreds of years. So there had been that rush of excitement, the thrill of the unknown. But that childish infatuation had faded as she had gotten to know him, replaced instead by genuine admiration and affection as they had worked side by side—both as Diana Prince, loyal WAVE, and as Princess Diana of Themyscira, known to Man's World as Wonder Woman.
Emotionally... Well, Diana Prince was nothing if not practical. And she took what moments of joy as she could. She set the mugs down on her desk. Later, she would take them down the hall to the small kitchen attached to the officer's mess to be washed.
"Are they sure? General, that's... That's..." she heard Steve say into the phone, and she turned back toward his office door just as he dropped the phone into its cradle, a broad grin splitting his face.
"What is it, Steve?" she asked as he got out from behind his desk.
"Mussolini is dead—he and his mistress both, on Saturday. The Americans liberated the Dachau camp, and there was a rumor that the Germans had surrendered. The President went on the radio—Diana, don't you listen to the radio?"
"Not very—I mean, sometimes..." she stammered. "The Germans surrendered?"
"Not yet—not according to the President. But the General said the unofficial reports have come out of Berlin saying that Hitler committed suicide, Diana! The war in Europe is over! Or as close to it as it ever was."
"Oh, Steve! That's wonderful!" she couldn't stop tears from springing to her eyes, and he hugged her impulsively, spinning her around the room. "Oh!" she cried as the files she had in her arms went flying, papers floating to the linoleum like fall leaves. He set her back on her feet, and before she could say a thing, kissed her full on the mouth.
* * *
Steven Leonard Trevor felt like an ass.
Diana's eyes were wide, and she was just staring, like a doe in headlamps. The files he'd been working on were scattered all over the office, and they stood stock still in the middle of the mess, like clockwork toys whose springs had run down. Her hand flew to her mouth, and a blush had risen in her cheeks. "Diana, I—" he began, but before he could get out what he meant to say, the door flew open, and Etta came flying in.
"Oh Steve! Diana! General Blankenship just told me the good news—can you believe it?" Private Candy asked, completely oblivious to what she had just stepped into the middle of. "Oh my gosh, what happened?" she laughed at the sight of all the paperwork strewn about.
"I guess I got a little over-excited," Steve said automatically, still staring at Diana, who had not moved.
"Diana, let me give you a hand," Etta began gathering papers, and this seemed to snap his secretary out of her stupor.
"Oh, Etta, thank you," she smiled, and took the files from her arms. "I'll sort these in the file room—"
"The file room? Diana—how can you be thinking of the file room at a time like this? We need to celebrate!"
"You're right, Etta," Steve found himself saying, straightening his tie and pulling on his jacket. "I'm taking you both out on the town—no arguments!" he added when Diana started. "We're going to celebrate with the biggest steaks ration books can buy."
"Steve!" Etta's eyes grew wide. "The General gave me the afternoon off—Diana, we can go shopping!"
"Oh, I don't know, Etta. There's so much work to do here," Diana was flustered, her eyes darting all around the room—but never once meeting Steve's. He felt like a heel. A first-class heel. "I couldn't possibly—"
"Go ahead, Diana. It'll keep." He kept his tone light, but he reached out to touch her arm, "You go out with Etta, and get all dolled up, and I'll pick you up at your apartment—1800 hours?"
Behind the glasses with round black frames, her blue eyes were hidden. He couldn't read them. She smiled brightly, and then collected her hat and gloves, following Etta out of the office.
That night, at Diana Prince's
Diana checked her reflection in the glass, self consciously adjusting the snood that held her dark hair up off her neck. The dark blue rayon dress had a high collar, and long sleeves that ended in cuffs fastened with two small pearl buttons. Etta had tried to talk her into buying something slinky, something like Virginia Mayo would have worn, but always the pragmatist, Diana had resisted the lure of tight fitted bodices and pleats. The skirt ended an inch above her knee—by OPA decree. The dress was flattering, if austere—just what a dowdy WAVE would wear out with her parents, or perhaps to Church on a Sunday.
The day had passed in a fog—Etta hadn't even noticed. She'd been too excited, chattering over lunch at the Capitol Cafe about what she was going to do once the war was over. All the places she was going to go. All the boys who would be coming home from overseas. Etta had never had much luck with boys—but Charlie, her current beau, was a good sort. He was a little sore about not being able to fight because of his heart. He worked in the records office as a clerk, and wore glasses twice as thick as Diana's. He needed his to see, though—too many years of close work, he'd said. He hadn't started wearing them until last year. He and Etta had held hands all through the movie, and Diana had envied them that closeness.
Charlie and Etta were going to meet them at the restaurant. Etta had gotten a red dress, a real stunner, cut just right for her curvy figure. Etta said Charlie didn't mind that she wasn't as small as those pin-up girls, or the Goldwyn Girls in the movies. He liked her curves. Diana had blushed. She knew some of the men on the base still had that 1942 Miss GI Dream Girl newspaper clipping tacked up on their walls in the barracks. Diana had curves, all right. She just never showed them off, except when she was Wonder Woman.
Steve hadn't ever kissed Wonder Woman. Steve had kissed her.
Diana sat down on the couch, slipping on the black shoes, and bent down to fasten the ankle straps. She only had two pairs of strappy heels—one black pair, and one white. She'd bought the white ones for that beauty contest. Steve had said she looked like Joan Crawford—around the ankles. She smiled at that. All her other shoes were sensible, clunky black leather ones meant for walking, not showing off her legs. She hadn't minded. She still didn't. She just was surprised how much she wanted Steve to notice that tonight, she was showing off. Just a little. Just for him.
Three years. Three years since she had left Paradise, and she had never been kissed until today. She touched her lips lightly with trembling fingertips, still unable to believe it. She stood up, walking toward the ornate mirror than hung over her decorative fireplace, and checked her lipstick again, tucking a stray lock of hair back inside the snood.
There was a light knock at the door, and her heart leapt into her throat. Glancing at her wristwatch, she was surprised to see it was almost six. He's early, she thought and took a deep breath before turning the knob and opening the door. However, it was not Major Steve Trevor on the other side.
In a dark gray suit, a prim hat perched on her head and a tasteful bag clutched between gloved hands, was Queen Hippolyte of Themyscira.
"Mother?" Diana exclaimed, shocked and amazed.
"Hi, Diana!" her sister Drusilla popped out from behind the Queen, and threw herself into her sister's arms. "We wanted to surprise you."
"Well, you certainly did!" Diana hugged her tightly, and wiped away a sudden tear with nervous fingers.
"Hello, daughter," Hippolyte opened her arms, smiling as she her eldest daughter stepped into the welcome circle of her arms. Diana breathed deeply the familiar scent of apple blossoms that she always associated with Paradise Island still clinging to her mother's hair.
"It's so wonderful to see you," Diana stepped back, marveling at her mother's transformation. "Look at you!"
"Yes, well," Hippolyte adjusted her hat, "Drusilla insisted that if we were to visit you properly, we were to wear these ridiculous costumes—"
"They're not costumes, Mother," Dru sighed, exasperated. "Everyone dresses like this in America. We can't be drawing attention to ourselves, right Diana? We have to fit in."
"You fit in just fine," Diana laughed, delighted, as Dru twirled around to show off her skirt and sweater, her dark hair done up in a pony tail tied with red ribbon. She had forgone the sadle shoes Diana had bought her on her very first visit to Washington, and instead had a pair of pumps that matched her sweater. Diana was struck suddenly by how grown-up her little sister had become. "Look at you! You've gotten taller!"
"No, I haven't," Dru giggled. "You know that!"
"Well, I think you look taller," Diana gave her a one armed hug. "I can't believe you left the Island. Mother, you haven't set foot on land in... in..."
"Two thousand years, and it doesn't seemed so very changed," Hippolyte sat down on the sofa, ankles crossed, and smoothed the skirt across her knees. She peered around at Diana's apartment, taking in the second-hand furniture and threadbare rugs. "Although this shabby little place can't begin to compare with your apartments in the Palace."
"Mother! It's a very nice apartment, and very affordable." Diana couldn't keep a note of pride out of her voice. She was terribly proud of herself for adapting so quickly to American life, and had hoped her mother would be as well. "Only forty dollars a month, with utilities included."
"Ah, yes. Money. The great vice of the so-called civilized world. I remember it well. One cannot have money without poverty, daughter. Need and want are the price of commerce."
"Not this lesson again—" Dru began, rolling her eyes, and stopped at the knock at the door.
"Steve!" Diana suddenly exclaimed, one hand flying to her mouth. "I almost forgot."
"Steve?" Hippolyte echoed, with a raised eyebrow, and Diana flushed.
"Major Trevor—he's picking me up for dinner."
"I wondered why you were so dressed up," Dru said with a knowing smile, and Diana gave her a look. "You're looking slinky."
"Drusilla, this dress is not slinky," Diana said quickly.
"Slinky?" Hippolyte asked, and Diana's heart sank.
"Mother, please, be very careful what you say—" Diana began, panicked.
"I will comport myself accordingly, daughter. You may admit him," she said, with a regal wave of her hand. Dru rolled her eyes again, and Diana stifled a giggle, smoothing her skirt down and checking her hair before she opened the door.
* * *
He had it all planned out. He'd called the Franklin Arms Hotel and made a dinner reservation in their dining room, then stopped off at the florist on the corner, and picked out the prettiest bunch of flowers they had that weren't roses. Roses were... too dangerous. But daisies were different. Daisies could mean many things, like "Happy Birthday" or "Get Well Soon", for example.
Or "I'm sorry".
Except that he wasn't sure if he *was* sorry. He'd spent all day trying to figure that out. He had to admit—she was an awfully swell girl. And kissing her sure hadn't been a chore, that was for sure... But Diana wasn't the kind of girl he was used to. She didn't seem to have any hidden agenda, and she never played coy. She didn't know how—there was no guile about her at all. She looked up to him as a hero, and because of that, he never wanted to let her down. What worried him was that he had. The look on her face after he'd kissed her in his office that morning was just killing him.
The thing was, over the last three years, Steve had come to rely on Diana not just as an assistant—though she was a damned capable one at that, and he couldn't count the number of times she'd helped him with a particularly tough problem, or come up with the one avenue he hadn't pursued. More than that, she was always the first person to stick up or him, and the first person to challenge him when she believe he was wrong. He relied on her. Heck, he remembered how furious she'd been when he'd been ordered to shadow that Andros character. The disappointment in her eyes had been a kind of living hell, and he wished somehow he could adequately apologize. But he couldn't. Not for doing his job. Not for doing what he knew had to be done to defend his country. But when Andros had gone, he hadn't just felt relief because that meant the enigmatic alien was out of Wonder Woman's life, though that was the glib answer he had given Diana at the time.
The fact is, the passionate way the yeoman had defended Andros had made him, well... jealous. Even though that had been over a year and a half ago, he still remembered that feeling. He wasn't proud of it—but he owned up to it, nonetheless. Diana wasn't just a secretary. She was a part of his life. A very important part. And he hated feeling like he'd jeopardized that. So, he had arrived at her small apartment a few blocks from the War Department armed with flowers, an apology, and a book of red ration stamps.
It wasn't the same as fighting the Nazis. But somehow, he had a feeling that the rewards might be greater. Brushing a bit of lint of the shoulder of his dress uniform, he squared his shoulders and knocked on her apartment door.
The door opened, and Diana's smile was the first thing he saw. Somehow, that smile chased all his doubts and worries of the day disappear. "Steve," she greeted him, and he brandished the bouquet.
"Oh, they're beautiful!" Diana exclaimed, taking the flowers from him, and stepped aside so he could enter her apartment.
"Hi, Major Trevor!" Diana's sister Drusilla greeted him from the couch, and he covered his surprise with a warm smile.
