This one is dedicated to the individuals interviewed for the By Word of Mouth (1987) project that I did for my senior high school English project, and Virginia Havard, the teacher who originated the project. By Word of Mouth was a book of interviews of individuals known to the students or residing in the area from both sides of the conflicts of WWII on their experiences during the war.

There was an earlier project dealing with the Great Depression, two later books dealing with Viet Nam and Korea, respectively, and the remaining books dealt with decades of time as lived by East Texas residents.

I'm drawing from the atmosphere of the WWII project for this one, but borrowing the "reactions" of American veterans from both the WWII and Viet Nam wars for this story.

Takes place post Our Worlds At War events.

As usual - I don't own Clark, Diana, Bruce or any other characters mentioned here; I'm just playing with DC's toys in a not-for-profit way and will put them back neatly when I'm done.

The location of Mesa AZ as cited here may be slightly off, but the local bars, museums, etc. mentioned are real (and real COOL) local places. The events cited for them are fictional. Apologies for any inaccuracies, I'm new to the area. :-)

Trinity: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder


Tracey Claybon


"And we would all go down together,
We said we'd all go down together..."

"Goodnight Saigon" - Billy Joel

"All those who remember the war,
They won't forget what they've seen,
Destruction, of men in their prime,
Whose average age was 19."

"19", Paul Hardcastle


I sat in the Batcave's nerve center, stunned and shocked from the information I'd just received from Oracle's debriefing on the alien war occurring off-planet. I now knew that Diana and Clark had just come back planetside; I also knew now, due to Oracle's report, that Orin and John Henry, the Kents, Hippolyta, and various others were dead or missing and presumed dead. I knew from experience that the first step to coping with grief was to get it out in the open, and that my ... friends are not used to the peculiar grief that losing parents and loved ones in wartime will bring them, even if they were the most powerful individuals on the planet.

I also had my own recent losses to deal with, and for once, I decided to listen when Leslie told me to take some down time. The look of absolute shock on her face when I agreed with her should be preserved for posterity. The looks of surprise on the faces of my allies when I asked them to patrol Gotham while I'd be gone was even MORE gratifying.

Never let it be said that I don't occasionally do the unexpected. It keeps your allies AND your enemies guessing.

So, I decided to propose a quiet meeting incognito, in a town none of our alter egos frequents.

I suggested Phoenix, AZ, a remote, quiet city. It's not the usual hotbed of metahuman activity that our respective cities were.

Since we were to be gone from Gotham for about two weeks, I asked Azrael and Batgirl to cover Gotham, signed all the appropriate paperwork for Lucius Fox to assume complete command of Wayne Enterprises for one week, asked Troia to cover Wonder Woman's territory, called the Daily Planet to cover Kent's absence by informing them of an exclusive on a new Wayne Tech nanotech marvel, to be mass-produced in Metropolis and I'd asked for Clark Kent (since he was a long time contact) to do an exclusive in-depth story on the subject - and asked Alpha Centurion to cover Metropolis in Superman's absence. Lois was the only non-hero to know what was truly going on, and she would never tell - besides, she was quite worried about Clark...

Diana and Clark agreed. Neither was in their normally optimistic, upbeat mood...

I had registered us in false names, to give us some semblance of "privacy" from our normal alter egos. I was Bruce Thomasson, Clark was Kent Josephs, and Diana was Diana Royals. We had two suites of three rooms each in a high end moderately priced hotel in the city of Mesa, just to the north side of the city. It was the end of the monsoon season, so although it was very hot to one used to the more moderated temperatures of Gotham, Gateway City and Metropolis, it was a psychological difference big enough where we would have to deal with our issues instead of putting them aside to keep our respective cities safe.

The heat actually bothered me less than most new to Phoenix - that is one good thing that wearing heavy black kevlar, armoring and rubber padding for about 13 years has done for me. I'm fairly sure it bothered Diana and Clark not at all, either.

As the first three days passed, none of us talked about the deeper issues. We talked of the commonplaces and bits of friendly gossip that friends of any stripe talk about.

During our days, we were tourists, roaming the malls, old town shopping areas and restaurants of Phoenix. A particular standout was the Rainforest Cafe, in the Arizona Mills Mall, and I was considering asking them to come to Gotham's newest Mayfair shopping district, which had sprung up where the Mayfair market had been during the NML.

During those first nights, the three of us went to various local events or clubs, such as the famous comedian performing at the local Improv, and the local Chinese cultural museum, which was having an exhibit of rare Chinese artifacts, and a premiere of an very talented local band at the Hard Rock Cafe, a charming pub called the Blarney Stone that had excellent beer and food - and especially sublime Celtic music; and a club that Dick would have liked called Polly Esther's that had a 70s and 80s theme and a very friendly, all-ages crowd.

I found myself much more relaxed, because I wasn't in Gotham; in Gotham, I'd have had one ear on Oracle's scanners, alert at all times for trouble. I didn't want to get too used to this - but it was a nice break from the norm, and I knew Gotham was in good hands.

During the fourth night, however, we returned from our excursions, quiet and pensive. Over the years, there had been so little space between battles, wars and weirdnesses that none of us had really had time to think in anything but active, battle mode. The enforced non-activity was finally having curative effects on us all.

