by David Schock
She had been chasing him around the world ever since she heard what had happened. If she hadn't been so involved in the troubles of her own life and that of both her mother and sisters she would have heard the tragic news and would have been at his side to help that much sooner. She wondered to herself if there was anything she could have done to prevent this tragedy. Only to realize that there was in fact nothing she could have done even as that small voice that came creeping up from the bottom of the darker reaches of her soul that made her wonder if she would have done something even if she could.
It was only the sight of him sitting there all alone in the dark that made her realize she would have done anything, risk any thing to save the wife of the man sitting there before her, even if the cost was her own life! It was two weeks after the trial that she finally tracked him down. Here at the bottom of the world were a small piece of a planet long dead still lived was were she finally managed catch up to him. She was one of only a hand full of people on the planet who knew of its location and fewer still who would be able to enter univited. Now as she stood silently in the darkness she studied the master of this place and her heart was near to breaking just to see him suffering so.
She found him sitting in a chair staring at a foot long box he was holding in his lap. But it was her friend's appearance that she found most troubling. The owner of this secret fortress wore his hair long in a pony tail that had came lose and was now hanging down to his shoulders in a tangled mass. By his appearence he seemed not to have shaved for at least two weeks or even slept for half that. And even if he had no physical need for sleep, she knew better than most that just like any other man even he needed the release of dreams and the escape they offered.
His eyes seemed dull and unmoving as he stared straight ahead with only the movement of his hands as they fondled the top of the box in his lap to show he was awake or perhaps even alive. She didn't need her friend's X-ray vision or the wisdom of Athena to know what was contained in that box. The fact that even with his hightened senses, he had yet to know she was here only confirmed her worst fears of his present physical and mental condition. The woman knew that no matter how powerful he was or how much of a hero he had always been to the world at large. He was still only a man, a man who had lost his beloved at the hands of a mad man and had yet to allow himself the time to grieve.
As she stepped out of the shadows she asked, "Why are you sitting here all alone in the dark?" "Most of all with that," she added as she pointed at the container in his lap.
"Go away Diana, I'm in no mood for company, not even yours," was his only answer.
"That's the trouble Clark, you have been alone far to much lately!"
"Without bothering to look up at her The Man of Steel told his best friend, "Do you know when my mother past away she was smiling as I closed her eyes for the last time and it was only a week after that my father joined her?"
The Amazon Princess watched as her friend's eyes never left the top of the lead lined container even as he went on with his tale, "As far as the doctors could tell there was nothing wrong with him. It was if he couldn't or wouldn't even try to live with out her and decided to join her instead."
"Was he smiling also when he left to be with her?" asked the Amazon princess.
"Matter of fact he was. He turned to me as I held his hand, smiled then left to be with my mother."
He turned to his unwanted guest and told her, "There were other smiles on the faces of my friends and fellow workers at the Planet the day they died." He grew reflective as he said, "Perhaps smile is the wrong word, a better one would be a sickening grin of agony etched on the faces of the dead. An all of it brought on by smilex gas delivered by a madman!"
Wonder Woman slowly took the box containing the Kryptonite from her friend as he continued to talk, "My Lois was spared at least that much. The end for her at least came suddenly at the hands of that same said lunatic, only this time wielding a paper weight as his weapon of choice. Brave as ever she even managed to delay him just long enough for me to catch him, but he crushed her skull for her courage."
"Stop tormenting yourself like this," Diana pleaded as she shared his pain. "Nothing you could have done or didn't do would have changed anything."
Suddenly he looked up at her and in a voice filled with sorrow and a slowly building rage told her, "I had him in my hands and instead of crushing him like an egg, I handed him over to the police instead. With my wife, my love dead on the floor at my feet, I couldn't even kill the man responsible for taking her from me."
"It's not that you couldn't do it, it's that you wouldn't do it. That is what makes you so special, it's the reason the rest of us look to you for our example!"
