DISCLAIMER: This is a Wonder Woman/X:WP uberish cross-over.  Therefore, any recognizable characters in this tale belong to DC Comics and anyone else who has an investment in Wonder Woman and to cover my 'just in case' bases, to Rob Tapert and Co., RenPics, Studios USA, MCA/Universal and anyone else who has an investment in Xena: Warrior Princess.  I am just borrowing them for use in this story.  No profit is being made from this and no copyright infringement is intended.  This is all just for fun and to keep me busy and out of trouble.  The other characters and the story belong to me.
THANKS: To Noe and Erin for supplying all the background information on Wonder Woman and the Amazons of Paradise Island and to SueG for pointing me in their direction.  Big thanks to Marilyn for picking up all my dropped letters, of which there were many.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a stand alone story.  The Storyteller's Cardinal Rule is in effect.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To avaliantheart01[at]gmail.com

Brave New World
By D


Chapter XXIX

"When we were in Greece, I had a sister... a twin."

"I remember Jasmine, Drea. She was a good friend... until...."

"... until she moved to Transformation Island after the situation with Diana. Sorry, Pol. I didn't mean to bring up bad memories. It's just...."

"I know you didn't, Drea," Hippolyta comforted her and put a hand on the healer's arm. "I figure it must be important if you're bringing up truly ancient history."

Drea nodded. "It is." She blew out a breath. "You never knew that Jasmine and I were linked telepathically... that we could speak to each other without talking. We didn't use it often once the Nation moved to Paradise Island. We didn't need to. We were in no danger here. But once she left here and went to the other island, it was how we kept in touch."

Hippolyta remained quiet, knowing Drea needed time to put her thoughts in order. They walked slowly through the sand, leaving a trail of footprints behind them. They held hands, and it reminded Hippolyta just how much she missed time like this with Drea. So much had happened to them and been allowed to come between them, and Hippolyta made a vow to herself that that would change. In the meantime, though....

"Twenty-five years ago, she came to me, told me that it was our last communication for a while. The goddesses had spoken to her and asked for a favor. I never knew what the favor was. She made it clear she wasn't able to share and I respected her enough not to ask. We spent the night just talking... reminiscing about everything. It was wonderful. I had never felt so connected to her before. When the sun came up, she was gone."

"For twenty-five years, she was silent. I didn't hear from her and I couldn't reach her. It was like she had just disappeared off the face of the earth."

"Yesterday, Mala sent me a message, asking me to come to the temple. No other explanation, just to go to the temple. When I did, I was met by Athena, Artemis and Aphrodite."

"In the flesh? My goodness, that has certainly changed a lot here recently, hasn't it?" Hippolyta commented nervously.

Drea smiled. It was a little unnerving. After more than a century of silence for the gods to simply suddenly resume their presence on the island without so much as a by your leave was a little hard to swallow – especially since they had caused at least part of the original problem, however inadvertently. However, they were trying to correct their error, and in truth, everyone had missed them.

"Yes," Drea answered simply. "They came to tell me that Jasmine would be in touch with me today, and that's all the information they offered me."

"That's why...?"

"Yes. Since I didn't know where she was contacting me from or when or what about, I figured I would meditate and make it as easy for her as possible." Drea grew thoughtfully silent, and Hippolyta stayed respectfully quiet, though it was hard not to blurt out her questions and urge Drea to finish her story faster. Obviously something profound had happened. Finally, Drea took a deep breath and resumed speaking.

"You have to understand that the link we had cultivated had grown and expanded until we could see what one another saw if we chose to share the pictures. We didn't do it often – we rarely needed to, and it is very exhausting... emotionally draining."

"She chose to share this time?" Hippolyta asked, noting the dark circles under Drea's eyes and the look of fatigue in them. "Oh sweetheart," dragging Drea gently by the hand over to a dune and taking a seat before pulling Drea down to rest against her. "You should have said something."

Drea patted Hippolyta's hands encircling her waist before leaning back into the warm body behind her. "I suggested we walk, remember? But this feels pretty nice too," she added with a smile. "But yes," she said, turning back to the water and watching the waves pound the shore with relentless, repetitive force. "She chose to share. It was... astonishing."

Drea was quiet so long, Hippolyta finally felt the need to prompt her. "What was, Drea?"

She didn't know how long she'd been sitting there, but eventually Drea watched as the darkness transformed into something more substantial. She looked around and felt the breeze blowing the through the wildflowers. Drea took a deep breath and enjoyed the fresh scent, wondering where she was but enjoying the view nonetheless.

"Hello, Drea. Gods, I've missed you. I'm so glad you're here."

"I've missed you, too, Jasmine. I wish I could see you."

"And I you, Drea, but for now this will have to do. We're short on time and there is so much I need to tell you... so much I want to share with you. It is only by special dispensation that we are able to communicate at all now and only because of recent events."

"What? Jasmine, what are you talking about? What happened? Where have you been, and what is going on? I assumed something horrible had happened when you stopped... when I couldn't find you anymore."

Drea felt her sister soothing her soul and she closed her eyes momentarily, absorbing the love she felt flowing from Jasmine to her. It brought tears to her eyes and a smile to her face simultaneously.

"Does being dead count?"


"Shh, Drea. I'll make sure we get more time together later so I can explain everything. Gods, this is so frustrating!! They should have given us more time or a chance to stay in touch once they moved me. I didn't realize how much... though I should have. A part of me has always been lonely, has continued to miss you, even after my baby was born."

Drea was stunned into silence for a long moment. First learning Jasmine was dead, then... "BABY?!? Buh... um... ba... Jas?" The sound of a vehicle droned only slightly louder than the bees that were enjoying the colorful fields Drea could see. She didn't take note, but Jasmine did, knowing she had just run out of time to explain things they way she had hoped to... at least for now.

Jasmine chuckled sadly at Drea's squawking. She knew exactly how her twin felt. "Sorry, Drea. I didn't want to spring this on you like this, at least without having a chance to explain everything first."

"So what's stopping you?"

"My daughter is here."

Drea fell into silence again, and Hippolyta wished she had the ability to see what Drea had seen. She thought about prodding Drea, but the look of sad contentment made her bite her lips instead. She knew eventually Drea would continue her story, so Hippolyta decided that waiting patiently would be a good exercise in patience. She just hoped she didn't have to wait too long.

Eventually, Drea realized she had stopped speaking and she chuckled a little self-consciously and blushed. "Sorry, Pol. I was thinking."

Hippolyta laughed. "I know. Why do you think I didn't disturb you?" Drea glared at her for a long moment before breaking into a sheepish grin. Hippolyta hugged her close. "I'm sorry about Jasmine, Drea. She was a good friend, and a good Amazon." She took a deep breath. "So, you ready to share the rest?"

"There's not much left to tell. I heard footsteps approaching the oak we were standing next to...."

Jasmine was just out of sight of the footsteps and Drea wanted to peek around at the mysterious child. But Jasmine stayed out of sight, waiting for her daughter to perform the ritual she did every time she came to this place. Only when she spoke directly to her mother did Jasmine step out from behind the tree...

... and if Drea hadn't been well-practiced in the art and in complete control of her telepathic powers, she would have been completely expelled from Jasmine's consciousness. Then she focused on the conversation between Jasmine and her daughter, Annabelle Chaser.

"Whoa, whoa, stop... just hang on a minute," Hippolyta said, freeing a hand and clutching her forehead with it. "Let me make sure I've got this straight so far. Your sister Jasmine is dead, but she's apparently been in man's world for a while and had a child. And not just any child, but the child Mala saw as being the key to Diana's salvation."

"That would about sum it up, yes."

"My head hurts now."

Drea laughed. "I know how you feel."

"So what happened next?"

"I blinked, and found myself back in the meditation room. I'm not sure if it was because my time with Jasmine was up or because it was too hard to hold on to the connection with all the revelations. Once their conversation was over, I found myself here again."

"Did you learn anything else? From their conversation, I mean?"

Drea shrugged. "Nothing really tangible, although after finding out Chase was my niece, my mind was in a bit of a muddle." She paused. "I think she's starting to put things together. She was connecting the dots for Jas. She doesn't have the whole picture yet, and she certainly doesn't have a grasp on who Diana is to her, but she is trying."

"Was Diana with her? How is she doing?"

"No, she wasn't, and it didn't come up for discussion."

Hippolyta eased from behind Drea and stood up, then extended her hand down to help Drea stand. "Come. Let's go back to the palace, and I'll tuck you in. Then later we can have a light supper and you can go back to bed and try to recover from this. We can worry about the rest tomorrow."

"You take such good care of me, Pol."

"Not always, and not like I should, but I am going to keep trying until I get it right." Then together they walked slowly back down the beach towards the palace, holding hands and enjoying the peace of being together.

"Okay, that was totally bogus! How did we screw that up?"

Athena shook her head. "Miscalculation on my part. I'm sorry, Dite. I didn't expect Chase to show up quite so quickly, and I certainly didn't expect the connection to sever like it did. I thought they'd have a little more time together."

"No worries, babe. This is all pretty new for us too. We'll figure it out." Aphrodite gave Athena a hug which she reluctantly returned but secretly relished.

Sometimes Athena envied her sister's freedom to express herself so easily. She turned her attention back to the situation. "We have to be careful though, Dite. We don't want to draw Ares' attention to either of them. We're supposed to be fixing the problem we caused... not making things worse."

"As if. Athena, I really don't think that letting those two bodacious babes do their mind thingy is gonna make matters worse. I thought we'd already, ya know, decided they totally deserved this, 'cause the price we made them pay was so radically unfair."

"We did, Dite, and they do. We just need to be sure that through our actions Ares doesn't become aware of Drea and Jasmine or Chase and Diana. The Amazons have been out of his scrying bowl for a very long time. We don't want to remind him of their existence and if we disrupt the flow of things too much, even *he* will sit up and take notice."

For the first time, Artemis spoke up. "Do you really think he has forgotten, Athena? After all, his Fuehrer *IS* an Amazon, though she has long since given up any claim to that title. And he has to be aware of both Chase and Diana, at least on some level. They've both had run-ins with Orana personally since she became the Fuehrer."

Athena rubbed her forehead. "That is exactly my point. It's why we have to be careful. Today was supposed to be a one time thing – a chance to give both Jasmine and Drea a measure of peace about the other, and to get the rest settled so when the time comes, the Amazons will be ready for what is coming." She tapped her fingernails against her teeth nervously before speaking again. "We need to figure out a better way to get Jasmine and Drea together... one that will give them a decent amount of time together but won't alert Ares as well."

"I have a totally gnarly idea."

Two heads turned in tandem to face the blonde goddess and both gave her an identical raised eyebrow stare at her. Then they crossed their arms and waited for Dite to continue. As they listened, their eyes grew wide, and they shook their heads in disbelief.

"Well," Dite asked when she finished laying out her idea. "Whaddya think?"

Athena and Artemis exchanged looks and nodded their heads together. "I think that has got to be the craziest thing I ever heard," Artemis commented gravely, "which is exactly I think it will probably work. No one will expect it. Who's going to be the one to tell them?"

"I will," Dite responded with a serious look on her face. "My idea, so I'll take responsibility for it."

Athena laid a hand on Dite shoulder and smiled at her compassionately. "How about we each take a piece of the puzzle? We'll figure out the details here, and then go to them and get everything taken care of? That way it will get done faster, and maybe we can finally get that happy ending we've been waiting for."

"I so like that plan, Stan. I can totally get behind a righteous happy ending."

Athena grinned broadly, loving Dite's exuberance. "Me, too. Let's get to work."

"I don't like this, Drea. It's dangerous."


"Drea, it is. Artemis said...."

Drea took Hippolyta's hands in hers and led them over to a window in the temple. Mala had summoned them as soon as Artemis had arrived and they had been sitting in the small prayer room in the back listening to Artemis spell out Aphrodite's plan until Hippolyta's outburst. Artemis watched them go with a small smile; it was nice to see the concern between the queen and her consort. Though they had never lost their love for one another, things for them and for the Nation had been stagnant for too long. This rejuvenation was long overdue and a very welcome result of all the tribulation they had already endured.

Drea faced them both towards the window, wrapping Hippolyta up in her arms and resting her chin on Hippolyta's shoulder. For a little while they simply stood there together, absorbing the comfort the other provided. Finally, Drea started talking quietly into Hippolyta's ear.

"This is something I want to do, Pol, but I won't if it bothers you that badly. I don't want you to be upset or worried. But I don't think the goddesses would have offered me the opportunity if they didn't think it was important."

Hippolyta turned in Drea's arms, ignoring everything around them and focusing solely on her partner. "This means that much to you?"

"Yes, it does. But I won't do it if you're that uncomfortable with it."

Hippolyta bit her lip. "I want you to do it, Drea. I think you deserve to know what happened to Jasmine, and what all this has to do with Chase and Diana. I just don't like the fact that you have to...." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "Drea, I don't want you to die... even temporarily."

"My queen," Artemis finally found a good opportunity to interrupt. "She won't really be dead; we just need to give her the appearance of death to allow her and Jasmine to be together on the same plane of existence."

"But Jasmine really died," Hippolyta retorted with some heat. Artemis nodded her agreement.

"Yes she did, but she also gave up her immortality voluntarily, knowing what the cost was. We are not asking Drea to do that, and we will be here to monitor her."

"I hate this," Hippolyta hissed in Drea's direction, but she didn't release her hands. Hippolyta turned her attention back to Artemis. "I want to be here. I want to help monitor her throughout the entire process."

Artemis smiled. "I would expect nothing less, my queen. Let me make sure we are ready. The sooner, the better for this conversation, I think." She shimmered out, leaving behind a trail of silver sparkles. The other three watched until she vanished completely, and then Mala gestured to the other two.

"Come. I think we should prepare a comfortable space for Drea to rest during the ritual."

Hippolyta and Drea exchanged glances then followed Mala to her private quarters. They didn't know exactly how long they had and wanted to be prepared for Artemis' return.

"Baby girl?" They were both sitting up, on the opposite side of the tree from the headstone with their backs braced against the trunk.

"Yes, mama?"

"I have to go." Jasmine covered Chase's lips before the younger woman could speak. "But I would like to come back and talk some more. And I would definitely like to meet Diana – eventually... once you're comfortable with the idea and have figured out how she fits into your not-so-neat and orderly world," Jasmine finished with a grin and a tug on Chase's short hair. "I love you, Annabelle."

"I love you, mama. I'll be back soon, I promise."

"You better. Otherwise...."

Chase held up her hands and backed up, laughing. "No threats, mama. I promised. I'll be here. A lot depends on how fast things move will the rebellion, but I will come back."

Jasmine noticed that Chase didn't mention Diana, but decided she had pushed enough for one day. Besides, Aphrodite was getting kind of loud in her summoning. She brushed a light kiss across Chase's forehead. "All right, baby girl. See you soon." Then she faded from existence before Chase could respond. She stood a moment longer, then with a sigh turned back towards her vehicle and headed back to the rebel compound.


Chapter XXX

It was well past dark when Chase pulled back into the compound. The guards, ever alert and aware of Chase's explicit instructions, stopped her at each checkpoint instead of simply waving her through. They had learned this rule the hard way and it was something none of them had forgotten.

Chase smiled bittersweetly, remembering the high cost of the lesson. She was just glad that particular lesson had taken with only one teaching. She parked the jeep in the depot and debated for a minute before turning her steps to the mess hall. She'd missed lunch and her stomach was growling loud enough to be heard in the heart of the Reich.

The mess hall was empty except for a few stragglers like herself. Most of them had been busy working through the dinner hour, but Cookie always kept fixings around for those that didn't make it in time for the scheduled meal. Ostensibly, he did it because Chase had given an order for there to always be food available, but they both knew he did it to keep Chase from rummaging around in his kitchen, That had been a lesson *he* had learned the hard way, much to her delight.

The rebellion had had a lot of time to develop the skills needed to provide for themselves, and fortunately, most of the Nazis overseers just didn't care enough to see what was really going on. They had been in power for more than a century; they didn't expect that to change any time soon. So, while not a five-star dining experience, the soup was warm and the bread not too dry.

Chase was left alone to eat in peace, and she sat silently thinking about her encounter with her mother. While it wasn't at all unusual for Jasmine to show up when Chase visited her grave, something had been off this time. Chase wasn't sure what it had been, but it was clear her mother's ghost was agitated about something, and Chase was laying odds it had something to do with their unexpected Amazon visitor Diana.

Like a compass headed north, her thoughts obediently followed that train. Chase knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Diana was telling her the truth. But to accept that meant she not only had to accept that the things she had convinced herself were merely dreams were in reality... reality... it meant she also had to realigned her perception of the Amazons. And that seemed to be her real stumbling block.

She remembered with startling clarity Orana's cruelty and maliciousness. The woman had taken great pains to make sure Chase knew she was an Amazon. Why? Chase suddenly thought. The idea brought all her motion to a dead stop, and she sat perfectly still for a very long moment as the thought wormed its way into her conscious mind. Why was it so important to her that I knew she was an Amazon? It's not like they are more than a mythical people here in this world... they haven't been more than a myth for twenty-five hundred years. So what is her game?

Her musing might have gone on longer if a touch on her shoulder hadn't brought her back to reality with an unexpected jolt. Inhaling started her movement again, but because of the bread still lodged in her mouth, the action also caused her to choke. The hand moved from her shoulder to her back, and Chase quickly hacked up the bread that had slipped down the wrong way.

She coughed and sputtered for another couple minutes before bringing watery green eyes up to meet concerned blue. Diana didn't speak, but raised an eyebrow in question.

"Are you trying to kill me or am I just lucky like that when you're around?" Chase managed to croak, reaching for her glass. Diana snatched it and slapped it into her hand with a glare. "What the hell is wrong with you?" Chase choked out as water sloshed over the side and into her lap.

Blue eyes glared into green and green glared right back. Finally, knowing Diana shouldn't and really *couldn't* speak and silently acknowledging she might possibly have over-reacted, Chase broke the silence.

"Sorry," she croaked sheepishly. "Rough afternoon." Chase took a deep breath. "Please, have a seat," taking a napkin and trying to sop up the water in her lap. She looked back up at Diana. "Is something wrong? Did something happen with Hans? Wait," she said, holding up her hands when Diana opened her mouth to answer. Chase slid from her seat, wincing when the cold wet hit her warm skin. "I'll be right back."

Diana watched her go, a curious expression on her face. She wondered Chase was up to, but more than that, she wondered what had put the sadness in those green eyes. She propped her chin on her fist and sat back to wait for Chase to return.

Chase went back into the kitchen area, riffling through Cookie's private stock of supplies. He came in halfway through her search, but a look from her stopped his tirade in its tracks. Instead, he offered to help. "Whatcha need, boss?" tacitly acknowledging her leadership.

"Honey. And some lemon juice."

Cookie went directly to the cabinet that housed both and took them out. He set them on his prep table and turned to grab a cup and spoon. "You all right, Chase? You're not getting sick, are ya?"

Chase smiled crookedly as she started mixing the two ingredients together. "No, I'm fine, Cookie. This is for Diana."

"Ah, the notaNazi mystery woman. What's her story anyway?"

"One I'm still working on, Cookie," Chase said warningly. "Let it go."

He held up his hand defensively. "No harm in asking, boss. Everyone's curious."

"I know. They're just gonna have to get over it." She picked up the cup, continuing to stir its contents as she headed out the kitchen door. "Thanks, Cookie," she added, lifting the cup in salute before disappearing from the kitchen. He followed her footsteps until he could look out the small window, watching until she resumed her seat next to the beautiful stranger. Then he shook his head and turned back to his domain, putting things away before going back to his cot to get a little more rest.

Chase set the cup down in front of Diana. "Drink."

Diana raised her eyebrow and raised the cup to her nose to take a deep sniff. She took a tentative taste, then understanding what it was for, swallowed the contents. She closed her eyes as it coated her throat, glad for the respite.


"Much, thank you," Diana whispered, then she slipped the tablet Hans had given her from where she had tucked it in her back pocket. The first two pages were covered in hastily scribbled writing. Chase barely got a look before Diana turned to a fresh sheet. "If you are willing...?"

"Yes, absolutely. Damn," she muttered to herself. "I should have thought about this before." She stood and picked up her half eaten food then motioned to Diana. "C'mon. We'll probably be more comfortable back in my quarters. It's been a very long day... for both of us."

Diana knew how tired she was, having spent the day talking to Chase and working with Hans. But now she took the time to look more carefully at Chase, and she could see the fatigue so clearly apparent in her body language and a sadness in her eyes that was almost hidden. Diana nodded and rose, walking beside Chase for a few steps before retrieving a pitcher of chilled water and a second glass. Then she hurried to catch up, and in silence they retired to Chase's hut.

Chase sidestepped the desk, and went directly to her cot. Now that she had slowed down, her exhaustion was making itself known in her body as well as her soul. With any luck, her mind would get with the program and shut off long enough to let her get some rest. Maybe then her subconscious would work on her current problems and pop up with a resolution.

First, though, she needed to make it through her bit of dinner. And she needed to find out what was on Diana's mind, because the Amazon had to have come looking at her for a reason. She pulled her boots off and slid back against the headboard with a muffled groan. Then she set her plate in her lap and took a bite, chewing briefly before turning to find Diana looking at her with concerned eyes.

"So," she took a deep drink and swallowed before continuing her question. "What's up? Did things go okay with Hans, or...?" At Diana's look of confusion, Chase tried to elaborate. "I figured there was some sort of problem since you came looking for me."

Diana put pen to paper and Chase waited patiently for her to finish her answer. She continued to eat, almost cleaning her plate before Diana passed the tablet over to her. She put a stoic face on, not really knowing what to expect from Diana. She felt her emotions were raw and exposed after the time spent with her mother... especially considering what their discussion had been about.

My time with Hans was fine. We got a lot accomplished I think, and I really enjoyed working with him. He is quite knowledgeable, and he seems to be a good friend of yours... very protective.

Chase looked up at Diana and nodded. "He is. One day I'll have to tell you the story of how we became friends in the first place." Then she turned her attention back to the paper in her hands.

As for the other, I was just concerned. I saw you come in and you seemed a little upset. I wanted to make sure you were all right. I followed you into the mess hall, and found you completely lost in thought. I didn't mean to make you choke. So are you okay?

She got up and put her empty plate on the desk, then reseated herself facing Diana and giving her a thin smile. "I'm fine, Diana... honestly. I just had to take care of some personal business, and that always takes a lot out of me. I'm sorry you were worried," she continued, sliding back into a more comfortable position on the bed.

Diana shrugged, but gave Chase a small smile.

Chase cleared her throat. "How would you like to work with Hans on a more permanent basis?" She chuckled when Diana's eyebrows shot up into her bangs. "Diana, I don't think you're a Nazi, and I do think you could make a significant contribution to making this war end. I don't think making you share anything else is gonna change my opinion of you. A girl's gotta have some secrets, right?"

Diana gave Chase a sheepish smile and shrugged before reluctantly nodding her head. She was caught between relief and disappointment. She really wasn't ready to share her personal reasons for following Chase into man's world, but she really didn't want to have to lie about it either. On the other hand, she got the distinct impression that Chase was pawning her off, putting distance between them. The latter was confirmed when Chase continued speaking.

"Speaking of, though, your quarters should be ready in the morning, so if you want, we'll get you moved in before you start working with Hans in the morning?" She saw the hurt clearly in the blue eyes, but Chase needed the distance right now. Despite the doubts she had about leaving Diana alone in the compound, it was too confusing to have her nearby all the time. There were things she had to work out for herself before they could go any further in their friendship... things Chase had to understand and decide for herself and talking to her mother had brought that sharply into focus.

"I'm not sending you away, Diana. It's not like we won't see one another and you'll make friends much easier with others here if I am not hanging around you all the time. Trust me... a lot of folks here are looking forward to the opportunity to get to know you better. I just thought you might like a bit of privacy... some space to call your own."

"I understand," she whispered, despite the pain in her throat. "I appreciate it." The words had a ring of truth, but it was belied but the expression of betrayal in her eyes. "Goodnight, Chase," Diana whispered. Chase took a breath to answer, but Diana closed her eyes and rolled over to go to sleep.

Chase watched her for a moment before turning of the light. It was a long time before she closed her eyes, and sleep was an even longer time in coming to her.

"All right. I can see way more drastic measures are called for here." Dite turned her head and looked at Athena with an exasperated expression on her face. "What is wrong with those two radical chicks anyway? They are making me totally nuts." She threw her hands into the air and started ranting to herself. Athena just let her go for a few minutes, exchanging smirks with Artemis. Eventually, they bookended the love goddess and took a seat together on the settee, much to the amusement of the other goddesses watching them.

"I hate to say it, but Aphrodite is right. These two... especially Chase... seem to be determined to push one another away." This from Hera.

"Actually, Chase is doing the pushing. Diana is just letting it happen. Can we do something to fix that?"

"I'm gonna do something in a minute," Dite muttered loud enough to be heard. Despite the seriousness of the situation, the gathered goddesses tittered a little bit. "I'm gonna smack those two heads together so hard we'll get a new constellation out of the stars they produce. I'm gonna...."

Artemis grabbed her hands. "Dite, you are going to have to calm down. You know bad things happen when you get worked up like this. You have to have a bit of faith in yourself and them. It will happen."

Dite turned eyes sparkling with tears of frustration towards Artemis. "You totally, rock, babe. You know that? Thanks!"

Demeter cleared her throat. "That still doesn't answer my question though... can we do anything to correct this passive attitude Diana seems to have cultivated?"

"I think we need to see what happens now that Chase has given Diana a bit of latitude. It will be interesting to watch things develop, because knowing these two souls, they will push and pull a little while longer before the finally come together. At least when they finally do, the sparkage will be incredible."

"Don't you mean *if*?" Dite pouted.

"No. They will," Athena said firmly. "They will just give us all gray hair before they do. I think it is a hobby with them." The goddesses all nodded in agreement.

"Now! Now! Now!" Dite said stomping her foot. "I want it to happen now. Just once I'd like for the love biz to totally, you know, go right the first time." She snorted. "As if."

"Keep the faith, sister. They will get there... sooner rather than later."

"They better, or so help me...." As a single entity, they turned back to the scrying bowl to watch the situation progress between Chase and Diana.

Chase was up and out of her hut before the sun had even had a chance to turn the sky gray. She decided a run was in order to try and clear the cobwebs from her mind. Chase ran until the only thing in her thoughts was the rising of the sun and the wind in her hair. She realized she was making things more difficult than they needed to be and she decided to talk to Diana about it. Maybe they could work something out between them. She didn't like the pain and the feeling of betrayal she had seen in Diana's eyes the night before.

She decided to invite Diana to breakfast and made her way back into her hut, only to discover Diana was gone, as was any evidence she had ever been there. Chase looked around blankly, surprised by the pain in her chest that suddenly encompassed her. She placed her empty canteen on the desk with numb hands and dropped heavily into her bunk. This wasn't what she had wanted – she felt like something precious and fragile had just slipped through her fingers and crashed at her feet with no hope of recovery.

Not used to the feeling of having made such a colossal mistake, and not liking the way it felt now, Chase immediately left her hut in search of Diana. What she found made her heart clench for lost opportunities and at the same time smile grimly to herself for her keen insight. Instead of being in her new hut or sitting alone at breakfast, Diana was currently surrounded by Chase's top aides, all doing their best to follow Chase's lead. With Hans' help and because of his enthusiastic outpouring about her aid, they were finding to their delight that Diana was exactly as Chase had promised... someone to be welcomed into their midst.

Ty caught sight of Chase as she stepped into the mess hall and beckoned her over silently with a nod of her head, hoping she would shed some enlightenment on why Diana had been in such a hurry to move out from under Chase's watchful care. In all the years she had known Chase, Ty had never found her to be personally overbearing, even in her intensity, though her focus on work and the rebellion was another matter entirely. She was curious to know what Chase had done to push Diana so firmly away from her... and why.

Chase, however, conveniently ignored the hail, acting as though she hadn't even seen it. Instead, she grabbed a cup of coffee and turned to leave before Ty could repeat her summons verbally. For a brief instant, blue eyes met green, and equal pain was reflected in both of them. Then the shutters went up in Chase's eyes and she left the mess hall without a word to anyone. Ty watched the proceedings very carefully, noting that Diana's eyes closed up as well. No one else was even aware of what had transpired, too excited by Diana's arrival in their circle.

This was not an auspicious start to the day, and from the looks of things, it was only going to get worse.

Meanwhile, Orana was making plans of her own. She had the disturbing feeling that the rebellion was growing stronger. Nothing concrete, mind you... just a hunch. Rumors were making their way to her spies that were causing niggling concerns to gnaw at the back of her subconscious mind and she had determined it was time to take matters into her hands and destroy the rebellion once and for all.

Then there were the photographs. Two days earlier, her breakfast tray had been accompanied by a couple grainy surveillance pictures that had been taken the night of the rally. No one should have been wandering around the Reichstag while she was outside delivering her speech, and yet she held in her hands proof positive that a soldier of the SS, one of her elite guards by the markings she could make out on his uniform, was not only wandering around the building, but had been dangerously close to her own quarters. And she knew for a fact he hadn't been the one instructed to share her bed that night; SS officers were not allowed that privilege. She needed their cunning and their minds, such as they were, in her service. Their bodies didn't figure into the picture at all. Orana couldn't afford to have them distracted fighting over who would share her bed. Besides, it wasn't like men were her first choice of bed partners anyway, no matter how amusing they were. But as long as she shared the wealth around between women and men, no one made mention of the fact that the Fuehrer herself was ignoring cardinal Nazi doctrine.

To top it off, Ares had cautioned her to leave well enough alone. He was busy stirring up tiny civil wars around the globe, and that would effectively keep the rebellion from any serious effort against her or the Nazi regime. Orana chanced to wonder yet again how she had come to mentor Ares, but too much time and too many bottles of alcohol had passed her lips for her to clearly remember. All she knew at the moment was that she was bored and this was something new to worry about for a change.

So this puzzle, along with the rumors, made her antsy, and shook her from the complacency that had maintained its grip over her for far too long. Despite Ares' warnings to the contrary, it was time to shake the dust from her boots and do some hunting. Orana felt her blood warm at the prospect. Things were suddenly looking much better for her.


Chapter XXXI

"Are you ready, Drea?" The healer shifted a bit, laying her head more firmly in Hippolyta's lap, nodding when she felt Hippolyta start rubbing her temples. Mala turned her attention to the queen. "Are you ready, my queen?" adjusting the cushions behind Hippolyta to insure her comfort. None of them were quite sure how long this would take. Athena had spoken to Hades and arranged for a safe haven between life and death for the sisters to meet for as long as it took for Jasmine to tell Drea her story.

"As I'll ever be," Hippolyta answered with a wry smile. "I'm a little nervous."

Artemis stroked a hand through Hippolyta's hair and laid her other hand on Drea's wrist, monitoring her pulse. "Don't worry, my queen. We are going to be keeping an eye on both of you. But it's important to Drea and Jasmine to get some closure. Drea needs to understand, and Jasmine needs to share."

"I know. I'm still nervous." Artemis smiled at Hippolyta's honesty.

"That's a good thing, my queen. Now Drea, I want you to relax and close your eyes. Start your meditation. Listen to the water and the chimes and breathe slowly. Let your mind relax and take you to Jasmine." Whatever else Artemis said was lost on Drea as she slipped into another time and place, not hearing Hippolyta's pleading cries for her to breathe.

"Drea? Drea, wake up and open your eyes."

Drea blinked her eyes open slowly, smiling brightly when her brown eyes met their twin after more than a twenty-five year absence. She reached out and took Jasmine in an embrace that lasted long minutes. When they finally released one another, they sat back and simply looked at each other with tears in their eyes.

"Oh gods, Drea. How I have missed you."

"And I you, Jas. And apparently, so much more," said with a tearful chuckle.

"Oh, yes. Let me start at the beginning, but we'd better get comfortable first. It's a long story."

For the first time, Drea looked around the nothing they were standing in. Then she looked back at Jasmine. "All right. I'm open to suggestions."

Jasmine laughed, a full, throaty sound that Drea had to laugh in sympathy with. Things had always been like this between them. When Drea stopped laughing, she looked around again, amazed at the changes that had been wrought. They were in a meadow, much like the one Drea had seen with Chase in it. This one, however, didn't have a house or barn and it did have a river with a waterfall. Beneath the oak tree were two comfortable chaise lounges, and between them sat a table with refreshments. Drea raised an eyebrow in question. Jasmine just shook her head.

"Sometimes it's best not to question what the gods provide. Come... sit. I have a lot to tell you."

Drea remained silent, wanting Jasmine to tell her story in her own way. Soon, her patience was rewarded, and Jasmine began to speak.

"I was furious at Hippolyta for her treatment of Diana, so I decided to move to Transformation Island. I enjoyed it, for the most part. It was peaceful and quiet, and full of scientific research. I missed you, though. I know why you stayed, and I agreed with your decision, but it didn't make me miss you less."

"I had begun to think about returning home to Paradise Island, when the goddesses approached me. It was somewhat unusual. I wasn't at the temple; nor was I meditating or praying. Instead, Athena, Artemis and Aphrodite approached me while I was working... doing research on gene mutation. Anyway, it was all a little bizarre and totally unexpected."

"Jasmine?" I turned around, wondering who dared disturb me at such a critical point in my work. I was stunned to see three of our patron goddesses in the laboratory with me, and would have knelt had it not been for Athena's firm grip on my arm.

"No, Jasmine. You need not kneel before us this time, for we have come to ask a favor of you."

"Of course. Anything."

The three of them smiled at one another then at me and shook their heads. "No, Jasmine. Hear us out first. What we have to ask of you is difficult and treacherous and will have far reaching consequences."

We moved to my office at Aphrodite's suggestion; they conjured their own chairs, though Athena never actually sat down. It occurred to me then that they were all acting a little stranger than usual. Aphrodite was nervous and biting her nails; Artemis was pensive, bouncing her leg and clasping her hands together rhythmically. Athena was worried and paced back and forth across the small space behind the others.

"You deserve to know the whole story, and this story starts more that twenty-five centuries ago... when Diana was granted life. You see, she needed a soul and 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."

"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. We chose the warrior's soul because it seemed so perfect for our needs, even with its flaws. You see, she possessed the skills, strength and beauty we sought and had a brilliant mind. Unfortunately, that life did its worst to her, and for years she was lost to us – she was Ares' Chosen.

"Eventually, though, she found her soulmate and everything balanced... she became a force for good and an Amazon champion. For a while, that was enough. But things were never easy with them and they were separated by tragic circumstances, 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 the warrior's soul from the karmic cycle to make her an immortal Amazon princess...."

"We messed up the balance, and removed the possibility of them finding one another again."

"Okay, so how do I figure in to this scenario?"

Athena smiled. That spunk and initiative was one of the reasons Jasmine had been chosen. "There's more. You see, we didn't immediately realize we had caused a problem. Things were fine for the longest time... or so we thought. It was only when Diana started praying for a mate that Dite started looking, and we discovered our mistake."

"It took longer than we expected to find her soulmate; we had to trace her progress from her origins, and we lost her more than once. However, we finally caught her in Elysia between karmic cycles, and she is currently waiting to be reborn."

"So you're asking me to give birth to Diana's soulmate?"

"Yes," Athena acknowledged. "But it's a little more complicated than just giving birth. You see, Diana's soulmate has a lineage that has to be maintained... in man's world." Jasmine's eyes widened as the implications of Athena's words began to make themselves known in her conscious mind. "And there is every possibility that if you bear this child, you might have to give up your immortality to her in the process because of that. We've never actually had a situation like this before, but we want you to be prepared for all contingencies. We actually won't have any sort of control once you leave here. More than anything, we want you to understand the risks... to go into this with open eyes."

"Did they tell you why you were chosen... aside from spunk and initiative? Jas, I've seen Chase. She doesn't look anything like you."

Jasmine chuckled. "She wasn't supposed to. She carries the looks of Diana's soulmate... the one she's always dreamed of... the one her heart remembers. As to why I was chosen... no, not really. I figured maybe it was because I always wanted a baby."

"Did you really?"

"Yes, I did."

"Wow," Drea commented slowly. "I never knew."

"I never said. I knew it wasn't a possibility so I didn't bring it up. It seemed a bit pointless. But I was thrilled when the goddesses offered me the opportunity, and I decided it would be worth the price to be able to fulfill that desire. And Annabelle was a wonderful child who grew into a wonderful woman." Jasmine laughed. "She was quite a handful growing up though." She lifted an eyebrow at Drea. "A lot like us."

Drea chuckled. "Yes, I got that impression in the brief time I had with her. She is very, very intelligent... a lot like you, as a matter of fact. I cannot believe I didn't see the resemblance before." Her forehead wrinkled in consternation. "I wonder why she didn't recognize me. Gods know we *do* look almost exactly alike."

Jasmine shrugged. "I can only make an educated guess, but she told me she was blind part of the time she was on Paradise Island. I think her mind shut down and took her sight with it. It was the only way she could get through what she perceived as an unbelievable prospect and still retain her sanity. Drea, my Annabelle has been through so much in her short life. I'm sure that shutdown was purely self-preservation on her part."

"Good point, and it makes sense. We couldn't find a physical reason for her blindness." Drea nodded her head, her gaze going inward for a long moment. Then she turned her attention back to Jasmine. "So what happened? Obviously you left here and went into man's world. But then?"

"Once I made my decision, it was easy...well, parts of it were. The goddesses got me to the right place. Then it was a matter of meeting Charlie."


"Annabelle's father, Charles Chaser. He was Steve Trevor's grandson."

"I see. And did Aphrodite do some sort of love potion or something to make sure the two of you fell in love?"

"I don't think so. It felt... real. Not like it was forced or put on. He was a good man, kind and gentle, and we loved one another very much. We had seven years together before he was taken from me. His death broke my heart, but it nearly devastated Annabelle. She was a Daddy's girl, and Charlie doted on her every chance he got."

"How did he die?"

"Same way I did – Nazi raiding party. He was doing reconnaissance and ended up being in the wrong place at the wrong time." Tears formed in her eyes. "Annabelle didn't even get to say goodbye. By the time the resistance found him, there wasn't much left. I barely recognized him."

"Oh, Jas. Why didn't you let us know? Why didn't you come home?"

"Drea, I couldn't. I couldn't leave Annabelle, and I couldn't leave the rebellion. I had obligations and responsibilities. It wasn't something I could just walk away from."

"Leave Annabelle?? Jas, you would have been bringing her home. She's an Amazon by birth even if she was born in man's world. You both would have been welcome like the long, lost family you were. Gods, maybe we would all have been spared some of the heartache we have had to endure. Maybe... maybe you'd still be alive."

Jas shook her head. "No, Drea. We couldn't come home. That was part of the original plan. I couldn't bring Annabelle back to Paradise Island until she reached adulthood, and then it was too late."

"What? Jasmine, you're not making any sense."

Jasmine bit her lip in thought, then blew out a frustrated breath. "This seemed so much easier before I had try to explain it," she muttered. "It's like this – Diana was a grown woman... an immortal who had been alive for more than twenty-five hundred years. How fair would it be to either of them for Diana to have to wait for Annabelle grow up or for Annabelle have to suffer through her growing pains while Diana was there to see all the ugly details with an adults perspective? Kids are still kids, Drea, and that sort of pressure can be impossible to get by... especially when there is a connection between them from there first meeting. I know you can't see Annabelle, Drea, but this whole thing with Diana has thrown her completely, and she is a capable, intelligent adult now. What would that have done to her as a child??"

"We decided that it would be in everyone's best interest if Annabelle grew up in man's world until she was old enough to make a decision about Diana for herself. But I was killed before that could happen."

"She doesn't know anything about her heritage? She doesn't know she is an Amazon?!? Jas, she hates us – Chase hates Amazons!! She was tortured and nearly killed by Orana!" Drea stopped speaking, trying to recompose herself. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to take this out on you. It's just...."

"... a lot to take in in a very short amount of time. I know. It was something of a shock for me as well. You see, the goddesses have almost no access to life outside their realm; we didn't know about the war or the rebellion, and once I was in man's world, I was on my own. I had to do the best I could with what I had."

"Why didn't they come to me sooner? Why didn't they tell me what was going on?"

"So you would worry more than you already did? Drea, there was no way to contact you, and no way for you to contact me. Only death allowed me to cross into your mind while I was still in man's world. I will stay here until Chase finds her way. Then my spirit can finally go to rest."

Drea was silent for a long moment, considering everything Jasmine had said. "There are so many things I want to ask you about your time in man's world, Jas. But first.... You lost your immortality, obviously. Did Chase receive it?"

"I don't know," Jasmine answered honestly. "I think so. I felt it slip from my body as she was born. But I don't know if that means it became hers as Athena had warned me about – so she and Diana can be true soulmates once more and forever or if becoming such an integral part of man's society meant I gave up all claim to being an immortal Amazon. I'd like to believe I gave it to Annabelle, but there is really no good way to test that theory and I was never in a hurry to try."

Something about Jasmine's droll, yet matter-of-fact answer made Drea laugh. She knew the tension and stress were part of it, and yet she also knew she had missed Jasmine's wit a great deal. It always came at you from around a corner.

"All right, I can see that. So, tell me about your time in man's world. Tell me about how you and Charlie met and about your wedding and Chase's birth... just tell me everything and don't leave out any of the good details."

Jasmine laughed. She had missed Drea's enthusiasm and sharing details of one another's lives. "Well, I met Charlie almost as soon as I arrived. He actually stopped to offer me some assistance and...."

For several hours, Jasmine talked, relaying everything she could to Drea about her life in man's world. Some of the more private things between her and Charlie she kept to herself, but everything she could share with Drea about Chase, she did. It was important that someone know everything possible so that when the time came, Chase would have someone to turn to.

Eventually, Jasmine's voice wore down, and she took a deep draught of the refreshment they had been provided with. It was cold and sweet and soothing and she smiled as it coated her throat and gave her a bit of relief. Drea suspected there was more on Jasmine's mind, and she waited patiently, helping herself to her own bit of refreshment. Her patience and her intuition was rewarded when Jasmine cleared her throat and looked at her with an odd expression.

"What is it, Jas?" patting her sister's knee in a familiar, comforting gesture. "You can ask or tell me anything. You know that."

"I know, Drea. It's just... this is a little awkward."


Jas laughed. "Gods, I missed hearing that. Okay, look. I need to ask you a really big favor – huge, in fact." Then she stopped speaking, and the silence lingered until Drea felt compelled to break it.

"Um... Jas? Are you going to share with me what this favor entails or would you like me to invoke some sort of divining ritual to figure it out for myself?

Jasmine laughed and then bit her lip pensively. "I need for you to go to man's world, Drea, to Annabelle. I need for you to help me tell my daughter about her heritage. I know she will believe me; I have never lied to her... about anything. I just didn't tell her about the Amazons soon enough. I would simply like you to be there as my physical representative. I believe it would help convince her of the truth... help her to put all the pieces together and accept her destiny. And it would give her some support, someone she could talk to about things.

"I'd like that, Jas. Yes. It will give me an opportunity to get to know my niece... as my niece and not as a patient. She was intriguing when I didn't know we were related."

Jasmine smiled and squeezed Drea's hand. "I told you she was a handful, but she was always a good kid, full of life and ideas and imagination. Experience and the war have tempered that a great deal, but it is still there... still part of the core person she is. Perhaps you will be able to cultivate it."

"Once she gets past her anger, you mean."

Jasmine shrugged. "Well, there is that, of course. But with a little luck, that part won't last too long. Be patient with her, Drea. She has known more sorrow in her short life than we did before we left the Old World for Paradise Island." Drea's eyes raised in astonishment. "I didn't share everything, Dre; some things Annabelle will have to share with you... or not. But it will need to be her choice. Just remember that she knows suffering and loss, and the fate of the rebellion rests on her slim shoulders."

"I will, Jasmine. Trust me to take care of her like she was my own. In a way, she is."

"I know, Drea, and I'm glad she will have you in her life. Now, I think it is time for you to go home so you can get started to Annabelle's world. I need to return to my temporary resting place – that is where Annabelle comes to talk to me. That is where you will need to come to; I'll look for your arrival, and then we will have to wait for Annabelle to seek me out."

"You don't go looking for her? You don't want me to?"

"Not unless you want to explain this on your own. Drea, I don't get to roam freely. My place is where Annabelle placed my body to rest. That is where I belong and where I have to stay. It's not all bad; I do get a small window to keep up with her... what she is doing. I just have to wait for her to come to me. Death tends to make some things more difficult."

Drea nodded. "Yes. I can see where that could be a real problem." She paused. "I love you, Jas."

"I love you too, Drea. See you soon."

Drea felt her eyes grow heavy and she let them fall closed. From a great distance, she heard Hippolyta calling her name and she followed the sound until she could open her eyes. She blinked slowly, not surprised to find Hippolyta cradling her face with only inches separating them. The tears, however, were completely unexpected. Drea wondered what had happened in her absence.


Chapter XXXII

"Pol? Hippolyta, what's wrong?"

"Oh Drea, you stopped breathing. I thought you were dead!"

Drea blinked and turned her head towards Artemis. "I was dead?"

Artemis nodded. "Technically yes, but only for a few seconds - less than a full minute. It is how a mortal can pass into the nothing regions of the underworld."

"But I was gone for hours! I didn't remain dead while I was gone?"

