Steve wakes up, gasping for breath, on the banks of a wide body of water, with an Amazon leaning over him. This seems...familiar somehow.
Unfortunately, the Amazon is not Diana.
“Good, you’re awake,” General Antiope says, leaning back so she’s not looming over Steve quite so ominously. “Can you stand?”
Steve blinks a few times, then hauls himself to his feet and brushes the sandy dirt from his battered clothes, staring in astonishment at his unmarked skin. “I - how am I alive?” he asks, baffled beyond measure.
“You aren’t,” General Antiope says bluntly. Steve gapes at her, then turns slowly to take in the strange land he’s washed up on. It looks like they’re in a cavern, one so wide that the far edges fade into mist, with a wide river running through it and a forest of dead trees and a plain of hip-high yellow grass that seems to go on forever.
“I’m not alive,” Steve says carefully. “Then - what - how -?”
“We’re in Hades,” General Antiope says, shrugging. “I hauled you out of the Styx. Seems the ferryman has given up on doing his job.” She waves a hand at the river, and Steve, staring, can see people in there, drifting just below the surface, eyes closed and oddly peaceful.
“We’re in hell,” he says, feeling ill.
“No,” General Antiope says irritably, “we’re in Hades. The realms of the dead. Not ‘hell.’”
“Oh,” Steve says meekly, and takes a deep breath. It sure feels like he’s alive. He can feel his heart beating. “So you clearly know a lot more about what’s going on than I do, ma’am. What do we do now?”
General Antiope sighs and rubs a hand over her face, looking suddenly very weary. “I’ve been looking for the rest of my warriors,” she says, “but - I think they’ve gone past already, or are too deep to see. You’re the first person I’ve recognized, and if you’re dead, I assume it’s been a while.”
“...Maybe four days?” Steve says, counting it up in his head. “There was the night we sailed to London, right after you - died, and then the next night we were in No Man’s Land, and then the one in Veld, and then I died.”
“How did you die?” General Antiope asks, settling to the sandy riverbank. Steve sits down a careful distance away from her. She’s pretty intimidating even if they are both dead.
“There was a - a plane,” he says slowly. “Like the one I crashed at Themyscira, but a lot bigger, and loaded with a gas that would have killed thousands and thousands of people. Diana had to kill Ares, but the plane had to be destroyed, so I - well. I took it up, and when I was high enough, I set the damn thing on fire. Went up pretty damn well, too. Didn’t hurt as much as I thought it might. Just - bang, and done.”
“That is a warrior’s death,” General Antiope says approvingly. “Perhaps not all of man’s world has fallen to faithlessness and cowardice.”
“Man’s world is at war,” Steve says, suddenly too angry to watch his tongue. “And of all your precious Amazons, the only one who would come to our aid was Diana. Don’t tell me your people are any braver than mine.”
General Antiope looks, for a moment, like she is about to spring to her feet and do her best to kill Steve all over again, and then she sags, and puts a hand over her eyes, and looks abruptly very old indeed. “Alas for the honor of Themyscira,” she says softly. “Diana went alone, then?”
“She came with me - broke me out, really,” Steve says, the anger draining out of him. “She - well - I think she won the war for us. I hope she did. She was fighting Ares when I died. She was - you woulda been proud of her, ma’am. She was magnificent.”
“I am always proud of Diana,” General Antiope says, and stands, offering Steve a hand up. He takes it, and tries not to be intimidated when she hauls him to his feet without visible effort. “She is the best of us.”
“She’s the best of anyone,” Steve says, quite sincerely, and General Antiope gives him an approving nod. “So. Other than sitting by the river waiting for people we know to float by, is there anything else we should be doing?”
“In the old days, before the gods went to war,” General Antiope says slowly, “the dead were brought before Hades and Persephone to be judged, and sent to their proper fate. Most went to the Asphodel Meadows, which you see there - the lands for those who were neither very virtuous nor very cruel, but only human. The finest warriors and those mortals who had won great renown or showed great virtue went to the Fields of Elysium; and those whose actions had displeased the gods were sent to Tartarus to be punished. You and I, I should think, ought to be sent to the Elysian Fields - dying to spare the lives of thousands is certainly suitably heroic -”
“So’s dying to save Diana,” Steve says, nodding firmly, and General Antiope grants him a crooked little smile.
“As you say. But Hades and Persephone almost certainly died in the war between the gods. If they yet lived, well, I can’t imagine they’d let the Styx get so untidy.” She shrugs. “Still, the palace of Hades is probably the best place to start looking for - anything. It will be in the center of the underworld. Let’s go.”
Steve shrugs, and for lack of any better idea, falls in beside her as she heads into the grasslands, aiming for the center of the immense cavern and whatever they will find there.
Steve has no idea how long they’ve been walking. The sourceless, misty light never grows brighter or dimmer, his body never grows weary, and his watch - his watch is with Diana, back in the living world. The grasslands are utterly featureless, all the grass nearly the same height, the same yellowed color; and the faint line of the dead forest along the edge of the grasslands doesn’t seem to be getting any farther away. Steve holds out just as long as he can before he has to do something to break the dreadful stifling stillness of the silence.
“Tell me about Diana?” he asks hopefully. “About - what she was like as a kid, maybe?”
General Antiope gives him a thoughtful look. She has a handful of long grass stems, and is plaiting them as she walks, adding a new stem in whenever one comes up short; already she has several coils of grass rope looped around one arm. Steve isn’t sure if it’s meant to be a weapon or just something to do, and is contemplating imitating her, just to alleviate the boredom. “Diana was...reckless,” General Antiope says at last. “Very reckless. She had no fear of anything - heights, or horses, weapons, injury - me.” She smiles. “She wished above all to be a warrior, and pestered her mother endlessly for permission to train; and then, when I began training her, she worked so hard it worried me a little. Not that I told her so.”
Steve can’t help laughing a little. “Yeah,” he says. “That’s Diana. She charged a machine gun emplacement with nothing but her shield. Drew all the fire off the rest of us - god, she was amazing, you should’ve seen it.” General Antiope is looking at him oddly. “What?”
“You do not -” General Antiope hesitated, seeming to search for the right word. “You do not mind. That she is - stronger, faster, better.”
“Than I’ll ever be, you mean?” Steve asks, grinning. “No. Her mother was quite right, I don’t deserve her - none of us do - but just getting the chance to be with her - to see her, to follow her - god, I’d give anything to be there again. She’s - she’s an angel.”
“She is a demigoddess,” General Antiope corrects him, smiling that crooked little smile again. “Perhaps more, if she has accepted her birthright and defeated Ares. And yes, it is the greatest honor any mortal could have to follow her.” She turns and looks Steve up and down, and then steps forward, frowning, and how a woman six inches shorter than he is can seem to loom over him, Steve would give quite a lot to know. “Did you dare to lay hands on her? On my niece, the hope of the world?”
“Um,” says Steve, wondering how much being killed again is going to hurt. “It was really more her laying hands on me?” General Antiope’s glare gets even harsher, if that’s possible. Steve gulps. “I swear on - on the lasso of painful burny truth, I did nothing she did not ask me to. She chose me, god knows why, and I -” he breaks off, blushing, but General Antiope steps back, nodding slowly.
“You followed,” she says, sounding like she understands a lot more than Steve said.
“Yes,” Steve agrees, and General Antiope looks him over slowly, as though she’s trying to see why Diana chose him, of all the men in all the world, and then she shrugs a little.
“Diana knows her own mind,” she says, and turns away, heading into the grasslands again. Steve falls in beside her, matching his stride to hers. “If she chose you, she had a reason.”
“I am above average,” Steve says, hoping to earn a laugh, and gets a very dubious look instead.
“Pity man’s world, then,” General Antiope says, very dryly, and Steve gapes and then squawks indignantly, and General Antiope’s lips quirk in that crooked little smile.
Steve is pretty sure that if he had his watch it would inform him that he’s been walking for the better part of a week - he doesn’t get tired, but he does get bored, and he and Antiope have exhausted pretty much every conversational topic he can come up with, right down to a really nonsensical debate over whether baby sloths or baby otters are more adorable (otters, clearly) - when finally the endless grassland stops, quite abruptly, and they come stumbling out onto ground covered with thick moss. The ground slopes uphill from the edge of the grasslands to a wide, paved plateau, and in the middle of that rises a palace all of white marble, like a great shining tomb.
“...How in hell did we not see that from miles away?” Steve asks, gaping.
“Godwork,” Antiope says, grimacing. “The Asphodel Meadows are endless, at least while you’re in them.”
“That’s...I am glad we’re out of them, then,” Steve says, stepping carefully farther away from the waving grass. “So that’s the palace of the king of the dead.”
“And his queen,” Antiope agrees. “Let’s go.”
“Out of curiosity,” Steve says, following her up the slope, “how likely is Hades to have left some sort of nasty trap for nosy parkers like us?”
“Not very likely,” Antiope says, shrugging. “Hades was the least vicious of the gods. Cold, but fair.”
“Good to know,” Steve says, thinking that that describes Antiope pretty well, too.
The paving stones are slick beneath his boots, from what Steve suspects is thousands of years of people walking on them, and he has to concentrate on not falling flat on his face, which would be embarrassing, so carefully that he’s genuinely surprised when they finally reach the steps to the palace. Steve stops and looks up - and up, and up. The facade looms above him, seeming to touch the ceiling of the cavern. “Impressive,” Steve says faintly, and the word is swallowed up by the palace walls.
“Yes,” Antiope agrees, and leads the way up the steps. The great doors stand open - Steve thinks they might be ebony, stark black against the white of the palace walls - and Antiope walks into the palace with her head high and her shoulders back, proud and unafraid. Steve does his best to imitate her, while wishing fervently that this was a German camp to infiltrate or a war-torn patch of land to cross. Those, he’s trained for. This - well, for some reason no one ever told him how best to approach the hopefully empty palace of the king of the dead.
Antiope’s sandals make very little sound on the stone floor; Steve’s boots clatter more loudly than he’d prefer. The hallway leads deep into the palace, smaller corridors branching off it every few yards, but Antiope doesn’t turn aside, just heads straight down, unflinching as the shadows dance in the unlit corridors.
The hallway finally ends in a great, echoingly empty throne room. The only things in the room are a pair of enormous, beautifully carved marble chairs on a low dais at the far end. On one chair sits a small, formless dark shape that Steve, peering closely, eventually decides is a hat; on the other, red as blood, a pomegranate, its peel torn away to reveal the ruby seeds.
“Don’t touch them,” Antiope cautions him. “Mortals cannot safely handle the possessions of the gods.”
“Good to know,” Steve agrees, tucking his hands ostentatiously behind his back. “So. Um. Unless we managed to arrive right at tea-time, it looks like the gods are...not here anymore.”
“No,” Antiope agrees, frowning. “But someone has been keeping the palace tidy, and placed their objects of power on their thrones.”
“That,” says a voice from the doorway, “would be me.”
Steve turns slowly, trying not to look as startled as he is, to find a woman of indeterminate age watching them calmly. Antiope has one hand on the dagger at her belt. “And who might you be?” she asks tensely.
“Hecate,” says the strange woman. “Goddess of crossroads and necromancy. Among other things.”
“I thought all the gods were dead?” Steve says tentatively.
“Eh,” Hecate says, shrugging, “gods are dead, gods of the dead, it can get confusing. Ares certainly thought he killed me. Not the brightest candle in the stack, that boy. If you’re going to kill a tripart goddess, you need to do it at least three times.”
“I see,” Steve says, not at all sure he does. Antiope is relaxing a little beside him, though, her hand falling away from her dagger. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, ah, ma’am.”
Hecate laughs. “Very polite!” she applauds him. “Just call me Hecate. I don’t need all that bowing and scraping; I’m no queen.” She leans back against the doorway, looking them both over with clear interest. “It’s been a while since any dared to enter the palace. What brings an Amazon and a mortal man here together?”
“It’s a bit of a long story,” Steve says. “Is there maybe somewhere we could sit down? We’ve been walking for - a while.”
“Come straight through Asphodel, did you?” Hecate asks, amused. “Follow me, I’ve got a set of rooms just up the corridor. Mead?”
“Please,” Antiope says, starting to smile. “Mead would be lovely.”
“What’s mead?” Steve hisses as they follow Hecate into one of the side hallways and out into a small sitting room. Antiope smirks.
“Honey wine,” she says. “Probably too strong for mortal men.”
“I can hold my liquor,” Steve says indignantly, and then Hecate turns with two glasses of a faintly golden liquid and holds them out. Steve takes one and raises it politely to their host, then takes a sip, and feels his eyes go wide as the mead burns all the way down.
“...Let me amend that,” he says, a little faintly. “I can hold my liquor in man’s world.”
