Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Carry On My Wayward Son

Clark/Jonathan futurefic (spoilers for "Void")
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
The music is "Carry On Wayward Son," by Kansas

Carry on my wayward son,
For there'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Now don't you cry no more

"You've got to keep the whole world safe. This is your destiny, son. You are going to touch the lives of so many people. Not just as a man, but as a symbol. You're a symbol of peace. You're a symbol of justice."

Clark Kent had never forgotten those words. Injected by a kryptonite-infused potion that made him die, if only for a few moments, he'd found himself in the afterlife. At least he thought it was the afterlife, although the afterlife bore a strong resemblance to the place where he spent a lot of his time, the old barn on the Kent farm. He stood there, blinking in confusion and wondering what the hell was going on. And then the big doors had slid aside, revealing a blinding white light.

A figure had stepped out of the light. Clark had squinted... and realized it was Jonathan Kent.

Jonathan was his adoptive father, who'd taken in an alien toddler whose spaceship had crash-landed on Earth, the man who'd loved him unconditionally, no matter what strange abilities he developed or how badly he behaved. Clark had loved Jonathan with all his heart, and when Jonathan had died a few months before, he'd been crushed-- and guilty. The terrible choices he'd made had led directly to Jonathan's death, and he'd been wretchedly, painfully conscious of that fact.

But Jonathan had walked out of the light and quickly reassured him and hugged him, then gone on to tell him that he had a great destiny. Clark found it hard to believe that someone who'd screwed up as much as he had could possibly have a great destiny. He found it difficult to believe that he could do any good in the world at all. But Jonathan seemed utterly confident.

Part of Clark wanted to stay here-- wherever here really was-- with Jonathan, forever. But Jonathan gazed into his eyes and smiled, as if he could see Clark's innermost thoughts, and spoke with gentle firmness.

"And now... it's time for you to go."

Clark had found himself pulled back to reality despite his efforts to resist. He'd ached with fresh grief, but he was somewhat comforted by Jonathan's words. It was reassuring to know that despite everything he'd done wrong, his father believed he had a great destiny.

Clark thought of Jonathan's words, every single day. He wasn't sure what his great destiny could possibly be, but if Jonathan said he had a destiny... then he had a destiny.

Hard though it sometimes was to imagine a greater purpose to his existence, he had to have faith in Jonathan.

He'd remembered those words when he'd put on a brightly colored suit with a red cape. He wasn't fond of the suit, which his mother had designed, but he did like the symbol he wore emblazoned across his chest in scarlet and yellow. It was the symbol of the House of El, his people on his native planet, and it resembled a stylized S. Thanks to the S, he'd been dubbed Superman, and the name had stuck.

Clark was uncomfortably aware he wasn't a superman. He was a very flawed man whose stupid actions as a teenager had resulted in his dad's death, and even as an adult he was a stubborn and hardheaded man who'd failed the world on more than one occasion. He'd made plenty of mistakes, and he knew it. He was no more super than any other man.

But despite all the flaws in his heart and soul, which were glaringly and painfully obvious to him, at least, he did his best to live up to the name. He did his best to live up to the words his father had spoken all those years ago.

This is your destiny, son. You're going to touch the lives of so many people. Those words kept him going, through grief and failure and personal loss. They kept him going when he failed to save someone, or when he failed to avert a catastrophe. They kept him going when his mother died. No matter what happened, no matter how bad it was-- he had a destiny to fulfill.

He spent as much of his time as possible flying over the city, looking for people to rescue. He saved people from things as ordinary as house fires and floods, and as strange as alien invasions and supervillains wearing armored suits.

At twenty-five, he married the woman he loved. She knew all his secrets, knew everything that drove him, and understood him better than anyone else on the planet. She'd encouraged him to go on saving people, even after they had children, because she understood that saving people was what he'd been born to do. It might be dangerous, but it was what he had to do, and she knew it.

They'd wound up with three children, all of whom he loved more than life itself, and all of whom had grown up to be wonderful people.

Clark had spent many years fighting crime, saving people, and doing his best to bring justice to a world that all too often seemed to lack it. But a few years ago he'd lost the love of his life, and his enthusiasm for fighting supervillains had faded. Or maybe it was just old age. He was no longer young, and despite his alien metabolism and his power to heal, age was beginning to catch up to him. His thinning hair was silver, his face lined, and the younger superheroes had begun referring to him as "Gramps." He knew as well as they did that despite his alien abilities, he was no longer capable of keeping up with them.

So at last he'd hung up his cape and happily taken up the full-time job of being a doting grandfather.