"No," Artemis answered with just a hint of exasperation as though she had already explained this more than once – which she had. "You died – that is to say all bodily functions ceased long enough to create the appearance of death. Once you crossed into the nothing region, your body here entered a state of suspended animation." She looked at Mala. "Didn't we explain all this to them already?"

"Yes, Artemis," the priestess answered dutifully. "But it is a very stressful procedure."

"True." Artemis turned back to Drea. "Please accept my word that at no time were you in any danger, and that everything is perfectly fine now. How do you feel?"

Drea smiled and struggled to sit up, a difficult feat as tightly as Hippolyta was holding on to her. She patted the queen's hands as a measure of comfort. Hippolyta offered her a muttered apology and released her hold, gratified when Drea clasped her hand instead.

"I feel really... good. Thank you Artemis, and Aphrodite and Athena," including the other goddesses as they appeared in the temple. "I greatly appreciate the opportunity you afforded to me and Jasmine. I am glad to know the whole story and to understand what actually happened to her."

"Are you going to honor her request of you?" Athena asked. "She told me she was going to ask; we were not monitoring your conversation. Everything that was said was private between the two of you. You deserved that much courtesy."

"Thank you, Athena," Drea replied, bowing her head. "And yes... I gave Jasmine my word."

"Wait... what request?" from Hippolyta.

The goddesses were silent and looked to Drea to answer. Drea took Hippolyta's hands in hers and looked into her eyes before she spoke. "I promised Jasmine I would go into man's world to look after Chase. Pol, you remember what I told you about how she felt about Amazons?" waiting for the affirmative nod. "Well, she doesn't know she is one. Jas never told Chase what her true heritage is."

Hippolyta was stunned and sat blinking at Drea for a long, disbelieving moment. "You are not serious." Silence. "But why? Was Jasmine that ashamed of being an Amazon?"

"No, Pol, no! She simply died before she felt the time had come to share that information. And she has asked me to go to her... to be there to help break the news to her. Perhaps I will even have the opportunity to keep an eye on Diana as well."

Hippolyta considered all the angles, not really finding a downside except for the separation this would require of the two of them. But given how long Diana's soul had been aching for its other half, she supposed she could manage for the relatively short amount of time required for this.

"How soon do you need to leave?" tacitly giving her blessing to Drea's proposed trip.

"Sooner would be best, my queen," Artemis spoke. "But I think we can allow enough time for your consort to get some food and some rest."

"Perhaps I can share with you what happened between Jasmine and myself while we were together in the nothing realm," Drea added, knowing Hippolyta's curiosity rivaled her own. "First, though, I would like a hot shower."

Artemis smiled. She had a weakness for those herself. "Very well, Drea. Come back to the temple when you are ready to depart. Mala will take care of us here until then. We will be waiting to hear from you."

Drea nodded and slowly rose to her feet. Hippolyta held her steady until she was certain Drea had her bearings, then took the hand she was still holding and together they left the temple and headed to the residence area of the palace. The goddesses and Mala watched them out of sight, then turned their attention to passing a bit of time until Drea was ready to go.

"All right, Diana. This is good. This is really good. This could give us such an edge. What made you think of this?"

Diana shrugged, unwilling to admit that it had developed from something Chase had said in their conversations together. It had been nearly three weeks since she had moved out of Chase's quarters and Chase had done an admirable job of completely avoiding her. Ty had given her the understanding that Chase would eventually approach her. She hadn't but had instead made sure that she was completely unavailable. Diana was hurt and angry, but she had determined she was not going to be the one to break the stalemate between them. She had only been abiding by Chase's wishes when she left.

"Diana? You okay? I think you faded on me there."

"I'm fine, Hans," she said softly. Her voice was returning slowly, but she wasn't inclined to use it loudly or often. "Time for lunch?"

Hans glanced at his watch, just as the mess hall bell rang. "How do you *do* that?" he asked, not really expecting an answer. "Come on. I know Cookie had meatloaf on the menu today and he does a pretty good meatloaf, if I do say so." He smiled, and Diana cocked her head in question. "I gave him the recipe. Trust me... you don't want to miss it."

Diana returned his smile and allowed him to take her arm and lead her out of the laboratory. She'd never experienced meatloaf before and was looking forward to this first opportunity.

Across the compound, Ty was knocking on the door to Chase's quarters. When she didn't get an answer, she simply opened the door and crossed the threshold. Chase looked up at her from the desk with very annoyed eyes. "You think that maybe since I didn't answer your knock, I didn't want to be disturbed by anyone, including you?"

"Give it up, Chase," Ty said with more than a touch of sarcasm. "The reason you didn't answer the damn door is because you thought it might be Diana. What the hell happened between the two of you, Chase? One day you were giving orders that we were all to steer clear of her, and the next she is coming to me at daybreak, before I can even get a cup of coffee, asking which hut is hers. And then... then all of a sudden you don't look at each other, you don't talk to each other. Hell's bells, Chase, you changed your whole damn routine just to avoid her!!"

Chase slammed her hands on the table and half rose. "That's enough!!" she roared. "Just back off, Ty. Back off and leave me the hell alone! I've got work to do," resuming her seat and turning her attention back to her work.

"Chase, c'mon. You can't let things go on like this. It's tearing you up, and that's affecting the rest of us! God... when was the last time you ate a hot meal in the mess hall with everyone? Hmm? When was the last time you held a staff meeting?? Would you like me to tell you? Would you? Because I guarantee you the entire senior staff is well aware there is a problem; they know when it started. Even if Diana won't share, even if you won't... we all know there is something going on between you."

"Ty," Chase's voice was tired when it broke into her cousin's tirade. "Just go, will ya? There's nothing you can do here, all right?"

Ty's shoulder's slumped, knowing she wasn't going to get anywhere with Chase in the mood she was in. "Would you like me to bring you over some lunch? Today is meatloaf day."

"No thanks, Ty, but I appreciate your asking. Go on before you miss out," with a waving motion and a small smile, turning back to her work once more.

Ty nodded and walked out the door, closing it completely before she shook her head at Shep and Hans who were waiting at the entrance to the mess tent. Diana had just gone inside with Jen and Mitch to hold a table for them all. Their shoulders slumped much like hers were and they waited for her to cross the compound to join them. Something was going to have to be done about the two of them soon. With their final offensive against the Nazis beginning in just a few days, Chase and Diana couldn't continue to be at odds with one another.

Shep pulled open the door, gesturing for the other two to walk in ahead of him. Just as he made a motion to follow them in, he saw Chase leave her hut and head toward what they had all dubbed "Chase's thinking hill".

Chase went to the hill, but discovered it wasn't a place she could think anymore... at least not about Diana. The last time she had been there was when she had brought Diana with her, and though it had been platonic – strictly business – she found she couldn't clear her thoughts of that brief time to focus on the here and now.

And Ty had been right about one thing for sure – the rift between Diana and herself was affecting everyone and everything in the rebel base camp. She was going to have to do something to resolve it. The question was... what?

Finally, angry at herself for letting Diana become so important to her that this mattered, and at Diana for causing her dilemma in the first place, Chase went back down the hill and checked out a jeep from the motor pool. She needed to talk to her mama.

It had been quiet at the homestead since Drea's arrival. The goddesses had been kind, providing her with a relatively smooth passage to man's world, and laid in a goodly portion of supplies for her in the cupboards once she had arrived. She had been more than a little surprised that they had provided a method of conventional travel to man's world instead of transporting her directly to what had once been Jasmine's home... and Chase's as well. Or at least she was surprised until Athena had explained to her the likelihood of Ares detecting her movement away from the protection of Paradise Island would be greatly multiplied if they used their godly powers to do so. As it was, he had noticed the dramatic increase in their visits *to* the island, though he put it down to the fact that it was the only place any of them had a power base left. How little he knew.

"We will be watching, Drea, but it is impossible for us to interfere in things that happen there. We do not want to draw attention to Chase or the rebellion, because Ares could and would do great harm to the rebellion if he knew where to look for them. And he would take extreme pleasure in separating Diana and her soulmate for eternity. Together, they always managed to defeat him, and Diana never gave her soul to him... even as his Chosen... because of it."

"You will have to be very careful and very patient as well. There is no way for us to tell how long it will be before Chase comes to visit. Losing her mother was very painful for her; she saw it as being her responsibility... her fault."

"That's nonsense!" Drea broke in. "Jasmine told me what happened and Chase wasn't even there. There was nothing she could have done to prevent it, and if she *had* been there, she would have been tortured and killed as well."

"No, she couldn't have done anything to prevent it, and yes, she might have died as well, but she doesn't see that as a bad thing. It was her intelligence report that they were using when her mother was captured, so she feels like death would have been an appropriate reward for her perceived blunder. The truth was, though she won't believe it, that the markers that had been laid out were changed before they arrived at the depot and Jasmine and her team walked right into a Nazi ambush. But Chase sees it as her own failure."

"Athena, why does Chase take such a responsibility on herself? Surely she acknowledges that her mother was a grown woman, capable of making her own decisions."

"As a member of the rebellion, yes, but as a daughter, no... especially since her father always commissioned her to take care of her mother while he was gone. It was the last thing her said to her before he told her he loved her and then went out and died."

Drea shook her head. "Are we sure she is Diana's soulmate? I mean, it seems as though the odds are stacked against them. They both have so many obstacles to overcome personally that...."

"Yes," Dite spoke for the first time, serious in both speech and manner. "Because they won't overcome those obstacles alone – they can't. They need each other to do it... they always have."

Drea nodded, understanding the veracity of the statement when she realized she was watching history – ancient, Amazon history - come alive again. Only this time, Chase's soul had experienced much more darkness than the warrior soul that belonged to Diana. Then she cleared her throat, needing to know. "Did Chase gain Jasmine's immortality? Will we be able to take her home to Paradise Island to live with Diana forever?"

"Well," Dite drawled. "Yes to the first part. Chase did inherit Jasmine's immortality and *if* she survives the rebellion, and *if* she chooses to make that totally happening place home, yeah... absolutely."

"Waitaminute," Drea said, holding up her hands for a time out. "What do you mean IF?? Immortal is immortal is immortal. It's not a pick and choose sort of deal."

Athena took back over the explanation. "Things work a little differently here in man's world and the rules for the immortality you enjoy on Paradise Island are not the same. For instance, you will age here, though at a very, very minute pace. If you study any of the few pictures Paula found of Orana, you will be able to see a slight difference in her appearance, even with the accouterments she brought from the island to protect her. Nothing too remarkable, but it is there if you know what to look for."

"We do believe that you can die here for the same reason, though we also think that it would take an exceptional amount of time and effort. However, this is still just a theory on our part as we have not had occasion to put it to the test."

"As for Chase, she's a wildcard no matter how you play it. Her immortality is inherited, so what rules apply? She grew up just like a normal human child would have for the first twenty-one years of her life. She has not changed noticeably since them. She survived the most horrible forms of torture without dying, so it obviously takes and incredible amount of power and exertion to kill her, but is killing her even possible or did her will simply kept her alive because of what was at stake? We really don't have any way to know until everything plays out to its logical conclusion. Just keep in mind that we are dealing with an extraordinary amount of variables and unknowns especially where Chase is concerned. And Chase is the biggest among them. Not simply because of the immortality, but because of her hatred of the Amazons and her responsibilities to the rebellion."

Drea rubbed her forehead, feeling a sudden unwelcome and unexpected sensation travel from her temple to the base of her skull as a headache began to make itself felt in her nerve endings. "Well," she muttered, "no one said it would be easy, though I certainly never expected something quite so convoluted." She mixed up a tonic and drank it down without flinching... til her tongue realized what it had just been fed. Then she grimaced, noting that her headache eased almost immediately.

"Okay, that is much better," drinking down another glass of water.

"Now, we must go," Athena said as the image of them flickered against the wall it was hosted on. "We will be watching, but there is nothing we can do to help. Good luck, Drea." Then the image went dark before the healer could formulate a reply.

Drea looked around the small farmhouse, careful not to disturb too much. She didn't want to give Chase any more reason to be angry than she was already going to be once she learned the truth about who she really was. Drea chose Jasmine's room as her own. She figured Jasmine would understand, and Chase probably wouldn't appreciate Drea moving in to what was obviously her space.

What confused Drea was the fact that Chase still clearly considered this her home. The house was filled with treasures and mementoes and Drea had discovered, to her delight, a stack of what appeared to be memory books full of photographs. She couldn't wait to go through them. She hoped Jasmine would come around and share some more insight into her life here, though she didn't understand why they had been left behind.

Drea cherished the opportunity she had to spend time with Jasmine, though it wasn't as often as she wanted it to be. Maintaining a visible form took a lot of energy and Jasmine had to rest and regroup between appearances. But Drea passed a comfortable two weeks at the homestead visiting with Jasmine and learning more about, not only her sister's life in man's world, but also about Chase and her growing up.

After Drea's initial introduction to everything in the farmhouse by Jasmine, they spent most of their time outdoors near the oak tree. Drea enjoyed being outdoors and it was easier for Jasmine to be visible there. She seemed to draw strength from where her body had been laid to rest, and Drea had to admit it was a nice place to pass the time and take pleasure in the fresh air and sunshine and wildflowers that surrounded the area.

On the days Jasmine was unable to visit her, Drea still made sure she went out to the oak tree that Jasmine was buried beneath and spent time just talking about things. She decided once everything was settled, no matter what happened, she would continue to talk to Jasmine like this, even if it was from Paradise Island. She felt it brought her closer to Jasmine and found she had missed that. And she got the feeling Jasmine had too.

Drea was sitting under the shade of the tree next to Jasmine's headstone talking one afternoon when the strangest noise she had ever heard made itself know to both her hearing and her nerve endings. It reminded her of the obnoxious sound the flying machines that had landed on Paradise Island had made. It shattered the stillness of the surrounding countryside and got Drea's attention easily.

She watched Chase's progress as she turned into the lane that led to the house and past it into the meadow where Jasmine's body was interred. Chase wasn't paying very close attention to her surroundings here – nothing ever changed here because no one but her ever came to this place.

She walked with her head down, mulling over her thoughts so she could try to get them into some sort of order. She didn't know that her mother could say or do anything to help her, but Chase knew she'd feel better just sharing things with Jasmine. She always had. However, with any luck, Jasmine would be able to offer her some advice to fix things with Diana. Chase knew she had to do something.

Chase was so focused on her own thoughts that she reached the tree before she realized someone else was there ahead of her. She lifted her eyes and saw....


"No, baby girl," Jasmine answered as her ethereal form emerged from behind Drea before it took solid shape. "This is your Aunt Drea."

"Oh. My. God."


Chapter XXXIII

"This better be some sort of sick, fucking joke! DON'T!!" Chase shouted as Drea started to move within touching distance. "You stay right there."

"Chase, if you will just give me a chance...."

"NO! You cannot *possibly* have anything to say that I want to hear! I don't know what is going on here, and I really don't care. I don't need this right now. I've got way too much on my plate to worry about who you really are or why you're here."

Drea stopped moving and looked to Jasmine for guidance. She'd known Chase was going to be angry, but the proportion of her rage was much greater than either Jasmine or Drea had expected it to be. Drea wondered what exactly had brought Chase to them. Perhaps that would explain why her reaction, though well contained, bordered on furious.

"Annabelle," Jasmine said softly, "let me explain...."

"No, mama," with cold, deliberate calm. "There is nothing for you to explain."

"ANNABELLE!! Sit down, please."

"NO!! No, you lied to me!"

"Annabelle, I never once lied to you. Never! I have always been honest with you, baby girl."

Chase turned her back to Jasmine and Drea and walked away from them. "No," she said wearily, her back still facing them. "You didn't tell me the truth, and that's the same as lying." Her shoulders slumped in defeat. "Drea, I'll bring Diana to see you, as I imagine that is the real reason you're here. Then ya'll can make whatever arrangements you need to return to your home." She turned back briefly and gestured towards Jasmine. "Maybe you can take her home with you, since you obviously belong to each other."

Then she walked away without another backward glance.

"Do you want me to follow her?" Drea asked, watching Chase get further and further away them. Jasmine shook her head and sank to the ground her hands covering her face. Drea followed her down, wrapping her arms around her sister and just holding her, wondering how they were going to fix this.

Chase drove back to the rebel encampment at a rapid pace, deliberately keeping her mind carefully blank. She stopped the jeep in front of the laboratory and hopped out, striding into the work area with deliberate steps. Hans and Diana looked up at the interruption, then at each other in disbelief as they saw who the interruption was. Chase had not been back to the lab since she had originally brought Diana in to talk to Hans.

"Diana, do you have a moment, please?"

The request was so unexpected Diana nodded and moved away from Hans before consciously thinking about it. When she got close to Chase, Diana remembered her hurt and asked coolly in her low voice, "Is there something I can do for you?"

Chase was glad for the cold attitude; it made it easier to maintain her detachment. "Yes. Can you spare me a few minutes of your time?"

Diana looked back at Hans who was watching them with interest even though he couldn't hear a word of the conversation between them. They were at a point in their work where she didn't have to be there for them to continue to make progress, and she admitted to needing a break, even if it required being in Chase's presence for a little while to get it. Chase had never given her a reason not to trust her, so she nodded. "Yes. What can I do for you?"

Chase didn't reply, but simply waved Diana towards the jeep. Then she looked back at Hans. "Staff meeting as soon as I return. Pass the word." An order... not a request.

He nodded, only just refraining from saluting. She hadn't been that harsh since her mother was killed, and he wondered what had set her off this time. He didn't think it was Diana, though; Chase's reaction to Diana had been all over the place with Diana herself, but she had never been harsh with the rest of them because of it. Mostly, she had simply withdrawn from them completely, stonewalling their every effort to talk about it. So something new must have happened to return the recklessness Chase had possessed after her mother's death before she had settled down to lead them.

A hand signal from Chase as she left the lab garnered her a distant escort; someone who knew to follow, but not too closely.

Chase didn't speak when she got into the vehicle. She couldn't think of anything to say that wasn't weak or sappy to her ears and she really wasn't in the mood for either. In a way, though, this scenario would work out better for all concerned. Diana would return home where she belonged, Chase would get her focus back on the rebellion where it belonged, and the war would finally be over once and for all. After that, well, it wouldn't really matter, would it? At least this way Diana would be safe.

"Where are we going?" Diana asked as they left the compound. Though she didn't get the feeling Chase meant her actual physical harm, she had the distinct impression she was being set up for something she wasn't going to like. Suddenly, her trusting Chase seemed like a bad idea.

"Not far," Chase answered briefly.

Diana tried to pay more than peripheral attention to their direction and destination, but her mind was torn in three different directions. She was trying to find a way to break the ice without coming across as begging or condescending, but everything she came up with sounded lame and trite to her mind. Why does that always happen when I am around her? she thought. Any other time or with any other human being, I can be a calm, rational adult. But I get close to her and my brain freezes up. Gods, it shouldn't be this hard. We know each other... our souls belong to one another – they always have. So why can't I just tell her that? Why won't she let me mean something to her? Then Chase's words interrupted her train of thought.

"I'm sorry, Diana. I really am. If things had been different, we could have at least been friends, but...." Chase spoke as they turned into the lane. She covertly checked to be sure the other vehicle was still following, then took a deep breath to finish her apology. "For what it's worth, I never meant to push you away. I wanted... I just... I thought.... Well, it doesn't really matter what I thought now. I think she is waiting for you." She turned the jeep off and pointed to the figure on the porch. "I hope you find whatever it really is you came here looking for. Goodbye, Diana." Then Chase jumped from the driver's seat and into the jeep that pulled up right next to her. Then the driver hit the gas, and the vehicle roared back down the lane the way that it had come.

Diana got out and started running, but Amazon or no, she couldn't keep up with a motor vehicle without Wonder Woman's powers, and she was literally left in the dust as Chase disappeared from view.

Great, she thought, what am I going to do now? She turned and headed back to the small farmhouse, wondering what had brought Drea into man's world.

"What do you think you're doing?" Ares leaned against the doorframe with his arms crossed over his chest. Orana didn't deign to look at him, but dropped her robe and walked into the closet to get dressed. "I asked you a question; I want an answer."

"And I want to go out and destroy the rebellion, once and for all. I don't think I owe you any more of an explanation than that. *I* am the one in charge here, Ares... not you."

"Uh huh," he said, pushing away from the wall and moving further into the bedroom. "And then what? What exactly are you going to do if you destroy the rebellion? Hmm? Are you going to sit around on your ass waiting for something exciting to happen? Hoping I'll come around once in a while to share your bed?" cupping her cheek and stroking his thumb over her lips.

She jerked her head out of his grasp. "Don't flatter yourself, Ares. You're not that good." She tucked her shirt in and snatched up her boots before pushing past him to sit on the bed. He followed her and jerked her chin up til their eyes met.

"Don't push me, Amazon. I am a god, and I own you, remember?" fingering the mark she wore on her neck. "You need me to remind you who is in charge?"

Deciding to change tactics, she stood and ran her hands up his chest. "Ares, I just want to go out and have a little fun. Is that so hard to understand? Come on... we haven't had a really good fight in a long, long time. And I've heard rumors...."

"Oh yeah? What kind of rumors?"

"Well, I'm hearing things about some sort of offensive. My spies haven't been able to pin down anything specific, but there are just too many rumors running around out there for there not to be something behind them. I want to go find a little action."

"Well, baby... you should have said something. You know if you want action, I'm you're man... and I'm *always* ready to go."

She pinched his ass and he jumped, not expecting it. "Wrong kind of action, Ares. I want a fight."

"Well, I've been working on that too. I've got several fights star...."

"No, Ares. I want battles and wars and glory... like it was in the beginning."

Ares scrubbed a hand across his beard and looked intently at Orana. Truth be told, he missed that kind of action as well because it had been so long since they'd had a good fight. But something about the timing of this whole thing wasn't sitting well... not with the goddesses renewed interest in the Amazons of Paradise Island. However.... "You think that's what this is?"

"I don't know yet, but I would like to find out. It's making my fingers prickle."

"All right," he finally agreed. "Just be careful. We don't want this to backfire. We've got a really good thing going here."

She reached up and drew him to her, kissing him hard and passionately on the mouth. "Not a problem. I'm just looking for a little diversion. Now," she said, moving out of his reach and picking up her belt and lasso. "I've got work to do."

"So do I," he agreed. ""But I'll be back." Then he shimmered out of the room, and she walked out, leaving the room in darkness.

"All right – that's it. Countdown starts now. We will commence the operation in forty-eight hours. Everyone's got their assignments. Questions?"

"Yes. Where is Diana and what is her part in all of this?" This from Hans as he was the only one who knew that Diana and Chase had left together earlier and that Chase had returned alone. He hadn't shared that knowledge with anyone, curious to know what had happened between them but anxious to give Chase the benefit of the doubt. She had been his best friend for a long time, and he'd never once know her to act without honor. But he'd never seen her out of sorts like she had been with Diana either.

"There was an emergency in her family, and they came looking for her. She went with them, so I'm guessing she's got some things to take care of that don't involve us or this mission. That's all right – she wasn't really ever a part of this mission to begin with, so we didn't have to make any alterations. Anything else?"

The silence around the room made it seem like there was more that each of them wanted to say... questions they wanted to ask... but they let it go. Chase was focused on the rebellion again, and that is what they needed. As much as they liked Diana, they needed Chase. No one stopped to consider that Diana was what Chase needed.

"All right," Chase nodded, picking up her notes. "Everyone make sure to see Hans before we head out to get their shots and pick up their new armor. No one goes on this operation without both. Move out – we've got a hell of a lot to get done and not much time left to do it in."

She was out the door before any of them could even get up from their seats.

"That is why you're here, Drea? It has nothing to do with me then?"

"No," Drea said, "though of course your mother did ask me to check on you, make sure you were doing all right. She really is concerned." Diana nodded, but made no other attempt to acknowledge acceptance of Drea's words. "Is that how Chase got you here – under the guise of me needing you?"

"Actually she just asked for a few minutes of my time, then she apologized and left me here."

"But she left you a vehicle...."

"... which I cannot drive." Diana bit her lip. "All right, I guess that means I start walking. Would you like to come with me or would you prefer to stay here?"

"Given my choice, I will come with you, of course. Let us have something to eat first."

"Yes, and Aunt Jasmine can explain why she never told Chase about her heritage," glaring at the spirit of the woman who sat in the window seat looking across at the tree beneath which her body lay buried.

Jasmine looked at Diana with eyes that were full of despair, and Diana was inclined towards sympathy for her. But the truth was, she had unwittingly managed to complicate Diana's life immensely and thrown any chance of Chase accepting Diana or her heritage into a tailspin. It made things more complicated, Diana sighed, but not impossible. One more hurdle on the path to being whole again.

"First things first. Jasmine will tell her story for you while we eat, then you and I will head back to the rebel encampment. Do you think you can find it again?"

Diana nodded. Then she took a seat and waited expectantly for Jasmine to begin speaking.

It took Jasmine through their meal and a little longer to finish her telling and Diana listened and ate without interrupting. Drea watched Diana as she listened, noting with interest how she absorbed the details about Chase's life. The sun had almost set by the time that Jasmine finished.

"I didn't keep it from her maliciously, Diana. It just never seemed like a good time to tell her... especially not as a teenaged child... and then it was too late. I ran out of time. I am hoping after she settles down and thinks about it calmly that she will realize that."

"Do you know why she came out here?" Diana asked.

"No. We never got that far." A pause. "I wonder if she suspected the truth or if she came looking for answers about something else." Drea met Diana's eyes. "How are things progressing between the two of you?"

Diana shook her head. "They aren't. She's been avoiding me, but I don't know if it just me or if there is more to it."

"Well, what do you say we go and find out?"

"Drea," Jasmine interrupted before Diana could answer. "Take care of my baby girl, and remind her that I love her – that I never meant to hurt her with any of this."

Drea took Jasmine's hands in her own. "Do not worry, sister. It may take a while to convince your stubborn child of the truth, but we will make Chase understand it eventually. Have a little faith. Diana and I will bring her back here as quickly as we can."

Jasmine leaned forward and brushed a cool kiss across Drea's cheek. "Go with my blessing then."

Then Drea turned to Diana and held out her hand and the two walked out of the house and down the lane, headed back to the rebel encampment.

"My queen??"

"Find a way, Nubia. Given what Paula has been able to record in the last few days in man's world, it has become imperative that we get involved. We *have* to do something. We have stood by unknowing in our ignorance, while man's world has suffered and bled and died under the hand of one of our own. Diana and Chase have both suffered so much to get to this point. I think we owe them whatever help we can provide, but it needs to be now."

"As you say, my queen. But without divine intervention, I am not sure we can arrive in man's world in time to make a difference for them. We're still piecing it together, but from all the data we have managed to cull together something big is coming and it's going to happen soon. Within days, if we are understanding the transmissions correctly."

"My queen, we know for certain Orana is out and about again. Now that we know she is involved in this, we have stepped up our surveillance, but it is still all piecemeal. We do not know if she is out looking for something specific or simply trying to relieve her boredom."

"What of the rebellion?"

"Again, just bits. Short of asking the goddesses, it is all guesswork on our part. But there has been a lot more activity over the past month or so. That in and of itself indicates things are happening. Can we ask the goddesses?"

"I already have," Mala finally spoke. "The queen is right. The time has come for the Amazons to take their place again as the warriors they once were. Be ready tomorrow before dawn."

A cheer went up from the council. Then they scrambled to get and get the warriors of the Nation ready to go into man's world. The time had finally come, and the women of the Amazon Nation were spoiling for a fight. Knowing they were going to support their princess and redeem themselves from Orana put a fire in their bellies the Nazis were going to have a very hard time putting out.


Chapter XXXIV

"Chase, you got a minute?" Ty asked, sticking her head in the door of Chase's hut. Chase leaned back in the chair and gave Ty her full attention.

"Sure Ty," she said, pushing her papers away from her. "What's up? Problems with your preparations, or...?" extending her hands in inquiry. Ty shook her head.

"No, no. Nothing like that. I want to know what really happened to Diana, Chase. I know how she feels about... things," not wanting to reveal a confidence. "I want to know why you made her leave."

Instead of becoming angry, as Ty half feared she would, Chase sighed sadly and crossed over to the small window that looked out over the compound. Everywhere she looked there was activity; to the untrained eye it appeared much like controlled chaos. But to Chase's knowing gaze, it was the steady, forward progress of war preparation. She didn't sense fear, but instead saw excitement simmering just below the surface of the purposeful commotion.

Ty didn't interrupt Chase's musing, sensing the conflict within her cousin, even though Chase kept her eyes on the hustle and bustle taking place just outside her hut. Ty figured her patience would be rewarded sooner or later if she remained quiet; Chase had been like this before – when her father had died and again when her mother had been killed. Eventually, Chase was going to need to share with someone if only to vent before she drove herself crazy. So Ty waited.

"I didn't make her leave, Ty. Someone who is from Diana's home found me and I took her to them." Truth, mostly, as far as it went, but Ty wasn't buying it. She knew there was more. She waited but Chase didn't speak further, and Ty slapped her legs in frustration.

"Damn it, Chase! What the hell is going on with you?? I know there is more to this story than you are telling me. Now, you wanna start from the beginning and just tell me the truth, or you want me to pick and pry it out of you until I'm satisfied??"

Chase almost had to laugh. Ty would do it too; she had before. One thing Chase knew she could count on her cousin for was absolute honesty and a swift kick in the ass if she needed it. Unconsciously, she rubbed her butt and Ty chuckled, forcing Chase to turn and glare at her before smiling sheepishly.

"Start at the beginning, Chase, and tell me everything. Maybe I can help... at least you might feel better for sharing the burden with someone. C'mon. I know something has been bothering you since you came back from... wherever it was you disappeared a few months ago."

Then Ty waited. She knew of Chase didn't share now, she never would, or at least not for a very long time. By then, with a little luck, the war would be over and Chase wouldn't need the focus she needed now. But it would still eat at her until she had nothing left, and Ty didn't want to lose Chase to madness. And this, Ty feared, would be the final push Chase needed to cross the line.

"Do you remember the stories my mother used to tell, Ty? Stories from the old country, she called them - about ancient cultures and heroes and myths."

"Oh yes," Ty answered enthusiastically. "My favorites were always about the Amazons. I loved...." She broke off when she realized what she was about to say and who she was saying it to. "I'm sorry, Chase. I didn't...."

Chase smiled at her sadly before turning her attention back out the window. "Don't be sorry, Ty. I loved the ones about the two who traveled together the best, but the Amazon stories were some my favorites too. At least until...."


"Anyway, do you remember how real she made those stories seem... like they were real people who lived in real time and had real lives and adventures? Do you remember how much we wanted them to *be* real so we could meet them?"

"Do I? My daddy tanned my backside more than once for going on and on about them when I should have been concentrating on other things. Said the Amazons were nothing more than myths and I needed to focus on the here and now. He said Aunt Jas just made up stories to give us some strong female figures to aspire to."

"For a long time, I figured he was right. Don't get me wrong... I loved Mama's stories, but they couldn't be real, right? Things like that were just make-believe, especially in our world. Then I met Orana, and she made me hate the thought of there being Amazons if they were like her."

"You think differently now." A statement, not a question.

Chase shook her head. "No, Ty. I *know* differently now. Those dreams... you know the ones I had when I first got back from that mission?" looking over her shoulder at Ty and seeing her nod her agreement. "Those weren't dreams, Ty. It really happened. The Amazons, the island... everything."

When she realized that Chase wasn't going to continue, Ty prodded. "How?" Suspecting it had everything to do with Diana.

Chase took a deep breath. "Diana was there. She's an Amazon princess." Her pronouncement was met with silence, and Chase turned to meet Ty's eyes. They were widened and her jaw was slack. Chase smirked just a little and went over to wave her hand in front of Ty's face. It took several passes before Ty blinked and met her gaze. Then she cleared her throat and spoke.

"An Amazon princess?? Oooooookay. Did she tell you this?"

"Ty, trust me when I tell you I know it is true; you know I can sense if a person is lying or not. She told me things she could only have known if they were true and she was there."

"That doesn't make her a princess."

"No, but I have reason to believe that part is true."

"Is that why you made her leave? Because she's an Amazon princess?" Chase shook her head but made no more effort to elaborate. "C'mon, Chase," Ty finally huffed. "You gotta give me something more here. You know I have never been good as guessing games."

Chase walked back over to the window, careful to keep her back to Ty. "No, Ty. I told you the truth about that. An Amazon, the woman who healed me on that island, was at the homestead today when I went to talk to Mama." Ty didn't comment; she knew Chase usually went to back to her old home to talk to Jasmine's grave whenever she needed to talk. It was only very rarely that she would open up to one of them, so as not to appear weak. "Since Diana had made it fairly clear to me that she was here because she had nowhere else to go, I thought it was best to give her the chance to go home when the opportunity arose."

"Uh huh," Ty said dryly. "Did it ever occur to you to *ask* her what she wanted?"

"Ty," Chase finally said with more than a hint of exasperation and asperity in her voice. "She was a distraction for me. I needed her to be gone from here as much as she wanted to be away from me."


"Ty, she left here of her own volition, all right? She walked out of this hut and away from me without a word of explanation. No amount of window dressing is gonna change that little fact. But by taking her back to her family, I did what was best for everyone; the timing just happened to fall into place like it did by sheer coincidence."

Ty stood up and stomped her way over to the window. She grabbed Chase by the shoulder and swung her around so their eyes could meet. "I don't believe you," she swore, throwing her hands up into the air. "You are... argh!" words failing her completely.

Ty held up a finger and glared when Chase opened her mouth to speak, pacing back and forth across the small room, her anger apparent in her attitude as well as her actions. "Did it ever ONCE occur to *you* to talk to Diana? To ask her why she moved out in such a hurry? To find out why she really stayed here? It didn't, did it? You let your feelings get hurt over something you won't even acknowledge, much less try to understand. You pushed her away - making sure you couldn't even be friends... because you were afraid."

Ty turned to look at Chase who hadn't stirred at all, her gaze appearing to be completely riveted on the world going on around her just outside her hut. "Chase, are you even listening to me??" anger coloring her tone.

"Ty, are you done?" never removing her eyes from the window.

"Yes, damn it! I'm done." She blew out a deep breath and spoke more calmly. "I'm finished, yes."

"I hope you will respect that what I shared with you was done so in confidence. I would appreciate if you wouldn't share it with the others."

"Chase, even if you had shared something private like that with me – which you didn't, by the way - I wouldn't go out and share it with the rest. I never have. I treasure your trust in me; I'd hoped you understood that by now and felt the same in return." Her voice was saddened by remorse and her shoulders slumped in an air of utter defeat.

"I do, Ty. You know that. I just... this is awkward for me, and I'm not sure why or...." Her brow furrowed in consternation. "Wait, I did share with you. I told you the dreams were real and not dreams and that Diana is an Amazon princess."

Ty nodded. "Yes, you did, and of course I would never share that with anyone. But you still haven't shared why you sent Diana away. Or why you won't talk to her. Or how you feel about the whole thing. Or...." Ty had to stop speaking when Chase's hand covered her mouth. She met her cousin's green eyes, expecting to find anger or frustration... anything but the amusement she found there.

"All right, Ty. All right – I get the point." Her eyes turned serious. "I appreciate the concern, and if I had anything to share, you know you'd be the first to hear about it. In all honesty, maybe I'll have time to think about it and worry about all that later. But for right now, I have to focus on the here and now – the rebellion and winning this goddamn war once and for all. Once it's all over and everything is taken care of, maybe I can worry about the rest... maybe I can worry about me for a change. But I can't let this distract me now. This is about more than just me, Ty; this is about all of us and is critical to our survival."

Ty clasped Chase's hands in hers. "All right, Chase. I can accept that for now. But you promise me... when this is all over and everything is taken care of... you promise me that you will take care of Chase. I want you to be happy. You deserve it so much. You especially," she said, not letting Chase interrupt her, "because you have done so much for everyone else."

"Okay, Ty. I promise. When we're done, I'll try to take some time for me, and figure out what I need to do to be happy. Then I'll go out and do it."

"You promise me that you'll talk to Diana – give her a chance?"

"Ty, I doubt Diana will be anywhere around, but if she is, I promise that I will talk to her and give her a chance," knowing in her heart that Diana was going to be a very long from anywhere Chase expected to be, assuming she survived the coming battle. Because she knew someone was going to have to be the one to take down Orana, and she had already granted herself that special task. She felt she deserved as much, and she certainly wasn't going to put anyone else in harm's way.

Ty nodded, not liking the vibe she was suddenly getting from Chase, but unable to do more than accept her word. "All right. C'mon," she said, pulling her towards the door. "It's time for dinner, and I know you're hungry. You missed lunch, and I can hear your stomach growling. Don't bother," when Chase tried to pull free. "I'm not taking no for an answer."

Chase chuckled wryly and shook her head, then followed Ty out the door and across the compound to the mess hall where they were greeted with hails and cheers.

"So what are you going to do when we get there?" Drea asked Diana as they walked down the road in the twilight that was swiftly fading to darkness. "Do you have a plan?"

Diana shook her head. "Not yet. Only that I'm not going to throttle Chase when I see her. Because she did leave me a vehicle to use – even if I don't know how to use it. I think she brought me to you because she wanted to keep me safe and out of the way."

"Is that a good thing?"

Diana considered the question, then nodded slowly. "I think so. From what I know of Chase, it is almost the ultimate compliment. She knows I'm not incompetent or stupid and she expects everyone to pull their weight. So either she is protecting me because she cares about me to some degree or getting rid of me because I am a distraction.

"Maybe a little of both?"

Diana sighed and shrugged. "Maybe. I would prefer if she would talk to me, though. I really want...." She stopped speaking with a blush when it occurred to her just who she was talking to. Drea smiled.

"It's nothing to be ashamed of, Diana. I think it is wonderful that you really want, and even better that you've found the one you really want to with." Drea took Diana's arm as they continued walking down the road. "I've missed this with you. I've missed you." Diana patted the hand that rested on her arm, but she didn't speak. "Your mother misses you too, you know. She has for a long time. She just couldn't seem to find a way to reach you and eventually she stopped trying."

"Drea, I know you mean well, and I know that sooner or later Hippolyta and I will need to come to some sort of an understanding. But not right now. Right now, I have enough to worry about without having to consider any of that. So can we leave it alone... please?"

"I am sorry, Little One. You are entirely correct, of course. You do know that Paula has continued to monitor things here and in the Nazi capital as well as she can. If she has been able to see any of what you say has been going on, Hippolyta will be preparing the warriors to come join the fight." She held up her hand when Diana would have spoken. "It is their fight as well, Diana. We all bear the responsibility for Orana, and no one wants to be left out of providing a solution for dealing with her."

"No, Drea. This is my fight – mine and Chase's. We lost the most to Orana's machinations. I hate to be the one to point this out, Drea, but I doubt very sincerely Chase is going to let anyone but her deal with Orana... especially not an Amazon."

"Does she know... about what happened with your mother?"

Diana nodded. "She knows about everything... except why I followed her here. I couldn't find the words to tell her when we were talking, and then she stopped talking to me. I wonder if I had told her the truth... even part of it... if...."

"If perhaps she might have reacted differently? If something might have already happened between you?" Diana nodded, the motion barely visible in the light of the waning moon. Drea pulled them to a halt and cupped Diana's face in her hands. "Little One, what is the one thing I have tried to teach you, hmm? The one thing you know to be true despite everything."

"Everything happens in its own good time."

"Exactly. Even if we do not understand the reasons, even though we cannot see the big picture, even when we do not agree with what has happened and why," the last bit muttered under her breath, "eventually things do come together of their own time and their own volition." Drea removed her hands from Diana's face and took her arm again, resuming their walk down the road.

"Besides," she continued, "she needs to discover the truth that is the two of you for herself. If Chase had been told the truth about the two of you and then found out she was an Amazon, there is always be a chance she would feel manipulated, and that is never a good foundation for a relationship of any kind – even friendship. At least this way, she knows the truth about her heritage, and the rest will come with time."

"Do you really believe that Drea? Do you think she'll figure it out and accept it for everything it is?"

"Yes, Little One. I really do. Aside from knowing her mother pretty well, and realizing that both her mother and her aunt are brilliant and have impeccable taste, it sounds like she already has feelings for you, daughter. She is not going to pass that up. Her soul won't let her. The down side, and of course you knew there had to be one - knowing her mother and aunt as well as I do, I can safely say she is a fighter, and she's going to fight every step of the way to realization."

Diana chuckled wryly. "Given her original soul, I can believe that. Do you think I am losing my mind over this... maybe being a little impatient with the whole process? I mean Chase and I have really only just met in this lifetime – we've only known one another for a very few weeks when you really think about it... a couple months at most."

"But this is something you have been searching for for a very long time, Diana. And your soul recognized her and your heart knew the truth even before your mind figured it out. Hers is the same way except that she doesn't even realize she has been looking for you through her lifetimes. She just knows there is something about you and for whatever reason, it terrifies her. But she will figure it out. I would be willing to guess that part of her problem is her leadership of the rebellion. Jasmine told me Chase has always been very singularly focused, and it only got worse after the death of each parent and then her incarceration by Orana. She is going to need to learn a new focus."

It was quiet for a long while as they walked along the road while Diana considered Drea's words. She had missed their talks as well as the sage advice Drea always seemed to have well in hand. And with Drea's belief, she felt her own belief reassert itself. She knew Chase felt something. Now it was simply a matter of getting her to see and acknowledge what that something between them really was. But first they had to win this war.

It was just after midnight when they crossed the outer boundary of the rebel encampment. At Diana's request, Ty was called to meet and vouch for them instead of Chase. Ty did a double take when she saw Drea and was introduced to her casually by Diana as 'my other mother.' Instead of asking the questions that dripped off her tongue, Ty reassured the guard with alacrity so the trio was soon crossing the grounds to Diana's small quarters. Diana looked around, easily able to see the preparations that had already been made and were in fact still in progress. She turned questioning blue eyes to Ty and waited for an explanation.

"I'll explain everything in the morning," Ty promised. "But for now, let's just say it's time to wrap up this war and go to bed, all right? Please, Diana. It's been a very long day."

"She's right, Diana," Drea said, placing a hand on Diana's arm. "There will be time for discussion and explanations in the morning."

Diana looked at Drea, noting for the first time an exhaustion she could plainly see written on her face. She nodded her head. "All right," looking back at Ty. "In the morning, then."

But the morning was going to bring even further complication to their lives.


Chapter XXXV

Hippolyta looked around at the homestead in the bare light of the approaching dawn. Though there were obvious signs of neglect, still the place had the look of recent occupation. Despite the repairs that needed to be done, the walk had been swept and the flower beds had been weeded. Hippolyta knocked on the door and waited, then turned to look at her warriors – her warriors – she thought with pride. They stood waiting patiently for her orders and she turned to her advisory council.

"Well, there doesn't appear to be anyone home, though I don't think she's been gone too long." The goddesses had transported them to Chase's homestead figuring to meet up with Drea and going to the rebel encampment together, and to find she was no longer here.... "We will have to figure out where they are and make our way to them. Best guess as to which direction we should go?"

It was only an answer on the wind, but they all heard it as clearly as though Artemis was standing among them when she spoke. East.

So the warriors formed ranks and began a comfortable run east, hopefully towards the rebel compound.

Chase was up before the sun and looking over every aspect of the camp as it continued to make preparations for the final assault. At each place she stopped, listening to concerns and answering questions, helping make things run smoother for everyone. Most of the rebels here, directly under her command, were long veterans of the war against the Nazis. Most of them at one time or another had served on the front line, and all of those that had, had served more than once in the face of death. Those that hadn't were young and scared, and Chase did her best to reassure them as much as possible. And so she slowly made her across and through the camp until she was satisfied that everything that could be done was being done.

Ty, meanwhile, had gotten up as the sun peeked over the horizon of the eastern sky. Given her late night, she felt like she could have slept til noon, but knew that was completely out of the question. She went to the mess tent to pick up some breakfast and then made her way directly to Diana's hut. She had questions she wanted answers to as well.

Ty knocked, but she didn't wait for an invitation before she entered. She didn't want Chase to see her loitering outside Diana's hut, especially with food in her hands. Chase would start asking questions of her own before Ty herself got some answers. Immediately she was met by two blades on opposite sides of her neck until the two Amazons got a good look at their intruder. Drea turned to Diana for advice and Diana simply nodded and removed her own blade from Ty's throat. Drea was only a beat behind her. Ty placed the tray down on the small table.

"We do not rate the courtesy of inviting you in first?" Drea asked in a curt tone. Diana just looked at Ty and waited for her response. She had her own suspicions why Ty had done what she did and was curious to know what sort of explanation she would offer. Ty handed each of them a cup of coffee and a roll before picking up her own and giving Drea a well-thought out answer.

"Under normal circumstances, you would rate that much and much more besides, but we are not under normal circumstances, are we? And I want some answers before Chase discovers you're here. You," looking directly at Diana, "are supposed to be on your way back home to that island. And you," turning back to Drea, "are obviously related to my Aunt Jasmine. So how are you related to Diana and what are you doing here? What are you both doing here?"

"We'll answer you questions, Ty, if you will answer ours."

"Of course, Diana. I told you I would, but please...."