Hecate and Antiope both laugh, which is a victory of a sort. “Sit, mortal man, and tell me your tale,” Hecate says, offering him a glass of what is, on careful inspection, only water. Steve drinks deeply and gratefully, and sits. Antiope gestures to him.
“You tell it,” she says. “You are clever-tongued, and tell Diana’s tale well.”
“Thank you,” Steve says, genuinely touched by the compliment, and launches into the story.
“Huh,” Hecate says, leaning back in her chair, once Steve has finished his tale. “Zeus’s last daughter, risen at last in glory to slay Ares and end the gods’ war once and for all.” She hums a little, clearly thinking through the implications, then nods to herself. “Well, I’ve a bone to pick with Ares - it isn’t pleasant, being killed, even if I did recover - and if Diana has indeed slain him, I owe her something of a boon. But let us see if that is what happened, shall we?”
“How?” Steve asks, frowning in confusion, and Hecate laughs, and gestures to the far wall, where a sheet of polished silver turns the entire wall into a sort of mirror. Steve and Antiope both turn to blink at it, and Hecate snaps three words Steve couldn’t reproduce if he tried. The mirror goes dark for a moment, then clears to show - not the room with its three occupants - but the airfield where Diana finally cornered her great enemy. Steve watches, wide-eyed, as the scene plays out - there’s no sound, but it’s clear what’s happening. Diana fights Ludendorff, and kills him. Steve comes to find her, and they argue - Steve winces at the anguish on Diana’s face. Steve goes with his men to try to stop the plane, to keep the dreadful gas from being used.
Ares appears. Steve stares in horror as the god clearly taunts Diana, as her expression turns from horror to fear to agony to dreadful anger. Their fight spools across the mirror, blows that would kill any mortal man shrugged off as easily as feathers, and then, to Steve’s horror, Diana is pinned, held captive, while he himself takes the plane up and up and up -
The bright flash of light which is his death illuminates Diana’s face as she screams, and Steve reaches out towards the picture, yearning desperately to gather her into his arms and tell her he’s all right, he’s fine, he’s - well, he’s dead, but he’s not hurt.
And then Diana rises, blazing with power, and Steve watches with his heart in his throat as she bats away everything Ares can throw at her, as she absorbs the lightning, takes it into herself and takes control of it and sends it back tenfold, a hundredfold, and Ares dies in a blaze of light and fury, and Diana stands triumphant on the broken ground.
The image fades, and Steve slumps back in his chair, shaking. “My god,” he says hoarsely.
“Goddess,” Hecate corrects him gently. “Daughter of Zeus, wielder of the lightnings, last living child of the king of the gods. I suppose technically I owe her some sort of fealty, if I cared to go and swear it.” She smiles, broad and a little wicked. “Which I don’t. But I do owe her a debt, for she avenged my death and slew my killer. And the life of a goddess is not a small debt. So.” She taps a finger on her lips thoughtfully. “What would you give, mortal man, to be able to return to her side, even for a little while?”
“Anything,” Steve says without hesitation. Antiope gives him a very approving look.
“Hm,” says Hecate. “And you, Amazon?”
“I had a thousand years and more on Themyscira to watch her grow,” Antiope says, shrugging. “I died to save her, knowing that her destiny would call her forth, and now I have seen her fulfill it. If you can send but one of us again to Diana’s side, let it be the mortal man. I have taught Diana all I know, and may rest content that she has become all I ever dreamed that she could be; but there is unfinished business between Diana and her chosen lover.”
“Hm,” Hecate says again. “Very just and proper. Now here I come to a dilemma, for it would be far easier to send you back to your body, Amazon. I am the goddess of necromancy, after all; sending a soul back to its body is child’s play to me. But I can only use the body as it is; and yours is preserved most carefully by your grieving sister, while the mortal man’s is - well.”
“A cinder,” Steve says, and swallows. He hasn’t thought too much about it - about that moment of blazing pain before everything went black - and it makes him slightly ill to imagine what his corpse, if there even is one, might look like. He hopes suddenly that Diana doesn’t go looking for it. She doesn’t need that sort of pain.
“Yes,” Hecate says, looking slightly apologetic. “However. There is another way, and one which would perhaps please both of you, and would benefit me as well. It is, however, rather dangerous.”
“...How dangerous?” Antiope asks warily.
“There is a small but significant chance that either or both of you will perish utterly, even your souls dying,” Hecate says, shrugging.
Steve thinks about it. He can spend eternity in this bland, endless realm, waiting for Diana to die (god, what a horrid thought) and come to join him, or he can do something reckless and a little stupid and have a chance of rejoining Diana in the mortal world.
It’s Antiope, though, who says, “If we do nothing - if we only wait, as the dead have done for countless years -”
“You will never see Diana again, unless she comes alive to Hades to request some boon,” Hecate says. “She is a goddess. The gods do not have souls, as mortals do; they are what they were made to be. So when they die, there is nothing to come down to Hades and cross the Styx and join the throngs. Diana will live forever unless she is slain; but if she dies, that is an end to her forever.”
Steve clenches his jaw so hard it creaks, to hold in the cry of horror that tries to claw its way out of his chest. Antiope curls in on herself as though she has been struck, a gasp of pain rising from her throat. The thought of Diana not only dead but gone - gone forever - is so painful Steve wonders if he can die again from nothing but that.
“I am sorry,” Hecate says. “I thought you knew. That is why Hades and Persephone have not returned to take up their thrones again - and why Ares is not even now crossing the Styx in anger and dismay.”
Antiope straightens, putting her shoulders back with what looks like an effort. Steve slowly unclenches his jaw. “We did not know,” Antiope says. “But now we do. What is this other way you speak of?”
“What do you know of Hercules?” Hecate asks. Antiope gives her a dubious look. Hecate shrugs. “It is relevant, I assure you.”
“He was a demigod, right?” Steve asks, casting his mind back to a long-ago course on classical literature. “Had to perform twelve labors because he pissed off Hera, and then his wife killed him by accident?”
“He was burned on a pyre, and his mortal flesh perished, but his soul rose to Olympus to be made a god,” Antiope agrees. “He fell in the first battle of the war against Ares.”
“Well remembered,” Hecate says, nodding. “Then too there was Ganymede, who was a mortal youth given godhood when Zeus admired his beauty, and made cupbearer of the gods. And a few others. It is possible - not simple, nor easy, but possible - for mortals to step from their mortal flesh and join the ranks of the gods.
“You want us to become gods?” Steve blurts, eyes wide.
“The thrones of Hades have stood empty too long,” Hecate says solemnly. “The underworld has fallen into disarray. The dead cry out for justice, and for mercy. And in all the long years since the gods fell, I have never seen two mortals better suited to the thrones than you. Well. Mostly mortal, in your case, Amazon.”
“How?” Antiope asks. “Just as only a god can kill a god, only a god can make a god. And it was Zeus who deified Hercules and Ganymede both.”
“And Zeus is dead,” Hecate agrees. “Yet I believe it can be done. It will be hard, and painful, and it may well end with your true deaths, and your souls gone forever from the world - but if you succeed, you will sit upon the thrones of Hades, and you, mortal man, will have the right to go into the mortal world and join your goddess, six months in every year.”
Steve looks at Antiope, who gives him a long, dubious stare, and then he takes a deep breath and turns to Hecate and says, “I’ll do it. For a chance to be with Diana again - I’d do anything. So I’ll do this.”
“Yes,” Antiope says. “Very well. Tell us how to become gods.”
Etta is waiting for them on the dock when the ship finally reaches London. She comes hurrying towards them through the bustle, eyes bright, then stops a little ways away and looks the group over. Diana knows what she is thinking: Here is Diana, swordless but unscathed. Here are Charlie, and Sameer, and Chief. But there is someone missing.
“Etta,” Diana says softly. “I am so sorry.”
Etta presses a hand to her mouth, eyes bright with tears instead of joy. “You’re - you’re sure?”
“He saved us all,” Diana said, and holds out Steve’s watch, strapped to her arm, too large and unwieldy but precious nonetheless. “He - gave me this, before he went. He died a hero’s death. His name will be remembered.” The words seem somehow hollow, not enough - not nearly enough to encompass all that Steve Trevor was and could have been, the brightness that was blotted from the world when he died.
“Oh,” Etta says, and flings her arms around Diana. Diana embraces her in turn, careful to moderate her strength - she has already accidentally knocked a man across a room with a jovial backslap, and does not wish to damage any of the mortals who surround her. Etta weeps into the battered fabric of Diana’s borrowed coat, and something about those tears - unashamed and bitter and healing - seems to give permission for Diana to finally, finally weep as well. They stand there for a long time, clinging to each other as tears run down their faces, and Charlie and Sameer and Chief stand guard around them, looking uncomfortably out of their depth, until at last the first bitter wave of grief has passed, and Etta leans back to wipe at her wet cheeks and sniffle.
“Well,” she says, clearly trying to sound like her normal brisk self, “Steve told me to look after you, and I shall. Let’s get you back to my place, and find you a bath and some clean clothes, shall we, dear?”
“That would be very kind of you,” Diana says solemnly, and looks up at her companions. Sameer grins, irrepressible as ever.
“We’re off to find a pub and a barfight,” he says cheerfully. “We’re going to get very drunk toasting Steve’s name. You’re welcome to join us, if you like!”
“Thank you, but no,” Diana says, unable to suppress the smile that rises to her lips.
“Ah well,” Sameer says, shrugging, and leads the other two away. Diana looks down at Etta with a wry smile.
“Lead on,” she says. “A bath sounds very fine indeed.”
Baths in man’s world are not much like the glorious hot springs of Themyscira, but any warm water is better than none at all, and Diana immerses herself in the too-small tub with a long sigh of relief. Her hair is filthy, and her feet are caked with mud and blood and fouler things, and scrubbing herself clean takes quite a while and rather a lot of water, but when she is done she feels immeasurably better.
Etta has left a robe for her, rather too short but soft with many washings, and Diana wraps herself up in it gratefully and goes wandering out into the main room, where Etta is laying out a simple meal of bread and cheese and sliced meat. “It’s not much,” Etta says apologetically when she looks up to see Diana in the doorway, “but, well…”
“It is far better than the army rations I have been eating for the last week,” Diana points out, sitting down across from Etta with a smile. “My thanks.”
“You’re very welcome,” Etta says, beaming, and hands Diana a plate; and for a few minutes they eat in companionable silence. At last Etta leans back and says, carefully, “So will you be going back to - Themyscira, was it?”
“No,” Diana says sadly. “I am no longer welcome there, I think. I left - against my mother’s will.”
“Oh,” Etta says, frowning. “Well, we’re glad you came, at any rate. Steve - when he called, he said something about you charging a machine gun -”
Diana sighs. “Yes, I did that,” she admits, and finds herself telling the story of the last few days of the war to Etta’s wide and wondering eyes. She talks until she is hoarse, about the horrors of war and the dreadful moment when she thought she had killed Ares for nothing and the way Steve gave her back her hope. About the way Steve died, and in his last act of courage gave her the strength to rise up and strike down the god of war.
Etta is crying again by the end of the tale, and so is Diana, but they are good tears - healing tears. Somehow, the act of telling Steve’s friend about his death has made that death a little easier to bear. When the story is done, Etta wipes her face and blows her noise and loans Diana a handkerchief, and then asks, once they’re both tidied, “What will you do now?”
“I don’t know,” Diana confesses. “The war is over, and Ares is dead; slaying him was what I was created to do. But surely there is something I can do in man’s world which will be of use; and I should like to go to Olympus, I think, at some point. Perhaps I will learn something of my father there, my cousins and siblings, that is more accurate than the bedtime stories my mother told me while I was young.” She dredges a smile from somewhere. “And I should like to learn more about man’s world - about the world that made Steve Trevor who he was. About the many years of history which have passed Themyscira by, while the island lay sheltered by the fog.”
Etta nods, frowning a little. “Well,” she says, “I’ll be happy to help with that just as much as I can, but - well - you’re not wrong when you call it man’s world, you know, dear.”
Diana blinks at her. “What do you mean?” she asks carefully.
“Well,” Etta says slowly, “we women just recently won the right to vote - at least, those of us over thirty who own property, at any rate. Which - I do beg your pardon, dear, but I cannot for the life of me guess how old you are; you look very young, but -”
“I am as old as Themyscira’s sanctuary,” Diana says, “and at that I am the youngest of my people. We fled to Themyscira when Greece was still the greatest civilization in the world - well, in the world we knew. When we retreated to Themyscira, Archidamus of Sparta had just declared war on Athens, and Ares’ power had taken over all the world.”
