OBLIGATIONS by Terry Winder
Copyright December 2004

Disclaimer: I don't own them and my life would be so different if I did.

Rating: (PG)
Synopsis: The Justice Lords Superman and Wonder Woman have a conversation of the heart in their universe during A Better World.
I did love being the hero but if this is where it leads, I'm done with it. – Superman (A Better World)

He'd had this conversation before and he was tired of it. It was an obligation to have it. And he hated obligations. It was always about small people asking for large favors. Not understanding the implication of granting every wish. Not understanding that they were safer than they had ever been before. They always wanted to take risks with their own security, and like a parent that protects the child from hurting itself, he had to protect them from what they wanted. What they thought they needed. What he knew would hurt them.

"They seem happy enough to me," he said, his arms folded. It should be enough that I take your call. "And an election isn't like football. There's a lot more to lose."

The man on the video screen seemed nervous and hesitant. He answered with a small but detectable quiver in his voice. "True enough. So when do you think might be a good time to have one?"

Other times when the small man on the video screen would ask the question, the same question, Clark would smile. Today, there would be no smiling. His expression would be flat, emotionless, barely concealing his contempt for the small man. Clark felt obligated to talk but he no longer felt obligated to smile.

Just think, a few years ago the man who sat in that chair was considered to be the most powerful being on the planet. Now he must ask my permission before he can act and he disgusts me.

He heard her approaching. They all could fly but she moved less air than the others when she flew. Like a fish in water, she swam in the air – gliding so effortlessly, so beautifully. Watching her fly could become a passion. As she landed behind, he didn't acknowledge her presence. He didn't have to. She knew that he knew she was behind him. She had his back – now just as she had in the beginning.

"Patience, Mister President. Patience," Clark said to the video screen. He watched as the man he called 'Mister President' frowned back at him with disappointment on his face and then reluctantly terminated the video transmission.

Clark said nothing. He looked over his shoulder at Diana as he unfolded his arms. Her blue eyes twinkled back at him but her expression didn't change.

In the beginning, saying 'no' to a world leader might have bothered him more than it did now. Now it didn't matter what they thought. Only the thoughts of those in the Watchtower mattered. Only they could enforce what needed to be enforced.

Good order and discipline.

That was all that mattered. They could see it even if the small people on the planet below couldn't.

He whispered so that only she could hear him, "Fools." He leaped in the air and headed for the console station. She followed.

Since the murder of President Luthor by his hand, Clark had increasingly narrowed his circle of friends. Diana was his equal - and his friend.

She was loyal to him without question. And he valued loyalty now more than anything else. But she was not a sycophant. She told him when she thought he was wrong but always in private – never in public.

She didn't fear him.

She respected him.

And he respected her. They were equals.

When the Batman left the group to return to the sanctuary of his cave, she tried hard to dissuade him. But the Batman…was Batman marching to his own drummer ignoring the tune of their music. She apparently didn't hear or chose not to hear the drum beat Batman heard, but instead stayed with Clark listening to the music his soul played. She was loyal and in time he thought more about her than he did about Lois.

Lois. In the beginning, Lois was special to him, but now…now Lois was one of them. She didn't understand and he was tired of trying to make her see what Diana saw. What Diana knew. What Diana and he both wanted for this world. There was no joy with Lois anymore. There was only a feeling of obligation.

Diana landed behind him at the computer console.

"Eventually, they'll understand," she said from behind him. "You have to demonstrate the patience you told the President he must have." She placed her hand on his right shoulder. He reached across with his left hand and placed it on top of her hand. He turned to face her and smiled.

"Eventually," he said, "but you and I may be the only ones in this room alive when it finally happens." His smile broadened and she returned a larger one.

She understood him only the way an equal would – an equal could.

"Tonight, okay?" he said, looking into her smiling face. "After my…dinner with Lois."

She gently removed her hand from his grasp and lightly tapped his chest with her finger. "Tonight. Okay." And she turned and flew off.

He started concentrating on listening with his super hearing to the conversation that J'onn, Hawkgirl and the Green Lantern were having about a disturbance at the college. He saw the Lantern and Hawkgirl approach. He sighed, knowing what they were going to ask and the timing couldn't be worse.

"You coming?" the Lantern asked.

"It is your home town," Hawkgirl added placing special emphasize on the word 'is.'

Clark shook his head, sighed deeply and looked down at the floor. Obligations. "I've got a dinner date."