The Place Where the Black Stars Hang: Part 23
Chapter 23: Reunion and Revelation
A solitary horsewoman rode through the high dry grasses of the steppe. A scarlet cloak was wrapped around her body, concealing her unique red-and-dark blue corselet and the golden lasso on her hip. The sunlight flashed off her tiara, making her easy to detect from far away, but as far as Diana could see, she was the only person for miles around.
That was exactly how she wanted it. It had been a long time since she’d gone on a solo journey on horseback, and in Man’s World she’d hardly had the time for it anyway. However, she realized how much she missed it – it was truly said by the ancients that an Amazon was born to the saddle. As she sat astride her horse Grey Eyes, Diana breathed in deeply of the good air of Themyscira. Although she sometimes missed her London apartment, her favorite heavy-metal nightclubs, the shops, and her friends, she knew that this magical island would always be her true home.
Diana took another deep breath, this time imagining the fresh air passing into her womb and imbuing her unborn child with the same love of Themyscira as she had. The day was so beautiful and pleasant, it was easy to think that no danger could arise here, but Diana was well-aware that perils existed even on Paradise Island, whether in the form of rabid harpies or other wild animals, and so her hand drifted down to the xiphos secured on her thigh band. But these were mundane threats; it was some other unknown, unnamed fear which made Diana confused and uneasy, even as she relaxed on her horse.
It was that same discomfiture that had compelled Diana to leave the Palace and head north to the lands of the Getai. She’d left a note for Selene – courtesy demanded that at least – only stating that she wanted to be alone to meditate for awhile. She knew that the shrewd warrior would guess where she had gone. Hopefully, Selene would delay telling her mother until she was well away!
Diana’s free hand moved away from her sword to rest on the swell of her belly; she grinned broadly, her jitteriness dissipating as she thought of how happy Clark would be when he saw her. She imagined his reaction at their reunion, and she shivered in anticipation. Her husband was right – she should never have agreed to this separation. Now, she would make it up to him. She told herself that it was only his absence that caused her disquiet – surely it would be gone by the time she arrived north.
Then her mother’s face, angry and displeased, swam before her but Diana irritably pushed it away. What could Hippolyta do about it? She was not a child anymore. She would just have to accept it.
Something cried high above her and Diana looked up. It was an eagle, its magnificent large wings spread wide to catch the wind. It was flying towards the north. This was a good omen!
“Yaahhhh!” Diana shouted, and spurred Grey Eyes into a gallop, and they rode off across the steppe, following the eagle.
Clark Kent stood up to his knees in muddy, brackish water at the edge of a swampy bog roughly half a mile from Dierdre’s school. His hands were on his hips, and he looked deep in thought. He was considering draining the bog, with the eventual goal of reclaiming the land to make it suitable for growing crops. However, thanks to Jonathan Kent he knew that although he could change the course of mighty rivers, he shouldn’t damage fragile ecosystems in the process. He had done that once as a kid, with a small stream near the farm, and his dad had made him put it back the way it was! He’d learned alot from Pa, not least of which was to have patience and not act impulsively.
Actually, the idea had been Dierdre’s. She’d been complaining the other day (as usual) about the hassle of sending him into the nearest village for supplies. It was one of the tasks she’d assigned him, claiming she had “gout” and couldn’t get around easily (although she seemed mobile enough follow him around whenever she needed find him to berate for some crime or another). He’d come to especially dislike that particular job since the fierce northern Amazons tended to either verbally abuse him or totally ignore his carefully worded and polite requests for foodstuffs.
“What else can we do, ye big oaf?” Dierdre had said when he’d complained. “We don’t have any place to grow our own food, and like as not I’m too weak with the gout to be pulling a plow anyhows, an‘ I’m too busy with the bairns, and makin’ sure ye’re not up to mischief, and if ye can’t do anything about my sisters, then put up with it!”
So much for that. But all that had changed after that wild Assembly he’d been “invited” to. Boudicaa was true to her word. The next morning she’d given Clark gifts: a handsome cloak of soft wolf’s fur and a bag full of sweet buns for the children in Dierdre’s school. She’d even given him his own horse, a gentle gelding who didn’t try to nip him, unlike Diana’s mare.
“And be sure to give this to Dierdre,” Boudicaa gave him a box which contained a scroll and some intricately worked broaches. “It’s just a little note thanking her for allowing your attendance at the Assembly, and stating that you are welcome anywhere in our lands,” She winked at Clark. “She’ll get the message.”
