Author's Note: Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed this story! It was a joy to write and this is the first time I've ever ended a fic on my birthday. I'm a little sad it's over, but this just leaves me open to start another story. As always, please read, review, and most of all, enjoy...
"I should have forseen this. I did, in a way, though I'd hoped that you would abandon your reckless scheme and behave as becoming of a goddess."
Diana cringed as Hera dressed her down; the thrill of victory over Ares on Themyscira was fast dissipating under the goddess queen's disapproval. Being scolded by Hera was in many ways even worse than when Hippolyta had scolded her as a child. Those centuries past, however, Diana's crimes had been painting on the wall of a temple, rolling boulders down hills and playing pranks on her sisters- the consequence of launching a counterstrike against a god, after being ordered not to interfere, would carry a higher penalty than any Hippolyta had ever cast down upon her.
Hera sat down heavily in her throne and did not fight the small smile that graced her lips. "But then, if you had behaved as directed...well, then you would not be Diana, would you?"
Diana looked up, surprised to see that Hera was, indeed, trying not to laugh. "My queen?"
Hera schooled her features into the mask of calmness. "Though I am not surprised by your actions, Diana, you did disobey the very seat of Olympus. We on the Mount do not interfere with the mortals so directly. Why, not even since the time of the Amazons' conception have we shown our hand in the mortal world. For that very reason, Ares and Hades do not reside here."
Diana bowed her head, and spoke from her heart. "I willingly disobeyed your command, my queen, as you expected I would. You know me too well. I could not abandon my Amazons to Ares without a thought. I offered him my forgiveness and the chance for peace. I was refused and attacked. Ares deserved his defeat."
Hera raised her brows at Diana's forthright response, mildly impressed with her spark. "What humiliations my wayward son does or does not deserve is not for us to debate. It was clever of you to alert Hades to the situation- in this case, the enemy of your enemy was your greatest ally. You could not have won without him. But your cleverness is not my concern."
Diana stood, waiting in all patience for her punishment. She stood in her near-destroyed battle armor, her body still bearing the wounds of battle. There was no great care given to her appearance before the queen; she wore the proof of her efforts against Ares with pride. She was an Amazon warrior, always.
Hera tented her fingers before her face, weighing her options on what should become of her fledgling goddess. "You are the Goddess of Truth, Diana. I ask that you give me the truth now. Were you queen, would you take back the gifts I have bestowed on you as punishment?"
"If you do that, then you will make me a mortal man as well!"
Diana turned to see Hermes storming into the hall, the air around him crackling with energy. "Lord Hermes, please don't-"
"No worries, my love. My words today are for the queen." Hermes said. He took Diana's hand into his own as he turned to Hera. "It was no gift, placing Diana on Olympus. She was never meant to idle away for a millenia in the clouds. Her actions on Themyscira are proof of that."
"Indeed, Hera, we created in Diana the world's fiercest warrior. To have here remain here would be a waste of all our work." Demeter joined in as she entered the hall. She was a gentle goddess, but now as she faced the queen, Demeter appeared as a woman not to be reckoned with. "I did not summon the strength of Gaea to see Diana lounge about the Mount for eternity. Her purpose lies with mankind."
Behind her, Hestia, Athena and Artemis came in, their stances strong and determined. Her makers, the gods who had devined her very life, had come to defend her against their queen. Diana had long depended on their grace, but it was a magnificent thing to see them gathered in her defence and praise.
Diana's heart swelled with love for them, these beings that had given her the world.
"What is this?" Hera demanded.
"It is the truth come alive, my queen!" Athena rang out. "We will not stand by silent as our child, she who carries a piece of us within her very soul, is taken down to mortality. You would strip her of her power and render her less than a goddess, less than an Amazon- you would make a mere human of our Diana?!" Accusation was clear in Athena's tone. "My queen, we will never allow it."
A hush fell over the hall. On earth, the winds died and even the waves of all the oceans calmed, waiting for the queen's reply.
For one moment that had Diana truly frightened, Hera appeared as if she was ready to rise up and strike her daughter Athena, thereby launching another war of the gods. But no such thing happened. The moment passed, and Diana breathed a small blessing that she would not be drawn in to another war. She wasn't sure she had it in her to fight against the entire pantheon.
