Rating: R (for violence)
Warnings: Aftermath of combat violence.
Summary: After a savage battle, Wonder Woman searches for the man she loves.
Date Of Completion: July 18, 2007
Date Of Posting: July 19, 2007
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1563
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: This story takes place during World War II. All Golden Age stories of Diana and Steve will take place under this title. Also, Diana refers to "Vulcan’s forge" which would more likely be "Hephaestus’ forge" as that is the Greek version of the name, but I liked the sound of "Vulcan" better. :)
Diana splashed through the water, the high tide of little concern to her. She cleaved through it like a knife through butter, strong legs pushing through the pounding surf the color of turquoise. Her long, dark hair billowed out behind her, her eyes searching as she stepped on the Adriatic shore.
She clamped down on her anger as she saw the bodies strewn on the beach. Ares’ Folly, she thought, men clouded by the fog of war making foolish decisions. This beach in Italy had been too well-guarded by German guns. The relatively small force had been pegged with little chance of success.
“Wonder Woman, this mission has been set up to test the German defenses on the Italian coast. We need to know if we can launch a large-scale invasion to recapture Italy and march on to Rome.”
The ocean swirled around her boots as she stood by the water’s edge, her eyes searching the mangled bodies. Impossibly-young men were broken, limbs splayed, some missing, gaping holes blown in this one, that one missing an arm and part of his head, still another with legs blown off at the knees and this one looking peaceful as if he was just asleep.
“General, shouldn’t we be concentrating on marshaling our forces to launch the Second Front in Europe?”
“We need to also take Italy. If we can cut off the Italians from their Axis alliance with the Germans, cause havoc there, we can draw off men and materiel that would be posted in France.”
She bent down and turned over the next body, the silver dogtags glinting in the light.
She saw another body, blond hair dark with blood. Heart in her throat, she hurried over to it, again turning over a shattered body, relief and guilt sweeping over here at the same time.
“Steve Trevor volunteered for this suicide mission?!”
“He knew the risks, Wonder Woman. His Intelligence training makes him valuable as he scouted this area last month on another mission for us. He’ll be in the first wave hitting the beach, one of those leading the way.”
Diana grew increasingly frantic as she walked down that hideous beach, its beauty marred by war’s violence. She could hear the sounds of fighting far off in the distance. The second wave had been far more successful, airstrikes and battleship bombardments helping the men who had come ashore, but there would always be the dead among the victorious.
Incredibly-bright sunlight glinted off the gold eagle she wore on her bodice, the symbol of American power and hope. She believed in this effort to defeat fascism and Nazism, but it was at such a terrible cost. How many beaches and battlefields had she walked, the stench of death in her nostrils, the smells of cordite and oil and blood all mixing into one distinct and nauseating cocktail of war’s bouquet?
Something glinted in the sunlight. She bent down and gasped softly as she pulled the object out of the sand by its broken gold chain.
The Medal of Athena, cast in Vulcan’s forge over two thousand years ago, that she had given Steve to protect him in battle.
She curled her fist around it, the cold metal biting into her palm. Bright-gold, forged in fire, as in battle. Trembling, she continued her search.
She saw another blond head and quickened her steps, praying to Hera that her search would not end here.
This body was stretched out on its back, and as she drew closer her stomach tightened.
She bent down, hands lightly running over the arm and hand closest to her, then she saw the glint of dogtags and reached for them.
She gently laid the dogtags back down on the gray, bloodless throat, her body trembling slightly as she straightened up.
If Americans on the homefront saw these scenes of the aftermath of battle…
She knew that the Government practiced strict censorship because of scenes like this. She didn’t blame them. Yet while the reality would hit hard, she believed that the Americans would see this through to the end. This war was worth fighting for. It was the wars that were not that her adopted countrymen rebelled against, their streak of independence and distrust of authority stretching back to the days of the Colonial Army.
