Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Cat's in the Cradle

Clark/Chloe/child futurefic
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
The music is "Cat's in the Cradle," by Harry Chapin.
Screencap by SVfan.

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way

"Shhhh. Mommy needs some sleep."

Clark paced around the kitchen of the old farmhouse, holding his so-called bundle of joy in one arm and holding a bottle of milk in his other hand. The alleged bundle of joy looked at him, turning red and opening his mouth in what Clark recognized as preparation for howling. God knew he'd seen enough howling over the past few days to recognize the expression.

In hopes of preempting the terrible noises that the kid was capable of producing, he stuck the bottle's nipple into the open mouth. The baby looked briefly puzzled, then closed his tiny mouth around the nipple and began sucking.

The look of red-faced rage faded, and an expression of bliss took its place as the baby's eyelids slowly drifted shut, concealing his brilliant eyes.

Those eyes, Clark thought. The baby's eyes had caused something of a minor sensation at the hospital. Caucasian babies apparently were usually born with slate-blue eyes, no matter what color their eyes would turn later. But Clark and Chloe's baby had been born with bright green eyes.

Which wasn't truly surprising, since Gabriel Kent was only half human. Still, it would have made things simpler if the baby hadn't come into the world announcing, Look at me! I'm different!

Then again, Clark realized things were never going to be simple, not really. His baby was half Kryptonian, and his genetic differences were bound to manifest itself somehow. But Clark was going to do his best to make sure those differences never caused his son problems.

"I'll take care of you," he promised softly. "No matter what, I'll take care of you."

The baby's eyelids flickered open, and he looked back at Clark through brilliant green eyes, his gaze strangely trusting.

Then he slowly drifted off into a contented sleep, cradled in his father's arm.

*****

But there were planes to catch and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away

Working two jobs sucked, especially when you were a father.

Clark Kent strained fiercely, every muscle in his body taut. A huge passenger jet had suddenly developed massive engine problems over Metropolis, and plunged toward the city. Clark was doing his best to catch the plane, to prevent it from causing a horrific disaster.

But damn, the thing was big.

He thought of his son and Chloe, somewhere far below, and the thought spurred him to try even harder. He managed to dig his fingers into the metal and get a grip on the plane's nose, and slowly, very slowly, he began to stop the plane's out-of-control descent.

Once he had the airplane under control, he towed it to Metropolis International Airport and set it down gently, then flew toward home, his bright red cape flowing behind him. It was Saturday, and over the course of the last five days he'd put in fifty hours at his job with the Daily Planet, not to mention a whole lot of extra time as a superhero.

He'd planned to take today off, just to hang out with his wife and baby. But he'd heard the radio chatter about the jet, heard the panicked screams of the passengers. What could he do but try to avert a disaster?

Now that the crisis was past, though, all he wanted was to spend time with his family. It sometimes seemed like he never got to see his own child. Gabriel was eleven months old now, and Clark could hardly remember the last time he'd seen the boy awake. Most of the time he just tiptoed into the nursery at the very end of the day and stood there for a long time, watching his son sleep peacefully in his crib. And that wasn't fair to either Gabriel or Chloe.

Somehow, he had to do better.

He pulled a small, five-sided crystal out of a hidden pocket in his costume. Kara had given it to Chloe right after Gabriel was born, and Chloe had pressed it into Clark's hand , insisting he keep it with him. To remind you of what you love most, she'd said. It was essentially a digital camera frame, albeit a very high-tech, alien one, and it activated at his touch, flashing images of his son, and of Chloe.

He looked at the pictures for a moment, smiling, then put it back in his pocket and arrowed home.

"Oh, hi," Chloe said, looking up with a bright smile as he walked through the front door of their apartment, wearing jeans, a Daily Planet t-shirt, and dark-framed glasses perched on his nose. "Look at this!"

Clark looked, and saw his son tottering unsteadily toward Chloe's outstretched hands, his two teeth showing in a broad smile that reflected Chloe's.

Clark smiled too, but his smile wasn't nearly as happy. Because his son had taken his first step.

And he hadn't been there to see it.

*****

And he was talkin' 'fore I knew it
And as he grew
He'd say "I'm gonna be like you, Dad
You know I'm gonna be like you."

"Look what I can do, Daddy! Look at me!"

"Uh-huh," Clark answered absently, typing frantically. He'd been late on way too many deadlines this week, and Perry was riding his ass hard. He really needed to get this article handed in, before he got fired.

