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Beyond Belief

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1.

Diana finds her for the first time in 1947, underneath a rather heavy pile of fallen masonry.

“Cheers,” Peggy says, breathless, as she holds on to the strong arm that pulls her up. She finds herself suddenly face to face with a tall brunette, her expression as stony as the ruins of the chapel wall beneath their feet.

Or. Mostly beneath their feet. Peggy’s right foot is actually still trapped. She grimaces, and reaches down to shift it, but it’s a huge piece of rock. She’s lucky this piece didn’t hit her head.

The brunette – unremarkable in her drab colors, practical skirt suit, and sensible boots – reaches down too, casually, and picks up the slab of rock with one hand. She tosses it aside with a flick of her wrist and it flies ten yards before thunking back to the earth.

Peggy’s eyes widen. She once saw Steve do something similar, rescuing the Howling Commandos from a collapsing building.

But she recovered all of his blood, and she destroyed it; she knows she did.

“Who are you?” she asks. She means to make her voice commanding, but it comes out hoarse, shocked.

The woman turns back to her, and her face remains impassive, but her expression isn’t entirely cold. There’s a flicker of amusement there.

“Diana of Themyscira,” she replies, as if that explains anything. “I don’t know your name, but I know you’re on the trail of certain men whose power to do harm goes far beyond this.” She gestures at the crumbled remains of the chapel wall. “I have been following them as well.”

“Who are you with?” Peggy asks. She blinks, wondering what the hell agency this woman could possibly be attached to.

“Only myself,” Diana replies. Peggy raises an eyebrow doubtfully. If the woman doesn’t want to say, Peggy has little time at the moment to seek to compel her. She moves on.

“Agent Peggy Carter,” Peggy sighs, drawing herself up a little taller. She’s covered with masonry dust and she’s sure her hair is doing something drastic. “Er. My name.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Agent,” Diana says, with a nod, and now there’s definitely an amused smile there. “Take greater care, if you will hunt such prey.”

“I – ” Peggy begins, only to close her mouth with a snap when Diana turns crisply away and leaps into the sky as though gravity has ceased to function.

Perhaps it has, because the next thing Peggy finds herself aware of is her position on the ground, where she’s fallen on her arse in the dirt and grass. She blinks, trying to get her faculties back. The woman – Diana – is right, she needs to take more care if she’s going to succeed in stopping the HYDRA-splinter group she’s after. She breathes deeply, working through the adrenalin rush, and feeling, for the first time, the bruises all over her body from where a rock wall fell on her. She ran into their trap as neat as you please, as if nothing could touch her.

It’s been happening more and more, since Stark took Jarvis back to New York and she’s been mostly on her own in the Los Angeles office. What’s worse, she only seems to be cognizant of these risks after she takes them. She bites her lip and curses softly to herself.

She knows better than to spend herself on nothing. She does.

Around her, there’s rather a lot of masonry displaced, and it occurs to her that she was well and truly buried, and that no one would’ve been likely to find her in time had Diana not been there.

“Thank you, mystery woman,” she sighs, into the dark.

*

She wants desperately to find out more about this Diana – is she another test subject of Erskine’s, or of Shmidt’s, perhaps? She rescued Peggy, and seemed to approve of her mission, but Peggy’s certain she would’ve heard about it if the SSR had a superpowered goddess on staff. On the other hand, given the SSR’s usual modus operandi, perhaps they have one on staff, keep her busy fetching them coffee, and therefore they still haven’t noticed.

But there’s no time to waste; Diana doesn’t seem to be a threat, but the Order of Skulls is bound to begin testing their horrific new nerve toxin in short order, and Peggy has no choice but to pour herself into stopping them. It means endless hours of work, her eyes blurring with exhaustion as she sifts through hundreds of pages of financial reports, trying to track the weapon to its source. She follows the Order from city to city, always one step behind, forcing them to abandon facilities and sometimes, when she’s lucky, capturing an operative or two, but never quite arriving in time to halt their plan in its entirety.

It’s months of work, every victory pyrrhic as she uses up, over and over again, what feel like her last reserves. The new SSR field office chief gives her exactly as little logistical support as he thinks he can get away with, and it means doing the work of two field agents, one researcher, and one secretary, all on her own.

“You look tired,” a voice says one night, from the shadows, as she turns the key for the door of her hotel room in Amsterdam. She startles and turns, ready to fight, but as she does so she recognizes the voice, and feels herself smiling instead of putting up her fists.

In her few free moments, before she forces herself to sleep at night and before she wills herself awake in the morning, Peggy’s been thinking about her, and hoping to see her again.

“And you thought the best way to address that was to jump at me out of the dark?” Peggy demands. Diana steps forward into the soft light of the hallway, a small smile at the corners of her lips. Peggy wonders where she came from; she hadn’t been in the elevator, and the door to the stairwell is too far away.

She once watched Steve climb an abandoned elevator shaft, and she saw him scale more walls barehanded than she can even count. She shakes off the images.

“I apologize for startling you,” she says, which sounds like an insult. Peggy narrows her eyes.

“Who are you?” she asks. She is tired, and she’s confused, and she’s increasingly cross, and she has no patience for beautiful women who accost her in unlikely situations.

None whatsoever.

“Diana of Themyscira,” Diana says, and Peggy rolls her eyes. She rubs her thumb over the key in her hand.

“Yes, I heard you perfectly clearly last time.” She narrows her eyes. “There’s no record of you working for any intelligence organization, not that I or my contacts could find.”

Diana shrugs one shoulder, purses her lips. If she’s a spy, she’s either excellent at faking emotions or terrible at concealing them; she looks regretful. “I told you, it’s just me. I work alone, lately.”

Peggy sighs. “Very well. Will you come in?”

Diana nods solemnly, as if this is a normal social situation and an invitation is only polite.

“Make yourself at home,” Peggy says, tossing her purse and the slightly blood-stained documents onto the desk before checking the bathroom and the closets. It’s a beautiful room, in one of the city’s oldest hotels, and miraculously untouched by the occupation. But Peggy feels she will enjoy it more if there are no assassins waiting behind her shoes to kill her.

“That is perhaps a little too much at home,” she calls, sharply, when she senses Diana moving toward the desk and the sensitive information thereon.

She’s treated to the sound of laughter as pure as water, and Diana backs off, sitting down in the armchair instead and crossing her legs demurely.

The demure part is practiced, in a way Peggy recognizes; Dottie Underwood could put on a show like that, and Whitney Frost, among other women. Peggy even sees it in the mirror, sometimes, her own attempt to make herself seem like less of a threat. It’s the look of a woman whose performance of submission doesn’t come without effort and concentration. On Diana, though, it looks a bit more fun than Peggy’s usually felt it to be from the inside, as though Diana’s able to pretend she’s less than she is with a wink, and not feel the bonds she’s been forced to accept chafing against her skin. The sight is . . . interesting. Refreshing.

“I am merely curious as to what information you have gathered on these men. You could call it a professional interest.”

The faint London accent that shows up on the phrase professional interest stands in contrast to the way she normally speaks, and makes Peggy cock her head, once again trying to place her particular speech patterns and intonation. She can’t quite do it. A world traveler, perhaps, or a polyglot whose native accent is long since blended with others.

It would be odd for her to speak this way if she’s a spy, though, which helps Peggy to relax a little more. Despite some surface similarities, she is no Dottie Underwood.

“Then I propose an exchange,” she says, coming to a decision. She picks the bottle of whiskey up off the wardrobe. “Information for information.”

“And what is it that you require information on?” Diana asks, eyeing Peggy with interest as she pours out two glasses.

“You,” Peggy replies. Diana arches an eyebrow, and tosses back the first shot without any sign of hesitation.

Peggy picks hers up and does the same, then pours another for both of them.

“I’m not so interesting,” Diana says, and downs her second shot. Peggy pours her another, and Diana picks it up.

“But you can’t get drunk,” Peggy points out. “That’s interesting.”

Diana’s hand stills against her glass, and she looks up at Peggy.

“I can,” she says slowly. “It simply takes . . . effort.” She blinks, then tosses the third shot back. “How did you know?”

“I knew a man who was like you.”

At this, Diana laughs, the tension leaving her face. “There are no men like me,” she says, then laughs again, as if the idea particularly tickles her.

Peggy refrains from frowning, wondering how to begin again. She’s gone wrong somewhere. She thinks back on her interrogation strategies, on her technique, on how to build trust and elicit information.

Diana stops laughing and regards her solemnly. “I have no need to withhold information,” she says, as if reading Peggy’s mind. “The truth is, very few have ever asked. I come from the island of the Amazons, where we trained in the ways of war that we could defeat the God of War, Ares. I do not know the man you speak of, but I assure you, I am no relation.”

