Continuance of that extremely awkward and abrupt ending (srsly, they ended it there??) to the JL episode Twilight, with references to the STAS episodes Legacy and World's Finest.
And I own nothing but my pre-ordered DVD of Batman-Superman: Public Enemies.
"You know something, Bruce? You're not always right."
Eyes narrowed, he glared a black hole into the receding scarlet cape, biting back the scathing retort that came instinctively. That particular phrase he was contemplating definitely wouldn't help matters any, though it would be satisfying after this mess of a mission.
He watched from a safe distance as a red-booted foot sent a boulder larger than the Javelin hurtling down the side of the cliff to splinter at the heart of the gorge, and only when Superman finally was still, looking out at the sky, did he move after him.
"We need to rejoin the others," he said flatly, and from carefully out of arm's reach.
He heard an uncharacteristically bitter snort. "I'm surprised you didn't just grab me and force me to go with you by now."
Lenses narrowing into needle-thin slits, he scowled. "This isn't about me, Kent. Don't try to make it."
A whirl of red and blue before his eye could catch up, and they were face to face again. "I'm not making it about -"
"You are," he corrected, arms folded impassively. "You haven't been thinking – other than about yourself – this entire mission."
"Thinking?" The explosion, while fully expected, was no less earth-shattering when it finally detonated. But he refused to step backward, knowing that was what Superman was hoping he would do. "Bruce, thinking is all I've been doing! Do you have any idea what he really did to me? How many people I killed, because of his brainwashing? How many people still are afraid of me, for what I did? He deserved to die, and you got in the way of me finishing the job. I wanted to –"
"That's enough!" That ferocious snarl could make the worst of mob bosses turn themselves in to the Gotham PD willingly rather than face him in a dark alley. "Listen to yourself, Clark!" They were nearly nose to nose now, neither giving an inch or willing to back down. "Listen to what you're saying!"
"I know what I'm saying," Superman ground out through clenched teeth, eyebrows tied in a dark knot of rage.
"Then you're a liar, in addition to being selfish," he replied evenly, though he was prepared to move faster than he ever had in order to dodge a fist, if it came down to it.
"What?" Superman growled dangerously, hands clenching – but still at his sides; that was good at least. Earlier, on the Watchtower, he'd overheard Hawkgirl telling J'onn that she'd thought Superman might throw him through the window when he'd purposely gotten in his face with the unpleasant truth.
He knew Clark better than that. But then again, some of the things he had said today were distinctly un-Clark-like. He tensed, ready to dodge, just in case.
That didn't stop him from again snapping out the truth. "I called you a liar, Kent," he growled, folding himself back into his cape to form an immobile black pillar against the greenery. "And if I thought it would do anything other than break my hand I'd have tried showing you instead of calling you on it."
Even prepared, even with the fastest reflexes of any non-meta, he still wasn't fast enough to dodge the large hand that shot out to grab him by the arm; not too roughly, but enough that he couldn't break free and struggling was painful – and it was his bad arm, too, thanks to the fact that his shoulder had been pretty badly bruised this afternoon. He silently bit back a grunt and stopped trying to free himself, for the moment.
"I am not a liar – that's one thing I'll never be!" Superman's eyes flashed dangerously from blue to black, and he set his jaw determinedly against them.
Yes, this was the reaction he'd been going for, but that didn't make it any easier to say what needed to be said, to reanimate those half-buried memories. But it was necessary, and being dramatic was a major part of his success as the Batman. Drama was effective. His free hand flew up like a striking cobra, and yanked the cowl back over his head in a harsh jerk. The mask slipped backward, and the world appeared in its true form, not the veiled reflection-world in which he normally lived.
Their voices had already risen in crescendo so that he was nearly shouting now, but at that moment he didn't care. "You are the one who told me years ago that this costume and this cape weren't licenses to take private revenge on anyone – deserving or not!"
The hand on his arm clenched suddenly, so tightly it went numb from the wrist down, but he continued through his teeth. "And I believed you," he punctuated bitterly, and lowered his eyes to drift aimlessly over the red S on the other's costume – a symbol of justice that had today strayed far from its original intent.
He heard a sharp intake of breath, and the clamp on his arm released as suddenly – more suddenly – as it had appeared. Superman hovered backward a pace or two, staring at him wide-eyed; literally shocked into forgetting the reason the confrontation had started in the first place. Good.
He retreated once more into the folds of his cape, to work some feeling back into his arm unseen by eyes too aghast to concentrate on x-ray vision. His good hand pulled the cowl back into place with a definitive swish.
Clark didn't move.
A bird chirped annoyingly nearby, trilling a ridiculous tune that finally trailed off into silence.
And finally Superman's feet touched down with a thump that vibrated the ground under him.
"I wasn't trying to save Darkseid from getting what he deserved," he said flatly. "He had that coming to him and more, for what he did to you. I was stopping you from regretting it for the rest of your life, like you regret what you did under his control."
Superman's mouth opened wordlessly, then closed again, jaw shaking even more than his hands, fisted against his sides.
"Find me when you're ready to join the others."
He turned in a majestic swirl of black and gray, and melted into the trees without looking back.
An hour or two later he was sitting on the grass, out of sight of their confrontation of earlier, when something thumped lightly behind him. A fluttering of settling cape, and a morose sigh informed him clearly who it was. He acknowledged nothing, only stared out across the alien landscape and wished for Earth and its non-superpowered quasi-normality.
Finally a small whoosh of air sent a nearby leaf scurrying, a presence settled beside him, and he had company whether he wanted it or not. The good thing was that he knew he wouldn't have to break the awkward stillness – one, he (for once) had an entirely clear conscience; two, he had never lost a battle of wills; and three, Clark was a sucker for the silent treatment.