"You remember my sister, Drusilla," Diana said by way of explanation, and his smile widened.
"Of course I do! How are you, Dru? Staying out of trouble?"
"Oh, yes sir," Dru grinned.
"And this is our mother," Diana said as Steve turned to face the stately matron on the sofa.
"Mrs. Prince, it's a true pleasure to meet you. Having met your two lovely daughters, it's obvious they take after their mother."
"He flatters well," Hippolyte remarked to Diana as she offered Steve her hand which his kissed like a gentleman.
"Mother!" Diana blushed, but Steve only laughed.
"Why, thank you, ma'am."
"Dru and my mother came to Washington to surprise me," Diana offered, awkwardly, and Steve patted her arm reassuringly. "I'm so sorry about our dinner plans. Perhaps, some other evening—?"
"Don't be silly, Diana. It's no trouble at all. I'll call the hotel and tell them to change the reservation."
"That's very gracious of you, Major Trevor."
"Please, call me Steve."
"Perhaps later, Major," Diana's mother said with an air of stately grace belied by the twinkle in her eyes. "When we have gotten to know one another better."
"Let me put these in water," Diana said, and Steve got up from the chair immediately.
"I'll help you. Ladies," he gave them a bow, and followed Diana to the cramped kitchen. "While I'm at it, how about I call the General? I'm sure he'd love to join us. That is," he added, "if your mother wouldn't mind some company?"
"It's okay, Steve," Diana said as she took a glass vase from the shelf, and a cutting board and knife from the counter. "My mother hasn't had a 'date' in a very, very long time. And I think she might just enjoy that very much."
"A date it is, then," He held the vase beneath the tap to fill it with cold water. "I just wish I could have found someone for Dru. Maybe we could ask Charlie to bring someone along for her? She's what, seventeen now? Eighteen?"
"I think Dru will be just fine on her own," she confided with a conspiratorial wink as she arranged the daises in the vase. "Thank you so much for the flowers. They really are lovely."
"Diana, about this morning. I want to apologize—"
"Apologize?" she echoed, her smile fading.
"If I overstepped my bounds," he began, taking the vase from her hands and setting it on the counter, "then I want to apologize. The last thing in the world I would ever want to do is jeopardize our relationship."
"Our working relationship," she said, her expression still maddeningly hard to read.
"Exactly. You're a swell girl, Diana, a swell girl. I just wanted to apologize for getting carried away."
"We all get carried away now and again," Diana said with a smile as she gave his hand a squeeze, and then released it. "You'd better call the restaurant before Etta and Charlie get there," she called over her shoulder as she carried the flowers back out into the living room.
The Franklin Arms was one of the better hotels in the area. Crystal chandeliers hung from high ceilings painted with murals from history and mythology, casting a warm glow over the lobby. The floor was covered with thick red and gold carpets, and lustrous and glossy-leafed potted plants dotted the aisles. General Blankenship, Etta Candy, and Charlie Niles were waiting for them in the hotel bar when they arrived.
"Steve, my boy!" the general smiled broadly as they approached. "Thanks for inviting me along."
"It wouldn't be a celebration without you, General," Steve assured him, although so far, the evening's mood had been anything but celebratory.
Diana had been unusually quiet in the car ride over from her apartment to the hotel. She had sat in the front passenger seat, while her mother and sister sat in the rear, Dru pointing out the monuments and government buildings to her mother. He'd like to believe he and Diana had grown quite close over the last three years, and the silence between them was strained. Somehow, he had the feeling that things were worse off than they had been this morning, but he certainly couldn't talk with Diana in front of her family.
"Etta, you look beautiful." Diana gave her best friend's hand a squeeze, her good humor apparently restored. And she was right—Private Candy was quite the dish, in her red dress and heels, her blonde hair freshly coifed.
"Well, I'm no Bess Meyerson, but thanks, Diana."
"Hey, you'll always be my Miss America," Charlie gave her a peck on the cheek, and the WAC blushed.
"Better keep a close eye on your date, Charlie," Steve cautioned the young clerk. "Every guy in the room is going to want to steal her away."
"You too, sir," Charlie agreed as Etta's blush deepened. "Yeoman Prince, you look just pretty as a picture."
"Why, thank you, Charlie." Diana's smile was warmly genuine, and Steve gave her the subtle once-over and realized that Charlie was right. Diana did indeed look quite lovely in her modest dark blue dress, her dark hair held away from her face by a snood. He couldn't remember ever seeing her wearing any other style than the sensible bun she employed every day at work, and he certainly could admire the graceful curve of her ankle, accentuated by the pair of heels she'd chosen.
"Etta, General, you know my sister, Dru."
"It's always a pleasure to see you, young lady," General Blankenship said with a smile. "And this lovely lady must be Mrs. Prince."
"You may call me Lyta," Diana's mother said as she extended her hand.
"General Phillip Blankenship, United States Army," he introduced himself as he took her hand and shook it like a gentleman. "Mrs. Prince, it's a sincere pleasure."
"My daughter's told me so much about you and the important work you and Major Trevor do."
"Spilling state secrets, are you Diana?" Steve raised a brow.
"Oh, no sir!" Diana assured him quickly, and he chuckled.
"Only teasing, Yeoman. Shall we head into the dining room?" Steve asked, offering her his arm. General Blankenship followed suit, and the three couples and Drusilla filed into the lavish dining room.
* * *
Diana smiled, as the waiter popped the cork and the champagne bubbled over into the silver ice bucket. She smiled as Steve held out her glass to be filled, even though he knew she normally never drank. She smiled as the General raised his glass in a toast to peace, and they all drank deeply, even Dru who giggled at the way the bubbles tickled her nose.
She had to smile, so her sister and mother wouldn't think something was wrong. She had to smile so that her best friend wouldn't guess how she was feeling. She had to smile so that Steve wouldn't realize that what she wanted to do—instead of sitting next to him, sipping champagne and listening to the band play Glenn Miller tunes—was sit at home in the dark and cry like one of silly those jilted girls in the radio serials Etta listened to.
She had spent the entire drive to the hotel furious with herself. "We all get carried away,'" she'd told him, and he'd been so relieved. Of course he hadn't meant to kiss his dowdy, plain-jane secretary. Never mind that she'd been walking on a cloud all day, looking forward to tonight with a sense of anticipation she hadn't felt since that very first day Steve had walked into the office and General Blankenship had introduced her as his new secretary.
She was a fool. A stupid naïve fool. She was an Amazon Princess, able to hold back speeding trucks, bend steel with her bare hands, and deflect bullets faster than the eye could see with her Feminum bracelets, and she was no better off than the average American teenager when it came to love. Perhaps worse off, since according to Etta, most girls had their first kiss before they reached the 12th grade. Here she was, over 2000 years old and acting like some love-sick 15 year old after one completely unintentional brush of her boss's lips.
As first kisses had gone, it had been nice, she mused absently. Brief, but nice. She remembered the roughness of his five-o'clock shadow against her cheek, and the warmth of his arms around her. It had all happened so quickly—she'd been completely unprepared. She had always assumed that Steve never saw her unless she was Wonder Woman. He looked, but he never really saw. After all, wasn't that the crux of her disguise? When people looked at Yeoman First Class Diana Prince, they saw the uniform first, perhaps the glasses second, and as an after-thought, they might pity her, thinking she'd look so nice if only she'd let her hair down and maybe put on some make-up.
That was the point. That was the role she'd chosen to play, and it had been a part of her own devising, and suddenly she was despising the mask she wore. Hating the fact that the mask was closer to her real face than the girl in the star-spangled bathing costume that Steve Trevor called his angel.
Still, Diana smiled.
"Is this your first time in Washington, Mrs. Prince?" General Blankenship asked her mother, as the waiter brought out their steak dinners.
"As a matter of fact, it is," Hippolyte said as she prodded the medium-well done slab of meat with her fork suspiciously. "Drusilla has been talking about Washington quite non-stop since she first visited Diana here, so I decided to take some time and see this brave new world for myself."
"And how are you finding it?"
"Quite different from what I expected, actually. But with all the marble columns, I feel quite at home," she said cryptically.
"What my mother means," Diana tried to explain, "is that our home is pretty far from modern civilization."
"I'm a farm boy myself, Mrs. Prince," the General informed her. "Where are you staying while you're here?"
"We only just arrived this afternoon," Hippolyte began, "I had assumed we'd be staying with my daughter. But that was before I visited her accommodations and realized how small they truly were—"
"Mother!" Diana was mortified.
"It just so happens that I know the manager of this hotel quite well. I'm sure he'd be willing to offer you and your daughter a room."
"That's most generous of you, General."
"Nonsense. Why, your Diana is such an asset to my office, it's the very least I can do. I can't imagine how we'd manage without her."
"Thank you, sir," Diana said, a flush creeping up her neck. "But I'm just doing my part for the War Effort."
"But now the War's over," Dru said around a mouthful of mashed potatoes, puzzled. "Isn't it?"
"The war in Europe may be coming to a close, young lady, but war still rages in the Pacific."
"But the Nazis have been defeated," Hippolyte pointed out.
"At the cost of far too many good men. President Truman is confident that Germany and Italy will surrender within the week, yes. Our country's morale has never been higher. I can only imagine what tomorrow will be like, after the ceremony."
"Ceremony?" Diana asked.
"President Truman is giving Wonder Woman a special citation," Steve explained. "They're having a ceremony on the White House lawn at 1400 hours tomorrow afternoon."
"The ceremony! I completely forgot," Diana was distressed. "Oh Steve, I'm going to have to miss it. I have an appointment that I can't reschedule. But you'll go and tell me all about it, won't you?"
"Of course, Diana."
"Well, I want to go." Dru's dark eyes sparkled. "Can I, Major Trevor?"
"I don't see why not," General Blankenship smiled warmly at her. "I'll arrange for special security passes for you both, first thing tomorrow morning. Right, Etta?"
"Yes, sir. First thing!"
"I'm quite looking forward to it." Hippolyte smiled at her daughter. "I've heard so much about this 'Wonder Woman.'"
"Mrs. Prince, you are in for a treat," the General said as he poured her a second glass of champagne. "I can't imagine how we'd have made it through this war without that very special young lady fighting on our side. Why, I know for sure we wouldn't be sitting here today! She's saved our lives many times over."
"She's our very own star-spangled war hero," Steve agreed.
"You ever wonder where she comes from, Major?" Charlie asked.
"She's an angel sent down from heaven, as far as I'm concerned, Charlie."
"Yeah, but aren't you even curious?"
"What healthy, red-blooded American wouldn't be? But Wonder Woman's secrets are her own. I wouldn't dream of prying."
"I bet she'd tell you in a minute, Steve," Etta laughed. "She's awfully sweet on you."
"Etta!" Steve colored. "Wonder Woman and I are just... friends."
"Well I think it's terribly romantic, her saving you all the time, sir. Don't you, Diana?"
"I think Wonder Woman holds you in the highest regard, Steve," Diana assured him.
"As I do her," Steve said with dignity. "Now then, who's up for dessert?"
"Yes, Dru," Diana said before her sister could even open her mouth, "you can have ice cream."
Diana tucked the hotel blanket closer around Drusilla, brushing her little sister's hair back to press a kiss to her forehead before she closed the door to the adjoining room. "She's out like a light," Diana said with a smile as she sat down next to her mother on the hotel suite's sofa.
After dessert, they had had coffee and drinks in the hotel bar, while the General had arranged for a suite for Hippolyte and her youngest daughter. Etta and Charlie had left to go dancing—while the night was still young—and Diana had accompanied her mother and sister upstairs to the handsomely appointed suite. Despite a grown up cup of coffee (with rather a lot of milk and sugar), Drusilla's eyes hadn't stayed open more than a minute, and she'd fallen asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.
