Brave New World
by D
Disclaimers in Part 1

 

Chapter LI

The silence the next morning was deafening. There simply was no sound at all. No birds, no wind, no nothing. Just absolute quiet.

From the Reich steps as far as her eyes could see, Amazon warriors and rebel and resistance soldiers lined both sides of the road, each of them anxious for their chance to dispense a little justice. Some had sticks or clubs, a few had cats or chain; most had chosen to use their fists, though. Chase stood motionless on the top step waiting, sword strapped to her back. All eyes were turned to her, waiting as well.

Sonny had reset the cameras to record Orana's execution. There had been a debate about it, but in the end they had agreed on the necessity. Once the gauntlet was complete, Sonny had orders to put together a compilation beginning with Orana's speech a few nights previous, and a short collection of her well documented and her hidden atrocities against humanity. Once that was done, it would be aired, along with her summary judgment and execution. Everyone might not be able to participate, but they would certainly be able to attend after the fact if they chose to.

Diana had chosen not to participate as Diana Prince, but as Wonder Woman, and she had the distinct pleasure of escorting Orana from the dungeon to the Reichstag steps. Chase more than anyone understood her need for this sort of closure and had merely acquiesced to her request with a nod. So Diana became her alter ego and Wonder Woman walked unimpeded to the torture chamber. Only when she got there did she see the presence of guards, and they nodded their heads respectfully and opened the door to let her pass through. She wondered briefly, but correctly assumed that Chase had called down and issued instructions.

Two of them followed her in while two more remained at the door. She loosened the lasso from her belt and almost gently wrapped it around Orana's shoulders. Then she looked her directly in the eye. " No trouble, Orana. Not for me and not for her. The people have earned their justice."

" Whatever," Orana said mockingly. " It's not like you care, Wonder Woman. You're only concerned with...."

" Don't," Diana cut in, her eyes flashing fire. " Just be quiet. You will have your chance to speak before sentence is pronounced."

Orana opened her mouth to speak, but Wonder Woman yanked hard on the lasso and she lost the desire. Then the two soldiers loosened her manacles from the wall while keeping her bound and chained. " Walk."

Orana did so, though Wonder Woman could feel her resistance. A dark part of her relished that; the warrior part that demanded vengeance and justice. The rest of her felt a sadness, a resignation for what had to be. Paradise Island had bred this evil if they couldn't keep it out of their sterile environment, what hope did humankind have to defeat it?

They stepped out of the Reichstag into the bright morning and Orana blinked instinctively. She thought briefly of struggling, knowing her guards were having the same issue with their sight. Then she shrugged. She expected a dramatic last-minute rescue and decided it would make a better story if she didn't put a fight up. So Orana walked to the edge of the step to stand beside Chase with Wonder Woman holding the lasso that still bound her and four rebel guards. She raised her chin defiantly and smirked in Chase's direction.

" Well, well," she finally said, pushing through the lasso's power to speak. " Isn't this nice? You rounded up the entire rebellion in one place for me to annihilate."

Chase didn't respond, but she could feel the incredulousness emanating from the entire throng that was waiting for Orana to walk between them. Her bravado was astounding or her madness was that complete; no one was quite sure which it was.

At any rate, Chase stood in cleaned and pressed camouflage, her bruises lurid against the paleness of her skin as she faced the former Fuehrer.

" Orana, Supreme Fuehrer of the Nazi Third Reich, you stand before representatives of each of the peoples of the world who have suffered under your oppressive rule accused of tyranny and crimes against humanity. How do you plead?"

Unexpectedly, Orana laughed a high, shrill sound that was grating on every last nerve. Only Chase and Wonder Woman refrained from flinching. " Humanity? Who gives a fuck about humanity? Mindless animals waiting to be led. You sure this isn't personal for you, Annabelle?"

Only a slight clenching of her jaw gave any indication how close to the mark Orana had hit, but the Amazon saw it. " It is, isn't it?" She turned her head towards Wonder Woman, then back to Chase. " It's not about what I did to you, though is it? This is about what I did to *her*, isn't it?" She laughed again. " Gods, this is just too special. This has nothing to do with justice for these people. It has nothing to do with humanity. This is personal."

Chase's expression never changed and her attention never wavered, and when Orana was done speaking, she took a breath. " Do you have anything rational to say in your defense or is vitriolic diatribe all you have left to share with the world?"

Orana rolled her eyes but remained silent.

" Very well," Chase said after a long minute of complete silent. " As leader of the rebellion, and by the authority vested in me by the provisional governments now in power across the world, I hereby declare you guilty on all counts and sentence you to walk the gauntlet. Sentence to commence immediately."

Orana sidled up close to Chase, the lasso giving her just enough leeway. " You'd like to think this will be the end, wouldn't you? Don't you know I'm immortal, Annabelle? You can't kill me... and I have friends in high places, remember?" A jerk on the lasso pulled her out of Chase's personal space and she met Wonder Woman's burning eyes with a sense of contempt and a tickle of something familiar in her memory. Then it disappeared as quickly as it had emerged, washed away in a haze of anger and bloodlust.

" This isn't over, Annabelle Chaser!!! Not by a long shot!!!"

Wonder Woman jerked the lasso again and pulled Orana down the stairs with her. " You will walk the gauntlet, Orana," she commanded quietly, knowing she would be compelled to obey. " And you will die today. I promise you that... because it *is* personal for me," she added in an undertone, saying the things she knew Chase couldn't allow herself to acknowledge publicly. " Now walk," giving her a gentle shove. " And may the gods have mercy on your soul, because no one here will."

Orana took a deep breath, certain of her rescue. Then she began her walk between the rows, confident she would be walking out at the other end unharmed.

The first blow came as something of a shock. To say she was surprised... taken totally unaware... would have been an understatement of massive proportions. There was no holding back, and though each of them only took one hit, there were enough of them that a single hit from each of them added up to quite a lot of strikes against her body. Orana was beginning to feel them the lash of a whip, the bite of chains, the bruising of knuckles and clubs. Harder and faster they came until her only focus was the pain and where the next one was coming from.

" ARES!!!" she screamed. " ARES!!!" It was obvious from her cries that she fully expected an answer from him. And it was equally obvious from his silence there no help was forthcoming.

From his position in front of his scrying bowl, Ares watched impassively, a hint of disdain curling his lips. He had expected better from her than crying for help. Well, he decided with a shrug of his broad shoulders. It's been a nice long run. I was getting bored with her anyway. Maybe I can find some real trouble to stir up when this settles. Then he turned back to watch Orana's final humiliation.

Halfway through the line, Orana fell, unable to walk any further. At Chase's signal, those who had already had their shot at her took a step back to allow a line to form for those who hadn't yet dispensed justice. Person after person hit Orana until she didn't even emit sound when the blows landed.

When the last soldier had taken their hit on her body, they formed into lines creating a large box around Orana. Chase stepped forward into the open space and waited. Slowly, much slower than she had anticipated, Orana lifted her head just barely off the ground and peered at Chase through eyes nearly swollen shut. The grin she gave was a twisted grimace and the blood that filled her mouth just made her expression horrific. Orana tried to chuckle, but the sound was more of a choking.

" I told you you couldn't kill me."

Chase didn't answer, but gestured to two soldiers, one Amazon and one resistance fighter. They jerked Orana into a kneeling position, extending her arms away from her body. Terror dawned in her eyes as she realized what was fixing to happen, but she no longer had the strength left to struggle. Chase removed the sword the Amazons had offered her for this occasion from its sheath, and held it up in front of Orana for the barest moment. Orana's eyes widened in recognition.

" Justice has been served," Chase pronounced as she drew the sword back and swung with every ounce of strength and fury she possessed. " But this is personal," she whispered as she watched Orana's head bounce off her shoulders to land a few feet away from her body. " You don't get to hurt her ever again," Chase growled too low for anyone else to hear.

With a nod, the two dropped Orana's body. Then they resumed their places back in line and waited for Chase to speak. She looked around trying to come to grips with the fact that it was really over Orana's death closed a personal chapter in her life that had been open since their first face to face encounter. She finally took a deep breath and spoke.

" Bury her in an unmarked grave. I don't want the predators around here to die from exposure to the poison that she is. Make it deep. Everyone else, go back to work. There's still plenty of work to do to put things right again and you all have your assignments."

No one moved and Chase looked around with a raised eyebrow. " Um... today, people." Instead the leader of the local resistance stepped forward and placed his hands on Chase's shoulders. Then he leaned forward and kissed her cheeks.

" Thank you," he said simply. Then he stepped back and snapped to attention, the troops surrounding them doing the same thing. Word had spread of Chase's imminent return to America and no one could begrudge her the desire or the need to withdraw from the forefront of the rebellion. In fairness, it was very likely that the world's governments would defer to her as long as she would allow it. So much had depended on her for so long and even the newest foot soldiers had heard of her exploits. By removing herself from a leadership position, it would force them to make their own decisions and take the responsibility for them.

But regardless of all the rationalizations, they would miss her presence and her leadership they knew it and so did she. So she allowed them this opportunity and absorbed the gratitude and love she could feel flowing from all of them. It eased the pain and guilt she had carried for most of her life. Chase lifted her eyes to meet Wonder Woman's and found compassion and understanding.

Chase turned in a complete circle and looked at all the soldiers who stood at attention around her. Then she turned back to the Reichstag and the woman who waited there patiently for her to return. Chase made her way through the crowd that parted before her and up the steps. She turned and faced the troops and smiled.