Hera stood, she and her daughter were caught in a silent face-off. Then, Hera relented. "Well, then. I see my daughter has a special place in her heart for you, Diana. As do so many of my other children and friends. Some more than others." Hera eyed Hermes, who looked away in embarrassment. "Fine. I will release you to your former power, Diana, but you still have one task left to fulfill. What will become of Aphrodite?"
Diana knew what she must do, for the dais of Mount Olympus was not complete without Aphrodite's presence. But in releasing Aphrodite, Diana would come face to face with the force that set her ordeal into motion. There had been so much pain and fear in these last months. Such heartache caused by the Goddess of Love. Aphrodite, who took Ares as a lover and behaved so much like a demanding child; Aphrodite who left Ares, allowing him to demand Diana as a substitute; Aphrodite who returned to Ares only to curse Diana into crumbling, lifeless clay.
Aphrodite was not Diana's favorite patron, but for her entire life she had held only love and respect for the Goddess of Love. And now?
Diana was not sure.
It has been too long- release her. This can wait no longer.
She grasped the vase, a beautiful piece molded and painted by Aphrodite's own husband, Hephaestus. He had been too eager to craft the vase which would keep his wayward wife and her lover apart.
Diana traced the etchings on the vase with her fingertips, and sighed lightly. Such a shame that something so beautiful would be destroyed...
She threw the vase onto the floor of the great hall and watched as it shattered across the floor. White mist began to rise from the shards of the vase, forming the shape of a woman. The mist grew thicker as it came together, revealing the form of Aphrodite.
She stepped forward, a goddess so beautiful that the flowers bloomed on earth now that she was free. Her sea-glass eyes moved to focus on Diana, widening in recognition.
Before Aphrodite could speak, Diana stepped forward to her. Their eyes met, and Aphrodite visibly cringed- truly, she was a lover, not a fighter.
"I have only one question for you, Aphrodite. Why?"
Aphrodite glared at her, recovering a sliver of bravado. "I don't answer to fledglings!"
"You will answer to me. I went through hell for you, and you ignored my prayers. I fought Ares, and trapped him in another of your husband's vases. If you ever wish to see your lover again, I will have my answer." Deep down, Diana was impressed with herself. Never in a thousand years did she think that she would be here, on Mount Olympus, making demands of her own gods!
At Diana's cold tone, Aphrodite relented. She was deeply ashamed of what she had done, and if she had the power to take it all back, she would do so in an instant. But even the gods must answer for their actions. "I was angry. Ares replaced me so easily, and with a woman he despised, no less! I was furious with him for his desire toward you, and even more furious that you could ignite him so easily with your defiance."
"That answer does not satisfy me, Aphrodite."
Aphrodite sighed. "It will have to. I am the Goddess of Love, but there are times when I am cursed with jealousy, insecurity, and bitterness toward other women." Aphrodite took Diana's hands in her own and kneeled before her, a position of supplication. "I beg your forgiveness, Diana. We all gave a part of ourselves to you on your creation- I gave only the best things, keeping the worst for myself."
Diana looked down on Aphrodite, this being of love and beauty who had inflicted such pain upon her. She could not bring herself to attack Aphrodite, which she had the right to do. She could not kill the goddess. There was too little love in the world- Aphrodite's death would only hasten the advance of discord.
Diana thought for several long moments; thankfully, the wisdom of Athena did not fail her.
"Do you know why I am here, Aphrodite?"
"No, I do not."
"Our queen Hera bestowed your fate upon me. I know what will become of you."
Aphrodite nodded heavily. "You mean to kill me, then. I accept your decision. Please, know that I truly am sorry for what I did to you. I had no right, so caught up was I in my affair with Ares that I-"
"Aphrodite, please." Diana put her hands on Aphrodite's narrow shoulders. "I will not kill you. The world has too great a need for the love and beauty you provide. No, the punishment I give is no punishment at all. I would have you dedicate yourself to being a wife to Hephaestus."
Aphrodite's eyes widened. "What?"
"For too long you have philandered with Ares and your human lovers. Hephaestus deserves better than that. You, Aphrodite, you have the capacity to give so much love, and yet you have been most selfish with it. Reserving it for Ares and a score of mortals. Hephaestus is perhaps the only god who would love you for more than your great beauty. All I ask is that you try to love him in return."
"How can I? He is grotesque!" Aphrodite scowled.
Diana shook her head. "Perhaps to your eyes he is. But have you no appreciation for the beauty he creates? Lord Hephaestus has the soul of an artist, and you would reject him for the appearance of his body. Then I will pity you, Aphrodite, for your cowardice and your blindness."
