TITLE: The Mantra – Truth, Justice, and the American Way
AUTHOR: Gaeriel Mallory
DISCLAIMER: I don't own any of the characters. They're DC's. The Kingdom Come storyline was Mark Waid's.
NOTE: Based on the Kingdom Come comic story line. You need to be familiar with it to understand parts of this story.
I heard the footsteps behind me long before he came into the room. "Hello, Bruce." I turned around and pushed the hair out of my eyes.
The man standing there was nodded at me. His hair was a bit grayer and his face held a few more wrinkles but I still recognized him. "Hello, Clark."
I winced slightly at that but I let it slide. For now. "What do you want, Bruce? This is an awfully long way to travel just to stop in for a visit."
"I took one of the company jets." One corner of his mouth twitched upwards. "It was no trouble. Taking a jet out by himself is just another of Bruce Wayne's playboy whims."
I shook my head. "I know what you're going to tell me," I said as I turned back towards the table and the knives I had been resharpening. "You can save your breath. Diana has already lectured me."
"You can't hide away for the rest of your life. The world needs a Superman."
"Funny you should say that. Weren't you the one who always claimed that no one person should have so much power?"
I heard him sigh. It was a small one and if it were not for my hearing, I would have missed it. "Truth, justice, and the American way, remember, Clark? They need you, if only to be a symbol for hope."
"Where was truth, justice, and the American way for Lois? Where was it when Magog was let off scott free?"
A hand slammed down on the table and I looked up into his blue eyes that had suddenly turned hard. "Life isn't fair, Clark. Deal with it and then move on. You aren't the only one who has lost people. You aren't the only one who feels alone."
I stood up and glared at my old friend. "Don't give me that, Bruce. She was my wife."
"They were my parents." The eyes softened slightly. "You always told me to not push people away. Maybe you should take your own advice."
I shook my head and looked off at the whitewashed wall. I had just painted that wall two days ago. A week ago, it had not even existed. I reflected briefly on the absurdity of it all. "Humans spend their whole lives running around, trying to be the best they can be, working and working and then they die. It's all for nothing. Pointless."
"Do you think that what you do is pointless? That every life you save or every accident you avert is a waste?"
"Humans die, Bruce." I felt my eyes mist as I remembered a body, red staining the business suit she wore and her brown hair covering the hole in her skull where a madman had clubbed her. "Humans die," I whispered again, "yet I'm still here, all alone."
There was silence from him and I was grateful for it. I was tired. I was tired of trying to cater to humanity's wishes. Tired of seeing the worst the world had to offer day after day.
"I should have stopped the Joker a long time ago," he commented softly. "We would have been saved so much grief and heartache."
"Funny, isn't it, how one man has managed to make both our lives a living hell." I paused and stared at my hands, so strong and capable of lifting a rocket into space but unable to save the life of the person most precious to me. "I'm not going back, Bruce."
"Clark Kent is dead," I cut him off sharply. "He died in the attack in the Planet. He's buried next to his wife."
"Then by rights, Bruce Wayne should be dead as well, killed in that alley all those years ago. You don't just stop existing just because your loved ones are gone."
I picked up the stone and a knife and started resharpening the blade again. I needed the knives sharp. "Clark Kent existed because Lois Lane existed. Now both are gone. Truth, justice, and the American way aren't real anymore out there. They haven't been for a long time. I was just too blind to see it."
"So you'll hole yourself up then? Taking the coward's way out?"
"I never claimed to be the Man of Steel. That was just what the tabloids called me."
"You'll never heal if you stay here by yourself. I know. I wallowed in a dark cave for years before Dick came into my life."
"I'm not you, Bruce." I looked at him for a moment, daring him to flinch.
He returned stare for stare. "Apparently not." He placed something gently on the table and turned and walked away. I followed his form as he exited the room. A few minutes later, I heard the sound of an airplane taking off. It was only then that I looked down at what he had left behind. My familiar S-shield stared up at me. I set down the knife and picked up the shield in one hand and traced the 'S' with the other. "You're wrong, Bruce," I whispered. "The world doesn't need a Superman. Not when there are still people like you in it."
I grasped the shield and ripped the cloth in two. I shoved it aside roughly before picking up the knife again and testing the edge. There was still a harvest to bring in.