Clark had thanked the Getai chieftain and rode off, trying not to laugh at the hungover Getai who watched him leave, glumly. It had been even harder to not look smug when he gave the scroll to a dumbfounded Dierdre. However, the little girls were genuinely happy to see him back, especially since he had a sackful of treats. As Boudicaa had intended, Dierdre relaxed in her behavior towards him, although she still put on a gruff act in front of the children. As for the girls, they’d been too shy or scared to speak to him initially but gradually they spoke to him more and more, and now they could without having to worry about Dierdre’s switch on their backsides. The stout woman even relented enough to let him sit in on some of her classes, inviting him to talk about Man’s World. Clark had been inspired by their positive curiosity, although Dierdre still grimly warned her pupils that as a man Kal was obviously biased towards Man’s World. He could see that at least some of them really believed he was not some ogre out of a fairy story.
The local Getai had also changed their attitudes; they’d stopped riding out to goad Clark into a fight, but instead, whenever he rode into the village for supplies now, the Amazons wolf-whistled and called out lewd remarks, some so bad they would’ve made Hal Jordan blush. Now he could really sympathize with his female colleagues at the Daily Planet! So he was still confronted with the same problem.
Anyway, it would still be better if the school could become self-sufficient. This land was so fertile, it seemed a waste not to utilize it to feed people. Clark indulged briefly in another daydream of building his own farm and raising his own crops, and the dream of living peacefully here with his family, Diana and their children, away from violence and fighting…
“What are you thinking about, Kal?”
Clark turned around, seeing one of Dierdre’s pupils behind him. The six-year-old’s name was Kori, she was the girl who’d poked him with her stick his first morning here. Before, she would run and hide whenever he’d come into sight; now, she was full of questions for him.
“I’m thinking how I can turn this bog into farmland,” Clark replied.
“So you and your sisters can grow your own food.”
“I thought you made all our food?”
Clark grinned. “No, I just delivered it in the wagon! See, this way you don’t need to have somebody bring your food to you. You can just reach out and get it for yourself, right from the ground.”
Kori stood awkwardly behind him, digging her bare toes into the ground; she was really quite shy. Clark had learned that her mother had died very young…but who could her father have been, he wondered?
“What will happen to Juba?”
Clark’s eyebrows lifted. “Who’s Juba?
“He lives here with his friends. See?” Kori pointed near his right foot. “There he is now. Kal, could he live on the farm with you?”
He followed her finger, and saw a little frog sitting at the edge of the water. It jumped in and swam off, no doubt going to tell all his little frog friends that Superman was about to demolish their home.
Clark sighed. Maybe this was going to take much more planning.
“Of course he can. You’d better get back before Dierdre knows you’re gone, Kori. Or we’ll both be in trouble!”
The little girl ran quickly back to the house, as swift as a deer. He marveled that the Amazon children were so resilient, but of course this wasn’t Metropolis, or Gotham City for that matter.
Clark turned to follow her back, but then he paused, and half-turned, looking behind him. He heard something approaching, it sounded like the thrumming of horse’s hooves, still miles away. Was it one of those crazy Getai looking for him? If so he’d better hurry back quickly before she got within sight…
Then Clark heard something else altogether, and his expression changed completely.
Diana had entered the land of the Getai unchallenged, but she kept a watchful eye out for her Northern sisters, who were prone to rush out and attack anyone not of their tribe (and later claim they were just having a ‘bit of fun’). She wasn’t in the mood for scrapping; she’d been riding all day and was, to her surprise, a little fatigued from the unaccustomed riding, not to mention hungry. She actually had only a faint idea of where Dierdre’s farm was located but hoped she would find it by nightfall.
Grey Eyes suddenly stopped, snorting, and Diana was immediately alert.
“What is it, girl?” She whispered. Her eyes scanned the woods around her. It was not beyond possibility there could be a pack of Themysciran wolves about; they avoided human villages, but were free to roam the forests for their prey, and she was in their territory.
A sound came from somewhere to her right and Diana turned towards it, her hand automatically reaching for her sword, but then Grey Eyes whinnied and reared up on her hind legs. She grabbed at the reins, cursing as she felt herself slipping, but before she could fall she felt arms around hers and she was pulled off and away.
A second later she was floating above Grey Eyes, held tightly from behind, and a man’s bristly beard was scraping her cheek.
