Brave New World
Disclaimers in Part 1
"We all bear the responsibility for what happened to Diana, Hippolyta – you as well as us. And until now, there has been no real way to rectify the situation our actions created."
Athena held up her hands. She had been given the difficult task of being the spokeswoman for this particular tale and wanted to get through it without interruption. It was hard enough to tell without them. Because here was something they had done together as a group – something they had done to grant a request of people they had come to love and cherish as their own children, and it had gone horribly, tragically wrong for everyone, but especially for the one that was their chosen.
"Please, Hippolyta. Let me tell this without questions or comments. It's hard enough."
The queen swallowed hard and nodded. She had seen a sadness in the eyes that met hers that was reflected in her own. She could only imagine the goddesses' feelings of guilt, given what she knew hers to be even without knowing the whole story yet.
"Thank you," Athena replied. "This story actually starts several thousand years ago, when we decided to offer sanctuary to the Amazons and to those women who were slaves and worse at the hands of men. We didn't consider the fact that your science had not progressed enough to create life without men or the fact that things would become stagnant without the ability to procreate and bring new life and fresh ideas into the world."
"So when you called upon us as a people asking for the blessing of a new life, it was one we were happy to grant. And we gave the child everything we could; every god and goddess of the Pantheon was anxious to bestow on the child a gift – well, every god except one, and he figures into this tale as well, just not yet."
"We only made one small mistake when we granted your request, Hippolyta, but it was one that would haunt us and you, but especially Diana. You see, when you asked for a child and we agreed, we knew the child would need a soul. So we searched far and wide for a soul that was deserving and that could fulfill every potential we offered it. And we found that in a soul that was known to the Nation, both as a Destroyer and as a Champion."
Athena stopped talking for a moment, closing her eyes and breathing as though collecting her thoughts. When she opened them, her eyes glistened with tears, but she blew out a breath and continued.
"We wanted to give her a second chance. What we didn't figure was that taking her soul out of the karmic circle was going to disrupt... everything."
The silence that fell then lasted so long Hippolyta felt compelled to break it.
"How so, Athena? I don't understand."
The goddess shook her head. "No I'm sure you don't. We didn't either for a long time, and by the time we figured it out things were in motion that would have to be played out to their bitter conclusion."
Aphrodite placed a comforting hand on Athena's back, rubbing in a slow circular pattern. The war goddess looked up with pleading eyes into Aphrodite's, and the love goddess kissed her sister on the forehead before resuming the tale.
"We chose the warrior's soul because it seemed so perfect for our needs, even with its flaws. She possessed skills and strength and beauty and was already intelligent enough to have conquered half the known world with a rag-tag army she'd put together from her home village."
"What happened? What changed her that she'd become a champion to our people?"
Aphrodite smiled. "Love. She found her soulmate and things balanced. And for a while, that was enough. But things were never easy with them and eventually they were separated, but it was with the knowledge, or at least the belief that they would find one another again in their next lives."
"So when you removed Diana's soul...."
"We messed up the balance, and removed the possibility of them finding one another again. But Diana didn't know that and her soul kept searching."
A light dawned in Hippolyta eyes. "Steve Trevor – was he her soulmate?"
Aphrodite shook her curly blonde head. "No. Right family line, wrong soul. But she made a connection, felt the familiarity...."
"And my actions...."
"Your actions made a bad situation intolerable," Dite stated bluntly.
"Oh, gods!" the queen moaned, covering her eyes. Though she'd thoroughly believed her harshness was completely warranted given her daughter's disobedient actions, she suddenly realized not only what she had done, but why Diana hated her, instead of merely resented her.
"What happened to Diana when you disgraced her is her own story to tell," giving a shiver which raised the goosebumps on her skin. "Or not, as the case seems to be. You can't force her to share with you. But Hippolyta... it was bad. Very bad."
"Can I help her without knowing?"
"You're going to have to," Hera said softly. "She no longer trusts you, and earning that back may take longer than you actually have."
"Things are coming together again...finally. And your mysterious visitor is at the heart of things."
"That will be for her and Diana to determine, and it's going to be a long, rocky road regardless. For now, you need to focus on salvaging some sort of relationship with your daughter. She will never admit it, but she needs your love and support. The loss of that cut her deeply."
Silence fell again while Hippolyta girded her loins for a question she figured could anger them again, but she needed to know.
"Why have you come back now? Why did you abandon us for so long?"
It was Hestia who answered this, standing and taking the queen's face in her hands. "We never, ever abandoned you. But think about the timing, Hippolyta. I think you know the answer to your question."
The queen's gaze went inward for a long moment. "You did to me what I did to her."
"Something like that, yes. We pulled away from you, hoping you would see your mistake, but we never abandoned you."
"My gods, what have I done?"
"You have been a mother, but by holding on too tightly, you lost all you held dear. Perhaps you can learn from it and do better... much like we did. We've all made mistakes, Hippolyta. The important thing is what we learn from them and what we do with that knowledge."
"My queen," Mala spoke up for the first time, making Hippolyta aware of her presence. Hippolyta wanted to be angry and embarrassed, but instead all she felt was gratitude and relief that she didn't have to go through this alone. No one, not even Drea, knew her like Mala did. There positions in the Nation insured that there were very few secrets between them, and not once had they betrayed one another. Only once had Mala stood publicly against her, and Hippolyta had long since understood her reasons for it.
Now the queen motioned her forward and the goddesses parted to let the priestess into their inner circle.
"I spoke to the princess earlier. It is my firm belief that she has no short term memory. I don't know how far back the problem extends, but it is highly likely, given her lack of response to our questions and probing, that she does not remember anything that happened to her after the competition."
Hippolyta's brows rose into her hairline. "You think she's misplaced more than a hundred years worth of memories?"
Mala shrugged. "I think they are hidden from her, for whatever reason. She doesn't remember rescuing Chase." She held up her hands to forestall comments. "I've promised her the whole story when she is ready to hear it, and I think that will be sooner rather than later. I also believe it could be a key in helping her regain her memory."
Hippolyta dropped her head and her shoulders slumped as well. "I don't think her regaining her memory is going to gain me any points in the endearing mother department."
"Probably not," Mala replied frankly, unmindful of their still watchful audience. "But it is necessary and probably the only way we are going to recover the princess we all fell in love with."
"A little honesty will go a long way towards healing, as will your love and support."
"I never stopped loving her," Hippolyta stated fiercely. "Not once."
Aphrodite cupped her cheek. "But she doesn't know that," said with compassion. "Not anymore. You're going to have to show her until she believes it again."
Finally, after a century of pain and defeat, a passionate determination entered Hippolyta's eyes. "I will – even if she beats me black and blue. I am going to force her to listen to me and I will make her understand."
"Whoo hoo! You go girl!" Dite cheered before becoming serious again. "Just remember that this rift, as ugly and as lonely as it is for her, has become comfortable and well-known. She's not going to give it up without a fight."
Hippolyta nodded. "She's going to leave again, isn't she?"
"Yes," Hera answered. "And she's going to need your blessing this time."
Hippolyta chewed her lip. "I can do that... I *WILL* do that."
"Good. And don't be surprised if sparks fly when she and Chase start butting heads."
Hippolyta chuckled. "I think I will look forward to that."
The goddesses and Mala joined in her laughter, a release for tensions that had finally been dispersed.
"Oh babe," Dite said, flinging an impromptu arm over Hippolyta's shoulders while still giggling heartily. "I'm not sure the world is ready for all those fireworks, but I gotta tell you *I* for sure am looking forward to this reunion. It has been waaaaay too long."
Athena shook her head. "Little sister, I worry about you sometimes."
Hera muttered, "So do I." Their renewed laughter was the last thing that was heard from them as they faded back to the Olympian plain
Chase blinked open her eyes with a squint again, truly surprised she'd fallen asleep so easily after breakfast. She hadn't believed she could be so tired from doing so little, but her senses told her she'd slept a good portion of the morning away. She knew two things for sure – her butt was tired from her inactivity and she had to pee very badly. However, she'd learned her lesson quite plainly that morning, and searched around for something that would get her some help before she embarrassed herself.
Fortunately, Drea chose that moment to stick her head in the door.
"Ah. You're awake."
"Yep, and badly in need of the privy. I don't suppose you'd be willing to help me walk there, would ya?" pointing in the general direction of the facilities.
Drea smiled. She understood the effort it took for the independent young woman to ask for help, but was glad she'd finally managed to impress the seriousness of her injuries on Chase. Half her battle was over if she'd accomplished that much.
"I certainly will. Then if you feel up to it, I will take you around the island a bit... get you out into the fresh air and sunshine for a while."
"I like the sound of that," Chase nodded gingerly. The headache she'd had before had come back with a sudden, blinding intensity as her equilibrium shifted from horizontal to vertical. She extended a hand towards Drea and used the healer for support as they walked together towards the bathroom. Drea got her to the toilet and turned to leave to extend her a bit of privacy. Chase reached out a shaky hand.
"Do you think I could have a bit more of that fizzy water you gave me yesterday... yesterday? Whatever it was settled my stomach and took my headache away."
Despite Chase's position on the toilet, Drea knelt in front of her and took her face in smooth hands. "Chase? Are you in a lot of pain?"
"Yeah, my head, actually," said in a whisper. She bit her lips to hold back the groans that wanted to erupt from the back of her throat. "The light is killing me."
Drea held her head a moment longer looking intently into her eyes. "I need to take a good look at your eyes. Let me go get you some... um, fizzy water. Don't move til I get back please?"
"Thanks, Drea," Chase said softly. "I'm not sure where this came from," dropping her head into her hands.
Drea rushed out and motioned Rina over to her. A few whispered words between them and a quick nod of her head and Rina disappeared to do Drea's bidding. The healer returned to Chase's side and helped the struggling woman without drawing attention to her actions. Rina returned with the water and unobtrusively took a position on Chase's other side while Drea helped the young woman drink.
"Better?" the healer asked after a few minutes of silence.
Chase nodded. "Yeah, thanks. I don't know what happened."
"Come. I want to examine your eyes."
Chase felt an uneasy chill skitter up her spine at those words. "My eyes?"
"Yes. You shouldn't still be feeling the effects of your fall into the sea unless you've done more extensive damage than we first believed." They got her to the bed again. "Is the light still bothering you?"
Chase laid her head back carefully. "Yeah, but not as badly."
"Good. If you're okay with it, I'd like to ask our head scientist Paula in as a consult. She might have some ideas. She helped develop all the medical equipment here."
