“Oh!” Etta says, coming to a sudden stop on the threshold of the room they rented for the night. There’s only one bed. That's… That’s not good.
She turns to go back downstairs, but pauses almost immediately: Etta is better than this. She all but ran Britain’s War Ministry during the Great War; she faced down foreign agents with a sword; she was the personal secretary, however unwittingly, to a god. And Miss Diana Prince, Princess of Themyscira, chose her, Etta Candy, as her traveling companion! Etta will not be intimidated by a mere bed.
She squares her shoulders, turns back—
And stops again, because really, no, sharing a bed with Diana is just too much. Discretion and valour and all that. She pivots on her heel to retreat, but—
“Oh!” she exclaims again, because Diana has come up close behind her while she dithered, and now Etta is face-to-face with her breasts. Well, not really face-to-face, more face-to-fur, but that is even worse, because now Etta is thinking about fur muffs and the last time she was face-first—
She pivots sharply on her heel again, and there is the bed.
This is the way Etta is going to die: trapped between a bed and Diana Prince’s breasts.
“What is it?” Diana asks, sidestepping past her like a woman who has never once in her life been stymied by a revolving door.
The fur of her cape brushes past Etta’s face — fur and soft and tall and oh, the smell of that woman, that is what it must be to be a literal goddess, to never stink of travel and perspiration — and Etta revises her opinion: this is how she’s going to die. Here, in this doorway, Diana’s voice low and kind and throaty in her ears.
“Etta?” Diana asks, and Etta blinks her eyes open. Diana is standing in the small space between the door and the bed, her face beautifully creased in a slight frown of concern.
Etta stifles the urge to dootle-de-doo away her discomfort. “There’s only the one…” Her vague gesture doesn’t seem to enlighten Diana in the least. “There’s only one… bed.”
Diana turns to frown at the offending furnishing. “It is large enough for two.”
And isn’t that just the problem? Etta plasters on a bright, determined smile. “I’ll just take the floor then, shall I?”
Diana’s head tilts. “Do you enjoy the floor?”
Etta makes a cheery but noncommittal noise. Even if one could lie to Diana Prince — and Etta isn’t entirely sure she could — the woman conducts her life with such unflinching honesty that it seems unkind, unsporting even, to meet her with anything but the same.
And yet there are still secrets Etta would rather keep for herself. For example, how overwhelming Etta would find it to share a bed with Diana, how much she craves it, and how little she dares to hope for it.
“Because I don’t enjoy the floor,” Diana continues. “The floor is cold and hard and lonely. The bed will be none of those things.” And then, because Diana is apparently determined to kill Etta, she adds, “Especially with you to share it with me.”
Diana’s voice is as low and gravelly as if she had just woken after a long night of muff-eating. If Etta didn’t know the woman sounded like that all the damned time, Etta might even believe there was a proposition in there.
“Etta?” Diana asks again, her smile intimate and warm. Oh, yes, this is definitely how Etta will die.
“Erm,” Etta says, intelligently.
Diana’s face falls. “Oh. I see.” She turns away, removes her cape, her weapons. “Steve also was reluctant to sleep with me.”
Etta’s stomach twists in a surprised knot of laughter and grief, because she just bets he was, and also, Steve.
“There is a… taboo?” Diana asks, still doggedly trying to work out Etta’s reluctance to share the bed.
“Ah, no,” Etta hastens to clarify. “Well, not between two women sharing a bed. Not usually.” And dootle-de-doooooo, Etta flies right past that. “But with a man and a woman, yes, definitely, it isn’t done. Or shouldn’t be. Steve was trying to protect your honour. Probably.”
“My honour,” Diana says, amused. She sits on the bed and unbuckles her greaves. There are bald patches on her legs where her armour has worn away the hair. “And are you trying to protect my honour, Etta?”
Etta grimaces. It’d be fairer to say that it’s her own honour she’s protecting. Or, at the very least, her self-respect.
“My honour lies in my sword, and in my open hand,” Diana says, undoing the rest of her armour, buckles and clips and straps, stripping down to the light cotton shift she wears beneath. “It lies in when I choose to speak, and for whom. My honour does not lie with whom I share a bed.” She pauses, considering Etta. “Unless, perhaps, I attempt to share a bed with someone who does not wish to share with me.”
Oh, crikey, but does Diana have it wrong. “No, that’s not… Of course I…”
But Diana is already standing and spreading her cape next to the bed. “I’ll take the floor.”
The last thing Etta wants is to see Diana sleeping on the floor because of Etta’s cowardice. “No! I’ll take the floor! You can’t sleep on a floor, you…” She’s a princess and also a goddess, but Diana would accept neither of those reasons. Etta gestures helplessly at Diana, golden and strong and perfect. “Your bones are all. Um.”
