Superman flew above Metropolis in the late afternoon sky. He was on patrol more these days since Batman's warning about frequent boom-tube activity from Apokolips. Darkseid had been sending troops of various strengths and numbers, possibly in an attempt to gauge the strength of the meta-population (a task perhaps made more difficult by the recent explosion of meta-powered heroes by future-Brainiac).
These skirmishes were becoming a problem in the media as well. A fair number of pundits on TV, radio and the internet began coming to the conclusion that if there were no meta-powered heroes then Darkseid would have no interest in Earth. They had deduced that since the advent of "superheroes", there had been more catastrophes that needed their intervention. Whether directly or indirectly involved, many had opined that these invasions, as well as other problems, had roots with the superheroes. Clark Kent battled with words to present the opposite point of view in the way that Superman fought back the parademons, both being important fronts in the battle.
Many of these same commentators also took negative views about the relationship between him and Wonder Woman. They said that it is dangerous for two such beings of god-like powers (Wonder Woman being a demi-goddess herself) to be romantically involved: what if the pair had a child? Would this child be able to be reined in by the pair? Knowing the heart of a child, what happens when such a child has the powers of Superman and Wonder Woman? And so on. Clark Kent also labored with his writing to present the opposite (and his own) point of view.
Such cerebral pursuits would have to wait, Superman thought to himself as his telescopic vision took notice of a platoon of parademons. He also noticed a very familiar figure battling them.
"Hello there, Wonder Woman!" Superman announced himself as he slowed his descent. "Would you like a little company?"
Both Wonder Woman and Superman knew she needed no help. Superman knew very well how Wonder Woman was a capable warrior. But, as long as he was there, he could at least be a gentleman and offer her his assistance.
Wonder Woman didn't break or pause from her attacks. She wasn't even surprised to hear Superman's voice above her; she knew he was there for some time before Superman spoke. It was the kind of awareness that came from being close with someone for so long.
"If you want," Wonder Woman answered, "there's plenty here for the both of us!"
There were roughly 35 to 40 of them, and Superman could see that Wonder Woman was mostly toying with them. The parademon's strength was in their numbers, but tactics and intelligence was not their forte.
Superman alighted and took a position back-to-back with Wonder Woman. It was an oft used tactic of theirs. They didn't use it for fear of back attacks, mostly, but because it comforted the pair to know and feel the other was so close.
The next parademon to attack lunged at Wonder Woman. She in turn grabbed a hold of the thing's chest armor and began to use it as a cudgel against the crowd that she was facing. Meanwhile a group charged at Superman. He thrust his hand out, palm open, against the chest of the lead parademon of that group, violently blowing it back and taking out whatever of its compatriots was behind it.
Glancing back and seeing Wonder Woman's use of a parademon as a weapon, Superman had a thought.
"May I borrow this?" Superman asked, moving his hand towards Wonder Woman's golden lasso.
"Certainly!" she said, again sensing Superman's movement towards her waist. Again, Wonder Woman's intimacy with Superman gave her the sense of his movements and intent.
Superman easily retrieved her lasso and deftly created a slipknot. Years on the farm taught Clark how to handle ropes, although it did take a little while to adjust to Wonder Woman's smooth yet firmer golden lariat. Superman then whipped the circlet around one of the parademons, lifted it off of the ground with it and started smashing a wide swath of parademons with it.
Wonder Woman was also having fun at the expense of her group of combatants. She threw the parademon she had into the crowd, and then jumped in the middle, yelling an Amazonian war cry. A punch, a kick, a smash, and most were defeated. One of the few remaining parademons lunged at her in what would be a desperate final attempt, if it could comprehend such a thing. Wonder Woman grabbed hold of the thing's chin and back of the head. With an effortless flick, Wonder Woman broke the parademon's neck, killing it instantly.
Superman heard the wet crack of the thing's neck in the din of battle as clearly as if it were in a silenced library. Immediately he dropped his impromptu weapon, loosed the rope from its body, coiled it and flung the golden lasso to its owner. She caught it and returned it to its place at her side.
"Really?" He demanded of Diana. "Really?"
Diana looked at Clark with an exasperated expression that said, 'Here we go again.' This was not the first time the couple had this conversation, and both knew it would not be the last.
"Was it really necessary to kill it?" Superman demanded.
"Oh please, Cla- Superman!" Wonder Woman replied. "As if sending these things back to Darkseid, beaten and broken, is a mercy?"
The conflict between the couple stunned the remaining group of parademons. They had no idea of what was going on between the two, or why their attention was diverted away from the battle. One parademon got the courage to yell a challenging roar at the pair.
"QUIET!" Superman and Wonder Woman both yelled in reply. The parademon shrank away like a child being scolded by its parents.