"That's fine," Chase replied wearily. "Do you think we could go out afterwards?"
"If you'd like to try, absolutely. We'll find a way to protect your eyes."
"Thanks, Drea," Chase nodded before falling back into a light doze. The medicine was supposed to give that effect and the healer was glad to see it work so quickly and effectively. Rina had already summoned Paula and as soon as Chase went out, the three women fell to work with a will.
"There's nothing wrong that we can find, Chase. We have run every test we know and then some. But we're going to keep trying. Something is giving you those headaches and making your eyes so sensitive to the light."
"What are you saying, Drea? Is there a problem with my eyes or not?"
Drea took Chase's hands in her own and chafed them lightly. "I think so. I just have to find it. But I will," she added with such determination that Chase forgot her upset and smiled.
"Drea, I hope you won't take this the wrong way since you can't be more than a couple years older than me if that much, but you remind me so much of my mother."
Drea returned a genuine, full-faced smile and took a seat on the edge of the bed. "Do I really?"
"Yeah, ya do. I'm not sure why – a lot of things really... same soft voice, same look of compassion, even some of the same mannerisms." Chase shrugged and dropped her eyes, a little embarrassed. "Maybe it's just you're the nicest doctor I have ever met."
Drea chuckled. "I'll have to remember this – most of my patients don't like to be here. But thank you, Chase. I think it is sweet I remind you of your mother. I must come by it naturally, though. I have very few memories of my own."
"Me either," came the soft reply. "And I miss her."
"I understand." It got very quiet and solemn for a long moment before Drea slapped her hands on her thighs and stood up. "Now, let's see about getting you some fresh air and sunshine."
"That's about the best offer I've had all day."
That caused laughter to flow from Drea and Chase joined in, feeling better than she had since she'd run into the Nazi ambush.
They didn't go far... just outside the hospice and down to the beach. Paula had crafted a special pair of glasses for Chase to use to protect her eyes and it made the experience most pleasant. For her part, Chase was glad to get outdoors and though she wanted to get out and explore, she was just happy to be out of the bed for a while. Drea had promised exploration would come with healing and healing would come with time. Already she felt better.
It wasn't until later that evening that Drea and Hippolyta finally had the opportunity to exchange stories.
"Are you all right love?" Drea asked as she and Hippolyta prepared for bed. It had been the first time they'd seen one another since Drea had been pulled out of their meeting earlier that morning. It seemed impossible that it had only been that morning so much had happened in the meantime, but the sundial confirmed that only a single day had passed.
Drea came up behind her and pulled Hippolyta into her arms, surprised when the queen collapsed into her. Never in their life together had Hippolyta shown weakness like this, not even when things had gone so badly with Diana.
The healer wondered what had happened, hoping that Hippolyta would be able to share. Drea knew that the queen and Mala had a few secrets that were kept between them and she sincerely hoped this wasn't going to be one of those times. It was hard sometimes, knowing that Hippolyta couldn't share everything with her after the lifetime they'd been together, even when her mind understood and accepted the reasons behind it.
Hippolyta clung to her tightly and Drea maneuvered them under the covers, situating them comfortably. Neither woman released her grip and it took a good deal of effort, but eventually they did wind up curled together in the middle of the big bed.
Hippolyta didn't cry or sob; her tears had been shed in the temple. She had yet to utter a sound. Instead, she simply held on to Drea and accepted the warmth and comfort the healer offered her, holding on fiercely. Drea returned the embrace, muttering nonsense words of love and affection until Hippolyta's grip on her loosened and she was able to look into the queen's blue eyes.
"You ready to talk to me now?"
Hippolyta shifted in Drea's arms until they were nearly nose to nose, eyes crossing to maintain contact. She moved her hands to cup the healer's face and spent a long moment tracing gentle curves and planes she knew by heart. Then Hippolyta dropped a light kiss on Drea's lips and settled back into her arms.
"I love you. I just wanted you to know that right up front. Despite everything you know, despite everything I have done wrong, you have never criticized me publicly or been judgmental in private, even when my decisions went against your very nature. Your belief in me means everything to me – I can't believe I was so blind... so selfish."
Drea bit her lip, trying to control the shaking she could feel trembling throughout her body. She eased away from Hippolyta slightly. "Pol, are you breaking up with me?"
Hippolyta whipped around so swiftly she nearly fell off the bed in shocked surprise. She grabbed Drea's hands and held them to her lips. "WHAT?!? NO!!! Nonononononono!" Hippolyta kissed Drea's knuckles again before using their hands to lift the healer's chin so their eyes met. "No," she reassured more softly, if with no less vehemence. "This is a forever kind of thing for me, until and unless you decide otherwise, my love. Even after millennia together, you still fascinate me."
Now Drea blushed deeply. "You're a sweet talker, my queen."
Hippolyta stroked Drea's face tenderly. "Not with you, sweetheart. Only the truth between us."
"So truth then... what happened? As much as I appreciate your words, I'd like to understand what's behind them."
So Hippolyta told her – told her of the assembly of goddesses in the temple and the things they had shared; of the responsibility they all bore for the situation they now found themselves in... in the world in general and for Diana particularly.
"But you are not alone to blame, Pol."
"No, but it is ultimately my fault, Drea. I messed up so many things... so many things I would have done differently if I had known...."
"Pol, there are things ALL of us would do differently if we known the things we know now. Don't regret your coulda-woulda-shoulda's. Let's just move forward from here and make the best of what we have now."
"Well, I know what I *need* to do. The question is how to do it."
Drea smiled. "That is something we can work on together, if you like."
"I like. And maybe we can also figure out where Ares is in all this... aside from the obvious, I mean."
"We can definitely do that, and I imagine Chase could help with that if approached correctly."
"Hmm... good point. How did things go with her? Was Rina right to be so concerned this morning she nearly caused Nubia to have a fit?"
Drea rolled her eyes, causing Hippolyta to chuckle. "As a matter of fact, yes. That young pilot is the most stubborn, independent woman I have ever met, and since I live on an island *full* of stubborn, independent women, that is saying quite a bit."
Hippolyta's eyebrows rose into her hairline. "Merciful heavens! You mean to tell me she outdoes the entire Amazon Nation?"
"In spades," Drea answered solemnly.
Hippolyta patted the chest her head was resting on. "My condolences, love. I'm not sure I could manage."
Drea chuckled soundlessly. "Years of practice, my queen... years and *years* of practice."
Hippolyta poked Drea's ribs, causing her to jump. "I resemble that remark, you know."
"Yes, I do," eliciting another poke and another round of giggles. "Stop. I'm trying to be serious here."
Hippolyta pulled herself up but not away from Drea in fine royal fashion. "Indeed, madam, you are not. You are being a perfect scoundrel."
Drea wiggled her eyebrows. "No, I'm saving that for later." Her expression changed and became totally serious. "I'm worried, Pol. Chase is healing, and she's trying to trust me. I think she wants to. She told me today I reminded her of her mother."
Now they separated far enough to look at one another while they spoke, though they never lost tactile contact with each other. Hippolyta took one of Drea's hands into her own. "Does that bother you, sweetheart?"
Drea smiled sweetly. "No. It was somewhat flattering actually. I want you to meet her soon."
"I am looking forward to it in fact. But why is that worrying you?"
"That isn't. Trust takes time – we all know that, and it's only been a couple days since she arrived here. Given the history Paula has found out about her, it's a wonder Chase can trust at all, but I imagine she'd also developed quite an instinct for that sort of thing as well."
Hippolyta nodded. "Agreed. So what is bothering you?"
"Something else is wrong with her – something that is giving her severe headaches and trouble with her vision. Aside from the fact that she is the key to Diana recovering herself, I like her, Pol. She's someone I would like to have as a friend. And I am at a complete loss of what else to do for her." She turned to look the queen more directly in the eyes. "We tried every test we could think of and then some. Paula developed some special glasses specifically for her to be able to tolerate the brightness of the sun for a while, just so we could get her out in the fresh air."
"Are all the results in?"
"All but two. I am beginning to suspect it might be psychological, but regardless, it is very real. I have never seen anything like this before. At least not since we arrived here."
Hippolyta eased Drea onto her belly and gently began rubbing the healer's tight shoulders. "Wow, this really does have you tied up in knots, doesn't it, love?"
"Yes. I've put a soothing salve on Chase's eyes and covered them for the night, but I'm not sure what good if any that is going to do." Drea turned her head slightly until her eyes could meet Hippolyta's. "This is bothering me, Pol. There has to be something I can do... some way for me to make this better."
The queen leaned over and placed a kiss at the nape of Drea's neck. "You can't fix everything, Drea. Didn't you just tell me that? But we'll work on it together. Surely with all the outstanding minds here on Paradise Island we can find a way. And then we can even figure out how to reach Diana and return our princess to us once more."
Drea rolled onto her back and pulled Hippolyta into her, savoring the warmth between them. "I like that idea. I'd like to see her happy again." She kissed Hippolyta's forehead and lowered the lights. "I will be curious to see how Chase fits into all of this."
Hippolyta yawned. "I have a few theories, but Aphrodite indicated there would be some serious head-butting between them. Guess we'll have to wait and see. I'm just glad things are changing again," she added on a soft breath.
"Me too, love. Me too. Night," whispered as their breathing patterns deepened into the regular rhythm of sleep, and their thoughts became their dreams.
Chase's dreams were strange and unsettling. Nothing made sense to her rational mind and being essential blind only served to heighten that perception. All she saw were odd, disjointed images – her great-grandfather's twinkling eyes, her mother's lips fashioned in a grim smile, Hans as he reached for his notes. Nothing made sense and it was unnerving in the extreme.
She woke with the same feeling of upset, her head pounding again and her sixth sense telling her she was not alone. Chase reached a hand up to the bandages that covered her eyes, heedless of the healer's cautionary words. If there was a threat, she wanted to face it head on. Instead, strong hands caught hers and a soft voice rumbled into her darkness.
"Leave them. Nothing will bother you here."
"Who are you?"
"No one," came the reply. "No one at all," said with a sadness that touched Chase in a deep, unexpected place. "Will you let me try to help you?"
Chase reached out and caught the hands that were moving towards her. They were soft and warm, but the pilot could feel the strength in them and the calluses that marked their owner as a warrior of great skill.
The hands tried to pull away, but Chase held on. Eventually they relaxed and she heard confused resignation in the voice that answered.
"I don't know, honestly, except it seems like the right thing to do."
