Sullivan Kent/Barri Allen
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC, sort of. At least they're based on characters that do!
One question haunts and hurts
Too much, too much to mention:
Was I really seeking good
Or just seeking attention?
Is that all good deeds are
When looked at with an ice-cold eye?
If that's all good deeds are
Maybe that's the reason why
No good deed goes unpunished
All helpful urges should be circumvented
No good deed goes unpunished
Sure, I meant well --
Well, look at what well-meant did...
-"No Good Deed," from "Wicked"
As the last echoes of a shot died away, Superman-- otherwise known as Sullivan Kent-- zoomed toward a dark back alley in Metropolis. He landed beside an inert body on the pavement, so hard that his boots cracked the concrete, and fell to his knees.
"No, no, no." He spoke in a desperate whisper, listening for the sound of her heartbeat. It was there, but just barely. Barri Allen (a.k.a.Impulse) possessed superspeed-- she was one of the very few people on the planet who could outrace him-- and unusual strength, but she wasn't invulnerable, the way he was.
Which explained why she was lying on the pavement, a crimson puddle forming beneath her.
He knelt there, frozen with indecision. Moving her might prove fatal. And yet if he didn't move her--
He listened to her heartbeat, which was fading fast, and came to the bleak realization that if he didn't get her to a hospital in the next minute or two, she wouldn't survive. He couldn't wait for an ambulance or paramedics. He had to move her now.
Pushing his fear and indecision aside, he scooped her up in his arms and rocketed toward Metropolis General.
His fault. It was all his fault.
Dressed in tattered jeans and a Nickelback t-shirt, Sully paced back and forth in the hospital waiting room. Barri's parents sat near him, holding one another. He wished he had someone to hold him. He'd called his mom, and she was on her way, but she'd been working on a story some distance outside of town, and it'd take her a while to get here. He'd stripped Barri's suit off to protect her identity, and passed the whole event off to his mom and the doctors as a mugging, but he was miserably aware that it wasn't.
Barri was in danger of dying because she was a hero.
If only... he thought wretchedly. If only he hadn't met Barri, if only he hadn't become friends with her, if only she hadn't followed his lead and gone back into the hero business she'd left behind...
There was no doubt in his mind that if she hadn't met him, she would have been safely in her dorm room, studying industriously for her next big exam. She wouldn't have been out on the streets, trying to save people and getting shot in the chest as a reward.
When he'd assumed the mantle of Superman, when he'd put on his father's suit, he'd been seeking redemption. He'd been trying to make himself a better person. But Barri hadn't needed to become a better person, damn it. She'd always been incredible, one of the most amazing people he knew.
He'd led her into this. And he'd been wrong. He saw that now, as clearly as he'd ever seen anything. He shouldn't have gotten her into the hero business. Hell, maybe he never should have gotten into the hero business. He'd told himself he wanted to save people, but deep down, he suspected maybe he was just trying to convince himself he wasn't a loser. He'd wanted people to think better of him. And Barri had. She'd fallen for the new him, convinced that he was a hero.
He remembered the sight of her on the sidewalk, motionless, a puddle of crimson beneath her, and he knew that he wasn't a hero. He was still the same damn loser he'd always been, only in Technicolor.
If Barri bled to death, it would be entirely his fault.
She can't die, he thought firmly, as if one of his superpowers was positive thinking. She just can't. I won't let her die.
He'd lost his father half a year before, and he couldn't stand the thought of losing someone else who mattered to him. But holding back death wasn't one of his abilities, either. If she'd been mortally injured, she'd die, and there was nothing in this world he could do about it.
He stopped his pacing, sank into a chair, and buried his face in his hands.
Two hours-- two very long hours-- later, a surgeon appeared.
"Mr. and Mrs. Allen?"
Sully had been listlessly staring at the television, so lost in his own misery that he hadn't even heard the surgeon's footsteps approaching. At the voice, he jerked his head around and listened.
"Yes?" Bart answered, getting to his feet. He was a small, graying man who didn't look at all like one of the world's greatest superheroes, and his eyes were filled with the same mixture of hope and dread that Sully knew was reflected in his own eyes.
The surgeon held out his hand in a reassuring gesture. "I just wanted to let you know that your daughter is out of danger."
Sully looked at the man with gratitude, mixed with a little awe. It was a little humbling to realize that for all his superpowers, this ordinary human man had far more power over life and death than he himself did.
Bart broke into a wide grin. "Thank you," he said. "Can we see her?"
"When she wakes up, you can see her." The surgeon looked at Sully for the first time, and offered a kind smile. "I think we can allow her friend to see her for a moment, too."
Naturally, Barri's parents got to go into the room first. But after fifteen minutes or so, they came back to the waiting room. Bart dropped a sympathetic hand on Sully's shoulder.
