Superman makes the decision to kill.
Chapter 2: When Lines Get Crossed
It didn't take long for Batman and Wonder Woman to catch up to the Joker. In fact with Diana there, the fighting didn't last long at all. In fact the argument they had after the Joker had been handed over lasted longer. Bruce wasn't happy at all with how aggressive Diana had been. When the Joker knew that he was cornered, he attempted to give up, but Diana wasn't in the mood for providing quarter to her enemy as she rammed a fist right into Joker's midsection, folding him over like a steel chair. She then proceeded to kneel down while picking the clown's head up off the ground by his hair and was preparing to strike him again until Bruce grabbed hold of her arm to stop her from taking a swing. Feeling Bruce trying to stop her caused Diana to stop what she was about to do, and she dropped the Joker's head before climbing back to her feet and walking away. She never did leave the scene while Batman focused back to taking the Joker into custody. The trip to the FBI building where he'd be surrounded by numerous agents and holed up in their high security cells was painstakingly quiet. Diana just looked out the window of the Batmobile, never facing Batman at all during the entire trip.
The silence just continued even after they had released the Joker into custody. Batman wisely used his connections as a Justice League member and with Commissioner Gordon to gain him access to the interrogation that would be performed as part of the investigation on the Metropolis bombing by the proper authorities. Back inside the Batmobile, the only break in silence came when Captain Atom reported in to inform the League that he would need the better part of a whole day to clear out enough radiation where it would be safe to allow any personnel onsite. After hearing that, Bruce made a decision to let Gotham go for one night, and began heading back to the Batcave. When Diana became certain of where they were headed, she did finally stop constantly looking out the passenger window and began to occasionally glance in the direction of Bruce. He chose to take that as progress. Seeing how Lois dying had affected Clark so much had actually rattled Bruce more than he was willing to admit. All he wanted to do at the moment was be with his family and protect them at any cost. Wanting to break the deafening silence, Bruce flipped radio stations to hear reports of what had been investigated by various news channels. The reporting of the tragic event was depressing to hear, but he knew that listening to the reports being provided was just another avenue of attaining details that could prove to be beneficial.
Diana remained quiet while sitting in the Batmobile as she just listened to the news reports over the radio. Her heart had broken for all of the lives that were lost, but especially for the loss her best friend had suffered. Thinking about this and listening to the reports being broadcast was putting her on the verge of shedding tears. She wanted to have something else to get her mind off of that sorrow, but she didn't want to speak with Bruce yet to avoid the silence they were going through. She was still hurt by his accusation during their argument that she had lost control and would have crossed the line if he hadn't stopped her first. She vehemently denied such a thing occurring as she tried to explain that she would've stopped, but didn't see the harm in leaving the Joker a broken shell of himself for a very long time. She was brought out of her reverie when the Batmobile came to a stop on the turnstile in the cave. When the canopy slid open, she quickly exited and began making her way over to the teleporter. She wanted to head up to the Watchtower so that she could grieve in the seclusion of her own personal quarters. Batman noticed the direction that Diana was heading and he removed his cowl to reveal his face to her if she would look at him. "Where are you going?" He asked, tired of the silence and feeling a need for her to be there instead of leaving.
"The Watchtower." Diana answered without facing him as she reached the control panel and began entering the access codes along with the coordinates.
"Diana, wait." Bruce called out before pausing as she stepped onto the teleporter pad and finally faced him. "Please."
When Bruce said please to her, it caused her to pause. She looked into his face and saw something there that spoke volumes to her. He was sorry for his accusation, but had yet to form the words. But he'd said please. That was a word that Bruce nor Batman had been known to say to anyone. She stepped off the platform and canceled the delayed transport timer that she'd set before it sent her off to the Watchtower. "Why?" She asked. She needed to know what it was that Bruce was requesting from her and why.
"Because…" Bruce began before trailing off as he searched for the right words. He hated feeling vulnerable and sharing that feeling in private, let alone with someone around him. He sighed loudly as he fought within himself.
"Because isn't a reason Bruce." Diana huffed as she was beginning to grow impatient.
