AGE 775 – ONE YEAR AFTER THE DESTRUCTION OF EARTH.
Son Goku was many different things to many different people.
To his wife, Chi-Chi, he was a knight in shining armor, like a prince right out of an old Chinese fairy tale that would always come back to her, no matter how high-strung, controlling, or just plain not-understanding she could be.
Sure he was a dumb country hick and wasn't exactly the most settled down of husbands, what with his nasty habit of dying or just being gone from the house a lot, but his loyalty to Chi-Chi more than made up for it on his good days, which tended to outweigh his bad days.
To his sons Gohan and Goten, he was the greatest dad in the whole wide world. Sure, about the only things he could help them with, since neither Grandpa Gohan or Master Roshi had ever really made him hit the books, involved training them how to fight, but they liked that immensely. It sure was a welcome change from the catacombs of tombs that their mother buried them in every other day if nothing else.
Plus, applying their training in combat had given them far more life experience than any book about 'peach farming' or 'cellular biology' ever would. Though they still liked to chide him and Vegeta for letting Kid Buu go through with his 'Earth-Destroying Single Blow,' they didn't hold that they had died so good and so young against him and just added the whole ordeal to 'life-experience.'
Speaking of folks with fire shaped hair, where was the self-proclaimed prince of all Saiyans? Now that Goku thought about it, didn't that only make Vegeta the ruler of himself, Goku, and their three half-breed sons?
Goku looked at his wrist. When all he saw was one of his navy blue wristbands, he put a hand behind his crazy palm-tree like do and flashed that trade-mark Son family grin: one he had been perfecting since he was a child.
"Hehehe… looks like it's time to get a watch…"
Suddenly, his smile left his face and seriousness took its place. He felt a great pool of ki land behind him with an almost silent step that would not have been picked up by the ears of the typical run of man.
Goku, despite having his game face on, smirked. "What took you so long," he said, turning around to face the man with such ki, "Vegeta? The Mount Paozu area isn't that far from West City for a guy like you."
Vegeta spat onto the dirt road that the two of them were on, a haversack filled with seven round lumps slung over his dark blue, muscle shirted shoulder. "I ran into a bit of fun trying to collect the Sushinchu that I wasn't expecting."
Goku raised an eyebrow. "You mean someone was looking for the four-star dragon ball too?"
"Well who was it?"
"I think somewhere in that echoing cranium of yours, you might recall him."
"Really?" Goku asked, scratching his forehead.
"Yes. He matched the descriptions your friends once made of a little blue imp that had pointy ears not unlike that of the Namekian, but who wore a large front patch that meant, 'Fried Rice,' in that gibberish you call 'Mandarin' Kanji."
Goku gasped. "Was this guy also accompanied by a tall lady with blues eyes, long black hair with bangs, red eye shadow and lipstick, a teal trench coat with a red star insignia on either shoulder, a brown belt with a pistol holster attached to it on the right hip, beige slacks, and brown combat boots? Was he also with a fox in a black ninja costume wielding a katana that he didn't use at all?"
Vegeta nodded again.
Goku whistled. "Oh wow. I didn't think Emperor Pilaf, Mai, and Shu were still into the whole 'Evil New World Order' thing anymore. You'd think that whole mess with King Piccolo had scared them good."
Vegeta gave his own smirk, except it was several orders of magnitude more intimidating to the uninitiated than Goku's own. "I'm surprised, Kakkarot. I didn't think your memory retained anything beyond what you eat for breakfast every morning."
"Pork buns, eggs, and saffron rice?" Goku asked rhetorically.
The two of them shared a hearty laugh together. The inside joke was that they both knew no meal Goku ever ate comprised solely of just two main courses and just one side dish.
"To alleviate your fears, if that band of tenth-rate villains wasn't in line before, trust me, they sure are now," said Vegeta.
Goku cocked his head to the side and placed an index finger on his chin. He tried to imagine the state that Vegeta had left the Pilaf crew in. Much to his delight, he pictured them hanging from a flagpole in West City by nothing but their underwear, which they still had on them.
"Help us! Somebody please, help us!" he heard them shout in his mind, praying to Kami (or Dende, now that he thought about it) that someone would be kind enough to save them from the threat of becoming road pizzas and the massive wedgies they were enduring.
"Hehe… wedgies…" Goku said offhand.
"Actually, I just gave them a stern talking to," Vegeta said, having somehow silently walked to within a foot of Goku as the palm-tree haired Saiyan was distracted. "A VERY stern talking to."
"You mentioned my name, didn't you?" Goku said, crossing his arms over his shoulder.
"As the hicks on this planet say, yourself included, E'yup. That was all it took to have them literally head for the hills."