"It has been a very long, and eventful day for us both," Hippolyte said as she removed her hat, setting the hatpins side by side on the low coffee table. She slipped off her shoes, and absently massaged the arch of one foot. "I don't know how you can abide these shoes. They seem nothing more than instruments of torture!"
"I'm so glad you came," Diana said, tears springing to her eyes, and she impulsively hugged her mother. The emotional roller coaster of the days events were finally wearing her out.
"I am pleased to see you as well, my dear," she said as she patted her daughter's shoulder affectionately. Then she pulled back, a stern expression on her timelessly beautiful features. "However, I must tell you, it disturbs me to see how accomplished you have become at deception, my daughter. You lie to your Major Trevor with the ease of long time practice."
Diana flushed, but raised her chin a fraction, feeling the need to defend herself. "It's important for me to maintain the secret of my identity, Mother. By working in the War Department, I can know exactly where I am needed the most," she tried to explain, hoping that her mother could understand how different this world was from the paradise of her homeland. "It's what the Americans call 'a little white lie.' A lie told not to harm, but to help."
Hippolyte was not to be moved. "A lie is a lie, daughter. No matter what excuses these Americans might make."
Ashamed, she stared at her folded hands on her lap just as she had when she was a girl and her mother was cross with her. She couldn't bear the Queen's disappointment. "I know, Mother. And if I could tell Steve the truth, I would."
"Because you are, what did Ms. Candy say? Awfully sweet on him?" Hippolyte asked, all innocence, and Diana flushed again.
"Mother, regardless of my... feelings for Major Trevor," she could feel her cheeks flaming, but continued on, steadfast and sincere, "I would never betray the secret of Paradise Island. Never."
"I believe you believe that, daughter. But love is a very powerful emotion. It can warp even the most earnest of intentions." Hippolyte's expression went slightly blank, as if she were suddenly very far away. Or perhaps, remembering something from very, very long ago. Then she snapped out of it, and smiled again at her eldest daughter. "But it is late, and you are tired. Go home, daughter. Sleep well, and dream of home."
"Yes, Mother," she leaned over and gave her mother a quick kiss on the cheek before she collected her purse. She glanced at her wristwatch as the elevator doors closed—it was almost eleven. She had to be up and at work in the morning at 0700, if she was going to get in as much work as she could before she—that is, before Wonder Woman had to be at the White House for the citation.
She'd never had much use for medals—the three she had been awarded thus far were tucked away in a tin in the back of her closet—but she knew that ceremonies like tomorrow's were as important to morale as the bond rallies she periodically participated in. It seemed almost surreal that the war was ending. She had never been in America before the War, and wasn't sure what it would be like once the Nazis and their allies had been defeated. Would she still be able to work at the War Department? After all, the E in WAVES stood for "Emergency", and once the war was over, General Blankenship might expect her to go back to civilian life... Not that she had ever actually had a civilian life.
The idea of it troubled her. What she had told her mother was the truth—Military Intelligence was the perfect place for Wonder Woman to be. But the fact of the matter was, she was reluctant to imagine a time would come where she wouldn't see Major Steve Trevor every day. As torturous as it was to be so close to the one you love, and not have those feelings reciprocated, at least she was close to him. And perhaps, someday... she let that thought trail off, only to have it return full force as the elevator doors slid open on the lobby.
Perhaps someday those feelings would be reciprocated. That tiny spark of hope was what kept her going, she realized with no small amount of chagrin. Not particularly Amazonian, but wasn't part of a woman's strength her immense capacity to love?
It had been a very long day indeed, she sighed as she pulled her coat check stub out of her purse and stepped up to the lighted window to give the scrap of colored paper to the young girl on the other side. A hand tapped her on the shoulder, and she turned, surprised to find Major Trevor at her elbow.
"Steve! I thought you were going dancing with Etta and Charlie!" she exclaimed, accepting the heavy blue serge uniform coat from the check girl.
"And leave you stranded? Now, what kind of gentleman would that make me?" he asked as he helped her into her coat, and before she could tip the girl a penny, Steve had handed her a shiny new nickel.
"You didn't have to stay. I was just going to take a taxi back to my apartment."
"Hacks in this town are made of sugar—they melt when it rains. And I was your ride, remember?"
"A little—" he said as he offered her his arm. "You know what they say, April showers bring May flowers."
"They say that?" she asked, delighted.
"They do, indeed."
* * *
The rain, which had started as a drizzle, was coming down in sheets by the time they got into the car and pulled away from the curb and into the light late-night traffic. Diana wiped at her glasses—which had misted up as soon as they'd stepped outside—with a handkerchief ineffectually, and then sighed.
"You know, it would probably work better if you took them off," Steve suggested.
"Then I wouldn't be able to see to put them back on," she laughed.
"Did you have a good time tonight?"
"I had a wonderful time."
As Steve navigated the slick streets, he remembered his very first impression of Diana.
A sweet smile in a pale face, quite tall for a girl, and a bit on the thin side. She hadn't even been wearing lipstick, and her eyes were completely hidden behind thick-rimmed glasses. He had been joking with the general, saying he'd "had it up to here with pretty girls" and the General had said his new secretary was no danger, being dull and uninteresting. But he'd been wrong—Diana may not be Betty Grable, but she was definitely a lovely girl.
"Diana, about what I said earlier..." he began, keeping his eyes on the road so he wouldn't lose his nerve. "I just wanted you to know that I meant it. You mean the world to me, and I hate to think that I treated you like... well, that I showed you any disrespect."
The smile she gave him was a little wavery, and he reached out and gave her hand a squeeze as he pulled the big Studebaker Champion up to the curb in front of her three story walk-up. The only sounds in the car were the scrape and squeak of the windshield wipers as they flipped back and forth, the street ahead going from hazy and dreamlike to sharp and clear with each pass.
"I understand, Steve," she said slowly, keeping her eyes straight ahead. "You mean the world to me, too."
She opened her door and dashed out into the night. He realized, with an unexpected pang of regret, that he had wanted to kiss her good-night.
Shortly after dawn,
The Capital Cafe was nearly deserted, this early in the morning—a handful of regulars filling a quarter of the diner. The cafe was a favorite haunt of the War Department staff, particularly General Blankenship's office after Steve and Wonder Woman had saved Hank and Maggie Miller's lives when a German spy had impersonated them both in order to infiltrate the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, which Hank managed.
"Good morning, Major Trevor," Maggie Miller said as she topped off a WAVE's cup of coffee. "You're in awfully early."
"Try out awfully late," Steve told her with a rueful smile. He hadn't gone back to his officer's quarters last night, his head too full to sleep. Instead, after dropping Diana off, he'd gone back to the office, to try and get some work done instead. The problem was, he couldn't quite concentrate. Two days ago, if you'd asked him how he felt about his secretary, he would have sworn up and down she was just like a sister to him. This morning, he wasn't so sure that was true anymore. And when you threw Wonder Woman into the mix, well... It was a dilemma the likes of which he'd never seen. Who could sleep?
He took a seat at the counter two seats down from Maggie's husband, Hank, who was drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette as he read the morning paper. Maggie's brother, Danny Robbins, was working the counter, one pant-leg folded up and pinned. Danny had been in the army until he'd lost half his right leg on a beach in France almost year ago. In a city full of veterans, some even worse off than Danny, the sight of a guy in a brown, blue, or white uniform on crutches or in a wheel chair wasn't uncommon. But Danny had managed to hold onto his good humor through it all.
"What can I get you?" he asked, taking the pencil stub down from behind his ear and turning to a fresh page on his order pad.
"Just the special, Danny," Steve said as he folded his menu back up and tucked it between the bottled of ketchup and mustard. "Morning, Hank."
"Morning, Steve," Hank said with a smile as he stubbed out his cigarette, and folded his paper. "What's got you pulling an all-nighter, if you don't mind my asking?"
"Just a lot on my mind, this week," Steve admitted, and then leaned forward, dropping his voice so it wouldn't carry. "Say, Hank, how long have you and Maggie been married?"
"It'll be three years on our next anniversary," Hank said with a smile, his eyes straying to his pretty blonde wife as she bussed the booths in the rear of the diner. "Why?"
"How'd you know Maggie was, you know, the one? The one for you?"
Miller leaned back, crossing his arms, deep in thought. "I used to eat breakfast here every morning," he said after a moment, "and it wasn't just because of the coffee or the hash. One day, I woke up and realized that what I looked forward to every day was walking through that door and seeing Maggie's smile. I just couldn't imagine a day without that being the first thing I saw." He smiled self-consciously. "Corny, I know..."
"It's not corny at all," Steve assured him, deep in thought himself.
"Here you go, Major," Danny grinned as he set a plate of eggs and corned beef hash in front of him.
"Say, Danny, are you going to go to the ceremony this afternoon?"
"To see Wonder Woman? Don't I wish!" he grinned, and Steve remembered how Maggie had had Wonder Woman sign one of the café's menus for him, when he had still been overseas. If Wonder Woman hadn't caught the fake-Maggie out in a lie about whom the autograph had been for, who knew what might have happened? That same menu was framed on the wall now, for all the world to see, hanging in a place of honor on the wall next to photos of Roosevelt and Truman, and even a shot of General Blankenship sitting at the counter with a cup of coffee. "But enlisted joes like me don't get invited to the White House lawn, sir."
"Sure you do, when you've got a special security pass from Military Intelligence."
"Sir! That would be..." Danny was completely bowled over, his eyes wide, and then he grinned. "That would be just swell, Major!"
"Then I'll be seeing you there, soldier," Steve said as he lifted his mug of coffee in a toast.
"I wish you could join us, Diana," Etta said wistfully as Steve pulled on his overcoat and took his hat off the hat stand in the corner of his office.
"Me too, Etta," Diana said, and then gestured to the forest of boxes around her desk. "But I've got to get all the files sorted before they're transferred to the new building, and then I've got an appointment to give blood over at the Armed Services Hospital that just couldn't be rescheduled."
"Don't work too hard," Steve said with mock sternness, wagging a finger, and she grinned.
"Thank you so much for arranging for my family to be there. Dru hasn't talked about anything else all day."
"It was no trouble," Steve insisted, "I'll see you in the morning, Diana."
She waited until they'd gone, keeping her eye on at the round clock on the wall as she quickly tidied the file boxes and stacked them one on top of the other. Glancing out the window of Steve's office, she waited until Steve and Etta disappeared into the crowd of servicemen and women heading toward the Executive Mansion, before she snatched up her hat and purse.
Walking out of the gray marble building on D. Street which housed the Military Intelligence section of the War Department, Diana walked over to 17th street quickly, glancing at her wristwatch as ducked into the narrow alley between two large brick buildings, taking her glasses off to peer around and make absolutely certain the spot was deserted. When she was sure that no one was around to catch a glimpse, she removed her hat, raised her arms and began gracefully to spin. Her hair shook itself free from the pins that held it in place and fell in soft curls around her neck as the transformation began.
With a bright flash and a sound like distant thunder, Yeoman First Class Diana Prince disappeared and Wonder Woman stood in the alley, swathed in a red, white, and blue cape, a blue star-spangled skirt around her waist. Out of habit, she checked her for the magical girdle that allowed her to retain her speed, strength, and skills outside of Paradise Island, and the golden tiara that held her dark hair away from her forehead.
She stepped out from the alley, smiling as people on the street caught sight of her and waved. Wonder Woman sightings were a part of every-day Washington D.C. life, she mused as she crossed the street to approach the formal entrance of the new East Wing. A uniformed marine held the door for her and lead her inside to where the other fourteen medal recipients were waiting. She smiled, and shook each of their hands, and was surprised to see how young many of them were.
