Fandom: DC, Countdown to Infinite Crisis.
Author Notes: My first post :) WAY more than a hundred words. Just for fun.
SPOILER ALERT: Identity Crisis, Countdown to Infinite Crisis
Characters: Superman, Wonder Woman, Blue Beetle (mentioned), et. al.
Standing over his grave, it becomes clear where I went wrong.
Yes, Ted has a tendecy to stumble into more trouble than he can handle. Had. Had a tendency to stumble. And his unfortunate devotion to Booster Gold meant he was frequently tarred with the same slapstick...
Booster...he's a wreck. I'd go talk to him...but after this...I have a feeling I'm not the one he wants to talk to.
Ted was a good man...And a smart man, actually. He was just...
My mother's voice is ringing in my ears, telling me not to speak ill of the dead. It feels so surreal.
I've been to too many of these lately.
Just because Ted was harmless doesn't mean the people he dealt with were. Did someone have it in for Ted, specifically? Or was it bigger, somehow, and he was just in over his head?
But that's not what's really bothering me...not the case itself.
How could I have missed this?
First poor Sue, and Ralph...the whole tangled business with Green Arrow, Zatanna, that whole crowd...and Dr. Light...
I can't even bring it up with Green Arrow. I can feel the others waiting for me to make a move, to set the tone. Bruce is on edge...distant and paranoid - more than usual, I should say. Diana, J'onn, Hal - they all wait and watch to see what I'm going to say, what I'm going to do. Even the other teams are waiting and watching - Nightwing is as quiet and paranoid as his mentor. (Almost, I should say.)
But what am I going to do? Put them in jail? Of course not. Swoop down like Super-Dad, wave my finger in their faces and dock their allowance?
"Minor league players..." Only now it turns out none of them were ever minor - and neither is their pain. To even think of them that way feels blasphemous, especially here, now. But blasphemy, in this case, also smacks of guilt.
I don't have the right to lecture them. And Green Arrow knows it - he knew I was listening. It was a challenge.
He doesn't even look at me anymore without that hardness in his eyes - an unspoken challenge. The look he usually reserves for the brand of thugs and psychopaths that we chase all day.
"Go ahead. Test me. I dare you."
The same way Bruce looks at me. He knows...and he knows I know. All he's doing now is testing me - judging me the way he judges his perps..."What are you going to do about it, Clark? What kind of man are you going to be?"
When did this happen? When did the world change so drastically?
All I ever wanted was to help people - but it seems all the people getting hurt lately are the ones who want to do the helping...
I tell myself that it's not my fault. That this is a rough field - that people get hurt, people die...it's part of the job.
Diana's walking this way...I've seen that look before. She sits next to me, but doesn't look at me. Diana's eyes can be painful - especially when you can't meet them. It's similar to the kind of shame I feel when I've upset my mother, or worse, Lois. Diana is a respected colleague, but at the same time, she feels like a sister, by now - an older sister.
Being the most powerful "meta-human" in the world gives you odd perspectives. When bullets glance off your chest, pain is almost immaterial. But being a disappointment...disappointing the people I care about and respect is not something I think I'll ever get used to.
"He warned you. He warned me," she began. She knows she barely needs to whisper - that every word will be audible to me.
"Diana - "
"Don't. We failed him, Clark."
I can't argue with her.
"We need to find out what Ted was on to," she whispers, just as firmly, "And there need to be some major adjustments around here."
Never angry - never judgemental - even in her disappointment, her guilt, her frustration - it's compassionate. But it remains, however compassionate, an ultimatim - "Fix this, or I'm out."
I wonder exactly what it is that I can fix - all I can think of are things I should have done. Ways I should have acted. Opinions...
Opinions that were incorrect.
That's it, really - where I went wrong - and Diana knows it. Like it or not, I'm the one that sets the tone for the League. I'm not presumptuous enough to think I'm the leader - it's a League, just as the title suggests. I can't order Diana or J'onn around any more than they order me. But we do it all the time...
Or I should say, I do it all the time. It was easy when the League was small, and everyone was at the same level, in a way...A partnership of equals.
That's where I went wrong. I didn't consider Ted Kord an equal.
I considered him beneath me.
Not bad, or unworthy, or even ungratefully...just decidedly below.
It makes me sick to even think about it.
As I look at Ted's coffin, I can't help but think: We've been doing this for a while now...I've been doing this for a while.
Maybe it's not the world that's changed...maybe it's us.
Maybe it's me.