Goku snickered. Then, a silence fell upon the road. Goku and Vegeta had a little stare off. At first, it was all smiles from them both. At the ten-second mark however, Vegeta's scowl, equally as trademarked as the Son family grin, took over his face. Goku's own face followed suit soon after.
"Kakkarot… are you certain… absolutely certain… that you wish to go through with this?"
Son Goku was many different things to many different people.
To all of them, though, there was one thing they could all agree upon about him: he was the greatest fighter the universe had ever seen. He had become the benchmark by which all other aspiring warriors for all time to come would be judged and he had become this benchmark by the sweat of his own brow.
He had entered the annals of myth and legend.
Yet… neither his wife, or his sons, or his friends that knew him the longest, knew of the silent struggle that began gnawing at his innards not too long after the fight with Kid Buu.
Oh, Goku wasn't suffering posttraumatic stress or anything like that. His mind, as airheaded as it could be, was too well trained and had seen too much for it to give out after a fight with an animate piece of pink bubblegum. It certainly wouldn't be giving out yet, not when he was nearing only thirty years of age. Though, now that he thought about it, he remembered some math Gohan had done a while ago that said that he was technically and mentally thirty-seven when all of the years he was dead and the time he spent in the hyperbolic time chamber were factored in.
Still, the problem was something else altogether. The silent struggle he contended with was far simpler, like the man himself.
For you see, Son Goku, was lonely at the top. Put more frankly, he was bored with being at the peak of the fighting food chain with nothing and no one being able to give him a legit challenge. For someone who did not fight to defeat others and instead fought to defeat himself, remaining in such a static position for almost a year with no hope of rising even further was like his own personal hell.
Hell, even hell wasn't that bad considering most of his past enemies were all there and they might actually make him sweat a little if they all ganged up on him. The only thing that might be a little annoying were Goz and Mez trying to get him to wrestle, but once one of them saw the other passed out from one of Goku's chokeholds, they'd both mellow out.
"Kakkarot! Quite staring off into space and answer me!" said Vegeta.
Goku blinked, realizing that he had been gazing off into the clouds for the past fifteen seconds or so, and turned his head back down toward the Saiyan prince. "Oh. Hehehe… sorry…"
As Goku made his trademark Son family grin again and chuckled nervously, Vegeta scowled. "Well, spit it out already! Because if you've suddenly gotten cold feat about your wish, then I wanna be able to put the dragon balls to good use before sun down, or the woman will have my head!"
Goku snapped out of his grinning and raised an eyebrow. "Huh? Why? I mean, with all the time you spend away from the Capsule Corp building, you'd think that Bulma would be used to you coming in late a lot."
Vegeta looked towards the ground, growling as his cheeks turned red. "She wants me to… read my son a bedtime story every night before he goes to sleep now."
"Huh? Really? That's what's got you so worked up?" Goku said, scratching his head.
Vegeta nodded solemnly.
"Well, that's not so bad. Heck, looking back, I wish I had read something for Gohan before he went to bed every—"
"—That's… not all…" Vegeta interrupted.
"Huh? Well then what's the whole picture?"
"The reason my wife has gotten on my back to read bedtime stories to Trunks lately is because… she wants me to practice for the… other one…"
Goku's eyes went as wide as saucers at that. "O—other one?"
"Yes… a… girl…" Vegeta said, blushing even more intensely and saying that last word as though it were the name of Lucifer himself.
"A—a GIRL?! Really?!" Goku said, his jaw dropping to the ground.
Vegeta nodded solemnly again.
Goku, despite himself, smiled warmly, walked up to Vegeta, and patted him on the back. "Wow man, I'm happy for ya!"
"Well, one of us has to be," Vegeta said, before looking Goku back in the eye. "So, are we still doing this?"
Without a moment's hesitation, Goku nodded. "Does a rolling stone gather no moss?"
"Don't know. Never heard that proverb before. Sounds stupider than you, if such a frightening reality is possible."
Goku couldn't help but laugh at his own expense along with Vegeta. He then turned around, facing the road in the position he was in before Vegeta's arrival. He took a running man stance and said, "Come on. It's only about a kilometer away from here. Foot race ya!"
"Alright. I'll oblige you," Vegeta said, taking a similar stance next to Goku.
"On your mark…" said Goku.
"Get set…" said Vegeta.
"GOKU!" said Goku.
"Go!" said Vegeta.
With that, the two of them were off like cannon balls, moving as fast as their bodies would let them go without using any ki to boost their speed at all. Despite merely relying on their Saiyan physiology, though, the two still managed to clock in at a good nineteen-hundred and forty miles an hour, or a good three-thousand one-hundred and twenty-two kilometers an hour. Goku's final transformation may have outclassed Vegeta's by a factor of four, but in terms of their base forms, it was frightening how close the two of them were. To others, it was even more frightening just how fast the two of them were without having to dip into their ki reserves.
