Sequel to He Lives in You.
Even those who are gone
Are with us as we go on
Your journey has only begun...
We are one, you and I
We are like the earth and sky
One family under the sun
All the wisdom to lead
All the courage that you need
You will find when you see
We are one
-Lion King 2, "We Are One"
"Where have you been, young man?"
Sullivan Kent jumped nervously as his mother materialized out of nowhere. She had an amazing ability to sneak up on him, considering he had superhearing. Unlike him, she had no alien blood, and although she'd developed some weird abilities in her youth, she'd lost them a long time ago. Her powers now were simply the Powers of the Mom.
Sully turned to face her in the hall. He was wearing a scruffy, less-than-clean t-shirt and old, threadbare jeans, and he knew he looked pretty much the same as always-- a college student who was as careless about his appearance as he was about everything else. But he was terrified she'd see through him and realize that beneath the old clothes, something had changed.
"Uh..." He stammered, trying to come up with an excuse Chloe Sullivan Kent, top investigative reporter for the Daily Planet, would buy. His mom stared at him dangerously, and suddenly he remembered her looking at Dad exactly that way, and Dad stammering guiltily in response, just like he was right now. Mom could be amazingly intimidating, considering she didn't even come up to Sully's shoulder.
"Don't uh me." She glared so hard that if she'd had Sully's abilities, she would have burned a hole right through his head. "It's three o'clock in the morning."
"I just..." Sully shuffled his feet on the carpet, and immediately cringed. Geez, he was nineteen now, and in college. He didn't have to explain his every freaking movement to Mom. And usually she was pretty cool, anyway. Trouble was, ever since Dad had died, she'd gotten a little, well, overprotective. "I was just hanging out with some friends, Mom."
"Are these the hours you keep at college?" she demanded. "Maybe that explains your grades."
"Yeah, Mom." Despite himself, Sully rolled his eyes. "Like you never partied in college."
"I didn't party. I was too busy working. Applying myself."
He figured that was probably true. Mom was a workaholic, and most likely always had been. He couldn't really imagine her kicking back and enjoying a beer somehow.
"Just because you never had fun in college doesn't mean I can't," he said, a little sullenly. "Anyway, it's Saturday night, Mom. Chill."
Her hazel eyes lit with anger, and she stepped forward, glaring up into his face.
"You need to stop chilling, Sully," she snapped. "You've been in college for a year and a half now, and you're barely scraping by. It's time for you to buckle down and get to work. Maybe past time."
Oh, sure, like he hadn't heard that lecture before. Despite his awareness that Mom was going through a lot right now, that she was still grieving for Dad, he fell back on old habits, rolled his eyes again, and answered with the snark he'd inherited from her.
"Sure, Mom. I'll make sure to study eight hours a day from now on."
She opened her mouth, looking like she was about to say something else, but then shook her head. The anger drained from her eyes, and she looked at him sorrowfully.
"I just want you to be a success in life, Sully. That's all."
He crossed his arms over his chest defensively. "Maybe I like being who I am, Mom. Maybe I like taking it easy."
She sighed, threw up her hands, literally and metaphorically, and turned away without another word. Sully watched her disappear down the hall, and a little pang of disappointment twisted in his chest. The least she could have done, he thought, was kissed his cheek.
Yeah, right. Because he was nineteen, and he still needed to be kissed goodnight and tucked in. He rolled his eyes, at himself this time, and stalked into his own bedroom, shutting the door slightly harder than he really needed to.
Once in the privacy of his own bedroom, he stripped down to boxers and a t-shirt and threw himself down on the bed, which creaked under his weight.
He'd lied to his mom.
No big surprise there-- he lied to her all the time. But this time, his lie hadn't been to cover the fact that he'd been drinking, or running naked through the streets of Metropolis, or that he'd failed yet another exam.
This time, he just hadn't wanted her to know he'd put on Dad's suit and flown out the window.
Thing was, Dad had been killed wearing that suit, or one just like it. Sully had a strong feeling that if Mom got the slightest hint that he was flying over Metropolis, trying to protect people, she'd throw a hissy fit that would make her recent lecture look like smiles and giggles in comparison.