The last time she had been here, it had been for President Roosevelt's funeral only two weeks earlier. She saw many of the same faces today—President Truman, Mr. Trout the war correspondent, Mrs. Butter, the former First Lady's secretary, General Blankenship, as well as dozens of uniformed officers and civilians. But spirits were much higher today—and despite the rain of the night before, the sky was clear blue and the gardens were thronged with people. Squinting, Diana could just make out Steve, Etta, Maggie Robbins brother Danny, and her mother and sister sitting in the first row of chairs.
There was thunderous applause as the President stepped up to the Podium and she was lead to her seat. She arranged her cape around her shoulders, holding her head up high and smiling as photographers from the Washington Tribune-Herald and the Post snapped several pictures to run in the evening edition of the paper. As the applause died down and servicemen returned to their chairs, President Truman began to speak in a loud, clear voice into the microphone.
"The young woman we are decorating today has indeed performed above and beyond the call of duty, on so many occasions that, to innumerate them here, would keep us all here until Doomsday," the President began, and there was a ripple of laughter from the crowd. He took a small gold medal on a blue silk ribbon from a uniformed Marine, and held the medal high for all too see. "The medal she shall receive today has been specially made for her—as unique as she is—as the Congressional Medal of Honor that we will be awarding today to fourteen brave individuals is the highest military award for bravery that can be given to any individual serving in the United States of America. I'd rather have this Medal than be President," President Truman said with complete sincerity, "But to my knowledge, no branch of service currently has the honor of counting her among their ranks.
"Rather, she has fought tirelessly on behalf of all of us in the name of Freedom and Democracy without being formally pledged in the service of this country. She has chosen to put her life at risk time and time again, to protect the liberties and ideals of freedom when others would seek to destroy them. She has pledged countless hours to the war effort, raised thousands of dollars at bond rallies, and has been a friend to each and every American in the three years since she first miraculously appeared on our shores to battle the Axis forces.
"I think that it is particularly fitting that this special medal carries stamped on one side the face of the Goddess Minerva, the Roman Goddess of Strategy in Warfare. Certainly, there can be no more honor we can bestow on such a woman as Wonder Woman."
Diana grinned as she saw Steve leap to his feet, and a standing ovation begin as she stood for the President to pin the medal to the edge of her cape.
"Thank you, sir," she said as she shook his hand.
"Thank you, Wonder Woman," he said, and she took her seat so that the ceremony could continue.
As the President read a citation for each of the young officers and enlisted men, informing the crowd of the specific actions they were being decorated for, Diana found her eyes straying to the front row of the audience, her heart swelling with pride that her mother was there to share this day with her. She locked eyes with Steve at one point, who winked at her, and she could feel her smile growing as she glowed with pride.
The White House,
"What did you think of the ceremony, Dru?" Steve asked as the lines of guests began to file out of the lines of white wooden folding chairs. The late afternoon sun was warm, but there was the slightest nip in the air, first day of summer or no. They walked slowly towards the entrance, and Steve kept his eye on the knot of honorees and press who were having their pictures taken at one end of the lawn. In her red, white, and blue satin cape, Wonder Woman stood out like a peacock among swallows, and she was taking turns having her picture taken with each of the officers.
"That man with the glasses, that was the President?" Mrs. Prince asked, and General Blankenship nodded.
"That's President Truman. He's only been President for a couple of weeks."
"I guess I thought he'd be... bigger," Drusilla said, looking slightly puzzled, and Steve laughed. At times like this, he could definitely see the family resemblance between the sisters. He remembered all the times he and Etta had stumped Diana, who had never even been to a movie before she came to Washington, and didn't know Jack Wood from Jimmy Stewart. It was obvious that they had grown up pretty sheltered, and now that he had met their mother, he could understand why. It must have been hard, raising two girls all alone in war-time.
"Say, I have a special treat for you," he said as he saw Wonder Woman approaching them, one or two stray journalists on her heels before two of the Marines began herding them back off the lawn and towards the press entrance. "Hello, Steve," she said with a warm smile, and despite himself, he felt his heart skip a beat. There was just something about her smile that always did that to him. The first time he'd seen her, he'd been weak from blood loss and infection from a bullet wound to the shoulder, and he'd been sure he'd died and gone to Heaven because she was an angel. Since that day, she'd always been there just when he needed her the most. "General, Etta," she said, greeting each of them in turn.
"Wonder Woman, I'd like you to meet some friends of mine," Steve said, drawing the young man on the crutches forward. "This is Danny Robbins—"
"You're Maggie's brother!" she said, and he shifted one of his crutches beneath his arm so he could shake her hand. "It's an honor to meet you."
"The honor's all mine, believe me!" he said, pumping her hand enthusiastically.
Wonder Woman's smile was genuine. "If it weren't for brave young men like you, I don't know where we'd be," she said with great sincerity.
"And this is Mrs. Prince, and her daughter Drusilla. They're my secretary Diana's family, and this is Mrs. Prince's first time in Washington."
"It's wonderful to meet you," she said, reaching out to shake Mrs. Prince's hand. The older woman's eyes were sparkling, and Steve was glad they had come along today.
"I wish Diana could have been here," Etta said with a sigh.
"Me too," Steve agreed. "I've always wanted to introduce you two, Wonder Woman."
"I'm sure you will someday, Steve," Wonder Woman assured him. "There's plenty of time, and I'm not going anywhere just yet."
"Perhaps not," Mrs. Prince began, "But if Phillip is correct, and the Germans are expected to surrender soon, why, Drusilla and I shall simply stay in Washington until they do, and then Diana can return home with us." She seemed quite pleased with her logic, and her youngest daughter's eyes lit up.
"Oh mother, that's wonderful!" Drusilla grinned, but Steve was frozen in place.
"Diana's going home?" Etta asked, sounding dismayed.
"I don't see why not," Mrs. Prince said with a smile. Somehow, he'd never seen this coming. Oh, sure, once the War was over, there was the possibility of Diana rejoining civilian life. But he had always assumed that would mean staying in Washington—perhaps even continuing to work for him.
It had simply never occurred to him that she might leave. Never, not once.
"Well then, we'll certainly miss her," Steve said, shaking himself out of his trance, his thoughts in a whirl. For the first time, he turned to study Wonder Woman's reaction, but she seemed just as taken aback as he was. "Won't we, Wonder Woman?"
"We certainly will," she said as a White House aid came over and handed a folded note to General Blankenship.
"What is it, sir?" Etta asked as the General scanned the note.
"Hamburg radio just made a special announcement. Hitler is dead," the General said with amazement in his voice.
Later, at the Franklin Arms Hotel...
Diana was waiting for her family in their hotel suite when they returned from the White House. Her hair was back in its neat and tidy bun, her thick glasses perched on her nose and she sat primly, ankles crossed on the sofa when the key turned in the lock.
"Diana!" Drusilla threw herself into her sister's arms as soon as she crossed the threshold. "Isn't it wonderful? You're coming home! I'm so excited!"
Diana hugged her sister, but her face still remained curiously blank, something which did not escape the notice of the Queen.
"Drusilla, will you give you sister and I a moment, please?" she said, and Dru released her, puzzled. "Go on, child."
"Of course, mother," Dru said, taking the key from the door and pocketing it "I'm going to go downstairs to the gift shop to read the magazines."
Hippolyte waited until her youngest daughter was gone, and sat next to Diana on the sofa, pulling off her kidskin gloves one finger at a time, and setting them down on the low coffee table. "You do not seem pleased, daughter."
"The war in the Pacific—" Diana began, but her mother cut her off with a dismissive wave of her hand.
"—Is almost at an end. Surely it can be concluded without Wonder Woman?" the Queen asked, watching her daughter's face closely. "You came to these shores to fight the Nazis, and keep them from enslaving humanity. You've accomplished that goal. You are the heir to the throne, Diana. Your place is on Paradise island, at my side. Don't you want to come home?" Hippolyte asked, surprised.
"Of course I do," Diana replied quickly. "I've missed you and Dru terribly. It's only..." she trailed off, frowning.
"This world no longer needs you, Diana," her mother said gently.
"But what if I need it?" she said, dismayed. "I have learned so much in the time I have spent here. Not just about this world and its people—but about myself. Things I never knew." She knelt at her mother's feet and took her hands in hers. "What's three years to an immortal, Mother? An eye-blink. Less than that—a heartbeat."
She squeezed her daughter's hands, a sad smile on her lips. "A heartbeat. It all comes down to your heart, doesn't it child? You want to stay because you love this man Steven Trevor."
Diana paused, knowing what must be written across her face. She needed no mirror—she could see it in her mother's eyes. And as much as it pained her, she knew it was the truth. Knew it with every fiber of her being. "What's so wrong with that?" Diana finally asked, and her mother caught her up in an embrace.
"My poor, sweet, innocent daughter. You understand nothing. You do not know the evil men can do."
Diana pulled herself from her mother's arms, suddenly angry. "I've spent the last three years protecting the innocent from the evil men—and women—do!"
"You don't understand," her mother insisted, "And I pray you never will."
"Mother!" Diana began, exasperated, but Hippolyte held up her hand for silence, regal and imposing once more. Gone was the mother who had fussed over her infant daughters, bandaging their cuts and kissing their scrapes, and smoothing their childhood tears away with loving hands. In her place was Hippolyte of Themyscira, warrior queen of a once defeated people who had lead her sisters and her daughters to an un-dreamt of paradise as far away from the shores of their homeland as they could travel so long ago that not even a single stone of the palace of her birth still stood.
"You've never been raped, beaten, and locked in the stinking dark," she said gravely. "You've never had to watch your sisters chained, watched the sister of your flesh murdered before your eyes. You've never seen the kind of evil I have seen—the kind of evil I have protected you and Drusilla from—"
"Not all men are Herakles, Mother," Diana said firmly, and saw her mother flinch. But she continued on, undaunted. "Not all men seek to dominate and control. Not all men hate."
Sorrow shone in Hippolyte's eyes. "All men hate. Some are just better at hiding it, that is all."
"But nothing. I may be your mother, Diana, but I am also your Queen. And my decision is final."
Diana looked up into her mother's face, and saw the resolve carved there as if in immortal white marble, and knew that any protest she could have made would fall on deaf ears. Rising to her feet, she picked up her purse and placed her uniform hat on her head, folding her coat over her arm.
"As you wish, my Queen," she said stiffly and then she stepped out into the hall, closing the hotel room door behind her. Walking down the carpetted hallway, she dashed the impatient tears away, her back ramrod straight as she prepared herself to say good-bye to the world—and the man—she loved.
The Next Morning,
"Steve! The phone has been ringing off the hook all morning," Diana greeted him as he walked through the door of their offices. He had been in meetings since shortly after dawn, and felt as if he had already put in a full day of work, and it was only 10. Her desk, normally neat as a pin, it was littered with carbons from the message pad. "Everyone wants to know if Hitler is really dead. This is madness!"
"General Eisenhower has doubts," he said as he pulled off his overcoat and hung it and his hat on the hat stand in the corner. "Is there—" he was about to say 'coffee' just as she pressed a steaming cup into his hand. He gave her a grateful smile, and almost scalded his tongue with the first swallow. "Thanks."
"Do you? Have doubts?" she asked, alarmed.
"No," he said with a firm shake of his head. "He's dead, Diana. The only question is whether to believe Doneitz—that he died fighting, or whether he committed suicide. I don't know if we'll ever know the truth for sure. How are your mother and sister doing?" he asked, changing the subject.
"Oh, they're fine," she said as she began to tidy his desk absently, stacking files and papers and setting them back beneath the 22 shell casing he used as a paper weight. "Dru is showing Mother the Smithsonian Institute today. That should keep them occupied until tonight, I'm sure."
"I take it your mother doesn't travel very often?"
"This is my mother's first time away from home in living memory," Diana laughed ruefully, and he got the feeling there was a story there.