Still, even Vegeta couldn't alleviate Goku's boredom after the Kid Buu fiasco, though if anyone understood his silent struggle it would be him along with Piccolo. Vegeta's prideful refusal to take up Goku's offer to teach him how to ascend to Super Saiyan 3 assured that the prince wouldn't be able to provide an escape for the palm-tree haired Saiyan for some time.
Instead, Goku had tried getting Gohan, Gotenks, or both to train with him. However, neither Chi-Chi nor Bulma would let their sons even spar with one another after the whole ordeal with Majin Buu. Even when all three were relaxing, their mothers would stand behind them, ready to use whatever was on hand to smack the boys upside their heads if they even so much as thought of throwing a punch.
For you see, while Goku and Vegeta's sons had forgiven them for letting everyone else die and the earth get blown up, their wives were not as willing to let bygones be bygones, especially after having to experience Dabura's one-eighty in heaven.
Goku couldn't blame them though. Neither his nor Vegeta's wife were fighters. They weren't even prepared for the whole experience of dying, going to the afterlife, and worrying that their sons would meet them there too soon (which they did).
Neither were they prepared for Dabura, though Goku wasn't sure even he was ready for that one...
Within one point fifteen seconds, Goku and Vegeta skidded to a sudden halt at the road's end, kicking up enough dirt fast enough to knock dozens of fully grown male humans flat on their bums. In this instance, though, they just knocked down an orange saber-tooth tiger that was older than sin for its species by this point.
Quickly, Goku looked at his footing and then at Vegeta's. If there were a finish line, Goku knew that both pairs of feet would be equal in terms of how far they had crossed it.
Goku was prepared to congratulate Vegeta when the prince said, "So, this is where that surrogate human grandfather of yours that you named your eldest son after raised you as a child, huh?"
Goku was going to ask Vegeta what he was talking about, until he looked ahead like Vegeta was, and saw for himself.
Lying three meters in front of him, was his childhood home.
His Grandpa Gohan's house.
The place where his Journey to the West, and beyond, had begun.
Goku thought he could feel two twin trails of tears moving down his face at the sheer wave of nostalgia that had come flooding upon him as he gazed squarely on his old home. It was funny when Goku thought about it. How heading back to where he took his first baby steps could solve the latest problem in his adult life.
Of course, Vegeta being… well… Vegeta… had to go and spoil the moment. "Well Kakkarot, I knew you were a low class hick, but still, even I couldn't have anticipated how… disgustingly humble, your origins truly were."
Goku looked nonplussed at that comment. "Really, ey? Well, I like to think my old place is inspiring."
"Inspiring? Look at it! There's barely enough room to take a piss in it much less house two people," Vegeta said, laughing.
"Well, it may not exactly be that palace you grew up in before Planet Vegeta went ka-boom, or that mansion you and the Briefs live in, but if nothing else, this joint is symbolic," Goku stated matter-of-factly, crossing his arms over his chest.
"Symbolic of what? Grinding poverty?"
"Symbolic of the hope that, even a low class hick can rise above his origins, whatever they are, and become the greatest fighter in the universe," Goku said, cocking his cocky smile wearing head to the side and pointing an index finger at Vegeta. "Who knows? Maybe it's even symbolic of the hope that you'll be able to reach Super Saiyan 3 in this lifetime on your own."
Goku chuckled as a vein became visible on Vegeta's forehead as he growled at that comment. Then, much to Goku's surprise, Vegeta chuckled as well. "You know Kakkarot, keep up the snide remarks and if this warrior you want to fight almost kills you, I just might not decide to step in like you wanted me to."
"Don't make fun of my old stomping grounds anymore, and I just might stop."
Goku held up his hand for Vegeta to shake, which the Saiyan prince did, albeit with more force than was necessary. That was okay, though. Goku could take it.
"Fine. Let's just summon the dragon and get things over with then," Vegeta said, scratching his nose with his thumb. "Besides, I want to see if this warrior is just as good in reality as he is in these dreams of yours you've been having."
Goku nodded. "Well, don't just stand there! Let's fire Shenron up!"
With that, Vegeta emptied his haversack, letting the little red star containing orange balls land onto the ground. Goku then arranged them all in triangular pattern, like billiards, or as close to billiards as possible considering he only had seven balls to work with. On the top row were the seven, six, five, and three star dragon balls. In the row below them were the one and two star balls. And in the final row, Goku, of course, placed his 'Grandpa, 'or the four star ball, by itself.
Goku plopped Indian style onto the ground and basked in the bright, golden glow of the Dragon Balls. He craned his head behind him towards Vegeta and said, "Would you like to do the honors?"
Vegeta dusted his gloved hands and said, "Sure." He raised his hands dramatically into the air and said, "Eternal dragon, come forth and grant us our wish! Arise, Shenron!"
