Just a Normal (Super) Kid

By Vincent Pai <vincepai@msn.com>

Rating: PG

Submitted February 2007

Summary: After young Jonathan Kent is forced to use his embryonic powers to thwart a high school shooting, the Kents must deal with a world of altered perceptions. Jonathan is forced to deal with unrealistic expectations, adversity, and perhaps worst of all, embarrassment from the public nature of his parents' relationship. Meanwhile, Lois and Clark must find a way to deal with the media and prevent people from treating them differently now that everyone knows that Clark is Superman.

***

Part 1: Flashbacks

Jonathan Kent II groaned as his body protested under the impact of the bullets. As he fell to the ground, he wondered if he had made the right decision. However, the thought lingered only momentarily before he quashed it. <No secret is worth a human life>, Dad had once said. Still, he couldn't help but feel a deep sense of guilt. <Mom, Dad — I'm sorry> was his last conscious thought before scenes from his life started rushing into his mind.

***

<Flashback>

"Please!? All of my friends are getting one, too!" he pleaded with his dad. Six year old Jonathan had never felt the need to own a Superman action figure before, but Tommy and Greg and Kevin and all of the other elementary school kids had them, and he just *knew* that now he needed to have one too.

Dad squirmed uncomfortably. "Are you really sure it has to be Superman, Jonathan? Maybe a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle would work! Or how about this one? Nenenene Nenenene BATMAN!" Dad excitedly waved the caped crusader in front of his eyes.

"I'm sure! Dad, *everybody* knows that Superman is the best. And Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are for little kids!" Jonathan couldn't believe that his dad thought that Donatello or Batman could compare to Superman. Adults were supposed to know everything!

Batman became still in Dad's hands as they stopped moving. "So…you're really sure?" he asked, his face seeming to pray that Jonathan would suddenly change his mind.

"Yes!" Jonathan replied somewhat indignantly. It was so obvious!

Just then Mom appeared with the shopping cart full of groceries. Mom! She would understand! "Mom? Can I get this Superman toy? Everyone else has one!" he begged.

"Of course, Jonathan. All of the other kids seem to carry one around. *Normally*, that is," Mom said as she shot a pointed stare at Dad. With a defeated sigh, Dad slumped his shoulders and mumbled something that vaguely sounded like, "Oh, all right…" while avoiding eye contact with Mom.

Jonathan broke into a huge, openmouthed smile. Really, dads could be so dumb sometimes.

***

Furrows appeared on Jonathan's forehead as he contemplated the animated Disney film that had just finished playing on the living room TV. Dad got up from the sofa, where Jonathan and his parents were sitting, to grab the remote control that would turn off the television.

"Jonathan, you seem to have something on your mind. Do you have a question about the movie?" Mom asked, an earnest expression on her face.

"Why did Ariel turn into a human to marry Eric? Won't she miss being a mermaid?" Jonathan asked.

"Well, she really loved Eric and so she really, really wanted to marry him," Mom answered, apparently surprised that her nine year-old son still found the concept of romantic love so foreign.

"Yeah, I got that part. But wouldn't it be hard for Ariel to learn how to be a human after being a mermaid her whole life? I mean, wouldn't it have been easier for her to marry a boy mermaid instead?" Jonathan asked, still unsatisfied.

"Well…I'm sure Ariel was a fast learner-" Mom began, before Jonathan suddenly bolted up to the edge of the sofa and interrupted her with his sudden revelation.

"Oh wait, I know! It was because she was *so* ugly that none of the boy mermaids liked her!" Jonathan exclaimed, pleased at having figured out the answer all by himself.

He turned to face his mother proudly, only to see her eyes wide and mouth hanging open, and looking…hurt? But before he could wonder why Mom looked hurt, Dad quickly sat back down onto the couch behind Mom, wrapped his arms around her waist, and laughed over her shoulder, "Oh no, Jonathan — didn't you notice that there weren't any human women around in the movie? In fact, Ariel did Eric a *huge* favor by marrying him. I mean, if she hadn't, he would have been sad and lonely his whole life," Dad said, smiling at Mom, who stopped looking sad and turned her head around to smile back at Dad.

"Oh. Well, that's not very realistic," Jonathan said. For some reason his parents seemed to find that funny.

***

"…I'm Superman."

Time seemed to freeze during the moments that his father's words took to register in his mind. No, today is not April Fool's Day…it was his birthday in fact, his 11th. Oh my god, Mom isn't laughing either. Then the penny dropped. *Of course*. His mouth dropped open and his eyes widened as he put all of the pieces together.

All of those unexplainable sounds around the house. His parents' totally irrational fear that the city parking meters would try to cheat them. Those times that his father went to the bathroom twice in a span of less than 2 minutes. Superman seemingly at their beck and call every time they took a vacation beyond driving distance. Dad's ridiculous idea that he shouldn't be seen doing the dishes, yet always claiming the task as his.

Jonathan Kent II stared slack jawed at his father, Clark Kent, the man he admired most in the world, now knowing that he was also Superman, the man who, well, everyone else admired most in the world.

His father had continued speaking, and although he could hear what was being said, he wasn't really *listening* — his profound sense of amazement and awe relegated everything else to the background. "Because you were too young…locked up in a lab and dissected like a frog…don't want you to start wondering if your mom had an affair with Superman…*really* don't want you accidentally seeing or hearing an 'affair' either, boy would that be embarrassing…"

Jonathan suddenly snapped back to reality and interrupted his father's explanation. "Whoa, wait a second, there's just one thing that I *really* have to ask you *right now*."

"Oh, is it about how your powers will develop? I mean, I know it'll be really scary at first, but I'll be there for you all the wa-" Superman, or was it Dad? began.

"No no, now that you mention it, I do have a lot of questions about that, but I was thinking of something else," Jonathan started while he hardened his face and mustered the courage to ask his question.

"Why tights? Why a cape? You're a grown man — don't you feel ridiculous?"

***

Jonathan sighed. Well, there was no more putting off the Social Studies homework — not if he wanted to have time for both Chess Club and Math Club tomorrow, anyways. With resignation, he dug the paper out of his backpack and looked at the questions he was required to answer.

