DEVIL  DEEP BLUE SEA
They were back in the world they wanted to be in. It was the world they'd spent five years growing up in, but it wasn't a happy homecoming. Two words had changed everything for Helena.
She had only known him briefly because of their two meetings, but it still felt like a death in the family. It churned up all the feelings she thought she'd put to rest back on the other Earth. He wasn't her brother or half brother or even related really, yet the loss felt acutely personal. Helena realized he was probably as close to having a sibling as she was ever going to get. The excitement of being back just seemed to whither in front of her eyes.
It was such a strange and different sadness that overwhelmed her. For some reason the death of a sibling is more of a shock then the death of a parent. Both are unimaginably sad, it's just that the later always seems to catch you by surprise. In most cases there is a moment when you realize your parents aren't young anymore. You see the passage of time with them and realize their end is closer than the beginning.
A sibling always feels more like a peer. You've grown up together and seen each other make the same awkward steps towards adulthood. When they die it isn't worse than a parent, just more unexpected. It ends the illusion that you'll always be young and nothing can touch you. It brings your own mortality home.
Helena had experienced more than her fair share of loss in her young life. She thought she'd hardened herself against, but as the tears fell she realized no one ever could. She was at a loss for what do now. This wasn't her world, at least not as far as family goes. Damian, Bruce, Selina, they weren't related to her, as much as she wished they were.
There was really no one left on her own world and she'd come back to this one hoping to start a new life. It seemed tragedy had followed here. She wasn't sure what her place was. Should she go to the funeral? Would her presence only remind Bruce of what he'd lost? Was she even welcome? Helena had no answers for any of these questions.
The one thing Helena was sure of was she needed to be in Gotham. It made no sense really, but whichever world she was on something about the city took hold of her. Something about the place seemed to always lure its citizens back, no matter how far they roamed from it. It really wasn't something she could explain, even to Karen, but someone from Gotham would know exactly what she meant.
Karen had been supported and offered to go with her, but this was one trip Helena needed to make on her own. She did agree to a ride from Karen and promised to holler if she needed help, but this felt almost too personal to share with even her best friend.
Karen had dropped Helena off and returned to her corporate headquarters. In was the weekend so most of her employees were gone but the few that remained were glad to see her. Karen thanked them all before heading for her office. Once she closed the door, she took a deep breath and leaned against the door so she wouldn't collapse.
She been doing her best to hold it together for Helena's sake, but all the time Karen felt as if she was collapsing in on herself. The unmoored feelings had become even stronger now that she was back. Increasingly she felt isolated, alien from everyone around her. She had thought of Clark immediately upon returning, but now she wasn't sure what to do. It seemed the thing she did most often was hurt him. Karen wanted desperately to go to him, but feared it would only lead to hurting him again. She didn't want that most of all.
She had killed two people and while she could rationally justify both, it didn't mean they hadn't taken a toll. She wasn't a sociopath so there was an emotional toll that came with her actions. Ending two lives has to change you. In Karen's case it added to her sense of isolation and alienation. The great fear her cousin had warned her about was that once she crossed that line it would destroy her with guilt and remorse. Karen found he was wrong or at least partially wrong. The real fear was that once she crossed that line it became easily to cross it again. Karen feared that now she'd crossed it the temptation would always be there to do it again and again and each time it would be just a little easier than the last.
The word killer is so casually thrown around everyday that it has almost lost its meaning. A killer app, a killer presentation, a killer video game, etc. etc, the word has become a modifier for so many trivial things, but words have meaning.
Killer - a person or thing that kills, a taker of life.
A person or thing, Karen was sure which she was anymore. At her young age death had always been a constant. Her family and world were gone. Her cousin and last link to the past was gone. It seemed her dreams were even telling her that eventually even her best friend, Helena would be gone. Through all of it, Karen just continued on as if untouched by time or events.
She was 21 and lost, unmoored from those around her. Karen still had dreams and hopes, but those seemed to be fading too. The worst part was she feared it was all by her own hand.
She'd found love, but pushed it away again and again. She'd been so desperate to get 'home', it took finally getting there to realize it wasn't home anymore. Home is where your heart is. This world was where Karen's was; only she feared most of all that she'd already lost.
There were a million reasons why he probably moved on. Any one of them would be valid.
Given time he might have started to think about how they were almost related. They were from different worlds in different universes, but both from the same planet and the essentially the same family. She had thought of it herself at first, constantly comparing Clark to her cousin back home. She thought of him as almost a doppelganger until she met and spent time with him.
The names might be the same, but that was really where the similarities ended. There was a Supergirl in this universe too, but she wasn't Karen. Again, names were the same, but biologically, genetically, historically, whatever you wanted to consider, they were different women from different universes.