With that, the previously sunny and slightly cloudy blue sky grew darker as more and more clouds blotted out the peaceful rays of the sun. A strong wind blew over Goku and Vegeta, ruffling up their already crazy hairstyles.
Then, in a flash of lightning and crack of thunder, the magical dragon locked within the seven balls named Shenron or Shenlong, depending on the language, slithered forth from them and took to the sky. His presence was, of course, accentuated by another lighting strike.
That was normal for the great eastern style dragon. What was odd about this particular summoning though, Goku noted, was that for some odd reason, Shenron seemed to be wearing a purple bowler derby hat and had a lit cigar sticking out of the side of his mouth that was rather comically oversized.
"I AM THE ETERNAL DRAGON! SPEAK NOW AND STATE YOUR WISH! PLEASE TELL ME THE TWO OF YOU MOOKS WANT A HAIRCUT FOR THOSE RIDICULOUS HAIR DOS OF YOURS!"
Goku looked towards Vegeta, who looked just as confused as he did.
"Did… did that scaly, green, oversized garden hose just make fun of our hair?" asked Vegeta.
"Yeah. How strange. In all my years of gathering up dragon balls, I've never once known Shenron to outright try and make a funny before or put on what he's wearing now."
Goku faced the dragon again when its booming voice said, "I DECIDED TO SPICE THINGS UP A BIT! YOU KNOW! LIVE A LITTLE!"
"But… you spend most of your time separated into seven magic balls! How can something like you possibly 'live a little' like that?" Goku asked.
"SOME'THING'!? WELL FINE! I GUESS YOU DON'T WANT YOUR WISH THEN!"
Frantically, Goku waved his arms back and forth in front of him. "No, no, no! It's all good! I was just curious is all! I do want to make my wish! Honestly!"
As Goku finished chucking nervously, Sheron said, "WELL HURRY THE HELL UP! I HAVE A SHINDIG I COULD BE AT RIGHT NOW! DAMES TA SMOOCH! THAT SORTA THING!"
Not bothering to question just how in the world Shenron could have been at a party just before his summoning, Goku stood up. With one final look back towards Vegeta, who shrugged his shoulders, Goku faced Shenron with a look of pure determination he had not had since the fight with Kid Buu.
"Eternal Shenron… bring me the warrior I've seen in my dreams these past few months so that I can fight him! Bring me… SUPERMAN!"
A.D. 2011 – ONE YEAR AFTER THE ONE HUNDRED MINUTE WAR.
Clark Kent was many different things to many different people.
To his old girlfriend, Lois Lane, he was a knight in shining armor, like a prince out of an old British fairy tale that would always rescue her from the middle of the air no matter how many times she would find herself in the same situation thanks to her journalistic intuitions.
Sure, he could be a bit of a square, small town, country bumpkin when it came to her safety and could be away for weeks on end fighting the latest crises level threat, but his loyalty to Lois back when they were together more than made up for it on his good days, which outweighed his bad days by a WIDE margin; even the day they had both decided to end things between them.
To his human-kryptonian clone Conner and his cousin Kara, he was the greatest father figure in the world. Sure, he could be a little strict when it came to the two of them blending in as humans and often chastised them for the extremely unnecessary amount of collateral damage they tended to cause, but deep down, they both knew that they needed it.
They knew that they needed a mentor that had experienced what it's like to be Kryptonian and so powerful and yet hold back so much that could honestly tell them when they were out of line. This was especially true considering that, technically, Clark WAS more than a father 'figure' for Conner and that Kara's parents were with Rao now.
Or, if Lois had her say, at least Kara's father was with Rao, considering he didn't turn out to be 'a backstabbing supremacist,' even if Alura did save Kara's life in the end.
Speaking of raven-haired amazons who could voice mighty fiery opinions, Clark spotted the golden gleam from Diana's tiara ten miles away in the sky with his telescopic vision, and noticed that she was getting closer. He craned his neck back down towards the house he had spent his boyhood in from his perch atop a hill right in the middle of his family's cornfield. A second later, he heard her floating in the breeze right next to him.
"Hey, Diana," Clark said, looking sullenly at his old home.
For a moment, Clark stood upon the hill with silence. Diana likewise remained quiet, though his hearing could pick up the slight motions of her body as she turned to face the home like he was. A great wind swept through the rows of corn, forcing them all to bend to one side as though being patted down and held in place by a giant invisible hand. In the sky, Clark heard the sound of an old biplane as it circled over a neighboring farm and ejected its crop dusting cargo in a gaseous, wispy yellow spray. Somewhere in the distance, a cock crowed.