“Now that men have been allowed on the island, can a woman no longer travel in Themyscira without being accosted by some rough bandit?” Diana growled indignantly.
“I’m Hippolyta’s worst nightmare,” Clark hissed into her ear. “I’ve captured her royal daughter, and now I shall take her back to my lair to do with as I please!”
“You dare to manhandle a pregnant woman? Truly, you nothing but some low beast!”
That was it, Clark couldn’t keep from laughing, and Diana joined him. She turned around in his arms, and embraced him tightly, her lips pressing onto his. For a minute they hovered together in the air, their arms entwined, kissing deeply. Finally, slowly they descended down to the ground.
“How I’ve missed you, Diana,” Clark said throatily, still surprised at seeing her here. He looked down at his wife’s belly and just as she expected, the look on his face was full of emotion, which swelled her heart. “Oh…it’s incredible..” He looked at her again and his happiness seemed to practically radiate from him. “I can hear the heartbeat!”
“That must be how you found us,” Diana still clutched him, not wanting to let him go yet. “How I have missed you! Every moment without you has been torment!”
Yes, I bet, alone with your mother! Clark thought, but he didn’t say it out loud. “For me too!”
Finally Diana loosened her grip on him. To her relief, he seemed fine, even though he was dressed like in semi-Getai fashion, in a sleeveless woolen vest and long striped trousers.
“Ugh, you look like a…a hippy at the Glastonbury Festival!” She eyed him. “Have the Getai been bothering you?”
Clark didn’t dare tell her what they’d tried to do with him at the Assembly. “Oh, no not at all,” he replied. “I got to meet Boudicaa and everything’s fine, she’s made sure Dierdre treats me okay. You have to come see the school…it’s not far.”
You are still a bad liar, Kent, Diana thought, and knowing her northern sisters she guessed the truth but it didn’t matter now. She was with her mate and that was what she cared about.
“What about you, are you all right?” Clark suddenly looked worried. “Why did you come out here? Has something happened?”
“No, it was…I just had to see you. The baby is fine. I just missed you.”
“Did you have a fight with Hippolyta?”
Diana shook her head. “No, I didn’t. I just wanted to be with you is all. One of my ‘urges’ I guess.”
Clark guessed correctly that Hippolyta didn’t know she was gone, but he also didn’t care right at this moment. He was feeling another type of ‘urge’ begin to overwhelm him. It had been three months, after all!
He pulled the Amazon Princess back to him forcefully, pressing his body against hers, staring down at her with such a lustful look than she positively quivered in his grip.
“I want you right now,” Clark’s voice came out a deep growl. “Right here.”
“Not here,” Diana said hurriedly, although she really wanted nothing more than what Clark was suggesting. “There are wolves here. Let’s ride back to your place.”
“Let’s use the express lane then,” Clark felt he couldn’t wait for the horseback ride. He promptly set Diana back on her horse, then scooted underneath Grey Eyes and picked her up. “I’m sure she won’t mind!”
Diana laughed. “Clark, you’re not supposed to fly!”
“Would you prefer to delay our renuion then?”
Diana woke up before Clark, just before the dawn. She stretched luxuriously, and turned so that she was facing her husband. She opened his eyes, saw him still asleep, with just the hint of a satiated smile on his lips.
They were both in Dierdre’s restored barn, snuggled together. Clark had constructed for himself a small loft above the hay and the animal stalls, and managed to furnish it comfortably yet simply with a pallet and a few blankets.
For the moment she lay still, her head resting on his broad shoulder, her fingertips lightly stroking the hairs on his chest, feeling it rise and fall with his steady breath. She looked at his profile in the faint light. She thought he was so impossibly beautiful – yes, that was the right word – he could be an Olympian God. No, he was better than those jealous, bickering Gods, because more so than his handsome looks, Diana knew his true beauty lay in his character, his passion for truth and justice, his morality, and compassion for others and his love for her and his friends.
If only my sisters could see you as I do! Diana thought wistfully. They would accept you without fear.
