Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me
...Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
-"Blackbird," The Beatles
"Clark. Help me."
The words were spoken very softly, but Clark Kent heard them clearly over the drone of his journalism professor's lecture, and the soft buzz of bored students whispering among themselves. He'd been doodling in his notebook, under the guise of taking notes, but now his head jerked up, and he listened closely.
No more words were spoken, but he heard a heartbeat he knew as well as his own pounding hard. His girlfriend Chloe Sullivan was out there somewhere, and she was scared.
He jumped to his feet and ran out the door, heedless of the professor's glare.
He was pretty sure Chloe was working today, rather than taking classes, and the distance of her heartbeat confirmed that she wasn't here on campus. It wasn't far from Metropolis University to the Daily Planet, the big newspaper where Chloe worked. He switched into superspeed and headed toward downtown Metropolis, moving so fast the world seemed frozen around him.
He followed the sound of her heartbeat, and it took him away from the Planet, to his surprise, and into one of the rougher sections of Metropolis. Two seconds later he saw a gaggle of police cars. Their lights didn't appear to be blinking because he was still in superspeed, but as he dropped back into normal time, their lights began blinking and he saw the police congregating in an anxious knot, holding a cell phone. He turned his head, listening in on their conversation.
"He's threatening to throw the girl off the building if we don't give him what he wants," one of the cops said.
Oh, shit. Clark looked up at the building they'd cordoned off and listened carefully. Sure enough, that was where Chloe was. What had his girl managed to get herself into this time?
Chloe had a talent for trouble, and as a reporter for the Daily Planet, she didn't even have to go looking for trouble-- most of the time it found her. He wished he had some way of telling her that he'd heard her, that he was here to help her, but since she didn't have superhearing, he had no way of communicating with her.
He heard a soft whimper from her, heard her footsteps, and then two heads appeared at the top of the building, silhouetted against the bright midday sky.
He squinted up into the sky, trying to figure out what the hell he should do. The building was only nine or ten stories high, and he was pretty sure he could jump up to the roof. But his sudden appearance might just surprise the guy into shooting Chloe's head off or something.
He took a deep breath to try to slow his wildly thundering heart and forced himself to wait.
"Look," one of the cops was saying into the cell phone. "I don't have any way of getting the President to talk to you, okay? Would you be willing to talk to the mayor?"
Total wacko, Clark deduced. Unfortunately there seemed to be a lot of wackos in Metropolis. He wondered how Chloe had gotten mixed up with the guy, but he guessed she'd been writing some story on him when he'd gone psycho on her. He looked past the cops, biting his lip nervously. Right now the cops had the building cordoned off, but that wouldn't stop him from superspeeding past them if the guy threw Chloe off the roof.
He cocked his head, listening to the other end of the conversation. It wasn't reassuring. The guy was ranting angrily about his intention of blowing up Shark Stadium if he didn't get what he wanted-- and what he wanted seemed to be passage off the planet. He apparently wanted the space shuttle to take him to Mars. Definitely a total wacko.
Although Clark was in favor of sending the guy to Mars. He got a little grumpy when the people he loved were threatened, and if this guy wanted to breathe vacuum, that was okay with him.
All at once the man seemed to reach the end of his rope, despite the reassuring tone of the police officer dealing with him. His voice rose to a shriek, and Clark looked up in dismay and alarm, seeing Chloe struggling frantically. He could hear her shrieks, could see her struggles, but the guy gave her a good hard shove, and she fell off the top of the building, her body tumbling through the air.
Clark heard her screaming in terror. Adrenaline spiked through him, and he automatically went into superspeed, ran toward the building, and leaped high into the air.
He knew that the impact of landing in his arms from this distance would probably kill her just as dead as landing on the asphalt, so he had no choice but to jump up and help cushion her fall. But almost instantly he realized that under the influence of adrenaline and fear, he'd miscalculated the trajectory of his leap. His momentum was going to carry him right over top of her. And even though he was in superspeed, and she wasn't, he wasn't sure he could land, recover, and jump again fast enough to save her.
The thought of her slamming into the asphalt cut through him like a knife. Desperate, he stretched out his arms toward her. He was too far away to grab her, but he couldn't stop himself from trying.
Chloe, he thought. Chloe.
And to his shock, his trajectory altered.
Impossible, he thought, even as he sailed straight toward her. But of course it wasn't impossible, and he knew it. He remembered flying as Kal-El. He remembered changing his trajectory at will. He'd just never been able to figure out exactly how he'd done it, let alone managed to replicate it. It had seemed utterly unbelievable that he could defy gravity that way.
But for Chloe, he was willing to do the impossible.
Less than a second later he caught her gently in his arms. She grabbed onto him desperately, burying her face in his shoulder. "Clark," she whispered between sobs. "Oh, God, I thought maybe you weren't going to save me."
He had to alter his time perceptions to understand her, but that was all right, because she was no longer in immediate danger. He shifted out of superspeed. "I'll always save you," he answered, holding her tightly against his chest. "Always, Chlo."
She pressed her face against him, shuddering violently. And then she lifted her head, and her arms tightened around him more desperately than before.
"Clark," she said, her eyes wide. "We're... flying."
"Um, yeah. I kind of noticed that."
"When did you learn to fly?"
"About two minutes ago."
