First off, I didn't write this. It's the handiwork of my dear friend Angelic Enchantress, who's too lazy to get her own account here. I thought it was a beautiful piece, and it would be a travesty if this wasn't posted here, so she left it to me to do that for her. All I did was act as beta editor and moral support.
Summary: Based on the JLU episode "Hereafter" with some artistic liberties taken with continuity since the series gave us Kal/Diana shippers nothing to work with. Diana grieves for the absence of Kal from her life and remembers how special he truly was. Of course, a surprise is in store for her.
AN: I decided to completely discard the notion of a depowered Diana Prince since it doesn't sit right with me or with a lot of fellow Wonder Woman fans for that matter.
Disclaimer: Sadly, I do not own Superman and Wonder Woman. They belong to DC and Warner Bros brought them to life, or a sorry caricature of them to be blunt. The songs "You Can Still Be Free" and "Gunning Down Romance" were written and sung by Savage Garden. "Everything I Do" belongs to Bryan Adams. I'm doing this purely for catharsis and fun and not for any profit, just a humble offering from one fan to others. Well, enjoy!
A line between hyphens like this: -lyrics- indicates the songs. Oh, and don't worry about the different spellings of some words- we use British grammar so to speak here in India.
This is my first solo attempt, so forgive me if it's a tad sloppy. Please r & r. I need to know where I can improve the next time around.
Return of a Hero
Return of a Hero
By Angelic Enchantress
Diana Prince's apartment, Washington D.C:
It had been one of the most draining days since she'd left the island. They had barely held their own without him, and even she had to grudgingly admit, Lobo had made himself quite useful in his own fashion. Even if it meant he had cut loose and caused mayhem and chaos, not caring for the collateral damage as long as he got the job done. That in itself confirmed it, he wasn't League material. Not for a League that was his vision, the League that he had started.
It was only after the day's fighting had ceased, after they had broken off for the day, that the painful truth hit her.
He was gone. And it was because of her.
Kal- Superman had sacrificed his own life to save hers.
How she wished that the Fates had woven the tapestry so that their places were switched. She'd have gladly made the same sacrifice for him. She had half a mind to go and force them to re-weave it, but knew the Fates are moved by no one. She knew she would have done it for him, as she appeared in her living room.
The room was pitch dark. No movement could be detected inside. Not even a candle burned in the window. The weather outside was nearly as cold and freezing as the emotion that washed over her as the snow fell in a swirled mist of white and crystal. Only the wind made a sound, that of the sharp whistle it made as it picked up speed. Then there was a ring that disrupted the winter musical, before a recorded message began.
"You've reached the residence of Agent Diana Prince. We all know how this works, so your time starts now," A beep, then an unmistakable voice, despite the fact that the caller was using his civilian tone.
"Diana, it's Bruce. Where have you been? I've been trying to reach you for hours. Listen, if you're home, pick up. Pick up the phone. I need you to get to Wayne Towers, now. Something's happened, and you need to be here. Please, this is import-" The message stopped abruptly when the cordless receiver was flung across the room, hitting the wall and shattering on impact before a lithe, graceful figure moved across the room to turn on the mp3 player that Kal had gifted her last year for Christmas. A soft tune began to play. It was the song "You Can Still Be Free." Three seconds later, the room was illuminated by a soft glow that came from the bathroom.
In the mirror, Diana gazed at herself. Her jet black hair was limp and tangled, her eyes were dark, blank. Her face was distraught, and her lips were pale. Slowly she removed her nightgown. It slid off her shoulders into a careless pile on the floor. For a moment she looked herself over. She felt empty, completely bereft and her face reflected it, which didn't surprise her. She turned away from her haggard appearance, closed the bathroom door, and then stepped into the steaming water covered by bubbles in her quaint bathtub. The steam wrapped around her and she let herself sink down to her neck.