We were seated and relaxed in the cool air-conditioned comfort of the living suite between Clark's and my own room, talking and sipping cool drinks. after a long and hot day, when Clark started to talk about all he'd seen during the alien war, and especially about finding John Henry's body. He talked about the agony he felt, not only for the loss of one of his better friends and companions in war, but also for knowing that he would have to tell John Henry's niece, Natasha, about how he died, and knowing that nothing he could say after that could alleviate her pain. He talked about the guilt of not being able to be in 50 places at once, and of having the knowledge that even though he was *Superman* and capable of astounding things just by existing- even he could achieve the impossible.

Diana and I each reached out to hold on to Clark, first by the hands, and then, as he continued, we embraced him from either side, just there to listen and later, grieve with him.

After that, his words tumbled over each other in their haste to get to the ears of those who understood him best, save his wife and lover Lois.

Clark's walls truly fell as he talked for the next 13 hours, with a few interruptions - he addressed his greatest fears where the three of us were concerned. He talked about how he'd felt when he thought that Diana died during the war, and before, when she died and became the goddess of Truth; he also talked about what happened during the time when Jean-Paul replaced me as Batman, and his fears for me as a non-powered individual. He talked of his fears for all of his loved ones in Metropolis and Kansas. He talked of the horrors and destruction he'd seen that the war caused, the all-too-young men and women who died. He also talked of a change in costume he was thinking of making...

And then, the surprises continued. Clark, who in many ways was the heart, soul and spirit of our threesome, and the JLA, broke down and cried in a way I recognized, because I'd seen it - in the mirror the night after my parents, after Jason died. He'd reached the mental breaking point that so many war veterans who've seen too many atrocities and horrors reach and come away forever changed from on the other side - and they don't always come out of it whole - because they usually go through it alone.

Clark wasn't alone. He had Diana and me.

We slept close by one another, hands held together, for a few scant hours. After we ordered in pizza, we continued on, knowing that to leave would break the healing we all desperately needed.

Over the next 11 hours, it was Diana's turn to talk, and cry about what had happened for her during the alien war; she had the death of her mother, and possibly the destruction of her old home and inhabitants to cope with - but since she was not as ...innocent to loss... as Clark, she would in all likely fashion, not take as long to "bounce back" from all save the death of her mother. That pain could only be lessened by time.

This time, Clark and I held her in supporting embrace as she spoke and sobbed out the agony, pain and fear she'd felt through all of this. And, as with Clark previously, we were there to listen, to grieve and to support her when she most needed our strength.

And, then, it was my turn.

I told them of watching in horror as where my lover Selina had just been standing a scant moment before erupted into the fires of a Hell I had all too intimate knowledge of.

Then, to my surprise, I found myself speaking at length of the fears that gripped me, of the time when I was no longer part of the JLA, of the NML, the Cataclysm, Jason's death, and most shocking of all to me, of my own parents' deaths. I told Clark and Diana things that I'd only told to Alfred and Leslie - and then I told them things I'd never told ANYONE, ever. To my own surprise, *I* started to cry, and just as I had for Clark and Diana before, two pairs of strong arms surrounded and supported me as I shook with tears I should have shed long ago.

When I was done, the three of us were curled on the floor, as we had been before, close, and supportive. My head was pillowed on Diana's shoulder; Clark had a companionable hand on my shoulder and was also nearby. I remember feeling a light, warm feeling of that elusive thing called peace, and then I realized something as I was in that state of serenity.

I realized that sharing that burden of grief with Clark and Diana didn't lessen my dedication to justice one inch. I was still as dedicated as I had always been to my one-man battle for justice. But, the pain I'd lived with for more than 25 years was now strengthened to a resolve that made my battle even more worthwhile to me. And, by aiding my friends in moving on after their respective traumatic experiences, I'd helped to make our friendship together that much more strong.

I remember that once, I'd said that because the Batman was forged in the fires of hard decisions and difficult choices, I understood when Diana was forced to make a hard moral decision and sacrifice to prevent the deaths of many people.

At the time, Clark didn't understand why she made the decision she did.

Then, Clark hadn't yet gone through the crucible. Thanks to this little war, he has now. Since Diana and I have been through this already, we will help him cope with what he has now become, and help him come out of the other side of this capable and ready to go on.

Once, I'd said that I hoped I could be their anchor when they needed me. I think that now, at this time I am that anchor. I also think, after this breathing space and after all that's occurred, that our friendship can only continue to improve like a fine wine does over the years.

During the remains of the two week hiatus we took, we went mountain climbing, saw the Grand Canyon, drank toasts to the memories of all our fallen, went to an amusement park, and even went to Las Vegas, Nevada, where Diana won a fair amount playing poker and blackjack.

I'm rather proud of her, I taught her everything I know - and she succeeded gloriously, beyond my fondest expectations... maybe I should teach her baccarat, next...!

Clark, on the other hand, won a bit at the roulette wheel and slot machines, and the money we all won we took and donated to a Phoenix disadvantaged youth shelter anonymously.

We said our goodbyes at the end of the two weeks and parted ways at the Phoenix airport, each rededicated to their mission of justice, and able to go on in honor of those who fell.

And, may we three friends and companions go on, together and stronger than ever.