Wait a minute — this homework is a piece of cake! He'd be done in no time. Heck, if all of the homework was going to be like this, maybe New Troy High wouldn't be so tough after all!

1. What is Superman's real name?

<Clark Kent> He wrote down "Kal-El."

2. Who is considered to be Superman's best friend?

<Well, if you don't count mom, then probably Jimmy Olsen> He wrote down "Clark Kent".

3. According to the speculation of most contemporary scholars, is Superman attracted to human females?

<Well, if he isn't, I sure feel sorry for Dad> "No."

4. What is Superman's father's name?

<Jonathan Kent — the first one.> "Jor-El".

5. What does Superman stand for?

<Hey, the answer they want is actually true this time. Well, depending on how you define the word "truth", anyways…> "Truth and Justice."

He turned the page to the next set of questions. Ok, so maybe this wasn't going to be so easy after all. He might actually have to break out the textbook, unless…

"Hey Dad, what was the date when you lifted the Prometheus shuttle into space?" Jonathan shouted to his Dad in the next room. No need to make him use his super hearing.

His dad shouted back the date, with an added, "why do you ask?"

"Oh, just wondering. By the way, what year did you save the world from the Nightfall asteroid?" Jonathan asked as he wrote down the information he had just been given.

"The same year, 1993. Why the sudden interest in dates? Hey, what's that you're writing?"

Uh oh, the last question had a bit of a suspicious tone to it. By the time Jonathan looked up, his Dad was standing right next to him.

"Hey, what's this?" his dad asked curiously as he took the papers from a sheepish looking Jonathan. "What the-? THIS is what they're teaching you in school? What happened to all of the stuff about the Constitution and the Founding Fathers?" his dad half questioned, half yelled as he looked aghast at the questions.

"Uh-" Jonathan started to explain, but his father was already storming off in the direction of his mother.

"LO-IS! Look at what they're teaching at Jonathan's school! When Mr. Trzynadlowski asked us during the PTA meeting how we felt about more progressive education, I had no idea that this was what he meant! Did you *know* about this!?"

<End flashbacks>

***

Lois Lane watched as her partner and husband, Clark Kent, answered his phone at the Daily Planet building. Somehow, she had the feeling that this was no ordinary phone call — she told herself that that was stupid and that she shouldn't be worried, but the deep seated feeling of dread refused to leave her as she sat listening, riveted to Clark's phone conversation.

"Clark Kent of the Daily Planet," he answered in his usual cheerful voice. He listened to what the caller had to say. In an instant his smile disappeared, and his face became a mask of horror. Oh no, something really was wrong. Terribly wrong. "Yes, I understand," he said in what could only be described as a monotone whisper as he slowly put the phone back down on the receiver.

Clark's face rose up to meet her eyes. He then got up, and began to slowly walk over to her desk. With each step closer that he took, the sense of dread that Lois felt continued to grow until it felt as if it was going to overwhelm her senses.

When he reached her, he spoke softly, barely managing to keep the quavering out of his voice. "Lois, that was Metropolis General. Jonathan's been shot."

***

Part 2: The longest 5 minutes

So this is the thing called pain. Such a strange, unfamiliar sensation. Oh, he had read descriptions of it, had imagined in his mind what it must feel like, but he was still surprised at the reality of it. Perhaps hunger and illness felt like this too? But what was it that had created this new feeling? Ah yes, there had been a loud bang. As quickly as his first remembrance came, the rest of his memories tumbled together…

***

<Flashback>

Suddenly, the classroom door burst open to reveal two masked gunmen. "All right, nobody move! Everyone up against that wall!" shouted the one wearing a black leather jacket.

A couple of students began to scream, but quickly cut themselves off at Leather Jacket's menacing stare. Jonathan froze. <Oh my god, this is really happening> he realized, as he numbly rose from his seat to cluster against the wall along with all of the other students and Mr. Bartlett, the teacher.

"And don't even think about yelling for Superman — *anyone* who says *anything* will get it! And don't think that we don't mean business!" said the second man, who was taller than Leather Jacket but just as thin.

<Better not test that theory, this could be trouble if they're serious> thought Jonathan as he began to evaluate his emergency options. <Let's see what they're up to first.>

Tall Guy unpacked what looked like a large bomb out of the duffel bag that the two had brought in, while Leather Jacket reached for the phone on Mr. Bartlett's desk.

"Police? Yeah, here's the deal. We've got a classroom full of kids held hostage, and we want ten million dollars and safe passage to the country of our choice. If our demands are not met, we'll blow the room to smithereens along with everyone in it. If we even *suspect* that Superman is around, we'll detonate the bomb. Oh — and just to show you that we mean business, we're going to shoot one student every five minutes, starting…oh, say, five minutes from now."

Jonathan focused his hearing, and could make out the person on the other end start a cry of protest at the last sentence, but immediately after saying his last word, Leather Jacket hung up the phone.

Muffled whisperings of fear circulated among the hostages, for Leather Jacket had intentionally spoken loudly into the phone so that everyone in the room could hear what he was saying.

<Crap, he sounds serious> thought Jonathan. <Ok, we have five minutes…think!> Quickly, Jonathan X-rayed the bomb. Aha! Just an empty box. Ok, when Dad shows up, he'll be able to see that from above the building. But the police don't know how to contact him — and even if they did, they probably wouldn't want to risk it given that they don't know that the bomb is a dud. So it was highly unlikely that Dad would learn of the situation within five minutes.

Jonathan took a sharp intake of breath as the full implications of his logic hit him. <It's up to me to make sure that nobody dies here today.> He unconsciously hunched his shoulders, as if they were physically burdened by the weight of the responsibility that had suddenly been thrust upon them. <If I fail, people will die. And even if I succeed, the secret that my father worked so hard to protect could be lost.> But he couldn't stand back and do nothing — not while it might be in his power to help. <No, I can't buy our secret, not when the price is measured in human blood.>

His mind now resolute on a course of action, Jonathan took stock of his superpower options. Now that he had convinced himself that physical confrontation was the right thing to do, he was free to single-mindedly focus his entire mind on that task.

