Brave New World
Disclaimers in Part 1
The earth shook and the windows rattled and the sounds of tank and artillery fire shattered what had been peaceful contentment up to that point. Chase blinked her eyes open, drawing in a breath of a familiar scent and closing her eyes again... before her mind caught up with the rest of her. She would have jerked upright if not for the arms that tightened around her and held her in place.
" Shh," Diana crooned. " It's okay, Chase. Take your time. You don't need to be moving around like that until we're sure you've healed a bit. Besides... you belong here."
Those words, more than the rest, calmed Chase and Diana felt her relax within the circle of her arms.
" All right... first things first." Another blast and another shuddering of the building from the repercussion. Diana brushed her lips over Chase's forehead. " Good... no fever. How do you feel otherwise?"
Chase thought about it. " Tired," she said honestly. " Really sore," lifting a hand up to touch her not-so-swollen face. " Ribs are still painful and my arm is... hmm.... Though at least my jaw doesn't feel broken anymore, and my lips have stopped bleeding. Nice not to slur like a drunk when I talk. "
The surface under her bobbed with movement when Diana laughed silently and Chase was reminded just exactly where she was lying... again. Then she wondered how she ended up half on top of Diana; she was certain that was not how they started out.
" Do you feel like you can walk?" The somewhat distant whistling of another mortar shell being lobbed towards the city. " Because we really do need to start making tracks for the bunker soon. Ty has already been by here three times."
Chase started to ease up, but Diana kept her arms around Chase, so they sat up slowly together. " Any dizziness?" Chase shook her head slowly, not wanting to risk it happening through her carelessness. " Okay... let me slide out of the bed before you stand up, all right?"
" All right," Chase whispered. Having Diana wrapped around her was doing all kinds of interesting things to her senses and she didn't have time to analyze or enjoy them at the moment. Diana slipped from behind her and perfunctorily straightened her sleep rumpled clothing before turning to offer her hands to Chase.
Chase stood slowly on slightly unsteady legs, then she took a breath and winced before she released Diana's hands. " Doing okay?"
" Yeah, mostly." Chase met Diana's eyes. " Something else we're gonna have to talk about later." Two explosions, one right after the other and much closer than any of the previous rounds, blew the windows out of the warehouse and knocked Diana and Chase to the floor. " Um... do I have some clothes here? 'Cause I sure don't wanna have to run out of here with my ass hanging out."
" Yeah... yeah. Ty brought your stuff by," handing Chase a backpack and scooting away from her without ever meeting her eyes. " I'll just...." motioning to the far corner of the curtain, " ... be over here with my back turned buttoning my shirt," having just realized her own undressed state.
Diana was so shy and cute about giving her some privacy, Chase was amused. Then she realized even as much healing as she had done in a few short hours, the broken bones she had received at Ares' hands were still broken. She was going to need help getting dressed.
" Um... Diana? I, uh... <ahem> I need... I need a little help."
" What? Oh, yeah... I, uh... I guess you would. Um... what would you like me to do?" Diana stood up from where she had been sitting and turned to face Chase who was still on the floor. " Oh, gods, Chase. I'm so sorry. I should have realized...." extending her hand down to Chase, then realizing it would be better if she picked Chase up. " Wait."
She spun slowly and became Wonder Woman again, then knelt and lifted Chase into her arms and gently placed her on the bed. Then she twirled back into Diana Prince and picked up the backpack. " That's a pretty cool trick," Chase said with a smile. " Can you help me get this gown off and get a shirt on, please? I don't think I can manage."
" Yeah, sure. Can you stand up again? I should have thought of that."
Chase slid from the pallet and turned her back to Diana, her skin tingling where Diana's fingers trailed when she untied and pushed the gown to the floor. Then Diana dug into the backpack and pulled out the clean shirt Chase had brought with her, easing it gently up Chase's broken arm and trying to control the tremors in her hands and ignoring the fact that Chase was naked from the waist up.
The ribs made getting the other sleeve on difficult at best, but finally the shirt was on and Diana left Chase to button it up on her own while she turned her back to Chase to try to regain a little equilibrium. Diana turned her focus on the backpack and pulled the trousers from it. Then she took a deep breath and turned back to Chase, handing them over her shoulder.
Chase took them and shook them out, then bent over to put them on... and froze. " Ow."
" Chase!" Embarrassment forgotten, Diana moved immediately to stand in front of her. " Chase, put your hands on my shoulders," bending to accept Chase's hands. " Now, I am going to straighten up slowly, all right? Then you can sit down on the bed and I'll help you get your pants on." Another bomb dropped, this one even closer and bits of the ceiling fell on them as they tried to protect one another.
" C'mon, Diana... we gotta get outta here before this whole damn place falls." Diana reached down and eased the trousers over Chase's feet, sliding them quickly up the muscular legs. Running footsteps didn't deter them and Diana was bent over with her head at Chase's waist pulling the trousers over Chase's hips when Ty rushed in the door.
" Oh-whoa... my goodness!" Ty blinked and blushed and skidded to a stop all in one movement. " Well, I'm glad you're dressed... mostly. How ya feeling? You up to moving?" A tremor shook the building and Diana casually finished fastening Chase's trousers then quickly slid socks and boots onto Chase's feet before giving her leg a little pat. Ty picked up the backpack.
" Not much choice. Let's move," Chase said, walking slowly and stiffly, but unaided. She figured she'd need every step to wherever Ty was leading them to work the stiffness from her joints. Then she noticed the slump of Diana's shoulders. " Thank you," she whispered, tucking her hand in the crook of Diana's elbow before she turned back to Ty. " Report!"
" The Nazis have mounted a counteroffensive. So far it has been less than successful, but they have managed a few lucky shots. They are really just coming into range for them."
" And for us? What's our status?"
" The wounded have been moved to a secure bunker inside the Reichstag and I doubled the guards around the ex-Fuehrer. The resistance has brought up the caches of weapons they have been stockpiling and they've provided serious reinforcement in personnel. They have been placed in two lines across the front perimeter and we're waiting your orders."
" How far out are the Nazis?" They stepped from the warehouse and Ty could feel the silent cheers from the rebels scattered throughout the city as they saw Chase walking on her own. A number of them had seen Chase being carried in that morning and rumors had abounded about her condition. To see her up and about so quickly gave them all an added confidence in themselves and each other. Even with the victories they had already won, there was something about Chase that just inspired them to even greater heights.
In answer, Ty handed Chase a pair of binoculars, easily allowing her to bring the formidable line of tanks headed towards them at a snail's pace into up close and personal focus. " All right... this is what we're gonna do...."
Chase released Diana's arm and took her hand instead, slowly walking together towards the Reichstag even as she stared issuing orders for the rebels' next offensive.
Immediately the courtyard became a flurry of activity as the tanks, artillery and troops prepared to go out and meet the Nazis head on. The only thing Chase didn't know was of Mitch's plan to record it all for posterity. That decision would be costly.
Darkness was falling across the land and night was coming on rapidly, a fact that Chase planned on taking full advantage of. Because though her troops were enthusiastic and riding a high over their first victory, they were also untested in this kind of battle. Hit and run was their forte and this promised to be something much different, so she was going to use every advantage she had at her disposal. And this included fighting in the dark.
On the plus side, the Nazi troops had grown complacent, and were as untested as her soldiers were. She could only hope their leadership was as conceited as their Fuehrer was, because that was a weakness she could exploit. Besides, she still had the vicious little surprise she'd had prepared for any resistance that popped up; it would be up to them whether or not it got used.
Diana watched in fascination as Chase directed her troops with negligent skill while never losing contact with Diana at any time. It was an unexpected twist to the woman she had learned about through ancient scrolls and more recently from Paula's computer reports. No longer the Bard, Chase was a full-fledged warrior and Diana wondered how their lives would mesh as warriors, conveniently forgetting that her soulmate had been more warrior than bard when they had been separated twenty-six hundred years previously.
Once every squadron except the Amazons had their new assignments, Chase turned to Diana. " I need you to choose your best scouts to go ahead and find the leader of this offensive. We're gonna give them one chance to surrender."
" And then?"
" Then we're gonna kill them all."
Diana swallowed hard but nodded. If their intelligence was correct, and she had no reason to think otherwise, this unit was responsible for the annihilation of three of the villages Orana had ordered destroyed. On the one hand, she admired Chase's determination to offer them mercy first; on the other, she simply wanted to destroy them and be done with it.
" I'd like to lead them."
Chase nodded. " I expected as much. Just be careful. The rest of the Amazons can be spread out here, here, here and here. I have noticed they are expert marksmen, and these places will give them the best vantage point for taking out the enemy if they choose fighting over surrender."
" You want them to fight, don't you?"
" Yeah, I do. This is the elite... the part of the army that thrives on torture and slaughter. I'd like to pay that violence back in kind," Chase replied in a natural voice, but the light that burned in her eyes was intense in its hatred of the enemy that had done so much damage to so many for so long.
Diana nodded. She, more than most, could understand Chase's need for revenge. She just didn't want that need to turn on Chase and cause her to become that which she despised the most. Diana beckoned her squadron leaders inside to give them their orders, and the Amazons smiled in satisfaction. Short of hand to hand combat, an art form of war that seemed to have faded with mankind's technological advancements, they were best suited for picking off the enemy one at a time. And they relished the opportunity to be in the thick of the fighting.