By accident or design, Ty had become her confidante when she couldn't talk to Chase and needed an outlet. Though Diana had only shared small snippets, Ty had proven trustworthy and loyal and able to keep a secret. So Diana told her the whole story, in all its excruciating detail. Everything that was relevant to this situation, anyway – who Drea was and why she had really come and why they had returned to the rebel compound together instead of going home. Ty just covered her eyes as she listened and scrubbed her hands through her hair when the recitation was over.

"Damn sonofabitch!" she cursed, making Drea's eyes widen in surprise. "Is there anything else I need to be aware of?"

"Not to my knowledge," Diana answered honestly. "I have told you everything I know that happened once I left here. I only found out most of this myself yesterday. I knew about Drea and Jasmine being twins, of course, but I didn't know about the rest."

Ty squeezed her eyes shut and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Chase is gonna kill me," she muttered, "just on general principle, much less for knowing things I shouldn't." She sighed. "Well, as long as I am going to have to die because of all this, let me bring you up to date on my side of things." Drea and Diana exchanged glances wondering what they had missed in Diana's narration.

"First and foremost, you have to know that though she didn't always, Chase hates Amazons now because of something that happened to her when she was captured by the Nazis in Berlin some time ago. She never shared with me what happened; only that it was an Amazon who had caused the damage I could see, and obviously the psychological damage I couldn't. Anyway, that's not the important part, though I think ya'll needed to understand – especially you, Diana. It helps explain why she is having problems... um, relating to you."

Diana nodded, understanding far more than Ty was aware of, though her expression gave none of that away.

"You also need to understand that she didn't share with me the fact that she is an Amazon, which means she hasn't come to terms with it. It would probably be in all our best interests if number one, she doesn't know you told me this and number two, you," motioning to Drea, "stay out of sight. Seeing you probably hurts Chase more than she would ever admit to. Aunt Jasmine was her best friend, and her death was agonizing for Chase, especially since Chase still feels a guilty responsibility for it."

"Okay, not to seem cold but what does that have to do with what is going around here now?" This from Drea. "Obviously something big is happening." Diana remained quiet.

"Something big *is* happening. We are preparing for our final offensive against the Reich. This is an all or nothing gamble, and thanks to Diana's and Hans' work, most of us have a huge hope of not only succeeding, but actually coming through this alive."

"You didn't expect to succeed before?"

Ty shook her head. "Oh yes, we always expected to succeed; the actual plan hasn't changed. We just didn't have much chance for survival. Diana's efforts helped change all that. It is one reason we are moving now, and it is one reason Chase took you to Drea, Diana. She cares for you too much to endanger you, though she won't admit that to herself. She claims you are a distraction, which is true enough, though again, she's not analyzing the why behind the distraction."

Diana tilted her head in question. "Do you know something?"

"I know Chase. That's enough," but she didn't say anything else.

"Would you like to share?"

"Nope. I am in enough trouble as it is. Besides, I have enough to worry about with ops prep. I'm not about to get involved in someone else's love life – or lack there of." Ty would have laughed at the way Diana's eyes bugged out of her head if she hadn't been so engrossed in her thoughts. "My big concern right now is how to tell Chase that you are back here. She's not going to be happy."

"Does she need to know?" Drea asked. "If I need to stay out of sight, why can't Diana? I mean if it would make it easier...."

"Drea, even if I wanted to let Chase protect me... which I don't..." with a glare at both of them, "I have a score to settle with Orana as well. For my sake as well as Chase's. I worked hard to make myself a productive part of this rebellion and I am not going to be left out of it because Chase considers me to be a distraction to her for whatever reason." She turned her gaze strictly on Ty and it was all Ty could do not to flinch at the intensity she felt flowing from Diana in waves when she became the sole focus of it suddenly and without warning.

Ty blinked. "Um, Diana?"

"You let me take care of Chase, Ty. I should have before."

"Why didn't you?"

"The million dollar question. Any number of reasons; however, this isn't the time to get into it. I'll talk to Chase and we will work out some sort of compromise." She started to stand when Ty's name was hollered out and the door was jerked open. "Ty, what are you doi... Diana?" Shep stopped short and dropped his head to his chest before blowing out a frustrated breath. "What are you...? Nevermind. This just gets better and better. C'mon, Ty. You don't want to miss this."

Drea stood and Shep finally noticed her presence in the room. His eyes bugged right out of his head. "Holy shit! Jasmine??"

Drea shook her head and extended her hand. "Jasmine was my twin sister. My name is Drea. And you are?"

"Shep. Um, I don't want to seem rude, but Ty, if we don't get out there...."

"Shep, what's wrong?" Ty asked as she took the two steps to the door. "Please excuse us," she said to Drea and Diana. Shep shook his head.

"They should probably come along... at least Diana should." They stepped from the hut as a group and followed Shep swiftly towards the front gate. "There is a woman at the gate who mentioned her by name."

Drea exchanged looks with Diana. "You don't suppose...?"

"One way to find out," Diana said and hastened towards the gate.

Hippolyta couldn't say what made her bring her troops to a silent halt, but without warning she stopped and held up a hand. Immediately, the Amazons stopped running and though they didn't draw their weapons, they were hyper alert to everything around them as they slowly spread out to search the area and find whatever it was that had caused Hippolyta to stop their forward progress.

Erilani saw them first, but only because she literally walked into the outermost guard. He was so well disguised Hippolyta couldn't blame the royal guard for her strangled yelp. Had she been two steps to the left, she herself would have been the one to bump into him.

"State your name and your business," the man commanded as he and several others stepped forward with their weapons drawn and highly evident to block any further advancement. Hippolyta had to remind herself that this was man's world and they had no idea who she or her warriors were. And remembering that these were rebels against the Nazis in a fight for their life, it was no surprise that simple courtesy did not exist for unexpected guests into their encampment.

"My name is Hippolyta. I was looking for a woman named Chase or my daughter, Diana Prince."

"What business do you have with them?" the man asked without batting an eyelash in surprise, though Mala picked up on the slight widening of his eyes at the mention of Diana's name. She wondered what the princess had done to make such an impression so quickly here, though she had always able to captivate people easily before she had become so angry. She hoped to see that charismatic princess again, but first they had to find her.

"I have come as the Queen of the Amazon Nation to offer my warriors to aid the rebellion in the destruction of Nazi tyranny."

This time the man did blink at Hippolyta for several long seconds before he turned his attention to the woman who stood beside him. "Go find Ty or Shep – someone in authority," not wanting to confirm Chase's presence in the camp. "Now!" The woman nodded and ran off, disappearing into the brush with an ease that the Amazons appreciated for the art form it was.

The man turned his attention back to Hippolyta. "You might want to find a place to wait. It might be a little while before anyone gets back here," not mentioning that the gate was just out of sight behind the trees and brush.

Hippolyta smiled. The man was young, but he had strength in his gaze as well as in his bearing, and Hippolyta respected that. She motioned to her warriors, and the Amazons settled down to wait.

The wait wasn't very long, all things considered. Hippolyta rose as soon as she heard the sound of people approaching and the warriors rose behind her as one. The council formed a semi-circle at her back and they waited in silence for the rustling to morph into something more tangible. Shep was in the lead and was the first of the little group to the gate outpost. Directly behind him was Ty, followed by Drea and finally, Diana.

A couple discrete hand signals from Drea kept Hippolyta, and thus everyone else, in place as the quartet stepped closer to the Amazons. Shep stepped forward with his arm outstretched and Hippolyta accepted it with a warrior handshake. He adjusted quickly and introduced himself, then moved aside so Ty could do the same. They had agreed that Ty would take the lead once they had introduced themselves to the Amazons.

"Hello, Queen Hippolyta," she said graciously, bowing her head briefly in respect. "My name is Ty. I believe you know Drea and Diana," motioning to the two women who stood just behind her.

Hippolyta couldn't stop the huge grin that crossed her face. It was good to see both Drea and Diana again. She had missed them greatly for obviously different reasons, but she knew there was business to take care of first. Besides, she had a feeling she was going to like Ty; there was something about her that was refreshing. "I believe you are right, Ty."

"So I understand ya'll want to help us out. Can I ask why you want to help and how you found us?"

"The why is simple – Orana was... is an Amazon, though we've only just recently been made aware of her activities here in man's world. That makes her our responsibility. We'd like to offer whatever assistance we can to help rid the world of her. As for how we found you, well, let's just say we had divine assistance and leave it at that for now. Perhaps when this is all over we can get into the details."

"All right," Ty said. "But Queen Hippolyta, before you commit yourself and your warriors to this fight, there are a few things you need to be aware of. No bullshit now – just honest truth." Hippolyta's eyes widened at Ty's choice of words, but she nodded for her to continue. "First of all, we do not stand on ceremony here. If you join us, you will not be a queen here; you will just be Hippolyta, like I am Ty and your daughter is Diana."

"Next, we have one leader and what she says, goes. We are allowed to voice opinions and ask questions of course, but at the end of the day, when the choice is made, we follow her. If you can't give up both your title of queen and your warriors won't accept orders from another authority, you can't do any good here. You may as well go back to wherever it is that is home for you, because we can't use you here."

Ty waited and finally Hippolyta felt compelled to speak. "Is there anything else?" wondering if Ty knew about Chase's hatred of the Amazons. "I would like to hear all the negatives before I make any comments or decisions."

Ty nodded. She really did like this woman's spunk. If Jasmine had been telling stories about real Amazons – these Amazons – then the woman standing in front of her was nearly three thousand years old. Regardless of the fact that she looked to be a woman of less than middle age, that was a very, very long time to have been alive, and Ty had a sneaking suspicion immortality was not always what it had cracked up to be.

"The last critical thing you should know is that our leader may have issues with the fact that you are Amazons. She was captured and tortured by the Fuehrer... the one you call Orana... and she made it a point to rub her Amazonian heritage in her face. I would like to believe she would be fair and give you the opportunity to prove yourselves, but the fact is there is a lot of hate and a lot of hurt she will have to overcome first to do so."

She noticed Ty was very careful not to mention Chase's name and she applauded her caution, as frustrating as it was not to have her suspicions confirmed, though surely Drea and Diana would not be here if Chase wasn't. Hippolyta turned to her council and gave them a brief word Ty couldn't hear, but whatever it was caused them and the warriors behind them to drop to one knee and bow their heads while waiting for their queen to speak.

"As for the first, I will be happy to be called by you as my consort Drea calls me... Pol. It is much less formal and much easier to say than Hippolyta every time you would like to get my attention. I don't know if the rest of the Nation can remember to call me by anything other than 'my queen' as they have done so for such a very long time, but I give you my word they will try."

"For the second, I had hoped to turn the leadership of the Amazon warriors over to my daughter to lead as she knows each of them and how the skills they possess could best be utilized for the good of the rebellion. But if she has sworn fealty to your leader then we will of course do the same."

"For the last, I have hope that if your leader is the woman I remember her to be, she will remember that we gave her aid in her hour of need and will give us a chance if only for that reason. I believe in her heart she knows the truth. We merely have to guide her to it. So if Chase is willing to let us fight beside you, we will prove ourselves worthy allies indeed."

"Very well, then, Hip... Pol. Let's get you all into the compound and let Chase know we have reinforcements and unexpected allies." The Amazons rose as one before Hippolyta put a restraining hand on Ty's arm.

"Ty, would you mind very much... I would still like to turn over leadership of the warriors to Diana. I believe she will be better suited to, if not lead them into combat, at least give Chase good advice on their placement within your ranks."

Ty looked at Diana whose eyes widened in reaction to her mother's words. It was the only change in her expression. She shrugged her shoulders at Ty who in turn nodded at Hippolyta.

There was no ceremony – no pretty words and flowery speeches. Instead, Hippolyta simply took off her signet ring and slid it onto Diana's finger, then brushed her cheek with the very lightest of kisses before Diana could move out of range. Hippolyta motioned to Ty.

"Well, can we go into the compound now? I am somewhat anxious to see the changes time has wrought in man's world. And I would like a proper introduction to Chase."

Drea took Hippolyta's hand in her own and the council closed ranks around the three women and Shep as they walked the short distance to the front gate. Diana took her place at the head of the Amazon army, and though they didn't make a sound, she could feel the pulsating energy of them cheering behind her. It made her smile.

Harry knocked on the door of her quarters where Chase was finishing up her own last minute preparations. "Come in," she called, checking the status of her armor. Hans had added some extra pieces knowing Chase would be going into the lion's den. She looked up when Harry crossed the threshold and her expression became one of immediate concern.

"Harry? Is there a problem?? Have you gotten news from our outposts overseas??"

"No, ma'am! No, nothing like that. But I think you'd better come outside and see this for yourself."

Chase followed him out of the hut and then stopped dead at the sight that met her gaze. The courtyard was filled with women – Amazon women – and chief among them stood Diana and her mother's twin. She considered her alternatives, and decided a strategic retreat was in order before she said or did something stupid she might regret later. Suddenly, nothing was easy anymore, and this situation was becoming more and more complicated by the minute.


Chapter XXXVI

Orana walked into the conference room, and every man snapped to attention until she put them at ease. They waited until she sat down and gestured at the table before they assumed their seats, and they did so with alacrity. Something about their Fuehrer was different; she exuded an edgy energy that they had only heard about from the oldest elders or had, on the rarest occasions, seen in action – though even then, it had been a residual effect of a particularly nasty torture session. And there had only been one noteworthy session in their lifetime.

This energy was subtly different, however. When Orana had Annabelle Chaser in her custody, she had been first thrilled with her conquest and then furious at being outwitted by someone she considered inferior to her both physically as well as intellectually. Their only saving grace had been that she had been in too much agony immediately after Chase's attack and subsequent escape to do more than give cursory orders; otherwise, the lot of them would have been strung up... or worse.

Then she had been angry, but by the time she had healed, she had moved her focus on to other things and had withdrawn into her own world. It had made them relax slightly. But it was obvious from her attitude today, something had happened to bring back the feared Fuehrer who had originally deposed Hitler and built the Nazi regime into the most powerful war machine the world had ever known.

This Fuehrer had purpose and determination, and marked the return of the legendary Black Widow into their midst. Every single man and woman in the room with her sat a little straighter in their chair. They hadn't felt this kind of excitement before and they enjoyed the tingle that ran across their skin from the energy that skittered throughout the room.

Orana let them absorb the new sensation, letting it build into something of a controlled frenzy. She wanted to infuse the feeling into their being so their desire for it ran hot and strong. In that way, she would be able to utilize it to destroy the rebellion. Because once they had the burning, they would do anything to keep it and tightening her grip on the world would be easy.

She had gotten lax since she had brought the world under her iron grip of domination, and except for the episode with the rebel spy, had been little more than a name used to keep both her army and her subjects in line. Now, it was time to take action to assure that she didn't lose her hold on her regime. This was *hers* and she wasn't about to let any threat, real or imagined, take it away from her.

When she cleared her throat to speak, all heads turned her direction... and flinched at the intensity of purpose that burned in her eyes.

"Rumors have reached my ears that the rebellion," said with a sneer in her voice, "is making a big offensive push against the Reich. But I cannot seem to get confirmation on this one way or another. The signs are there, but I need more details. So, what do you have for me?" looking around the room for some sort of response, not pleased with the lack thereof.

"This is not rocket science, people. I have scientists for that if I want to indulge in that sort of speculation. This is military security. Do you mean to tell me not one of you has any idea of any problems going on in your region? No rebels, no discontentment – everything is perfect."

Her voice and demeanor was calm but none of them were stupid enough to miss the clenching of her jaw or the flexing of her fingers. Finally, one small woman, braver than the rest and a personal favorite of Orana's, rose to speak. Orana nodded towards her graciously and motioned for her to speak. The woman bowed her head in acknowledgement and drew breath to speak.

"Mein Fuehrer, we haven't had any clear cut reports of rebel activity in my region, but we did notice some awkward movement by those we suspect might be rebel sympathizers or resistance members a couple months ago. Nothing we could have arrested them for without causing a panic, nothing we would have even noticed as being odd if we hadn't been looking for it. As it stands, it was only unusual... a little out of the ordinary. And it didn't last very long... a few nights, and then everything stopped again, settled back down."

Orana leaned back thoughtfully. "What happened? What was the change in routine?

"It was more of a rumbling, sort of like the atmosphere change. The people seemed to have a new kind of energy. But it only lasted for a few days, and then it was gone like it had never been. We looked around, checked papers more carefully, searched houses and cars and the like, thinking perhaps someone was being smuggled through, but we never found any evidence of it."

"Was anything else done about it? Any arrests made?

"No, mein Fuehrer. We have nothing but suspicions. The people we have been watching aren't even confirmed rebels. We've continued to watch, but otherwise, short of purging entire villages, I...." The woman shrugged.

Orana sat silently, gesturing absently to the woman to resume her seat. Orana waited, wondering if anyone else would be able to gather the courage to speak. When no one else was forthcoming, she leaned forward. "Ladies and gentlemen, let me make a couple of things perfectly clear for you. We are going to meet back here in twenty-four hours, and in that twenty four hours you are going to dig up every bit of information on rebellion and resistance activities in your area of responsibility. Because when we meet back here, I want names and numbers and locations and any other pertinent data you can find. Am I clear?"

They answered as one body, their volume loud enough to rattle the windows. Orana smiled. She doubted they had been as terrified as recruits as they were at this very moment.

"I don't care how you get it done, just do it. Failure is not an option, ladies and gentlemen. Because I assure you, each and every one of you can be replaced, and there are plenty of good little Nazis clambering for your position, eager to take your place."

She rose, and they rushed to stand as well, snapping to attention and hardly daring to breathe while Orana walked around the table, then made her way to the door.

"Oh, by the way," she paused and looked back over her shoulder at them, meeting each and every set of eyes in the room. "Adelia, I like your idea."

"Mein Fuehrer?"

"Each of you choose a village or town in your region... preferably one that has known or heavily suspected rebel activities... and purge it. Completely."

Eyes widened and jaws dropped. "Co... co... completely, mein Fuehrer? Buh... but we have loyalists in those towns as well. What about them?"

Orana shrugged. "What about them? They are obviously not loyal enough or there wouldn't be any rebels there now, would there?" She exchanged glances with each of them again. "Take care of it. I want reports on my desk in the morning detailing your actions in this regard. Am I understood?"

"YES SIR!!!" The words resonated throughout the room and down the hall as Orana exited and made her way down to her office. For the first time in a very long time, she felt alive. She wondered what other chaos and mayhem she could cause, and she turned her attention to her Reich, feeling enthusiasm rush through her in waves.

Chase looked idly around her hut, wishing she had taken up smoking or drinking or tap dancing or any other number of vices that could be considered a nervous habit – anything to expel some of the panicky energy she suddenly found herself full of. She paced back and forth across the length of her hut before taking herself in hand and breathing deeply.

"All right, Chase. You can do this. You are the leader of the rebellion and you have faced down the Fuehrer and lived to tell the tale. It doesn't matter that the courtyard is full of Amazons. It doesn't matter that your mother's twin is out there with them, and it certainly doesn't matter that...." She blew out a shaky breath. "It *does* matter that Diana is here. Goddamnit! I don't need this right now!" She clenched her hands into fists and dropped onto the bed.

"All right, Chase, all right," she repeated to herself again, closing her eyes and focusing on taking deep even breaths. "You can do this. You can put all of this out of your mind." She sat for long minutes and just breathed – in, out, in out. She took every concern that could interfere with the upcoming offensive and put it away in a box in her mind... something she could deal with later. First her mama and the issues she had only just discovered; then Drea and the Amazons that now occupied the entire compound courtyard; and finally Diana.

That one was harder. There were so many variables involved where Diana was concerned. Things Chase hadn't come to terms with completely herself yet, much less discussed with anyone or admitted to Diana. Memories and feelings and desires and needs – anger and friendship, love and lust.

Only when she heard the door to her hut open did she allow her eyes to slowly open and her thoughts to return to the present. She looked up to find Shep glaring at her impatiently.

"Chase, what the hell are you doing? I know Harry came to get you. What the hell are you still doing in here? C'mon. We have guests and they might be able to give us an unexpected edge."

"I'll be there in a minute, Shep."



He backed out hastily and met Ty's eyes. She arched an eyebrow and he shook his head, holding his hands up in the universal 'Beats me' sign then he started back over to where Ty was waiting. He hadn't made it but three steps before being shoved out of the way from behind by Chase. Not hard, but enough to make him stumble, and he ran to catch up.

Meanwhile, Chase had on her game face and she strode confidently over to where Ty waited flanked by Hippolyta and Drea. Diana remained at the head of the Amazon army waiting for the proper time to be acknowledged by her mother as the leader of said force. With luck, it meant that she would in turn be acknowledged by Chase. Anything to break the stalemate and tension that lingered between them.

Ty blew out a breath of relief. She knew Chase was going to be furious by the unexpected arrival of Amazons, but from all indications – mainly the fact that she hadn't yet gone completely ballistic – she was at least going to be cordial, if not accepting of their presence here.

"Chase, I'm glad you could make it. I was afraid you were going to be too busy," Ty's only reproach for the amount of time it took her to arrive after she was summoned. She continued speaking before Chase could reply. "I believe you know Drea," not mentioning the obvious relationship between Chase and Drea. "And have you met Hippolyta?"

Chase extended her hand to Drea, not even a twitch to betray her thoughts. Certainly no one could have guessed the anger and foul words she had thrown at the older woman only the day before. "It's nice to see you again, Drea. And Hippolyta, was it?" she asked withdrawing her hand from the healer's as politely as possible and clasping Hippolyta's briefly. "I don't think I have had the pleasure."

She clapped her hands together. "So what can I do for you ladies? Your arrival here was completely unexpected, so I really can't offer you much – maybe some refreshment?"

Hippolyta exchanged glances with both Ty and Drea. Though they had tried to explain a little of the situation to her on the very brief walk, she had expected... had hoped for a little warmer reception. Though given what Chase's reaction could have been, all things considered, she figured she was ahead of the game with the offer.

Hippolyta nodded and took Chase's arm, ignoring the flinch she could feel shudder under the skin at her touch. She wondered at the cause – if it was her being an Amazon, or the fact that she was Diana's mother, or if there was something more even beyond that.

"Please, Chase. Some refreshment would be most welcome by not only myself, but my warriors. It has been quite a trip here. Besides, it will give us some time to talk about why we have come." Hippolyta halted their progress briefly and turned, signaling to Diana. "I believe you know my daughter and the head of the Amazon army, Diana."

"Yes ma'am, I do," Chase acknowledged with a nod of her head then turned back to Hippolyta. "C'mon. Let's see if we can throw Cookie into a tizzy. I highly doubt he is expecting this large a post-breakfast, pre-lunch crowd for snacks."

Chase and Hippolyta led the way, fully expecting the rest to follow. Ty and Shep did, as did the Amazon council, but Diana and the warriors went to the practice field. No one said a word, but they could see the tension that sang across Diana's shoulders that they were in for quite the workout indeed. They didn't realize that work in the encampment had come to a screeching halt and everyone followed after them, anxious to see what was coming.

It was obvious fairly quickly that Diana and the army had failed to follow them into the mess hall and before they could even begin dialogue, Hans rushed in and slid to a stop in front of Chase. "Chase... you've got to... oh excuse me," he said to the small group of people sitting around the table with her. "But Chase, you need to come to the practice field – quickly."

Chase and Ty exchanged a glance that was the exact replica of the one Hippolyta exchanged with Drea. Then they looked at one another and exclaimed simultaneously, "Diana!"

Chase was out the door before the rest could even get out of their seats, but they were quick to follow. Hans and Shep were the fastest, followed by the council. Ty, Pol, and Drea brought up the rear, not conversing, but simply swapping knowing smiles.

When Chase arrived at the field, she couldn't see anything for all the bodies that blocked her view. However, a simple, deep breath allowed her to project her voice from the depths of her diaphragm and her roar caused everyone and everything to suspend its motion – even the fighters on the field.

"What the HELL is going on here?!? Did someone call an unscheduled break and forget to send me the memo??? Get back to work... NOW!!!!"

The rebels scrambled to get back to their tasks, creating a wide berth around Chase in their haste to return to work. Their exodus slowed the arrival of the others, so they missed the altercation between Chase and Diana.

The army had frozen as soon as Chase started to bellow. It had honestly startled them, having never actually heard that kind of roar from someone so relatively small. Diana had nudged them aside, so by the time Chase finished yelling at the rebels, Diana was out of the circle and waiting for Chase's attention.

Chase wanted to... well, there were any number of things she wanted to do, and the confusion she felt showed in a ripple effect across her communicative face. But she schooled her expression before Diana could express any concern.

"Diana," Chase said, meeting those deep blue eyes but careful not to get too close. "It was unexpected to see you here again. I had hoped you would be on your way home by now." She looked like she wanted to say more before realizing they had an audience that was listening intently. Diana recognized the reason behind her hesitation and motioned to the army to get back to drilling then gestured to Chase, directing her away from the melee.

"Please, let's find somewhere to talk a moment that we won't be interrupted."

Chase considered, then nodded. She knew she had been unfair to Diana because of her own feelings and confusion, and it wasn't fair to continue with that treatment, especially since Diana had obviously returned to help and even brought in reinforcements, though Chase was still a little unclear on exactly how and why the Amazons were here. Besides, Chase had a handle on her feelings for Diana now, right? She had put them away for the duration, and this would be over and Diana would be gone before she actually had to deal with them.

Chase led the way out of the camp and up towards her thinking hill. Everyone knew when she went there, Chase was going for the peace and solitude it afforded her, and only the direst of circumstances would cause them to disrupt whatever bit of peace she was able to find there.

Hippolyta and the rest arrived just as Diana and Chase stepped into the tree line, and Hippolyta made a move to follow when a hand placed on either arm stopped her progress in its tracks. She looked questioningly at Drea and then Ty.

"They are going there for privacy, Pol. We don't intrude on Chase when she goes to the hill. It's the only time she gets a modicum of privacy or peace."

"Besides, Pol," Drea continued. "They are going to have to work everything out for themselves sooner or later. Have a little faith."

Hans and Shep had returned to their duties as soon as Chase had shouted loud enough to be heard in Berlin. The council hadn't been far behind and had watched with great respect at the speed with which everyone moved when Chase commanded it, then with greater amazement at the sparks they could see flying between Chase and Diana as hard as Chase was trying to avoid it.

"Come," Mala said, taking Ty's arm and turning the group back to the compound. "I believe we were going to partake in a bit of refreshment before the late excitement. Do you think Cookie might have had time to prepare a snack by now? I am ravenous." Not really, but it did accomplish what she had set out to, and soon the little troupe was moving back to the mess hall, marveling at the frantic preparations so apparent now that people were working again.

Diana followed Chase, only because the path was narrow and could not accommodate them side by side. Several times, Chase extended a hand to Diana to help her over a rough spot, but immediately released it as soon as she could. Diana held on the last time, just before they crested the hill. Chase tried to pull away again until Diana's low voice stopped her.

"Please, Chase. I'm not going to hurt you. Can't we at least be friends? I thought we were headed in that direction before."

Chase's shoulders slumped in defeat. "We were," she admitted quietly and walked over to the chest to retrieve a blanket before leading Diana to the edge of the hill. Diana accepted two corners and together they placed the blanket on the soft grass, overlooking the water as they had that morning weeks before. Only this time, the awkward history between them was out in the open and sitting like a white elephant, making things even more difficult. Finally, Chase tried to pick up the thread of their earlier conversation.

"Why are you here, Diana? I had expected... I had hoped you would have returned home. It's why I left you the jeep – so you could get to an airfield. You don't have any business here, Diana. This isn't your fight."

Diana's smile was feral, and it sent a chill skittering up Chase's spine. "Oh, this is very much my fight, Chase, for more reasons you could possibly imagine right now. And though I appreciated the thought of the jeep," here her smile became playfully mischievous, "you probably should have taught me how to drive it first."

Chase colored slightly for that oversight. "Oh... sorry. I was mostly focused on getting you out of here," not mentioning Drea or Jasmine, and Diana let it go in the interest of pursuing other avenues of questioning.

"Why?" blunt and to the point.

Chase shrugged her shoulders and shook her head negatively. "It doesn't matter." And she kept her attention on the interesting sparkles the sunlight was creating on the water below.

"It does to me," Diana said softly. When Chase still didn't answer, Diana muttered to herself, "Hard to believe you're the bard here," but it was spoken too low for Chase to understand. Diana took a deep breath and steeled herself for what was coming next. Then she focused her attention on the water as well, and spoke. "Do you want to know why I came here?"

Chase's forehead creased in a frown, and she turned to look at Diana. "I had you brought here... for your safety as well as that of the rebellion."

Diana smiled wistfully. "Yes, but do you want to know why I left Paradise Island and came to man's world? Would you like to know why the fight against Orana is very much my fight? Why I stayed despite everything – even when you made it clear I should leave?"

Chase considered, and Diana let her take her time. Chase knew that with this – this crossing the last barrier of knowledge that lay between them – things would change irrevocably. There would be no way for her to pretend she did not know or understand that there was something between them... even if it was something she didn't want. But having reached the bridge, there was no way to turn back. Things would change between them no matter what decision she made. So she turned her face back to the vista that lay before them, and nodded.


Chapter XXXVII

"Do you remember the stories your mother told you growing up... about the Amazons and their origins?" Chase blinked; this had not been at all the tack she had expected Diana to take, though she couldn't have honestly told what she had expected. Diana waited, giving Chase's mind a minute to catch up, knowing she had caught her completely off guard. Chase swallowed and nodded again, more slowly this time.

"Did she ever tell you the Soulmates' stories?" At Chase's blank look she elaborated. "Did Aunt Jasmine," wincing at the not-quite-hidden flinch that title got her. "Sorry, did Jasmine ever tell you the stories about the warrior and the bard who traveled together across most of the ancient world sharing adventures and doing things for the greater good?"

Now Chase smiled unexpectedly and Diana found herself enchanted by the change in expression. She couldn't help but respond to the enthusiasm she could feel pouring from Chase.

"Oh yes," she replied joyfully. "Those were my very favorites. They saw and did so many interesting things together and they seemed... they were so much a part of each other," she said wistfully. "Even before they became lovers... when they were still just two people getting to know one another... there was something between them."

"Yes, there was," Diana agreed quietly.

Chase smiled again, this time a bit wistfully. "Despite the trials and tribulations they faced together, I always wanted them to be real. What they had together was so rare, I wanted them to be real just to be able to see that kind of – I dunno... it was more than love and commitment to each other. It was a bonding, almost."

"It *was* a bond... they were soulmates."

"You mentioned that before, but I've never heard the term. What are soulmates?" wondering how they had gotten so far afield from Diana's reasons for coming to man's world, but enjoying the conversation nevertheless. Ty was the only other person Chase had ever talked to about the stories her mother had told and she found she liked having someone else she could share these things with – especially since Diana obviously had her own handle on those same stories.

Diana blinked at Chase's question. "Your mother never explained soulmates to you?"

Chase shook her head. "No, why would she? It's not like they were real... they were just stories she told to keep me, and sometimes Ty, entertained and out of trouble for five minutes. She never gave me any reason to think they were more than just stories," the last added bitterly and Diana knew she was treading dangerously close to thin ice. She almost missed Chase's whispered comment, "Those stories made me want to be a storyteller when I was a kid - before the war took those dreams."

"Maybe someday, Chase. The war won't last forever, you know. We're going to win... soon. We just... we need to settle things between us first, so I'm not a distraction and neither of us loses our focus at a critical moment." A beat. "Would you like to know what soulmates are?"

Chase nodded, watching Diana's expression in fascination. She had a twinkle in her blue eyes that was lit by an inner fire and just the tiniest hint of a smile graced her lips. Diana indulged herself in long look at Chase, seeing depths and shadows in the green eyes that gazed back at her. She took Chase's hands in her own and squeezed them lightly before settling in to tell Chase the story of soulmates that had been a part of Amazon lore since time began. She was gratified when Chase returned the clasp and held on.

"Soulmates are a caprice of the gods and a rarity in any world. They are two whole parts to a single whole entity." Diana took a deep breath, seeing the confusion in Chase's face.

"Legend says that at one time, human beings had two heads, four arms, four legs, and a single soul between them. When the gods saw how happy they were, it made them angry. So the gods split humans into two beings and separated the halves they had created, leaving human beings whole but at the same time, incomplete. Most people spend their entire lifetime unconsciously searching for something they don't even understand they are looking for, and only very rarely, and only in some lifetimes, do they find that other half. And when those two halves of the same soul find one another again, the two are known as soulmates."

Diana sighed. That had been exhausting and she wasn't even to the hard part yet.

Chase thought about Diana's words. "Wait... are you saying the two women my mother told stories about were more than just stories? That those women really existed... really loved one another?"

"Yes, they did," with absolute conviction.

"You sound so certain."

"I am."

Chase looked at Diana, searching her eyes intently. "Why? How can you be so sure they were real people – real soulmates - and not just the made up figments of some ancient bard's fertile imagination to make people believe in impossibilities?"

Diana returned the look, and she saw the shift in Chase's expression when it happened; felt the gasp as an indrawn breath. But instead of pulling away, Chase tightened her hold and tilted her head in a way that rang a bell of sweet memory in Diana's soul. She smiled gently.

"I know, Chase. I know because I was one of those soulmates."

Chase stopped breathing. She stopped breathing so long Diana became concerned and then alarmed, and she finally blew air in Chase's face, forcing an instinctive inhale out of her. Then Chase sat there simply breathing while her mind wrapped around the ramifications of what Diana had said. At last she shook her head and released Diana's hands so she could stand up and pace.

Diana simply watched. She didn't feel like Chase was trying to pull away from her as much as she was trying to come to terms with what she had been told. Eventually she came back to where Diana still sat, her attention turned back out at the view. Chase squatted to one side in front of her and waited for Diana's eyes to track to her.

"You... you're... how do... um.... Shit!" Chase scratched her head in frustration. Diana took Chase's hands in her own again and chafed them gently. Then she gave Chase a crooked smile that was at once comforting and familiar.

"Chase... take your time, all right? We're not in a rush here."

"Okay... okay." She dropped to her knees from her crouch and let her gaze drop to their conjoined hands. "How do you know you are one of the soulmates written about in the Amazon chronicles?"

"I have some residual memories from that time – not real memories, but a familiarity... a feeling. It's kind of hard to explain, but it's real, Chase. I know it is, even without the goddesses' confirmation."

Chase just blinked. "The goddesses confirmed...?" She cleared her throat. "Nevermind. If you want to believe that you are the soul of a three thousand year dead warrior, then who am I to say you're not? But what does that have to do with me and the here and now?"

Now came the really hard part. It was obvious that Chase didn't quite believe what Diana was saying about herself being part of those ancient soulmates, though she did think Diana believed it. It was equally obvious from her reaction yesterday as well as her reaction to her mother's name earlier that she was still not all that enamored of being an Amazon. Diana wasn't very confident of the response she was going to get from Chase once she related the rest of her story.

"Chase, I never told you I was the warrior half of the pair... how did you know?" Chase blinked rapidly and swallowed. "But you're absolutely positive of that knowledge, aren't you?"

"I... I...."

Diana released on hand and let her free hand comb through Chase's hair that was being blown into her face by the gentle breeze. "Chase, I know you've had a rough time since I arrived... especially the last day or two. But I want you to consider why that is, and why you know in your heart and in your mind and down to the depths of your soul that I am that warrior."


"Chase, I came to man's world for you."



Chase ripped her hands free from Diana's grasp and stood, rapidly moving to the edge of the hill. She stood staring sightlessly at the water that continued shimmer and sparkle as it moved on its way, all unknowing of the turmoil that was occurring in Chase's mind or the hollow ache in her chest only a few feet above its chuckling trickle.

Diana came up behind her more slowly and put her hands lightly on Chase's shoulders. She felt the tension sing through Chase's body as though it was a tautly pulled bowstring. Diana removed her hands when Chase shuddered at the sensation of her touch and Chase stiffened to the point that the rigidity in her body was painful to look at.

"Chase," Diana said softly as her hands fell to her sides. "I did come to man's world for you. I wanted to give us a chance to maybe at least become friends. After all, we can't get to know one another if we aren't in the same world, right? But I also came to settle an old score. I owe Orana, Chase... for what she did to me; for what she did to you; and for what she did to the world. Even if you weren't my soul...." stopping when Chase flinched again at the implication, and feeling the pain of rejection lance through her. "Even if you aren't...." She cleared her throat and dropped that line of thought. "Let's just say I owe Orana and leave it at that, all right?"

"No," flat and unemotional. "No, it's not all right, Diana. You don't get to just to show up here and start making those kinds of claims... not on me and not on the rebellion." Chase turned to face Diana, poking her with great vigor as she protested Diana's claims with passion. "I don't care what you think you do or do not owe Orana or your reasons behind it. She is not your responsibility. She's mine, and I am going to pay her back in full for every ounce of suffering she has caused. This is personal, and I have earned the right! Do you understand me?"

"No, Chase... I don't," Diana said softly, biting her lip so as not to let her tears fall. "I don't understand why you are so willing to die when you know... you KNOW in your heart and soul that what I told you is the truth. You know we are soulmates – the soulmates of legend finally reunited after nearly three millennia of separation! How can you risk that bond so easily? Do you realize how long we have been searching for one another??"

This time green eyes met blue and Diana flinched at the fire and fury she could so clearly read directed at her.

"How. Dare. You." Chase ground the words out from clenched teeth. "How dare you come here and try to put all of this on my shoulders, Diana. I'm not the one who separated those souls in the first place," refusing to acknowledge in her speech at least that she was the soul Diana had spent her lifetime searching for. "You see, Mama told me all the stories... including how and why the warrior died... how and why the bard was left to wander the world alone. It was only a short length of time that she survived before the pain of grief and their separation caused her to...!" Chase took a deep breath, dropping her chin and turning her face away from Diana once more. Then she spoke again in a more rational tone. "So don't you dare come here all self-righteous trying to dictate to me and put the blame for your loneliness on my shoulders! I'm not the one who left you and I am damn sure not the one who took your soul out of the karmic circle. Go talk to your goddesses and leave me alone."


"Excuse me?" turning around to face Diana directly.

"No. I am not going to let you throw away our chance at happiness... our chance for peace! Dammit, Chase! I messed up, and it cost us nearly three thousand years apart from one another! I won't let you throw it away for spite before you even consider the ramifications of what you're doing."

"I know what I'm doing. This isn't your decision, Diana. It isn't your choice. It's mine and I'm not willing to be a part of this. For weeks, I have been plagued by thoughts of you – images and feelings and impressions. I have been driven out of my mind trying to reconcile the person I know myself to be with longings and desires and dreams I didn't understand or want. Now you have the gall to stand here and tell me it's not my choice?!? I don't think so."

Diana took a deep breath. "You don't think we have suffered apart long enough? You're willing to give us up forever? For spite?"

"Not for spite," Chase whispered, the fight having drained out of her. "But yes, I am willing to give us up forever, Diana, if it means I don't have to live with losing you again. I can't invest everything I am into that kind of relationship again. I did that once, and something inside me died when you did. I'm not willing to settle for less than everything from me or from you and it's just not possible anymore. After more than two millennia, I've gotten used to living alone. I can live with the empty ache; at least it is familiar. I wouldn't survive a rejoining with you, only to have it taken away again."

Finally, Diana saw a ray a hope. "What if I promise you that won't happen again? What if I can guarantee it?"

Chase smiled sadly. "You can't promise me that, Diana. If we are the soulmates you claim us to be, then you can't promise me that. I've heard the stories, remember? Even without them, I know your heart. It won't let you stand by when there are lives to save and innocents to protect. And you have no assurances of surviving the fight that is coming."

"I do, Chase. I'm an immortal... and so are you. It's your Amazon birthright." Diana's pronouncement was met with stunned silence. "Chase? Are you all right?"

Chase blinked. "Is there anything else I need to know?" her voice an aching whisper that verged on the edge of hysteria. "Please... I'm not sure how many more revelations I can stand before my brain explodes."

Diana shook her head. "Not as far as I know. I have told you everything I know." More silence. "Please, Chase. All I am asking is a chance for us."

"Do you understand what you're asking of me?"

"Yes, but I have to ask, Chase. I have to. We've been apart for far too long." Diana blew out a frustrated breath. "I know the blame for our original separation is mine, and gods, I am so damn sorry for that. But the fact that we weren't able to find one another again until now isn't my fault. It's time for us to be whole again. We deserve a second chance at happiness together, Chase. We deserve it." Diana waited, but Chase didn't answer, instead keeping her attention on the vista below them. Diana sighed and made one last-ditch effort. "I'm sorry, Chase. Maybe I am asking for too much too soon. Do you think we could maybe at least try to be friends?"

Chase didn't move, didn't reply, and this time Diana let the tears come as the rending seared into her soul. She turned to walk away, having said everything she knew to say....

... then stopped when a warm hand gripped her wrist.

Diana looked down. The hold wasn't painful, but it was firm and it made her turn her attention to the woman who held her in such a solid clasp. Chase was still looking out at the view and Diana relaxed, noting the somewhat tranquil expression on Chase's face. There were still lines and concerns, but there was also a noticeable difference, as though she had come to a decision.

"You're going to have to give me some time, Diana. You're going to have to give me some time to consider everything you have said... time to put that against what I know and what I remember and the stories Mama told me about... us. Can you do that?"

"Do you believe we could be an us again... maybe someday?" Diana asked wistfully.

"Maybe someday," Chase answered honestly, knowing the truth in her heart. She turned her face full towards Diana and gazed into her eyes. "But it won't be today or tomorrow. It's going to take time and we're a little short on that right now."

"Chase, for the chance of recovering us again, you can have all the time you need. You set the pace things go." Diana couldn't help it... she reached up and moved the loose hair that blew across Chase's eyes. Chase's eyes fluttered closed and unconsciously she leaned into the light touch. Diana smiled and let her fingers linger only briefly, gently tracing the soft skin before letting her hand drop back to her side. Chase took the hand in her own and held it.

"I know there is something between us, Diana; there has been since the beginning. As much as I have tried to deny it, as much as I have fought against it, I've been aware of it without understanding what it is. I can't keep fighting against it." Chase sighed deeply. "I'm not strong enough to keep fighting, and it is stronger than I am. If you can give me time, I think we can start with being friends again. After that...." Chase shrugged. "Well, we have to get through this offensive first. And we need to end the war. Once we take care of Orana, we will have plenty of time to talk about us."

"We? Does that mean you are willing to let me and my Amazons be a part of the offensive against
Orana and the Reich?"

"It means I am not stupid, Diana. I've learned how to use all the resources at my disposal and to turn away an army of warriors would make me very stupid indeed. Question is, will they follow me?"

"They will follow me, Chase, and I will follow you."

Chase couldn't stop the smile that crossed her face at Diana's words, any more than she could stop the thought that passed through her mind. Would you be willing to walk beside me Diana and let me walk beside you? But she didn't speak it aloud. She was running on overload and she knew it. Too much had happened in too short a space of time. She would need time to consider everything and the implications therein, as she had told Diana. But for now, it seemed they had a firm foundation for friendship between them. There was honesty and that was a good start.

"All right," she said aloud. "Let's go back down and figure out the best way to incorporate your Amazon army into the offensive plan we have ready to go. It is time to bring this damn war to an end."

"I like the sound of that," Diana replied as she bent and snatched up the blanket. She folded it and moved two steps towards the chest before she found her hand caught and held in Chase's. She grinned so big it rivaled the sun, and she squeezed lightly before they walked to the tree together. Then they headed back down the hill, Chase in the lead, only this time she didn't release the hand she held.

Neither of them could have predicted the news that awaited them when they reached the bottom of the hill.



Ty noticed the joined hands as they stepped from the trees, but she didn't have time to enjoy the moment. She had actually been on her way up the hill when they had reappeared, and now she hurried over to them with the radio code in her hands. Chase saw her coming and she met Diana's gaze reassuringly before Ty reached them.

"Chase, I was just coming to find you," extending the paper she held. "Diana would you excuse us, please?"

Diana nodded and tried to release Chase's hand, only to find her own held tightly. "No, Ty. Diana is the leader of the Amazon army. On those merits alone, if there have been developments, she's entitled to know. On a personal level, I need her to be part of things."

Ty blinked. She had never expected something like that to come from Chase's mouth. But she knew with certainty that Chase trusted Diana and that there was an underlying reason for it.

Diana blinked as well. Given what she knew of Chase, she hadn't expected such a public declaration, especially so soon after the personal war Chase had fought with herself on the hill. Then it occurred to her that Chase was doing her best to keep her promise. By letting Diana into the inner circle, not only on a military level, but a personal one as well, she was offering Diana trust and the opportunity to start building the foundation of friendship they needed to in order to develop anything deeper between then. Her smile grew exponentially.

Chase returned the look briefly and Ty looked away out of respect. Then she cleared her throat and motioned to the paper Chase still held in her hand. "Um, Chase? You may want to look at that report. The rest haven't seen this yet, and it's...." Ty stopped speaking when Chase's attention transferred to the paper she clasped.

She watched as Chase's eyes tracked through the words and then stop and read through them a second time. Chase's jaw dropped just slightly and she look at Ty in complete disbelief. "Are we sure about this? Has it been confirmed?" Ty nodded and Chase crumpled the paper and dropped Diana's hand. "Goddamn," turning and walking away from them several steps.

Diana frowned slightly. The words made no sense to her; it was just so much gibberish. Then she realized that the whole thing was written in some sort of code she didn't have the key to... yet. She looked at Chase for an explanation.

