PG (character death warning)
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Clark Kent: I just can't help thinking that... Whitney's skin wasn't bulletproof. His bones weren't unbreakable, but he still put himself in harm's way so the world could be safer. I wonder if I didn't have my abilities if I'd have that same kind of courage.
Jonathan Kent: Son, there is no doubt in our minds that you would.
"We are here today to remember a great American hero."
The casket sat at the front of the cathedral, draped in an American flag and surrounded by red, white and blue flowers. The vast building was packed to overflowing with mourners, and outside thousands more thronged the street, waiting to pay their last respects. Cameras set up in the church broadcast the event to millions or even billions more.
"Superman was not born on this planet." Perry White spoke in clear, measured tones, somehow managing to keep his voice steady. God knew it wasn't easy. "But he committed himself, body and soul, to keeping us safe. Not just America, but the whole world. He defended us for fifteen years. And in the end, he willingly sacrificed himself to save us all."
He looked over the crowd, seeing masked, caped superheroes scattered throughout. It looked like every superhero in the world was here. Superman had been the leader of the Justice League, and he imagined the superhero community must be in something of an uproar right now, though he had no way of knowing for sure. He wondered how they felt, if they grieved the way the general populace did. Judging from the way their heads were bent, he thought they must be grieving almost as much as he himself was.
"Superman was invulnerable, in most circumstances," Perry went on. "But he knew perfectly well he could be injured, or even killed, by the technology of the aliens who attacked us last week. And yet... and yet he faced them anyway. To protect us, to save us, he faced them without hesitation."
As he spoke, he remembered a seventeen-year-old boy, struggling to save him. Somehow the boy had lost his amazing abilities and become as fragile as any human, and yet he'd risked his life to save Perry's unworthy neck. The boy could have easily been killed that day, all due to Perry's stupidity.
But he hadn't died. Thank God for that. They'd both survived, and the boy had gone on to be the world's greatest superhero.
Perry had known, the minute he laid eyes on Superman, that he was Clark Kent. Of course he'd known. He wasn't stupid, and the minute Superman came to town, he'd figured it out. The fact that Clark wore dark-rimmed glasses, alternated a wide, goofy grin with foot-shuffling shyness, and generally acted like a clueless, bumbling idiot hadn't fooled him for a microsecond.
And yet after some thought, he'd decided to keep Clark's secret, because he could easily understand why superheroes needed to conceal their identity in order to protect their families. He'd been torn nearly in two by the issue, had considered it from all sides for weeks. His job as editor in chief of the Daily Planet was to bring the truth to the public, and the truth was that Superman was Clark Kent. And on a more practical level, exposing Superman's secret identity would have sold a lot of papers, no doubt about it.
But it also might very well have caused Superman to stop working as a hero, which could have killed a lot of people in the long run.
Perry had never regretted that decision, and last week's events had made him more certain than ever that it had indeed been the correct decision. Because if Superman hadn't been around, Earth would be a smoking ball of charcoal right now.
He paused for a moment, blinking back tears. Not only had Earth lost a great hero, but he'd lost a colleague and close friend. There were so many more things he wanted to say. He wanted to talk about Clark Kent, journalist, loving husband, devoted son, and a damn good friend.
But no one was here to remember Clark Kent. No one except him, and a handful of others-- his widow, who was seated in the press section and trying valiantly to conceal her tears; Jimmy Olsen, who'd known and protected Clark's secret for years; Martha Kent, who was seated near the front, struggling to look dignified and calm, as if a stranger, rather than her only son, lay in the coffin.
Very few people in the crowd even knew the name Clark Kent.
But everyone on the planet knew the name of Superman.
Perry pushed aside his memories of the dark-rimmed glasses and Clark's wide, goofy grin, and focused on the memory of a heroic figure patrolling Metropolis' skies, his crimson cape ripping behind him.
"And so," he said, "we gather together on this Veterans Day to remember all the veterans who have fought and died to protect our country, as well as those still among us. But most of all, we remember Superman, who gave his life to protect us all. Not just the United States of America... but every person on Earth."
He heard his voice cracking again, and paused, steadying himself, then forced out the last words of his speech in a ragged whisper.
"May we never forget him."