" Good luck, my friends. Dismissed," she said, giving them her last formal order. They cheered and watched until Chase and Wonder Woman disappeared into the Reichstag; then they broke into their respective groups and went back to work.

Mala and Drea were waiting for them when they arrived back in the room they had shared the previous night. Wonder Woman spun and instantly became Diana Prince once more. Then she walked over to stand behind Chase, lightly wrapping her arms around Chase's shoulders despite the blood spattered across her clothing and meeting Drea's and Mala's over her head.

" What can we do for you ladies?" Diana asked to break the silence. It wasn't so much what she said but how she said it that made the two exchange glances before turning back to Chase and Diana.

" We just wanted to make sure you were both doing all right. It's been a long few days for both of you and Chase looks like she's about ready to collapse." Drea focused on Chase. " May I check your injuries again before you leave?"

Chase shrugged. Suddenly she was overwhelmingly tired and wanted nothing more than a hot shower and twenty-four hours of uninterrupted sleep. Drea watched it happen and offered her hand to Chase, a little surprised when it was accepted so readily. Chase maintained the grip she had on Diana's hand and they made quite a little procession going into the bathroom.

" Chase, would you like some privacy to take a shower?"

Chase shook her head. " I don't have anything clean to wear and there really isn't time." She unbuckled her trousers so Drea could look at the stitches again. When she released Diana's hand, Diana moved over to the small linen closet and removed a wash cloth, wetting it in warm water before crossing back to Chase's side.

" You have time," Drea assured her. " We haven't started loading bodies onto the planes yet. I am sending all but the most critical cases back to America. There are a few we can't try and move yet."

" Thanks, Drea, but I just want to take Ty home. Are you done yet?" she asked before turning to smile her thanks at Diana when she finished wiping Orana's blood from her face.

Drea chuckled. " You're not big on patience are you, Chase? That trait you definitely inherited from your mother." She cleared her throat when Chase stilled completely. " I'm not quite done. I don't like the look of these they're red and more swollen than I am comfortable with. I'm going to open them; it may hurt more than a little. Would you like something for the pain?"

" No thank you," Chase said shortly. " Just do it so I can get out of here, please."

" May I ask what your hurry is, Chase? Most people in your position would be overjoyed to have the power and responsibility you hold right now."

Mala held Diana in a soft, inflexible grip, knowing Drea wanted to talk to Chase semi-privately as it had been made clear to both priestess and healer that neither Chase nor Diana was willing to let the other out of her sight. Diana turned to look at Mala, and the priestess cupped her face in the comforting manner of old she had used so many times before. Unspoken conversation passed between them and Diana relaxed subtly. Nothing untoward would happen with them all standing in the same room. Mala closed her eyes briefly in thanks, then combed Diana's hair away from her forehead to check her stitches as well. Not surprisingly, they were nearly healed.

Chase winced when the stitches popped open, allowing a rush of blood and pus to rush out the opening. Drea clucked her tongue and let it run, taking the infection with it. When the bleeding slowed, she rinsed it with water and Chase finally replied to her question.

" I have had this power and responsibility all my adult life, Drea. I did what needed to be done to finish the job that needed doing; I don't want to do it anymore, and everyone knows that. They knew it going into this operation. But the longer I stay here, the longer they will continue to depend on me... expect me to take the lead in every decision that needs to be made. I need to go home and let them figure things out for themselves. I can't keep doing it for them."

" Even if it is for the greater good?"

" Even if. My whole life has been in service of the greater good. I don't have anything left to give."

Drea nodded and though it looked like there was more she wanted to say, she remained silent until the blood ran clear from the cut. Then she looked towards Diana. " Come sit behind Chase, Diana. I need to pour alcohol on this and it's going to hurt."

Diana took her place behind Chase and held her while Drea poured more than half a bottle of alcohol on the wound. Then she packed it and wrapped it up, giving Chase instructions on the care of it once she got home. Then she took Diana by the arm and led her out of the bathroom to give Chase an opportunity to dress and her a moment to speak to Diana privately.

" Diana, are you sure you shouldn't remain here with the rest of us? Your mother did make you the leader of the Amazon army."

" Drea, my place is at her side. You know that. Why are you suddenly being so difficult about this?"

Drea rubbed her forehead. " I'm not sure, honestly. I think I'm on overload. I know you need to be with her, but we need you here as well."

" No you don't," Diana said frankly. " Not really." She held up a hand before Drea could argue. " I have already given my orders to the Nation; no one needs me to stay here babysitting to make sure they are carried out. Drea, these are Amazon warriors they were Amazon warriors hundreds of years before I even came into existence. I think they can handle themselves. And Chase needs me, Drea, like I need her. Maybe you should figure out why that bothers you so much."

" I can see what it has done to Chase's soul. I don't want it to do the same to yours."

Diana smiled. " Drea, Chase is healing my soul, and I am healing hers. Where she goes, I go."

" And where Diana goes, I will go, Drea," Chase said as she came out of the bathroom followed by Mala. " I'm not playing her or taking advantage of her or stringing her along for my own use and pleasure. If she felt she needed to stay here for any reason, we would. I'm not sure what I have done to suddenly warrant your distrust, but I think you need to adjust your attitude about me as a person and about Diana and me as a couple. I'm not going anywhere, Drea. I am here for the long haul."

" No matter what?"

" Forever, Drea. And that is just the beginning for us."

Without warning, Drea straightened as though a burden had fallen from her shoulders and she grinned while taking Chase into her arms for an almost smothering hug. Chase was startled and it showed in the expression Diana read so easily in her eyes. However, she returned the fervent embrace and hope Drea would see fit to explain. Mala chuckled silently at the tableau playing out in front of her.

" Thank you, Chase," Drea said as she pulled back. " I just wanted to hear it from your lips. I wanted to know this was your choice."

" Drea, I may be slow, but I am certainly not stupid," not admitting to Drea the stupidity she freely admitted to Diana. " Even when my mind was arguing, my heart and soul knew. Diana was never *not* my choice," speaking to Drea but never letting her eyes leave Diana's.

Mala cleared her throat. " So this means we will have an Amazon wedding soon then, yes?"

Diana and Chase colored equal shades of red, but their eyes stayed locked exchanging silent promises with each other. " Yes," they answered in a simultaneous whisper, moving into one another's arms and forgetting about their audience for a long spell of time while their lips met in passionate affirmation. Only Drea's throat clearing separated them though they leaned their foreheads together and breathed the same air.

" Guess I need to see about getting a supply of chocolate body paint then," Mala commented. Then she and Drea exchanged glances, laughing aloud at the flaming color and gobsmacked expression Diana and Chase achieved as Mala's words and their meaning sank into their consciousness. This was going to be a lot of fun.

Chapter LII

The silence was surprising. Chase had expected to hear the sounds of voices calling to one another and the movement of bodies at work... the sounds of rebuilding and restoration. Though there wasn't an overabundance of physical labor to be done, and guidelines for the provisional governments had been debated and agreed upon months earlier, still the expectation was there for something more than complete silence.

It was enough to draw Chase out of the inner contemplation she had fallen into after Mala's startling words. The thought of Diana and chocolate body paint in a same sentence context had forced her mind to shut down or burn out completely. The informal commitment they had just made to each other was much easier to focus on and it didn't tend towards shutting down her mental synapses. It did send her into a pleasant haze that she was content to indulge in... until the silence grabbed her attention.

She stopped on the top step of the Reichstag, looking around at the numerous allies that had made the rebel offensive successful. So many people from so many places and walks of life had put everything aside to join as one unit to overthrow the Nazi government and restore freedom to the people of the world. Already she had gotten reports from around the globe that many who had heretofore been repressed and afraid were now joining the effort to clean up and repair. Chase was glad, but the cynical part of her wondered how long it would last. Had mankind suffered enough this time? Had the learned to work together despite their differences, or would they allow themselves to fall back into old hatreds and prejudices now that their common enemy was destroyed?? She knew she didn't have an answer, and there would be no way to tell for some time to come.

Chase shook her head and realized then that the silence she felt was due to the fact that everyone in the square had turned their attention to her, paying their final respects to her in the only way they knew how. She lifted her hand to acknowledge them, then strode down the stairs and to the jeep that was waiting to take her to the airstrip the planes had been moved to once the capital was captured.

A large majority of the troops that had left the United States would remain in their newly assigned duty stations until the transition period was over six months for some; a year for others, depending on the job skills involved. The few that were left, however mostly Amazons - would be accompanying the wounded and the dead home. There was still the task of reintegrating rebels into society as regular civilians, and the Amazons had volunteered a huge contingent of warriors dedicated to that task. They were being spread out across the whole of Europe and America in small groups to help guide the leaders in this aspect of reform. It was those assigned to the western hemisphere that were traveling back with Chase.

Though she recognized the need for such a transition team, Chase had been a little confused by Diana's decision to use Amazon warriors for such an assignment at first. After all, they were warriors, and with the exception of a few skirmishes, the rebel victory had been a fairly peaceful one. Most of the population had simply been tired and run-down and ready for a change and Chase had planned the offensive with this in mind, though the rebellion had been ready for battle as well.

Then Diana explained that Amazon warriors were the perfect choice they had faced the same challenges when they had left man's world millennia ago. They had needed to learn how to channel that warrior energy and intelligence, and that had led to the creation of a number of games and exercises that allowed them to practice the art of war in a safe environment. Chase was personally looking forward to seeing some of these in action.