Not that he was scared of Mom, not really. He just... well, he didn't want her to worry. She'd worried enough in her lifetime.
So there was no freakin' way he was going to tell Mom that he'd been out there in Dad's suit.
Truth was, he'd been scared as hell to put the thing on. First of all, he didn't like flying. Never had, never would. Heights creeped him the hell out. Second, he was such a big wuss that he made the Cowardly Lion look like a friggin' war hero by comparision. He didn't like putting himself out there where he could be hurt or killed, any more than Mom would.
Yeah, he was mostly invulnerable-- but he'd inherited Dad's well-known susceptibility to those stupid green rocks. And if he insisted on flying around wearing Superman's costume, sooner or later someone was going to throw one of those rocks at him.
And it was going to hurt.
Still. He closed his eyes, thinking about the day he'd had. He'd flown two guys who'd been shot to the hospital, and they were both recovering. He'd caught a car driven by a drunk driver as it plummeted over the side of the bridge, and saved not only the driver, but the two terrified kids in the back seat. And he'd pulled out four people trapped in a burning house, saving them all from death by smoke or flames.
Not bad for a terminal screwup.
He didn't fool himself into thinking he'd done as well as Dad would have. No. Dad's boots were way too big for him, and he knew it. Still, he'd done what he could, and saved quite a few lives, and that, he thought, was worth any risk he might be taking.
He remembered pulling those people out of the fire. One of them had been a little kid, maybe eight or nine years old, and she'd looked up at him with huge eyes and said in a reverent whisper, "Superman."
He'd never forget the awe in her voice. Awe that had nothing to do with him-- a guy no one had ever heard of-- and everything to do with his dad.
Dad had left a hell of a legacy behind. Over the years, the name Superman had become virtually synonymous with the name Metropolis. Everyone remembered the sight of him flying over the city, protecting it.
But memories weren't going to save people.
It occurred to Sully that in a way, he was part of Dad's legacy now. Once he'd put on that suit, it had become his job to save people. Not a hobby, or a game, but a job. And it wasn't a job he could just walk away from when it got boring or tedious or scary. It wasn't something he could slack off on, either. If he slacked off, people died.
The thought made him more scared than ever. Sully Kent was famous for not seeing things through. In grade school, he'd gotten endless quantities of zeroes for "forgetting" to turn in school projects. In high school, he'd come precariously close to failing several classes for the same reason.
He never followed through on anything. What had given him the crazy idea that he could do this? What had made him even consider putting Dad's suit on this afternoon?
He knew the answer. It had been an impulse. With him, it was always an impulse. But now that he'd succumbed to this particular impulse, he couldn't just quit. He remembered the little girl's awed whisper, Superman, and a shiver ran through him.
In a weird way... he was Superman now.
He blew out a breath, pushing away his worries and letting himself drift into the warm haze that comes before sleep. He'd had a long, tiring day, and he was exhausted. He was still scared as hell by what he'd taken onto his shoulders.
But scared or not, he intended to keep on trying.
The door creaked open, and Sully heard a familiar footfall tiptoeing across the carpet. A moment later the footsteps paused next to his bed, and he felt a soft kiss brush across his forehead.
"Night, sweetheart," his mom's voice said, very softly. "I love you."
He didn't open his eyes, mostly because he felt the sudden sting of tears against his eyelids. Good old Mom, he thought. Mom knew he was a screwup, a party animal, a lousy student... and she loved him anyway.
He remembered a line from a poem he'd read in high school (in class; God knew he'd never actually done any homework): Home is the place where, when you go there, they have to take you in.
Parents, he thought drowsily, are the people who, no matter how worthless you are, have to love you anyway.
And Dad had loved him just as much as Mom did. He knew that. He'd never doubted that despite all the lectures, all the yelling, all the groundings, his parents loved him. But suddenly unconditional parental love didn't feel like quite enough, somehow.
For the first time in his life, he wanted to make his mom proud of him.
He listened to his mom's footsteps leaving the room and hoped that one day, he'd be a son she could be proud of. A son she wouldn't think of as a screwup or a failure. A son who'd done something with his life.
And as he drifted off to sleep, he thought that today, maybe he'd finally taken his first steps in that direction.