Year Zero: Epilogue
"I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they're right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together."
One of the great things about being young is that when you make mistakes, even stupid mistakes, you have time to fix them.
One of the bad things about being young is that sometimes it's difficult admitting those mistakes. Although this isn't exclusively a trait of the young.
Year One – Six months later
The whirlwind had swept through Diana's life. Her mother was back on Themyscira and once more the Amazons had cut themselves off from the outside world. Steve had proven to be a good friend. Once he heard what had happened he offered to let her stay at a military facility until she got her own place. Reluctantly Diana had accepted, not wanting to have to rush into taking the first place she saw.
They may have been from a culture almost two thousand years behind the modern age, but one thing the Amazons knew was real estate. A seller could tell if you were desperate and immediately they would jack up the price. This was true in ancient Greece and every age since. Diana had money, but she also knew it was a buyer's market. No self respecting Amazon worth the title of warrior was going to get worked on a real estate deal and as their champion, Diana was no exception.
While she appreciated Steve's gesture, more and more it felt like trading one mother for another. He seemed to want to limit Diana's movements other than working with his team. While she enjoyed working with them, Diana's vision of her role was much larger than that. The one nice thing to come out of it though, was Diana and Barbara Minerva had become friends. They worked well together and even saw each other outside of the office. It was nice just having a normal friend for once.
Perhaps that friendship was one of the reasons she hadn't picked a place for herself yet. There was one she had her eye on in London, but Diana was determined to wait until the seller brought the asking price down to something a little more reasonable. If he thought he could play hardball with her, he was sadly mistaken. Diana had learned her haggling skills in the markets of Themyscira so some rich snob from Kensington wasn't going to get the best of her.
All the activity, finding a place to live on her own for the first time, working with Steve's team, trying to be a good guest while bristling at the constant reminders to stay out of sight until the time was right, only somewhat kept Diana's mind off Clark. She knew she made the right decision for both of them, but also knew she hurt him with her answer. She thought about apologizing, but they'd always been honest with each other and she didn't feel she had anything to apologize for. It was too soon to even think about something like marriage. Yet she could remember the look in his eyes when she'd said no and it still broke her heart.
They hadn't seen each other in six months. It was frustrating for her, but she knew he probably needed some time. As one month stretched into the next and still she hadn't heard from him her compassion started to turn into anger. He hadn't called or stopped by to see how she was once. Oh, he left a few texts, but that was only so he didn't have to talk to her. Several times she'd started for Metropolis to confront him, but would always stop. No, Diana told herself, she wasn't going to be the one to go to him. He was the one being an ass; he should come to her and apologize for how he'd been treating her. If he'd left the courting up to her, this wouldn't have been a problem, she grumbled.
Even in her anger though, she missed him. Things had gotten so complicated so fast between them. In many ways he was still a mystery to her. Diana loved him, but as the months went by she wasn't even sure she knew him. She was still new to all of this, so she wasn't sure if it was over already and she hadn't realized it. Diana had so many questions. If it wasn't over, where did they go from here? If it was over, did she just move on like it never happened? She had no frame of reference for any of this. If it was over did that mean they were nothing to each other? Could they ever be just nothing when it concerned each other?
He'd said he'd always be there when she needed him. Was that just a lie? With everything happening in her life, why hadn't he come? All these thoughts had been swirling through her head for weeks now. Diana kept telling herself she'd made the right decision, but at what price?
Metropolis – six months later
It had been a rough six months for Clark. It seemed every day brought something new and usually troubling. He'd gotten another job working at the Daily Planet, but he was still trying to get used to it. At the Independent he'd felt like he was just starting to become the reporter he wanted to be. Now he had to start all over. It did help that Jimmy was now working there too. Lois Lane had surprisingly turned out to be a great help. Yes, she was acerbic and insulting at times, but she was a good reporter and had turned into a friend.
That may have been the one bright spot, as the rest of the news was terribly sad. It started with something he expect was close, but that still caught him off guard when he heard the news.