That was a hurdle Karen hoped he'd gotten past long ago. Her own treatment of him was another story. As confused as she was about her own feelings it seemed she had almost toyed with his. At times Karen was desperate to push him away, yet never able to stay away from him. She wanted him dreadfully, yet feared wanting him too. Trying to live up to promises and roles others had made for her, she had been too afraid to hold onto what she wanted. It had taken a trip back to the other world for her to realize it.
There was also the real possibility that he'd moved on. She'd told him good-bye and hadn't planned on returning. She never expected him to carrying a torch for her. On the other Earth her cousin had married Lois and had a brief relationship with Diana before the end. Both those women were alive in different versions in this world, along with countless others. How could she expect him to just wait for her? She certainly didn't feel special right now, different, alien from everything around her but not special.
Then there was the reason she feared the most. When Clark found out what she'd done back on the other Earth it would change the way he looked at her. He wasn't the same man, but they shared some beliefs. Not killing was one of the central ones. Karen feared seeing that look in his eyes. The look that told her he saw her as a killer now. The unspoken reproach and almost hidden disgust over her actions would be in that look. It was almost worse than being nothing to him. She had no one to blame but herself. She'd gone over both of them a thousand times and knew in her heart she would do it exactly the same in the same circumstances.
Helena hadn't said, but Karen thought she saw her best friend looking at her different now. If she looked at her like that, how could Clark not?
Karen knew she'd go on, that's what she did. Everyone around slipped away one by one, but she just continued to go on. Only now she knew it would be alone because she'd been too afraid to hold on to what she wanted. It didn't matter which universe or planet she was on, the world wasn't fair, not for heroes or ordinary people. It was a hard lesson to learn so young.
Karen slowly moved over to the windows. She looked out on a city and world that hadn't been ravaged by Darkseid, at least not yet. It seemed to offer so much promise, yet she feared the one thing she wanted more than anything was already lost to her. Sadly she now understood that's what happens when you let fear rule your life.
The battle with H'el was over and Clark could still feel it down to his bones. Kara was recovering. Superboy or Kon had left a short while ago and Diana had left after that. Clark's mind seemed to shift from one to the other. Kara had been so willing to believe H'el could get her home, back to her family. Clark understood it, he did. The idea of Krypton had always been something akin to a myth for him, but when faced with the possibility of actually going back he'd been tempted too.
It seemed the temptation to go home was strong in every Kryptonian.
While she had helped save Earth in the end, the fact that she had been willing to turn against him so willingly still troubled Clark. He tried to understand, to see if from her point of view, but he thought they'd made some progress on trusting each other. Now it seemed that was still in doubt.
Superboy, the name still sounded strange to Clark. A clone or hybrid of a Kryptonian and something else, yet still a young teenager barely months old. Clark wasn't sure what his responsibilities towards Kon were. Was he supposed to be a big brother or a father to him? He wasn't sure he was ready for either. He also had no clue how Kon felt about all of it. Clark admired how the boy had fought; yet as soon as the fighting was over he disappeared. That should probably tell Clark how much the boy wanted to be around him.
Clark would leave the door open if Kon wanted to have a relationship with him, but he wouldn't hold his breath. Relationships weren't something Clark was very good at by all the evidence.
Then there was Diana. She'd been there for him again. Their blossoming friendship was the one bright spot in his life, but there was still a dark cloud on the horizon. He wasn't sure if she wanted more than friendship from him. She seemed to know that was all he could give right now and graciously didn't push for more. He'd be lying if he said he hadn't thought of it. He'd always known she was an extraordinary woman but was still finding out just how extraordinary.
Life wasn't fair. If their timing had only been slightly different, things might have worked out. It hadn't though and he cared for her too much to start something when his heart wasn't fully in it. She deserved better than that. It seemed the Kryptonian heart wasn't really that different from the Human heart, as crazy and illogical as it was it wanted what it wanted. Clark knew you don't start a new relationship when you're still not over the last.
As confusing and illogical as his relationship was with Karen, it didn't feel like it was over. She might be another universe away never to return, but he still felt as if it were unresolved. Maybe it would just take time, he didn't know. Maybe the first time you fall in love it's supposed to feel like this. He had no experience to call on. When you fall for the first time, it seems you fall hard. You don't bounce back quite so quickly. Perhaps that's why they always used the arrow of love metaphor, because it's a wound that doesn't heal so easily.
So in essence, Clark was still alone. He had friends and something of a dysfunctional family now, but there was still a piece missing. He would go on, there was no other choice and perhaps in time that wound would heal and he'd finally find that missing piece. Right now that seemed like a long shot.
Clark checked on Kara again and saw she was resting, but recovering. There would be time for them to talk later. Right now he needed to be elsewhere. A man he considered a friend was grieving the lose of a child. Clark knew he didn't have any words to make it better, but he needed to offer his condolences. He didn't imagine they would do any good, but it was the thing you do.
It was just another reminder the world isn't fair. You go through the rituals because you really don't know what else to do.