"Because of what's happened." Bruce tried to explain. "After all the losses tonight, I….I don't want to risk losing…" Bruce trailed off again with another frustrated breath. Why was it so difficult to express what he was feeling in words?
Diana hugged herself as she listened to Bruce trying to find the words. He was putting forth such an effort to reveal how he was feeling about what had transpired. She was hurt by the night's events as well, but could now clearly see that Bruce was only showing strength because he felt that he needed to for everyone else. She crumbled as she saw the man before her trying to share while at the same time attempting to remain the steady rock that would always be a sign of stability for Gotham, for the Batclan, for the Justice League, and for the budding new relationship that they had just begun a single night ago before all the tragic events began to unfurl. Seeing that was all that she needed to cause her anger to dissipate and disappear quickly. She hurried over to the man that she had fallen in love with years ago, embracing him with a hug as she tried to lend her love and strength to this man that was now returning the embrace wholeheartedly. She knew now that he was asking her to stay because a part of him needed her to stay with him and offer anything that they would need to get through the travesty that they knew they'd be dealing with for the unforeseeable future. Tonight they would lend themselves to one another as Bruce and Diana, for tomorrow the world would need Batman and Wonder Woman, and they would need to be unwavering.
Diana grabbed Bruce by a gauntlet covered hand and led him over to the changing room, where she began helping him remove his suit piece by piece. When he was completely unclothed, she moved over to the shower and turned on the water, adjusting it until it was at a comfortable temperature. Once satisfied, Diana turned back towards Bruce and watched intently as he began removing her armor. It was an incredibly intimate moment, but was also excruciatingly slow as Bruce took his time removing piece by piece. Finally she was standing in just her boots, and Bruce took a moment to marvel at the image of perfection before him as he knelt down and grabbed one of her legs just below the knee. He looked up at Diana as she was watching him move, her breath catching as his fingers felt their way to the clasps that held her boots tightly against her legs. Once all the clasps were unlatched, Bruce slowly removed the boot while placing gentle kisses down her leg, starting at mid thigh and working his way down until the boot was removed and tossed aside. Then he repeated the process for the other leg. When Diana was completely nude, she reached down with both hands and gently pulled Bruce back up to stand before her as she leaned in to kiss him while walking backwards into the hot shower.
They stayed in each other's embrace as the hot water pelted them from all angles of the multiple shower heads. The hot water seemed to wash away all the layers that each of them had held up throughout the course of the night as it ran down their bodies and into the shower drain. Bruce was showing such affection to Diana the whole time, and she found that it overwhelmed her senses. He flinched backwards when he began to taste the saltiness of Diana's tears as they followed the drops of water from the shower down her cheeks. She tried to look away from his gaze to wipe away the tears she'd accidentally allowed to escape as he searched for what had caused the tears to fall, but Bruce moved his hand to gently hold her chin and bring her face back up to where he could meet her eyes. "What's wrong Princess?" He asked softly.
"I….I think it's finally sinking in about all of the lives that were lost today." Diana responded as she sought to compose herself. "I've always known that casualties are to be expected in battle, but all of those millions that were lost in one fell swoop…." She said before trailing off to stop a sniffle. "I find myself asking how can one cope when the loss of innocent people is so great and vast."
"Losing all those lives is tragic Princess, but we can't waver in fighting for this world." Bruce offered as encouragement. "You of all people know that the effort isn't in vain if you want something badly enough."
Diana willingly turned back to him knowing what he was implying, and offered a weak smile to let him know that she appreciated what he was trying to do. To further enforce her showing of appreciation, she placed her arms around his neck and leaned in, resting her head against his chest. "Thank you Bruce." She said.
"Anything for you Princess." Bruce stated, and he meant every word. He would give anything he could for her. After some more silence had managed to find them in the shower, he backed out of Diana's hold and reached for some shampoo and conditioner. He poured a generous amount into his hands and massaged her hair until it was all covered in a thick and rich lather. A small moan escaped from Diana's lips as her body enjoyed the attention that Bruce was providing as he massaged her scalp while working in the shampoo before rinsing it out and repeating the process with conditioner. When he was finished with her hair, Diana opened her eyes and gazed lovingly into his as she provided the same care to him in return. They continued this process as they washed each other's bodies before stepping out of the shower and drying one another off and slipping into two robes that had been hanging conveniently just outside the shower area.