Her mind drifted back to their first encounter, the battle with Darkseid, then their subsequent adventures together, their friendship, their first kiss, their first tentative dates together. She remembered their first intimacy, in his apartment in Metropolis. They had come back from a wonderful night out: first a dinner at a restaurant both of them liked, then dancing at a trendy club, and then back to his place. It had all been spontaneous and unplanned. Soon, before either of them realized what they were really doing, they were in each other’s arms, undressing the other, eagerly caressing the other as if they could not get enough of one another. She remembered Clark’s strong hands over her body. They had ended up in his bedroom, and before she knew it he was lying on top of her, in the position the Amazons described as shameful submission, and she felt his lips on her breasts, the heated intense look on his face; she’d felt his manhood, incredibly hard and thick, pressing against her belly…
For a moment – a seconds’ breath – Diana’s ingrained tradition nearly overwhelmed her. Here were all the fears of the Amazon race, the teachings of the Iron Rite, that taught this was the moment of supreme danger. It was in this moment when a man would reveal his true and awful nature – he had her at her mercy, now he would show her violence if she resisted him. He would force her beneath his strong body and ravage her, not caring if he caused her pain or even killed her in order to slake his lust. In that split-second, a mindless panic almost overcame her and if she had had her sword with her…
But Clark must have sensed her momentary hesitation, and fear. He’d stopped pressing down on her, despite his evident desire, and neither rushed her nor compelled her to do anything horrible. As he pulled off of her, shakily mumbling some apology or other, she saw in his eyes all the times he’d been afraid to be intimate with a woman, for fear he would hurt them or that they’d reject him. She’d hushed him and drew him back down to her, no longer fearful…and then there was no problem after that; even the initial pain of first taking him into her was soon forgotten in the whirlwind of passion that enveloped them, and for hours that night they’d enjoyed each other, savoring their first lovemaking together.
It was then, Diana realized, that she knew for a fact that the ancient teachings were wrong. Men were not always evil. Men could be loving, and intimate without resorting to violence. It was Steve Trevor who had shown her that men and women could be friends (and for that she would always remember him fondly), but it had been Clark who’d shown her true love.
She would have been happy even if Clark decided he wanted to break up and see other women, but it soon became evident he was as smitten with her as she with him, and not long after that night they’d decided on the handfasting. For Amazons, to commit oneself to a lover required no special ceremony – one swore devotion to a partner and that was that. Clark had said that Kryptonians bonded too, but that it was based mostly on genetic and professional suitability, although fondness for one’s partner played a little part in it. So they’d created their own vows, based on both their cultures, and their own ceremony, on a island in the Peloponnese. It was just the two of them, on a hill overlooking the Aegean Sea, him in his cleaned and polished suit and her with a white cloak over her corselet, her hands painted with henna for the occasion. Soon after, they’d gone to the Watchtower and announced the news to the other League members, who actually weren’t all that surprised that the two of them had made it “official.” That had been the easy part. Even then, Diana knew that she would have to reveal this to her mother and her sisters, who would take it with a lot less enthusiasm.
Diana felt sometimes that her love for Clark would burst her heart, it was almost like a physical pain. On the heels of that, an uninvited memory entered her mind. The dream of the other night, the one in which she had seen Clark, dead or dying.
The thought of losing Clark would be too terrible to bear; although as members of the Justice League they knew they would always face that possibility, but here, now, suddenly along with the passion came a unexpected fear that nearly took her breath away. All of a sudden, she felt such a premonition of horror and death, not for her, but for her husband. It came like a chill wind from nowhere, so powerful that she almost moaned aloud.
Gaia! Diana thought, shocked. From what pit of Tartarus did that come from?
She must have clutched at his chest in her distress, because then Clark stirred. His eyelids fluttered, and he opened them. His sleepy eyes fell on her and he smiled. Seeing his smile, like the sun’s rays, Diana’s fears soon evaporated, and she rolled closer against him.
“Mmm,” Clark murmured in his deep voice. “Best wakeup I’ve had in months!”
“Me too!” She relished the feel of his arms coming up around her. If only they could stay like this forever!
“Sometimes in here I feel like I’m back in Smallville,” Clark said thoughtfully. “Remember, when we used to sleep in the barn?”
“Mmmm,” Diana pressed her lips against his warm skin. “I think that is how we made the baby in the first place!”
Suddenly a loud thud hit the wall of the barn, startling Diana. Clark quickly glanced at the far wall, and groaned aloud. Before Diana could ask what was wrong, someone hailed him from outside.
“Oi, man!” A voice speaking in rough Northern Amazon dialect came through the wooden walls. “Are ye awake yet?”
“Care fer some company?” A second voice called out. “We can keep ye warm better than yer cows!”