Chase held up her hand, a silent plea for patience and Diana acquiesced with a nod. Chase moved back towards Ty until they were standing in one another's space. "How long? When did this happen?"

Ty blew out a breath and shook her head. "We don't know for certain. The best we can figure is within the last three weeks." Then she waited for the explosion she knew was coming.

"Three weeks?? THREE WEEKS?!? Why in the hell are we just now hearing about this?? Goddamn it, Ty! This changes everything!!"

"I know it does, Chase. We think it took this long for the news to reach us because it took this long for the damage to be done. We're still getting all the reports in. Look, let me call the staff and...." She turned to Diana. "Is there anyone from the Amazons you need as an advisor or confidante?" Diana shook her head.

"No. Having Chase will be all I'll need. Don't worry, Ty. I am well-versed in the school of war."

Ty didn't understand the remark, but nodded her head anyway. "All right then. Let me go call a staff meeting for thirty minutes from now. That will give you time to bring Diana up to speed."

"Sounds good. Are the Amazons settled?" Ty nodded. "Good. Make sure everyone brings their mission notes. We're gonna have to make some adjustments. We'll see you in half an hour," taking Diana's hand and leading the way to her quarters. She knew it was the most privacy they could hope for without returning to the hill, and there just wasn't time for that.

Diana was patient until the door closed, then she turned to Chase. "All right... what happened to drain the color from your face, Chase? Are you okay?"

"Physically, yes," Chase answered with a wan small. "Let's sit," motioning to the bed. Diana seated her, then poured her a glass of water from the pitcher on the small stand, watching in concern when Chase drained it. Chase let her hand fall between her knees and dropped her chin to her chest for a long moment before she met Diana's eyes and patted the space beside her. "Thanks," she said, putting the glass back on the table.

"One reason, the first reason our offensive was delayed was because of that death cocktail Orana and her team developed. Hans spent a very long time working on an antidote, and of course, you were able to give him the impetus he needed to get over that last hump. Another was the new armor piercing rounds we found out about just before we were ready to launch the last time. The mission that landed me on Paradise Island was in fact the one that gave us the specifics on the ammo that caused us to postpone the operation yet again while we tried to find a way to defend ourselves against it."

Diana nodded, figuring there was a reason for the brief history lesson.

"So twice we have postponed this mission – the mission to finally rid the world of Orana – to insure that a majority of the rebellion survives. Makes sense, right? Kind of pointless to defeat the evil if no one is alive to enjoy it... especially if we simply create a vacuum for another evil to slip into its place with no one left to defeat that one, right?"

Diana nodded again, and again silence fell between them. Diana could tell by the evenness of Chase's breathing, she was forcing herself to concentrate so as to maintain her calm. She waited.

"So today... just now... we get the news that sometime within the last three weeks, Orana had a dozen different villages purged. All over the world and apparently randomly, but twelve different towns across the planet are simply empty shells now. Every living thing – man, woman, child... hell, even the animals were brutally massacred. She is going to make an announcement about it tomorrow night. A worldwide address to show the consequences for questionable loyalty."

A long pause, then Diana spoke. "Gods, Chase. That's...."

"Yeah... because of my hesitation, innocents have been murdered!"

"Oh no, Chase... NO! The blame for this falls squarely on Orana's shoulders – not yours and not mine. What you did was make a decision that kept people alive; she went in and destroyed everything, without a single regard for those who were loyal to her. We will avenge them, Chase... all of them, but especially those who were part of the resistance."

Chase sat quietly, examining her hands while she considered Diana's words. Finally she looked up and smiled. "Thank you, Diana."

Diana smile back. "Any time, Chase. That's what friends do for each other, right? They stick together." A beat. "Now come on. I need something to eat. I only got a bite of breakfast before I got called to go to the gate to meet the incoming Amazon army, and I'm starving."

Chase blinked. "Come to think of it, I could do with a cup or six of coffee. Let me get my notes and we'll swing by the mess hall for a snack before we head to the conference room."

"Does the massacre change anything...?" Diana hesitated when Chase's accusing eyes turned her way. "Not personally, Chase. I know it changes things for you personally. It does the same for me, and I don't even have any real ties to any of the people who were killed."

Chase ran a hand through her hair and scratched the back of her neck in awkward embarrassment. "My fault," she said briefly. "I shouldn't be so damn touchy about things... especially with you. I promised you I would work at us being friends, and...."

"Chase," Diana cut in, placing her hand on Chase's arm. "I know it's going to take a while. Real friendship takes time to develop, and we have several issues to get around besides just trying to be friends. If this is going to be too hard for you to do now, it can wait until we win the war. I will be just another member of the staff."

Chase smiled wryly and shook her head. "Much as we'd like to think we had some semblance of control going on here, it just never works like that. Besides, I need to get past this and the only way that's going to happen is with a lot of awkward and embarrassing moments between us for a while. You're right... I've got a lot of baggage, and it would be really nice if we had time to go through it all and have things nicely settled between us before we had to go to work. But we don't have that luxury. We also don't have time for you to coddle me through it. All right? If we're gonna be friends, you're gonna have to learn when to step back and when to give me a swift kick in the ass."

Diana looked at her boots, then in the direction of Chase's ass, then at her boots again before she let her gaze drift back to those green eyes, stopping long enough at her ass again to warrant a smirk and a twinkle. Only supreme self-control kept her from blushing.

"Gotcha. A swift kick in the... <ahem> ass. Would you like me to do so now?"

Chase did a double take to see if she was serious, then caught the mischief in those eyes that was signaling for her attention. "Not literally," she growled, then grabbed Diana's hand and tugged her towards the mess tent. Now she needed more than coffee.

"Back to my question," Diana said as they crossed the threshold. "Does the massacre change any of the logistical planning? Did we lose operatives or launch sites... things of that nature?"

Chase shook her head and took a swallow of the coffee, grimacing at its bitter taste. She glared in Cookie's direction and he held up his hands in apology, then he began assembling a tray of food for them. Chase turned her attention back to Diana who had watched the interplay between her and Cookie without comment. She put the coffee down to add something... anything... to it to make the taste a little more palatable, noting that Diana was still stirring.

"Not that I can tell at first glance. But then the missive Ty gave me was very general in its message. She should have more details for me when we get to the conference room." She paused when Cookie approached. "Thanks, Cookie," accepting the tray he offered her.

"Sorry about the coffee, Chase. You got the bottom of the pot. Um... am I supposed to do anything special about all them women?" Chase and Diana both looked at him dumbly and he hastened on. "I mean, they didn't eat or drink anything while they were in here. Are they gonna need something different from the rest of the troops or...?"

Diana chuckled. "No, Cookie. Like every other warrior you know, they will eat whatever you put in front of them. Unlike Chase here, most of us don't go foraging for food if we don't have to," earning her a hearty laugh from Cookie and another glare from Chase. "Just call them when you're ready to feed them. I guarantee you they'll come and eat."

"I know where you live, ya know," Chase growled. Diana bit her lip to keep from chuckling, but that didn't keep the sparkles out of her eyes. Cookie didn't exercise Diana's control and guffawed loudly, holding his belly. Chase popped him, but that only caused him to laugh louder. "I remember a time when I had a semblance of control here. What happened to that exactly?" she muttered as she made her way to the door, shaking her head and continuing to mumble to herself.

Diana and Cookie exchanged glances and grins, then Diana hurried after Chase's retreating figure.

"We have a problem," Ares said as he orbed into Orana's bedroom. She was busy getting dressed for the worldwide appearance she had scheduled for later that evening.

"Don't you ever knock?"

Ares snorted. "Why should I? Not like I haven't seen it all before."

"That's not the point, Ares. A little respect here wouldn't be out of line, ya know." She shook her head at his dumbfounded look and tucked her shirt in. "Nevermind, Ares. What's the problem? I know this isn't about the purging I did, even though it took longer than I wanted it to. You already expressed your pleasure about that tactic... several times and in a variety of positions."

Ares smiled. "And I look forward to a repeat in the near future. But business first."

"What business, Ares? I purged twelve villages and towns across the planet. I've collected information on the resistance that will enable me to put the fear of... well, *me* into them. I am presenting my ultimatum tonight. Everything is on track, because the rebellion and the resistance won't give up without a fight; you know that as well as I do. What could be more important than that?"

"How about an Amazon Princess?"

Orana froze mid-motion. It took a solid minute before she took a deep breath and only then did she turn her head to meet Ares' eyes. His head was cocked and one eyebrow was raised and he was wearing the infernal smirk she despised so much.

"Excuse me?" she questioned. "What did you just say? Are you telling me...?"

"You remember that lovely bit of Amazon flesh you lusted after for millennia? The Princess who considered you a friend and mentor and nothing more, despite the obvious desire you had for her? The one you stole the title of Wonder Woman from and then proceeded to beat and humiliate within a inch of her life...."

"ENOUGH!!!" Orana roared.

"But I was just getting warmed up," Ares whined. "It gets better."

"Shut up, Ares, and get to the goddamn point!"

"My, my... such language. Which do you want me to do – to shut up or get to the point?"

"Get. To. The. Point." She ground out from between clenched teeth. "What does *she* have to do with anything... especially the coming fight with the rebellion?"

"She's been spotted."

"Spotted? Where... here in man's world?"

"Yes, here in man's world; and even better... here in Berlin."

Orana's eyes glowed, a combination of hatred and lust. The look made Ares shiver in arousal as well as the tiniest kernel of fear. "Where is she? When did you see her?"

"I was reviewing some of the scrying records. You remember we talked about those odd photographs you got with breakfast? I did some looking around – at least at some point in the last three weeks, she's been here."

Orana considered his words carefully. "You think she may be what was causing the stir a few weeks ago... the one Adelia was talking about?"

He stroked his beard thoughtfully. "I think it bears looking into. If she's here, it could complicate things immensely."

"If she's here, I will find her. She won't be able to resist the temptation of trying to defeat me again. And when she tries, she will be mine."

"Orana, don't lose focus here. If Diana is here, the odds are she is part of the resistance or the rebellion. Please don't underestimate her... or them. If you don't take them seriously...."

"I take them seriously enough, Ares. I just plan to thoroughly enjoy my conquest of Diana... *all* my conquest of Diana, as well as the final, humiliating defeat of the resistance here and the rebellion overseas. My overseers have grown lazy. I will put the fear of the Fuehrer into them as well as the rest of the world. And then I will crush them all."

Ares watched Orana with more than a hint of concern in his eyes. She was sounding less and less like the woman he had mentored upon her arrival in man's world, and more like an obsessed madwoman. Then he lost that train of thought when she rubbed up against him like a cat in heat.

"However, tomorrow is soon enough to worry about conquering and destroying. After the announcement is made, Adelia will be coming back here to celebrate with me. Would you like to join us?" A hard, fast kiss was her answer, and Orana pulled away with a laugh. "Then let's not keep the people waiting, war god. We have more important business to take care of tonight."

He reached for her cape and placed it on her shoulders. She pinned it together at the neck with an emblem she had crafted for herself alone – one that showed her Amazon heritage as well as her power as the Nazi Fuehrer. An intriguing image and not one she flaunted about very often.

Ares opened the door and offered his arm. Orana accepted and they walked out and down the hall towards the square where everything had been prepared for Orana's worldwide announcement.

Chase rubbed her eyes. "We can't postpone this again."

"But Chase...."

"NO, Ty. I know the risks. But if we don't go now, it may be impossible. You know and I know that given the facts, the Fuehrer is going to do her damnedest to twist this to make it work for her. We got lucky – she has gotten so sloppy and arrogant, she managed to destroy more of her own loyalists than she did resistance members. But if we don't move now... show them that we mean business about this... WE may be the ones that destroy the rebellion."

"She's right, Ty. It's a show of assurance more than anything. Otherwise, people start to lose faith. Then what?"

Ty looked around. "Diana?"

Diana sat quietly for a long moment, looking around the council room. What she found was reassuring. These people had worked long and hard together; they had a confidence in each other's abilities that had been hard won. They had even expressed confidence in her after seeing the Amazons train with and without her that morning. She understood Ty's concern; regardless of how careful they were or how well they planned, people were going to die. But there would never be a better time than the present. At least implementing the plan and moving towards its completion would give hope. And sometimes, that was the best weapon to have on one's side.

"If we're taking a vote, I say go now. We can improvise as things unfold, but this offensive offers hope. If we're not moving when Orana makes her announcement, we could lose an immeasurable level of confidence. And without that...."

Chase nodded her agreement and waited for any more input. When none was forthcoming, she looked around the room. "All right. Send out the signals for them to make preparations for our arrival. We start leaving in an hour in fifteen minute increments; one of you to each wave."

"What about you, Chase? We only have five waves going including the Amazons. We sent for another cargo plane as soon as they arrived. It should be here with just enough time for us to refuel, flight check it and load," Mitch answered her unspoken question. Chase nodded her approval.

"Good job, Mitch. I'll be flying the Tiger. Hans has made some improvements on it for me. I should be able to leave last and arrive first." That statement got lots of raised eyebrows. "Make sure each of you gets something to eat and meets with your squad leaders. Explain everything in detail. I don't want any screw-ups. We will have a final briefing with everyone in the square just before takeoff. Let's go people. We have a war to win."


Chapter XXXIX

"Hey, Chase... you got a minute?" She sighed and turned to find Shep behind her; she stopped walking long enough for him to catch up. Then they resumed their movement towards the lab that had been Chase's original destination. She had sent her staff off with a nod; Diana had understood her unspoken request and had gone off to check on the Amazons. She wondered why Shep hadn't taken the hint. Even Hans had rushed ahead to be sure to have things ready without interfering with her train of thought.

They went about ten steps without Shep speaking and Chase stopped walking and looked at Shep impatiently. "Shep, is there something I can do for you? You have things to take care of before we leave and so do I."

"I just wanted to make sure you were all right. You've been all over the place lately and Jen and I have been more than a little worried about you. Especially since you ordered us to move in broad daylight. Chase, are you sure about this? It's so dangerous."

"Shep, if you can't do this, tell me, and I will find someone who can. I don't have time for your doubts."

He didn't answer immediately and Chase turned to walk away. His hand on her arm stopped her progress and she looked down at his hand before looking at his face. Shep took his hand off her arm slowly and dipped his head.

"Sorry, Chase. It's not doubts... it's concern. I don't know who or what Diana is to you, but something happened to you during that week you were gone. And it only got worse when Diana got here. I just want to know that you're all right... that you're ready for this."

Chase smiled and took Shep's arm, turning them around and walking them back towards the center of the encampment. "Shep, I appreciate your concern and I do understand where it is coming from. What is or isn't between me and Diana is private and has nothing to do with the rebellion or this offensive. We have to leave in the daylight so we get there in the dark. Don't worry, Shep... I have worked the schedule and the flight paths to draw the least attention possible to our departures. But we need to arrive after dark so we can traverse the countryside safely."

He nodded, knowing Chase was absolutely right.

"Trust me, Shep. I've made the adjustments to compensate for the changes, all right?"

"All right, Chase... thanks."

Shep saluted and took off at a fast jog to get back to the hut he shared with Jen. She had promised to pick up lunch for the two of them while he talked to Chase. Chase turned back and made her way to the laboratory, anxious to get this offensive started so they could get it over with.

Hans stuck his head out the door when he heard the footsteps. He wondered what had taken Chase so long to follow him, but a look at the frustration on her face kept his mouth shut until she spoke.

"Hey, Hans. Sorry for the delay. You got the stuff I asked for?"

"Yes. Chase, are you sure about this?"

Chase smiled wryly at Hans, then gave him a brief, reassuring hug before retreating enough to look at the things he had laid out for her perusal. "I'm as sure as I'm gonna get, Hans. No time for doubts and second guessing."

"But Chase, the fuel is untested outside the lab, and we've only tested the tweaks we did on the motor in short flights."

"Have a little faith, Hans. We do good work together. We always have. I'm gonna come back and tell you what a rush it is to fly that fast, and then you're gonna go joy riding... maybe even invite Ty along for a little thrill."

He blushed slightly, but nodded his agreement. "All right, Chase. I'm gonna hold you to it. And I will tell you, if you make me worry like I did the last time you went off... if I have to come over there and save your butt, I will call you Annabelle until the day I die."

Chase mock-shuddered, appreciating the banter for the stress relief it was. She picked up her armor and the few special accoutrements she'd had him add strictly for her. "That's reason enough for me to bring her home without a scratch." A beat. "Thanks, Hans. Hold down the fort for me, will ya? And don't let that Amazon Queen and her council run you ragged."

"They're staying here?!?"

"I guess. Since she handed over the leadership of the army to Diana, I doubt she's gonna be going. I haven't really had a chance to find out. But if they do stay, be nice, but not indulgent."

Hans smiled. "Got it. And you be careful. I want to visit that farm of yours... maybe learn how to milk a cow or sow oats or bake bread or whatever it is you do on a farm."

Chase looked down at her hands and smiled sadly. "All right, Hans. When I get back, we'll see about making a farmer outta you. BUT, you have to ask Ty out, too." She held up her hands before he could protest. "If I have to teach you how to farm, the least you can do is ask the woman to dinner."

Hans chuckled. "Chase, if you both come back, I'll ask her out. I enjoy my laboratories too much to be a real farmer." He opened his arms for a hug and she stepped into the embrace. "Thanks for being my friend, Chase, and thank you for saving my life."

"It was a life worth saving, Hans, and I'm proud to count you as a friend."

Hans kissed both cheeks and released her, and Chase picked up her gear and left without a backwards glance.

Chase crossed the threshold into her hut... and stopped dead. On her desk sat a steaming hot bowl of soup and two thick sandwiches accompanied by a tall glass of what appeared to be iced tea. She blinked at it a minute, fully expecting it to disappear. When it didn't, she looked around for company, but she didn't have that either.

She carefully placed her equipment on the bed, then turned back to the desk. There was a note next to the napkin and she picked it up with a smile. Figured one of us needed to make sure you got a chance to eat. See you shortly. Diana

Chase smiled at Diana's thoughtfulness and thought about cramming a sandwich into her mouth on her way to the showers given how hungry she suddenly found herself to be. She shook her head. Her enjoyment of the meal was warranted given the time and effort Diana had made to insure she had a meal to eat before they left. Instead she covered the soup bowl and snatched up her towel and clean underwear. She would set a world's record for getting clean, and then come back to her hut and enjoy the meal with a rarely felt luxury.

Chase rushed through her ritual bathing, though she was careful to follow every step. She was even completely dry before slipping into her clean clothes, but she moved with greater speed than she normally used. Then she was back in her hut enjoying soup that had cooled to a comfortably warm temperature and eating sandwiches so big she could barely take a bite out of them.

Ty briefly wondered what had happened. She had never seen Chase go in and out of her traditional shower that quickly before, but then the Amazons came back in from the direction of the river obviously scrubbed clean. Ty shook her head, speculating if Chase realized her ritual to be clean before an upcoming mission was based in Amazon tradition. Then she shrugged and decided it didn't matter as long as it worked Chase's normal voodoo magic.

Ty nodded at them on her way back to her hut, needing to go prepare her armor and dress before time ran short. The Amazons filed into the mess hut with single-minded determination. Diana broke apart from them and headed towards Chase's hut.

"Diana?" She sighed and her shoulders dropped, before she turned and face her mother. She waited quietly, unwilling to address Hippolyta as her mother and uneasy about calling her by her name after being put in charge of the army.

Hippolyta was a little disappointed that Diana didn't address her at all, but she was gratified that Diana held her gaze evenly and without rancor. That was something that hadn't happened in over a hundred years, and Hippolyta let herself relish the experience... until Diana's gaze became piercing and one eyebrow arched sharply.

"Oh... my apologies, Diana. I just wanted to ask if it was all right with you if I went along on this mission as well. Not as the queen and not as your mother," she continued before Diana could protest. "I would like to go as an Amazon warrior."

Diana blew out a breath and turned away from Hippolyta. The truth was, she could understand Hippolyta's desire to go. She had been one of their greatest warriors before the Nation had been relocated to Paradise Island. Diana had actually been a little surprised that Hippolyta had handed over leadership of the army for this mission.

"Why did you make me the leader of the army for this operation?" not turning around to look at Hippolyta as she asked the question. "You would have gone as the queen and as a warrior."

"Diana, I have made a mess of everything I have done in the last hundred years where you are concerned, but not about this. This is your fight, Diana. You deserve the right to lead the army against Orana. You, more than anyone, have the right to retribution – not just for what she did to you, but for what she did to your mate as well. I would never stand in the way of that."

"Chase is not my mate," fiercely, turning to look at her mother with a burning look in her eyes.

"Maybe not yet, daughter, but she will be."

The confirmation was unlooked for and it unexpectedly warmed Diana's heart just a little. Hippolyta saw it, but she wisely contained her reaction, not wanting it to disappear on her account. Instead, she answered the plea she could just see hidden at the very back of Diana's eyes.

"I've seen the way she looks at you." Hippolyta took a deep breath. "Diana... daughter... I wouldn't lie to you about this. Despite everything else I have managed to do wrong, I wouldn't lie to you about anything. Trust me, Diana, please." A brief pause. "I know there are some things between us that no amount of time or apologies or regret will ever be able to repair. But you can trust me, Diana... especially about this."

Diana blew out a deep breath and turned back towards Chase's hut. "I won't stop you from joining us on this offensive. You are one of the best warriors the Amazon Nation ever produced, and I am not stupid enough to not utilize every asset at my disposal. I'll leave the decision up to you."

"I would like to go, Diana; I just don't want to make things tough for the army with my presence. Not that I think they would have difficulty following you; you're a natural leader and a greater warrior than even I was. But it is hard to break thousands of years of ingrained protocol and tradition."

Diana remained silent, not wanting to influence Hippolyta's decision, but she did turn to look at her.

"How would you feel if I went as an assistant healer?" Diana didn't answer and Hippolyta realized she wouldn't. Diana really was leaving the decision completely up to her, and somehow, that knowledge made the choice easier.

"I think I will stay here and prepare for the victory party, because you know if we leave the rebels in charge of that we will get...." Here she made a face. "Coffee and fried sugar bread."

Diana smirked. "You mean donuts?"

"I suppose. Now really... where did they come up with such a thing?? No – I will stay here. Amazons *know* how to throw a good party, and no one is better suited for doing that than the queen, right?"

"As you say," Diana agreed without actually committing herself.

"Good! Then it's decided." Diana nodded and started for Chase's hut once more. "Diana...." She stopped walking but didn't turn around. "Thank you for giving me the choice. I appreciate the consideration."

Diana didn't answer except to nod again, then she walked away with a purposeful step. Hippolyta smiled, watching her go, thanking the goddesses for sending Chase to Amazons and Diana to Chase. Already Chase had changed Diana's attitude towards her mother and for the first time in a long, long time, Hippolyta was looking towards the future.

Knock, knock.... "Chase?" Silence. "Chase, it's Diana." Still no answer. Diana bit her bottom lip in contemplation, then opened the door a crack, just to see if Chase was actually in the hut. What she found surprised her.

Chase was sitting at the desk, eyes half closed in meditation. The dishes in front of her were bare of food, including crumbs and the napkin had been neatly refolded and was covering the bowl. Chase didn't move when Diana slipped into the room, and Diana took the opportunity to remove the tray from the desk. When she turned back to Chase, she found bright green eyes focused intently on her.

Chase didn't speak; she simply held out her hand and Diana took it. Chase led her around to sit on the only clear corner of the bed, then released her grip and folded her own hands together. "What can I do for you, Diana? Shouldn't you be getting ready? Have you eaten?"

"Nothing... I just wanted to make sure you ate. I am ready, and yes... Cookie fed me while he was preparing your tray."

"You just wanted to make sure I ate, huh? Well, I did and it was very good. Thank you for thinking of me. I would have just grabbed a couple trail bars to chew on the way out."

Diana smiled and looked around nervously. Chase was exuding a raw energy now, a feral sense of danger that Diana was accustomed to wearing, not seeing in someone else, and Chase didn't even seem aware of the change in her demeanor.

"Diana, are you all right?" wondering why Diana seemed so uncomfortable. The question was full of concern and it made Diana smile. Diana straightened and put her warrior face on, letting her own dark energy rise to the surface. Chase watched the change take place and shivered in pure reaction. Diana turned and gave Chase a feral smile.

"I am fantastic, thank you for asking. I can't tell you how I'm looking forward to this."

Chase grinned. "You don't have to – I know."

Diana motioned to the bed. "Yours is different. And you have more accoutrements."

Chase nodded. "The parameters of my mission are a little more restrictive than everyone else's. I have to prepare for it a little differently."

Diana looked over each piece of Chase's equipment, noting the thicker guards she had added to her thighs and back. She picked up the belt that held half a dozen syringe vials, and understood instantly just exactly what Chase's plan was and just exactly how close to Orana she would need to get. Diana turned and met Chase's eyes squarely.

"You are planning on coming back, right? Because if you're not, I am coming with you."

"Actually, I was planning on you coming with me regardless."

Diana blinked and then scooped Chase into her arms for an exuberant hug. "Thank you, Chase."

Chase smiled and returned the embrace fervently. Whatever doubts she had about herself and about the Amazon situation and even about the upcoming mission, this felt right.

They pulled apart after a long moment and Chase held on to Diana's hands. "Diana, you have proven to be a worthy ally and a very capable warrior. Even if we weren't trying to be friends... even without our souls having a past together or you having a personal reason to extract justice from Orana, I know you are the best choice for a partner to watch my back. All the rest just gives you added incentive."

Diana didn't respond verbally, but the fierce light in her eyes and the feral smile on her lips was an answer all its own. Without warning, she leaned down and brushed her lips over Chase's, feeling Chase freeze before she pulled back.

"Sorry, Chase. I just...."

"Shh...." Chase said, covering Diana's lips with her fingers. "It's all right, Diana. I'm just not... I'm not ready... I'd like to be, but...."

"Shh...." Diana said, returning the favor. "My fault, Chase. I didn't mean to, it's just... that's the first time in forever that someone - that *you* - has looked at me with such trust and confidence and...."



"You're babbling." Diana blushed and Chase chuckled. It was nice to know Diana was as discombobulated as she was about the whole situation between them. "That's okay, Diana. I think it's cute," and got to watch the slow blush travel up Diana's face.

"But I've got to get ready to go and I'm running short on time. Maybe we can finish this when we get back?"

"You bet we can," Diana smiled. "I'll see you in the courtyard?"

"Ten minutes."

Diana pulled away from Chase and left before she could do anything else rash. They had a war to finish and an Amazon to destroy. Then they would have plenty of time to investigate this wonderful, giddy feeling that felt old and new again at the same time. And there was no way on hell she was going to let Orana or anything else on earth stop that from happening.

Then Chase stepped from her hut and a cheer went up from the hundreds of rebels gathered in the square. It was time.


Chapter XL

"Damn, it's dark out here," Ty mumbled, walking carefully to keep from stumbling and sliding through the mud. The darkness and rain had been their friend when they had arrived over the continent. It had enabled them to fly beneath the radar perimeter around the capital and drop in closer than they had hoped. Just as well, since the weather was making it very slow going to get into position for the announcement Orana was going to make later that evening. Ty was glad they had fifteen or sixteen hours to work with. She was afraid it would take them that long to get into place, and even with the sleep they had all gotten on the plane, they were going to need some rest to fight effectively tonight.

Chase had been the last to leave the rebel compound, and no one had seen her since. Her plan had been ingenious, though and Ty knew Chase was somewhere ahead of them.

It was an eerie feeling. Ty knew she wasn't alone, but due to the rain and the darkness and the silence surrounding her, she felt isolated. She wiped the rain out of her eyes and blinked rapidly. Then she checked her watch and smiled. With any luck, she and her squadron would reach their safe house within the next few minutes and then they would have the daylight to rest in before darkness fell again and they made the final short journey to the barracks they had been assigned to destroy. Ty only hoped they were as successful as Chase's plan had shown they could be.

Shep and his unit were making their way to the northernmost resistance stronghold. It was slow going in the darkness, but he had peace about this mission. Chase had planned well, and the changes she had made along with the addition of the Amazons had put the odds firmly in their favor. Not just to put an end to this war, but for most of them to survive it to begin a brave new world together.

His biggest concern was that no one except Chase was privy to what Chase's part in the plan was, and no one had seen her since they had departed the compound. He sent a prayer up for her safety, then picked up his pace. Making this work depended on him and his team making it into the stronghold before daylight; it was up to them to coordinate the rest of the world for the attack. In silence they pushed on, keeping to the trees and the bushes so as not to be seen by the dim moonlight that cast its waning light over the land.

Diana was torn between concern and anger. She hadn't been allowed to ride in the plane with Chase; Hans had forbidden it and given his reasoning, Diana had been unable to argue. The modifications they had made to the airplane had been based strictly upon Chase's height and weight specifications. So Diana had ridden across the ocean with some of her Amazons.

That hadn't been bad; it had helped Diana forge a deeper bond between her and the leaders of the Amazon army. To their delight, they found that the warrior princess they remembered had returned to them at last. And they were excited by the prospect of being led by her. Their part in Chase's plan was right up their alley.

But Diana hadn't seen Chase since they had arrived on the continent. They had been the first to leave as they had the farthest to travel on foot; Diana knew that Chase had been the last. They had missed the worst of the weather so far which had helped them make good time towards Berlin. Chase had promised to find her, and Diana believed Chase had meant her words. Yet they had been traveling for several hours on foot and she had seen neither hide nor hair of Chase.

"Do not worry, Princess," one of her captains commented quietly. "She will find you."

Only the warrior stoicism Diana wore kept her startlement from showing in her expression; even her eyes were kept carefully blank. She did turn and look a question at the woman who spoke, recognizing her as a priestess of the temple. The woman nodded when she realized Diana knew who she was.

"I believe, Princess. I have faith in what you are to be together."

"How does that help me in the here and now, Anya?"

"For there to be a future, there must be a foundation of trust. If she breaks her word to you now, how can there be trust between you? Therefore, she will find you." A beat. "I've read the stories, Princess. I know who she is... and who she was... and who she will be once more."

"Does everyone? Is this common knowledge?"

"No, Princess. The only reason I am aware is I helped Mala with the research when you started asking questions about soulmates. I helped her put all the pieces together." Diana nodded, but didn't speak. Anya felt compelled to reassure her further. "Princess, no one within the Nation knows beyond the council and myself, and I would never betray that trust. Besides, this news it not mine to share... it's yours, if and when you feel compelled to do so. I wouldn't have mentioned it if it wasn't obvious to me that you were searching for her and that search is taking your attention from our mission."

The rebuke was mild, but Diana felt it sharply. She nodded briskly. "You're right, Anya. Thank you for the reminder. I'll keep my mind focused and trust Chase to keep her word."

Anya might have answered, but suddenly Diana stopped walking and held up her hand. The Amazon army halted and melted into the trees as a Nazi patrol made its was towards them. The soldiers had no time to appreciate the fact that they were dead men walking, as in very short order, they were simply dead men. The Amazons dropped in behind them, snapping their necks and letting the bodies fall silently to the ground. Diana looked at her hands, clean of blood, and wondered how there could be no mark upon her for the life she had just taken. She thought she should feel some sort of guilt or remorse for the death she had caused, and maybe later she would, but for now she only felt relief and gratitude for her skills and being alive.

The flick of her wrist and the Amazons cleared the road, moving the men out of sight and up into the trees where they wouldn't be found. Mankind had lost the ability to think and fight three dimensionally and the Amazons were happy to use that to their advantage. Then they started back towards Berlin at a double time jog. The brief fight and subsequent clean-up had cost them precious time and even with the head start they'd had, they were going to be cutting it close. And since they were infiltrating the capital city itself, they definitely wanted to be in place before the sun came up.

Diana sent a prayer up for Chase's safety, then she picked up the pace, the outline of the buildings coming into sharp focus. Diana felt the fire stir in her blood and smiled. She was looking forward to this.

Chase drew a deep breath. Even though it was dark out, the square in front of the Reichstag was well-lit as though in defiance of the resistance and any rumors of a rebellion uprising. There were a number of workmen trying to accomplish several different tasks. There were some who were scrubbing and cleaning the streets around the square. Others were busy painting the buildings and polishing the brass fixtures. A third group was busy stringing wires and lights in preparation for Orana's announcement that evening.

Chase sat in the bell tower over looking the square. Behind her sat the tower guard, asleep at his post, compliments of Chase's and Hans' efforts in the lab. If it had been later in the day, he would be dead, but she couldn't risk the exposure... yet. Soon it wouldn't matter, but for now, discretion was definitely the better part of valor. Chase had to live long enough to take care of Orana.

Her vantage point gave her an excellent view of everything going on below, which would be extremely useful when the Amazons arrived. Chase looked at her watch, squinting in the waning moonlight, then nodded in satisfaction. She could just make out the beginnings of a lightening of the sky in the east. And only because she was looking for it, and knew exactly what to look for did she see the Amazons enter the city. She wondered if Diana would find her before she could get to Diana.

Chase smiled. Diana had been cute about her frustration in being separated from Chase after Chase had assured her they were going to go against Orana together. Only when Chase promised to find her before she went after Orana did Diana relent and leave with the first wave.

A commotion in the square caught her attention and she looked out to find Orana outside investigating the progress that had been made by the workers. They doubled their speed, not wanting to be punished for lax or shoddy work. Surprisingly, Orana simply looked around, pointing out a few things that remained and then turned and walked back into the Reichstag with studied nonchalance. It was obvious to Chase that she was trying to give an appearance of calm control. She wondered if the woman who was Fuehrer had any idea how truly despised she was or how hated her reign had become.

Chase's eyes continued to watch the preparations being completed at a fairly quick pace while her mind wandered back to the stories that had been passed down through her family for generations – since they had happened a hundred years before when Orana had become the Fuehrer.

When Steve Trevor had returned from Bermuda, rumors followed of a woman who had the strength of ten men, the speed of a moving car and the ability to stop bullets. But before any investigation could be done, their spies reported the same phenomenon taking place in Berlin. Only this woman was taken directly into the heart of the Reichstag to meet with Hitler and his generals, and she never came out.

Instead, she became first Hitler's confidante and enforcer, then, according to rumor, she became his lover and advisor. Eventually, Hitler faded out of the scene completely, dead from causes that didn't bear close examination. It didn't actually matter; by that point, Orana had a firm grasp on the entire Nazi regime, and the generals cowed or they died.

She did lead the Nazis to victory, but victory was not at all what they expected it to be. Things did improve some, but never back to even pre-war standards, and for a people who had expected to be at the top of the world once they won the war, that was quite a blow to morale. They had expected to be living in luxury, but except for a very few, the people toiled hard everyday for the bits they had – just as they had always done for centuries. To have lost sons and daughter to such an outcome made them bitter, but the relaxation of restrictions had made them less than eager to upset the applecart either. It was easier just to live with the known than to step into the unknown again and perhaps have yet another war with less-than-favorable results.

Orana had also signed an agreement with Japan that allowed them regency of the Far East territories for a large chunk of the profits. The Japanese had argued briefly, but Orana had been glad to show them the error of their ways and they had capitulated rather quickly after that, understanding well that part of the pie was better than no pie at all. It was easier to let the Japanese fight and die for the bounty she received. Her advisors had argued against such action, feeling the Nazis deserved all the pie. They had seen the futility of such an idea at the end of a noose. She didn't have the time or the patience to explain it to men too stupid to understand it without being told anyway.

Exterminating the Jews in Europe had robbed the Nazis of many of the minds and skills they had once depended on, and there had been no recovery from that devastation. Thousands had escaped and disappeared, but millions had died. Only because Orana felt it a waste of resources and manpower did any of the race survive – mostly in America. This too caused hard feelings as many felt that the Jews and the blacks and all the rest who failed to fit the Aryan mold should be rounded up, and either completely wiped out or made to serve the regime as all who lived beneath Orana's boot had to.

Most felt the same about those who lived in America; because of their indifference to the plight of the English and the French, no supplies had been given to them and few Americans had joined the fight to keep the Nazis from overrunning the European continent. The Nazi people firmly believed there should be some benefit for them for the supposed prosperity that remained in America despite the war. The Americans had been mostly unwilling to fight and die and instead allowed themselves to become subjugated with only Nazi overseers to keep them in line. This kept the land from being destroyed and the people from dying, because for the most part, the overseers were lenient in executing their responsibilities as long as they got fed and the first choice of companionship in whatever town they happened to be checking on.

Such conditions had allowed the resistance to grow, and the rebellion to flourish. Now the time had finally come to change things, Chase thought grimly.

While her thoughts had been occupied with the past, the present had been turning to daylight around her and now the sky was full of color and light. With a glance at the guard who remained asleep, Chase left the bell tower and headed across the roofs of Berlin in search of an Amazon princess.

Dawn found each of the rebel groups tucked safely away into numerous safe houses scattered across the European continent and into Russia and Great Britain. When darkness fell, they would all be moving again. But for now, the people of Berlin and Paris and London and Moscow went about their daily lives, unaware of the changes brewing just beneath the surface.

Chase walked the roofs above where she had last glimpsed the Amazons, knowing precisely where they were supposed to be and noting with satisfaction that there was no way to find them unless you knew where to look. She found the building and crept in, unnoticed by the guard who stood watch. The Amazons were scattered throughout the old warehouse, hidden in plain sight on the outskirts of the city. They had concealed themselves inside, though Chase had no difficulty finding them and slipping around them without being seen or heard. She realized then that the skills her mother had taught her were Amazon skills and she smiled grimly. That kind of confirmation wasn't something she was looking for, but it allowed her to slip right up to Diana... only to be caught and held by sparkling blue eyes when Chase reached out to touch her. Diana caught her hand and held it lightly.

"I promised you, didn't I?"

Diana smiled and nodded. "You did. I'm glad you made it. Are you all right?" Her words were whispered and she leaned up on one elbow. She could see the exhaustion in Chase's eyes, remembering that while the troops had all had the chance to sleep on the flight over Chase had been going full throttle since early the previous morning. She tugged on the hand she still held lightly clasped in her own and pulled Chase down beside her.

"Diana!" It would have been more of a protest, but it was hard to squeal when you were forced to whisper to keep from waking up the rest of the room.

"Hush!" smiling when Chase glared in her direction, but didn't move away from her. "Chase, you've been working for over twenty-four hours. You need to get some rest before we go after Orana tonight."


"Shh!" Diana commanded. "You're taking care of everyone else... let me take care of you."

Chase smiled, feeling a familiarity at Diana's words. "Isn't that supposed to be my line?"

"Normally, yes... but not this time. You're the warrior leader and I'm the Amazon princess. Something kind of karmically circular about the whole situation, isn't there?"

Chase yawned, their combined body warmth and her exhaustion making her almost too sleepy to comment - *almost*. But she had enough of her bardic ancestor in her to warrant giving Diana an answer.

"Somethin'" she mumbled before allowing her fatigue to assert itself and closing her eyes.

Diana waited until she felt Chase's breathing deepen and even out in sleep; then she shifted, trying to get more comfortable without disturbing Chase. She froze completely and held her breath when Chase snuggled into her, wrapping around her like an earthbound octopus and grounding Diana in a way she hadn't been in more than twenty-six hundred years. She smiled at the bittersweet feeling of familiar intimacy that wash through her being at the feeling of having Chase in her arms. Diana wrapped her arms around Chase, and closed her eyes in sweet contentment.

Anya watched a moment longer, then closed her eyes, sending up a prayer of gratitude to the goddesses, hoping they were watching over the Nation and could see what was happening between Chase and Diana here in man's world.

The other five goddesses watched in disbelief as Aphrodite gyrated and shimmied all over the room. It had been a long time since they had seen her do a happy dance that no one recognized it for what it was. They weren't sure if Aphrodite was happy or in pain, though judging by the look on her face, pain wasn't an issue. Finally Athena couldn't stand the gyrations any longer and took Dite by the shoulders to bring her to a screeching halt. Dite glared at Athena, and blew her blonde curls back out of her eyes.

"Whaddya go and do that for?"

"Are you all right?"

"I am awesome, babe... simply fab. But thanks for asking."

Athena rolled her eyes and prayed for patience. "Aphrodite, why were you wiggling around like that? Did you find an ant bed or something?"

Dite snorted. "As if. Nah, babe. Check the radical scene I scryed across." She pointed to the bowl and Athena changed the focus and threw the image up on the wall for all of them to see. They all gaze at the reflection for a long moment, then the other five goddesses got up and started doing happy dances of their own. Dite just laughed joyfully and joined in.

Darkness had fallen but was not quite complete when Diana woke Chase from her sleep. She had spent a few moments simply looking at her, easily imagining the times they had shared like this before. Unlike her predecessor though, Chase woke with a single touch. She looked at their positions tangled up together and immediately moved out of Diana's arms. Diana felt the cold immediately with Chase's withdrawal, but she plastered a smile on her face.


"Sorry," Chase muttered. "I don't know...."

"Chase, it's okay. Thanks for keeping me warm."

Chase nodded, still a little embarrassed by her clinginess. "All right... what time is it?" Chase looked at her watch and nodded in satisfaction. The Amazons were already up and dressed, eating from the rations they had brought. Shortly, they would be dispatched by Diana to their assignments. Ty and her squad should already be working, eliminating the soldiers in the barracks and assuming their duty stations in the square.

Diana handed Chase some of the rations her mother had brought along from Paradise Island, and Chase smiled at the newly familiar tastes that met her palette.

"Thanks. This is good."

"Anytime. This is an old family recipe and they're a Nation favorite – we actually dry fruit specifically for these."

"Well, whoever came up with them was pretty clever."

"Thanks," Diana said cheekily, then got up before Chase could question her further.

It was unnerving to see her sisters dressed as Nazis, but this group was taking the place of the technicians who were supposed to be running the sound and camera equipment for Orana's big announcement. The rest had already moved out to hide in the shadows; they would help infiltrate the Reichstag and work with Ty to prevent any of the Nazis in the square from leaving. This was not a hit and run mission – they were out to seek and destroy.

"All right, sisters. It's time. Each of you has your assignment. Whatever you do, make sure that this broadcast doesn't go anywhere but to the people in the square. Chase has people infiltrating the control room, but work under the assumption that they won't make it... if we kill it at the source, the rest is moot. It is a fail-safe for us. We want to control what gets broadcast."

"Watch for the signal. When you see us move in, that will be your cue to start recording. We want Orana's downfall broadcast." A brief pause that was so silent heartbeats could be heard. No one had expected Chase to speak since Diana was their princess and defacto leader. "Thank you all," Chase said quietly. "Good luck."

"The goddesses watch over you, sisters," Diana commended. "We would see you all safe and Orana destroyed when this is over."

They couldn't roar; stealth was too important to their mission. But they raised their fists triumphantly, shaking them in unity until, at Diana's signal, they went from darkness to darkness, each of them intent on the fight to come.


Chapter XLI

When Orana stepped from the Reichstag onto the square, Diana noticed an immediate hitch in their plans. A hand on Chase's arm and a lift of Diana's chin were enough to alert Chase to the new danger. Diana wondered privately how her mother had known to anticipate this possibility, and thought back to their brief exchange just before Diana boarded the plane.

"Diana? Could I have a moment please?"

Diana was still brooding, fuming over the fact that she had to travel to Berlin without Chase. However, she was trying not to take that frustration out on anyone and that included Hippolyta. Despite the issues that still loomed largely between them, Hippolyta was truly making an attempt to reach out to her daughter, and Diana could appreciate the effort. In her secret heart of hearts, Diana wanted Hippolyta to try again, but she would never be caught admitting that in the light of day – not until they got some of those issues ironed out. Still, she wasn't going to discourage Hippolyta's efforts because of something neither of them had control over. So she took a deep breath and turned to face Hippolyta with a neutral expression on her face.

"What can I do for you?" she asked politely. "Surely you don't need party tips from me?" with just the slightest hint of a smile on her face. Diana hadn't been known as a partier even when she had been sociable. The trace of mischief in her eyes caused Hippolyta to chuckle.

"Um, no. I think I can handle that. No, this is much more serious," reaching for Diana's arm, not letting her touch fall short, not sure if Diana would welcome it. Instead, she pulled a blade from her side sheath and extended it to Diana.

Diana accepted the blade, and looked at it with confusion clearly written across her features. The knife was made of bone – from the handle to the tip of the blade. Diana frowned... if she didn't know better, she'd have thought it was....

"Dryad bone?"

Hippolyta nodded gravely. "Yes. It's the only way we have of killing an immortal. You need to take it with you."

"Mother," she addressed Hippolyta unconsciously. "I can't kill Orana... not with this. I would never deny Chase her right to extract revenge from Orana after what Orana did to her. Chase deserves her vengeance as does the rest of the Nation."

Hippolyta shook her head. "No, Diana. This isn't for Orana... I'd like her to face Amazon justice. No, this is on the off chance you run into any other immortal deities." Hippolyta blew out a breath. "You know Ares was the only god who did not offer you a blessing at your birth, and we believe he mentored Orana when she arrived in man's world. If that is true, then there is every possibility he will be around at some point. I don't want you to go in there unprotected, because if he sees you... I just don't want you to have to go up against him without a way to defend yourself."

"You really think he'll be there?"

"I honestly don't know, but in this instance I would prefer to err on the side of caution."

Diana looked at Hippolyta for a long moment before nodding and putting the blade into her pack. Then she boarded the plane without looking back.