Diana looks at her quizzically, waiting for the end of that thought.
Etta gives up and strikes a pose. She gestures lavishly down her frame, as if she’s modeling the latest fashions. “Whereas I have all this natural cushioning! See? All soft and comfy on the floor.”
Diana blinks, then bursts into incredulous laughter. “Did you just call me bony? No, no, you can’t take that back! Now I have to sleep on the floor,” she teases, stepping into the circle of her cape. She sits, tugs the fur up around her shoulders. “If I share the bed with you, I might injure you with my sharp bones.” She grins up at Etta.
“Oh, lordy, I didn’t mean… But you don’t like the floor. You just said! The floor is hard and cold and lonely!”
Diana pokes at her knee, the jut of her hipbone, all the places where her bones run close to the surface, obviously amused by the idea of being fragile. “Well, yes. But it’s not going to hurt me.” She glances up and sees Etta’s expression. “Oh, Etta, don’t fret, it’s fine. It takes far more than a floor to hurt me. And I don’t get cold, not really. As for lonely…” The smile is still there, but it’s gone brave and wistful. She shrugs. “I’ve been lonely since Themyscira.”
She is Etta Candy, and she chooses to die a soldier’s death.
She marches to the bed, plucks up the pillows, and drops them on the floor next to Diana, who looks up in surprise. Etta kicks off her shoes, then kneels down heavily on the fur cape. She gestures for Diana to move over. “Well go on, make space for me.”
“What are you…?”
“Sleeping with you,” Etta huffs, and manhandles a bewildered Diana until they’re curled up together on the floor, Etta spooned around Diana’s back. There isn’t enough cape to wrap around them both, but with Diana against her front and a curl of the fur pulled around her back, Etta is warm enough. And Diana says she never gets cold, so that’s fine.
“You’re not going to change?” Diana asks. On other nights, she has teased Etta about her voluminous nightgown.
“I’m fine, go to sleep.”
“But I took off my armour,” Diana complains, and Etta would swear she is pouting. Nevertheless, Diana snuggles back into Etta’s body, a series of small, worming movements until the fit between their bodies is perfect. Diana tangles her fingers with Etta’s, lifts her hand and kisses her knuckles. Her heart stuttering, Etta returns the kiss against Diana’s shoulder blade. That’s as high as Etta can reach; even lying down, Diana is very tall.
“Etta?” Diana asks, a little while later.
“Can’t talk, sleeping,” Etta says into Diana’s back. It is a lie; she is most definitely not sleeping. She can’t even imagine sleeping.
Diana giggles, and if Etta hadn’t already been gone for this woman, she would be now. “That was a lie. You’re lying,” Diana scolds, but Etta determinedly doesn’t respond. Her mission tonight is to hold Diana until she’s not lonely anymore. Etta will be dead by morning, but she will have earned her place in Valhalla.
“Etta,” Diana tries again. “Is there a reason we’re on the floor?”
“Yes,” Etta responds immediately, hoping to put enough conviction into the answer to spare her having to discuss it.
A minute passes, long enough for Etta to believe her hopes have been realised.
“Is it a good reason?” Diana asks.
Etta doesn’t answer.
“I only ask because…” Diana turns herself over in Etta’s arms, a series of flops in place, like a beached sea-mammal, and Etta is gratified to know that not even Diana can make that maneuver look graceful. Etta’s gratitude is short-lived, however, because Diana takes Etta’s face in her hands and kisses her gently on the lips.
Etta’s brain whites out.
“…because while I am not cold,” Diana is saying, “and neither am I lonely, the floor is still hard, and I am still bony.” Diana puts a hand on Etta’s waist. Her fingers trace the steel struts of Etta’s corset. “Also, I think you will be more comfortable without your armour. But if you prefer to sleep here, like this, then I am content, too.” Diana’s smile is pure grace.
Wondering at herself, Etta reaches up and kisses that smile. Diana kisses her back with the same heartfelt sincerity that she pours into everything.
Perhaps Etta will die here tonight, but it will only be a little death. Perhaps many of them. And Etta will not die alone: Diana has always been firm that a general should die with her soldiers.
Etta heaves Diana up to lie on top of her. She can’t breathe from the combined pressure of her corset and Diana’s weight, but Etta is no longer afraid of death. “See? Soft and comfy,” Etta says, then winces as Diana’s hipbone juts into her thigh. “Okay, yes, I think maybe the bed—”
“Will be warm and soft and not at all lonely,” Diana agrees, and pushing herself upright, she reaches down to hand Etta up from the floor.