There’s a knot in Peggy’s stomach that she’s been trying not to notice, that had been there ever since she first realized Diana’s superhuman strength and power. It eases now, just a little, even though she should know better than to take any person’s word on faith.

“The Amazons?” Peggy asks, incredulously. “You expect me to believe that?” She has a vague memory of the Amazons being mentioned once or twice during her studies in Greek at Girton College, though always with a joke from the professor that the lady students ought not to take them as exemplars. Certainly, even if the Amazons ever existed, there could be no such modern society. What place could now exist in the world for them?

Diana shrugs. “I expect nothing. May I hear about your campaign against this new evil? You have been following this group, this Order, for a long time, I believe.”

It’s so straightfoward that it makes Peggy pause. She shouldn’t tell her, shouldn’t say anything to betray what she knows. Peggy found no evidence of Diana anywhere, via her inquiries, and it’s most likely that she’s a rogue agent, an experiment who broke away from her organization’s control. None of which makes her less of a risk.

But she misses Jarvis, and it’s been so long since she had a partner, and Diana’s strength, although it comes from a different source than Steve’s did, makes Peggy feel a familiar kind of comfort.

“No mission-relevant details,” she cautions. Diana nods, accepting this.

They talk late into the night, of the formation and the organization of the Order of Skulls. Diana asks a lot of questions – some the very ones Peggy herself would’ve asked, but some so strange that they startle Peggy and provoke her to consider the situation from a fresh perspective. It’s invigorating, to the point that Peggy soon forgets her exhaustion, and it’s a relief: for the first time in months, Peggy feels as though she has a colleague.

*

Diana drinks her under the table, predictably, and when Peggy wakes in the morning light, she is long gone. Peggy tries not to second-guess herself as she arms and prepares for the next part of her mission. Diana hadn’t left a calling card or indicated that she would be in touch again; as good as it was to talk things through with her, Peggy can’t wait for her or rely on her.

She gets back to work.

As she throws herself back into tracking down the Order, Peggy begins to – well. Not doubt her own memory, not precisely. But she does manage to convince herself that Diana was pulling her leg; it’s easier to believe that she’s a secret long-forgotten supersoldier experiment than that there might be an entire island of unbreakable women warriors somewhere out there. Themyscira is beyond any rational belief.

By the time she finally captures or kills every last ranking member of the Order that she can find, three months later, Peggy has mostly put Diana out of her mind. Their night spent talking together seems, by that point, like a far-away memory.

But as she leads the last few men into custody, Peggy catches sight of something strange: up on a nearby hill, silhouetted against the setting sun, she sees a woman’s form with flowing curly hair and a short leather skirt – the kind that Greek soldiers once wore, she knows. She sees the figure only for a moment, and then it’s gone. She has duties to attend to, so she can’t pursue.

Nonetheless, she can’t shake the feeling that she might’ve had company, had backup – had a colleague – for every step of the way.

*

On her next mission, mindful of the presence that could be watching over her, Peggy tries to take fewer uncalculated risks, to avoid rushing headlong into every situation, and to remember that she can’t survive rockfalls all on her own. It’s silly, really; even if Diana were keeping an eye on her, she couldn’t be doing it all the time, and she certainly couldn’t see into Peggy’s more dangerous thoughts.

Silly as it might be, however, it reminds Peggy to breathe, to call for backup, and to use her strength in productive ways rather than spending it against immovable objects.

It reminds her that someone, somewhere, would be annoyed with her if she got herself hurt, or if she died.

 

2.

Diana finds her for the second time in 1950, under about two hundred pounds of hired gun who may or may not be dead.

To Peggy’s credit, she’d incapacitated the assassin herself.

She simply hadn’t been able to move out of the way in time to avoid him falling on her, and as a result, she ended up a bit stuck. She’s sure she would’ve been able to extricate herself, had Diana not come along and lifted the fellow up by his shirt collar with one hand.

“Is this man bothering you, miss?” Diana asks, with a particular intonation that tells Peggy she learned the phrase by rote, perhaps from the cinema.

“You’re very funny,” Peggy replies, dragging herself up and dusting herself off. “Is he dead?”

“He’s breathing,” Diana replies, setting him down gently. “I sought you out to warn you of his kind. There has been a bounty placed on your head.”

Peggy’s eyebrows go up, and she opens her mouth to reply, but something glimmers at the corner of her vision and she pauses.

Something’s wrong.

“Diana, look out – ” she moves as fast as she can to tackle Diana down to the ground, but she’s too late, she knows she’s too late, can hear the whirr of the dart as it sings towards them, and Diana must be dying even as Peggy bears her down to the cobblestones beneath them.

“Thank you,” Diana says, softly, like she’s surprised to be the one saved instead of the one doing the saving. But – Peggy hadn’t moved in time, she’d known it –

Diana holds up her hand, shows Peggy the dart she’d apparently been able to catch in midair. Peggy blinks. “We probably don’t want to get hit by one of these.”

Peggy rolls her eyes and grabs Diana’s other hand, dragging her out of the way of the next dart that comes sailing towards them and urging her up and into a run.

“Are you certain that I’m the target?” Peggy asks. “They seem to be aiming for you.”

“Well, when I say a bounty placed on your head, I really mean both of our heads.”

“Charming. Leftovers from the Order of the Skull, then?”

“I believe so, yes.”

“This way.” Peggy leads them down a back alley, across a busy street, through an underground cafe, and eventually into a little restaurant that’s mostly empty at this hour of the day.

“They’ll track us here,” Diana warns. “We have to go further.”

“We have to plan our defense,” Peggy counters. “How could they have tracked us, they were – ” Peggy pauses, hearing a sound up on the roof of the building. “They’ve tracked us.”

Diana rolls her eyes impatiently. “Yes, I told you, that’s what I was telling you – ”

Peggy takes her hand again, and Diana goes quiet. Peggy tamps down the sudden attack of fluttering butterflies at the thought of that; now is really not the time. She glances at Diana. God. Might be worth finding a time later, though.

“They have the entrances covered,” Diana says, listening.

“There’s a side door,” Peggy says. “Hidden from the outside.”

They manage to escape, making enough noise to draw their attackers away from the waitstaff and patrons in the restaurant, down the alley to where it widens in a dead end.

“This is not great strategy, Agent Carter.”

“I’m open to suggestions, Diana of Themyscira,” Peggy shoots back. Diana’s huffed laugh takes her by surprise.

“All right then. Get behind me.”

Peggy, gun drawn, looks at her doubtfully. “You’re not even armed,” she protests.

“I am. Get behind me.”

Peggy hesitates, but then the first attackers show up, guns drawn, and Peggy is distracted enough that she lets Diana push her back.

The assassins start firing, and Diana . . . doesn’t fall.

The speed at which she moves is hard to believe, hard to see, even; and as she moves, Peggy hears the bullets ricocheting away from her, and when she looks up, she sees the flashes of light at her wrists and along her torso as she . . . deflects them.

The men, shocked, have to stop to reload, and Peggy doesn’t hesitate: she leaps forward again, shooting two of them, both non-fatally; she’ll need someone to question after all of this. Beside her, Diana has pulled something from her waist, but it’s not a gun.

“You were armed with a rope?” Peggy demands. Diana grins at her, and shakes the rope out, and it starts to glow bright gold, as if with its own inner light. It’s a Stark invention, or something like it; it must be.

Diana flicks her wrist, and the rope flashes out from her hand, catching the legs of the men who were smart enough to try to run, cutting wickedly across the arms of the men who were still pointing their guns at them.

Before too long, Diana has them all tied up with it. There shouldn’t be enough rope to do that, but somehow there is, as if it can expand to suit the need.

“Who are you,” Peggy mutters, but it’s not a question anymore.

“Diana of Themyscira,” Diana smiles. “You might find now a good time to question them on their organizational connections. The lasso compels them to tell the truth.”

“Oh, naturally it does,” Peggy agrees.

She takes the prisoners back to headquarters with her anyhow, so that she can question them legally, but it does seem like what Diana compelled from each of them was the pure, unvarnished truth.

“There are a good deal more Order sympathizers left than I had imagined,” Peggy says to Diana, grimly. Then, to the man taking the prisoners into custody: “Thank you, Agent Porter.”

“It had deeper roots than I thought, yes. You were not the only one fooled into complacency.” Diana tugs on her sleeves, both of them raggedy from bulletholes, and stands at Peggy’s side with her hands clasped.

“Agent Carter, that was a long . . . lunch . . . who are those men Porter is taking into custody?”

“Order of the Skull, sir,” Peggy begins, but as she reaches beside her to take Diana’s elbow and tell the chief the story, she finds that Diana has vanished. “Whom I . . . fought all on my own, I suppose.”

“Huh,” the chief says. “These better be the last of those.”

“I’m confident their confessions will prove the opposite, sir,” Peggy says.