Nubia and Leona were chosen to accompany Diana as scouts to find the leader. Nubia had been their best before they had moved to Paradise Island, and she had maintained her skills as much as the island would allow. She had always been ready to participate in scout training and did so whenever her otherwise hectic schedule would allow. Leona was Nubia's first choice.
And so the small team moved off towards the front lines, melting into the darkness in plain sight. Chase stood watching the empty space from the darkened doorway of the Reichstag, letting her heart follow Diana where the rest of her could not. She didn't even hear Ty's approach until her cousin was standing right beside her.
" She'll be all right, Chase. She's got too much to lose not to come back to you." Chase nodded, but her eyes didn't leave the inky blackness that stretched out towards the Nazi front line. Ty shook her head and chuckled softly. " You really do have it bad this time, and I for one am glad to see it."
" We all are, Ty," Mala answered as she came up on Chase's other side. " This has been a long, long time in coming."
Ty accepted Mala's words without recognizing all of the nuances behind them. Then she decided to ask the priestess about something that had been bothering her since earlier. " Mala?"
" Can you tell me about this Wonder Woman character who just popped up today? I realize she must be a good guy by the way that Drea deferred to her and all, but there is something about her that just bothers me no end. She reminds me of something or someone, and I'm not sure what it is."
Chase didn't move, but Mala felt the tension flow through her at the question. She closed her eyes briefly and whispered a prayer to Athena for wisdom. Then she opened them and faced Ty, ready to tell her the Amazon story of Wonder Woman.
" Many years ago, the Amazons needed a champion and a call went up to the gods to provide one. They gave us Wonder Woman... a culmination of all that is good and right about Amazons... about all women really. She is beautiful and soft like a woman, yet has the strength of ten men and the courage of a lion. She can run like the wind and fly like a bird and fight with the fierceness of a tigress. She has the heart of a warrior and the soul of a poet. She is the epitome of what we strive to be."
" So you're saying she's not just one person, but many?"
" Something like that, yes." Mala answered coming as close to lying as she dared.
" Maybe that's why she reminds me of someone I know... she *is* someone I know. She is the culmination of several someones I know. Thanks, Mala." A pause. " So if she is the Amazon champion, where is she now?"
" She will be here when we need her to be. She is adjusting to her new role as a protector of the greater good here in man's world."
Ty nodded thoughtfully and clapped Chase on the shoulder. " I'll be waiting for your signal." Then she moved back into the darkness towards her unit.
Mala blew out a breath and felt Chase relax at the same time. " That was interesting," Chase commented. " Is there a reason she can't see the truth?"
Mala smiled and nodded. " Yes. She's not supposed to, and she really doesn't want to know."
" I don't understand."
Mala sighed and took Chase's arm, leading her out into the night. Even though they had been alone on the steps of the Reichstag, Mala felt more comfortable discussing this while they were moving. There was less likelihood of them being overheard.
" When Diana is simply Diana, she projects an air of calm control without drawing undue attention to herself. Think about it, Chase. The reason people noticed her when you brought her into the rebel encampment is *because* you brought her into the rebel encampment like you did. No one really noticed her otherwise, except for the change she made in you."
" What do you mean no one noticed her, Mala?? She's gorgeous! How can anyone miss that??"
Mala chuckled. " You see that because you see who she really is. You see her with your heart and not your eyes." A beat. " Chase, think about it a minute... Diana Prince keeps her hair in a braid, she wears loose clothing... she doesn't do anything to make people take notice of her. But when she becomes Wonder Woman, everything about her draws attention her looks, her strength, her costume. No one sees the similarities because no one thinks to look for them."
" Makes sense," Chase agreed slowly. Then she turned her attention back towards the darkness Diana had disappeared into. " I hope she'll be all right," Chase whispered.
Mala wrapped an arm around Chase's shoulders and steered them back towards the Reichstag and the command center. " Not to worry, Chase... she's Wonder Woman."
When they were out of sight of the rebel encampment, but still too far away to be seen by the Nazis, the three Amazons came to a halt. Then Diana twirled slowly and Diana Prince became Wonder Woman. Nubia smiled.
" It is good to see you as the hero you should have always been, Princess."
Wonder Woman smiled. " It feels right, Nubia. Thank you. Now let's go see if the Nazis are going to surrender or if they're up for a fight."
They slipped into the trees that Orana had allowed to grow up around the capital and quickly made their way around the encampment to the back. They knew instinctively that is where they would find the leaders of this offensive. The snippets of conversation they were able to catch showed them the soldiers thought it was some sort of set up by the Fuehrer to crush the rebellion and bring the resistance back in line.
It was easy to pick out the command tent. It was as though the generals were flaunting the fact, sure in the knowledge that this was but a game for them. The Amazons were able to drop down behind the tent undetected and slipped around to the front. Nubia and Leona took care of the two guards who stood casual duty in front of it, then Wonder Woman stepped into the tent, causing the laughter and revelry to come to a complete and utter halt. The two Amazons walked in behind her, causing the now silent jaws to drop.
" What is the meaning of this? Who in the hell are you?" the eldest and most decorated of the men growled out.
" Sit down."
" What?? Do you know who you are speaking to, woman?? We are Aryan soldiers of the Third Reich. We take orders from no woman save the Fuehrer!! Guards!!"
Before they could blink, Wonder Woman put the pinch on three of them and had the lasso around the old man. " Now you sit down and you shut up and you listen to me." She turned and glared a Look at the other three who were clawing at there throats. " Same goes for you three," removing the pinch. " One stupid move and I'll put it back on and let you die."
Nubia and Leona exchanged glances. " Guess she kept a little more of her original soul than we got to see on Paradise Island," Nubia muttered. Leona just nodded and kept her attention on the men in front of her.
The four men sat very still and very quiet, and Wonder Woman let her gaze linger on them for a long moment before she spoke.
" All right, gentlemen. One chance. One chance to give me the right answer. One chance to surrender. Otherwise, the rebellion is going to destroy you."
Stunned silence before the eldest burst into coarse laughter and the others followed suit. They looked at Wonder Woman incredulously and then the laughter rolled until tears streamed down their faces. Wonder Woman casually looped the lasso back on her belt and looked at the two waiting Amazons.
" I guess that means they want to fight," she said casually, shrugging. " Well, gentlemen... when you're dying and before Hades takes your souls to hell, I want you to remember that you were given a choice - and you chose poorly."
The older man took a chance a rose, his hand on his holster. A slight motion from Wonder Woman kept Nubia and Leona from moving. Diana put her hands on her hips and waited. The general pulled his Luger and pointed it in her direction. The three younger men didn't move; they had felt the pain on the pinch and didn't want a repeat.
" Did you just threaten me? You, who had to come here in strange clothing and play at being a warrior like a man??" He laughed again. " If you're the best the rebellion has, if you're the best the Fuehrer can come up with to test us, we will have no trouble defeating you and bringing the resistance back into line."
He pulled the gun from the holster and even took the time to aim. Diana never moved, never flinched. But when he pulled the trigger, he found the bullet he shot ricocheting back towards him, though he had no clue how she had managed it with the motion of her arm. He hit the ground even as the other three men hit the deck as well. When they finally got up and dusted themselves off, Wonder Woman and her Amazon friends were gone.
They looked around at each other and the eldest man spoke gruffly. " Well, if this is what the Fuehrer has in store for us tomorrow, I predict we will be sharing drinks together before dinner," chuckling. He raised his glass, not noting the furtive looks the others exchanged before raising their own. Suddenly, their victory didn't seem nearly as assured as it had only moments before.
No one saw Wonder Woman walk back into the city; she had long since honed her stealth skills to the point that even the best Amazons couldn't find her, even on Paradise Island, if she didn't want them to. Getting past standard rebels troops was child's play.
She slipped into the Reichstag without being spotted by anyone... only to find Chase's eyes fixed on her as she crossed into the room Chase had chosen to use as a command center. Diana stopped short, caught by surprise. No one had ever been able to find her when she became part of her surroundings, so to have Chase sitting behind the desk, arms crossed, looking at her for all the world like she expected Diana to be where she was completely disconcerting.
Then she glimpsed the shock and desire in Chase's green eyes as she finally got a good look at Wonder Woman. " Well, at least now I understand what Mala meant," Chase commented. Diana looked at her askance; Chase saw the question in Diana's eyes and waved it off. " What was their response?"
Wonder Woman shrugged. " About what you expected. They laughed... thought it was a joke... or some sort of preparedness test from Orana. Apparently they either haven't heard or have chosen not to believe the reports that huge parts of the army have already surrendered."
" All right then... let me go give the army their orders. It's time to kick some Nazi ass."
" I'm going with you, Annabelle."
" I know. But why does Wonder Woman call me Annabelle? Diana calls me Chase."
" One of those little things people tend not to see past. If Wonder Woman is more formal than Diana Prince, people tend to overlook any similarities in tone and inflection."
Chase nodded her understanding then stood slowly and took Wonder Woman by the elbow. " Let's go, Wonder Woman. I want this fight to be over and a good leader goes with the troops."
" You're right... she does. We always rode at the front of any fight."
" Well... you did," Chase said bitterly. " But I did eventually learn that lesson."
" Annabelle...." A beat. " Chase...." pulling them to a halt before Chase could open the door. " It was never a lesson I wanted you to learn. But I'm glad we will be going together side by side in this fight. I think it is important for both of us."
" I think so too."
