Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
It was a Monday, a day like any other day
I left the small town for the apple in decay
It was my destiny, it's what's we needed to do...
She's waiting for me
But I'm a long, long way from home
- Foreigner, "Long, Long Way From Home"
He'd felt himself growing restless for a long time. Feeding cattle and planting crops just wasn't enough for him any more. But he'd promised to look after the farm, so he tried to push back the restlessness that gnawed at him.
His mother wasn't fooled. She came home from Washington, DC at Christmastime, for the first time in months. Five minutes after she walked into the house, she looked at him and said, "It's time to lease out the farm, isn't it?"
Clark glanced around at the farmhouse he'd grown up in, imagining strangers living here, sitting at the table he'd eaten at all his life, stretching out on the tattered old red sofa in his loft. The thought made him uncomfortable.
But the thought of staying here the rest of his life made him a hell of a lot more uncomfortable. Not that there was anything wrong with farming in a small Midwestern town-- it just wasn't for him.
No matter how much he tried to hang onto the life he'd had since he was a small child, he could feel himself growing away from it. The simple truth of the matter was that he didn't want to be a farmer any more.
"Yeah," he answered, his voice low. "I guess it is."
A week later he called his best friend, Chloe Sullivan.
"Hey," he said. "I'm moving to Metropolis."
There was a beat of silence. "Say what? What about the farm, Clark?"
"We decided to lease it out," he said.
"Oh. Good." She sounded pleased. "I could tell you weren't really happy there."
He wondered if he'd been emitting mope vibes again. He was prone to moping, and Chloe could pick up on his mopiness faster than anyone. But she knew him a hell of a lot better than anyone else, so he shouldn't be surprised, really.
"I applied to transfer my credits to Met U," he said, "and they accepted me. I'm going to major in journalism."
Chloe had wanted to be an investigative reporter since she was very small, so the wry approval in her voice didn't surprise him. "I just need to find a place to stay," he said. "There aren't any available dorms, and I'm having a hell of a time finding an apartment."
"Why don't you stay in mine?"
Clark thought about that for a moment and decided he must have misheard. "Uh," he answered, somewhat uncomfortably. "The other day you told me you were enjoying living alone."
"What I said was that I was enjoying not living with Lois. She drives me nuts. I love the girl like a sister, don't get me wrong. But living with her day after day... it's enough to make a person crazy. I'm glad to be out of her apartment. But I've got plenty of space, if you want to crash on my couch for a while."
Part of him was relieved to hear her mention her couch, and part of him was very, very disappointed. "Uh, thanks," he said. "I guess that'd be great. I mean, you know, just for a few days, because I don't want to get in the way or anything..."
"Shut up," she said without rancor. "You know you're never in the way."
Which was why, a week later, he found himself speeding toward Metropolis. Not speeding in his old red truck, but speeding on foot, a duffel bag slung over his shoulder.
For him, it was only about a two-second trip from Smallville to Metropolis. He'd been to the city hundreds of times, and ordinarily he zoomed into Metropolis without thinking about it. But today, he came to a halt just outside the city limits, dropped the duffel bag on the ground, and studied the skyline.
Metropolis was lit by the morning sunshine, and in the bright light the tall, modern towers gleamed like crystal. It looked like what people sometimes called it, the City of Tomorrow. It looked like a city of light.
But Clark had spent enough time in the city to know it had a dark side, too. People died there every day, caught in the crossfire of gang fights and drug dealers and urban warfare. People died in fires and accidents and suicides and murders.
Metropolis and its ten million people needed help.
He wasn't sure exactly what he planned to do to help the city. He might be a superpowered alien, but he was only one superpowered alien, and he wondered, quite seriously, how much help he could be. He was a long, long way from home, and Metropolis wasn't anything at all like Smallville. It was huge, and its problems were equally huge.
Even so, he was determined to try. It was the reason he'd finally decided to leave Smallville for the big city. He wanted to make a difference, a real difference, in the world.