As much as she tried to drown out her pain, Diana never could blank Kal's face out of her mind. The thing about Kal that bothered her the most was she barely knew him. How could she possibly feel anything for him in that short time on Patriarch's World? Her emotions were irrational, illogical and impossible if she was to believe her mother and sisters' teachings. But when did the heart listen to the head? Her hands covered her face as she sighed lethargically.
"When will I be happy? When will things go right for me? When will the pain go away? When will life be fair to me?!" A new song started while her mind drifted to the island yet again, to the few moments they were alone. "I never had a chance to tell him how I feel, to hold him. He never even kissed me…" she whispered. The words from the song rekindled harsh memories that she could not run from, no matter how hard she tried. Too weak to fight back, to weak to care, Diana let the memories come, let them blaze through the steam into her mind and burn brightly with the guilt, the pain, the loneliness.
-Love and other moments are just chemical reactions in your brain
And feelings of aggression are the absence of the love drug in your veins
in your veins-
Diana's hard heart and bitter attitude towards men all came from her sisters' suffering, their brutalization, her mother's humiliation, when she thought she could never love someone without putting herself at their mercy, without it ending in betrayal. Independence was the only escape. All that had changed when she met Kal. There was no way in Athena's name that he could ever betray her, or anyone else for that matter.
-Love come quickly
because I feel my self esteem is caving in
It's on the brink-
And now she had lost him even before she really had him.
Toyman was half-dead, nearly killed by Diana's hand, but still no solace could be found for Kal's murder. Nothing could bring him back. And she was beginning to realize that.
-Love come quickly
because I don't think I can keep this monster in
It's in my skin-
She tried to be kind to Kal, but her anger wouldn't let up. Now she was suffering for it. Without Superman, she had no control to keep the beast of vengeance at bay. She couldn't fight it alone anymore. She could only imagine how this was affecting Lois.
-Love and other socially acceptable emotions are morphine
Cleverly concealing primal urges often felt but rarely seen
More tears shed from Diana's eyes as she thought of her passion for avenging Kal, to bring all those who had conspired to kill him to their knees. And now what did she have to show for it? Only that deep down she was no better than them.
-Love I beg you
Lift me up into that privileged point of view
The world of two
Love don't leave me
Because I console myself that Hallmark cards are true
I really do-
The only way Diana could deal with anger, hatred, and fear now was through violence. She blamed herself for Kal's death, hated herself for descending into the depths of despair. The League was her savior. Now she was it's missionary, a zealot who channeled all her anguish and rage into battle. Lobo had been lucky he was helping them.
-I'm gunning down romance
It never did a thing for me
But heartache and misery
ain't nothing but a tragedy-
Bruce. Kal. Why in Aphrodite's name did those lucky enough to earn her trust always abandon Diana? Was she destined to always be alone?
-Love don't leave me
But it was too late.
Take these broken wings
I'm going to take these broken wings
And learn to fly
And learn to fly away
And learn to fly away
I'm gunning down romance...-
Diana's eyes closed while a dream began to dance from her heart...
He slipped into her apartment, moving quietly though the dark to peek into the bathroom, where Diana lay in the tub. Softly, he opened the door and stepped in. A smile crossed her lips but her eyes remained closed. He moved in and kneeled next to the tub, slowly, so slowly, placing his left hand into the water to gently caress her leg. The sound of her sigh touched him deeply, so he moved his right hand to touch her cheek. His fingers flitted around her chin then traced her lips, his heart melting when she kissed each finger. Diana shifted in the tub, startling the water, and he caught a flash of flesh that heated his blood beyond words. No longer could he resist his desire, so he leaned over her and gently kissed her slightly parted lips. She gasped softly as she kissed him back. It lasted for several minutes, neither moving away, neither wanting to. All good things do come to an end, though, even if only for a moment. Diana parted, letting her head fall back against the ring of the tub, and he was distressed to realize tears were falling from her still closed eyes. Unsure of what was wrong, he kissed her trailing tears up to her eyes, he kissed each eye in turn, then her forehead, her nose, but more tears came. He stopped and just stared at her beautiful face trapped in pain, and remained silent. Diana's heart was cracking again, as she remembered that this was only a fantasy, a wish she always prayed would come true and never did. As much as she tried to be happy, her pain was too severe to abandon, and once again it shattered her dreams of him returning to her.
