Chapter 1: Ashes-To-Ashes...
Diana is so very tired...
Diana sat down on the boulder, feeling every one of her thousands of years.
She shaded her eyes against the sun. It was a weak sunlight, but bright enough to disturb her eyes. She reached down and scooped up a handful of dust, its fine grains slipping through her fingers.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…
The beautiful, blue-green world of her youth was long gone. As the sun weakened, so did Earth, and Gaia was gently preparing her for the end.
Not that the end would come for another few million years, but Diana could wait. She would chronicle the end of Earth as she had chronicled so many other civilizations, her task of Watcher overshadowing Warrior.
Diana was dressed in her old costume. She hadn’t worn it in centuries, instead figuring that the white filmy silk would be more befitting a Watcher. Star-spangled panties and a golden eagle on one’s bodice tended to attract attention.
She didn’t know why she had donned the old costume. Using a gift from Athena, she had been able to preserve the fabric and accessories from crumbling to dust.
But she couldn’t prevent Earth from doing the same.
Her old home was gray and lifeless, sparkling water now more clouded than clear, greenery brittle and dull. The once-white buildings were crumbling unto dust.
The sky was a hazy blue, the day overcast due to the fading sun. No more sun as gold as blond hair…
She was weary, so very weary. The optimism that had kept her going for so many years was fading away like the sun. The loneliness that broke her heart was slipping away, too, leaving her with a dull, hollow feeling.
She had lived too long, seen too many loved ones die, seen too many civilizations rise and fall. How many battles had she fought, how much blood had she spilled, how many memories were starting to dissolve like an ancient book’s pages at a mere touch?
Immortality wasn’t a blessing.
It was a curse.
She had no tears left to shed. She had cried when her old friends and comrades had fallen in battle or died of old age peacefully in their sleep. Bruce and Clark, the other two of the Trinity, had been among the first. Dick had been with them, fitting for the relationship they had shared, and their deaths had stunned the superhero community and the world. She missed Clark’s gentle heart, Bruce’s keen intelligence, and Dick’s brilliant smile. In the course of life and crimefighting, she had lost many others.
Diana watched as a scraggly bird flew across the leaden sky. The living creatures left on the planet would die off eventually as their food sources became more and more scarce.
The Human creatures had died off long ago.
It wasn’t the end of everything, of course. Humans had seeded their race across the galaxies, planting new civilizations as they took a bold, prominent role in galactic politics.
There were races more savage, races more tolerant and accepting, races more creative.
No race had ever been as deep a wellspring of Love.
Throughout their evolution, Humans had discarded the negative forms of love: obsessive, hurtful, or suffocating. Love and its positives had gradually helped Humans to evolve into calm, cerebral beings who practiced the emotion in its purest form, leaving the messy passions behind.
Diana missed those messy passions.
When she had lost her mother and sister Amazons, she had felt the despair creeping around the edges. They had fought bravely, but magical means had taken their lives, and the Gods and Goddesses had welcomed them to Olympus.
All the losses had hurt, and the one loss that had nearly broken her had come very early in the long litany of loss.
Steve Trevor, the man she had loved at first sight, had died in her arms, shaking fingers touching her face as he smiled at his Angel, the final battle at her side taking him away from her.
She had loved in the centuries since his death. She had even made love with others, as eternal celibacy had not suited her.
But she had never been in love ever again.
She dreamed of him. She thought she heard his voice now and again. She remembered a strong, perfect body, a mouth that curved in a lovely smile, blue eyes the color of clear sapphires, and the shining blond hair. She remembered a wry sense of humor and courage and tenderness. She remembered a man considerate of her Amazon heritage and hurt that the same heritage forbade him from stepping foot in the home of her birth, or made him a target of her mother’s scorn, but he welcomed her, bringing her home to meet his family, and loving her with body and soul on long, lazy nights or days of simple happiness.
Clark, Dick, and Bruce had found soulmates among the three of them.
She had only one, but he had been more than enough…
& & & & & &
“So, Diana, are you going out with Steve to the movies tonight?”