Chase considered her position, knowing the woman who had spoken could have just come in and done... whatever. This place was strange – the doctors here did not act like most medic and corpsman she had met in the rebellion. They certainly weren't like the Nazi doctors, and she couldn't stop the involuntary shudder that ran through her slight frame in memory. The hands holding hers tightened their grip briefly before releasing entirely.
"I'm sorry," the voice apologized. "I should go." And she moved away before Chase could react.
"No... I'm sorry," Chase whispered into the dark emptiness. "The Nazis... bad memories."
Diana stood at the doorway still and silent. She wasn't sure what had brought her here, other than what she had told the young woman... it seemed like the right thing to do. Then her breathing stopped completely as Chase's low words hit her hearing.
Without hesitation, Diana crossed back into the room. "What did you say?" she ground out harshly. She couldn't explain the sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach nor that anger and agony the welled up from the depths of her soul.
Chase flinched, more from her visitor's unexpected return than the violence of her question. She was fairly certain it was directed at something other than her. Diana reached for Chase's hands again, pleased when the other woman accepted her touch without hesitation.
"What did you say?" she repeated more calmly.
"I said I was sorry. My thoughts went away from here. I didn't mean to be rude."
"The Nazis?" feeling a chill settle on her skin as another shudder rippled through Chase's body.
"Don't," came the flat statement in a hardened voice. "I will not suffer through their atrocities again... even in my memories."
Flashes of images flickered through Diana's mind – nothing solid, nothing she could even focus on for more than a transitory moment. But the feelings they left her with made the blood burn hot in her veins. She shook her head to clear it of the disturbing dregs of haunted memory that remained.
"I'm sorry. Will you let me help you? I think I can relieve some of your pain."
Chase lifted a hand to her head. "How did you...?"
Diana's shrug went unseen. "I read your file, and you are very pale. Drea gave you something to help you sleep, and it is possible that is making it worse. Will you trust me?"
Chase lay silent for a long moment, letting the words flow over her and focusing strictly on the whispered voice that spoke them.
"Yes," then moaned as strong hands manipulated several pressure points until the pain simply vanished. The release was almost orgasmic.
"Thank you," Chase mumbled allowing her body to relax into the contentment Diana had created.
"Rest now," came the quiet response. Diana reached a hand out to smooth back the blonde hair, but stopped just short of touching. She waited until Chase's breathing evened out in sleep before turning and leaving the pilot's room.
Nubia remained out of sight until Diana passed from the hospice area to the private residence of the palace. She had been unable to sleep and had wandered down to check on their guest, only to find the princess in Chase's room. She had waited out of sight but within hearing, nearly swallowing her tongue when Diana spoke for the first time. She couldn't help the thrill of joy that course through her at the sound and the possibilities it conveyed.
Now she gazed down at the young face that had caused the change. If Mala was right, and it appeared very likely that she was, the Amazon Nation would owe a great debt to the woman who was sleeping so soundly before her. Nubia considered waking the queen with her fortuitous news, but decided it would wait until later in the morning. Regardless of how welcome it would be, there was nothing any of them could do to force the process, and she figured Hippolyta would relish a few more hours of sleep.
For herself, she had found newfound hope, and she was able to head to her own bed for the first time since Orana had left them filled with optimism and anticipation for what the future held.
Diana entered her room, not even taking notice of the fact that there was no longer a guard stationed right outside her door. Her mind was conflicted and she shed her garments before sliding into bed naked. Blue eyes closed, only to have her inner eye battered by images she didn't understand.
All night, barrage after barrage of impressions assaulted her senses and she remained in the grip of a feverish nightmare she couldn't seem to escape from.
Daylight came, and Diana stayed in the bed unmoving, something unheard of since her birth. Always she had arisen in the gray mists of pre-dawn, wanting to greet the arrival of every new day. Even when she'd lost her joy and grown angry and resentful towards everyone, she had coveted that time of day. So her unprecedented sleep-in set off all sorts of alarms across the island. Then Drea discovered Chase and life got really interesting for the women on Paradise Island.
The dreams were much more pleasant this time, though they made no more sense than they had in her first attempt at sleep. Chase saw things that were as clear as memories, but her conscious mind knew for a fact they couldn't be real. She hadn't lived in ancient times and she certainly had never dressed *that* way. Her mother would have tanned her hide but good for exposing so much of herself to the world. She chuckled in her sleep, remembering a time her mother *had* taken a switch to her backside for taking her shirt off in front of the boys... or tried to anyway. Chase's nickname hadn't been solely derived from her last name.
Still, the dreams were good ones and she enjoyed them, allowing the pictures she saw to bring a smile to her face – even in the depths of her sleep.
In fact, she was so deeply asleep that Drea feared for the pilot's life when she first walked in the room. There was no sound of breathing, no visible rise and fall of her chest. Drea hurried to Chase's bedside, calling out for Rina in the process.
The assistant healer rushed in almost on Drea's heels, but long enough for the healer to have reached Chase and assured herself that the young pilot was still with them among the living. There was the tiniest hint of a smile on her face, causing Drea to wonder where Chase's mind had escaped to in her dreams. That wasn't her primary concern at the moment, though.
What troubled her now was the profundity of sleep Chase seemed to be in... still. Despite the sleeping draught she had been given, Chase shouldn't have reached a level of sleep so deep, especially maintaining such a depth for so long. Even the commotion she and Rina had caused rushing into the room had done nothing to disturb Chase or bring her up out of her sleep.
Now Drea began a thorough examination, wondering what had happened to have changed things so rapidly overnight. Carefully she let her knowledgeable fingers trace over Chase's skin, looking for anomalies she could possibly have missed in her earlier examinations. What she found....
"Rina, help me turn her over. There's something...."
"Drea?" Rina rolled Chase's body to her and held her while the healer continued her examination.
"Rina, did you notice any marks we hadn't already accounted for?" Drea reached for Chase and together they lowered the pilot onto her back once more. Rina picked up the chart they kept at the end of the bed and flipped back to the initial examination. She moved over to stand next to Drea and they studied the chart together.
"No," Rina finally answered. "There's nothing new here."
"Except there is," Drea replied. Rina looked at the healer expectantly. "Her pressure points have been manipulated."
"Huh?" came the intelligent response. Rina waved her hands at Drea's expression. "No, I understand what you said, but who? And why?"
Drea shrugged. "I can think of several 'whos', but the real question is why?"
"Well, we can figure that part out easily enough just by marking what got adjusted." Drea nodded.
"Let's get to work. One thing," the healer said as she and Rina prepared for the exam. "At least I don't think Chase will even notice us, she's so deeply asleep." Drea paused as her words sank in and she and Rina looked at each other for a long moment. "You don't suppose...?"
"No way. That's just too easy."
"Well, there's only one way to find out. Let's roll her onto her stomach first and the we can...."
"Drea! DREA!!!" The Amazon running into the hospice stopped to catch her breath even as the healer moved to meet her. Drea put her hands on the younger Amazon's arms and waited, knowing the effort to speak when so winded was mostly useless. She felt a chill skitter up her spine in premonition, though. No one on Paradise Island had had cause for upset like this since Diana had returned to them, if one didn't count Chase's arrival. Suddenly, they seemed to be almost overwhelmed with excitement lately.
"Charis, take a deep breath. Now another and tell me what is wrong. What made you come running in here like the hounds of Hades were on your heels?"
Charis did as she was told and swallowed hard for good measure. "Drea, you've got to come quickly. The queen...."
Those words lent fear to the healer's heart and wings to her feet – except for the hold Charis maintained on her arms.
"Charis, let go. If the queen is in trouble...."
"Drea, it isn't the queen."
"But she... you... she...mmph...." The healer glared at the young Amazon, but got the point. She nodded her head, letting Charis know she understood and would remain quiet to hear out.
"Thank you. The queen asked me to come fetch you with a med kit. The princess...."
"Oh gods, Diana? Charis, what's wrong with Diana?"
"That's just it, Drea. We don't know. She's still asleep."
"Excuse me? Charis, she's never slept past dawn. It's one of her favorite times of day."
It was all Charis could do not to roll her eyes and she released Drea's arms to allow the healer the opportunity to gather up the med kit and other supplies she needed and to give instruction to Rina who had been watching the interplay.
"Rina, get Anya in here to help you with Chase. I'll be back as soon as I can."
"Come, Charis. Let's go see if we can help the princess."
Drea and Hippolyta had spent their time over breakfast discussing Diana. They knew Hippolyta needed to approach Diana alone first, but the queen seemed to be at a loss on how to reach her daughter after such a long, painful separation.
"I'm sorry generally works wonders."
"Drea, I don't think 'I'm sorry' is going to cover a hundred years of anger and estrangement... especially if she doesn't remember why she's angry." Hippolyta took a bite of her food and shook her head slowly as she chewed. "Do you think she even noticed I removed the guards from her room?"
"Well, the princess doesn't miss much, my queen, but somehow I doubt that is going to be enough." Drea reached across the table and took Hippolyta's hands in her own. "Pol, you remember what Mala told you? Diana's going to fight any sort of reconciliation between you. Fighting, distrust and anger are all she's known with you for the last century. It's not easy to let go of the known and familiar... even if it is painful. Bur you've got to start somewhere. Go talk to her. Make it a point to talk to her every morning, every afternoon, every evening – whatever it takes to get through to her. Even if she ignores you, even if she doesn't seem to respond, it will wear her down. It is just going to take time."
"Time we really don't have right now. Drea, why did I let this go on for so long? I know I was so angry with her in the beginning, but then... it just hurt."
"Only you know the real answer to that, my queen, but Hippolyta," squeezing the hands she held gently until blue eyes looked up to meet her brown ones. "You've got to put the past behind you. You can't change it. You can't make it rosy. It wasn't, and no amount of wishing will produce a different result. Move forward, Hippolyta. I'll walk beside you and the Amazons will stand behind you. But it is time to fix this – time for Diana to take her place in the Nation and in the world."
Hippolyta nodded her agreement, blinking the tears from her eyes rapidly, though not fast enough to keep Drea from catching one that rolled down.
"Scared?" the healer asked softly.
Hippolyta nodded. "A little."
The queen shrugged. "A little," she repeated, "but mostly of failing. I seem to have gotten in a rut as far as Diana is concerned and...."
"That's enough!" Drea didn't raise her voice, but the force she put behind it more than got Hippolyta's attention. "You are not the only one to blame here, but you're not going to start with the self-pitying business either. Now get over it."
Hippolyta blinked again, but this time it was in astonishment. Seldom had Drea spoken to her in such a manner, but always with good reason and to good effect when she did. She straightened her shoulders purposefully and smiled at the healer.
