Salt in my Tears
"I saw you laugh when the knife was twisted
It still hurts but the pain has shifted
I'm looking back at the time that drifted by
But I won't cry for the wasted years
'Cos you ain't worth the salt in my tears."
Karen floated high over the city that she once thought of as home, Metropolis. While she could still see reminders of the place she knew, the rebuilding had changed everything. It felt like a repeating theme in her life, everything kept changing and it was all beyond her control. She'd struggled and sacrificed so much just to get back here only to find all she knew was gone.
She felt like she was living her life on the deck of a ship in a bottle cast into the ocean. Rudderless, she was tossed and turned by the whims of chance and others. Karen had tried to put her life on hold for five years all with the goal of one-day coming back and making things right again. The deaths of her cousin, Helena's parents and the millions of others had weighted on her the whole time. Karen was supposed to be this Earth's secret weapon against Apokolips. She was told she would be the one to help turn the tide in the war. She was told she was Earth's last best hope.
The weight of those expectations was crushing and shaped every decision she'd made in the past five years. The guilt over not being here, over not living up to all the others expectations had been like an open wound that wouldn't heal. It ruined every chance she might have had at finding any happiness, for always in the back of her mind she would remember she had let everyone down.
She had finally returned to shoulder the burden that had been weighting her down all this time only to find the world had moved on without her. There would be no last minute rescue for her cousin and Helena's parents. There would be no turning the tide in the war and saving countless lives. It was all over and she had missed it.
The statue of the Wonders was just a cruel reminder of what a fraud she felt like. The people believed she had sacrificed herself along with the others, yet she had been safe a universe away the whole time. The war had been won and she was seen as a martyr to the cause of freedom, yet she had done nothing. New heroes were emerging to take up the mantle that she should have five years ago. This world had moved on and there seemed to be no place for her in it. The irony was that the life she'd spent five years avoiding now seemed more real than this one. It had offered her a future and she'd thrown it away in a desperate futile quest for something that didn't exist anymore.
The saddest part was Helena had been trying to warn her all along. Karen just hadn't wanted to hear it, no matter how logical or reasonable it was. She wanted to believe there was some destiny greater than herself that she was meant for. Some reason that all this had happened, but now she saw the truth, life only seems to have a pattern or make sense when you look back at it. Fate and destiny are just illusions to explain choices and mistakes. There was no script on a page somewhere with it all written down.
If seemed all of Karen's life someone else was deciding for her, from her parents sending her off from their dying planet to her cousin hiding her away on Earth to the boom tube that transported her to the other Earth, none of it had been of her choice. Others did what they thought was best for her. Each time the pressure seemed to be compounded. She'd been the hope for Krypton's future, Earth's secret weapon and its last hope. Most of the decisions had been made believing they were in her best interests, but still they never consulted her about what she might want. Even coming back had somehow felt like it was expected of her, required by those left behind.
Karen knew she had to stop it, stop letting others decide her fate, stop trying to live up to others dreams and expectations. She wasn't her parents or her cousin and while they all had the best intentions for her, it was her life now to live. She had to find her own way, her own path so one day when she did look back it was a destiny of her own creation she saw. She now understood she could never take her cousin's place here. She also realized she didn't want to. The future others had so carefully mapped out for her had been sidetracked and she realized she could never go back. Her future was someplace else, with someone else. It was finally her choice alone and she realized she'd already made it.
There were just a few loose ends to deal with from the past before she could start living her own life.
The red barn shimmered in the sunlight. The wheat swayed gently against the soft breeze. Clark and Diana stood on the rise looking down at the Kent family farm.
"Why are we here, Kal?" She asked.
"I wanted to show you this and maybe to remind myself,' he gently replied.
"Show me what?"
"I know it's been hard lately for you, Diana.' he stated. "Ending things finally with Steve and Barbara's betrayal just being the latest in a series of hardships. You said we're not like the Gods and we're not like humans either, that we're not like anyone. I know how you must have felt when you said that, even though we have different lives. Your world is steeped in mythology, the stuff of magic, Greek Gods and legends while mine sometimes feels like something out of a science fiction novel. It's easy to forget with all that is going on why when it gets down to it we're really not that different."
"How do you mean?"