Diana doesn’t catch up with her later, but when she opens her desk drawer, she finds a note instead.

I will continue to investigate this organization. I hope you will do the same. Perhaps we will encounter one another again soon. -Diana of Themyscira

Peggy smiles down at the note, running her finger over the signature and the slightly saucy underlining that emphasises the words Diana and Themyscira, as if daring Peggy to question her identity again.

*

After that, Diana becomes something of an obsession.

In her more reasonable moments, Peggy can even admit it as such.

She goes home to London, telling herself it’s to rest and see old friends, but the truth is that she needs access to the National Archives and the War Office records. She delves into the research, and finds long-quiet leads in old accounts of the Great War. A woman who showed up suddenly at the front, whom bullets could not harm. A woman who liberated a village almost single-handedly, wielding a golden lasso. An angel, the accounts said: a goddess who came down from heaven and drew the German fire on herself to spare the lives of the soldiers beside her. The accounts are all myths and legends, fairy tales really, of a kind she’s become used to from soldiers and veterans. Believing in magic makes war easier; Peggy knows that herself from experience. Technology is the simpler explanation, be it biochemical or weapons technology.

She wants the truth. She wants the story without the magic. She wants facts that she can rely on.

She finds Sameer Maroc.

It takes her a long time to convince him to talk, and when he finally does, Peggy’s not sure how much she believes. It’s been thirty years, and it’s clear that even though he knew Diana personally, the truth of what happened has evolved into legend. A battle between gods, a field of fire, the magical power of love, poppycock. The man’s an actor, after all. But there’s something Peggy recognizes in his stories, as well. Taken together, they paint an interesting picture of a superhuman who predated Steve or Shmidt or any of the other experiments she’s encountered at the SSR. Peggy doesn’t believe in a mythical island full of woman warriors, but she believes in the wonders of science, and this woman was clearly a wonder of science.

She also, from what Peggy can tell, hasn’t aged a day since 1918.

Naturally, she did not make her way into the history books. The few historians Peggy finds who have mentioned her dismiss her as a battlefield legend, a story soldiers tell each other to keep up hope in the trenches. Those who think she existed refuse to discuss her in any depth, or to even acknowledge that she was instrumental in saving lives and – from what Mr Maroc says – stopping a terrible new gas weapon.

Perhaps it’s little wonder that she took a keen interest in Peggy’s mission to stop the development of a new nerve toxin.

Mr Maroc and the historians lead her to Etta Candy, who was apparently a secretary at British Intelligence who ended up running an entire field op on her own. Peggy smiles; she knows how war creates opportunity for women, even if the opportunities are grim. Miss Candy left detailed records that would seem to confirm a lot of Mr Maroc’s stories, and Peggy reads through every one, fascinated and disbelieving.

She passed away in 1944, on a field op of her own; she had managed to persuade someone to let her lead a team of women spies into German-occupied France. Peggy shakes her head. From what she can tell, that mission was successful, even if Miss Candy didn’t make it out.

Eventually, though, the research peters out; the eyewitness accounts contradict the historical record, and both contradict what Peggy knows of the world, what she knows to be true. She returns to the States and continues her work, and if she often spends sleepless nights rereading what little information she has on Diana, well, she doesn’t let it affect her as she hunts down the remainder of the Order.

 

3.

Diana finds her for the third time in 1952, under a giant pile of rubbish.

“I think they’ve gone,” Peggy hears, and behind the words is a falling-water laugh that she’d know anywhere, even after all this time. She reluctantly sticks her head up out of the garbage.

“I knew that,” she says, delicately pulling a wet newspaper off of her head. She prefers not to discover what the wetness is. In front of her, Diana is just as she was two years ago, just as she was five years ago, gorgeous and immaculate, dressed just as sensibly even if she has updated her wardrobe to match the current fashion.

Peggy feels like a wet rag, but Diana simply nods at her.

“But they will be back. Tomorrow night, or the night after. Do you have a plan to capture them?”

Grimacing, Peggy shakes her head. She isn’t exactly on the best terms with the SSR at the moment, and officially, she’s on administrative leave that she’s spending in London with family, not diving into a dumpster near the Boston Harbour. “Unfortunately, the SSR has had very little interest in funding this mission, and so – ”

“And so you are on your own,” Diana finishes. “Again.” She holds out her hands, and Peggy takes them gladly, allowing Diana to pull her up and out of the rubbish pile. She notices, as she does so, something hard and unforgiving under Diana’s coat, covering both of her wrists.

“What’s that?” she asks, holding on to Diana’s wrists even after she’s upright and steady on her feet.

“My gauntlets,” Diana explains. She pulls up one sleeve, and gold and silver flash out from underneath.

“Oh, of course,” Peggy says, blinking. “Naturally.” The gauntlets had been in the reports.

It’s surreal, being around Diana again; after the last two years with no word from her, Peggy had almost relegated her to being a story, or a legend, something not quite real that Peggy had touched once. In the day to day, there are too many practicalities to deal with, and too much work to be done, to be bothering with superheroes and fantasy.

“I suppose you’re here because of the bombs that the Order is developing lately,” Peggy says, trying to bring herself back to something she knows and can trust. “I seem to recall that you have some interest in preventing the spread of new and better weapons.”

Diana nods, and falls into step with her without being asked. There’s a brief silence between them, and Peggy has just enough time to notice that their footsteps are in synch before Diana speaks again.

“Would you like my help? Tomorrow, I mean. When the men come back.”

It’s not within SSR operational guidelines, but then, Peggy herself is not at the moment within SSR operational guidelines. And she would rather prefer to win.

“I would very much appreciate that,” she says.

“Then we should discuss strategy,” Diana says. “And combine our knowledge.”

“Yes,” Peggy agrees. “But first, I should like to shower.”

*

She meets Diana again in the hotel bar, fresh and clean with her hair properly curled and fresh lipstick perfectly applied. Diana, of course, is fending off potential suitors as though waving away buzzing flies, and at the same time talking animatedly to an older woman who Peggy guesses must be waiting for her husband. As Peggy gets closer, she hears their conversation.

“And then what?” Diana sounds for all the world like a child hearing an exciting story for the first time.

“Well, and then you simply finish the edges and block it, dear. It’s hardly rocket science.”

“This is a truly astonishing piece of work,” Diana intones. “You should be proud of your skill and artistry.”

The older woman smiles, perhaps even blushing a little. “Thank you, my darling, that’s so kind.”

Diana looks up, then, and sees Peggy. “Agent Carter! You must hear of the extraordinary skill at textile work that this woman possesses.”

“I actually must be going, as my companion is here,” the woman says, nodding at a woman who’s just walked into the bar, “but it was lovely to meet you.”

They shake hands firmly, and Peggy nods at her as she leaves.

“You have an interest in . . . textiles?”

Diana shakes her head. “I was never any good at it. But where I come from we honour those who possess the talent to create things of beauty. And things for practical use. Those objects that can be both beautiful and practical, those are the best.”

Peggy feels herself laughing, delighted, and she sits down in the spot the older woman has just vacated, next to Diana. “Where you come from. The island of the Amazons.”

“Themyscira,” Diana agrees. “Though some old friends of mine used to call it Paradise Island.”

Peggy thinks back on the school lectures on Ancient Greek culture and literature, and of the rumoured salacious aspects of the Amazon society that were forcefully struck from her education, along with what was called, for the men, the unmentionable sin of the Greeks.

“Paradise Island,” Peggy repeats. “Sounds about right.” She signals the bartender over and orders a whiskey.

“I heard you spoke to one of those old friends of mine, in fact.”

Meeting Diana’s eyes, Peggy searches for any hint of anger. “You heard about that?”

“I keep in correspondence with Sameer. Among others. He let me know you’d come round, and I told him it was all right to tell you my story. Stories must travel to stay alive, after all.”

“But that’s how they get lost, too,” Peggy offers, taking a sip of her drink. “And mutilated beyond recognition.” She was relieved when the Captain America radio programme finally went off the air, but the comic books have remained good sellers, and the official histories and biographies are almost worse.

“Perhaps. And perhaps people take from a story what they need from it.” Diana seems lost in thought for a moment, then blinks and looks back up at Peggy, and smiles softly.

“Is that what they did with yours?”

“Mine’s all true,” she says, shaking her head. Peggy rolls her eyes.

“So where have you been, these last few years? Rescuing other ladies from deadly situations?”

“I try to help where I can,” Diana says. “And I have kept an eye on you, by the way. You haven’t needed much rescuing.”

“I was pushed off a bridge last year!” Peggy objects, laughing.

Diana purses her lips disdainfully. “It wasn’t very high up.”

“And I got shot in the leg, look – ” she lifts up her left calf, pointing out the place where her sheer hose don’t quite cover the knot of scar tissue.