"You are absolutely right, my love. I am so glad to have you in my life to help me see things clearly. Now," she continued, lifting Drea's hands to her lips and brushing a kiss across the knuckles. The action got her a broad smile that she cheerfully returned. "I need to go see my daughter, and you have a patient to check on."
"Yes, I do, but Chase will wait a few minutes if you need me to accompany you."
"No, you go on. I will put together a tray of Diana's favorites and wait for her to return from her morning run. I wouldn't stop you from coming by as soon as you are done at the hospice though," Hippolyta added nervously.
"I wouldn't miss it, my love," Drea said confidently. "And I shouldn't be long... unless something drastic has happened. My main goal is to put a fresh batch of cream on her eyes and then rewrap them so they can rest for the remainder for the day. The remainder of her body is still healing – I will probably get her back out into the sunshine for a while after lunch."
Hippolyta nodded. "Sounds good. Perhaps I can come with you to meet her then."
Drea nodded and leaned over for a kiss. "I will see you shortly then." She leaned her forehead against Hippolyta's. "Good luck," whispered.
The queen stole another kiss. "Don't need luck; I have you." Her eyes opened wide. "That was an incredibly sappy thing to say, wasn't it?"
Drea laughed. "Yes, it was, but I promise not to tell anyone. I'll meet you at Diana's rooms in a little while." Then she disappeared out the door, knowing Hippolyta's eyes followed her every step until she turned the corner out of sight.
Hippolyta stood in the doorway a moment or two longer after Drea disappeared before she shook herself from her absorption and pushed off the jamb. "Let's go, queenie. You've got things to do and stalling isn't going to help you get them done any faster."
Still, it took her quite some time to find what she was looking for in the kitchen. It had been so long since she'd done anything like this for Diana that she hoped she was choosing correctly. Several of the Amazons who were on kitchen duty that week offered to help, but Hippolyta gave them each a firm shake of her head. So instead, they pulled back and simply watched.
The queen rummaged through cabinets as she searched her memories for a time when she still knew her daughter. Gradually, the tray began to fill up with food as well as pleasant memories and the Amazons returned to their work.
One of the more astute and daring Amazons brought a vase filled with fresh-cut flowers and set it on the edge of the tray. Hippolyta smiled her gratitude and lifted the tray, heading down the hall to wait for Diana to return from her run. What she found was disturbing.
The queen crossed the threshold into Diana's rooms, noting for the first time the sparse furnishings and barren feel in what had at one time been a warm and lively place. She set the tray down carefully on the table in the center of the main room and glanced around slowly. Gone were all the reminders of Diana's heritage as the princess of the Amazon Nation. All that remained were her books on science and literature. Hippolyta had a passing thought to wonder what had happened to all the old histories that had once enthralled Diana, then she continued her perusal.
There were no personal objects in the room any longer – nothing remotely connecting Diana to the Amazons... or anything else. Instead, it was a very sterile environment – a place Diana existed for brief periods of time and nothing more.
Eventually, Hippolyta grew weary of pacing back and forth waiting for her daughter's return and she seated herself on the long, extended couch she and Diana had spent hours crafting together when it became apparent that the princess had outgrown not only her mother, but most of the Nation as well. So they'd created furniture to accommodate her longer frame comfortably,
Hippolyta wiped her eyes at the memories of better times. She couldn't understand how she had let things get so bad between them, or stay bad so long. She shook her head, refusing to allow the maudlin thoughts to overtake her mind again. She had determined to put things right between her daughter and herself and to do that, she had to keep her focus on the present and future, not the past.
The queen folded her hands together, concentrating on centering herself for her coming encounter with Diana. It was an odd noise that got her attention originally. There shouldn't be any noises coming from the bedroom if Diana was out running. And the princess *should* be out running – that hadn't changed since she'd learned to walk. At first it had been part of Diana's curriculum; eventually it had become a part of her daily routine that Diana took great joy in.
A second noise made Hippolyta's head pop up. There was definitely someone in Diana's bedroom, and it didn't sound pleasant. In fact.... Hippolyta cocked her head to listen intently. In fact, it sounded like Diana, and it wasn't the kind of noise the queen expected to hear from her daughter.
There were low whimpers and a murmuring, then the noise of soft sniffles were carried to Hippolyta's ears. The sound lent wings to her feet and overrode her mind's logical assertion that she could be interrupting something a mother didn't need to be exposed to in her child's life. What she saw broke her heart.
Diana lay on her side, completely tangled up in the sheet and wrapped around a pillow. Tears rolled down her face and the only sounds were the quiet sobs that escaped her lips as she breathed.
Hippolyta walked swiftly into the room and knelt beside the bed, smoothing the dark hair away from Diana's forehead. The princess didn't flinch or stir. Instead she remained in the throes of whatever nightmare had her in its grasp.
Hippolyta took both shoulders in a firm grasp and shook gently, then harder when there was no response from Diana at all. Had it not been for the fact that Diana continued to breathe audibly, Hippolyta would have panicked at her lack of reaction.
As it was, she eased her daughter into a more comfortable position, then moved to the door to find someone to fetch Drea. Hippolyta retrieved a cool, wet cloth from the bathing room and sat down next to Diana to wipe her face while they waited for the healer to join them.
Drea rushed into Diana's quarters and immediately noticed the sounds of Hippolyta moaning in pain.
"Charis, wait here," she commanded the younger Amazon following her before continuing on. She picked up her pace into the bedroom, only to come to a screeching halt at the scene before her. The princess was sitting straight up in bed, her eyes completely vacant and void of life and her torso naked and uncovered. The queen was cowering in the corner, cradling her arm and biting her lip.
The healer looked between them and headed for the queen, but was stopped by a shake of Hippolyta's head.
"No... check Diana... first. I don't...." Hippolyta sucked in a breath when she moved the wrong way suddenly. "Ow. I don't think... she... is even cog... nizant... right now. I think she... is still... sleeping."
Drea looked hard at Hippolyta before nodding her agreement and walked to Diana's bedside. A glance told her that the princess was indeed completely unaware of her surroundings. With soft, gentle words, Drea spoke rhythmically, allowing her voice to soothe Diana and lull her further into a hypnotic state. Diana eased back onto the bed and curled around her pillow again at Drea's coaxing, and her eyes closed in sleep.
The healer watched her for a moment longer before covering her with a sheet and turning her attention back to the queen.
"What happened?" Drea asked as she took Hippolyta's arm in her hands. She twisted around to catch the attention of the Amazon still waiting in Diana's living area. "Charis, go to the hospice and fetch my kit. Ask Rina; she'll know where it is."
Charis nodded and rushed out, eyes wide with what she had seen.
Drea waited until the sound of footsteps faded before her attention refocused on Hippolyta. "Pol, what happened?" She tended the arm carefully, easily finding a break in the bone. "Sweetheart, this is broken. Did she...?" knowing Diana's anger had never manifested itself quiet so violently before, even towards her mother.
Hippolyta nodded, but she spoke before Drea could comment. "Yes, but I think... it was my fault. She was having... a... a nightmare. I tried to... I tried to wake her." She looked up at Drea with tears in her eyes. "I know...." She hissed when Drea pushed the pressure points to alleviate the pain so she could set her arm. Then Hippolyta blew out a breath and smiled up at Drea when the healer moved her hair out of her face. "I know it was a stupid thing to do, but Drea, she looked so miserable. I had to do something."
Charis came running back into the room with Drea's kit, careful to keep her eyes on her hands. There were some things it was better not to study to closely or understand too well. Everyone knew of the difficulties between the queen and the princess, but that was enough. Everything else was considered their private affair and Charis, for one, did not want to change the status quo. The knowledge wasn't worth the responsibility, and she breathed a sigh of relief when she was thanked and dismissed.
In minutes, Drea had Hippolyta's arm set and braced. Then they rose together and walked to Diana's bedside. The princess appeared to have left her nightmares behind her and was now sleeping deeply, peacefully. They watched for a long moment before Hippolyta spoke.
"Let's call Mala and have her sit with Diana until she wakes up. I think I may need her help."
Mala walked across the threshold just as Drea stepped from Diana's room. The healer stopped in startlement and the priestess continued until she was standing by Drea's side. She took Drea's arm and turned them back towards Diana's room.
"Mala? What... how did you...?"
The priestess snorted and stopped short to look directly into the healer's brown eyes. "You have got to be kidding me, Drea. How long have you been an Amazon?" She shook her head. "The princess is in bed past dawn for the first time since her birth and you think it doesn't make headlines around the island? Please, Drea."
Drea laughed, despite the seriousness of the situation. "Good point. Come, Hippolyta wants you to stay with Diana," moving them into Diana's room. "I need to get her to the hospice and check on our guest."
"You think the princess needs to go to the hospice?" Mala frowned and focused her attention on the sleeping princess before movement from the window caught her attention. "My Queen!! What happened? Are you all right?"
Hippolyta smiled painfully. "I'll be fine, Mala," she replied, patting the priestess' hand that was clutching the upper pat of her broken arm. "I promise to explain everything to you later, but for now I need you to keep an eye on Diana. Please?"
"Certainly, my queen. You know it will be my pleasure."
Hippolyta nodded. "Thank you, my friend. We'll be back shortly. And if anything changes...."
Mala squeezed the queen's good hand. "If anything changes, Hippolyta, I will notify you immediately."
Drea put her arm around Hippolyta's shoulders and clasped Mala's hand briefly before steering Hippolyta towards the door. "I'm going to take the queen to the hospice, Mala. But I'll be back shortly to check Diana out more thoroughly."
"Go. I'll be here."
"Thank you, Mala," Hippolyta said as Drea headed them out of Diana's room and to the hospice. The walk was at once the longest and shortest Hippolyta could remember. Without fanfare, the two women found themselves escorted by members of the Royal Guard. Two of the contingent were dispatched to remain outside Diana's rooms in case the priestess required assistance while alone with the princess. Already rumors of what had happened were making their rounds. Hippolyta frowned, vowing to put a stop to it immediately.
They crossed into the hospice and Hippolyta immediately headed for Chase's room. She was quite anxious to meet the young woman, as she had been since her arrival. But now that it seemed she'd influenced Diana's memories in some way, the queen's desire had become more of a quiet demand. Drea had agreed, feeling in her heart that it was important to all of them to understand what had happened between them so far. Perhaps then they could begin to repair the damage that had been done.
Drea walked over to the side where Rina waited to give her report on the findings they had made on Chase. It had been an interesting discovery. Drea moved to the herb cabinet, removing things they hadn't used in a lifetime or more. She began sorting, nodding her head at Rina to proceed.
