A single one
“Diana, you know that I speak the truth.”
Diana looked at her Magic Sphere impatiently. Her mother was sitting serenely in the Palace gardens on Paradise Island, and she dearly wanted to shake that serenity out of her.
“Steve and I had plans this weekend.”
“Then you will have to delay them. Diana, I do not ask this on mere whim. As my heir, you should be present at an Amazon wedding unless answering an emergency. Shall I expect you?”
Diana sighed. “Yes, Mother.”
“Very well. I shall see you soon.”
The mirror’s image waved and shimmered until Hippolyta was gone. Diana picked up her cellphone and dialed a familiar number. “Steve? Diana. I am afraid I am going to have to return home this weekend. No, everyone is fine. There is a wedding this weekend and I must help Mother officiate. I may not be able to get back by Sunday evening, but I will do my best.” Diana smiled softly. “Thank you, my darling, I appreciate your understanding, as always. I love you.”
& & & & & &
“I love you, too, Angel.”
Steve flipped the phone shut and sighed. He had expected that an emergency with the JLA or something similar would have torpedoed their plans for Valentine’s Day, but a wedding on Paradise Island? He hadn’t expected that.
Well, maybe Diana could be back by Sunday night, and they could still go out to dinner, or order pizza in and enjoy an evening in if it was too late.
He’d keep his reservations at the restaurant just in case.
“Yes, Etta?” He looked up as the redhead poked her head in through the doorway.
“You’ve got a meeting in Room 21 in ten minutes.”
“Thanks.” He went to the men’s room, combed his hair, and gathered his papers back in the office. He put on his cap and picked up his briefcase and left his office.
& & & & & &
Steve was grateful that the meeting at least had been interesting. It kept his mind off Valentine’s Day and the possibility of spending it alone. Sure, it was just a day, and some said it was Hallmark-created, but he didn’t care. He and Diana had always celebrated ever since she had been in Man’s World, and they always had enjoyed it.
As the meeting broke up he talked to a junior lieutenant about the next meeting time, and the young man scurried off to talk with another group. Steve pushed his papers into a neat pile and transferred them to his briefcase. He moved toward the door, pausing when he heard voices out in the hall.
“How he can stick with a woman who’s almost as strong as Superman is beyond me.”
“Have you seen her?”
“Yeah, I know, great bod, but she must want to take charge in the bedroom. How can a self-respecting red-blooded male put up with that all the time? Once in awhile’s all right, but she doesn’t strike me as one who’s likely to let him take the lead.”
“He is a pilot, and pilots are awfully headstrong.”
The first man snorted. “His balls got cinched in that Amazon lasso…”
Steve emerged from the conference room and the gossipers abruptly shut up. His eyes were chips of ice-blue.
“Did you gentlemen have any questions to ask me?”
“No, why, Steve?” asked Ken, a brunette Army major.
“I heard my name and Diana’s.”
Colonel Ernie Bach, a dark-haired Air Force officer, smirked. “You heard right.”
“Now, Steve…” Ken said, nervously shifting his grip on his briefcase handle.
A third man watched the other three quietly, his green eyes glinting as brightly as his silver Air Force wings.
“Hey, the man said he’s open to questions.” Bach cocked his head. “How does it feel to be in a relationship with a woman who could put you through a wall?”
“No different than if a woman was in a relationship with Superman.”
Bach snorted. The green-eyed man shook his head, and Steve remembered his name as Major Winkler.
“It’s different,” Bach said.
“No, and since I’m the one in the relationship, I think my words have some weight.”
“C’mon, Trevor. Do you really expect us to believe that going out with an Amazon is business-as-usual? Sure, she’s gorgeous, but even that wears thin when she bosses you around, especially in the bedroom.”
Steve hoped his fair skin wouldn’t betray his emotions, but he could feel a blush creeping up his face, hot and fast. Bach smirked.
“You don’t have a clue as to what I have with Diana,” he said, trying to keep calm. He shouldn’t have engaged Bach in this conversation at all. His private life should be just that, private, but he’d been so fed up…
“Oh, I think I do. She’s an Amazon who comes from an island of women who hate men. The only reason she lets you in her bed is if you play nice and do what you’re told. She likes turning things around and rescuing her damsel-in-distress here in Man’s World and keeping a pretty blond thing on her arm for special occasions.”