First, though, they had to get home and lay their dead to rest.

Diana was waiting at the field, having helped Drea load the injured onto the plane while Chase recorded the last bits for Sonny to edit. Shep was scheduled to broadcast the news once Sonny was finished with his editing, which Chase figured would be sometime while they were in the air. Perfect timing as far as she was concerned, and in the meantime, she would get to spend some time with Diana.

At least that was the plan... until Chase remembered she still had to fly the supersonic jet home and Wonder Woman needed to fly the invisible plane while they kept her dual identity secret. With a sigh, she walked into Diana's arms and just held on for a long moment. Diana rubbed her back and kissed the top of her head before releasing Chase to be strong again.

" Thanks," Chase said softly, before turning her attention to the troops that were waiting for her orders to leave. She turned to them and gave them a smile. " Thank you all so much for the sacrifices you have made. Try to get some rest on the trip home. We'll see you all there."

" Princess, you're not traveling with us?"

Chase answered before Diana could. " I need her to fly with me," she replied, holding up her arm. " We will be waiting for you when you arrive. Godspeed."

They stepped from the cargo plane and waited until the doors were closed before they crossed the field to where the jeep waited. Chase hadn't had the jet moved so they had a short drive to reach it. When they were within sight of it, Chase stopped the jeep and Diana stepped out to become Wonder Woman again. Then she summoned her invisible plane.

" Will you be okay to fly alone, Chase? I can make my jet follow us."

" Would you mind, Diana? I don't wanna cause problems for you. Can it keep up?"

" You could never cause problems for me for something like this, and actually, it will solve a couple of problems... especially if we are landing at the base airstrip. It can keep up easily; I thought I could hide my plane at your homestead."

Chase nodded. " Sure. Are you going as Wonder Woman or as Diana Prince?"

" I need to give the plane instruction as Wonder Woman, but I think it would be best to travel and arrive as Diana Prince. No questions that way."

Chase nodded again. " Good point. C'mon. Let's get outta here."

Wonder Woman nodded and they walked to the invisible plane first and Wonder Woman gave the plane strict directives on the actions it needed to take. Then she became Diana Prince once more and linked her arm through Chase's good one, anxious to return to Chase's home. With any luck, they would soon be able to begin a normal life together.

Hippolyta was waiting at the airstrip when they arrived, as was Hans. Diana jumped from the plane first, then turned to help Chase down. Despite her physical impairments and Diana's protests, Chase had insisted on flying the jet herself, and now had pain and exhaustion to show for what Diana suspected was penance.

When Chase's feet touched the ground, she held Diana's gaze for a long moment and squeezed her hands gratefully before turning to Hans. Then she stepped away from Diana's support and into Hans' embrace. Diana crossed over to stand next to Hippolyta, though neither of them made an effort to do more than stand beside one another for support as Hans and Chase comforted one another.

" I'm sorry, Hans. I'm so, so sorry. This wasn't supposed to happen. I never wanted...." There was a lot more Chase wanted to say, but couldn't for fear of breaking down. She had yet to cry and was teetering on the brink as it was.

Hans just held her in a fierce, tight grip and slowly rocked them back and forth. Much of his feeling of loss was for things that could have been but never were. Chase, on the other hand, had literally lost her best friend in the world, and one of the few stabilizing influences she'd known in her life.

" I know, Chase. I know. I never wanted it either, but we all knew the possibility, however unlikely, was there. Despite all the planning we did and all the precautions we took, it was still war, Chase. And Ty knew that as well or better than any of us." He paused and smiled sadly when he felt Chase's small nod against his chest.

" She left me a note... a letter really. I think... I think she knew something was going to happen to her. Or at least she was prepared for it to." He paused and chuckled, causing Chase to look at him. " I'll have to let you read it. She managed to give me what for from beyond figures she'd do anything to insure she got the last word."

The disgust in his tone was simply too much for Chase and in spite of the tears that rested just behind her eyes, she laughed. Hans smiled mission accomplished... for now.

Hippolyta turned her body towards Diana without losing sight of Chase and Hans. " How are you?"

Diana actually turned and looked at Hippolyta for a long moment before turning her focus back to Chase. " I'm all right."

Hippolyta bit her lip, then determined it was time for them to get over the estrangement between them. " Really, Diana? Are you sure? Drea told me...."

Diana sighed, recognizing the effort for what it was. " Yes, I'm sure. My head will heal. It's almost healed now. Another day maybe."

" And the rest? Diana, even as long as it's been, I remember what war was like."

" I had Chase," she answered simply, then.... " Excuse me," moving to take Chase in her arms when Chase extended a hand towards her.

Hippolyta watched their interaction, smiling as she realized something fundamental had changed between them. She was anxious to talk to Drea, but realized if she was reading the signs correctly there would be an Amazon wedding sooner rather than later.

" You all right, love?" Diana asked Chase as she wrapped Chase in a warm embrace. Regardless of the laughter she had heard, she could see the tears and pain in the back of the green eyes facing her before Chase buried her face in Diana's chest. Diana felt the movement beneath her chin when Chase nodded.

" Better now," she replied truthfully. " Should we go say hello to your mother?" Then the question was moot when Hippolyta made her way to them.

" Chase, how are you?"

Chase thought of the myriad of answers that were applicable and shrugged. Hippolyta nodded in understanding and stepped forward, reaching out a hand to brush Chase's bangs off her forehead.

" Been there, done that, remember that feeling all too well. Come, you must be exhausted and it is going to be several hours before the plane arrives. I promised Drea I would ensure you got some rest once you arrived."

Chase's eyebrow went into her hairline, but she couldn't deny the exhaustion she felt. She nodded her agreement and felt Diana's arms tighten around her.

Hippolyta nodded, recognizing Chase's acquiescence for exactly what it was. " Good. Then perhaps we can talk when you've rested."

" Go on, Chase," Hans said softly. " I'll come and get you when they get home."

Hippolyta and Hans stood together and watched Diana and Chase walk together to Chase's quarters. Then without a word they separated and returned to the things they had been working on before the radio had crackled to life to let them know Chase and Diana had come home.

Chase flopped rather gracelessly on the bed and covered her eyes, careful not to smack herself with the cast. Diana watched her in concern for a long moment, then she leaned over her and tugged the boots from her feet. She reached up and loosened Chase's trousers, carefully sliding them down the toned legs. Her motions caused Chase to move her arm from her eyes and lean up on her elbows, pinning Diana with an exhausted, leering gaze.

" Are you trying to take advantage of my weakened state there, Princess?"

Diana couldn't stop the intense blush that flooded her features and hope the semi-darkness of Chase's quarters hid it. But she was fairly certain, given the shit-eatin' grin that crossed Chase's face, her wish had not been granted. Then the warrior side of her decided to get into the act and she smiled rakishly at Chase and waggled her eyebrows.

" Do I really need to take advantage?"

Now a blush suffused Chase's face, making her eyebrows stand out in comparison. She cleared her throat and shook her head. " Given where my mind had been every moment it could spare... no, not really. My body is certainly more than willing," Chase admitted.

" But...?" Diana asked, appreciating the honesty but feeling there was more Chase needed to say.

" But I'm not sure I could stay awake for more than a quickie. And I don't want our first time together to be a 'wham bam, thank you, ma'am' encounter. I fully intend to spend hours loving you... memorizing your taste and scent and your reaction to every touch. And honestly, I would prefer to be somewhere that your mother is not within hearing."

Diana blinked. She had studied the scrolls and retained trace memories of her original soul. Somehow, she did not remember her soul's mate being quite so forthcoming or aggressive at the beginning of their relationship together. She smiled and decided she liked this new side Chase was showing her. Diana nodded her agreement.

" Soon, though?"

" Very soon, sweetheart... Amazon protocol be damned."

Diana bit her lip and chuckled lightly. " "Given that we have been separated for nearly three thousand years, they will simply have to get over it. I think we have done amazingly well not to have...."

" ... jumped one another's bones?" Chase offered with a laugh.

" Something like that, yes." Diana pushed gently at Chase's nearest hip. " Scoot over." Chase raised an eyebrow at her, but complied, especially when Diana removed her shoes and pants. Then she climbed beneath the cover. " I want to hold you," Diana stated clearly.

Chase turned on her side and Diana spooned up behind her, twining her fingers with Chase's as much as the cast would allow them. It took less than five breaths before the two of them fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Hippolyta knocked softly, and when there was no response, she opened the door silently and poked her head in. Her breath caught at the sight and she turned to close the door soundlessly behind her before crossing the few step necessary to stand by the bed Chase and Diana shared. Hippolyta realized that Drea was right there was no way Diana and Chase were going to observe whatever propriety or convention the Amazon Nation wanted to impose on them. And really, what was the point? It wasn't like the rest of the Nation had been held to special standards; princess or not... why should Diana?

Hippolyta reached out a hand to shake Diana's arm, only to be met by alert blue eyes.

" Oh... Diana good, you're awake." Diana blinked and tightened her grip around Chase's still sleeping body. Hippolyta couldn't stop the smile; despite everything, and maybe because of it, it made her happy to see Diana finally happy... finally whole. " I wanted to let you know that the plane will be here in about fifteen minutes. I thought you two might want a chance to wake up before it lands."

" Thank you." But Diana made no move to wake Chase and Chase's breathing never changed. Awkwardly, Hippolyta patted Diana's shoulder before she turned and walked out of Chase's hut. Only then did Chase turn in Diana's arms, smiling up at her sleepily.