Clark drank in the familiar serenity of the countryside, savoring it. After all, he was a farm boy at heart, and even after all of the years since he had moved out to the big city and all of the live-threatening and surreal adventures he had since then, there was an allure to the quiet simplicity of the rural that, when he could get it, still managed to renew and reinvigorate him on the days when the burdensome façade of being the Superman became too great a weight to bear.
Sort of like today.
"So, I'm assuming Hal told you?" he asked.
"All I know is that you two went gallivanting off into space today. Green Lantern business that he thought you could help with. I don't know much else."
"Well, I'd be lying if I said it was a short story,"
"You, lie? That'd be a first."
Clark snorted amusedly. "Well then, does 'Diana Prince,' have the time?"
Diana floated down to stand on the hill next to him, her hand coming to a rest on his shoulder. "Yeah. She does."
It was funny, Clark thought. For as stubborn as the greek gods as she could be (which Clark could attest to, having been backhanded by Hades and Ares multiple times on multiple occasions), Diana could be as compassionate as his own ma.
"I don't suppose Hal told you that he needed me as back-up for a meeting between both the Sinestro and Manhunter corps, did he?"
Diana's eyes widened at this. She looked towards the sky, at a spot where she thought that the watchtower was floating in, her eyes narrowing to slits. "No. He didn't. Against both of those two, he should have brought in all of us."
Clark held up a hand. "Don't worry, Diana. Their bark was a heckuva lot worse than their bite, believe me."
Indeed, for the curse words that the Sinestro Corps had hurled his way after he and Hal had sprung to ambush them were colorful in ways that, experience informed Clark, only alien tongues could be.
"Oh?" Diana asked, looking at him with her head tilted to the side. "How many other Green Lanterns accompanied you and Hal?"
"None. It was just us," Clark stated in a clam, matter-of-factly manner.
"And how many Yellow Lanterns and Manhunters were there?" asked Diana.
"A dozen on either side," Clarks said, as though it were the simplest thing in the world.
"Uh huh," Diana said. "And let me guess: their weapons were hurling energy blasts that mimicked kryptonite radiation once they saw you, right?"
"E'yup," Clark said, beaming from ear to ear.
All Diana could do, was shake her head from side to side.
"That airheaded flyboy. Ever since Kyle took his place as an honor guard, he's been so cagey just patrolling his own sector. I bet he found out where the two corps were meeting and decided to crash it without telling that sector's Lantern what he was doing."
"Yeah… Kilowog wasn't too happy when he found out." Clark smiled as he remembered how Kilowag had made a giant green middle finger at himself and Hal right before bashing them over the head with it. "We caused a lot of damage to about a hundred orbiting space stations that he's probably still helping fix right now."
"I'm assuming the two of you offered to help. It's the least you could have done after all."
"We did, but you know how Kilowog is. It was his sector, his responsibility, so he declined the offer."
"Well, you seem awfully chipper about the whole thing. From what Bruce told me about how you broke Hal's hand, I half expected you to be in a fit of barely controlled rage when I found you."
Clark's smile fell from his face. In the sky above, he heard the peace of the countryside being broken by the explosions of fireworks, leaving trails of red, white, and blue smoke behind.
This was the part he had fearing in secret ever since he had noticed her approach, for he had known that he'd have to tell her. Intellectually, there was no doubt in his mind that it was a foolish thing to be frightened of, especially from Diana, Princess of Themyscira, Amazon warrior who had fought the best both mortals and immortals had to offer. But his pathos would not give way to his logos, for the former was made of steel and the latter of rubber whose attacks just bounced off like bullets from Clark's nigh-invulnerable chest.
Sighing, he said, "Both corps were meeting in a trinary star system, Diana."
He heard her raise her brow. "So? Doesn't that mean were able to handle them three times as easier?"
"Diana… they were blue."
"So? That just means you and Hal were able to flatten their asses even quicker, doesn't it?"
"Well, yes, but—"
"Let me guess: you did most of the damage to those stations accidentally because of how unexpected that little power boost of yours was?"
"Yeah. The thing is though—"
"And, I bet you and Hal shook hands after getting back to the watchtower, but since the boost hadn't worn off and you weren't used to it, you accidentally applied more pressure than—"
Clark immediately regretted what he just did. Diana may have been talking over him, but that didn't give him the right to yell at her like he just did, especially not with the kind of sound he had just used. Sound whose decibels, much to his shock and horror, he had miscalculated, accidentally shattering all of the windows at the front of the house.
He saw the front door of the Kent residence gingerly open up, and saw the aged but wizened forms of his Ma and Pa standing in the threshold.
"Clark, honey, are you alright?" asked Ma Kent.
Red with frustration and embarrassment, Clark massaged his temples and called back, "Yeah, Ma! I'm fine! Just having a conversation with Wonder Woman!"