The whispered expletive from Chase brought Diana from her musings with a jolt. She raised an eyebrow and Chase smirked, though she couldn't stop the blush that crossed her face. They were slowly making their way towards the Reichstag itself across the same rooftops Chase had walked hours before when she'd been searching for Diana. They planned to be inside waiting for Orana when she returned. Given the number of people on the stand with her, there would be plenty of time to get in and disable her security and safety measures before she returned. This was obviously supposed to be something of a celebration to reinforce Orana's message of who exactly was in control.

"Sorry," she muttered. "Is that who I think it is?" Diana nodded. "Dammit! That changes everything."

"Maybe not," Diana commented softly. "I don't think he knows we're here. He isn't looking around for anything; he just seems to be enjoying the adulation from the handpicked audience. He can't scry here so he won't be able to find us."

"Doesn't matter, Diana; he is still an immortal... still the god of war. And when we go after Orana, he'll still be able to defeat us with the flick of his wrist."

"Not this time," Diana answered confidently. She stopped moving and slid the pack from her shoulders and opened it, showing Chase the blade that rested inside at the top. There was no change in Chase's expression, no sign of recognition at the significance of the object it held inside.

"I'm sorry... I don't get it; guess I'm missing something pretty important, huh?"

"That's okay, Chase. We'll have plenty of time for you discover everything about your heritage later," Diana assured her with a smile. "This is a dryad bone knife."

Now Chase blinked in recognition. "Waitaminute – you mean the kind of bone that can kill a god? But how...?"

Diana slipped the pack back on and they readied themselves to start the next phase of their mission. They had reached the roof of the Reichstag and moved inside. They didn't see Ares look around with a frown on his face. Fortunately, he couldn't see them either, and after a long moment, turned his attention back to the general who was presently singing the praises of Orana and the Reich.

"My mother, and we know it can kill immortals and lesser gods. Not sure it can destroy Ares given the powerbase he has, but it will hurt him. Given his history, if we can manage to hurt him, he will disappear. He's never been one to stick around when the odds aren't in his favor."

"All right, but that means we're gonna need to split up... at least for a little while."

"Maybe not," Diana said again. She looked down. "The records are spotty, but given what I know of Orana from before she came here, she will celebrate her 'victory' when this announcement is over. If you noticed, the set-up out there was for some sort of party; obviously there's at least part of her Amazon heritage she's kept."

Chase looked at her askance. Diana smirked. "I'll explain it to you later." She looked around and her whisper became nothing but mouthed silence. "Ready?" Chase nodded and motioned to the guard on the right. Diana returned the nod and watched as Chase counted down on her fingers. Simultaneously they moved and in seconds, two guards were dead, compliments of broken necks. They didn't make a sound and Chase and Diana were quick to move the bodies out of sight. Then with a glance at one another, they padded silently through the halls, disarming the cameras and leaving a string of dead guards hidden in the recesses as they made their way towards the lab.

"This was just the first, my friends! From this day forward, the rebellion will be systematically destroyed. We will annihilate every village and town that harbors rebels and resistance members and when we are done, we will set our own house in order! We will go after the Jews! We will go after the Negroes! We will go after the homosexuals! We have been lax too long... but no longer. We will wipe out everyone who does not fit the mold of an ideal member of our Supreme Race!" She naturally didn't mention it also meant the destruction of their one semi-ally in the Japanese. Time enough for those details later, after their obvious enemies were eradicated. "And when we are done, we will have a New World Order! The Third Reich will be stronger and better for the purging! It is time we realize the dream of prosperity we fought and struggled for! It is time we reward the faithful!! It is time we take care of our own... no matter the cost to the rest of the world!!"

The specially chosen audience stomped and cheered. And the Amazons manning the cameras carefully captured it all, though not a word of it was broadcast beyond the square. Mitch had made it into the control room, and sent out a technical difficulties message to the outlying stations, thought they understood the meaning clearly enough. What it meant – reading between the lines – was that Orana wanted complete control over what went out to the masses and would need time to edit it accordingly. They had no way of knowing that Orana wouldn't be editing anything at all.

Eventually, Orana held up her hands and the crowd dutifully quieted and waited expectantly. "So this is a celebration of the beginning of a new era in the Reich. Please, join me in commemorating this event and enjoy the refreshments provided here. VICTORY!!"

At this the crowd roared and returned her salute. "VICTORY!!! Zieg HEIL!! Zieg HEIL!! Zieg HEIL!!!"

Orana stood and absorbed the adoration of the crowd for long moments before she allowed them to disperse to the tables that had been set up around the square. Those on the stage with her removed themselves to join the party at her nod, leaving her alone with only Ares for company staring out at the gathered throng. He put his hands on her shoulders and she stiffened, but he didn't pull away. Instead he began kneading with all the strength in his hands, and he felt her relax into his touch almost immediately.

"What's the matter, baby? You're too uptight for a warrior who has conquered like you have... especially one with such great battle prospects on the horizon."

Orana shrugged and leaned back into him. "I don't know, Ares. Something doesn't feel right. I expected more of a reaction from the rebellion. I expected *some* sort of reaction from them at any rate. And yet, I got nothing, and it's making me antsy. I cannot honestly believe they would let something like this go by without making some sort of effort to stop it. I made sure the world knew I was making an announcement tonight; I even let leak what happened to those twelve villages."

Ares dropped his hands from her shoulders and let one run over his beard. "Well, considering the fact that the rebellion has been around for a century, give or take, I'd say it was one of two things. Either they have already gone underground in preparation for the latest siege OR they are biding their time waiting for the right moment to strike – some time when you are distracted and won't see it coming."

Orana bit her lip in thought. "I suppose. It's just that my thumbs are prickling and I hate that feeling. I especially hate feeling like those cretins have gotten one over one me."

"Nobody's gotten anything over on you, babe," Ares said, putting his hands lightly on her waist. "It'll be their funeral when they do make a move because we are going to be ready for them. They won't even know what hit them." He felt her laugh under his touch and allowed his own dark chuckle to bubble up. "Now, c'mon... you and I have some serious business to attend to," rubbing up against her.

Orana permitted a small, satisfied smirk to cross her lips. "We do indeed, and Adelia should be waiting. Let's go."

Diana and Chase worked in tandem together without exchanging a single word. It was as if they had been doing this together forever, they were so smooth in their interactions. Diana went through the crude computer records while Chase disarmed the first of three self-destruct mechanisms Orana had set throughout the Reichstag. These were the triggers that would set off other devices hidden around the globe, and Diana's searching had turned up the locations of those. Finding them would be one of their first tasks once Orana and the Reich were finally defeated.

First though, they had to destroy the lab and make it to the kitchen to take out the second bomb. That would be more difficult as there should be people working and that meant more killing because there were no innocents here. And Chase was tired of killing; she had been doing it since she was twelve years old. However, it had to be done, so with a signal to Diana, they soundlessly slipped into the kitchen and within minutes, there were six more dead. Diana moved the bodies into freezer while Chase disarmed the second trigger bomb.

Fortunately, since the food had already been prepared and a majority of it had already been set out for the event outdoors, they weren't interrupted and in short order, they were walking down the hallway to Orana's private chambers. This was the tricky part.

Orana was more than a little paranoid and had the most state-of-the-art security she could manage... not that it was anywhere close to what Diana and Paula had developed. So cracking through it was fairly simple. The guards were dispatched easily enough; they simply weren't expecting intruders to be wandering around that far inside the inner sanctum.

There were no bodies to move; Orana kept the guards in her hallway out of sight. Diana disarmed and unlocked the doors – they like the rest of the alarms were set to Amazon milestones and markers. Then they slipped inside Orana's suite. It got harder from here. First they had to disarm the cameras and the monitoring stations in her office area and then they had to move on to the bedroom. The third mechanism was on the bed and it was the one device that connected to each of the triggers around the world. That meant it could still detonate the self-destruction devices Chase had not disarmed yet.

The cameras and monitors were a cake walk for Diana and once they were disabled, they crossed the office floor and stood listening at the bedroom door for a long moment. When they didn't hear any sound coming from within, they opened the door slowly then looked around the empty room.

Chase gave a sigh of relief, relaxing just slightly. Given the rollercoaster ride her life had been lately, she half expected some sort of hidden surprise. But this time, it seemed, their intelligence had been right on the money. Even Ares unforeseen presence hadn't changed the outcome of their work and very shortly, all hell was going to break loose outside the Reichstag as well as at other Nazi strongholds around the world. When Orana left the square, Mitch would let Shep know; then resistance fighters across the globe would attack the Nazis in full force. The Amazons in the square were looking forward to that event, but then, so were the rest of the rebels.

Chase went to the far side of the bed while Diana stayed on the near side, both of them carefully searching for the final trigger device. Without warning, the bathroom door flew open and a very naked Adelia stepped out and strutted towards the bed. She was halfway there before she realized she was not alone... and not with the couple she anticipated sharing the night with.

"Who are you?? What are you doing here??" She froze, and that hesitation was what cost Adelia her life. Chase reacted immediately and the first needled vial of Orana's evil poison struck Adelia in the heart. The effect was abrupt and Adelia fell to the floor, clutching her chest in agony and gasping for air. Unlike Orana's version, meant for prolonged torture, Hans had concentrated the mixture so death was almost instantaneous.

Chase and Diana exchanged glances, and without a word they scooped Adelia up and tucked her into the bed to die. It would save them from having to clean up the mess before Orana and Ares returned. Then they went back to their search.

Much to their surprise and chagrin, there were two triggers and they were tied together by a complicated series of connections beneath the bed. They looked at each other and with soundless sighs, slid beneath the bed.

Diana watched Chase's actions, mimicking her precisely. Chase nodded her approval and together they disarmed the last of the self-destruct mechanisms. Then the door to the bedroom opened and Ares and Orana stumbled in, tossing bits of clothing carelessly around the room.

Diana opened the pack she still carried and removed the dryad blade, then motioned to Chase, who shook her head violently. "Why?" she mouthed. Instead, Chase gestured to her side of the bed, asking Diana to follow her out. She figured it would buy them a little extra time. Meanwhile, Orana and Ares separated long enough to notice Adelia was already in the bed waiting for them.

Ares chuckled. "Guess she's anxious, huh? But what is that smell?? It smells like...."

"... death. Something's not right; wait, did you unlock the doors when we came in?"

Ares answer was interrupted by the sound of gunfire in the square and several things happened at once. Orana crossed to the window, heedless of her partial nakedness. Diana and Chase rose from beside the bed simultaneously. Orana turned, the needle of the poison vial piercing her chest. She wailed and dropped to the floor, writhing in agony. Chase rushed over to Orana and snatched the belt of strength and the golden lasso from around her body.

At the same time Chase threw the vial, Ares saw Diana and hesitated, caught unaware by her presence here in this room. That hesitation gave Diana the opening she needed and she tossed the blade in Ares direction. He didn't move, incorrectly assuming it was of no consequence and wanting to drive that point home by allowing the blade to penetrate his skin even as he threw a fireball full-force into Diana's torso. Diana crumpled and Ares screamed as he realized just exactly what he'd been hit with.

Chase turned from Orana as Ares pulled the blade from his gut. He threw it at her in his rage, but Chase ducked it easily, having already been in motion to cover Diana's body. He held closed his wound with his hand and shimmered out of sight, needing to find a private place of power to heal.

Chase took Diana's face in her hands and cradled it carefully, completely unaware of the tears streaming down her face. "Oh no, you don't," she said angrily. "NO! You don't get to leave this time. You promised me a future! You promised me forever, Goddamnit!! Don't you *dare* fucking die on me now!!" She reached down and picked up the accoutrements she had dropped in her haste to protect Diana's body from further attack. "Look, Di... we got them away from her."

"Not for long," a weak and shaky Orana said. She was holding a gun pointed in Chase's direction. "I'm an immortal, remember? You can't kill me... even with that lovely noxious poison I created. Uh uh," she said, blinking rapidly. "Hands where I can see them."

Chase placed the belt and lasso onto Diana's chest, glad to see it was still moving, albeit slowly. Then she turned and stood, and in a movement too quick for Orana to process, threw two more vials – one that hit her in the belly and one that embedded deep in her thigh. Orana dropped the gun to reach for the vials, only to fall to the floor again. This time, Chase got up and stuck the two remaining deep into her spine, watching without feeling as the woman stiffened in anguish.

Then she moved to kneel back down at Diana's side, scrambling through the backpack trying to find a way to fix the damage Ares had done. Her heart cried out to goddesses she wasn't even sure existed, hoping for a miracle from somewhere to keep Diana alive.


Chapter XLII

Diana blinked her eyes opened, then closed them again, groaning at the intense pain lancing through her chest. She took as deep a breath as she dared - pretty shallow, considering – and opened her eyes again slowly, seeing nothing around her but empty space. She frowned; the last thing she remembered was... "Chase!!" She struggled to sit up, then dropped back to a reclining position when pain and vertigo made the effort impossible.

A hand came into her line of vision, easing her down with a gentle touch. The cool cloth on her forehead was both familiar and comforting. She closed her eyes and concentrated on breathing, willing the pain to subside. Where was she? And why? And how did she get here anyway? Then a voice cut into her musing. "Take it easy, Diana. How do you feel, Princess?"

The voice was recognizable and yet not as she remembered. "Drea?"

"No, Princess. Open your eyes."

Diana blinked open her eyes and forced them to stay open, then blinked again when a face came into view. "Aunt Jasmine? But how?? You're dead and I'm...." breaking off as the implications of what she was saying sank into her mind.

"... going to be if you don't make up your mind to be differently."

Diana moaned. The pain was making it hard to focus and harder still to think clearly. Jasmine waited; she needed Diana to be full cognizant of what was going on around her. She felt when Diana turned to her meditation for relief, and after a few eternal minutes passed, Diana relaxed and turned her attention back to her aunt.

"Gods, this hurts."

"I'll bet it does," Jasmine agreed pragmatically. "It looks pretty nasty."

Diana looked around at the emptiness again. "I have to tell you, Aunt Jasmine, for an afterlife, this place leaves a lot to be desired... especially if it hurts like this all the time."

Jasmine smiled at her sadly. "This isn't the afterlife... at least not yet. This is an in-between – a place between life and death, and as long as you can feel the pain of your injury, you are still alive in the real world. Once it's gone...." She let the thought trail off.

Diana smirked wryly then grimaced. "Guess I should be counting my blessings then, huh? 'Cause this hurts like a bitch." She closed her eyes again, missing Jasmine's startled look at her choice of words. "What am I doing here, Jas?" feeling a wave of lethargy wash over her. "Better yet... what are you?"

"Well," rinsing the cloth and gently applying it to Diana's face and neck. "I'm here because you are. You're here because Annabelle is refusing to let your soul go and your spirit is refusing to let your body die while she holds on."

"So as long as she holds on, I'll live, but as soon as she gives up I die?"

"That depends on you."

"Huh? Aunt Jasmine, I know I'm not running on all cylinders here, but life and death has never been about choice – especially when a god takes a pot shot at you."

"Do you want to live? Would you be willing to give up your title, your immortality, to live as a mortal woman in man's world with my daughter for the rest of your natural, normal life? Not as a warrior hero or an Amazon princess or Wonder Woman, but simply as her mate?"

"In a heartbeat, Aunt Jasmine. I have missed her... so much. I would give up everything to be with her again."

"Then live for her, Diana. Make the decision to live for her... and then do it."

"Simple as that?"

"Simple as that."

Silence reigned for a while after that. Jasmine continued to bathe Diana's face and neck and Diana simply lay still trying to breathe through the pain. In all of her immortal life she couldn't remember hurting like this and she wasn't really thrilled with the prospect of doing so now – even knowing she had suffered as badly or possibly worse in her last trip through the karmic cycle. Finally, though....

"Aunt Jasmine?"


"Will you tell me about Chase? What she was like growing up – things she did?"

Jasmine laughed... a full bodied laugh, and Diana smiled in reflexive sympathy. "You want to hear stories, hmm? Well, Drea is the only one who's heard any of those before, but sure. I imagine I can remember a few things about what Annabelle was like growing up."

Diana laughed briefly, then curled up into herself as agony pierced her body in reaction. "Ow, ow, ow."

Jasmine smiled compassionately. "A little less laughter, maybe? I'll try not to tell the more outrageous ones, though for the first few years of her life she was a mostly quiet child. Very bright, and she certainly had her moments, but.... Her best friends were her books and her daddy. When he died, she changed. My Annabelle - my brilliant, quiet daughter – became a hellion. That's when she started going by the moniker Chase. And she started taking unimaginable risks. She was seven years old."

Diana opened her eyes and looked at Jasmine in shock. "Chase became a rebel fighter when she was seven?"

Jasmine nodded. "Little things at first, and against my wishes and explicit orders she did. I knew, even though she was unaware, that she had a different destiny to fulfill, but nothing I was able to share with her was enough to deter her strength of purpose. I knew she was resolute about avenging her father's death, but looking back at it, I wonder if perhaps she became so reckless because of who she was."

"You mean as your daughter... as an Amazon?"

"No, I mean as your soulmate – one half of a whole. Maybe her father's death showed her the unexplainable loneliness in her soul. I know it left a huge hole in her heart and in her life."

"How could you let her do that, Jasmine? How could you let her run the risk of being killed?? After all it took to get her here...." Diana shook with anger and pain and frustration. "After how long we've been apart from one another, you just let her...."

"No, Diana. I didn't just let her." Jasmine's head dropped. "But I couldn't stop her either. I tried, you have to believe that, and up until the time she was twelve, I had a little success. There were only a limited number of jobs she could do, and most of those required her to simply walk information from one point to another. No one suspected a cute kid like her to be dangerous." Jasmine met Diana's eyes, both sets filled with tears. "But she was the most stubborn, hardheaded child ever born, though given her soul and her heritage, I don't think she could help that." They exchanged watery smiles.

"What happened when she was twelve?"

"Annabelle killed her first man."

"At twelve?!?"

"Yes. She discovered a double agent living among us. It was how she found out about Hans, but that's another story. Anyway, he tried to rape and kill her and she killed him first, but not before she got proof of his duplicity. They lauded her as a hero."

"What happened then? And what is the story about Hans?"

"She became more involved in the rebellion then, started doing a lot more undercover work. And as bad as I hated it, as much as it scared me... gods, Diana – she was the best operative we had. She found out things... well, she's the reason the rebellion is winning, the reason the war will soon be over. Her determination to find Hans is the reason we were able to, and he was one of the few that understood and appreciated her mind first. Together they were able develop many of the weapons and advancements the rebellion has."

Silence. Then Diana broke it. "Then what?"

Jasmine sighed. "Then I died. Just after Annabelle turned seventeen, I was sent out on a mission based on intelligence she had gathered. I was killed, and Annabelle... Annabelle went a little crazy."

"Is that when she became the leader of the rebellion?" Diana asked, knowing what the partial records Paula had managed to cull had said, but curious about the truth.

Jasmine shook her head. "No. Paula's records – those she managed to find – were accurate. Annabelle took on the impossible missions. She went out and met with resistance groups, formed new cells and started a network between them and the rebellion in America. She really was the glue that brought and held everything together."

"Kind of like what she's doing for me now."

Jasmine nodded. "A little bit. What she did for the rebellion was business; what she's doing for you is completely personal. I have never seen her put anyone or anything ahead of the rebellion like she has you, Diana."

Diana blushed. "Then why am I still here, Aunt Jasmine? If she's holding on to me so tightly that I'm not dying, why am I still here?"

"I don't know, Princess. Close your eyes and focus. Maybe she's just waiting for you to decide to come back to her."

Diana nodded, then took Jasmine's hand in hers and squeezed it. "Thanks, Aunt Jasmine. Do we... may I ask for her hand? Can we have your blessing?"

Jasmine returned the squeeze and smiled into Diana's eyes. "Diana, you have always had my blessing. Just promise me that you'll protect her and love her with everything you are. She is fragile underneath that core of strength she's got and she has had those walls up for the better part of her life. She really doesn't remember what it is to look at life with the wonder and amazement of a child. You will need to be patient and teach her, but above all else, you will need to love her. Love is not something she's permitted herself in far too long. It is one reason she keeps pushing you away – one reason she asked for time. She has no idea what to do with all she feels for you."

"Loving her is easy, Aunt Jasmine. It is part of who I am, and who she is to me. The rest we will make up and learn together as we go. Thank you for giving birth to her, Jasmine, and for loving her. You gave up everything for her... so we could have another chance to be together. No wonder Chase is such an incredible woman – she had an incredible mother."

Jasmine leaned down and brushed a kiss over Diana's cheek. "Go to her. And kick Ares ass once for me, all right?"

Diana chuckled and nodded. Then she closed her eyes and focused her attention on Chase and the feelings of panic she could feel rising from her direction.

Chase growled when she couldn't find any first aid supplies in the backpack. She snatched up the communication device she and Hans had developed for emergencies and took a deep, calming breath to keep from screaming at Mitch.

"Mitch, this is Chase, over."

This is Mitch, boss. Go ahead, over."

"Mitch, I'm in... we're in the Fuehrer's room and she's been subdued. I need... I need a squad to take her into custody and... and I need the Amazon healer, Drea. I need her fast, Mitch. Hurry, over."

There were a million questions he wanted to ask, but he shoved them aside for the moment. He could feel the urgency in her controlled voice. He figured he'd get his answers soon enough. "Will do, Chase. The squad will be easy; the healer will take a little longer, but I'll find her, Chase. I'll see to it personally, over."

"Be quick, Mitch... and thanks. Out."

Orana stirred and Chase turned her head, then grabbed the lasso. Much as she hated to leave Diana's side, there was no way she wanted to be caught unaware again by the Amazon Fuehrer. Chase wasn't deliberately cruel, though she certainly wanted to be – given what both she and Diana had suffered at Orana's hands. However, she wasn't gentle in her treatment of Orana and she trussed her up like a calf, tying her hands and feet together with the lasso looped around her neck so that any movement by Orana to free herself resulted in her choking. At the moment, though, Orana was in pain too intense to allow her to struggle. Simply breathing was unbearable.

Chase left her where she lay, semi-naked and in agony. A thought occurred to her and she slid into place beside Diana. She took the belt of strength and looked at it a long moment, then apologized to Diana softly for any pain she might cause. Then Chase semi-wrestled the belt around Diana's slim waist, doing her utmost not to further damage Diana's burned and bleeding torso.

When that was done, Chase sat back on her heels and looked for something else she could do. She spotted the dryad knife sticking from the wall where Ares had thrown it and grabbed it, shoving into the backpack with the rest of the things Diana had brought. Then she went into the bathroom looking for something... anything... that might help.

Chase tore up the bathroom quickly, then realized as she looked at the lone bottle of aspirin in the medicine cabinet that she didn't know enough about Diana's immortal body or the damage an ancient god's power could do to be able to treat her without possibly inflicting further injury. Frustrated, she blew out an exasperated breath and grabbed a washcloth from a folded stack, wetting it before rushing back out to kneel beside Diana's prone body.

The silence and lack of distraction narrowed Chase's focus to the pain she was feeling for Diana. Without analyzing the need, she cradled Diana's head in her lap and started talking to her in soft, soothing tones while gently wiping her face while they waited for help to arrive.

"Diana? C'mon, baby. You can't die on me... not now. You promised me, remember? You promised me immortality; you promised me we couldn't die... that we would be together forever. You don't want me to have to come looking for you in the afterlife, Di. I promise you if I have to, I will make your afterlife completely miserable. I swear I will."

Chase took a deep, shuddering breath to keep from sobbing. She didn't need or want anyone to witness the privacy of her pain. "Don't make me go through this again, Diana. I won't survive the separation this time. Despite the fact that we are new to one another in this lifetime, Diana, my soul remembers. Regardless of my repeated denials to myself and my trying to keep some distance between us, there are parts of me that know and recall who and what we were to each other... before. Please don't leave me to that aloneness again."

Chase tenderly wiped Diana's face and neck, letting her fingers trace the features that were so familiar and yet that she was just coming to know. Diana was an admittedly beautiful woman and in spite of her disheveled state, Chase was honest enough to admit to the surge of animal attraction she felt for her. She smiled wryly.

"Ya know, I was attracted to you almost immediately; that was one of the things about you that scared me senseless, if I'm gonna be completely honest about it. I've never really been drawn to someone like I am to you. Not just the physical, though you are gorgeous," Chase said with a blush, "but your mind and your soul are equally appealing. Come back to me, Diana, and I promise not to push you away again."

At that moment, a mixed squad of Amazons and rebels entered the room and froze, taking in the scene with practiced eyes. Seeing Chase completely preoccupied with Diana, Ty immediately assumed command of the unit, directing their efforts. Some of the Amazons went to Orana, marveling at the binding Chase had contrived for her. They were much rougher in their handling of Orana than Chase had been. They removed the lasso and secured her in the forged shackles Aphrodite had given them. Then they took up positions to guard the woman until they were ready to move her out.

Another small group began constructing a travois to carry Diana wherever they were directed and hoping it would be soon. Some of the things they had seen in the Reichstag were more than a little disturbing, and they were anxious to remove themselves and the injured Princess from the vile evil they felt emanating from the place.

A third group assumed a perimeter around Chase and Diana, providing them with both protection and security. Ty was in this group and she dropped to one knee next to Chase, putting a hand on her arm and waiting until Chase dragged her eyes up to meet Ty's.


"Ty, where's Drea?"

Ty shrugged. "I dunno, Chase. Mitch sent us over and we got here as quickly as we could. It's a mess outside. Not to worry," she added quickly, seeing immediate concern in Chase's eyes. "We have things under control. We ran into more pro-Nazi forces than we expected to, but they are being dealt with. According to the initial reports, quite a few battalions of foot soldiers are simply surrendering. Daylight will give us a better idea of where things stand, but for now, we seem to be ahead of where we expected to be at this point."

Chase nodded, but didn't respond otherwise, her attention focused on the still body in her lap.

"Do you have any orders, Chase?" Ty prompted. She hated to ask, but they still had work to do, and like it or not, Chase was the one in charge of it until and unless she removed herself from the responsibility.

"Yes. Put the soldiers who have surrendered under the command of the resistance leaders whose jurisdiction they are quartered in. They are *not* to be tortured or killed; they will need to be tried and sentenced accordingly once we have things under control. Anyone that fights back or tries to run away dies by their own choice – kill 'em all," said flatly with no emotion.

Ty's eyes widened, but she nodded her agreement. She hadn't expected such unemotional disassociation from Chase at their moment of triumph, but victory seemed to have lost its savor in light of what had happened to Diana. "I'll get the message to Mitch and Shep." She motioned to the woman cradled so carefully in Chase's arms. "How's she doing?"

Chase looked up at Ty briefly before returning her attention to Diana. "Still breathing, but I don't...."

Whatever else she had been about to say was interrupted by the arrival of Drea and Mitch. The healer made her way to Diana's side, stifling a cry when she saw the damage Ares had done to Diana's body. Immediately she dumped her bag of supplies out and began barking orders to those who were standing around as if waiting for instructions; they started doing her bidding as quickly as her directives were issued. Ty removed herself from the area and went to have a word with Mitch. The war was still raging around them, despite the calm at the center here, and they had things left to do.

"Don't worry, Chase. I'm not going to let my daughter die. She has too much left to look forward to in this life."

"I'm sorry, Drea. I never meant for something like this to happen."

Drea smiled, even as she winced at the wound that covered so much of Diana's upper body. Drea could only imagine the pain that was causing her. "I know you didn't, Chase, and Diana knows that as well. Putting the belt around her was genius – that will actually help her heal. It channels her immortal strength, something she wouldn't be able to tap into here otherwise."

"Will she be all right, Drea? Can you make her better?" The last was a plaintive whisper and it tugged at Drea's heartstrings. She smiled with all the confidence she could muster.

"She's survived this long by your combined wills; I don't think making her better will be a problem. You both want it too badly. We need to get out of here though. I want her moved to the triage unit we have set up until we are ready to go home. If you could manage to get the location of the invisible plane out of her," motioning to Orana, "that would help immensely. I'll explain it to you later," seeing Chase's uncomprehending look.

"I'll see what I can do for you. Can you... give us a minute?"

Drea nodded and rose. "Anya, let's get the litter ready. We're going to need to move Diana to the triage unit in the warehouse." She gestured the rest away from the couple to give them a little privacy.

"Diana," Chase leaned down and whispered into her hair, wrapping one arm around Diana's collarbone and running the other the length of her arm to clasp their hands together. "I've got to go out there and finish what we started, but I'll be back soon, I promise. We have unfinished business between us, so you damn well better straighten up and fly right. I expect you to be up giving orders by the time I get back, and I'm not gonna be gone very long, all right? I love you, Diana. Come back to me now."

Her eyes didn't open and her breathing didn't change, but Chase felt Diana's grip tighten briefly. She smiled into Diana's hair and brushed a kiss across the top of her head. "That's my girl," she whispered. Then she eased out from behind Diana's body and headed out to finish up the business they had started together.


Chapter XLIII


"Chase? What are you doing out here? We've got this under control. You need to get back in there with your girl. We can handle this, honestly."

"I know you can, Ty. But I also know that the resistance needs to see me, even if it's only briefly. They expect it... I can't be hiding out taking care of someone they know nothing about. Leaders don't have private or personal lives, ya know."

Ty smirked. "Well, you never have before. Guess that means I'm gonna win that bet, huh?"

Chase ducked her head and spoke softly. "She touches my soul, Ty, like nothing or no one ever has... in this lifetime anyway."

Ty crinkled her forehead at Chase's wording, then shook her head and pushed on Chase's shoulder. "G'wan. Go do your leadership thing so you can get back to Diana. The rest of us can handle the details, all right? Let us do our part, too."

"Ty, if it was up to me, I'd let ya'll finish the whole damn thing without me and the hell with the consequences. But we have all fought too long and too hard to get here to lose because of my selfishness. Make sure Orana is moved to the torture room in the basement, and keep her guarded and manacled to the wall at all times. I'll be back shortly to take care of moving her for judgment."

Chase turned and walked off before Ty could formulate a reply. Ty watched her go, then started whistling, a somewhat incongruous sound given the gruesomeness of her surroundings. But even that ugliness couldn't dampen her spirits at seeing Chase complete. Then she headed back into the Reichstag to carry out Chase's orders.

Chase scampered around the square, dodging the random gunshots that still rang out across it, though there had been very little resistance to their coup so far. They had planned well; however, they all expected there to be at least one serious fight from the Nazis once they were able to organize something against the rebellion. It was Chase's job to try and insure that didn't happen.

She rounded the corner and realized she was in trouble almost immediately when she ran into a leather-clad chest. She backed up just enough to look into brown eyes that flamed with hatred before a hand covered her mouth and the world disappeared around her.

Ty jogged back into the Reichstag unimpeded by anyone or anything since Chase and Diana had secured the building. With a very few words on her part, the Amazons formed an honor guard for Diana while the rebels surrounded Orana to transport her down to the torture chamber. She exchanged a few words with Drea, then went with the rest of the rebels down to the basement. She was going to take responsibility for Orana personally until Chase arrived to take over. Orana was going to be the final piece of business the rebellion took care of before the resistance governments took their place in the new world order.

Meanwhile, the Amazons made their way unmolested to the triage unit Drea had set up in the warehouse area they had been quartered in. It was a little unnerving – almost as though the Nazis were chasing something else or had disappeared underground. But they didn't take time to consider the reasons for their easy passage; they were too happy to get Diana back under cover.

As soon as they arrived, the Amazons spread out, having already been given their instructions by Drea before they left the Reichstag. Soon, everything physically possible had been done for Diana's body and it was time to focus their spiritual energy on healing her as well.

Anya took her position at Diana's head and Drea stood at her heart. Mala took Diana's belly with the belt of strength and Nubia was located at her feet. The remainder of the Amazons, except for those assigned guard detail, filled the spaces in between the four placed strategically at Diana's power points.

First Drea, then Nubia, Anya and finally Mala placed their hands on Diana's body and the rest linked them together. Then they started channeling their immortal strength into Diana's body through the belt of strength. And before their eyes, Diana's immortal body began to heal from the damage Ares had done to it.

Though visible, it was a slow process and they faltered when Ty came rushing in frantically close to the end. It took them nearly another hour to finish, and by then, Ty was beyond frantic and the Amazons were exhausted. Diana's sleep had turned natural. She would need a good stretch of normal sleep, but when she awakened, she would be as good as new, and possibly better, given the fact that she was wearing the belt of strength.

The Amazons scattered throughout the warehouse to catch a few hours of sleep themselves and Drea moved to talk to Ty. When Ty explained the situation, Drea dropped her head into her hands. Ty tugged on her arms, trying to convey the sense of urgency she felt, until finally Drea sat her down and clarified the realities of the circumstances surrounding Diana's healing. They would move as soon as they were able, but there was nothing to be done until Diana woke from the final stages of the healing sleep she was currently in. Ty recognized the truth in Drea's words, knowing Chase would never forgive either of them if Diana was put in harm's way unnecessarily. Ty explained what the rebels were doing, and how Drea could contact her once the Amazons were able to move out.

Morning was just peeking over the horizon before Diana stirred. By that point, the Amazons had gotten a short few hours of rest and were already geared up and ready to return to the fight. Drea had shared Ty's emergency with them, and they desperately wanted to be out helping in the search and not here waiting for instructions from their princess. But they were loyal, well-trained troops, and so they waited.

Diana's blinked her eyes opened slowly to let them adjust to the streaks of daylight shining in the roof vents, fully expecting to see Chase's green gaze waiting for her when she woke up. Instead she immediately focused on the uptight, pensive looks of the Amazons surrounding her and shot up into a sitting position. She closed her eyes momentarily to allow her equilibrium to catch up to her body's motion, then she turned to sit on the edge of the pallet.

"Report!" The command was whispered, but the fierceness behind it was felt by every single one of them and every Amazon eye turned to Drea. The healer took a seat beside Diana and touched her forehead with the concern of a mother before taking Diana's hands in her own.

"How do you feel?"


"All right... what do you remember?" trying to gauge where she needed to start from.

"Orana and Ares...." Diana looked down at her chest. "He tried to kill me, but Chase wouldn't let me die. I talked to Aunt Jasmine, and Chase told me...." Diana looked around before letting her eyes and her voice drop. "Drea? Where is Chase? She promised to be right back. I heard her. And I know the damage he did to me had to take at least a little while to heal, even with...."

Diana blinked rapidly. "Where did the belt come from? Is Orana...?" Diana trailed off and rubbed a hand over her eyes and face. "Drea, please... report." Her voice was a mixture of confusion, frustration and defeat.

Drea blew out a breath. "All right – short version? You and Chase managed to defeat Orana and injure Ares. Then you were brought here for healing and Chase went out to assure the rebels about things." Drea swallowed. "She was supposed to go from the Reichstag to the control room; Mitch was going to broadcast her words to the rebellion. She never made it."

"What?!? What is being done??" Diana grasped Drea's arm so tightly, the healer had to bite the inside of her lip to keep from flinching. Drea eased Diana's grip from her arm and held her hand, rubbing her thumb lightly over Diana's knuckles.

"Shh, Little One. The rebels have been out all night searching. Unfortunately, they haven't found anything – not a trace."

"What are the Amazons doing?"

"Waiting for your orders, Princess." She held up a hand to stop Diana from exploding. "Breathe, Diana. We all needed rest once you were healed; it took a lot of energy to repair the damage Ares did. None of us has been up very long, and we decided to wait for you once we did."

Diana took a deep breath and nodded her head. "All right. Nubia," motioning her mother's advisor. "I want you to take the army and work with Ty... try to find any sort of clue what might have happened to Chase. Someone had to have taken her for a reason – odds are the Nazis have her somewhere and are looking to trade her for Orana. So we need to find out who took her and where they have her before they start making demands. We can't give them the upper hand; it has taken too long for the rebellion to get it back."

"By your will, Princess," Nubia nodded. She and the rest of the council had been very impressed with her leadership. She had made sure Chase was aware of the Amazons strengths, then had handed out assignments, trusting in their training to get the job done without her having to hawk over them every second. That's what had enabled them to defeat Orana.

"Diana, if Nubia is leading the Amazons in their search, what are you going to be doing?"

Slowly Diana stood to her feet. "I'm going to go talk to Orana, and then I'm going to find Chase."

"Diana, wait...." Drea stood up and held Diana's arms. "If you're doing that, why don't you simply lead the Amazons? Why are you going alone?"

"Because I'm not going as Princess Diana." She removed Drea's hand from her arm. "I am going as Wonder Woman."

Diana stood in front of the safe in the Fuehrer's room for a long moment before twirling the dial with long, tapered fingers. Thanks to Chase, Diana already had the belt of strength and the lasso of truth, even if Chase hadn't realized exactly who and what they represented at the time. She was simply aware that Orana never took it off because it made her invincible, having been told so by Orana herself during her time in captivity. Part of Diana was surprised Orana had kept the costume, but a bigger part of her knew that Orana considered this her greatest trophy. Hence her reasoning for keeping it protected in the safe.

Avoiding people to get to Orana in the torture chamber and then to her rooms had been simple enough. Practically everyone was out searching for Chase, and Diana was beyond ready to go do her part... especially since she now knew exactly where Chase was. She only hoped she had guessed right about Wonder Woman's abilities against a god, or this could turn out to be a very short, very ugly rescue.

She swung the door opened and held her breath. Everything she'd once earned, everything she needed to be Wonder Woman was here, and Diana removed each piece reverently, then donned them and covered the outfit with her civilian clothing. She needed to get out of the Reichstag as Diana Prince, just as she had arrived, so she tucked the tiara into her shirt and resettled the belt and lasso at her waist. Then she walked back out the door, headed for the temple to retrieve Chase.

"Well, well, well," Ares taunted. "Not all that tough now, are you, miss thing? You wanna explain to me how a bit of nothing like you has managed to destroy the best thing I had going in a very long time? Do you realize how long it will take me to rebuild anything like the Reich was? It will take months just to get Orana back into a position of power."

His tone was conversational enough, but the hatred that burned out of his eyes belied that tone. Chase didn't deign to answer him, refusing to give him the satisfaction, which only served to make him angrier. He backhanded her for the umpteenth time, watching dispassionately as another trickle of blood ran from yet another cut on her face caused by his hands.

They had been hours at this and Chase had yet to speak a word. In some ways it made Ares angry, but in others, he couldn't help but admire her fortitude.

Chase was shackled to a wall in the temple Orana had consecrated to him years before. It was at the edge of the city and off the beaten path. By the time the search parties got here, assuming they even found it, Ares and Chase would be long gone. He had only come here because he was still weak and suffering from the effects of the dryad blade. Only his need for revenge on Chase had prompted him to leave his sanctuary in his still weakened condition. He would take care of Diana and his sisters when he was stronger.

For now, though, he was content to torture her physically with his bare hands, taking a rest between blows to recuperate. He walked back over to his throne and collapsed into it, holding his belly.

"You know," he suddenly said conversationally, breaking the silence that had fallen over them like a pall. "I just realized something - I don't need Orana anymore. I was going to force them to trade her for you, though of course, you would have been dead by the time they actually got to you. But I really have neither the time nor the inclination to bother with all the effort it would take to make things work with her again." He chuckled at his own twisted sense of humor. "However, I think I can destroy you and the rebellion at the same time by using this little coup of yours to my advantage." Ares rubbed a hand over his beard. "Hades, I *know* I can. Sometimes, I am just sheer genius in action."

Chase maintained a bored, disinterested look on her beaten face, though fear gripped her heart and a sinking feeling formed in the pit of her stomach. She had the unhappy feeling she knew *exactly* what Ares was hinting at, and could only hope she was wrong.

"Just imagine how your friends will feel when they find out that you used them to become the next Fuehrer. Any sort of rebellion will be dead in the water. And the Nazis will think the slaughter tonight was just a purging to get rid of the dead weight in the government and it will be *easy* to bring the rest back in line because of it." Ares laughed. "I think you actually did me a huge favor."

When he got no reaction from her whatsoever – not even an attempted glare - he lifted a hand to heal her enough to make her cognizant, thinking he had done too much damage to her for her to appreciate the irony that was going on. And more than anything, he wanted her to appreciate the fact that he was going to defeat her with her own so-called victory. Lifting his hand from his belly, though, very quickly brought home the fact that he was still in quite a bit of pain himself, and he hissed as the wound stretched and bled sluggishly with his movement. His hand dropped back to cover his belly and he stepped back from Chase a pace.

"However, I'm going to go rest a recover for a little while," he said with a groan. "This damnable thing is not healing and I'm going to need all my strength to put this plan into action. You just...." He twirled his wrist at her a few times. "Hang around and think about things. I'll be back." His mocking laughter lasted longer than the sparkles that marked his disappearance did.

When she was sure he was gone, Chase let her shoulders drop, allowing her wrists to support her weight briefly. Her broken ribs were making it nearly impossible to breathe and she wheezed slowly through her busted lips as she tried to find a position that wasn't agony to be in. Every change in position made her lightheaded though, and clear thinking was becoming more impossible by the moment.

"Aww wight, Chase," she slurred out loud. "This is a helluva mess ya lann'd in an' no'ne's gonna bail yer ass ou'. I's all upta you so kick star' those few brain cells ya got lef' an' figger a way oudda here. Ya got yerself inta this so yer on yer own wid this 'un."

"I wouldn't bet the farm on that if I were you, Annabelle," came a familiar voice out of the darkness. Chase strained to see past her bloodied, swollen eyes, and when the figure stepped into the light, Chase couldn't do anything but blink before letting a silly grin cross her face.

"Hi, Di. Ya look diff'rn't. Wha's with the costume? Who ya s'posed to be? An' how'd ya fin' me, anyway?" She grimaced in pain as she shifted to see better.

"Annabelle, I need you to focus. My name is Wonder Woman, and I've come to get you out of here." She knew the use of Chase's first name and that of her own alter-ego would get Chase's attention quicker than almost anything else. And Diana didn't want Chase to inadvertently alert Ares to her presence – not yet anyway. She wanted Chase free from the shackles and ready to escape this dreary place before possibly having to encounter Ares here.

"Wunner Wom'n? Huh... ya look a lot like my frien' Diana. She's more'n my frien' though," Chase's voice dropped conspiratorially. "She's my soulmate," each word clearly and carefully enunciated.

Diana gently cupped Chase's broken face in her hands. "What does that mean to you, Chase? Is that important?" She knew it was unfair of her to ask Chase in her current condition, but Diana needed to know that Chase felt the truth in her heart and soul, not just understood it in her mind.

Chase's brow furrowed in concentration. With all the damage Ares had inflicted on her, thinking and rational thought was becoming more difficult; having someone who looked so much like Diana asking her questions about her relationship with Diana was even more confusing. But she forced herself to concentrate on giving Wonder Woman an answer.

"Very 'po'tent," she slurred. "Mos' po'tent thin' in m'life."

Diana smiled. "Most important thing in my life too, love," the last whispered under her breath. "Come on... I've got to get you out of here," breaking the shackles that held Chase and catching her in strong arms as Chase fell forward with a groan. Diana cradled Chase against her chest and just held her tightly for a long moment and Chase relaxed into the warmth.

"Wunner Wom'n? Where's D'ana? Is she okay?"

"Diana is just fine, Annabelle. I'll explain everything to you as soon as we get out of here, I promise, all right?" A sound from behind her made Diana tense and mutter an ancient curse under her breath. Then she turned to face the mocking smirk the god of war wore to hide his own pain and discomfort.

"Don't tell me you're leaving so soon, Princess. We haven't even had a chance to get acquainted yet. Surely you weren't going to leave without saying hello."

Diana eased Chase to the floor. Wonder Woman or not, there was a dark part in her soul that was looking forward to this. Ares was going to go down and it was only fitting that she was going to be the one to do it. Sometimes it rocked to be the Amazon warrior princess.


Chapter XLIV

"I'm flattered, Princess. I certainly didn't expect you to get all dressed up for me. Though in all honesty, I didn't expect you to get up at all," he said with a sadistic chuckle. Then he dropped into his throne chair with a grimace. "I must be losing my touch."

Diana didn't deign to answer, choosing instead to simply glare at him. He was the first one to look away.

"So why are you here? Surely you didn't come here expecting to walk off with my new Fuehrer. Chase and I have a new future to begin together. You certainly don't think I'm just gonna to let you come in and destroy that just because you put on a skimpy little costume, do you? Please, you could have at least donned the leather if you wanted to impress me."

"I'm not here to impress you, Ares. You're not worth that kind of effort. Now," stepping closer to him and putting her hands on her hips. "I'm going to pick Chase up, and we are going to walk out of here free and clear. And you're going to leave us and the rest of the rebellion alone."

This time Ares doubled over in laughter, stopping almost immediately and clutching his stomach in pain as agony rolled through his body in unaccustomed waves. "Damnation, that hurts! How is it that I am still suffering here even though I'm a god and you, immortality notwithstanding, seem to be fully recovered?"

"Karmic revenge?" Diana smirked.

"Don't push me, Amazon. I am still the god of war."

"And? I'm not still recovering from a god's blast and I'm not the one bleeding like a stuck pig from a dryad blade."

His reaction was fast, but it was also predictable. Diana's response was completely unexpected and left Ares gasping for breath. He lifted a hand and Diana didn't flinch. Diana didn't move, even when he let loose with a volley of fireballs, except to bring her wrists up in front of her chest. She deflected the barrage right back to Ares and he flinched beneath the repercussion of power that hit him on the return.

