Length: 2200 words
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Written for Two of Us' June Chlark 24/7, Day 1: Summer.
One of these mornings
You're going to rise up singing
Then you'll spread your wings
And you'll take to the sky
-"Summertime," George Gershwin
"So are you working on the flying thing?"
Clark Kent lay in a grassy meadow, his friend Chloe Sullivan next to him. The summer sun beat down on them, and the warm scent of grass filled his nostrils, and until this moment, he'd been very, very relaxed. So relaxed he thought he might just fall asleep.
But at her words, he was quite suddenly no longer relaxed. His muscles all tensed up defensively, his hands clenched, and his jaw tensed.
"Of course I'm working on it," he answered tersely.
"Really." She turned her head toward him, looking interested. Her blonde hair drifted over the grass, as golden as the sunlight. "How much progress have you made?"
"Well... I, uh..." He floundered. "Um, not much, I guess."
"Exactly what have you tried to do?"
"Um. Well. I just sort of, you know, well..."
She sighed, a sound of immense disappointment that made him feel about three feet tall, and looked at him sorrowfully. "Clark. You are not really trying."
He looked away from her reproving eyes and glared up into the sapphire sky. "I don't really want to try," he said, very softly.
"Why not?" She sat up and looked at him, her eyes wide. The sunshine lit her from behind, turning her golden hair into a halo. "Flying is cool, Clark! Most humans would give their right arm to be able to fly like Kara does! The ability to soar through the clouds, to go anywhere you want to go-- it's what most of us dream about. Why on earth don't you want to learn?"
"Because it's weird, damn it."
"Weird?" She blinked at him. "Unlike speeding from Smallville to Metropolis in three seconds, or burning a hole through metal with your eyes? Unlike being able to juggle Mack trucks? You're concerned by it because it's weird?"
He sat up too, and redirected his glare toward her. "It's not just weird," he snapped. "It violates the laws of physics."
"Oh, okay." She nodded very seriously. "That explains it. You're afraid a police officer will write you a ticket."
"It's impossible," he said through his teeth. "It makes no sense."
"Clark." She made a clear effort to calm down, and spoke with a little less snark. "It obviously isn't impossible. Kara's done it. Heck, you told me you did it, the time Jor-El drained your brain and sucked out your personality. If you've done it, then clearly it's possible."
He drew his knees up, wrapped his arms around them, and dropped his chin onto them, curling into a defensive ball. "Could you quit pestering me about it, Chlo? When I'm ready, I'll try it."
"I'm not sure you can afford to wait till you're ready," she said. Her voice was very calm and very reasonable, and for some reason that irritated him more than her snark had. "How many times last year would flying have helped you defeat a bad guy?"
"Um... a bunch."
"Exactly. This isn't something you can keep putting off, Clark. And it's not like you have to wait for the power to develop. We both know you've already got the ability. You just don't want to use it."
"No," he said crankily, "I don't. And it's my decision to make, not yours, Chlo. So quit bugging me about it."
She sighed, and lay back down in the grass. "Fine."
He stretched out next to her, but his pleasant mood was broken, and he no longer felt like drifting off to sleep. A long silence fell between them.
At last she said, quietly, "What does flying feel like, Clark?"
"Uh..." He watched a hawk sailing through the blue sky, far overhead. "It feels really cool. It's hard to explain, though. It's... it's like you have all the power in the world. Like you can do anything."
"I guess you don't like feeling like you have all the power in the world," she said.
"Well..." He sighed. "It feels good. But it's scary, too. It's almost like... being a god."
"Rule them with strength," she recited, very softly.
"Yeah." He closed his eyes against the sudden, unexpected sting of tears. "I don't want to be a god, Chlo. I'm just a man. I want to stay that way."
"Clark..." She reached out and took his hand in a warm, friendly gesture. "You're not a god. No matter how many awesome powers you develop, you're still just a guy. And a pretty messed-up one, at that."
He couldn't help the smile that tugged at the corners of his mouth. Chloe had always had the ability to make him smile, even in the midst of a full-blown mope. It was one of the things he appreciated most about her friendship.
"Gosh," he drawled. "Thanks so much."
"I know the idea of flying scares you," she said, still holding his hand. "But trust me, it's not going to transform you into a god. And you aren't going to suddenly turn into a guy who wants to rule the world, either. You'll be the same guy you've always been... except you'll be able to fly."
He closed his eyes, seeing symbols dancing in front of his eyes, a message from his Kryptonian father that he'd struggled to forget, but had never quite been able to.
On this third planet from the star Sol, you will be a god among men. They are a flawed race. Rule them with strength, my son. That is where your greatness lies.
He'd fought against those words for a long, long time.
He didn't want to rule the world. He didn't want to be a god among men.
He wanted to be a man among men.
"I'm afraid," he whispered. "I can do so many things humans can't. I have all these abilities. What if one of these days, I decide to use them to rule the world?"
"You won't." Her fingers squeezed his. "You've never tried to rule anyone, and flying won't change that. I don't care what Jor-El told you, Clark. I don't think you came to Earth to rule the world. I think you came to save it."
"Great." He rolled his eyes. "So I'm not Jehovah, just Jesus."