"Kal..." she whispered, her voice breaking at the overwhelming sorrow, a sob climbing its way up her throat.
"Yes?" Diana's eyes flew open and she screamed at the man hovering over her. Taken aback, he tried to stand as Diana freaked in the tub, but her frantic movements knocked his leg hard enough that he slipped. With nowhere else to go, Clark Kent fell face first into the bath, and on top of Diana. She continued to scream while she kicked at the man suddenly sharing the too tight bathtub with her.
"Get out, get off of me you creep!!" Clark listened in shock to Diana's wild cries and realized she didn't know it was him. He tried to get her attention but only succeeded in taking in a mouth full of water each time he tried to speak. After a few more moments of intense struggling, Diana was able to get out of the bathtub, seize her towel, and run frantically to her bedroom for the hidden cache housing her weapons. Clark, now with more room to move, was able to get out also and go after her. Diana's dripping body left a long wet streak on the wooden floor, and Clark reached out and grabbed her shoulder, only to be rewarded with a powerful overhead toss that caught him off guard and sent him sailing through the air.
"Yaaah!" he yelled uncharacteristically as he slammed hard upside down onto the far wall, fell in a heap, and crashed onto her glass coffee table. He groaned as he rolled onto his knees.
"Freeze, scumbag!" Diana shouted. Clark opened his eyes to see her standing a foot away, a gun trained on him, the bullets no doubt tempered with magic, and to his slight amusement despite the situation, her towel barely staying about her shivering body. Trying to get out of this situation alive, Clark put his hands up in a gesture of defeat.
"I said SHUT UP or you're Swiss cheese!" Clark did as she ordered, actually beginning to worry that she would pull the trigger. He bowed his head as he waited. Slowly, Diana stepped forward, walked around him without bothering about the sharp splinters of glass, and bent his hands behind his back. In a moment, she had slapped the Amazonium handcuffs onto his wrists and was dragging him to his feet. "You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law-"
"I love it when you play the dominant one. Did your mother teach you that?" Diana paused, as if hesitating.
"Now listen to me, whoever you think you are," Diana hissed as she spun him to face her. "I don't give a-" She stopped. Clark smiled at her.
"It's great to see you too Diana," he watched her face change from anger to shock, and she slowly stepped away from him. As she pressed herself against the wall, her hand flew to the light switch, and the room was illuminated in a burst of pale light.
"K-Kal?" she whispered, too terrified to believe. Too terrified to move. Terrified that if she moved too fast, he would fade away again and she'd wake up like she always did.
He was dressed differently; a magenta wolf-pelt over his broad shoulders and matching fur boots with more skinned clothes in place of his uniform and they were soaked. His hair looked longer, and was dripping over his eyes. His beautiful blue eyes that looked right back at her. And his face... he wore a beard and he had suds running down the sides. Diana laughed at the sight and then sobbed.
"Oh God, Diana, shh. It's okay. It's okay."
"Hera, you-you're alive." As the words came out haltingly, the gates around her heart opened and her love for him flooded her senses. The tears poured from her eyes in streams of crystallized salt as she ran forward and jumped him. Her arms flew around his neck and she molded into him, all the while kissing his lips, his cheeks, his neck, nose, eyebrows, forehead, anywhere her lips could reach. Clark laughed as he tried to breath around her fluttering kisses.
"Dia-Diana...mmph... Hey, hey st-stop that! That tickles!" Clark continued to laugh, but could do no more until she calmed down. Her tears mingled with the water still dripping off him and she was able to make some coherent sounds through her crying.
"Kal, why-why won't you hold me?" He chuckled.