“It is a very poor warrior who complains about scars won in battle,” Diana chides her. “You were fine, you didn’t need me.”

“But I did need you to pull me up out of a giant rubbish bin?” Peggy meets Diana’s eyes again, and this time Diana ducks her head a little, as if finally embarrassed. Peggy’s breath catches at the sight.

“Perhaps I was tired of waiting for you to need rescuing,” she admits. “Perhaps I wanted to join in your fight whether you needed me or not.” Her gaze falls to the floor, and then she looks up again defiantly, as if daring Peggy to contradict her on her next point. “It is a good fight, after all.”

“I can’t disagree,” Peggy says softly. “Though this is perhaps not the place to plan for it.”

Diana quirks an eyebrow. “Indeed.”

They pay for their drinks, and Peggy leads Diana up to her hotel room. It’s quite different from the one in Amsterdam where they last met, but the feeling is similar, of letting Diana into a private space, of feeling strangely comfortable with this stranger, enough to be vulnerable to her.

As they get down to work, Diana removes her coat and rolls up the sleeves of her blouse to reveal again the gauntlets that Peggy glimpsed earlier; they’re startlingly incongruous next to the rest of Diana’s wardrobe, but Diana doesn’t seem to think anything of them, so Peggy tries not to let her glance catch on the shine of the metal atop Diana’s strong wrists.

She rolls up her own sleeves. She’s not wearing anything shiny underneath, but she knows she doesn’t imagine Diana’s lingering gaze on her muscles and her scars.

There’s one left from an old knife wound on her right forearm that seems to be of particular interest. Diana’s eyes stay on it as Peggy sits next to her at the little table.

“You blocked a knife?” Diana asks, pointing to it.

“With my arm, by preference, instead of my face. Yes.” Peggy replies.

“I can’t question your judgement, since you survived. But perhaps you need a shield in the future.”

It’s innocent, it’s said innocently, but Peggy draws in a sharp breath anyhow, shocked into a brief flare of ghostly pain from an old wound.

If Diana notices, she doesn’t say anything. Peggy clears her throat. “Do you have one?” she asks.

“Yes. But I cannot give it to you.”

“Then I suppose you’d better stay close to me tomorrow, in case I should need you to use it.” Peggy brings out the maps and intel that she has on the Order’s bomb makers and their facilities, and weighs down the corners with paperweights.

Diana smiles, and shuffles her chair a little closer to Peggy’s, making it easier to look over the documents together. Peggy can feel the warmth of her body, and her gauntlets sing softly when they brush against the table. Peggy smiles back, and feels her ghosts recede a little. Though she may carry a shield and pack a punch, Diana is like no one Peggy’s ever met before.

They work on the plans for hours, until they have a solid strategy that can be accomplished by the two of them working alone. Peggy notices the way Diana plans: to avoid killing, to focus on capturing, to gather information, and to destroy the weapons themselves without hesitation.

“Is this what you do? All the time? I mean, you’re not just my guardian angel, are you?”

Diana smiles briefly, sadly, when Peggy calls her an angel, though Peggy doesn’t know why. “This is what I do. Try to protect the world. Men will always be violent and cruel, but sometimes we can change their minds, make them less so. Or, failing that, we can limit their access to the tools that carry their violence to others.”

“A worthy cause. Is it just men?”

Diana looks up from the map of the facility she’s been poring over. “Hmmm?”

There’s a wisp of dark hair that’s fallen into her eyes. Peggy swallows.

“Just men who are violent and cruel? Not women?”

Diana frowns. “I met a doctor, years ago. She should have been a healer, and practiced her art to make people well. Instead she invented new and terrible ways to destroy the body.”

“Isabel Maru,” Peggy says.

“Yes. But few women in your world have access to that kind of violence, or desire for it. She was exceptional in that way. As you are.”

Peggy draws back, surprised. “I would hope that you find some differences between us.”

Diana cocks her head, her gaze on Peggy frank and evaluative. “I do,” she says, at last. “But you too are a fighter, and a killer. Is a warrior for peace any different from any other kind?”

“You must believe so,” Peggy murmurs. “If you were trained to fight the God of War using his own methods.” Some far-away rational part of her mind is protesting this, but it feels good, so good, to believe for a moment that Diana really is what she claims to be. That her existence could be possible in the damaged and terrifying world that Peggy sees around her each day.

Diana shrugs, ducking her head, and more hair falls in front of her eyes. Peggy reaches out and pushes it away. Diana captures her hand and holds it, drawing it down to her lips and kissing Peggy’s cupped palm.

“I can only hope so,” Diana says, at last. “It’s all I know.”

Peggy nods, her hand still held in Diana’s loose grasp. There’s so little distance between them that she can feel Diana’s breath, but those few inches seem like an impassable barrier; Peggy can’t imagine covering that distance and bringing their bodies closer.

Diana doesn’t move, and Peggy realises that she’s slowing her breathing, that they’re both slowing their breathing together, the way they would before a fight. Deep breaths, a sense of inner calm, and with that Peggy lifts her hand again to Diana’s face, this time without any excuse to do so, and cups her cheek. Diana closes her eyes and allows the weight of her head to rest in Peggy’s hand, allows Peggy to hold her.

Peggy does, wondering at the idea that someone so powerful, so invulnerable, someone so long-lived, could feel the same uncertainty she does. She runs her thumb slowly over Diana’s cheekbone, once, twice, a caress meant to convey nothing more than comfort.

But then Diana’s eyes open, and Peggy is caught in her gravity, falling forward through those few inches like they never existed at all. A spark ignites between them, and Peggy takes her mouth eagerly, and Diana rises to meet her like the tide, like the sun, natural and inevitable and unstoppable.

Their first kiss is heated and slow and absolutely devastating: Diana’s lips part for her but it’s nothing at all like surrender as their mouths slide together, as they lick each other open, as they bite and suck and soothe. Peggy groans, low in her throat, and at the sound of it Diana’s hands come up to tangle in Peggy’s hair, sending a few bobby pins flying across the room to tinkle down against the floor like rain.

Diana draws back and laughs. “May I free it?”

Peggy nods, trying to catch her breath, and Diana takes the rest of the pins from her hair, setting them down on the table next to them, and then runs her hands fully through it. She pulls a little at the end, and Peggy leans into that feeling.

“That’s lovely,” she murmurs, closing her eyes. Diana kisses her again, soft lips and unwavering desire, and again and again, and Peggy falls into each kiss with increasing hunger. She moves closer, intending to wrap her arms around Diana’s waist, but encounters more resistance than she expects.

“Um,” she says, as Diana kisses her neck. She runs her hands over Diana’s waist again, and it’s still there – hard and cold and unyielding.

“Armour,” Diana breathes, against her collarbone. Peggy shivers. “But I’ll take it off, if that’s what you want.”

Peggy blinks up at her. There should be no such place as the island of the Amazons, no such woman as Diana, but she can feel the proof strong under her hands. “Can I see it first?” she asks.

Diana draws back, stands up, and Peggy thinks she looks pleased. Without a word, she strips off her clothing – blouse, shoes, skirt, far less than Peggy would’ve imagined. Underneath, she shines.

Peggy’s mouth goes dry, looking up at her. “Will you let me touch?” she asks.

To answer, Diana takes her hand and draws it to her body, cupping it loosely as Peggy runs her fingers from breastplate to hip, where the gleaming metal meets tough leather. As she moves down, her fingers slip from the leather skirt to the warm skin of Diana’s thigh, then back up again.

“You like it,” Diana breathes. Peggy nods up at her.

“It doesn’t seem like it covers very much of you, however,” she adds, with a grin. Diana’s answering grin is wide, her joy so powerful and so fierce that it makes Peggy burn just to be near it.

“Right now, I have you for that.”

Peggy rises to her feet and kisses her again, hungrily, eagerly, taking kiss after kiss from Diana’s willing mouth. She spreads her hands over Diana’s waist again, purposefully this time, and delights in the cool, hard feeling of the armour beneath her hands.

“Tell me what you want.” Diana drags her sharp teeth against Peggy’s throat. “Tell me what you want from me.”

Peggy hastily undoes the buttons on her blouse and shoves them both towards the bed. “I thought it was rather obvious.”

Diana’s eyes darken and she pushes Peggy’s blouse down off her shoulders, then bends her head to kiss the skin she’s bared.

“Lovemaking is like a battle,” she breathes, working her way up to Peggy’s neck. “Best when planned in advance.”

Peggy laughs. “There are some who would say that takes all the fun out of it.”

“Some,” Diana agrees, between kisses and bites to Peggy’s throat. “Not me.”