“Archidamus of Sparta,” Etta says blankly. “I’m afraid I didn’t pay a great deal of attention in history class, dear; I haven’t the faintest idea how long ago that was. We may have to go visit the Reading Room to find out.”
“The Reading Room?” Diana asks eagerly. “What is that?”
“It’s the heart of the British Museum,” Etta says, beaming. “More books than you can shake a really big stick at, absolutely beautiful architecture - I have Steve’s pass, I can get us in without any trouble. I must admit I am simply dying of curiosity now!” She pauses, then frowns. “Still, Sparta going to war with Athens - that must have been at least two thousand years ago.”
“I would not be surprised,” Diana agrees. “We did not mark time on Themyscira - all seasons were alike, after all - but man’s world has changed so much, it must have been a very long time indeed.”
Etta frowns harder. “How on earth did you all manage to stay alive so long?” she asks. “And for that matter, how is it that you speak perfect English? I know they didn’t speak English back in ancient Greece.”
Diana smiles. “Oh, that is simple. When Zeus created Themyscira, he asked the goddesses to bless its inhabitants. Hestia gave us the Lasso of Truth, Athena the gift of tongues, Hera the golden apples of immortality, and so on.”
“Oh, naturally,” Etta says a little faintly. She shakes her head a little. “It’s - no offense meant at all, dear, but it’s really quite odd to us, hearing you talk about all these old gods like they’re - like they’re real.”
“But they are,” Diana says blankly. “Or they were, before they died. Why would that be strange?”
Etta blinks at her for a moment, then stands and retrieves a thick book from the shelf. “Because - well, because we’re taught there’s only one God, dear,” she says, handing the book to Diana. Diana opens it carefully. In the beginning, she reads, God created the heaven and the earth.
“Only one?” she asks. “But - how do you know which to pray to, then? And how can one god keep track of everything?”
“I think I had better find you a priest to answer that,” Etta says. “We can stop by my church tomorrow, if you like, and I’ll let Father Leatherman have theological debates with you.” She yawns. “But if you will forgive me, dear, I am exhausted, and tomorrow is likely to be another long day. Give me a moment to put fresh linens on the bed for you.”
“There is no need,” Diana says. “I sleep...very little, these days.” It’s one of the most jarring parts of having her divine heritage awaken in full force, actually: she sleeps perhaps two or three hours a night, and wakes utterly rested. “I shall rest on your couch when I need to, but I will not take your bed from you.”
“If you’re quite sure, dear,” Etta says dubiously, “then I bid you a good night.” She retreats into the bedroom, and Diana bends over the book in her hands. She reads swiftly, and if this book holds what the people of man’s world are taught about the gods, then Diana suspects she should acquire that knowledge as quickly as possible. It may well turn out to be very important indeed.
They do not end up going to visit Father Leatherman, nor the Reading Room, the next morning. Diana is already awake when someone pounds on the door to Etta’s flat, but Etta comes stumbling out of her room, bleary-eyed and scowling and wrapped in a voluminous robe, to yank the door open and confront whoever has dared to wake her.
“Beg pardon,” the young man in a neat military uniform outside the door says sheepishly, “but I’m looking for Diana Prince. She’s wanted at headquarters for a debriefing.”
Diana stands and joins Etta in the doorway. “I am Diana, princess of Themyscira,” she says. The young man’s jaw drops. “I will be pleased to speak to your generals. When shall I attend on them?”
“Ah, as soon as you can, please, ma’am,” the young man stammers after a moment. “Do - ah - should I wait and escort you there?”
“I know where she needs to go,” Etta says firmly. “Run along and tell your commanders that we’ll be there as soon as we’ve dressed and eaten.”
“Yes’m,” the young man says - he is barely more than a boy, really, if Diana has learned to read mortal ages aright - and salutes and goes trotting off again. Etta closes the door with a sigh.
“So much for getting a bit of a lie-in,” she says cheerfully, and then looks Diana up and down with a slight frown. “I don’t suppose that nice outfit Steve bought you survived the war,” she says dubiously.
“I am not sure where it is,” Diana says ruefully. “But I have my armor, and surely that is most appropriate when reporting to military commanders, in any case.”
“Ah,” says Etta, and blinks over at Diana’s armor, which Diana has cleaned and stacked neatly at the end of the couch. “...Perhaps with a cloak over it,” she concludes. “It is...not what we women here in man’s world wear, you understand.”
“Why not?” Diana asks. “Or - well - it is colder here than in Themyscira. But so few of the outfits that you and Steve offered me allowed any freedom of movement. Surely it is possible to be warm while being able to fight?”
“Well,” Etta says, “most of us don’t fight, dear.”
Diana blinks at her in astonishment. To be sure, all the soldiers she saw were men, but she had assumed, when she thought of it at all, that perhaps there were women’s regiments somewhere further along the line, or that women used different weapons, or - “Not at all?” she asks incredulously.
Etta sighs. “It’s considered rather vulgar,” she admits. “And most men don’t think we can, either, so we’re not taught to fight like men are. I can throw a punch - growing up with half a dozen male cousins is good for some things, at least - but it’s not...it’s not proper for a woman to fight. We aren’t like you, dear. We’re not…” she waves a hand as though to encompass everything about Diana. “Goddesses,” she finishes, tone almost sad.
“The women of Themyscira are not goddesses either,” Diana says. “Immortal, yes, but not divine - myself apparently excepted. Yet every woman of Themyscira can fight, and well. I will train you, if you like. There is no reason the women of man’s world cannot learn the same skills all my people master. I will train any woman who wishes to learn to fight.”
Etta’s eyes go wide. “Well, that will put a bee in some bonnets and no mistake,” she says. “Huh. I shall have to introduce you to a few ladies I know - suffragettes - I suspect they would be very happy to pay you for your time, if you would offer classes. Hm. But for right now, I suppose your armor will have to do; let me put together something for breakfast, and we’ll be on our way. Military men get ever so bent out of shape if you don’t hop when they tell you to.”
“So does my aunt,” Diana says, and is struck with another wave of nearly overwhelming grief. “So did my aunt,” she corrects herself, because Antiope is dead, is gone, will never again command Diana to repeat some training exercise or run the cliffs, never again teach Diana some new block or strike, never again tell Diana stories of the world-that-was and the monsters and heroes which roamed it.
Antiope is dead, and Steve is dead, and Hippolyta has forbidden Diana to return to Themyscira. Diana braces herself on the end of the couch, eyes blurring with tears, and takes a deep breath, letting the grief pass over and through her. She does not have time just now to wail and tear her hair and curse the dead gods for the lives which have been lost. There are still duties she must perform.
“Diana?” Etta asks, sounding worried, and Diana shakes herself a little and gathers herself together again, and manages to muster a smile for her friend.
“I am well,” she assures Etta, and takes up her armor, and retreats into the little lavatory to wash her face and put the armor on. She has a place to be, people to speak to, things to do. She looks at herself in the smudged mirror over the sink and nods firmly to her reflection. She will make her aunt proud of her. She will make Steve proud of her. She will honor their deaths in the best way she knows: by being the hero, the goddess that they died to defend.
“I am Diana daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus, princess of Themyscira, wielder of the lightnings, last of the gods,” she tells her reflection quietly. “I have slain Ares and freed man’s world from his corruption. I have ended the Great War. Now, I will learn to nurture peace.”
The room they are ushered into, in the military headquarters, is quite large; it has to be, because there are nearly a dozen men in heavily decorated uniforms scowling at Diana from behind a long table. Diana leaves her coat and shield with Etta, who pauses just inside the heavy door, and strides forward to stand proudly before the table, meeting the eyes of each man in turn. There’s a long, strained silence, and then, eventually, the man in the center of the table speaks.
“Who the devil are you?” he asks incredulously.
“I am Diana, princess of Themyscira,” Diana says calmly. That, at least, is still true, even if Themyscira is closed to her.
“And where is this mysterious Themyscira?” demands a man several places down the table to Diana’s left. Diana could easily be annoyed by the fact that they have asked her name without giving their own, but she is willing to wait a little while for courtesy, if she must.
“It is an island, and more I cannot tell you,” she says calmly. “Themyscira is not part of man’s world, and desires no visitors.”
One of the men down to her right starts to grumble, and another shushes him. The one in the middle, who has the most shiny decorations on his uniform, glares at his companions for a moment and then turns back to Diana. “None of us have ever heard of Themyscira,” he says, frowning.
“We have been concealed from man’s world since the year Archidamus of Sparta led a war against Athens,” Diana says calmly. “You would not have heard of us.”
“Archidamus of Sparta?” someone sputters from the far left end of the table. “But that’s - that’s - that’s the bloody Peloponnesian War!”
“Language,” the man next to the speaker admonishes him. “There are ladies present!”
“Beg pardon,” the man on the end mutters. Diana is going to have to come up with some sort of mental nicknames for them if this goes on too long - and if they continue to be so rude as to not introduce themselves. Very well, then; the one in front of her is Bluster, and the one who asked where Themyscira is is Rude, and the one who knows when Archidamus went to war with Sparta can be History, and the one who scolded him can be Finicky. They are not the politest nicknames, but that’s alright; she’s not going to say them aloud.
“Leaving aside, for the moment, the question of where precisely this mysterious Themyscira is, the reason we have summoned you here is that we have received a number of very remarkable accounts from the Front,” Bluster says. “You will give us a full account of your actions during the last days of the War, please.” The ‘please’ is purely perfunctory, but Diana lets that go, too; she is not here to pick a fight, after all, and discourtesy does her no harm. She plants her feet and puts her shoulders back and imagines that her aunt is standing in front of her, and gives a report as complete and comprehensive as General Antiope would expect. It takes quite a while, and more than once she hears Etta gasp sharply behind her, or sees the jaws of the men at the table drop in faintly amusing unison.
When she is done, there is a long silence, and then Rude says, “Balderdash. All of this - this poppycock we’ve been getting, this whole mad tale - you expect me to believe a woman could lift tanks? This is some sort of plot by the Kaiser, or -”
Diana steps forward and picks up the table in one hand, lifting it easily over her head and staring Rude in the eyes. His mouth snaps shut.
The table is a single slab of wood perhaps twenty feet long and quite thick, and to Diana it seems nearly as light as a feather - certainly nothing like as heavy as the tanks she threw at Ares. She stands there holding it for a long, long moment, while the men in their fancy uniforms goggle at her, and then, very gently, she puts it down again. Rude pushes back in his chair like he thinks she’s going to fling it at him, and then just sits there gaping at her while the rest of the men poke at the table in disbelief. At last History finds his voice, gasping, “What in God’s name are you?”
“I am a goddess, the last living daughter of Zeus,” Diana replies.
History makes a sort of strangled noise. Bluster, still staring down at the table as though it has betrayed him, blurts, “Then what do you want? What - what reward do you expect for saving us?”
Diana blinks at him. “None,” she says plainly. “I did not fight for a reward, but because Ares was loose in man’s world and needed to be stopped, lest his wars destroy you all. His death is all the reward I could desire.”
Etta coughs a little, and all eyes swivel to her. “While that’s very admirable, dear, perhaps these gentlemen would consider settling a - a pension on you?” she says delicately. “For services rendered to the country, and the world. Here in man’s world, you see, you need money to live on.”
Bluster looks almost relieved. “Yes, certainly,” he says, sounding like he’s on far sturdier ground all of the sudden. “Very practical, very sensible. Yes, we can certainly see about settling a pension on miss...ah…”
“Here in man’s world, let me be called Diana Prince,” Diana says. It is the name Steve gave her, and the name and the watch are the only things she has left of him; she will cherish them.
“Miss Prince, then,” Bluster says, nodding, and Finicky chimes in with a suggestion of how much this ‘pension’ should consist of, and in a moment they are all debating this apparently very important matter - all except for History, who rises from his place and comes around the table to speak with Diana privately, as his companions natter.
“What will you do now?” he asks quietly. “If you are a goddess, are you come to - to lead us? Do you desire temples, worship, sacrifices?”
Diana stares at him in surprise. “No,” she says. “I came to man’s world to defeat Ares, and now that he is dead, I desire only to - to nurture peace. To learn about man’s world, which has changed since my people retreated from it.” She shrugs. “And perhaps to visit Olympus, and learn more about my divine father.”
“I see,” History says slowly. “Well. We are not accustomed to goddesses come down to earth, you understand. We are not quite sure how to deal with it.”
“As far as I can tell, you are not quite sure how to deal with women, here in man’s world,” Diana says with some exasperation.
History snorts an undignified laugh. “Certainly not women like you,” he agrees. “But then, I am not sure there are any other women like you.”
Diana gives him a scathing look. “There are many, many other women like me,” she says. She’s not sure what else she would have added - probably something quite rude, really - when Bluster raps on the table to bring his compatriots back to order. History goes scrambling back to his seat.