Another short pause. " Can I ask you something?" waiting for Chase to nod her head. " How did you know where I was? When I came in the room... you were waiting for me you knew right where I would be how did you know that?"
Chase thought about it and shrugged. " I don't know. It was a feeling as much as anything. I just... felt you there and there you were."
Wonder Woman thought about that for a long moment, then a brilliant smile graced her features, causing an answering smile to appear on Chase's face. " I like the sound of that." She pulled the door open. " Let's go get this over with. We have a life to live that doesn't involve war and fighting." Diana wouldn't have believed Chase's grin could have gotten any bigger if she hadn't seen it herself.
" So what did you do with Nubia and Leona?"
" They, along with a few other chosen Amazons, are scattered in the trees to pass information back to us until we move beyond them. Then they will join the fighting lines following the tanks."
" You know people... friends... are going die," Chase commented softly as they stepped out into the darkened square. " Maybe I should have tried harder to avoid a fight."
Wonder Woman pulled them to a stop and turned Chase to face her. " Maybe you should trust that not only is this army *ready* to fight... they need to fight. Annabelle... Chase," dropping the formality Wonder Woman used for the more intimate address Diana favored in an effort to make her point. " They have all been waiting a long time... a lifetime... for this fight. Most of them are spoiling for a fight. Even with the risks.... They knew what they were getting into when they chose to be part of the rebellion."
" You think so?"
" I know so. Fighters are fighters, Chase, and I grew up surrounded by Amazon warriors."
Chase sighed. " I know you're right, Wonder Woman. I just wish there was a way to do this without watching friends die... though I have no such compunction about killing those bastards out there. They deserve whatever misery we can inflict on them for what they've done."
Wonder Woman nodded. " Everyone here feels that way, Chase. Let them have their fight."
Chase nodded, then smiled. " You're getting the hang of knowing when to kick me in the ass. Thanks."
Diana chuckled soundlessly. " I've always been a quick study. And you're welcome."
Then they stepped into the control room where the unit commanders were waiting for final instructions.
Ty had already moved the tanks into a semi-circle formation in the forests on either side of where they expected the Nazi convoy to travel, and now they were just within firing range of the encampment. The big artillery was left to cover the middle and the walking troops were scattered throughout the machinery. In the darkness, they couldn't be seen and thanks to Hans and Chase, most of the machinery movement couldn't be heard very well, either.
" I want the artillery to start at midnight. That will give the tanks the chance to move up closer; then on my signal, the tanks will fire while the troops move in behind them. The Amazon scouts got a general layout of the Nazi encampment. Make sure your gunners know where to target and your troops know where and when to move. This has to be coordinated between all units to keep our losses to a minimum."
" What about the enemy?"
Chase shook her head. " They were given their chance to surrender. Kill 'em all." She looked around at her commanders. " Make sure your soldiers know that. No one lives." Chase drew a deep breath and met each of their eyes. " This is the battalion that wiped out the three villages closest to the capital. No one lives. Now move out. The artillery attack begins at midnight."
Each leader checked their watch before nodding at Chase and staring briefly at Wonder Woman before heading back to their unit. Chase had introduced her briefly - This is Wonder Woman. She is here to help us. So there was a curiosity, but even more there was a nervous energy that made them anxious to start. She figured they would be demanding answers *after* the fight, but for now, they trusted in Chase's judgment.
Chase put a hand on Ty's chest to halt her exit after the rest had gone. " Chase?" looking down at the hand stopping her.
"Where's Mitch?" Ty looked around in confusion as though just realizing that Mitch wasn't in the control room. " Ty, how are we supposed to coordinate an attack if we have no comm officer? Where's Mitch?"
" I dunno, Chase. I really don't. I've been so busy with my own stuff...."
Chase removed her hand. " It's okay, Ty. You've done really good holding things together."
Ty smirked. " Yeah... we're gonna need to talk about my raise when this is all over, 'cause bald is just not my look." Chase laughed. Wonder Woman looked a little perplexed until Ty spoke again. " Now I am going back to my unit before I get left in charge again." She mock shuddered and slipped out of the control room into the darkness beyond.
Chase and Diana exchanged smiles, then Chase moved over to the techs who were in the room past where they stood, monitoring communications between the units as well as keeping in touch with Shep. " Sonny, where's Mitch?" questioning the senior tech.
Sonny shrugged, continuing to mark on the clipboard he held. " He took a camera and headed out after those Amazon scouts you sent out earlier. We haven't heard from him since." He looked up at her muffled curse and tucked a hand under her elbow. " Chase? You all right? You look kind of pale."
" Yeah, Sonny... thanks. Did he say *why* he was doing that?"
" He wanted a recording for posterity or some such."
Chase blew out an exasperated breath. " I'm gonna kill him myself," she muttered. " All right, Sonny... you're in charge here. You're gonna have to coordinate everything in Mitch's absence, and you'll be in touch with me at all times. Got it?"
" Gotcha, boss. Everything is on track and we'll be ready here when you give the word."
" Thanks, Sonny." Then Chase left the inner room and took Diana's arm, walking side by side with Wonder Woman as they walked out the door.
" You need to find Mitch. It is very possible he knows your secret. Find him and do whatever you need to do to protect yourself."
" Even if...?" turning Chase until they were facing one another and letting her hands rest on Chase's shoulders.
" Even if," covering Wonder Woman's hands with her own. " Mitch is my friend, but you are the other half of my soul. And if I have to choose between you, he will lose every time. But I also know, given who Wonder Woman is and what she stands for, you have to have a way to kick ass without killing him. Besides, he abandoned his post to do this. He's in trouble with me as it is; he needs his ass kicked."
" What are you going to be doing?"
" Kicking Nazi ass. I'll be at the front. Come find me."
" You bet I will."
They gazed at each other for a long moment before Chase let her hands fall and Wonder Woman's hands dropped to her sides as well. Finally Chase blew out a nervous breath and reached for Diana's hand, drawing her back into the empty, darkened Reichstag. When they reached the office, Chase closed the door behind them and turned to face Wonder Woman.
" Do you think you could be Diana for just a minute?"
A look of confusion crossed Wonder Woman's face, but she nodded and twirled, replacing her costume with the normal clothing that Diana Prince wore. Then she looked at Chase for approval. " Is this what you had in mind?"
" Yes," Chase answered breathlessly, stepping into Diana's personal space. " Yes," she said again. " Because there is something I wanted to do and I needed Diana to be here." She stepped closer again, until their bodies were just touching along their lengths. Chase ran her hands delicately up Diana's torso, feeling her shiver beneath her touch and smiling when Diana dropped her hands to Chase's waist. The closeness between them made everything else bruises, broken bones, everything irrelevant.
" Chase?" Diana whispered hoarsely. " Do you know what you're doing to me?"
" I hope so. I hope it's close to what you're doing to me," seeing her hands shake lightly as she raised one to gently stroke Diana's face. " You are so beautiful," watching Diana's eyes flutter closed as her fingers traced features that were at once strange and completely familiar. Diana's lips trembled when Chase's fingers lingered over their softness and her hands slid around Chase's body to cup her behind firmly. Diana pulled their bodies together so tightly light couldn't pass between them and she ducked her head willingly when Chase urged her down.
Their lips met briefly at first, the touch so tentative it was like a butterfly's wing. A second, then a third brush before Chase pulled Diana's mouth tighter to her own and opened her lips so their tongues could meet.
Time stopped. Their exploration of one another was neither rushed nor urgent; instead it was savored. Each texture and flavor was discovered slowly and appreciated at leisure before a lack of oxygen forced them apart. Even then, their separation came only with great reluctance and after several smaller kisses and nips. Finally, breathing heavily, Diana leaned her forehead on Chase's and they stood together absorbing one another's scent and rocking slowly back and forth.
" You know what this means, don't you?" Chase asked in a whisper when she could finally speak again.
" It means you're a great kisser and I want to do that again as soon as possible?"
" Well, that's good incentive for getting this fight over with immediately if not sooner," Chase muttered, " but no. That wasn't what I was thinking. It sure is a good idea though," Chase said in a tone so wistful it made Diana chuckle silently.
Chase pulled back slightly to look into Diana's eyes, only to find herself snared by the love and passion that were reflected in the blue gaze that held her. She cleared her throat and blinked rapidly, trying to get herself back on track. Then she returned her eyes to Diana's, a little shyness in her glance.
" No, love," she whispered finally, feeling a blush color her face with the use of the endearment. " This means forever."
" Oh, Chase," Diana whispered back, tears forming in her eyes faster than she could blink them away. " We've always meant forever. But as far as I am concerned... forever is just the beginning for us."
The only answer Chase could give to that was another kiss which went on until hands started tentative explorations as though of their own free will and moans were being swallowed to keep them from escaping. With a whimper, they pulled apart, and Chase gently wiped the remaining tears from Diana's cheeks and traced her kiss-swollen lips with still trembling fingertips. Then Chase bit her lips to keep from squealing when Diana's hand squeezed her ass cheeks, kneading them to the rhythm of their heartbeats.
" You're making it *really* hard for me to focus. I told Ty that would happen."
" Told Ty *what* would happen?"
" That if I ever fell in love it would be all I could think about and everything else would simply fall to the wayside."
" Good," Diana smirked. " Nice to know that works both ways."
" You have no idea how it's working right now," Chase said softly, feeling Diana chuckle again. " But right now, we've got to focus on what's going on outside. We have the rest of our lives to concentrate on us. And trust me, I want lots of time and privacy to explore this with single-minded intensity." She reached back and took Diana's hands in hers. " I'm known for that, you know."