"Well, don't be out too late. It's getting past your bedtime young man," Pa Kent joked.
"I won't, Pa!" Clark said, joking back despite his mood.
The Kents went back inside, but when Pa Kent was halfway done closing the door, he turned back around and said, "Oh! One more thing! You owe me and your mother some new windows!"
"Okay! I'll get right on it after we're done here!" Clark said,
"I'll hold you to it, son!"
With that, the door closed, leaving Clark alone with a Diana he found, much to his surprise, not angry, but… amused.
"Wow. I think you reverted back to when you were a little kid just now."
"What? Don't you when you're around your folks?"
"Oh, don't even get me started with mother. Back when I was dating Steve, I honestly thought she was going to send me to my old room when I went to Themyscira and told her about our relationship."
Clark was intrigued. "Did she?" he asked, playfully. If Wally ever found out, the looks on her face whenever he brought it up would be priceless.
"Not important," Diana said, her face growing concerned. "So… what was with that sonic cry just now?"
Clark's spirits fell back to how they were before his parents got involved. "That's just it, Diana. I wasn't expecting it to be that strong. Just like with those space stations… or with Hal."
Diana eyed him curiously for a moment before her eyes widened with the unmistakable look of cognition about them.
"Your power boost still hasn't worn off. It's… it's permanent…"
That was it. He was afraid that Diana's reaction could swing one of two ways as this revelation dawned on her. As ironic as it was coming from him, he had dared not to hope that it would be in a positive direction.
For some time to come, he would chide himself for thinking so low of Diana, for her face soon returned to concern, and she wrapped the most massive, yet most gentle, hug she could around him as two thin trails of tears trickled down his face.
He stood there, standing firm and strong and basking in the fleeting light of the setting sun and of the warmth Diana was sending his way, even as his tears started flowing more freely.
"I just got back from the Fortress when you came. The bio-analysis machine told me that I may not be a fraction as powerful as I was back in that system, but because of the prolonged exposure, I'm now ten times as strong and tough as I was, though my speed hasn't increased at all, strangely enough."
Clark felt ashamed for doubting that Diana would show him anything other than the kindness that she was giving him right now, and added that to the things that were making him sad at that moment, causing him to sniffle.
"You remember that final confrontation with Imperiex?" he asked.
"Yeah. How could I forget?" Diana said.
"When I was fighting the corps, it was like that moment when I was so filled with rage, so full of hate, so lost in the power that diving into the sun had given me that I almost gave in and played right into Imperiex's hand and almost lost the entire universe."
Clark looked away from his old home for the first time in what felt like hours and looked down at the palms of his hands. "I know I don't need to tell you what if feels like Diana; to have that much power and to try controlling it so that you won't do something you'll regret." Clark chuckled darkly. "Out of all the people on this planet, you're one of the few who really knows what that's like. That's why I'm glad you're here."
Clark flexed his hands. "But even still, it gets to me sometimes, you know? Like, ever since I found out in the Fortress, I've been having the thoughts again. The kind that neither coming here, to a place that grounds me and reminds myself that I'm not a god, or your presence can guard against. The kind that have made me, you, and other heroes tyrants in Lord knows how many alternate realities. The kind that tell me that I should fly to Metropolis to make sure Luthor pays for what he did to my family and the rest of New Krypton a year ago in a way that even General Lane would quiver in his army boots at."
Though he couldn't see them glow, Clark could feel the familiar warmth around his corneas that built up whenever his heat vision was charging.
Though his focus was still firmly on his hands, he could feel Diana's embrace turn from gentle to constricting ever so slightly since he had made his admission.
Clarks hands clenched to fists.
"In fact—" he said, feeling Diana holding him in a full nelson.
"—I just might give in to that particular temptation."
Under normal circumstances, Clark would have found it rather difficult to break free of Diana's hold, for all things considered, they were pretty neck and neck in most regards, physical strength included. As much as Clark didn't want to insult or undersell Diana, though, that was the old normal. For he now far outclassed Diana in this respect, and in all brutal honesty, her grasp was like a child, a very strong and well trained child, trying to hold a circus strongman a little over twice her size.
He grabbed a hold of Diana's hands and, as though it were the simplest task in the world, pried them off of him and slipped out of range of her arms by rocketing into the sky.
In practically no time at all, he found himself hovering just a foot in front of a glass window on one of the top floors of the tallest tower in the East Side of the Downtown district of Metropolis. In front of him sat a familiar Machiavellian business tycoon, the kind of caricature of big business and capitalism that Marx believed both to be chock full of. He was a bald man that wore the finest tux that his money, stained with the blood of countless human or alien innocents, could buy. In his currently addled state, Clark also believed that his very name meant manipulative scum across all languages in this universe and beyond.
Lex. Lex Luthor.