What would Dad do? Catch all of the bullets before they hit anyone. Could he do that, too? Theoretically, using his super speed, he would be able to move his hands fast enough to catch bullets. But my brain isn't "super" yet — gotta think about this. He remembered from watching track during the Olympics on TV with his Dad that human nerve impulses take 0.1 seconds to travel to the brain.

<Mine are probably about the same.> Would that be fast enough? Everyone in Metropolis knew that Superman was faster than a speeding bullet — after all, speeding bullets could go at most 1500 meters per second. <But I have a delay of 0.1 seconds, so if the gunmen are at a distance of 150 meters or greater…crap.>

Ok, so that wouldn't work. With a start Jonathan realized that he wasn't even sure that he was even strong enough to get hit by bullets and survive. <Ok, how can I stop those guns from being fired?> Super-strength? He could use his strength to throw tables at the gunmen. But that would probably kill them, and Jonathan was trying to make sure that *nobody* at all died. Besides, whoever he threw a table at, the other gunman could still get some shots off, and if they missed Jonathan and hit somebody else…

Super speed to grab the guns? If he ran really, really fast…but no, without a super brain, his surroundings would pass faster than he could react to. It would be like driving a car at 1500 meters per second…he'd crash into one of the gunmen, crashing them both into the wall before he even thought to apply the brakes — a collision at super speed. No, given his human reaction time, he'd never be able to control his movements at super speed.

Heat vision? Since the two men were standing apart from each other, he could only heat up one of the guns at a time. Since it took a few moments to heat up a gun, the other gunman would be able to shoot him. But at least he would be shooting at him, and not somebody else…

But that got back to the other problem. If the guns were to be fired, since he was the only one who even *might* be able to take bullets, he had to eliminate the possibility of missed shots going past him to hit somebody else. So, he would have to be standing away from the other students. He had to assume the worst case — that the bullets would kill him. If he died before disarming *both* of the gunmen, he'd have made the situation even worse, as the remaining gunman would take it out on the rest of the hostages.

Suddenly, a thought occurred to Jonathan. They were only carrying handguns! He quickly x-rayed the chambers of both guns. They both contained only 6 shots! <OK, I'll use my heat vision on Leather Jacket's gun. As the barrel starts to melt, Tall guy will notice, will almost certainly panic, and start unloading on me. Leather Jacket's gun will be unusable by the time the bullets hit me. Tall guy doesn't know any better than I do what it will take to bring me down, so he'll be firing as fast as he can. 6 bullets will be gone in about 2 seconds — it'll take him longer than that to be 100% sure that I'm dead.>

Just as his plan was worked out, Jonathan was snapped out of his reverie by Leather Jacket. "All right, it's been five minutes! You there, you're first!" he said, pointing at the nearest student. She immediately began crying hysterically.

"No, shoot me first!" Jonathan leapt to his feet as he shouted. He knew that this was his only chance to make it so that nobody else was near the line of fire. Come on, this had to work.

As fast as he could he whispered to the other hostages, "Six bullets each. I'll take one guy; get the other after he's empty." Ignoring the incredulous stares and gasps of the other hostages, Jonathan kept talking in an attempt to keep the gunmen off guard.

"I'm going to walk over there to that other wall and then you can shoot me." Before the gunman could say anything, Jonathan had walked to the adjoining wall.

Caught off guard by Jonathan's sudden insane insubordination, Leather Jacket sputtered, "What the-? You wanna be a hero, kid? Fine!" as he raised his gun.

As Jonathan stared into the barrel of the gun, aiming his heat vision at the opening so that any bullets fired while the gun was melting would also be melted, he thought about how much his family would be affected as a consequence of his actions, whether he survived or not. When the world found out that Superman was really Clark Kent…

Would his father still be able to continue leading a normal life as a reporter? Would his mother become known only as "Superman's wife"? Would Grandma and Grandpa be hounded by the ravenous press in their old age? Would Dad be able to get a green card?

Suddenly, Jonathan realized something of more immediate importance. There was no guarantee that Tall guy would realize that it was him causing Leather Jacket's gun to melt…heat was invisible. So, as he shot the beams of heat at the barrel of the gun that would soon make it glow red, he yelled the most obvious, ostentatious thing that he could think of in the instant before he put his strength to the test against Tall guy's bullets.

"Super Jonathan Heat Vision!!!!"

<End flashback>

***

Clark grimaced as he replayed what he had just been told over the phone in his mind. "Mr. Kent, I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but there was a shooting at your son's high school — but before you say anything, he'll be OK — Emergency Medical Services were already on their way to the school 5 minutes before the shooting started, and he's already here at Metropolis General. Uh, before you say anything, um, there's something that you should know…uh, well, now keep in mind that your son is OK when you listen to what I'm about to tell you next, uh, which is, well, er, um this is really awkward…but anywaysyourson sufferedgunshotwoundsthatwouldbefataltomostpeoplebuthe'sreally strongandImeanreallyreallystrongyoucouldalmostsaysuperhumanly stronganddoyouunderstandwhatI'mtryingtotellyouhere?

<Oh, Jonathan, I am *so* sorry that you had to be the one to do that.> Clark knew that he would give just about *anything* to remove that burden from his son's shoulders. What he must be feeling and going through right now…

But what was done was done, and nothing could change the fact that it had been his son — his only son, that had had to deal with the undeserved guilt that he was no doubt feeling at having to take drastic actions during what surely must have been an impossible, lose-lose situation, instead of himself. It was all his fault.

But, Clark Kent would do the best with what he had — that's what he did. And although he could live with Superman having a reputation as a seducer, he couldn't stand the thought of Lois, *his* Lois, being called a — no, he shouldn't even *think* about anyone calling her that.

"Clark, we have to go see Jonathan!" Lois hissed, interrupting his thoughts.

Clark bowed his head and nodded his silent assent. He looked his wife in the eyes. "I know, honey, but there's something that I have to deal with first — something that I should have done myself before it was forced onto Jonathan."

Seeing Lois's confused expression, Clark acted without explaining, knowing that his actions would make everything clear. The sooner he did this, the better, before the horrible, totally unjustified, news and rumors about his beloved wife became too ingrained in the public consciousness.