"You were right. Her pressure points were manipulated to ease her pain and send her into a deep, healing sleep. A sleep she is still enjoying, as a matter of fact."
Drea nibbled her lips and concentrated on carefully mixing the herbs correctly. "Hmm...." she finally replied. "Do we know who? Since obviously it wasn't you or me. And did it help her eyesight? Did the final two test results come back?"
Nubia strode in and Drea bit off a groan. Of all times and of all people to show up, this had to be the worst combination the gods could have come up with. She didn't have time to voice her disdain, however, because at that moment Nubia approached her with a cross between shock and delight – the likes of which Drea had not seen from Nubia in a very long time. It was completely disconcerting.
"Drea," came the excited whisper. "I have news... good news. Where is the queen? I was told she was here."
The healer could feel Nubia shaking in excitement and wondered what could possibly have caused such a reaction in the normally stoic advisor.
"She's in with our guest," nodding in that direction. "Nubia, are you all right? You're shaking."
Nubia raised her hands and closed her eyes, focusing on her breathing. When she felt she had some semblance of control, she opened her eyes and reached out to clasp Drea at the elbows.
"I'm... I'm a little overwhelmed, honestly. I saw something... heard something last night I never expected to experience again." She paused, then jerked her head in the direction of Chase's room. "Come. You deserve to hear this as much as Hippolyta does."
Drea's brow creased in confusion. She couldn't imagine what Nubia would find so exciting she would want to share with her, but her curiosity was piqued and she nodded. "Let me finish mixing this up for Hippolyta. I don't want her to suffer any longer than she has to."
"Suffer? What happened?"
Drea sighed. "Come. Let me take care of Hippolyta. Then you can share your news and we will bring you up to speed on what happened this morning."
Nubia nodded. "All right. Sounds intriguing."
"More than you know, Nubia... more than you know."
Hippolyta crossed to Chase's bedside, cradling her arm gently. She gazed at the young woman her daughter had rescued and let her mind drift back over the goddesses' words. Hippolyta brushed a bit of blonde hair off Chase's forehead and wished she could see Chase's eyes. There was something so familiar about this woman. Something that reminded her of the stories that had been her favorites millennia ago as a girl growing up in the Amazon territories of Greece. The queen decided she needed to go back and reread the histories of her people.
"Who are you, Annabelle Chaser? And what Fate brought you to us on Paradise Island?"
Hippolyta walked around and took the stool that was there for Drea's benefit and sat down, grateful for the extra support the action provided her arm.
"You see, I know that the Nazis were the instrument. But this goes so far beyond them. Soon, I hope we can talk. I think you are going to make a huge difference to both my daughter and the Amazon Nation."
A rustling caught her attention and Hippolyta turned her head to see both Drea and Nubia entering the room together. The healer extended her hand and Hippolyta accepted the cup. She downed the contents with a grimace and returned the cup to Drea.
"Ew, Drea! What was that disgusting mixture?"
Drea chuckled and offered the queen a second cup which she took gratefully, gulping the sweet juice with relief.
"Pain killer," the healer answered dryly. "Don't you feel better?"
"Pain killer?" Nubia queried. "My queen? What's wrong? Why do you need pain killer?"
Surprisingly, to the queen anyway, it was Drea who took Nubia's arm and extended her hand to Hippolyta who took it with a smile.
"Let's get some breakfast and go back to Diana's. I think Mala needs to be part of this discussion."
Two sets of eyes turned to her in confusion, but Drea blithely ignored them. She was certain it would all make better sense when they put together the new pieces they each held.
Mala wasn't surprised to see them return fairly quickly, but she was a little stunned to see Nubia accompanying them. Especially since Drea had a smile on her face and a hand on Nubia's arm. Everyone knew of the tension between the queen's advisor and her consort. Mala wondered what had effected the change, then figured she'd find out soon enough. There weren't many secrets that affected the Nation that she wasn't privy to.
However, she didn't comment on it. The first words out of her mouth were about Diana and were directed at Drea, though they were for the queen's ears as well.
"There has been no change. Diana is still sleeping peacefully."
Drea nodded and continued to Diana's room. Hippolyta kept her hand in the healer's and accompanied Drea to the princess' bedside. Nubia took the hint and walked over to take a place beside Mala on the couch to wait until they returned.
The healer carefully scrutinized Diana who now slept so deeply that she never flinched as Drea's hands ran over the princess checking any physical damage. Looking for mental and psychological damage was going to be something else again and would require more than the cursory examination she was able to do at the moment.
Hippolyta, meanwhile, sat near Diana's head as far out of Drea's way as she could be and still maintain physical contact with her daughter. She whispered quiet words to Diana, and though Drea couldn't understand them, she was confident she could guess what Hippolyta was saying. Now that the queen had decided to get her daughter back, she would be single-minded in both her focus and her purpose.
Finally, patient brown eyes caught questioning blue, and Drea hastened to reassure the mother she saw looking back at her. "She is fine, Pol. She is merely asleep... resting comfortably."
"You're sure?" Hippolyta blushed with the asking. "I'm sorry, Drea. It's not that I doubt you, it's just that...."
"It's just that she's your daughter...."
"She's our daughter, Drea," Hippolyta interrupted. "You've always been her second mother."
"Perhaps," Drea answered, patting the hand that still rested on Diana's shoulder, unable to hide the hurt in her eyes completely. "Though I don't think the princess has ever thought so. I have been happy to have been her confidante and friend. She has always been your daughter, Pol. And it's natural that you're concerned, especially given the circumstances."
Hippolyta lifted her hand from Diana's shoulder and clasped Drea's hand in her own. "I am so sorry, love. I never knew... never suspected...." She took her free hand and dropped her head into it. "Gods, I have been so blind." She looked up with pained eyes. "I mean, I knew she was my daughter and I guess I just took it for granted that you thought of her as yours as well."
Drea squeezed Hippolyta's hand. "Pol, I do. I just don't think Diana looks at me that way, and I'm all right with that."
"Well, *I'm* not," Hippolyta answered fervently. "And we will take care of that once we get Diana back."
Drea leaned her forehead to the queen's and kissed her gently. "You are something else, you know that?"
Hippolyta chuckled wearily. "Yes. The question is what." She turned her head to gaze at Diana again. "You're sure she's all right?"
"Yes, my queen. The princess is sleeping peacefully right now. I think we can leave her alone for a bit while we go have a council meeting in her living room."
Hippolyta stood and extended her hand to Drea who accepted it with alacrity and rose to stand beside her. "I don't know why you put up with me sometimes," the queen commented quietly as she stepped away from Diana's side.
Drea stopped and held Hippolyta's hand to keep her from falling over from the abrupt motion. "Even if I didn't love you with every fibre of my being," the healer replied as she pulled Hippolyta into her arms, "there are a few perks to being the consort of the queen, you know," said with a silent chuckle she knew the queen would feel.
"Oh really?" Hippolyta replied, feeling her good humor return. "We'll have to discuss these perks in length later."
"It would be my pleasure," the healer purred in her ear, pleased that Hippolyta had relaxed against her with their easy banter. "Now, let's not keep Nubia waiting. She seemed very excited this morning."
"Yes. I cannot tell you how amazed I was to see the two of you getting along so well. What an unexpected surprise!"
"For me too," Drea agreed, and they stepped out into the living room to find Mala, Nubia, Paula and breakfast waiting for them.
"Wait," Drea said, holding up her hands. The table held empty dishes scattered over its surface and her the five women seated around it were too deeply engrossed in their conversation to be worried about their unusual lack of neatness. Nubia's report had been nothing short of astounding, and had held them spellbound for the better part of the meal. The latter portion they had spent in silence, digesting both food and words until Drea's exclamation disturbed the silence.
"You're sure, Nubia? You are positive you heard the princess speak?" She held up her hands again as a dark shadow crossed the advisor's face. "Wait – let me rephrase that. What did you hear Diana say?"
"Nothing. I mean, I didn't hear the words, only the sounds, but it was the princess' voice I heard. That I am sure of."
"Even as a whisper?"
"Especially then," Nubia confirmed. "That was her preferred voice during war games." She chuckled in memory. "It wasn't something you could forget once you heard it in your ear while she had her arm around your throat."
Laughter flitted through the small group. They had all, at one time or another, gone up against Diana in the war games, and lost. But only Nubia had been quite so up close and personal during a kill. Hippolyta had lost to swordplay; Drea to chobos; Mala and Paula to long distance weapons – one to an arrow and the other to a catapult.
"Well, at least now I know who reworked Chase's pressure points." Drea looked back at the four pairs interrogating eyes. "When I went in to check on our guest this morning, she was in a sleep so deep, I feared she was dead. Rina checked her when I was called here. She discovered the pressure points were manipulated to provide Chase with less pain and a peaceful sleep."
"Why had you not used these already, Drea? It's not like you to let someone suffer needlessly."
The healer turned her attention to Mala. "Because I was still waiting for the results from some of the tests I had ordered. She's losing her eyesight and I cannot pinpoint a physical reason for it. I am waiting for the final two tests to be completed, but I think she is having a psychological reaction to being here... on Paradise Island. I already know from our brief discussions that Chase has some deep-seeded loathing for the Amazons and I suspect it has something to do with Orana... and the Nazis."
"The Nazis?" Nubia repeated. "I heard some mention of that from the other young woman. It brought Diana back into the room."
"I wonder what they talked about and if that conversation is what gave Diana the nightmares," Hippolyta questioned.
"I would say that the odds are good on the second," Mala answered. "We have no way of knowing what happened to her when she went to the world of men a century ago until and unless she decides to share, but given what we have learned so far, it is highly probable."
"It is more than probable," Paula finally spoke. "I have been doing research on the Nazis since Chase's arrival. Their records are poor, spotty at best, and there has been an obvious effort to purge them. But...." Paula consulted the information in her hands. "We have found both Diana's and Chase's names buried in their database."
"Any more information?"
Paula shook her dark head. "Not yet. But we're still digging."
Hippolyta nodded. "Good, good. I know I can count everyone's discretion about this. Rumors are already running rampant after all the excitement this morning, I'm sure. I don't want to add any fuel to the fire, especially with only blurred facts and speculation. I'll make some sort of statement later today and try to diffuse some of the talk."
Four heads nodded their immediate agreement. "I'll keep looking into Nazi records to see what else we can uncover," Paula said, rising to her feet. Nubia stood as well.
