Pure of heart, hero’s fate must end,
One hundred years to make amends.
A blood price paid, Her pain awakes
The goddess who no longer needs to wait.
The River Styx with all its bones
Will send its travellers wand’ring home
Rise again, the Fates command
For only She can save the land.
Fear not death, the dead will walk the Earth
Sacrifices turned into birth
A tool of purpose to the goddess defy
Someone must win, someone must die.
Steve feels heat across his skin, and his eyes pop open. He expects to see flames in front of him, to see flames on him as they eat the dismembered pieces of his physical shell, but when he opens his eyes, he doesn’t see fire. He doesn’t see the dark grey clouds through the plane’s glass window in front of him. What he sees instead is a woman in front of him wearing a sharp suit and an unreadable expression on her face. Despite the confusion and the bleariness, Steve wonders why a woman is wearing a suit, but he doesn't get the chance to ask as the woman steps forward.
“Captain Trevor. Welcome back.”
When Steve gains consciousness again, the woman is no longer there. Now a man is looking at him with a frown on his face, clearly unhappy to see Steve there, but Steve has no idea why. Ignoring the IV in his arm, he pushes himself into a seated position, and he squints up at the man. “Who are you?”
“I’m more interested in who you are,” the man counters. He’s in a black suit, and Steve can tell that the fabric is high quality—expensive. The man’s tie is too thin and too long, but the suit is perfectly tailored to his body. “What can you tell me about yourself?”
Steve narrows his eyes at the man, instantly suspicious. “I’m not telling you a thing until you tell me where I am.”
The man ignores him. “What do you last remember?”
“Where am I?” Steve asks again. He feels the familiar sensation of his defense skills clicking into place, feeling how he’s imperceptibly taking inventory of the room and what he can use as a weapon. “You don’t sound German.”
“I’m not,” the man says simply. He looks at Steve, reading his body language. “You’re in Gotham.”
“Gotham?” Steve is incredulous. “What the hell am I doing in Gotham? I was in Belgium last time I checked.”
“What’s your name?” the man asks. “I told you where you are, and you can trust that you’re safe here.”
Steve grits his teeth as he looks at this stranger in front of him, this stranger who seems to have answers Steve desperately wants to know. “Where’s that woman who was here when I woke up? She knew who I was. Who is she? How does she know me? How do you know?”
“I never said I knew you,” the man says smoothly.
“If you didn't know me, you wouldn’t look like you already knew the answer to the question before you even asked it.”
The man stares at Steve for a few moments, and then he nods. “Yes. I know you. But I need to know that you know you.”
None of this makes sense to Steve. He stares defiantly at the stranger, his fight or flight instincts growing stronger, and just as he’s about to lash out, the stranger speaks again.
“Before you hit me, what does the name Diana mean to you?”
“What time is it?” Diana slides the soft white gloves onto her hands and picks up the delicate piece of pottery in front of her. Just from looking at it in this brief second, she knows it’s Roman, but she has to pretend she doesn’t just have this information in her head. “I have a lunch meeting I’m supposed to go to at 1:00.”
Estelle, Diana’s young and competent assistant, pulls her iPhone out to check. “It’s 12:18 right now.”
Diana’s expression turns slightly frustrated, but she continues looking over the ancient bowl. “Not as much time as I was hoping for to get the accession report finished.”
“Miss Prince, cancelling would be unwise as these are very important donors.”
“I won’t cancel,” Diana says to put the girl’s mind at ease. “I will be at this very important meeting with these very important donors to woo them into very generously sponsoring the 2020 exhibit.”
“You also have to sign off on some of these grants.”
“Now that’s good and easy.” Diana sets the bowl down, makes some notes on the form in front of her, and reads over it again. “Also less time consuming than to try to squeeze the rest of this in before lunch.”
Diana’s cell phone on Estelle’s desk starts to buzz, and Diana glances at it. “Who is it?”
Estelle picks it up, looking at it. “Bruce Wayne. Do you want me to answer?”
“No, I’ll call him back when I’m done,” Diana replies as she writes down a few more measurements to do with the bowl. After a few moments, her cell phone buzzes again, and she sets it down with a small sigh. “Bruce?”
“Yes.” Estelle holds the phone up, and Diana quickly pulls her gloves off and goes to her assistant’s desk. If Bruce is calling twice from his personal phone, something important must be happening, and if it’s got something to do with his project, she knows she needs to answer it now. She slides her thumb across the screen to answer, and she walks away from Estelle’s desk for privacy.
“Hello,” she greets. “Perfect timing. You caught me right before lunch where I’m supposed to charm a bunch of rich art enthusiasts into sponsoring a huge upcoming exhibit.”