During the entire time, not a word was spoken, but if either of them had been confronted and asked, they would both have stated in all honesty that words didn't need to be spoken. The intimacy of each action spoke volumes between the two of them. That time together provided both Bruce and Diana with a comforting knowledge. For Bruce, it gave him the realization that perhaps even when things could look their most bleak, there was still a glimmer of hope that he could be happy. For Diana, she was provided with a comfort to know that she could be just a woman at times and still feel secure. She felt like she had nothing to prove and could simply be Diana when she needed to be, and not have to be the Amazon warrior Wonder Woman unless she chose to. It was a very comforting moment for each of them, and they both were cherishing that it had happened with them together.
Eventually Bruce and Diana made their way out of the cave and into the manner where they traipsed through the study into the kitchen. Bruce, not being a very good cook by any means, gathered together the ingredients for two lunch meat sandwiches with juice to drink. They remained silent as they ate their sandwiches and drank their juice before placing the dirty dishes into the sink, exiting the kitchen, and swiftly traveling upstairs into the master bedroom. Bruce closed the door behind him once they were both inside before setting his sights on his beautiful princess as she made her way to the bed while removing the bathrobe and letting it fall to the floor at the same time. He felt a lump grow in his throat as he allowed himself a moment to enjoy the view. Diana could feel the heat from his gaze on her as she turned and smirked at him. He was standing next to the bedroom door still with an almost slack jawed look on his face. There was also a lust filled look burning brightly in his eyes that she could easily make out from across the room. She briefly returned her focus to the oh so inviting bed, pulling back the covers before draping one leg onto the mattress and turning back to face Bruce, lightly padding the bed next to her as she continued to climb into it.
Bruce finally managed to reel in his desire enough so that his brain would function enough to allow him to walk over to the bed. It was his turn to smirk as when he removed the bathrobe from his body, he saw the expression change on Diana's face as she drank in the image before her. This was a look that many women had sent Bruce's way before, but until now, the look never held anything for him aside from showing him someone else's greed at his expense. With Diana it was different. She never would be looking for anything other than love from Bruce, and he was more than willing to give her everything of himself that he could. He slid into bed next to her and wrapped his arms around her when she laid her head on the left side of his chest before possessively draping her left arm and leg over top of his body. They both knew at that point that tonight would not be about sex, but instead about offering comfort and security to one another. Diana sighed and relaxed when she noticed that Bruce was of the same mindset about what to was to be expected tonight. He seemed to just relish in the fact that they were together on this night, and able to hold one another, offering each other strength, compassion, and love. She lifted her head up slightly and leaned in, placing a soft and happy kiss just above Bruce's jaw before laying back down on his chest. She just stayed there enjoying the soft and repetitive beat of his heart as he held her there. It was so steady and seemingly calm, just like he always appeared to be on the outside. It was then that she finally decided that it was time to break the silence. "I'm sorry for the way I reacted."
"You've got nothing to be sorry about Diana." Bruce said softly as he placed a kiss gently on her head. "I should have trusted that you were in control the entire time and wouldn't cross that line."
"So, what's next?" She asked him.
Bruce tucked an arm behind his head so that he could have a better view of Diana. "You mean tomorrow, or tonight?" He answered with another question and a slightly teasing tone hinting within his voice.
"Both I think." She responded, looking up and making eye contact with the man that was lying basically beneath her.
"Tonight…..Tonight we try to cope and reflect." Bruce began to answer as he thought out loud. "Tomorrow we need to go about business as usual. At least as much as possible. Clark will need some time to move forward with his life, and the world won't stop moving along just because Superman isn't going to be there for a time to protect it. Then we need to help with what's left of Metropolis. I'll transfer a good portion of my charitable funding to help rebuild Metropolis, and the Justice League needs to be there to help find any possible survivors."
"How long do you think it will take Kal to return?" She asked.
"I'm not sure." He responded. "It takes different people different lengths of time to move through the grieving process. Some people never find a way to move on."