“We have decided to settle an annual pension of five hundred pounds upon Miss Diana Prince, for her services to Crown and country,” Bluster declares. “To be deposited at Barclay’s in her own name.”
Diana glances back at Etta, who nods vigorously. “I thank you,” Diana says carefully. She has no idea how much five hundred pounds will buy, but if Etta thinks it suffices, then Diana is content. This is something Diana will have to learn to deal with, here in man’s world; Themyscira’s economy, such as it is, relies almost entirely on barter, and Diana has been given a shining coin to buy herself a treat only a few times in all her years. The wealth of Themyscira is its warriors and its safety, not its gold and silver.
“We will almost certainly have further questions for you in time,” Bluster continues, “but for today you are free to depart.”
Diana nods to them all, and does not salute them as she would General Antiope - they are not her commanders, they have no right to send her into battle - and takes her cloak and shield back from Etta, and heads out again into the grey chill of London. Etta looks up at her with wide eyes.
“You threatened the brass with a table,” she says.
“I made no threat,” Diana replies, shrugging. “I would not have done them any harm, unless they tried to do me harm.”
“I’m not sure they knew that, dear,” Etta says, shaking her head a little. “It will probably take them a few days to chew through everything you told them - and to get that pension sorted out - so what would you like to do until then?”
Diana hums thoughtfully. “I do wish to speak with your priests, and visit the Reading Room, and see more of London than its docks and its halls of power,” she says at last, “but - I think I will go to Olympus. I need to learn what it truly is to be a god.”
“Follow me,” Hecate says, and leads the way out of the palace of Hades and down a long, dusty road that winds alongside the Asphodel Meadows to the right and a field of short golden grass and beautiful trees to the left. “Elysium,” Hecate explains, waving a hand. “You’d probably end up there if there was someone on the throne to judge you.”
It looks...very peaceful, Steve thinks. There are people here and there, lying on the grass or sitting on the curving branches of the trees, some of them talking and laughing together and others by themselves. Their voices seem oddly muffled, as though there is some sort of invisible wall between the Elysian Fields and the road; and they pay no attention to Hecate and Antiope and Steve, even when the travelers pass very close by.
Steve has, of course, no idea how long they travel between Asphodel and Elysium - if he does become one of the gods of this place, he is putting in some sort of timekeeping device, even if it’s just a wristwatch for himself - and he feels another pang as he remembers that his watch is with Diana, if she hasn’t lost it, if it hasn’t broken - but eventually both fields come to an end, and the road dips suddenly to switchback down a cliff. Steve peers over the edge gingerly, and then wishes he hadn’t. It’s a remarkably long way down, though Steve isn’t generally bothered by heights, and from the distant ground rise shrieks and wails that are audible even up here.
“Tartarus,” Hecate says. “Where those who have done such foul things that the gods could not abide them spend eternity.”
“Eternity’s an awful long time,” Steve says tightly, as he follows the two women down the cliff road. “What does someone have to do to get stuck down here for that long?”
“Tantalus fed his son Pelops to the gods,” Hecate says, and Steve swallows hard. He hasn’t eaten anything in a while, but if he had, it would have come up again. “Pelops went straight to the Lethe as soon as he got sorted, but Tantalus has been down here a while.”
“Straight to the Lethe?” Steve asks, wanting desperately to get off the topic of child murder and cannibalism.
“The river of forgetfulness,” Antiope says. “Souls drink of the Lethe to forget their past lives, and go on to be reborn.” She shrugs. “Which we could do, instead of questing to become gods; but then we would not remember Diana.”
“Gotcha,” Steve says, and concentrates for a while on not falling down the rather steep road. At last, as they reach flat ground again, his curiosity gets the better of him and he asks, “So, what sort of punishment does feeding your kid to the gods get you?”
Hecate waves to one side, and Steve peers through the gloom to see a truly emaciated man standing in a pool of water with a grapevine dangling over his head. Whenever the man bends down to drink, the water drains away, leaving him dry as a bone; whenever he reaches up for the grapes, the vine lifts higher, so he cannot grasp them.
Steve swallows hard. He’s seen cruelty before, but this is - “How long’s he been like that?” he asks faintly.
“We do not count time as mortals do,” Hecate says, shrugging. “Some thousands of years, I think.”
“And he’s - never going to be set free?” Steve asks.
“Not unless there’s a god who cares to free him,” Hecate replies. Her tone is almost idle, as though a man starving for eternity is nothing that concerns her at all.
“Hm,” Antiope says, glancing back over her shoulder at Tantalus in his pool. “I see.” She glances over at Steve. “You would have sentenced him differently?”
Steve grimaces. “I don’t know about differently,” he says carefully. “But - I would maybe have put a time limit on it, or some other limit - perhaps something about him truly regretting his actions, or wishing to apologize to his son, something like that. Eternal punishment for a mortal crime seems...excessive.”
“Hm,” Antiope says again. “Fair, but merciful. I will think on this.” She give Steve an approving nod. Hecate chuckles a little.
“Gods are rarely concerned with mercy,” she says. “Though Persephone could be kind when it suited her.” Hecate shrugs. “Well, if you survive the trials, we shall see what sort of judgments you make.”
“I guess we will,” Steve says, and peers out into the gloom, wondering what other horrors this place holds. There is a man pushing a boulder up a steep hill; every time he reaches the top, it slips from his hands and goes bounding away, and he has to chase it down again. There are women trying desperately to carry water in sieves to a tub so cracked even the few drops they gather slide away again. There is a man chained to a low, rocky hill with his liver being eaten by vultures; his screams echo through the dimness.
Antiope says, quietly enough that Steve suspects it is for his ears alone, “I would not make these judgments. They are not fair, nor merciful, nor just.”
Steve nods respectfully. “Well, if we manage this, we can maybe do something about that,” he murmurs back. “Might be nice, really, having the power to make a difference, to bring justice and mercy back to the underworld.”
“Hm,” Antiope says, nodding. “You have a gift for phrasing things well, mortal man.”
“You could just call me Steve,” Steve suggests. “Since if we survive this, apparently we’re going to be spending eternity as co-rulers of Hades.”
“Perhaps I am merely enjoying calling you ‘mortal man’ while I still can,” Antiope says, a tiny smile playing about her mouth. “After all, if we succeed, you will not be mortal any longer.”
“Should I be calling you ‘immortal woman,’ then?” Steve teases back. Antiope barks a laugh.
“No,” she says. “Given that we are dead, that sounds even more foolish than it might otherwise. Steve.”
“Antiope,” Steve replies, grinning, and she punches his shoulder - he thinks she’s pulling the blow, but it’s still quite hard - and speeds her pace. Hecate has gotten some ways ahead of them. Steve breaks into a short trot to keep up.
The road slopes down, slowly enough that Steve doesn’t notice for a long while, and they travel deeper and deeper into the underworld. After a while, the plains around the road are no longer filled with the torments of those who have displeased the gods, but are simply barren land, cracked and dry, utterly unwelcoming. And then the road turns to a bridge over a pit so deep that Steve cannot see the bottom. There are, of course, no railings, and Steve keeps carefully to the center of the road. He has no particular desire to fall into whatever may lie below.
“What’s down there?” he asks, and Hecate shrugs.
“The Titans,” she says. “They lost a war against the gods, long ago - before there were humans - and have been imprisoned down here ever since.”
“I see,” Steve says, grimacing. “Even after the gods died?”
“It’s too deep to climb out, and the sides too steep,” Hecate says. “When Zeus wanted to imprison someone, he didn’t leave any loopholes.”
“Do they yet live?” Antiope inquires. “Surely they cannot grow their own food, nor hunt, in that blackness.”
“They live,” Hecate says. “Gods and Titans do not die of starvation. They’re probably not well, but they live.”
“...We have a great deal to do, here below the earth,” Antiope murmurs to Steve, who nods back firmly. “The gods are not as mortals; they do not think as mortals do, nor feel compassion or empathy in the same way. But we who were born mortal will yet remember, I think, what it was to live, and love, and suffer, and die.”
“I hope so,” Steve murmurs back. “The gods are more than mortal - I can’t argue with that - but looking at all this -” he waves a hand at the dim expanse of Tartarus, “I can’t help feeling they’re less than mortal, too.”
“Accurate, and eloquent,” Antiope agrees. “I pulled you from the Styx for that you were the first familiar face I saw; but I think my impulse was the correct one. We will work well together, you and I.”
“I think we will,” Steve agrees thoughtfully. “I really think we will.”
After the pit, the road begins to slope upward again, out of the dimness of Tartarus, rising into a grassy plain lit with a warm golden light that makes Steve smile despite himself. It feels welcoming, as so little else in this underworld does.
The source of the light, Steve sees after a while, is a tall tree covered in golden apples, which shine like the morning sun. Beneath the tree there are two plinths, each holding a bowl full of something which sparkles gold in the warm light; and around tree and plinths there is a low wall with a wrought-iron gate. In front of the gate stand two figures that make all of Steve’s growing relaxation vanish in a moment.
One is a giant, at least ten feet tall if not more, holding an iron-bound club that probably weighs more than Steve does. The other is a three-headed dog as tall as the giant, an enormous shaggy thing which is - to Steve’s mild amusement - white with black splotches, like a spaniel. Hecate pauses and gestures ahead of them.
“You must pass the Titan and Cerberus, and eat of the golden apples, and drink of the nectar and ambrosia,” she says. “If you are slain, your soul will die. If you survive, you will become gods.” She pulls the cap and pomegranate that Steve last saw on the thrones out of a pouch on her belt and holds them out. “Once you are divine, you will choose your aspects; and once you have chosen, you will become the rulers of Hades: the dispenser of justice and the bringer of spring and rebirth.”
“Very well,” Antiope says grimly. “If this is the only way, then it is the only way.” She glances at Steve. “You are a warrior, but one of words and planes rather than single combat,” she says. It’s not an insult, and Steve doesn’t take it as one, just an accurate assessment of their differing strengths. “Allow me to go first; even if I fall, you will likely be able to defeat the enemies I have wounded, and one of us at least will reach our goal.”
“These trials require the strengths and skills which both of you possess,” Hecate observes. “Pure force will not win through, Antiope of Themyscira.”
“Ah,” Antiope says, pausing. Steve frowns at the Titan and the enormous dog, thinking hard.
“Let me try charm first,” he says at last. “Maybe I can talk our way past one of them, at least. And then if that doesn’t work you can have fun beating the other one up.”
Antiope grins fiercely. “Very well,” she says. “It is as good a plan as any.”
Steve nods to her, then steps forwards, drawing the attention of both guardians. “Hullo!” he calls.
Dog and Titan growl in eerie unison. Steve spreads his hands, demonstrating that he is not armed - unlike Antiope, who has at least three knives that Steve has managed to spot, and he’s reasonably sure there are more that he’s just not seeing - and takes another slow step forward.
“It’s such an honor to meet you,” he says cheerfully. “The guardians of Hera’s tree and the nectar and ambrosia of the gods - you must be the finest warrior of your people,” he nods to the Titan, “and of course even up in man’s world we’ve heard of the immense faithfulness of Cerberus. You’ve been waiting for a while, haven’t you - and losing Hades and Persephone must have been awful. I’ve - I’ve lost friends,” he tells the enormous dog when all six of its ears droop and it whines a little. “It’s the worst thing in the whole world, isn’t it, knowing they’re gone forever.” He glances at the Titan, and adds, “Or knowing they’re locked down in Tartarus, stuck there for eternity - damn, that must be miserable.”
“No,” the Titan rumbles, raising his great club and stepping forward. “I am here because I do not care what I slay, so long as I may slay it. Speak on, little mortal; I will crush you soon enough.”
“Ah,” Steve says, and then Antiope goes past him faster than he would have guessed anyone could run, leaping across the ground almost gleefully, and the Titan bellows a war-cry, and Antiope springs, higher than she should be able to, sets one foot on the rising club and lets it lift her higher, and the Titan turns, baffled, to watch her leap entirely over his head.
Steve, who has seen this move before - albeit with a bow and arrows instead of knives - is not surprised when Antiope’s hand snaps out and two knives flash across the space between her and the Titan to embed themselves in the Titan’s eye and throat. The Titan drops the club and reaches up to claw at his throat as Antiope lands, rolling agilely to her feet, and she waits with another knife ready in her hand as the Titan gurgles, stumbles - falls.
Behind Antiope, Cerberus growls, and Steve hastens forward, putting himself firmly between Antiope and the enormous dog. “Hey now,” he says, tone as soothing as he can make it. “Hey, boy, she’s not a threat to you, yeah?”