" Hiya, beautiful."

Diana didn't answer; she simply leaned down and captured Chase's lips for a timeless moment. " Come on, love. Let's go welcome Ty home."

The wounded disembarked first and those who needed further care were immediately moved to the hospital. The rest stood at attention with the gathered troops as the dead were unloaded one at a time. There weren't an overwhelming number, but every loss cut deeply and silence reigned as a sign of respect. Chase met with each family member as they came forward to claim their loved one and Diana stayed beside her for support, marveling at the way Chase personalized each loss and sympathized with everyone.

Finally, lastly, Ty's body was escorted down the ramp by the burial detail, and the entire contingent stepped back to allow Chase to take possession of the casket one last time. Ty had asked for cremation and as soon as Chase and Hans said their final goodbyes, her body would be taken to the incinerator.

Hans walked forward at Chase's motion and placed his hands on the casket, whispering something so low even Chase couldn't hear him. Then he stepped back behind Chase and waited, surprised when she simply removed the flag from Ty's casket and folded it into a triangle before gesturing to the burial detail and reaching out for Diana's hand.

Then they made their way towards the incinerator, a procession following respectfully behind them.

" Chase?" Hippolyta's voice was soft and hesitant. She hated to disturb Chase so soon after Ty's cremation, but suspected her presence would be welcome sooner rather than later just for Chase's peace of mind. Besides, she wanted to speak to Chase privately first and Hippolyta couldn't imagine Diana leaving Chase alone with her for any length of time by choice. It was simply fortuitous circumstance that Hippolyta had seen Diana headed to the mess hut to pick up their dinner, and she had decided to take immediate advantage of the fact.

Chase leaned back in her chair and observed Diana's mother with a judicious eye as she stood in the doorway waiting for permission to enter, and Hippolyta returned the favor with a long gaze of her own. Chase's bruises were gone and Hippolyta was again struck by not only her beauty, but also by the strength and character so obvious in the woman facing her. But more than that, and most especially, she could see the exhaustion and the pain Chase carried. Hippolyta gestured to the interior.

" May I come in?"

Chase nodded and motioned her in. " Diana isn't here right now. She went...."

" I know. I saw her leave and thought you and I could speak privately for a moment."

Walls immediately went up in Chase's eyes. " I don't think so," she said bluntly. " Diana and I don't keep secrets from one another."

Hippolyta smiled, much to Chase's surprise. " Good," she replied smoothly. " She deserves someone who cares for her so deeply."

" I don't just care for her, Hippolyta; I love her body, heart and soul. But more than that, I like and respect the person she is... and the person she has always been to me," acknowledging Diana's place in the life past, present and future without so much as batting an eyelash.

Hippolyta nodded as though she had expected the response. " Actually, I came to tell you that when you decide to seek her hand, my answer will be yes. There are not going to be any silly customs or ridiculous rituals you will be asked to observe or antiquated protocols I expect you to follow. My only request is that the wedding not be until the Nation can come home to witness it."

Chase nodded dumbly, not having anticipated this sort of reaction from Hippolyta, given Drea's initial outburst. Then again, she pondered, maybe that is exactly why I am getting this from Hippolyta now. Then she brought her attention back to Hippolyta who had resumed speaking.

" I do have a favor to ask." At Chase's cocked eyebrow, Hippolyta continued. " I would like to return to Europe to be with the Amazons until such time as they are scheduled to come home. I could go with Hans when he leaves tomorrow."

" Are you sure?"

Hippolyta nodded. " Diana and I have been at odds for more than a century, Chase. It is going to take a while to repair that. I need to go be a leader and the two of you need time to be a couple together."

" Go with my blessing, then."

" Mine, too," Diana spoke from the door.

Hippolyta leaned forward and kissed first Chase and then Diana on the cheek before escaping out the door to inform Hans of the new plans. Chase and Diana sat down to eat, letting the silence between them grow endless possibilities of what the next few months could mean to them.

Chapter LIII

The silence was different from what it had been before. There was actual quiet not, not simply the muted sounds of people trying to be unheard in the midst of controlled chaos. Chase stood at the window of her hut looking out at a world at once familiar and foreign to her. She shivered.

Diana opened the door as she returned from disposing the remains of their dinner, the sound loud in all the stillness. She spotted Chase in the dark by the window and moved to turn on a light.

" Please don't."

A frown crossed Diana's face at Chase's words, but she complied, choosing instead to stand behind Chase and wrap her in a warm hug. " You all right?"

Chase couldn't stop the flinch, but then immediately relaxed into the body behind her. Despite the hurt that flinch caused her, Diana held on, having a good idea what the reason for it was. She waited. Chase had lasted a lot longer than she'd expected. Finally, Chase drew a deep breath to speak, but her voice was barely above a whisper when she did.

" No," she said honestly, closing her eyes. " I'm not all right. I'm all wrong, in fact. *This* is all wrong. It's all happening too fast."

This time Diana dropped her arms and moved as far away from Chase as the small space would allow which fortunately or unfortunately depending on the point of view wasn't far enough away to keep Chase from fastening a hand around Diana's wrist in a firm but not painful grip.

" Let. Go."

" No."

Blue eyes met green with equal fire. Chase read the pain she had caused and Diana saw the anguish Chase felt. It didn't lessen her pain, but she stopped trying to remove her hand from Chase's grasp.

" I'm sorry, Diana," she said. " I... that wasn't...." She released Diana's wrist and turned back to the window, shoulders slumped in defeat. " I'm sorry," waiting to hear the door close behind Diana. Instead, she felt Diana step up behind her close enough to feel her warmth but not quite touching.

" You didn't mean us, did you?" she asked tenderly. " About moving too fast."

Chase shook her head, but didn't say anything. Diana reached out and took Chase's hand in hers leading her back to the small bed and tucking her in before crawling in on the other side and cocooning Chase in her arms.

" So what did you mean, Chase? Help me to understand, love," knowing Chase needed to say the words. Chase lay quiet for so long, Diana was afraid she had fallen asleep. Eventually, though, Chase drew in a shuddering breath and began to speak in a low tone.

" I knew when I put this plan together, that it was going to change my way of life. If we failed, well, dead is pretty life changing." She shrugged. " If we succeeded, we would be on our way to regaining everything that was lost when the Nazis took control of the world. But I only expected it to be a first step on a long road to recovery. We had plans for everything, including the provisional governments, but I assumed there would be months of battles even with Orana gone. Months of restoring order... months of going and doing and.... To have it just be over? I feel out of control."

" Do you wish it had worked out differently... taken longer or...?"

" No, not really. I'm glad we've gotten by with as few...." Chase stopped to clear her throat. " ... with as few casualties as we have, and I'm really grateful that people have come around like they have. It's just... it's not what I expected, given history. It's made me a little antsy... on edge. It's like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop."

" Does it help that I'm here?"

Chase took the hand that was resting on her belly and linked their fingers together. Then she held it over her breast where her heart beat the strongest, knowing Diana could feel the pounding. " It's the only thing keeping me from running out of here screaming and howling at the moon."

Diana couldn't stop the small chuckle that bubbled up and she squeezed Chase lightly. " You did that once."

Chase shifted in her arms until she was laying on her back looking up into Diana's amused face. " I beg your pardon? I most certainly have not...."

Diana let her hand stroke Chase's belly, drawing the upset and tension out of her body. " Not in this life maybe," she agreed. " But in our first lifetime together, you most certainly did."

Chase gazed into blue eyes at close range and found only truth in them, and a hint of teasing. " You remember this??" skeptically.

Diana shook her head. " No. But I have read the stories and memorized them all. There are hints of familiarity about them, ghostly impressions of memory, but mostly it is just what I know from the scrolls."

A few minutes of quiet consideration. " Did I really howl at the moon?"

" Yes, you really did."

There was another long period of silence and Diana watched as Chase's eyes fluttered closed. Just when she was sure Chase was asleep, green eyes opened and caught hers with surprising candor.

" I love you, Diana. You make everything worth it."

Diana leaned down and kissed Chase thoroughly, feeling her relax under the touch and only pulling away when their hands started to wander. Chase whimpered softly when Diana's lips moved just out of reach. She raised her arm to bring Diana back down to her and nearly clocked them both with the cast.

" Damn, nothing like trying to knock yourself and your soulmate unconscious to ruin a mood." They shared a chuckle. " Although, it's probably just as well." She reached up to smooth the scowl Diana gave her at those words. " Not because I don't want to, sweetheart. God, do I want to," Chase growled, causing Diana to smirk. " I just don't want to here especially for our first time together. I know that no matter when and where we make love for the first time it will be special, but I'd like it to be somewhere beautiful as well."

" And I'd rather not know my mother is hanging around waiting for something to happen."

Chase struggled to sit up. " You mean your mother is out there?!?" pointing towards the door.

" No, NO!" pushing on Chase's shoulder and making her lay back on the mattress. " No, Chase. She wouldn't do that. It's just my knowing she knows, you know?"

" Not exactly, Diana, but I do understand. Besides, after waiting nearly three millennia to be together again, one more day shouldn't kill us. But we may not leave the house for six months once I get you home."

Diana blushed and looked at her with round, blue eyes. " Promise?"

" Guaran-damn-tee it, sweetheart."

That garnered her another long, passionate embrace and both were breathing heavily when they finally separated for air. Diana gazed at Chase with lustful intent. " I'm going to hold you to that, Annabelle Chaser."