"Because I'm still cuffed and you've used the magic ones on me again." Diana pulled away and stared in horror at his words.
"Great Hera! I'm sorry!" Quickly she moved to release him, apologizing profusely the entire time. "I didn't know! I thought it was someone else, oh please forgive me!" Clark smiled at her, and when his wrists were finally free, Diana threw the handcuffs to the side and clung to him. Clark gladly accepted the embrace as he wrapped his arms about her tightly and rocked her soothingly. Diana said nothing, but she was perfectly content in her silence. All she wanted was to feel him, to know he was there, to be secure in his arms. Clark understood and respected this, but after a few moments he realized he should probably let her know about the uncomfortable predicament he was in.
"Diana?" he whispered into her hair. She made a small muffled noise in response, like the mewling of a kitten with her head buried in his neck, and he bit his lip slightly in fear. "Diana, um... are you cold?"
"No, no I'm fine." She sniffled. "Why?"
"You, umm… you dropped your towel." Diana's eyes flew open when his words registered.
"Merciful Minerva!" She pulled away, and then realized she left herself exposed before him. She yelped and wrapped her arms around him again so he couldn't see her. Alas, this didn't help matters any because he could still feel her. Clark couldn't help but laugh at the sheer absurdity of it all.
"This is amusing for you, is it?"
"I'm sorry, Princess, but I can't help it. I wanted to surprise you, you know, have everything perfect, and then everything went downhill from there. Now here we are, dripping wet from our game of "hide and seek" in the bathtub," Diana's laugh cut him off for a second, "Me still in my clothes, and handcuffed at first, and you without your towel."
"Don't let any woman ever say you can't show her a good time." Clark laughed again, and placed his chin on her shoulder. Then he realized she was shuddering.
"You okay?" he whispered.
"Look, I know you don't feel the cold, but you still need to get dressed. Having you this close to me and in this state isn't helping me you know. I'll close my eyes; you get the towel, and then get dressed in your room. I'll wait out here, ok?"
"Fine," Diana replied. He kept his eyes closed until he heard a door shut, then looked at the floor, and the remains of Diana's coffee table.
"Damn," he whispered. "That woman can pack a punch!" He rubbed his back for a moment. He looked for the kitchen and found a broom and dustpan to sweep up the broken glass and wood. He disposed of the pieces in the garbage in a jiffy, then looked around for something to drink. First, he found her JLA communicator blinking away. There was a message. He pressed play, heard nothing even with his eardrums, and realized the volume was on mute.
"... You need to be here. Please, this is important. Damn it Diana, hold it! Where are you going? Stop being so stubborn-." Clark grinned at Bruce's heavy sigh. "Alright. I didn't want to tell you this over the phone, but Clark's alive. Don't leave the apartment! He's on his way over, so... just stay there. And please don't get yourself killed." The message cut off and Clark rolled his eyes at his friend's last remark.
"Same old Bruce." He redirected his attention on his thirst, and searched Diana's cabinets for two clean glasses. Surprisingly, he found none. So, he went to the refrigerator in hope of a can of soda. He opened the fridge door and gaped.
"I wish you didn't have to see that." Clark jumped, and turned to see her standing in a silk bathrobe. A large football jersey of his and a pair of jeans were in her hands.
"We really need to talk."
"Not without something to drink. I'll have mead. Help yourself to anything." Clark nodded, then reached through the various half empty bottles of scotch, tonic, gin and tequila to the bottle of mead. He pulled out a carton of milk for himself. Diana was sitting on the couch, and for the first time realized something was wrong.
"Where's my table?"
"So let me get this straight- that gun sent you to the future all this time, and the entire population was wiped out save for you and Savage? You two were working together and he built his time machine so that you could come back and stop him." Clark nodded as he finished off his glass of milk.