“I don’t think you’ll be going to lunch,” Bruce says on the other line. “I need you in Gotham immediately.”
Diana frowns, slightly irritated by Bruce’s typically abrupt way of expecting everyone to drop everything when he tells them to, but also confused as to the urgency. “Now? Bruce, this is an extremely important lunch. If I send Estelle, it won’t look very good.”
“I don’t think you’ll want to go to lunch,” Bruce replies. “Trust me. It’s an emergency. I wouldn’t call you and have you send your assistant into the shark pool if it weren’t.”
“Are we talking life or death? Because if it’s that serious—“
Bruce interrupts her. “Not life or death. But you need to be here.”
Diana hesitates. Since she’s known Bruce, which admittedly, hasn’t been very long, he’s been nothing short of trustworthy. He’s kept her secret and has even covered her tracks even more effectively so nothing from the past can be traced to her. And yes, if Diana’s being honest, she’ll acknowledge how nice it feels to finally have someone who knows the truth, someone who believes in the same things she does and has the same amount of determination. “Bruce…”
Diana glances over her shoulder back at Estelle, already anticipating her assistant’s upcoming reaction. She knows she may regret this, but she also knows she can trust Bruce. Sighing, she looks down at the ground and puts her free hand on her hip. “I’ll be there as soon as I can."
Bruce doesn’t answer any of her calls, texts, or emails while she’s on her private plane, which frustrates her to no end. Of course he would tell her he needed her in an emergency and not tell her what for—of course he would promise to donate for the exhibit if the men she’d been prepared to pump at lunch were too miffed by meeting with her assistant instead of her. Of course he would do all of that.
The plane ride is far too long, and it’s late by the time she lands at the airport. As quick as her own personal Wonder Woman way of travelling would have been, the need for disguise is still present, and so she’d had to settle for civilian travel. The time zone already has her a little disoriented, but she feels herself snap to attention when she exits the jet and sees Alfred with a Wayne car waiting for her right outside.
“Miss Prince!” he calls out to her over the sound of the plane. “Wonderful to see you again!”
“Thank you, Alfred!” she calls back to him, and she crosses toward him. “What in the world is going on? What’s gotten Bruce so riled up?”
But if she’d expected to get any answers out of Alfred, she’s severely disappointed when he gives her a little smile and says, “I think it would be best if Master Bruce told you himself, but I assure you, Miss Prince, that the urgency with which he ushered you here is not for show.”
Hearing Alfred’s words doesn’t comfort her any, and she frowns a little as she gets into the backseat of the car. Bruce is always mysterious—she knows this to be true. Even though she knows the truth about who he is the way he knows the truth about her, she knows there’s still a part of him he keeps closed off from her. And really, she doesn’t mind. She keeps a part of herself closed off from him, too, and she prefers to keep it that way.
Alfred can sense that she’s too wrapped up in her own thoughts for too much conversation, and so he lets her have her time to herself. Diana has always known she could trust him.
Bruce is waiting for her by the time she enters the cave. She never thought she’d find a batcave enjoyable, but she’s found that she doesn’t hate the time she spends here. Sure, she needs some fresh air and sunlight after a certain point, but she also doesn’t dread leaving the sun to go down to Bruce’s center of operations. As she walks toward him, she tries to read his face, to get a sense for whatever it is that’s so urgent.
“Diana,” he says levelly.
“I’m here.” She comes to a stop in front of him and looks at him. “So what was so important it justifies shoving off a bunch of money hungry old men onto my poor assistant?”
Bruce’s face doesn’t change. “I need you to be calm.”
“I’m calm,” she retorts, growing a little irritated with how strange he’s acting. “But I want to know what’s going on, and you’re not telling me anything.”
Frustration swells up in her chest, and she has half a mind to pull out her lasso and use it on him right then and there. However, she knows that that wouldn’t be the best or the most effective plan, and so she doesn’t do it, no matter how much she wants to.
“I have something you need to see,” Bruce says, and then he turns and starts down one of the many hallways that make up the maze of the cave. Irritation growing, she follows behind him. “Diana…”
“What?” she asks. “Are you going to tell me, or are you going to make me guess?”
“I…I don’t think any words could be sufficient,” he says. For the first time since she’s set foot in the cave, his face shows a little flicker of thought over his face. She studies him closely, as if looking at him long enough will show her the answers. “But please keep in mind that there’s more to what’s going on than what you think.”
Diana bites back an agitated response, and she makes herself nod. “Ok. There’s more to it than what I think. Ok.”
As they reach a certain door, Bruce slows down and looks over at her. She slows down beside him and looks up at him, curious and confused all at the same time. Bruce starts to speak again, but he cuts himself off and shakes his head. “I’m sorry.”
