Never the End
Bruce Wayne was dying, but that was okay. It was a miracle he ever got this far. When he thought about it, it was hilarious: A man who had taken as many risks as he had dying of old age. What better proof that he had been the best? For a man with as much of a death wish as he had to survive the challenges that he'd been through was as miraculous as a man who could fly.
Death didn't seem so bad. He felt he was flying. He was being carried by angels, by a man and a woman. His parents. He was with his parents again, and he was their little boy. Finally, after all these years they were a family again. It was so warm.
He could feel his strength returning. He was getting stronger, more powerful. His pain was gone and so were the painkillers the doctors had given him. He was floating in a warm liquid but he wasn't drowning. Was he back in the womb? He was rising up, rising up to the sun. He was naked and shivering, and a towel was wrapped around his body. He opened his eyes and he saw…
"Clark?" he snapped in disbelief.
A handsome muscular man smiled back at him. Despite the countless decades that had passed, Clark hadn't changed at all. His sideburns had turned grey and the laugh lines on his face were more pronounced but his skin was still as soft and supple as a man in his prime. "Bruce!" Clark grinned. "You made it! Welcome back to the land of the living old buddy! How do you feel?"
"Bruce!" a tall statuesque amazon hugged him. "You're alive! And you look great!"
"You look pretty good yourself Diana," Bruce grasped her shoulders and smiled at her. He looked at his hands and nearly lost his towel. "What in the world? I'm a young man again!"
"Careful Bruce, you're losing your towel," Clark laughed as he wrapped it around his old friend.
Bruce looked around and saw endless piles of rubble and debris. He was in a crater that used to be an ancient temple. "You took me to the Lazarus Pit!" he cried. "This is where Ra's al Ghul made himself immortal! You crazy fool! Terry and I buried this place for all time! You dug it out and put me in the Lazarus Pit!"
"You're welcome," Diana said coldly.
"Let me talk to him, man to man," Clark said with a disarming smile.
Diana grunted and leapt into the sky to disappear over the lip of the crater.
"Look, Bruce…" Clark held his hands up in surrender only to catch Bruce's fist before it made contact. "Hey! Don't break your hand or we'll have to put you in again!"
"See Father Time hasn't slowed your reflexes," Bruce smiled grimly.
"No, and that's my problem," Clark admitted as he released him. "The sun empowers me and slows down my aging. As a matter of fact I haven't lost anything from the old days. Aside of a few cosmetic changes my strength, stamina and agility are still the same. I seem to be breaking even. If I get enough sun and stay away from kryptonite, I should be able to last forever."
"Poor you," Bruce grunted as he straightened his towel, "but why drag me into this?"
The look on Clark's face melted even Bruce's cold heart. "Lois died," he choked. "She just passed away peacefully in her sleep and there was nothing I could do. By the time I knew it was too late."
"You've got Diana," Bruce nodded at the lip of the crater with his head.
"I'm sorry Bruce, I just panicked," Clark shrugged. "I didn't want to lose anybody else. The thought of Superman being loose on the Earth with nobody to account to scared the hell out of me. Terry told me about this place so I called Diana and I dug this place out while she got you and flew you here. I'm sorry Bruce. When Lois died I guess I just lost it. I got scared. Sue me."
"How did you get Diana to leave Themyscira?"
"I challenged her to a race," Clark winked. "Although personally, I think she threw the race on purpose. Deep down, I don't think she ever got over you."
"I'm going to ask Terry for that Kryptonite ring so I can break your jaw."
"That's the Bruce Wayne I know!" Clark's smile seemed to melt the years away. "It's nice to know that Father Time hasn't changed you!"
"I was ready to die."
"So jump off a building," Clark shrugged. "Go ahead. I can't stop you. I can't watch you twenty-four seven. Go ahead and take your own life. It seems like such a shame when you still have so much to give, that's all. Think about it. You could be the next Batman…"
"Gotham City already has a Batman," Bruce snapped.
Clark smiled and looked away while he rubbed the back of his neck. "Yeah… about that… Terry's wife has been trying to get him to quit. Now that he's a dad, he's worried about his boy growing up without a father. You know what it's like to grow up without a father, don't you Bruce?"
"I'm really going to have to get that ring," Bruce snarled.
"Come on Bruce, Terry needs you!" Clark pleaded. "He's looking for a successor to be the new Batman, and quite frankly he's having a rough time running WayneCorp by himself. Come on, share some of the load, will yah? He's got a family, and you've got nothing but time."
"Thanks to you," Bruce shivered as he pulled the towel around himself. "That was pretty low that crack about growing up without a father."
"I learned from the best," Clark smiled. "You pulled some low blows on me."
"You're a big chicken."
"Yeah I am," Clark nodded. "I thought we'd been through that. The Man of Steel is a big chicken. Bwack! Bwack! Bwack!" He put his hands under his armpits and waved his elbows. "The question is, are you? You too chicken to take a second chance on life? You don't have to be Batman. You could get over it, find a good woman and settle down if you wanted to. Or you can be the Dark Knight."
"I'm going to get you for this," Bruce smiled and nodded. "I promise you. I'll get you back."
"I know," Clark laughed. "Just don't throw in the towel until you get dressed!"
Both men laughed.
"Here you go," Diana announced as she leaped back into the crater. "I brought you some clothes. Believe it or not, this is what the well-dressed man is wearing these days."
"Bruce," Clark nodded in Diana's direction with his head.
"Yeah," Bruce looked at the ground before facing the amazon. "Diana. I'd like to thank you. Not everybody would do this to…"
Clark coughed into his fist.
"For," Bruce corrected himself, "just anyone. Thank you for giving me a second chance at life. I'll try to earn it this time around."
"Thanks," she smiled sadly.
Days later, in Gotham City a man in yellow spandex gloated before a massive supercomputer. "I've done it!" he cried. "I've managed to take over the government's computers without having to leave my lab! Now I can blackmail the world!"
"It's going to be hard to do that from a prison cell," Bruce's voice announced out of the darkness.
"What!" he canary colored man howled. "Who are you, and why are you dressed as Batman?"
"I'm the new Batman," Bruce announced as he stepped out the shadows, "but don't worry. I've done this before."
NEVER THE END