"Where is home?" he asked, and realizing he'd never known—even when she'd taken leave in the past to go visit her family. He knew they didn't have a telephone, and somehow he'd always pictured Diana having been brought up in some tucked away corner of America that hadn't yet been touched by the same hardships that his generation had endured growing up. Some mythical place spared the horrors of the Great War, or the ravages of the Depression. But in point of fact, he had no idea. For all he knew, Diana had had it even worse off than his family had. She had never spoken of home beyond homespun wisdom and advice handed down to her from her mother.
Her gaze slid past him to the map that hung on his wall, suddenly unfocused. "A long way from here," she said, a wistful tone in her voice, but there was some sadness there too.
"You must be looking forward to going home, then," he said, trying to keep his voice from betraying him.
She seemed startled, replying quickly, "I've responsibilities—obligations at home that I've been neglecting the last three years..."
Steve smiled despite himself. "That's my Diana—always the responsible one." She flashed him a smile, and he took a chance, reaching out to touch her hand. "But surely, with Dru at home, your mother can spare you?"
She smiled, giving his hand a quick squeeze before releasing it. "I'm the eldest. She relies on me. I only came here to help the war effort—to fight the Nazis. But once the war is over, Mother has every right to ask that I come home, and resume..." she paused, as if she was going to say one thing, but ended up saying another. "To pick up where I left off."
Steve frowned, and covered it by taking another sip of the coffee. "Diana, this may be none of my business, but you don't seem very excited about going back with your mother and sister," he said frankly, watching her face for some sign that he was close to the truth.
"Sometimes it feels like I only just got here," she admitted, that same sad smile playing about the corner of her mouth as she walked over to the window which faced out toward the capital building. "There's still so much I haven't seen, so much I haven't done..."
He stood, and carefully laid a hand on her shoulder. "If you don't want to leave Washington..." he began, knowing that what he really meant to say was 'if you don't want to leave me'. "You're a grown woman—you can make your own decisions."
"You don't know my mother," she said softly. "Believe me, I'd stay if I could." She turned, and then flushed as she apparently realized how close they were. She took an involuntary step back, and spell of the moment was suddenly broken. "I should get back to work," she said, brows drawing together in a slight frown behind the black-rimmed spectacles, and Steve cleared his throat awkwardly.
"Of course. General Blankenship is expecting my report by this afternoon, and I've got a million things to catch up on." He sat back down, surveying the neat stacks of files and papers, and trying to remember which report exactly was due. "Oh, and Diana?" he said as he reached for the file on top of the stack.
"Yes?" she said from the doorway.
"I'll miss you," he said sincerely.
She flashed him a brilliant smile that lit up her whole face. "I'll miss you too, sir," she said, and then disappeared back through the inner office door.
That afternoon, at
"We should have a party," Etta said as she moved her dill pickle slice around her plate with her fork. She sat in a booth along the window with Charlie Niles, the remains of their simple lunch of tuna sandwiches waiting to be cleared. Major Trevor sat across from them, his sandwich barely touched.
"A going away party, for Diana," Etta continued, brightening considerably as she warmed to the idea. "You know—to show her how much we love her and are going to miss her."
"I think that's a swell idea," Charlie said. "Don't you, sir?"
"A party?" Steve echoed. He'd only been half-listening to Etta, preoccupied. Diana had elected to stay back at the office, saying she had so much to do and was foregoing lunch. Steve was having a great deal of difficulty dealing with the reality that soon—perhaps days, perhaps week, perhaps months—Diana would be gone. "I think that's an excellent idea, Private," Steve said as Maggie came over to clear their plates. "We should do something to let Yeoman Prince know how special she is, and how much we're going to miss her."
"You want me to wrap this up for you, Major?" Maggie asked, indicating the sandwich with a tilt of her head.
"If you could, Maggie. And can we get a tuna on white, no pickle, wrapped up? I want to take Diana some lunch."
"Sure thing, Major. And pardon me for eavesdropping, but did I hear she was going back home?"
"With her mother and sister," Etta said as she rested her chin in her upturned palm, glum once more.
"Oh, that's such a shame. We're awful fond of her here, aren't we, Danny?"
"I'll sure hate to see her go," Danny agreed as he wiped down the counter with a damp rag. "And her sister's a real pistol."
"You and Dru hit it off?" Steve asked the counterman, who grinned.
"Funny girl, but real sweet. Hey, speak of the devil," Danny said with a grin as the teen-ager came through the glass doors of the diner. She waved at Major Trevor, Etta, and Charlie as she took a seat at the counter.
"Hi, Danny," she said shyly, "Can I get an ice cream sundae?"
Danny handed her a menu. "We got chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla."
"Oh, yes please!" Dru said, and Steve couldn't help but smile. For such a tiny girl, she sure had an appetite. For sweets, anyway.
"One triple-scoop sundae with all the fixings, coming up," Danny said with a wink.
Maggie came over with two paper bags, and Steve took the bill to the counter, handing Danny two bits for the sandwiches, potato salad, and sodas. "How are you doing, Drusilla?" he asked as the young man got him his change.
"I'm just swell, Major Trevor."
"I thought you were at the Smithsonian today?"
"We were, but mother wanted to go home early. She wasn't in very good spirits."
"Oh? If you don't mind my asking, is anything wrong?
"I think she and Diana had a fight," Dru confided in a low voice.
"Oh," Steve said, trying to imagine Diana raising her voice to her mother. It was a mental picture that simply refused to come into focus. Heck, Diana had only ever raised her voice at him the one time, and that was the only fight they'd ever had in three plus years.
"When we got back to the hotel last night, Diana didn't seem very happy about going back home." Dru continued, " I think she's going to miss you a lot, Major Trevor."
"What makes you say that?"
"Are you kidding?" the young girl giggled. "You're all Diana has ever talked about since she first saw you in the hospital!"
"Hospital?" Steve echoed, perplexed.
"I mean, since she started working for you," Dru amended, and then her eyes became big as saucers as Danny returned with a mountain of ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and peanuts.
"One ice cream sundae, made to order," Danny said with a wink as he slid the bowl in front of Dru, who favored him with a blinding smile.
"Is this enough?" Dru asked around a mouthful of ice cream and chocolate syrup, handing him a quarter.
"Are you kidding? That's enough for the new issue of Look, an ice cream sundae, and movie—with popcorn."
"The only movie I've ever seen was the one Major Trevor and that nice Corporal Ames were in. Oh!" Her eyes grew wide again. "Do you think I could see a movie while I'm here?"
"You mean... with me?" Danny asked, looking around to make sure he was the only guy she could have been asking.
"That would be neat!" she said.
"You're one crazy girl, you know that?"
"How do you mean?"
"Where I come from, it's the guys that ask the girls out—not the other way around."
"But you did ask me. Just now." Dru was puzzled.
Danny shook his head, giving up. "Wonder Man is playing on the base. I'd be happy to take you."
"You two kids have fun," Steve said with a smile, and left Drusilla to her snack. Etta and Charlie were waiting for him outside the café, so they could walk back to the War Department together. "Say, Charlie," Steve said as they turned the corner, "Could you do me a favor?"
"Anything, sir—you name it," the young clerk insisted, and Steve told him his plan as they walked back over D street.
The War Department,
Diana Prince watched him, as if trying to commit his every move to memory. She did it on the sly—when she was crossing the office to put a file back in the safe, or when she handed him a report to sign. She memorized the way his dark hair brushed the collar of his shirt, and how he would massage the back of his neck with one hand when he was thinking. She stared at his hands, the square cut fingernails clean and freshly trimmed, remembering how strong they were. She watched him sip from a cup of stone cold coffee absently as he loosened his tie and leaned back in his chair to read yet another report from the front lines. She smiled at his grimace, and swallowed a laugh when he drank it anyway—needing the caffeine, and knowing that there wasn't a chance of a fresh pot so late in the evening.
Since the announcement of Hitler's death, the mood around the office had been celebratory and manic simultaneously, as calls poured into Military Intelligence from every sector. Information was offered, information was demanded, and information was traded all day long. All across Europe, the fighting was coming to an end, and an entire generation of men and women were finally beginning to see the light at the end of the very dark tunnel they had been trapped in for the last five years. It may take time before they reach that light—but they could see it. It was almost tangible.
But regardless of the good news being reported almost hourly from Europe, life in the office went on. There was still work to do, reports to make, paperwork to be done. Charlie Niles had been by the day before with a box of records for Steve, who had been combing through them all day at his desk. Diana was hard at work getting Steve's files and reports in order both for the move to the new Pentagon facility, but also so that whomever were to replace her as his secretary would find everything in apple pie order, and not have a worse time of it.
It was the little details—like trying to imagine some other girl trying to decipher Steve's handwriting,which was getting less legible by the hour, or making sense of the attempts at shorthand Diana had first made before she had gotten a book on proper shorthand from the library—that brought it all home to her.
She was leaving.
She had accepted it—there was no sense railing against her mother's decree. With the Nazis defeated, there was nothing holding her to Washington. Nothing except her feelings for Steve Trevor. And for all she adored him, if he loved her at all, it was the love of a symbol. A star-spangled ideal, not a living, breathing woman. She had basked in that adoration for years, but in her heart she knew that wasn't what she wanted.
What she wanted—what she had dreamt of—was loving and being loved in return for who she was. All of her—not just the different faces she showed the world. And there could be no love without honesty.
So, she watched him. And when he looked up and caught her staring, she blushed, stammering something about the time.
"Wow, it's later that I realized—" Steve said as he glanced at his wristwatch. "I'm so sorry to keep you from your family, Diana."
She shrugged, not wanting to leave him just yet. "Dru called this afternoon to tell me they had plans—very cryptic. So I guess I'm on my own tonight."
"Say, are you hungry? How about picking us up some dinner from the Café?"
"Sure. What would you like?"
"Anything's fine," he said as he took some coins from his pocket and pressed them into her palm.
She pulled on her coat—it was drizzling again, and she could see a sea of umbrellas in the lamp-lit streets beyond the office window. "I'll be right back!" she called as she put on her hat, and he waved at her as he reached for the phone as she pulled the office door closed behind her.
General Blankenship's office window was dark—Etta had left with Charlie about an hour ago, and she'd seen the General turn off his desk lamp and put on his coat as she'd come back from the file room the last time. Her footsteps echoed on the linoleum floor as she made her way through the nearly deserted building. She was struck suddenly by the realization that she was actually going to miss this place. As she walked over the rain-slick streets, she realized she was going to miss the easy camaraderie of servicemen and women all dedicated to the same cause. Miss the hustle and bustle of the War Department. But most of all, she would miss the people that had become her extended family during her time in Washington.
It was later than she realized. Almost all the lights were out in the Café, and Maggie was just turning the cardboard sign in the window from 'Open' to 'Closed' as Diana arrived. Maggie waved her inside, and Diana waved at her husband Hank Miller, who was the only customer at the counter. He waved back at her, and then headed into the storeroom through the singing door next to the kitchen.
"Thanks, Maggie—is the kitchen still open?"
"For you, anything. What'll it be?"
"Can I get two Ham Steak dinners wrapped up to take back with me?"
"Another late night at the office for you and Major Trevor?"
Diana nodded, counting out the dollar twenty for the dinners, and a nickel for tip. "You know how it is, Maggie. The work just never seems to stop."
"How about dessert? I've got cake," Maggie said, and Diana gasped as the lights came up in the diner.
"Surprise!" came half a dozen voices as Etta came through the storeroom door carrying a cake decorated with icing roses. Behind Etta were Charlie, General Blankenship, Hank Miller, Danny Robbins, and Drusilla and Hippolyte. She heard the door open behind her and there was Steve, a bit damp and breathing hard from most likely running the whole way from the office.
"Surprise, Diana," he said, grinning to beat the band.