"Oh, God." Her fingers dug into his flannel shirt. "You don't have a clue what you're doing, do you?"
"Not really, no." He grinned wryly. "But the good news is we don't seem to be falling."
In fact they were continuing to rise, and they were well over the tops of most of the buildings now. He'd discovered he could alter his trajectory just by thinking about it, and he'd been practicing while she clung to his shirt, sailing around downtown Metropolis in big, wide circles.
"But this is impossible," she said.
"More impossible than the other stuff I can do?"
"Well." She bit her lip thoughtfully. "Maybe not. But it's a lot more... startling."
"Trust me," he said. "You can't possibly be more startled than I was."
She frowned. "You didn't mean to fly?"
"I meant to jump. The flying was pretty much an accident."
She looked down. They were well above the highest buildings now, and he thought she looked slightly green, which was hardly surprising. They were awfully high. He wasn't overly fond of heights himself, and he was trying not to look down. "Do you think you'll be able to do it again?"
"I think the first question we need to answer is, can I get back down again?"
"Oh, God." She turned greener than before. "You're kidding, right?"
"No. I think we better figure it out. Pretty soon the air's going to be getting a little thin for you." He frowned, concentrating, and they began to drift downward, toward the building where she'd fallen.
She clutched at his neck. "Slowly, Clark. Take it easy."
"Trust me, I don't want to slam into the pavement from this height any more than you do. When I stopped that missile, I fell a long way and hit the ground pretty damn hard. It was not a pleasant experience." He still remembered the awful sensation of tumbling through the atmosphere, his clothes burning off around him, not knowing if he'd survive the heat of reentry or the impact of slamming into the ground at God only knew how many miles per hour. Seeing the ground rushing up at him had been one of the most terrifying experiences of his life.
"Yes, but at least your unpleasant experience didn't wind up with you as a grease spot on the pavement. If I fell from this height I'd be squashed flat."
"I won't let that happen to you," he said softly. They drew lower to the ground, and he aimed for a deserted alley, because he had a feeling that landing in the middle of a crowd of cops could be hazardous to his anonymity, and perhaps even his health. The fewer people who saw his face while he was doing inhumanly weird things, the better.
They dropped down into the alley, and his feet hit the dirty concrete with a bump. She squeezed his neck, but this time he thought it was with joy. Maybe she was just glad to be back on terra firma, but he thought maybe she'd discovered she really liked flying with him.
He lowered her to the ground, and she looked up at him, grinning as happily as if she hadn't just been thrown off a building and nearly killed. She looked like she'd been having the time of her life. "We have got to do that again soon," she said.
"Uh..." He frowned. Now that he was on solid ground again, he didn't have the slightest clue how to do it again. "I'm not sure I can."
"Of course you can. You can do anything."
She'd told him that many times before, and now he was almost starting to believe it. Because if he could fly, well, what couldn't he do? The thought was a little frightening.
She reached up and planted a quick kiss on his lips. "I have to get back," she said. "I was writing a story on that guy, you know." He frowned, and she patted his cheek. "Don't worry. I'm sure the cops have him in custody by now. And I promise, I won't tell them my flying boyfriend saved me."
Yeah, that was something probably best kept from the cops. "What are you going to tell them?"
"I'm not sure." She shrugged. "You were in superspeed, right? They obviously didn't see you, and with any luck they didn't see me fall off the roof. I'll make something believable up, don't worry."
She was far better at making up believable lies than he was, so he wasn't really worried. "Okay," he said. "Call me when you get back to the Planet, okay?"
"Okay." She flashed her wide grin. "Fly back to class now."
He looked up into the blue sky. He could only see a narrow sliver of it in this alley, but it looked really... high. He shook his head. "I think I've had enough flying for one day."
"Suit yourself," she said. She patted his arm, then headed for the end of the alley. He watched her for a moment, then looked up at the sky again.
It wasn't like he really needed to fly most of the time. He got around pretty damn fast just by running. But despite his long-held fear of heights, flying had felt really... incredible. He'd felt unfettered, free, in a way he'd never felt before. Part of him really wanted to feel that way again.
The thought of deliberately choosing to fly scared him a little, because he'd never been fond of heights to begin with, and his long, terrifying fall after he'd disabled the missile hadn't helped matters any.
But... he could fly. How cool was that? He thought about the way it had felt to sail up into the sky, like a bird or a plane or a missile, and he knew he had to try it again.
He bent his knees, concentrated, and jumped.
Just as his feet left the ground, he glanced toward the end of the alley and saw Chloe standing there, watching him with a huge grin. He wasn't surprised that she was still there, because she knew him well enough to know he wouldn't let something like this go. He wasn't in superspeed, and his superhearing picked up her words with no trouble.
"Up, up, and away," she told him.
He grinned back at her and rocketed up into the sky. Now that he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he could fly, it was surprisingly easy. He flew in circles for a few minutes, watching Chloe. But once she got to the knot of cops, he figured she was safe.
Whirling around in the air, he headed toward Metropolis University like the responsible journalism student he was... then hesitated.
The sky was blue, the sun was bright, and the last thing he wanted right now was to be stuck in a classroom, listening to his professor drone on and on about journalistic ethics. He whipped around in midair and flew in the opposite direction, deciding to play hooky. His way.
He seriously needed to learn how to do barrel rolls.