This evening he'd been seated at the head of the table for Sunday dinner, his kids and grandkids around him. It was a Kent family tradition that they always had Sunday dinner together. He'd just begun serving the food when he felt an odd pain in his head. And then suddenly everything had begun to fade to gray.

Seconds later, the world went black.

He had no idea how much time passed, and how long he was in the blackness. But at last he opened his eyes. He was sprawled on the floor of a structure he hadn't seen in many, many years. The barn on the Kent farm. He sat up, blinking in confusion, and looked down at his hands.

They looked young.

Shocked, he reached for his face and discovered his wrinkles were gone. His face was smooth and unlined, just as it had been when he was twenty. And his hair was every bit as thick and wavy as it had been in his youth.

I really did die, he thought, because he couldn't come up with any other reasonable explanation for his sudden rejuvenation. He wasn't sure if reverting to youth suggested that he was in heaven or hell. He wouldn't mind giving up the aches and infirmities of age-- but he damn well didn't ever want to go back to the mindset of the confused, emotional, and none-too-bright kid he'd been all those years ago. There was no question in his mind that truly being a teenager again would be hell.

The big doors of the barn creaked, then began to slide open. Clark turned, and saw a flood of white light, so brilliant he winced and blinked against it.

A figure emerged from the light, smiling.

Clark felt his throat tighten. "Dad," he said softly, stepping forward. The two men embraced, then stood back and looked at each other.

Jonathan Kent looked much as Clark remembered, somewhat weathered, his blond hair shot through with gray, laugh lines radiating out from the corners of his eyes and bracketing his mouth.

He wondered why Jonathan still looked fifty, while he himself seemed to have reverted to youth. But then he realized he looked much as Jonathan probably remembered him. Maybe here, in this place, people saw what they expected to see. Or what they wanted to see.

"Son." Jonathan's voice was hoarse. "It's good to see you."

"You too, Dad." A hundred questions jumbled together in Clark's mouth, but he couldn't seem to articulate any of them. Jonathan smiled.

"I was right," he said softly. "You were an inspiration to the world. A symbol of justice and peace."

The unmistakable pride in Jonathan's voice made Clark's throat tighten. He swallowed hard, and somehow managed to keep his voice steady enough to respond.

"I just tried to save people, Dad."

"You kept the world safe." Jonathan's eyes glowed with pride. "I knew you would. I knew it."

Clark thought of the false starts, the times he'd screwed up, all the time he'd wasted, and he lowered his head in shame. "I've made so many mistakes, Dad..."

"Everyone makes mistakes." Jonathan spoke firmly. "But you've done a great deal of good for the world, Clark. You've done everything you could to make the world a better place."

"I've tried," Clark said humbly.

"You've done well, son." Jonathan smiled into his son's eyes. "And now... it's time for you to stay."

He put an arm around Clark's shoulders. Clark hesitated for just a moment, thinking of his children, his grandchildren, the pleasant, happy life he'd had since he'd hung up his cape.

But then he thought of his mother, who had died years ago. He thought of all the friends who'd died before him. And he thought of the woman he'd loved more than anyone else on earth, the woman whose loss he'd never quite managed to recover from.

He'd fulfilled his destiny. He'd kept the world safe, and been a symbol of truth and justice, just as Jonathan had foretold all those years ago. Even though he'd made mistakes, he'd done what he was meant to do.

And now, at last, his job was finished.

He lifted his head and faced the light unflinchingly. He and Jonathan walked forward, shoulder to shoulder.

Together, they stepped into the light.

Carry on, you will always remember
Carry on, nothing equals the splendor
Now your life's no longer empty
Surely heaven waits for you

-The End-


Tonya said...

It's nice to think that peace waits for him. Beautiful work, I love the song.

Anonymous said...

I like how the name of the his wife remained nameless; one can choose whomever we wish. But the real point was in belief, in whatever shape or form it takes.

- ichglaube.

SelfAppointedCritic said...

*sniffle* I knew I was in for a special (and emotional) treat as soon as I saw the title. What a wonderful story Elly; another tearjerker--but a happy one! Though I know I'm in the minority concerning Pa Kent, I have always loved SV's relationship between Jonathan & Clark. Yes, I was sad to see him go--at least that soon and the reasons for his departure. But he loves his son, that's always been evident, IMO. Every once in a while, when the reality of the nightmare SV has become too much, I pull out my early season DVD's, often just to watch that relationship. You, as always, have captured the special nature/closeness of that relationship and reflected it just beautifully. For me, you managed to immortalize it! Love the artwork too. Thank you so much for sharing your work with us!

Justine said...

Beautiful. I had to put the song on while I read it. Great song and great fic :D!