“Am I not?” Antiope murmurs, and Steve shoots her a quick, fierce glance. She bows her head a little and falls silent.
“You’ve been waiting so long,” Steve says to Cerberus, concentrating on sounding as kind and gentle as he can. “They’ve been gone for so long. Their kingdom misses them, too. The Styx is full of souls - there’s no ferryman, anymore, to bring them across. The palace is empty. Everything’s waiting, but -”
Cerberus’s three heads droop low, and the huge dog whines again, the sound so sad that Steve can’t help stepping forward and putting out a hand to scratch the nearest head under one floppy ear. To his mild surprise, Cerberus accepts the caress, leaning into Steve’s hand. “You remember them, don’t you,” Steve says quietly. “Hades and Persephone.”
Cerberus wuffs, breath hot on Steve’s feet. Steve nods. “We’re - we’re not them,” he admits. “They were unique. But we’re hoping we can make their kingdom again the sort of place they’d be proud of. You knew them best, didn’t you?”
Another soft wuff, and Cerberus leans harder into Steve’s stroking hand. Antiope braces Steve from behind so he won’t fall over. “Do you think we could do the job?” Steve asks gently. “I know we’re not them, and we’ll never be them, but we’d try our best to make the underworld as just and merciful as possible. Do you think we could?”
Cerberus raises all three heads and peers down at both of them, sharp intelligence in all six eyes. Steve meets the middle head’s eyes as evenly as he can. Beside him, Antiope stands proudly, waiting, knife easy in her hand.
And then Cerberus sighs, and steps to the side, and flops down like any dog on a hot day, tongues lolling out as he pants. Steve glances over at Antiope, then takes a deep breath, and they step forwards together.
The gate to the garden swings open under their hands in utter silence. Within the wall, the grass is thick and green as emeralds, so springy it feels like walking on a carpet instead of the ground. Antiope pauses beside one of the plinths and picks up the bowl, raising it carefully to her lips.
The gleaming liquid drains impossibly away.
Steve and Antiope both stare at the empty bowl, and then Antiope carefully puts it down again. It refills instantly. Experimentally, Steve reaches out to the other bowl; as soon as he raises it to drink, it drains, and as soon as he sets it down, it fills again.
“If we cannot drink,” Antiope says, frowning, and Steve stares at the bowls, thinking hard.
“Wait,” he says, “Hecate said the trials require both of us. What if -” he reaches out to take the bowl again, then turns, and holds it out. “Drink,” he says quietly, and Antiope, eyes wide, bends to drink from the bowl. Steve tilts it gently, and the gleaming liquid flows easily over Antiope’s lips.
She straightens when the bowl is empty at last, and Steve puts it down, watching the golden glow of the drink steal over Antiope’s skin, lighting her from the inside.
“Clever mortal man,” she says, voice full of laughter, and lifts the other bowl, holding it to Steve’s lips.
It’s like the mead only in that it is sweet as honey and burns all the way down. Steve gasps and drinks again, drains the bowl dry - it’s the best thing he’s ever tasted, like every good thing he’s ever eaten somehow all rolled into one and made better, like a cold beer on a hot day and a warm stew on a cold one, indescribable and delicious.
He straightens from the bowl and can feel the nectar and ambrosia spreading through him, turning the blood in his veins to ichor, the strength of his mortal arms to divine power, the acuity of his mortal senses to godly perception. It hurts - it hurts like dying - but it’s sweet, too, somehow. Like wrapping the lasso around his own wrist and swearing to follow Diana. Like truth.
He blinks and shakes himself, feeling new strength course through him. He could lift a tank, now, he suspects - could leap from the ground to a belltower and pull it down - could charge a machine gun emplacement with only a shield. “This is -” he says, and Antiope nods, reaches up and pulls a golden apple from the tree above them and holds it out to him.
“Eat,” she says, and Steve does, then offers her a second apple, holds it as she takes immortality from his open hands. Then, together, they turn to look at Hecate, standing in the open gateway.
“Choose,” Hecate says, holding out the cap and the pomegranate. “What will you be?”
“I will be justice,” Antiope says calmly. “I will judge the weak and the strong, the poor and the wealthy, the young and the old; all who come before my throne shall have judgment and justice.” She takes the cap from Hecate’s hands and pulls it on, and a cloak of darkness swirls into place about her.
“I will be mercy,” Steve says quietly, savoring the words. He has been a soldier for so long, has given only death. “I will be spring, and rebirth, the new life that comes from beneath the earth when winter is done, and all who come before my throne will have the chance, someday, to live again.” He reaches out and takes the pomegranate from Hecate’s hand, and drawn by some impulse, plucks six seeds from its open side and eats them. They burst sweet and tart inside his mouth, and he thinks they have stained his lips as red as blood.
“Hail, Queen of Hades,” Hecate says, solemn and respectful. “Hail, King of Springtime. Your kingdom awaits.”
“So it does,” Steve says, as a new sense unfurls within him, spreading out to show him an impossibly detailed map of the underworld which is now his and Antiope’s to rule. “Come, Cerberus,” he adds, and the enormous dog stands and lopes over to join them, nudging Steve with one cold muzzle. “Good dog,” Steve adds. “Will you bear us back to our palace, please?”
Cerberus wuffs, and Steve leaps lightly onto the dog’s back, a leap he knows he could not have made as a mortal man. Antiope lands behind him a moment later, and Cerberus barks, a deep echoing sound, and goes bounding through the open gate and on along the white road towards the thrones which await their new monarchs in silent marble splendor.
The palace stands open, just as they left it, but in the throne room they find two people who Steve’s new senses tell him are minor divinities, both waiting eagerly to meet their new monarchs. Hecate precedes Steve and Antiope in, and turns to kneel gracefully, the other two mimicking her as Steve and Antiope enter. Antiope takes the throne that held the cap, and Steve the one which held the pomegranate - now held tightly in his hand - and Hecate cries, louder than Steve would have guessed she could, “All hail Antiope, Queen of Hades! All hail Steve Trevor, King of Springtime!”
“All hail!” cry the kneeling god and goddess, and Antiope smiles.
“Rise,” she says. “Tell Us your names and duties, that We may begin to set Our kingdom at last to rights.”
”I am Thanatos, the voice of death,” the god says, and, “I am Melinoe, the goddess of ghosts,” says the goddess, and then Antiope orders that they all go down to begin the long labor of pulling two and a half thousand years of souls out of the Styx so that they may be judged and sent to their places. It turns out that it’s not quite as dire as Steve and Antiope had been anticipating: the Styx eventually debouches into the Lethe, and many souls simply slid from one river to another and then rose to life again without spending any time whatsoever awake in Hades.
“That’s not actually good for them, is it,” Steve muses as he helps Thanatos throw a net out into the Styx. Fishing for souls is a very strange thing to be doing, but it’s working.
“No,” Thanatos says, shaking his head solemnly. “The time in Hades is what allows the mortal souls to heal from their wounds, so that they may go innocent and healed to their new lives. Often, those who are sent to Elysium are those who need that healing most, for they have given the most. So our old king said, at least, and he was very wise.”
“So he was,” Steve agrees, and hooks the net to the harness which Cerberus has allowed Steve to put on him. “Pull, boy!” he encourages the enormous dog, and Cerberus barks and hauls the net full of souls out of the river, then returns for scritches while Thanatos detaches the net. Steve spends several minutes scratching Cerberus’s middle head behind the ears, then turns again to his fishing.
Antiope joins him some uncounted time later - there are a lot of dead, even if most of the two millennia’s worth have already gone on to rebirth - and pulls him to one side. “Rest a little,” she says. “Tomorrow we will begin our judgments, and we were mortal not so long ago.”
“True,” Steve says, and sits down on a hillside overlooking the river. Cerberus flops down beside him and puts one enormous head in each of their laps. Antiope chuckles and begins scratching Cerberus under one chin while Steve scruffles another head’s ears.
“I asked Hecate,” he says after a while. “About - about going back to man’s world.” Antiope raises an eyebrow at him. “She said it was still winter up above, and that I am bound here until the spring equinox. Then I get six months up there, and I have to return at the autumn equinox.”
“Six months is better than none,” Antiope observes.
“Far better,” Steve agrees. “But - in any case, that means I’m here at least another three and a half months. So we should be able to get a lot of these people judged and sorted.”
“Yes,” Antiope agrees, looking out over the hordes of baffled souls being herded gently down a broad path towards the palace. “And when you return in the autumn, perhaps we will be able to begin dealing with Tartarus, as well.” Then, abruptly, Antiope stands, leaving Cerberus whining as she leaps down the hill. “Menalippe!”
One of the souls turns and cries out in joy, hastening towards Antiope, and Steve looks away to give them privacy as they embrace. “For pleasure, unnecessary,” he says quietly to Cerberus, very amused. Cerberus just licks his face and then looks very pleased with himself, all three tongues hanging out in triumph, as Steve wipes dog drool away and sighs.
“Even enormous three-headed dogs are still dogs, huh?” he asks wryly.
“In mortal tongues,” Thanatos says, pausing beside them, “his name translates to ‘spotted one.’”
Steve blinks up at the minor god, then bursts into laughter. “Your previous king named his enormous three-headed guard dog Spot,” he says delightedly, pushing himself to his feet. “Well. Alright, Spot, come along. Let’s go dispense some mercy.”
Cerberus barks, sounding very amused, and Steve heads down towards the palace and his new duties, musing over how best to make a timekeeping device which will alert him to the equinoxes, to the day he can return to man’s world, if only for half the year.
The day he’ll see Diana once again.
Diana doesn’t know how she knows how to get to Olympus. It’s instinctive, as catching the lightning was instinctive, as all of her new powers have become instinctive. She walks up the stairs to the roof of the block of flats where Etta lives, and then she just keeps walking up, as though the stairs continue into the sky. She climbs until a wisp of cloud swirls around her, conceals the grey mass of London beneath her feet - conceals her from London - and when she emerges from the cloud, there before her is the path to the great golden gates at the peak of Mount Olympus.
The gates are shattered, broken open, twisted and mutilated until they will never close again. Diana grimaces and walks carefully between them, into the kingdom which her father once ruled.
The signs of war are everywhere. The marble homes are crumbled, their roofs blown away as if by terrible winds, their doors gaping open to show only darkness within. There are still scorch marks on the turf, scars of battle on the walls. No one has come to scrub the scorch marks from the white marble or weed the overgrown gardens. Everyone who could is dead.
Diana walks slowly up the winding road that leads to the great hall at the peak of the mountain - her father’s hall, her birthright. None of the homes are intact, none of them free of the scars of war. She does not quite dare to go into any of them to see if the gods who once lived here have left their skeletons behind for her - or if a god, once dead, dissolves again to air and fire, and leaves no trace.
The hall is open, of course - there is no door, only shining pillars marred with streaks of ash. Diana steps between them gingerly, and stops at the end of the hall, looking around. Within, it looks - well, it looks as though a war has raged within these walls. The thrones are broken, toppled or shattered to tiny pieces. The firepit in the center of the hall is cold and dead, the ashes scattered. The tapestries on the walls have been torn to pieces or burnt to shreds.
There are no bodies.
Diana wanders slowly among the broken thrones, picking up a tiny shard of marble and turning it in her hand thoughtfully. This is - this is not reparable, not with the skills and knowledge that Diana has. Perhaps not with any skills and knowledge. It was godwork, after all. Athena designed these buildings, and Hephaestus built them, with the Cyclopes laboring at his side. Diana does not have the wisdom of Athena, nor the skill of Hephaestus, nor the aid of the Cyclopes. She cannot make these shining halls beautiful again.
She traces her fingers along the walls as she walks, and pauses as they find a strange crack in the smooth marble. Even her newly divine eyes cannot quite make it out, but she tracks it with her fingertips until she has sketched out a door, hidden by the lines of the marble. She raps on it with her knuckles, runs her hands over every inch of the door looking for a keyhole or a hidden catch, and finds nothing. Pushing on it has no effect, either, though Diana puts the full force of her godly strength behind the shove.
She steps back after a moment, frowning, and raises a hand. A thin thread of lightning comes streaking down out of the clear blue sky to wind around her fingers like a friendly snake. “I am Diana daughter of Zeus and Hippolyta,” she says quietly. “Open to me.” And reaches out to press the thread of lightning against the door.
There is a crackle and a snap, and the door swings silently open. Diana steps through, calling the lightning back to her fingers to light the dimness beyond the doorway. The short hallway turns to a flight of stairs leading down, and Diana ventures downward, catfoot quiet.