It’s far from the first time Peggy’s made love to a woman, but what Diana’s asking for is different, well outside of Peggy’s experience in stationery cupboards with wide-eyed SSR secretaries, or out back the kitchens with foreign dignitaries bored of endless galas, or in the occasional bed with the occasional friend. The prospect of speaking her desires aloud, rather than just getting lost in the moment and barreling through, is beyond frightening.

The idea terrifies her.

“I’ll tell you,” she says, made brave, grabbing a fistful of Diana’s thick dark hair and tugging her head up again. “Get on the bed.”

Diana does, making no special effort to preen or pose, just resting on her elbows, tossing her hair out of her face with a swift, practical motion, and keeping her feet planted on the floor. Good lord, but she’s tall.

“I’m waiting,” she says. Peggy wonders how in the hell you get her out of the armour.

“Wait longer,” Peggy says, crawling up the bed so she’s on her hands and knees above her. She smiles down at Diana, who nods up at her, and Peggy kisses her again, hot and fast, feeling the sudden rush of possibility moving through her blood.

“Tell me,” Diana demands, her lips just brushing Peggy’s. “Tell me.”

“I want to feel you beneath me,” Peggy says, which is a bit of a cheat since she already is. She runs her hands up and down Diana’s arms to demonstrate. “I want to feel you holding yourself back for me, all your strength in restraint.”

“Poetry!” Diana declares, with a bright laugh. She kisses Peggy, fast and impulsive. “You surprise me.”

“I want to ride your beautiful mouth, your fingers,” Peggy says, emboldened. She touches Diana’s lips, touches her wrists. “I want you to hold me up while you finger me.”

“I can do that,” Diana intones. “I would love to do that. I can’t wait to watch your thighs spread open. To get inside of you.”

Peggy laughs to hide her blush. “But you are waiting. Right now.”

Diana kisses the laugh out of her, her hands coming up to trail down Peggy’s chest, over her brassiere, down to her stomach. There’s a strangeness to the touch, as if Diana puts no special emphasis on any part of her body; as if her waist is as fascinating as her breasts, as her collarbones, as her shoulders.

“I would like to see you without all these clothes on,” Diana says, plucking at the brassiere strap.

“Very well,” Peggy says, and strips the brassiere off. It feels decadent to be undressed like this with another woman, naked from the waist up, bare breasted, perhaps, like the Amazons themselves.

She never could get much detail out of those Ancient Greek texts.

“Beautiful,” Diana says, and her eyes dance over Peggy’s body, over the freckles and the scars and the dips and folds of fat and muscle. “You are beautiful like this. Though, if I am to be honest, I would also find you beautiful in armour like mine. You would shine with a sword and shield, atop a horse, riding into battle in the sunlight.”

Her hands trail over Peggy’s body again, a firm warm press that spreads across her skin. Peggy shivers when her palms ghost over her nipples.

“I’m not that kind of warrior,” she demurs, but it feels wrong when she says it, and it has Diana reaching up for her, pulling her down, wrapping her in strong arms and a stronger kiss. Her gauntlets caress Peggy’s shoulders.

“You would be glorious,” Diana insists. Peggy feels a hot pulse of desire deep in her belly, desire for the warm body in front of her, the strange and powerful woman beneath her, but also for that island, for that world where she could ride and fight with her sisters.

She runs a hand up Diana’s thigh. “I want to be that for you,” she says. She doesn’t say, for myself, but maybe Diana hears it anyway, because she doesn’t press it. Peggy plays her fingers against the line of Diana’s armour where it joins the leather. “Can we take this off?”

“We can,” she agrees, and fiddles with buckles and straps for a moment before drawing the entire thing off. Eyes on Peggy, she snaps off the gauntlets, too. Naked, she’s just as powerful, and just as confident, moving with easy grace to throw her battle gear aside. Peggy looks her fill: at the thick dark hair between her legs and under her arms, at the play of wiry muscle over her bones, at the gleam of sweat on her skin.

“You don’t have any scars,” Peggy notices.

“It is a gift of the Gods,” Diana answers, carelessly, “though it is unfortunate for a warrior who would prefer some outward credentials.”

Peggy kisses her throat, then her breasts and her belly, lavishing attention equally over all the planes of her body. Diana arches beneath her, then laughs and brings a hand down to cup Peggy’s cheek, stilling her movement.

“Come, you asked me for something which I have not yet given you,” she says. “Let me up.”

Peggy does, sitting back on her heels. Her hose cling uncomfortably to her legs, and she wishes she’d gotten them off sooner.

Diana unzips her skirt, then waits and watches while Peggy squirms to take it off. Then Diana’s fingers are trailing along her garter belt, down to the upper edge of her hose and back again.

“This armour serves you not at all,” Diana says, smiling softly. “I wonder why you persist in wearing it.”

“For some of the battles I face, it’s necessary,” Peggy replies, gasping quietly as Diana’s fingers skate from the hose to her skin and back again.

“Man’s world is exhausting,” Diana mutters, and bends down suddenly to press a kiss to one of the straps, as if thanking it for its service.

Peggy unclips them, one by one, before removing the belt, and then Diana rolls the hose down off her legs.

“I can’t get my mouth on you with all of this in the way,” she complains, exasperated, when she crawls back up Peggy’s body only to find her still in her panties. Peggy smiles, and lets Diana draw them off, running her hand through Diana’s hair.

“What do you want?” Peggy asks, softly, echoing Diana’s question from earlier. “Tell me.”

“Right now? I want to taste you,” Diana says, looking up boldly to meet her eyes.

Peggy nods, and Diana bends to kiss her labia, just the way she kissed Peggy’s mouth. The soft warm contact is fleeting and strange, strangely intimate and strangely sweet at the same time. She strokes her hand through Diana’s hair, waiting for her to move again.

“My lips to your lips,” Diana breathes, and kisses her again, tongue slipping in to slide over Peggy’s inner folds before she withdraws. It’s just enough contact to make Peggy arch in appreciation before she collapses back to the bed at the loss of the touch.

“You like to tease me, don’t you,” Peggy says. From between her legs, Diana looks up, her eyes hot and knowing. She kisses Peggy again, deeper this time, and then smiles slowly.

“Well,” she says, between kisses, “I don’t really know how much,” kiss, “you want me to talk,” kiss, “while I’m doing this,” kiss, “but I could certainly,” kiss, “try.” And her mouth sucks and licks and then draws away, giving just enough to make Peggy want to hold her hair and keep her still, keep her from ever drawing away again. She groans in frustration, and Diana huffs a pleased breath against her.

“Tease,” Peggy laughs the word out, but the laugh turns to a groan as Diana’s lips find her clitoris.

“I know this word in your language,” Diana says, her fingers taking the place of her mouth, ghosting feather-light touches over Peggy’s thighs and sex as she speaks. “But to me it has always made little sense. To build anticipation slowly is not to threaten to take it away.”

Peggy shakes her head in disbelief. “You are teasing me right now,” she cries.

Diana shrugs. “I try to respect the customs of the culture I am – ” she breaks off, laughing, as Peggy shoves her with a foot. “Be patient,” she chides.

“I don’t want to be patient,” Peggy replies. She sits up, hauling Diana in by her shoulders, and kisses her fiercely. “I want you,” she says, breathless. Her hands run over Diana’s breasts, her thighs, her back, dragging against the soft skin.

“Then take me,” Diana grins. “Tell me where you want me.” She guides Peggy’s hand to her hair. “Put me where you want me.”

Peggy groans and shoves her down the bed again, and this time she wastes no time, doesn’t hesitate, just thrusts her hips up to meet Diana’s mouth. Diana sucks her clit, and licks her hole, and she goes where Peggy guides her, takes Peggy’s thrusts, and holds her weight when she lifts up off the bed. Peggy can feel the strength in her arms, can feel the ease with which she takes Peggy’s thrusting, demanding body, the speed and skill of her mouth drawing Peggy’s pleasure out of her.

When she comes, she loses track of the world, her whole body flashing hot and cold, tingling and numb, awash with sensation and safe in the knowledge that Diana can take it.

She hears herself cry out, but it isn’t until afterwards that she thinks to find that strange. She thought she had rid herself of the habit of making noise.

“Come here,” Diana urges, lifting her up, taking Peggy into her arms like she’s weightless. “You are too beautiful by far, oh, oh Peggy, come here.” and then she’s got Peggy up against the wall, one hand underneath her to hold her up while the other hand brushes against her wet inner thighs.

“Yes,” Peggy groans, realising, “yes, please, please, do it, Diana, put your fingers in me – ”

Diana does, without hesitation, and Peggy watches the muscles of her arm cord and bunch as she thrusts, gasping at the sight of it, obscene, gorgeous.

“You like to feel my strength,” Diana gasps, her breath coming fast against Peggy’s ear. “You like to know I can hold you like this.”

