By Alicia U. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: April, 2003
Summary: After not being able to save everyone at a rescue, Clark is devastated. On returning home he realizes where his strength to continue comes from.
As Clark Kent was well aware, life as a superhero definitely had its ups and downs. Sure, the positive feelings that invaded his heart after saving someone usually outweighed the depression that overwhelmed his heart when he failed, but that did not change the immense pain and suffering that his failures caused his soul. The pain nearly rendered him senseless. Why did the pain from one tragedy outweigh more than a week's worth of exhilarating successes?
The knowledge that he was able to save countless innocent lives usually made being Superman worthwhile. In fact, Clark usually thrived on the fact that he had the ability to help so many people as his alter ego. However, there were just some times, rare as they were, that Clark Kent wished that he hadn't been blessed with the superpowers that he possessed. If he were just an ordinary man, he wouldn't have to deal with the pain that came from not being able to help someone.
No, that was wrong. Deep down he knew that if he was "normal" he would still feel the same way about helping the innocent. He would never be able to deal with seeing innocent people die. As a reporter, he saw it all the time. However, as Superman he often found himself able to change the course of fate. If he didn't have his powers, he wouldn't be able to make a difference in the world and in an individual man or woman's life — and he knew that it would be hard for him to deal with. The desire to help people was deeply rooted in his psyche. There was no way he would ever be able to shake it — even if he did find himself powerless.
In fact, to put it bluntly, sometimes being a superhero really sucked. It wasn't the most eloquent thought, but it was true. Sure, the feeling of saving lives, helping people in need, and seeing the effect he had on the world were definitely the most incredible feelings that anyone could experience. He was probably the only person alive that knew those feelings so well — that experienced them on an everyday basis.
Okay, it was unfair for him to think like that. There were plenty of people in the world that dedicated their lives to helping others on a daily basis. Doctors, nurses, firefighters, and police all fought to save innocent lives every day without the benefit of any superpowers. It was unfair for him to think even for a moment that he was the only person that experienced the exhilaration of saving lives and the pain of loss when he failed. Maybe dealing with failure was harder in his case because he never expected to fail. However, he had never experienced the pain of failure in any other context than as Superman. He knew that the world understood that people who did not possess superhuman powers were fallible. What ever they did to help was not taken for granted and whenever they failed, it was accepted by the world — if not by themselves. These people, though, save so many lives without the aid of any power other than the power of the human spirit — so much more than they were ever expected to do. Clark didn't even consider himself worthy in comparison. However, in his case, since he was held to a higher standard, everyone — including himself — expected him to succeed in every endeavor because he possessed so many amazing abilities. He owed it to the world to be able to use his powers for the good of the world. The high expectations he placed on himself made the pain that he felt when he could not save someone exponentially deeper than it would have been otherwise.
He hated that feeling, the pain of not being able to get to someone in need in time when everyone expected him to be the fastest man in the world. Actually, he expected that of himself. What kind of Superman was he if he couldn't help everyone in need? Why were there some people he just couldn't save?
That was what had happened tonight. It was simple. He had been too late. Too late — he just hadn't been fast enough. Of course he was faster than a speeding bullet, but even a speeding bullet wasn't fast enough tonight. He had allowed three innocent people to die. It was his fault. He hadn't gotten there in time.
Even as he now quickly flew over the Metropolis skyline at breakneck speed, his mind was full of the despair he felt every time he let an innocent person die. He had been too late. Too late. Too late. The words rang in his head and painfully ravaged his brain. Maybe this was what a headache felt like. His temples were pounding and his head felt like it was going to explode from the pressure that was building up.
The horrible scene haunted him. Each time he tried to close his eyes, he could see the three bodies of a woman and her two children lying lifeless in a mangled van, in vivid color. His mind tried to replay the situation over and over in his head, trying to see if there was anything he could have done differently, any possibility that he had done something wrong that had let these innocent people die. Was there any way he could have gotten there faster? Could he have stopped the drunk driver that had hit the minivan? It was his fault. He hadn't gotten there in time. What could he have done differently? Was there anything that he could have changed so that he would have gotten there faster?