Chase pushed Diana onto her back then curled up into her body with her head on one breast and her arm carefully across Diana's waist. " No worries, love," placing a kiss to the breast beneath her lips. " My heart will remember." She smiled when she felt the heartbeat under her cheek speed up exponentially. " Goodnight, beloved."

Diana's kiss to the top of her head was the only response she got. It was enough.

They were almost asleep when Chase spoke again. " Diana, are they really going to give us chocolate body paint to use during our wedding ceremony??"

Chase felt the soundless choking jerk through Diana's body behind her before Diana answered her. " Not if they know what's good for them."

" Oh," Chase said, a little deflated.

Diana shifted slightly to look at Chase's bowed head. " You want to be naked in front of everyone and indulge in ritualistic Amazon body painting?!" She'd never have pegged Chase as the exhibitionist type, and while being naked in front of her sisters didn't really concern Diana, she felt somewhat protective of sharing Chase with them.

" Huh? What? Oh, no!" idly drawing patterns on Diana's stomach.

" Then why did you sound so disappointed?" She felt the heat of Chase's blush spread across her skin and wondered what could have caused such a violent reaction. Then her mind followed right behind Chase's and Diana felt her own skin flush in response. Chase's shrug brought her mind away from her rather explicit daydreams and back to Chase's answer.

" It sounded... interesting."

Diana grinned. She had a feeling immortal life with Chase would never be dull. " Don't worry, sweetheart. I promise we will put it to good use... privately."

Chase couldn't stop the silly grin anymore than she could resist giving Diana another hug. " Good." Then the two of them settled into silence, falling asleep with a pair of matching smiles.

Morning came early, as it is wont to do and Diana and Chase were up with the rising of the sun. Of course, it was a little difficult to see the rising of the sun behind all the storm clouds that had gathered and the drizzle of rain, but the lightening of the sky was a good indicator. After cleaning up, they walked together to the mess tent and everyone took a moment to welcome Chase home and express their condolences over Ty. Diana sat back and watched as Chase absorbed the love and affection of those she had called family for such a long time.

Somewhere in the midst of all the greeting, Hippolyta slipped in and took a seat next to Diana. Diana nodded to her mother to acknowledge her presence, but didn't offer more. Hippolyta sighed. It seemed like all their progress was made by taking baby steps, but at least there was finally progress once more.

" Diana is there anything you need me to do for you while I am over there? You are still in charge of the army, you know."

" No, thank you. I gave my orders to the commanders before I left and the Amazons know what their duties are." She watched Hippolyta's shoulders slump at her brusque answer and for the first time in forever, felt a bit of sympathy for her mother. " If you could, though," she continued, seeing Hippolyta straighten up in anticipation. " Would you send me a period progress report let me know how you feel things are going overall? You have a much better handle on how this should progress, and I don't think you would pad the report to spare my sensibilities."

Hippolyta's eyes widened. " You think the rest will?"

Diana shrugged, trying to play things off nonchalantly. " I think the rest are not sure how to regard me anymore if they ever did. I didn't suffer through what the rest of you did as mortal women, yet I did cause you to lead the Amazons back into the ugliness and cruelty of war in man's world. Then to top it all off, I left them to return here with Chase."

Hippolyta nodded and considered her words carefully. This was the first time Diana had really shared much of anything with her in such a long time, and she didn't want to blow it by speaking too hastily. " I think, if you were to ask them, you would find they *wanted* to come here to support both you and Chase... and all of mankind for that matter. They all know the story, Diana, and they all want that happy ending for you... and Chase, of course. No one begrudges your decision to be here, and each and every Amazon that came to man's world did so willingly. They all volunteered."

Diana's eyes widened. *That* was a surprise. She'd just assumed....

Hippolyta cleared her throat. " I need to go get my gear together. Hans is ready to go."

Diana nodded. " We'll be there to see you off." Hippolyta patted her hand and rose, slipping out into the wet of the outdoors. Diana watched her go and clasped Chase's hand.

" Ready to go?"

" Let's go say goodbye to Hans and your mother and blow this popsicle stand." Diana's eyebrows went up but she nodded her agreement.

Their goodbyes were brief, though Diana did allow Hippolyta a brief hug. Hans and Chase exchanged a long embrace, but no words; none were necessary between them. Then Hippolyta gave Chase a hug, pulling back to look into her eyes.

" Take care of my baby."

" I will. Be careful... both of you. I want to see you home safely."

Hippolyta nodded and pressed a kiss on Chase's cheek then boarding the plane. Hans gave her a wave and the jet taxied down the runway in the chilling rain. They watched the plane out of sight, then Chase turned to Diana and extended her hand.

" You ready to go home?"

Diana nodded and wiggled her eyebrows. " Yes, let's blow this popsicle stand," mimicking Chase's earlier words. Chase just laughed and together they walked back to the hut to pick up their few belongings. Then without a backwards glance, they left the rebel encampment and headed for home.

Thankfully, the drizzle was taking a brief hiatus by the time they arrived, though there was still a good breeze blowing. The house was much the same as it had been the last time they had been out; the grass was a little longer, the wildflowers were still blooming and the jeep was still parked out front. Chase pulled to a stop behind it mumbling to herself.

Diana smiled, having a fairly good idea what all the muttering was about, then looked down in surprise when her wrist was encircled by Chase's strong fingers.

" Before we go inside, would you like to help me scatter Ty's ashes and let me introduce you to my mother properly?"

Without a word, Diana slid her hand into Chase's curling their fingers together. She made no mention of having already met Jasmine, and let Chase lead her over to the tall oak where her mother's body had been laid to rest. Chase gathered up a handful of wildflowers and placed them on Jasmine's grave before kneeling down to speak.

" Hello, Mama. I've brought someone I think you already know, but it's important to me to introduce you to her as the person who owns my heart and soul. Mama, this is Diana," looking up and easing Diana into a kneeling position beside her. " This is the woman I love body, heart and soul and whom I am going to marry as soon as I convince her to say yes."

Diana drew a deep, surprised breath. She hadn't expected any kind of proposal, especially not here and now. She met Chase's eyes, overwhelmed by the love she found there and only a little confused by the slight humor she could see in the back of vibrant green eyes.

" Really?"

Chase nodded with a nervous smile and shrugged. " More than anything in the world. I asked in front of witnesses," motioning to her mother's grave and Ty's urn, " hoping you'd be more inclined to say yes."

Diana took both of Chase's hands in her and leaned forward until their lips were just touching. " It has always been yes, Chase." Then they kissed for a long moment. Two ghostly figures stood on the other side of the tree unseen by the two lovers who pulled away from their kiss and took up the urn before climbing the tree to scatter Ty's ashes together. Ty and Jasmine watched the little ceremony unnoticed even as the other two climbed from the tree. Then Chase and Diana clasped hands and headed for the house, anxious to begin the newest chapter in their lives.

" About damned time," Ty muttered.

" No kidding," Jasmine agreed. Then they walked off together in the opposite direction until they disappeared in the rain that had started to fall in earnest.

Chase's hand shook slightly as she opened the door, then she gasped in surprise when Diana scooped her into strong arms and carried her across the threshold. Chase responded by pulling Diana's lips down to meet hers, then all movement stopped as the kiss went on at length. Finally, they pulled away for air, and Chase put her head against Diana's heart and wrapped her arms around the slim waist as Diana eased her back into a standing position.

" Umm, have I mentioned how good you are at that?"

Diana smiled. " I think we both need lots more practice. I mean good is okay, but perfect would be better, don't you think?"

" Oh," Chase agreed wickedly. " I intend to be practicing all kinds of things with you, in that case. It could take years."

Diana cupped Chase's face tenderly in her hand. " Oh no, lover. This is a forever kind of thing."

Chase took Diana's hand in her own and kissed it, then led the way to the bedroom. The time for patience and waiting was over. The rest of the world would just have to do without them for a while.

Chapter LIV

Chase opened the door to her room, trying to remember the last time she'd taken the time to use it instead of simply bunking on the couch. Most of her trips out here since she had moved to the camp had been once in a while fly bys. It occurred to her that she would need linens for the bed and she hoped there was still something useable in the house.

Diana felt her hesitation and turned to look at Chase squarely. " You all right?"

Chase nodded and nibbled her bottom lip. " I just realized I need to go see if there are clean linens we can put on the bed."

Diana released her hands and jerked the coverlet off the mattress, folding it neatly before dropping it into the room's only chair. They both sneezed violently from the dust she had scattered. Chase laughed and kissed her quickly, then crossed the room and threw the windows wide open. For good measure, she plugged in the small, metal rotary fan and tried to angle it to push the dust out faster. Then she turned to Diana and held out a hand.

Diana felt the shakiness and gave Chase a look of intense wonder. " You're nervous?"

Chase nodded and let her eyes drop to the ground. " This is... I've never... this means something to me means everything to me... *YOU* mean everything... I'm not... I just want this to be... I want you...."

Diana stepped closer to Chase, until they were touching along the length of their bodies. Diana cupped Chase's face tenderly in her hands. " Breathe, sweetheart," looking her intently in the eyes. Then she leaned forward, swiping her tongue across Chase's lips, smiling at the whimper the action elicited, then moaning herself when Chase's strong teeth caught her tongue and held it as she laved it with her own.

Chase slid her hands up Diana's torso, lightly pinching her nipples and noting Diana's gasp before continuing up her shoulders and into the thick, dark hair. She felt Diana's hands shift from her face, circling her breasts before slipping to her waist and around to cup her ass firmly. Chase released Diana's tongue, only to find her lips captured and her mouth plundered in return.

