Pairings/Characters: Steve/Diana, Robert/Ivan
Rating: (this chapter): PG-13
Warnings: Some use of the ‘f’ word
General Summary: In June of 1968, Steve and Diana struggle with violence in-country and back home.
Summary: A disillusioned Steve talks war and politics with an old friend.
Date Of Completion: July 30, 2007
Date Of Posting: August 4, 2007
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1955
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: jen_in_japan requested “Steve/Diana in Vietnam, sometime in the mid-to-late ‘60s” from my DCU GSB Fic Request Meme. All chapters can be found here.
(June 4, 1968)
Steve awoke slowly, registering the sound of the ceiling fan whirling around overhead. He had one of the choice rooms: his fan worked.
His arm was protectively embracing Wonder Woman, resting just under her breasts. Her hand rested on his arm, both lying on their sides in spoon fashion. A thin white sheet was drawn up to cover the lower halves of their bodies.
A small smile appeared on his face. He lightly kissed her mussed dark hair. It had been a wonderful celebration after dinner, to say the least.
He was the luckiest guy on the planet. Not only did he have a woman he loved and who loved him, she was an Amazon, and knew lovemaking techniques that never ceased to amaze him.
His smile faded as his mind drifted to his mission here. His assessment of the situation hadn’t changed much since he had delivered that report to JFK in the spring of ’63. In fact, the change was for the worse, not the better.
He understood about sacrifice and the Cold War and how wars sometimes had to be fought. He was becoming increasingly unsure of fighting this one.
He sighed. At least the presidential campaign was in full swing. If the younger brother of Jack Kennedy won, there was a good chance that he would pull the troops out of this mess. Steve hated to see soldiers dying in a lost cause.
His companion began to stir. She stroked his hand and said, “Good morning.”
His smile returned. “Good morning.”
Wonder Woman rolled over, her own smile dazzling. “So, how are you feeling, Colonel?”
Blue eyes sparkling, he answered, “Just great, Princess.”
“Good.” She kissed him and then said after they broke apart, “What’s your schedule for today?”
“I’m in meetings all morning. Sorry.”
“That’s all right.” She stroked his arm. “I’m going to visit St. Theresa’s orphanage. Sister Madeleine requested a visit.”
He hugged her, kissing her hair. “Good. The poor kids will be so happy to see you.”
Her fingers ran down his chest. “Up to a little love before breakfast?”
He laughed and caught her hand, kissing the palm. “You’re insatiable, my love.”
“I hope so.”
& & & & & &
Steve rubbed his forehead as he walked back into the hotel. He had a helluva headache. The meetings had not gone well. Self-delusion seemed to be the order of the day here. How could the top brass believe what they were spouting, especially after the Tet Offensive of only four months ago?
He was on his way past the bar to go to his room when a familiar voice called out.
He turned and smiled. “Hey, Robert!” He walked into the bar and up to the small round table. “How’d you know it was me?”
Robert smiled as he adjusted his dark glasses. “The bartender kindly let me know when you’d returned. Your blond hair makes you stand out even among Yankees.”
Steve warmly shook his hand and sat down at his invitation. Carefully he looked his friend over: always slender, Robert had been skeletal when first rescued from the North Korean POW camp years ago, but Ivan had helped bring him back to health. The dark glasses hid scarred eyes, the result of the crash of his jet. His eyes had gone untreated in the camp, leaving him with severely-impaired vision, and his leg, broken in several places among other broken bones, had never healed properly, even after multiple surgeries.
Now Colonel Robert Hogan was semi-retired but still undertook special missions for the military.
“He’s visiting his nephew at one of the base camps.”
Ivan Kinchloe had been with Robert in the POW camp at Stalag 13 during World War II when they had run an incredible rescue operation for downed pilots, mixing in sabotage to keep things interesting. Their exploits had been kept classified for years until 1959, when the story had gotten out and they had become celebrated heroes along with their small band from the camp.
“Are you here on a special mission?” Steve didn’t believe that he and Ivan were ‘just visiting’ in a war zone.
“Yes.” Robert signaled the bartender to refresh his drink. Bourbon. “What would you like?”
The bartender brought over the drinks quickly. Steve drank his right away, glad of the strong taste. He also craved a cigarette. He’d picked up the habit in the early years of his soldiering, but once the Surgeon General’s report had come out in ’64, he’d done his best to quit, finally successful and glad of it, but the craving could still hit him.
“So, meetings go all right?”
“Am I that obvious?”
Robert laughed. “Yes, the strain in your voice suggests having sat during some pretty bad ones. I recognize the signs.”
I smiled. “Well, you’re right.” My smile faded. “I don’t think there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”
“Ah.” Robert sipped his drink. “I don’t think that General Westmoreland would like to hear that.”
Steve snorted. “Screw him.”
“Tsk, tsk! I thought you were the good little soldier.”
“I follow orders. It doesn’t mean that I’ve checked my brain at the door.”
Robert nodded approvingly. “Well, it must be our Irish gloom talking.”
Steve drank down his drink, signaling for another one. “I can’t see any silver linings here, Robert.”