It had been a drunk driver. Of course it seemed like this was always the case, but the drunk had been able to walk away from the accident unharmed. He had caused a devastating accident that left two vehicles badly twisted together, but he was able to open his truck's door and walk away unscathed.
Wasn't that the way it always worked? A woman and her two kids who had just been innocently driving home from the Metrostars baseball game had their van smashed by a drunk driver that crashed a red. The woman was killed instantly and the little boy and girl both died just after Superman arrived. There had been nothing he could do to save them. Three innocent lives were lost. All because he hadn't been fast enough.
The drunk driver walked away from the accident without a scratch. He didn't even have a bump or bruise on his body. The drunk hadn't even realized that he had caused the accident. He kept raving that the van had crashed the red light and had hit him. Plus, when he saw Superman, he got excited and begged the hero for his autograph — obviously not even realizing the gravity of the situation that he had caused. Even though it went against his every moral foundation, Superman couldn't help but feel the slightest urge to inflict pain on this drunk man, this murderer.
Any time innocent people died, Clark felt a deep pain in his heart. However, this situation hurt him more than he ever expected. The thought that he was trying to avoid crept into his mind. This family could have been any family. He didn't know them, but when the woman's husband, the children's father, had arrived on the scene, Clark's heart went out to him. Although no one there knew it, Superman, Clark Kent in disguise, could profoundly identify with the situation. He could easily put himself into this man's place. It was way too easy for him to feel the devastated husband and father's pain.
The horrible thought that had been invading his mind ever since he first saw the accident was 'this woman could have been Lois and the little boy and girl our future children.' He thanked God that it hadn't been his family in this horrible situation, but the situation could have just as easily been reversed. What if he had been too late to save them? Just as he had been too late now to save this innocent family, would he someday be too late to save his own family? Would he have to deal with the same emotional pain as the poor, devastated man was now? How would he be able to deal with anything happening to his own family if the deaths of three people he didn't even know were hurting him so profoundly?
Actually, throughout his career as Superman, he had seen more death, destruction, and devastation first hand than many people even saw on the news in their lifetime. However, no incident had ever affected him as much as the accident tonight had. He had never felt such a strong fear that the situation could have happened to someone he loved.
Why did he suddenly associate this disaster with his own family? He had always been able to distance himself from any disaster he witnessed. His family had never been associated with any of the disasters he had seen before. But now it was different. His senses were heightened and his mind was working overtime. Maybe now he was looking at everything differently because of what Lois had told him over dinner that night: she was pregnant. After nearly four years of marriage, overcoming infertility and three years of trying, they were now going to have a baby — the one thing that they had tried and hoped for with all of their strength.
Maybe the knowledge that they would soon have their own child to protect in the world made Clark hyper-sensitive to any situation involving children. Even though they did not have any kids yet, Clark still felt the intense need to protect their unborn child at all costs. Maybe that desire to protect his own baby branched out to every other child. It had always been the hardest for him to deal with any accidents involving children, but now with his mind clouded by the knowledge that he would soon be a father, the pain was that much more intense when he put himself into the husband and father's shoes. Before he hadn't had a frame of reference to be able to identify with the father in this situation but now everything had changed.
The thoughts clouded his mind to the point where he didn't even realize that he had made it home. He had flown through his bedroom window without even realizing. All of the papers that had been on the bed stand now were scattered all over the floor by the gust of wind he created as he flew into the room at breakneck speed.
He was home — finally home. The one person he could tell all of his feelings to was here. Lois was the only person in the world that knew Superman's deepest emotions. She was the only person that could completely comfort him no matter what had happened. It was amazing, but she didn't even need him to say anything to know what was wrong. It was almost like they had a telepathic connection. For all he knew, they probably did.