"You planned this!" Diana accused,
"It was mostly Etta. I only wish I could have seen your face," Steve said as he took off his hat.
"You're awful!" she punched him in the arm, but she couldn't help grinning, and her hands flew to her face as Etta set the cake on the counter and she could read the legend "We'll Miss You, Yeoman Prince" written across the top in wobbly letters made of icing.
"Mother, you too?" Diana was surprised the Queen would have been a party to something so mundane as a going away party.
"It was this one's idea," Hippolyte brushed Drusilla's hair back from her cheek. "Private Candy enlisted her help, and she's been here all afternoon."
"Maggie let me help her ice the cake," Dru said proudly.
"She did a real great job too," Danny said, grinning, and Diana swore Dru actually blushed.
"It's beautiful. You're beautiful," she said, pressing a kiss to her little sister's forehead. "Thank you; all of you! I had no idea— This is all just so—" Diana trailed off, overcome with emotion.
"And, before I forget," Etta waved over Charlie, who had a camera around his neck. She grabbed Diana and she and Steve stood on either side while Charlie made a picture. Diana blinked to clear the spots from her vision from the flashbulb. "There! Now you can't leave until I've had three copies made—one for each of us. You know, to remember us by."
"Oh, Etta." Diana's eyes filled with tears, and she hugged the other woman fiercely. "I'm going to miss you so much!" There was a ripple of joyful laughter as they held onto each other, crying into each other's shoulders for a moment.
"Now, now, Yeoman Prince," General Blankenship said as he offered her his handkerchief. "Did you really think we were going to let you go without a big sendoff?"
"Thank you, sir," she said, dabbing at her eyes.
"Two Ham Steak dinners, right?" Maggie said as she brought out the steaming plates, and as she set them down at a table, Diana gave the proprietress a heartfelt hug.
"You're all just so wonderful! This means so much to me. It really does."
"Well, as a token of our appreciation," Steve said, pulling a paper wrapped package from the pocket of his overcoat, "we wanted you to have this."
"It's a letter of commendation by Captain Sue S. Dauser, Superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps, for your exemplary service in the War Department," General Blankenship explained as she carefully removed the paper and string, and ran her fingers over the framed letter in amazement. "Steve was the one who thought of it—and I couldn't have agreed with him more. You've been a remarkable asset to our offices, Diana, and we'll surely be sad to see you go."
Diana set the frame carefully down on the table and engulfed a surprised Steve in a hug. "Thank you," she whispered next to his ear, and his arms tightened around her briefly. She knew her mother was watching—she could feel the Queen's eyes. But for a few seconds, she simply no longer cared.
"Hey, if you're handing out hugs, just let me know where the line starts!" Danny laughed, and Diana wiped away fresh tears with the back of her hand and gave the counterman a one armed hug and quick kiss on the cheek.
"How come he gets a kiss?" Steve protested good naturedly, and the room broke out into laughter once again.
"Hey, your dinner will get cold!" Maggie said as she steered Diana back to her chair. "And while you're eating, I'm going to cut the cake. Don't worry—I'll make sure you get the best piece!"
"Oh Steve, it's too bad you couldn't have invited Wonder Woman to come," Etta said as she bit into a rose made out of icing. "I bet she would have wanted to say good-bye, too."
"I'm sure she would have," Steve murmured, but it was Diana he was watching so intently that she could feel a blush rise in her cheeks.
Diana Prince's apartment,
Diana sat in the center of her living room, surrounded by boxes.
The apartment had been furnished when she had moved in, so there was remarkably little for her to pack. Most of her clothes would be given to the Red Cross—she had no need of them on the Island. Except her uniform, which she couldn't bear to part with. Who knew one could become sentimental over blue serge? But sentimental she was, so it would be packed carefully into tissue paper and taken back home where no doubt each and every one of her sisters would tell her how dowdy it was. She chuckled. Dowdy, perhaps, but the uniform represented something very special to her, and she had worn it with pride for years, despite the fact that it had been a costume as surely as the one her mother designed for her.
Costumes, she mused, as she opened the biscuit tin that sat on the top shelf of the closet in her bedroom, tucked away from prying eyes. Always costumes.
Inside the tin were nestled a short stack of newspaper clippings—the advertisement from her one stage appearance as Wonder Woman arranged by Ashley Norman, the article stating Steve was alive and at the Armed Services Hospital, the picture of her with Jack Wood from the Miss GI Dream Girl contest at Fort Russell, and a photo of President Roosevelt from the front page of the Washington Herald-Tribune the day after she had received a special citation. She set the clippings aside, and removed the four medals hanging from silk ribbons.
The Americans so loved medals. She remembered Steve's RAF friend James Bigglesworth once remarking that in England, they never gave out half so many. Of course, he also referred to the American pilots as "over-sexed, over-paid, and over here." Steve had laughed, and Diana had simply blushed. James had gone on to describe how British children would chase the trucks full of American soldiers through the street, and the GIs would toss them sticks of bubble gum, or chocolate bars. She couldn't help but picture J.P. Hadley's pack of war orphans—spared the rickets and boils and malnutrition of those London children of the Blitz. Such generosity for complete strangers was proof to her that for all the terrible atrocities committed in wartime, there was hope to be found in each and every person who reached out to help. She had seen both the worst this world had to offer, and its best, she decided as she reached for the next item inside the tin; a stack of letters.
They had been read and re-read so many times that the paper was dog-eared and the ink faded along the creases. The first was a letter from Charlie Bright Eagle, the belt the boy had given her tucked beneath its folds. It had been addressed to Wonder Woman care of the War Department, and the Navaho boy had written to her of simple, mundane things—lessons at school, what his adopted brothers and sister were up to, and how Maria told every guest who had slept in her bed that Wonder Woman had stayed in that very guestroom. She smiled, imaging the housekeeper charging a penny a head like a sideshow attraction. The letter had been written only a few weeks after she and Steve had visited J.P. Hadley's ranch in Texas, and it had not been followed by another. No doubt the boy had been discouraged when his hero had not written back to him—or perhaps he had simply forsaken her for a boy's next passion, as children were wont to do. She would have written back, if she could.
Etta had told her once that next to Santa Claus and the President, the Post Office received more mail for Wonder Woman than anyone else in the world. Except that the President had a staff of people to handle correspondence, and hundreds of volunteers around the country sent back letters "from the North Pole", but she was only one woman, and had long ago decided that if she answered one letter, then she would have to answer them all. And if she did that—well, there'd be no time to actually help people, she'd be at her desk every minute of every day. And as much as she hated the realities of life, she was at their mercy.
The next was a note from Steve—he'd had it delivered to her apartment by special messenger but she had not been here to accept it. It was simple, and in Etta's handwriting no less—telling her he was gone on a furlough and that she should take some leave as well and have fun. Of course, he had no way of knowing that when he had written it, she'd been in the process of being flown to Berlin, having been captured. But she had kept it, as a keepsake. He'd come after her, and risked his life to rescue her, and she would never forget that.
She re-folded the letters and replaced them in the tin. Suddenly, she wished that Dru and her mother had never come to Washington. Selfishly, she wished that she was just a normal girl, with a normal life, who had the luxury of falling in love. She closed her eyes, concentrating on the already rapidly fading memory of her first and last kiss. And inwardly, she railed at the unfairness of it. Why now? Why was everything suddenly happening so quickly? She felt as if she were drowning in a sea of uncertainty.
She ran her fingers over Minerva's profile hanging from the blue silk ribbon of the medal president Truman had pinned to her cape just days earlier, and leaned back against the sofa for a moment, sighing. For two thousand years, she had worn but one face: that of Diana of Themyscira. Heir to the throne. Loving daughter and Amazon warrior. Hundreds of years had passed in an eyeblink as she had studied the healing arts at the feet of her teachers, and for her pleasure she had hunted and run footraces, recited ancient myths and stories of great bravery and valor and even love—but she had never known the world those poems and sagas had spoken of. Her earliest memories were of the Island, and her sisters, but most of all her mother.
She had never seen a living, breathing man until Steve Trevor, and how could she not have feelings for someone who—without the strength and speed of one born of the Islands, whose own lifespan was as quick as a breath to her—still risked his life day after day to defend those who had no other champions? It was easy for her to take up the mantle—she had less to lose, and so much more to give. But to her, the real heroes were the mortals who spent their every breath in the pursuit of freedom, and sacrificed their fragile lives daily in this terrible war.
Carefully, she laid the medals back on the square of tissue paper and refolded them, closing the tin and placing it on top of her folded uniform. She reached for the next stack of items to be sorted when there was a discreet knock at the door. She picked up her glasses from the coffee table, and slipped them on in front of the mirror before crossing the room to the door.
She was shocked when, on the other side, she found Steve Trevor standing in her hallway.
"Steve!" she began, adjusting her glasses on her nose, and she stepped aside so he could come in. He seemed to be full of energy, tightly coiled, as if he was expecting some kind of fight. She'd seen him like this before, of course. When he was wrestling with a particularly thorny problem, or in more than one case, a particularly deadly foe. "I wasn't expecting—"
"Don't go," he said simply, and she froze. She just... froze. He stared at her, waiting for some kind of response, but all she could do was stare back at him, blinking behind the thick lenses of her glasses. When they had parted after the surprise party Friday evening, there had been a finality to it, despite the fact that she fully intended to come in to work on Monday. After all, her mother had given her leave to stay until the Germans surrendered, and she was determined to carry on up until the last minute.
"Steve, you'll find another secretary," she finally said with a smile, and touched his shoulder sympathetically.
"Dammit, Diana, you're not just my secretary," he said and swept her into his arms and kissed her.
It wasn't an impulsive kiss. It wasn't getting caught up in the moment. It wasn't getting carried away. It was a kiss a man gives a woman when he sees his future in her eyes. It was a kiss a man gives a woman when the thought of waking up another day without her by his side made him never want to wake again. It was a kiss a man gives a woman when he loves her.
Diana's heart pounded in her chest like a hummingbird's wings. Her breath came short, and she could feel tears prickling her eyes as her arms went around his shoulders, tentatively at first. Then drawing him closer as she returned his kiss with three years of pent-up longing. When they parted, she thought that the only thing keeping her standing were his arms around her. She felt as if she might fly into bits.
"You have no idea how long I've wanted to do that," he said, cupping her cheek in his palm, and wiping away a tear with the ball of his thumb.
"You have no idea," she began, her voice barely above a whisper as her fingers closed over his and gave them a gentle squeeze, "how long I've wanted you to."
She closed her eyes, wanting to stretch the moment into eternity. He leaned forward to kiss her again, but her eyes flew open. "What about Wonder Woman?" she blurted out, heat rising in her cheeks. For a second—just one blissful second—she had forgotten. Steve looked taken aback by her outburst.
"I'll always have feelings for her," he said slowly and carefully.
"Feelings?" she echoed, suddenly feeling lightheaded, and almost as quickly as her sorrow had turned to her giddiness, joy turned to paralyzing fear. She took a step backwards, steadying herself against the small table next to the door as she waited for his answer.
"Feelings of gratitude," he went on, "for all those times she saved my life—and this country. Respect for her strength of spirit, her integrity. Admiration for her wisdom, her unfailing belief in the human spirit. Probably always some awe."
She took a deep breath. "But you don't... you don't love her?"
"I love her," he said simply, gently, and she felt her heart plummet into her shoes but she could not turn away—she was like a moth mesmerized by a flame, knowing how hot the fire would burn but unable to resist its flickering. "I love the way her smile can light up the entire world. I love her innocence, her gentleness, the child-like joy she takes in things we mortals take for granted. But you know what I love most?"
"What?" she whispered, tears gathering in her eyes once again.
"I love coming into the office every day, and seeing her across the room. She makes the best damned coffee in the world, and it's going to break my heart when she goes home."
