He's seeing ghosts, Chief had said, when Charlie woke up screaming in the night. Diana hadn't understood back then; she had no comparison for the sorrow so deep it would follow you into your dreams. But she thinks she understands now, when she has so many ghosts of her own.
Antiope. Steve. And then, one by one, the friends she'd made in this strange new world. Etta, Sameer, Charlie, Chief.
The list only seems to grow longer.
Amazons hadn't known death. Or perhaps, more accurately, Diana hadn't known it. It had been a distant concept, back on Themyscira. Before she'd left, before Antiope died, with so many others alongside her. Before she'd met Steve. Death, back then, had no meaning for her.
But she knows her mother, who had fought and lost wars at the dawn of time, had understood death too well. There was a reason the Amazons trained so hard, even on the hidden island paradise protected by Zeus himself, and it was not only because of their love of fighting itself. Fighting does not make you a hero, her mother had told Diana, and: war is nothing to hope for.
Diana understands Hippolyta's words better now, though the price she paid for it seems too steep. She once had believed war could be just. Now, she's seen so much death and destruction and she knows it will always haunt her. All the people she failed to save and all the people who left her. All the ghosts she still carries with her. A litany of names, of the people loved and lost.
Diana is a warrior and she knows she will always be a warrior. She still enjoys the fight, but she does not long for the war.
I wish we had more time, Steve'd said.
Diana has nothing but time. In a world of mortals she is the one being death won't touch. She's a daughter of Zeus, a demigoddess, the last one of her kind, and daughter of Hippolyta, the queen who has reigned for thousands of years. She is the Godkiller and she is the princess of Themyscira. She won't wither. Her body will heal without a scar, and there will be no wrinkles on her face or grey in her hair. In an ever changeable world she is the only constant.
Time had a different meaning for her, when she was on Themyscira. She lived for four thousand years and still felt a child, protected by her mother's love, needing Antiope's guidance. The island had been made to be harbour for the Amazons, a safe haven for all eternity. Even when they were training for war, it felt like paradise, unchanging and filled with happiness.
But that world is closed to her. Hippolyta words still echo in her head. If you choose to leave, you may never return.
Diana left, and this is who she is. It was her own choice, one she will never regret, no matter how much sorrow it brought her.
The world she is in now is ruled by time. Everything moves so fast, changes so fast. It's big and bright and busy, and so full. There's so much death and hate and suffering, but there's so much joy and love and wonder, too. There are so many amazing things humans are doing, passing acts of kindness and little rituals meant only for the joy of it. Sharing a smile with a stranger, helping a child. Drinking coffee in the cafe on the corner of a street, eating ice cream from a vendor.
Dancing. Having breakfast, and reading a newspaper, and growing old.
When she asked Steve what is was like, he said: I have no idea.
Diana gets to do most things people did when there were no wars to fight: she can wake up and have breakfast, read the newspaper and go to work. She does most mornings, and she always thinks of Steve. She keeps the name he gave her and introduces herself as Diana Prince.
Neither one of them would get to grow old.
The Great War ends and the life goes on. Diana thinks of Steve, constantly, and tries not to miss him. She wishes he could be here. She wishes he could see this world he'd helped to save.
The world changes in the aftermath. She starts wearing dresses that are shorter, though it is still impossible to fight in them. She goes dancing and she goes to the movies, and she thinks Steve would have loved that. The women slightly gain some political rights, if not enough, and Diana joins the fight for more. She travels through Europe, sees nations who grieve the war and nations who rejoice in how it ended. She learns this world in bits and pieces, and then she learns how to like London.
Not all things are good. The depression hits, and there are so many people without jobs, without homes, without food. There are children who die of hunger. Diana can't stand the thought, and she helps as many as she can, but it is not enough. After a while things get better, slowly, but the tensions grow. There are still people who are misplaced, overlooked, oppressed. People like Chief and Sameer, who are judged by the colour of their skin, and like the Jews arriving from the Germany, chased away from their homes because of their religion and ancestry. The world turns out to be both beautiful and wretched, and Diana isn't sure she understands it.