Lex sat at his desk with his back to Clark, apparently embroiled in a rather heated phone call that was making him blow a gasket, as per usual.
Clark had to hand it to Lex, though: as much as he loathed him, as much as he wanted so badly to see him get was coming to him, Lex was a crafty kind of bastard. For, despite his hearing, strong enough to hear a gnat on a Tokyo bullet train from where he was at, Clark couldn't listen in on what the conversation Lex was having was about.
And since he was planning on ending their rivalry then and there, Clark would probably never find out.
"It'd be so easy, Diana," he said, hearing her reach for her lasso as she floated behind him. "All I'd have to do is look at him and let my eyes burn his body to a crisp. Hell, not even that. I could just focus it to microscopic levels onto an important area of the brain, like the part that deals with breathing, and let nature take its course."
"You're right, you could," Diana agreed, as he heard her grasp her lasso with both hands. "Crushing a cockroach like Lex would be the easiest thing in the world for someone like you."
"Then why shouldn't I? Especially with what I have now?" He turned around to face her, the heat in his corneas building up ever more. "Is it because people wouldn't approve? You know as well as I that Lex has a list of enemies that would make Nixon envious."
"Is it because you think you can stop me? When Maxwell Lord took control of my mind back when we were even, you barely managed to stop me from taking you all the way to the sun."
"Funny. That's not how I remember it," Diana said, her eyes narrowing dangerously.
"Well, that's how I do, and now, I'm ten times harder to take down. So, I'll ask again: why shouldn't I take out Lex now before he has the chance to go on putting folk in shallow graves and paving over them for his company?"
"The Clark I know, if he's still in there, doesn't need anyone to remind him why. Hades, he's usually the one reminding others."
As furious as he was at that moment, those words wounded him. They wounded him more than a dozen Tsar Bomba's would at this point. They bypassed his bioelectric aura and his super dense molecular structure and stabbed him right at the most vulnerable part of his very being.
His heart. For even clouded by the haze he was in, it was a big one.
But the haze was too strong, and he found himself looking back at Lex, who was now standing up and facing him, smirking. Then, he did something that made the heat in Clark's corneas return evens stronger than before.
He spat. He spat at Clark from the other side of the window.
"Lex, you suicidal moron," Diana muttered.
Lex crossed his arms over his chest, looking pleased at what he had done.
Though Clark didn't know how bright his eyes were before, in the reflection of the glass, he could see with absolute clarity that they were each like miniature stars about to go supernova on Lex's smug face.
He could also see, with absolute clarity, Diana, staring back at with a tired expression. "Alright Clark, since you've obviously forgotten for the moment why shouldn't, go ahead. Kill him… general."
And that was it. That was all it took. All that was necessary for him, a man who experience had rendered jaded to surprise, to feel the heat in his corneas subside and calmness reassert itself amongst his faculties. For, if Diana's previous words were a stab in the heart, than these ones were the twisting of the knife's handle that made him see the truth, in all its terror.
"Zod…" Clark muttered.
With all of the warning of a lighting strike, Clark shot up straight into the air, stopping fifteen miles up. He lung his head low, in a deep shame that always followed those moments when he almost went off the deep end and onto a dark path. "Diana, I'm… so… so… mad at myself that you had to see—"
Before he could finish that sentence, Diana grabbed a hold of his arm, turned him around, embraced him in a hug he would have found to be spine crushing just a day ago, and kissed him squarely on the lips with a passion.
She broke contact with him for a moment to look up into his eyes and say, "Don't be mad. You made the right choice," before kissing him again.
She was right. As hotheaded as she could be, Diana was very rarely wrong about anything. That was one of many things that Clark admired, respected, and eventually, came to love about her.
Oh sure, Lois could hold her own when it came to attitude and personality, but with Diana, Clark rarely found himself worrying. Clark rarely thought her raw animal courage was foolhardy. Clark never had to wake up in the middle of the night, fearing that she had gotten herself killed because she had gotten into something that was way too over her head. For Diana, who arguably found herself in even more hazardous situations than Lois, could, to borrow an old saying, 'walk the walk' in addition to 'talking the talk.' With her, he didn't feel like he needed to be her guardian angel all the time. In fact, Diana would be insulted if she ever learned he was. Finally, as much as Lois tried her darnest to understand what it was like to be him, to truly understand what it was like to fight off the truth of the oft quoted dictum of power corrupting, Diana knew what it was like, first hand.
Because of this, and so many other, wonderful things about her that made her truly live up to her heroic title, when Diana hugged him, for one of the few times in his life, Clark felt secure in the arms of another rather than the other way around. Sure, he may have barely felt her grip now, but as they floated there, he knew that if his responsibilities and his negative thoughts would increase along with his power, that he'd somehow find the strength to get through it, like he always did when others were counting on him. That'd he'd never want to leave Diana's presence. That'd he'd never want to leave her comforting embrace.