He couldn't afford to get fired, damn it. They needed his job to make ends meet. Raising a kid wasn't cheap, and neither was their new house in Metropolis.

Unfortunately, Chloe was on assignment out of town, and their usual babysitter had a cold and couldn't make it. And that meant he was working from home, trying to write while keeping an eye on the animated tornado that was his son.

"Lookie, Daddy! Look!"

"Very impressive," Clark muttered, typing faster.

"I'm just like you, Daddy!"

That sentence got Clark's attention. Curious, he turned his head to the side, then yelped in shock and leapt to his feet.

Gabriel was floating in the air, close to the ceiling.

Clark's first instinct was to yell angrily, but he choked it back. His son was just doing what came naturally, after all. "Hey," he said instead, very gently. "You shouldn't be doing that, Gabe."

Gabriel beamed down at him. "You do it, Daddy."

The fact that Gabriel, at seven, had already spotted him floating, didn't make Clark happy. He bit his lip, then answered honestly.

"Yeah, I do. But most people can't. So it's not something we can do where people will see us, okay, buddy?"

"I'm not doin' it where people can see me," Gabe answered. "Just you."

"Okay, Gabe. That's great. Can you come down now?"

Clark waited beneath, in case Gabriel fell. But Gabriel drifted down and stood smiling, with an aren't-you-proud-of-me expression on his face. Clark hesitated, then reached out and lifted the boy into his arms.

"You really are something," he said, smiling at his son. "You know that?"

"I've been doing it for a week now." Gabriel grinned back at him. "I'm just like you, Daddy."

Clark wasn't sure he wanted Gabe to be just like him. He looked at his desk, at his half-completed work, and thought of the fact that he'd been too busy lately to notice Gabe practicing floating. He should have noticed, but he hadn't. He'd just been too wrapped up in work-- both saving-the-world work, and the more mundane variety-- to pay attention.

Somehow, he needed to do better.

*****

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home, Dad? I don't know when
But we'll get together then, son
You know we'll have a good time then.


"I'll be home for dinner as soon as I can."

Clark spoke into a cell phone. He didn't need it to hear Chloe's responses, but she couldn't hear him without it, since she didn't have superhearing.

"It's already past eight," she answered, sounding chipper enough. She was used to him not showing up for dinner by now, and she understood his need to help people, in a way few other women could have. "I'm going to be putting Gabriel down for bed soon."

"I'm sorry." Clark uttered a sigh, so deep it caused the American flag on top of the LexCorp building to ripple wildly. "I really wanted to be there for dinner, but this big crowd down on the street looks like it's going to riot any minute..."

"Yeah, I get it. I do look at CNN, you know. Don't worry about it. What you do is important, Clark. Gabriel and I understand."

He knew Chloe understood, but he wasn't so sure about Gabe. The kid was only eight, after all, and having Superman for a dad couldn't be easy. He worried constantly that Gabriel would grow up to resent his all-too-frequent absences.

"Let me talk to him," he said.

A moment later, the cheerful voice of his son spoke in his ear. Gabe had inherited Chloe's happy disposition, thank God, rather than Clark's tendency to mope.

"Hey, Dad. When are you coming home?"

"Soon, kiddo. Soon. But maybe not before bedtime. Listen, if I don't see you before bed... I love you."

"Yeah," Gabe answered. "Me too."

The crowd below began to surge, and the American flag rippled again as Clark sighed. "I have to go now, Gabe."

"See you tomorrow, Dad."

I hope so, Clark thought. Aloud, he said, "Yeah, buddy. I'll see you tomorrow."

He shut the phone and dove for the crowd, intent on saving lives. But part of him was thinking about his son, too. He really wished he'd been there to tuck Gabriel in tonight. Gabriel deserved his attention. Gabriel didn't deserve to be an afterthought.

Somehow, he needed to do better.

*****

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, "Thanks for the ball, Dad, come on let's play
Can you teach me to throw?", I said "Not today,
I got a lot to do," He said, "That's okay,"
And he walked away but his smile never dimmed
And said, "I'm gonna be like him, yeah
You know I'm gonna be like him."

"This football belonged to your grandfather."

"Wow." Gabe regarded the football with as much awe as if it were a holy relic. "He was the one that won the state championship two years in a row, right?"

"That's right." Clark grinned at his son, strangely touched by the sight of his son holding a ball that had once belonged to Jonathan Kent. "Take good care of it."

