briarwood: Batman Comic image (Batman1)
Morgan Briarwood ([personal profile] briarwood) wrote2016-07-25 08:14 am
Entry tags:

The Memories That Haunt Us (5/5)

Epilogue: Dawn of Justice



Gotham City


The clothing Diana planned to wear was laid out on her bed and the jewels were on the dresser. She was in the middle of fixing her hair when the door buzzer sounded. She knew very few people in Gotham, and even fewer who would casually show up at her door. She pulled on a robe and went to the door.


The security camera at the apartment building's door transmitted its feed to the small screen beside her speaker. As she watched, the man looked up at the camera, adjusting his glasses in a nervous gesture. Clark Kent.


Diana pushed the speaker's button. “Come in, Clark.”


He smiled briefly at the camera and disappeared from view. Moments later, she opened her door to him.


Clark glanced at her robe. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know this would be a bad time.”


“You are welcome any time, Clark. I’m getting ready to go out but I have time. Can I get you something?”


“No, I, um...” He started to push the glasses back up his nose, then shrugged and removed them. “I need to ask you something. About Bruce.”


She led him into the living room and sat in her usual chair. “Ask away,” she invited.


“Are you and he...together?”


“You mean are we lovers? Is that your business?” She spoke more sharply than she intended.


“I guess not. But I’m trying to figure something out and...”


“I don't think it’s easy to define our relationship. It would be complicated even if we were not both leading double lives. I love him. Does that help?”


He frowned to himself. “Maybe.”


“What is it you really want to know, Clark?”


“Do you trust him?”


“With my life,” she answered at once.


“I mean, do you trust him to do the right thing? Batman is a criminal. Some of the things he’s done don’t sit right with me.”


Light began to dawn. “The law is not always right, Clark. Bruce is a good man, and for better or worse this city is his obsession. He will always protect Gotham, and he will always do whatever it takes to protect Gotham. But he works with the police, which should tell you something. But you are still avoiding your real question. What is it?”


Clark sighed. “I suppose what I really want to know is whether I should trust him. When we first met, in Washington...” he shook his head. “Diana, when I fought Zod I knew I was fighting for my life, but Zod didn’t hate me. I was just in his way. I don’t think I ever knew someone truly hated me until Bruce Wayne.”


Diana thought about that. “He saw you as a man willing to sacrifice a city to save the world. To him, that’s how evil men think. And you have to understand, the day it all happened, he was there in Metropolis. He saw buildings fall and people he knew die.”


Clark nodded gravely. “And he blamed me. I do understand that. I blame myself.”


“Bruce knows you better now,” Diana said. “I don’t think you will always agree with the things he does, but you can trust Bruce to be true to himself. If you understand what matters to him, he will always do what he sees as right.”


Clark seemed to come to a decision. “I think that answers my question. Diana, I need to speak to him, tonight. Will you come with me?”


“Of course. As Diana, or...”


“As Wonder Woman. I know you said you can’t fly, but we can fly together, if you trust me.”


Diana was grinning before she could stop herself. She was eager to fly with him. “Of course I trust you. Just give me a moment.”


In the bedroom, she rehung the dress she had intended to wear, then realised she needed to give Bruce some warning. They couldn’t drop in on him - literally, since they were going to fly - without letting him know they were coming. She called him on her Blackberry.


“Wayne residence,” Alfred’s voice answered Bruce’s cell phone.


“Hello Alfred, it’s Diana. Is he at home?”


“He is in the shower, Miss Prince. If you could wait a moment...”


“No, don’t disturb him. Will you give him a message?”


“Certainly.”


“Tell him I’m on my way, with Superman. If he’s willing, we’d like to meet him downstairs.”


“Is there more trouble, Miss Prince?” Alfred sounded alarmed, and after the past few days, Diana couldn’t blame him.


“I don't think so,” she answered quickly, to reassure him, “but it seems important. We’ll be there shortly.”


“Very well, I'll tell him at once.”


 


 


Flying was as sensational as she knew it would be.


When she returned to her living room as Wonder Woman, it was Superman who waited for her. They walked out onto her balcony together. He held her with one hand at her waist and she slid her arm around him beneath the flowing cape. He gave her an almost shy smile and then they were zooming into the air, so fast it took her breath away. When they were high enough he levelled off and slowed so she could see the city beneath them.