She moved on to the next body. She tried not to think of the mothers, sisters, girlfriends and wives waiting at home, desperate for word, destined for only the fateful telegrams that would change their lives forever.
Also the fathers, brothers, and boyfriends. She knew about Greek love and the ways of it, and considering her upbringing, certainly had no prejudice against such love.
She said a little prayer to Hera, Athena and Aphrodite at each body to guide the fallen spirits home to Olympus.
She opened her palm and knotted the gold chain, slipping it over her head to settle around her neck, the medal cold against her skin.
She could hear the muted voices of the men from Graves Registration going about their business behind her. She had to check, make sure, but she hoped that Steve was off somewhere fighting, not lying here on this beach or in some hospital tent with limbs gone or eyes unable to see…
A body undulated gently in the surf, crimson waves long dissolved. There was no blood left to bleed by now. She reached down and gently drew the stiff body to the beach, laying it out on its back, a very young face with eyes staring up at her as she arranged the arms in the crossed position, noticing the ruby-red rosary trailing out of a pocket, and she laid her hands over the eyes, drawing them closed.
The eyes were, in some ways, the worst. Unseeing, they were proof that the souls were gone, no light, no humanity left in blue, brown, gold, or green.
Despair nibbled at her heart.
“Angel, when I opened my eyes and saw you for the first time, I knew I loved you.”
Diana stood, fists clenched as she saw the sympathetic glance thrown her way by one of the Graves Registration soldiers. She took a deep breath and continued her search.
Aphrodite, if he’s gone, please bring him to Olympus. When it’s my time, I’ll join him there.
Her boots crunched in the same sand that Roman soldiers of thousands of years ago had trod. The proudest and most successful Army in the Ancient World had known blood and sacrifice many times over in the name of Empire, their conquering boots marching across the Known World (All roads lead back to Rome). These present-day soldiers fought no less for home and hearth and freedom.
“Angel, you are going to discover the joys of an ice-cream soda at the drugstore fountain. C’mon, my treat.”
A single tear slipped down Diana’s face.
She turned. “Yes?”
The impossibly-young soldier shielded his eyes against the Mediterranean sun. “There’s a hospital tent up on the bluff over there. Hidden by woods.”
She grabbed her lasso and threw the loop up to snag a boulder. Her muscles burned with energy as she climbed, needing to move, to try and quell the emptiness that was settling over her heart.
“I will go, General. The first wave is done, and the second is beating them back. Your briefing in Washington was quite clear. Well, I’m here in England now. My invisible plane and I are off to Italy. Try and stop me.”
“Wonder Woman, the first wave was almost completely annihilated.”
“All the more reason to go, General.”
She knew that she couldn’t be with Steve every moment, in every battle. He couldn’t be nursemaided, and other young men could use her protection.
She was a Warrior, and she knew battle.
Yet she wanted, needed him, to be alive, to come back to her.
She gracefully alighted on the top of the cliff, saw movement in the trees several yards away, and headed in that direction as she gathered her lasso and put it on her belt.
She began to run, skidding to a stop as she reached a large boulder and the man sitting on it.
He was bone-tired, stubble on his face, eyes haggard, his uniform ripped and dirty, arm and hand bandaged and bloodstained, thick white gauze wound around his head, its pristine whiteness marred by a crimson stain, his rifle and helmet on the boulder beside him.
Steve had never looked more beautiful to her.
She approached slowly. He raised his head.
She drew in her breath sharply. Blue eyes haunted by memories of a beach-turned-battlefield stared at her. She went to one knee beside him.
For several moments, they were a tableau of pain, then slowly, he reached out a hand, bandages trailing. His fingers touched the medal gleaming at the hollow of her throat.
She took his hand and slipped up to sit next to him on the boulder, removing the necklace and gently slipping it over his head, yellow-gold like his silken hair, mingling with the silver of his dogtags, then holding him tight while he held her just as tightly, head on her shoulder, her fingers caressing his sunbright hair.
For her, the pain of loss was staved off for another day.
The entire series can be found here.