"I will," Gabe promised earnestly. He looked up at Clark. "Will you show me how to throw it, Dad?"

Clark hesitated. "I'd like to," he said at last, "but I kind of have to go out..."

"And fly patrol. Right. I know."

Clark sighed. He wasn't thrilled that a ten-year-old knew so much about who he was and what he did, but once Gabe had developed superhearing-- a whole hell of a lot earlier than Clark had-- keeping secrets from him had become impossible.

On the up side, Gabe seemed able to keep the family secrets to himself. Like his dad before him, the kid was the Fort Knox of secrets.

"I'm sorry," he said, reaching out and rumpling his son's hair. "Honest, I am. But I've been writing like a crazy man all week, and I haven't had much of a chance to keep an eye on things..."

"It's okay, Dad. Don't worry about it."

Clark wrapped his arms around his son. Gabe hugged him back briefly, then pulled away with a real-men-don't-hug expression, and grinned at him.

"See you later, Dad."

Clark watched his son walk off, tossing the football and whistling, and he sighed.

Later, he told himself. No matter what emergencies arose, he'd make sure he got home in time to toss the ball with his son this afternoon.

*****

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home, Dad? I don't know when,
But we'll get together then, son
You know we'll have a good time then.

Clark crept into his son's room late that evening. He could hear the soft, buzzing sound of Gabe snoring. He made his way across the room, avoiding the toys scattered like boobytraps on the floor, and stood staring down at his son.

"I'm sorry," he said, very softly. "I tried to get home earlier. I really did. But there were just too many emergencies for me to deal with."

Gabe didn't stir. He only snored, and his face looked peaceful and happy.

Clark bent over to kiss his forehead, and as he did, he noticed the boy was holding the football he'd given him earlier in the afternoon, clutching it to his chest the way he'd clutched a stuffed bear when he was younger.

His eyes stung with tears, and he kissed his son.

"I'll do better," he promised softly. "Somehow, I'll do better."

****

Well, he came home from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
"Son, I'm proud of you, can you sit for a while?"
He shook his head and said with a smile
"What I'd really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please?"


"Gabriel!"

Clark thew his arms around his son. The kid was taller than he was now, a fact that shocked Clark every time he noticed it. His son had been taller than he was since his fourteenth birthday, and yet Clark still couldn't get used to the idea that the child that he'd once been able to hold cradled in his arm was now bigger and heavier than he was.

"Dad," Gabe said, hugging him back. "Where's Mom?"

"Working. But she'll be home soon. We weren't expecting you quite this soon."

"Yeah. I decided to run from the airport."

"Gabe."

"Oh, come on, Dad. You do it all the time. You always have. It's stupid to call a taxi, or to have you guys pick me up, when I can get here in like two seconds. Cars are a stupid waste of my time. For that matter, it's stupid for me to waste money on an airplane ticket when I can just fly home."

"Protective coloration," Clark said. "Fawcett City's a hell of a long way from here, Gabe. If you just appear in Metropolis without ever buying plane tickets, people are going to notice, sooner or later."

"Yeah, I guess. Still, it's stupid."

Clark nodded. It wasn't easy being an alien, and he understood that as well as anyone. But he also understood the need for flying under the radar, both literally and figuratively.

"Come on," he said. "Grab something out of the fridge and have a seat. Your mom will be home soon. Let's talk."

"Actually..." His son looked embarrassed. "I was kind of hoping I could borrow the car keys."

Clark quirked an eyebrow. "Weren't you just saying that cars were useless, and a waste of your time?"

"Well, for me, yeah. But there's this girl..."

Clark felt his eyebrows draw down. "You just got home. Just now. Are you telling me you want to go out on a date?"

"Well..." His son looked at the floor and shuffled his feet, in a way that reminded Clark strongly of himself when he was younger. "I haven't seen her in a couple of months, Dad. She doesn't know about... well, she doesn't know, so I can't just show up all the time. She'll suspect if I do, and I'm not quite ready for her to know. But I really missed her."

Clark blew out his breath in a sigh. He understood, more than he wanted to. He'd been a teenager once, too.

"Okay," he said, tossing Gabe his keys. The kid caught them deftly, grinning. "Have fun. But get your ass back over here before dinner, or your mom will have your head on a platter."

"I will," Gabe promised.

He turned around and whooshed out of sight. Clark watched his son disappear, and sighed. He'd really hoped to have a few moments alone with his only child, to catch up.