It was spectacular, and she wasn’t afraid at all. Though he seemed to hold her only lightly, Wonder Woman knew he would not let her fall. She saw the city beneath them, the tall towers and the ruined docks, the smaller houses of the suburbs giving way to green spaces as they headed toward Wayne Manor.


“Okay, there?” Superman asked her.


“I could get used to this!” Wonder Woman smiled back.


“Where do I need to go? I know the manor itself is a ruin.”


“There’s a house on the lake, but that’s not where we’re going. When we get there, look beneath the water.”


Superman hovered over the lake. He was silent for a long time, gazing down. “That’s amazing. And a little terrifying. He’s got a whole military base down there!”


“For a one-man army. Can you see if he’s in the cave?”


“Two men. Bruce and someone else.”


“That’s Alfred. They’ll be watching for us. Fly low and they’ll open the door.”


Superman did as she suggested and the lake entrance opened up. From above, it looked like the parting of the Red Sea. Water spilled into the chasm that suddenly opened up in the lake, revealing a ramp and a very wet doorway.


“Hold on,” Superman warned. He dived for the opening and was through it so fast they barely got wet.  In seconds they were in the Batcave and flying up to the computer platform, where Superman set her down gently.


Bruce was waiting for them. He wasn’t in his suit, but he had dressed in the tight black pants and shirt he always wore under the armour.


“That was quite an entrance,” he smiled at Wonder Woman, then turned to Superman. “Welcome to my world.”


 


 


Bruce wasn’t sure how he felt about Superman inviting himself to the Batcave. It was his private domain, secret for very good reasons. But he was going to have to find a way to live with this strange alien living so close to Gotham. He might as well start at home.


While he and Alfred waited, Bruce sat at the data console to review the news. There were the usual criminal elements trying to take advantage of the chaos Lex had created. The Batman would be on the streets after dark, ready to persuade them that stepping into that power void was a bad idea. For a while, Gotham would be a little more peaceful.


The alien ship in Metropolis Harbour had been destroyed in a fire. According to the fire department, the heat was so intense it should have spread to the surrounding city blocks in seconds, yet somehow it was confined to that relatively small space. No report placed Superman on the scene.


Lex Luthor was in prison, denied bail while Metropolis prosecutors tried to figure out what exactly they could charge him with. There wasn’t actually a law that said you couldn’t use alien technology to create a monster. They would figure it out, and Lex would serve time, though Bruce suspected it wouldn’t be as long as Lex deserved.


Lex was young. He would be back. And as much as prison was supposed to be about reform and rehabilitation, a few years inside had a way of making people like Lex worse. They had time to brood, to plot revenge and to learn the wrong lessons from their mistakes.


“Bruce?” Alfred said softly, hearing him sigh.


Bruce shook his head. “Nothing. Just thinking about Lex.”


“Ah.”


“I failed that kid,” Bruce confessed. It was something he could say to Alfred, if no one else.


“No. He was never your responsibility.”


“His father was. If I’d been paying closer attention, if I made more effort to reach out to him after Luthor died... Then maybe...”


“If I may, sir, Lex Luthor is an adult who made his own choices. You are not responsible. Neither is it too late.”


“What are you saying, Alfred?”


Alfred stood at the rail looking down into the cave. Bruce followed his gaze to the broken costume and halberd that had been Robin’s, and he knew what Alfred was thinking.


“Unlike Master Jason, young Lex is still alive. You can still make a difference for him, if you truly want to.”


“I beat up criminals, Alfred. I don’t coddle them.” Although Alfred had a point... Bruce turned back to the console and saw the perimeter alert flash. “They’re here,” he said, and opened the lake entrance to the cave.


Mere seconds later, Superman and Wonder Woman were landing on the platform beside him. Be nice, Bruce reminded himself.


“That was quite an entrance,” he remarked. Diana looked like she enjoyed it: her cheeks were flushed with excitement and she was smiling. Bruce turned to Superman. “Welcome to my world.” He put a slight stress on my: a gentle reminder that they were in his territory.


“I’m impressed,” Superman said, looking around the cave.


“I’m glad you came.” Bruce turned back to the console and sealed the cave entrance. “There’s something I want to discuss with both of you.” He knew they had come to talk to him, but this was his turf; he was going to get his say in first.


Diana gave him a look that said she had no patience with male dominance games.


Superman said simply, “I’m listening.”


“There are others like you and Diana.” Bruce called up a file as he spoke. “People with, uh, powers or abilities. And some of them seem to want to be like you. To help people, I mean. Look at this.”