"Everybody, there's something you should all know," Clark spoke loudly and clearly, in his best "Superman" voice. Instantly, everybody in the newsroom stopped what they were doing and all eyes focused on the owner of the strangely powerful and commanding voice.

"Our son has just been hospitalized, and Lois and I are leaving the office to see him." At Clark's words, gasps of sympathy came from all present, but sympathy was immediately supplanted by awe at the sights and sounds that followed.

Clark followed up his simple statement by spinning into the suit in the center of the newsroom, with all eyes transfixed on him, creating a whirlwind of primary colors accompanied by a sonic boom. Ignoring everyone else's stunned, speechless looks to face Lois's regretful but determined one, Clark scooped Lois into his arms and flew out the window with no further ado or fanfare, leaving their colleagues in stunned silence.

Finally, it was Jimmy Olsen who broke the spell. "Uh…Chief — what do we do now?" he asked tentatively.

The sound of a human voice seemed to help break Perry White, the editor of the Daily Planet, out of his reverie. Regaining a little bit of his composure, he said in a shell-shocked voice, "Well…I guess we do what Kent just asked us to do…" Suddenly something that he was thinking seemed to revitalize him completely.

"Hey! Now what's everyone standing around for!? You're all supposed to be writing a newspaper, not having a staring contest! There's a story to get out there! I want copy! Today's headline for the afternoon edition: 'Superman Is Clark Kent — And We're Sure This Time'!"

The hustle and bustle of the myriad journalists immediately resumed its normal course as the gears and wheels of one of the nation's finest print institutions began turning. After all, there was a paper to write.

***

Part 3: Conversations

"I can't believe that each of these bruises was a bullet wound," a voice spoke with awed reverence.

"His mind and body were unprepared for the experience of pain — the combination of the physical and psychological shocks rendered him unconscious. All three of the bullets that hit him got through the bioelectric field, but with minor penetration depth at the skin level. The one to the forehead probably played a role in knocking him unconscious, but I suspect that it was mostly mental or perhaps emotional shock," said a different voice.

"That makes sense — my first experience of pain was when I was 27, and I passed out within seconds." The third voice sounded familiar. The other two voices murmured their surprise. "But after that, Kryptonite mostly just hurt me without knocking me out."

Jonathan tried to open his eyes to see who was talking, but all of a sudden he felt so tired…

***

<<Author's warning — uh oh, touchy feely stuff. Ok, here goes nothing…>>

When Jonathan woke up, he saw that he was lying in a hospital bed. His parents were sitting next to the bed, while a familiar-looking girl was sitting in a chair farther away, behind his parents. Ah yes, it was the girl that those gunmen were going to shoot.

"Honey, he's up," Lois and Clark simultaneously whispered to each other.

"Mom! Dad! What happened?" Jonathan asked as he sat up, fearing the worst.

"The other hostages were able to swarm the gunmen, and nobody was seriously hurt. You did good, Jonathan. I've never been prouder of you in my whole life," Clark said with a smile.

"But what about keeping the secret? How are you two doing?"

Lois tried to dismiss her son's concerns. "Jonathan, now is *not* the time to wallow. You know how much I hate that! The important thing is that *you* and everyone else are going to be OK!" she said forcefully.

At Lois's remark the girl in the corner got up and started tentatively, "Um, there's something that I want to say — that is, now that you're all awake, uh, if that's OK with you of course."

"Of course it's OK. Say as much as you want," Clark said reassuringly as he and Lois both turned around to face the outsider to the family.

The girl nodded and swallowed. "Well, I just wanted to say that I can't even imagine what your family must have to give up now that — you know. I'm sorry that it had to be because of me, and I'm really grateful. I just hope that I can be a good enough person someday so that it's not wasted," she said emotionally, with a few tears.

Jonathan winced. "No, it's not your fault. I'm the one who made the decision to-" he began.

"Jonathan! How can you say that? How can you even think that? It's not your fault! Clark, tell him it's not his fault!" Lois turned to her husband as she spoke the last sentence.

"Your mother's right, son." Clark turned to face the girl, placed his hands on her shoulders, and looked her in the eye before continuing. "It's *already* not wasted. You are a human being — a unique individual with your own unique hopes, dreams, and fears. Your life is worth just as much as anyone else's, and it's certainly worth more than our comforts," he said with his most sincere Clark voice.

The girl openly burst into tears now. She nodded. "Thank you," she said simply as she left the Kents to themselves in the small hospital room.

"Jonathan, you did the right thing. In fact, you wouldn't be a Kent if you didn't do what you just did," Clark said, clasping one of Jonathan's hands in his own.

"But, to answer your question, so far it hasn't been that bad actually," he said in a lighter tone. "I've been using shock tactics so far — pretending that it's the most natural thing in the world to have powers like ours. I spun into the suit when I left the office to come here, and once your mother and I landed I spun back into these work clothes and immediately started asking to see you. Basically acting as if we had never even bothered to hide the fact that I'm Superman."

Lois put on a self-satisfied smile. "So far, it's kept everyone slack-jawed enough that they've pretty much done as we asked without saying too much of anything. The longer they act like awed moony-eyed cheerleaders, the longer it'll take for them to start asking questions about the past 18 years." She shot a glare at Clark as he raised his eyebrows at the beginning of her last sentence, but the smile didn't leave her face.

"Ok, so what should I do? I mean, I'll have to face this at school pretty soon, right?" Jonathan asked as he looked to his parents for guidance.

"Jonathan, that's something only you can decide for yourself. You don't have to live up to anyone's expectations but your own, not even mine. Be your own person," Clark said, back to his soft, sincere voice.

"Thanks, dad. I just wish…I just wish that it didn't have to be this way," Jonathan said as he smiled ruefully.

"That's something else that I wanted to tell you about. Let me tell you about a conversation your mom and I had shortly after you were born…"

***

<A little over 17 years ago>

Clark held Lois's hands in his own as they stood next to the crib where their infant son was sleeping peacefully, oblivious to the world around him. As they smiled down at the newest member of the Kent family, Clark spoke. "Lois, I looked at him at the molecular level. He's going to be 'super'. I think we should talk about what this will mean for his future."