"Hopefully Kal finds a way to move on and find peace in his heart again." Diana said as she returned to her original position before letting her eyes fall shut.
"Hopefully." Bruce repeated as his eyes moved towards the ceiling, his mind already racing with possible scenarios that could happen once Clark did decide to return. Deep in the recesses of his mind, he felt a twinge of concern growing as a grieving and angered Superman could very well turn out to be one of the most dangerous forces the world had ever seen.
Diana could tell that Bruce was deep in thought as she felt his muscles clenching and relaxing over and over again. She laid there in silence counting each time that Bruce clenched his muscles, and made it to 107 before she succumbed to a dreamless slumber. When she did finally fall asleep, Bruce had finally found a way to put his thoughts away until morning by casually running his fingers through Diana's raven hair. Besides, they'd have plenty to do in order to keep themselves occupied with the cleanup effort, and he also planned on being an integral part of the Joker's interrogation as well. With those thoughts dancing through his mind, he forced himself to look in other directions, and fixated on the brief conversation he'd just shared with Diana. He wondered just how long it would take Clark to recover and move on. Bruce still had yet to move on from the ordeal of his own parents being murdered, and that was over twenty-five years ago. He then thought about Diana, and wondered to himself how often she'd be startled awake when the vivid nightmare of his parent's deaths would come to him in his sleep. After another twenty minutes of processing through different thoughts and scenarios though, Bruce finally fell asleep still cuddled with Diana.
~~ Following morning after the all clear was received ~~
The Justice League wasted little time in moving in to the destroyed city as soon as Captain Atom had finished removing enough of the radiation from the site that used to be a thriving city. It saddened Diana's heart going through the rubble when she knew that if there actually were any survivors they would be far and few between. The city had been turned into a virtual wasteland, and it would take years to rebuild as they would basically have to start completely over. Nothing appeared to be salvageable. She worked alongside Hal and Barry, sifting through what used to be beautifully architected buildings and homes for any signs of life, but finding none. Even though the ending of last night had definitely been pleasant for her, Diana was still greatly troubled by what had happened to Superman and this once proud city. For as much good as men had done in the world, there seemed to be so much more evil to counteract it. Man had created a weapon of such destructive power, but for what purpose? Peace seemed to be just a pretty word for this world, and completely unattainable. She found herself wanting to be back in Bruce's arms with each passing moment. It was the only place where she could seem to see peace in this world now. Her thoughts then went to where exactly Bruce was now. She never would have thought that he wouldn't be right here helping the League as they all worked through this unfortunate situation. They had been working diligently for hours already, digging and searching, and yet there was no sign of Batman's presence. She was about to reach out to him when Barry's voice came over the communicator. "I found some survivors!" He exclaimed.
"What's your current location?" She asked as he flew up into the air hovering above the ground. Diana could use some uplifting news to see some survivors, and was anxious to help.
"North end." Barry responded. "From what it looks like, these people were in what appears to be a bomb shelter. Lucky for them."
"I'm on my way." Diana replied before end the transmission and flying off. She made short work of finding Barry's location and sure enough he had discovered a handful of survivors. Most were scientists, but one man in particular stood out. Superman's friend Alexander Luthor was among the survivors. They were all conscious and aware of what had transpired even though none of them had known why it had happened. They were explaining what they were doing in the bunker when Diana arrived. She found that they had been testing a prototype weapon, and were merely lucky that the testing was being done when the real bomb went off. Lex was the one that was asking more about the whys, how's as the others were more in shock than anything. "Why wasn't Superman able to stop it?" Lex asked finally.
Everyone else stopped talking the second that Lex had asked the question. Diana held a look of uncertainty on her face as she debated whether or not to share any details. She briefly debated within herself before finally grabbing Lex around the waist and flying off with him to a more remote area. When she landed, she began pacing back and forth, still debating whether Lex should be allowed to know before anyone else in the public became aware. While she paced back and forth, she sporadically looked over at Lex, taking in how patiently he was waiting for answers. Finally she stopped and turned to face him fully. She sighed as she made her decision. "The reason Superman wasn't able to stop it was because….because….."
"Please, Wonder Woman." Lex gently pushed as he placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Superman's been a good friend of my for years. If something's happened to him, I'd like to know."
