Wednesday, January 10, 2007
For the Beauty of Each Hour
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"
Sequel to For the Beauty of the Earth
A Joyful Hymn of Praise, Part 2
"I need an hour of your time."
"Chloe..." Clark Kent sighed. He was busy right now. Of course, he was always busy. Between his job at the Daily Planet and his job as a "superhero," as Chloe insisted on calling him, he barely had time to eat or sleep anymore.
"Just an hour," she said persuasively, pushing a strand of dark blonde hair back behind her ear in a habitual gesture. Chloe Sullivan had worked at the Daily Planet since she was eighteen, and he knew this environment wasn't as overwhelming for her as it was for him. He'd only started six months ago, and the constant pressure was starting to get to him. Anyway, she didn't have to fly out a window every time there was an emergency somewhere in the city. Lately he hardly even slept at night, and he felt more and more frazzled, but he wasn't sure what to do about it.
If he were really a superhero, he was pretty sure he wouldn't have to cope with being frazzled.
He sighed and leaned back in his office chair, which creaked under his considerable bulk. "I'm busy right now..."
"You're always busy, Clark." She frowned down at him. "It's lunchtime. Take a lunch, for God's sake. You're worse than I am. Even I take a break for coffee sometimes."
"I thought I might go out and, you know, check on things."
He meant fly patrol over the city for an hour, and he knew she understood what he was saying. He worked hard to keep his superhero identity secret, but Chloe had known about his powers since college, and had never told anyone. He trusted her more than he trusted anyone on the planet. They'd always been close friends, but lately he was too busy, and too tired, to even hang out with her much.
"No." She crossed her arms and looked stubborn. "I need you, Clark."
Ordinarily he might have made a snide, vaguely flirtatious remark at that, but he felt too tired even to snark. He sighed. "Okay, Chlo. Fine."
She flashed that beautiful, brilliant smile. "Great. Let's go."
He stood up, pushed his dark-rimmed glasses up on his nose, and picked up his fedora. Chloe kidded him that he was the absolute last man on Earth to wear a fedora on a daily basis, but he kind of liked the way it looked. Besides, it tended to shade his face a bit, so strangers he passed on the street would be less likely to recognize him.
He trailed after her as she walked briskly toward the elevator. "Where are we going?"
She stepped into the elevator, waited for him, and then pressed the button for the ground floor. The doors slid closed. "Wherever you want."
He cocked his head. "Huh?"
"You heard me. Wherever you want. For an hour, we're going to do whatever you want to do."
Another perfect opening for a snarky, flirty line, but he ignored it, because her words had set off a little spark of annoyance inside him. He felt his eyebrows draw down. "I already told you. I want to go fly a patrol."
"No, you don't. You feel like you should fly a patrol, which is an entirely different thing."
He sighed again. "Chlo..."
"Clark." She cut him off deliberately. "You're wearing yourself down. You have got to learn how to balance things a little better, or you're going to..."
"Make myself sick?" He rolled his eyes. "I don't get sick. You know that."
"Maybe not, but you're making yourself crazy."
"I am not."
"Yeah, you are. I've known you for a long time, Clark, and I know when you're driving yourself nuts. You've missed two deadlines this week. Perry is going to fire your ass, and then where will you be?"
He sighed. He knew Perry was pissed at him. But he'd had no choice but to miss those deadlines. He'd had to cope with two emergencies, an enormous fire and a rather ugly villain named Clayface. "What am I supposed to do? Let people die?"
"You can't save everyone, Clark. I know you want to, but you can't. You simply can't be on duty every minute of the day. You have to sleep."
"I do sleep."
"Yeah, at your desk. You think Perry won't catch you at it, sooner or later?"
"That was only once," he defended himself, weakly.
The elevator stopped with a jerk, and the door slid open. She strode out. "Just for today," she said, "you're going to do something fun."
"Fun?" He followed her. "I'm unfamiliar with that term."
"No kidding." They walked out onto the crowded sidewalks of Metropolis. The sky was gray, roiling with dark, ominous clouds that reflected Clark's mood perfectly. "So what do you want to do? I don't care what we do, but I figure we better get out of the city. Otherwise you'll hear sirens, and you'll fly off and leave me alone, same as you always do."
He hadn't been out of the city in months. Now that his parents were both dead, and the farm he'd grown up on was leased out, he didn't have any real reason to visit Smallville, his hometown. But all of a sudden the desire for fresh air and wide-open spaces hit him hard, and he realized he was homesick.
"Home," he said softly. "I want to go home."
"No." He tugged her down a quiet alley. "Smallville."