Lois reluctantly ripped her gaze away from her baby to look up at her husband. "His future? What do you mean?" she asked, worried at her husband's somber tone.

"I mean, once he's old enough — he's going to want to help people. He's going to *need* to help people," he replied.

"What? Wait, now hold up — shouldn't he eventually make that choice for himself? When he's not just a baby?"

Clark sighed self-deprecatingly. He closed his eyes, took a deep swallow, and opened his eyes again before answering. "Lois, honey — there *is* no choice." At her look of confusion, he continued, "My being Superman isn't all about helping other people — a lot of it is to help myself."

Lois opened her mouth to protest this declaration, but Clark cut her off.

"I couldn't sleep at night if I knew that I had done nothing when there might have been a chance that I could have helped somebody. I know that everybody thinks that my motives are purely unselfish, but the reality is that you or Jimmy or just about anybody else would do the *exact same thing* with my powers. It would take — I don't know, some kind of *monster* to be able to see or hear people calling out for help, knowing that you could make a difference, but still do nothing!" he spoke emphatically.

"Clark," Lois said with downcast eyes, "you always believe the best about other people, even when the evidence that suggests otherwise is staring at you straight in the face. If only you could understand how different — how special you are. It's what made me fall in love with you." She leaned up to kiss her husband passionately.

When Lois had to come up for air, Clark looked at her tenderly and squeezed her hands lightly. "But we still need to talk about this. If Jonathan turns out to be anything like my father, it would destroy him to have to restrain himself from using his powers to help people, and I can't ask him to do that."

Lois slowly nodded. "And you're worried about how we'll handle it together when the time comes?"

"Yeah — when he starts flying around saving people, is Superman going to have to explain how he suddenly has a 22-year old son? Or do we go for a different explanation?" Clark asked.

Lois considered the question for a moment before answering. "What about Ultrawoman? He could be Ultrawoman's son — that wouldn't be a lie."

"I'm not sure we should use that, though — we're lucky enough as it is that everyone seems to have forgotten about Ultrawoman. If her son suddenly shows up, we'll have all sorts of questions to answer, like where has she been, what has she been doing, and who is she exactly? And if someone finds out the truth, we'll have even more problems!"

"Maybe he could be a New Kryptonian?"

"But people don't trust the New Kryptonians, not after what happened around last year. And I don't feel comfortable lying to everybody like that."

Mother and father discussed options well into the night. It was concluded that there was no way to avoid acknowledging Jonathan as Superman's son — they would just have to hope that the media could be talked into respecting the mother's privacy. They both knew, however, that there was absolutely no chance of that happening. But, they would just have to cross that bridge when they came to it.

***

"So you see, we knew that this would happen — it just happened a few years earlier than we thought it would," Clark said as he finished explaining. "So don't feel too depressed about it."

"So, are you going to be ready to go back to school tomorrow?" Lois asked in an upbeat tone.

"I don't know, mom — I was just thinking, hey, what's the point of going to school? I could just kick back for a few years until the brain thing kicks in, then take a weekend to read all of the books at the public library and the University Bookstore…" Jonathan began.

His parents shared an appalled look before Clark protested, "But Jonathan, school isn't just about learning! It's about making friends, meeting new people, going through one of life's biggest growing experiences-"

"Dad, I was just kidding! But man, I bet I'm going to get some weird looks at school tomorrow," Jonathan said as he broke into a grin.

At that, Clark made a face and looked down at the ground. "Well, if you ever find *yourself* feeling embarrassed, just think about your old man making an appearance at a children's hospital opening in Australia dressed in blue tights and a cape because he promised the kids Superman. Now that everyone knows that it's me, I'll never live it down!" The last sentence was in a whining tone.

Lois smirked and patted her poor husband's arm. "Oh, do it for the kids, dear."

***

Part 4: A Day At School

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

Crunch.

"Aww, not again!" Jonathan complained as he extricated his hand from the mangled remains of his alarm clock.

Getting out of bed, he took a quick shower before getting dressed and going downstairs into the kitchen. On the refrigerator door, he saw a note from his parents.

'Went to work early today to deal with the news. Breakfast omelet in the microwave. Good luck at school! Love, Mom and Dad.'

Wondering where his dad had gotten the idea to put an omelet in the microwave of all places, Jonathan poured himself a glass of orange juice from a carton in the refrigerator. Taking the omelet out of the microwave, he started warming it up with his heat vision.

As he quickly scarfed down his breakfast, he grabbed the remote control to turn on the kitchen television to see how the TV networks were covering the news.

The channel was already set to CNN. "This just in — Superman has announced that he will be holding a press conference at 8:30 AM eastern time! That's in just under thirty minutes! As usual, CNN's reporters will be on the scene to bring YOU all of the latest coverage! Don't go away!"

A press conference — no surprise there, as he had figured that his dad would have to hold one sooner or later. But Jonathan would have to be in class at 8:30, so he wouldn't be able to find out what happened until after he got out of school. He changed the channel to a local news network.

"For those of you who were with us last night and are just joining us this morning, we've got news that you've heard before, but this time it's for real! Clark Kent is Superman!"

<Well, that's not so bad. Let's see what's on LNN,> he thought.

"Welcome back to continuing coverage of our hottest story right now — Superman's love child stops school shooting! If you're joining us late, last night we were able to confirm that the mother of the child is indeed Lois Lane, Clark Kent's wife! We'll continuously update you with information on Superman's half-human love child as we get it! Remember, you heard it here on LNN, your source for unbiased news!"

Jonathan sprayed juice all over the kitchen counter. "What the-?" he sputtered, not believing what he was hearing. Behind the LNN anchor an enlarged photo of his face was being displayed on a giant television screen. He turned off the TV, having all of a sudden lost his appetite for news. Grabbing his backpack, he went out the door to head for his school bus stop. It was going to be a long day.

***

<This was a great idea!> Jonathan congratulated himself as he ran to school. Not only would not taking the school bus get him to school faster, it would let him put off having to face his fellow students for as long as possible. He wasn't sure if the speed limit applied to pedestrians, so he limited himself to what he guessed was just under the limit.

