schizoauthoress: (A Spark in the Dark)
[personal profile] schizoauthoress
Title: Runny Peach Pie
Author: D.L. SchizoAuthoress
Rating: PG
Spoilers: AU, opens post-"Infinite Crisis" but the change actually happened before then.
Warnings: mentions of character death, though none happens in the story itself
Word Count: 1800
Prompt: Inspired by this picture
Word of the Day: paregmenon noun:
The juxtaposition of words that have a common derivation, as in “sense and sensibility.”
(Paregmenon comes from the Greek word parēēgménon meaning "to bring side by side or derive.")
Summary: "Power Girl tries to tell herself not to get her hopes up... She's a grown woman. She knows that wishes don't come true."

Runny Peach Pie

"Family life is a bit like a runny peach pie - not perfect but who's complaining?"
--Robert Brault


Kara Zor-L is alone. And she knows now that she always will be, for she is the refugee of a dead world three times over. Once, sent away from Krypton as it exploded and killed nearly all of her people. Twice, as the skies turned red and the Anti-Monitor devoured the multiverse, when the history of her universe had been tangled up with the history and reality of four other worlds. Thrice, finally remembering and being reunited with her Earth parents -- her cousin Kal-L, who had arrived on Earth-Two decades before her, and his wife Lois Lane -- only to lose them and the possibility of going home again when the nascent recreated multiverse was collapsed.

Kara Zor-L is tired. Beyond physically tired, something that rarely affects her anyway, she is weary in her soul. She -- and the gestalt universe around her -- has been desperate to find a place to belong. To find a family, to know her history... to finally fit. She has done the first two, and worries that the third will ever be beyond her. She is a native of Earth-Two, and Earth-Two no longer exists. Perhaps it will never, cannot ever, be restored.

She does have a place on this New Earth, with the Justice Society of America. It is not the one that she once knew, but Kara... Karen cannot forget that the team is still made up of good people. They are people who appreciate Karen Starr, people allied with Power Girl, and even if they aren't exactly the same as the people in Kara Zor-L's past... they are still heroes. They are still her friends. In the face of her loss, it is a small comfort, but comfort all the same.

She cannot give up; she cannot allow herself to wallow in self-pity, though she feels no guilt in taking these few hours of solitude and sorrow, at the graves of her family. The world, this world, still needs Power Girl. Perhaps it needs her even more, with Superman out of commission. The last battle with the Superboy of Earth-Prime had taken all the alternates of Kal-L through the wreckage of Krypton, where planet Mogo of the Green Lantern Corps waited beneath the red light of Rao. Her cousin, Kal-L, had paid for their victory with his life. Her not-cousin, Kal-El, still lives, but without his superpowers. (Their hated enemy, the twisted Clark Kent of Earth-Prime that she will never name as part of the House of El, truth of blood ignored, also lives. He is imprisoned in the heart of a Sun-Eater, and if Karen never sees him again, she will live and die happy.) This world is her world, as much as it is Kal-El's, and she will not turn her back on it.

Karen wipes at her eyes with both hands, scrubs her palms against her cheeks. She can do this. She will do this.

She is the last of the House of L, and she will stand for it proudly.

It had been late afternoon when she arrived at the graves, which were isolated from all signs of civilization. The lone tree that shades the headstones sways in a chill dusk breeze. Karen looks up at the sky, which is a rapidly darkening blue. The smallest sliver of the sun hovers above the horizon, smearing the sky in orangey-red, and for a moment she expects to see the constellations she learned aboard the Symbioship to emerge in the sky. The moment passes, as the Big Dipper and Little Dipper become visible to her eyes.

Karen sighs, and lets herself tip backward so that she is lying in the small space between the two graves.

'I'll always be with you, Kara,' Kal-L had said, with his last breath, 'even if you can't see me. I'll always be here. It's not going to end.'

'As far as we're concerned,' Lois had said, offering comfort and love even as she lay weak and dying in a strange universe, 'you are our daughter.'

She misses them so much. She did not know to miss them before, knowing only a hollow ache in her heart where the memories had been. And even though the memories hurt her even more than that ever did, she will not trade them for anything. Karen knows that wherever they are -- together, never separated even in death, if there is any justice in the universe or universes -- they love her still.

It is just her bad luck that the gestalt universe hadn't preserved her timeline in the more literal sense -- placed her in history so that she landed on Earth as an adult in the mid-seventies, before Superman's debut in the late eighties. 'Wouldn't that have been funny?' Karen asks herself, 'If I'd ended up mothering Kal in this universe?'