Never. If he had his way, no force in the cosmos or on earth would ever—
He was there one moment, and gone the next.
"Clark?" Diana asked, flying around, looking for any sign that her friend, secretly more than a friend to all save her, him, and a certain nosey bat-eared detective, had accelerated away. She found no such hint. "Clark?! Where—"
Suddenly, from the corner of her eye, she noticed an object, no larger than a discus, traveling towards her at sub-luminal speed. Diana didn't know where in Tartarus it had came from, nor did she have time to make it out completely, but on instinct, she managed to grab it with one of her hands before it managed to hit her neck.
When she noticed that it appeared to be a bowler derby hat, held upside down by the brim by her hand, she was confused. Her confusion only grew when she noticed a small cloud of smoke bellowing from inside the hat, reached in, and pulled out a lit cigar.
An annoying, yet admittedly familiar voice, struck Diana's ears, coming from everywhere yet nowhere all at once.
And she knew, that wherever Clark was, not even the gods she worshiped could help. "Hera, no…"
Yeah, so, as you can probably tell, I really felt like the original version of Clark's opening scene was a little bit too… static and iffy… and didn't really set-up the place I wanted Clark to be for the rest of the story to make any kind of sense or be as engaging as I wanted it to be, both from my perspective and a reader perspective.
Now, some out there may not even be engaged because I decided to pair up Clark and Diana as BF/GF rather than the traditional Clois formulation that is staple of the Superman series. To this potential objection that this particular reader could raise, know that I tend to prefer the Clouis formulation myself under most conditions, though I am not adverse to a Clark X Diana pairing in and of itself. At least, so long as Lois is dead, like in Kingdom Come or as long as Clark and Diana will eventually break up so that he can be with Lois.
However, for this particular story, and this fanfiction universe/series in general, I thought that it'd be more interesting and make more sense if my personal rule for this sort of thing was broken since I really don't think I've got the chops for making a good running Clois sub-plot and trying to make a good one of those, though I'd argue is more rewarding, is harder to do.
I mean, let's face it, pairing up the world's physically strongest man and the world's physically strongest woman is a no brainer. Pairing up that same man with a woman who THINKS she's the world's strongest woman but is just a regular human that can be hurt by a slap to the face though, requires nuances that I ain't got none of, ya mooks.
That being said, don't you worry fans of Clois, and Diana X Steve Trevor fans, for in future installments in this universe, I fully intend for Lois and Steve to make appearances and impacts and create lots of wonderfully awkward and exciting moments!
I hope veteran readers of this fic enjoy the changes and I hope new readers think that this was much better than the old version.
Oh, also, someone who reviewed my story told me that Vegeta never EVER called Goku by his earth name, even during his speech at the end of the Buu Saga where he finally admitted that Goku was better than him. Sorry, sorry, that was my bad. I honestly thought that he did because he seemed to have chilled out so much during that speech and I didn't think it'd be a big deal for him to call Goku, well, Goku, by this point in the DBZ timeline that my story takes place in. As you have noticed, I have edited that dumb mistake of mine. In a way though, I must admit that this revelation of Vegeta NOT being so chill does make the plans I have for him in this fic and in future fics set in this FF multiverse all the easier to accomplish, and BOY OH BOY do I have plans for the Prince of all Saiyans!
With all that said, Auf Wiedersehen!
Yeah… sorry about how expositiony this chapter was. I just really wanted to get out the back-story as soon as possible and establish Goku and Clark's problems as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, given my tendency to meander, this chapter was the result.
Fret not, though, because I knowingly wanted to spare you all from only being able to read this chapter by working on an action filled second chapter that would be released simultaneously with the first.
Also, in case anyone is wondering, Goku by this point is end of series DBZ and the Superman here is based primarily based on the Post-Crises, Pre-New-52 version… yet since I like a lot of what's been done elsewhere in other continuities, especially the DCAU, the films, and DC Universe Online, don't be surprised if I mix things up a bit at my choosing in terms of what big events have happened and how exactly they went down.
Also, don't worry, Superman and Goku will be a lot closer in terms of sheer destructive power at their best than most FF writers, who usually make one or the other curbstomp, seem to make them as.
Also, I'd like to thank Captain Ash, Hob the Robot, Superiornite, Waveblaster, Alchemy Student, and Puiwaihin for their feedback and for their wonderful stories that have kept me up late at night reading or thinking about them.
To Puiwaihin: you are absolutely right, but, I just had to get this out now or I'm afraid it'd never see the light of day and I could never move on.
Anyways, tune in next chapter when Superman makes his big dramatic entrance in the Dragon Ball Z multiverse and Goku and him begin their bombastic planet-busting bout!