"I would like to help, if I could be of service," the dark advisor said almost shyly.
Paula blushed lightly but nodded. "Certainly, Nubia. I would appreciate your insight."
The three remaining women exchanged amused glances but said nothing. Instead, they rose and began to gather the strewn dishes onto the tray to remove them from Diana's room. Nubia lifted the tray.
"My queen, I'll drop this off in the kitchen on the way to the lab. If you will excuse me...."
Hippolyta nodded absently. "Thank you, Nubia. I need to...." She broke off, torn between her need to lie down and rest and her desire to stay with Diana until she woke. Mala came to her rescue.
"I would like to stay with the princess, my Queen. If she wakes up, I will call you immediately."
"That sounds like a great idea, Pol. Come, I'll walk you back to our rooms before I head back to the hospice. You need to rest at least for a little while. Mala will keep an eye on Diana."
"You'll come get me the moment she awakens?" the queen asked the priestess.
"I will do better than that, my queen. I will send one of the Royal Guards if you will leave one outside the door. That way Diana won't need to be left alone before you can get here."
Hippolyta smiled. "Thank you, Mala. I know she'll be in good hands."
Drea put her arm around the queen and led her out of Diana's rooms and down to their own quarters. Mala turned and went back to sit beside Diana, gently riffling the dark hair away from the princess' angular cheekbones.
"Oh, Diana... what happened to you, child? What happened to the confident young woman I knew to give her such intense, deeply hidden nightmares?" Mala blew out a breath. "And what place does Annabelle Chaser hold in your mind... and in your heart?"
The darkness was comforting and the images of her dreams were so vivid they felt more like memories than the illusions she knew them to be. Chase was loath to give them up for a reality she knew was painful, though less so now than it had been. Still, it was a bit of a struggle to unwrap herself from whatever spell the mysterious woman had woven over her; she had never known the lassitude she'd felt after the woman had pressed several odd spots on her body, and she couldn't remember ever feeling so rested. The rebellion was not encouraging of deep, healing sleep. There just wasn't time or personnel to cover such things.
So Chase lay dozing, trying to separate in her mind the real from the imagined. Eventually she hoped to work her way up to opening her eyes, but for now, they were still heavy and she was content for them to remain closed.
It was the odd words piercing her lethargy that finally forced the issue of waking. At first it was an anomalous hum, like bees buzzing in and out of hearing. Chase forced herself to concentrate, hoping to make sense of what the bees were saying. Gradually the buzzing formed words, though her understanding of those words was few and far between the noises she was trying to decipher.
"... Hippolyta... broken....
"... Diana... ...Orana... ...Nazis...."
The last words set of alarm bells in Chase's mind and body, but she couldn't grasp any of them long enough to make coherent sense of them. Something, though, was niggling at the back of her consciousness and she knew if she left it alone long enough, it would simmer to the top and reveal itself to her. She just needed patience. The question was whether or not she had that kind of time.
A voice she knew and recognized crossed her hearing after what seems eons of struggling to comprehend the bits of conversation around her and to finally open her eyes. The voice was sharp and it made the buzzing recede into the background and stop. The silence was a blessed relief and Chase settled back into the quiet with a moan. She hadn't realized the strain she had been putting on her body to force herself to focus so hard.
Her mother's touch once again brushed the hair back away from her forehead, and that voice became her entire focus. "Chase? Chase, it's Drea. Come... you need to try to wake up for me, Chase. Can you do that?"
Chase allowed that voice to coax her closer to true awareness, and she shifted uncomfortably, sensitive to the fact that she was still healing. Surprisingly, instead of the pain she expected to experience, she only felt a lingering soreness over most of her body.
Drea's voice continued to speak to her, gently coaxing and encouraging her to come up from the deep sleep she'd been in. Finally, she blinked her eyes open and saw... nothing.
"Drea," Chase called out, though her voice was little more than a croak. She reached for her eyes, but found her hands caught.
The healer slipped an arm beneath Chase's sturdy shoulders and helped the young woman sit up. Then she held her in a hug to allow Chase's equilibrium a chance to catch up to her body.
Chase tried to clear her throat and noted with some dismay that it was completely dry. She had a passing thought to wonder just how long she had been asleep and what sort of spell that mystery woman had placed on her when she felt a cup pressed into her hands.
"Drink," Drea said calmly. "You been asleep for a good many hours, so I imagine you must be quite thirsty by now. Your eyes are still wrapped. When you're a little more awake, we'll remove the bandages and see what we can see."
Chase swallowed, noting it was simply cool, clean, sweet water and she drank again until it was gone. She felt the silent chuckle run through the healer and smiled in response, despite the unnerving fear that was skittering through her body.
"Would you like more?" Drea asked politely.
Chase nodded. "Please," was her whispered response and she cleared her throat again.
She couldn't see, but she heard everything clearly, anticipating the full glass before it arrived in her hands. She sipped it more slowly, leaning into the body tucked beside her. Chase finished her water and straightened up.
"Thanks, Drea. I feel a lot better." She shook her head gingerly. "My head has stopped hurting and I think I'm finally awake now," she added with a smile. "What'd ya'll do to me anyway? I've never slept like that before."
Drea shifted until they were facing one another and she took Chase's hands in her own. "Like how, Chase? How would you describe your sleep?"
Chase removed one of her hands to scratch her forehead. "Well, you said I was asleep for hours and hours. Asleep, not unconscious, correct?"
"Correct," Drea answered cautiously.
"Usually when I sleep, when I'm healthy, that is, I sleep very lightly and in short spurts – three to four hours at a time max. According to you, I've been asleep for quite a while longer than that, and I was so deeply asleep that I had dreams. Dreams that were so vivid I almost remember them... and I do remember the feelings of contentment they gave me. They were almost... familiar."
She banged her fist on her knee. "I wish I could remember." Chase turned her head, wishing she could see Drea's expression. "So what did ya'll do to me anyway?"
Drea stood and casually started unwrapping the bandages while she spoke. "Um," uncharacteristically hesitant. "Actually *we* didn't do anything. Tell me, did you have any visitors after I left you last night?"
Chase's furrowed brow was apparent even under the binding that Drea was removing. "Yes, actually... a woman." Chase paused, something occurring to her and blending with the other things she had heard that morning that she would process later. "She, um... she came in and we talked briefly. Then she... she touched me and whatever she did released the pain." Chase whipped her head around towards Drea, causing the healer to drop the bandage she'd been patiently winding as she unraveled it from Chase's eyes. "Do you think what she did caused me to sleep? To dream those odd dreams?"
Drea nodded in contemplative thought, forgetting for a moment that Chase couldn't see her reaction. She looked up startled when the young woman grabbed her arm somewhat frantically.
"Sorry, Chase. My apologies. I was thinking and forgot to answer aloud." Drea looked Chase, whose eyes were still hidden by the pads placed protectively over her eyes. "Can you show me which pressure points were manipulated and in what order?"
Chase obliged, and Drea's eyes widened with the skill Diana had used in relieving the young woman's pain. She closed her own eyes in memory of the times she and Diana had spent together in this very room learning and experimenting with new treatments. The course the princess had chosen was one that they'd never had the chance to test on a real patient before instead of one another, and Drea was gratified to know it had done just what it was supposed to with no apparent harmful aftereffects.
"To answer your question, Chase, yes. What Diana did was allow you to relax and sleep while at the same time stimulate the healing of your body. That is why you feel so much better today."
"And it caused those weird, but very pleasant dreams?"
Drea shrugged, a little baffled by the dreams. That hadn't been a side effect of the treatment when they'd been experimenting, but Chase was a whole new mix into the equation they had used. It had been one reason, the main one but certainly not the only one, that she had been hesitant to try the pressure points. Now that she had the final test results on Chase's eyes, she knew Diana had made the right choice. She felt a fleeting wish go through her for the friendship she had once shared with the princess. Then she blinked, realizing that her patient was waiting not-so-patiently for an answer.
"Honestly, I am not sure, but I would have to guess yes. We've never actually had a reaction like that before." Not adding that Chase was the first to need that particular treatment.
"Hmm," Chase replied after a long, thoughtful moment. "Well, at least they were pleasant... all warm and kind of, I dunno... comfortable, I guess."
"Much more pleasant than nightmares would have been for sure. Too bad you cannot remember the specifics."
"Yeah," Chase said absently. "I'd be interested in knowing what exactly caused that sort of feeling. Nothing consciously comes to mind to invoke that."
Drea smiled. "Well, if you feel up to it, perhaps we could try hypnosis. We have quite a.... Chase?!? Whatever is wrong?"
The pilot had gone completely pale; even her lips were ashen, and she was close to hyperventilating. "No," spoken with fervent vehemence. "No hypnosis. No mind games."
Drea took the ice cold hands in her own and chafed them tenderly until she felt a bit of warmth return to them. "All right, Chase. All right. No mind games. I would never, ever force you into something that obviously made you so uncomfortable." Then they sat quietly together until Chase's color and breathing returned to normal. "Better?" Drea finally inquired.
Chase nodded, somewhat embarrassed by her outburst. "Yes," came her quiet reply.
"Good. Now," she continued briskly as though nothing out of the ordinary had taken place. "I am going to remove the pads from your eyes and take a look. But first...." Drea got up from the bed where she had been sitting and closed the blinds. The apprentice healers had opened them as a matter of course and since Chase couldn't see them to be bothered by them, she'd left them open. Now, however, she didn't want the shock of nearly midday sunlight to cause more problems to the already unexplainable one she had on her hands.
"Chase, I've made it quite dark in here, so don't be too alarmed if you have trouble seeing. *I* am having trouble seeing right at the moment," she joked lightly, feeling an uneasy tension roiling in her gut. "We will gradually alter the light's brightness to allow your eyes time to adjust to it."
"So everything should be all right now? I should be able to see normally again."
"I was unable to find a reason for you not to," the healer hedged. "There is no physical damage at all to your eyes."
Chase weighed the carefully chosen words in her head and understood that Drea wasn't sure of the outcome. She sighed. "Well, let's get this over with," she said bravely. "Nothing much I can do about it either way until we know something," she added pragmatically.
Drea nodded, knowing she spoke the truth, but wondering where she got the fortitude to accept possible blindness so casually. She had no way of knowing that Chase was shaking like a leaf on the inside, contemplating her future if things turned out badly.
