Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
The lyrics are from "I Will Always Return," by Bryan Adams.
Manip by leothelion. Used with permission of the artist.
I hear the wind call my name
The sound that leads me home again
It sparks up the fire
A flame that still burns
To you I will always return
He was going home.
He stepped out of the Fortress for the first time in two years, blinking at the brilliant light reflecting off the snowfield all around him. Inside the Fortress, it was dark and still. Over the course of his training, he'd almost forgotten how beautiful sunshine was.
He looked up at the vast blue sky, and smiled. His world had been bounded by dimly lit crystal walls for too long.
He stood there for a moment in the icy wind, drinking in the sunlight. The sun rode low on the horizon, but its rays filled him in a way he hadn't been filled for too long. Inside the Fortress, enough light had filtered through the crystalline walls that he'd retained his powers. But he'd always felt... hungry.
He stood still, and let the sun recharge him.
But he couldn't wait long. It had been years. Years.
He had to see her again.
He leapt into a run.
I know the road is long
But where you are is home
Wherever you stay, I'll find the way
I'll run like the river
I'll follow the sun
I'll fly like an eagle
To where I belong
"I love you," she'd whispered in the darkness, her arms twined around him. "I need you. The world needs you, Clark. Don't go."
"I have to go." He spoke softly, patiently, because their moments together were too intimate and precious to be tarnished by loud or angry words. "I'm not the person I want to be, Chloe. I'm not good enough."
She pressed her face into his bare shoulder and spoke in a muffled whisper. "You're a hero, Clark. You're my hero."
He sighed, knowing he couldn't explain his decision to her. Hell, he could hardly explain it to himself.
All he knew was that he wasn't enough.
"I've made too many mistakes," he said softly, pressing his nose into the fragrant strands of her hair. She smelled like strawberries, fresh and sweet. "I've screwed up too many times. I've lost my temper too often."
"Everyone loses their temper, Clark."
"I can't afford to, Chlo. Not ever. I could hurt someone. I could easily kill someone. I have to learn how to control myself better than I do." He nuzzled her hair. "Somehow... I have to become better."
"And you think Jor-El can help you with this?"
He heard the disbelief in her tone, and chuckled wryly.
"Since the reboot of the Fortress, he's not the same," he answered. "He's, I don't know--"
"Yeah, sane. I told you before, I think the original AI must have gotten corrupted somehow. I know we've had our share of problems with Jor-El in the past, but... well, he's different now. And I trust him to help me."
He felt the light brush of air against his skin as she sighed.
"But you're doing so much good in the world, Clark. You're helping so many people. Saving so many people. For you to leave everything behind now..."
"I know," he agreed. "And that's what makes it such a hard decision, Chlo. I don't want to leave the world alone. But I don't want to screw up, either. The way things are right now, it's only a matter of time before I make a major mistake."
"Clark..." Her hand stroked his hair. "There will always be the chance of you making a mistake. Even you aren't perfect."
"I know," he agreed. "Jor-El always says, We are not gods, my son. But he's going to help me with my judgment, and my temper, and I think that will help cut down on errors. People's lives depend on my actions, Chlo. The Earth has depended on my actions, once or twice. There's a hell of a lot riding on my shoulders, and I just can't afford to screw up."
She was silent a long time, so long he thought she'd fallen asleep. At last she spoke, very quietly.
"I'll miss you."
He'd closed his eyes, grateful for her willingness to let him go, and squeezed her. "I'll miss you too."
And he'd proceeded to show her just how much he would miss her.
Now, speeding across the snow-covered plain, he remembered those last moments with her. He'd relived them a thousand times, but it wasn't enough. He wanted her in his arms for real. And after two years of solitude, he wanted to hold her right now.
Running, even in superspeed, wasn't fast enough.
He concentrated, calling on his newest ability, which he'd only practiced in the safe confines of the Fortress. He hadn't been certain he'd dare to do it outside the crystal walls.
But to get to her more quickly, he'd risk it.
He shot upward, into the deep blue sky.
I can't stand the distance
I can't dream alone
I can't wait to see you
Yes I'm on my way home
He'd dreamed of her every night for two years.
The truth was, he'd dreamed of her during the day, too. In the daytime, Jor-El had kept him too busy to think of anything beyond his training. And yet in the back of his mind, her face had always been there, the memory of her smile encouraging him, the memory of her laughter warming him.
But during the night, it wasn't her smile or her laughter he remembered as much as it was her soft body against his. So many nights he'd awakened from sleep yearning for her. He'd wanted so much to leave the Fortress and fly to her, just for a night.
But he'd promised himself that he would devote himself fully to his training, so every night he'd closed his eyes and tried to go back to sleep.
It had been a long, lonely two years, and he was tired of dreaming alone.
He wanted to share his dreams with her.
Now I know it's true
My every road leads to you
And in the hour of darkness
Your light gets me through
As he left the Arctic Circle, darkness began to fall around him. Before long he was flying through the pitch blackness of night. But it didn't matter. He was going home.
He was going home to her.
That was all the light he needed.
You run like a river
You shine like the sun
You fly like an eagle
You are the one
He zoomed into the city. Its glittering lights spread out below him like a field of diamonds. As he flew lower, he saw the golden globe of the Daily Planet building, the most famous symbol of the city, turning slowly beneath him.
He loved Metropolis. But the city was all bound up in his mind with her. She'd been the reason he'd started coming to the city on a regular basis. She'd been the reason he'd begun thinking of it as his city.
He loved them both. The city... and her.
She was still living in her apartment in Metropolis, but if she'd been somewhere else, he could have easily found her by the sound of her heartbeat. He raced toward the steady beating of her pulse.
He couldn't wait to see her. He knew he ought to stop outside her apartment and knock, to give her a chance to adjust to seeing him again, but he just couldn't wait.
He whooshed right in through the door of her apartment, and she squealed with shock at his sudden appearance as papers blew everywhere.
She was clearly getting ready for bed. Her hair was longer and darker than he remembered, pulled up into a sloppy, straggly ponytail. Her face was scrubbed clean of makeup, and she wore a ratty old blue robe.
She was the most beautiful sight he'd ever seen.
She stared back at him, and then a brilliant, happy smile lit her face.
"Clark," she whispered. "You're home."
He knew he was smiling back, just as brightly. He opened his arms and stepped toward her, and she flung herself against him.
He wrapped his arms around her and held her against him. After years of not seeing her, not talking to her, not even hearing the sound of her heartbeat, having her in his arms felt like the fulfillment of two years' worth of dreams.
As much as he'd missed her, he didn't regret his decision to leave. He'd learned so much over the past two years. He felt like he was finally ready to take up the mantle of a hero. He was confident that he could help the world now.
But he also knew that to accomplish everything he wanted, he needed her by his side.
He closed his eyes and held her more tightly, grateful to finally be home.
I've seen every sunset
And with all that I've learned
It's to you I will always