"Those giant roaches sure complicated things. I actually feel bad for him out there." Diana looked at him questioningly. "Never mind," Clark chuckled. "Now I'm back, and I'm not leaving." He pulled her closer to him, and she snuggled into his chest, his warm jersey rubbing against her hands. "Most certainly not before you tell me why all you have is alcohol and no food in your fridge."
"Don't even try to get around it, Diana. Not with me. It's not healthy, and you look ill." Diana sat up swiftly, glaring.
"What in Tartarus are you talking about? I look perfectly fine!" Clark glared back.
"Really? Well you don't fool me. I mean look at you! You look like an anorexic supermodel." She slapped him. Clark inhaled sharply, then touched his throbbing cheek. Diana looked away from his intense gaze. "Diana-"
"I don't want to hear it, Mr. Kent. I'm fine, I just got sick a few days ago and have lost some weight. I'll get it back soon." She stood and walked toward the window.
"Yeah, starving yourself and alcohol poisoning can do that." Her hands clenched so hard her nails dug into her skin.
"Will you stop it with the smart remarks? I'm not a wreck!"
"I never said you were! I'm just concerned if you need help!"
"I don't need any help, I'm fine!" she yelled viciously as she spun to face him.
"A year's gone by since you faced your distrust of men, and still you can't admit when you need help! What are you trying to accomplish, Diana, killing yourself?!" Pain reflected deep in her eyes, and Clark knew he stuck the wrong cord. Slowly he stood up. "Was it-- did you blame yourself?" Diana rolled her eyes as she scoffed.
"Oh, don't flatter yourself, Clark Kent. I think your ego is big enough as is."
"What about yours?" he shot back. She looked at him thriftily.
"You have more pride in yourself than anyone I've ever met, and it's the only thing holding you back from the truth." Diana rubbed her forehead.
"Which is?" she asked tiredly.
"You need help." A few moments passed by with only the sounds of their breathing and "Unbreak My Heart" playing on the radio. Then Diana's head fell to her chest, and she wearily sat down on a nearby chair, completely drained from the upheaval of the past few days. Pale hands covered her face.
"I don't need help, Kal. I need you." About her nose her hands clasped together as if in prayer, and her sea-blue eyes searched his, begging them to understand. "Death never bothered me before. I'm immortal, and I know I'll lose friends over time. I never thought about men either. I've always been taught that they cannot be trusted. But I did not count on meeting you. Just when I thought things were going all right, I lost you, and I lost myself then and there. I fought back, yes, but only in the single strand of hope that you would come back after we won. But you didn't. I kept it to myself, so the others wouldn't know. When I got home, nothing mattered. I took leave from the Embassy because I just didn't care." Diana's voice became choked up with emotion again, causing Clark to walk over and kneel before her, resting his hands on her knees for comfort. She hid her eyes behind her hair as she continued.
"So I stayed here, and every night, every single night, I'd draw a bath, pull out a few more bottles of scotch or mead, and just watch the stars until I was ready to pass out. I'd slip into the tub and let myself drift away to where ever you were in my heart at that moment. I'd wake up the next morning, still alive but barely. For a while, the pain in my head would block the pain in my soul, but when it went away, you were still gone. And nothing was going to change that. No matter how much I slept, or how many dishes and glasses I broke, or how much I drank, or prayed, or screamed, or fought, or cried..." Diana stopped for a moment, a sob bursting from her lips. "Nothing was going to change. Nothing was going to bring you back Kal." Back to me.
"But it did, Diana, and I'm here now." Clark pushed back a strand of her hair behind her ear, and smiled fondly as she looked at him.
"Yes you are, and as long as you stay here, I don't need to turn to anyone else for help." She breathed deeply. "I can stop the drinking, I know I can, but..." Clark shushed her, then traced her chin.
"Don't worry, Princess, whatever you need from me, it's yours." She smiled, but Clark could sense something hidden in her eyes. A lingering doubt. He frowned.
"I need your honesty." Clark gazed at her for a moment.