"You would pity me for-"
"I do not wish to hear your protest, Goddess of Love. This is the task I give to you. Be a wife to your husband. Share with him the love that you have given so freely to Ares and so many others." There was a finality to Diana's words that Aphrodite had no choice but to respect.
This was the task given to her after her deplorable actions. She would abide by it.
"I will do so, Diana."
Diana smiled and stepped forward to embrace Aphrodite. "I thank you, Aphrodite. In time, I know that you will come to love Lord Hephaestus." Diana's arms tightened around Aphrodite's frame, squeezing harder, tighter.
"Diana, release me-"
"I have only one more piece to say." Diana said, her voice low and cold in Aphrodite's ear. "If any Amazon or mortal is ever again put into danger thanks to your childish tantrums, then make no mistake: be I goddess or mortal, no charm will protect you from me."
Abruptly, Diana released Aphrodite and left the grand halls of Olympus for the final time. As Hermes took her hand, intent to return her to the mortal plane, Diana knew that she would not miss it.
The farm was not as she remembered it. Much time had passed since she had last walked across the fields of Kansas, the Kent farm. The air was somewhat cooler than it had been before, and as she neared the farmhouse she could see that the back door was new. The house had also been treated to a fresh coat of paint.
Hermes had brought her to the golden fields of grain just over the low hill near the Kent farm. Diana had been returned to her former stature as an Amazon blessed with the gifts of the gods. The one true Wonder Woman had returned to the world. She had achieved a full circle of life. It had been a remarkable thing, to experience life as a blessed being, a mortal, to die and then be resurrected as a goddess and then back again.
The Lord of Thieves and the Messenger of Olympus had departed with his blessings of love, leaving her free to walk back toward the barn and the farmhouse. She would miss Hermes, but he was never far from her. Diana took her time, wishing to absorb the world once more as she had been reborn an Amazon. Her body longed to lift into the air and fly to Clark, but Diana chose instead to walk; silent prayers issued from her mind, thanking her makers for giving her a second chance at life.
She looked up to see Clark gliding toward her. He landed and took her into his arms in an embrace that would have been crushing for a mortal woman but was perfect for her. Their strength was equal, Clark could sense it as he held her. "What happened to you?"
Diana smiled. This was the point of living, she was sure of it now. To be held and to hold the man she loved. To fight by his side against evil, to enjoy the passion and humor and competition that existed between them. "I was called to Olympus and found that Hera was considering casting me out, making a mortal woman of me. My makers would not allow it, but conceded that I should return to my former life."
Clark dipped his head and kissed her, his heart racing with joy. Diana was back from Olympus, she would stay! There were so many things he wanted to do with her, so many things he'd thought he'd lost the chance to do!
He speared his fingers through her hair and kissed her again. For a moment they held each other in silence, enjoying the peace. This is what they had wanted, this moment, this...
"I'm so happy that you're back. It's been-" Clark cut himself off and touched his ear. "What is it?"
He paused, listening. His eyes became focused, serious, then looked to Diana with a challenging gleam in his eye. "A landslide and wild fires in California. Are you game?"
Diana smiled. "Always. Would you give me a moment to change?"
Clark frowned in confusion.
Diana took a few steps back and began to spin in place, slow at first, but then faster and faster still. Miraculously, her white tunic and cape seemed to shift, to dissolve away, revealing her uniform and armor, her silver bracelets, her tiara and lasso, it had all been returned to her. Diana looked at her hands and made tight fists, relishing the return of her strength. She ran her fingertips over the untarnished surface of her bracelets. She held her lasso. Yes, she was Wonder Woman once more.
Diana held the lasso. "I've missed you. And you two, as well." She said this last to her bracelets, marveling for a moment as they glinted in the sun.
Clark raised an eyebrow. "Should I give you and your uniform a little time alone?"
Diana laughed then, deep and full laughter that mirrored her love for life. She playfully shoved at Clark's chest. "That won't be necessary, though I think I'll be wanting some time alone with you soon."
Clark leaned forward and kissed her. He felt that he couldn't kiss her enough. "Of course. After we save the day again."
Clark lifted into the air, heading west where the people were crying out for help.
Diana followed after him, embracing her life. Her destiny. Her calling.
She is princess Diana of Themyscira, Wonder Woman, a champion reborn and a woman in love.