Disclaimer: These characters are derived from characters owned by the CW and DC Comics.
Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I'm through with playing by the rules
Of someone else's game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It's time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes and leap!
It's time to try
I think I'll try
And you can't pull me down!
-"Defying Gravity" (Wicked)
At first, all she'd seen was his smile.
Sullivan Kent-- Sully-- was a beautiful man. Three inches over six feet, with dark hair and green eyes, he'd make any woman look twice. God knew she'd looked twice.
No, she'd looked a couple of hundred times, at least.
But it hadn't taken very long before she'd realized that Sully, while sweet and kind and funny, didn't have a single ambitious bone in his body. The two of them weren't at all similar. She was at Metropolis U to work. Sully was here to party.
So she'd carefully kept him at arm's distance. She allowed herself to talk to him, to become friends with him, but she'd done her best to ignore his endless flirting. And whenever she saw him macking on another woman-- a long, long succession of them-- she somehow managed to hold back her impulse to start a catfight.
Sully wasn't her type, despite the strange attraction she felt toward him, a pull that felt as inexorable as gravity. He was a sweet guy, but he just wasn't the kind of guy she needed. She'd known he was Superman's son, of course, but he apparently hadn't inherited a single one of Superman's traits. She'd grown up among superheroes, worked side by side with them, and Sully... well, he was the absolute furthest thing from a superhero.
At least, that was what she'd believed.
When she'd finally realized he ws the guy who'd put on Superman's old costume and become Superman 2, she was astonished to realize that her instincts had been right all along. Sully was the kind of guy she needed.
And so, when he kissed her in his mother's kitchen, she kissed him back.
Her fingers slid into his dark hair, and she kissed him long and hard. At last he drew back, looking astounded, as if he'd never been kissed before.
"Wow," he said.
"Wow yourself," she answered. "Not bad for a guy with so little experience."
She saw his cheeks flush slightly at her teasing, and she grinned. "I'm kidding, Sully."
"I know," he answered. "I just... well..." His cheeks grew redder. "I wish you were the first girl I ever kissed, Barri. I wish I'd tried harder when I first met you. I wish I'd tried to be a better guy then, so you'd have been interested in me. I've wasted all this time..."
"Sully." She put her hand on his cheek and looked into his eyes. "Everything you've done, the good and the bad, the right and the wrong, has made you the man you are today. And I like the man you are today."
He accepted that like a man receiving absolution for his sins, nodding gravely. "Thank you," he said softly.
She smiled into his eyes.
"I'll see you at lunch," she said.
"So you really feel ready now."
Sully nodded as he sipped at his Coke. "Yeah," he answered. "I do. When I first started, I was just stumbling through the darkness without a light. But now, with everything I've learned, I think I can cope a lot better."
"I think you were doing a pretty good job already," Barri said.
He looked shyly embarrassed-- an odd expression on him, given that he was usually ridiculously cocky. "You know I was having some pretty serious issues, Barri. I was having a hard time finding a balance. If you hadn't made me take a break, I would have worked until I collapsed."
"But now you have some help from the Justice League."
"Yeah. Batman's going to make sure there's some backup here. So you can put your suit away, if you want to focus on college."
Barri sighed. "I'm not sure what I want to do."
"I thought that was my line," Sully quipped.
"Ha, ha. I'm serious. I thought I knew what I wanted, Sully. When I turned eighteen, I decided to put my suit away and focus on college for four years. But when I went back out on the street to cover for you, I realized I'd been forgetting how many people need help. I'm not sure I can justify keeping my suit packed away. I think... I think maybe it's selfish of me."
He reached out and took her hand, which seemed to be swallowed up by his enormous paw. His hand was oddly soft-- no calluses, she reminded herself-- but impossibly strong.
"I don't think it's selfish," he said. "I think you need to do whatever makes you happy."
She looked at him. "Have you been doing what makes you happy, Sully?"
"The saving people thing... yeah, that makes me happy." He blew out a breath, making her hair blow as if in a March breeze. "The college, not so much. I don't really think... well, look, Barri..." He stumbled to a halt, then went on. "Thing is, I told my mom I was dropping out of college."
"I'm not surprised," she said gently. "I don't think college was ever a good fit for you."
"Yeah, well..." He hesitated again, looking adorably and uncharacteristically shy. "I was kind of worried that maybe you might think that I'm, you know, kind of a loser..."
"Because you don't want to get a degree?" She rolled her eyes. "Sully. You save people every day. Leaving college so you can save more lives does not make you a loser, by any sensible definition. The truth is, I think maybe you might have been happier if you'd never gone to college to begin with."
"Yeah," he admitted. "I think I always knew it was wrong for me, deep down. But it was what my parents wanted me to do. Maybe I should have trusted my instincts and not come here. Then again..." He squeezed her hand. "If I hadn't come to college, I wouldn't have met you."
She felt another smile tugging at her lips. "True."
He looked down at the empty tray, and smiled ruefully. "I guess it's time for me to get back to work."
"Wait," she blurted.
He looked up at her and cocked an eyebrow questioningly.
"I..." It was her turn to blush. "I was just wondering if you'd take me flying. I've never flown. I can climb pretty high, but it's not the same thing."
"No, I suppose it isn't." He stood up and reached out his hand, which she took as a gesture of acquiescence. She wrapped her fingers around his and let him lead her outside.
In the deserted alley behind the deli, he picked her up in his arms, and the two of them shot up into the sky. Faster than a speeding bullet, she thought with amusement, recalling an old phrase that had frequently been uttered about Sully's father. The wind blew her hair back, and she laughed in delight.
"This is great, Sully!"
"It used to scare me," his deep voice confessed in her ear. "I tried never to fly if I could help it. But I've grown to love it."
"Yeah," he said softly. "I guess I have."
She turned her head and buried her face in his chest. In only a matter of months, he'd changed a great deal. He'd grown from a boy to a man. And once again it made her wonder if she'd made the right choices, if there was anything she could do to grow into a better person.
You know the answer to that question, she told herself. You already know what you need to do.
And it was true. She knew. She had to put her costume back on, and help the people who needed her. She didn't have to drop out of college, but she could no longer turn her back entirely on the world, either.
The world needed all the superheroes it could get.
They flew over Metropolis, effortlessly defying gravity, and she looked down on the city-- their city-- and smiled.