Chase let her short nails scratch Diana's neck and scalp, feeling the trembling that shuddered through her tall frame. When Diana started kneading her cheeks rhythmically, Chase broke the kiss, breathing heavily. Diana looked at her questioningly with darkened blue eyes and Chase gave her a shy smile, her green eyes almost glowing in return.

" I think we both have on far too many clothes, love, and I don't know how much longer I'm going to be able to stand." Diana reached for the hem of her shirt, her eyes never leaving Chase's then stopped when Chase shook her head. " Let me."

Diana acquiesced, feeling the trail of goosebumps that followed in the wake of Chase's light touch on her skin. Chase looked at Diana's sculpted body with awe, watching as her fingers traced muscle and bone and curves. It was when Chase lingered on those curves that Diana spoke in a shaky, husky voice.

" Chase, please...."

Chase looked up into eyes burning with a desire so deep she wondered for a long moment if there was a chance in hell of satisfying it in her immortal lifetime. She planted kisses on Diana's breastbone and moved down the abdomen that held only hints of the strength that lay behind the muscles, licking random spots until she reached the top button on Diana's trousers and knelt. Reverently, she unfastened the pants and helped Diana step out of them before kissing her way back to Diana's lips. Her hands traced indiscriminate patterns over smooth, soft skin and she pulled back from their kiss just slightly to gaze into Diana's face.

" You are so beautiful."

Chase would have said more, but buttons went flying when Diana ripped the shirt she was wearing in two. It was her turn to shiver under the focused attention, and Diana took her time as she removed Chase's bra and let her hands explore every inch of skin on Chase's upper body. She watched the muscles bunch and shift as her lips traced them, enjoying the movement as a sensuous dance.

Then she knelt as well, unembarrassed by her nakedness and thoroughly aroused by the look of desire and need so clearly written in the green eyes that followed her every move. Diana let her hands run lightly up and down Chase's legs, stimulating every nerve ending she could find before loosening the buttons that held them on and sliding them down Chase's legs. Diana felt Chase's shaking when she used her shoulders for balance, and she smoothly rose to her feet, trailing her hands along the length of Chase's body.

" You are exquisite." Diana returned the compliment and they simply looked at one another for a long moment. Then Chase took Diana's hand and led them to the bed, easing Diana into a sitting position and standing between her legs. She let her hands rest on Diana's shoulders and smiled when Diana's hands wrapped around her waist.

There were so many things Chase wanted to say, but the words were just so many letters jumbled together in her mind. So she decided to let her actions speak for her instead. She leaned down and placed butterfly kisses along Diana's jaw line, shuddering at the hot breath that skittered across her ear and moaning in tandem with Diana when Diana pulled Chase into her and their skin met breast to breast and curve to curve. Then Chase gently pushed Diana onto her back on the bed and the sounds of their passion punctuated the otherwise quiet room for most of the rest of the morning.

They lay curled up together in the sheen of afterglow some time later, pleasantly tired and completely satiated for the moment. Diana drew circles on the smooth skin of Chase's back while Chase absently traced the curves and hollows of Diana's torso. She eyed the tightly splinted and bound arm, glad she'd had the cast removed before they had left the base camp. Chase placed a kiss on the breast she was resting on and felt Diana brush her lips across her sweat-dampened forehead.

" I think we need to put this on the calendar."

Diana chuckled soundlessly. " Today's date? Well, I supposed it is a red letter day for us. Oof!" flinching when Chase pinched her and twisting to glare down at her. " What was that for?? It *is* a red letter day for us. This is the first time these two bodies have made love together and the first time in two thousand, seven hundred sixty-eight years, nine months, fourteen days, five hours, thirty-three minutes and... eighteen... nineteen... twenty seconds that our souls have communicated so completely."

" When you put it that way, I see your point. But that isn't the reason I want to put it on the calendar."

" Then why?" asked with a fond smile. Chase looked up and caught the expression in Diana's eyes and kissed her hard for a timeless moment. " That's reason enough, I suppose."

Chase laughed. " I want it on the calendar as a regularly scheduled event. I don't want to have to go another two thousand, seven hundred sixty-eight years, nine months, fourteen days, five hours, thirty-four minutes and four seconds without ever again." Chase paused when Diana burst into laughter, chuckling a little herself. Then she added more seriously. " That's too damn long to be without you, and way too long to go without making love with you."

Diana urged Chase up to meet her lips and rolled them over until her body covered Chase's... only to have two stomachs growl in tandem, totally breaking the mood. They pulled back smiling at one another and settled for a warm hug instead.

" C'mon," Chase invited with another brief kiss. " I think we might be able to find something to take care of that, though we are going to have to go to town at some point... at least until I can get some livestock back." She groaned. " It's gonna take some time and work to get the farm back in working order." Chase slid from the bed and offered a hand to Diana, then blushed under the blue-eyed scrutiny as Diana sat up and took the proffered hand.

" You really are very beautiful, Chase."

" Only in your eyes, love. We know who the beauty in this relationship is."

" Us," Diana said firmly. " We both are... inside and out. No arguments."

Chase dipped her head in acknowledgment. " All right... no arguments." Stomachs rumbled again as a loud reminder of their empty state. " C'mon," she said again as they redressed. " Let's get something to eat before Jen sends someone out her to check the noise."

Lunch was simple and full of interesting conversation. " So how did the base camp end up so close to your home? Isn't that dangerous?"

" Well, it's not like I chose the location of either, but if it had been left to me... I dunno. It is or was dangerous to have it so close, but I did love the opportunity to be able to come home." Chase shrugged. " I think it was central to a couple old military bases way back... when the United States still had a military before the Nazis took over. It was a good location; it was never found in a hundred years of rebellion, though in all honesty, I don't think they were looking very hard."

" Why do you say that? I'm not disagreeing I think you're right. I'm just curious what your reasons are for thinking that way."

" I don't think the Nazis ever saw the rebellion or the resistance as a real threat. And honestly... why would they? We really weren't, until recently."

" Until you became the leader, yes?" Chase shrugged and dropped her eyes. Diana reached over and covered her hand. " Chase, it's not something you should be ashamed of. You made all the difference. That's a good thing; be proud of it."

" I know, I guess. It's just gonna take some getting used to."

Diana smiled and squeezed the hand she still held. " It's all right, love. We have forever."

At this, Chase looked up and smiled brightly. " I'm looking forward to forever with you." She looked at her empty plate and then to Diana's. " I guess we really were hungry. Are you done or...?"

" Hmm? Oh no... I'm done. What did you have in mind?" waggling her eyebrows.

" Well, I thought that maybe I should unload the jeep," Diana let her fingers trail up Chase's arm. " Put a few things away," Diana traced Chase's collarbone and lingered over her pulse point. Chase swallowed hard. " Maybe give you a tour of the house and land." Diana pulled her forward for a kiss. Chase cleared her throat when they separated. " Or maybe not." Diana smiled.

" No, I like that idea, except we will unload the jeep together. Then you can tour me around and maybe we could take a nap. We have time enough to clean things up and put things away later."

Chase stood and took their plates to the sink, then took Diana's hand and pulled her from her seat and led her out to the jeep.

There wasn't a lot of stuff - a few boxes, a suitcase and a sheathed sword. Chase picked it up from the bottom of the jeep and extended it to Diana. " I believe this is yours," she said quietly. " Isn't it?"

Diana accepted the sword from Chase with a nod. " Yes, it is. It's part of Amazon history."

" But it's *your* sword."

" Yes, it is. It has been for nearly three thousand years."

" Thought so," Chase commented, picking up the boxes and grabbing for the suitcase before Diana snatched it out of her reach with a glare. Chase smirked and shrugged and led the way back into the house, setting the boxes down and reaching for the case.

" I am not helpless, you know."

" I know," Chase agreed softly. " I just like being able to take care of you."

Diana cupped Chase's face with her free hand. " I like being able to take care of you too. Now," motioning to the suitcase still in her hand, " where does this go? You still owe me a tour."

Chase smiled and took Diana's hand from her face and linked it with her own. " All right. C'mon."

The farmhouse was quite large, considering - three big rooms on the bottom floor and two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. The kitchen was large and open and held the small dining table. The living room had a huge fieldstone fireplace that also served the room that had once been Charlie's study. Here books were crammed into every bit of conceivable wall space; only the windows were spared. The window seats that had been built beneath them had several books opened or bookmarked, as though someone had just stepped out of the room and would be back shortly.

" This was your favorite room," Diana commented confidently.

Chase bit her lip. " I have read everything in here at least once," she admitted. " I have read everything in the house. It kept me out of trouble in rainy days."

Diana smiled at her affectionately. " Rained a lot here, huh? I saw the books upstairs."

Chase blushed. " Not all of them."

A single brow rose in question and Chase tugged on Diana's hand. Gladly Diana followed Chase up the stairs, but instead of taking the left door, chase opened the right, and Diana just looked around in wonder. There was another fieldstone fireplace in this room, and two more walls of floor to ceiling books. Diana realized Charlie and Jasmine had invested everything they could into books for Chase's sake. Then she saw that Chase had *written* some of them. She turned accusing eyes at Chase.

" I told you I wanted to be a writer," looking away, embarrassed.

" I didn't know that meant you already were. Can I read them?" her enthusiasm radiating.

" Sure... I guess... I mean, if you really want to.... They are mostly children's books."

" You wrote for children?"

" Yeah... that too." Diana blinked at the implication.