“Unless ye prefer them to us!” Loud giggly laughter then came.
“What is that?” Already Diana’s voice sounded truculent, which Clark recognized as a Bad Sign.
“It’s nobody, it’s only these two Getai sisters, they come every week and…”
“Sisters?” Diana said in a low malevolent tone. Clark recognized this as also her usual prelude to violence. He hurriedly sat up and pulled on his trousers. “It’s nothing,” he said quickly. “I stay in here when they turn up. They just yell and throw things, but they go away when they see I don’t react, they must just be bored in their village…”
“Oi!” The first voice shouted again. “Don’t ye want a cuddle? C’mon, man! It is not good to keep it all bottled up inside ye!”
“And the Princess is a long way off!” More raucous laughter. “Sure, you have enough to spread around!”
Before Clark could say anything there was a thunderous boom and then there was a roughly Diana-shaped hole in the side of the barn. He sighed. More work to repair the barn, and more lumber to be acquired. However, the look on the faces of the Getai sisters as Diana charged out at them: priceless. He heard the laughter of the Getai quickly turn into yelps of pain as Diana sent them packing, with a warning not to show up again. Quickly, he finished dressing, and ran his fingers threw his hair.
Diana came back into the barn, looking rather satisfied.
“They won’t bother you again,” she announced. “I’ve seen to that.”
“I’m sure you have,” Clark floated down to the ground. “But what about Dierdre?”
“Oh, yes, Dierdre,” Diana smiled. “I’m sure she’ll be happy to see her Princess!”
The Getai schoolteacher was already planning the day’s lessons when she caught a glimpse of Kal in the corner of her eye. The sun was already above the horizon and he was just now up! That man thought he was quite something fancy, ever since his audience with Boudicaa! Somehow she had got to put him back in his place!
As soon as he came within range she lit into him.
“So because ye have Boudicca’s blessing ye think ye can sleep in late in in the mornings, do ye? Well let me tell ye-”
Clark relished yet another priceless look on the woman’s face as she saw the Princess walking just behind him. He beamed – this was going to be a good day!
“My-my Lady!” Dierdre recovered from her shock and stood up hurriedly, brushing off the front of her tartan muumuu. She bowed, as gracefully as her bulk permitted. “Ye’re most welcome here at my humble school. Please…let me present to ye me pupils.”
With much shouting, Dierdre immediately rounded up the kids, all nine girls goggling at Princess Diana, the first time they had set eyes on her.
“Halkyone, Kori, stand up straight! Don’t dilly-dally…Iocasta, take your finger out of your nose, you silly girl! Now, all together, welcome our Princess properly.”
“Welcome, Princess Diana,” all the girls said and bowed, following Dierdre’s lead. “May the Goddess bless you and yours.”
“Blessings to you,” Diana said graciously. “I am so glad to see all of you.”
Dierdre approached the Princess, nervously wringing her hands, still clearly flustered, darting uneasy glances towards Clark.
“What brings you here, m’lady?” Dierdre asked nervously, although she thought she knew why.
“Oh, just…passing through,” Diana glanced quickly at Clark. She hadn’t quite planned on exactly what to say. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the North to see my Getai sisters.”
“You are most welcome here,” Dierdre said. “Your presence honors us. Please, stay and eat with us.”
“Thank you,” Diana replied, trying not to look at Clark, lest she crack up. “We shall join you for breakfast.”
“Er, whatever m’lady wishes, both of ye’re more than welcome to come in and share our table.”
“But Dierdre,” Iocasta said. “You said that Kal’s not allowed to have our…”
“Hush, silly girl! Go inside and get washed, all of you, and set the table for our guest…guests.”
Dierdre nervously herded her charges inside while Clark and Diana looked at each other and grinned.
“This is definitely a welcome change!” Clark remarked.
“I am thinking this isn’t your usual treatment,” Diana said dryly. “Well, you are right. Change is going to happen, starting now!
Breakfast that day was one of the best in Clark’s recent memory. The children, watched over by a nervous Dierdre, were full of excitement at seeing a real, live Princess, and bombarded her with questions about life in the Palace and Mans World. Afterwards, the Getai matron had them lined up again and perform songs and dancing for Diana, while Clark watched with pleasure.
“We have one more thing to show you Princess,” one of the oldest girls, Alexa, said. She handed her a a papyrus scroll. On the top read,
The Themyscira Times.