He showed them a video file of a robbery in a store. One moment the man held a gun, the next he didn’t. Then Bruce replayed it frame by frame. A man-shaped blur was visible. This was just one of the files he had taken from Lex Luthor’s database, and many of them pre-dated the invasion. Lex Luthor senior had been compiling information on the so-called metahumans for several years.


“That’s in Central City,” Bruce added. “There are more.”


Diana nodded. “There have always been heroes,” she said in a very careful tone.


“I want to find them,” Bruce said. “Bring them together.”


“Why?” Superman asked.


“So that the next time some idiot creates an unkillable monster or hostile aliens invade, we will be prepared. Us, not the government.”


The thing Lex unleashed had been dangerous and frightening, but going straight to a nuclear response was a ridiculous over-reaction. Had that bomb been just a little closer to the Earth when it detonated, it could have sent out an EMP that would have devastated not just Metropolis, but most of the east coast of America. They still could not be sure there wouldn’t be problems with nuclear fallout. And it hadn’t even worked! If anything, feeding the creature that much nuclear energy made it stronger.


No, next time, and there would be a next time, the government and military had to trust people like Superman and Wonder Woman to get the job done.


“What if they don't want to be found?” Diana asked.


“We all have our secrets to keep,” Bruce told her. “My guess is most of these people will be living the same kind of double lives we do. We can help each other, keep each other’s secrets.”


“I don’t know,” Diana answered.


“It’s worth considering,” Superman agreed. “Do you have a plan?”


“Find them, talk to them. Diana is good at seeing the truth of people. She can help us avoid the ones who will be corrupted by their power. I think...I hope...it will come together naturally if we reach out in the right way.”


Superman raised an eyebrow. “According to you, even the best of men can turn into the worst.”


Bruce heard the echo of his own words. He stood and took a step toward the Man of Steel. “True. But you had a seriously bad day yesterday, and we’re all still here. Maybe if we all have friends to back us up, things will never get as bad as I feared.”


Superman gave a small shake of his head. “I hope you’re right, Bruce. But that brings me to the reason I came here.” Superman glanced at Diana, then turned to Bruce. He produced a small box from somewhere beneath the cape.


“I have something I want you to keep.” He offered the box to Bruce.


Bruce took it. “This looks like lead.” His fingers moved to the clasp.


“It is. Don’t open it while I’m here. Lois took it from Luthor.”


Wonder Woman’s eyes widened as she grasped his meaning.


Bruce knew the surprise showed in his own expression, too. “Is this...?” he asked, not quite believing it.


“Kryptonite,” Superman confirmed. “Luthor had it set into a ring.”


“Why are you giving this to me?”


Superman met his eyes. “Honestly, so I can sleep at night.”


“I don’t follow.”


“You were right, in Washington. I want to use my power to help people, to save lives and make this world a better place if I can. But some of the worst people in history have done evil with exactly that intention. I can do a lot of things you can’t do, but I can’t see into the future. I don’t know what might happen tomorrow or next year.” He moved away and looked down into the Batcave with its arsenal of vehicles and weapons. “I need you to have that ring because the time might come when you have to use it.”


Bruce closed his fist around the lead box. “You know that, if the time comes, I will use it.”


Superman turned back to him. “That’s why I’m giving it to you, not Diana. She would hesitate. She’d want to wait just a bit longer, to be sure. You won’t. I’m counting on that, Batman.”


 


 


Why did men speak so easily of death? Diana looked from one man to the other, willing one of them to say something that would make this less painful.


She understood why Clark was doing this. She even understood why he wanted her here, to witness it. Someone had to know Bruce possessed the ring. Someone they both trusted had to know, because if Superman was not incorruptible, neither was Bruce Wayne.


Bruce crossed the platform to where Superman stood. “If I'm going to hold onto this, I want something from you in return.”


Superman looked surprised, but he answered simply, “Name it.”


“When you have a bad day, ask for help. You're not alone.”


For the first time since they entered the cave, Superman smiled. “I will. Thanks.”


Bruce returned his smile, a little tentatively. That made Diana smile too. She wasn’t sure the two men would ever manage to be friends, but Bruce was trying. That was more than she had expected.


Bruce turned to Diana. “Do you both want to stay? I have food and booze upstairs.”


“Thanks, but tonight I have plans with my mom,” Superman relaxed as he spoke.


“Diana?”


She smiled. “I’ll stay. We have a lot to talk about.”


 


The End.


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