Diana leaned down and kissed Chase hard and passionately. " So am I. I love you."
That got a smile from Chase. " And I love you. Now, get Wonder Woman back, please so we can get outta here and go home."
Diana twirled and Wonder Woman reappeared. Then they joined hands again and headed out of the Reichstag together, separating when they reached the bottom of the steps. Electricity crackled the air around them and a rumble of thunder answered it. Chase looked up at the darkening sky and shook her head. Looked like they'd all be wet before this attack was over, but it couldn't affect the warmth that flowed through her veins at just the thought of Diana.
" Whoop, whoop! Whoop, whoop!" Aphrodite spun in a circle and waved her arms over her head. The rest came in from various points in the palace to see what all the commotion was about. Athena took Dite by the shoulders and halted her movement.
" What happened?? Are you all right??"
" Oh, babe... I am so fab, it's radically illegal in places. I think my hair got singed, though." She pulled blonde curls forward to try to look at the ends. " I don't see anything. Can you see anything, The?"
Athena pushed the blonde hair Aphrodite had thrust in her face away with a huff of impatience. " I see curly blonde hair that's going to be shaved off until you are bald if you don't get it out of my face. Now what is wrong with you?"
In answer, Dite replayed the images of Chase and Diana in the scrying bowl. And then it was like the oxygen had been sucked right out of the room. Hera, Hestia, Demeter, Artemis and Athena all exchanged glances, then they turned to the smugly smirking love goddess. They cheered, and Aphrodite laughed. Gods, it felt good when a plan finally came together.
The rain started about fifteen minutes before Chase gave the signal to start the attack, and it wasn't just rain... it was a torrential downpour. Lightning lit up the sky, but apparently the rain had driven the watchers in, because no cries of alarm went up to alert the Nazi encampment of their approach.
At the stroke of midnight, Chase gave the sign and the artillery began its first round of shelling. The hits were extremely accurate and on target, logistics having painfully worked out the details from the information the Amazons had been passing back to them for the last few hours. Screams of pain and terror could be heard over the shelling, then calls went out from the encampment, ordering the Nazis to return fire.
Immediately, Chase signaled the artillery to move back and the tanks moved in from either side. Slowly and methodically the rebels started decimating the rest of the weaponry the Nazis had, but the Nazis were able to get off several good and several lucky shots. Those caused screams of anguish and terror to rise from the resistance side of the fight. But most held it together and waited for Chase to lead them forward for the final part of the attack.
Drea rushed from one wounded soldier to the next, doing her best to ease their suffering through healing or giving them the peace of a merciful death. Mala traveled with her, relaying Drea's instructions to the medics who were completely inexperienced in this arena, and though Drea's last battlefield encounter had been millennia before, her hard-won experience wasn't something she was likely to forget either.
She shuddered as she surveyed the damage man's machines had inflicted on the next soldier she approached and touched several pressure points on the woman's body to ease her into the afterlife. It was meant as a kindness; much more humane than allowing her to suffer for long, untold minutes bleeding out her last as her entrails spilled from her open guts.
" You all right, Drea?" Mala pitched her voice so only the healer could hear her in the melee. " Gods, this is something you just never get used to, is it?"
Drea shook her head. " I hope I *never* get used to this, Mala. The day I do will be the day I die inside. Come... we need to hurry. There are so many of them and the damage...." Drea shook her head again. " Even at our most ruthless, we were never this unfeeling in killing."
" That is because we faced our enemies, my friend, like the warriors we were like the warriors we still are. Very few do that anymore." A familiar cry went up from Chase, and the rebels rushed forward to meet the Nazis face to face. Mala smiled wryly. " Unless you have a warrior leader like Chase is. But then she, like her mate, is one in a billion."
Drea would have smiled at the sentiment, but she reached her next injured body, and gasped when she turned the body over... only to find Nubia staring back at her, her dark eyes glazed over in intense pain. What Drea saw made her want to puke her guts out again, but she swallowed against the bile that rose in her throat and went to work, wrapping the stump that was now her right arm, then moving on to the less damaging injuries.
Drea hoped this offensive would be over soon.
Chase spared a thought and a prayer for Diana's safety, wondering what had happened that Wonder Woman had not joined her yet. Then standing defiantly, she let out the warrior cry her mother had taught her when she was still a small child. She charged forward to meet the Nazi troops coming towards her, feeling the strength of the rebellion and the resistance at her back.
She had long since lost the sling, hating its restrictions and now she put the plaster cast to good use, using it as a battering ram as she pushed her way through the lines, killing without mercy or hesitation. She let her mind shut down and functioned automatically; that was how she had learned to cope with the brutal savagery war required.
A majority of the troops behind her were green, never having done much real fighting. Hit and run raids had been a mainstay of the resistance, but they didn't require up close and personal encounters with the enemy. Still, they plugged on, following her with faith and determination. They would deal with the nightmares later.
Wonder Woman walked slowly over the same path she had traversed with the Amazon scouts as Diana Prince a very short time ago in an effort not to miss anything. If her instincts were correct, and they usually were, Mitch would have followed the route they had taken in an effort to chronicle everything. The big question was how close behind them he had been and what he had seen and more importantly... recorded.
It was hard to keep her mind focused on her search, though... especially with the tingles from Chase's kisses still running through her body sporadically. Aside from the heat it caused in her blood, there was a little confusion. Given Chase's reluctance to even be friends mere days ago, Diana was at something of a loss to understand Chase's sudden about face. And she found her mind puzzling over the new developments in her relationship with Chase instead of paying strict attention to what was going on around her, and only her innate warrior senses kept her from tripping over Mitch's body.
Wonder Woman knelt at the rebel's side and felt for a pulse, closing her eyes when she couldn't find one. She couldn't find an immediate cause for his death, but she did note that he no longer had a camera. Diana sighed she should have known it wouldn't be easy. A click behind her made her stiffen and she loosened the lasso from her belt before turning to find a gun pointed in her direction.
The man grunted at her and motioned with the gun, but Diana studiously ignored him and put her hands on her hips, giving him a glare complete with raised eyebrow. He motioned again, pointing the gun at her; she didn't move. He pulled the trigger, not even realizing he had signed his own death warrant.
Wonder Woman cocked her arm angling it to catch the bullet and ricochet it right back into the man's chest. She watched understanding dawn in his face even as he fell dead in his tracks. Diana reattached the lasso to her belt then turned towards the Nazi encampment, even as the first blasts of artillery headed for the same.
Now all of Wonder Woman's attention was focused on getting back to the tent she had visited previously, though she did abstractly notice the furor and confusion the rebel attack was causing. The four men she had encountered earlier rushed out of the tent into the melee barking out orders in harsh German. It was obvious from the scuttling about throughout the whole compound that these units were unused to challenge. It made it easy for Diana to work her way back to the four who had rejected her request for surrender.
The old man was the first to see her and ran at her, his face contorted in rage. Diana didn't hesitate, but snapped his neck before he could even pull his Luger. The next man had his weapon out but not enough time to react when the bullet he fired wound up inside him instead. The third man jumped on Wonder Woman's back, surprised to find himself flying over her shoulder and landing hard non his back. Then Diana put the pinch on him and ran towards the fourth man who had scrambled towards a tank.
With studied nonchalance, Wonder Woman grabbed the gun barrel and bent it. Unfortunately, the Nazi officer commanded the gunner to fire, not knowing the damage that had been done to the gun. And Diana didn't have time to move before the tank exploded.
Chase ran through the Nazis, noting there were as many running from her as there were scrambling to fight. With shouted orders, she sent the groups of rebels running behind her after the enemy soldiers that were scurrying to get away. When she'd given orders to kill 'em all, she'd been quite literal. These bastards deserved no mercy, and that was what they were going to show no mercy.
She felt a burning in her thigh, but in a distant, far off way. She noticed many of the Nazis were fighting without the use of firearms, which was perfectly fine with Chase. As far into the combat as she was, she had long since run out of ammunition and was fighting with fists and blades.
The fires created by their shelling provided ample light and a flash of color caught her attention. Chase quickly gutted the man in front of her before heading for what her instincts told her was Diana.
Chase clotheslined the first Nazi that got in her way and broke the neck of the second with an elbow to the back of his neck. Then she was kneeling beside the red, white and blue costume she spotted, just as Diana coughed and moaned.
Chase let out a sigh of relief and helped Wonder Woman sit up. She let her hands wander over Diana's body impartially, urgently reassuring herself that Diana was all right. Diana put her hand on her head. " Ow. Annabelle, did you get the number of the tank that shot me? Gods, that hurts."
Chase moved Diana's hand from her forehead, glad for the fires that were burning that allowed her to see the blood streaming from beneath the tiara. Chase removed it carefully and saw a long cut at Wonder Woman's hairline to go along with the numerous smaller cuts that peppered the side of her face. Without hesitation, Chase ripped part of her shirt off to wipe the blood and Diana shoved the tiara back in place and pulled Chase face down into her lap...
... then lashed out with one long leg and her free arm to kill the man who had been charging them with a blade. Chase heard him fall and turned her head to see him, then looked up at Diana. " Thanks, Wonder Woman. And as comfortable as I am here, I think we need to go."
Diana smiled. " I'm with you, Annabelle."
