Gods and Heroes

Friday, 10:30 PM

As Clark Kent walked slowly towards his apartment he could hear thousands of voices enjoying the nightlife of Metropolis and it just reminded him that he was more alone that at anytime since he'd returned. He knew things would have changed when he was gone, but had never expected them to change so completely.

The first shock had been finding out that Lois had moved on and married to another man. They seemed happy together and he sadly realized that door was closed to him forever. It was a bit surprising to him that he hadn't been more broken up at the news. He still believed he loved Lois, but probably wasn't in love with her anymore. She had always been much more interested in him as Superman than as plain old Clark Kent. He felt sadness about it all, but in the end wished her well in her new life. She would always be special to him.

His second shock was more troubling. Her decided to pick up his old life, including the Justice League. As he entered the Watchtower for the first time, he couldn't help thinking of Diana. During the time he was away, he found himself thinking of her more and more. They were close friends, allies, but there had always been something unspoken. He was with Lois, so they could never pursue anything more than friendship. He found himself wondering if there was a possibility they could be more than just best friends. Those thoughts were on his mind as he greeted his teammates again. It felt good to be back among his friends.

He had to smile to himself as Flash cornered him and started to fill him in on everything that had transpired in his absence. The smile on his face froze as Flash in his clueless innocent way told him that Wonder Woman and Batman were now considered a major item by those in the know. Clark struggled to keep his composure as this information sunk in. Diana and Bruce? He knew they had a sort of flirtatious relationship, but never considered it might go any further than that. He never dreamed Bruce would allow it.

The next hour seemed to go by in a haze as they held the usual meeting. Everyone welcomed him back and he responded with his usual manner, but inside he was in turmoil. He found himself looking subtly at the two of them to see the understated signs that they were together. There was something different, he just felt too shocked to see what exactly it was. Diana avoided looking at him during the whole meeting. He almost sensed anger from her. Bruce was his usual enigmatic self, completely unreadable. Clark kept his composure, but just barely. He couldn't wait for the meeting to end so he could leave.

He was unsure how to deal with this new revelation, so he fell back on what had always worked in the past, pretending not to know. His naïve farm boy image had its advantages. It endeared him to the public at large and even his own teammates tended to buy into him as a Boy Scout. No one seemed to realize that while he had grown up on a farm, he'd been in Metropolis since he was eighteen. He knew as well as anyone the evil and viciousness in the world, but chose to follow the better angels of man's nature. He had all the wants and desire of any other man, but he was just better at disguising them. His strategy of being clueless seemed to work through the formal briefing and assignments.

He let out a relieved sigh as the meeting finally ended and he was able to exit the conference room. Hoping to avoid any further contact with the others, he slipped into his watchtower quarters to pick up a few personal items and to give them time to leave. It was almost an hour later he exited his room. The tower seemed nearly empty, which was a relief. Feeling it was safe, he decided to grab something from the cafeteria before he headed back to Metropolis. The room was dark as he entered and started to pour himself a cup of coffee.

"So you're back." A cool female voice from the darkness said. Superman stiffened, knowing instantly who it was. He had hoped desperately to avoid this. He silently kicked himself for not checking to be sure they were gone before coming in here. Remaining as calm as possible under the situation, he finished pouring the cup of coffee and then turned to look at her in the darkness.

"Yes." He managed to say. He could see her now. Her arms were crossed in front of her and the expression on her face was on of barely contained resentment.

"For how long?" she asked. Her tone was cold and contemptuous.

"Excuse me," he replied. Clark didn't quite understanding what she meant.

"For how long before you decide to disappear again, Kal?" She said it with more force, leaning forward so she was half in the light. Was this why she was angry with him, he wondered, because he'd left?

"I didn't disappear, Diana. I just needed some time to think."

"You apparently didn't feel the need to tell anyone you were leaving to do this thinking, either," she said, dryly. "You left everyone that cared about you to worry and fret about where you were."

"I told Jonn I was leaving," he offered weakly.

"Oh, yes, that makes it so much better," she said. Diana stood up and slowly walked towards him. She moved stiffly, but he could see the flashes of annoyance in her eyes and a slight downturn to her full lips.