At the bottom of the stairs, Diana steps into a wide room lined with racks holding - her breath catches. Swords, like the one she thought was her destiny. Shields as beautiful as her own. Armor polished to a gleam that reflects the lightning in her hand so brightly that the room is lit as if by daylight. Bows and arrows, knives and spears - every weapon known to the gods who died two thousand years and more ago. This is a resource Diana never even dreamed of finding.
She takes a sword that could be twin to her lost one, and a scabbard that has somehow survived the millennia, feeling more balanced when she has a sword at her side, mirroring the lasso at her other hip. I come to bring truth and a sword, she thinks, a misquote from that strange book of Etta’s, and leaves the armory, closing the door carefully behind her. It seals again, so tightly that she has to run her hand over the wall to feel the crack.
After that, Diana is very careful to look for other hidden doorways, and to her surprise she finds only one more, directly across from the first one. It opens to lightning and Diana’s name, and she finds behind it a room lined with pigeonhole shelves, each one holding a perfectly preserved scroll. Diana takes one and unrolls it, and her eyes go wide.
These scrolls - this room - this is the history of Olympus, as told by its gods. This is a treasure past valuing, far more precious even than the weapons and armor in the other sealed room. Someday, maybe even someday soon, Diana will find the time to read these all. This is the history of her father’s people, and she should know it as well as she does that of Themyscira.
She puts the scroll back carefully, and seals the library behind her, then stands looking at the wreckage of the hall for a long moment. There is knowledge for her, here; there are arms and armor. But there is no one here to speak to, no welcome, no home. Olympus is not her place. It may become a refuge, perhaps - certainly she can retreat here at need, and no mortal may follow her - but it is not a place to live. Not now; perhaps not ever.
Diana walks away from Olympus without looking back. Themyscira is closed to her; the halls of the gods are empty and unwelcoming. Man’s world, it seems, must be her home in truth.
Etta serves stew that night, thick and hearty, and seems oddly nervous. Diana sits back from the table when her plate is clean and gives her host a reassuring smile. “What troubles you, my friend?”
“While you were - out,” Etta says slowly, “I got a message from Steve’s solicitor. They’ll be reading his will tomorrow, and I’m to be there.” She pauses, then adds, carefully, “I’ve been trying to remember all the Greek myths I ever read, and I - I was wondering - could you - could you bring him back? Go down to the underworld, like Orpheus did, and bring him home?”
Diana sighs. “I could almost certainly go down to the underworld,” she says sadly. “I could probably even find Steve’s shade - doubtless he is in Elysium. But - Eurydice did not choose to die. She was surprised by the serpent. Steve - Steve made his choice, and I do not wish to dishonor it. And if I go down to Hades and find his shade, I do not know that I could keep from drawing him again into the mortal realms, though he desired it or no.” The grief strikes her again, like a knife to the heart. She wants Steve beside her with a sudden, crippling intensity - wants his bright smile and his sweet words, wants his courage and his compassion, wants his clever tongue and his gentle hands. If she saw him again - if she could hold him in her arms once more - she does not think she would ever let go.
“The shades in Elysium are given paradise,” she says softly. “They have peace everlasting, and should they desire it, they may drink of the Lethe and come again to man’s world to become again the heroes they were before. Is our pain enough reason to take that from Steve Trevor, who earned that peace with his choice to save us all?”
Etta winces. “No,” she says sadly. “If he’s - if he’s in some sort of Greek paradise, then he’s a heck of a lot better off than he would be in London, I guess.” She sighs. “Well, it was a thought, anyway.”
“Truly, if I thought that I had a right to tear him from Elysium, I would have done so already,” Diana says, and Etta reaches over the table to take her hand. Diana laces her fingers with her friend’s and holds on gently, taking care not to bruise Etta’s mortal flesh. “I wish - I wish I could have him at my side always. He spoke, once, of life in peace - of breakfasts, and newspapers, and quiet days. I would have shared those with him gladly, for all the years he had.”
Etta shakes her head, smiling a little. “He was a lucky son of a gun,” she says. “That’s how he survived so long in the war - he could fall in a marsh and come up with gold, I swear. He fell out of the sky and came back with you, and that’s more luck than any man should hope for, I should think.”
Diana smiles. “He told me he was above average,” she says, and Etta laughs a little wetly.
“Yes, he was,” she agrees. “Come with me to the reading of the will? I think I’m going to need someone to cry on.”
“I will be honored to accompany you,” Diana says solemnly. “And I will bring spare handkerchiefs.” Etta giggles and squeezes Diana’s hand in gratitude.
“Thank you, dear,” she says. “Steve was lucky to find you, you know. We all were.”
Diana smiles back. “And I was lucky that he found me,” she says, finding to her surprise that she means it. Man’s world is chaotic and terrible and full of horror, but it has, too, so much potential - so much good in it. For all the pain it has caused her, and doubtless will cause her, Diana cannot regret leaving Themyscira. Man’s world needs her far more than Themyscira does, and Diana is finding that she rather likes having a purpose, something more than being simply the daughter of the Queen. She’s not entirely sure what her purpose in man’s world is, yet, now that Ares is dead, but she is growing ever more certain that there is one waiting for her, if she can only find it out.
Etta comes out of the reading of Steve’s will red-eyed and sniffling, and all of the spare handkerchiefs Diana brought are soaked. Steve left Etta everything, his solicitor reading out the words Steve left behind in a dry voice at odds with their kindness: “To Etta Candy, who has kept me organized these past few years, and without whom I suspect I would be dead in a ditch somewhere, I leave all my worldly goods. I have no family left alive, but Etta has become a sister to me, as dear as any sibling of my blood. Sorry about dying like this, Etta, but I hope I won the war.”
Diana still doesn’t quite have a grasp on how money works in man’s world, but from the way Etta cried quite a lot harder when the solicitor named the sum, she thinks Steve left quite a significant amount behind. This is confirmed once they’re out of the man’s office, when Etta hands back the last of Diana’s stash of spare handkerchiefs and says, “Well, I shan’t need to find employment for a year at least, with that in the bank. Oh, Steve, you ridiculous man!” She sniffs hard and scrubs the back of a hand over her eyes. “We’re quite near the British Museum, and I’d be frankly grateful for a distraction,” she adds. “Shall we go investigate this Archidamus of yours?”
“Not mine,” Diana says, smiling, and follows her friend towards a remarkably large and imposing building. Etta apparently knows her way around - and several people recognize her, nodding politely as she and Diana pass - and Diana is free to gape around her at the artifacts of thousands of human history. “I could spend years here,” she murmurs.
“We’ll come back, then,” Etta says practically, and leads the way into a vast room lined with bookshelves and up to a desk at the front. “We’re looking for references to Archidamus of Sparta, please.”
“Certainly, Miss Candy,” the man behind the desk says, scribbling something down and handing it to a boy, who goes darting off. “You and your companion may claim a desk, if you like.”
“Do we not gather the books ourselves?” Diana asks quietly, noting that no one speaks above a whisper in this enormous room. Etta shakes her head.
“They’re brought to us,” she murmurs back.
Diana sits down at an empty desk and amuses herself for a few minutes by admiring the enormous room, its high dome and book-lined walls; she could quite happily spend several hours just sitting here, she suspects.
The man at the desk next to her flips a page and mutters something, too low for mortal ears to catch, but Diana hears it clearly: “...makes no sense, why would he phrase it that way…” She leans over just a bit until she can see what he’s working on, and is surprised to find that he is attempting to translate a passage from Aristophanes’ The Frogs. He’s made a mistake several lines back, though, and it’s thrown off the whole passage.
“That should be ‘forbidden,’” she murmurs, pointing out the error. The man looks up at her in surprise.
“You read Greek?” he asks, a little louder than is probably appropriate. Diana nods.
“I read most tongues,” she replies.
“Impossible,” says a man at another desk, getting up. “Here, read this.”
Diana reads one of Catullus’ poems, then a complaint about copper sold by someone called Ea-Nasir, and then a passage from Dream of the Red Chamber. By the time she’s finished that one, she has an audience, nearly a dozen men staring at her with wide eyes, including the one who was at the front desk when she and Etta came in.
“...How many languages did you say you could read?” one of the men demands.
“Most of them,” Diana replies calmly.
“How?” one of the others asks, raw envy in his voice.
“The gift of Athena,” Diana replies, shrugging. The man from the front desk gives her a very odd look, then shrugs.
“Don’t care if you call it the gift of Athena or of Isis,” he says, “but I think the Director of the Museum might like to talk to you, miss, if you’ve a little time.”
“Certainly,” Diana says, as the runner comes scurrying back with a book in his hands. “Just as soon as we’ve looked up Archidamus.”
Etta flips through the book quickly, pausing after a few moments. “Archidamus II of Sparta began the Archidamian phase of the Peloponnesian war in 431 BC, leading his armies against Athens - 431 BC? That was - that was -”
“Two thousand, three hundred, and forty-nine years ago,” Diana says wonderingly. “Which I suppose, if I remember my lessons on reproduction properly, would make me somewhere around two thousand, three hundred, and forty-eight.”
“I don’t think I’m going to be able to fit that many candles on your cake,” Etta says wryly. “Even if I can find that many.”
“There’s no way you’re two thousand years old,” one of the men objects. “That’s not humanly possible!”
“You’re right,” Diana says calmly, smiling at him. “It’s not humanly possible. Let’s go and talk to that director, Etta.” She leaves them gaping after her, and Etta chuckles all the way up to the director’s office.
Diana walks out of the office with an offer of employment: translating everything, from wall inscriptions to ancient scrolls, and checking the translations of the other experts on staff. It sounds like fun, and also like something Diana can do while still leaving time to go and save the world again, if that becomes necessary. Etta is chortling with glee. “You have fallen on your feet, dear,” she tells Diana with a broad grin. “Well done!”
A thought that’s been hovering in the back of Diana’s mind finally crystallizes, and she says, “I suspect I will need a secretary, won’t I? Not to mention someone who can teach me how to live in man’s world without giving offense. And that pension the military is giving me, with what the Museum will be paying me, should be enough for me to pay a secretary, should it not?”
“Certainly it will!” Etta says stoutly. “I can come up with half a dozen names off the top of my head -”
“Would you like to do it, Etta?” Diana asks. “I can pay you as much as Steve did - maybe more. And I would like to have my friend near me, if that would suit you.”
“Well!” Etta says, and beams. “Yes, that would suit me very well, dear.” She looks Diana up and down. “And as your new secretary, the first thing we need to do is find you a proper wardrobe. Off to the shops!”
Laughing, Diana follows her friend out of the Museum. “Nothing too constricting,” she reminds her. “I am not going to put away my sword and shield and lasso, after all.”
“Certainly not,” Etta says, grinning. “I know just the thing.”
Winter in London is long and miserable, but Diana doesn’t mind too much. She spends her mornings at the Museum, translating anything and everything, acquiring a collection of wide-eyed young men (and a few young women) who follow her about and ask her questions about Themyscira and the war in hushed voices. In the afternoons, she finds a quiet place in the great Park to practice with sword and shield and lasso - and the other weapons she gathers from the armory on Olympus - and there, too, she acquires a little crowd of regular watchers, some of whom are Etta’s friends among the suffragettes. When Diana has finished her own exercises, she teaches anyone who wishes to learn, and her classes are very well attended, even in the most miserable weather. It’s oddly satisfying to watch the women of London walk away from her lessons with their backs straight and their heads held high, laughing and chatting with each other about the new techniques she has taught them. The women of man’s world are worryingly unfamiliar with the arts of war, but they are eager to learn, and Diana has discovered that she likes teaching.
And then, when her day is done, she goes home to the warm two-bedroom flat she and Etta rent together, and one of them cooks, and the other cleans the dishes, and they settle in with a book apiece - something new, sometimes, or one of the old scrolls from Athena’s library - in a quiet contentment which reminds Diana inescapably of Themyscira and her former home.
It’s - it’s good. Diana likes this life she is building, likes feeling like she is contributing to the knowledge available to all mortals, both by her translations and by her lessons in the martial arts. She likes making friends among the mortals she meets - the men and women in the Museum, the women in the Park, the lamplighters and coal-haulers and snow-shovelers on the streets, the butcher and the baker and the grocer and their families. She stays in touch with Sameer and Charlie and Chief, writes to them weekly and gets back rambly letters or short notes or scrawled reminiscences that fill her heart with warmth. She meets researchers and scholars from all over the world who come to the Museum to study, and talks with each of them in their own tongues, and learns new things every day, about man’s world and the many, many peoples who inhabit it.
She does miss Themyscira - misses the island daily, in fact, every time she steps out into the snow and chill of London’s winter. She misses her aunt, and the warriors who trained with her. She misses her mother, quite bitterly, misses the calm strength and certainty which has held Themyscira’s society together for two thousand years and more.