“Not surprising.” Robert leaned back in his chair. He was dressed in civilian clothes. Steve wondered if he wore his uniform to any meetings. “This is one fucked-up war.”
“You mean more than the usual state of fuck-up in war?”
Robert laughed. “Yeah, the ‘Situation Normal: All Fucked Up’ syndrome.” His tone became approving again. “Bobby told me you were going to meet with him when you got back to the States.”
“Yeah, I’m due back in time for the convention in Chicago.”
“God, I miss Jack.”
Steve knew that Robert Hogan had traveled in the same circles as Jack Kennedy, both members of Irish Catholic families with money. They had been Harvard classmates and Robert and Ivan had been frequent guests at the White House during the Kennedy Administration.
They’d shared the bed in the Lincoln Bedroom.
That didn’t prove anything, as the bed was huge and people tended to want to sleep in it and sometimes you got friends trying it out together.
Steve suspected that Robert and Ivan were more than just friends.
The thought didn’t bother him at all. He just hoped that they’d be careful. He wasn’t 100% certain that was the way of things between them, but he was 95% sure. Most people just thought that the two of them living together was due to their service time together, Robert’s need for help, and the old stereotype of a black man playing servant to a white man, but it was more of a Robert Culp/Bill Cosby I Spy type of equality, just under deep cover.
The irony that the service that both of them had devoted their lives to would simply toss them out like trash if they were discovered didn’t escape him.
That was why he and Hal had been so careful years ago.
“Well, we’ll have to make sure and vote in November.” Robert’s voice was cheerful.
“So you think it’ll be Kennedy versus Nixon again?”
Robert laughed. “As Yogi Berra would say, déjà vu all over again.”
“To Jack,” Robert said, lifting his glass.
“To Jack,” Steve said, clinking his glass to Robert’s, and they drank.
“To your promotion.”
Steve grinned. “To my promotion.”
“So, where’s the Princess?”
“Ah, all my friends always weasel around to that. You just want to see Wonder Woman!” Steve teased.
“Hey, I’ve met the lady many times. Will she be at the ball General Kraven is giving tonight?”
“Yes, she will.”
“Good. She’ll class the place up.”
Steve shook his head fondly. “So should I expect to see you and Ivan there?”
“You should.” Robert lifted his glass with a grin. “To the Princess.”
“To the Princess.”
Robert picked up his cane. “I’m going to Mass. There’s a 4:00 service over at St. Cecilia’s. Want to come?” At Steve’s hesitation, he said, “Hey, just keep me company while I walk over there. You don’t have to come in. I can get a cab back.”
Steve lightly touched the Medal of Athena given to him by Wonder Woman. “Yeah, what the hell?”
Robert took his arm and they walked the two blocks to the church, entering the structure that was blessedly quiet as the large oak doors closed behind them.
Here it was slightly cooler than the steamy outdoors. Marble floors, pillars and altar reflected tiny jewels of rainbow light from the stained-glass windows. Candles flickered in the alcoves, statues of Mary and Joseph flanking the altar. A giant wooden crucifix hung over the centerpiece of the church.
Steve guided Robert to an empty pew, made the sign of the cross while genuflecting, and slid in beside his friend.
He knelt and said a short prayer, sitting back as Robert remained kneeling. He liked the peace and beauty of the church, but wasn’t entirely comfortable. He had left Catholicism behind a long time ago, even before he had met his Angel. She worshipped Pagan Gods and Goddesses, hell, he had even met a few of them, so he wasn’t a believer in only one God anymore.
Yet childhood memories and practices died hard. He took out the silver-and-ruby rosary he carried in his pocket, the old prayers coming back to him without missing a beat.
He wondered if his ease at praying to the Virgin Mary to ask her for intervention with her Son foreshadowed his easy acceptance of powerful women in his life.
He also wondered if his experience with Catholicism had helped him accept Paganism so easily. It was often said that of all the Christian religions, Catholicism was the closet to Paganism with its incense, statues, and other religious elements.
He looked at Robert’s profile. How was he holding up, barred forever from flying? Steve shuddered to think of it. Flying was as much a part of him as loving his Angel.
He hoped that Robert and Ivan were happy. When you found love in this world, you had to hold on tight and count your blessings every day that you enjoyed it.
The Mass started, incense burning and the lilting tones of Vietnamese spoken by the priest. Since Vatican II had dispensed with the Latin Mass, every country said the Mass in its own language now. Steve had a facility for languages, but it had been tough to learn Korean and now Vietnamese. He tried to follow along as best he could, reading the missal that he had picked up from the small rack in front of him.
Though he rarely went to Mass anymore, usually going with his family on Easter and Christmas if he was home, he sometimes slipped in once or twice throughout the year because of the familiarity and small comfort it gave him.
Or maybe it was just an Irish Catholic thing, he thought in wry amusement.
He thought of the President he had served not so long ago, the first Irish Catholic ever elected to the office, and the pride that he and his family had felt. He remembered the shock of losing that President, and how it still hurt, and could a lot of this current mess have been avoided if he had lived, or would nothing have changed?
They’d never know now.
After Mass, Steve walked Robert back to the hotel, smiling as he saw his Angel and Ivan waiting at the entrance.