Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Going the Distance

Sullivan Kent, Chloe futurefic
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.

Sequel to The Journey Begun.

I have often dreamed
Of a far-off place
Where a great warm welcome
Will be waiting for me
Where the crowds will cheer
When they see my face
And a voice keeps saying
This is where I'm meant to be

I will find my way
I can go the distance
I'll be there someday
If I can be strong
I know every mile
Will be worth my while
I would go most anywhere
To feel like I belong
-From Hercules, "Go the Distance"

When Sullivan Kent wandered sleepily down the stairs around midday, his mom was sitting at the oaken kitchen table, staring at the paper.

No big surprise there, he thought blurrily, rubbing his eyes. Mom had spent her entire adult life writing for the Daily Planet, and she was rarely seen without a paper or an internet device in her hand. She was into news the way he was into loafing.

But she didn't even look up at the sound of his footsteps on the staircase the way she usually did, didn't offer him a smile and a sardonic, Well, look who finally decided to join the land of the living. And there was something odd on her face that made him hesitate on the bottom step.

"Mom?" he said hesitantly. "You okay?"

His mom looked up, and he saw a strange mixture of hope and worry in her eyes.

"Superman is back," she said.

Oh, shit. Sully's father had been Superman, and he'd been killed four months ago, in a battle with a bone-spiked monster named Doomsday. Sully had come home from college this weekend to spend some time with his mom, and yesterday, on impulse, he'd put on his father's suit and flown out into the troubled city of Metropolis.

He'd been so pleased with his exploit, and the successes he'd had, that it hadn't occurred to him that some of the people he'd saved had seen him, and would doubtless talk to reporters about it.

And judging from the hopeful light in Mom's idea, she'd leapt to an entirely wrong conclusion.

"Mom," he said more gently, stepping down into the kitchen and walking over to her. He put a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Listen... Dad's gone. He's not coming back."

She nodded, biting her lip. "It has to be a hoax of some sort," she agreed, very quietly. "Or a copycat. But these people-- they saw him fly, Sully. And one of them got a cell phone picture. It's blurry and distant, but..."

Sully looked down at the grainy photo. It did look a lot like Dad. And Sully knew why. Because he bore an extremely strong resemblance to his father.

Given that fact, he was slightly surprised that Mom hadn't drawn the right conclusion. Mom had been an investigative reporter practically forever, and she had a talent for figuring out stuff that eluded a lot of other people.

But maybe it wasn't surprising she hadn't guessed who the new "Superman" was. He'd always hated flying, so he'd never let on he knew how. And besides, Mom thought he was a slacker. A goofball. He'd always been one, after all. He'd never given the slightest hint that he wanted to follow in Dad's footsteps.

Truth was, until yesterday he'd never so much as thought about it. "Sully" and "superhero" were not two words most of the people he knew would ever think of placing in the same sentence. Not even his mother, who loved him a hell of a lot.

He knew Mom would rip him a new one if she realized he'd put on the cape, but he was firmly resolved, for the first time in his life, not to give up on what he was doing. He really didn't want to let her know what he was up to, not because he was afraid of being lectured-- God knew he was used to that-- but because he knew she'd worry like crazy, and after what she'd been through with Dad, he didn't want her to stress about him.

Even so, he couldn't let Mom think that there was the slightest possibility that Dad might be alive. If she thought that-- he'd have to tell her the truth.

But she was nodding slowly, looking at the photo. "It's a hoax," she said, and the hope in her eyes faded, to be replaced by the hard-edged common sense of the investigative reporter she'd always been. "It has to be."

"Yeah," Sully agreed. "It's gotta be, Mom."

She glared at the paper so hard that Sully was surprised it didn't start smoking.

"I'm going to find out who's doing this," she said, very softly. "I'm going to find out what they're up to, and why. And I'm going to expose them to the world."

"Mom..." Sully hesitated. "What if they're just trying to help?"