And she misses Steve, more sharply than she would have thought possible, given the short time she knew him. She finds herself turning from her work to make some comment that she thinks will amuse him, or looking for his face in the crowds, and once she absent-mindedly follows a blond man in a thick coat nearly halfway across London before he turns to buy an apple from a little stall and she sees his face and knows he is not Steve. Etta tells stories, sometimes, in the evenings, about the four years she spent as Steve’s secretary, his kindness and cleverness and the adventures he had, and Diana soaks them up and stores him away, vowing that she will remember everything about him, always, and in that way, if in no other, he will live as long as she does.
She unclips his watch from its band and hangs it from a chain about her neck, so that it is always with her. The steady ticking is an odd sort of comfort, and winding it and polishing it each evening acts as a sort of touchstone, a reminder of the reasons she stays in man’s world.
March of 1919 starts with a spectacular snowstorm that keeps Diana and Etta penned up in their flat for two days while the wind howls outside, and Diana spends most of both days standing at the window staring out at the whirling snow. She still hasn’t gotten used to it, and if this snow is far less picturesque and fleeting than the beautiful flakes in Veld, it’s still fascinating to watch.
After that snowstorm, though, winter appears to have given up, and Diana thrills to see spring beginning to creep over the greyness of London: green vines, and tiny flowers, and the breeze in the air full of burgeoning life. She almost dances out the door in the mornings, with Etta laughing behind her, and revels in her lessons in the Park and the excuse they give her to be outside long into the evening.
The twenty-first of March is a Friday, but it’s so lovely that Diana simply cannot bear to be cooped up in even the Museum’s wonderful halls, and sends a note informing the director that she is taking a day off - she doesn’t think he’ll mind, given that she gets through easily three or four times as much every day as all of his other translators put together - and pulls Etta down the street, stopping for bread and cheese and a bottle of good wine. They end up in a secluded corner of the Park, watching the swans menace passers-by and eating bread and cheese with their fingers, laughing with the sheer joy of springtime.
There is really only one thing that could make Diana’s current contentment complete, and she leans back against the tree they have chosen and sighs quietly, looking up into the clear blue sky and wishing, knowing that it is a foolish wish, that Steve were there beside them, laughing at Etta’s jokes and stealing the wine bottle and handing Diana bread and cheese with the sweet smile that still makes her heart clench in her chest when she remembers it.
“Steve would have loved this,” Etta says quietly, as though reading Diana’s thoughts - or, more likely, her expression.
“Yes,” Diana says wistfully, and then leaps to her feet, hand going to her sword, as the ground shakes beneath them. Etta squeaks and scrambles up, picking up the wine bottle and brandishing it fiercely.
The ground shakes again, and then splits, some few paces away from where Diana and Etta stand, and out of the darkness, out of the open ground, steps a figure Diana never thought to see again.
Steve Trevor turns to smile at them, the look of joy upon his face so sweet and beautiful that Diana drops her sword, her shield, all of her defenses, and leaps unthinking across the space between them to wind her arms around her lover and kiss him as desperately, as hungrily, as thankfully as she can.
Steve has not precisely been counting the days, mostly because it’s very hard to do so in the underworld. What he has done, though, is to set up, with Hecate’s help, a sundial which shows not the position of the sun but the time of year, with golden lines inlaid to mark the spring and autumn equinoxes. It stands in the garden just outside the palace, and Steve makes a point of wandering out to look at it every hundred judgments. It gives him an excuse to throw logs for Cerberus to chase, too.
Antiope takes advantage of those pauses to run through martial exercises with Menalippe, who never leaves her side, so Steve doesn’t feel guilty about taking them. The constant stream of judgments is exhausting: there are so many, many dead, and while most of them are easy enough to send to Asphodel, there to wait and heal until they are ready to drink of the Lethe and return again to the world above, there are always two or three in every hundred who must be given greater attention, and too often Steve finds himself agreeing with Antiope when she grips the arm of her throne and scowls down at the shade in front of her and commands that Thanatos cast the dead soul into Tartarus for its crimes. Steve is Mercy where Antiope is Justice, and it is his right and duty to ameliorate the sentences she sets, but too often he turns his face away from the pleading shade and shakes his head, refusing to grant any commutation of their sentence, aching with pain and horror at what the shade has done.
Honestly, sometimes he wonders how Diana could have chosen to spare the world, knowing as she did what horrors men could wreak. Steve had thought he’d seen the worst humans could do to each other - had thought that his years in the war had shown him every terrible aspect of humanity - but now, judging the shades, he has learned of more terrible cruelties than even his jaded heart could have dreamed of.
Antiope never seems surprised by the horrors that their judgments uncover, but then, Steve knows that she expects humans to be dreadful. That’s why the Amazons retreated to Themyscira in the first place. She’s more surprised by the occasional, brilliant moments when she and Steve look at each other across the space between their thrones and Steve, smiling broadly, bids Melinoe bring the shade to the Elysian Fields, there to be rewarded for their virtue in life. Those moments, few as they are, are enough to give Steve hope for humanity. There are still heroes, still truly good people in the world.
Steve tries to give his full concentration to the judgments while he sits on the cold marble throne, but as the shadow of the sundial moves inexorably towards the spring equinox, he finds himself fidgeting, has to pull his attention back ruthlessly as each shade steps forward to be judged. Antiope gives him little slanting smiles in the pauses while the shades are ushered away after judgment, clearly knowing exactly what’s distracting him.
And then, at last, Steve finds himself standing in the little courtyard staring down at the sundial as the shadow creeps, ever so slowly, onto the golden line which marks the equinox.
“Go,” Antiope says beside him. “Greet my niece in my name - when you think of it.”
Steve grins at her, and then, knowing how to do it, he opens the earth above him and steps up, and up, and up, back into the mortal realm, aiming inexorably for the bright spark of divinity and glory which is - which must be - Diana.
He steps out of the earth to the sound of her laughter, and there is no more beautiful sound in all the world.
The kiss Diana greets him with is headier than nectar and ambrosia, sweeter than mead, and Steve wraps his arms around her and does his absolute best to pour every drop of his adoration and relief into the kiss. From the way Diana moans against his lips, he thinks he might actually have succeeded.
“Steve,” she gasps when they finally draw apart far enough to speak. “Steve, how -?”
“It’s sort of a long story,” Steve says, smiling helplessly down into her eyes. “But I was offered the chance to become - well - to become Persephone.”
“Persephone?” Diana asks, and then Steve can see the realization hit her. “Six months - six months in the underworld, and six in the mortal realm,” she says wonderingly.
“Six months every year with you,” Steve agrees. “And - well - your aunt Antiope is Hades, now, so if you want to come down and visit -”
Diana cuts him off with a kiss so fierce it almost knocks him off his feet. They don’t break apart again until Etta’s unmistakable voice says, “If you don’t want to get hauled in for public indecency, I think you should take that back to the flat, dears.”
“Etta!” Diana says, laughing, and Steve pulls away from her just long enough to give Etta a swift, tight hug.
“I have missed you,” he tells her. “Have you been doing alright?”
“Just fine, dear,” Etta assures him. “I’ll tell you all about it - tomorrow, since I suspect I won’t be seeing much of you the rest of today!”
“Do you mind?” Diana asks her seriously, and Etta shakes her head, laughing.
“Get on with you,” she says, and Diana grins and scoops Steve up in a bridal carry - Steve yelps and can’t help laughing - and lifts off, flying up over the trees and buildings to the roof of a very nice block of flats, where she sets Steve down and takes his hand and tows him down the stairs to a cozy apartment lined with books, tugging him through the sitting room and into what is clearly her bedroom. There are shields and armor hanging on the wall, and a brace of swords in the umbrella stand, a bookshelf for a nightstand and a broad luxurious bed fit for the princess of Themyscira.
“I like your room,” Steve says, a little inanely, and Diana grins at him so bright it’s a little like looking at the sun.
“I like having you in my room,” she says, and cups his face in her hands, looking up at him like she can’t quite believe he’s real. “I have - I have missed you so, Steve Trevor.”
“I missed you so much I talked a three-headed dog into letting me drink ambrosia on the off-chance I’d survive the experience and get to see you again,” Steve says, grinning, hands coming to rest on Diana’s hips. She sways against him, warm and real, and he kisses her forehead, the tip of her nose, the crinkles at the corners of her eyes as she smiles. “Also I’ve agreed to spend the rest of eternity ruling the underworld with your terrifying aunt. And Diana, I would do every bit of it again just for this moment.” He means it, too. This one moment, with Diana in his arms smiling up at him, her hands warm on his face - this is worth the world twice over.
And then he sees the watch hanging about her neck, and his eyes go wide. “You kept it.”
“Steve,” Diana says softly, “of course I kept it. It was all I had of you - and in any case I had to learn how mortal folk keep time,” she adds, grinning, and kisses him, and they tumble together to the broad bed. “Steve,” she says again and again, as they fumble each other’s clothing off, scattering bits of it across the floor, until finally Diana is naked in his arms, lithe and beautiful, the warm sunlight turning her to priceless gold.
“My goddess,” Steve says, as she rises above him, and she grins.
“Yes,” she agrees, and kisses him. “Your goddess, Steve Trevor, always.”
Her kisses are sweeter than nectar and ambrosia, and Steve wraps his arms around her and lets himself drown in her kisses, her smile, her eyes.
Etta is waiting for them when they finally emerge from Diana’s bedroom, hours later. She has a sort of cold feast spread out on the table, and a book in her hands; and she blushes as she grins at them. “Thought you might be a mite peckish,” she says cheerfully, and Diana laughs and heads for the table eagerly.
“So we are,” she says, and Steve sits beside her and has his first real meal in months - nectar and ambrosia are wonderful, but they aren’t quite the same as bread and cold meat and cheese and fruit.
“You’re a star, Etta,” Steve tells her solemnly, and Etta laughs at him.
“You always say that, rascal,” she replies, and then, quite abruptly, bursts into tears. Steve drops his sandwich and is around the table almost instantly, gathering his friend into his arms. Etta sobs onto his shoulder, clinging to him. “You were dead,” she says, muffled but audible enough. “You were dead, you arse, you gave me everything in your will, and we mourned you, and now you’re not -” she breaks off into sniffling sobs. Steve pats her back and gives Diana a faintly helpless look. Diana shrugs and hands him a handkerchief.
“I’m sorry I died,” Steve says to Etta’s hair. “I didn’t mean to - well, I mean, I sort of did, right at the end, but I didn’t want to. And I’m sorry I couldn’t send word that I was doing alright, but the mail service doesn’t run to Hades, far as I can tell.”
Etta giggles wetly and takes the handkerchief, blowing her nose hard. “No post boxes in Hades?” she says, trying valiantly for humor.
“Sadly, no,” Steve says, and leans down to kiss her forehead. “I am sorry, Etta love. But you’ve been marvelous, and I can’t thank you enough for helping Diana out.”
“Well, it was my pleasure,” Etta says stoutly. “And she’s a dear. She’s teaching all the suffragettes martial arts in the evenings!”
Steve gives Diana a wry grin. “Of course she is,” he agrees. “That’s my Diana.”
“It is a great privilege to do so,” Diana says serenely. “They are untrained, but eager, and they learn swiftly.” She grins. “I have gained a great appreciation for my aunt’s patience - I do not think I was so good a student as they are!”
“The way she tells it, you were the finest student she ever had,” Steve says, smiling. Diana blinks in astonishment.
“Truly?” she asks, slow delight spreading across her face. “Well!” She looks like Steve has just given her a priceless gift, and Steve resolves to find as many ways as possible to put that expression on her face again.
“You two,” Etta sighs, shaking her head. “Incorrigible, the both of you. I am going to go to bed with a book; do try not to burn the flat down by accident.”
“I promise to only burn the flat down on purpose,” Diana says solemnly, clearly an old joke between them, and Etta laughs and hugs Steve tightly one more time and heads for her bedroom, closing the door very carefully behind her. Diana smiles across the table at Steve. “Help me put this all away?”
“Etta cooked, we clean,” Steve agrees, and they work in companionable silence for a few minutes, cleaning the plates and wrapping the remains of the cheese and meat up to put it in the icebox. And then, when everything is tidied away, Steve turns and gathers Diana into his arms and kisses her, because he can, because they are both here in the mortal world and there is nothing to keep them apart.
In the morning, Steve wakes before Diana - he can feel the sun rise, somewhere deep within his chest, an odd feeling but pleasant - and watches her as she sleeps for a long, blissful moment. She looks even more like an angel than usual, with her hair a messy dark halo on the pillow and her eyelashes lying long and elegant against her cheeks.
