Sullivan Kent and guest star
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Manip by leothelion. Used with permission of the artist.
There will be times on this journey
All you'll see is darkness
Out there somewhere daylight finds you
If you keep believing
So don't run, don't hide
It will be all right
You'll see, trust me
I'll be there watching over you
Just take a look through my eyes
There's a better place
somewhere out there
Just take a look through my eyes
You'll be amazed what you'll find
If you look through my eyes
All the things that you can change
There's a meaning in everything
And you will find all you need
There's so much to understand
Just take a look through my eyes...
-"Look Through My Eyes," Phil Collins (Brother Bear)
Sully couldn't believe he was standing in front of Batman. Or The Batman, as Gotham City's criminals respectfully referred to him. The man was a freaking legend.
Sully suddenly felt very young and very irrelevant.
He lifted his head, doing his best to channel the look his father used to wear when wearing the suit-- not arrogance, exactly, but a look of command, a look almost of nobility. He didn't want to look like he was intimidated by Batman. He had a feeling the guy wouldn't respect anyone who was scared by him.
Sure enough, he thought he saw a faint glint of approval in Batman's eyes. Batman looked him over, very carefully. At last he spoke.
"You look a great deal like your father," he said.
Sully thought about denying his relationship to the original Superman, but thought better of it. Of course Batman had figured it out. He was the world's greatest detective, and everyone knew it. Besides, he'd probably met the guy before, and just not realized it. Batman was one of those very closely held secret identities that even Sully hadn't managed to figure out, but the guy had almost certainly met him as Sully Kent at some point in the past.
Which was exactly why he'd decided he had to remain a blur, because too damn many people knew who he was.
"Thank you," he answered. It occurred to him he could use his x-ray vision to see the face beneath the cowl, but he decided not to. His dad wouldn't have done it, and now that he was wearing the suit, he was trying to avoid doing stuff his father wouldn't have approved of.
"Not a compliment. Just an observation." The other man walked toward him, stepping into a pool of light. He was as tall as Sully himself, three inches over six feet, and he appeared strong and well-muscled, although the lines around his mouth, visible beneath his cowl, said clearly that he wasn't a young man. "Tell me, Sully. What made you decide to take up this life?"
Sully hesitated, then blurted out the only answer he'd been able to come up with.
"Someone had to do it," he said.
He thought he saw a faint curve of Batman's mouth beneath the cowl. "I see," he said. "Your father said something similar to me when I asked him the same question."
"My father..." Sully blinked, and shook his head firmly. "He was born for this, Batman. I don't believe he ever had any doubts about what he was meant to do."
Batman's mouth twitched visibly. "When I first met your father," he answered, "he was twenty-one. He wasn't Superman then, just the Red and Blue Blur."
Sully lifted his eyebrows. "The what?"
"The Red and Blue Blur. He was doing his best to keep his identity hidden by never letting anyone see him-- much as you are."
Sully thought about that for a minute. He'd somehow thought his dad's identity as a superhero had sprung fully formed from his mind. It had never occurred to him his dad might have had to work at it for a while.
"I guess it took him a while to come up with the suit," he said at last. "But at least he was out here saving the world. My mother told me he was a hero from the time he was fourteen."
He saw the faintest quirk of the mouth beneath the cowl. "Your mother," Batman said in that raspy voice, "may have overstated the case just a bit."
Sully bristled. "What are you trying to imply?"
"When I met him..." Batman paused for just a moment. "When I first met him, your father was something of an idiot."
Sully felt annoyance bubbling up inside of him. His father had been a great man, damn it. Greater by far than any other superhero on the planet-- even this one. "My mother said--"
"Sullivan." Batman spoke the name with an odd gentleness. "Surely it has occurred to you that your mother may have a certain lack of objectivity where your father is concerned?"
Sully scowled. "So what are you trying to imply, exactly?"
"I am not trying to imply anything. I'm telling you outright that your father was a very foolish young man when I first met him."
"He was only a little older than I am when you met him," Sully said between his teeth. "And he'd been already saving people for seven years."
"Yes, and resisting his destiny every step of the way. Despite the many lives he saved, Sullivan, he didn't want to be a superhero. He wanted to be an ordinary man."
Sully thought about that for a moment. He thought about his own efforts to be a "regular guy," a party animal, the amiable dude everyone liked, the popular kid who'd never met a stranger.
Even after all these weeks devoted to hero work, he still wasn't sure which Sullivan Kent was the real him. He worried he'd just put on a persona with this suit, and that maybe deep down he was still the same flaky guy.
It had never occurred to him his father might have had some of the same doubts. He'd never imagined that maybe the cape had weighed a little heavily on Dad's shoulders sometimes, too.
"What happened to change his mind?" he asked, very softly.
