The dark knight stood atop one of the vast rooftops of Gotham City, rain bombarding his cowl, dropping from the clouds which cloaked the nightly heavens. He had the city to himself for the night. Dick was in Keystone helping Wally with the pairing of Victor Fries and Leonard Snart. Otherwise known as Mr. Freeze and Captain Cold; Tim was with the Titans, and Barbara was out of town with Dinah.
He had done a server check on the computer before he headed out into the night that had spawned him. All of the Rouges were accounted for. It was to be a quiet night. Nothing more than punks and thugs who might be trying to mug an old lady, or take a big shot at a bank. The violent wind blew his cape on both sides of his body, draping him in a…almost royal looking appearance.
He was looking towards a quiet night. But as he heard the tale-tale flapping of another cloak behind him, devoicing the stealth of whoever had approached him, the dark knight spun on his heel, a batarang arcing from his fingertips. The steel met an open hand which took no damage from the assault.
seeing the sight of the newcomer, the dark knight's brow wrinkled
in frustration beneath his cowl. "My satellites picked up a large
object approaching Smallville last week. I had a feeling I'd be
seeing you before too long."
The blue and red figure of the Man of Steel had been floating about four feet above the side of the building, and he lowered slowly, his Kryptonian boots connecting with the steel softly. "Hello, Bruce. I thought I'd stop by…I—"
"Owed me an explanation..?" The cape crusader asked, crossing his arms.
Clark lowered his head; the pelting rain dampening his hair, his famous curl's form was now soaked and lost in the rain. He had expected that reaction from Bruce. He was always the straight forward detective. Never sugar coated anything. It was who he was, and…despite all of the differences between them, he was Clark's best friend.
Lifting his head a bit, Superman kept his voice firm, but calm as always. Almost always. "Yes, Bruce….I owe you an explanation. All of you." Clark was referring to the JLA. When he had left Earth in search of Krypton, he said nothing to the league, like Lois. And like Lois, he was sure, they took it personally.
Bruce, as always spoke to Superman like no one
else would dare. Speaking almost as if he could read his mind, "The
League nearly fell apart. Metropolis' villains nearly brought the
entire city to its knees." The Dark Knight took another step
forward, his forefinger prodding the famous 'S' insignia on
Superman's chest. "And where were you? You abandoned your
responsibility to the people who need you."
Superman's eyes never left Batman's. He deserved that. It was truth. But Clark…had to do what he did. "I know I did, Bruce. You're right. And I'm sorry. But…Kryp—" Clark started, preparing to explain.
"I know about Krypton. It was Wayne Enterprises Satellites that found it in the first place. I knew that was why you left. They found what they believed to be the remains of Krypton. Two days later, the world's greatest hero is gone."
Clark turned his eyes towards the heavens. Thinking of the journey he had taken. Of…what he had found.
"I had to know, Bruce. I had to see with my own eyes…..if…there was anything left over…other than myself. But there was nothing…" He admitted with a voice of finality. "Nothing, but floating chunks of rock and debris." Clark turned his eyes away from the sky, back to facing the dark figure he had come for. "I…am all that remains."
Detective's cape draped around his form, his intense eyes never
leaving the Man of Steel's, as he processed what Clark had said.
"And if you did find anything, what next?"
Clark had thought of that question….his entire trip. As he sat in the ship heading towards the preprogrammed destination. That was his only thought. What could he do if he found what he was searching for? "I don't…know, Bruce. I never did. But I had to find out if it was really out there."
The Dark Knight's stare never faltered. If his face were carved from stone, it would have looked no different than it did now. That was just the way Batman was.
Superman spoke again.
"I'm not going to make excuses, Bruce. I left. I was gone for five years….and I came home to a world that is in distraught. I had…thought…hoped that the example I had set as Superman would be enough for them to carry on in my absence."
For the first time during the confrontation, Superman turned away from Batman, facing the city casted before them, speaking as though the world were his audience "I've always tried to show you that there's nothing to fear…in the darkness. The light will always be waiting…and I thought in my absence that would be enough…but I came home to a world in chaos. A world that had forgotten what I had tried so hard to teach it…"
"But it wasn't enough." Bruce started, finishing Clark's thought, before starting a new one of his own. "Because as we are setting the example…there are others setting the opposite example….you've been gone. But they haven't."
Superman turned back towards Batman, his cape blowing over his shoulder. "I know Bruce. I left this place in search of my home….and in the process….I forgot that this…this is my home. I left it." His eyes interlocked with Bruce's, a fire shining in his eyes. One this rain and no other could ever put out. "I won't leave it again. I'll do everything within my power to show Metropolis that I'm back. And I'm not leaving again. Until the day I die. I had forgotten that this was my home. And I won't forget again, Bruce. I promise."
He held his hand up to
Bruce. "I came to you before the League. Before Lois. Before
everyone. Because you've lived your life as I've lived
mine…you've always been the one to judge the League. You pulled
it together, when I wasn't there. You kept them from losing hope
when I wasn't there to give it anew. You made sure everything was
safe, that my city was safe, when I wasn't here. You didn't tell
me…but you were the one who kept an extra eye open for Metropolis
in my absence. I've seen the newspapers. You fought Metallo, you
beat Parasite, you took up where I left off. You did….what the
people needed from me." Clark took in a deep breath before speaking
again, his hand remaining where it was, offering Bruce to take it.
"You above all, have earned the right to make this
Silence passed for long moments, Superman's blue eyes never faltering. "Will you stand by me?"
Bruce never moved, his cape still draped across his body. He stared at Clark for long, tense moments which passed like hours. He then threw his arms out, his cape being thrown backwards taking the shape of bat wings for a moment, before his gloved hand gripped Superman's.
"…..Welcome back, Superman."