* * *
All the blood had drained from Diana's face, and he could see the pulse beating wildly in the hollow of her throat. If he had been dismayed by her expression when he had kissed her days ago in a wild moment of joy that had changed his life forever, nothing could compare to the way the look on her face now made him feel. All he wanted in the world right now was to take her in his arms and hold her and never let go and promise her that it would be all right. That everything would be all right until she felt safe. Steve knew he had taken a risk—all he could hope for now what that he had not destroyed what he had so carefully won.
"How... how long have you known?" she finally asked, the knuckles of both hands white as she gripped the edge of the table so tightly he was afraid she might hurt herself. Yet, for all he knew, she was more likely to reduce the table to splinters beneath the pressure of her long, slender fingers.
"I wasn't sure," he admitted. "Not until just now. I asked Charlie for a copy of your service and personnel records on the sly. I told him it was for the letter, but something your sister said had me going crazy. She said you'd never stopped talking about me since you first saw me in the hospital. And sure enough, it was right there in black and white on the page. You were stationed at the Armed Forces Hospital before you worked at the War Department. You put in for a transfer the day I was released."
He took a step toward her, as carefully as if she were a wild animal who would spook and bolt if he made any sudden moves.
"All of your scheduled—and unscheduled—leave for the past three years coincided with an 'incident'. At least, that's what the paperwork said. The paperwork also said that Yeoman First Class Diana Prince's mother died in Akron Ohio in 1939, and she had a brother who was killed at Pearl Harbor. No sisters."
"No sisters," she echoed, her clear blue eyes filling with tears. He closed the distance between them in two steps. She was trembling when he gently took off her glasses and carefully set them on the side table. He leaned forward and pressed a kiss to her forehead, and took her face in both his hands.
"Ever since Friday night... I couldn't think of anything else. I've been driving myself crazy. All those times I wondered how you always knew just when I needed you most," he said as he traced the curve of her cheek with one callused thumb. "All those times I brushed off the questions of why Diana was never around when Wonder Woman appeared. I just never questioned it."
"You must hate me," she said through her tears.
"Hate you?" he asked mystified. "Diana, I love you."
He leaned forward and kissed her gently, and he could taste the salt of her tears on her lips. He broke the kiss, and smoothed her dark hair away from her brow with a smile. "I think I would have loved you no matter who you were. You could have been Wonder Woman, a navy nurse, or the Lemo Tomato Juice Girl, I don't think it matters. I think I've always loved you, and I always will."
"But I lied to you..." she began, and he shushed her with a finger against her lips.
"Then you must hate me for being a fool who couldn't see what was right in front of him until it was almost too late," he said firmly.
"But it is too late!" she said forcefully, shaking her head and stepping away from him. She walked into the middle of the piles of clothes, books, and boxes, hugging her arms to her as if she was cold and trying to warm them, her back to him. "It's too late. I have to go home," she said softly.
"Why?" he turned her to face him, not understanding. "Because your mother wants you at home? I don't accept that."
"She's not just my mother, Steve—she's my sovereign."
"Sovereign? But... but you're an American," he said, bewildered, and she shook her head.
Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath as if steeling herself for a battle, she looked him right in the eye and said "I was born over two thousand, four hundred and ninety years ago, west of the River Thermodon in a city-state ruled by Amazons called Themyscira. My mother is my Queen."
He sat down. He had to—he wasn't sure his legs could hold him upright.
Two thousand years was beyond the scope of what he could comprehend. He'd always known that Wonder Woman was a princess—Andros had called her that. He remembered so clearly that that maddeningly cool, silver-haired visitor from the heavens had shared a kind of kinship with Wonder Wo—with Diana that he couldn't begin to understand. And now he knew why.
He looked up and saw her watching him, uncertainty in those clear blue eyes that he'd looked into a hundred times before without ever really seeing them. To think that she had lived a hundred lifetimes before he had even met her....
She knelt at his feet, taking his hands in hers. "She is my Queen, but she's also my mother. When a mother demands you honor a promise—do you understand? I have no choice. There is no other choice I can make."
"Then I'll go with you," he said, and he knew even as he said it, that he would. He would follow this woman to the ends of the earth—to the very Gates of Hell. But he would never be parted for her for another minute. He couldn't stand the idea of it.
She shook her head. "You can't. Oh, Steve, I wish you could. More than anything in the world, I want to show you my home. Show you, so you can understand. But it is beyond impossible."
"Then... Then we'll run away," he said, knowing he must sound like a crazy man, and not caring one whit. "I'll leave the Army. We'll get married, and start somewhere fresh—"
She stopped him with a kiss, and when she broke it she leaned her forehead against his.
"If I ran away from my responsibilities," she said softly, "then I wouldn't be the same woman you fell in love with. And you wouldn't be the Steven Trevor I have loved since the moment I first set eyes on you."
He swallowed, feeling a rawness in his throat and a tightness in his chest as he realized she was right. But that didn't make it any better.
"Then what do we do?" he asked, at a loss.
"We make the most of the time we have," she said gravely, her eyes searching his for the answer to a question she didn't know how to voice.
With an air of solemnity, he reached up and removed the pins from her hair, letting the soft dark curls fall over her shoulders. Leaning forward, he kissed her—the lightest brush of his lips against hers. She sighed, her breath warm against his lips, and kissed him back. It was a kiss both sweet and urgent in its intensity, and in it he found all the words he had lost, all the things he could not say but desperately wanted to. And for a time, they were all the words either of them needed.
"Tell me what it's like?" he whispered into her hair as they lay curled around one another beneath her chenille bedspread and wool blanket. Outside her bedroom window, the late afternoon sunlight painted the world with a warm glow as if it had been gilded by a craftsman's brush. A single square of golden light had moved halfway across the wall in the hours they had been there, trying to hold the world and time at bay through sheer force of will. "Your home."
"It's always summer," she said, her cheek resting against his chest. "The palace is on the North side of the island, on the rise closest to the quarry. Each stone was cut and laid by one of my sisters. I remember watching the walls rise around us when I was a child, stone by stone. Sister by sister. Do you know how long it takes for barely a thousand women to build a palace stone by stone?"
He shook his head, and she rolled onto her stomach so that she could look up into his face. "Neither do I. Sometimes, I wonder if time runs differently there—like in a song or a story. If one day there spans a hundred years. On the day my sister Drusilla was born, my mother planted an apple tree. That single tree became an orchard that stretches from the palace wall to the cliffs above the sea. In my memory, home always smells of apples. I remember I was so terribly homesick my first spring in Washington, when the cherry blossoms began to fall. Dru and I used to play in the orchards, pretending the apple blossom petals were snow falling. I'd never seen snow until I came here."
She wrapped her arms around him, and he rested his chin on the top of her head. She could feel his heart beat beneath her cheek. "There are statues everywhere—in the gardens, in the marble halls. My sister Andromache is a sculptor. She was blinded by the one of the generals of the Greek army, but her memory lives in her hands. She can fashion a likeness so uncanny that my mother's bust has given me quite a start when I wandered the halls late at night. She tried to teach me her art, but I never had the talent for it. She would be quick to tell you I lacked the patience, as well."
"I think that you can do anything you set your mind to," he said, kissing the top of her head. He had been so quiet—as if anything he might say would shatter the peaceful stillness that engulfed them. But apparently curiosity won out at last, as he asked "What happened, with this Greek army? Is that how you ended up on your island?"
She nodded. "I was so small, when it happened. Three, perhaps four years old. I can't remember. There was a battle, and my mother bested their champion. There was feasting afterwards, but the Greeks drugged the wine. My mother's sister Antiope hid me in an olive jar before she was captured and taken away to marry one of their princes. My other aunt, Melanippe, escaped but was captured and slain before my mother's eyes. My sisters were beaten, chained and... horribly and terribly used by the soldiers." His arms tightened around her, and his jaw tightened and the lines of his face grew hard. She ran the fingers of one hand lightly over his cheek, trying to smooth away the worry over a wrong done by strangers so long ago, but touched by it nonetheless. "They escaped, and fled to Paradise Island. For over two millennia, we have lived in perfect peace on the island. No Amazon has ever raised her hand to another."
"And there are no men on the Island?"
"Only one in over a thousand years," she said, tracing the shape of the pale and puckered scar on his left shoulder. "This was where Phillipa cauterized your wound after we removed the bullet. I'm sorry it left a scar."
"I'm not—now I'll always have something to remember you by," she could hear the smile in his voice as he took her hand and pressed a kiss into the palm before continuing. "If it hadn't have been for that Nazi's bullet, I never would have met you."
"I never thought we'd ever thank the Nazis for anything," she said dryly, and he laughed.
* * *
She awoke alone, to the steady sound of rain outside her window. Pulling on her robe, she padded silently out into the darkened living room. Steve was standing in front of the window, watching the rain. He had pulled on his tan uniform pants, but the shirt was still unbuttoned, and he seemed mesmerized by the pattern of the raindrops on the glass. She came up behind him and slipped her arms around his waist, resting her chin on his shoulder so she could watch the rain.
"I remember the first time I watched you sleep," he said as the silhouettes of the monuments in the distance were illuminated by brief, soundless flashes of lightning along the horizon. "It was in Argentina. Do you remember? We were locked in a wine cellar, trussed up like Christmas turkeys, and I stopped and just watched you sleep. I couldn't help it. You were so beautiful it broke my heart. And then you woke up, and smiled at me, and I felt like I was ten feet tall. And not even that moment can compare to what it was like to wake up with you in my arms. Nothing comes close."
"The first time I saw you, my sister Rina and I were walking along the beach by a cave where I would sleep in hottest part of summer when the breeze from the ocean would be the only thing cooling the air enough to make it bearable. There was a cloud of white parachute silk covering you, and I remember how frightened I was when I saw you were bleeding. But I didn't fall in love with you then—even I knew that a sleeping man can be an angel or a demon hidden from the truth by Morpheus' embrace, which paints us all as gentle spirits. I fell in love with the man who, lying bleeding in his sickbed, struggled blindly to get back to the battle he had left behind. I fell in love with the man I would find asleep in his chair, having worked all night at least once a week for the last three years," she chuckled at the memory, resting her cheek against his shoulder. "I fell in love with the man who not three hours ago, told me he loved me for who I was. And not who he thought I could be, or should be."
"I can't let you go," he said quietly. "I don't know how I'm going to get up tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day and pretend that it's not killing me."
"But you have to," she whispered. "Just like I have to let you go."
"I don't know how." He turned around to face her, brushing her dark hair back with his hands, and she saw that his eyes were bright with unshed tears.
She took his face in her hands. "You have to promise me, Steve," she said, her throat suddenly raw. "Promise me that you'll fall in love, and marry, and have children, and have grandchildren, and you have to promise me you'll be happy. Because I can't..." her voice broke, and she blinked back sudden tears. "I can't do this unless I know that you'll be happy."
He kissed her, and there was an undercurrent of desperation in that caress that took her breath away. The world's clock had started again, and every second that passed was counting down to her leaving him. Knowledge of that compelled them both to try and hold on to one another so tightly that nothing—not family, not obligations, not a gulf between them of two millennia and thousands of miles—could tear them apart. But the knowledge that they would surely fail only spurred them on. Diana gasped as Steve lifted her into his arms, and carried her back to the bedroom.
"You're the only woman I'll ever love," he said as he laid her on the bed and gazed down at her adoringly. "I will never love anyone the way that I love you."
* * *
When Diana woke again, the sky outside her bedroom window was the color of mother of pearl, and the birds were just starting to sing outside her window. Steve was asleep, and she reached out to stroke his cheek. Slipping out of the circle of his arms, she stood in the center of her room and taking a deep breath, lifted her arms and spun clockwise until she was engulfed in a brilliant flash of light. Steve stirred, and she knelt next to him, reaching out to smooth his dark hair back from his face.