" This was your folks' room?" Diana asked when the silence lengthened.

" Yeah. Mama never understood why I didn't move in here after she... died. But I never spent any real time here after that either. I usually just crashed downstairs. I haven't done anything with the place in a while, but we can do whatever you want to make it homey." She cleared her throat awkwardly. " Would you like this to be your room?"

Diana gazed at her with a look of acute pain in her eyes. " I thought we could make this *our* room."

Chase took Diana's face in her hands and stared into her eyes for a long moment, trying to communicate everything she was thinking and feeling without having to resort to words. Then she realized Diana needed to hear the words. " Are you sure, sweetheart? I didn't want to rush you or make you feel crowded. I didn't know if maybe you needed your own space,"

Diana laughed, though there was a hint of tears in her eyes, and she picked Chase up, causing her to squeal and wrap arms and legs around Diana's body.

" Diana, put me down!"

Instead, Diana spun in a circle then looked Chase square in the eye. " Somehow I don't think three millennia apart is rushing, love, and I've had all the space away from you I ever want to have. I came here to be with you, Annabelle Chaser, and I want to be with you... live with you... share your space... for as long as you can stand to have me around."

" We'll start with forever and work from there. Do you want to spend our first night together here in this room? We'll need to at least find some sheets."

" Can we?"

Chase smirked. " You'll have to put me down, but I don't see why not. This is our home now, for as long as we decide to live here. We should make it what we want it to be."

Diana followed Chase out of the room and to the door at the back of the small hallway landing area. Chase opened it to reveal a large, old-fashioned bathroom, complete with free standing sink and claw footed bathtub. Diana found it charming... especially the special shower stall and private toilet.

Chase went to the large linen closet and removed some cotton sheets worn smooth. " Well, they're not fresh, but they are clean. Since the rain has stopped for now, I'll put them on the line outside. They can air out a little while we walk."

They toured the garden and barn; then they walked through the meadows and pastures and Diana smiled. Those were fresh and untouched and parts of it reminded her of Paradise Island. Chase explained how each parcel had been utilized before and what she hoped to do with it now. Then a thought occurred to her and she turned to Diana.

" Do you want to live here or do you want to go back to Paradise Island?" Chase asked abruptly. " I was just assuming...."

" I'd like to stay here for as long as we can. We will have to go back to Paradise Island or at least start moving around after a few years. People know you around here, and your immortality will become more and more evident as time passes. But for now and for as long as we can mange, this is perfect."

That earned her a big grin and a hard, fast kiss. Then they walked on back towards the house for a few minutes in silence before Diana cleared her throat.

" Chase?"

" Hmm?" turning dreamy green eyes in Diana's direction. Blue eyes lost their worry and softened at the love she found reflected back to her. Somehow, Diana knew things would work out all right.

" How would you feel about me continuing to be Wonder Woman... at least until things settle down a little? I think there are still plenty of ways I could contribute...."

Chase pulled them to a halt as they reached the house and turned to look at Diana a long moment. Then she jerked her head in the direction of the porch swing. " Interested?"

For answer, Diana mounted the stairs and took a seat, waiting til Chase was seated beside her before pushing off gently with her foot.

" Diana," Chase began softly. " You don't need my permission to be who you are. Wonder Woman is a part of you, and if you want to continue, I would never stand in your way. I'm very proud that you were chosen to carry the title. I just have one request."

" You want to come with me?" Diana asked with a fond smile.

" I'd love to," she answered immediately, " but I wouldn't put you in danger for my own selfishness." Diana blinked in surprise. That hadn't been what she'd expected Chase to say. " Please be careful. I know you are an immortal Amazon princess superhero, but I plan to be married to you for a very, very long time. I don't want to be a widow before I get to be your wife for an eternity or two." She smiled and tried to insert a little levity. " After that, maybe we can negotiate."

Diana knew better than to try to negotiate with Chase; that had always been her soulmate's particular gift. Her understanding was an added bonus. Diana wrapped her arms around Chase and smiled when Chase tucked her head between her neck and shoulder. They rocked together gently in comfortable silence as they watched the sun begin to set behind the trees. Only when twilight settled in did they retrieve the sheets and walk back into the house for the night.

Chapter LV

Things settled into a routine after that. Chase and Diana spent their days together cleaning up the farm and restoring the property, creating a home that was theirs. Their nights were devoted to one another - reserved for talking and sharing, love making and exploration. So the first few weeks passed peacefully. Then Hippolyta called and things began to unravel... quickly.

" I don't like this, Drea. Something about all this doesn't feel right."

Things had been suspiciously quiet, and it made all of Hippolyta's senses come alive and tingle in the most unpleasant, annoying way. These were the instincts she had learned to trust a long time ago; they were what had helped the Amazon Nation survive.

The goddesses had been conspicuously absent as well save one brief visit when the first fighting was over to transport the Amazon wounded back to Paradise Island. Drea had gone with them and only recently returned by virtue of Wonder Woman's invisible plane, a favor Aphrodite had asked of her before the goddesses had disappeared into the mist.

" What bothers you so much, Pol? The people seem happy; the warriors swear the retraining is going well, and those who feel compelled in that direction are actually quite thrilled by Diana's optional directive for the Nation. I fail to see where the problem is."

" Where is the opposition... the fighters? You cannot tell me everyone is thrilled with a rebel takeover, especially those that had power. Despite Chase's well-made case with the film that that young man Sonny produced showing the atrocities Orana and the Nazis were responsible for, I have heard murmurings that her methods were no better than the Nazis. But I cannot find the dissatisfied parties. It's like they have completely disappeared, and that bothers me."

" You think they would be vocal enough for you to find them?"

" I think there is no way for someone that unhappy to just disappear. They are usually trying to gather others to their cause, and no matter how slick and sly you are, there are whispers, mutterings, *something*. Especially if you are looking for them. And there is nothing... like they have just... oh my gods," Hippolyta growled as realization dawned.

" What??" Drea asked as Hippolyta headed out of their housing area. She caught Hippolyta by the arm and held on when Hippolyta whirled. Then Hippolyta noticed the genuine concern reflected in those brown eyes and relented.

" Come. I'll explain it to you on the way to Sonny's office. I need to talk to Diana... or Chase."

As it happened, Hippolyta caught Diana alone. Chase had gone into town to pick up some supplies and Diana had elected to stay home. She was working on a surprise and hoping to pull it off when the phone rang. It took a minute for the sound to register and another for Diana to realize what it was. Except for a call from Hans to let them know he and Hippolyta had arrived safely and one to the mill to place an order for wood, the instrument had been noticeably silent. When it finally occurred to Diana what the sound was, she went into the study to answer it.

Chase found Diana still sitting at the desk lost in thought when she arrived home.

" Sweetheart?" She walked over and put her hand on Diana's arm, kneeling down beside her. " Diana, what's wrong, love?"

" My mother just called."

" What's wrong? Is she pregnant or something?"

Diana snapped her head around at that and looked at Chase wide-eyed. " Huh? Why would you say something like that?"

" It was the weirdest thing I could think of to get your attention. Kinda went with your expression." Chase stood and perched on the edge of the desk. " So what's up?"

" She thinks the remnants of the Nazi army are headed this way. She thinks they are going to target you... to make some sort of statement to the world."

Chase sighed but nodded calmly. " Makes sense, I suppose."

" WHAT?!?"

" Diana, just because I've stopped fighting them doesn't mean they have stopped fighting me. I was the face of the rebellion as far as most of the world is concerned. That hasn't changed. Guess this is the other shoe I've been waiting for."

" Chase, how can you be so calm about this?"

" How would you like me to react, sweetheart? There's not a hell of a lot I can do about it, and at least we have some warning. Besides, what have they got, really? I've got Wonder Woman on my side."

Diana could help the smile that those words caused to light up her face. Then she bit her lips pensively. " But will that be enough?"

" Yes. We know enough to be able to defeat them. They're not going to try to kill me... not right away. They are going to want to capture me to make a statement, as you said. We just have to keep them from taking me away from here... away from you."

" Not a chance in hell," Diana growled out viciously, standing and stepping into Chase's personal space. " Mine," she snarled in Chase's ear as she wrapped her arms around Chase's waist.

" Yours," Chase agreed and then was being kissed with passionate thoroughness. The smell of smoke broke them apart.

" My cake!!" Diana wailed and ran to the kitchen. Chase chuckled and followed, though she wisely wiped the smile off her face before she reached Diana's side. Then she happily consoled her lover for the rest of the evening.

The next few days they spent securing the farm as much as possible with Chase muttering invectives over consequences for the Nazis if they destroyed all the hard work she and Diana had done around the place. To their surprise and secret relief, Hippolyta had sent a contingent of the best Amazon warriors to help protect and safeguard them and Diana set a watch schedule and Chase got them settled in the house and barn. They only had to wait a few days before all hell broke loose.

When the rebellion declared victory, rogue elements of the Nazi forces went underground to keep from being annihilated. There weren't many, but there were enough, and when they learned of Chase's retirement from the field of service, they decided to make an example of her. It wouldn't put them back in power, but it would help them to recreate a new powerbase. First, though they had to find her.

The Navy had been decommissioned, but there were a very few hidden planes the rebellion had not uncovered. They couldn't bring tanks and missiles, but they could bring machine guns and pistols on their person in pieces and that is exactly what they did.