"Look," Clark said, turning back to Diana. "I realize it must seem contradictory to do what we do and not take a life, but it's a line I promised myself I wouldn't cross, or try my hardest not to cross. Can't you exercise a similar restraint?"
Diana's face darkened as she bristled at the idea, as if Wonder Woman had no restraint.
"Gods on Olympus." she said, knowing this would antagonize Superman and his faith in the One True God. "You know I respect and honor your commitment and ideals, but I was trained in combat by the Amazons, and we don't have such compunctions when fighting an enemy, especially enemies that are such brainless fodder like these!"
Superman held the bridge of his nose with his thumb and index finger in an expression of exasperation and sighed. He knew the arguments, the back and forth of it. He loved Diana so much, but was always frustrated and uncomfortable with this side of her.
"You know, you're never this way with Batman." Clark said, using a little humor to lighten the mood.
"That's because he never harangues me about it the way you do." Diana replied, a small smirk forming at the corner of her lips. "That and I don't love him. Not the way that I love you."
And it was done. The pair knew that there were going to be some issues that would never be resolved between the two of them, and this was the biggest. Still, the pros of their relationship far outweighed the cons, and there would be other times to argue. For now this mess had to be cleaned up.
But before the couple could continue their work, another boom-tube exploded on the scene. From it emerged a hulking, brutish form. It was covered with matted and unruly fur on much of its body. It had a flat, brutish face with cruel eyes and bad teeth. It menaced Wonder Woman and Superman with a huge mace.
"I am Kalibak; son of Darkseid and His only second!" The new thing introduced himself. "I will defeat you and your female lieutenant!"
The pair bristled at the announcement. Kalibak had no idea that he had insulted the pair simultaneously in his challenge, and the two most powerful beings on the planet, no less.
"Do not call her my lieutenant!" Superman replied. "That would imply that she and I aren't equals! She's my partner!"
This heartened Diana. She knew in her heart that Clark's words were true for both of them, and she appreciated his declaration of their equality.
Kalibak laughed an ugly, mirthless laugh.
"Ha!" he replied. "We know that the two of you are paired romantically," he said with a taunting sneer, "and we know she would not submit to you without you being the superior male!"
This was only partially true, however. While Diana and her people would not have ever accepted Clark without him demonstrating his strength and skill, it was never to dominate, except in a few personal occasions, and mutually reciprocated as well. Still, the insinuation did not sit well with the couple given that the premise was false.
"My love," Superman said, "would you like to demonstrate to our new acquaintance what a female can do?"
Wonder Woman grinned and glared at Kalibak. She leapt at him, surprising him with her speed. Wonder Woman connected with an uppercut that sent Kalibak flying up, up and away. She jumped up and arced towards the supine figure, intending to land heels first on his expansive chest.
Kalibak came to his senses and fired off a bolt of energy from his mace. It struck Wonder Woman square in the face with a force so hard it knocked her back away from her planned trajectory. Superman took a relaxed position aside from the fight, as if a spectator. Inside he was feeling concern for Diana and wanted to join her, to save her. He controlled himself, though. If he were to join in the fight, much less save Wonder Woman, he would have proved Kalibak right and insulted Diana to her core. Besides, he reminded himself, Wonder Woman is an extraordinarily warrior. She would prevail.
Wonder Woman picked herself up from where she had landed, rubbing her jaw. It was a solid hit, and she felt it. Kalibak had the time to pick himself up from where he had landed and ran to attack Wonder Woman with his mace. He brought it up over his head with both hands and swung down as hard as he could.
Wonder Woman brought her bracelets over hear head in an X to block the blow. The mace struck the bracers with a loud CLANG! The vibrations of the immovable bracers versus the irresistible force of the mace stunned the combatants.
Being of a stronger mental constitution than her opponent, Wonder Woman shook off the effects of the strike. Her wrists and forearms were sore from the ordeal, but she picked herself up again and approached the still-dazed Kalibak.
Wonder Woman picked him up by the belt and collar, lifted him over her head and slammed him, head first, on the ground. If he wasn't overcome enough from the previous encounter, Kalibak certainly was now.
"Superman, dear," Wonder Woman said, "would you please be so kind?"
Superman walked over to the unconscious form that Wonder Woman had just provided and pulled a small golden item from Kalibak's belt; his motherbox. Superman activated it and immediately a boom-tube. Then the pair began tossing the parademons back to Apokolips, Wonder Woman starting with Kalibak.
When it was all finished Superman closed the portal and set the motherbox on his belt. Batman, Mr. Terrific and other scientific types would want to look at this, he thought to himself.
"You want to get some dinner?" Clark asked Diana.
"Sure," she answered a little wearily. "I could eat. Someplace you have in mind?"
"Eh, we'll find a place," said Clark. "Let's get cleaned up and see what appeals."