"Not that kind of saving," she said impatiently. "I'm talking about the way you help people. Even when you're messed up, even when your life sucks, you still try to help. Maybe..." She paused reflectively. "Maybe saving isn't quite the right word. Maybe you came to Earth to protect people."
"I'd like to think that's true," he said softly.
"I honestly think it is. It's what you've done, ever since I've known you. And just imagine how much more you could do if you could fly."
He thought about how many people he'd saved from being hurt or killed. He'd saved friends, family, total strangers. He liked the feeling that rescuing people gave him, and he wanted to keep on doing it. If flying could help him do it even better...
He opened his eyes and stared into the sky. Far above, the lone hawk was still circling, making lazy patterns against the clear blue sky.
I could do that, he thought. I could.
"Clark," she said, very softly. "I get why you worry, really. Power can be used for evil. We've both seen that, over and over again. But it can also be used for good."
"Power corrupts," he said dully.
"Does it really? If good people obtain power, will they always be corrupted? Or will the truly good just use their power to help other people?" She spoke very seriously, and out of the corner of his eye he could see her staring at him intently. "Maybe I'm just a crazy optimist, but I can't believe you'll ever use your powers for evil, Clark. You already have an incredible amount of power, and it hasn't corrupted you. Why should flying be any different?"
"It feels different." He struggled to articulate his concerns, without a lot of success. "It's... well, it's flying."
"So... it's what gods do."
He blew out his breath in a long sigh that rippled the grass around them. "Yeah. I guess it is."
She squeezed his hand again. "It's what Kryptonians do too, Clark."
He closed his eyes. Part of him wanted to try flying, really badly, but the other part was afraid. Afraid of what it might mean, afraid of how it might change him. Afraid of how it might change his life.
"Maybe later," he said at last. "Maybe this fall. I'm already spending an awful lot of time keeping the farm going, and when I have down time, I'd rather just hang out. Summer is for loafing, Chlo."
"Summer is the best time for you to learn," she answered in her most reasonable voice. "You're at your strongest in the summer because of the long days, right? There's no better time for you to try something new."
He turned his head and glared, more dangerously than before. "You aren't going to quit bugging me until I try this, are you?"
She smiled angelically, totally unconcerned by his glower. He was the strongest man in the world, but she bossed him around without hesitation. She always had. "Probably not."
"Fine," he grumbled. He got to his feet and looked up into the sky, squinting a little against the brightness. She stood up too, and watched him expectantly.
He leaped upward, and then fell back to earth, landing on his feet.
"Told you," he said. "I can't fly."
"Oh, please. You weren't even trying. You can jump a whole lot higher than that. Come on, Clark. Put a little muscle into it."
His shoulders hunched defensively. "You don't know anything about it."
"I know enough to be able to tell that you're not trying. Come on, try."
He sighed, and tilted his head back, staring up at the sky. The problem was, he thought, that he didn't know how. Flying wasn't just one of those things that happened, like his x-ray vision and his heat vision. He knew he could fly, but his memories of being "Kal-El" were fuzzy, and he just wasn't sure how he'd done it.
He stared up into the sky, seeing the lone bird still circling, higher than ever, a mere speck against the sky.
I could do that, he thought again. I could fly.
I can fly.
From the hawk's perspective, he guessed he was just a speck on the ground. He wondered what it would be like to see the world the way the hawk did, from far, far above.
If he flew, he knew he could fly a lot higher than a hawk, because changes in pressure and lack of oxygen didn't bother him much. He wondered what it would be like to see the world from the perspective of a god.
He wondered if he could remember that the people below were more than mere specks.
He remembered Chloe's voice: You'll be the same guy you've always been... except you'll be able to fly.
Maybe she was right. But maybe, just maybe, she was wrong. Flying might be the next step toward fulfilling the destiny Jor-El had laid out for him so long ago-- a destiny he didn't want, and had struggled against for years.
He closed his eyes for a long moment, feeling the summer sun filling his cells with energy. With power.
Even if he never used it, he thought slowly, he still possessed this power. He could feel it lighting him up from inside, surging through his veins. It occurred to him that it could corrupt him, whether or not he decided to use it.
He might as well learn to channel all the power flowing through him.
He bent his knees, focused really hard, and leaped upward.
And this time he didn't fall back to earth. He shot upward, toward the blue vault of sky.
Far below, he could hear Chloe clapping and cheering for him, and he imagined the big, happy smile on her face. He was surprised to feel an equally big, happy smile on his own face.
Flying felt great, he thought, still hurtling upward. He couldn't describe it, because there was nothing else like it in the world. The way it felt had haunted his dreams for years, ever since he'd flown as "Kal-El," and he was amazed to realize how much he'd missed it. It was awesome, and it made him ridiculously happy.
He felt like he was finally doing what he'd been born to do. He didn't feel like a god, just like a regular guy who happened to be able to fly. And finally, he understood what Chloe had been trying to tell him.
Flying was just another power, no different from heat vision or superbreath. Taking flight didn't make him a god, and it didn't make him more likely to accede to Jor-El's will and take over the world. It didn't make him more likely to forget the people on the ground, either.
He spun around in midair and zoomed back toward Chloe, grinning from ear to ear.
Flying, he thought, didn't make him a different person at all.
It just made him who he'd always been meant to be.