"You know I could never lie. Not to you," he whispered.
"Do you-why did you-I mean-" Clark cut her off with a kiss that left her head spinning. He pulled away only far enough to speak.
"I love you Diana, with everything that makes me real, every fibre of my being and if I have to sacrifice my life again to prove it-" Diana's hands glided around his neck.
"Then don't even consider it, because I'll follow you into Tartarus if that's what it takes to stay by your side." She pulled him to her, and they shared a moment of pure love that most couples rarely find. When Clark pulled away, it was to lift her up and over to the couch, where they embraced again, then just lay together. Moments later, Diana was asleep, with the most contented smile on her face that Clark sent a small prayer up to the Lord above for giving him this second chance.
"I love you," he whispered into her hair, then slowly drifted off into slumber. As his consciousness became black, he could distantly hear a love song playing on Diana's radio. The soothing notes from the piano blended well with the words as Bryan Adams brought the song to a close.
"You know it's true... everything I do... yeah... I do it for you... "
She awoke with the gentle breeze blowing past the curtains, fanning her smooth olive cheeks. She wondered how she ended up on her bed since she always fell asleep in the bathroom ever since that terrible day that Kal had been so cruelly snatched away from her.
She then felt an arm around her, harder than steel yet far too warm to make the comparison, and turned to find Kal watching her calmly. So, it hadn't been a dream.
How long had he been watching her? The thought suddenly made her blush all too self-consciously. Aphrodite be cursed, she had poured her heart out to him!
She was stirred out of her inner turmoil by his gentle yet deep voice rumbling through her neck, "We need to talk."
"Kal… about last night… "
"He placed a calloused finger on her lips, and any protest she could muster instantly died down in her throat. Gods, if he could do this to her with a simple touch…!
She couldn't think of that now. They still had to iron this out. But she was powerless to resist him now that he was back.
"Shh. I know. This won't be easy. How am I going to explain this to Lois? To the others? The press already thinks we're an item, and you should see her give me the third degree about it."
"Oh Hera, forgive me Kal. I never meant to get in your way like this. But… when I thought you were lost forever, my heart couldn't stay silent any longer."
"It's alright. I'm not exactly an innocent bystander in this either. What about you and Bruce?"
She frowned at him in irritation, "And just what does Bruce have to do with this?"
He shrugged, "I don't know. You tell me. From the looks of it, there seems to be a lot going on between the two of you."
She spun to look him squarely in the eye, "Bruce has nothing to do with this. This is between you and me," she was fighting furiously to control her racing heart as it thudded wildly about. He must be able to hear it!
He evidently did hear it, for his eyes were enigmatic as his intense gaze softened. She swallowed nervously. Even Bruce didn't have this effect on her.
Clark was regarding her tenderly. His heart gave another squeeze at her plight. These last few days had taken their toll on her. Yet she was so… radiant, the first rays of the sun dancing on her skin, giving off a soft golden glow.
He closed the distance between them, unerringly finding her lips in an all-consuming kiss. Her arms went around his neck, pulling him closer, holding on for dear life, unwilling to let go.
She finally released him and bit her lip. This was the gnawing question, "Lois-"
"This won't be easy Diana. But we'll make this work. We'll find a way," he buried his face in her luxuriant hair, the creeping sunlight transforming it into black gold.
She pushed him away slightly so she could see his face and slugged him, "Let me just make one thing clear, Clark Kent. If you ever get killed for me and put me through this ordeal again, I swear on my gods, I'll come to Tartarus and make sure you regret it." Her tone brooked no opposition.
Clark laughed again, the laughter in surprisingly good supply after what they'd gone through, "I'll be sure to keep that in mind. And I'll gladly follow you to Olympus if need be, " he wasn't in a mood to talk as he pulled her closer and kissed her again, this time, slower, sweeter. He had all the time in the world now that he had been given this chance.
Diana wasn't complaining. Her hero had returned, the sun back in its rightful place in her sky.