Batman looked at him steadily.
"He died," he answered.
Sully cocked his head. "I don't understand."
"Surely you must know of some of your father's history with Doomsday," Batman said. "The battle a few months ago was not their first encounter. The first time Doomsday fought your father, they both appeared to die."
Sully nodded. He'd known that.
"Your father was dead for three days. Your mother kept vigil by his side, refused to let anyone bury him, and insisted that he be exposed to as much sunlight as possible. And on the third day..." The lips twisted in a wry smile. "On the third day, he rose from the dead."
Sully felt his eyes sting with tears. He spoke softly. "Mom was sure he would come back this time, too. She waited... she wouldn't give up for so long... she was sure he'd come back to life..."
"We all hoped he would. It's still hard to believe he's gone." Batman hesitated, then spoke solemnly. "When I look at you... I see that he isn't. Not really."
Sully's eyes stung worse than before. "I'm no Superman," he said gruffly. "I'm not the perfect hero, believe me."
"Neither was your father, Sullivan. That's exactly what I've been trying to tell you."
"My father," Sully said through his teeth, "was the world's greatest superhero."
"Yes. He was. He was also stubborn, selfish, and quite frequently seemed to have the reasoning abilities of a jellyfish." Batman's lips quirked again, the smile of a man remembering a friend with fond humor. "He grew up a lot after his brush with death, Sullivan, but he struggled all his life to become the man he wanted to be. And he never made it. He was never everything he wanted to be."
"I don't believe that, damn you!"
"Sullivan..." Batman blew out his breath in a sigh. "Sometimes what we want to be isn't what we should be. Your father was a good man, and I wouldn't have wanted him to be anything other than what he was. Flaws and all, he did great things in the world."
Sully felt the anger drain out of him. He nodded slowly, finally understanding what the older man was trying to tell him. "You're saying that I don't have to be perfect to do good things?"
"No one is perfect, Sullivan. Not your father, not me, not you. No matter what our abilities... we're just men."
Sully swallowed. "Can you... can you tell me more about my father?"
"I could," Batman answered. "But it would be subjective, just as your mother's stories are. If you really want to know about your father-- the real man, not the Superman everyone's read about in the Daily Planet-- the Fortress might be the best source of information."
Batman lifted his chin in a gesture that betrayed slight surprise. "You haven't been to the Fortress yet?"
"I have no clue what you mean. What's the Fortress?"
"Your father's Fortress of Solitude, in the Arctic. There you will find a repository of information, about your father as well as his people. Fly north, Sullivan. You'll find it, trust me. I will watch over your city while you're gone."
Batman inclined his head slightly, in what looked almost like a gesture of respect, and melted into the shadows. Despite the catlike stealth with which he moved, Sully could have easily tracked him by the sound of his footsteps, but he let the other man go.
The Fortress, he thought, turning over Batman's words in his head. A repository of information.
His dad had never told him much about Krypton, and he'd thought maybe there wasn't much to know. The place had blown up when his dad was still a baby, after all. But suddenly he wanted to find out everything there was to know about his heritage, and about his father as well. The real man, not the superhuman man in the cape that everyone had read about.
When I first met him, your father was something of an idiot.
The idea that his father might have been as foolish as Sully himself was something of a revelation. He wanted to know more.
But he hesitated, because Metropolis needed him.
I'll watch over your city while you're gone.
He stood there for long moments, undecided. But intellectually he knew Batman could do the job. Hell, he'd been protecting Gotham for twenty years now. He would very likely be a more effective guardian of Metropolis than Sully himself.
His mind made up, Sully lifted up into the sky and zoomed away from his city.
Daylight found him as he flew north. Before long, he saw a vast structure of ice glittering in the sunlight, a long distance ahead of him. He had no idea how, but somehow he'd been drawn toward this structure, straight as an arrow, as if in some mysterious fashion it had called to him.
From a distance, it gleamed like a cut diamond against white velvet. But up close, the edifice was enormous, a huge crystal cathedral rising out of a snow-covered plain. It was beautiful, and it stirred something inside of him, something he couldn't identify, like a half-forgotten memory or a long-ago dream.
He dropped to the snow just outside of it, and walked in cautiously.
It was dark and cold inside, but as he entered, the giant crystal formations began to light up, glowing a bluish white. He walked in a little further, going from chamber to chamber, but he didn't see a library, or a video screen, or anything that might be a "repository of information."
All he saw was a whole lot of ice.
"Hello?" he said, tentatively.
There was a long, long silence, and he began to think that Batman was wrong. Maybe there had once been some sort of library or computer here, but it was clearly gone now.
But just as he was about to concede defeat and leave the empty structure, a voice spoke in deep, sonorous tones.
"Welcome home," it said.