Ken’s jaw dropped and even Winkler looked surprised.
“You seem to have all the answers, don’t you, Colonel?” Steve tried to keep a tight rein on his temper. All he needed was to get into it with a superior officer.
“Hey, I just tells it like I sees it, Trevor. It’s one weird relationship, if you ask me.”
Steve walked closer to the other man. “Well, Colonel, no one did.” His glare was hard as sapphires, then he turned on his heel and walked away.
Back in his office he nearly flung his briefcase across the room. How dare that smirking, sniggering sonofabitch pontificate on what he thought his relationship was with Diana! Like a man like him could ever interest a woman like her!
He flung himself in his chair and rubbed his eyes, trying to calm down. He could feel a headache coming on, and he’d be damned if he let someone like Ernie Bach cause him to be sick.
The door opened and Etta asked worriedly, “Are you all right, Steve?”
He looked up and smiled faintly. “Just a little tired, is all.”
“Would you like something from the vending machine? Diet Coke or something?”
“Thanks, that sounds great.”
She closed the door and he sighed. Understanding of what he and Diana shared was not universal by any means. His family was delighted, and friends like Hal understood, because the superhero community were accustomed to all kinds of couples that ‘regular’ society considered odd, but even then, sometimes Steve wondered if they truly understood.
He knew that the Amazons didn’t in any way, shape, or form.
Sometimes he felt as if he and Diana were two against the world.
& & & & & &
Diana smiled as the procession headed toward the Temple of Aphrodite. She and her mother were standing on the Temple steps in their finest regalia, crowns glittering in the morning sun. There was no armor or swords for this ceremony, at least not at the moment. Flowers were entwined in their hair and around their bracelets as they waited for the wedding couple to arrive.
Flowers were strewn in their path as Dalia and Kirla held hands. Dalia was a tall redhead who ranked only behind Hippolyta, Diana and Artemis as Warriors, and Kirla was a vivacious blond who was further down the Warrior ranks but unparalleled as an Amazon cultural historian and archeologist. Both were beaming with happiness.
Diana smiled. She knew both women well, and was happy for them. Her mother was serene but smiled, too.
“Greetings, Sisters. We will now enter the Temple of Aphrodite and you shall be wed.”
The procession followed Diana and Hippolyta as they turned and went up the steps into the Temple, the cool marble interior always beautiful, the giant statue of Aphrodite dominating the golden altar. Flowers were entwined around the pillars inside and out, and bedecked the marble statue. The flower women strewed more blossoms on the altar steps.
Diana picked up the scroll from the altar and Hippolyta grasped the athame, a short ceremonial dagger. The Queen lifted it up and began her recitation, “In the name of Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, do thee speak thy love to one another?”
“We do, Queen,” Dalia and Kirla said in unison.
Hippolyta touched each woman’s shoulder with the athame, then gave it to Diana, who handed her a long garland of flowers. Hippolyta took the garland and wound it around the joined wrists of the women, and Diana intoned from the scroll, “May you always remain true to each other, and love with all your hearts.”
Remaining true was not the same as in Man’s World, Diana reflected as Hippolyta continued to wind the flowers around. Amazons contracted their marriages for a certain length of time, and discussed whether or not they would have open marriages. Immortality required that options stay open to avoid boredom.
Perhaps someday Diana would broach such an arrangement with Steve, but for now, she was content to stay committed to only him.
Hippolyta took her special sword used for weddings only, and thrust it up in the air.
“Athena, bless this union with your sister Aphrodite, and may these two love with joy, in body and soul!”
A cheer went up from the watching Amazons, who could hear the ceremony even though they all couldn’t fit into the Temple. Diana hugged the brides, and then they were off to the wedding banquet.
& & & & & &
The banquet hall was filled with music, dancing, and good food. Diana sipped her wine from a golden goblet and watched as the bridal couple danced in the center of the marble floor, graceful and with eyes only for each other. She took a bite of mango, appreciating the juicy sweetness as she reveled in the joy of her sisters. She and Hippolyta were at the head table and had a good view of everything.
Her mother was talking with Paula, and Artemis slipped into the empty seat next to Diana vacated by one of the brides.
