Friday, September 05, 2008

The Path Unwinding

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

From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun
There's more to see than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done

It's the circle of life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding...
-From The Lion King, "Circle of Life"

"Do you know what time it is?"

Oh, no, not again.

Sullivan Kent sighed as he turned around to face his mom, who looked pissed. Big surprise there. Mom always looked pissed with him nowadays.

He opened his mouth to reply, but Mom plowed right on without waiting for his answer. "It's four o'clock in the morning!"

Sully threw a look at the mantel clock, and couldn't quite resist mouthing off. "Actually," he drawled, "it's 3:52."

He didn't really want to stand here and argue with his mother. He'd been out all night, flying patrol over Metropolis, and he was totally exhausted. All he wanted to do was throw himself down on his bed and check out the inside of his eyelids. But Mom stood between him and the staircase, glaring in a way that said he wasn't going to get to his bed without a big fight.

"And let me guess. You've been partying with your friends again." She looked simultaneously angry and disgusted. "Didn't you tell me you had a term paper to write this weekend? That's why you said you came home, to get a little peace and quiet so you could concentrate."

Sully shrugged. Term papers had never been really high on his list of priorities, and they still weren't. Difference was that he'd once spent most of his free time partying and hanging out with friends, and now he was spending almost all his time flying around, trying to save people. "I'll get it done tomorrow, Mom..."

"It is tomorrow!"

Damn it, he thought irritably. His life was a big enough mess right now without Mom making it worse. Actually, she was already making it worse, by writing articles dissing "Superman 2" every time she got the chance. She was a well-known journalist for the Daily Planet, and she had the whole city believing that he was some sort of criminal, when all he was doing was trying to save people. Between her lectures and her articles, she was really ticking him off.

"Get off my back," he said crankily, and tried to shove his way past her.

She didn't move. She crossed her arms and stood squarely in front of the staircase, blocking his access to the stairs, and got right up in his face, waving her index finger at him. He was almost a foot taller than she was, a hundred pounds heavier, and superpowered to boot, but that didn't stop her from trying to push him around.

"You told me you were getting a D in your Shakespeare class!" she yelled. "You said you were going to use your term paper to bring your grade up!"

"Shakespeare's boring." He couldn't quite resist needling her a little more. "And writing is boring."

Her eyes narrowed like he'd issued a personal insult. "So you're going to flunk out of college because you're bored?"

"Some people get along just fine without college," Sully answered. "Aunt Lois did."

"Aunt Lois" was his mom's cousin, who'd gotten kicked out of college before she'd even earned a semester's worth of credit, then jumped from job to job till she wound up as a popular DJ on a Star City classic rock station. Her show was syndicated, and Sully listened to it all the time, even though she did play a little too much Whitesnake for his personal taste. He thought Lois was cool, but for some reason Mom got annoyed whenever he brought her up.

Sure enough, Mom looked outraged. "Lois was lucky! But you can't rely on luck, Sully! You have to get a degree, or..."

Sullivan sighed, because he'd heard the rest of this lecture like a thousand times, and it hadn't gotten any more exciting with repetition. "Mom," he interrupted. "Lay off, will you? I'm tired and I'm going to bed."

She glared at him for a moment longer, then shook her head.

"Fine," she said, lowering her voice. She didn't sound angry any more, only very disappointed. "I'm tired of trying to talk sense into you, Sully. If you can't be bothered to keep your grades up-- well, it's your problem, not mine. If you really want to flip burgers for the rest of your life, go right ahead."

The disappointment in her voice cut him to the quick. She couldn't have said My son is a big stupid loser any more clearly if she'd actually said the sentence out loud. He stared at her for a minute, but didn't quite dare open his mouth, for fear that something really bad might come out. Dad had only died five months ago, and he honestly didn't want to upset Mom any more than he already had.

Instead of saying anything, he turned around and stalked right back out the front door.

Once outside, he sat down on the front porch to think.

He'd spent a lot of nights on this porch as a kid, gazing up at the stars and wondering about them. There had been a time when he found them familiar and comforting.

But the sight of the stars didn't comfort him the way they used to. They just reminded him that he was an alien-- well, half alien-- and that he didn't truly belong on this planet. Sure, he had lots of friends, and he'd always been popular... and yet he'd never found his place here, not really.

Lately, he'd been thinking that when he'd put Dad's red and blue suit on, maybe he'd finally found his place in the world. But after a month of flying around, saving people, he was having to come to grips with the fact that he wasn't his father. He was no Superman.

He sucked in a deep breath of cool night air and dropped his face into his hands, trying to get a grip on himself. God, he was tired. He hadn't gotten a decent night's sleep in weeks.