And he intended to start in Metropolis.
He pushed his introspection aside, picked up his duffel bag, and headed for Chloe's apartment.
"So," Chloe said. "When are you going to get started?"
He shrugged. "My classes start Tuesday..."
"Not your classes," she said impatiently. She was seated next to him on the couch, a cheap futon from Wal-Mart, and he was more conscious of her than he wanted to be. The light fragrance of her shampoo rose to his nostrils, and he could smell the warm scent of her skin.
All of which he had no business noticing, because they were just friends.
"Um, a job? I'm going to hit the pavement tomorrow..."
"Clark." She looked up at him very seriously. "Come on. We both know you didn't come to Metropolis just to take classes, or even to get a regular job. When are you going to get started on the superhero stuff?"
He shifted uncomfortably on the couch. He'd never really discussed his vague, half-formed ideas with her, but he wasn't surprised she'd guessed.
She really did know him better than anyone.
"I'm not sure," he said. "I'm still kind of working out the details. I'm not sure if I want to wear a mask and a costume like Ollie, or if I just want to let people see me."
"I thought you didn't like masks."
"I don't. I know it sounds like a stupid thing for a guy with x-ray vision to say, but they make it hard to see. And besides, I think people are scared of masks. Masks are for bad guys, you know?"
"Yeah." She nodded. "So don't wear a mask."
"Well, the thing is I'm worried about pissing someone off. I don't want someone to get mad at me, figure out who I am, and try to hurt..." He almost said you, but caught himself. "You know, my friends and family."
She curled her legs up beneath her on the couch, reminding him of a comfortably purring cat, and studied him for a long moment.
"Are you really worried about that, or are you just looking for an excuse not to get started?"
He couldn't help the wry smile that tilted his mouth. She knew him way too well. "A little of both, maybe."
She nodded. "Yeah, that's what I figured. Look, Clark, you can move so fast no one can see you. You really don't need a mask."
"Yeah. You might be right."
"Of course I'm right." She spoke briskly. "Now get your ass out there and start saving people."
He lifted his eyebrows. "Now?"
"Uh... but it's lunchtime."
"Oh, please. Come on." She grinned at him and echoed something she'd said to him, a long time ago. "It's for the cause of truth and justice, big boy."
He remembered the circumstances of that comment, the way they'd almost kissed in an elevator, and he felt his cheeks grow hot. All of a sudden he wondered if living with her, sharing an apartment with her, was such a great idea. He couldn't seem to keep from thinking about touching her, holding her, kissing her.
It was really kind of... distracting.
Then again, if he found another place to live, he'd wouldn't be able to smell her shampoo all the time, and that would really suck.
"Okay," he said. He unfolded his long body from the couch and stood up, and she got to her feet with lithe gracefulness, looking at him expectantly.
He hesitated, feeling stupid. Were superheroes supposed to go in and out through doors like regular people? Or was he supposed to fly out through the chimney or something?
"Go on." She smacked him lightly on the shoulder. "Get your butt out there, and don't come back till you've saved some people."
He couldn't stop himself from grinning at her bossiness. She was almost a foot shorter than he was, and a hundred pounds lighter, but that didn't stop her from trying to push him around.
He liked it.
"Okay," he said again. Without any conscious intention of doing so, he put his hands on her shoulders and pulled her toward him. He lowered his head and kissed her, a quick, soft peck on the lips.
He raised his head to see her looking at him, blinking in surprise. "What was that for?"
"Luck," he said, and grinned more widely than before.
"Yeah," she said, rolling her eyes. "You're definitely going to need it."
He laughed. Despite her words, there was a confidence in her eyes that gave him strength. Chloe was right. He could do this. He might not have a costume, or a really clear idea of what the city most needed him to do, but he could do this. He could make a difference.
He just needed to quit dithering... and do it.
Squaring his shoulders, he headed out the door so fast that papers flew in his wake.
He had a job to do.