Leaning down, she kissed him softly, and when she pulled back his eyes were open a crack and he was smiling sleepily.
"Shhhh," she laid a finger against his lips. "You're dreaming," she said, remembering the first time she had said those words to him. It felt like a lifetime ago.
But she had lived a thousand lifetimes. Nonetheless, her blue eyes filled with tears as she uncoiled her golden lasso and wound it loosely around his shoulders.
The War Department,
Steven Leonard Trevor was leaning back in his chair, his eyes closed, his breathing even. In sleep, he seemed so much younger. The line of his jaw not so sharp—the tiny laugh lines around his eyes were hidden, waiting for his smile to show themselves. His tie was loosened, and slightly crooked, and his shirt was rolled up to his elbows and in need of washing and ironing.
She loved him. And no matter what happened, she would always love him. "Promise me..." she whispered as she crouched next to his chair, unable to resist the urge to brush the brown hair from his forehead one last time. "Promise me you will love, and be loved in return."
What are men like? Dru had asked her, the first time she had come to Washington. They're like children, she had said, and they're like gods. They are like geniuses... and fools. They are all things. She couldn't help but smile through the tears that pricked her eyes. Blinking them away and taking a deep breath, she reached out to touch his shoulder.
"Steve?" she said softly, and he stirred at her touch. "Major Trevor?"
"Diana?" He opened his eyes slowly, smiling at her as he stretched. "I must have..." he trailed off, staring at his desk. And then up at her, and she held her breath as she waited. "I must have fallen asleep?" he finally asked, and she forced herself to smile.
"Looks like," she said, handing him a fresh cup of coffee. "According to the General, Jodl signed the surrender papers in Riems last night, at just before 2100 hours."
"Surrendered..." he said, still foggy from sleep, and she nodded. He frowned as he took a swallow of coffee and then set the cup on the edge of the desk and stood. For the first time, he noticed her skirt and blouse—she wasn't wearing her Navy uniform. "You're going home," he said as the realization dawned.
She nodded, not trusting her voice. He seemed at a loss for words—staring into the depths of his coffee cup, a muscle in his jaw twitching. Finally he looked up at her, and took her hand in his.
"We're certainly going to miss you around here, Yeoman Prince. I mean that," he said with complete sincerity. "It just won't be the same without you."
"I'll miss you too, sir," Diana said, fighting the tears that threatened.
"There, now, Yeoman," he said, pulling a handkerchief from his pocket and offering it to her.
"Steve, Diana!" Etta burst into the office. "President Truman's on the radio!" The Private was grinning as she flipped on the small radio on the top of the table in the corner of the office and tuned into the station.
"—wish that Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to witness this day," came the voice from the radio, which crackles with static. Etta adjusted the knob, and President Truman continued speaking slowly and measuredly, "General Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to the United Nations. The flags of freedom fly over all Europe. For this victory, we join in offering our thanks to the Providence which has guided and sustained us through the dark days of adversity. Our rejoicing is sobered and subdued by a supreme consciousness of the terrible price we have paid to rid the world of Hitler and his evil band. Let us not forget, my fellow Americans, the sorrow and the heartache, which today abide in the homes of so many of our neighbors—neighbors whose most priceless possession has been rendered as a sacrifice to redeem our liberty."
Diana slipped out of the office unnoticed, as Steve and Etta's attentions were fixed solely on the voice issuing from the radio. As she closed the officer door and stepped out into the hallway, she could hear the radio broadcast still—coming from every radio that sat atop every desk, in every room she walked past. The voice echoed slightly off the walls and high ceilings, and servicemen and women sat like statues, transfixed, and utterly silent.
"We can repay the debt which we owe to our God, to our dead and to our children only by work—by ceaseless devotion to the responsibilities which lie ahead of us. If I could give you a single watchword for the coming months, that word is—work, work, and more work. We must work to finish the war. Our victory is but half-won. The West is free, but the East is still in bondage to the treacherous tyranny of the Japanese. When the last Japanese division has surrendered unconditionally, then only will our fighting be done. We must seek to bind up the wounds of a suffering world—to build an abiding peace, a peace rooted in justice and in law. We can build such a peace only by hard, toilsome, painstaking work—by understanding and working with our allies in peace as we have in war. The job ahead is no less important, no less urgent, no less difficult than the task which now happily is done. I call upon every American to stick to his post until the last battle is won. Until that day, let no man abandon his post or slacken his efforts. "
Diana stepped through the door, into the gray and damp Washington morning. She gazed up at the building, thinking about every morning she had walked through those doors for the last three years.
"Good-bye, Steve," she whispered, and forced herself not to look back.
"... and then he gets on stage and has to sing clues as if they were a form of music called 'opera' to the policeman, so that they will know who killed his brother!" Drusilla was telling a group of young Amazons in the palace garden. They were sprawled on the grass, listening with rapt attention as the princess spun tales about her most recent trip to America.
"It sounds like a very frivolous form of entertainment," Magda said, and Dru frowned.
"Oh, no, it was very clever! They made it appear as if one man was twins, but really it's the same man all along."
Diana shook her head, smiling despite herself as she passed through the gardens into the airy marble hall of the palace. She wore a long loose linen gown the color of lilacs, kidskin slippers that laced up her calves with leather so soft it felt like silk, and Ariadne had braided silver-edged ribbons into her long dark hair this morning. For the first time in a long time, she looked every inch the heiress to the throne . It was far cry from blue serge and regulation shoes...
"Mother," Diana said as she came to a halt before the couch where Hippolyte was seated. Looking at her mother swathed in silk and jewels, it was almost impossible to think of her wearing a smartly tailored little suit with matching hat and purse and being escorted around Washington on the arm of a three star General. "You sent for me?"
The Queen patted the empty space on the couch next to her, and Diana sat. "You've been very quiet since your return from America, my daughter. Even during the feasting and celebrations in your honor."
"I'm sorry, Mother," she said, and the Queen took her hand and gave it a squeeze.
"It was hard for you, leaving Washington," she observed, and Diana nodded. "I know that I do not say this often enough, but I am so proud of you, Diana. Oh, not just for going to Man's World and fighting. Certainly, that took great courage and you know how difficult it was for me to send my beloved child out into that world which had treated us so very cruelly. And you handled yourself most excellent well in that strange land, giving people hope then they were in despair, and trying to teach them that peace does not always have to be won at the end of a sword."
"I wish I could say I taught through example, Mother," Diana sighed, remembering Andros, "but the truth of it is, I answered violence with violence more often than I wished."
"It is a difficult lesson, and one not everyone was ready to learn," the Queen assured her. "You come from a proud warrior people, my daughter, and you tempered your strength with compassion. You are the best of us, and it was my honor to know you represented all of us out in the world."
"Thank you, mother."
"You truly loved him, didn't you," the Queen said as she cupped her daughter's cheek in her hand in a loving gesture.
Diana's smile was sad. "Yes."
"Yet you had the strength to leave him."
"I am your daughter," she said simply. "If I have strength, it is because I learned it at your feet."
Hippolyte leaned forward, and pressed a kiss to Diana's brow. "I know it hurts, child. But although it does not seem that way now, the pain will fade in time."
Diana smiled, but she knew her mother could read the sadness in her eyes. She got up, and started back to her rooms.
"Andromache tells me that you have taken up sculpture?" the Queen called after her, and she stopped in the entryway of the royal chamber.
"I have discovered the patience," she said wryly.
Arlington National Cemetary
There had been whispers and stares when she had entered the cemetery. After all, Wonder Woman was a myth in Washington, and she hadn't been seen in thirty years. The grounds were quiet, despite the presence of several tour groups there to see the Tomb of the Unknowns, and in the distance, she could see a marine funeral taking place. Soldiers in dark blue serge stood out against the pale blue sky, and she imagined she could hear the echo of their gun salute.
It was a government issued white marble headstone like the thousands that formed neat and tidy rows in every direction, as far as the eye could see, adorned with a simple plain cross. Beneath it were carved the words
Steven Leonard Trevor
Diana knelt at the grave and took a small bunch of yellow daisies she had brought with her and laid them at the foot of the headstone. Daisies, he had told her once, long ago as they lay in a darkened bedroom and as the rain fell outside her window, could say many things. "Happy Birthday" or "Get Well Soon", for example. Or "I'm sorry".
The cherry trees had lost their blossoms. That much she remembered from back then. Every April, she had been hit with a wave of homesickness when the trees across the city exploded in pink and white blossoms that fell like snow to the earth. "When I close my eyes," she told the memory in a whisper, "I can almost pretend he's you. Almost."
"When Stevie told me you'd come back, somehow, I knew I'd find you here," came a woman's voice from directly behind her, and Diana wiped away a tear with the back of her hand. She turned to see a woman in her early fifties, short hair that was more gray than blonde feathering around an apple-cheeked face with plenty of laugh lines around her bright eyes, and when she smiled, all the years dropped away.
"Private Candy?" Diana asked, amazed, and she was rewarded by the other woman's laughter and they embraced.
"I haven't heard that in almost thirty years!" she confessed. "It's just Etta Niles, now. Has been since 1946. Charlie and I were out of the service by Korea. Not Steve, though. He was career Army. He took over the G-2 after Phil Blankenship retired. He's buried in section 25, if you want to go say hello."
"I think I will," she said with a smile.
"My God, you look just the same," Etta said, shaking her head. "And just as good in a bathing suit!"
Diana couldn't help but laugh. Since she had come back to Washington, she had been frustrated and amazed by how much things had changed. Not just how rents had gone up, and old haunts had been replaced by shiny new stores and glass and steel office buildings. At least one thing in this city that was and yet wasn't the Washington of her memories was still just the same.
"I can't believe it. I wish he could have been here to see you," Etta said with a nod of her head towards the grave, and they grew somber again.
"I've been... out of the country," Diana said quietly, "I didn't know that he had died. I wish I could have been here."
"It was sudden," she said. "No real warning. One second Steve was fine, and the next... The doctors said it was a stroke. His wife Carol had passed away a few years ago—cancer. He and Stevie took it pretty hard. But they were as close as ever, even after Stevie joined the IADC instead of the army like his old man," Etta grinned. "Boy, was Steve sore at the kid for that. Heck, I don't think Steve ever forgave Truman for dissolving the OSS actually. He was fit to be tied when Stevie joined the Agency. But my godson is just like his father—stubborn to the core."
The wind blew through the trees, and in the distance, they could hear taps being played on a bugle.
"He always said he wanted to be buried where there were cherry trees," Etta said to fill the sudden silence, smiling at the memory. "He always said they reminded him of his first love. She disappeared after the war, no one ever heard from her again. She didn't even leave a forwarding address," Etta said, hands deep in her pockets as she stared out at the vast cemetery.
She turned to Diana, who was frozen in place like one of the carved monuments, her face as still as a marble angel's. "I still have a picture of the three of us, from right before the war ended. We are all so young. You wouldn't believe how young we were."
You could have been Wonder Woman, a navy nurse, or the Lemo Tomato Juice Girl, I don't think it matters. I think I've always loved you, and I always will.
Diana stared down at the dasies, fresh tears springing to her eyes. In the silence that stretched between them—an immortal Amazon, and a sweet and wonderful friend who had only grown wiser with time, and more beautiful with age—a million thoughts passed through her mind. A million hopes, a million regrets, and a million questions and their answers.
"Was he happy, Etta?" She asked at last, and the woman smiled at her warmly, reaching out to take her hand.
"Yeah. He was," she said, and gave her hand a squeeze. "He met a great girl, and he fell in love—and sure, maybe it wasn't the same as the one the got away. But they were crazy about each other, and they had a kid who turned out to be a really great kid. And yeah, he was happy."
Diana smiled, then. And arm in arm, the two old friends walked out of the cemetary.
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