And then Steve slides out of the bed as quietly as he can, shrugs into his tunic - he hasn’t been able to talk Melinoe into providing modern clothing, so he’s been getting used to a belted tunic, which is fine in the warm air of the underworld but probably will not work in London - and slips out the door to put together a tray of toast and jam and fruit and -
He pauses, looking down at the palm of his hand, and then crosses the room to Etta’s little windowbox full of dirt and tentative plants, and presses his hand to the soil. Warmth runs down his arm, and from the dirt between his fingers sprout half a dozen beautiful stalks that spread their leaves and blossom into the most beautiful blood-red flowers he has ever seen. Steve grins a little and picks them - they fall into his hand without effort - and puts them on the tray, dusting the dirt from his hands carefully. And then he snags the newspaper from just outside the door and takes the tray and goes padding back into Diana’s bedroom.
Diana rolls over as he comes in and blinks at him, eyelashes gleaming in the morning light streaming through the window, and Steve puts the tray down on the nightstand and leans over to kiss her. It turns into a longer kiss than he intended, deep and sweet and lazily hungry, and he braces his hand on the bed and revels in it - in the freedom to kiss Diana like this, in the knowledge that she still wants him so, after months here in man’s world when she could have found some other man she preferred to a slightly-battered spy.
“You asked me once,” he murmurs against her lips, “what people did in peacetime.”
“I did,” Diana agrees, and pulls back just a little, glancing over at the tray with a smile. “Breakfast, you said. And newspapers.”
“Yes,” Steve agrees, and Diana reaches over to pick up one of the blood-red flowers - Steve’s not even entirely sure what they are, or even if they’re anything that existed an hour ago, just that he’d wanted something as beautiful as Diana and the power in his hands had grown them - and buries her nose in its golden heart, breathing in the sweet fragrance eagerly.
“These are beautiful,” she says, smiling up at him with pollen on her nose, and Steve decides that the toast can get cold, because right now the most important thing in the whole world is kissing that smile.
Some uncounted time later, Steve finds himself flat on his back, tunic on the floor somewhere again, with Diana smiling down at him smugly. “Breakfast,” she says thoughtfully, “can wait.”
Steve’s breath catches in his throat, and yeah, okay, they spent a significant fraction of yesterday having sex, but apparently one of the perks of being a god is not having much of a refractory period - the things you learn! - and in any case even if Steve was still utterly mortal, the sight of Diana leaning over him, golden skin gleaming in the morning sunlight, smiling even brighter than the sun, would have worked miracles. “Diana,” he says hoarsely, and threads his hands gently through her hair and draws her down into another kiss, slow and lazy, like they have all the time in the world, because - well - as far as Steve’s concerned, they do.
One of the nice things about being immortal is that breathing turns out to be sort of optional, and so Steve can kiss Diana just as long as she’ll let him. It also means he can spend as long between her legs as she’ll let him, giving her a rather messier sort of kiss, and yes, he’d like to revisit that this morning, the way she gasps with pleasure when he gets his tongue moving just right, and the way she arches up against his hands on her hips and shivers, and the way she tugs at his hair a little too hard for mortal comfort but just perfectly now that he’s a god. But that is for later, if Diana wants it; now is for this kiss, this slow unfurling of pleasure in the sunlight.
So they kiss until they’re both shuddering with the warm pleasure of it, with the glory of skin-on-skin and the thrum of divine ichor in their veins, until Diana is spread out atop Steve like a sort of living blanket, unexpectedly heavy for such a slender body, humming with contentment as Steve strokes her back slow and gentle the way he’s learned she likes best. And really, staying here just like this forever would be absolutely perfect as far as Steve is concerned, he would be perfectly happy to never move again as long as Diana stays right here atop him and keeps kissing him like she wants to memorize the way he tastes, like she wants to drink the soft moans from his lips -
And Diana shifts a little, spreads her legs a little wider, and rubs right up against the only part of Steve that isn’t utterly contented with this quiet sensual moment. Steve’s hips lift despite himself, and she laughs against his mouth and shifts again, lithe and agile and inhumanly strong, and Steve makes a rather embarrassing noise as his cock slips into her.
Diana laughs again, low and quiet, and props herself up on one elbow to smile down at him. “Volume six of Clio’s works,” she says, voice full of amusement, “has three entire chapters on lazy morning sex. Unfortunately, I never got to try it; all of my mornings on Themyscira were full of being rousted out of bed to run up and down the cliffs with my aunt.”
“Well,” Steve says, keeping his voice steady with great effort as Diana rocks slowly atop him, “I haven’t got any cliff-running scheduled for today.”
“Good,” Diana says, smile widening and turning surprisingly filthy. “Neither do I.”
That’s the last actual talking they do for a while, but Steve thinks they communicate just fine, all things considered, with gasps and moans and the sweet, glorious sound Diana makes when she comes.
Spending the summer with Diana is a sort of paradise. She goes in to work in the morning, and Steve amuses himself by wandering around London, seeing what Sameer or Charlie are up to - those were fun conversations, explaining how he was back from the dead, and they both had to see him grow flowers out of empty soil before they’d believe he was a god now - and then meets her at the steps of the Museum every afternoon with a bouquet of flowers and a smile, and sometimes an ice cream cone if he gets the timing right. He watches her train the suffragettes in the park - and sometimes gets called in to act as a training dummy, which would hurt a lot more if he was still mortal - and then they go wandering back to the flat together to make dinner, or Diana flies them out to the country to lie on the cool grass and watch the stars come out, or they join Etta somewhere for a dinner they don’t have to cook (the gold and gems Steve brought up from the underworld can pay for a lot of very nice dinners, and Steve is endlessly pleased to be able to treat Diana and Etta to the sort of luxury they both deserve), or they just wander through the streets together pointing interesting things out to each other.
Diana seems to glow with joy every time she sees him waiting for her, and Steve is pretty sure he has genuinely never been happier in his life. The world is at peace, he’s not dead, his friends aren’t dead, and he has Diana in his arms, in his bed - well, her bed; in any case, a bed - in his life.
Steve suspects his happiness is having an effect on the season, too. The news reports say that it’s been an unusually pleasant spring and summer, with the crops coming up in surprising abundance even though so many farms are shorthanded, and Steve has noticed that when he’s out with Diana, if he passes a plant or a tree, it looks greener, stands a little taller, sometimes even throws out buds or tiny fruits.
“I am not looking forward to leaving you,” he tells her in early September, lying in bed and eyeing the calendar on the wall, the 24th circled in red ink. “I know it’s only six months, but -”
“I am not looking forward to your leaving,” Diana says. “But I have been thinking - you may not come to the mortal world during the winter. But can you come to Olympus?”
Steve blinks. “I...don’t know,” he says thoughtfully. “I don’t see why not. It’s part of the gods’ world, after all. I thought you said Olympus was shattered, though.”
“It is,” Diana says, “and I have not the skill to mend it; it would take dozens of gods to build it again. Perhaps we can make some corner of it our own -”
Steve sits up straight, staring down at her with wide eyes. “Dozens of gods - or Titans,” he says breathlessly. “I told you Antiope and I were trying to figure out what to do with the Titans down in the pit of Tartarus.”
Diana gapes, then begins to smile, slow and wide. “Yes,” she says delightedly. “What a wonderful idea!” She hauls Steve down and kisses him, and Steve lets himself be distracted from Olympus and Titans and the looming autumn equinox, because Diana’s kisses are not to be ignored.
Diana takes a week off from the Museum - they’re running out of things for her to translate, anyhow, so the Director doesn’t make a fuss - and on Wednesday the 24th, Steve takes a deep breath and taps his foot against the ground, in the same park where he emerged six months ago, and the soil gapes open to reveal steps going down into darkness. Diana takes his hand, and Steve leads the way into the underworld.
Antiope is waiting for them - well, for Steve, she didn’t know Diana was coming - and her face when she sees Diana is one Steve will cherish: wonder and joy and sheer love shining like gold. Diana runs forward to embrace her aunt, and Antiope actually picks her up and spins her around, then puts her down and steps back and looks Diana over carefully, top to toe.
“Well done, niece,” she says at last, and Diana beams. “I am proud of you.”
“Thank you,” she says solemnly. “I came down - well, to see if I could, and to see you, but also because Steve and I had an idea about the Titans in Tartarus.”
“Oh?” Antiope asks, clapping Steve on the shoulder as he joins them. “Then let us go to Tartarus, and you can tell me your idea on the way.”
Steve is glad he and Antiope have already cleaned Tartarus up a little, as they walk through the dimness with Diana. The screaming has gone down a lot, for one thing. Tantalus is still in his pool - he refuses to admit he might have been wrong to kill his son - but the women carrying water are gone, and the man getting his liver eaten, and many others. There have been new souls sent to Tartarus, of course, but Antiope is not as...creatively cruel as Hades and Zeus were, and the new punishments mostly don’t result in the same sort of endless agonized screaming. Which is good. Steve has a strictly limited tolerance for agonized screaming.
They stop at the edge of the pit, and Antiope crouches to put a hand on the dry, cracked ground, concentrating hard. There is a low rumbling sound that gets slowly louder and louder, nearer and nearer, and Steve, peering down into the blackness of the pit, thinks that he can begin to make out movement down in its depths, faint at first and then clearer and clearer as the bottom of the pit rises, lifting the Titans out of the darkness at last.
Steve sucks in a breath as the Titans come into view. They are all thin as rails, and their expressions are so bleak and miserable that it about breaks his heart. He’s got the cure for that, though: two huge wineskins of nectar and ambrosia sitting at his feet, each of them spelled by Hecate to never run dry. Hecate assured them that the food of the gods would fix just about any ailment, including prolonged starvation; Steve’s just hoping she’s right about that. As the pit floor rises further, he winces, covering his eyes with one hand. There are children down there; not many, but still. However slowly Ares killed Zeus, it wasn’t fucking slowly enough.
At last the bottom of the pit is level with the edge, and Antiope stands, dusting off her hands. Diana steps forward, drawing all eyes: she is glorious in her armor, sword and lasso at her hips, hair loose like she’s going into battle again. “I am Diana of Themyscira, daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus,” she says, and the Titans go very still at that last name. “My father is dead, and the gods of Olympus with him,” Diana continues. “I am the last of his blood left alive. What he left undone is mine to do; and so I tell you, you are free. Come and drink of nectar and ambrosia, and be healed; and if you will, come to Olympus, which stands empty now, and make your new homes there, and be at peace.”
The Titans all glance at each other, clearly dubious, and at last one steps forward. “I am Iapetus,” he says, voice creaky with long disuse. “I was brother to Cronus, and lead us now - so far as any may lead in Tartarus. Will you swear to us on the river Styx, daughter of Zeus, that we may come forth into sunlight and freedom again?”
“I swear on the river Styx that you may do so,” Diana says solemnly. “I shall do you and your people no harm so long as you do none to me or mine.”
Iapetus takes a deep breath. “Then we will come to Olympus and make our homes there in peace,” he says, bowing a little to Diana. “And we will honor Diana daughter of Zeus, who freed us, so long as there is life left in us.” He glances at Steve, who lifts one of the wineskins and holds it out. “Who are your companions, daughter of Zeus?”
“My aunt, Antiope, queen of Hades,” Diana says. “And my beloved, Steve Trevor, king of the springtime.” Steve feels himself blushing, but Iapetus only bows a little and takes the wineskin, drinking deeply. The change that rolls over him is startling: he goes from an emaciated shadow of a Titan to one in the full glory of strength and health, eyes bright and shoulders broad, in the blinking of an eye.
“Ah,” Iapetus breathes, and hands the waterskin to the woman beside him. “My thanks, Steve Trevor, and my gratitude forever. And my thanks to you, queen of Hades, as well.”
Antiope nods gravely. Steve picks up the other wineskin and offers it to one of the children, who takes it with shaking hands and drinks and gasps in shock as the effects of the nectar and ambrosia roll through her. Diana steps closer to Steve and takes his hand, and together they watch the Titans begin at last to recover from their long imprisonment. Steve thinks that if he does nothing else in his time as co-ruler of the underworld, he can be proud of this, at least, for all his days.
“So Iapetus said this is ours,” Diana finishes, spreading her arms wide, and Steve looks around the tidy little house with wide eyes, then feels himself start to grin.
“Ours, huh?” he says, and sweeps Diana up into a tight embrace. “For all year round,” he murmurs, kissing her softly.
“Yes,” she says, beaming. “I can come here every weekend - every evening if I want to - and you can meet me here, and we will never be parted again.”
“You are a miracle, Diana,” Steve says, and means it.
“So are you, Steve Trevor,” she says, low and sweet, a smile on her lips as beautiful as the sunrise over Themyscira, and Steve smiles down at her and leans in to kiss that smile.