<Hey, if the secret's out, might as well take the perks that come with it,> he thought with a smile. Even if his reflexes weren't fast enough for *super* speed, he could be his own automobile at least. He grinned even wider as he thought about all of the stuff he was going to buy with the fortune that he saved on gas.

He pulled into the school parking lot just as the earliest arriving school buses came in. Some of the nearby students gasped and pointed at him as they alerted their friends to how fast he was running. But before he could start contemplating what they might be saying, however, a student that he didn't recognize approached him.

"Hey, Kent! Man, I can't believe it! So it's actually true what they said before about Superman doing your mom!" he said as he grinned from ear to ear.

Jonathan's eyes widened as he shot an incredulous glare at the stranger. The unbelievable presumption-

Seeing the look on Jonathan's face, the student assumed a nervous expression and waved his hands in the air defensively as he tried to recover. "Oh, not that there's anything wrong with that, of course not—I mean, I suppose he's perfectly entitled to—wait, that didn't sound right — hey, you know what, I think I just heard someone call my name," he said as he beat a hasty retreat, giving a backwards look in Jonathan's direction once he was safely out of earshot.

Jonathan gritted his teeth. <The nerve of that guy — I mean really, there are some things that a kid just *doesn't* want to think about—> he thought, before his ruminations were interrupted by a familiar voice.

"Jonathan! Thank god you're OK! I tried to visit you at the hospital last night, but they said that you had already been released!"

"Ben!" His previous mood suddenly forgotten, Jonathan turned around to face the owner of the voice. Benjamin Johnson had been his best friend since elementary school, and although their interests had diverged somewhat as they had gotten older, their friendship had remained as strong as ever.

"Uh, well — I can't believe that your dad is Superman—" Ben began awkwardly.

"Yeah, about that — uh, are you, well, mad that I kept that a secret from you?" Jonathan replied.

"What? Oh, no no no, actually, I didn't even realize until now that you might think that I would be mad at you. I mean, we're friends and all, but this was kind of *big* secret. No, I'm not mad at all!" Ben said lightly.

Jonathan let out a breath that he didn't even realize he had been holding. He wasn't going to lose his best friend after all. "Well, I'm guessing that you probably have a ton of questions now, and I think that I owe you some answers." Lowering his voice, he continued, "Your friendship means more to me now than it ever has. People that I talk to from now on—the friends that I have right now, I *know* are my *real* friends."

Sensing Jonathan's mood, Ben's face became serious. He took a moment to take in what Jonathan was telling him before saying, "Jonathan — hey, don't *you* start talking like that. I mean, yeah, some people are like that, but don't stop believing the best about people just because of this. Just trust your own judgment — you have to believe in yourself."

Jonathan slowly nodded at the truth in his friend's words. "Yeah, you're right. I shouldn't let any of this color my impression of other people. But man, do I have a lot things to tell you about!" he said excitedly. He was surprised at how much he was now looking forward to sharing all of his secrets with his best friend. It was actually kind of—liberating.

"Oh, for sure — but it'll have to be later! First period is about to start — we'll talk!" Ben shouted as they split up to head to their respective classes.

***

<3rd period (P.E.)>

"All right, if you finish your mile early, you can leave for lunch," said the P.E. teacher. "Don't start until I blow the whistle."

Jonathan's P.E. class was lined up outside on the track. Once every week, the class would have to run a specified number of laps around the track, a mile's worth. In the past, Jonathan had always slowed himself down for obvious reasons — not so slow that he still wasn't always the first person to get done, though. He couldn't stand not trying to be the best when he did things — his father said that he had inherited his mother's competitive streak. Well, now that everyone *knew*, he wouldn't have to slow himself down anywhere near as much.

When the whistle blew, Jonathan dashed off, immediately breaking away from the pack.

***

<About 10 minutes later>

"Man, what the heck was that? You're not even sweating — how fast were you going?"

Jonathan looked up from his lunch to see Ben, covered in sweat, sit down with his lunch next to him in their usual spot. Generally, students in the cafeteria sat with their respective social groups — a lot of the players on the football team sat together, as did the tennis team and the jazz band. Jonathan didn't play any sports, so he and Ben sat with the computer guys. Ben was a big sports fan, much like Jonathan's father, although he didn't play on any of the school teams. However, Ben liked video games as much as the next guy, so he was never left out of any conversations.

"Eh, I think I was going around 70," Jonathan replied matter-of-factly.

Before he could say anything else, Ben had continued prattling on. "Man, and here I always thought that you never played any sports because you just weren't interested."

Jonathan furrowed his eyebrows slightly in surprise. "Well, actually, I really am not interested in sports."

"But why not? I mean, you've got more physical ability than anyone else in the world — haven't you ever wished you could use them?" Ben asked incredulously.

Jonathan gave a short sigh. "Actually, that's *exactly* the problem. I never really enjoyed watching sports that much — because I'd always be thinking, 'I could do that 100 times better'. And I know that if I were to *play* a sport, my team would *always* win — and not because I had the skill or the passion to win, but because I possessed an insurmountable advantage solely due to the circumstances of my birth."

He continued, "For instance, if I were to join the football team and win the championship, I wouldn't have *earned* it. And by participating, I would have robbed everybody else of the opportunity to earn it as well. There would be no achievement — it would be like playing against handicapped people. I'd just feel really bad about it. I *could* limit myself to normal speed and strength, but intentionally suppressing myself like that — it just goes against my competitive nature."

Jonathan decided to wrap up his impromptu speech. "But that's what I like about chess and video games — that there are limitations which make everybody equal — including me. I'm free to put 100 percent of myself into those things without having to worry about having an unfair advantage. I guess I'm more like my mom that way than my dad — I like playing to win, rather than just playing."

Ben, who had been listening attentively to Jonathan's speech, said, "Wow. I never thought of it that way." His expression suddenly changed from seriousness to mirth. "Hey — you know, I never really thought of Superman playing games."

Jonathan winced. "Ben — why don't we just refer to him as *my dad*? I mean, it's not like you haven't met him, or talked to him before, right?"

"Hm, yeah, I guess it is kind of weird for me to refer to your dad as 'Superman' when I'm talking to you. But this whole idea just takes some getting used to," said Ben apologetically.

