Batman flew through the shimmering wormhole, keeping his arms locked around Superman’s upper torso. He may have understood–and even sympathized–with Kent’s decision, but he wasn’t about to let the big moron get himself killed because of some far-off notion of vengeance.
He dismissively noted the irony.
The hulking figure of Orion tumbled limply from the portal, landing on a small outcrp of dirt with a quiet thud as the pathway closed behind him. With a roar of dissatisfaction, Superman clamped a hand down on Batman’s wrist, throwing him over his shoulder and slamming him into the ground with enough force to kill the average person. “You had no right to interfere!”
Luckily enough for him, he was far from average. Undeterred, he rose to his full height, dusting himself off non-chalantly. “You were about to die; I had every right to interfere.” As if on cue, a magnificent explosion lit up the night sky, illuminating the heroes a bright red. As the light faded back to nothing, Batman surveyed his expression, acutely aware of his rage. Yes, he could definitely sympathize. “Nothing could’ve survived that,” he stated softly. “Not even Darkseid.”
Superman’s jaw ground in fury. Swiftly, he turned to face his rival, his eyes narrowed. “Y’know something, Bruce,” he began casually, stepping closer, “you’re not always right.” With a last glower, he trudged away.
However, the Dark Knight didn’t take well to someone getting the last word over him. Certainly not from the All-American Boy Scout, and especially when it was so open for rebuttal. “I was right in this case,” he shot back proudly, his jaw set in open defiance.
Kent stopped in mid-stride, but refused to turn. “No, you weren’t. I had a chance to end it once and for all, and if you hadn’t stopped me, Darkseid would’ve been gone for good.”
Batman frowned. “If I hadn’t stepped in, you’d be space dust right now, along with Darkseid.” He paused, his deep baritone losing a slight of its edge. “Your vindication isn’t worth dying for.”
Superman scoffed humorlessly, whirling to glare at him. “This coming from a man whose sole purpose in life is to get revenge on the criminals that work in his city.”
Batman’s frown deepened. “You’re missing the point. Getting revenge isn’t worth losing your life.”
Kent’s expression grew cold, and he stalked up to him, until they were–almost literally–nose to nose. “If you had the chance to get even with the person that shot your parents, even if it meant dying, would you take it?”
As if he’d said the magic words, Batman’s emotionless mask fell into shambles. Superman witnessed with a brand of morbid curiosity as Bruce’s eyes went wide, his jaw going slack with surprise. He continued to watch as the Dark Knight’s blank stare was slowly filled with hellfire, his posture morphing from shock to indignant outrage. His teeth clenched, he spat, “That’s not fair.”
“You’re right, it’s not,” the Man of Steel retorted, “but, then, you’ve already proven that you don’t like to play by the rules, vigilante.”
Batman growled low in his throat. “I don’t see you with a badge.”
“No, but I actually work with the authorities, not disregard them,” he snapped.
“Only after you spent months convincing them you weren’t a traitor,” the Dark Knight hissed, his finger jabbing into Superman’s symbol.
Kent’s eyes flared in rage. “How dare you!”
Batman ignored his outburst, continuing. “How dare you! You think that just because Darkseid screwed around with your head, that you now have the right to go murder him in cold blood? And you call me a vigilante? You have no right to judge me!”
Superman shoved Batman’s hand away, his face twisted in a snarl. “And neither do you! You don’t know what he did to me–what he made me think. I betrayed those I loved most, all because of his sick, twisted plan to destroy me.”
“You don’t get it, do you, Kent?” Bruce huffed angrily. “I don’t care what Darkseid did to you, and I don’t anyone else would’ve, either.” If it were possible, he moved closer, glaring at Superman with all the anger he could muster. “You think it was hard to win the people’s trust back before? What if you had killed him? Everyone would have found out that you murdered Darkseid for retribution–you; the poster-boy for justice. Just try earning their trust back when they think of you as a cold-blooded killer. Tell me, what would you have done then, Superman?”
He waited for an answer. None came.
Sighing deeply, Batman took a step away from the Man of Steel, forcing himself to calm down. “Let it go, Kent. You have nothing to prove.”
Slowly, Superman raised his gaze to meet Batman’s, his expression grave. “I’ll make a deal with you.”
Bruce’s eyebrow twitched up in interest, once again detached. “Shoot.”
He closed the distance between then, leaning forward in a silent challenge. “When you let go of your pain, I’ll let go of mine.” Without another word, he pivoted on his heel, launching himself into the air.