"My biological parents sent me away from a dying planet, but they had no idea what I would find when I got wherever I was going,' Clark explained. "A million different things could have changed the course of that tiny ship and my future. I used to think it was incredibly lucky that the Kents that found me and I'm still grateful for everything they did, but they aren't the only decent, honest, kind people in the world, Diana. I brought you here not because they were so unique, but because they represent the good in so many. It's easy to forget while battling Gods and villains that most people aren't like that. They have the same basic needs and desires you and I have. They want to be happy, find love and see the good in others. They want a home and family, friends to share their life with. They think nothing of chipping in to help another. They quietly hope for a better future for their children and do their part to make it a reality."
Clark paused, waiting to see if Diana would say anything. She just waited for him to continue.
"Their dreams aren't so different than yours or mine, Diana. They are dreams worth fighting for and believing in. You try and see the good in everyone and I've always admired you for that. We don't always get what we want, but that brings us closer to ordinary people not further from them. We don't need to be anchored or tied to humanity, because we're apart of it. It might be on a grander scale, but we're doing the same thing most people are, trying to live a good, decent life, find love and happiness and help make it a better tomorrow."
He took her hand and they both slowly began to rise off the ground. When they were a hundred feet in the air, Clark turned Diana towards the horizon just as the sun was setting.
"It's sunset now and things might seem hopeless, but sunrise will be here before you know it signaling the start of another day. That means another chance to find all those things we share with everyone else. Don't let the momentary darkness stop you from remembering that, Diana."
London – Later
Diana had dinner with Clark in Smallville. They drew quite the crowd, as they were both still in their uniforms. She was used to being looked at, but at first there was something disconcerting about being stared at from that close up. Slowly though, as some of the people got the courage to introduce themselves, Diana felt herself relaxing. A few asked if they could take a picture or get an autograph, but most left them in peace to enjoy the simple, yet good dinner.
Flying back to London, Diana had been rolling over in her mind was Clark had said. She had to admit the last few months hadn't been good. The revelation about her true origins just seemed set off a series of events that rocked her world. Hippolyta was now not just her mother in name, but it fact. Zeus was Diana's father. She was still trying to absorb this when Hera took her vengeance out on Hippolyta and the rest of the Amazons. She turned Diana's mother into stone and the rest into snakes. Suddenly the world she had always known was gone.
Diana had soldiered on, but the blows hadn't stopped. The ordeal with Steve and the realization that Barbara had willingly become the Cheetah seemed like the tipping point. She had always felt different from everyone else, but now she felt truly alone. Diana knew some of that was the reason she had kissed Clark that night, but not all. He seemed to understand the isolation she was feeling and they had reached out for each other.
She could see the lights on in her apartment. The motley crew that seemed to have inadvertently gathered around her were still up. Zola, Lennox, Hera and who knows who else were there. It suddenly hit Diana that what she had always thought she was missing, she suddenly had. She was no longer just a bit of animated clay, unique in all creation, but part of something larger, a family. They may not all get along or even tolerate each other, but they were connected forever. She was connected forever.
Maybe it was the reason she was fighting so hard for Zola and her baby. In their family so few had a chance at a normal life. The half sisters and brothers Diana had already met attested to this. Perhaps this was her chance to change all that. Whether others saw a threat, Diana saw a possibility for a new start to the family line. Her own mother had sacrificed to give her that chance and now she could pass it along to another, the next generation and make Zola's child's tomorrow a better world.
Clark opened the door to his apartment and went inside. Tonight with Diana had been good. He hoped he'd help her, even if it was only in a small way. He felt a connection with her and if it could only be as a friend, he would take it. He wasn't really in a place to offer anything more. In was in that spirit that his words had been offered and he wanted them to lessen her pain, but as he stood alone in his apartment they rang hollow in his own ears.
He did want all those things he'd spoken about, it just seemed they weren't in the cards for him.
Family, he'd made a few small steps with Kara, but there was a real possibility they would never be close. She had disappeared since leaving the Watchtower. He wasn't sure when he'd see her again.
Love, fleetingly he thought of Diana, but knew he wasn't in a place where that would be fair to her. Perhaps if they'd connect a year ago, things would be different. He'd met Karen first. He could admit now, as illogical and confusing as it was, he'd fallen for her. At every turn it was as if life was telling him it wasn't going to last, but his heart wasn't listening. Now she wasn't just a world away, but a universe.
As he opened the glass door and looked out over the city, it seemed that dream he'd talked about to Diana was just that, a dream.