Diana struggled to come up from her dreams. They bordered on weird and felt oddly disconcerting. She remembered darkness and anger and pain, and then that had morph into something... unexpected. Something that was warm and comfortable and almost... familiar. Something that somehow connected her to the woman she had seen in the hospice. But that couldn't be true, could it? She'd never seen the woman before. Surely she would have remembered her... wouldn't she? But she couldn't deny the truth that more than anyone or anything Diana had experienced in her long life, the mysterious woman felt like home.
Too many confusing thoughts and feeling finally pushed her up from the depths of sleep she'd fallen into. When blue eyes opened, Diana blinked around in confusion. Bright sunlight streamed into the room from the windows that had been opened for the first time in.... Just what exactly was going on here? She never slept past dawn, and she hadn't opened up her room like this since her mother's disgrace of her at the games. What fresh air and sunshine she got came from her morning and evening runs and that was enough.
Diana closed her eyes, suddenly conscious that she was not alone in her quarters. She fumed – now she wasn't even allowed privacy in her own rooms. Was there no end to the humiliation her mother would heap on her head for what she perceived as inexcusable behavior?
She pushed back the cover, heedless of her nakedness and rose, heading for the door with single-minded intent. She yanked the door opened, then paused on the threshold when she realized who was in her rooms, cleaning and singing somewhat off key to herself.
Mala turned at the sound of the bedroom door opening and just as quickly whipped her head back to her task. "You know, princess, the gods were extremely kind to you when they created you. You could kill an old woman strutting around in your all together like that," said with a hint of a smile in her voice. Not reprimanding since she was the intruder, but asking in her own soft, subtle way for a bit of modesty from one she loved as a daughter.
Diana took the hint gracefully and disappeared back into the confines of her bedroom briefly, before returning clothed in a comfortable, casual short toga. It was well-worn and Mala recognized it from before what she referred to as 'the late unpleasantness'. She reached out a hand towards it, but stopped before she actually made contact. Instead she offered Diana a smile.
"I always liked this one on you, princess. It brings out the color of your eyes so well."
Diana made no verbal response but Mala could see the questions and confusion lingering in the back of her eyes.
"I guess you are curious as to why I am here. You gave us quite a scare this morning, Diana. Never since your birth have you slept so long or so deeply, and I volunteered to watch you so your mother could rest." Mala couldn't miss the hint of bitterness that crossed the beautiful face in front of her. "Don't judge too quickly, princess. You'll find her reasons for not being here instead are not entirely selfish."
Diana just refrained from rolling her eyes in derision. Nothing Mala or anyone else could say would convince her that Hippolyta was more than a selfish, hypocritical bitch with no though or regard for anyone other than herself.
"Besides," the priestess continued blithely, knowing full well the thoughts going on behind the mask Diana wore whenever her mother became part of any discussion. "I felt a little decorating was in order. It was just too Spartan in here to be a comfortable living space. What do you think?" motioning to the walls and waiting for Diana's reaction.
What she got was not what she expected. Rage flamed in the back of those ice cold eyes, but Diana calmly rose from her seat and walked into her room, closing and locking the door with a chilling finality. And with that perfect timing that all humans, immortal or not, are sometimes blessed with, Hippolyta crossed the outer threshold just as the lock snapped into place.
"Where is she, Mala? Where is my daughter?"
The priestess' shoulders slumped and she gestured to the closed door. "I don't know that I would try to approach her right now, my queen. I think I made a very grave error."
"You, Mala? What did you do?" the queen asked, concerned as much for her despondent high priestess as she was for the daughter she was now determined to recover.
Mala sank into a seat on one end of the couch and Hippolyta took the other. Mala waved at the walls and shelves where now a myriad of artifacts and scrolls resided, including the masked that marked Diana as the Amazon princess. "I think I may have pressed a little too hard, a little too fast."
Hippolyta reached out with her good arm, clasping Mala's forearm with sure strength. "I don't think so. I think we... *I*... have let this anger fester long enough. The time has come to force the issue." She squeezed gently, then released her hold. "Leave it. Let's wait and see what Diana does with it before we start questioning ourselves. She's going to have to come to terms with everything – including the fact that I am her mother who loves her and she is still the Amazon princess."
Mala shook her head. "It's going to be a long, uphill battle. Do you wish me to stay for moral support for this first skirmish?"
Hippolyta smiled. "Would I like you to? Absolutely. Do I think you should? No. I think this is going to be something we have to handle privately as much as possible until Diana is ready to resume her place here again. But I wouldn't object to your being fairly close by. I think when my daughter decides to open up, it's not going to be to me; It will be you and Drea who have always been friends and confidantes to her."
"Well, then, I will go to visit Drea at the hospice and perhaps she will introduce me to our young guest. I would like to get to know the young woman who is already a hero to so many, and who will soon write herself into the chronicles of the Amazons."
Mala rose from her place on the couch and extended a hand to her queen. Hippolyta accepted it and stood, flinching a little at how the motion pulled on her injured arm. Mala raised the hand that she held to her lips and kissed it, offering a blessing for the upcoming encounter. Then she met Hippolyta's eyes in understanding. "Good luck, my queen."
Hippolyta smiled and ducked her head gracefully. "Thank you, my friend. I think I'll need patience more than luck."
Now Mala smiled mischievously, trying to lighten the atmosphere just a bit. "Perhaps, my queen, but I learned years ago never to pray for patience. Bad things tend to happen when you do. I'd rather have good luck myself."
Hippolyta chuckled, appreciating the truth in Mala's words. "Right," she answered. "Good luck."
Mala released her hand and strode purposefully towards the door. Only when she was completely out of sight did Hippolyta turn and face the closed door that led to Diana's room.
"Well," she said to herself firmly. "We have to start somewhere, and I know I have to be the one to make the first step." Still she remained rooted to the spot, hoping for a sign of some sort – though she wasn't sure what – and looking for a courage she'd never expected to need.
"Let's go, Hippolyta," she coached herself. "This is your daughter. The daughter you prayed and asked the gods for." She felt a tear slide down her face as she began to understand the price her daughter had paid for that request. "Time to start setting things right... for everyone."
Hippolyta walked to the door and stood looking at it for a long moment before raising her hand and knocking soundly. "Diana? Diana, it's me... your mother." Then she rolled her eyes at how lame that sounded. "Diana, may I come in please?" She tried the doorknob, only to find it still locked firmly against intrusions – against *her*.
She had no way of knowing that Diana was no longer in her room.
The sun was warm... warmer than she was accustomed to anymore and Diana found herself sweating freely as she made her circuit of the island. Of course, the fiery rage coursing through her veins that was pushing her harder and faster had nothing to do with that consequence, she mentally told herself. No, it was simply that the temperature was much warmer at midday than it was at dawn.
Consciously, Diana forced her mind to push the anger aside and concentrated solely on the motion and effort required to complete the task she'd set herself to. So she increased her speed and let her thoughts move away from the twisted reality she'd woken up to.
The guards placed casually around the island watched in amazement as she completed her regular circuit and began another. They'd all heard the rumors, of course, of what had happened between Hippolyta and Diana, but they had had no change in their orders, so they allowed the princess to run without escort to her heart's content.
All the way around she went the second time, allowing nothing into her consciousness but the feel of the wind on her body and the burn of her muscles as she forced herself to start a third circuit. Now a silent alert went up among the guards still watching her exercise. It was completely unheard of and they fully expected her to collapse from the overexertion she was forcing upon herself. More than one of them wondered if she was punishing herself for whatever had happened between herself and the queen.
Finally, after completing her third lap, Diana slowed, breathing hard. None of her previous exercise had prepared her for the limits she had pushed and her body was more than happy to remind her that being an immortal guaranteed neither painlessness nor brilliance. And right at the moment, she was inclined to go with immortality going hand in hand with stupid ideas as muscles over-used and highly abused began to protest loudly at their treatment.
Gently, she stretched her legs until she felt the knots loosening and relaxing into their normal position. Then she did the same with her upper body as her breathing steadily returned to normal. With a tired sigh, Diana began walking, making for the tree she favored for watching the sunset, even though sunset was still some hours away. She gradually noticed the guards watching her, but dismissed them with the practice borne of a hundred years, knowing her meditation would dismiss them from her mind completely in short order.
With a sense of relief, Diana approached the tree. For reasons know only to them, the guards respected the tree as her space and she was grateful. More than her rooms in the palace, this one place on the island felt like hers. With a wistful smile, she leaped into its welcoming branches, balancing precariously. She spent untold minutes just enjoying the art of balancing, focusing her mind on something beyond the horizon.
Without warning, unwelcome images assaulted her mind. Vicious, ugly images of a lifetime before. So sudden and unexpected was the onslaught of memories, Diana's physical reality got lost in them and she lost her grip on her physical reality. She didn't even feel when she hit the ground.
"Open your eyes, Chase," Drea instructed. The healer held her breath as she watched the green eyes blink slowly and struggle to focus. "What do you see?" she finally asked in a subdued voiced.
The blonde head shook negatively and her shoulders slumped. "Dark shapes, a little light, but nothing clearly." She lay back down and curled around her pillow. "I think I'd like to be alone now."
"Drea, please. I don't blame you for this, honestly, but you don't know what is wrong or how to fix it. I just need a little time alone to adjust to it, all right? Please?"
Drea ran her hands through Chase's hair, then cupped her cheek tenderly in one hand. "Don't give up yet, Chase, because I certainly am not. We will figure out what happened and we will make it right. I promise to keep trying as long as you promise to keep the faith."
Chase smiled reflexively; she couldn't help it. The determination in the healer's voice was contagious. "I'll do my best."
"Good girl," Drea commented, brushing the blonde hair back once more. "Now, I will leave you alone for a bit while I go do a little research. There has to be something I am missing. And I am going to find it and fix this. Are you hungry?"
Chase nodded hesitantly. "Um... a little, I think."
Drea nodded her approval. "Good. I'll have Rina bring something light from the kitchen for you to snack on for now. Then when you feel up to it, we'll take you outside for a bit of fresh air and sunshine. In the meantime, though...." The healer broke off and walked to the windows, pulling back the coverings and throwing the casement open wide and feeling a breeze immediately begin to blow through.
"There," she said aloud. "That is much better. We will bring it in to you until then." She breathed deeply, her satisfaction evident in the sounds she made. A soft chuckling brought her out of her obvious appreciation. A dark brow rose in question and she cleared her throat with some embarrassment.
"Are you laughing at me?" she asked Chase, though she couldn't keep the laughter out of her voice, and Chase was quick to pick up on it.
"Not as much as you are, it seems," she answered cheekily. Then she smiled sadly. "I was just noticing how much you seem to enjoy such simple things as fresh air and sunshine, and wondering when the last time was that I even noticed them. Lately, it seems that everything has just...." Chase broke off and stretched out. Drea returned to her bedside and took a tentative seat on the edge of the bed.