"This person is pretending to be Superman," she answered, so coldly that her voice practically dripped icicles. "Maybe I've grown too suspicious, but I can't believe he has good intentions. At the least, he's trying to make himself famous, using your father's name. At the worst, he's a criminal of some sort, trying to hide behind Superman's identity while he commits crimes."

It wasn't like his mom to jump to conclusions, or to be this irrationally angry, but she was obviously still extremely sensitive on the subject of Superman, protective of his reputation even though he was gone now, and Sully couldn't really blame her. Given the fact that he didn't want his mom to think too hard about all this, he decided it was best not to say anything at all. But inwardly, he cringed.

Great, he thought. Just what he needed... the Daily Planet's top reporter on his tail.

*****

SO-CALLED SUPERMAN 2 FAILS TO SAVE INNOCENT BYSTANDERS.

Sully sat in his own dorm room at Met U two weeks later, glowering at the headline. Thanks, Mom, he thought glumly. Thanks so much for the freakin' support.

Thing was, the headline, and the article accompanying it, were distinctly and profoundly biased. His mom had always prided herself on her journalistic objectivity. But she was clearly pissed about the new guy who'd had the nerve to put on Superman's suit, and her anger showed through in her articles. Like this one.

Yes, a car bomb had gone off in downtown Metropolis, and he'd failed to save five people. But what the headline didn't mention, and what was buried a long way down in the article, was that he'd saved dozens of people.

Thinking of the five he'd lost still made his chest hurt. And yeah, maybe the headline was right, to a certain degree. Maybe Dad could have figured out a better solution. Probably would have, actually. But Sully was new to the superhero business, and he'd done his best, damn it.

He'd tried to pick up the car first and get it out of the way, only to realize that it made him weak somehow. He knew some explosives companies used green kryptonite, which made him ill, and he guessed the device in this car incorporated the substance.

So, unable to move the car, he'd moved the bystanders.

He wished he could have gotten them all. Honest to God, he did. When the bomb had gone off, and he'd realized five people had died in the explosion, he'd flown up into the sky, and cried.

It was the first time he'd failed to save someone, but he knew it wouldn't be the last. Intellectually, he knew full well that failure was part of the hero gig. But that knowledge didn't make it easier to bear. He was grief-stricken over the people he hadn't succeeded in saving, and terrified at the prospect of losing others.

And it didn't help his confused heartache to have his own mother make it sound like he'd let a bunch of people die on purpose. It didn't help to have his own mother dissing him in front of the world as a failure.

He wasn't a failure, damn it. He was doing a halfway decent job, despite the people he'd lost yesterday.

Yeah, sure, he'd admit he wasn't Superman. He knew that. He was just plain old Sully Kent.

But he was becoming a better Sully Kent all the time.

Ironic thing was, when he'd first put on the cape, he'd thought that Mom would be proud of him, for the first time in his lazy life. But because he couldn't tell her who he was, he'd just wound up pissing her off. Now she was on a one-woman crusade to expose him, to discover his identity and publicly discredit him. She hated "Superman 2" the way she'd once hated Lex Luthor.

But that was better than her worrying about him, he figured. He was grimly determined to keep Mom from knowing about him. In fact, it had slowly dawned on him that because he didn't really have a secret identity, because he looked pretty much the same with or without the suit, he had to keep everyone from knowing about him.

He was extremely careful to move in superspeed all the time now, so no one got a good picture of him. He couldn't talk to little kids any more, or reassure people that they'd be fine, or stop to offer any sort of comfort, because if he slowed down, even for a second, someone was going to snap a picture. And then someone would figure out who he was.

And then Mom would be in danger.

Maybe, he thought, it would be smart to tell Mom who he was, so she'd quit sending photographers after him. If Mom knew who he was, then she'd be covering for him instead of trying to expose him every minute. Letting her in on his secret made a lot of sense.

