Love. This Superman… loved his Querl. And his Querl, his Brainiac 5, whom this had yet to happen to and was thus robotic- loved him back.
You are my Querl. His mind protested, I love you, you, you! But Querl had no idea, he had totally different memories, he didn’t know anything about them. Nothing. And Clark could hardly even conjure up in his mind an idea of what that’d be like. To have them just…not. To not love Querl the way he did, to just…to care about him, but not love. And—and for Querl, it…just…oh, Querl.
The…the break in his voice was unbearable, and how he had to stop and breathe in, to collect himself before saying anything more, it was just, so, so horrible to hear from Querl. Clark couldn’t. He loved him, he was his Querl! Even though he didn’t know that right now, he was, and Clark couldn’t bear to see him like this. So broken and sad, and hardly able to even look at him.
But with his final words he did, his green, green, eyes just looking at Clark. ‘You have me’ he wanted to say, ‘You are my Querl’ he wanted to say, but the words weren’t coming, and he couldn’t.
He just…he just…
The hand on Querl’s shoulder slid up to his cheek again, and Clark brushed his fingers over Querl’s skin as he just looked at him with sad eyes. He just…he couldn’t. ‘I love you’ he wanted to say, so so badly, to reassure him to let him know, but he couldn’t.
And before he realized what he was doing, he was leaning in to gently press his lips against Querl’s. Very carefully, completely chaste, just…he needed to, he needed to kiss him, if he couldn’t say that he loved him he had to kiss him. He had to do something he couldn’t see Querl so forlorn like this, he just couldn’t.
There were so many things that he could say at that moment. Too many things that wanted to spill out of his mouth. About how Superman wasn’t there, he couldn’t say that. About how yes, he was to blame, even if he hadn’t actually committed those acts. About how he was exiled from Colu. About how it didn’t matter if his friends forgave him, he didn’t. About how his Superman let him go.
It was that last one that made him finally speak up, voice hushed, barely able to talk at this point, just a scant whisper. “…Why are you so different?” he asked, the crackings in his voice… ceasing, his tears starting to slow, body just so worn out and utterly exhausted-
"My… My Superman calls me Brainy. He… He understood, he let me go, he knows I’m leaving and didn’t protest. He doesn’t hold me like this; I wonder if he’s… he’s scared to touch me any more. He can’t tell when I’m f-faking a smile, or… or pretending."
Querl knew Superman intimately. Superman… didn’t know him as well as this Superman did, at least, not that he gave off. “Why?” The Coluan spoke up, voice broken. “Why are you different? What… What’s changed, you and your Querl…?”
Whoever his Querl was, he was- he was-
He didn’t know how lucky he was.
The question struck him completely off guard. He…was different? Than his own self? Towards Querl?
That fact of course had been already obvious from what Querl had said thus far but…it still…seemed so odd because Clark couldn’t imagine looking at this situation any differently. Maybe if he had been there his reaction would be a little more well-suited to everything, but, even with that, he couldn’t imagine changing all that much at all.
It was just…so strange to see Querl not know that Clark loved him, and to hear of a Clark that didn’t, not the way he did. And…that changed so much that he wouldn’t have even said the things he did? That just…seemed so, so odd…
Technically you are my Querl, just with different memories right now. But obviously he couldn’t say that, it’d lead to too much to explain and…Querl was already troubled enough, it wouldn’t help him any to say that. And he likely wouldn’t believe Clark in that regard either, and just…as much as Clark would like to be truthful it was just…clearly better to not be right now. Because, right now, Querl needed him. And such confusion would just be too complicated. Even with that reasoning though, a flash of guilt still went through Clark, but he couldn’t. It would just mess this up, and he couldn’t mess this up, for Querl’s sake.
Querl was speaking so quietly now, looking so utterly worn down that it hurt. But at least he was crying less, his voice a little less broken, but still he was…so so sad. It hurt so much to see him like this.
But the question…
Querl didn’t know that they had each other the way they did. He…thought that it was another Querl that Clark knew, when really…
He just…he didn’t know how much he meant.
It was so so difficult to conjure up words for a moment, the urge to just kiss him rearing up once more, to just kiss him and let him know that everything was alright, that he was here—but, no, no, Querl had no idea about anything. Clark was surprised that Querl was even letting Clark hold him this way, because he…he was very much not used to this at all, and he was organic.
And he had to answer, he couldn’t not answer, it was Querl asking him this—and he already had lied once here, he couldn’t, couldn’t lie again.
