Man In Black

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Don't own anything, don't make money off anything. All characters belong to DC comics. I write because I like to. Feel free to use in any way, just keep my name and disclaimer.

DEDICATION: To my little love. Somewhat late to be saying this, but your wedding was fantastic. Be happy always.

Hello, father.

I don't think I have ever called you "father" before. I've always used the other, easier word. Much more convenient. Much less commitment. The universe could easily forgive me that.

But I can't. I may have been born of another, and I owe a lot of who I am to him. But you are responsible for who I finally became. You are my father.

And today I feel the need, not just to feel it, but to say it. It's a very special day.


*** The City ***

The entire city is decorated in lights. People line the streets, dance in the avenues. Loud music is all around. Everywhere, there is celebration. There is a delicious sense of anticipation in the air. The main ceremony will start soon. The luckiest ones are at the centre of the city, in the park, near the great statue, where the ceremony is to take place. The park, like the entire city, is decorated in the colors that are so appropriate for this day.

Red, white and blue.

*** ***

Is it natural, father, to feel this way on a day like this? Does every man in my position go through this? You, I know were in the same position once. What do you think?

So many thoughts in my head. So many feelings. I suppose I am happy. This has been long in coming, but, I guess, inevitable. The universe expected it, even waited for it to happen.

The universe. Why do I keep saying that? Maybe I am important to the universe, but I never thought that big. I suppose the day demands big, holistic thoughts. But I think about the immediate things, too.

I keep thinking about him. And those around him.

*** The other city ***

The signal looks paler than usual, in a sky already lit up from the celebrations below. There was a time when this signal shone like a second moon on the skyline of this city. Today, it has taken second place. Maybe the soul of this city is changing. But this signal will be a part of the identity of this city. Forever.

A man in a trench coat stands beside the signal, half in the shadows. He looks down at the city below. So much has changed.

A gravelly voice speaks from the shadows.

"Why the signal?"

*** ***

Human nature is a funny thing. And contrary to what a lot of people believe, my nature is entirely human. I have you to thank for that, father. You and the others.

And it is human nature, even on a "joyous occasion" (that's what you would have called it) like this one, to think of dear ones we have lost. People who could have shared the occasion with us, been happy with us.

So I think of loss.

Ironically, the first loss I think about may have ultimately caused this occasion. This is a terrible thought. This isn't the first time I have had to tackle terrible thought.

So, the day we lost…her.

*** Funeral 1 ***

It rained heavily. But people had still turned out. The funeral service was short, to the point. Just like she would have wanted.

As people started drifting away, the big bespectacled man knelt beside the grave, crying uncontrollably. The tall, beautiful woman beside him put her hand on this shoulder, offering what comfort she could. A little distance away, their friends waited.

The literally hand carved tombstone said, simply, "Lois Lane".

*** ***

It took me quite a while to get used to the idea that she was gone. So much life. So much beauty. So much hope. So much bravery. She, more than anyone else, was an example of how much a simple human being could do. In this world filled with "super" heroes, she was a real hero.

And she died a hero. She had been called "professional rescuee", but she died rescuing a child none of us had noticed or could get to on time.

I loved her, father. Still do.

But there was another man whom she loved more than anyone else. She spent her whole life trying to prove herself to him. Her father, Sam Lane. I had felt this so many times in our time together, but never had the courage to tell her this.

And so, I move on. The second loss.

*** Funeral 2 ***

The cemetery was small, like the town. So was the group of people. But the sense of loss was not.

The big bespectacled man was crying uncontrollably again. The tall, beautiful woman held him close. She was crying too. She knew what it meant to lose a mother.

A small, frail bespectacled man knelt beside the grave this time. He, too, was crying, but silently, as if he knew this separation would not be for long.

The tombstone read "Martha Kent, beloved wife and mother."

*** ***

Oh, Ma. She was without question a mother. Even a few minutes with her would fill me with the feeling, while acutely reinforcing the loss of the mother I hardly knew.

It seems I only got a few minutes with her, in recent years.

Once she was gone, it was a matter of time. But it came so soon. And who could have known that I would share the exact same loss, on the same day, with him?

*** Funerals 3 and 4 ***

The small cemetery now held two graves, side by side, like their occupants had been all their lives. The big man stood strong this time, like his father would have wanted him to. The tall woman stood beside him, holding his hand. A couple of steps away stood another man, face unreadable. He stared down at the tombstone.

"Jonathan Kent, beloved father and husband", read the tombstone. A perfect complement to his other half, as always.

"We should go," whispered the woman to the big man.

He nodded, and turned to the other. The three of them walked to a secluded spot in the cemetery, and…vanished.