Diana sighed again as she looked into Lex's eyes. "It's because he inadvertently caused it." She said in a very small and quiet voice. "He…he was tricked…manipulated into believing that he was being attacked by the Doomsday monster. It was too late when he finally realized that she wasn't the monster. Her heart was linked to a remote detonating trigger that went off when her heart stopped beating." Diana couldn't bring herself to look anywhere other than the ground just in front of her feet. She felt horrible having to explain how Kal had been tricked into killing his family.
"She?" Lex asked, shocking Diana out of her depressed trance like state.
"Lois." Was all the answer she could muster.
"Oh my lord." Lex gasped in response. "Where is he now?"
"He's grieving right now." Diana replied. "The rest of the League is doing all we can to help out in his absence."
"Well, then we'd better get you back so that you can continue helping." Lex said with as charming a smile as he could manage. Diana's lips curled ever so slightly, and she was then ready to rejoin the rest of her teammates on the search for survivors.
As nightfall was swiftly approaching, the League was finishing up with the cleanup efforts. Lex and his team of scientist had turned out to be the only survivors after all. It was truly disheartening for the League, but they couldn't just sit idly by. They continued to work clearing away all the rubble and debris that remained. Green Lantern took the majority of it off world to be burned into ash by the glaring heat from the sun while other League members slowly dispersed and headed back to their homes. No one wanted to remain in the destitute wasteland. News crews and government officials had joined in and were going back and forth all around the area seeking answers or reportable stories. Inevitably, someone would eventually ask where Superman was. Diana didn't want to answer that question. She felt that she needed Bruce there to be with her when that happened. Until Kal chose to return, she just knew that the rest of the League would be looking to her and Batman for guidance and instruction. Where was he all this time? She began to reach up to her ear for her communicator when she heard a noise from above her. She looked up, and in the distance, she could make out that a person was floating downward through the slight breeze. A few seconds later, she found that it was Superman, and he landed next to her not long after she'd confirmed it was him. His eyes were bloodshot and puffy and he was shaking slightly. She could see that there was a murderous looking intent in his eyes. "Where is he?" Was all he asked.
It struck her that this was what Bruce had been afraid of. Superman seeking out vengeance instead of justice. There was also no doubt in her mind about who the "he" was that Kal was referring to. She only hoped that having Joker in custody already would deter Superman from acting out. "Batman and I apprehended the Joker last night." She answered. "He's going to be brought up on a multitude of charges Kal."
"So, he's in Gotham then." Superman stated before flying off and disappearing from sight like a rocket had launched.
Diana immediately reached up for her communicator as she knew that Bruce needed to be warned. At the rate of speed that Superman was traveling, there wouldn't be much time at all before he reached Bruce and the Joker. "Batman, please respond." She called out immediately after opening a channel.
"What is it Diana?" Batman answered. "I had to leave the interrogation room, so it'd better be important."
"It's Kal." Diana replied. "He's on his way."
"Understood." Batman responded. "I'll handle it here. Batman out."
~~ Gotham FBI building, outside the interrogation room ~~
Batman ended the transmission with Diana. He knew there was no time for pleasantries, and looked over at the group of agents that were monitoring his interrogation of the Joker. "Increase the protection detail." He ordered. "I've been informed that Superman knows we're here."
"So." One of the agents replied. "Superman's on our side. Always has been."
"He's never been grieving from the loss of loved ones before." Batman fired back as he turned to walk back into the interrogation room. He glanced back over his shoulder as he reached for the door. "Joker is responsible for the deaths of Superman's family." He said before opening the door and walking back in.
"Ah Batsy, I thought you were done with our little chat." Joker calmly stated as he leaned forward on the table before him. "I was beginning to get bored."
"I don't have time for this Joker." Batman growled as he started to walk around the table, placing a hand forcefully onto the Joker's shoulder and shoving him back down into his chair before returning to the other side of the table and slamming a fist and hand down onto it as he leaned closer to the clown. "The nuke. How'd you get it?" He asked.
"What, you want one?" The Joker defiantly chided. "Pshh, copy bat."