Chase rolled off Diana's lap and slowly stood then offered her hand down to Wonder Woman. Diana's attention was caught by the bloodstain in Chase's thigh, then by the hole in the same spot. " Annabelle, are you all right?" motioning to the wound in Chase's thigh.
Chase looked down and nodded. " I'll be fine. C'mon, Wonder Woman," yanking Diana to her feet as she spun to kick at the woman rushing them. Then they went back to back, taking on all comers. Kicks and punches flew in a frenzied flurry accompanied by the sounds of breaking bones and the gurgles and rasps of death as one by one the Nazis were demolished and they were the only ones left standing in their area.
They looked around, then at each other. " You all right?" asked simultaneously.
Wonder Woman nodded. " I still have to find Mitch's camera. I found him dead on my way here, but no camera. I suspect it's in there," motioning to the large tent behind them.
" The command tent? Let me give some orders out here and I'll join you. I need to go through the papers to make sure we haven't missed anything else."
" You think you have?"
" No, but I do think I'm gonna find proof of everything Orana talked about. I don't want history to judge me merciless for executing her."
" Given the crimes she has committed against humanity for the past century, Annabelle, I don't think history will judge you as anything less than a hero and liberator."
" I'll be happy if history forgets about me, Wonder Woman. Heroes have a responsibility to history, and I'm tired of being responsible. I've been responsible for most of my childhood and all of my adult life. I just want to go home and live for a while."
There was so much that Diana wanted to say, but as Wonder Woman, she couldn't. Instead, she took Chase's hand and squeezed it gently, then turned and stepped into the command tent. Chase waited a beat then she turned back to the troops that were gathered together awaiting further orders.
" All right, people. Let's get to work. We need to get this area cleaned up and secured. Those of you with injuries, make sure you get seen by a medic before you get to work, but remember the longer this takes, the longer it will take for us to go home. You three," motioning to two rebels and an Amazon, "gather your units and start a burial detail for the enemy dead. One mass grave will suffice. You two," gesturing to another rebel and Amazon, " the fires need to be put out and the machines need to be dismantled. Now, where is Ty? And where did the healer set up?"
" Chase, this is Drea. Can you hear me? Does anyone know how to work this thing? Hello?"
Chase looked at the radio on her hip and chuckled. It was a little humorous listening to Drea try to work the radio, then wondered why the healer needed her and how long they had been trying to reach her. She pulled it off her belt and clicked it. " Drea, this is Chase, over."
" Oh thank the gods," Drea said. " Chase, is..." a hesitation, " is Wonder Woman there with you?"
" I'm headed back to her, Drea. Is something wrong, over?"
" Um... if you could come to the hospital we have set up back here, please it's not urgent, but it is important."
Chase bit her lip. " All right, Drea. Let me go get Wonder Woman and we'll come find you. See you in a few minutes, Drea. Chase out." She waited a minute then clicked the radio again. " Sonny, this is Chase, over."
" Sonny here, boss. Go ahead, over."
" Sonny, I need you to send a jeep to the command tent here. It's in the back of the fighting area. Just tell the driver to look for me, all right? Over."
" Gotcha, boss. I've got someone headed your way as we speak, over."
" Thanks, Sonny. I'm out."
Chase clipped the radio back to her hip and took a step, wincing as the gunshot she'd taken to the thigh earlier made itself felt with the receding of adrenaline from her body. " Ow," she muttered, looking down at her leg. " Damn, that hurts." Than she grit her teeth and put the pain out of her mind and put her game face on. Despite her desire to be otherwise, she still had to be a leader for a little while longer. Chase moved back towards the tent and ducked inside.
" I was beginning to get worried, Annabelle. Is everything all right?"
Chase shook her head. " I'm not sure. Drea radioed me... asked that we get over to the hospital. Said it was important. I called Sonny for a jeep. Did you find the camera?"
Wonder Woman nodded. " Yes. They were apparently watching whatever Mitch recorded when the attack started. I destroyed the film and I found all sorts of official orders, including," passing a sheaf of papers over to Chase, " a battle plan based on Orana's last speech."
Chase looked through them quickly, skimming the contents before nodding her head. " That's exactly what this is." She looked up and smiled into blue eyes. " Nice work... thanks, Wonder Woman."
" Anytime, Annabelle. I have many skills."
Chase cocked an eyebrow into her hairline. " Careful. That sounds vaguely like a promise and I'll remember it."
Wonder Woman grinned rakishly. " I'm counting on it."
A raucous honking broke the tableau between them and they turned towards the tent flap. " That'll be the jeep," Chase commented, scooping up the papers while Wonder Woman snatched up the camera. " I'm gonna have the driver give us a ride to the hospital and...."
" Chase? Chase, this is Drea. Are you there?"
" Chase? I need you to get here quickly. Now it's urgent."
She and Diana dropped the stuff in the jeep the Wonder Woman hopped in the back with it while Chase slid into the front seat. " Get us to the hospital, George. And I want you to wait for us."
" Yes ma'am," hitting the accelerator and causing the jeep to lurch forward. Then they were racing the short distance to where Drea had established her field hospital. It was a short trip and George had barely touched the breaks before Chase was stepping from the vehicle...
... only to have her leg crumple out from under her when her foot touched the ground. Only her own quick reflexes and Diana's hand on her arm kept her upright. Wonder Woman didn't say anything, but her eyes spoke volumes and Chase nodded to show her that she was all right. Then they moved off together to enter the large tent.
It was quiet inside, noticeably different from the controlled, noisy chaos outside. The only sound was whispered instruction from Drea to her staff and the soft sounds of movement as they shifted around the space in an effort to carry out her orders and make their patients more comfortable.
There were far more bodies in the tent than Chase wanted to see and her shoulder slumped slightly as the weight of even more responsibility settled squarely on her shoulders. " Drea." She called out softly, though it was loud enough for every conscious person in the room to turn her way. " Report, please."
Drea handed the tray she had been carrying to the young medic who was accompanying her and left him with instructions before moving to the other end of the space, her healer's eyes assessing even as she moved to stand beside them. A motion of her head brought Mala to her side.
" Mala, if you would please attend to Wonder Woman...." The priestess nodded and took Diana's hand, leading her away from Chase. Chase started to protest until Drea put a restraining hand on her arm. " It's all right, Chase. Mala is going to tend to her wounds and take her to see Nubia and the other Amazons who were wounded. I promise you she is not going far. There is someone else who needs your attention immediately first. And I will tend to your leg. Come."
Chase followed, a sinking feeling in her gut. She had a really bad feeling about what was coming.
They rounded a small, curtained off area, and the truth hit home hard... hard enough that Chase collapsed at the side of the pallet that held Ty's body. The movement jostled the cot and Ty moaned at the wave of pain that coursed through her. Chase scrambled up and took Ty's hand in her own, shuddering at the coolness of Ty's skin against hers. She brought it to her lips and kissed it, tears welling in her eyes.
" Oh God, Ty. What the hell happened to you?" She turned to Drea. " Leave us," she ordered quietly before turning back to Ty. " You can't die, Ty. I promised Hans he could take you for a joy ride in that new plane."
Ty squeezed Chase's hand lightly and spoke in a whisper so low, Chase had to lean in to hear it. " Wrong place, wrong time," she wheezed. " Sorry. This wasn't in my plans either. I left a letter for you in my stuff at home though, just in case." Ty paused to cough, speckling blood on her cheeks and chin in the process. " We did good, cuz... we won."
Chase smiled at Ty through her tears and kissed her fingers again. " Yeah, we did. Don't you wanna maybe stick around... see how things end?"
Ty gave her a weak smile. " At least I got to see I won my bet with you," Ty answered breathily. " I'm so glad you found Diana, Chase. It makes me glad to see you finally happy... finally whole. Be happy together, Chase. You deserve it so much." Ty shuddered. " I'll be watching don't make me have to come back and haunt you."
Chase gave Ty a sad chuckle. " I'll do my best. Say hi to Mama for me, all right? I love you, Ty. You've always been my best friend."
" Love you, Chase," Ty whispered on the wind, and with a final breath, she was gone.
" Nubia?" Diana exclaimed as she came around the corner and into the curtained off area the Amazon elder had been ensconced in. " Oh my gods," dropping onto the stool beside the bed. " What happened?" She didn't even notice when Mala removed her tiara and began doctoring her head wound. Her attention was totally focused on the injured woman lying in the cot in front of her, cradling the stump of her arm. Nubia gave her a weak, pain-filled smile.
" Wrong place, wrong time, Princess," she muttered. " Ty saved my life... but it's costing her hers."
" Nubia?" The question was filled with more alarm than either of them had expected from the compassionate but stoic persona of Wonder Woman. Even Diana as the princess had rarely shown such emotion, although she had certainly been much more prone to it recently. But Diana knew that the loss of her only family would devastate Chase, and she had already been through so much.
Nubia shifted, then flinched, as another wave of pain washed through her. " Nubia, you need to lie still," Mala chided. " If you need some more pain medication, let me give it to you, but you can't be moving around ripping all those stitches out."
Diana's forehead creased. Why was the woman still in pain? Nubia answered her question unwittingly. " I know, Mala, but I want D... Wonder Woman to know what happened so she can share it with Chase. She deserves to know. I'll take the medication when I'm done."
Mala just gave Nubia a look and a nod before she turned her attention back to tending to Diana. Nubia had refused to share the story with anyone but the princess, insisting she deserved to her a first hand account from someone who was there.
