A/N: Wow. Seriously thought I would have updated this earlier but the awful aftertaste of Batman VS Superman slowed me down. My apologies if some information about Superman is off-I only know stuff from the DCAU. It took me a while to get into the groove of writing this but I hope you enjoy!
Sparks flickered in the air as telephone wires tumbled into a heap from the force of the Man of Steel's fall. The ground shook at the impact, concrete jutting out into oblong shapes and odd angles. In the middle of it all Superman crouched in the rubble wincing.
Leave it to today of all the days for Kalibak to attack. No, the beast couldn't have attacked next week or the week after. It had to be now of all times—when he was at his weakest. The Kryptonian hadn't powered up from the sun's rays long enough to withstand the brute force of the new god. He was going to be in horrible shape for the Fourth of July parade.
"Why, this is the best work-out I've had in centuries." Kalibak grinned, balancing on his aero-disk as it whirled above Superman. "I have always underestimated the generosity of your people."
The Kryptonian groaned.
A faint frown creased Superman forehead at the crackling sound but before he had the chance to acknowledge the whereabouts of his most-likely-dying commlink, Kalibak swiftly grasped the collar of his blue suit.
"I always wanted a new punching bag but this—this is too easy. And, dare I say, pathetic?"
"Strange," Superman breathed, "that sounds like something your dear old dad would say. What would he call you again? Weak, useless or…"
A soft woosh was the only warning he received before he was slammed into an abandon warehouse. Mentioning Kalibak and his daddy-Darkseid-issues could do that to a person. The alien blinked slowly. Thunder clapped in the distance, shuddering the earth—his teammates' battling with the Elite imitating the remnants of a storm.
The new god approached him, Beta-Club twirling in one hand. "It was quite foolish for you to challenge the Elite on your own. You're lucky your less than average team came just in time to briefly delay your inevitable death."
He scoffed. "I have all the faith in my teammates."
"Oh? I doubt it. Because in only a matter of minutes, we'll bring your Just-ass League—ouff!"
Batman collided with Kalibak, catapulting the beast several feet away into the surrounding debris with a loud thud. Cracking his knuckles, the detective turned his attention to the Kryptonian, glowering as his dark cape fluttered in the wind. "You didn't alert us sooner."
"Hello to you, too." Wincing briefly, Superman grabbed the offered hand and lifted himself up.
"Unless you were planning on getting defeated by the Elite and becoming their eternal prisoner. Darkseid may have sent his goons as a mere distraction." He glanced at Superman's torn suit. "You look like shit."
"Always a joy to have you around. Current status?"
As Batman spoke to J'onn over the commlink, the alien's mind wandered. There was truth to his friend's comments, he knew, but it only drove his concern deeper. Because while he respected his teammates, he knew they wouldn't be able to withstand Darkseid's forces. With half of the team off-world, the Man of Steel knew he had to take this. He should take it.
"…the team at rendez-vous point." Batman paused; white slits seemingly all too knowing. "You seem a little off."
He raised his eyebrows. "What? If anything, I'm a little distracted wondering how much of a private donation Wayne Enterprises will give for this mess. A million? Two million?"
"Try copious amounts of you're-on-your-own. But, more importantly what are you doing—"
"C'mon," Superman repressed a sigh and gestured his arms once more, "you know it's easier this way. It's quicker if we just fly."
The silence that followed would have been awkward if it weren't for the explosions in the distance.
"You know I hate that."
"I don't have time to argue!"
"Neither do I."
"You're being ridiculous."
"No," rang another voice, alarmingly near, "you both are."
Kalibak stood behind them afar, directing his Beta-club in their direction, and the alien whistling crack of the weapon powering up filled their ears. The Kryptonian acted without thinking.
"Rise and shine stupid-head. I mean sleepyhead."
Superman jerked forward with a grunt and quickly took in his surroundings. The familiar sight and smell of the Watchtower's medical bay was enough for him to relax. Stacked around the room steel cabinets and shelves gave purchase to medicine and equipment as a few cots lay in the middle, lights dangling overhead. However, there were several more lights surrounding the Man of Steel in particular, which made it somewhat difficult fully seeing a smirking Hawkgirl slouched over a swivel chair.
"Easy there champ. These solar simulators help, but I doubt they're just as good as the real thing."
"How long have I been out?"
"About 24 hours. J'onn's on monitoring duty but doubling it up by helping out Wonder Woman and Flash as they battle some creepy insect-elephant things in some other dimension. John's still with the Lantern Corps." Grabbing a can of cherry soda that rested by her foot, she took a quick swig and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "Want some?"
Superman shook his head and swung his legs over the bed. The past 24 hours was a bit of a blur. While he felt loads better than how he had before, the alien's body felt sore all over—as if he had raced the Flash around the world and lost. Again.
"What do you think?"
Instead of answering, Superman merely seized his cape, draped behind the bed, and slipped into his boots. He thought a lot of things: the Fourth of July parade was tomorrow, and he was nowhere near figuring out if Darkseid had anything planned. Figuring out Batman's whereabouts and the faint accusation in Hawkgirl's voice would have to wait.
"Look," said Shayera, lifting off her mask to inspect the Kryptonian, "I may not be Batman's biggest fan, or friend, hell, even acquaintance"—
"—but he's got a point."
"You two had a heart to heart while I was knocked out?"
"With the World's Greatest Loner? Hardly. Just—he had said something to J'onn and it just kind've clicked but…"
Superman paused, turning around as he felt Shayera's hand on his shoulder. "You don't have to save the day by yourself." She lifted a hand before he protested. "Listen, I'm the last person to give advice, but we've noticed how hard you've been pushing yourself lately and you should know we're a team for a reason. You can trust us, Superman."