Gotham – The Batcave
The computer screens were the only illumination in the great room. Data constantly streamed over the monitors unaffected by events around them. That couldn't be said for the man sitting in front of them. Bruce wasn't looking at the monitors, but a glass case with a uniform in it. Robin. Damian. His son was dead.
The sorrow Bruce was feeling was like a bottomless pit he would never climb out of. There was also anger, at Talia, at himself, at the world for letting something like this happen. If he'd been a man of faith, Bruce would have curse a God that could play such a cruel joke. All his life Bruce had been fighting so no other child would have to watch their parents die in front of their eyes.
The bitter irony was that in a way he'd succeeded. It had been the parent that watched the child die in front of his eyes. It had been Bruce that watched Damian die in front of his eyes.
The condolences had already started coming in from everyone. He knew the ritual well and tried his best to be gracious, but the pain was too fresh, too deep to put on a brave face. Bruce thanked all of them, Tim, Jason, Barbara, Clark, Diana and all the rest, but he just couldn't be around anyone now. Dick had tried, but he was too deep in the same sorrow Bruce was experiencing.
Bruce knew already it would never get better. Scar tissue might form, but the wound would never heal. Some just don't. His boy was dead and nothing would ever make that right. He would push on because the mission demanded it, but some of the hope he'd always desperately tried to nurture was lost forever. The darkness just seemed to grow, no matter what he did.
Helena sat in front of the grave, the tombstone giving the facts but only the minimal facts. She'd brought flowers, because that's what you do, but it felt like an empty gesture. Emotions churned inside of her but she didn't know what to do with them. So she just sat here alone, crying.
When she first arrived at the graveyard she had been surprised to see Clark. They spoke briefly, but he seemed to know she wanted to be alone. Helena knew he was here for the same reason and probably like her didn't know what else to do. Helena wiped away the tears, even though more came and read the tombstone again. Damian Wayne, the dates of his birth and death and the legend across the bottom. She knew it was meant to be a marker for a life, but in reality it was a symbol of a death. More tears came.
"So you're back?"
Helena turned to see Selina walking towards her.
"Um, ah, yeah,' she managed to say, surprised by her appearance.
"Good to see you,' Selina offered. "Wish it was under better circumstances."
Selina wasn't really sure what do say or do. This wasn't her daughter and she most certainly didn't know how act as a mother, but she felt a connection with Helena. It made no sense to her, but since hearing who her mother was it was something Selina couldn't shake.
She slipped down to sit next to Helena. Selina didn't have any words of wisdom to offer. She really didn't know the boy very well and didn't especially like him. She wasn't so unfeeling though that she didn't understand the tragedy of it all. A young life had been snuffed too early. Even a hardened cat burglar understood the horror of that.
She had thought to go to Batman, but somehow knew it wasn't the time. As complicated as their relationship was, Selina knew this was a deeply personal and private moment for him. She wouldn't intrude on it. So unsure what else to do she came here. Seeing Helena had touched something in her and while she didn't have the words, she did what she could. Slowly she stretched her arm out around Helena's shoulders and gently pulled her close. Helena rested her head on Selina's shoulder and cried. They sat there along time in silence.
The day was ending. The sun was just slipping below the horizon. Karen stood at the windows looking out over the city. The people moving around so far below seemed almost like a metaphor for her life. She had so few people close to her and that didn't seem like it would change. Slowly she opened the windows, something you weren't supposed to do this high up. She felt the warm breeze against her skin and had no fear of falling. Even if she did, no one would catch her and she would just move on from it.
Five years she had desperately struggled to get away from this world only to realize too late this was where she wanted to be all along.
"You're not going to jump are you?"
And then he was there, right in front of her.
Karen's heart leapt in her chest at the sight of him.
"How? I mean, how did you know?" She managed to ask.
He smiled at her.
"Did you really think I wouldn't notice another Kryptonian on this planet?"
It was the repeat of the first thing he'd ever said to her and in the moment Karen wanted nothing more than to leap into his arms and never let him go. She had to let him know though, before anything else she had to tell him.
"I've made so many mistakes between us, Clark and I did something things that can never be undone since I last saw you."
His smile softened a bit.
"I know, Helena told me everything, Karen,' he replied. "I don't know if what you did was right or wrong, but I'm not going to judge you."
"What are you going to do?" She nervously asked, almost too afraid of the answer.
"I guess that's up to you,' he replied.
In the next moment Karen leaped from the window and into his arms. She kissed him with all the love and desire she felt in her heart for him and he returned it. It was a leap of faith into an uncertain future, but it was the first step they were making together.
A/N : And that's where this one ends. It never felt like a story that should have a neat, happy ending so I didn't give it one. You are free to imagine what happens next for yourself. Ship it anyway you want. ;)
Thanks to everyone that read it and a special thanks to everyone that read and reviewed it. I did read them all and appreciate all of them. Thank you.