All the News Fit to Print (and Then Some)
Weather Today is Hot. Like Yesterday.
Halkyone scored top marks again in class.
It is rumored Iocasta will be promoted to chief singer in our choir.
Persephone was sent to her room for talking back to teacher.
Village News: Our Getai Sisters will invite us to their Fall Festival. Same as Last Year.
News from the Capital: Kal reports that Themyscira’s Sewers are new and improved, from old and lousy before he came to our island.
Weather Forecast Tomorrow: Hot
Diana laughed delightedly. “This is wonderful!” She looked at Clark. “Was this your idea?”
Clark smiled. “Really, it was Alexa’s. She asked what I did for a job – my real job – so I showed her.”
“Wow,” Diana said. “Our island’s first newspaper!”
Dierdre shook her head in weak protest and grumbled beneath her breath. “Spreading sedition and impudence!” She looked at Diana. “Forgive me m’lady, but it is time for th’ bairns’ classes…”
“Yes, we won’t detain you any longer,” She looked at Clark. “I will…inspect the lands, with Kal’s help.”
A few of the girls giggled at the look on Diana’s face. Dierdre glared at them.
“Hurry and get your styluses and papyri!”
Diana turned to Clark. “Shall we go riding together, Kal?”
“Sure thing! I’ll go get Grey Eyes ready…if she’ll behave!”
After Clark had gone, Dierdre approached Diana nervously once more.
“I trust m’lady is pleased?”
Diana nodded. “Yes, I am. You’ve done wonderfully with the children. I am happy to see Kal is doing well here.”
“Ah, yes…I am glad to find favor in your eyes,” Dierdre replied but this was formula. She abandoned it.
“Is everything else… well, m’lady?” The Getai woman could hardly keep her eyes from the Princess’ noticeable baby bump. She’d heard the stories but to see it with her own eyes! However would she explain it to the bairns?
“Quite well, thank you,” Diana looked at the woman sharply, and Dierdre immediately lowered her eyes.
“Th’ man…Kal, I mean, he…about th’ Amazon children…”
Dierdre clearly dared not ask it aloud, but the question was implicit in her words.
“He does not know,” Diana replied in a low voice. “Has he asked?”
“No. Not me, m’lady, anyways, ” Dierdre began wringing her hands again, apparently her usual response to stress. “If…if he should ask…?”
Diana was silent a long moment. She recalled her conversation with Clark months ago, after their argument. He’d asked about the male children of the Amazons then.
Diana, why aren’t there any boys here? Surely, the Amazons don’t all have girl children?
Clark had been insistent, true to his journalist nature.
We have mostly girls. The few boys that are born…you should not ask about them, Clark.
Why not? What do you do to them?
They don’t…survive. Call it whatever you want. I know it happens in Man’s World, to girls…
That isn’t right, there or here!
I’m not saying it is! But that is how it is here.
So what about our child? What if you have a boy? Our boy?
How can you think I would let that happen to our child! It it is a boy, he won’t be raised on Themyscira obviously! We’ll take him back to Metropolis, anywhere you want…
Diana was reluctant to say anything more, and Clark finally let it drop, although he saw that he was far from satisfied with her half-answers. She only hoped that they would be gone before he learned the truth…
“Tell him…” Diana paused, then began again. “Tell him…whatever you wish.”
“I…I understand m’lady.”
Diana nodded to the flustered schoolteacher and walked away to join Kal. Dierdre watched her leave, feeling pity for the young Princess, and, she realized with some surprise, for the big oaf himself.
Clark and Diana spent the rest of the day riding in the valley. Together they visited the Getai villages, and Clark saw that Diana was congratulated by her sisters, who looked at her admiringly for her relationship to Clark. More bawdy jokes were made, which this time Diana shared in. Clark still blushed. They didn’t return to Dierdre’s holding until late afternoon.
“When are you going back to the Capital?” Clark asked, after putting Grey Eyes in her stall and tossing in some hay and water.
Diana shook her head. “I’ve decided I’m not going back.”
Clark looked at her in surprise. “What?”
“Hippolyta rules just fine without me, she always has. Philippus manages the training program for the visitors – she can handle Lois fine on her own. There’s nothing for me to do. I will stay here with you.”
“But you can hardly live in a barn..!”
“The barn is just as comfortable as the Palace,” Diana insisted. “I don’t need any frills. I can give birth there if I have to. This way, you’d be certain to be there with me.” Actually I would prefer it, to be away and out of the Palace.