“God, yes,” Peggy says, half-shouts, as she clenches and comes again around Diana’s fingers. It’s everything she ever wanted during those hasty fumblings in stationery cupboards, everything she wanted when she strode with her head high through SSR corridors, every kind of power and tenderness held carefully hidden within her now on full view as she shakes and grinds and thrusts against Diana’s hand, as she acquiesces to Diana’s strong arms holding her up, as she bites her lip and curses and delights in the honest sweat that collects at her hairline and runs down her neck.

“You’re beautiful, yes, I’ve got you, come on,” Diana says. “I could hold you up against this wall all day, and I could take anything, anything you wish to give me.” Her voice is clear and sure, full of joy and abandon; Peggy laughs and comes around her again and again, until her body is too exhausted to go on.

Diana slowly lowers her back to her feet, taking back her fingers and shaking the excess moisture off of them with an amused expression on her face.

“Give me a moment,” Peggy rasps out, leaning against the wall, unsure if her feet can take her weight just now.

“Oh, I can wait,” Diana says, stepping in to her space and adding her support. Her body lines up against Peggy’s, warm and sweaty and close. Peggy rubs up against her, sighing at the sensation of their skin together.

“You really must be superhuman,” Peggy smiles.

“I told you,” Diana replies, her eyes hot. “I enjoy the anticipation.”

“I remember,” Peggy says. Her whole body feels good, rushing with blood and high on the air she breathes, like she’s superhuman herself, invulnerable. “What else do you enjoy?”

She runs her hand over Diana’s shoulder and down her side, then forward to wrap her palm around her thigh. Diana surges forward into her grasp, fast and eager, and Peggy wonders at the fact that she’s held herself back for this long.

“You’re ready for it, aren’t you?” Peggy intones. “You want it.”

“Yes. Yes, oh yes, I do,” Diana gasps, and Peggy is taken aback, again, by the strange failure of her teasing.

Diana doesn’t hesitate to call out for what she wants. Her lack of shame is shocking, invigorating, and it drives Peggy to do better for her.

“You’re fascinating,” Peggy admits, throat suddenly dry. She bends her head to kiss Diana’s throat, watching from the corner of her eye as Diana tilts her head back and allows her spill of dark hair to fall off her shoulders. She speaks again, the pure truth this time: “I want to know everything about you.”

“I’m here,” Diana says. Peggy draws back and Diana meets her eyes. “I’m here. Investigate all you like.”

It’s said with a sparkle, Diana’s wry humour again, and Peggy laughs, guiding her back towards the bed. It feels formal, almost like a waltz, even as their naked breasts press together and their thighs brush with every step.

Diana follows where Peggy takes her, and sits on the bed when Peggy cups her elbows and encourages her down.

She’s seen Diana reflect bullets and leap into midair, but right now she trusts herself to Peggy’s hands.

“I think investigate is rather the wrong word,” Peggy says, urging Diana to lie back. “I intend nothing so cold or calculating.” She runs her hands over Diana’s belly, then up her sides and over her shoulders, delighting in the feel of her body, so strong and so alive, so vital. It’s as though Peggy can feel the life-force radiating out through Diana’s skin.

They kiss again, warm and lush, Diana’s mouth hot against hers. Peggy lingers, groaning softly at the pure sensuous pleasure of their lips together.

“What word would you use instead, then?” Diana laughs, gasping, when Peggy moves her kiss down to Diana’s collarbones, then to her breasts.

“Worship,” Peggy breathes, and keeps her gaze locked with Diana’s as she takes one dark nipple between her lips.

Diana’s eyes go dark at the word, at the touch, and her body surges up, arching in desire as Peggy sucks wantonly.

“It’s not – I don’t – ” Diana protests, and Peggy breaks off, letting Diana’s nipple slip out from between her teeth. Diana pants in frustration. “I am not your god, to be adored thus,” she manages, finally.

Peggy smiles softly. She knows the feeling. “But to be adored thus?” she asks, and draws Diana’s nipple back between her lips for a soft suck before pulling away again, loving the little shiver that passes over Diana’s skin in reaction. “To be adored as a beautiful warrior, sweating and real in my bed?” She kisses her way down Diana’s stomach. “Your scars invisible, your true heroism unsung. I think you might need a little worshipping, Diana.”

At this, Diana finally laughs, the sound bursting forth like water from behind a dam. She collapses back against the covers, her hair fanning out behind her, her powerful thighs spreading apart beneath Peggy’s hands.

“You are so unexpected, Peggy,” Diana says, fondly, reaching down to run her fingers through Peggy’s hair, to cup Peggy’s jaw gently in her palm. “You surprise me.”

Peggy inches a little further down the bed and turns her head in Diana’s grasp to kiss the inside of her thigh. “I’m pleased to know that I can,” she murmurs. She is; Diana’s surprise and enjoyment is evident in the movement of her body and the look on her face, and the sight of it washes through Peggy like a wave from a distant Amazonian shore, leaving her refreshed and new.

She bends her head, and she can smell Diana’s sex, the scent rich and deep, like all the other women Peggy’s known but unlike, too, unique. As she presses her mouth to Diana’s folds she is enveloped by that scent, by her wetness, by the scorching heat of her body where it opens for Peggy’s lips and tongue. Peggy closes her eyes slowly, reverently, as she was taught to do as a child, for prayer.

“Oh, oh, Peggy,” Diana exclaims, and Peggy smiles, thinking that Diana will most definitely make some noise during this part. Whatever will the other hotel residents think.

“I like hearing your voice while I do this to you,” Peggy says, against her skin. “I love it.”

“Then let me say that you are doing very good work and it is deeply – ah! – appreciated.”

Peggy laughs, the vibration of her lips carrying into Diana’s body, and Diana laughs too, with her, gasping at the same time from the sensation. She redoubles her efforts, licking slow and hard against Diana’s clitoris, moving up and then down again to kiss her labia and tongue at her entrance.

“Your tongue feels so good, just there, yes, ah,” Diana murmurs. “Oh, oh, and your lips, so soft, so sweet. Will you, oh, oh! Peggy. Will you put your fingers in me?”

“Yes,” Peggy breathes, and does, slipping them in easily. She wonders at Diana’s wetness, her openness, and wonders what they could do together given some time and some supplies. Peggy’s rarely had the leisure or opportunity to try such things, but she finds herself fantasizing about all the possibilities that could lie between Diana and herself.

She bends her head again, and sucks and licks in time to her stroking fingers. Diana groans and twists and arches under her. Peggy runs her free hand up and down Diana’s hot moving thigh, feeling the power beneath the skin.

“Yes, yes, Peggy, a little – harder – oh, yes, just like that, just like that – ” Diana’s frank talk turns into babbling as she begins to clench around Peggy’s fingers, as her body begins to tremble. Peggy redoubles her efforts, and does as she asks, and feels a whimper emerge from her own throat just at the idea of this powerful, strange, amazing woman spread out before her, shaking as she comes and comes from Peggy’s attention, Peggy’s touch, Peggy’s worship.

When Diana’s hand lands clumsily in her hair, Peggy pulls back, wiping her mouth with her forearm and watching her carefully. “How are you feeling?” she asks.

Diana’s still spread-eagled on the bed, and she doesn’t pick up her head or move a muscle, but she laughs deeply at Peggy’s question.

“I am feeling wonderful,” she replies. “Come up here, I want to kiss you.”

Peggy does, crawling up the bed, feeling suddenly – not shy, not really, but tender, perhaps, or vulnerable to Diana’s gaze. She takes Diana’s face in her hands and kisses her boldly, ignoring the flutter of nerves in her belly. Diana kisses back, her tongue sliding hot and lazy and confident into Peggy’s mouth. Peggy grips her shoulder, scratching a little with her short nails.

“Oh, hmmm,” Diana hums, drawing back and looking at the fading red lines on her shoulder with dark eyes. “There’s so much more that you enjoy, I see.”

“Yes,” Peggy admits, licking her lips. She wants to fuck Diana again, and again, into the deepest part of the night; for a wild moment, she almost believes that they could prevent the day from ever coming.

“Well, it is Amazon tradition to have a lot of vigorous lovemaking before a battle. Arouses the blood, as we say.” Diana’s voice is almost hesitant, and Peggy dares to see her own wish reflected in Diana’s eyes: that this could be where they stop fighting, and rest, and get to have each other. She settles in on her side and Diana does the same, so they’re face to face.

“So this is what you did, back on Paradise Island? Decadent lesbian orgies before a battle?”

Diana giggles. “Not quite. Or, not me. I was – everyone there considered me their – relative. Not daughter, but.” She frowns. “There’s a Māori word, whāngai – or maybe θετή in Ancient Greek – anyhow. I was adopted by all of them. They saw me as their family.” She sighs. “Growing up, I had so many romances in my mind, but they all said no when I asked.”