" When the fighting started, we were in the trees, passing back intelligence and positions, helping the rebel forces hit their targets with increasing accuracy. It really was... quite the thrill, being back in combat again," Nubia admitted a bit sheepishly. No matter how civilized the Amazons had become, at their core, they were warrior women and they sometimes missed the fire and adrenaline rush fighting and physical danger gave them. However, after today, the craving would be muted for a very long time to come.
" Or at least it was until Hades itself became part of our world."
Nubia was quiet so long, Wonder Woman was force to prompt her finally. " What happened, Nubia?"
" The Nazis started fighting back, and since we were the closest to the fires the rebels had caused with their firing, we were the easiest to target. I remember...." She shook her head. " Not much, actually. I thought it was a rock." She blew out a frustrated breath. " Something got thrown at me and I caught it, intending to throw it back. The next thing I knew I was laying on the ground; my arm was gone and Ty stood over me taking on all comers."
Nubia swallowed, trying to gather her thoughts. " I still am not real clear on what happened after that because I was fading in and out of consciousness. I do know that Ty called for the healers, called for Drea before she moved on, but once the first wave of fighting passed over us, she continued to push forward into the fight, despite being injured herself."
Mala finished dressing Diana's wound, patting her arm before stepping out from the cubby to retrieve some pain medication for Nubia. Wonder Woman's attention never shifted from Nubia's face.
" How badly was she hurt, Nubia?"
" I do not know, Wonder Woman. I do know she was bleeding rather profusely when she left my side."
Diana blew out a breath. " Nubia, do you mind if I change here?" asked softly.
" It would be my honor, Princess."
Wonder Woman slowly spun counterclockwise and Nubia watched in unguarded fascination as she morphed into Diana Prince. Mala stepped back in through the curtain just as Diana stopped twirling.
" Princess," she said in a hushed undertone. " Are you sure that was wise? After all...."
" After all, Chase needs me. Now, if you'll excuse me.... Nubia, thank you for the information. I want you to rest and conserve your strength. I think Paula and I will be able to do something to make you whole again. I promise we will start working on it as soon as...."
" Diana, go to Chase. We can worry about my arm later."
Diana gently touched Nubia's uninjured arm. " Thank you, Nubia. I wish...."
" Will you go already?" Nubia joked weakly.
Diana smiled and stepped out of the curtained area and headed the short distance to the far corner where Drea was standing in front of the only other curtained area in the hospital.
The healer shook her head. " Chase asked for privacy. I haven't even had the chance to look at that wound on her leg yet." Diana patted Drea on the arm and crossed into the cordoned off area that Chase was behind.
" I asked to be left alone." The words were a harsh whisper.
It stung. But instead of letting it hurt, Diana chose instead to move up behind Chase and wrap her arms around the tense shoulders. Chase flinched for a long moment before relaxing into the embrace of the firm body behind her. She maintained her posture for several minutes. Diana didn't say a word, but just held her... until she felt the tremors start. Then she turned Chase in her arms until the blonde head was resting beneath her chin. And Diana simply held on and let Chase cry.
" She was my best friend," Chase said eventually.
" Was she the last of your family?" not mentioning Drea and the Amazons. She wasn't sure how Chase felt about being an Amazon, and besides, it wasn't the same as the family she had grown up with. They were the people Chase knew and cared for. She didn't really know the Amazons yet.
" No... she had a brother, but even though we get along for the most part, we always seem to be at one another's throats over one thing or another. I think he was jealous that Ty and I were best friends and he was just...."
" Just what, love?" Diana asked, intrigued.
" I don't think he was happy that it was always us and him. We loved him and he knew it; but it was always us versus him and we always sided together. He thought since he was the oldest, he should get to make the decisions for all of us."
Diana chuckled lightly. " Oh, I can only imagine how that went over with you and Ty."
Her memories overrode her sadness momentarily and she laughed softly with Diana. " Yeah. He ended up hanging from his underwear in that big tree in the front yard at the farm for trying," tilting her head back to see if Diana knew which tree she was referring to. This time Diana laughed out loud.
" I'm not even going to ask how you managed it."
" Well, let's just say that Shep was pretty surprised as well."
Diana blinked in response. " Wha... bu... Shep?? Shep is Ty's brother?"
" Yeah. Not there was ever much family resemblance except for the way they acted towards each other. As they got older, they tended to keep an eye on one another, even when they were fighting with each other. And now I get to be the one to tell him that I got his sister killed."
" NO!" Diana turned Chase in her embrace until she could cradle her face tenderly and gaze into exhausted green eyes. " No, Chase. You don't get to take that away from her. She chose to be part of the rebellion; she chose to protect and defend. You can't take that choice away from her."
Chase watched her carefully, wanting to be convinced.
" Chase, war is ugly. People suffer and die and get hurt beyond out ability to repair them. You've lived with this all your life."
" No buts. We don't have to like it, but it is the truth. The only difference this time is it's very personal for you. But you can't deny Ty her right to choose; otherwise, you not only negate her choice, but the reason for her suffering and death. This struggle was about freedom and part of freedom is having the opportunity to choose for yourself. Don't make her sacrifice meaningless."
Chase nodded, knowing Diana spoke the truth. " I won't," she whispered. " But now I gotta go break the news to Shep and then to Hans. They deserve to hear it from me. Then we've got plans to make and work to do. And one ex-Fuehrer to serve justice to."
" Have you decided what her punishment is going to be?" knowing Chase was well within her rights as the supreme military commander to execute whatever field justice she felt was fair, up to and including killing Orana with her bare hands. But somehow, Diana didn't think Chase was going to go that route. As much as she wanted to exact personal vengeance, Chase knew this was about justice for the world. Everyone had suffered because of Orana.
" She's going to walk the gauntlet, and I'm gonna offer Shep and Hans first crack. If she survives to the end, I will make the killing blow."
Diana nodded. It was an acceptable compromise, even if it meant Diana didn't get to beat the snot out of Orana herself. She figured even the Amazons would approve of Chase's decision; it meant most of them would get to take a shot at the woman who had betrayed them, and Diana felt they needed that sort of closure.
She stood up and extended her arm down to Chase. " Come on. I'm not going to let you do this alone." Chase smiled in gratitude and accepted Diana's arms, then felt her leg collapse out from under her as she tried to put weight on it.
She bit her lips to keep from cursing, not wanting to desecrate Ty's deathbed, but feeling the pain of her wound rip through her body in an unexpected wave. Fortunately, Diana's instincts were right on the money and she caught Chase before she could hit the ground.
It wasn't loud, but it was commanding and Drea moved instantly. Assessing the situation with a single quick glance, Drea guided Diana out of the partitioned area Ty was in and over to the next cot. " Mala, I need you now."
Diana put Chase down and would have backed out of the way had it not been for the firm grip Chase maintained on her wrist. She looked down and Chase grimaced up at her. " Please stay and take my mind off this, 'cause it hurts like a sonofabitch."
Diana blushed, but nodded and pulled a stool over and sat down, never losing the eye contact she had with Chase. They talked, though neither of them could have told what they discussed when all was said and done. But it allowed Drea and Mala to repair Chase's leg with minimal fuss and damage. When she was done, Drea patted Chase's good leg and squeezed Diana shoulder before leaving them alone, knowing that Chase was anxious to get back to work.
Sure enough, as soon as Chase realized Drea was finished patching her up, she sat up and slid from the cot gently. She eased her weight onto her injured leg and scowled, but continued until her weight rested fully on both legs. Then she offered Diana her hand and they exited the hospital without a word. Drea knew her business and was doing everything she could to ease the suffering of those around her. And those who were beyond her help were being reverently laid out at one end to be placed in caskets for the trip home.
That was the hardest part of being a healer, but she squared her shoulders and took the responsibility, doing her best for those who had given their all.
" Sonny?" Chase said as they entered the comm room. " Get me Shep on the line and then clear the room. Take fifteen minutes and grab a sandwich and a pee break, all right?"
" All right, boss. G'wan, boys," talking to the rest of his crew. I'll be out in a jiff."
The communications crew nodded and left with a salute in Chase's direction. Sonny jiggled some connections and twisted the dials, eventually hearing Shep's voice crackle over the wires. Then Sonny handed the headphones and mic over to Chase, and slipped out of the room, closing the door behind him to insure Chase the privacy she wanted.
" Chase, this is Shep, over."
Shep, this is Chase. I have news... and it's not good, over."
She heard him sigh before he answered and figured he knew what she was going to tell him. " Go ahead, over," he said in a resigned voice.
Chase closed her eyes; this wasn't easy no matter how it got done. Then she felt Diana's hands on her shoulders in support and drew a breath to speak. " Ty's dead, Shep," Chase said bluntly. " She died a hero saving others, but she's still dead. I'm sorry." Beat. " Over."
She could hear his upset, though his tears were silent. " I'm sorry, Shep," Chase reiterated. " I would have prevented this if I could have, over."
" Shh, Chase," Shep comforted. " I know that. I remember how close you were. We'll be in the same place soon and we can talk then, over."
" Actually I want you to get here ASAP. Put things in place like we discussed, then get here. We're going to have a military gauntlet before we go home, and you deserve the right to take a shot at her, over."
" No, Chase. I need to stay here." He took a shuddering breath. " It's gonna take all we've got to get everything coordinated and I'm not gonna leave it to chance just to get revenge for something that can't be changed. You hit her for me, cuz. You always had a meaner right than I did, over."