"She asked for you, Sullivan."
Sully swallowed, then stood up and headed down the hall. At the door of her room, he paused and looked at her. Against the stark white sheets, she looked very fragile and pale, and terror gripped his heart anew at the thought that he had come so close to losing her.
He'd been fighting against his feelings for her, telling himself he didn't have time to fall in love right now. But all at once he realized love didn't wait around till you had time for it.
It came, whether you were ready for it or not.
"Hey," he said.
She turned her head on the pillow and smiled slightly, as if the effort were exhausting. "Hey yourself. Come sit for... a minute."
The words came slowly, as if they too were exhausting. He sat in the chair next to her bed and took her hand in his, very carefully. It seemed very small in his. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
He heard a faint snort. "How... did I know... that was going to be... the first thing out of your mouth?"
He sighed. "Barri, it's all my fault..."
"And yep... I knew that... would be the second thing."
He refused to be sidetracked. "I should have been there to protect you. In fact, I should never have let you help me at all..."
"Help you?" Despite her clear exhaustion, her eyes blazed, and her words grew stronger. "I told you before, Junior, I'm not a sidekick. I do... my own saves... and I make my own decisions. Going back to work... was my choice, not yours."
"I should have tried harder to talk you out of it. If you hadn't been out there--"
"Then a lot of people... would have died." Her eyelids flickered, and her voice subsided. "But going back out there... was the right decision, Sully. It was the right thing to do..."
Her voice trailed off, and she fell asleep. He sat there for a long moment, holding her hand, just watching her breathe, just listening to the sound of her heartbeat.
She was okay. She was alive. And she'd be fine. This time.
And somehow-- somehow-- he had to make sure there wasn't a next time. He had to make her see that she couldn't go out there again. It was just too damn dangerous.
He'd almost lost her today. And he damn well wasn't going to lose her again.
"He seems like a nice kid," Bart said in the waiting room.
"Yes." Andrea Rojas Allen's voice was still lightly accented. She had a beautiful, musical voice. In fact she was still a gloriously beautiful woman, and Bart wondered, as he had so many times in the past, just how he'd been so lucky as to marry her.
Love moves in mysterious ways, he thought wryly.
He thought of the young man who'd waited out here with them, grief and guilt written clearly in his emerald eyes, and he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Sullivan Kent was in love with his daughter.
And that only made him feel worse.
"It's too bad..." he started.
Andrea shushed him. "He has superhearing, remember?"
Bart sighed, because if there was one thing in this world it wasn't good at, it was shutting up. "I just don't like what's being planned, Andrea. He's a really good kid. And he and Barri... well..."
"We have no choice," she answered. "It has to be done."
Bart drew in another breath, and nodded in resignation.
"Yeah," he said. "I guess it does."
But just because something had to be done, didn't mean he had to like it.
Chloe Sullivan Kent stood up as her son walked back into the waiting room. She'd been on the trail of a story, three hours north of Metropolis, and had just gotten here. She looked at Sully as he walked into the room, seeing the weariness stamped on his face.
He looked so much older, she thought, studying him. He wasn't the boy he'd been six months ago. There was a tiredness in his movements, the exhaustion of those who carry the world on their shoulders. Atlas Syndrome, she'd once dubbed it. It was a familiar expression, one she'd seen before. On Sullivan's father's face, and on every hero she knew.
She wondered how on earth she'd failed to see it before now.
Two nights ago, she'd seen Sullivan stripping off his clothes to reveal the costume beneath, and she'd realized with a jolt that her son was Superman 2. The shock had nearly driven her to her knees. She should have realized, long ago, but somehow... she hadn't.
Somehow she hadn't been able to see him as anything but the same amiable, lazy kid he'd always been, a boy who'd been into mischief from the day he was born, a boy who'd never applied his formidable intelligence and all his superhuman strength to make something of himself.
And while she'd been lecturing him on college, his laziness, and the need to apply himself, he'd made something of himself.
And she hadn't even noticed.
Sully looked up, noticing her for the first time, and smiled. His smile was tired, too, and something about it-- the pain and sorrow it inadequately concealed, maybe-- made her open her arms. He went to her wordlessly, wrapping his arms around her and pressing his face into her shoulder.
"Mom," he whispered.
Her eyes smarted with tears. He wasn't her boy any more, but he still needed comforting, and that made her happy somehow. She wanted to blurt out the secret she'd carried for two days-- Sully, I know you're Superman 2, tell me how this happened, I'm so proud of you, why on earth didn't you tell me?-- but she remembered her experience with Sully's dad, long years ago, and held her tongue.
When he was ready to tell her, he'd tell her. And until then, she wouldn't ask.
Because Chloe Sullivan Kent could keep a secret with the best of them.