"No Diana what I couldn't do was save Lois's life," he replied with a cry of anguish. "After the countless lives I have saved over the years, in the end I couldn't protect the one person that mattered most to me!"
"So to punish yourself you plan on following your father's example and follow your beloved into the great unknown. Only in your case you plan on doing it with the help of this?" asked Diana as she held up the box containing the kryptonite.
He looked up at her as she told him, "Well the only way your're going to take it from me, is to fight me for it! We both know I won't be able to stop you for long, but you know as well as I do that to accomplish that you will have to hurt me in the doing."
She then asked, "My only question Clark, is just how badly are you willing to hurt me to take this box back?"
His head was slumped on his chest as he told his guest, "Go away Diana, I don't want to talk to you or anyone else. I simply want to be left alone." He then raised his head to asked her, "Can't you respect my grief at least that much?"
"That's the problem Clark, you haven't allowed yourself to grieve only wallow in self pity and doubt. But self pity is not the proper way to grieve," Diana explained as she stood over him. When this failed to get any reaction from him at all she added, "At least I can be grateful for one thing,"
When she once again failed to get a response Diana told him, "After all our talks together and all the times Lois told me through the years how much she loved you. I at least can thank my Gods that she is not here to see what you have turned yourself into."
She paused for effect before adding, "If poor Lois weren't dead. She would soon wish to be so, after seeing what you have become!"
With a roar of rage he leaped to his feet and seizing the Amazon wonder by the throat and raised his other hand to strike her. He had moved so quick even she could not react fast enough except to drop the box with the Kryptonite at their feet. Still this the greatest warrior of a whole race of proud warriors did nothing to defend herself. This lack of action was totally alien to her nature and yet she refused to make a move to protect herself from her friend's wraith.
Diana realized it wasn't the warrior side of her nature that was needed now, but the woman, the nurturer most of all the loving friend that Clark needed most of all. She was soon proved right as Superman slowly lowered his hand and set her free with a look of shame etched a cross his troubled face. In response Diana raised her hand and gently touched his cheek as she told him, "Let go of your grief."
"I never even got to say good bye," said a suddenly sobbing Superman as he slowly sank to his knees in front of her.
Wonder Woman sank down to her knees with him as he rested his head on her broad shoulder. As they hugged one another close he buried his face in her bosom . She rocked him back and forth and stroked his hair as the man known to the world as Superman told his closest friend, "I never even got to tell her just how much I loved her one last time!"
"She knew, she still knows," Diana reassured him as her own tears began mixing with his.
How long they both knelt there in each other's arms neither knew or really cared. As for Diana the fact that she was giving at least a small measure of comfort to her friend was the only thing that mattered to her. As for Clark it was only in the arms of Wonder Woman that he allowed himself for the first time to weep openly for the love that was taken from him.
"You can go now Diana. And you can take that with you if you wish," Superman suddenly announced as he stood up and pointed at the box containing the kryptonite.
"Go? Go where?" she asked in shock at the sound of the cold and unemotional voice suddenly coming from her friend. Then before he could answer she added, "Even if you refuse to admit it to yourself Clark you still need help to deal with your loss. But you won't be able to get that help by hiding here all alone in this tomb!"
Superman began to walk away as he told her, "Clark is dead Diana, he died with Lois."
"And Superman?" she asked with a mixture of hope and fear.
He paused for a moment and with out turning around to face her said, "If that trial and the people who cheered for Ma-Gog taught me anything Diana. It's that Superman is redundant and no longer needed in this brave new world." He once again resumed his lonely walk saying as he disappeared into the shadows of the Fortress of Solitude,"There is only Ka-El now!"
Wonder Woman stood there alone and silent as tears ran down her face as she watched him disappear into the darkness. Her tears were not for herself or even Lois, but for a friend, a companion in arms and perhaps even for the man she might have loved. She only knew that as she watched him leave, she never felt more helpless or alone as she watched a part, perhaps even the best part of him, die right there before her eyes.
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This piece is © 2001 by David Schock .
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