At that, Diana is instantly alarmed. In the time that she’s known Bruce, she’s never known him to apologize for anything. She frowns at him and takes a step toward the door when he gestures to her to go on in. Her heart beating a little wildly due to a strange combination of curiosity and concern, she puts her hand on the doorknob and turns it. The light sounds of her heels clicking across the floor echo through the empty black halls of the cave. The sound travels into the room she’s walking into, and when she stops, so does the clicking.
There in front of her is a man sitting on a hospital bed. He sits like he’s exhausted, his body language drooping downward while also giving the idea that he’s antsy based on how he’s bouncing his knee. Diana takes another step into the room as he lifts his head, and suddenly, she stops breathing. Shockingly blue eyes meet hers, and she’s reminded of the Themysciran sea, of eyes that had belonged to a man she’d pulled from that very sea.
“Diana,” the man breathes, relieved, and he stands up to go to her.
Diana’s heart drops all the way down to the floor, and she stares at him with huge eyes, watching him as he stands up and moves toward with a look on his face that can only be described as pure relief.
“No,” she whispers. “No. You can’t be here.”
Steve stops walking and frowns, looking every bit as confused as she’d looked only moments before. “Diana? What are you—“
Diana interrupts him. “You’re dead. I watched you die 100 years ago. You are not him.”
“What the hell are you—“
“Diana.” Bruce has stepped into the room without Diana even realizing it, and her head whips in his direction, her eyes blazing.
“What kind of sick joke is this?” she hisses, starting toward him but stopping herself. “What is this? Who is he?”
“Diana, it’s me,” the man calling himself Steve insists. She looks back over her shoulder at him and then again at Bruce.
“What is this?” Her voice is enraged and full of pain, and she’s so angry she can’t even think to cry.
“This is your Steve Trevor,” Bruce says evenly. “I’ve run my own tests on him to confirm his identity and to make sure he’s not a metahuman with morphing powers, and it’s him.”
“Wait, you performed tests on me?” Steve asks. He puts his hands on his hips. “For Christ’s sake, what the hell is going on?”
Diana does the only thing she can think of to do—quickly, she reaches into her shoulder bag and pulls out the lasso. She watches Steve’s eyes flick down to it, and she holds one end out to him. “Tell me who you are.”
“Tell me.” Her eyes burn into his, and she waits. For a moment, he looks like he’s going to outright refuse, but then he seems to think better of it. As she watches him step forward and take the end she’s offering, she can’t hear anything but her heart pounding so loud it sounds like it’s coming from inside her brain. She’s silent, watching him the way a prison guard surveys a death row inmate, and there isn’t a single echo of a sound in the room. The man calling himself Steve wraps the lasso around his wrist, and Diana is reminded of a time so many years before when he’d promised he was taking her to the front.
“My name is Steve Trevor,” he says firmly, returning her gaze without looking away. “I don’t know where the hell I am, but I’ve been worried sick about you.”
“How are you here?” she demands. Her eyes flick down to the lasso and catch its gentle glow. If he were lying, he’d be in much more pain, but as far as she can tell, the man isn’t in pain at all. He seems apprehensive, but he’s clearly not hurting from the lasso compelling him to spit out a truth he’s fighting to keep inside. As much as she dares not hope for it, she starts to wonder if he’s telling the truth.
“I don’t know. Last thing I remember is being in a plane. Some details are a little fuzzy, but I remember the plane, and then I woke up, and I was here,” he says. Then he glances over at Bruce and nods in his direction. “He wouldn’t tell me anything about what was going on until you got here. Said he owed it to you.” He pauses. “He’s a little intimidating.”
“Amanda Waller had him,” Bruce interjects. “He’s been kept underground and off the grid for a long, long time. Alive but in a coma. Then earlier this week, he regained consciousness, and Waller alerted me.”
“Why did Amanda Waller have him?” Diana asks, turning away from Steve to look at Bruce and read his face. Bruce has his arms folded over his chest, and he doesn’t look particularly enthused by the current situation, but he also doesn’t look at Steve as though Steve’s a potential bad guy. For Bruce, that’s a compliment and speaks volumes.
“Amanda Waller has a lot of things I wonder that same question about,” Bruce drily answers. “But she knew who he was. She had his file and knew of his connection to Wonder Woman, and so she contacted me where I then arranged for his transportation to Gotham.”
“I’m sorry, but I’m not quite following,” Steve says loudly to catch both of their attentions. “Can someone tell me in explicit terms what’s going on?”
“I watched you die.” Diana looks at him and feels her chest ache in a way she hasn’t allowed it to in years. Ever since she’d walked in that room and seen his face, she’d been numb. But as she looks at him and sees how Hestia’s lasso is only giving her the truth she’d been so afraid to believe, she feels a deep ache akin to the grief she’d experienced when she’d lost him 100 years ago. “You went up in that plane and sacrificed yourself so that millions could live. You cannot be here.”