Henry Cameron's death had hit Clark hard. It had been followed a month later by Mrs. Harrow's. It was a one two punch that knocked the wind out of him for some time. They had been the two people willing to give him a chance, when no one else would. He could never repay their kindness. He was nobody when he arrived in Metropolis, just some kid from Smallville, a place most people had never heard of. Most newspapers and organizations didn't even let him in the door, yet Cameron had seen something in him.
You never realize until you look back how many different people can change so much of your life. Henry Cameron and Mrs. Harrow had turned out to be mentors Clark hadn't even known he was looking for. He'd learned from both. Cameron in his gruff, almost uncaring inquisitiveness had pushed and prodded Clark into being a better reporter. Mrs. Harrow had shown him what elegance and class truly meant.
Now they were both gone and so was the paper that had been their lives. Morris hadn't turned it around and Mrs. Harrow's children sold it two weeks after her funeral. It seemed another landmark to truth and justice had slipped away.
If anything, being Superman had been more complicated than ever. His ship had provided so much information about Krypton and his birth parents he was still trying to process it all. On top of that Brainiac had appeared and tried to steal Metropolis, while his landlady, Mrs. Nyxly turned out to be some fifth dimensional being married to someone named Mxyzptlk who was the sworn enemy of some other fifth dimensional being called Vyndktvx, who had a vendetta against Clark and was screwing with his life. It gave Clark a headache just to think about it.
Oh and top of all that, he had a new uniform made of Kryptonian armor.
Then there was the elephant in the room that Clark wasn't sure what to do about.
Partly because he was so busy and partly because he didn't know what he would say, he hadn't seen her in six months. He left some texts, but knew that wasn't enough. In hindsight he knew it was a mistake asking her to marry him. It was too soon for both of them and not the right time.
The problem was that he had asked her to marry him and she'd said no.
She hadn't offered an explanation before saying no, she just said no. Clark was just as new in many ways as Diana was at all this. It may have been pride or ego, but he didn't know where to go with their relationship after she said no. He'd never asked anyone to marry him before. When her answer was no it shook him. He didn't know how it couldn't effect him. He couldn't just let it go and move on as if nothing had happened. It was just hanging out there, whether it was a mistake or not, it was there. She had rejected his offer of marriage and that was impossible not to take personally. It wasn't like a first fight or a break up, it had much more finality to it. It seemed like an end instead of bump in the road.
He was still in love with Diana, yet he didn't know where they could go next. Clark had been trying to find the answer for six months and wasn't any closer to it. It might seem like the coward's way, but once you've been rejected how to you pretend everything is just normal again? How do you have your heart broken and still deal with the person that broke it?
He realized in the last six months he still had a lot of growing up to do. Perhaps Diana did too. Clark was just starting to understand who he was and where he came from. His life both in uniform and out was still at it's beginning and the future for both was still coming into focus. Maybe with time he could get passed this, but right now he couldn't.
Diana was watching the monitors in the control room. Two the staff, guards really, seemed amused when she talked back to the television set. On several networks they were talking about her and as she listened she grew angry. The guards seemed to think she was an idiot or hopelessly naïve. Diana knew the reporters on the television couldn't hear her, she was just mad and venting. She was just about to explain this to the two rather smug men, when a report caught her attention.
Reports of a winged monster terrorizing people in downtown D.C. came on. To Diana it sounded a lot like a Harpie. She started for the door immediately but the two guards tried to bar her way saying Colonel Trevor wanted her to to stay put until he returned. Diana had no time to argue with them. She didn't want to hurt them, well she did, but the Harpie took more immediate attention. If they didn't want her to go out the door, fine she thought, she would make her own exit. Let them explain to Steve why there was a hole in the wall.