“This island seems less and less like paradise,” Peggy says, smiling ruefully. She marvels, to herself, at the words that have tripped off of Diana’s tongue. There’s so much more Peggy wants to know about her.

Diana nods and runs her fingertips down Peggy’s side, from her shoulder, down her arm, down to her thigh, a light and playful touch. “It was not until I came to the world of men that I knew the pleasure of a woman,” she says, and smiles. Peggy smiles back.

“So maybe we should extend your education. We could prepare for battle all night long.” Even as she suggests it, she drops her gaze from Diana’s eyes to her collarbone.

The morning will come; Peggy could never really believe otherwise. The work awaits.

“My mothers and sisters would also advise sleep, before battle,” Diana says gently. Peggy nods.

“You can’t blame me for trying.”

Sleep, then the fight. And then, she’s sure, Diana will disappear again.

“It was a very tempting thought.”

Her body is cooling, now, the air becoming too sharp against her bare skin. She kisses Diana again and then gets up, and they both get under the covers.

It’s been a long, long time since Peggy’s trusted someone enough to sleep with them. She shouldn’t trust Diana now; objectively, her story is still ridiculous.

She’s surprised, though she shouldn’t be, by the firm embrace of Diana’s arms around her when they crawl under the sheets together. Within that circle of warmth, Peggy finds that she falls to sleep easily, without having to try, as if her body trusts Diana even when the facts say she shouldn’t.

*

In the morning, she wakes before Diana, and gazes on her for a while, spread out in her sleep, arms and legs in all directions, hair spread out behind her.

Peggy realises that she didn’t set her hair before bed, and it’s bound to be a mess. She groans, and takes herself off to the bathroom to have a wash and see what can be done.

Diana comes in after her, as she’s attempting to pin her hair down, and watches from behind for a few minutes.

“More armour,” she comments, and Peggy arches an eyebrow at her in the mirror.

“Just so.” She pulls out her red lipstick and applies it carefully, glancing at the places on Diana’s skin where the remnants of last night’s lipstick still linger, marking her.

Diana runs her hands through her hair and it falls perfectly into gorgeous curls over her shoulders. Peggy finds that honestly better proof of Diana’s mythical origins than anything.

“I’m going ahead to scout, as we discussed. I’ll meet you on the road to the east of the facility in an hour.”

Peggy puts the cap on her lipstick and turns around to face her. “Agreed,” she says, keeping her voice measured. Diana cocks her head briefly, calculations that Peggy can’t fathom going on behind her eyes, and then leans in and presses a soft kiss to Peggy’s cheek, careful not to disturb her lipstick.

“I do still wish I had a horse and shield for you,” she breathes. Peggy smiles.

“Perhaps I’ll commandeer one of the Order’s little tanks,” she says. Diana’s eyes burn with desire, and Peggy feels the answering flame inside herself.

Diana inclines her head, almost a bow, a gesture Peggy’s never seen from her before. It feels genuine, in the way her play-acting as a quiet demure lady never did. Peggy returns it, a little hesitantly. The look on Diana’s face as she leaves tells Peggy that she’s managed to surprise her again.

Her hair’s a bit of a mess, but she feels armoured anyhow.

*
The mission does not go to plan. There are guards where they shouldn’t be, scientists where they shouldn’t be, whole rooms and experiments that Peggy’d had no intel on whatsoever. In normal circumstances, the entire mission would be a disaster, and she’d have died, or been captured, or been forced to run early.

With Diana by her side, they manage to win the day. She still stops bullets, and she still swings that golden rope around so fast and so skillfully that it seems impossible. She has her shield, just as she promised, which doesn’t look flashy or special but somehow keeps them safe from the most powerful artillery.

The way she moves, the things she does: Peggy can admit now that they’re magic, that they’re unexplainable. She dives behind Diana’s shield and trusts it to protect her, stands by as Diana wields her lasso and trusts it not to touch her.

This time, Peggy gets to see her fight in just her armour, and the sight of her – fast and strong and half-naked and absolutely fearless – inspires Peggy with a bone-deep courage she hasn’t felt in a long time; not recklessness, but courage.

She takes the risks worth taking.

With Diana creating cover, Peggy can get to the bombs and destroy them, get to the research and burn it, get to the bomb-makers and capture them.

She kills, too, when she has to; with their original plan in shambles, there’s a lot more killing to be done than she anticipated. She regrets it, but doesn’t hesitate. Diana says nothing, when she sees; she’s left bodies in her wake today, too.

She even finds enough evidence to potentially bring down a few people who she suspected of being collaborators, working for the Order from within the SSR, which is more than she ever dreamed she could do.

And while she takes no pleasure in the acts of death and destruction, it does feel good to fight next to someone again – to fight next to Diana, who backs her up, and takes her at her word, and holds the line beside her with calm and strength.

It takes hours: infiltration, fighting, stealing, killing, and finally a rather large explosion. Peggy smiles grimly as she watches the facility burn. Ugly thing, anyway, a blight on the local landscape. Maybe they can build a pig farm here instead.

“We should care for your wounds,” Diana says, and Peggy only realises in that moment that she’s been standing beside her, watching the fire with her.

“Yes,” Peggy says, not moving. “All right.”

Eventually, they tear themselves away, and Peggy calls the local SSR field office to come and pick up the men they’ve captured, the few who didn’t die in the explosion. It takes them about an hour to arrive, and in that time Diana pulls a first-aid kit from somewhere and carefully, meticulously, cleans up the knife wounds on her arm and the bullet graze along her leg, puts cooling salve on the burn on her foot, picks bits of gravel from the abrasion on her thigh.

“You don’t need the same treatment?” Peggy asks, nodding at the wounds Diana sustained; they’re all relatively minor, but some of them bled a good deal at the time. Diana shrugs.

“They will be healed by tomorrow,” she says. Peggy watches her for another moment, a second question rising to her lips.

“If you don’t require care yourself, how did you come to be such a good nurse?”

Diana smiles ruefully. “It does not come naturally to me. As a child, I was far more interested in swordplay than in the healing arts.”

“But?” Peggy winces as Diana daubs a particularly nasty cut.

“But, I have learned since then. If you will make wounds, you must know how to heal them as well. And I knew too many good people who were injured or died, fighting beside me.”

Peggy remembers the records, the things unsaid, the whispers among the archivists, all of them women. She takes a guess. “Etta Candy?” 1944, Peggy thinks. Not so long ago, Diana had a partner.

Diana looks up at her sharply. “Y-yes,” she says, after a moment. Her mouth hardens into a line. “Yes. Etta and I – we worked together for a very long time. At first, she never saw fighting. But eventually – well. I finally understood how my mother felt, when I wanted to be trained for battle. When the second world war came, she wanted to fight however she could.” Diana resumes her work, bandaging neatly. “And before her, of course, there was Steve.”

She gasps softly, and it draws Diana’s gaze back to her face. For a long moment, Peggy can’t find the words to ask, but then she remembers. “Steven Trevor. I think – he was mentioned in the records I saw.”

Diana nods. “Yes. He died to save me.” She says it simply, easily, like it’s an old truth she’s learned to live beside. “He was a lot like you, actually. Big heart, too big for everything he’d seen and done.” Tamping down the last bit of bandage, Diana reaches up, and caresses Peggy’s cheekbone with her thumb. “Did stupid things for other people.”

Peggy smiles, and laughs, a tear escaping from her eye. “I had a Steve, too,” she says. “Who died.”

“Ah,” Diana says. “I think there are only so many names that men are allowed to have, I mean, I don’t know if this is true but I meet a lot of them that are all the same.”

“It is definitely true,” Peggy agrees, laughing.

Looking away from her face, Diana peers out across the field, squinting. “I think your soldiers are here,” she says. “Too bad they wouldn’t have come earlier.”

Peggy sighs. She hasn’t been looking forward to this explanation. But maybe she can bluff her way past some of the lower ranks. She gets up, tugging her clothes back into some semblance of shape and patting her hair. “They’re not my soldiers, unfortunately,” she says.

“So, this is what the armour was for?” Diana asks, playfully. Peggy rolls her eyes.

“Precisely. How’s my lipstick?”

Diana leans in and kisses her, full on the mouth, hard and demanding and absolutely gorgeous. Peggy doesn’t even think to object.

“Not so nice as it was,” Diana laughs, pulling away. Peggy swats at her. “Go talk to your men. I’ll find you later.”

“Not my men,” Peggy says, but she goes to talk to them anyway.

*

She manages to escape before too long, having convinced the SHIELD agents to take the Order soldiers into custody for the time being. She has a feeling she’s about to receive some rather angry phone calls and telegrams from the higher-ups, though. Not least because she’s been off the radar for the better part of a year.

By the time she gets back to her hotel, she’s tired, and hungry, and sweaty, and still lightly covered with ash, and beyond ready to be finished with the whole operation. In the back of her mind, she’s wondering if Diana will find her, as she said she would, or if it will be two or three or five more years before she does.

