“I never wanted you dead.”
She swallows, heartbeat thundering, and closes her eyes to ward off the tears. To shut out the sight of the city in mourning before her, of the memorial for her fallen enemy. The memorial of a fallen hero. She could still feel the collective shudder of unease that had permeated the crowd at her arrival. She’d had every intention of keeping a low profile, of going out in civilian clothing, but something had compelled her to come in costume. To make a scene. To bring the crumpled, tear-stained letter she’d written last night after too many glasses of wine. The police officers had taken aim at her arrival, but she landed far enough away not to seem a threat and had held her hands in the air, purple flames dancing placidly in her fingers, but no anger in her eyes, only the same downcast look which everyone else had. She’d quietly asked to say a few words and pulled the letter out of a pocket of her cloak.
She coughs, takes a shuddering breath and starts again.
“I never wanted you dead.” Her voice rings stronger this time, clearer. “We’ve always had our disagreements. Okay, that’s putting it lightly. Where I always hid away, you shined brightly in the light of day and you fought for people. You used your abilities, your strength, your heart and you fought to protect the people, the city you love. You fought to protect us all. Because when you first started, I was nothing. I never told you this, but seeing you stand up for what you believed in, and using your powers inspired me to stop hiding from mine. No, I didn’t take up arms for any ideals like you did. I never believed in good and evil, only in power and exploitation. I didn’t grow up easily and I saw what the world would do to people. I chose to fight for myself. To finally fight back against the world that I hated.
“At first I didn’t understand why you fought me. I was trying to burn away the corruption and exploitation of power that I saw in the world. And yes, I fought for myself. I killed people. That was our biggest difference, even until the bitter end. I killed a lot of people, but I never wanted to kill you. And I never understood why you wouldn’t kill people, it would make your job so much easier. I thought they deserved it, each and every one of them. But I think I understand now.” Her voice breaks. She chances a glance up at the crowd, the paper fluttering in her shaking grip until she presses them flat against the podium. She expects glares and anger, but she only sees people in mourning. People like her. “Not everyone has a city to mourn their passing. But everyone has somebody. Nobody’s life is insignificant, and death is felt not by those who die but by... by the people who love us.
“For the longest time, I hated you. You always got in the way of everything I tried to do. You couldn’t see that I was doing it for the good of the world, just like you. Okay, I made a profit along the way, but when I started, I had nothing. That’s how I justified it... I hated you, but I never wanted you dead.
“I never knew who you were. I never tried to learn who you were beneath the mask, and never wanted to know besides a passing curiosity. I never... I didn’t know it was you. Not until last night. Not until I read a name I had said a thousand times. All the dates canceled at the last minute. All the times you ran out from the dinner I cooked... the times your “martial arts classes” got a bit rough...” tears well up in her eyes and she can’t stem the tide any longer, holding a hand to her face to wipe them away. “I didn’t know it was you until the moment I sat at our dinner table, and read your name in the newspaper. And now I know that even when I hated you and fought you as hard as I possibly could, I would go home and love you just as fiercely. I wanted to tell you who I was so many times, and now I’m just afraid of what you would say.”
She takes a deep breath, flinching at the feeling of a hand on her shoulder. It’s her girlfriend’s mother, who she had all but forgotten was sitting behind her. The woman she’d sat across for many family dinners.
“Oh Rachel,” she murmurs, hand squeezing her shoulder, “I was worried you wouldn’t come.”
“Of course I came,” She whispers back. “I loved her.”
She looks up into the crowd, seeing no vestige of the unease she’d seen before. Only sympathy. Understanding. Many among them had lost loved ones in the tragedy that had befallen the city. She takes a deep breath to find the strength to say what she’d come to say.
“I loved her. I love her still. And I don’t regret a second of it. I only wish… I wish that she were still here. That I could hold her in my arms again, and tell her I love her again. There was so much to do, so much to say and so much… to ask. The city didn’t know you like I did. They knew a different side to you, but from standing here, I can tell that they all cared for you. You inspired so many people, you touched so many lives. And I never even knew it, not the way I thought I did. And it only makes me love you more, only makes me so sure that my decision was right.” She slips a hand into her pocket, turning to the mother of the woman she loved to murmur “I hadn’t told you yet, but I had plans.”
The ring glinted in the sunlight. A bright sunny day for the passing of such a light. A collective gasp ran through the crowded plaza. “I never got to ask, but… well, this was yours. I had reservations.” Her nails dug into her palm. “I never wanted you dead. Not from the moment I laid eyes on you. In fact, I fell in love with you without ever even knowing. But at the same time, I knew you almost better than anybody. I got to have quiet evenings with you at home, and tense battles in the skyline. And I think I felt something for you even then. And I swear to you now that I will never forget you. Never forget what you fought for. And I have never been good at, well, being good. But I’m going to try. It’s the least I can do. I never wanted you dead. I’m so sorry that we spent so much time fighting, I wish I had been there to help you. I love you…”
Her shoulders shaking, she turns into the arms of the woman who might have been her mother in law. Allowing herself to have this moment of contact and love before tearing herself away and approaching the casket she’d spent all of her effort to avoid thinking about. Gazing down at the face of the woman she loved, she could almost trick herself into believing her to be sleeping. She clasps her hand between her own, and presses the ring into the cold palm, closing stiff fingers around it. “I love you.” She whispers for a final time, then steps back. Violet flames gather around her, and in a flash, she rockets into the air, vanishing from the sight of the plaza. “I never wanted you dead. Not even once.”