Chase made a choking sound in her throat that could have almost passed as laughter. " All right, Shep. We'll see you at home then, and we'll have a drink together for Ty, over."
" I'd like that, Chase. Pain in the ass that she was, Ty was still my little sister." He paused and Chase heard him swallow hard. " I'm gonna miss her, over."
" Yeah, I know, Shep. Me too." She paused. " Can you connect me to Hans? Over."
Chase heard Shep slip into his rebel persona. " Do what I can, boss, but it'll take a while. I'll call back when I get ahold of him, over."
" Thanks, Shep. Chase out."
Sonny was waiting outside the closed door when they emerged from the comm room. " Sonny, I need you to get all the resistance leaders on the line. I want plans for the provisional governments in place yesterday. And when Shep calls back, ring me in the Reichstag office. Oh, but first, call the unit leaders to my office. We need to make sure folks get some sleep."
" Yes ma'am. I'm on it," turning to his work. Chase and Diana slowly made their way to the office in deference to Chase's injured thigh.
The next few hours went swiftly as watches and schedules were set and guidelines for provisional governments worldwide were put into place. Chase was glad for the months of intense preparation they had spent hammering out the details for the new provisional governments. Although some changes would have to be made due to the loss of key personnel and the surprising number of troops that had simply surrendered, a majority of it was ready to be implemented.
" Are there any questions?" Her question was met with silence along the radio relay Sonny and Shep had set up for her. " All right then. Take care of the war criminals first. Then get with one another about separating the units and spreading them out across the world to work off their servitude sentences. If it's possible, no more than five men from the same unit should be in the same town. Mix them up as best as you can. That will make it harder for them to try to organize anything against us."
" Do you really think they will, Chase? So many of them were quick to surrender...."
" I think it is best not to take any chances. We're worked too long and sacrificed too much for this victory. I want this to stick."
Affirmations across the board. " I think a majority of our problems will be solved when those who have been convicted of war crimes are executed. It's hard to follow if no one is leading."
" True. What about the slaves? Are all the resources in place for them as well?" Not that there were many left... comparatively speaking. Instead of deliberate genocide, Orana had taken those who did not fit into the Nazi philosophy, and worked them to death. Some did survive and breed another generation of slaves, but most succumbed to the squalid conditions, poor diet and hygiene and brutality of their captors.
" Yes. We already have plans in place to try and transition them back into society. We expect to have some difficulty though these people were all born into slavery; it's all they know."
Chase nodded, though no one but Diana could see her. " I know. We'll do the best we can. We can only do so much."
" Chase, what about the Japs?"
" I think you'll find they have been taken care of much the same way that the Nazi's have. I was in touch with both our Indian and Chinese counterparts before we started our offensive. They were scheduled to go at the same time we did, and without the Nazi support in place...."
" When will we know definitely?"
" I am expecting word at any time. As soon as I know something, I will pass it along. For now, though, we need to focus on securing our own positions."
" And the Fuehrer?"
" She will walk the gauntlet at dawn tomorrow." Chase's answer was hard and firm. " Once justice is served, we will make our announcement and let the world know that things have changed and how."
" And then?"
" And then it will be time for the provisional governments to begin their recovery and transition processes. I will be going home."
There was a cacophony of protests, and Chase held up her hands for silence, even though no one could see her. She leaned back into the strong body behind her, absorbing the strength Diana offered her wordlessly. When the noise finally died down, Chase opened her mouth to speak again.
" Guys, I'm not disappearing into a black hole or anything; you'll still be able to find me if you need me. I am just taking a step back from leadership. I've been doing this my whole adult life. We did what we set out to do, and it's time to allow people to be able to make their own decisions."
She didn't say the words, but they could all hear the need in her voice. Even without the details, every faction leader and in fact, most of the rebellion knew bits and pieces of Chase's story enough to know she of all of them deserved whatever bit of peace she could find.
When she was sure no one else was going to comment, Chase gave her final instructions. " Make sure you're each prepared for the broadcast tomorrow. Shep and Sonny will be in touch with details as soon as we have them. Good work, folks. We couldn't have asked for a better offensive."
A knock on the door concluded the conference, and Chase took a deep breath to fortify herself for the coming conversation with Hans. This one promised to be more difficult than Shep had.
It was unnerving, actually. Hans took the news calmly, as though he had expected the news. Chase was confused and concerned, but there was little she could do separated as they were by ocean. He refused the opportunity to participate in Orana's punishment, citing his greater desire to be home to welcome Ty and lay her body to rest. Chase accepted that; it was one reason she was anxious to return.
" I need to be sure that the shifts have changed and people are getting some rest. Tomorrow is going to be busy."
Diana wrapped her arms around Chase's shoulders and held on tightly. " What about you, love? You've carried this for so long...."
" I know, baby. But it's just for a little longer. And then we can go home and have some peace together have a real life." She leaned back into the embrace, loath to give it up, but almost ashamed of her neediness. She'd never expected to be so drained tired perhaps or elated from victory, but all she could dredge up was a hollow emptiness.
" Chase, I'm worried about you." Diana could sense the depression, but wasn't sure if Ty's death was the only thing behind it or if there was more to it. Worse, she didn't know how to fix it. " Come. Let me pamper you just a little. We both need to eat and get some rest. Our burdens won't seem so heavy in the morning."
Chase didn't argue, but nodded her head wearily and stood up... or would have had her leg not chosen that moment to cramp and collapse under her. She sank back into the chair with a hiss. " Goddamn it!" She blew out an impatient breath. " Give me just a second," she said quietly to Diana. " I think I've been sitting too long; the muscles are frozen."
" Do you trust me?"
Chase didn't even hesitate long enough to think about it. " Yes, absolutely."
Diana knelt and began kneading the area around the wound, careful not to touch the actual bruise on Chase's thigh. It wasn't easy, but she managed and after a few minutes, Diana felt the knots loosening beneath her skillful touch. Chase had leaned her head against the chair back and had closed her eyes, allowing Diana's touch to heal without allowing her own preconceived notions to interfere with the process. She could feel her whole body relaxing for the first time in what felt like forever.
Diana smiled. " Better?"
Chase nodded, accepting Diana's outstretched hands as she slowly rose to her feet once more. " Even my arm and ribs feel better." The pain she had felt before was virtually gone and Chase looked her question at Diana.
" I told you I have many skills," Diana answered with only a tiny smirk. Chase mocked glared at her and waited. " Actually, it's an ancient Chinese form of healing and therapy. Roughly translated into English, it is called acupuncture. It's the ability to...."
Diana stopped speaking when Chase's fingers covered her lips, only just resisting the impulse to kiss them and raising an eyebrow in question instead.
" Don't. I'll just think of it as your special brand of magic. Thank you for caring."
This time both brows went up and she gave in to the temptation of kissing Chase's fingertips. " Chase, I more than care. I love you."
Chase felt the tingle of those lips on her fingers course through her entire body, and she allowed herself the luxury of a few stolen moments, tracing the planes and features of the face that was growing more precious to her every day. There were still a lot of holes in her memories and even more unanswered questions, but Chase could no longer deny the truth of her feelings towards Diana or the whole soulmate theory. Facing the separation of death again had brought home some elemental truths that Chase no longer had the will or the energy to deny. She was ready to just be happy together. Diana's eyes widened as she watched the change take place and recognized it for what it was.
With her good hand, Chase slid her fingers into Diana's hair and tugged her forward until their lips were just touching. " I love you too," she whispered before claiming the prize that was hers... and always had been.
The kiss was slow and sweet and hot, and Diana knew if she didn't back the intensity level down a few notches, odds were very good that they'd get caught in a very compromising position. Not that she was ashamed of the love they shared together quite the contrary, but how they chose to express it was something very private and personal to her. They weren't a peep show or a circus act.
Still, the kiss went on for a few minutes before Diana pulled away to breathe. She let her forehead meet Chase's and they stood wrapped together in their embrace. They didn't hear the knock on the door until it opened and Sonny stuck his head in. He paused, awkwardly, then stepped into the room.
" I'm sorry to intrude, Chase." Sonny hesitated just inside the door, his discomfiture obvious. Chase turned from Diana but they refused to release one another completely, so with clasped hands and slow steps, they approached him.
" You're not intruding, Sonny. What's up?"
He kept his eyes locked squarely on the floor in front of him. " I just wanted to let you know that Rickie monitoring in the comm room and Shep sent an all clear message before signing off."
" Thanks, Sonny. You gonna go get some rest now?"
" Yes, ma'am soon's I get something to eat." His eyes never moved from the floor. Chase cocked her head in question, then made a decision. This kind of prejudice had been one of the things they had been fighting against.
" Sonny? Are you having a problem... with Diana and I being a couple together and all, I mean?"
Bright brown eyes snapped up to meet hers. " No ma'am!" he stated vehemently. " Not really, I mean... I've never really seen two girls together before, but mostly I was trying not to intrude on your privacy. I'm pretty sure I was interrupting."
" All right, Sonny. Thank you for your honesty. Go grab a bite and get some rest. Tomorrow really is gonna be a busy day for us."
" Yes ma'am," meeting both their eyes shyly before returning his gaze to the floor. " Goodnight."
