Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
I want to fly like an eagle
To the sea
Fly like an eagle
Let my spirit carry me...
-"Fly Like an Eagle," Steve Miller Band
"I just can't make it work."
Clark Kent stood in the enormous structure known as the Watchtower, his long black coat almost brushing the stone floor. He didn't allow himself to show frustration often these days, but after weeks of futile effort, it was hard to keep the annoyance out of his voice.
"Flying, you mean."
"Yes, flying." He stalked restlessly across the floor. "I ought to be able to do it, but I can't. Jor-El says it's because I'm still allowing my human side to rule my thinking, but..."
"Jor-El," Chloe Sullivan said, "is an idiot."
He couldn't help the slight smile that curved his mouth. Chloe was his oldest and best friend, and despite all the issues they'd had lately, they were slowly getting their friendship back on an even keel. Chloe had a way of cutting to the heart of matters, a snarky, direct way of looking at things that he'd missed while they were fighting.
"Jor-El has done a lot to get me on the right path," he pointed out.
"Has he?" She rose to her feet and walked toward him. "Have you looked in a mirror lately, Clark?"
He blinked at her. "I don't understand."
"Look at yourself." She pointed at his chest with a finger, and he looked down, seeing the blurry outline of a Kryptonian sigil on his t-shirt.
"That's my House symbol," he said, a little huffily. "It represents my Kryptonian heritage."
"Yes," she answered. "I know. But what part of this costume represents your human heritage?"
He sighed. "Chloe, I don't have a human heritage. I'm Kryptonian."
"By birth, yes. By upbringing, no. Do you really believe Jonathan and Martha did absolutely nothing to mold you into the man you are today?"
He shrugged uncomfortably. His human parents had been very, very important to him, and he knew that Jor-El-- the real Jor-El, not the AI he was currently training with-- had chosen them deliberately, in the belief that they were the best possible parents for him on this world. But the AI constantly seemed to deride his human parents and their contributions to his life, so he'd learned to not talk about them much.
"My human side has nothing to do with my work as the Blur," he said, lifting his chin. He was aware he sounded a little haughty, a little you-are-beneath-me-lowly-human, but he couldn't help getting a bit defensive.
"I know it doesn't. And that's the problem."
He cocked his head. "Explain."
"Clark, this..." She waved her hands, encompassing his costume from long black coat and t-shirt to his heavy leather boots. "This is not you. This is not the guy I've known since middle school. I don't know what this is, exactly. Your costume reminds me of the Angel of Vengeance, or maybe of that Bat vigilante we keep hearing about in Gotham. It's not you. You look like a vigilante."
"I am a vigilante."
"Are you?" She glared challengingly into his eyes. "Or are you a hero?"
"It's the same thing," he muttered, more defensively than before.
"No, it's not." Her finger was jabbing at his chest again. "And I think that's the problem, Clark. You need to get the difference clear in your own head. When you're rescuing people, saving lives, then you're a hero. But when you're burning the sigil of the House of El into property everywhere you go... then you're a vigilante."
"That's not what Jor-El told me. He says--"
"Since when do you let a machine do your thinking for you?" She was right up in his face now, looking annoyed. He suddenly recognized she'd been choking back a lot of opinions over the past month, while they were fighting, and now that things were settling down between them she felt more free to let him have it, the way she always had when she thought he was out of line. "Clark, look at yourself. Look at yourself! Is this really the man you want to be? Do you really think you look like a hero? Do you really think you're acting like a hero?"
He looked down at the stark black costume. In a sudden, vivid flash of memory, he recalled carving his symbol into someone's car door this morning, and shame rolled over him as he realized she was right.
He wanted to be a hero. More than anything, he wanted to protect people.
But since he'd put on this costume, he had to admit, he hadn't been going about it the right way. His parents-- his human parents-- wouldn't be proud of him.
Chloe seemed to read the doubt and guilt in his expression. She put a hand on his shoulder.
"You've been going through a lot," she said gently. "Everything that happened last year. Davis, Jimmy, the other people who died. Lois' disappearance. Our fight. I know it's been hard. But now that you have a little emotional distance from everything that's happened, I think you need to reconsider all this."
"Yeah." He nodded. "I think you're right."
Her hand tightened on his shoulder in a supportive gesture. "And once you figure out what the man you want to be looks like, what he acts like... well, then I honestly think flying won't be a problem for you any more."
The next day, he blurred into the Watchtower. She turned around and stared at him for a long moment.
"Clark," she said gravely, "you're burning my retinas."
He burst out into laughter, and was startled to realize how good it felt to laugh. Since he'd started working with the AI, he'd been struggling to suppress every emotion. He'd hardly smiled, let alone laughed. But Chloe was right. He couldn't turn his back on his humanity. He couldn't turn his back on emotions.
Laughter and joy and love, and even grief and sorrow-- they all had their places in his life.
"I was going for something different than black."
"You succeeded." She walked around him, looking at the blue t-shirt, onto which he'd affixed a bright scarlet and yellow S symbol, and the long red cape he wore. "It's an improvement. But the towel..."
"It's a cape."
"A cape. Right. Of course it is. And hey, it goes great with the jeans."
"This isn't the final version of my costume," he said, sensing that she was poking gentle fun at him. "It's, you know, a prototype."
She studied him for a long moment, then nodded decisively. "I like it better than the black, that's for sure."
He smiled at her approval. "Me too."
"What does Jor-El think?"
He grinned a little more broadly. "I haven't shown him yet. I'm pretty sure he'll pop a microchip or two."
She chuckled, a warm sound that he suddenly realized he'd missed an awful lot while they were fighting. "Whether Jor-El likes it or not is irrelevant," she said. "For that matter, what I think about it is irrelevant. The question is, does it feel right to you?"
He looked down at himself, seeing the familiar colors he'd worn for years. For years his favorite outfit had been jeans, a blue t-shirt, and a red jacket. This wasn't all that different. It looked familiar. Comfortable.
"Yes," he said. "It does."
"That's what matters," she told him. "Okay, then. You're dressed like a hero. The hero you want to be. And so now... I want you to jump out the window."
He followed her pointing finger and looked dubiously at the open, arched window she indicated. "Uh, Chlo, we're an awfully long way up..."
"Go on, Clark. You can do it."
"But I tried to jump off the Statue of Liberty last week, and it was a total failure. I'm just not sure..."
"That was the vigilante you," she said implacably. "This is the hero you. Trust me, Clark. You can do this."
He walked slowly toward the window, then paused, studying it warily. "Are you sure?"
"Of course I'm sure." She walked up behind him, and her fingers closed around his in a reassuring gesture. "I have faith in you, Clark. I always have."
He turned his head and looked down at her. It was, he thought, nice to have someone in his life who believed in him that much. It was nice to have her back by his side, where she belonged.
"Okay," he said. "Wish me luck."
She smiled up at him, then rose up on her tiptoes and pressed a kiss to his cheek.
"Good luck," she whispered.
His eyes went wide. She'd kissed him.
Instantly, all of Jor-El's lessons about suppressing his emotions faded from his consciousness. He grinned broadly, feeling himself light up from inside, like her kiss had flipped a switch and kindled something hot and incandescent inside him. He hadn't felt this happy in weeks, and he couldn't have repressed his delight if he'd wanted to.
"Go," she said, giving him a little push.
He went. He jumped out the window, his red cape rippling behind him.
And then he shot straight up, soaring confidently into the sky over Metropolis.