"Yeah, tell me about it," Jonathan smiled, remembering how surprised he had been when his father had finally told him his secret. He took another bite of his sandwich.

Ben noticed Jonathan's eating motion, and something seemed to occur to him. "Uh, Jonathan, do you actually need to eat? I remember hearing that your dad doesn't have to eat — I mean, you could save a lot of money by not eating or drinking anything."

Jonathan laughed. "Ah, there's an interesting story behind that one. I didn't actually know that my dad was Superman until my 11th birthday, and prior to that my parents were always really, really careful to make sure that I ate regularly every single day so that I would never wonder why I never felt hungry. After I found out that I'm solar-powered, I kind of wondered something, but I was too embarrassed to ask my dad."

Jonathan finished his story with in a conspiratorial voice, "For the next two days, I didn't eat or drink *anything*, and sure enough, I didn't have to use the bathroom *once* during that time period!"

Ben laughed hysterically, but quickly regained his composure. "But seriously Jonathan — if you don't get hungry, *why* do you eat so regularly? I mean, you'd hardly ever 'feel like eating', right?"

"Ah, there's a good explanation for that too." Jonathan spoke confidently, "Here, I'll tell you what my dad told me."

"Yes, we only eat because we like to. The reason we eat so regularly is that we *really* like eating. This is how my dad explained it to me: 'you see, our bodies are less sensitive to unpleasant physical sensations like pain, heat, and cold,'" Jonathan began, before pausing for effect.

"But, like all of our other senses, our tactile sense is 'super' as well. You might not have known that since super tactile sense isn't really used in saving people. As a result, to use my dad's words again: 'every pleasant physical sensation we experience is magnified by many orders of magnitude.' So, something that tastes good to you tastes, really, *really* good to me," he finished, making a show of taking another bite of his sandwich.

As an afterthought, Jonathan added, "But yeah, now that you mention it, before, I sometimes used to wonder why no one else seemed to enjoy eating nearly as much as I did."

"Huh. That's interesting. I guess that makes sense," Ben said. Then he did a double take, and instinctively asked without thinking, "Wait, did your dad really mean that *all* pleasant physical sensations are magnified?"

"Yes, that's what I just said. Why-" Jonathan started. Then his eyes widened slightly as he realized, and he slowed his voice down as he said, "Uh, you know Ben, there are some things that a kid just *doesn't* want to think about—"

Realizing what he had just said and who he had just said it to, Ben wisely decided to cut off the conversation. After all, he had his friend's emotional well being to think about. "Ah, right. Of course," he said, chagrined.

The two sat in awkward silence for a few moments before Ben saw something and broke the silence. "Hey, looks like some of the football players are heading over here. It looks like they have something to say to you," he said, gesturing in the direction of the people he was referring to.

Jonathan recognized the one in front as the captain of the football team. His hand was in his Letterman's jacket, and he had a determined look on his face. On either side of him, slightly behind him, were two other guys wearing Letterman's jackets. For some reason, their eyes were looking at the ground.

When they got to where Jonathan was sitting, the captain spoke up, sounding as determined as he looked, "Kent? Well, a couple of the guys and I were just kind of wondering—" Then he hesitated a moment before working up his nerve again, and he took his hand out of his jacket, producing a steel bar.

"Can you bend this?" he asked, sounding slightly embarrassed now.

The two guys behind him stopped staring at the ground to look hopefully at Jonathan, both wearing expressions of eager anticipation.

***

<5th period (Calculus)>

Jonathan's math teacher was explaining a concept to the class on the whiteboard when the door to the room suddenly flung open, revealing a breathless Principal Lockhart.

"Is this the class that Jonathan Kent is in right now? I just saw it on the news — a fire has just broken out at one of the warehouses by Hobbs Bay and the firefighters aren't there yet! I ran as fast as I could in case Superman is busy with something else!" he managed to gasp.

Everyone in the classroom looked at Jonathan, who suddenly didn't know what to do. "Uh—I know that my dad is Superman—but there's nothing I can do," he managed weakly, shifting in his seat uncomfortably.

At the confused whispering that started among his classmates, Jonathan continued, "I can't fly yet. So I'd have to get there on foot, except that I can't control my super speed yet, so I'd just be a menace to society if I tried to help. And that's assuming that I could figure out how to get there in the first place — I can't memorize maps yet like my dad can. Even if I did get there before the firefighters, I wouldn't know how to put out the fire — I don't have cold breath yet either," he said apologetically.

The whispering intensified. Jonathan could clearly hear some people say to their neighbors, "He can't fly?" Still feeling put on the spot, he said softly, partly to convince himself, "There's nothing I can do."

"Oh, I didn't realize — um, sorry for disrupting your class, Mr. Bradley," Principal Lockhart said before leaving.

Mr. Bradley tried to calm the class down, and was able to restore enough order so that he could continue with the lesson, but Jonathan wasn't paying attention anymore. For the rest of the period, he couldn't help but notice his classmates continue to sneak glances at him — and in their faces, he thought he saw—disappointment.

***

<Right before 7th period (History)>

By the time the last class of the day was about to start, Jonathan was starting to feel a little bit better. Intellectually, he knew that he shouldn't feel guilty about not being able to put out that fire — there really was nothing that he could do. Eventually he'd have to learn how to not blame himself for events beyond his control, and the sooner he did that, the better.

He thought that the day had gone as well as could be expected so far — certainly, it could have been a lot worse. For the most part, people hadn't avoided looking at him, and they hadn't started worshipping him as their new god, either.

However, he did notice quite a few people snickering, who stopped when they noticed him getting near them. He wasn't quite sure what that was all about, but he figured that whatever it was, it was bound to be better than being worshipped. Still, he had found it difficult to restrain himself all day from focusing his hearing to eavesdrop. Nevertheless, he had succeeded, and everyone's private conversations had remained private.

Jonathan was looking forward to history — even without trying to eavesdrop, he had overheard more than a few people say what a great documentary Mr. Dinsmore had shown in class today. As he approached the classroom door, someone shouted out to him. He recognized the student — his name was Travis, and he was also in Mr. Dinsmore's 7th period history class.