When the door closed, Chase leaned into Diana for a moment. Instinctively, Diana wrapped an arm of support around Chase's waist, gratified to feel a return pressure around her own. " Come on, love. Let's go find a place to settle down and get a little rest. My head hurts," Diana said softly, finally admitting to Chase something she would never have admitted to another soul. Chase turned then and reached her hand up, pushing Diana's hair aside to reveal an ugly lump and a neat row of stitches.
" Oh, baby," wrapping an arm around Diana's waist now and easing them out the door. " I'm sorry. I didn't know... I mean I didn't realize... I just...."
" Chase, shh. It's okay, mostly. It's just been a really long day and things are just catching up with me."
Chase could certainly agree with that. They had been going since before dark the night before and it was well into late afternoon. Almost everyone had been able catch some rest; they had instituted Chase's rotations as soon as they had been issued. Unfortunately for Chase, there was no one but her until the provisional governments were put into place and the power transferred from rebellion to legitimate authority, and that had taken the better part of the day.
But now... finally... she was close to being done as she ever had been, and all Chase felt was weariness and a sense of profound relief. " C'mon," she said to Diana. " Time for me to return the favor."
They reached the outside steps before they were stopped by Mala. " Come with me," she said imperiously. " We have dinner prepared for you as well as a place for you to get some rest." She motioned for them to go back into the Reichstag with a twirl of her fingers and then put her hands on her hips when they didn't comply immediately. " Let's go, you two. The sooner I get you settled, the sooner the rest of this bunch will get back to work."
Chase and Diana exchanged glances before turning their attention to the courtyard, realizing that everything had stopped while all eyes focused on them. Blue and green eyes widened simultaneously, then met with a comically stunned expression.
" Um... Mala?"
" Chase, you're a hero. What did you expect?"
" I'm not a hero!" she growled fiercely.
Mala started to contradict her, but a look from Diana stopped the words before they could form on her lips. Instead, she motioned them back inside the Reichstag, and now Chase shook her head.
" Chase, trust me. We thought you and Diana might appreciate a little privacy together."
" That sounds wonderful," she answered frankly, clutching Diana's hand and missing the blush that ran up her face. " But why are we going back in here?" indicating the Reichstag with a measure of distaste. " Privacy or not, I really do not think trying to sleep at a desk is going to be very restful, and the only bed I saw in here I wouldn't touch," remembering Orana's chambers all too clearly.
" Chase, trust me when I tell you that Amazons have become creatures of comfort in the last few millennia, and they prepared a place for the two of you with that in mind. It isn't Orana's quarters or even anywhere near it." A pause. " You've done so much for so long; let others share the burden now. Hero or not, you've carried a lot of the rebellion on your shoulders. It's the main reason things are moving so rapidly and the transition has progressed so smoothly so far you put some good, well-thought out plans into place."
Chase was more than a little embarrassed. Diana came to her rescue.
" Come on, Mala. Lead the way. It's been a really long day."
Mala nodded and led them back inside and down the corridor Chase knew went towards the guest residence quarters. She didn't argue; already much of what marked the Reichstag as the Nazi stronghold was gone. And she knew herself well enough to know she needed food and rest. The world would have to wait.
Mala opened the door and several comforting scents followed. Chase and Diana crossed the threshold into the room and Mala closed the door behind them, leaving them alone and in peace to investigate the comforts that had been provided for them.
There was a fire in the fireplace and hot food on the table, and opening the door on the far wall, they found a well-appointed bathroom. Diana and Chase exchanged tired but amused glances. " I guess the Nazis were as fond of their comforts as the Amazons, hmm?"
Diana rolled her eyes. " Given who their leader was...." she said, letting that thought lie. " Besides, you've seen how most people have been living here. You know how the rebels have been living. I don't think they have had these kinds of luxuries; they were for the privileged few."
" Isn't that still true? I don't see the masses in here enjoying all this."
Diana took Chase by the hand and led her back over to the table. " Let's eat; if I know Drea, she will be while shortly to check up on us and give us a report."
Chase nodded and started eating the stew, only just noting that it tasted good. They ate in silence for a few minutes before Chase noted Diana wasn't eating much. " Diana? Are you all right?"
" My head is bothering me a little bit."
Chase noticed her pallor and cursed herself silently. She pushed back from the table and came around beside Diana. " God, I've been so selfish. Let me take care of you."
" You don't have to...."
" I know, sweetheart, but I want to."
Diana let Chase lead her into the bathroom, then stood watching as she started the bathwater running. It was oddly disconcerting; Chase was still hobbling slightly and with her face still bruised and her arm still in a cast, her movements were slow and awkward. Diana rubbed her temple, trying to ease some of the pain away.
" Chase, what changed?"
" Huh?" Chase whirled to meet Diana's eyes.
" I mean, just a few days ago... it has only been a few days right?" She waited for Chase to nod. " Well, just a few days ago, we were working on just being friends. Now we're... well, I think we passed friendship and moved into something deeper."
Chase turned away from Diana to look for a towel, placing it on the counter before she nodded her head. " We did," she agreed softly. " Before before we came here, before this fight, I had time... time for anger, time for thought, time for argument and consideration and logic. Ares made me realize that I was assuming too much - throwing away an opportunity I might never get again... especially since we were in the middle of a war. And staying angry over things past that I can't change... it suddenly dawned on me I was being stupid and selfish."
A frown crossed Diana's face. " I don't understand you've been at war all your life. Not that I'm complaining," she hastened to reassure Chase. " I'm just a little confused."
Chase smiled sadly. " So was I. It is one thing to know something here," tapping her forehead. " It's something else again to have it brought home to you here," putting her hand over her heart. " I never had anything to lose before... not like this anyway. When I was hanging on the wall getting the crap beaten out of me, I decided if I got out of there, I wasn't going to be stupid and selfish any more. I was going to give us a chance to be an us... if you were still willing... because I remember what it felt like...." She let her words trail off, but Diana knew exactly when Chase was referring to.
Diana didn't answer verbally, but cupped her hands gently around Chase's face, drawing their lips together and sucking on her tongue until she felt Chase collapse against her in surrender. Diana had meant it to be a gesture of reassurance. Then Diana felt her knees start to buckle when Chase's hands began to wander across her body.
Diana leaned against the counter and Chase leaned into her as their lips separated. " I never knew it could be like this."
Diana combed her fingers through Chase's hair. " It will only get better, love. I promise you."
A knock on the outer door brought them back to the present and Chase noted the tub was nearly ready to overflow. She reached over and shut off the valves. " Why don't you get in the tub and relax? I'll go take care of the door. Then maybe we can finish dinner and curl up in that bed together?" Diana nodded.
" I'd like that, very much." There might have been more, but the knocking sounded louder and more insistently. Diana shook her head and gently pushed Chase towards the door. " Go. If it's Drea, she'll come in anyway if you don't answer the door soon."
About that time, the door opened and Drea slowly stuck her head in the door. " Chase? Diana?" she called out softly. She didn't want to disturb them if they were otherwise occupied, but then there was that mom gene that had decided to kick into overdrive. And despite everything, there were certain formalities that needed to be observed. Although looking at Chase now....
" Drea, come in. What can I do for you? Please," indicating the chairs in front of the fireplace.
Drea watched Chase carefully, noting her pallor and her limp. She reached up and took Chase's hands, easing her into the chair beside her. " Let me take a look at you, Chase," she said in her no-nonsense healer voice. " How do you feel?"
Chase considered the question while Drea rechecked her wounds, and decided there was no answer she could give that she felt comfortable sharing. So she remained quiet. Finally, Drea realized that she wasn't going to get an answer and sighed.
" All right. What are your intentions for my daughter?"
Chase jerked out of Drea's grasp. " You're walking a very fine line, Drea. What is between Diana and me is private, and it will remain that way until we decide otherwise. Do I make myself clear?"
" Absolutely, Chase. But you need to know that since Diana is the Amazon Princess, there are rules and protocols that will have to be followed."
Chase stood, heedless of the fact that her bandage was unraveled. " Get. Out."
" GET OUT. I will not tolerate that sort of disrespect of her. Not from you not from anyone."
" But, Chase... I didn't...."
" Drea," Diana said from the bathroom door. Even from that distance she could feel the anger rolling off of Chase in waves. " Do us all a favor and go. We can talk about this tomorrow. There is nothing more any of us can do tonight. Leave us, please." She didn't say it aloud, but her expression clearly said Trust me.
Drea nodded and rose, walking silently back to the door. " I'm sorry, Chase. I didn't mean any disrespect to you or to Diana. This is new to all of us." She cleared her throat when she reached the door. " I actually came to tell you that everything is ready for tomorrow. Everyone who can be here will be here to participate in the gauntlet, and then the two of you will be returning to America."
" And the Amazons?"
" Diana has asked that we remain here a little while longer. We have much we can contribute, and possibly, a few things to learn as well." They had all been glad when Diana had given them their directives. It served a number of purposes and more than anything else, showed Diana was a true leader and caretaker of the Amazon Nation.
" Thank you, Drea. I assure you my intentions are honorable and once I have spoken of them with Diana, I will speak to both you and Hippolyta. But she deserves to know first."
Drea smiled and Chase felt the heat from Diana's blush. " Goodnight," Drea said before closing the door behind her.
Chase watched it close with a sense of satisfaction. Then she turned and took Diana's hand, leading her over to the bed. " C'mon. It's time to pamper you a little and I'd like to sleep in your arms tonight."
" That sounds wonderful. I have a feeling that will be the best medicine I could ask for."
Chase smiled. " Me too."
Continued in Part 11