“Diana…I don’t know what to tell you,” Steve says with a bewildered and slightly helpless look on his face. God, that face. She’s pictured that face so many times in the past century since his death. From her childhood all the way up through to the present, she’s always prided herself on her acute memory, but as she looks at Steve now, she realizes she’d forgotten so many details that are now so glaringly in her face, she doesn’t know how she could’ve ever forgotten them in the first place. Like the way the corners of his eyes crinkle whenever he squints his eyes in disbelief. Or the way he quickly licks his lips when he’s buying time to come up with something to say. How could she have forgotten any of this?
“You’re supposed to be dead,” she says with conviction, as if the number of times she repeats it has any kind of control over how reality will play out. Will correct itself.
“The lasso’s telling the truth.” Bruce takes another step toward her. “Diana. You can trust what you’re seeing in front of you. Please know that I would never have called you here and made you face this pain if I weren’t 100% sure that this is Steve Trevor. The same one you knew.”
Diana’s head snaps in his direction, and her eyes grow heated with that dark fire they get whenever she’s angry but trying to contain her anger. “How long have you known? How long have you had him here?”
“A week,” Bruce replies. Even without the lasso around him, he knows better than to try to lie to Diana, especially since this lie would be told only to spare her feelings. He has far too much respect for her to do that. “I’ve kept him sedated while I completed my tests. It was much safer to do that than risk him being a flight risk.”
“I would’ve been a flight risk,” Steve confirms, blurting the statement out due to the lasso’s influence. “I’m still thinking of running, but the only reason I haven’t is because you’re here. I’m also very confused over what’s going on, and still no one’s giving me answers, which quite frankly, is seriously starting to irk the hell out of me.”
Diana stares hard at him, and for a moment, it looks as though she’s about to snap, but then she lets out a breath and slowly goes to undo the lasso. Glancing over at Bruce, she starts unwrapping Steve. “How much have you told him?”
“Nothing,” Bruce bluntly answers.
“No surprise there,” Diana mutters under her breath. Once she has the lasso off of Steve completely, she doesn’t speak. She doesn’t move toward him or away from him. She just looks at him with silence in her throat and on her face. If Steve has anything to say, he doesn’t. Instead, he simply stares back at her with a mixture of emotions all over his face.
His face. Steve’s face.
Suddenly, Diana blinks hard as she feels hot tears fill her eyes, and she presses her lips together into a hard line to fight the emotions back. She’s had many opportunities to think back to certain moments from years past and how she would redo them now, but she’s never allowed herself to think about what she would’ve done differently for Steve. Thinking about “what ifs” that had to do with him had always been too painful, and so she’d locked those wandering questions deep in her heart with the hope that maybe they’d dehydrate and die for good in there. But as she looks at him, as she looks at the face she thought she’d never get to see again, she realizes that the biggest possible “what if” she ever could have dreamed up is standing in front of her.
Before she can stop herself, she reaches up with one hand to touch his cheek. Her fingertips lightly ghost over his skin, and she nearly gasps when she feels how warm—how alive he truly is. Steve closes his eyes at her touch and leans his cheek into her palm before turning to kiss the heel of her hand.
“Diana,” he says quietly.
Diana swallows and blinks again. “It’s you. It’s really you.”
“Yeah. It’s me. I just…what’s going on? Can you tell me that?” Steve’s eyes search her face for any kind of answer he can get just from looking at her. “What about the War?”
“What happened with the plane? What do you mean when you say you saw me die?”
“Steve…” Diana starts again, and this time she puts both hands on his face as she looks into his eyes. “Steve. The War is over. It’s been over for a long time.”
Those little crinkles in the corners of his eyes return as he squints at her to try to understand what she’s saying. “A long time? What are we talking here—a month? Two months? Three months?”
Diana takes a breath. “One hundred years.”
Steve blinks quickly, and he stares at her in complete confusion. “Wait…wait, what? You were serious? What are you—“
“The War ended in 1918. The same year you died, the very day you died. And now it’s 2018, a full 100 years from the last time you were conscious.
Steve stares at her. Briefly, Diana wonders if this is how he’d felt on Themyscira when he’d learned that the Amazons didn’t know what the War was, let alone the Germans. He looks over at Bruce and then back to her, and he shakes his head a little bit.
“Steve…Steve, talk to me,” she pleads, stroking his cheek without even realizing it as she looks up at him with huge worried eyes. It’s been so long since someone has been worried about him, she realizes, since everyone who had known him is now dead. Everyone except for her.
Steve sucks in a breath, and then he lets it out. “Oh, shit.”