Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters portrayed here, they remain the property of their respective owners/creators.
Rating: K plus, for intensity and themes.
Time Frame: The thirty-first century, a few hours after Supergirl's fateful decision (spoilers from and through "Far From Home" in third season JLU, and various other spoilers from the history of the DC Animated Universe up to that point.)
Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.
Kara watched John and Ollie fade out, and shivered slightly. Brainiac Five—who was holding her protectively—felt the shiver and whispered, "Are you all right?"
Kara looked up at her newly acquired boyfriend and replied, "I'm just. . .absorbing it all, Querl." Newly bloomed love or not, Kara had decided that a serious relationship with someone whose name made her twitch was going to be a problem, and she had been relieved to learn that his real name was actually "Querl Dox." Failing that, Kara have fallen back on borrowing a page from a certain fictional Vampire Slayer and called him "B." She sighed and asked, "Would you mind if I went back to my quarters for a while? I need some time to myself."
Brainiac Five nodded and released her with one last affectionate squeeze, and Kara walked back to the comfortable and spacious room that she had been assigned once she made her decision known. The bed was far more comfortable than anything that 21st Century Earth could produce—the replicator could produce any food or beverage she could imagine in little more time than it would take her to describe it aloud—and the computer link could access nearly instantaneously a store of knowledge that exceeded in sum what she could have accessed with her Net link back on the Watchtower by fully six orders of magnitude: enough knowledge to tax even her abilities to absorb it as rapidly and for as long as the system could throw it at her. . .and in that moment, she felt as if she would trade it all for her old bed back in Smallville, a reheated cheeseburger, and a dog-eared copy of The Daily Planet.
What have I done?
Kara buried her face in her hands. She had left dozens of friends behind, as well as the only family she had known since her world had died decades before. She had already made new friends—and found what she hoped was lasting love for the first time—but the message she had passed on to Clark with the message cube seemed hollow now. She glanced at the computer link with a measure of loathing: in spite of some cataclysmic events that had resulted in some lost history, the fates of all of her friends lay within the cold confines of the information bank—and that simple fact terrified her. She swallowed hard and steeled herself for what was to come—she had to read those files. . .find out how they had met their ends. Only then would this all be real to her, and only then could she get on with her new life. Fighting down nausea, she stood up and was walking slowly to the link when she was startled by the soft tone of the door's privacy seal going off. She stopped, forced herself to assume a calm expression, and called out: "Come in."
The door opened, and Brainiac Five entered. His expression was a combination of concern and bewilderment, and Kara was about to inquire about it when her boyfriend pulled out a message cube—which was visibly worn with age—and suggested quietly: "You might want to take some time to look at this, Kara—it just arrived by courier. Someone apparently knew you were coming to this place and time for a very, very long time."
Kara accepted the cube, and Brainiac Five reached out to squeeze her shoulder before he turned and left the room. She carried the communications device over to the adapter designed to use it, and waited as the holographic interface lit up and revealed a familiar face: Wally. She blinked in surprise, and the redhead seemed to note her response through the centuries as he chuckled and said, "Don't look so surprised—I can be serious when the occasion calls for it." Kara chuckled involuntarily, and Wally again seemed to have anticipated the reaction as he nodded and continued, "You didn't really think you'd get away without letting us say good-bye, did you? We've saved the world more times than Bats scowls in a day—we're not about to let a little thing like ten centuries get in the way. Pull up a chair—you're going to be listening for a long time."
Kara obeyed—somehow feeling numb and excited at the same time—and watched and listened as one by one, familiar faces appeared in the holographic interface and spoke to her, each in their own unique way. Shayera advised her to take the time to examine in depth the information about the foes faced by the Legion—the technological advances over a millennium were bound to have reduced the raw advantages enjoyed by a Kryptonian in combat. J'onn reminded her about the stresses involved in cultural relocation and advised her to seek a counselor she trusted to help her adjust. Batman—who recorded his own message in the BatCave--startled her by first removing his mask, then calling over Barbara and Tim—as they all thanked her for the times she had come to their assistance for problems outside of Gotham in the days before the League started. Wally had some interesting suggestions for practical jokes on her new teammates. . .
It went on for several hours, and when the display finally went dark, Kara's cheeks were damp with tears: from joy and affection for the friends who had just said good-bye, but also with profound sadness. There had been no farewell from Jonathan and Martha Kent in the cube, or from Clark. She bowed her head. They never forgave me for leaving. She turned to the computer link: it was over. Her friends had said farewell, and the last of her family had forsaken her—it was time for her to finish embracing her new life. She was reaching for the activation key when the privacy seal sounded again. She had an impulse to tell the visitor to go away, but the manners acquired from years of living with the Kents remained intact, and she called out without turning around: "Come in."
The door slid open, and Kara didn't look behind her as she said, "Querl, I appreciate the attentive boyfriend treatment, but I really need to be alone right now."
"You don't say—I would have thought there were a few people you still wanted to hear from." The voice was infinitely familiar, yet changed, and Kara froze in momentary shock before standing up and turning around.
Her first thought was Pa! as she saw the tall, distinguished looking man who appeared to be in his late seventies. But the familiar S-curl was still there, just higher up on the forehead, and Jonathan Kent wasn't six foot four. Kara blinked and whispered, "Clark?"