“If Dierdre has any objections, I’m sure I can help her get over them.”
Clark remembered what Boudicaa had asked of him. He made a decision.
“I want you to do me a big favor Diana,” Clark took a deep breath.
“What is that?”
“Return to the Palace.”
Clark drove in the last nail in the wooden board with his hand. There, the hole in the barn was now fixed, good as new, or almost. He looked over his shoulder and saw Diana, seated with her back to him at the edge of the far side of the hill, watching the setting sun go down in a beautiful ball of orange.
He sighed. She hadn’t taken his suggestion very well. Or maybe the mood-swings hadn’t entirely gone away. Either way, Diana had shouted at him, he replied, she shouted some more, and then gone off to sulk, alone. Clark really hoped he was doing the right thing by suggesting she go back. But Rao knew, Hippolyta was probably having the mother of all fits by now. If Diana stayed here, that would damage their relationship even more, perhaps for good.
He walked up the hill and sat next to Diana, not speaking. He noted that she was determined not to look at him. He contented himself with watching the sunset with her.
After several long minutes it was Diana who finally broke the silence. “I don’t want to leave you again,” she said simply. “I want to say here with you.”
“I know,” Clark replied quietly . “But you know this would only drive more of a rift between you and your mother, and it’s big enough already.”
“Why do you care so much about her feelings?” Diana suddenly blurted. A petulant tone had crept into her voice which she hated but she couldn’t help it. “She has treated you with nothing but contempt!”
“She’s your mother.”
“I know that! And at this moment, I don’t particularly care to see her.”
“You don’t mean that, Diana.”
“Clark, I know what I am talking about!”
“Do you, Diana?” Clark returned his gaze to the sun. “You know, I would give almost anything to see Martha Kent again, even for just five minutes. I wished I could have met Lara Lor-Van just once. You still have a mother who’s alive.”
“Clark, my mother-”
“I know she hates me. She would even if I had nothing to do with you. Maybe there’s nothing I can do to change that. But I don’t want to be the reason you estrange yourself from her. I know you want to be with me, but surely, we’ve only got a few more months to go.”
Oh you foolish man, Diana thought. That’s not the only reason why I want to stay here. I want to stay to make sure you come to no harm, so you can see your child before…in case something happens…
He thought that Diana was on the verge of protesting again, but instead she only said,
“For you Clark, I’ll do as you ask.”
Clark swallowed. “Thank you, Diana.”
She turned to him, grasping her hands. She placed them on her body, not on her belly.
“We still have tonight,” she husked. “Let us make its memory sustain us for the next few months, at least.”
The morning arrived, much quicker than either of them wanted. After Grey Eyes was saddled, Clark and Diana stood together, facing each other. Parting a second time was just as hard, and she bit her lip to keep the tears back. Clark sensed her mood. He placed both of his hands on her, this time on her belly, looking down with intense concentration. She knew what he was doing, but his expression was unreadable. Finally he looked up.
“Do you want to know?” Clark whispered.
Diana shook her head. “Let it be a surprise.”
Clark leaned in and kissed her; she returned it, once again feeling that chill wind of disquiet, and it took all of her will to force it back into the darkness.
“Be safe, Diana,” Clark whispered against her lips. “Time will go by quick, you’ll see.”
Diana forced a smile on her face. “Of course it will.”
Diana leapt on the back of her horse. Before she could leave, Clark grasped her hand. Diana looked down.
“Thank you for coming to see me,” Clark said. “It made me happy.”
“And me, also. Do not be late for me, husband.”
Without another word she rode off, not looking back.
Clark watched her until she was far off and out of sight. He turned around but instead of walking back to the barn, he began walking into the valley. At first he took regular human strides, but then they became longer, and longer, until he was practically bounding over the earth each step the length of a football field. He spread his arms and threw back his head and shouted out gloriously, not caring who heard. At this moment he cared for nothing else but what he had just glimpsed in Diana’s belly.
He had been able to see it clearly. Diana was carrying a boy, his son! It was no guesswork, it was a fact – he was no longer the last son of Krypton. The House of El, and all of Krypton, would continue to live on in his child, his and Diana’s. He was no longer alone in the universe, the last of his race.
No longer the last.
In his joy, all his still-unanswered questions were forgotten. But in due time, they would be brought back home…and then, he would come to regret his decision to return Diana to the Capital.