How the hell had Dad managed, anyway? His dad had held down a job at the Daily Planet, moonlighted as Superman, and somehow'd found time to be home with his family a reasonable amount of the time.

Sully couldn't even manage to get to his freaking classes.

And for once in his life, he wasn't loafing. Just the opposite. Whenever he sat down to read, or write a paper, or even just talk to a friend, he heard someone who needed help.

He'd had superhearing for a long time, of course. It had developed about the time he turned sixteen. But all he'd ever really used it for was to listen in on private conversations and find out what people were planning for his birthday, or listen to Mom and Dad argue about how long they wanted to ground him.

When he put on Dad's costume and started saving people, though, suddenly he'd become aware of people calling for help. All the time. Metropolis was a city of ten million people, and it seemed like someone always needed help. That was the real reason he'd come home this weekend, because Met U was practically downtown, while his mom lived out in the suburbs. He'd hoped it would be quieter here.

But it wasn't, not really. Even from here, he could hear the sounds of the city perfectly clearly, and he'd responded to their calls and gone out on patrol, because what else was he supposed to do? He'd been working, flying over the city and rescuing people, since eight o'clock last night. And he was just too tired to go on.

But he could still hear them calling for help.

He bowed his head, covered his eyes, and let his tears fall, tears of frustration and exhaustion and anger. When he'd put on Dad's suit, he hadn't realized that being "Superman" would consume his life. He'd actually been worried that he might slack off, that he might get bored and wind up walking away from it all.

It had never occurred to him that the opposite might happen, that saving people would become so important to him that he wouldn't be able to manage to scrape out any time for his own life.

Truth was, he'd never been really good at balancing stuff. He'd always had trouble getting things accomplished, because he was always too busy having fun. And now that saving people had become important to him, he couldn't seem to figure out how to get other stuff done.

Even his formerly busy social life was suffering badly. A couple of weeks ago he'd gone out for the first time with a redhead he'd been pursuing since freshman year. He'd taken her out for dinner, then back to his dorm room, and just when things were getting... interesting, he'd heard someone calling for help.

He'd made a weak excuse and run out the door, leaving her sitting there, and when he'd gotten back, she'd been gone. She hadn't deigned to speak to him since.

Problem was that when he stopped to write term papers, or hang out with friends, or even to sleep, people died. He knew Dad hadn't worked as Superman 24/7, that he'd taken time for himself, and for his job, and for his family. And Sully knew if he couldn't figure out how to do that himself, he was going to drive himself crazy.

But if he didn't save the people who needed saving, he was going to go just as crazy, because he could hear their cries for help echoing in his ears.

God, he wished Dad was here. He needed to talk to him, to find out how he'd coped with this life. He needed to know how Dad had managed to find a balance. He needed to know how Dad had walked this path without making himself nuts.

But then again, if Dad were here, Sully would never have put on the damn suit, and he'd still be loafing and having fun and partying.

He wiped the tears from his eyes with an impatient gesture, wishing that Mom would come out and talk to him some more. The two of them fought all the time-- even more now that Dad wasn't around to act as a buffer-- but he knew Mom loved him. After their arguments, she usually regretted being sharp with him, and came to hug him good night. He hoped she'd come out tonight, because he desperately needed to talk to someone.

True, he couldn't tell Mom exactly what the problem was, because the last thing he wanted was for her to worry about him. But if he told her how overwhelmed he was feeling, maybe she could give him some advice on how to balance things a little better. At the very least, she'd give him a hug. And he really needed a hug right now.

He waited for a long time, but she didn't come. Eventually the lights in the house went off, and he realized she'd gone to bed.

He couldn't hold his eyes open any longer. He didn't even think he could make it up the stairs to his own bed. He was just too damn tired.

He stretched out on the wooden planks of the front porch and fell asleep, all alone in the darkness.

-The End-


erika said...

oh my goodness that was so good.
it brought little tears to my eyes honestly.
i am loving these sully kent stories they have so much depth and i think SVclark should have been more like him.

keep up the good work

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love this series and your character development is incredible. I can't wait to read what happens next!


CT said...

Very touching, Elly, but I'm wondering, if Chloe knows who Superman is, surely she'd realize her son was Superman 2, and she'd be proud?

Elly said...

Oh, this is a sequel to some other stories, CT. I guess I need to put that up top, huh? Editing!

DeeDee said...

It's official: I love Sully Kent.

And I love you too, Elly! You've shown us who SV's Clark Kent should be.

Loving it!


Anonymous said...

I'm retarded and left my comment on this story on "Going the Distance." Anyway, the message remains the same-- I want more!