beatrice_otter: Wonder Woman--Black and White (Wonder Woman)
[personal profile] beatrice_otter
At AO3 and Tumblr.

Chapter 1 on DW.


CHAPTER TWO

By the next morning, Etta had a plan. It was not a legal plan, but it was a practical one, and it would work. Steve would have approved, and that was all Etta needed. And it was simple enough—the lads in the forgery section could handle it easily, and one or two of them owed her favors.

The hard part, it turned out, was explaining it to Diana.

"I know eventually you'll be able to support yourself," Etta said. "You're a smart girl, and strong, and I'm sure you can learn any number of jobs to earn the money to pay for lodging and food and such."

"Like what jobs?" Diana asked. "I am not skilled enough at pottery or weaving or singing to earn my keep with them alone. I can fight better than anyone in your army, but I am not here to fight."

So Etta listed off jobs that were commonly open to women—factory worker, maid, nanny, sales clerk, teacher, nurse, secretary—along with a brief description of what each one did. She put in more of a plug for secretary than anything else. Not only was it, in Etta's opinion, the best job a woman could have, but it also would probably be the least worst fit for Diana. (Etta shuddered to think of the Amazon as a maid. Now that would be a recipe for disaster.)

"None of those sound very interesting," Diana said dubiously. "I would like to work with children—especially babies—but I have never seen one before up close, so I would not know what to do."

"You've … never seen a baby?" Etta said slowly, boggled.

"There are none on Themiscyra," Diana said with a sigh. "Men are necessary for procreation, and Steve was the first man on Themyscira since we arrived three hundred decades ago."

Three hundred decades was, what, three thousand years? "Then how do you reproduce?" Etta asked.

"We don't," Diana said. "Well. Except for mother; she sculpted me out of clay and prayed to Zeus and he breathed life into me. Mother is a very good sculptor," Diana said wistfully, looking off to the side.

Etta gave Diana a moment for her grief for the mother she'd probably never see again, but her thoughts were racing. Yet again, her plans were thrown a curveball by Diana's mere existence. It didn't really change things in the short-term, she realized. And the long-term … well, they'd have to get through the short-term before that would even matter. She was curious, though. "How old are you, then?"

Diana scrunched up her face. "I am only a hundred decades old," she said, as if confessing she was a teenager.

"Well," Etta said. "I'm only four decades old, and Steve was younger than I was."

"Really?" Diana said. "You are all practically babies!"

"Most of us die of old age before we hit eight decades," Etta said. "And in the meantime, if we want to live we've either got to inherit money, or work to earn it. And whatever job you end up doing to support yourself, you've got to pass for enough of a normal girl that they don't lock you up as a nutter."

"Nutter?"

"You know," Etta said. "Someone who's not right in the head?"

"Like Charlie?" Diana asked.

Etta shrugged. "Sort of? Charlie's got shell shock, but not really bad enough to land him in the hospital. But you—nobody would ever believe you were made out of clay and come from an island protected by the pagan Greek gods. If you start telling people that, they'll think you're some sort of hysterical woman making up stories, and they'll lock you up and study you."

"But it is true!" Diana said.

"But that doesn't matter if they won't believe it, and it is pretty …" Etta eyed Diana up and down "… unbelievable. Even if Steve were still alive to testify to his own eye-witness, they wouldn't believe him; they'd say he had shell-shock, and he'd cracked. Without him …"

"They will not listen to us because we are women and they will not listen to Sameer and the Chief because they are not white," Diana said. She learned fast. "And Charlie?"

"Charlie's already known to be shell-shocked," Etta said.

"And because he bears wounds from battle, his word is no longer to be trusted?" Diana said, voice rising.

"On something as outrageous as this?" Etta said. "Yes."

"If people will not believe you when you tell the truth, it is no wonder everyone lies here!"

Etta flinched, glancing around. The walls in her flat were very thin. "Ssssh!" she said. "I'm right here, there's no need to shout. Anyway, once you know how to act normally—what we would consider normally, Diana," she said as the other woman opened her mouth rebelliously, "—then you won't have to lie. Just don't mention your past, and people will assume whatever is easiest. But until you're able to get to that point, to know what to say and what not to say, you need money to support yourself and a cover to explain away any gaffes."

"Cover?"

"A role to fill that will help you pass unnoticed," Etta said. "Like when Steve went to the Ottomans wearing a Luftwaffe uniform in General Ludendorff's entourage. They thought he was one of their pilots, so nobody noticed him. He could never have done that in one of our uniforms."