“Always lovely to see a wedding, eh?”
Diana nodded. “It seems no matter what culture, the basics are the same.”
Artemis snorted. “You mean that in Man’s World, the bride is more than property?”
“Yes, Artemis. In most cultures.”
“But in others?”
“Unfortunately, the old ideas still exist.”
Artemis huffed. “I do not know how you stand living in the outside world, Diana. Here all is equality and peace.”
Diana smiled at her fellow Amazon. “And here I thought you have complained that it can be too peaceful?”
Artemis laughed, tossing her dark-red hair back. “True, but we always end up in some fight or another, so I am not too bored.” Her green eyes glittered. “Perhaps you will be one of the brides soon?”
Diana raised an eyebrow. “I am happy with my relationship at present.”
“I do not mean with your ‘boy toy’.” Artemis was smugly satisfied with her use of the slang term. “I mean with one of us. At least for a time. Then you can choose another, and so on.”
Diana smiled as she sipped her wine. “My love for my sisters is true, but not in that way. I have a soulmate already.”
Artemis rolled her eyes. “That does not count.”
Diana laughed. “You are consistent, Artemis! But Steve does count. I am sorry you do not appreciate his many good qualities, but someday you will.”
Artemis snorted. “I believe that mortals have a saying, ‘Do not hold your breath’.”
Diana laughed again. She could have gotten irritated by Artemis’ attitude, but she was in too good a mood. As she returned her attention to the brides, a wistfulness did pass through her heart.
She would never be allowed to wed Steve here on Paradise Island, but there was always Man’s World if she made that decision.
She suddenly wished that she was back in Boston, preparing for Valentine’s Day.
& & & & & &
Steve sighed. It was getting late. He’d cancelled the reservation for the restaurant, opening it up for another couple, and had changed into jeans and a T-shirt. He rested his feet on the coffee table in front of the fire. Still cozy, but no Angel.
Well, she did have obligations. Being a Princess meant endless ceremonies and responsibilities, and she did get out of most of them with her work as Wonder Woman. He couldn’t fault Hippolyta for summoning her.
He wondered what an Amazon wedding was like. He’d have to ask Diana when she got back for details.
The old melancholy settled in his chest. He would never see his lover’s home up close. He would never set foot on Amazon soil and marvel at the buildings or enjoy a swim in the waterfall, which all sounded beautiful from Diana’s descriptions. Yet any female who wanted to and was granted access could visit.
He sighed. He supposed he shouldn’t feel too badly. After all, being barred from places was what women in Man’s World encountered all the time. Less often now in American society, but there were still men who wanted to bar women from clubs and associations even today.
Forget certain other countries that treated women worse than Americans treated their pets.
The heart-shaped box of chocolates was on the kitchen counter. He had manfully restrained from sampling any until he could give them to Diana. Grinning, he decided he should get a medal for self-denial.
His smile faded as he gazed into the fire, watching the flames leap and waver. He thought back to the run-in he’d had with fellow officers a few days ago and felt his stomach clench.
They were clueless about the relationship he enjoyed with his Angel!
He did have to let her take the lead often, but didn’t that just make sense? She had powers that rivaled Superman’s! How could he compete with that?
The solution was: he didn’t.
He was happy to complement her in ways that were useful. He was skilled in flying, shooting, and other ways of war. He could even be diplomatic when he had to. Certainly a less mortal man would be a better match for her, and that bothered him when he was at his most tired or frustrated sometimes, but he knew that they had qualities together that no one else did.
They understood each other, without words and with just a touch. They were happy together while on a mission or sitting quietly on this couch in front of the fire. Each delighted in learning about the other, and making love was almost a religious experience, though not quite. He grinned.
He closed his eyes, resting his head back against the couch. He could feel the warmth of the fire on his skin, and he started to drift off, dreaming of his Angel showered with pink rose petals and looking as beautiful as Aphrodite, long, dark hair flowing over her breasts and her blue eyes sparkling with mischief...
Fingers brushed lightly over his brow.
“Beloved,” came the soft whisper.
He opened his eyes and smiled.
Diana kissed him, and he murmured, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
“Happy Valentine’s Day, my love.”
He put his arms around her as the fire danced merrily in the hearth.