Diana watched dispassionately as Ares fell off his throne and hit the ground face down. He moaned a long moment before he went completely silent, and Diana nodded in satisfaction. Then she turned back to Chase who had closed her eyes. Diana's ire grew when she was reminded of the abuse Ares had perpetrated on Chase, but she put it aside temporarily. She was more concerned with getting Chase out of Ares' temple and back to Drea's healing skill. It wasn't like Ares was gong to be able to come after them any time soon.

Diana knelt down and slid her arms around Chase's body. When she stood up, Chase moaned and blinked her swollen, bloodshot eyes open. "Wunner Wom'n? W'ere we goin'?"

Diana smiled down at Chase. "We're going to find Drea to heal you, and then we're going to go home."

Chase struggled as much as her battered body would allow her to do, and Diana cradled her closer to keep them both from toppling over as she walked out of the dark sanctuary and into the sunlight of morning. Chase tried to beat on Diana's chest, but her injuries made it more of a tapping than anything else. But it was enough to get Diana's attention focused on Chase.

"We can' leave yet," Chase said , shaking her head slowly from side to side to emphasize her point. "We can' leave til D'ana is okay."

"Diana is fine, Chase. *I* am fine. Drea and the Amazons healed me."

Chase squinted, though it was hard to tell the difference as swollen as her face was. "D'ana? Yer Wunner Wom'n? Then h'come...? Why...?" She put her head down on Diana's shoulder. "My head hurts."

"I know it does, sweetheart. Let me get you to Drea and we'll talk about all this later, okay? I promise. I'll explain it all when you feel better."

"'Kay... I'm gonna res' now." And she was out before Diana could formulate a reply. Just as well, Diana thought, since I have no idea what I'm going to say to her about this. Then she picked up her pace and moved into a jog, heading back into the city.

The rebel watch saw her before she got into the square and they sent up the alert. By the time Wonder Woman reached the square, every rebel and every Amazon that wasn't involved in clean-up and repair was waiting. Four Amazons met Wonder Woman with a litter and Diana tenderly, reluctantly placed Chase's body on it. Ty was at her side immediately and covered her mouth with one hand while the other clamped on to Wonder Woman's wrist.

"Who are you and what happened to her? Oh God, Chase!" She turned accusing eyes to Diana. "Did you do this to her?"

"NO!" Diana cried out in horror. "I would never... not to anyone – especially...." Diana swallowed the words she wanted to say. "I am called Wonder Woman and my job is to defend freedom and protect the innocent. Ares did this to her; the Amazons called me in to help with the search."

"You're an Amazon?"

"Yes, I am. And any of the Amazons here will vouch for my character. But first, do you think we could let Drea start her magic on Annabelle? I'd really rather she didn't have to suffer any longer than necessary. Ares was brutal."

Ty nodded and stepped aside to allow Drea to approach the pallet. Drea did a cursory examination and motioned for the Amazons to lift the travois. "I'm going to take her to the infirmary." Both Ty and Wonder Woman nodded.

"Do your best for her, Drea. I will be back to check on your progress shortly." Drea gave her a succinct nod that was also like a bow, then the Amazons moved off towards the infirmary at a double time jog.

"Where are you going, Wonder Woman?" Ty asked. There was a nagging familiarity about the woman, but Ty knew if she had ever encountered this particular Amazon before, she would have remembered.

"I am going to go talk to Orana. I have some questions and she has the answers."

Ty nodded. "I see. Think I'll come along. I have a couple questions myself."

Diana sighed. She had been afraid of something like this. Orana would expose her and she didn't want that. If she was going to stay in man's world with Chase, she couldn't afford to lose the secret identity of her alter ego. It had been simple when she had snuck into the dungeon in the early part of the morning. It had just been her and Orana, and her only objective then had been to find Chase's location. Having Ty along now would only complicate matters immensely.

However, there wasn't a good way to put her off, at least not out here in the open, so Wonder Woman nodded her head, and Ty gave a signal to the rebels to return to their work. Then together she and Ty began to make their way into the Reichstag and down to what had once been Orana's torture chamber and was now her prison.

They walked downstairs together and once they were out of sight of the first set of guards and before they got to the next set, Diana slid the lasso off her belt and wrapped it around Ty's torso. "Ty, when we get to the door, I want you to wait outside for me. You can say that you accompanied me downstairs for Chase, all right? But I need to see Orana alone."

"All right."

"And as far as you're concerned, all your questions got answers... at least for the time being." Ty nodded and Diana removed the lasso from Ty's body, coiling it and reattaching it to her waist before Ty came back to her surroundings with a start.

"Sorry, Wonder Woman... what was I saying?"

"You were just bringing me up-to-date on the progress that has been made here." They stopped in front of the dungeon door before Diana could continue. Ty nodded at the guards.

"Let her pass. She needs to speak to the prisoner." Both guards snapped to attention. "I'll wait here for you, Wonder Woman."

"Thank you, Ty," Diana responded, before she opened the door and crossed once more into the room that had haunted her nightmares for more than a hundred years.

Orana lifted her head and sneered when she saw who her visitor was. "Diiiiannnnnna," she drawled in a screeching tone that scraped raw every nerve Diana had left. "So good of you to come visit me in my loneliness. Still pretending to be a hero, huh?" jutting her chin out in Diana's direction. "Too bad you had to *take* it from me instead of earning it for yourself. Although," Orana chuckled hatefully, "I guess I took it from you first, didn't I? I never cared about being a hero, though. I just wanted to get away from you and your oppressive mother, and being able to steal Wonder Woman right out from under you just made my victory that much sweeter."

Diana bit her lips until they bled. She wanted to beat the shit out of the woman who hung before her manacled like the animal she was, but it was neither the time nor the place for her to exact that kind of revenge. Instead, she decided to get some answers she needed – some for her own personal closure and some just because.

She took the lasso of truth from her belt and for the first time Diana saw fear in Orana's eyes and she wondered. Orana had been brutal in her adherence to the truth, even when she had disregarded every other principle she had been taught to revere and respect. So why was the woman who had given up her Amazon heritage to become a ruler in man's world suddenly so afraid of the truth?

Orana pushed back into the wall as though by doing so she could keep Diana from using the lasso. "No, no, no... you can't do this to me again. I have rights you know, Diana. You can't just come waltzing in here and take the answers you want from me. You can't use the lasso against me." Diana ignored Oranas' ramblings and looped the lasso over Orana's head. Then her ramblings turned to screams of outrage. Fortunately, Orana had built her torture chamber well and the walls were soundproof. And Diana and Chase had put the cameras out of commission when they had destroyed the lab, taking perverse pleasure in the destruction.

Diana held the lasso firm, letting Orana scream and squirm until she wore herself out. It didn't take very long actually – the poison was still saturating her system and causing untold pain and damage to her body and internal systems... including her mind. Finally, Orana's head dropped to her chest in defeat.

"What do you want to know, Diana? Isn't it enough that you won? There – I said it... you won. You beat me. Are you happy now or do you have to rub it in? You never seemed the vindictive type," Orana taunted, "though I suppose a century of anger and hatred could change a person."

That statement was a little too close to the truth and Diana clamped her lips together briefly to keep from lashing out. Then she spoke in a calm voice.

"Why, Orana?"

"Why what, love? Come on, Diana. You've got to be more specific than that if you really expect me to give you an answer."

It hadn't been the question Diana had intended to ask first, but since she had.... "Why did you really want to be Wonder Woman? Why did you give up your birthright... your heritage... to become the Fuehrer in man's world? Why do you hate me so much? I thought you were my friend."

Orana leaned her head back as if in contemplation, because these were the questions she didn't really want to answer. But the lasso compelled her to tell the truth and the desire to speak burned in her soul until the words just poured from her.

"I wanted to be Wonder Woman because you wanted it so badly. I *knew* it was you under that mask, just like I knew you wouldn't be able to stay away from those games. Competition is too much a part of your make up, and your entire future was at stake. I wanted to mess that up."

Diana expected as much, but it didn't make it any easier to hear. She waited for Orana to continue. Orana waited for a reaction from Diana, but it never came. Finally she gave a disgusted sigh and resumed speaking.

"As for the birthright... the heritage... what birthright? Being an immortal? I'm an immortal here in man's world, and here, I don't live by someone else's ridiculous, archaic rules. I make the rules here; *I* am the boss. As for being an Amazon – what exactly did that get me? I was never quite the best once you came along. It was always 'Diana this' and 'Diana that'; I was always in second place – me... the one who taught you everything you knew! I made you who you were and what did I get from you in return? Nothing... that's what!!!"

"Here, I was *never* second best! I kicked ass and took names and then I took over the world. I got everything." Orana took a deep breath and gave Diana a sick smile. "I'll tell you a secret," dropping her voice to a whisper, forcing Diana to take a step closer. "I knew who Annabelle Chaser was when she was captured. I knew she was the soulmate you had been waiting for."

Diana's hand clenched on the lasso and the muscles clenched in her jaw. But Orana had leaned in even closer... as far as her shackles would allow, and Diana knew Orana wasn't finished speaking.

"She was important to me as the leader of the rebellion, but she was of immeasurable value to me once I knew who she was supposed to be to you."

"You KNEW?" The whisper was ground out between her clenched teeth.

"Oh yes, my dear... DEAR Diana. I knew. I had done my homework. I figured there had to be a reason you were so drawn to Steve Trevor that you were willing to risk Hippolyta's wrath, so I started looking. Imagine my surprise when I found out there was actually something to that whole soulmates theory you had always played into. So I had people looking for her." Orana grit her teeth together. "I was going to destroy her."

"Oh," she continued without missing a beat, "I knew that killing her would have made her a martyr to the rebellion, but it would have been worth it just to know I had succeeded in keeping the two of you apart. I was going to make her suffer, and then she was going to die. But she got away from me before I could finish."

Diana reacted from her heart before her mind had a chance to engage itself. She transferred the lasso to her left hand and pulled back hard and fast with her right. Then she cut across Orana's face, catching her in the jaw and feeling the bones shatter beneath her fist. The second hit went to Orana's belly and the third brought a crunching sound from the ribs Diana broke. Then she took a deep breath, and two steps back, never losing her hold on the lasso. There was a sense of dark satisfaction on Diana's face as she looked at the damage she had done and could see the pain in Orana's broken face.

"Why? Why do you hate me so much, Orana? I never did anything to you, except look up to you and respect you."

"Exactly!" Orana hissed.

Diana frowned. "What do you mean?" her brow furrowing. "How could respect make you hate me?" Her question was met with silence and Diana tightened the lasso painfully until it bit into Orana's skin. "I want an answer."

Orana rolled her eyes and took a shallow breath to respond, having already learned the hard way that deep breaths were out of the question. "Gods, Diana... are you really that stupid or just that naïve?? I wasn't about to let you have something I couldn't... especially since you never wanted what was right there in front of you."

A look of disgust crossed Diana's face, but Orana didn't see it. She had closed her eyes and was lost in her own little fantasy world.

"It would have been so perfect, Diana - you as the princess and heir apparent with me as your consort. I would have done anything for you... anything to be with you." Her brown eyes popped back open and they were filled with the venom of hatred. "But I wasn't good enough, was I? No – you didn't want me... you didn't want *anyone* that way. You had expectations of finding your soulmate. Why should you get to have a soulmate? None of the rest of us did!! What made you so goddamn special?!?"

Orana forgot her pain in the heat of her anger and took a deep breath, spittle and blood flying from her mouth as she continued to rant. "So I decided I was going to take away everything from you – your good name, the respect people had for you, your chance to be Wonder Woman, even your goddamn supposed soulmate if I could manage it – whatever it took to make you realized you were no more special than the rest of us. To make you see me!!! To make you love me!!!"

Diana's face hardened. "When I leave this room, you will no longer remember that the Amazon princess, the woman who goes by the name of Diana Prince, is actually Wonder Woman." Then she pulled the lasso from Orana's torso and carefully coiled it up, keeping her back turned to Orana until the task was completed. When she turned, her face was set into hardened lines and her eyes were chips of ice so cold, Orana couldn't control the shiver she had in reaction.

Diana walked right into Orana's space, so close that the ex-Fuehrer could feel the heat emanating from Wonder Woman's body, but not quite touching, then she leaned in until their faces were only a hairsbreadth apart.

"Not even if we were the only two people alive on the whole planet," Diana said succinctly.

Diana stepped back from Orana with a grim expression on her face and walked to the door. She reached out for the handle, then hesitated before opening it. "Where's the plane?"

Orana blinked. That certainly hadn't been the segue she'd been expecting and it took her by surprise – enough that she blurted out the answer. "At the temple... in the back area behind it." Then a sneer formed on her face. "Not like it matters – that plane will only answer to me."

Diana looked over her shoulder with a smirk. "Apparently not, or you would have summoned it already." She opened the door when Orana's voice stopped her one more time.

"What's to be done with me?"

"You will stand trial, and if I have my way, you will walk the gauntlet as a mortal being. I figure there are enough Amazons and rebels eager to have a shot at you that you will be dead long before you get close to the end."

"Do you get to take another shot, or do the three you already gave me count for something?"

"I will not hit you again. My contribution to your punishment will not be physical." Then she crossed the threshold and closed the door firmly behind her, leaving Orana alone with her thoughts and the implications of Diana's words.


Chapter XLV

"So, we've had a few more casualties than we expected, but we have also managed to capture or kill a majority of the Nazis – far more than we expected by this point in the engagement. A huge contingent of their regular army simply surrendered. We're waiting for Chase to decide what to do with them. The officers will be tried and sentenced for their war crimes, but we didn't make a provision for their army to simply... give up."

"And Annabelle has to decide?" Wonder Woman and Ty were walking slowly back towards the warehouse that now served as the hospice for the rebels who had been injured during the offensive. There hadn't been many, but it had been more than enough and the medics and Drea had had their hands full. For now the area around the Reichstag was secure and the focus was on settling the rest of the empire as quickly as possible so they could get the provisional governments in place, although Ty had the distinct feeling Chase was going to have been much more accurate in her estimate of how long it would take than the rest of the team had been. She hoped not, though. She wanted to go home and start having a real life.

"Well, yeah," Ty shrugged as she answered Wonder Woman's question. "Whether she likes to admit it or not, Chase is the defacto leader now – not just of the rebellion, but of, essentially, the world. The rebellion and the resistance all take orders from her."

Diana blinked at the enormity of what Ty has just said, but otherwise neither her face nor her voice gave any hint of what she was thinking. "How does she feel about it?"

Ty shrugged again and shook her head. "You'd have to ask her to be certain, but I don't think it was ever her life's goal... to be a world leader, I mean. She was always pretty set on destroying the Nazis." She paused a beat before she turned the focus of the conversation to Wonder Woman. "So, who are you really, and how did the Amazons come to claim you?"

Diana smiled wryly. She understood Ty's curiosity, but it didn't make it any easier to answer her questions honestly. "I really am Wonder Woman, and I have been the Amazon champion for a long time. We came as soon as we knew of the troubles humanity was facing in man's world. I am glad we were able to make a contribution towards helping."

There was a feeling of finality in Diana's tone and Ty bit back the questions she wanted to ask. Despite Wonder Woman's apparent friendliness, Ty got the distinct impression pushing her would not go over well. And the Amazons were great allies.

Fortunately, they were interrupted by one of the lesser commanders, and Ty stopped to take care of the problem while Wonder Woman continued on her way to the hospice. She never saw the startled expression on Ty's face or the speed with which the rebels started moving. Diana was focused on getting to Chase.

When she crossed the threshold, heads turned and the Amazons present gave her the barest nods of respect, but otherwise, life continued as normal in the infirmary. Only Drea moved from the notes she was recording on the files that littered the makeshift desk and rose to greet her.

Diana stopped briefly to talk with each of her Amazon sisters that had been wounded in battle before she continued her journey to Drea. When she reached the healer's side, Drea took her arm and led her to a cordoned off area. Here, hidden by the improvised curtains they had hung to give her privacy, Chase lay in solitary splendor with two Amazon guards outside the curtain to insure her privacy. Her green eyes were nearly swollen shut from the beating Ares had given her and she was bandaged more places than not from the cuts and broken bones he'd inflicted as well. Diana turned to Drea and lifted her eyebrow in mute question.

Drea sighed and spoke softly so the others around them would not hear. "She took quite a beating, but she is healing well. It's going to take a few days, though. Immortal or not, she is not Wonder Woman and doesn't have the belt of strength for us to channel healing energy into her."

Without hesitation, Diana reached for the belt that she wore around her waist, only to be stopped by Drea's hands. She shook her head wordlessly and Diana returned the look with a venomous stare of her own. Drea kept a grip on her, but shifted it to merely holding Diana's hand. Diana returned her attention to Chase's severely beaten face.

"Why, Drea? She needs my help!"

"As do so many others here," motioning around the room beyond the curtain. "Diana," saying her name so low even the princess nearly missed it, "you want to keep your alter ego of Diana Prince a secret from the world, correct? So you can remain here with Chase in man's world and still be a contributing part of is as both Wonder Woman and Diana Prince, right?"

"Of course, but...."

"No buts, Di... Wonder Woman. Aside from the fact that if you heal her you would need to heal the rest, you have somehow managed to completely disorient Chase about who and what you are. And until you clear things up with her in that regard, you can't risk going against her wishes... whatever they are. Besides, you can't heal the rest for several reasons. The Amazons don't have that kind of strength for one thing, and none of the rest of these people are immortal. The belt will only heal an immortal – I'm not sure Chase is ready to share that with the world."

Diana's shoulders dropped. "It hurts me to see her like this, Drea."

"I know, Little One. Do you know how to hide your identity? No, wait... your mother never showed you that, did she?" Drea muttered, coloring slightly for her slip. "Sorry."

Diana shrugged. Somehow, standing as Wonder Woman in the costume she had earned those long years ago made the pain and anger she had felt since then recede. Having finally found Chase and knowing how Chase really felt was what gave her happiness. "S'all right."

Drea looked at Diana, seeing she really didn't mind, then she realized where her eyes were focused. She put her fingertips on Wonder Woman's chin and brought Diana's attention back to her. Drea couldn't stop the grin that crossed her face or the widening of it as a blush traveled up Diana's face. "You've got it bad, huh? It's good to see. Now," clearing her throat and keeping her voice at a whisper, "let me show you how to make Wonder Woman become Diana Prince."

The whispering was too low for Chase to understand the words, but it was loud enough to make her curious. It made her want to open her eyes, but she found it took a lot more effort than she expected it to. When she finally managed to open them a slit, she had to blink in disbelief and the pain of that caused tears to run down her face. When she opened them a second time, everything was blurry and she closed them with a moan.

It was the moan that caught Drea's and Diana's attention.

Drea squeezed Diana's hand and gestured her towards the bed before she slipped out of the curtains, moving the Amazons away from them just enough for Diana and Chase to be able to talk without being overheard.

Diana, now sans her Wonder Woman costume, walked to the bed and took a seat on the edge. She let one hand cover Chase's while smoothly moving blonde bangs off her forehead before letting that hand cup Chase's cheek.

"How do you feel, Chase? You took quite a beating."


Diana smiled gently. "Yeah... is there anything I can...?"

Chase shook her head, only just moving it. "D'ana, m'confused."

Diana let her hand move from Chase's face and through her soft hair. It came to rest on Chase's neck and she gently kneaded the muscles there. "About what, Chase?"

"You... and Wunner W'man."

Diana nodded and sighed. "Yeah, about that...." Chase didn't move, but it looked for all the world like she crooked her head in question. Diana blew out a breath of frustration. "I'm sorry, Chase. It's my fault you're confused now, and it's probably making your head hurt worse than it should be."


"I'm not helping make this any clearer am I? All right... let me just start from the beginning. Then you can ask questions if you have any, okay?"


"Okay," Diana said again, standing up and pacing the room with her hands to her lips for a long moment before taking a breath to begin speaking. "First, I need to show you something." She twirled slowly clockwise and Chase could literally see her clothes dissolve, leaving her clad only in the costume that made her Wonder Woman. Then she spun again, this time counterclockwise and Chase watched her civilian clothing reappear and Diana Prince standing in front of her once more. Then Diana reached for the buttons of her shirt, and Chase blushed a furious red as Diana disrobed in front of her. Once her mind kicked into gear though, she realized what Diana was showing her and she sat up just a little before understanding what a really bad idea that was.

Diana moved back to the bed and help Chase ease her body back down to the bed, and Chase reached out a hand and brushed it against bare skin, watching in fascination as the skin and muscle rippled under her light touch. She brought her eyes up to meet Diana's, startled by the raw passion and lust she saw burning there behind the love that never wavered.

"S'rry," Chase mumbled through still busted lips and bruised jaws. She started to pull away and found her hand caught by Diana's in a firm grip.

"Don't be sorry for that, Chase. Never be sorry for that."

"'Kay," chase agreed quietly. "How?" gesturing with her fingers to Diana's exposed skin and bra. The Wonder Woman costume was no where in sight.

Diana shrugged. "Mind over matter. It is there when I need it. Since the title was originally supposed to be mine, it is merely a matter of making it become a natural part of who I am. Now that I have claimed it... started making it a part of me... I only need to imagine it and it becomes real. It will take a little practice and Drea said that actually I need to spin with more force for it to work the way it is supposed to, but eventually it will be second nature for me. I am better protected this way. No one will know that Diana Prince is really Wonder Woman."

"Why? Why'dja lie t'me?"

"I didn't, Chase... not really. Amazon Princess Diana, Diana Prince and Wonder Woman are all the same person. They're all me. But no one but us can know about it. If I'm going to be able to stay here with you and have any sort of normal life and still be able to help people like we do, then no one else can know." She read the question before Chase could even open her mouth to speak. "The Amazons are sworn to secrecy, Chase, on penalty of death. And they will all be returning to Paradise Island as soon as we are done here. That is their home, after all."

"Bu' why me?"

"Two reasons – one, you have to get used to referring to me as Wonder Woman when I am functioning in that capacity. And two, it seemed like the quickest way to get your attention and make you focus on me so we could get out of there safely without catching Ares' attention. Futile as it turned out, but...." Diana shrugged her shoulders and waited for the question she knew was coming... the one she felt guilt for.

"Didja plan it... t'fin' ou' ho' I really felt 'boutcha?"

"NO!" Diana shook her head vehemently. Then the shaking stopped and her eyes dropped to their still joined hands, not noticing her unbuttoned shirt as her attention was focused on what was going on between them. "No," she said in a much softer tone. "The two reasons I gave you are the truth. I wouldn't for the world have ever had something like this happen to you, Chase... not for any reason. I did take advantage of the circumstances, though, once you started talking to me as Wonder Woman about me as Diana, and for that I apologize. It was completely wrong of me to do that."

Chase didn't want to let Diana's hand go for fear of sending the wrong message, but she did want to see Diana's eyes and with one arm bound and in a sling it didn't leave her much choice. "D'ana, loo' a'me. You owe me tha' mush."

Diana did look up slowly until their eyes met. There was no condemnation in Chase's glance... only confusion, and she managed to hold her eyes steady on the green that had captivated her from the first. Chase tried to smile and discovered that was a bad idea as well. Instead, she conveyed her reassurance through her gaze and the strength of her hand hold.

"Why? You din' trus' me?" the hurt clear in her voice.

"No, love, not you," unconsciously seeking to reassure. "I didn't trust me," her voice so quiet Chase was straining to read her lips. "You have to admit my track record hasn't been that great where we're concerned. But when you told me that I was your soulmate... something snapped in my brain. I needed to know you were sure so I didn't mess things up again. This is too important to both of us for me to rush in... and I really want this to work. I mean... if you do," dropping her eyes again.

She really didn't feel up to this, but since they had started.... Chase tugged on Diana's hand, finally jerking hard enough to pull Diana off balance. Diana squawked and threw an arm out to keep from collapsing on top of Chase's body, tempting as that thought was. She looked at Chase with a mixture of angry frustration and confusion.

Chase tugged again, not as hard this time but hard enough that Diana got the message. "Chase, are you sure?" laying down tentatively and wrapping herself reverently around Chase's body. Chase threaded their fingers together.

"I'm sure, an' I do," she mumbled. "I knew'n m'heart, bu' seein' you hurd made i' real fo' me. I don' h've to be 'fraid or preten' indiff'rence."

Diana brushed a kiss across Chase's forehead. "Not this time, love. You only have to believe in us."

Chase didn't answer and when Diana looked down at her face, she smiled at the expression of happy contentment she could see in spite of the damage Ares had done to her. Then she leaned her head against Chase's and closed her eyes to join her in sleep. They never heard the commotion that erupted around them until it was brought directly to them, and by then, something fundamental had changed for them again.

Ty skidded into the hospice and almost immediately ran into Drea. "Ty! What's the matter?? You can't be running through here like that; we have injured that are trying to rest and recuperate!"

Ty bent over at the waist and tried to catch her breath. She been running since she'd separated from Wonder Woman nearly an hour before. "I know, Drea," she wheezed. "Where's... where's Chase?"

Drea put a restraining hand on Ty's arm. She'd looked in on them only moments before and what she'd seen had heartened her soul. "Diana's with her, Ty. They're resting. What's wrong? Come... let me get you something to drink. You look like you're about to collapse."

"No time," Ty replied, shaking her head but allowing Drea to lead her to a chair.

"We'll make the time then. You're exhausted, and we cannot afford to lose another leader right now. You've got to remain strong and take care of yourself until Chase is ready to resume command of the operation. Now, drink this."

Ty accepted the proffered glass and down about half its contents in a single draught. "Thanks, Drea. I feel better already." She shook her head again. "I don't know how Chase has stood this all these years. She makes it look so easy, but if she doesn't get up and take charge soon, I'm gonna pull my hair out. And I don't think that is gonna help me in the looks department that much."

Drea laughed softly. "Well, you haven't lost your sense of humor yet. That, at least, is a good sign."

"What sense of humor?" Ty muttered. "I was being serious. Being in charge sucks."

Drea nodded. "Sometimes it does, yes. But I'm sure that wasn't the emergency that sent you rushing in here like your feet were on fire."

"No, you're right," Ty said heavily, draining the cup. "The Nazis are mounting an offensive. Several of their best, key battalions were not in the city when we captured it yesterday, and unlike a majority of the army, they have decided to fight."

"Where are they now... how far away from the capital?"

"Reports put them about half a day away at their top speed. They should be here by dark."

Drea nodded. "All right... I'll make a deal with you. You go back out there and take charge – make whatever arrangements you need to make to get things ready for a fight and in return, I'll take care of getting everyone moved out of here to whatever location you choose. Well, everyone but Chase and Diana. Then about an hour before sunset, or when you think the enemy is about an hour away, we'll wake them. Hopefully by then, Chase will have had enough rest to have healed somewhat."

A frown crossed Ty, face. She had seen the injuries Ares had inflicted on Chase. There was no way she was going to be healed from that in just a few short hours. Drea sighed and stood from the hard chair she had been sitting on.

"Come... let me show you something."

Ty rose obligingly and followed Drea to the cordoned off area where Chase and Diana lay hidden from prying eyes. The healer pulled Ty in front of her and simply pointed. Ty gasped and blinked as she saw something, despite what she hoped... despite what she *knew*... she never quite thought she would. But the picture they made together brought a smile to her face. Then she frowned in confusion and took Drea by the arm, leading her back to the desk where they could talk privately without being overheard.

"What did you do to her?? She is healing much faster than is natural. Does this have something to do with her being an Amazon like you and Diana??"

Drea smiled sadly. "It has everything to do with it."

"Good!" Ty exclaimed emphatically. "It's about time she got something good out of being an Amazon. And way past damn time she found someone to share her life with. Thanks, Drea. If you want to start moving the wounded over to the Reichstag.... It really is a fortress and the easiest place for us to defend. I'll be out working on troop placement, so if you could send any able bodies you can spare, I'd appreciate it."

Then she was gone before Drea could formulate a response. So instead, she started calling out orders of her own, hoping this wouldn't take too long or do much damage to the rebel troops. Already she counted many of them as friends, even in the very short time they had been in man's world, and she didn't wish any of them harm. But she had a bad feeling that this was going to be ugly.


Chapter XLVI

The earth shook and the windows rattled and the sounds of tank and artillery fire shattered what had been peaceful contentment up to that point. Chase blinked her eyes open, drawing in a breath of a familiar scent and closing her eyes again... before her mind caught up with the rest of her. She would have jerked upright if not for the arms that tightened around her and held her in place.

"Shh," Diana crooned. "It's okay, Chase. Take your time. You don't need to be moving around like that until we're sure you've healed a bit. Besides... you belong here."

Those words, more than the rest, calmed Chase and Diana felt her relax within the circle of her arms.

"All right... first things first." Another blast and another shuddering of the building from the repercussion. Diana brushed her lips over Chase's forehead. "Good... no fever. How do you feel otherwise?"

Chase thought about it. "Tired," she said honestly. "Really sore," lifting a hand up to touch her not-so-swollen face. "Ribs are still painful and my arm is... hmm.... Though at least my jaw doesn't feel broken anymore, and my lips have stopped bleeding. Nice not to slur like a drunk when I talk. "

The surface under her bobbed with movement when Diana laughed silently and Chase was reminded just exactly where she was lying... again. Then she wondered how she ended up half on top of Diana; she was certain that was not how they started out.

"Do you feel like you can walk?" The somewhat distant whistling of another mortar shell being lobbed towards the city. "Because we really do need to start making tracks for the bunker soon. Ty has already been by here three times."

Chase started to ease up, but Diana kept her arms around Chase, so they sat up slowly together. "Any dizziness?" Chase shook her head slowly, not wanting to risk it happening through her carelessness. "Okay... let me slide out of the bed before you stand up, all right?"

"All right," Chase whispered. Having Diana wrapped around her was doing all kinds of interesting things to her senses and she didn't have time to analyze or enjoy them at the moment. Diana slipped from behind her and perfunctorily straightened her sleep rumpled clothing before turning to offer her hands to Chase.

Chase stood slowly on slightly unsteady legs, then she took a breath and winced before she released Diana's hands. "Doing okay?"

"Yeah, mostly." Chase met Diana's eyes. "Something else we're gonna have to talk about later." Two explosions, one right after the other and much closer than any of the previous rounds, blew the windows out of the warehouse and knocked Diana and Chase to the floor. "Um... do I have some clothes here? 'Cause I sure don't wanna have to run out of here with my ass hanging out."

"Yeah... yeah. Ty brought your stuff by," handing Chase a backpack and scooting away from her without ever meeting her eyes. "I'll just...." motioning to the far corner of the curtain, "... be over here with my back turned buttoning my shirt," having just realized her own undressed state.

Diana was so shy and cute about giving her some privacy, Chase was amused. Then she realized even as much healing as she had done in a few short hours, the broken bones she had received at Ares' hands were still broken. She was going to need help getting dressed.

"Um... Diana? I, uh... <ahem> I need... I need a little help."

"What? Oh, yeah... I, uh... I guess you would. Um... what would you like me to do?" Diana stood up from where she had been sitting and turned to face Chase who was still on the floor. "Oh, gods, Chase. I'm so sorry. I should have realized...." extending her hand down to Chase, then realizing it would be better if she picked Chase up. "Wait."

She spun slowly and became Wonder Woman again, then knelt and lifted Chase into her arms and gently placed her on the bed. Then she twirled back into Diana Prince and picked up the backpack. "That's a pretty cool trick," Chase said with a smile. "Can you help me get this gown off and get a shirt on, please? I don't think I can manage."

"Yeah, sure. Can you stand up again? I should have thought of that."

Chase slid from the pallet and turned her back to Diana, her skin tingling where Diana's fingers trailed when she untied and pushed the gown to the floor. Then Diana dug into the backpack and pulled out the clean shirt Chase had brought with her, easing it gently up Chase's broken arm and trying to control the tremors in her hands and ignoring the fact that Chase was naked from the waist up.

The ribs made getting the other sleeve on difficult at best, but finally the shirt was on and Diana left Chase to button it up on her own while she turned her back to Chase to try to regain a little equilibrium. Diana turned her focus on the backpack and pulled the trousers from it. Then she took a deep breath and turned back to Chase, handing them over her shoulder.

Chase took them and shook them out, then bent over to put them on... and froze. "Ow."

"Chase!" Embarrassment forgotten, Diana moved immediately to stand in front of her. "Chase, put your hands on my shoulders," bending to accept Chase's hands. "Now, I am going to straighten up slowly, all right? Then you can sit down on the bed and I'll help you get your pants on." Another bomb dropped, this one even closer and bits of the ceiling fell on them as they tried to protect one another.

"C'mon, Diana... we gotta get outta here before this whole damn place falls." Diana reached down and eased the trousers over Chase's feet, sliding them quickly up the muscular legs. Running footsteps didn't deter them and Diana was bent over with her head at Chase's waist pulling the trousers over Chase's hips when Ty rushed in the door.

"Oh-whoa... my goodness!" Ty blinked and blushed and skidded to a stop all in one movement. "Well, I'm glad you're dressed... mostly. How ya feeling? You up to moving?" A tremor shook the building and Diana casually finished fastening Chase's trousers then quickly slid socks and boots onto Chase's feet before giving her leg a little pat. Ty picked up the backpack.

"Not much choice. Let's move," Chase said, walking slowly and stiffly, but unaided. She figured she'd need every step to wherever Ty was leading them to work the stiffness from her joints. Then she noticed the slump of Diana's shoulders. "Thank you," she whispered, tucking her hand in the crook of Diana's elbow before she turned back to Ty. "Report!"

"The Nazis have mounted a counteroffensive. So far it has been less than successful, but they have managed a few lucky shots. They are really just coming into range for them."

"And for us? What's our status?"

"The wounded have been moved to a secure bunker inside the Reichstag and I doubled the guards around the ex-Fuehrer. The resistance has brought up the caches of weapons they have been stockpiling and they've provided serious reinforcement in personnel. They have been placed in two lines across the front perimeter and we're waiting your orders."

"How far out are the Nazis?" They stepped from the warehouse and Ty could feel the silent cheers from the rebels scattered throughout the city as they saw Chase walking on her own. A number of them had seen Chase being carried in that morning and rumors had abounded about her condition. To see her up and about so quickly gave them all an added confidence in themselves and each other. Even with the victories they had already won, there was something about Chase that just inspired them to even greater heights.

In answer, Ty handed Chase a pair of binoculars, easily allowing her to bring the formidable line of tanks headed towards them at a snail's pace into up close and personal focus. "All right... this is what we're gonna do...."

Chase released Diana's arm and took her hand instead, slowly walking together towards the Reichstag even as she stared issuing orders for the rebels' next offensive.

Immediately the courtyard became a flurry of activity as the tanks, artillery and troops prepared to go out and meet the Nazis head on. The only thing Chase didn't know was of Mitch's plan to record it all for posterity. That decision would be costly.

Darkness was falling across the land and night was coming on rapidly, a fact that Chase planned on taking full advantage of. Because though her troops were enthusiastic and riding a high over their first victory, they were also untested in this kind of battle. Hit and run was their forte and this promised to be something much different, so she was going to use every advantage she had at her disposal. And this included fighting in the dark.

On the plus side, the Nazi troops had grown complacent, and were as untested as her soldiers were. She could only hope their leadership was as conceited as their Fuehrer was, because that was a weakness she could exploit. Besides, she still had the vicious little surprise she'd had prepared for any resistance that popped up; it would be up to them whether or not it got used.

Diana watched in fascination as Chase directed her troops with negligent skill while never losing contact with Diana at any time. It was an unexpected twist to the woman she had learned about through ancient scrolls and more recently from Paula's computer reports. No longer the Bard, Chase was a full-fledged warrior and Diana wondered how their lives would mesh as warriors, conveniently forgetting that her soulmate had been more warrior than bard when they had been separated twenty-six hundred years previously.

Once every squadron except the Amazons had their new assignments, Chase turned to Diana. "I need you to choose your best scouts to go ahead and find the leader of this offensive. We're gonna give them one chance to surrender."

"And then?"

"Then we're gonna kill them all."

Diana swallowed hard but nodded. If their intelligence was correct, and she had no reason to think otherwise, this unit was responsible for the annihilation of three of the villages Orana had ordered destroyed. On the one hand, she admired Chase's determination to offer them mercy first; on the other, she simply wanted to destroy them and be done with it.

"I'd like to lead them."

Chase nodded. "I expected as much. Just be careful. The rest of the Amazons can be spread out here, here, here and here. I have noticed they are expert marksmen, and these places will give them the best vantage point for taking out the enemy if they choose fighting over surrender."

"You want them to fight, don't you?"

"Yeah, I do. This is the elite... the part of the army that thrives on torture and slaughter. I'd like to pay that violence back in kind," Chase replied in a natural voice, but the light that burned in her eyes was intense in its hatred of the enemy that had done so much damage to so many for so long.

Diana nodded. She, more than most, could understand Chase's need for revenge. She just didn't want that need to turn on Chase and cause her to become that which she despised the most. Diana beckoned her squadron leaders inside to give them their orders, and the Amazons smiled in satisfaction. Short of hand to hand combat, an art form of war that seemed to have faded with mankind's technological advancements, they were best suited for picking off the enemy one at a time. And they relished the opportunity to be in the thick of the fighting.

Nubia and Leona were chosen to accompany Diana as scouts to find the leader. Nubia had been their best before they had moved to Paradise Island, and she had maintained her skills as much as the island would allow. She had always been ready to participate in scout training and did so whenever her otherwise hectic schedule would allow. Leona was Nubia's first choice.

And so the small team moved off towards the front lines, melting into the darkness in plain sight. Chase stood watching the empty space from the darkened doorway of the Reichstag, letting her heart follow Diana where the rest of her could not. She didn't even hear Ty's approach until her cousin was standing right beside her.

"She'll be all right, Chase. She's got too much to lose not to come back to you." Chase nodded, but her eyes didn't leave the inky blackness that stretched out towards the Nazi front line. Ty shook her head and chuckled softly. "You really do have it bad this time, and I for one am glad to see it."

"We all are, Ty," Mala answered as she came up on Chase's other side. "This has been a long, long time in coming."

Ty accepted Mala's words without recognizing all of the nuances behind them. Then she decided to ask the priestess about something that had been bothering her since earlier. "Mala?"


"Can you tell me about this Wonder Woman character who just popped up today? I realize she must be a good guy by the way that Drea deferred to her and all, but there is something about her that just bothers me no end. She reminds me of something or someone, and I'm not sure what it is."

Chase didn't move, but Mala felt the tension flow through her at the question. She closed her eyes briefly and whispered a prayer to Athena for wisdom. Then she opened them and faced Ty, ready to tell her the Amazon story of Wonder Woman.

"Many years ago, the Amazons needed a champion and a call went up to the gods to provide one. They gave us Wonder Woman... a culmination of all that is good and right about Amazons... about all women really. She is beautiful and soft like a woman, yet has the strength of ten men and the courage of a lion. She can run like the wind and fly like a bird and fight with the fierceness of a tigress. She has the heart of a warrior and the soul of a poet. She is the epitome of what we strive to be."

"So you're saying she's not just one person, but many?"

"Something like that, yes." Mala answered coming as close to lying as she dared.

"Maybe that's why she reminds me of someone I know... she *is* someone I know. She is the culmination of several someones I know. Thanks, Mala." A pause. "So if she is the Amazon champion, where is she now?"

"She will be here when we need her to be. She is adjusting to her new role as a protector of the greater good here in man's world."

Ty nodded thoughtfully and clapped Chase on the shoulder. "I'll be waiting for your signal." Then she moved back into the darkness towards her unit.

Mala blew out a breath and felt Chase relax at the same time. "That was interesting," Chase commented. "Is there a reason she can't see the truth?"

Mala smiled and nodded. "Yes. She's not supposed to, and she really doesn't want to know."

"I don't understand."

Mala sighed and took Chase's arm, leading her out into the night. Even though they had been alone on the steps of the Reichstag, Mala felt more comfortable discussing this while they were moving. There was less likelihood of them being overheard.

"When Diana is simply Diana, she projects an air of calm control without drawing undue attention to herself. Think about it, Chase. The reason people noticed her when you brought her into the rebel encampment is *because* you brought her into the rebel encampment like you did. No one really noticed her otherwise, except for the change she made in you."

"What do you mean no one noticed her, Mala?? She's gorgeous! How can anyone miss that??"

Mala chuckled. "You see that because you see who she really is. You see her with your heart and not your eyes." A beat. "Chase, think about it a minute... Diana Prince keeps her hair in a braid, she wears loose clothing... she doesn't do anything to make people take notice of her. But when she becomes Wonder Woman, everything about her draws attention – her looks, her strength, her costume. No one sees the similarities because no one thinks to look for them."

"Makes sense," Chase agreed slowly. Then she turned her attention back towards the darkness Diana had disappeared into. "I hope she'll be all right," Chase whispered.

Mala wrapped an arm around Chase's shoulders and steered them back towards the Reichstag and the command center. "Not to worry, Chase... she's Wonder Woman."

When they were out of sight of the rebel encampment, but still too far away to be seen by the Nazis, the three Amazons came to a halt. Then Diana twirled slowly and Diana Prince became Wonder Woman. Nubia smiled.

"It is good to see you as the hero you should have always been, Princess."

Wonder Woman smiled. "It feels right, Nubia. Thank you. Now let's go see if the Nazis are going to surrender or if they're up for a fight."

They slipped into the trees that Orana had allowed to grow up around the capital and quickly made their way around the encampment to the back. They knew instinctively that is where they would find the leaders of this offensive. The snippets of conversation they were able to catch showed them the soldiers thought it was some sort of set up by the Fuehrer to crush the rebellion and bring the resistance back in line.

It was easy to pick out the command tent. It was as though the generals were flaunting the fact, sure in the knowledge that this was but a game for them. The Amazons were able to drop down behind the tent undetected and slipped around to the front. Nubia and Leona took care of the two guards who stood casual duty in front of it, then Wonder Woman stepped into the tent, causing the laughter and revelry to come to a complete and utter halt. The two Amazons walked in behind her, causing the now silent jaws to drop.

"What is the meaning of this? Who in the hell are you?" the eldest and most decorated of the men growled out.

"Sit down."

"What?? Do you know who you are speaking to, woman?? We are Aryan soldiers of the Third Reich. We take orders from no woman save the Fuehrer!! Guards!!"

Before they could blink, Wonder Woman put the pinch on three of them and had the lasso around the old man. "Now you sit down and you shut up and you listen to me." She turned and glared a Look at the other three who were clawing at there throats. "Same goes for you three," removing the pinch. "One stupid move and I'll put it back on and let you die."

Nubia and Leona exchanged glances. "Guess she kept a little more of her original soul than we got to see on Paradise Island," Nubia muttered. Leona just nodded and kept her attention on the men in front of her.

The four men sat very still and very quiet, and Wonder Woman let her gaze linger on them for a long moment before she spoke.

"All right, gentlemen. One chance. One chance to give me the right answer. One chance to surrender. Otherwise, the rebellion is going to destroy you."


Chapter XLVII

Stunned silence before the eldest burst into coarse laughter and the others followed suit. They looked at Wonder Woman incredulously and then the laughter rolled until tears streamed down their faces. Wonder Woman casually looped the lasso back on her belt and looked at the two waiting Amazons.

"I guess that means they want to fight," she said casually, shrugging. "Well, gentlemen... when you're dying and before Hades takes your souls to hell, I want you to remember that you were given a choice - and you chose poorly."

The older man took a chance a rose, his hand on his holster. A slight motion from Wonder Woman kept Nubia and Leona from moving. Diana put her hands on her hips and waited. The general pulled his Luger and pointed it in her direction. The three younger men didn't move; they had felt the pain on the pinch and didn't want a repeat.

"Did you just threaten me? You, who had to come here in strange clothing and play at being a warrior like a man??" He laughed again. "If you're the best the rebellion has, if you're the best the Fuehrer can come up with to test us, we will have no trouble defeating you and bringing the resistance back into line."

He pulled the gun from the holster and even took the time to aim. Diana never moved, never flinched. But when he pulled the trigger, he found the bullet he shot ricocheting back towards him, though he had no clue how she had managed it with the motion of her arm. He hit the ground even as the other three men hit the deck as well. When they finally got up and dusted themselves off, Wonder Woman and her Amazon friends were gone.

They looked around at each other and the eldest man spoke gruffly. "Well, if this is what the Fuehrer has in store for us tomorrow, I predict we will be sharing drinks together before dinner," chuckling. He raised his glass, not noting the furtive looks the others exchanged before raising their own. Suddenly, their victory didn't seem nearly as assured as it had only moments before.

No one saw Wonder Woman walk back into the city; she had long since honed her stealth skills to the point that even the best Amazons couldn't find her, even on Paradise Island, if she didn't want them to. Getting past standard rebels troops was child's play.

She slipped into the Reichstag without being spotted by anyone... only to find Chase's eyes fixed on her as she crossed into the room Chase had chosen to use as a command center. Diana stopped short, caught by surprise. No one had ever been able to find her when she became part of her surroundings, so to have Chase sitting behind the desk, arms crossed, looking at her for all the world like she expected Diana to be where she was completely disconcerting.

Then she glimpsed the shock and desire in Chase's green eyes as she finally got a good look at Wonder Woman. "Well, at least now I understand what Mala meant," Chase commented. Diana looked at her askance; Chase saw the question in Diana's eyes and waved it off. "What was their response?"