Diana finished rolling up her golden lasso. “I am.”
Dick grinned. “Are you going to make out up in the balcony?”
She grinned back. “Is that all you think about, Dick? Groping and making out in the dark?”
Dick’s eyes sparkled as he slid his lenses back in his mask. “I’m a healthy, 19-year-old man, Diana. What do you think I’m going to think about?”
“Yeah, and he beds the two most famous heroes of them all,” Hal said as his lantern materialized for re-charging. “How’d you get so lucky, kid?”
“I eat right and sleep well.”
“Sleep is right,” Hal snorted.
The JLA headquarters was quiet, no missions pending and everyone going about their business. Dick had come up to the satellite station with Bruce, who was talking to Clark while the Kryptonian was on monitor duty. Diana could see why the two greatest heroes of this generation had fallen so hard for this young man, his energy and spirit rivaling the Gods themselves.
“Lucky guy,” Dick said with a smile as he winked at Diana.
“I consider myself fortunate as well.” Soulmates don’t grow on trees.
Bruce’s call turned Dick around. Clark was at Bruce’s side, and they were arguing over the tactics used in the last JLA battle. Dick walked over to both, listened intently, and then laughed. “Please, just kiss and make up, will you? And include me in that!”
Clark and Bruce stopped, looked at each other, then smirked and with a wink, both men swept out their capes and enfolded Dick, whose bright costume disappeared as he walked off with his lovers.
He has the strength to handle such two strong personalities, Diana thought, and Hal said, “When you find a soulmate, one or two, ya gotta hold on.”
Diana nodded. She decided to give Steve a call before lunch.
& & & & & &
The memory faded, but a tiny tendril of affection slid through Diana’s mind like a glittering gold strand.
Long after those days of happiness, she had thrown herself into spreading the Word of the Amazons, as the Universe needed more Love. She had even been a Green Lantern at one point, and had reigned as Queen on more than one world. As the centuries passed she had pulled away from direct participation, preferring to observe, pursuing her creative impulses and trying to live a contented life if not a happy one, becoming more Legend than flesh-and-blood.
She knew grief far too well.
And now, she had returned to the planet of her birth, recording its final days, and a tiny thread of fear ran through her as she tried to recall the voices and faces of her loved ones.
Had she lived so long that she couldn’t remember those gone for so many years?
The emptiness hollowed her from the inside out, the millenia scooping out memories and feelings and casting them on the winds as stars were born, died, and were born again.
She closed her eyes…
& & & & & &
“C’mon, Angel, race you to the water!”
Diana laughed and flew over the sand, following the well-sculpted body of her boyfriend as Steve ran to the ocean, plunging in with abandon as he laughed, too.
She hit the water and chased after him with powerful strokes, catching his leg and pulling him toward her. She noticed his blue eyes sparkling as he allowed her to reel him in, tangling them together and kissing her with a sweet contentment. Diana’s arms encircled her neck and they floated, diamond droplets on bare skin and Diana had never felt freer or happier in her life…
Chapter 2: Golden
Is Love really forever?
Diana sighed. She was daydreaming again. Or maybe she was asleep. It really didn’t matter, did it?
She opened her eyes and her breath caught.
“I…I haven’t dreamed you quite like this before.”
Steve laughed. His lemon-blond hair was brighter than the sun that was now weak and pale, his entire body radiating light. He wore a simple Greek tunic, golden sandals lacing his feet and legs. Golden bracelets encircled his wrists, and the golden belt was similar to the one that Diana wore.
“I’m not a dream, Angel.”
“Really?” For the first time in a long time, amusement filled her heart. “It’s okay, I’m used to you not being real.”
Steve’s eyes were soft with love. “Has it been so long that you don’t recognize me, Beloved?”
Her insides shivered at the term. He had long ago adopted that term that she had always used for him, mixing it with his favorite endearment for her. In all these many, many years, she had never dreamed him using that term.
“I recognize your beauty, both inside and out.”