"Glad to see I'm still recognizable after a millennium." Clark walked quietly into the room and sat down as he commented, "I wanted to get in to see you once you had seen the messages from the others, so you wouldn't have the time to come to the wrong conclusions."
"Conclusions? What conclusions?" Kara flushed slightly, suddenly feeling foolish at the assumptions she had been making. "Just reading my mail—didn't have time to come to any conclusions."
Kara noted that the look that Clark gave her at that bald-faced lie was about two parts Jonathan Kent and one part Batman before the elder Kryptonian cleared his throat meaningfully and replied, "If you say so." Kara squirmed, and Clark raised an eyebrow before asking, "Did you forget how to hug in fifteen hours of subjective time?"
Kara blinked, then threw herself at Clark and hugged him with a force that would have cracked the ribs of a human being. She felt his arms close gently around her, and when they broke apart, she saw that the tears in his eyes matched the ones in hers. The surge of relief that went through her forced away the shock, and she was able to ask the obvious question: "Clark—how can you still be alive?"
Clark shrugged. "Kryptonians don't age physically once they reach full maturity, as long as they live in a yellow star system and spend a reasonable amount of time outdoors. Dr. Hamilton confirmed it, once he broke with the government and we reconciled." Kara recoiled, and Clark frowned and elaborated, "It was easier knowing you were safe here, and that any consequences of my forgiving him would fall on me alone. If it matters to you, he regretted his actions greatly."
Kara looked down for a moment, and her voice was subdued as she asked, "And the clone?"
"After she got out of the coma she was in, the government agreed to turn her over to the Justice League for treatment and rehabilitation. After that, she chose to fight crime as a means of seeking personal redemption." Clark saw Kara's expression twist in ambivalence, and concluded gently, "She fought alone, and never took a public name. She was killed five years later, by Metallo."
Kara sighed, a bit ashamed at the relief mixed in with the sadness, then frowned as she said, "Wait a minute—if Kryptonians don't age under a yellow sun, why do you look as old as Pa did when I left?"
Clark looked at his cousin ruefully and replied, "Well, I have lived a rather eventful existence. Kryptonite exposure causes aging, and so does time spent under a red sun—I lost six months that way when Toyman zapped me with that tachyon beam. I'm pretty sure that five year period when I was under the mental and physical control of an alien being probably screwed up my metabolism something fierce, too." Kara blinked and stared, and Clark noted the reaction and shrugged before commenting, "You had to be there. Anyway, by the time I hit my two-hundredth birthday, I looked like I do now, and was starting to get a bit creaky."
"So you retired and decided to spend the rest of your life getting a nice tan?" Kara's tone was level, but she was surprised—she would have assumed that Clark would go down fighting, even if he had to use a cane to walk to the villains he was beating the crap out of.
"No—the League came up with a new technology that is effective for rejuvenating Kryptonians: it uses an approach similar to the energy source that Vandal Savage used for his time machine in the alternate future. After an hour's treatment, I was as healthy as I had been at thirty." Kara raised an eyebrow—clearly noting Clark's aged appearance—and the older Kryptonian smiled and elaborated, "I earned these wrinkles and gray hair, Kara—I decided to hold onto them. Besides, after Lois died. . .let's just say I didn't care much about my looks any more."
Kara reached out and squeezed Clark's hand, forcing down a wave of uneasiness as she did so. There it is: the first death of a friend I know about. "I'm sorry, Clark. Did you—"
"I'll tell you all of it." Clark smiled again, and Kara listened quietly as he continued, "You won't need to go to the computer—I can tell you how all of them passed on. It wasn't always pretty, but they would have wanted you to know." Kara nodded—she was feeling uneasy, but she knew that she had to know. Clark nodded in reply, pleased at the calm reaction, and added: "I'm semi-retired these days—the Legion is powerful enough to handle things without me in most cases, and I had to stay away this time because I knew that you hadn't seen me here last time: no use risking a paradox." Kara winced at the thought of a paradox complicating her life further, and Clark laughed and added, "I have a suite here for when I'm acting as an advisor—we'll head there and I'll tell you about old friends. . .and Ma and Pa left you a message that I've been saving separately: I'll spoil it a little by letting you know that they were very, very proud of you. . .and that Pa only complained for a week about losing your help with the chores." Kara laughed in delight, and Clark smirked as he added, "And you can tell me how in the world you ended up falling for a Brainiac."
Kara paled, and was about to stammer out a response when Clark snickered and said, "Relax—John and Ollie tipped me off, and I made a point of keeping an eye on things. . .I had more than a few run-ins with Brainiac and his descendants over the last thousand years. The kid's all right—but I will still be having words with him: a thousand year old cousin has some prerogatives, after all." Kara laughed nervously, and Clark inclined his head at the door: "Come on—we've got a lot of history to go through. . .and after that, we'll take a side trip to Themyscira—with me hovering and not landing, of course. Queen Diana has been planning a feast in your honor for quite some time now."
Kara blinked in surprise, and followed quietly as Clark headed for the door.
Author's Note: Brainiac Five's real name as noted in Wikipedia is indeed "Querl Dox."
As always, comments are welcomed and desired.