Wonder Woman shrugged. "About what you expected. They laughed... thought it was a joke... or some sort of preparedness test from Orana. Apparently they either haven't heard or have chosen not to believe the reports that huge parts of the army have already surrendered."

"All right then... let me go give the army their orders. It's time to kick some Nazi ass."

"I'm going with you, Annabelle."

"I know. But why does Wonder Woman call me Annabelle? Diana calls me Chase."

"One of those little things people tend not to see past. If Wonder Woman is more formal than Diana Prince, people tend to overlook any similarities in tone and inflection."

Chase nodded her understanding then stood slowly and took Wonder Woman by the elbow. "Let's go, Wonder Woman. I want this fight to be over and a good leader goes with the troops."

"You're right... she does. We always rode at the front of any fight."

"Well... you did," Chase said bitterly. "But I did eventually learn that lesson."

"Annabelle...." A beat. "Chase...." pulling them to a halt before Chase could open the door. "It was never a lesson I wanted you to learn. But I'm glad we will be going together side by side in this fight. I think it is important for both of us."

"I think so too."

Another short pause. "Can I ask you something?" waiting for Chase to nod her head. "How did you know where I was? When I came in the room... you were waiting for me – you knew right where I would be – how did you know that?"

Chase thought about it and shrugged. "I don't know. It was a feeling as much as anything. I just... felt you there – and there you were."

Wonder Woman thought about that for a long moment, then a brilliant smile graced her features, causing an answering smile to appear on Chase's face. "I like the sound of that." She pulled the door open. "Let's go get this over with. We have a life to live that doesn't involve war and fighting." Diana wouldn't have believed Chase's grin could have gotten any bigger if she hadn't seen it herself.

"So what did you do with Nubia and Leona?"

"They, along with a few other chosen Amazons, are scattered in the trees to pass information back to us until we move beyond them. Then they will join the fighting lines following the tanks."

"You know people... friends... are going die," Chase commented softly as they stepped out into the darkened square. "Maybe I should have tried harder to avoid a fight."

Wonder Woman pulled them to a stop and turned Chase to face her. "Maybe you should trust that not only is this army *ready* to fight... they need to fight. Annabelle... Chase," dropping the formality Wonder Woman used for the more intimate address Diana favored in an effort to make her point. "They have all been waiting a long time... a lifetime... for this fight. Most of them are spoiling for a fight. Even with the risks.... They knew what they were getting into when they chose to be part of the rebellion."

"You think so?"

"I know so. Fighters are fighters, Chase, and I grew up surrounded by Amazon warriors."

Chase sighed. "I know you're right, Wonder Woman. I just wish there was a way to do this without watching friends die... though I have no such compunction about killing those bastards out there. They deserve whatever misery we can inflict on them for what they've done."

Wonder Woman nodded. "Everyone here feels that way, Chase. Let them have their fight."

Chase nodded, then smiled. "You're getting the hang of knowing when to kick me in the ass. Thanks."

Diana chuckled soundlessly. "I've always been a quick study. And you're welcome."

Then they stepped into the control room where the unit commanders were waiting for final instructions.

Ty had already moved the tanks into a semi-circle formation in the forests on either side of where they expected the Nazi convoy to travel, and now they were just within firing range of the encampment. The big artillery was left to cover the middle and the walking troops were scattered throughout the machinery. In the darkness, they couldn't be seen and thanks to Hans and Chase, most of the machinery movement couldn't be heard very well, either.

"I want the artillery to start at midnight. That will give the tanks the chance to move up closer; then on my signal, the tanks will fire while the troops move in behind them. The Amazon scouts got a general layout of the Nazi encampment. Make sure your gunners know where to target and your troops know where and when to move. This has to be coordinated between all units to keep our losses to a minimum."

"What about the enemy?"

Chase shook her head. "They were given their chance to surrender. Kill 'em all." She looked around at her commanders. "Make sure your soldiers know that. No one lives." Chase drew a deep breath and met each of their eyes. "This is the battalion that wiped out the three villages closest to the capital. No one lives. Now move out. The artillery attack begins at midnight."

Each leader checked their watch before nodding at Chase and staring briefly at Wonder Woman before heading back to their unit. Chase had introduced her briefly - This is Wonder Woman. She is here to help us. So there was a curiosity, but even more there was a nervous energy that made them anxious to start. She figured they would be demanding answers *after* the fight, but for now, they trusted in Chase's judgment.

Chase put a hand on Ty's chest to halt her exit after the rest had gone. "Chase?" looking down at the hand stopping her.

"Where's Mitch?" Ty looked around in confusion as though just realizing that Mitch wasn't in the control room. "Ty, how are we supposed to coordinate an attack if we have no comm officer? Where's Mitch?"

"I dunno, Chase. I really don't. I've been so busy with my own stuff...."

Chase removed her hand. "It's okay, Ty. You've done really good holding things together."

Ty smirked. "Yeah... we're gonna need to talk about my raise when this is all over, 'cause bald is just not my look." Chase laughed. Wonder Woman looked a little perplexed until Ty spoke again. "Now I am going back to my unit before I get left in charge again." She mock shuddered and slipped out of the control room into the darkness beyond.

Chase and Diana exchanged smiles, then Chase moved over to the techs who were in the room past where they stood, monitoring communications between the units as well as keeping in touch with Shep. "Sonny, where's Mitch?" questioning the senior tech.

Sonny shrugged, continuing to mark on the clipboard he held. "He took a camera and headed out after those Amazon scouts you sent out earlier. We haven't heard from him since." He looked up at her muffled curse and tucked a hand under her elbow. "Chase? You all right? You look kind of pale."

"Yeah, Sonny... thanks. Did he say *why* he was doing that?"

"He wanted a recording for posterity or some such."

Chase blew out an exasperated breath. "I'm gonna kill him myself," she muttered. "All right, Sonny... you're in charge here. You're gonna have to coordinate everything in Mitch's absence, and you'll be in touch with me at all times. Got it?"

"Gotcha, boss. Everything is on track and we'll be ready here when you give the word."

"Thanks, Sonny." Then Chase left the inner room and took Diana's arm, walking side by side with Wonder Woman as they walked out the door.

"You need to find Mitch. It is very possible he knows your secret. Find him and do whatever you need to do to protect yourself."

"Even if...?" turning Chase until they were facing one another and letting her hands rest on Chase's shoulders.

"Even if," covering Wonder Woman's hands with her own. "Mitch is my friend, but you are the other half of my soul. And if I have to choose between you, he will lose every time. But I also know, given who Wonder Woman is and what she stands for, you have to have a way to kick ass without killing him. Besides, he abandoned his post to do this. He's in trouble with me as it is; he needs his ass kicked."

"What are you going to be doing?"

"Kicking Nazi ass. I'll be at the front. Come find me."

"You bet I will."

They gazed at each other for a long moment before Chase let her hands fall and Wonder Woman's hands dropped to her sides as well. Finally Chase blew out a nervous breath and reached for Diana's hand, drawing her back into the empty, darkened Reichstag. When they reached the office, Chase closed the door behind them and turned to face Wonder Woman.

"Do you think you could be Diana for just a minute?"

A look of confusion crossed Wonder Woman's face, but she nodded and twirled, replacing her costume with the normal clothing that Diana Prince wore. Then she looked at Chase for approval. "Is this what you had in mind?"

"Yes," Chase answered breathlessly, stepping into Diana's personal space. "Yes," she said again. "Because there is something I wanted to do and I needed Diana to be here." She stepped closer again, until their bodies were just touching along their lengths. Chase ran her hands delicately up Diana's torso, feeling her shiver beneath her touch and smiling when Diana dropped her hands to Chase's waist. The closeness between them made everything else – bruises, broken bones, everything – irrelevant.

"Chase?" Diana whispered hoarsely. "Do you know what you're doing to me?"

"I hope so. I hope it's close to what you're doing to me," seeing her hands shake lightly as she raised one to gently stroke Diana's face. "You are so beautiful," watching Diana's eyes flutter closed as her fingers traced features that were at once strange and completely familiar. Diana's lips trembled when Chase's fingers lingered over their softness and her hands slid around Chase's body to cup her behind firmly. Diana pulled their bodies together so tightly light couldn't pass between them and she ducked her head willingly when Chase urged her down.

Their lips met briefly at first, the touch so tentative it was like a butterfly's wing. A second, then a third brush before Chase pulled Diana's mouth tighter to her own and opened her lips so their tongues could meet.

Time stopped. Their exploration of one another was neither rushed nor urgent; instead it was savored. Each texture and flavor was discovered slowly and appreciated at leisure before a lack of oxygen forced them apart. Even then, their separation came only with great reluctance and after several smaller kisses and nips. Finally, breathing heavily, Diana leaned her forehead on Chase's and they stood together absorbing one another's scent and rocking slowly back and forth.

"You know what this means, don't you?" Chase asked in a whisper when she could finally speak again.

"It means you're a great kisser and I want to do that again as soon as possible?"

"Well, that's good incentive for getting this fight over with immediately if not sooner," Chase muttered, "but no. That wasn't what I was thinking. It sure is a good idea though," Chase said in a tone so wistful it made Diana chuckle silently.

Chase pulled back slightly to look into Diana's eyes, only to find herself snared by the love and passion that were reflected in the blue gaze that held her. She cleared her throat and blinked rapidly, trying to get herself back on track. Then she returned her eyes to Diana's, a little shyness in her glance.

"No, love," she whispered finally, feeling a blush color her face with the use of the endearment. "This means forever."

"Oh, Chase," Diana whispered back, tears forming in her eyes faster than she could blink them away. "We've always meant forever. But as far as I am concerned... forever is just the beginning for us."

The only answer Chase could give to that was another kiss which went on until hands started tentative explorations as though of their own free will and moans were being swallowed to keep them from escaping. With a whimper, they pulled apart, and Chase gently wiped the remaining tears from Diana's cheeks and traced her kiss-swollen lips with still trembling fingertips. Then Chase bit her lips to keep from squealing when Diana's hand squeezed her ass cheeks, kneading them to the rhythm of their heartbeats.

"You're making it *really* hard for me to focus. I told Ty that would happen."

"Told Ty *what* would happen?"

"That if I ever fell in love it would be all I could think about and everything else would simply fall to the wayside."

"Good," Diana smirked. "Nice to know that works both ways."

"You have no idea how it's working right now," Chase said softly, feeling Diana chuckle again. "But right now, we've got to focus on what's going on outside. We have the rest of our lives to concentrate on us. And trust me, I want lots of time and privacy to explore this with single-minded intensity." She reached back and took Diana's hands in hers. "I'm known for that, you know."

Diana leaned down and kissed Chase hard and passionately. "So am I. I love you."

That got a smile from Chase. "And I love you. Now, get Wonder Woman back, please so we can get outta here and go home."

Diana twirled and Wonder Woman reappeared. Then they joined hands again and headed out of the Reichstag together, separating when they reached the bottom of the steps. Electricity crackled the air around them and a rumble of thunder answered it. Chase looked up at the darkening sky and shook her head. Looked like they'd all be wet before this attack was over, but it couldn't affect the warmth that flowed through her veins at just the thought of Diana.

"Whoop, whoop! Whoop, whoop!" Aphrodite spun in a circle and waved her arms over her head. The rest came in from various points in the palace to see what all the commotion was about. Athena took Dite by the shoulders and halted her movement.

"What happened?? Are you all right??"

"Oh, babe... I am so fab, it's radically illegal in places. I think my hair got singed, though." She pulled blonde curls forward to try to look at the ends. "I don't see anything. Can you see anything, The?"

Athena pushed the blonde hair Aphrodite had thrust in her face away with a huff of impatience. "I see curly blonde hair that's going to be shaved off until you are bald if you don't get it out of my face. Now what is wrong with you?"

In answer, Dite replayed the images of Chase and Diana in the scrying bowl. And then it was like the oxygen had been sucked right out of the room. Hera, Hestia, Demeter, Artemis and Athena all exchanged glances, then they turned to the smugly smirking love goddess. They cheered, and Aphrodite laughed. Gods, it felt good when a plan finally came together.


Chapter XLVIII

The rain started about fifteen minutes before Chase gave the signal to start the attack, and it wasn't just rain... it was a torrential downpour. Lightning lit up the sky, but apparently the rain had driven the watchers in, because no cries of alarm went up to alert the Nazi encampment of their approach.

At the stroke of midnight, Chase gave the sign and the artillery began its first round of shelling. The hits were extremely accurate and on target, logistics having painfully worked out the details from the information the Amazons had been passing back to them for the last few hours. Screams of pain and terror could be heard over the shelling, then calls went out from the encampment, ordering the Nazis to return fire.

Immediately, Chase signaled the artillery to move back and the tanks moved in from either side. Slowly and methodically the rebels started decimating the rest of the weaponry the Nazis had, but the Nazis were able to get off several good and several lucky shots. Those caused screams of anguish and terror to rise from the resistance side of the fight. But most held it together and waited for Chase to lead them forward for the final part of the attack.

Drea rushed from one wounded soldier to the next, doing her best to ease their suffering through healing or giving them the peace of a merciful death. Mala traveled with her, relaying Drea's instructions to the medics who were completely inexperienced in this arena, and though Drea's last battlefield encounter had been millennia before, her hard-won experience wasn't something she was likely to forget either.

She shuddered as she surveyed the damage man's machines had inflicted on the next soldier she approached and touched several pressure points on the woman's body to ease her into the afterlife. It was meant as a kindness; much more humane than allowing her to suffer for long, untold minutes bleeding out her last as her entrails spilled from her open guts.

"You all right, Drea?" Mala pitched her voice so only the healer could hear her in the melee. "Gods, this is something you just never get used to, is it?"

Drea shook her head. "I hope I *never* get used to this, Mala. The day I do will be the day I die inside. Come... we need to hurry. There are so many of them and the damage...." Drea shook her head again. "Even at our most ruthless, we were never this unfeeling in killing."

"That is because we faced our enemies, my friend, like the warriors we were – like the warriors we still are. Very few do that anymore." A familiar cry went up from Chase, and the rebels rushed forward to meet the Nazis face to face. Mala smiled wryly. "Unless you have a warrior leader like Chase is. But then she, like her mate, is one in a billion."

Drea would have smiled at the sentiment, but she reached her next injured body, and gasped when she turned the body over... only to find Nubia staring back at her, her dark eyes glazed over in intense pain. What Drea saw made her want to puke her guts out again, but she swallowed against the bile that rose in her throat and went to work, wrapping the stump that was now her right arm, then moving on to the less damaging injuries.

Drea hoped this offensive would be over soon.

Chase spared a thought and a prayer for Diana's safety, wondering what had happened that Wonder Woman had not joined her yet. Then standing defiantly, she let out the warrior cry her mother had taught her when she was still a small child. She charged forward to meet the Nazi troops coming towards her, feeling the strength of the rebellion and the resistance at her back.

She had long since lost the sling, hating its restrictions and now she put the plaster cast to good use, using it as a battering ram as she pushed her way through the lines, killing without mercy or hesitation. She let her mind shut down and functioned automatically; that was how she had learned to cope with the brutal savagery war required.

A majority of the troops behind her were green, never having done much real fighting. Hit and run raids had been a mainstay of the resistance, but they didn't require up close and personal encounters with the enemy. Still, they plugged on, following her with faith and determination. They would deal with the nightmares later.

Wonder Woman walked slowly over the same path she had traversed with the Amazon scouts as Diana Prince a very short time ago in an effort not to miss anything. If her instincts were correct, and they usually were, Mitch would have followed the route they had taken in an effort to chronicle everything. The big question was how close behind them he had been and what he had seen and more importantly... recorded.

It was hard to keep her mind focused on her search, though... especially with the tingles from Chase's kisses still running through her body sporadically. Aside from the heat it caused in her blood, there was a little confusion. Given Chase's reluctance to even be friends mere days ago, Diana was at something of a loss to understand Chase's sudden about face. And she found her mind puzzling over the new developments in her relationship with Chase instead of paying strict attention to what was going on around her, and only her innate warrior senses kept her from tripping over Mitch's body.

Wonder Woman knelt at the rebel's side and felt for a pulse, closing her eyes when she couldn't find one. She couldn't find an immediate cause for his death, but she did note that he no longer had a camera. Diana sighed – she should have known it wouldn't be easy. A click behind her made her stiffen and she loosened the lasso from her belt before turning to find a gun pointed in her direction.

The man grunted at her and motioned with the gun, but Diana studiously ignored him and put her hands on her hips, giving him a glare complete with raised eyebrow. He motioned again, pointing the gun at her; she didn't move. He pulled the trigger, not even realizing he had signed his own death warrant.

Wonder Woman cocked her arm angling it to catch the bullet and ricochet it right back into the man's chest. She watched understanding dawn in his face even as he fell dead in his tracks. Diana reattached the lasso to her belt then turned towards the Nazi encampment, even as the first blasts of artillery headed for the same.

Now all of Wonder Woman's attention was focused on getting back to the tent she had visited previously, though she did abstractly notice the furor and confusion the rebel attack was causing. The four men she had encountered earlier rushed out of the tent into the melee barking out orders in harsh German. It was obvious from the scuttling about throughout the whole compound that these units were unused to challenge. It made it easy for Diana to work her way back to the four who had rejected her request for surrender.

The old man was the first to see her and ran at her, his face contorted in rage. Diana didn't hesitate, but snapped his neck before he could even pull his Luger. The next man had his weapon out but not enough time to react when the bullet he fired wound up inside him instead. The third man jumped on Wonder Woman's back, surprised to find himself flying over her shoulder and landing hard non his back. Then Diana put the pinch on him and ran towards the fourth man who had scrambled towards a tank.

With studied nonchalance, Wonder Woman grabbed the gun barrel and bent it. Unfortunately, the Nazi officer commanded the gunner to fire, not knowing the damage that had been done to the gun. And Diana didn't have time to move before the tank exploded.

Chase ran through the Nazis, noting there were as many running from her as there were scrambling to fight. With shouted orders, she sent the groups of rebels running behind her after the enemy soldiers that were scurrying to get away. When she'd given orders to kill 'em all, she'd been quite literal. These bastards deserved no mercy, and that was what they were going to show – no mercy.

She felt a burning in her thigh, but in a distant, far off way. She noticed many of the Nazis were fighting without the use of firearms, which was perfectly fine with Chase. As far into the combat as she was, she had long since run out of ammunition and was fighting with fists and blades.

The fires created by their shelling provided ample light and a flash of color caught her attention. Chase quickly gutted the man in front of her before heading for what her instincts told her was Diana.

Chase clotheslined the first Nazi that got in her way and broke the neck of the second with an elbow to the back of his neck. Then she was kneeling beside the red, white and blue costume she spotted, just as Diana coughed and moaned.

Chase let out a sigh of relief and helped Wonder Woman sit up. She let her hands wander over Diana's body impartially, urgently reassuring herself that Diana was all right. Diana put her hand on her head. "Ow. Annabelle, did you get the number of the tank that shot me? Gods, that hurts."

Chase moved Diana's hand from her forehead, glad for the fires that were burning that allowed her to see the blood streaming from beneath the tiara. Chase removed it carefully and saw a long cut at Wonder Woman's hairline to go along with the numerous smaller cuts that peppered the side of her face. Without hesitation, Chase ripped part of her shirt off to wipe the blood and Diana shoved the tiara back in place and pulled Chase face down into her lap...

... then lashed out with one long leg and her free arm to kill the man who had been charging them with a blade. Chase heard him fall and turned her head to see him, then looked up at Diana. "Thanks, Wonder Woman. And as comfortable as I am here, I think we need to go."

Diana smiled. "I'm with you, Annabelle."

Chase rolled off Diana's lap and slowly stood then offered her hand down to Wonder Woman. Diana's attention was caught by the bloodstain in Chase's thigh, then by the hole in the same spot. "Annabelle, are you all right?" motioning to the wound in Chase's thigh.

Chase looked down and nodded. "I'll be fine. C'mon, Wonder Woman," yanking Diana to her feet as she spun to kick at the woman rushing them. Then they went back to back, taking on all comers. Kicks and punches flew in a frenzied flurry accompanied by the sounds of breaking bones and the gurgles and rasps of death as one by one the Nazis were demolished and they were the only ones left standing in their area.

They looked around, then at each other. "You all right?" asked simultaneously.

Wonder Woman nodded. "I still have to find Mitch's camera. I found him dead on my way here, but no camera. I suspect it's in there," motioning to the large tent behind them.

"The command tent? Let me give some orders out here and I'll join you. I need to go through the papers to make sure we haven't missed anything else."

"You think you have?"

"No, but I do think I'm gonna find proof of everything Orana talked about. I don't want history to judge me merciless for executing her."

"Given the crimes she has committed against humanity for the past century, Annabelle, I don't think history will judge you as anything less than a hero and liberator."

"I'll be happy if history forgets about me, Wonder Woman. Heroes have a responsibility to history, and I'm tired of being responsible. I've been responsible for most of my childhood and all of my adult life. I just want to go home and live for a while."

There was so much that Diana wanted to say, but as Wonder Woman, she couldn't. Instead, she took Chase's hand and squeezed it gently, then turned and stepped into the command tent. Chase waited a beat then she turned back to the troops that were gathered together awaiting further orders.

"All right, people. Let's get to work. We need to get this area cleaned up and secured. Those of you with injuries, make sure you get seen by a medic before you get to work, but remember the longer this takes, the longer it will take for us to go home. You three," motioning to two rebels and an Amazon, "gather your units and start a burial detail for the enemy dead. One mass grave will suffice. You two," gesturing to another rebel and Amazon, "the fires need to be put out and the machines need to be dismantled. Now, where is Ty? And where did the healer set up?"

"Chase, this is Drea. Can you hear me? Does anyone know how to work this thing? Hello?"

Chase looked at the radio on her hip and chuckled. It was a little humorous listening to Drea try to work the radio, then wondered why the healer needed her and how long they had been trying to reach her. She pulled it off her belt and clicked it. "Drea, this is Chase, over."

"Oh thank the gods," Drea said. "Chase, is..." a hesitation, "is Wonder Woman there with you?"

"I'm headed back to her, Drea. Is something wrong, over?"

"Um... if you could come to the hospital we have set up back here, please – it's not urgent, but it is important."

Chase bit her lip. "All right, Drea. Let me go get Wonder Woman and we'll come find you. See you in a few minutes, Drea. Chase out." She waited a minute then clicked the radio again. "Sonny, this is Chase, over."

"Sonny here, boss. Go ahead, over."

"Sonny, I need you to send a jeep to the command tent here. It's in the back of the fighting area. Just tell the driver to look for me, all right? Over."

"Gotcha, boss. I've got someone headed your way as we speak, over."

"Thanks, Sonny. I'm out."

Chase clipped the radio back to her hip and took a step, wincing as the gunshot she'd taken to the thigh earlier made itself felt with the receding of adrenaline from her body. "Ow," she muttered, looking down at her leg. "Damn, that hurts." Than she grit her teeth and put the pain out of her mind and put her game face on. Despite her desire to be otherwise, she still had to be a leader for a little while longer. Chase moved back towards the tent and ducked inside.

"I was beginning to get worried, Annabelle. Is everything all right?"

Chase shook her head. "I'm not sure. Drea radioed me... asked that we get over to the hospital. Said it was important. I called Sonny for a jeep. Did you find the camera?"

Wonder Woman nodded. "Yes. They were apparently watching whatever Mitch recorded when the attack started. I destroyed the film and I found all sorts of official orders, including," passing a sheaf of papers over to Chase, "a battle plan based on Orana's last speech."

Chase looked through them quickly, skimming the contents before nodding her head. "That's exactly what this is." She looked up and smiled into blue eyes. "Nice work... thanks, Wonder Woman."

"Anytime, Annabelle. I have many skills."

Chase cocked an eyebrow into her hairline. "Careful. That sounds vaguely like a promise and I'll remember it."

Wonder Woman grinned rakishly. "I'm counting on it."

A raucous honking broke the tableau between them and they turned towards the tent flap. "That'll be the jeep," Chase commented, scooping up the papers while Wonder Woman snatched up the camera. "I'm gonna have the driver give us a ride to the hospital and...."

"Chase? Chase, this is Drea. Are you there?"


"Chase? I need you to get here quickly. Now it's urgent."

She and Diana dropped the stuff in the jeep the Wonder Woman hopped in the back with it while Chase slid into the front seat. "Get us to the hospital, George. And I want you to wait for us."

"Yes ma'am," hitting the accelerator and causing the jeep to lurch forward. Then they were racing the short distance to where Drea had established her field hospital. It was a short trip and George had barely touched the breaks before Chase was stepping from the vehicle...

... only to have her leg crumple out from under her when her foot touched the ground. Only her own quick reflexes and Diana's hand on her arm kept her upright. Wonder Woman didn't say anything, but her eyes spoke volumes and Chase nodded to show her that she was all right. Then they moved off together to enter the large tent.

It was quiet inside, noticeably different from the controlled, noisy chaos outside. The only sound was whispered instruction from Drea to her staff and the soft sounds of movement as they shifted around the space in an effort to carry out her orders and make their patients more comfortable.

There were far more bodies in the tent than Chase wanted to see and her shoulder slumped slightly as the weight of even more responsibility settled squarely on her shoulders. "Drea." She called out softly, though it was loud enough for every conscious person in the room to turn her way. "Report, please."

Drea handed the tray she had been carrying to the young medic who was accompanying her and left him with instructions before moving to the other end of the space, her healer's eyes assessing even as she moved to stand beside them. A motion of her head brought Mala to her side.

"Mala, if you would please attend to Wonder Woman...." The priestess nodded and took Diana's hand, leading her away from Chase. Chase started to protest until Drea put a restraining hand on her arm. "It's all right, Chase. Mala is going to tend to her wounds and take her to see Nubia and the other Amazons who were wounded. I promise you she is not going far. There is someone else who needs your attention immediately first. And I will tend to your leg. Come."

Chase followed, a sinking feeling in her gut. She had a really bad feeling about what was coming.

They rounded a small, curtained off area, and the truth hit home hard... hard enough that Chase collapsed at the side of the pallet that held Ty's body. The movement jostled the cot and Ty moaned at the wave of pain that coursed through her. Chase scrambled up and took Ty's hand in her own, shuddering at the coolness of Ty's skin against hers. She brought it to her lips and kissed it, tears welling in her eyes.

"Oh God, Ty. What the hell happened to you?" She turned to Drea. "Leave us," she ordered quietly before turning back to Ty. "You can't die, Ty. I promised Hans he could take you for a joy ride in that new plane."

Ty squeezed Chase's hand lightly and spoke in a whisper so low, Chase had to lean in to hear it. "Wrong place, wrong time," she wheezed. "Sorry. This wasn't in my plans either. I left a letter for you in my stuff at home though, just in case." Ty paused to cough, speckling blood on her cheeks and chin in the process. "We did good, cuz... we won."

Chase smiled at Ty through her tears and kissed her fingers again. "Yeah, we did. Don't you wanna maybe stick around... see how things end?"

Ty gave her a weak smile. "At least I got to see I won my bet with you," Ty answered breathily. "I'm so glad you found Diana, Chase. It makes me glad to see you finally happy... finally whole. Be happy together, Chase. You deserve it so much." Ty shuddered. "I'll be watching – don't make me have to come back and haunt you."

Chase gave Ty a sad chuckle. "I'll do my best. Say hi to Mama for me, all right? I love you, Ty. You've always been my best friend."

"Love you, Chase," Ty whispered on the wind, and with a final breath, she was gone.


Chapter XLIX

"Nubia?" Diana exclaimed as she came around the corner and into the curtained off area the Amazon elder had been ensconced in. "Oh my gods," dropping onto the stool beside the bed. "What happened?" She didn't even notice when Mala removed her tiara and began doctoring her head wound. Her attention was totally focused on the injured woman lying in the cot in front of her, cradling the stump of her arm. Nubia gave her a weak, pain-filled smile.

"Wrong place, wrong time, Princess," she muttered. "Ty saved my life... but it's costing her hers."

"Nubia?" The question was filled with more alarm than either of them had expected from the compassionate but stoic persona of Wonder Woman. Even Diana as the princess had rarely shown such emotion, although she had certainly been much more prone to it recently. But Diana knew that the loss of her only family would devastate Chase, and she had already been through so much.

Nubia shifted, then flinched, as another wave of pain washed through her. "Nubia, you need to lie still," Mala chided. "If you need some more pain medication, let me give it to you, but you can't be moving around ripping all those stitches out."

Diana's forehead creased. Why was the woman still in pain? Nubia answered her question unwittingly. "I know, Mala, but I want D... Wonder Woman to know what happened so she can share it with Chase. She deserves to know. I'll take the medication when I'm done."

Mala just gave Nubia a look and a nod before she turned her attention back to tending to Diana. Nubia had refused to share the story with anyone but the princess, insisting she deserved to her a first hand account from someone who was there.

"When the fighting started, we were in the trees, passing back intelligence and positions, helping the rebel forces hit their targets with increasing accuracy. It really was... quite the thrill, being back in combat again," Nubia admitted a bit sheepishly. No matter how civilized the Amazons had become, at their core, they were warrior women and they sometimes missed the fire and adrenaline rush fighting and physical danger gave them. However, after today, the craving would be muted for a very long time to come.

"Or at least it was until Hades itself became part of our world."

Nubia was quiet so long, Wonder Woman was force to prompt her finally. "What happened, Nubia?"

"The Nazis started fighting back, and since we were the closest to the fires the rebels had caused with their firing, we were the easiest to target. I remember...." She shook her head. "Not much, actually. I thought it was a rock." She blew out a frustrated breath. "Something got thrown at me and I caught it, intending to throw it back. The next thing I knew I was laying on the ground; my arm was gone and Ty stood over me taking on all comers."

Nubia swallowed, trying to gather her thoughts. "I still am not real clear on what happened after that because I was fading in and out of consciousness. I do know that Ty called for the healers, called for Drea before she moved on, but once the first wave of fighting passed over us, she continued to push forward into the fight, despite being injured herself."

Mala finished dressing Diana's wound, patting her arm before stepping out from the cubby to retrieve some pain medication for Nubia. Wonder Woman's attention never shifted from Nubia's face.

"How badly was she hurt, Nubia?"

"I do not know, Wonder Woman. I do know she was bleeding rather profusely when she left my side."

Diana blew out a breath. "Nubia, do you mind if I change here?" asked softly.

"It would be my honor, Princess."

Wonder Woman slowly spun counterclockwise and Nubia watched in unguarded fascination as she morphed into Diana Prince. Mala stepped back in through the curtain just as Diana stopped twirling.

"Princess," she said in a hushed undertone. "Are you sure that was wise? After all...."

"After all, Chase needs me. Now, if you'll excuse me.... Nubia, thank you for the information. I want you to rest and conserve your strength. I think Paula and I will be able to do something to make you whole again. I promise we will start working on it as soon as...."

"Diana, go to Chase. We can worry about my arm later."

Diana gently touched Nubia's uninjured arm. "Thank you, Nubia. I wish...."

"Will you go already?" Nubia joked weakly.

Diana smiled and stepped out of the curtained area and headed the short distance to the far corner where Drea was standing in front of the only other curtained area in the hospital.


The healer shook her head. "Chase asked for privacy. I haven't even had the chance to look at that wound on her leg yet." Diana patted Drea on the arm and crossed into the cordoned off area that Chase was behind.

"I asked to be left alone." The words were a harsh whisper.

It stung. But instead of letting it hurt, Diana chose instead to move up behind Chase and wrap her arms around the tense shoulders. Chase flinched for a long moment before relaxing into the embrace of the firm body behind her. She maintained her posture for several minutes. Diana didn't say a word, but just held her... until she felt the tremors start. Then she turned Chase in her arms until the blonde head was resting beneath her chin. And Diana simply held on and let Chase cry.

"She was my best friend," Chase said eventually.

"Was she the last of your family?" not mentioning Drea and the Amazons. She wasn't sure how Chase felt about being an Amazon, and besides, it wasn't the same as the family she had grown up with. They were the people Chase knew and cared for. She didn't really know the Amazons yet.

"No... she had a brother, but even though we get along for the most part, we always seem to be at one another's throats over one thing or another. I think he was jealous that Ty and I were best friends and he was just...."

"Just what, love?" Diana asked, intrigued.

"I don't think he was happy that it was always us and him. We loved him and he knew it; but it was always us versus him and we always sided together. He thought since he was the oldest, he should get to make the decisions for all of us."

Diana chuckled lightly. "Oh, I can only imagine how that went over with you and Ty."

Her memories overrode her sadness momentarily and she laughed softly with Diana. "Yeah. He ended up hanging from his underwear in that big tree in the front yard at the farm for trying," tilting her head back to see if Diana knew which tree she was referring to. This time Diana laughed out loud.

"I'm not even going to ask how you managed it."

"Well, let's just say that Shep was pretty surprised as well."

Diana blinked in response. "Wha... bu... Shep?? Shep is Ty's brother?"

"Yeah. Not there was ever much family resemblance except for the way they acted towards each other. As they got older, they tended to keep an eye on one another, even when they were fighting with each other. And now I get to be the one to tell him that I got his sister killed."

"NO!" Diana turned Chase in her embrace until she could cradle her face tenderly and gaze into exhausted green eyes. "No, Chase. You don't get to take that away from her. She chose to be part of the rebellion; she chose to protect and defend. You can't take that choice away from her."

Chase watched her carefully, wanting to be convinced.

"Chase, war is ugly. People suffer and die and get hurt beyond out ability to repair them. You've lived with this all your life."


"No buts. We don't have to like it, but it is the truth. The only difference this time is it's very personal for you. But you can't deny Ty her right to choose; otherwise, you not only negate her choice, but the reason for her suffering and death. This struggle was about freedom and part of freedom is having the opportunity to choose for yourself. Don't make her sacrifice meaningless."

Chase nodded, knowing Diana spoke the truth. "I won't," she whispered. "But now I gotta go break the news to Shep and then to Hans. They deserve to hear it from me. Then we've got plans to make and work to do. And one ex-Fuehrer to serve justice to."

"Have you decided what her punishment is going to be?" knowing Chase was well within her rights as the supreme military commander to execute whatever field justice she felt was fair, up to and including killing Orana with her bare hands. But somehow, Diana didn't think Chase was going to go that route. As much as she wanted to exact personal vengeance, Chase knew this was about justice for the world. Everyone had suffered because of Orana.

"She's going to walk the gauntlet, and I'm gonna offer Shep and Hans first crack. If she survives to the end, I will make the killing blow."

Diana nodded. It was an acceptable compromise, even if it meant Diana didn't get to beat the snot out of Orana herself. She figured even the Amazons would approve of Chase's decision; it meant most of them would get to take a shot at the woman who had betrayed them, and Diana felt they needed that sort of closure.

She stood up and extended her arm down to Chase. "Come on. I'm not going to let you do this alone." Chase smiled in gratitude and accepted Diana's arms, then felt her leg collapse out from under her as she tried to put weight on it.

She bit her lips to keep from cursing, not wanting to desecrate Ty's deathbed, but feeling the pain of her wound rip through her body in an unexpected wave. Fortunately, Diana's instincts were right on the money and she caught Chase before she could hit the ground.


It wasn't loud, but it was commanding and Drea moved instantly. Assessing the situation with a single quick glance, Drea guided Diana out of the partitioned area Ty was in and over to the next cot. "Mala, I need you now."

Diana put Chase down and would have backed out of the way had it not been for the firm grip Chase maintained on her wrist. She looked down and Chase grimaced up at her. "Please stay and take my mind off this, 'cause it hurts like a sonofabitch."

Diana blushed, but nodded and pulled a stool over and sat down, never losing the eye contact she had with Chase. They talked, though neither of them could have told what they discussed when all was said and done. But it allowed Drea and Mala to repair Chase's leg with minimal fuss and damage. When she was done, Drea patted Chase's good leg and squeezed Diana shoulder before leaving them alone, knowing that Chase was anxious to get back to work.

Sure enough, as soon as Chase realized Drea was finished patching her up, she sat up and slid from the cot gently. She eased her weight onto her injured leg and scowled, but continued until her weight rested fully on both legs. Then she offered Diana her hand and they exited the hospital without a word. Drea knew her business and was doing everything she could to ease the suffering of those around her. And those who were beyond her help were being reverently laid out at one end to be placed in caskets for the trip home.

That was the hardest part of being a healer, but she squared her shoulders and took the responsibility, doing her best for those who had given their all.

"Sonny?" Chase said as they entered the comm room. "Get me Shep on the line and then clear the room. Take fifteen minutes and grab a sandwich and a pee break, all right?"

"All right, boss. G'wan, boys," talking to the rest of his crew. I'll be out in a jiff."

The communications crew nodded and left with a salute in Chase's direction. Sonny jiggled some connections and twisted the dials, eventually hearing Shep's voice crackle over the wires. Then Sonny handed the headphones and mic over to Chase, and slipped out of the room, closing the door behind him to insure Chase the privacy she wanted.

"Chase, this is Shep, over."

Shep, this is Chase. I have news... and it's not good, over."

She heard him sigh before he answered and figured he knew what she was going to tell him. "Go ahead, over," he said in a resigned voice.

Chase closed her eyes; this wasn't easy no matter how it got done. Then she felt Diana's hands on her shoulders in support and drew a breath to speak. "Ty's dead, Shep," Chase said bluntly. "She died a hero saving others, but she's still dead. I'm sorry." Beat. "Over."

She could hear his upset, though his tears were silent. "I'm sorry, Shep," Chase reiterated. "I would have prevented this if I could have, over."

"Shh, Chase," Shep comforted. "I know that. I remember how close you were. We'll be in the same place soon and we can talk then, over."

"Actually I want you to get here ASAP. Put things in place like we discussed, then get here. We're going to have a military gauntlet before we go home, and you deserve the right to take a shot at her, over."

"No, Chase. I need to stay here." He took a shuddering breath. "It's gonna take all we've got to get everything coordinated and I'm not gonna leave it to chance just to get revenge for something that can't be changed. You hit her for me, cuz. You always had a meaner right than I did, over."

Chase made a choking sound in her throat that could have almost passed as laughter. "All right, Shep. We'll see you at home then, and we'll have a drink together for Ty, over."

"I'd like that, Chase. Pain in the ass that she was, Ty was still my little sister." He paused and Chase heard him swallow hard. "I'm gonna miss her, over."

"Yeah, I know, Shep. Me too." She paused. "Can you connect me to Hans? Over."

Chase heard Shep slip into his rebel persona. "Do what I can, boss, but it'll take a while. I'll call back when I get ahold of him, over."

"Thanks, Shep. Chase out."

Sonny was waiting outside the closed door when they emerged from the comm room. "Sonny, I need you to get all the resistance leaders on the line. I want plans for the provisional governments in place yesterday. And when Shep calls back, ring me in the Reichstag office. Oh, but first, call the unit leaders to my office. We need to make sure folks get some sleep."

"Yes ma'am. I'm on it," turning to his work. Chase and Diana slowly made their way to the office in deference to Chase's injured thigh.

The next few hours went swiftly as watches and schedules were set and guidelines for provisional governments worldwide were put into place. Chase was glad for the months of intense preparation they had spent hammering out the details for the new provisional governments. Although some changes would have to be made due to the loss of key personnel and the surprising number of troops that had simply surrendered, a majority of it was ready to be implemented.

"Are there any questions?" Her question was met with silence along the radio relay Sonny and Shep had set up for her. "All right then. Take care of the war criminals first. Then get with one another about separating the units and spreading them out across the world to work off their servitude sentences. If it's possible, no more than five men from the same unit should be in the same town. Mix them up as best as you can. That will make it harder for them to try to organize anything against us."

"Do you really think they will, Chase? So many of them were quick to surrender...."

"I think it is best not to take any chances. We're worked too long and sacrificed too much for this victory. I want this to stick."

Affirmations across the board. "I think a majority of our problems will be solved when those who have been convicted of war crimes are executed. It's hard to follow if no one is leading."

"True. What about the slaves? Are all the resources in place for them as well?" Not that there were many left... comparatively speaking. Instead of deliberate genocide, Orana had taken those who did not fit into the Nazi philosophy, and worked them to death. Some did survive and breed another generation of slaves, but most succumbed to the squalid conditions, poor diet and hygiene and brutality of their captors.

"Yes. We already have plans in place to try and transition them back into society. We expect to have some difficulty though – these people were all born into slavery; it's all they know."

Chase nodded, though no one but Diana could see her. "I know. We'll do the best we can. We can only do so much."

"Chase, what about the Japs?"

"I think you'll find they have been taken care of much the same way that the Nazi's have. I was in touch with both our Indian and Chinese counterparts before we started our offensive. They were scheduled to go at the same time we did, and without the Nazi support in place...."

"When will we know definitely?"

"I am expecting word at any time. As soon as I know something, I will pass it along. For now, though, we need to focus on securing our own positions."

"And the Fuehrer?"

"She will walk the gauntlet at dawn tomorrow." Chase's answer was hard and firm. "Once justice is served, we will make our announcement and let the world know that things have changed and how."

"And then?"

"And then it will be time for the provisional governments to begin their recovery and transition processes. I will be going home."

There was a cacophony of protests, and Chase held up her hands for silence, even though no one could see her. She leaned back into the strong body behind her, absorbing the strength Diana offered her wordlessly. When the noise finally died down, Chase opened her mouth to speak again.

"Guys, I'm not disappearing into a black hole or anything; you'll still be able to find me if you need me. I am just taking a step back from leadership. I've been doing this my whole adult life. We did what we set out to do, and it's time to allow people to be able to make their own decisions."

She didn't say the words, but they could all hear the need in her voice. Even without the details, every faction leader and in fact, most of the rebellion knew bits and pieces of Chase's story – enough to know she of all of them deserved whatever bit of peace she could find.

When she was sure no one else was going to comment, Chase gave her final instructions. "Make sure you're each prepared for the broadcast tomorrow. Shep and Sonny will be in touch with details as soon as we have them. Good work, folks. We couldn't have asked for a better offensive."

A knock on the door concluded the conference, and Chase took a deep breath to fortify herself for the coming conversation with Hans. This one promised to be more difficult than Shep had.


Chapter L

It was unnerving, actually. Hans took the news calmly, as though he had expected the news. Chase was confused and concerned, but there was little she could do separated as they were by ocean. He refused the opportunity to participate in Orana's punishment, citing his greater desire to be home to welcome Ty and lay her body to rest. Chase accepted that; it was one reason she was anxious to return.

"I need to be sure that the shifts have changed and people are getting some rest. Tomorrow is going to be busy."

Diana wrapped her arms around Chase's shoulders and held on tightly. "What about you, love? You've carried this for so long...."

"I know, baby. But it's just for a little longer. And then we can go home and have some peace together… have a real life." She leaned back into the embrace, loath to give it up, but almost ashamed of her neediness. She'd never expected to be so drained – tired perhaps or elated from victory, but all she could dredge up was a hollow emptiness.

"Chase, I'm worried about you." Diana could sense the depression, but wasn't sure if Ty's death was the only thing behind it or if there was more to it. Worse, she didn't know how to fix it. "Come. Let me pamper you just a little. We both need to eat and get some rest. Our burdens won't seem so heavy in the morning."

Chase didn't argue, but nodded her head wearily and stood up... or would have had her leg not chosen that moment to cramp and collapse under her. She sank back into the chair with a hiss. "Goddamn it!" She blew out an impatient breath. "Give me just a second," she said quietly to Diana. "I think I've been sitting too long; the muscles are frozen."

"Do you trust me?"

Chase didn't even hesitate long enough to think about it. "Yes, absolutely."

Diana knelt and began kneading the area around the wound, careful not to touch the actual bruise on Chase's thigh. It wasn't easy, but she managed and after a few minutes, Diana felt the knots loosening beneath her skillful touch. Chase had leaned her head against the chair back and had closed her eyes, allowing Diana's touch to heal without allowing her own preconceived notions to interfere with the process. She could feel her whole body relaxing for the first time in what felt like forever.

Diana smiled. "Better?"

Chase nodded, accepting Diana's outstretched hands as she slowly rose to her feet once more. "Even my arm and ribs feel better." The pain she had felt before was virtually gone and Chase looked her question at Diana.

"I told you – I have many skills," Diana answered with only a tiny smirk. Chase mocked glared at her and waited. "Actually, it's an ancient Chinese form of healing and therapy. Roughly translated into English, it is called acupuncture. It's the ability to...."

Diana stopped speaking when Chase's fingers covered her lips, only just resisting the impulse to kiss them and raising an eyebrow in question instead.

"Don't. I'll just think of it as your special brand of magic. Thank you for caring."

This time both brows went up and she gave in to the temptation of kissing Chase's fingertips. "Chase, I more than care. I love you."

Chase felt the tingle of those lips on her fingers course through her entire body, and she allowed herself the luxury of a few stolen moments, tracing the planes and features of the face that was growing more precious to her every day. There were still a lot of holes in her memories and even more unanswered questions, but Chase could no longer deny the truth of her feelings – towards Diana or the whole soulmate theory. Facing the separation of death again had brought home some elemental truths that Chase no longer had the will or the energy to deny. She was ready to just be happy together. Diana's eyes widened as she watched the change take place and recognized it for what it was.

With her good hand, Chase slid her fingers into Diana's hair and tugged her forward until their lips were just touching. "I love you too," she whispered before claiming the prize that was hers... and always had been.