Getting into America was simple enough; things were in transition and maintaining the northern and southern borders wasn't a high priority. From there, it was a matter of finding Chase. They split into small units and spread out, assuming that speed was more important than numbers in finding her. They did not realize how they had underestimated her or the rebellion's desire to insure her safety.

Had they taken her and the rebellion as seriously before the rebellion decimated them, things might have turned out differently for the Nazis. As it was, it didn't take nearly as long as they were afraid it would.

They went in silently, fully expecting there to only be two women in the house. That had been all they had seen in their surveillance. The Nazis had no way of knowing they were expected, or that Diana and the Amazons had planned accordingly to keep the Amazon presence hidden for as long as it took. They certainly had no clue Wonder Woman would be waiting for them.

The Amazons wanted to let the entire unit get inside the house before closing in around them. Chase adamantly refused. Diana, understanding her reasoning, simply adjusted, though Chase wasn't particularly fond of her modification.

The Nazis thought a nighttime sneak attack was the best; they didn't expect Wonder Woman to meet them head on. The first two went down when they were hit from behind with the tiara and knocked from the trees they were perched in. The thud of their bodies hitting the ground drew the attention of the four closest to them, but they never had the chance to react as two were taken down by the infamous pinch and the other two met their end when their necks were snapped. Then Wonder Woman decided that game time was over.

" Hello boys."

The bullets flew in response to her words, but her wrists moved too rapidly for them to penetrate the shield she created around her person. Some of the projectiles she was able to redirect and actually cause to hit the shooters. The rest fell harmlessly to the ground at her feet.

The noise caused the Amazons to emerge from their hiding places, and suddenly the Nazis found themselves severely outmaneuvered. They dropped their guns and started to run, only to find their way blocked. Then they were collectively gathered and lassoed together and Chase stepped out of the shadows before Wonder Woman could speak. Chase was clearly pale and shaken to Diana's eyes, but full of disdain to the rest who were watching her every move.

She circled them slowly looking into eyes full of hatred. " How many of you are there?" Silence. " Under whose authority are you acting?" Silence. " What do you expect to gain from this? I am no longer part of the rebellion." Silence. " Very well," she said, shaking her head. " Kill them. If enough of them die, perhaps they will stop trying."

" Wait! You can't do that!"

Chase shoved her hands in her pockets and shrugged. " Sure I can... on any number of levels." She took a couple steps away and then swung back to confront the speaker. " You come here, to my home, and try to assassinate me and then expect to live when you don't succeed?? No wonder the Nazis were defeated so easily your arrogance is astounding."

" It took you a hundred years. I'd say the arrogance was warranted."

Chase didn't even hesitate and the head rolled before she spoke again, this time in a calm, dead tone. " Anyone else have any last words? I assure you that unless you have something productive to say, the rest of you will die much more painfully." She waited and eyes dropped to the ground. " I thought as much." She looked back at the Amazons who were regarding her with something akin to awe though she avoided Diana's eyes. " Kill them."

" Annabelle?" Chase stopped walking at the sound of Wonder Woman's voice but did not turn around, unwilling to see the disgust and disappointment in those blue eyes. " I can get the answers you want."

Chase let the bloody sword rest on her shoulder and her shoulders slumped. " Do it," she agreed, then continued on into the house. The blade needed to be cleaned and sharpened again before she put it away again. She hoped Diana wasn't too angry, but she had remained on the sidelines as long as she could. She hadn't lived as long as she had and become a strong successful leader by hiding behind others, and damned if she was going to start now.

The motion of cleaning and sharpening was soothing in a very fundamental way and Chase was startled when one of the Amazons knocked at the door, then called out, " Chase? Di... the, um... Wonder Woman asked if you could come back outside for a moment."

Chase wiped the blade then slid it into the sheath at her back. Then she followed the Amazon back to where everyone was gathered in front of the farmhouse. Chase looked at everyone before she let her eyes slide over to Diana, not wanting to see the revulsion she knew would be in those blue eyes. Instead she found love, compassion and understanding. She let herself float in the regard for only a moment before turning to look at the captives, still wrapped in Wonder Woman's golden lasso.

" I got the information you wanted, Annabelle... who, what, when, where and how many. Do you still want to kill them or...?"

Chase turned her attention back to Wonder Woman and Diana steeled herself not to flinch from the haunted deadness in green eyes that had gone almost gray in pain. So much had shifted in their roles from their first journey together through the circle. She prayed Chase would take the time and opportunity to recover some of what she had lost becoming the warrior she was now once they returned to Paradise Island. For now, though, Diana waited patiently for Chase's answer.

Chase sighed in exhaustion. " What I would like is for them to think they were successful so we wouldn't have any more of these late night visits. Barring that, though, we're going to have to kill all but one of them to send a message of what will happen to anyone else who tries."

Diana focused on Chase's first words; they were a balm to her soul and gave her unlooked-for assurance. Apparently Chase hadn't lost the spark of belief in humanity that had always been an essential part of her make-up.

" I can," Wonder Woman said quietly. Chase met her eyes and asked her question without speaking. Wonder Woman nodded her head. " I can make them think they were successful. I can make them think you are dead."

The relief in Chase's eyes was so palpable, Diana felt in flow through her veins. " Do it," she commanded again then sighed deeply. " Do you need me here?"

Wonder Woman shook her head. " No, but it will not take very long either."

Chase nodded. " Very well. Please continue." Then she walked off into the darkness. Diana let her eyes follow Chase out of sight, then she turned back to her Nazi prisoners. The sooner she was done with them, the sooner she could go find Chase.

It wasn't difficult, really, not after several weeks of living together. Nearly every afternoon Chase went out to the old oak and talked to Jasmine for a few minutes and typically she climbed the tree to watch the sunset. So when Diana went looking for Chase, she didn't have to go very far.

" Everything taken care of?" she asked softly as Diana slowed her approach.

Diana nodded, looking for Chase in her favorite little niche. " Yes. The Amazons are taking them out of here as we speak and will deposit them in the middle of the desert. I need... I am going to go find the other groups and do the same thing to them... stir things up a little. I figure if they are all trying to take credit for your death, what is left of the Nazi movement will implode on itself." Diana climbed into the tree and settled into her own regular spot, noting that Chase never turned to look at her.

Chase kept her eyes on the darkness in front of her and nodded, not trusting her voice to speak. She had been afraid of something like this, though Chase couldn't find it in her heart to blame Diana for wanting to get away. She'd leave as well if she could figure out a way to get away from herself.

" I don't think so," Diana said, crawling over to sit behind Chase, wincing at the tree's unforgiving inflexibility. She wrapped her arms around Chase's stiff form and waited for her to relax. When she didn't, Diana leaned forward and rumbled in her ear. " I am not leaving you for good, sweetheart, and if it bothers you for me to do this, I'll stay here instead. I just wanted to guarantee your safety; ensure a little peace for both of us."

" You really don't want to leave?"

" No, love. I'd much rather be here alone with you. I certainly don't want to leave for the reasons you're thinking. I understand how you feel, Chase, better than anyone else in the world, and I certainly don't begrudge you that feeling. Gods know I did far worse with far less provocation. If I had my way and could figure out a feasible way to do it, I'd take you with me. But I don't think there is one that doesn't complicate things immeasurably."

Chase sighed and nodded, knowing Diana was right. " The Amazons can't do this without you?"

" Not really... this requires my gifts as Wonder Woman."

" You'll be quick?" finally relaxing back into Diana's body.

" Fast as I can, love," firmly embracing Chase and feeling her return the hug as much as she could from the front.

Chase nodded then stood up unexpectedly, swinging to the ground and waiting for Diana to catch up. Diana blinked and looked down into Chase's face, then did a lazy somersault to the ground. Chase couldn't stop the grin that met Diana's sexy smile when their eyes met. Then Diana opened her arms and Chase stepped into them, wrapping herself firmly around the taller body. Diana kissed the top of the blonde head tucked into her neck.

" That better? More what you had in mind?"

" Oh yeah," Chase agreed. " That's great." She sighed contentedly. " Forgive me for doubting."

Diana nodded against her head. " Come talk to me first next time, Chase... please? I'll give you all the reassurance you need. Nothing is going to change the way I feel about you."

" Promise?"

" Guaran-damn-tee it, sweetheart." Chase burst out laughing and after a moment, Diana did so as well.

It took nearly three weeks of tracking, but Wonder Woman did manage to find each group of Nazis that the first had made her aware of. Then it was a matter of convincing them that they had been successful in killing Chase. In each unit, some of them died in much the same manner their comrades had at Chase's home for much the same reason, and Diana felt no remorse in killing them. But finally, she was done and able to return to Chase's side, amazed at the amount of work Chase had gotten done in the short time Diana had been gone.

The roofs of both house and barn had been repaired and most of the house painted and cleaned in their first few weeks living together there. But Chase had managed to clean up the yard, both gardens and the barn in Diana absence. Diana stood at the door of the barn watching Chase's muscles flex with the effort it took to load the square hay bales into the loft. Only when Chase stopped to wipe the sweat from her face and suck down half a bottle of water did Diana walk in and wrap her arms around Chase's waist.

" Hi honey... I'm home."

" Everything all taken care of?"

Diana leaned in and nuzzled Chase's neck. " Uh huh. You've been busy here."

" And I'm hot and sweaty," Chase protested, but she moved her head to give Diana better access.

" That just means you've got head start. Did you miss me?"

Chase just took Diana's hand in hers and seated her on the hay bale before she proceeded to welcome her home... showing Diana personally how much she had been missed.

 

Concluded in Part 12

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