But Diana is waiting in the hotel lobby, and she’s changed back into her costume: plain skirt, plain blouse, plain coat and hat. You can’t see the gauntlets shining at her wrists. She stands when Peggy enters, and places her coat squarely over her arm.

Peggy walks up to her, getting a little closer than is truly appropriate, especially in this public space.

“So,” she says, her heart beating fast in her chest. “What do Amazons do after a battle?”

Diana grins. “I’ll give you three guesses,” she says.

*

Their second night together is wild and unrestrained, both of them alive with energy from the fight, both of them daring to pull harder, push faster, ask more of one another. It’s hot and hard and it goes on for bloody ever, because neither of them can seem to stop long enough to let the fire between them die down. Diana gets on her knees and licks Peggy till she screams and begs for mercy, and Peggy fucks Diana with her fingers until she’s trembling, then lies down so Diana can spread her powerful thighs on either side of her head and lower her gleaming wet sex to Peggy’s face. She kisses Diana’s wounds, all of them fading red lines by now, and Diana holds her and kisses her passionately and whispers words that Peggy can’t understand and doesn’t need to. Diana plays with her in ways she’s never experienced – her fingers in Peggy’s arse, her mouth licking into it – and it drives Peggy forward, making her want more and more, to the next thing, and the next, until Diana’s hands are covered in slick warm oil and she’s got her superpowered fist up inside Peggy’s body, stretching her out, making her gasp desperately for her breath and igniting fires all across the surface of her skin.

They fuck for hours, until Peggy’s mind goes hazy with joy, until every part of her is sore and exhausted, until every swollen-lipped kiss comes with a bite of pain to soothe the pleasure.

She’s still kissing slowly at Diana’s belly when Diana ruffles her hair. “Darling. The sun’s coming up.”

Peggy looks up and laughs softly at the light just shining over the horizon. She rolls off of Diana and collapses on her side on the bed.

“Do you disappear at first light, like a fairy or a dream?” Peggy asks. “Will you vanish in the sun?”

Diana chuckles. “I’m as real as you are,” she says, though her wounds are by now entirely gone. She stands and stretches in the sunbeam, naked and disheveled, and drinks an entire glass of water in one go. She brings another glass back to the bed for Peggy.

“Now that I’m going back to the SSR, I’ll have to write a report on you,” Peggy says. “I want the facts.”

“I never sought to deny them to you,” Diana agrees, sitting back down on the bed and stroking Peggy’s hair gently.

“Etta Candy wrote reports, you know. She wanted you to be in the official histories. Campaigned for years with the War Office to set up special recognition for you.”

Diana blinks. “I never knew that.”

Peggy sighs, rubbing her palm along her bare thigh. “She never succeeded. If she had, perhaps she would’ve told you.”

“That’s – I wish she had told me anyway.” She pauses a moment, gathering her thoughts. “I don’t care about the recognition, but the fact that she did that – I wish I had known, so I could have thanked her.”

Peggy nods, not sure what else to say. She reaches out, instead, and holds Diana’s hand. Diana squeezes it.

“You are going to go, though, aren’t you. With the dawn.”

Diana holds her gaze. “I have . . . many places to watch, many wars in waiting I need to keep my eye on, to prevent them if I can. The work doesn’t end.”

“No,” Peggy agrees. “It doesn’t.”

Diana kisses her sore lips. “I will see you again,” she promises.

Peggy tells herself not to hope for that.

 

4.

Diana finds her for the fourth time just two weeks later, under a truly impressive pile of paperwork.

“Writing about me?”

Peggy looks up and smiles. Security let her in, so shock at the idea of seeing her again so soon has already passed, and now Peggy’s just happy that she’s here.

“I’ve finished the report on you. There are several dozen more to go, however.” She pushes the completed report across the desk, typed by her own hand since they still don’t let her have a secretary of her own. They aren’t likely to do so anytime soon; half of the men still make the joke where they ask her to type up their reports.

Peggy really enjoyed her time off the clock and out of the office.

“‘A Research Report on the So-Called Wonder Woman,’” Diana reads. “So-called? Who has ever called me this?”

“I did,” Peggy replies. “In my report. Do you like it?”

“I do,” Diana replies, flipping through the pages. “It says here that I am an Amazon warrior from Themyscira.” She looks up and meets Peggy’s eyes. “Hmmm, and here I thought you didn’t believe that.”

“I thought Amazon warriors didn’t tease,” Peggy replies, winking. Diana laughs. “No, the report only says what you told me, and what I found in the archives, and what I saw with my own eyes. They will draw their own conclusions.”

“They will take from the story what they need from it?” Diana pushes. Peggy snorts and shakes her head.

“What they need in order to feel in control of their little universe, perhaps.” She finishes the report she’s actually working on and stacks it neatly in her outbox.

Diana quirks an eyebrow that tells Peggy volumes about her experience of man’s world.

“So,” Peggy says, clapping her hands on her thighs. “What brings you here? I’m not in mortal danger, I’m not about to embark on mortal danger, I don’t need rescuing from a rubbish bin . . . ”

“I thought I was spending a lot of time chasing around after you, watching you get yourself in trouble,” Diana interrupts. “I thought – perhaps it would be more efficient if I worked closer to you.”

Peggy crosses her arms. “What, you want to come and work for the SSR?”

From what Peggy can tell from the archives, Diana did spend some time attached to British Intelligence, in some capacity or other, throughout the years she and Etta worked together. It wouldn’t be impossible, she supposes, though keeping her powers a secret could become difficult, and she’s not particularly good at dissembling, or at spy work for that matter.

“No,” Diana says bluntly, laughing. “I want you to come and work for me.”

Peggy blinks. “Work for you . . . where? Doing what?”

Diana shrugs. “Everywhere. Everything. Intervening in the wars that men make, destroying their weapons, finding truth.”

“And is there a good salary and a retirement plan?” Peggy asks, distantly. She’s speaking just to keep herself from entirely losing her mind at the idea. It couldn’t be possible, in the same way an island of women warriors couldn’t be possible.

But here it is, here Diana is, and she’s offering.

Diana licks her lips slowly. “Retirement . . . has not been the fate of many of my compatriots,” she says, softly. Peggy immediately wants to kick herself. Steve Trevor died in an explosion, and Etta Candy was taken down by gunfire, and Diana, who remains ageless, didn’t take another companion in the eight intervening years.

“Oh, Diana, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean that.”

Cocking her head, Diana meets her gaze, and sighs. “It’s all right. It’s true, it’s not a safe profession, to travel with me. Not even compared to your work here.” She gestures at the SSR office. “You should take some time to think about it.”

Peggy knows she doesn’t have to think about it: she won’t do it. She couldn’t live that life all the time, the danger, the lack of backup, the frenetic pace. And she barely knows this woman. She can’t just allow herself to be swept away by a new lover like some silly girl who doesn’t know what she wants.

Peggy knows what she wants; she always has. It’s not this. She opens her mouth to say so.

“I’ll do it,” she calls out, just as Diana turns to leave. “I’ll do it, I want it, I’ll come with you.”

Diana beams, her smile so beautiful that Peggy almost can’t stand to look at it. “That’s wonderful,” she says, softly. “I’m so glad.” There’s a tear slipping down her face, and Peggy, moved by the sight, comes out from her desk and goes to her side, wrapping an arm around her.

“We’ll – we can go talk about it,” she says, not entirely certain what she’s even saying. “I’ll just – let me get my coat, and we can – yes.” She hands Diana her handkerchief, and Diana uses it to wipe her eyes and blow her nose loudly.

“That sounds good,” Diana says, nodding quickly.

The Director comes out of his office, holding his copy of Peggy’s report. She’d mimeographed it herself, too.

“Carter, what the hell is this? It reads like a goddamn comic book. Where’s the . . . ” he trails off as he sees Peggy, arm in arm with Diana, leaving the office with her coat over her arm.

“I’m taking a long lunch,” she says, as they breeze by.

Out on the sidewalk, Diana looks down at her, and beams, and Peggy laughs with delight and disbelief at what she’s just done, at the absolutely ridiculous and impossible thing she’s just done.

The absolutely ridiculous and impossible things she’s about to do.

Her heart is racing in excitement. “So, where do we go? We’re going to what, just, travel the world? Where do we go? How do we get there?”

“Would you believe me,” Diana intones, leaning in against Peggy’s shoulder conspiratorially, “if I told you I have an invisible jet?”

Peggy rolls her eyes. “Oh, come on,” she says.

Diana of Themyscira, Amazon warrior, ageless superhero, possible goddess, protector of the Earth, Peggy’s new sister-in-arms and possible girlfriend, laughs.

“Nothing’s impossible,” she says.