Maybe later, he thought hopefully.

*****

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home, son? I don't know when,
But we'll get together then, Dad
You know we'll have a good time then


Late that night, Clark crept into Gabe's room, just like he used to when his son was little. Gabriel was sprawled out on the bed, looking much too big for it, his arms and legs spread out in all directions. But his face looked peaceful and happy, as if he were happy to be home.

Clark wondered if he was dreaming about his girlfriend. Gabe had been invited for dinner at the young lady's house, and when he'd called apologetically, Clark and Chloe had both told him to stay. He hadn't come back into the house until after Clark and Chloe had gone to bed.

Gabe was a big boy now, so Clark tried not to worry about what his son might have been doing all evening. He'd almost rather it was misbehavior with a girl than Gabe sneaking out into the city to help people, or use his powers somehow. But he was concerned that it might be exactly that.

Fawcett City had always been under the protection of Captain Marvel, but about the same time Gabriel had started going to the university there, a new hero had showed up. The media called him Silver Angel, and when Clark read the reports, he couldn't help noticing that the Silver Angel seemed to have a lot of powers in common with Gabriel Kent.

Clark wasn't sure if he should be worried, or proud. Maybe, he thought, it was okay to feel a little of both.

He looked down on his son's sleeping form, and his heart melted, exactly the way it had when he'd looked at Gabe as an infant. He loved this kid, a hell of a lot. He only wished they were able to spend more time together.

Tomorrow, he told himself. He'll be home tomorrow, and the next day, too. We'll do better. Somehow, we'll do better.

He bent and kissed his son on the forehead, then quietly tiptoed from the dark room.

*****

I've long since retired, my son's moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, "I'd like to see you if you don't mind,"
He said, "I'd love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job's a hassle and the kids have the flu
But it's sure nice talking to you, Dad
It's been sure nice talking to you."

"I've been seeing you in the paper, Gabe."

On the other end of the line, Gabriel sounded out of breath. "Yeah, I've been busy," he agreed. "The insurance job keeps me busy enough, and when you add in the whole Silver Angel thing, well... I hardly get a chance to sleep nowadays."

"You have to sleep, son." Clark spoke gently. "You have to make time for yourself, and your family."

"Don't worry about it, Dad. Maddie understands."

"Yeah, Maddie understands. Of course she does, or you wouldn't have married her. But what about your kids?"

"They may not understand yet, Dad. But they will. I did, after all."

"I guess you did, kind of." Clark closed his eyes and sighed, blowing papers around the living room. "Still, it's awful hard for kids to grow up without their dad around, Gabe."

"Yeah. I know that, trust me. But other people need me, Dad. I can't just ignore them."

"I understand that," Clark answered with another sigh. He opened his eyes and looked at his empty house. Chloe was out working on a story-- because she didn't understand the meaning of the word "retirement," and insisted on turning in an article on a freelance basis at least once a week. But he could relate to that, because he was a workaholic too, and although he was "retired" from the Daily Planet, he hadn't retired as Superman. He probably never would.

But he wasn't working today, and the house was quiet. Too quiet. Suddenly he missed Gabe so much it hurt.

"Hey," he said. "Want to get together for lunch?"

It seemed like an easy enough thing to accomplish. He was still quite capable of superspeed, even though he'd lost a tick or two over the years. And Gabe was almost as fast as he'd been in his youth. Even though Gabe lived in Fawcett City, there was no reason they couldn't get together more frequently than they did.

"I wish I could," Gabe said with a sigh. "But the kids have a touch of the flu, and I have some policies to review, and then I really need to go out and fly patrol this afternoon..."

"Maybe later this week, then. You could come to Metropolis, and we could do lunch, maybe hang out a little..."

"Maybe. I'll see if I can find the time. Don't worry, Dad. We'll get together soon."

Clark sighed. He couldn't think of the last time he and Gabe had really sat down and talked. Quick phone calls and reading about his son's exploits in the paper weren't adequate substitutes for really sitting down and having a conversation.

"Yeah," he echoed. "Soon."

"Yeah, Dad. Soon. Because you're right. We need to do better. Somehow, we need to do better."

The familiar phrase coming out of his son's mouth made Clark's eyes sting. He blinked hard, and spoke in a hoarse whisper.

"I love you, Gabriel."

"Yeah, Dad. I love you too."