He didn't have to wait very long.
"You should have left me," Superman finally said sadly, the lower-than-lowest tone splitting the silence into equal parts humiliation and gloom. "I would've deserved it."
"Yeah…you would," he agreed, putting his left hand down and leaning that direction. An ant began crawling over his gauntlet, and he absently flicked it into the grass. "But I don't like the idea of telling Lois I left you on an asteroid reaching critical mass, just because I was ticked at your attitude."
A painful, small grmf. Then, quietly, "I take it back."
"Hmn? Take what back?"
"Everything. You are always right, Bruce."
He grunted, inclining his head in neither agreement nor disagreement, and finally glanced over at the Man of Steel. Superman had drawn up his knees slightly, resting his elbows on them, with his head drooping toward them in the saddest look he had ever seen outside of a nine-year-old Dick's begging him to attend some ridiculous school play years ago. He hadn't been able to stand it then, and he couldn't stand it now.
He didn't know why he did it, or why he even wanted to, but after hesitating just for a second he laid a gloved hand on the slumped shoulder, and felt it shake slightly under his grip.
He opened his mouth to say something, goodness knew what, but somehow nothing came and he snapped it shut again, more frustrated with himself for not knowing what to do than he ever could be with a man who had, understandably, lost himself in a desire for vengeance (wasn't he a fine one to talk?).
Then some vague, misty portion of the lighter side of his childhood surfaced from the shadows – Alfred's cultured, patient voice, informing him as a boy that when in doubt, it was better to say nothing.
And apparently, he found, that was right. Alfred was always right. (It got monotonous after a couple of decades.)
Because "Thanks," came the whispered acknowledgement a moment later, and he nodded, retreating back into his comfort zone, secretly relieved that nothing more had been necessary.
"Well, at least you're sounding more like you, and less like Luthor or someone equally obsessed with another man's death," he observed.
He received a cringing, blue-eyed blink, and then another dismal sigh. "Yeah…" The Man of Steel's head jerked up suddenly. "I never did thank you for shutting off that…that thing, did I?"
"No," he agreed, carefully concealing the smug smirk threatening to show, now that the atmosphere was thinning enough for it to be visible through the tension.
"Oh, for heaven's sake…" Superman groaned, pinching his forehead in one hand for a moment before leaning over on one elbow, as if too tired –or too humiliated – to hold his head up anymore. Interesting. He suddenly wondered if Kryptonians got headaches just like the rest of humanity. "I'm sorry," Superman was continuing, shame-faced. His twitching fingers plucked a long blade of grass, twiddling it before suddenly shredding it compulsively. "I owe you for two today."
"Three," he corrected, his voice unusually quiet, and free of that razor-edge that usually killed any argument before it started – with anyone. "Twice for Darkseid, and once for yourself."
Clark wouldn't look at him now, and he bent down slightly to get his attention. "I told you I'd keep you from going rogue again and killing innocent people." Unconscious instinct clenched his right hand around the lead-lined pocket of his utility belt. "And that includes killing yourself, Clark."
Face half-hidden, Superman nodded solemnly, and he sat back, satisfied that he had driven the point far enough into the man's thick head (for now, anyway). While looking up at the debris floating where Brainiac's headquarters had been, he felt an inquiring mental nudge from the Martian, who obviously had been monitoring the anger levels in the clearing, if not the actual exchange of words earlier.
Suddenly feeling his skin crawl in familiar warning that had saved him many a concussion from Gotham thugs, he looked back to see Superman's gaze focused on him sharply, a look of horror just now dawning in those impossibly blue eyes. "I threw you into a wall," he gasped in sudden realization.
He raised an eyebrow as the Man of Steel abruptly scooted out of reach, as if afraid he was for some reason going to do it again for no apparent reason. Swatting an insect away from his face, he sighed tolerantly and let a half-smirk appear. "Mmhm. Not as hard as you did when we first met, though."
Relaxing visibly at his light tone (and the fact that he had re-closed the distance yawning between them), Clark's lips twitched. "You crashed a Metropolis nightclub and tossed me into a table first, remember?"
"I doubt it qualified as an even match," he retorted dryly.
A smile finally broke across the Man of Steel's drawn features, and he stretched his arms over his head, apparently content to lie there for a moment and look up at the sunset.
J'onn's kind reminder that they were waiting on them was what abruptly broke the tranquility a half-hour later.
He scowled, not anticipating the ride home through a boom tube. Clark yawned, sprang lightly to his feet and then extended a hand downward. It was the hesitation in the offered motion, not the fact that he needed the help, that caused him to accept the gesture for the apology it was. He reached up with his left, and was pulled gently to his feet.
"I am sorry, Bruce," Clark suddenly murmured. He was still holding the black-gloved hand gingerly, as if afraid to even flex his fingers for fear of causing more damage.
He was the one that tightened the grip, and held it for a long moment. "I know. Now let's go home."
"Right." Clark shot up into the air, hovered for a moment, cape streaming like a suddenly-lifted banneret, and then dropped again. "They're still in the same spot," he reported, slightly more cheerfully – in fact, sounding more like himself than he had since Darkseid's appearance in the Watchtower. Remaining a foot or so off the ground with a hand outstretched, Superman smiled, and just that simply the chaos of the last few hours dissipated on the evening wind. "You coming?"
"Ugh. No." He'd had enough of flying and boom tubes and all the rest of it for one day. If he couldn't control the speed and direction of the transportation (and also control his stomach), he wasn't going. "I'll walk, thanks."
"Then I will too. I mean…unless you…"
"Are you going to come down, or are you wanting me to yank you down?"