Steve’s smile was pleased. “You always were eloquent with words, Angel.” His smile faded. “I’ve missed you so.”
“I’ve missed you, too. Very much.”
Steve’s eyes took on a faraway look. “The afterlife is a funny thing. A thousand years can feel like a day, or it can feel like ten thousand years.” His golden eyes looked at her. “For me, it seems as if I left you just yesterday, and yet there are times when I feel as if a thousand millennia have passed.” His hand rested over his heart. “Heaven…or Olympus, or Valhalla, whatever you want to call it…can be a wondrous place, a joyous place, but there has always been a part of me missing.”
Diana wondered if she was finally going mad. Her daydreams were mostly memories, and now this golden Steve, as bright as her lasso, was talking as if he was real.
“Our friends and family are happy, though they miss you. Your mother, your sisters, friends like Clark and Bruce and Dick…”
“They’re well?” Diana asked with a hunger for knowledge.
Steve nodded. “All well. Your mother and sisters give us beauty and light.” He smiled. “Clark and Dick help power the suns, and Bruce the moons.”
Diana smiled at that thought. Of course.
“You’re still so beautiful. I’ve always loved you in that costume.”
Diana looked down. “I haven’t worn it in quite awhile, but it’s a good symbol. Eternal stars, soaring eagle, promise of freedom and a better future.”
Steve’s voice was drenched with admiration and affection. “You’ve served very well. You’ve fought, you’ve loved, you’ve seen and done so much, Angel. You’ve seen how the Human race has evolved and reached a peak of perfection, but it’s only the first phase.”
“First phase?” Diana frowned.
Steve nodded. “The first phase was for Humans to use their capacity for Love and to achieve that pure, dispassionate state of being, bringing other races along, using ourselves as examples. The Amazons were destined to be the purest of these, but plans changed.”
“Plans?” Diana laughed, the sound rusty, but whether dream or real, Steve always drew joy out of her. “Does everyone in Olympus sit around and draw up blueprints and agendas for eternal outcomes?”
Steve smiled again. “The Olympian Gods and Goddesses are impatient. They’re pleased that they’re remembered, and no doubt some would like to be worshipped again, but they have learned from our race as well.” He tilted his head. “Angel, haven’t you felt that something is missing now that the Human race is so cerebral and cool and calm?”
“Yes.” Diana crossed her arms. “But it’s probably for the good. When Humans engaged their passions, there was death and pain and violence.”
“What if our people could achieve pure Love, but with passion?”
Diana blinked. “How could they co-exist?”
Steve’s smile was amused and loving. “It’ll take a few thousand millennia, but it’s just a blink of an eye to some.”
Diana shook her head, slightly amused but saddened. “I’ll probably see that evolution, then.”
“No, you won’t.”
She snapped her head up. Steve’s golden/sapphire eyes were gentle as he reached out his hand.
“It’s time, love.”
Diana stared at him, then at his hand. The golden flesh was so very perfect…
“I’ve been sent to get you, Angel. You’ve served so well and so long. Our friends and families are waiting for you. They’ve missed you, too.” His voice grew softer. “You’re the other half of my soul. I’m tired of waiting.” He took her hand.
Tiny tingles of energy slipped through Diana’s hand, entering her body and making her feel more alive than she ever had. The world began to fade, the dull grays and browns melting into bright, rainbow colors. Her bone-deep weariness began to fade.
He reached out and touched the St. Christopher’s medal she wore around her neck, a gift to her from him so long ago. She reached out a trembling hand and touched the Medal of Athena, which she had gifted him at the same time.
“It’s time, Angel. Time to join us. Time to watch and aid the evolution that will bring so much to the Universe. Time to be One with me again.”
A silvery tear slipped down her face and melted into Steve’s golden finger as he touched her face. He drew her to him.
As Diana kissed her soulmate, breathing “Beloved,” both of them dissolving into golden light as they journeyed to her new home, she knew that Immortality was no longer a curse.
It was a Blessing.