But he remembered the way she'd wept over Dad's battered body after his battle with Doomsday, and he knew he couldn't do that to her. She'd spent enough of her life worrying about Dad's safety. She didn't need to spend the rest of her days wondering if her only son was going to get himself killed one day.

It was better if she just thought of him as a screwup college student.

Sully sighed, and threw himself back on the bed. This superhero shit was hard, damn it. When he'd put on the suit that first day, it had just been a spontaneous thing, a whim. He hadn't thought any of it through.

But the more he wore the suit, the more complicated life seemed to become, and the more he worried. Not so much about himself, as about everyone else.

He flung an arm over his eyes, and wondered glumly if this was what growing up felt like.

Thing was, he wasn't sure his own intentions had been pure when he started. In fact, if he was going to be totally honest with himself, he was pretty damn sure they hadn't been. He remembered Mom's angry words: At the least, he's trying to make himself famous, using your father's name.

Maybe, he admitted to himself, that had been true, at first. He'd told himself that he needed to put the suit on, that Metropolis had to have a protector, but he had to admit that on his first day, he'd gotten a little charge out of being recognized as "Superman." It had been cool to have little kids looking at him with awe, even if he realized he wasn't really the one they were in awe of.

But now he had to save people without stopping to let anyone oooh and ahhh over him. He moved at top speed, often so fast people never saw him at all. He was doing a hell of a lot of work, and getting very little notice for it-- and most of the notice he'd gotten lately was negative, thanks to Mom.

When he'd put on the suit, he knew that on some level he'd wanted to be recognized as a hero, instead of the lazy bum he'd always been. He'd wanted Mom to think he was awesome. He'd wanted the world to admire him.

Instead, Mom was doing her best to make the citizens of Metropolis fear him, and most people he helped never even realized he'd saved them.

If it was tough being a hero, it was even tougher being a hero who flew under the radar and got zero credit. No one cheered when he flew overhead. No one shouted, Look! Up in the sky! For the most part, no one even noticed his passing. And if he'd been smarter the first day he'd put on Dad's suit, no one might have ever noticed his presence in Metropolis at all. Unlike Dad, he was doing his best to stay invisible.

Which meant he didn't get the benefits of being a hero. He wasn't recognized as Metropolis' protector, the way Dad had been. He was just a fleeting shadow who was scarcely noticed.

But being a hero wasn't about getting written up in the paper, or about being admired as he flew by. Deep down, he knew that. Being a hero was just about being there for people who needed saving.

No one was cheering for him, and if he played it smart, no one ever would. And that didn't matter, not really.

All that really mattered was that he didn't give up or wimp out, the way he usually did. He couldn't lose interest, or lose his nerve, or quit because he thought of something else he'd rather be doing. This time, he had to be there for the people who needed him... for as long as he was needed.

This time, he had to go the distance.

-The End-

5 comments:

nelliewu said...

i am really loving these Sully Kent stories, Elly. i hope you continue exploring his character and letting us enjoy it when you do :)

DeeDee said...

I've seen more depth and character development in young Sully Kent in your three installments than I've seen in SV's Clark Kent in 7 years. We really need to get you onto the SV writing team for Season 8, Elly, or they're doomed. (Get it - 'doomed'?!) [My lame attempt at SV humour. I slay me!]

Brilliance. Sheer brilliance. Many thanks, Elly!

Regards,
DeeDee.

chloista4ever said...

poor sully kent :(

Anonymous said...

Elly, this is absolutely fantatic. DeeDee is right; you have to get on the SV writing staff! Thank you so much for sharing your talents with us; I really enjoy your work!
Sarah

Anonymous said...

This update was so wonderful and touching. My heart is broken for both Sully and Chloe. Sully is learning the hard way that it's very hard to undo a lifetime of underachieving. Chloe is normally extremely perceptive and compassionate, I can only conclude that her own grief is blinding her to her son's ordeal. I really want them to make up and reconnect. They need each other. :( Please update soon!

~marikology