"My Querl and I love each other," he said, very softly, such simple words that were so difficult for him to say to Querl like this. To his Querl who didn’t know that Clark was his. Who was so, so broken and saddened and who felt alone right now. “That’s—That’s why I know your name, that’s why I’m…different than your Clark.” It was still such a foreign concept. “And that’s why I’m holding you and why I know you better.” Why he knew that Querl hadn’t been telling the truth. …The sheer fact that Querl’s memory of Clark didn’t was just…just…so surely he could tell, right? But for some reason he judged it better to not point it out? Perhaps? That was…all Clark could figure. Because it had been as clear as day to him that Querl was not alright.
He…hesitated. Oh, he should probably back off now or something, this was probably going to seem so strange to Querl, he had no idea…but Clark couldn’t do it, no. He was still holding Querl up mostly, for one, and for two, he just…didn’t want to. Querl was so sad, Clark needed to comfort him, in whatever way he could. He just…hoped that this answer didn’t overwhelm him or make him too freaked out or anything.
…At the very least though, he could move his hand a little, and so the hand cupping Querl’s cheek moved down to his shoulder—that wouldn’t freak him out as much, right? Hopefully?
"I-I’m sorry," he mumbled, frowning a touch, just…the idea that Querl didn’t know this and that he would have to explain it just…it was so strange. And it would probably sound even stranger to Querl, and that just…Clark didn’t like that. “That probably…seems rather sudden to you. But that’s…that’s why.”
He loved him, he loved him.
And Querl had no idea.
The careful touch to his cheek, the gentle rubbing away of his tears, caused Querl to draw back enough so that he could look up at him, blinking up at him slowly. Superman was- he was smiling. Smiling at him, oh-so-gently, despite what he had just told him. He was smiling.
Querl resisted the urge to let his face crumple once more, instead sucking in a deep breath, before exhaling deeply. “I’m… I- I can’t be here, th-though, Superman. After what I d-did, after all th-that, I- I can’t.” The Coluan shook his head sharply, eyes flickering down and focusing on the point where his hands clutched at his friend’s suit. Anything but looking him in the eye.
"I… I’ve decided t-to leave the Legion. I n-need to sort out all of… all of th-this, and I… I c-can’t face all of you." His words were a whisper, but still continued. "M-Maybe you’re r-right, m-maybe I was strong at- at the end, b-but… I d-digitized all of you. I n-nearly k-killed you! I… I can’t face you, I can’t forgive m-myself for that. N-Not now."
Even if all he wanted to do was remain in Superman’s arms, lean into him forever and never, ever let him go, he couldn’t handle it. He felt week, tremble-y, shaking and unable to stop it. No, no, he couldn’t remain here.
Clark could see his expression now, as Querl moved a little away to look up at him. He was still so broken, the traces of sadness still far too stark in his eyes (which were green!) His smile faded though, as Querl spoke more, replaced by concern once more. His thumb brushed Querl’s cheek again, softly.
He could understand why Querl would want to leave, would want to be alone…the guilt he must be feeling, even though this wasn’t his fault, not at all. He had done his best, Clark knew that he had done his best, and in the end he had won, and everyone was okay. Still…Clark couldn’t blame him for his thoughts, because of what had almost been…
But…would being alone really help? Querl…Querl probably needed at least someone. With how he was still trembling, even in Clark’s presence and in his arms, surely it would be even more difficult for him if there was no one to support him…
"…Querl…I’m sure that everyone will forgive you, they’re your friends. No one would blame you—and it all ended with everyone being okay and that’s what matters the most.” He paused a moment to let out a breath, steeling himself before continuing, “You don’t have to face any of this alone, that’s what friends are for—helping you through difficulties. Everything that happened...it wasn’t your fault, Querl, it was Brainiac, you can’t blame yourself for that. And you won, everything will be okay, and others can help you with making everything okay, if you let them. I’m included in that.”
"But, if you really think leaving will help more, then everyone would let you go and wait for you to return. But they will always be there for you if you need them.”
His eyes softened, “You don’t have to face anything alone, Querl. Not unless you really think that it’s right to.”
Sometimes you need a hero. Someone to be there for you to pick you up when you’re down, to catch you as you fall, to protect you, or to just be there for you. Life can be brutally dark, unbearably hard, or just unfair. And whether that hero is a friend, a family member, or yourself, you need someone to be the light that shines through the dark. That is a hero.