He changed into his costume-- so quickly she probably didn't even notice-- and picked her up, and then they were rocketing up into the skies. She pressed her face against his shoulder, instinctively protecting her eyes, and he thought how good it felt to have her in his arms, her head against his shoulder. It felt right, somehow. He hadn't allowed himself to think about Chloe in any romantic way in years. He hadn't even allowed himself to think about women in a long time, because he had too much going on, and he knew he didn't have time for unnecessary complications like relationships.
But at the feel of her body against his, a sudden longing for intimacy struck him like a kryptonite sledgehammer.
Three seconds later, they were flying over Smallville. He knew the journey must have felt almost instantaneous to her, but to him, it had lasted quite some time, and he'd enjoyed every microsecond. He knew he wasn't going to forget it anytime soon, because the warm softness of her body against his was burned into his brain. He dropped into a field, changed back into his suit, and took a deep breath of fresh air.
She blinked, reorienting herself, and smiled. "It's a beautiful day here."
The dark clouds hanging over Metropolis hadn't arrived here yet, and the summer sky was bright blue, the air sultry. A light breeze rippled the long grass in the field. He sighed, feeling peace slip over him like a blanket, warm and comforting.
"It's always a beautiful day here," he said softly. "There are times when I really miss it."
She looked around. "This is your farm. I can see the windmill."
"Yeah." Thoughts of a happier, less complicated time filled his mind, and tears stung at his eyes. He blinked them away hastily, hoping she'd attribute it to the breeze. "I told you, I wanted to come home."
"Too bad we can't stay."
He started to walk, not really heading anywhere in particular, and she fell into step beside him. "I guess you can never go back, Chloe. Not really."
"No," she admitted. "But sometimes it's nice to visit."
As they came to the dirt lane that bisected the farm, he yanked off the fedora, letting the sun's rays beat down on his head. Suddenly the troubles and stress of the city seemed very distant. He knew the troubles were still there, though. They always were. If he strained his superhearing, he could even hear the noises of the city from here.
Guilt suddenly bloomed in his chest, and he sighed.
"How many people will die because I'm taking an hour off?" he asked softly.
"Clark." She reached out and wrapped her hand around his. "You're only one man. A superman, maybe, but only one man. There are other heroes in Metropolis. More ordinary ones, like police officers and fire fighters. You have to let them do their jobs, too."
"Sometimes there are things they can't do. I shouldn't take time off, Chlo. Too many people are depending on me."
"You're right. People are depending on you. Do you think you can do your job as well as you need to if you're stressed and miserable all the time?"
He wanted to argue that he wasn't stressed and miserable, but then he thought about how he'd felt this morning, and he decided there wasn't any point in denying it. He squeezed her hand gently, feeling the warmth of her palm against his. "Maybe you're right," he admitted.
"Of course I'm right. If you're so tired you're passing out at your desk, you're working too hard. Take it from someone who passed out at her desk on a regular basis, before I learned how to relax a little."
He grinned. "I thought you just learned to drink more coffee."
"That too. But coffee doesn't work on your supermetabolism, so you're going to have to learn how to rest."
He looked down at their hands, intertwined together. He liked the way her hand all but disappeared in his. "Maybe you can teach me a little more about having fun."
"Maybe. What did you have in mind?"
"I was thinking about, you know, a date, sort of."
"Well, there's an offer no girl could possible refuse. A sort of date. Sounds absolutely irresistible."
"Chloe." He paused and looked down at her. The sunshine lit her hair, turning it amber, and her smile was as mischievous and impish as ever. "Cut me some slack here. I'm a little rusty with the dating thing."
"Fine," she said, her eyes glinting with amusement. "I'll give you one more chance."
He took a deep breath, carefully got his thoughts in order, and opened his mouth. "Would you like to go out with me Friday night? For dinner and a movie?"
Her smile grew wider. "I'd love to, Clark."
He let out the breath he hadn't been aware he was holding and grinned back at her, feeling as foolishly happy as he had the first time he'd asked her out, when they were both freshmen in high school. Back then things hadn't worked out so great. But he had a feeling things might work a lot better now. Chloe knew his secret, and the two of them had always been close.
He hadn't let himself admit it till now, but he suddenly realized he wanted to get even closer to her.
The sky was bright and the sun was warm, and he felt happier, and more relaxed, than he had in a long, long time. He was struck by the desire to kiss her, but instead he turned away and started walking again, and she fell into step beside him.
For the first time in a long time, he wasn't going anywhere in particular. But it was a gorgeous day, the countryside was quiet and still, and he was holding a pretty girl's hand. Life suddenly seemed much more simple, peaceful, and beautiful... if only for an hour.
Read the sequel, For the Joy of Human Love.
Posted by Meg at 1:06 PM