"Is it something you would like to talk about, Chase? I don't really know anything about what you have been through except for what your body has shown me, but I do know you have suffered."
Chase stiffened. She'd never considered herself a great beauty, and time and the rebellion had done nothing to change that view of herself. But to be reminded of the scars she bore by someone as lovely as the healer....
"No, thank you," she said coolly. "Do you think I could have my clothes back?" she continued without pause, feeling the sympathy emanating from Drea, even without being able to see her expression. "I mean these toga things are great and all," she said with a deprecating smile. "But I feel a little underdressed."
Drea smiled sadly, glad Chase was unable to see her face. Paula had given her an electronic report on the young pilot and it had broken her heart to just skim through it. She hadn't even shared the bits of her findings with Hippolyta yet. She had hoped Chase trusted her enough to share some of the burden she carried, but it was obvious that not only was the trust not there but Chase felt uncomfortable? Ashamed? It was hard to pinpoint the exact emotion Chase was trying to hide.
"Of course, Chase. I'll bring them to you as soon as you eat." Drea turned at the noise Rina made coming into the room. "Ah, here is your snack. I shall return shortly."
Chase smiled, though it didn't reach her eyes. "Thank you, Drea."
The healer left with a nod at her assistant, determined to take a little time to read the complete file that Paula had given her. Surely there was an answer somewhere which would give her a clue to the cause of Chase's blindness. Might as well start at the beginning of her research.
Rina set the tray down in front of Chase, and stepped back slightly. "Is there anything else you require, Chase?"
The blonde head shook. "No, but... um, if you could tell me where everything is?" She turned green eyes towards the apprentice healer and Rina noticed for the first time the completely lack of focus in them.
"Oh, surely," describing everything on the plate. " Would you... would like some... help?"
"No thank you," Chase answered shortly, and heard Rina's intake of breath. "Sorry, I don't mean to sound ungrateful, because I'm not. I'm just...."
Rina patted her hand. "Don't worry about it, Chase. Things are probably much different here than what you are accustomed to. Perhaps you'd rather a bit of company and conversation instead?"
Chase really didn't want company, but the innate, inbred manners her mother had worked so hard to instill in her came to the fore instead. She patted the bed beside her. "Sure. Have a seat. You can tell me about this place and the people here."
"Certainly. Amazon history is a fascinating tale and you're the first visitor we've had on Paradise Island in over a hundred years that we could share it with."
Only a well-practiced poker face kept Chase from reacting to Rina's words and she calmly kept chewing the fruit pieces that she'd been given to eat. "Amazons?" she questioned with only the slightest edge in her voice. "I thought they were a myth... a legend."
Rina laughed. "Oh no. We are quite real. But it was our move here to the island that saved us as a people and as a culture."
"Really? How so?" Chase asked, infusing as much interest as she could into her voice.
So Rina told her... of their enslavement and decimation in the world of men. Of the goddesses' directives and protection. Of the things they had learned and the advancements they had made since their settlement.
"Has anyone ever left?" Chase asked with studied casualness. She chewed her food so hard she grit her teeth together in an effort to keep her expression as impassive as possible. Rina didn't notice Chase's jaw clenching since she looked down at the hands clasped together in her lap. But Chase could clearly hear the pain in her voice.
"Twice," she answered tersely, but she didn't say anymore. Finally, the silence grew uncomfortable even for Chase, and she reached out towards Rina.
"I'm sorry," she said honestly. "I didn't...."
Rina patted Chase's hand and rose from the bed, gathering up her tray and neatly stacking everything together. "I know you didn't... how could you? It's just not something we talk about. It has been very painful, but especially for Diana."
Chase cocked her head. "The princess, right?"
Rina smiled sadly. "Right." She looked back at Chase who wore a look of polite interest. "Now," she continued briskly, changing the subject. "Would you like some more to eat? You did everything but lick the plate clean," with humor in her voice. Chase chucked.
"My mother accused me of that on more than one occasion. But I'm good for now. Thanks for asking though."
"You're very welcome, Chase. Perhaps next time you'll share with me about your culture."
Chase nodded, but didn't answer verbally. She knew there wouldn't be a next time... not anytime soon.
"I'm going to take the dishes back to the kitchen. Will you be all right here alone for a bit?"
"I'm fine, Rina, thanks. Besides, I imagine Drea will be back shortly. She promised me fresh air and sunshine."
Rina clapped her on the arm. "Her favorite prescription."
"What?" came a voice from the doorway. "Exactly what am I being accused of?"
Rina laughed. "Nothing you're not guilty of. I'm going to take these to the kitchen. You need me to come back and help?"
Drea placed Chase's clothes on the bed. "I believe Chase and I can mange all right. What do you think, Chase?"
Chase blinked, her eyesight still nothing but light and shadows. "Well, I think I can get dressed, but you'll have to help me get to the beach. I'm not sure how much fresh air and sunshine I can stand before it kills me," she added with a smile.
Drea and Rina both chuckled. "You must be feeling better."
Chase smiled weakly. "Well, no pain right now at least. I'll take my blessings where I can find them."
"I like that philosophy." Rina took the tray and walked out and Drea focused on Chase. "Would you like some help getting dressed?" fairly certain what the pilot's response was going to be.
Chase went rigid for a moment before she forced herself to relax. "I appreciate the offer Drea, but...." She shrugged sheepishly.
Drea chuckled again and patted Chase's shoulder. "Don't worry, Chase. I expected as much, but I had to ask. Taking the best care I can of my patient you know."
Chase nodded. "I know. You've been great. I wish I could stay here. I've never been treated so well, and I've sure never had medical treatment like yours." She smiled wryly. "I'd love to take you back with me so you could teach the medics what a good bedside manner is."
Two phrases caught Drea's attention and held it. "Are you planning on leaving us, Chase? You're not nearly healed enough for me to release you from my care yet."
"I know, but I'm gonna have to leave sometime, Drea. I've got work I've got to get back to. I've been gone too long already."
"But it's only been three days."
"A lifetime when it comes to war. Things are so different on the outside. I... it's hard to explain. I just wish my friends could experience the kind of care I've had here. I really appreciate it."
"I am sorry you needed my care, Chase, but I thank the gods for bringing you to us. You have reminded me of so many things...." Drea broke off, not wanting to say too much, knowing how Chase felt about Amazons. "I will leave you to dress in peace. Just call me when you are ready, and we will get you outside for that fresh air and sunshine."
"Your favorite prescription."
"Ah, so that is what Rina was telling tales about. Well, I'll tell you a secret, Chase. I have found that spending a little time everyday soaking in those two things make all the difference in my daily outlook." She crossed the threshold and looked back. "Just call out when you're ready. My office is right next door."
Chase sat still for long moments, listening to Drea's footsteps fade around the corner. Then she continued to sit quietly, willing her eyesight back and growing frustrated when nothing changed. She had a real good idea what the problem was, but she didn't know how to correct it and she didn't have time to wait for it to fix itself.
Chase stretched, then winced as she pulled the stitches in both her shoulder and her leg. It was a firm reminder she was nowhere close to being healed, but she was determined to get away from this place. Aside from the fact that she had to get back to the war effort, she couldn't stomach the quandary she now found herself in.
Chase eased from the bed, carefully testing her leg before setting her weight onto it. She was pleased when it didn't collapse under her and dropped the toga with an expert twist before sorting through the clothes Drea had left for her.
Her forehead creased. Given the cut of the cloth and the patches she could feel, she was fairly confident they were her clothes. But the feel of them was off, as though they were now made of silk. And they smelled... beyond clean. Chase shook her head and reminded herself to be thankful for small blessings. Then she struggled into underclothes before shrugging into her shirt and sliding into her pants. It was a relief to button and zip. As much as she'd enjoyed the freedom and comfort of the garment the Amazons provided, this was real for her, and Chase was glad to return to the known and familiar. She wiggled her feet into her socks and boots.
A few pats assured her that her pads were secure, and she gave a breath of relief. That made things so much easier for her. "Drea?" she called softly after savoring the feeling of normality she felt. The healer was quick to respond to her summons.
"Wow," the healer commented. "You look quite imposing."
Chase's head dropped. "Um, do you have the scarf I had on? I feel kinda funny without it."
"Oh, yes. I'm sorry. I didn't think you would want it to sit out in the sun."
"If it's not too much trouble...."
"Not at all," Drea said. "Be right back."
True to her word, Drea returned almost immediately, and Chase accepted the scarf with alacrity, wrapping it around her neck and tucking it into her shirt. Then she closed her eyes briefly and sighed.
"Thank you, Drea. This means a lot to me, and I...."
"It's all right, Chase. You don't have to explain. I think I understand. I'm glad you have it back. You look... quite dashing. I imagine you are quite the sensation at home; you've certainly made an impression on everyone here that has had the pleasure of seeing you." She put a hand around Chase's good arm and handed her a walking stick. "Here, you'll need this to help you balance. Remember to go slow... we have as long as it takes. We're not running a race."
Chase chuckled, trying to put her inherent hate of what this woman was aside and focusing on the fact that not only did she owe Drea her life, but that she truly liked the woman as a person. Damn shame she's an Amazon. However Chase wanted to be fair and was making an effort. Drea felt the struggle, but was clueless as to what Chase's internal fight was about.
The healer backed off a step, but kept her hand on Chase's arm. Then she caught the wry smile on the pilot's face and cocked a brow in question.
"I'm sorry," Chase said as she accepted the walking stick and gingerly took a step. "I was snickering at what you said. You must have some of the world's worst patients."
Drea gave her a full, genuine smile. "Aren't all patients the world's worst when they are healed enough to be mobile but not enough to get around by themselves? And here... trust me, you haven't seen egos until getting well becomes a race." She shook her head and grabbed a basket she had left sitting near the door as they approached.
"I had the kitchen pack us a lunch... that is, if you wouldn't mind sharing. I thought maybe we could talk a little bit if you felt up to it.
Chase stiffened warily, then relaxed. She could talk. Maybe she could worm enough information out of Drea to figure a way off the island. "I'd like that," she responded cordially. "Maybe we could walk a little as well? I feel like I have been lying down for days."
Drea looked at her in concern. "Let's get you down to the beach first. If you still feel like walking, I'm certain we can manage a short walk." And they walked out of hospice area and into the great outdoors, acutely aware of the multitude of eyes and the whispers that followed them.
Continued in Part 3