"I'm not leaving him like this." Helena knelt over Michael and glared up at Terry Sloan. "You've made it abundantly clear you're giving me no choice, but if you're as smart as you think you are, you must know I can't leave him with you to be tortured."
"What if I gave you my word?" Terry sarcastically said with a snide smile.
"I wouldn't believe you,' she replied. "Murder innocent people? Yes, that I'd believe but offer compassion, no, not you."
"You wound me."
Terry was enjoying this. He believed he'd thought of every possible outcome for how this would go, so it didn't matter what she tried he was ready for her. That just meant he could enjoy the little game they were playing awhile longer. He knew Helena was clever and given who her father was probably had a back up plan or two, but he was smarter. He was smarter than her or her old man and had already thought of everything they could come up with.
Helena was her father's daughter, but also her mother's. She had run through every scenario, every possibility, but was left with nothing. For once she wasn't five steps ahead of her opponent. She was more likely five steps behind him. She needed to stall so she could use the advice her mother would have given her. If you can't win fair and square, cheat. Slowly she stood up to face him and at the same time press down on the homing beacon in her belt.
"You've got what you wanted, Terry,' Helena said. "There's no reason to continue torturing Michael. I'll leave just like you asked. Let him go."
Terry tapped his fingers against his chin and glanced up as if he were considering it.
"Would you beg, Helena? Would daddy's little prodigy beg me?" He asked with a cold smile. Before his death, everyone had believed Batman was so brilliant, so much smarter than everyone else, but it was Terry that had won and survived. While the Trinity had served it's purpose and still were Terry believed the truth about them was quite different. In his mind they were noble, but also fools. They never saw what had to be done and even if they had they wouldn't have been willing to do it. They were the heroes and he was the villain but it was him that ended the war, not them. His genius devised the plan, not Batman. It was such a delicious irony that the great Batman's little girl was now realizing who the real brains behind the Wonders was.
"Would you, Helena? Beg?"
"If that's what it will take for you to let Michael go, yes, Terry, I'll beg,' Helena replied. "Please, I beg you, let him go."
"I like that, really I do,' Terry said with a smile. "The answer is still no, but I really like that, Helena."
She glared at him, but he only laughed in reply.
"Don't beg him, Helena, don't give him the satisfaction."
Terry turned around to see Karen hovering just outside the penthouse.
"Ah, so you signaled your friend to come to the rescue,' he said with a sigh. "So predictable, I had hoped for better from you two. I suppose now you'll try to distract me while the other makes an attempt to free Michael Holt. It won't work, I've already thought of everything. I must say I'm disappointed. I thought perhaps five years had made you a harder challenge, but now I see you're both still the little girls you were before you left."
Terry moved over and opened the sliding glass doors and smiled at Karen.
"So what now, Karen?" He asked. "Your dramatic arrival was meant to scare me, right? It failed. As I told you both before, I'm the smartest man in the world, you can't think or do anything I haven't already considered."
Terry turned to Helena.
"Move another inch closer to Mr. Holt and I'll press the trigger and he'll die along with thousands of others."
Terry turned back towards Karen, but now she was standing right in front of him. He instinctively took a step back.
"You may be the smartest human, Terry, but remember, I'm not human,' Karen said to him.
"It doesn't make any difference, Karen, you'll do what you're told like a good girl, just like you always have,' he replied.
Another person trying to tell her what she had to do, Karen thought.
"Your cousin was perhaps the greatest of all the Wonders, Karen,' Terry stated. "You're just not him, honey, you never will be."
Karen hadn't backed down, but stood just staring at him.
"Give it up, little girl, I've already thought of everything,' Terry said with a smirk.
Karen continued looking at him.
"You're right, Terry, I'm not my cousin,' she said in a very low and calm voice. Karen took a deep breath and closed her eyes for just a moment. She opened them and stared into Terry's.
Twin red beams shot from her eyes directly into his, slicing through his brain and bursting out the back of his skull. Helena unleashed an arrow that punctured his wrist, but Karen already had the trigger out of his hands. His mouth opened in shock, but he was already dead. His body crumbled to the ground.
"I guess we'll never know if you thought of that,' Karen whispered down to him. She didn't give him another thought as she moved over to where Helena and Michael were.
"Karen?" Helena said, looking at her friend.
"Let's get Michael out of this,' she replied. "We have some unfinished business and then we're leaving Helena. We're going back. You were right, this isn't home anymore."