If one where to look up the definition of surprised at that moment, the Kryptonian's face would be right next to the definition. The Thanagarian wasn't the type to just offer her thoughts about a person unless she hated said person. Superman raised his eyebrows. "I trust all of you."
Shuffling his hair, she gave a grin. "I know you do, Boy Scout, but just think about it."
And he did. While he should have spent the next hours in the Watchtower helping J'onn investigate Darkseid, Hawkgirl's words rang in his mind. Maybe she had a point—he was pushing himself a lot more lately but didn't they all? Especially the Caped Crusader himself. There was weight to carry and sometimes that weight doubled. Clark looked out his apartment window as he polished his boots. Decorated in ribbons and banners, the streets lit of red, white, and blue as the smell of charred hot dogs and burgers filled the air. He was the last of his kind, but the last thing he would do was to simply sit back and lose another.
The TV buzzed in the background. "In just a few minutes, we'll be seeing the Man in Blue himself at the annual Fourth of July parade. A true American icon. Take a seat, folks, 'cause it's going to be one heck of a show!"
An Apokolip mutant spun in the air as Superman blast it away from Hawkgirl protecting a group of terrified tourists.
She scowled. "I had it!"
Dozens of the Apokolip mutants filled the streets, tearing down decorations and attacking civilians. The parade went on for about a minute before the chaos ensued. One heck of a show was putting it lightly.
"I'm Daisy Wright with Channel Five News," A blonde anchorwoman in a pantsuit gestured behind her, "and it looks like the annual parade has turned into an annual parade of utter destruction and complete peril. Stay tuned for more updates!"
"Out of the way!" Hawkgirl swept down, flinging her mace against three bare-fanged Apokolip mutants as J'onn transitioned into a serpent and captured a few others.
Hammer punching a mutant in the face—was that its face?—the Man of Steel spun around and iced breathed the oncoming few. "They just keep coming!"
"I suspect a boom tube." Superman nearly ran into the detective as he flipped over a float, throwing explosive batarangs into the air. A faint cut sliced the corner of his mouth and a light bruise covered his chin. Kalibak. Batman glared. "Watch it."
"What's your problem?"
"You should be asking yourself the same thing."
"Guys! Focus!" The Thanagarian glowered at the pair before ducking the charge of two mutants. She flipped over one, quickly grabbing the other and propelling it into the air.
"Yes, you." Batman flickered his commlink while pulling out a device from his utility belt. "My computer detected the gravitational force on my way over here. If we can find the source, I can deactivate it." He tilted his head towards Superman. "Unless you're planning on running a one-man-operation today."
"You can't be serious."
He clenched his fists. It was one thing hearing it from Hawkgirl but from the guy who probably believes there is an "I" in the word team? Helicopters soared in the sky as civilians ran amok in the crowded sheets. It was a smear of red, white, and blue.
"I can sense the disturbance," said J'onn flying above. "It is two blocks south next to the premises of a McDonalds."
Batman was already off, darting through the streets as his dark cape billowed behind him. And, while he was faster than average, Superman quickly caught up to him with his super-speed. Slipping his arms under his and lifting the Caped Crusader into the air, he easily earned a death glare along with a courtesy swear.
Batman snorted. "You really can't help yourself."
"Whatever helps you and your incessant need to save the day sleep at night."
With more force than necessary, Superman dumped him by the McDonalds and stood guard, heat blasting and freezing the Apokolip aliens running towards them. "If—and a big if—I had an incessant need to save the day, how is that any different from your incessant control issues?" He clasped his hands together and slammed them into the pavement, hurling the nearby aliens into the cracked ground. "Riddle me that, Batman."
"I don't pretend to be something I'm not, Kal'El. I admit my weaknesses."
"What are you trying to say? That I don't trust any of you? I trust you all with my life!"
"Then prove it."
"What?" Frowning, the Kryptonian turned around to see Batman directing a gem-like device at him as several more aliens surrounded the duo.
He didn't think—just acted. The device flew from Batman's hand, ricocheting off a transparent smudge near the golden arch of the McDonalds' sign. With a low hiss, the boom tube appeared for a split second before collapsing into itself and vaporizing the aliens.
Hours passed as the cleanup crew fixed the streets while firefighters took note of the damage. The League helped as much as they could with cleaning up the rubble and answering the government officials' questions—who's paying for this shit? It was no surprise Batman had already slipped away, and it was no surprise finding him crouched atop a building as the sun set.
"You know, you're not always right."
Batman barely flinched at the Man of Steel's voice nor did he react to him sitting near on the edge of the building, legs dangling.
"Sometimes," Superman said, "I feel like I should do it all myself. That it would just be easier not having to put others in harm's way. It's selfish, I know, but…"
His words drifted in a summer breeze as the darkness grew. Faint explosions of fireworks thundering afar filled the brief silence.
Batman cleared his throat. "It's difficult being vulnerable. I should know. But, you're not entirely invincible, Kal. We both know that."
"I know it."
"You can't save everyone. I've learned that. You're going to have to accept it."
More fireworks filled the night sky, flashes of colors expanding in the dark. The shadows flickered across the heroes' faces, creating strange shapes. He needed to accept his weaknesses and offer his teammates trust. He could do it. He would do it. Superman glanced at the spectators below him looking up at the show in the sky.
"So…how much do you think Wayne Enterprise will pay for this natural disaster? One million or two million or"—
"I try not to think about it."
He softly chuckled, and the duo watched the fireworks for a few moments more.