"So you still want me to lie," Diana said.

"Well, yes," Etta said. "But this is one lie I can back up and make official. I am really good at making covers, it's one of my favorite parts of my job, and the guys down in the forgery section owe me so many favors—it'll work out fine. And Steve would approve of this one, he would definitely suggest it and probably try to make it real if he were here."

Diana sighed. "What are you suggesting?"

"I am suggesting that you be a war bride." Etta smiled. This was clever, if she did say so herself.

"What is a bride?" Diana asked, brow furrowing.

"A bride is a woman who has just gotten married," Etta said. "You do … know what marriage is?"

"Steve explained it," Diana said. "It is where two people go before a judge and promise to love and cherish each other their whole life long, except they do not love each other that long. You want me to marry the war? How would that even work? Ares is dead. I killed him."

"No, no, no," Etta said, waving her hands. "Not war bride as in married the war, war bride as in got married during the war to a soldier who met you because of the war."

"Oh," Diana said, nodding, "that makes better sense."

"It does, doesn't it? But he really said it was about loving and cherishing?" Etta said. "What a masculine thing to say. And it shows a bit of a romantic side that I did not expect."

"What do you mean?" Diana asked.

"Well, most people don't get married because they love someone," Etta said. "I mean, that may be how they pick who to marry, but not whether or not they're going to marry. Men marry because they want someone to cook and clean for them and to warm their beds and bear their children. Women marry because they're expected to, because they'll be pitied and mocked if they don't, and because there aren't many jobs women are allowed to do and their husband will take care of them and their children financially. And only men promise to love and cherish; women must promise to love and obey."

"They must obey and do all the work around the home?" Diana said. "That sounds like slavery to me!"

"Even more so than being a secretary," Etta agreed. "I only have to obey when I'm at work, and I get paid my own money. There's a reason I'm not married, and don't ever intend to be. But if you say that to people, especially married people, they get upset."

"And you want me to do this?" Her voice was rising again.

"Shhhh!" Etta said. "Only as a cover. Besides, widows have a lot of freedom. If I could be a widow without going through being a wife first, I'd do that."

"Widow?"

"A woman whose husband has died," Etta said.

One thing about Diana, she might be naïve about what she called 'Man's World,' but she was very smart. "You want me to say that Steve and I were married," she said.

"Yes, I do," Etta replied, nodding. "It solves all our problems. Steve wouldn't mind; if he were here, he'd do whatever he needed to do to help you through this. He's got no family still living, or at least, none that he talks to, and they're all back in America. And not many friends here, besides you and me and Charlie and Sameer and the Chief, and they'll all say whatever I tell them to. And, like I said, enough people in the forgery section owe me favors to take care of the paperwork angle. But if you're Steve's widow, you inherit all his things and all his money, and you get a small pension from the government. A pension is when they pay you because they got your husband killed. It's not much—certainly not as much as you'd make working—but it will be enough to help out while you get used to our world."

"So I am lying in order to get money," Diana said. "Isn't that like stealing?"

Etta laughed. "Oh, my dear, in this case, no. Not in fairness, anyway. You ended the war, or at least made sure that it ended on a lot more favorable terms for our side than it otherwise would have—if they weren't such stodgy unimaginative old so-and-so's they'd recognize you as a soldier and pay you for what you did. And that would be more than what you'll get for a widow's pension, believe you me."

"But what about the generals who have already met me?" Diana said. "Steve did not tell them we were married, or going to marry—they will know something is wrong."

"Actually, most of them are such idiots about women that they probably assume you were his mistress or something already," Etta said. "They can't imagine that a man would pay that much attention to a woman he wasn't sleeping with, especially one who's causing as much trouble as you did."

"They truly see women as having so little value?" Diana asked.

"Yes," Etta said. "I'm old and plump enough to be considered maternal, and thus part of the office furniture. You're young enough—or you look young enough—and pretty enough to be more of a target for men who want a wife or just want to get their leg over. In any case, nobody'll bat an eye. And given that men are so willfully stupid about women, I for one am quite willing to use it against them."

From there on, Diana had no major objections, and Etta was able to bring her around in time to leave for work. They made arrangements to meet for lunch to begin purchasing Diana the things she would need to support the ruse.

Etta marched off to work with satisfaction of a job well done, leaving Diana with a selection of feminist pamphlets, Howards End, The Job, and The House of Mirth to occupy her time.

.
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