Clark was having a bad day. A winged monster had shown up in Metropolis with a strange cube that Clark couldn't see inside of. They battled and the the monster did something and the cube exploded. It nearly destroyed a city block and Clark found himself under tons of rumbled. He saved what he could of the buildings and created a tunnel to get out from under the rumble. He was just shoring up the structures that hadn't collasped when some jackass in a green and black costume can barreling towards him attacking him with a ring and calling him an alien menace. Like he would any pest, Clark swatted him away.
Thinking the green guy might be connected to the winged creature, Clark followed him out to the tunnel only to find Batman was with the green guy. They hadn't spoken to each other in months, but Batman must have seen Clark was pissed because he started using all his toys on him. Clark brushed them off, but it did nothing for his mood. He grabbed Batman once he ran out of toys and demanded answers. The next thing he knew the green guy, who Clark now knew was called the Green Lantern, was back trying to wrap him up in chains he created with his ring. He must be a comedian, Clark thought as he snapped the chains.
Lantern grabbed Batman and they started to run. Clark wanted some answers even if he had to beat them out of them. He caught up them and smashed the Lantern's green bubble when another guy showed up and hit him. He was fast, really fast. It took Clark a minute to adjust to just how fast he was. The smug look on the speedster's face though, as he told Clark not to bother as no one had ever touched him, was all the incentive Clark needed. Timing it just right, he flicked him away. You've been touched now, Clark thought with a smile.
Lantern looked like he wanted another go. Clark was happy to oblige, but finally Batman stepped in and tried talking to him. If they'd done that in the first place they could have all saved themselves an ass kicking. The military and the police showed up before they could talk, so Clark guided them all down through the underground tunnels to the Independent's now idle printing room. They were just going over what they knew when all hell broke loose again. The cube they had with them started to ping and then more of the winged monsters appeared out of thin air.
Diana walked down the main street holding her sword ready for battle. She could see the fear in the citizens eyes. Inwardly she chided herself for not doing more to let the public know who she was and what she stood for.
"Has anyone seen a Harpie?" She asked. "I was told there was a winged creature terrorizing this area? Harpies are very dangerous, unless you cut their heads off in which case you have nothing to worry about."
She had dumbed down her language, but it didn't seem to be working.
"I am speaking your langauge correctly, aren't I?" She asked.
Still she only saw fear in everyone's eyes. While confronting the Harpie was her primary aim, Diana decided to do a little community outreach while she had the chance. She saw a young girl at an ice cream stand just staring at her. Smiling Diana went over and introduced herself. She politely asked the man selling ice cream for a sample, hoping this would show everyone she was really just like they were.
It seemed to be working quite well when Steve showed up. He of course seemed upset that she'd left the military facility. Diana just explaining to him how she wasn't a child anymore and she wasn't going to be treated like one when the monster appeared. It wasn't a Harpie, but it was threatening the citizens. That was good enough.
The winged creatures just kept coming in the hundreds, perhaps thousands. They chanted "for Darkseid" which meant nothing to anyone. Clark had teamed up with Batman, Green Lantern and the Flash to fight them. Absently he thought Diana would love this, seeing her idea come alive before her eyes. Picking up a truck, Clark swatted a whole bunch of the monsters away and turned just in time to see her arrive.
He had to admit she made a hell of an entrance.
Flash was overwhelmed like so many people were when they first saw her. Lantern was a dick, but that seemed to be his basic personality. Batman grumbled soemthing, but Clark didn't catch it over the rest of the noise.
Diana defeated the monster in Washington and then followed the reports of more all the way to Metropolis. She wondered if she'd see him, but the battle was the priority. As she arrived she saw Clark fighting the monsters with Batman, a hero in green and the one they call the Flash. Briefly she thought if Batman had only agreed to meet with her months ago they could have had this coordinated. Maybe now he finally agree with her idea. First there was a battle to be won. Diana weighted in with sword swinging. She heard the other's comments, but out of the corner of her eye she was looking at Clark.