Lois knew him better than he knew himself. She knew that after an experience like tonight, he just needed to hold on to her and cry. No one would have known if from looking at his tough exterior, but Superman had a soft side that he almost never showed. Whenever something had fazed him so traumatically, in such a profound way, he just needed to hold Lois in his arms and silently sob into her shoulder. He didn't even need to talk. It was enough for him to just let all of his emotions out first and then tell her exactly what had happened.
He couldn't help but feel his spirits lighten as he looked at his wife's lithe form. It looked like she had been waiting for him, but had lost the battle a while ago. He definitely didn't blame her. The disastrous, botched rescue had taken much longer than he had anticipated. When he had left dinner just after she had told him that she was pregnant, he told her to wait up for him. And it looked like she had. They had both been expecting him to be home hours ago — and it looked like Lois had planned an exciting evening of slow, sweet lovemaking in celebration of their good news. But he had missed it because of the disaster. She was curled up, obviously fast asleep, in the middle of their bed wearing the black teddy that he had bought for their honeymoon. There was one thing above all else that made his heart jump and the first smile cross his face since he saw the accident: Lois was curled up with his pillow grasped tightly to her body.
He didn't know why that of all things sparked his heart to beat again. Maybe it was the knowledge that his wife was alive and well. Maybe it was the knowledge that she loved him and the image of her hugging his pillow was enough to reassure him of that fact. However, it was probably because he knew that he was home. Home was a place of sanctity, of peace. Lois and his unborn child were here and nothing could hurt any of them here. Of course, nothing could dampen the intense feeling of loss and despair that he felt after the accident he saw. However, it did give him a sense of hope.
Now he was struck with the feeling that he never wanted to leave the sanctity of his home again. He knew that it was an impossible wish that could never come true. As good as it felt to be snuggled in bed with his wife for the rest of his life, he knew that it was an unrealistic dream. Even if he gave up being Superman forever, he was sure Perry wouldn't appreciate them quitting their jobs at the 'Planet' just to spend time in bed together.
He decided that he would take one interrupted night alone in bed with his wife just to hold her and think about how lucky he was and how much pain there was in the world. It didn't really seem like an adequate substitute, but he had to take all that was offered. The only thing he wanted was to forget his job as a superhero for just one night to recover from the disaster. Just as he spun out of the suit and was climbing into bed, he heard a cry for help coming from somewhere in Suicide Slum. He knew that his wish was not going to come true. However, he felt his spirits lifted as he glanced at Lois again. She would be here waiting for him when he got home. Even though he hadn't gotten the quiet night at home in bed with his wife that he had wanted, he had gotten exactly what he needed — the unspoken love and support of the most important person in his life.
This time he was going to get there on time. No innocent lives would be lost. His heart was still heavy with the sense of loss from the accident, but now was his chance to make a difference again. He was going to get there on time this time. He wouldn't let innocent people die again.
As he spun back into his suit and flew out the window, he was struck with one last reassuring thought. Soon he would be back home, with his wife, in their bed. Knowing that he had such a wonderful home to come back to made leaving that much more bearable. Knowing that Lois and his unborn baby were waiting for him to return was what made everything worthwhile.
Soon he would be back home where he belonged.
Author's note: I was listening to my "Tim McGraw and the Dance Hall Doctors" CD while I was doing my homework, and the song "Back Home" inspired me to write this fic — which really has nothing to do with the song. I have a few people to thank for all of their help. First to everyone that was on IRC — I have learned not to tell anyone on that I wrote a fanfic and don't want to share it. Thanks to their threats — um, encouragement — this story saw daylight. Thank you, Kaethel, for beta reading this for me :). Her comments definitely made this a better story than it was. Also, thank you, Rivka, for the wonderful comments that further improved my story :). And also, thank you, Tricia, for editing this for the archive — and again improving it until it reached its final form :). If not for the help of these wonderful folcs, and very talented editors, the fic you have just read would have truly been "my very bad fic" ;).