*****

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He'd grown up just like me
My boy was just like me


Clark sighed as he closed the phone. He sat there for a few moments, in his too-quiet house, and then reached into his pocket and pulled out the little crystal.

It had an apparently unlimited memory, and he'd loaded it with thousands of pictures of his family over the years. He glanced through them now, seeing Gabe as a chubby baby, Gabe as a gangling, awkward teenager, Gabe beaming with pride when he graduated college.

He began looking through more recent photos, pictures he'd downloaded from the internet of Gabriel in his Silver Angel costume. Pictures of Gabe saving people. Pictures of Gabriel saving the world.

But far too few pictures of Gabe with his own kids. And damn few pictures of himself and Gabe together.

He paused on a picture of Gabe in his Silver Angel costume, a photo that showed the Silver Angel catching a truck in midair, saving a crowd of frightened people who would otherwise have been killed. Pride and sorrow tangled together inside his chest.

Gabriel, he thought slowly, had grown up just like him.

And for the life of him, he couldn't figure out if that was a bad thing, or a good thing.

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin' home, son? I don't know when,
But we'll get together then, Dad
You know we'll have a good time then.

-The End-

13 comments:

Ghani said...

Hi Elly! This was just so horribly sad.:-( I had tears in my eyes for most of the fic. It was such a pity that they kept postponing their time together while "later" slowly turned into "never". Very nice choice of the song too. You write so beautifully and so full of emotion, I really admire you. Thank you very much for writting this story.:-)

fran06 said...

I loved it. It was so sad yet, you could understand why Clark and then Gabe did what they did.

I loved the dichotomy of Clark's emotions and genuinely felt for him.

Well Done! Another great story!

angelbsb said...

oh elly this was so sweet . but alos so sad . loved it i cried while reading it.

blackheart_me said...

Aww Elly this was so beautiful! It made me cry T.T I'm still crying actually lol. THe lyrics were beautiful and I just love how you used them to write your story. It's honestly very beautiful and sad. I loved the familiarity that you put in there, it felt so real and it broke my heart. Gabe was so understanding and everytime Clark just wanted to try harder but he never could. To see Gabe grow up so brilliantly yet the same way is both heart breaking and lovable. It was hard to keep a straight face as I read it especially with the lyrics. Man u get the crying out of me :). Elly this was just BRILLIANT, no one could write it like you.

Anonymous said...

That was really sad, but I loved it.
~marikology

Tonya said...

Ouch. Beautifully written, but so very painful.

BkWurm1 said...

The moment I saw the opening verse I got this angstly feeling in the pit of my stomach, so sad and yet like Clark said, was it really wrong? I'd like to think that life could have gone differently, but it fits with who Superman must be.

I'm going to imagine that with both of them now wishing to do better they finally will.

Anonymous said...

very very nice story. Love the song too..

but I couldn't help but laugh when it had the "planes to catch an bills to pay" part.. he LITERALLY had planes to catch. lol.

Robyn said...

Finally got a chance to read this one. Elly, this was beautiful. Incredibly sad, but beautiful nonetheless, lol. It's so sad that that's the way it has to be for both of them. :(

Great job, loved it!

amber611 said...

Amazing job Elly!!!! :) I LOVED it!!!!! That story was SO Beautiful, and yet so sad!!!! Your write emotions so wonderfully!!!!! :) I loved the baby beginning, and how he was trying not to wake up Chloe, SO Sweet!!!!! :) Again, Loved the story and keep up the Awesome work!!!!! :) Thanks for sharing!! :)

Take Care,
Amber :)

sanaazzy said...

Oh Elly *binks through teary eyes* that was so sad. omg i wanna cry so bad. Beautiful writing sweetie.

Anonymous said...

Elly. You just do the whole story based on a song thing so beautifully everytime. This one was espeacilly moving. I loved it. I truely felt for Clark. I like Gabe's name. At first I'm like why would they name their kid Gaberiel after Grant Gabriel? But then it made sense when clark called him Gabe. And it has a double effect of being named after Chloe's father and of being an Angel.

Just amazing job.

Keep it Up!

Sally

Anonymous said...

This was a bitter sweet story, I really enjoyed it! So many mixed emotions, and probably so true for a Superman to have a family. You wrote it beautifully and I really enjoyed reading it every second. The lyrics really touched my heart and Gabe sounds exactly like the young Clark Kent. And I liked how you had that Chloe didn't exactly retire just yet.

Great and amazing beautiful job!
Keep up the amazing work!