To reappear across an ocean, to a cemetery in another continent.

Once again, the group was small. Two young men, and two young women stood beside the grave, waiting.

The big man touched the other man's shoulder. The woman, pain visible in her face, just looked at him. The other man brushed off both the hand and the look, and walked over to the coffin to take a last look.

The tombstone:

Alfred Pennyworth

To Sleep

Perchance to dream

*** ***

That was a turning point, father. After that day…

Well, today has come. The whole world celebrates. The city is awaiting the ceremony, which should start any moment now.

But I had to be here. With you. Father.


In England.


Bruce Wayne touched the words of the Immortal Bard carved on his father's tombstone. He could almost see the patient gaze that had, so often, prompted him to open his heart.

*** The other city ***

"I don't know. It seemed appropriate."

The man in the trench coat turns, and faces the immaculately dressed man.

"We haven't used that since you became commissioner, Dick."

"That was quite a shock to the city, hmm? Me becoming commissioner, you becoming district attorney, Barbara becoming mayor, and Cassandra taking over Wayne Enterprises."

"This city has taken worse shocks."

"We should go, Dick, Tim," calls the beautiful red-haired lady who had just come up the stairs. "It's about time."

"Thought we'd find you two here", adds her asian-featured companion.

"Let's go."

*** ***

After that day, life went on. I threw myself into my work. But with a new purpose. I didn't just want prevention of crime, I wanted change. I wanted reform. When he finally proposed to her, I became even more driven.

I love her, father. I want her. I ache for her.

But after that day, after her experiment with J'onn's machine, I guess it was hopeless.

So, I worked. And one by one, things started changing.

The Joker died.

The Penguin, the Hatter, the Riddler, all reformed. Permanently.

Ivy has set up a tropical paradise in, of all places, Antarctica. Amazing what her powers combined with that of a Lazarus Pit can do.

Selina…well. Who would have thought that she and Leslie can work so well together?

The children have come into their own.

And surprisingly, so has the city.

Gotham no longer needs a Batman. I saw to it. I fixed all the crazy inhabitants, father. Including Batman.

So, there is no more Batman.

I have taken to traveling the world, father. Gotham no longer interests me. Nothing really does. Not the way it used to.

But, you know something? Having lost the one who was the epitome of beauty to me, I am now finding beauty in all sorts of unexpected places. Sunlight is beautiful. Flowers are beautiful. The Earth is beautiful.

It's time, father. I need to go. But I'll be back.

No, I'm not going to the city. I can hear your sarcasm. But some things don't change. This will be another time I won't listen to you. I can't go there.

I can't.


*** The city ***

The music rose to a crescendo. The roar of the crowd became louder still. The ceremony was about to begin.

This ceremony was different in so many ways; no one really raised an eyebrow at the fact that the person officiating had green skin.

J'onn could see Dick, Tim, Barbara and Cassandra arriving. He was glad. In his heart of hearts, he had known they would come. Just as he knew he wouldn't.

J'onn let a feeler of thought go out, encompass the world. He wanted to know where his friend was, how he was feeling, invasion of privacy be damned.

Nothing. If Bruce Wayne did not want to be found, even the most powerful telepath on Earth could not find him. Maybe there was something to the idea about learning Earth's mental and physical disciplines.

Then, J'onn had to focus back to the present as the bride and bridegroom, eschewing Earth tradition, arrived together from the sky.

She was dressed in white. Her long hair had been tied for the occasion. A tiny train fluttered behind her gown, studded with crystals. She was beautiful beyond description.

He was, as always, big, bluff, handsome. J'onn had to admin that the suit he wore made him look…well…sharp.

"He looks like Keanu Reeves". J'onn smiled. If his super hearing had served him right, that was Sasha, over at the Wayne/Drake/Grayson/Gordon party.

"He isn't here." It wasn't a question. Diana knew.

"No," said J'onn, simply. "Shall we begin?"

"The short short version," J'onn could hear Eel O'brien whispering to Wally West.

"No, the short version", thought J'onn to Eel. Did Eel think he had not watched Spaceballs? J'onn liked Mel Brooks movies.

"Do you, Kal El of Krypton, Clark Kent of Earth, known as Superman, take this woman, Diana of Themyscira, known as Wonder Woman, as your wife?"

He smiled, a smile of supreme contentment. "With all my heart, I do."

Diana's mind was in a whirl. This was what she wanted. This was what she needed. Why, then, did she feel the whisper, as if of a black silky cape, in her mind?

"Do you, Diana of Themyscira, known as Wonder Woman, take this man, Kal El of Krypton, Clark Kent of Earth, known as Superman, as your husband?"

ENDWORD: Yeah, well, whatever.