Batman had heard enough at that point. He needed answers, and needed them now. He growled and reached across the table, grabbing and picking the Joker up by his lapels just as a blast caused a hole to break through the outer wall behind him. When the dust and debris settled, the Joker was the first to see Superman gliding in, and Joker straightened back in his seat while revealing and victoriously smug smile as he released a small chuckle inside his throat. Superman's eyes were still glowing red as his feet touched down inside the interrogation room. "Get away from him." He barked out to Batman, brooking no room for argument.
"I'm handling this." Bruce fired back as a retort to try and reach Superman, but he merely ignored what was said as he continued to stalk over towards the Joker.
Joker leaned forward, resting his arms against the table before Superman reached to his left, grabbing the end, and flipping the table to the right against a wall as easily as if it had been a cardboard box. With that obstacle removed, he lifted the Joker from his seat before slamming him into the viewing glass, cracking it behind the Joker's pinned body as Superman leaned in face to face. "You drugged me." Superman basically yelled out. His body was quivering from the pent up rage swelling inside of him. "Made me…." He continued before trailing off. Superman lowered his head slightly as grief overwhelmed him. "Lois….my son." He strangled out in a lower almost whisper.
"First Krypton, now Metropolis." Joker began as he wanted to continue pushing Superman's buttons. "People you love tend to blow up, don't they."
That comment brought Superman out of his grief stricken state and back into anger. He growled and pulled up his left arm with a tightly clenched fist, ready to smash a hole in the clown's skull. "Superman, don't!" Batman yelled as he began to reach for the Kryptonite chip in his utility belt that he always kept with him in case Superman ever went rogue.
Superman threw the punch, but his aim was to the left of the Joker's head, instead smashing into the already cracked glass, causing more cracks to spider web around his fist. The Joker had closed his eyes and slightly turned his head. He wasn't entirely sure that Superman wouldn't actually go through a brutal and likely death resulting blow. Batman saw in that instance that Superman gave pause to stepping over the line and murdering the Joker. Perhaps he was still under control after all. It was enough that he no longer was looking to pull the Kryptonite out from his belt, but when the Joker realized that Superman had held back, he smirked, and Batman knew that he wasn't done taunting or gloating. "Heh, that's why I like you Superman." Joker said as he placed a hand on Superman's shoulder. "You're much more gullible than…" He trailed off and instead used his head to point in the direction of Batman. That caused the restraint to snap once again as Superman flung the Joker's body over his shoulder, where it slammed against the wall on the opposite side of the room. The Joker slid down the wall, and onto the table before it gave way to his body weight and crumpled to the floor. His shoulder was dislocated from the contact with the wall, but he ignored the pain and pushed himself back up to his feet as Superman was again stalking towards him.
The Joker tried leaning back to deal with a kink in his back before he began to press on, pushing more buttons. "You think you can have a family. That locking me up will magically reform me, and they'll all be safe." Joker reached down and set the chair up that he'd been in originally before returning to his seat. He puffed out his chest and continued on. "So big." He said and then gestured to his head. "So dumb." He allowed himself a moment to laugh aloud as he saw the look of anguish on Superman's face before he continued pushing. "Now run along so I can break outta here. I've got lots of planning to do to top this."
That was the final straw for Superman as he growled again and snatched the Joker by the neck, lifting him into the air.
Batman knew that the Joker would keep pushing until he got Superman to cross the line. It would be another Harvey Dent, and Bruce wasn't about to let that happen. "That's enough!" He yelled before placing his hands on Superman's arms and trying to pull down to force Superman to release the clown. Superman wasn't going to have any of it though, and brushed Batman away like a rag doll. When Batman landed on the ground, his head struck a raised area of the hole in the wall that Superman had made. It was a strong enough hit to the head that he was dazed by it and almost unconscious.
Batman wouldn't be able to stop it now, and the Joker knew it. All Superman needed was one final push. He thought quickly and managed to find enough room to steal a breath even though Superman had his hand clamped around the Joker's neck. It was now or never. "I know it's soon, but…" He said, which brought Superman's full attention back to him. "Think you'll ever love again? Maybe you won't kill your next family."
The only thing that could be heard after that was the Joker's sickening final laugh.