2: For the Beauty of Each Hour
3: For the Joy of Human Love
4: For Each Perfect Gift
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
The titles are from the hymn "For the Beauty of the Earth"
A Joyful Hymn of Praise, Part 1
Concealed behind an enormous crystal pillar, Chloe Sullivan stared at the man she'd loved for years. Clark Kent's cold, emotionless face appeared to be carved out of ice, just like the structure that surrounded him. She ached to comfort him, to ease his grief, but all she had to offer were empty words.
And her love. But he didn't want that. He never had.
She saw the slight tilt of his head that meant he was listening with his superhearing. "Come on out, Chlo," he said. His voice was low and hoarse with grief. "I know you're here."
She sighed and stepped out from behind the pillar. This was the downside to having a friend with superpowers-- it wasn't easy to sneak up on him. In fact, it was outright impossible.
"Hey," she said softly, walking over to him. She wanted to wrap her arms around him, but didn't quite dare, so she settled for placing a hand lightly on his shoulder. He didn't look at her. "What are you doing here?"
"This is my Fortress, Chlo. I belong here. A better question would be, what are you doing here?"
"I've been looking all over for you," she answered, trying not to sound accusing. "When I couldn't find you anywhere, I got worried, so I checked the cave. I knew you'd come through, because the key was still there, so I figured I'd follow you up here and see what you were up to."
"I'm just thinking."
"You mean moping."
He shook his head. For the first time she realized he hadn't taken his eyes off a large crystal in front of them. His Fortress was pretty big, and even though she'd been here several times, she'd never noticed that particular formation before. Curious, she turned her head and stared at it, seeing long, sharp spikes sticking out in all directions.
"What is that?" she asked.
"Believe it or not," he said, "I'm pretty sure it's a spaceship."
She blinked at the crystal structure. It was beautiful in its own way, glittering like cut glass. "Wow," she said, impressed. This entire vast Fortress had been seeded from three Kryptonian crystals fused together. The idea that those three small crystals had somehow managed to create not only a giant structure, but a spaceship, boggled her mind. "I had no idea that was here."
"I did. And I've been thinking about it for a while. Now that Mom's dead..."
Alarmed, she jerked her head back around and stared at him. "Clark. You aren't thinking of... leaving. Are you?"
Sorrow shadowed his eyes, so that they looked as dark and opaque as jade. "There's nothing on Earth for me any more," he answered softly.
Her hands clenched into fists. She knew he was still grieving for his mother, who'd died a week before, but that didn't mean he was all alone in the world, damn it. "That isn't true," she snapped. "Just because Martha's gone doesn't mean all your ties to Earth are gone too. You have friends here, Clark. People who love you."
She was one of those people. They'd been friends for a long time, but friendship was all he'd ever wanted from her. But she couldn't help loving him, and she suspected Clark knew how desperately she adored him, even though he'd never spoken of her feelings, or encouraged her in any way.
He turned his head and looked at her, and she thought she saw a glint of sympathy in his gaze before he looked away again. "My parents are both gone, Chlo."
"But your friends aren't. Anyway, Krypton blew up, remember? So where would you go?"
"I don't know. There might be other Kryptonians out there somewhere. If not, maybe there are other inhabited worlds."
"What makes you think you'd like them any better than Earth?"
"Maybe I'd fit better there." He sighed, a long exhalation of sorrow and loneliness. "I just... I don't want to stay here, Chlo."
Panic gripped her by the throat, but she forced it back. She knew what his Earth parents had meant to him. As a child, he'd been orphaned in a horrible cataclysm. Sent to Earth, he'd been rescued by the Kents, who'd adopted him and loved him as if he were their own child. And now his adopted parents were dead, just as his biological parents were. He probably felt abandoned again, alone in the universe. But he couldn't let his emotions force him into making a rash decision he might later regret.
"You just want to run away," she accused angrily. "It's what you do whenever you're upset, or grieving. But you can't just run away from everything. You have a life here. This is your world, Clark."
"No, it isn't," he said softly. "I'm an alien. I've never really belonged."
"That's not true, and you know it." She stepped in front of him, blocking his view of the spaceship, and glared up into his eyes. "You belong here. You're more human than most humans. Besides, Earth is your home, Clark."
"I'm sorry, Chlo." He sighed again. "But I'm leaving."
Tears scorched her eyes. "Fine," she answered, fighting to keep her voice steady, struggling to sound as if his words hadn't ripped her heart right out of her chest. She wanted to beg him to take her with him, but she knew perfectly well he wouldn't. He might be willing to risk his own life in a crazy effort to find a better world, but he'd never risk her life that way. "But before you go, I want to go flying."
He tilted his head, looking puzzled. "What do you mean?"
He'd learned how to fly at age twenty-one, two years ago, and she'd seen him launch himself into the air hundreds of times. But she'd never seen him leap up into the sky without feeling a sharp pang of envy. "You've never taken me flying," she said. "I want to fly with you."
He sighed. "Chloe..."
"It's not that much to ask, Clark. You can at least give me that much before you leave."
She wanted a lot more than just a few moments with him, and she was pretty sure he realized it. But she couldn't ask for more than he was willing to give. He stood unmoving, and she reached out and put an imploring hand on his shoulder.
He hesitated a minute longer. "Okay," he answered at last, and swung her up in his arms.
A second later they were outside the Fortress, and sailing up into the blue sky. She was wearing a parka, but the air felt bitterly cold against her face, biting cruelly into her bones. Since Clark didn't need a parka to stay warm, he was only wearing a plaid shirt and jeans, and she turned her head, hiding her face against the warmth of his flannel-clad shoulder.
A few moments later she turned her head back and looked down again. The deep snow and ice of the Arctic were already giving way to grassy tundra.
"It's beautiful here," she said softly, looking over the vast, unspoiled landscape.
"Yeah," he responded, turning his head and looking at the land as they flew over it. "It is."
"Can you fly us over Kansas?"
"Sure." She felt them turn slightly in midair, and the breeze struck her face harder than before. She turned her face, hiding it against his shoulder again, until she felt him slow. She turned her head and saw cornfields spreading out beneath them like a green checkerboard. On the horizon, she saw the glittering glass and metal spires of Metropolis, the city where they both worked.
"It looks so pretty from up here," she said.
He came almost to a halt, hovering above the land he'd grown up in, his eyes moving from the cultivated fields to the distant city. The expression in his eyes tore at her heart. For the first time she realized he really didn't want to go, no matter what he told himself. He might not want to admit it, but he'd sunk his roots into Earth as deeply as any human's.
"Clark," she said softly. "You can't leave. This is where you belong."
He swallowed, staring at the distant city skyline with a look of mingled pain and longing that made her throat tighten. Then he looked up at the wide sapphire sky, and she could see the confusion and pain in his eyes. "What if there's a place where I'd fit?" he asked in a whisper. "What if there's a better world, somewhere out there?"
"Look around." She put a hand against his cheek. He turned his head and looked at her, and she smiled into his eyes. "There's no better world, Clark. There couldn't possibly be a more beautiful world than this one."
He stared into her eyes for a long moment, then looked away, studying the world spread out beneath them. Then they started moving again. The warm wind rippled her hair as they flew toward Metropolis.
"I'll stay," he said.
Joy filled her like a hymn of praise, and her arms tightened around his neck. She wanted to cover his face in kisses, to tell him how much she loved him, to let him know how important he was to her. But she somehow managed to choke the words back.
"I'm glad," she answered simply.
Read the sequel, For the Beauty of Each Hour.