Clark had almost forgotten how amazing she was. He thought of so many things she was, beautiful, majestic, brilliant, mesmerizing and even though he was a man that earned his living with words, the only ones that came out were,' You're strong."
"I know." She replied with a smile.
'Jesus, you're strong?' Clark thought, kicking himself for sounding more like a douchebag than Lantern had.
Bruce had been fighting all out against the hordes but when he saw Diana he immediately looked over at Clark. He knew something had happened between them and they hadn't been together for months. Now he saw the look they exchanged.
"Oh, God, not again with these two,' he grumbled under his breath.
The battle was over and they had won. The public came out to cheer them as heroes. In all the fanfare there was no time for Clark and Diana to talk. They were all whisked away to meet the President and receive his thank you along with the rest of the nation and world. Clark was still a little uneasy around the government, so he hung back. He watched as some of the others took center stage and spoke for the group. He was a little surprised Diana had been front and center, but then he felt someone brush up against him. He didn't even need to look to know who it was.
"So you're never going to speak to me except to say I'm strong?" She whispered so only he could hear.
"I'm sorry about that,' he replied, whispering equally low so only she could hear. "I didn't know what do say."
"I still don't."
"So it's over?" She couldn't help asking.
Direct as always Clark thought to himself.
"I don't know, Diana, maybe I or we just need some time."
"That sounds like it's over,' she said.
"I don't know,' he admitted.
There was a pause, as they tried listening to what the others were saying.
"So when you said you'd always be there when I needed you, was that a lie?" Diana asked.
"No. When you really need me, I'll always be there, I promise,' he replied.
"So what now?" She asked. "Do we just pretend we don't know each other?"
"Again, I don't know,' he admitted and then added,' do we really know each other?"
"I thought we did, but I've started to see maybe we didn't."
"Maybe we both need some time to figure out who we are first,' he offered.
Diana found herself sitting on top of the Lincoln Memorial again. It had been a bad week and an even worse day. So many things had happened in the last five years, yet she'd endured and fought through them. She was sadder, but had thought she was wiser. Now she wasn't even sure about that. The League had been attack by creatures that seemed to feed on their guilt and pain. Diana had seen visions that were so real of her mother and sisters turned into clay and snakes before her eyes. It was a horrible reminder of a horror day. The guilt was crushing. On top of that the monsters seemed to enjoy torturing her, showing her Steve dying and making her think it was her fault. It had all been an illusion but the pain and guilt had remained.
Diana had been the hospital earlier to see Steve. Five years hadn't changed anything. He was her friend, even if she couldn't be what he wanted her to be. She already felt guilty for what happened to her mother and sisters, along with what happened to Barbara Minerva becoming the Cheetah, so seeing him so damaged because of his connection to her was too much. Diana knew he was still in love with her. She thought they could remain friends, but apparently that wasn't enough. He was denying it to himself, yet she could see it so plainly in his actions. Sitting behind a desk dealing with bearucrats was killing him. He told everyone including himself that he was doing it to protect the League and her. Maybe he even believed it, but Diana couldn't let it go on any longer. She had put distance between them hoping that would be enough, but now she knew it wasn't. His anger just added to how difficult it all as for her. So here she sat, alone depressed and feeling guilty.
She thought she could handle it all, but even her shoulders weren't broad or strong enough.
Five years had gone by so fast. The world that had seemed so filled with possibilities now seemed to be filled with disappointments and pain. Diana didn't know what to do.
And then he was there, just like he promised when she really needed him most.
They really spoke for the first time in a long time. Their words ended in a kiss. It brought back so many memories, but she pulled away. She wasn't sure what to say or do so she ran. This time he followed her. It took five days, but they finally talked again. He took her to Smallville to show her who he was. They both seemed to understand this time there was no need to rush. It had never really been over between them.
They just needed time to grow up a bit.
Now they knew they had all the time in the world.
(A/N - That's where this one ends. Thank you to everyone that read it. A special thank you to everyone that read it and reviewed. I did read them all.)