Mothering might be strange; he already had a mother, from childhood. (Karen tried not to think about Martha Kent, or the disappointed, accusatory look in the woman's eyes when she'd all but declared Karen an imposter trying to harm Kal in some way. It hadn't been Martha's fault that Karen's history was inconsistent, or looked like a lie. She had only been trying to protect her son.) Perhaps Power Girl would have been, in this hypothetical New Earth, a mentor to Superman? Karen can't help laughing at the thought; she does try to offer advice and support to the younger female members of the JSA, but she feels totally unsuitable at the same time. She hardly knows what she's doing with her life, so how can she be qualified to mentor anyone else?

A bright streak of light flares across the twilight sky. 'Twinkle twinkle, little star,' pops into Karen's head, a memory of Lois's laughing recitation of the nursery rhyme once, as they'd watched Kal depart for a mission in space, 'how I wonder what you are...'

An odd impulse, perhaps brought on by her nostalgia, has Karen refocusing her eyes to telescopic vision, to see what this shooting star is made of. And once she gets a good look at it, she sits up from the ground in shock.

It's not a star. It's not even a meteor on its way to becoming a meteorite on the surface of the planet.

It's a rocket ship.

Power Girl is in the air before she consciously decides to be, flying toward the descending ship. She blinks, pushing her telescopic vision even further, trying to get a good look at the details of the ship.

Once she does, she isn't sure that she's really seeing what's there, or if she's just seeing her hopes projected. Because it looks like this sleek little rocket ship has new standard Kryptonese writing -- what this universe calls Kryptonian -- on the outside, somehow brighter than the metal glowing with re-entry heat. Power Girl quickly calculates the descent vector of the ship and, glancing down at the Earth below them, figures out the most probable landing zone. She doesn't have the information to calculate for variables of wind and the like, but she keeps an eye on the ship even as she drops herself even faster down to the surface.

As they approach, she realizes that the landing zone is New Jersey, or just short of it. Power Girl does not want to go plunging into the polluted waters of the coastal Atlantic. So she pulls up beside the ship and corrects the angle of its plunging nose just slightly, then allows herself to catch a wind current back and up to get a wider view of the rocket ship's new 'target'. It will skim through the highest levels of Gotham City and dip downward again, into the surrounding countryside further inland from the major highway. Power Girl tails the craft as close as she dares, making sure that it harms nothing as it passes through Gotham.

She doesn't need anyone tattling on her to Batman. Even if he isn't quite the Dark Knight she briefly knew back home, he's plenty grim.

Power Girl tries to tell herself not to get her hopes up, as she watches the rocket ship plow a long, deep furrow in the ground in its landing. But she can't help it. She lands some distance away, and forces herself to walk slowly toward the craft, trying in vain to calm her racing heart. She's a grown woman. She knows that wishes don't come true.

And yet...

Power Girl runs her hands over the metal of the rocket ship. Even though most materials wouldn't burn her even so soon after re-entering an atmosphere, she can tell that the metal is cool to the touch. Cooler than any Earth metal, and many alien metals, would be in a similar situation. Unbidden, her gloved fingers seek out the latches that would be there on her Symbioship, even as the logical part of her mind yells that it's impossible that this would be her ship, or even like her ship.

All the same, impossible as it is, she finds the latches and presses them open with suddenly shaking hands. The craft hisses at her as the seal is breached, and the domed portion at the top swings back in a manner so familiar that her heart aches at the reminder. Power Girl gasps, as the recycled atmosphere in the ship vents, and her mouth is filled with a half-forgotten taste of... of...

Home.

A tiny baby is lying on her back within, the padded couch too large for her small body, but perfectly conformed so that no motion of transit could disturb her sleep. Power Girl... Kara Zor-L... knows this setup. Knows the minds that conceived it, as well as she can. The little blonde baby within this rocket ship is -- has to be -- her. Her not-cousin's real cousin. Kara Zor-El.

Karen takes a moment to blink back tears, though she's not sure if they are sad or happy. Her hands are steady as she reaches inside and picks up her baby alternate. This makes no sense. Even with the vagaries of relativity and sub-light space travel, Kara Zor-El ought to be much older than this. Perhaps not as old as Karen had been when arriving to Earth-Two, but certainly not a baby.

"Maybe Mother and Father put you in stasis in this universe?" Karen wonders aloud. Her voice startles herself, and the baby Kara as well. Wide blue eyes stare into Karen's, as the baby gets her first look at Earth.

Earth... and, impossibly, a piece of home. Karen lifts the child up, and smiles, delighted to see an answering smile on that chubby little face.

"Kara," she says, and it's not English she's speaking now, "Kara Zor-El. Welcome home, little Kryptonian. Welcome home."

*-*-*-*

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