The kiss was slow and sweet and hot, and Diana knew if she didn't back the intensity level down a few notches, odds were very good that they'd get caught in a very compromising position. Not that she was ashamed of the love they shared together – quite the contrary, but how they chose to express it was something very private and personal to her. They weren't a peep show or a circus act.

Still, the kiss went on for a few minutes before Diana pulled away to breathe. She let her forehead meet Chase's and they stood wrapped together in their embrace. They didn't hear the knock on the door until it opened and Sonny stuck his head in. He paused, awkwardly, then stepped into the room.

"I'm sorry to intrude, Chase." Sonny hesitated just inside the door, his discomfiture obvious. Chase turned from Diana but they refused to release one another completely, so with clasped hands and slow steps, they approached him.

"You're not intruding, Sonny. What's up?"

He kept his eyes locked squarely on the floor in front of him. "I just wanted to let you know that Rickie monitoring in the comm room and Shep sent an all clear message before signing off."

"Thanks, Sonny. You gonna go get some rest now?"

"Yes, ma'am – soon's I get something to eat." His eyes never moved from the floor. Chase cocked her head in question, then made a decision. This kind of prejudice had been one of the things they had been fighting against.

"Sonny? Are you having a problem... with Diana and I being a couple together and all, I mean?"

Bright brown eyes snapped up to meet hers. "No ma'am!" he stated vehemently. "Not really, I mean... I've never really seen two girls together before, but mostly I was trying not to intrude on your privacy. I'm pretty sure I was interrupting."

"All right, Sonny. Thank you for your honesty. Go grab a bite and get some rest. Tomorrow really is gonna be a busy day for us."

"Yes ma'am," meeting both their eyes shyly before returning his gaze to the floor. "Goodnight."

When the door closed, Chase leaned into Diana for a moment. Instinctively, Diana wrapped an arm of support around Chase's waist, gratified to feel a return pressure around her own. "Come on, love. Let's go find a place to settle down and get a little rest. My head hurts," Diana said softly, finally admitting to Chase something she would never have admitted to another soul. Chase turned then and reached her hand up, pushing Diana's hair aside to reveal an ugly lump and a neat row of stitches.

"Oh, baby," wrapping an arm around Diana's waist now and easing them out the door. "I'm sorry. I didn't know... I mean I didn't realize... I just...."

"Chase, shh. It's okay, mostly. It's just been a really long day and things are just catching up with me."

Chase could certainly agree with that. They had been going since before dark the night before and it was well into late afternoon. Almost everyone had been able catch some rest; they had instituted Chase's rotations as soon as they had been issued. Unfortunately for Chase, there was no one but her until the provisional governments were put into place and the power transferred from rebellion to legitimate authority, and that had taken the better part of the day.

But now... finally... she was close to being done as she ever had been, and all Chase felt was weariness and a sense of profound relief. "C'mon," she said to Diana. "Time for me to return the favor."

They reached the outside steps before they were stopped by Mala. "Come with me," she said imperiously. "We have dinner prepared for you as well as a place for you to get some rest." She motioned for them to go back into the Reichstag with a twirl of her fingers and then put her hands on her hips when they didn't comply immediately. "Let's go, you two. The sooner I get you settled, the sooner the rest of this bunch will get back to work."

Chase and Diana exchanged glances before turning their attention to the courtyard, realizing that everything had stopped while all eyes focused on them. Blue and green eyes widened simultaneously, then met with a comically stunned expression.

"Um... Mala?"

"Chase, you're a hero. What did you expect?"

"I'm not a hero!" she growled fiercely.

Mala started to contradict her, but a look from Diana stopped the words before they could form on her lips. Instead, she motioned them back inside the Reichstag, and now Chase shook her head.


"Chase, trust me. We thought you and Diana might appreciate a little privacy together."

"That sounds wonderful," she answered frankly, clutching Diana's hand and missing the blush that ran up her face. "But why are we going back in here?" indicating the Reichstag with a measure of distaste. "Privacy or not, I really do not think trying to sleep at a desk is going to be very restful, and the only bed I saw in here I wouldn't touch," remembering Orana's chambers all too clearly.

"Chase, trust me when I tell you that Amazons have become creatures of comfort in the last few millennia, and they prepared a place for the two of you with that in mind. It isn't Orana's quarters or even anywhere near it." A pause. "You've done so much for so long; let others share the burden now. Hero or not, you've carried a lot of the rebellion on your shoulders. It's the main reason things are moving so rapidly and the transition has progressed so smoothly so far – you put some good, well-thought out plans into place."

Chase was more than a little embarrassed. Diana came to her rescue.

"Come on, Mala. Lead the way. It's been a really long day."

Mala nodded and led them back inside and down the corridor Chase knew went towards the guest residence quarters. She didn't argue; already much of what marked the Reichstag as the Nazi stronghold was gone. And she knew herself well enough to know she needed food and rest. The world would have to wait.

Mala opened the door and several comforting scents followed. Chase and Diana crossed the threshold into the room and Mala closed the door behind them, leaving them alone and in peace to investigate the comforts that had been provided for them.

There was a fire in the fireplace and hot food on the table, and opening the door on the far wall, they found a well-appointed bathroom. Diana and Chase exchanged tired but amused glances. "I guess the Nazis were as fond of their comforts as the Amazons, hmm?"

Diana rolled her eyes. "Given who their leader was...." she said, letting that thought lie. "Besides, you've seen how most people have been living here. You know how the rebels have been living. I don't think they have had these kinds of luxuries; they were for the privileged few."

"Isn't that still true? I don't see the masses in here enjoying all this."

Diana took Chase by the hand and led her back over to the table. "Let's eat; if I know Drea, she will be while shortly to check up on us and give us a report."

Chase nodded and started eating the stew, only just noting that it tasted good. They ate in silence for a few minutes before Chase noted Diana wasn't eating much. "Diana? Are you all right?"

"My head is bothering me a little bit."

Chase noticed her pallor and cursed herself silently. She pushed back from the table and came around beside Diana. "God, I've been so selfish. Let me take care of you."

"You don't have to...."

"I know, sweetheart, but I want to."

Diana let Chase lead her into the bathroom, then stood watching as she started the bathwater running. It was oddly disconcerting; Chase was still hobbling slightly and with her face still bruised and her arm still in a cast, her movements were slow and awkward. Diana rubbed her temple, trying to ease some of the pain away.

"Chase, what changed?"

"Huh?" Chase whirled to meet Diana's eyes.

"I mean, just a few days ago... it has only been a few days right?" She waited for Chase to nod. "Well, just a few days ago, we were working on just being friends. Now we're... well, I think we passed friendship and moved into something deeper."

Chase turned away from Diana to look for a towel, placing it on the counter before she nodded her head. "We did," she agreed softly. "Before – before we came here, before this fight, I had time... time for anger, time for thought, time for argument and consideration and logic. Ares made me realize that I was assuming too much - throwing away an opportunity I might never get again... especially since we were in the middle of a war. And staying angry over things past that I can't change... it suddenly dawned on me I was being stupid and selfish."

A frown crossed Diana's face. "I don't understand – you've been at war all your life. Not that I'm complaining," she hastened to reassure Chase. "I'm just a little confused."

Chase smiled sadly. "So was I. It is one thing to know something here," tapping her forehead. "It's something else again to have it brought home to you here," putting her hand over her heart. "I never had anything to lose before... not like this anyway. When I was hanging on the wall getting the crap beaten out of me, I decided if I got out of there, I wasn't going to be stupid and selfish any more. I was going to give us a chance to be an us... if you were still willing... because I remember what it felt like...." She let her words trail off, but Diana knew exactly when Chase was referring to.

Diana didn't answer verbally, but cupped her hands gently around Chase's face, drawing their lips together and sucking on her tongue until she felt Chase collapse against her in surrender. Diana had meant it to be a gesture of reassurance. Then Diana felt her knees start to buckle when Chase's hands began to wander across her body.

Diana leaned against the counter and Chase leaned into her as their lips separated. "I never knew it could be like this."

Diana combed her fingers through Chase's hair. "It will only get better, love. I promise you."

A knock on the outer door brought them back to the present and Chase noted the tub was nearly ready to overflow. She reached over and shut off the valves. "Why don't you get in the tub and relax? I'll go take care of the door. Then maybe we can finish dinner and curl up in that bed together?" Diana nodded.

"I'd like that, very much." There might have been more, but the knocking sounded louder and more insistently. Diana shook her head and gently pushed Chase towards the door. "Go. If it's Drea, she'll come in anyway if you don't answer the door soon."

About that time, the door opened and Drea slowly stuck her head in the door. "Chase? Diana?" she called out softly. She didn't want to disturb them if they were otherwise occupied, but then there was that mom gene that had decided to kick into overdrive. And despite everything, there were certain formalities that needed to be observed. Although looking at Chase now....

"Drea, come in. What can I do for you? Please," indicating the chairs in front of the fireplace.

Drea watched Chase carefully, noting her pallor and her limp. She reached up and took Chase's hands, easing her into the chair beside her. "Let me take a look at you, Chase," she said in her no-nonsense healer voice. "How do you feel?"

Chase considered the question while Drea rechecked her wounds, and decided there was no answer she could give that she felt comfortable sharing. So she remained quiet. Finally, Drea realized that she wasn't going to get an answer and sighed.

"All right. What are your intentions for my daughter?"

Chase jerked out of Drea's grasp. "You're walking a very fine line, Drea. What is between Diana and me is private, and it will remain that way until we decide otherwise. Do I make myself clear?"

"Absolutely, Chase. But you need to know that since Diana is the Amazon Princess, there are rules and protocols that will have to be followed."

Chase stood, heedless of the fact that her bandage was unraveled. "Get. Out."


"GET OUT. I will not tolerate that sort of disrespect of her. Not from you – not from anyone."

"But, Chase... I didn't...."

"Drea," Diana said from the bathroom door. Even from that distance she could feel the anger rolling off of Chase in waves. "Do us all a favor and go. We can talk about this tomorrow. There is nothing more any of us can do tonight. Leave us, please." She didn't say it aloud, but her expression clearly said Trust me.

Drea nodded and rose, walking silently back to the door. "I'm sorry, Chase. I didn't mean any disrespect – to you or to Diana. This is new to all of us." She cleared her throat when she reached the door. "I actually came to tell you that everything is ready for tomorrow. Everyone who can be here will be here to participate in the gauntlet, and then the two of you will be returning to America."

"And the Amazons?"

"Diana has asked that we remain here a little while longer. We have much we can contribute, and possibly, a few things to learn as well." They had all been glad when Diana had given them their directives. It served a number of purposes and more than anything else, showed Diana was a true leader and caretaker of the Amazon Nation.

"Thank you, Drea. I assure you my intentions are honorable and once I have spoken of them with Diana, I will speak to both you and Hippolyta. But she deserves to know first."

Drea smiled and Chase felt the heat from Diana's blush. "Goodnight," Drea said before closing the door behind her.

Chase watched it close with a sense of satisfaction. Then she turned and took Diana's hand, leading her over to the bed. "C'mon. It's time to pamper you a little and I'd like to sleep in your arms tonight."

"That sounds wonderful. I have a feeling that will be the best medicine I could ask for."

Chase smiled. "Me too."


Chapter LI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orana rolled her eyes but remained silent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Even if it is for the greater good?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No matter what?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Chapter LII

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Chase, how are you?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Do I really need to take advantage?"

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

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

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

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

"Soon, though?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Hiya, beautiful."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"May I come in?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Are you sure?"

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

"Go with my blessing, then."

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

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


Chapter LIII

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

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

"Please don't."

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

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

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

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

"Let. Go."


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Does it help that I'm here?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes, you really did."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Guaran-damn-tee it, sweetheart."

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

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

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

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

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

"Oh," Chase said, a little deflated.

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

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

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

"It sounded... interesting."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Ready to go?"

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

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

"Take care of my baby."

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

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

"You ready to go home?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

"About damned time," Ty muttered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Chapter LIV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Chase, please...."

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

"You are so beautiful."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You really are very beautiful, Chase."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"But it's *your* sword."

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

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

"I am not helpless, you know."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chase blushed. "Not all of them."

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

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

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

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

"You wrote for children?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Diana, put me down!"

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

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

"Can we?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Chapter LV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"My mother just called."

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Hello boys."

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

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

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

"Wait! You can't do that!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You really don't want to leave?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

"Everything all taken care of?"

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

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

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

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


Chapter LVI

Six Months Later

The world was still in transition; there was turmoil and confusion as things were sorted out, but no more wars were being fought. There had been skirmishes but nothing terribly devastating and not too many of them, all things considered. It had been completely anti-climactic really, given the number of years the Nazis had been in power. But the truth was they had gotten slack and lazy – comfortable with the status quo; and with Orana's destruction, they had no real leader to stir them to fight.

Word had spread of Chase's death though Shep and Hans were both alerted to the truth. Chase felt they both deserved to know. And the rumors served their purpose – no one else came after them, and the Nazi organization had continued to deteriorate to the point that even word of her death was not sufficient to rally them to victory.

So time marched on and changes gradually began to take shape in the world. It wasn't perfect – human beings were involved in its creation. But it was a fresh start for mankind and most of humanity welcomed the opportunity for a second chance. Using the guidelines Chase had given them, they were forging a brave new world together.

Chase and Diana watched mankind's progress from the relative safety of the farm. Despite its relative closeness to the rebel encampment, only Ty, Shep and Hans had ever been aware of its location. Chase had been very closed-mouthed about her life outside the rebellion and that worked in their favor now. Even the townspeople weren't actually sure who she was anymore, and given the influx of new people as things began to settle into a new routine, she doubted they would figure it out before it came time for her and Diana to leave the United States permanently and move back to live on Paradise Island.

In the meantime, Diana and Chase were content to live and work the farm until Diana's responsibilities as both Wonder Woman and the Amazon princess meant she had to be away from it more often than she wanted. Then Chase went with Diana on her trips to Paradise Island, trying to understand life as an immortal Amazon before she actually had to live as one. Diana refused to stay overnight on any of their trips, however; she was aware of the censure and scrutiny they were already under and had no desire to add to it even if was only driven by curiosity.

Drea decided to investigate their hesitation to remain on the island until their wedding and invited herself back to the farm on the trip home to pick up more Amazons. Drea had been in the first group to return to Paradise Island and except for her very brief sojourn back at Aphrodite's request, she hadn't shown an inclination to leave until now. It was odd, especially with the number of births on the horizon and though Diana and Chase exchanged questioning glances when Drea joined them without explanation, they simply made room in the plane.

The invisible jet was kept in the back meadow away from prying eyes and they walked the short distance back home. Chase and Diana had always used it as transition time between their two worlds, and Drea appreciated the time to reacclimatize herself to being in man's world again. Drea blinked when they arrived back at the farmhouse. It was very different than what she remembered – it was alive. They were creating a home here together. It disturbed her.

Drea followed them inside, taking in the freshness of the rooms and the furnishings noting the number of changes and the amount of work Chase and Diana had done in the months they had been living here. Drea followed Diana upstairs; she couldn't help the smile that crossed her face when she was shown into what was now the guest room. In spite of her misgivings, Diana and Chase were well-suited to one another and had created a comfortable living space and they were so obviously happy.

Once she was settled, Drea went back downstairs to find them working together in the kitchen and for a long time, she just stood in the doorway watching them. Finally she decided to take the bull by the horns and just talk to them about what was bothering her.

"You two are obviously very comfortable here. You've done a lot of work transforming this place."

Diana and Chase looked at each other and exchanged smiles. Diana continued chopping and Chase went back to pulling out ingredients. "We are, Drea, thanks."

"Can I ask why?"

Chase turned from the refrigerator and came to stand next to Diana before cocking her head in question at Drea. "Why what?"

Drea took a deep breath. "Why are you working so hard to transform this place? Why are you creating a home here?"

Chase and Diana looked at each other again. "Huh? Drea, we live here. This is our home."

"Paradise Island is your home."

"It will be one day, Drea, but for now, this is our home."


"Because we like it here?? What kind of question is that anyway? Drea," Diana said with exasperation, "what difference does it make when we return to Paradise Island? Except for the new babies and the new war training program I put into place, everything on Paradise Island is status quo... just like it has been for thousands of years."

"Diana, the difference is that this can't be your home... not for the rest of your lives together."

"Right – so what's the rush?"

Drea covered her face with her hands and took a deep breath. She didn't think they were being deliberately obtuse; she just was not being clear enough. She dropped her hands to catch one of theirs in each of hers and held on.

"The world is in a state of transition and Chase has chosen not to be a part of that. I absolutely understand why and I can't say I disagree with her reasoning. BUT, you decided to 'kill' her; the world thinks she's dead."

"Yeah, so? We didn't want regular visits from rogue Nazis. I've done enough killing in this lifetime," Chase said quietly with a glance at the closet that held Diana's sword. They had put it away after Chase had used it during the rogue Nazi attack, hoping not to need it again.

"And that is somewhat my point, Chase. No matter what precautions you take, someone can stumble onto the truth – find out who you really are and where you live. Why take the chance?"

"And what about Wonder Woman and her place in the world?"

"Wonder Woman doesn't have a place in this world yet. It is still being born... still growing and developing and changing. We need to give mankind a chance to do things the right way on their own. If that wasn't the plan to start with, Chase, you would have done better by them to have simply remained in charge. They would have followed you."

She sighed then went on. "Paula has been working on the monitoring system on the island and we will be able to keep a better eye on things here now. But they can't start to rely on Wonder Woman to solve everything for them; they need to learn to stand together first." Drea looked up and smiled at Diana. "She'll be there if and when mankind really needs her." She released their hands and walked to the door. "Think about it," she added before walking out to the old oak tree to talk to her sister.

Chase and Diana turned back to preparing dinner, silently agreeing to talk about things once Drea returned to Paradise Island.

Jasmine waited for Drea to finish talking and take a seat beneath the oak before she spoke quietly. "You're going to need to be a little patient with Chase, Drea. Her life has been a series of upheavals and the only stability she has known has been here. It's scary to walk away from that."

Drea nodded. "I remember," thinking back millennia. "I'll see about getting Diana to take me home tomorrow. Thanks to Diana's machinations, I have more than enough to keep me busy these days and they need to be able to discuss and decide this without an audience... even a well meaning one."

Jasmine nodded her agreement. "They'll make the right decision, Drea... for them and for the Nation. It just may take longer than you like." A beat. "Does that bother you?"

Drea shook her head. "No, because I can see how happy they are together. That, more than anything else, is what I wanted to see happen for both of them. They are completely devoted to each other Jas, and they genuinely like each other, aside from being in love. That is why I want them to come home. They deserve to be somewhere safe where they can enjoy those feelings for now." She held up her hand. "But I will leave that decision up to them. They'll figure it out."

The two sisters laughed and sat in comfortable silence for a while; then conversation turned to other things as the sun dropped behind the trees. It was only then that Drea said goodnight to Jasmine and returned to the house where she was welcomed warmly by both younger women. No matter what, they knew her actions were done out of love and concern and she was glad she had taken the time to speak frankly to them. At least they knew the truth. Everything else was up to them.

Meanwhile, the Amazons had slowly been rotated back to America and from there, a few at a time, they had returned home to the peace and tranquility of Paradise Island. Not much had changed and yet everything was different for them. The battle lust they had conquered eons before returned with a vengeance and Diana spent hours creating war games to help ease the burning need they felt.

Many returned home wounded in one way or another, though none as severely as Nubia. Still, Drea, Rina and Paula worked in tandem to repair the damage that had been inflicted on the Nation inside and out. In Nubia's case, Paula spent an inordinate amount of time constructing the prosthetic arm Diana had designed, and Nubia had been the last few weeks adjusting to the new limb and learning how to use it.

The biggest surprise, to Hippolyta at least, had been the number of Amazons who were returning to Paradise Island expecting. They were in various stages of pregnancy – from those ready to give birth, to a few who did not know they were pregnant yet. These had been the optional orders Diana had issued. She had listened to what Orana had said and realized that the Nation was stagnant and continuing in the same vein would only increase dissatisfaction and could possibly create another Orana-type situation. Thus the issuing of the voluntary order to try and procreate while in man's world. Diana hadn't even been sure it would work, given their immortal status, but she figured planting the idea might give a few the desire to try.

Hippolyta didn't know the reasons behind the order, but she couldn't help but see the changes in the Nation because of it. There would be new challenges to face now, but there was new life and anticipation in the Nation as well.

Things between Hippolyta and Diana had not progressed as well or as far as the queen had hoped. One reason for that was the simple fact that real, true distance separated them. Hippolyta had remained in Europe, leaving only when the last group of Amazons departed, while Diana was all over – staying mostly on the farm with Chase, but also returning to Paradise Island regularly to supervise a number of changes. Even when Diana took Hippolyta back to Paradise Island, Diana had only stayed a few minutes before returning to America. It didn't help Hippolyta's peace of mind that Drea had returned with the remainder of the wounded in the first batch to return. It had reminded her, though, why she had been so happy to leave man's world when she had been given the chance the first time.

Her welcome home had been somewhat subdued upon her return to Paradise Island and Hippolyta wondered if she was seeing a changing of the guard. Not that she thought that Diana was deliberately trying to usurp her authority, but Diana was an excellent leader and it showed in the excitement Hippolyta could feel as the Nation prepared to celebrate the marriage of their princess. Whatever happened, Hippolyta was glad to be back in Drea's arms and was looking forward to her daughter's wedding with mixed emotions. More than anything, she wished for Diana's happiness and hoped they would get the opportunity to heal the rift still between them.

First though, they had to get Chase and Diana home to Paradise Island and married.

"Do you think they will come home to stay, Drea?" Hippolyta asked when they were finally able to curl up together in bed very late on her first night back.

"They'll come home, Pol. It may be later instead of sooner, but they will come home to stay eventually... at least for a while. I just don't know when." She groaned as she stretched out muscles that had been cramped a better part of the day. "Personally, I think Diana wants to wait until all the babies are born and raised." Drea propped up her head up on an elbow and looked down into Hippolyta's face. "I think she did a good thing for the Nation, but I may have to kill her for it anyway. I am feeling every single one of my three thousand plus years right now and we've just started delivering the babies that are going to be born here in the next few months."

Hippolyta chuckled and sat up, pushing the healer onto her stomach. "You can't kill her, Drea," rubbing the stiff shoulders. "Chase wouldn't let you even if I would, and I wouldn't let you either. She's still our daughter. But I'll give you a backrub as often as you need one for as long as necessary."

Drea moaned as Hippolyta hit a particularly painful knot. "There may be a lot of those in the coming weeks."

Hippolyta leaned down and brushed a kiss across the back of Drea's neck, smiling as she watched goosebumps follow her touch. "I will look forward to it." She felt Drea shift to look at her and she met the brown eyes confidently. "For the first time in a long time, I feel good, Drea. I believe you're right about Diana and Chase ultimately settling here; I think Diana and I will eventually get to be friends again. And there is new life and new purpose in the Nation. I feel... renewed – like I could go out and conquer the world."

Drea shifted to her side and pulled Hippolyta down into her. She forgot her exhaustion as well as her aches and pains and pain when Hippolyta's hands started to conquer her body inch by tortuous inch. Hippolyta decided it had been a good homecoming after all, and they fell asleep curled around one another wearing contented smiles and a sheen of sweat. Even the babies were thoughtful enough to give them peace for a few hours sleep together before calling Drea away again.

"So what do you want to do, Diana?" They had just returned from their latest trip to Paradise Island, delivering the last of the returning Amazons – including Hippolyta – back home. This time, however, they hadn't stayed. They had literally dropped the women on the island and taken off immediately after; they hadn't even bothered to step off the plane. Chase figured, correctly, it had something to do with Hippolyta's return; she just didn't know what.

The flight home had been silent but not uncomfortable. They knew regardless of what got decided they would be together at the end of it. But this was something they had put off discussing in the weeks since Drea had brought it up and now it had come down to necessity. So Chase brought it up once they were in the kitchen preparing dinner together as they always did.

"I want to do what makes you happiest, Chase. I came to man's world to find you; if you want to stay here, I am happy to stay here too. If you want to go back to Paradise Island...." she shrugged. "I'm sure Drea is cursing my name now for all the work I caused her, but we would certainly be welcomed there. And there is so much there you never experienced."

"You want to go home... to Paradise Island, I mean."

Diana nodded and shrugged at the same time. "Part of me does," she replied honestly. "It's the only home I ever knew until we came here and I have work there. But Chase, I don't need that - I just need to be where you are. I love it here... with you."

"What about what Drea said?"

"You mean about Wonder Woman?" Chase nodded. "Well, she is right... mankind does need to learn to work together. The real question is do they need Wonder Woman to find a way to do that. Or if they would even accept my help in that regard." They both remembered the few instances Wonder Woman had tried to step in and help since Chase had walked away from leading, and in each instance she had been politely but firmly informed her services were unnecessary. She had done what she could without being seen but it was difficult. "I think," Diana continued after a few moments of silence, "I think Wonder Woman would have to keep trying. It's who I am."

Chase smiled. "I wouldn't have expected less from you, Diana. You've always been a champion for the greater good. The question, though, is do you *want* to? What do you – Diana Prince, Amazon Princess and Wonder Woman's alter ego – want to do?" Chase held up a finger when Diana drew breath to speak. "And no more circular answers, love. Say what you feel."

Diana was silent for long moments and the only sound was the hum of the kitchen appliances and the frying of their dinner. Finally, she looked up from the contemplation of her hands and met Chase's gaze squarely. "I'd like to go home, Chase. I want some peace for us... even if it is only for a little while. We can always come back if and when mankind ever needs us again. But for now I'd really like to focus on us."

Chase deliberately broke the stare, turning to the stove to shut off the flame beneath their food. Then she held out her hand to Diana and led her upstairs, taking her time showing Diana just what kind of focus she had to look forward to. And Diana happily reciprocated the attention. Only the rising of the sun made them decide that sleep might be in order if they expected to return to Paradise Island in the near future. There were still a few things they needed to work out in man's world before they were free and clear to leave.

Aphrodite sat at the scrying bowl holding her head in her hands moaning and rocking back and forth. Athena laid a gentle hand on her shoulder, not expecting the love goddess to jump so hard when she felt the touch. Dite glared at Athena who returned it with a look of compassion.

"Sorry, Dite. Are you all right? You look a little...."

Aphrodite closed her eyes. "I *am a little.... Those two are so gonna be the death of my radical self."

Athena squeezed her arm sympathetically and smiled, taking a seat next to Dite. "What did they do now?"

"Round and round and round. You'd think after three thousand years, they could totally figure it out. At least they finally got things settled for now, but talk about bogus vibes in the meantime. I need a drink."

Athena rose and held out a hand, helping Dite to her feet. "Come. We'll go find some good wine and relax for a bit. With those two, a bit is all we can spare. I've never seen trouble find anyone like it does those two, and now that they are finally back together...."

Dite laughed and wrapped an arm around Athena's waist, leaning against her as they walked down the hall. "No kidding. But at least we'll get a gnarly wedding outta this."

"Chase, are you sure?" Jasmine asked softly. She put an arm around Chase's shoulder and brushed a kiss across the top of her blonde head. Chase nodded.

"Yes, Mama. It's better this way for now. Maybe later we can come back here to live, but for now, she needs to be there, and I need to be with her. Besides, with me gone maybe you'll finally get to cross over... have a bit of peace for a change."

"Actually, Ty and I get to attend the wedding first. Then we will move on to the afterlife."

Chase blinked at her long-dead mother. "Can you do that?"

Jasmine nodded. "The goddesses promised me before you were born. And I finagled a place for Ty as well; she deserves it... and so do you." She paused a minute, running ghostly hands through Chase's hair. "Chase," Jasmine said quietly, "your father's ring and mine are in my jewelry box if you and Diana would like to use them. I just... I didn't know...."

Chase leaned over and brushed a kiss across Jasmine's ethereal cheek. "Thanks, Mama. I love you."

"I love you, too, bitta girl. Now go on... your bride is waiting," motioning to Diana who was standing at the far end of the path. "And you don't want to be late for your own wedding."

Chase rose from her spot beneath the oak tree and ran to greet Diana. Jasmine watched until they disappeared out of sight, then she turned to Ty who had been patiently waiting in the tree. "C'mon, Ty. Time to go." And they disappeared together as well.


Chapter LVII

There was one final bit of business Chase had to take care of before they left America for the last time. The things that had been important to her, including Jasmine's jewelry box, had been pack away for transport to Paradise Island. Now she simply had to sign the papers transferring ownership of the farm to Hans.

He had returned from the European theatre briefly when he'd heard of Chase's death and had stayed in discreet contact from that point. When he became aware of their decision to leave the United States, he had decided to go back and become a farmer. Chase had promised him he could learn, and she had given him a crash course in all the aspects of farming. Surprisingly, he found it to be a fulfilling and satisfying occupation, and though he didn't give up science, he turned his efforts towards making himself a better farmer with it.

All the furnishings were being left behind and Hans was quite comfortable. He even managed to convert his payment, which he insisted on making, into something other than dollars, just on the off chance that they might be able to come back and something other than dollars was the currency. They didn't know he was going to put the property into trust for them; he figured it would be a nice surprise.

The signing didn't take but a few minutes, and Hans pulled Chase into a hug. "I will miss you, my friend. You saved my life and though I will never be able to thank you for it, I will always remember it. If ever you return and I am not here, look in the oak; it will hold your answers." She looked at him askance and opened her mouth to speak, but Hans shook his head. "Just trust me for now, Chase." She nodded and kissed his cheek before stepping back from him to stand next to Diana.

Hans took their hands in his and they held one another's so they formed a complete circle. "Be good to one another, and love each other long and well. Never go to bed angry, and watch out for each other all your days together."

Then he kissed them both briefly and released their hands. Chase and Diana held his gaze for a moment longer before whispering goodbye, then they headed for the far meadow without looking back. The time had finally arrived for them to go home. It was time to begin the next chapter in their lives together.

"Pol... POL... HIPPOLYTA!!" Drea finally resorted to the full name and loud voice. "Will you calm down please? You're making me seasick." Hippolyta pouted in Drea's direction and dropped into a nearby chair. "Besides, I'm not sure why you are so nervous. Diana and Chase are coming home to be married and you know we're not going to see hide nor hair of them for a while after that."

Nubia chuckled. "Especially since we built that cottage for them on the far side of the island as a wedding gift." She flexed her arm. Diana and Paula had done right by her and except for occasional twinges and an uncanny accuracy to predict bad weather now, her new arm was almost better than the original. She smiled when Paula took her hand and rubbed her thumb across her knuckles.

"Not to mention their boat. The crew has been working non-stop refurbishing it for them to be able to crew it alone together."

"I know," Hippolyta agreed. "I just... this is my chance to start doing right by Diana again. I just don't want to mess it up."

Mala patted Hippolyta's leg. "You won't, my queen. But you need to relax or you're going to make yourself sick. You're putting them together in Diana's room tonight, yes?"

Hippolyta nodded. "I promised Chase I would not stand between them or force archaic rituals on them."

"Then babe, you need to take a serious chill pill. Things are totally rocking for them and we're just cruising along for the ride."

The Amazon council that had been casually sitting around Hippolyta's living room straightened when Dite spoke. They hadn't realized the goddesses were in the room, but before any of them could shift, Aphrodite waved them still and popped her own chaise lounge into being. The other goddesses found places to sit and the women spent a long moment studying one another.

"They will be here shortly," Artemis said, breaking the silence.

"Everything is in readiness," Hippolyta confirmed. "An engagement celebration tonight and then their wedding tomorrow. We just need them to get here so we can get things started."

At that moment the sound of shell trumpets rose up around them. Drea smiled and stood. "Come on, Pol. Let's go welcome our children home."

It had been a good day. The entire Nation had met Chase and Diana at the landing field and in short order Chase's things were unloaded and taken to Diana's quarters. Eventually they would have to go through their things and decide what would need to be moved to the cottage and what would remain at the palace. First, they would need to be told about the new accommodations the Nation had built for them. For now, though, the emphasis was on celebrating.

There was new life in the Nation, both literally and figuratively speaking and the Amazons were intent on commemorating the occasion, especially since the wedding was taking place on summer solstice. So they greeted their princess and her consort with a rousing cheer and unloaded the plane, then backed away so Hippolyta and Drea could welcome Diana and Chase home.

Diana hesitated and Chase placed a comforting hand on her back. The Amazons held their breath as she gave Hippolyta a brief hug... the first since their rift. Hippolyta let go as soon as Diana did, her eyes filled with tears, and she took Chase in a bone crushing hug.

"Thank you," she murmured, knowing exactly why Diana had embraced her. Chase just nodded and kissed her cheek as she pulled away.

"That was a good thing you did, Little One," Drea complimented when Diana hugged her. Diana didn't answer, but squeezed her again before stepping back and allowing chase to say hello.

"Welcome home, Chase," cupping her niece's face. "Thank you," Drea added softly, kissing her softly and then releasing her. The queen and her consort stepped back and the princess and her consort did the same, and the Amazons waited for the pronouncement. It wasn't long in coming.

"Amazons, welcome home your princess and her consort, Chase. It is time to celebrate their return to us and the joining of their lives together as one."

The roar that followed was deafening.

As the evening wore down, Diana led Chase to her quarters. "I know it's not a home, but I thought we could make it ours when we got back."

"Back? From where?"

Diana shrugged and looked away. "I thought we'd take the boat out... just the two of us... for a few days. There are a few islands we could visit around if you wanted or we can just sort of drift along alone."

"That sounds perfect," Chase said with conviction. "Anywhere alone with you is a good thing in my book. As for this," motioning to the rooms around her, "if it's ours, it will be a home."

Diana wrapped her arms around Chase and just held on. Chase could feel the shaking in Diana's body and returned the embrace fervently. After a timeless moment, Diana pulled back just enough to look in Chase's eyes. "Come on. We have one more night left together as single women, and I don't intend to waste a moment."

For the first time, Diana was thankful for the thick walls and stout doors the palace was constructed of. She didn't worry about them keeping anyone up, conveniently forgetting that the windows that allowed the moonlight to stream in also allowed the sound to scream out. Diana wouldn't have worried about it even if she had remembered; she was too happy to finally be complete and the Nation was overjoyed to be witness to that completion. It seemed as though sunlight had returned to them, dissipating the clouds that had hung over them since Orana's defection.

When the sun really did rise, it did so on an Amazon Nation that was smirking with the knowledge that Diana and Chase were perfectly suited to one another. Chase and Diana spent their first few minutes awake simply being together, then Chase turned in Diana's arms with a smirk of her own.

"You do realize the entire Amazon Nation now knows just exactly how much we love each other."

"Good," Diana stated emphatically. "No one will challenge our claim on one another."

"Could they?" Chase's eyebrows went up to her hairline. There was still so much she had to learn about Amazon traditions.

"They could try, but I don't think anyone will."

Chase thought about that and wrapped herself more firmly around Diana's body. "Good. I don't share and I don't play well with others who expect me to." Diana chuckled.

"Neither do I, love. Now c'mon. We need to get cleaned up and dressed. It's time to go get married." As if to underscore her words, a knock sounded on the outer door followed shortly by a knock on the bedroom door.

"Diana? Chase? Uh... I don't want to intrude, but um... well, it's time... if you would like to make it to the wedding on time you probably should get up so we can get you both prepared." Hippolyta swallowed. This was probably the most awkward thing she had ever had to do. She raised her hand to knock again, then jerked back when the door opened and Diana and Chase stood together in the doorway. Hippolyta smiled nervously. "Oh good... you're awake... up." She cleared her throat. "Diana, if you would come with me, Drea will be in momentarily to help Chase."

At precisely that moment, Drea came running around the corner a little out of breath. "My apologies for being late, my queen, princess," Drea said, bowing her head. "We just had another birth... a healthy baby girl. The goddesses must be watching over us." She blew the hair from her face, then turned to Hippolyta and waved her arms. "Don't you have somewhere else to be? Shoo!"

Diana snickered, Drea's attitude reminding her so much of her childhood growing up. Hippolyta gave Drea a mock glare and growled, "Wench!" Then she motioned Diana towards the door. "Diana," seeing her hesitation and her longing glances in Chase's direction. "You'll have plenty of time to spend with Chase once we get the two of you married. Drea, I'll send someone with your gown when they bring Chase's." She kissed Drea and started to follow Diana who hesitated at the doorway. Diana scowled.

"How come you got you kiss Drea goodbye, and I don't get to do the same with Chase?" Hippolyta smirked.

"Because we are on a tight schedule," she stated matter-of-factly. "And after last night the entire Nation is well-aware of just how long the two of you can go on together."

Twin blushes and knowing smiles were exchanged between Diana and Chase, then Diana growled in frustration and stomped out the door towards her mother's quarters. "May I ask why we need to be separated to prepare for this?" Diana asked as she entered Hippolyta's room. "We spent the night together and the world knows we weren't sleeping."

"It's just an opportunity... it's a last chance for us to talk before you start your new life with Chase." Hippolyta blew out a breath. That had been harder than she had expected.

"I have already started my life with Chase. Today is just an affirmation of that in front of the Nation."

Hippolyta nodded. "I know, and I know there is still a lot of bad blood between us, Diana. It's not just going to go away because I want it to; it's going to take a long time some serious effort from both of us. I just want you to know that I would like to try."

Diana carefully considered the sincerity of Hippolyta's words and actions of late and finally nodded her agreement, not trusting herself to speak. Hippolyta sighed weakly in relief and led Diana to the bathing room.

"Come. We don't have a lot of time, and you want to look perfect for Chase."

"I'm glad you decided to come home, Chase," Drea commented as she helped Chase prepare for the coming nuptials. "You seemed happier, more content."

Chase shrugged. "It makes Diana happy, so I am."

"Do you know what you'd like to do here... something that would make you happy? Research or gardening? Music, perhaps or healing?

"I thought maybe I could try writing," Chase said softly, not meeting Drea's eyes.

"I think that sounds like an excellent idea." A pause. "I know I have been on both sides with you, Chase, but I want you to know I am so glad you came into Diana's life. And I am proud to be your aunt, even if that is all new to us. Perhaps we could work on that; I'd like us to be friends."

"I thought we already were. I know why you were looking out for Diana, Drea, and I'm glad she had someone she trusted to do that for her. Maybe eventually, she and Hippolyta will work things out between them. I think they both need that."

Drea smiled. "You're a very wise woman, Annabelle Chaser."

"Of course she is," proclaimed a voice from the bathroom doorway. "She's my daughter." Two heads turned simultaneously, then they spoke together.



Though Chase had expected Jasmine's presence, she had expected simply her presence... a ghostly apparition – not the flesh and blood woman that stood before her. When she realized her mother was real, she jumped up and crossed the room, wrapping her arms around Jasmine's waist and burying her head in her mother's neck. Jasmine just held on and let her cry.

It didn't last but a moment, then Chase pulled away. "I'm sorry, Mama. I just didn't expect...." motioning to Jasmine's very real body. Jasmine smiled and embraced Chase again, kissing her forehead and absorbing the sensations she was experiencing one more time.

"Neither did I," Jasmine confirmed, "but I wasn't going to say no when the goddesses offered either."

"Can anyone get in on this hug?" Drea asked softly. Chase turned and opened an arm, and Jasmine looked behind her and jerked her head. Soon, Jasmine, Drea, Chase and Ty were hugging fiercely and murmuring love between them. Only when the clock struck the half hour did they separate.

"Come... we've got to get you ready, Annabelle. You don't want to meet Diana with tears on your face – even if they are happy." That got Jasmine the smile she had been looking for and Chase moved back to the mirror she and Drea had been sitting in front of preparing.

It didn't take long before Chase was girded in the traditional long toga. Drea leaned forward and kissed her cheek. "I'm going to go see how Diana and Hippolyta are doing."

"Thank you, Drea," Chase whispered. Drea and Jasmine exchanged another embrace, then Drea left the three of them alone. Ty stood and took Chase in her arms.

"I'm glad I was able to be here for this, Chase, and I'm really glad you found happiness. Talk to me now and then... let me know how things are going."

Chase nodded. "I will, Ty. I'm sorry...." But Ty covered her lips before she could finish.

"Don't be, Chase. It's all good. Aunt Jas and I have plans. Now let me get out there. We don't have a real long time before we have to be back. Hades was cool about it, but I don't think I wanna get on his bad side by being late." Ty leaned down and kissed Chase gently. "I love you, Chase. Be happy."

"I am, Ty," returning the kiss and giving Ty a genuine smile. Then it was just Jasmine and Chase.

"I'm proud of you, baby girl. You've done so much... seen so much... and still...."

"Thank you, Mama. I'm gonna miss you when you cross over."

"I'll still be close, Annabelle. As Ty said, talk to me. I'll be listening and if you ever really need me, I'll be right there." Jasmine opened her arms and Chase stepped into them. "It does my heart good to see you so happy. I'm proud to have been chosen to be your mother."

Chase didn't answer except to tighten her hold on Jasmine and they rocked in place until a knock on the door caused them to separate. "Chase?" Drea's voice. "Are you ready? It's time."

Chase took the ring off the chain she was wearing and slipped it onto her middle finger. Then she took Jasmine's hand and opened the door to find Hippolyta and Diana waiting behind Drea. Blue and green eyes locked and everything else faded away. Drea took Jasmine's hand in one of hers and Hippolyta's hand in the other and together the three of them headed out to the temple to wait for Diana's and Chase's arrival.

Chase reached out a trembling hand to touch Diana's face, and Diana intercepted it with an equally shaky one. Then she pulled them into contact along their length.

"So very beautiful. I love you," Diana whispered. "And I can't wait to be married to you."

"And I, you," Chase said with equal softness. "You look incredible." She took a deep breath. "Since I don't know how the ceremony is supposed to go – can I give you something here between us... will you wear something for me?"

"Anything," surprised when Chase captured her hand and slid a warm band onto her left ring finger. A glance down made her break into a smile. It was when Chase sealed the promise with a kiss that the tears flowed, but they were happy tears, so it was all good... until Ty cleared her throat.

"Um, would ya'll like to join the rest of us at the temple for the ceremony? 'Cause I know a whoooole lot of people who are gonna be pretty pissed if you leave them out of this wedding thing."

Chase and Diana chuckled, knowing Ty spoke the truth, and followed her to the temple to be married... finally.

Aphrodite presided over the ceremony with dignity and grace – a side of her personality she used sparingly but to good effect. The other five goddesses stood behind her in a semi-circle to bear witness to the joining and bless it. And the Nation watched as with a very few words and a kiss that melted steel, two halves of a whole were rejoined for eternity.

From his temple on Olympus, Ares watched - a snarl on his face and a growl rumbling in his chest – as the warrior once again surrendered to love and her soulmate, signaling his defeat once more. That never changes, he thought with disgust. Of course, he mused with evil intent, tomorrow is another day. Then he changed the channel on his scrying bowl; surely there were more interesting things to watch, especially in the newly forming alliances and governments of the new world order. There was plenty of chaos and mayhem he could stir up there and that thought made him smile wickedly and observe with a distinct sense of contentment. Nice to know that that hadn't changed either.

Meanwhile, Diana and Chase were dancing together, lost in their own little world and observed by the entire Nation. Hippolyta, Drea and Jasmine watched then exchanged knowing smiles as they walked off hand in hand without a backwards glance.

"Time for me to go as well," Jasmine announced. Ty had been taken as soon as the ceremony was completed, but Jasmine had been allowed a little extra time. "Take care of them," she instructed seriously. "They deserve to be happy."

"They already are, Jas; that's the best part. This is just the beginning for them. It only gets better. They have the rest of their lives to look forward to and share... together."

Drea raised her glass, even though Diana and Chase were no longer present. "To eternal happiness for Chase and Diana in their brave new world together."

The Amazons echoed the toast as the celebration continued. Chase and Diana smiled at one another as a cheer rose from the party even as they set sail towards the slowly setting sun.



"I could stay here like this you know," Chase said into the bare belly her head rested on. A bottle of chocolate body paint lay empty and discarded to one side of their little nest and a swipe of her tongue garnered her another taste from Diana's bellybutton. It also got her jiggled around when Diana laughed in ticklish reaction. Chase scowled in response then brightened as she spotted another bit of chocolate she'd missed and moved up Diana's torso to rectify the problem. A lick, a nip then she wrapped her lips firmly around the hardened nipple, causing Diana to arch and moan before locking strong fingers around the blonde head.

"You know," biting her lip when Chase's attentions shifted to the other breast, "Gods, Chase," when her fingers started trailing goosebumps up and down her body. "I think," she took a deep breath and caught Chase's wandering hand in her own and urging her head up until their eyes met. Then their lips met and they kissed until they were both breathless. "I think we need to move this inside to the bed," flipping them over and starting her own assault on Chase's body, allowing her hand to map the path her lips would soon follow. "We need more chocolate."

Chase smiled and pulled Diana back to her until their lips met again. The chocolate was forgotten for the moment, but they did eventually get back to it. They decided it was definitely the best medium for creating a true work of art. But then, they had an eternity together to work on it.

The year is 2044. The world is no longer ruled by Nazi tyranny. The Resistance has succeeded in its mission to give mankind another chance to be free. What they do with the opportunity will determine they way of the world for the generations to come, but now, Wonder Woman waits in the breach, ready to protect and defend the ideology of freedom when called upon to do so. And this time, she has the soul motivation necessary to win. Enemies of freedom don't stand a chance.

The End

Return to DC Comics Fiction

Return to Main Page