"I'm sorry if I worried you, that wasn't my intention," he replied softly.

"You think that makes it all better? I thought we were friends, Kal, best friends, yet you run off without even a goodbye and expect a simple sorry will make it all go away?" she said. The anger and hurt came through her voice now.

"No, I imagine it doesn't," he conceded. "I wasn't thinking very clearly then and just needed to get away. I'm back now, back for good, Diana."

"How wonderful for you, Kal," she said bitterly. Almost defensively she crosses her arms in front of her. "Did you think the world would stop and wait for you to come back?"

There was something very personal about the way she made the accusation.

"No, I guess I didn't think about it at all," he acknowledged.

"No, you didn't, Kal. The world didn't wait, it moved on without you."

"Diana," he said gently. He reaching out to touch her arm, but felt her stiffen at his touch. "I didn't mean to hurt you. I still care for you deeply."

"I've starting dating Bruce, Kal," she said. It came out bluntly, almost like she was throwing it in his face. She stood there in front of him, looking at him defiantly waiting for his response.

"He-He's is a good man." It was all he could manage. He couldn't deal with this, not now, not with her, not with it still so new and painful. He had to get away, away from her.

"I hope you both are happy, you deserve it." He managed to say as he quickly headed out the door. He didn't turn back. He rounded the corner and was moving towards the transporter as quickly as he could without drawing more attention to himself. Superman was just about to activate it when another voice spoke from the shadows.

"You hurt her when you left, Clark."

It was a statement of fact. Great, two for two, he thought. What's the use of having super hearing and vision if you're too stupid to use it? Clark let out a sigh and half turned towards the voice.

"I'm very aware of that, Bruce. That wasn't my intention."

"Things have changed, Clark. "Batman continued, coming out from the shadows to stare Superman directly in the eye.

"Yes, That's becoming very clear, but thank you for pointing it out to me, Bruce," Clark said dryly. He didn't want to have this conversation, not here, not now, not with him.

"I just want to make sure we understand each other." Bruce said, his tone softer, but still with an edge. "I know you cared for her before and probably still do."

Clark turned fully towards Bruce and looked at him for a moment. The tension was there, but Clark just wanted to leave.

"Yes, I do, Bruce, but I also care for you. I only want for both of you to be happy. Now if you'll excuse me, it's been a long day."

Bruce didn't say any more as Clark got on the transporter pad and went back down to Metropolis. Everything seemed to hit him, as he stood alone on the outskirts of town. He felt as if his guts had just been kicked in and the pain filled him worse than anything he could remember. The realization that she was with another was almost as bad as the look of anger and betrayal in her eyes. The recognition that someone he cared for more than he wanted to admit, even to himself, could look at him with such anger and resentment made him nearly slip down to one knee. All the battles and injuries he'd endured in his life were nothing compared to the distress this knowledge brought on.

He made it back to his apartment and collapsed down on the bed hoping sleep would dull the pain.

The next few weeks could only be characterized as awkward. It was awkward at work having to be near Lois and it was awkward at the League being around Diana and Bruce. He tried to limit his contact with all of them. Seeing any of them just brought the pain back. He threw himself into his work, both as Clark Kent and as Superman. Most days he would push himself to the point of exhaustion before dragging himself back to his empty apartment. The isolation seemed to wear on him as the time went by. Diana rarely spoke to him and then only when in battle. Bruce was cool and they spent only the minimal amount of time necessary with each other.

Everyone could feel the tension when Clark was around, although most didn't know just what had happened. Even Flash stopped joking with him and seemed to avoid him when they were on the Watchtower. It was like being in Hell for Clark and he had never felt more alone in his entire life.

As he trudged up the stairs to his apartment, another long isolated weekend stretched out in front of him. He was worn down by all of it and starting to wonder if coming back had been such a good idea. Opening his door he stepped inside. He was instantly aware of the presence of someone in his apartment.

"What are you doing here," he demanded.

"Not even a hello, Superman?" An alluring voice coquettishly whispered.

"Hello, Aphrodite, now what are you doing here?" Clark said. He closed the door and moved over to turn on the light.