And then another war breaks out, and she can almost hear Ares' voice. They start these wars on their own. All I truly do is talk them into armistice I know they cannot keep and hope they will destroy themselves. And oh, how right he was, because not even twenty years has passed and yet the mankind seeks out destruction again. It feels like a blink of an eye.
There are billions dead and the Europe runs with blood and there's nothing Diana can do to save any of them. There is no Ares to kill, not this time, and the war only ends when they use a weapon much greater than poisonous gas.
It's not about deserve. It's about what you believe, Steve'd said.
Diana watches the world pick up itself once again and remembers. She travels beyond Europe, goes to the States, and then South America, Africa, Asia. She can't stand the thought of going back to the old continent for a while. But the world is so much bigger and she has so much to see.
She wears skirts that are shorter still and she can almost feel at home in them. She seeks out art and beauty and thinks she could be content with that. She meets people who had never heard of either of the great wars.
She thinks of Steve saying: we can't save everyone, and then following her anyway. Steve, who had been a human, painfully frail, who ran after her from the trenches and kept up, fought by her side. She thinks she must have already loved him back then. Steve, who died in hopes of saving so many others, who had said: it has to be me.
She thinks of her own sorrow, when she saw him die. Of the rage that almost consumed her and of Ares words. Of how she almost killed Isabel Maru. And why she hadn't.
When Diana returns to Europe, she settles in Paris.
When her mother told her the story of the mankind, she'd told her it was good. Good and pure, and then turned corrupted by Ares. That, Diana now knows, was a children's story, meant for the only child the Amazons ever had.
Mankind turned out to be nothing like she'd expected. They're capacity for good is as great as in Hippolyta's stories. They are beautiful, and they can achieve so much. But there is darkness inside of them, one that comes from within.
Be careful with mankind, Diana, her mother had said, when she saw her last. They do not deserve you.
That, Diana now knows, both is and isn't the truth.
I can save today, Steve'd said. You can save the world.
That, Diana learned later, was not quite true.
Life, Diana learns, is one thing to be cherished most of all.
It is a precious, wonderful thing - to exist, to breathe, to live. It is so easily lost.
Mankind wages wars endlessly, for riches and ideas and petty squabbles. They sign treaties they don't uphold, and then fight again. They rarely do so for love.
Diana watches the twentieth century and sees more of war than she could ever wish to see or imagine: the first Great War and then the second, and then wars in China and Korea and Israel, in Algeria and Sudan and Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Balkans, Rwanda...
The list seems endless and peace is ever out of reach. There is no such thing, Diana thinks, as just war. Everywhere in the world people want to kill each other, to harm each other, and they do so in cruel ways, no matter their weapons.
They kill and harm each other even without wars. They're weak, and cruel, and greedy, and selfish, and petty, and full of strife. They're everything Ares made them out to be.
And yet, they are so much more.
Diana cannot stop their wars, just like she cannot change their nature. She cannot save them from themselves.
But Diana believes in love, and so she stays. That's what she chooses to do, to believe, every single day, for a hundred of years. To wake up and have breakfast. To read the newspaper and go to work. To love, always, and to live.
Perhaps life is so precious because it can be lost.
I love you, Steve had said. Diana never got to say it back.
She goes through the life thinking of this. She cannot stop thinking of Steve, just like she cannot stop missing him. Cannot stop loving him, always.
If only we had more time, she thinks. She knows it to be another half-truth.
Diana would have loved Steve Trevor if she had known him for a hundred years just like she loves him when she knew him for less than a week. She will always love Steve, who had followed her on an impossible mission, who had seen the worst of humanity and yet still fought for it, who had taught her how to do the same. His name has been carved into her heart, just like his words have been carved into her memory. There isn't any part of her he hadn't touched.
She will always carry his ghost around her. There is an ache inside her, a pain like a phantom limb. But this ache, she thinks, is the sweetest one. This one she will relish.
Diana wakes up and has breakfast. She doesn't read the newspaper, but she checks her e-mail and goes through the news on her phone. She drinks coffee on her way to work. She thinks of getting ice cream on her way back.
She writes an e-mail to Bruce.
Thank you for bringing him back to me.