"Hey Jonathan, wait up! Uh, hey, I heard that you can't fly and all that, but I was just wondering whether or not you could—" he stopped, suddenly unable to finish his sentence.

"What?" Jonathan said, after a couple of moments passed without Travis finishing his sentence.

"Um, well, if you could, you know—" Still unable to speak his question out loud, Travis gestured to the object he was holding in his left hand. It was a telephone book.

***

<25 minutes later>

Jonathan was sorely disappointed. Mr. Dinsmore wasn't showing a great documentary — he was showing a crappy documentary, one about some of Superman's early super feats. At first, alarm bells had sounded in Jonathan's head. Now that everybody knew that Superman was his father, any course material related to Superman could be potential for embarrassment.

But his fears were quickly assuaged when the video started — it had to be the most boring thing ever. The narrator's voice was robotic as he told the viewers about various things that Superman had done shortly after arriving on Earth, without going into very much detail. Even as he praised Superman, no emotion crept into his voice. By the time the video was half over, Jonathan and Ben had stopped paying attention and were whispering to each other.

"Hey, Jonathan? I've got another question to ask you," Ben whispered.

"What is it?"

"Uh, when you used heat vision on that gun yesterday — did you seriously say 'Super Jonathan Heat Vision?'" Ben asked, making an obvious effort to restrain himself from laughing.

"Oh my god! Is *that* what everyone has been snickering about? I'm telling you, I had to get the guy's attention! Man, I'm never going to live this down! I can't think of anything more embarrassing!" Jonathan moaned.

"Haha, yeah, I feel for you. But doesn't this video suck? Why did everyone say it was so good?" Ben wondered aloud.

Before Jonathan could respond, the conversation was interrupted by Mr. Dinsmore pausing the video to speak to the entire class.

"When I first decided to show this video a few days ago, I had originally intended to edit this next part out, because I thought that one of our students would feel uncomfortable about it being shown. However, I decided to change my mind in light of recent revelations. You'll know what I mean when you see it," Mr. Dinsmore began, with his British accent.

"After yesterday's events, I think that we could all use a bit of good cheer, even if it does come at the expense of one of our students," he finished.

That got everybody's attention, especially Jonathan's. Whereas many of the students had been half asleep up to this point, now everybody became alert and gave the television screen their full attention.

Mr. Dinsmore resumed the video, and the narrator's voice continued droning on. "Superman's most important super feat was when he saved the Earth from the Nightfall asteroid. This was the scene just before his first attempt to thwart the deadly asteroid."

A scene from over 20 years ago appeared on the screen. A younger looking version of Jonathan's dad appeared on the screen, wearing his Superman suit. He was wearing both a microphone and an oxygen tank, and was standing in front of a nervous throng of people.

The narrator continued. "He was described as 'calm but determined.' His final words before leaving were 'I'll do my best.' But before he could take to the skies, one of his crazed admirers used the opportunity to say her last goodbye to the man of steel."

Jonathan took a sharp intake of breath as he clenched his fists nervously. A younger version of his mother had appeared on the screen, and had engaged his father in a conversation away from the crowd. Although her hair was longer than it was now, it was still unmistakably her. Apparently, some of the others had recognized that too, for he could hear whispers of "Jonathan's mom" being circulated around the room.

As his parents talked silently on the screen — there was no audio of the conversation — Jonathan relaxed somewhat. He realized that there wasn't really anything too embarrassing that could happen, given the circumstances. They were on national television, with a huge crowd no doubt watching their every move, and his dad was dressed as Superman. Still, that didn't stop him from gritting his teeth nervously when his dad placed his hand on his mom's cheek, apparently to reassure her that he would return safely.

He started to let out the breath he had been holding when his dad took his hand away and started to leave. But then he could only stare wide-eyed, gaping in horror, as his mother, without any warning whatsoever, suddenly seemed to lose an internal battle with herself. She grabbed his father, turned him around to face her, and started sucking his face out. No. This wasn't happening. It couldn't be happening. But it was. How could they do this to him?

However, his classmates apparently did not share in Jonathan's sense of horror. Immediately, the classroom erupted in a chorus of whoops, whistles, and hoots.

"All right, go Superman!"

"Yeah Jonathan's mom! You go, girl!"

"Get a room!"

"Hey Jonathan, you watching this?"

"Are they like that all the time?"

His face burning redder than it ever had before, Jonathan slunk lower at his desk than he would ever have believed possible before that moment. Even though he knew that he was the only one who possessed heat vision, he could feel the burning gazes of everyone in the room on him. Why, oh why, did his parents hate him so much?

***

Jonathan had never been so glad in his life to hear the bell that signaled the end of the school day. Now he could finally go home, curl up, and die. The delighted taunts of his classmates continued to pursue him even as he went out the door.

"Hey Jonathan, after seeing that, I thought about telling your folks to get a room, but then again since you're here, they must have already gotten the idea!"

He kept his head down so that he could see his footsteps. Maybe if he didn't look at anyone else, they wouldn't look at him either—

"Ben, how am I ever going to show my face in public again?" he groaned. He would have asked his friend to just kill him where he stood to spare him the humiliation, but he didn't want Ben to break his hands.

"I don't know, man. I'm just glad that Mr. Dinsmore doesn't have any videos of *my* parents making out," Ben replied.

How could he look so amused at a time like this? Wasn't he supposed to be his friend? As soon as they got to the parking lot, Jonathan bid a hasty goodbye to his friend and started running home, where there was plenty of furniture to crawl under to hide from the world.

***

Jonathan turned on the television, dreading what he would see. The idea of crawling under the sofa didn't particularly appeal to him that much when he thought about it a little bit more, so he decided to see what the world's latest reactions to the Superman story were.

"—and that's what happened at Superman's morning press conference earlier today, for those of you that missed it earlier. So anyone who *still* feels like tangling with Superman, watch out, because he's more powerful than ever now!"

More powerful than ever? What was that supposed to mean? What exactly had happened at that press conference? He would have to ask his parents when they got home. Jonathan changed the channel, hoping for some answers instead of more questions.

"—so I wouldn't want to be a football player at Midwest University right now, being the butt of so many jokes. I mean, people, this was a team that had *Superman* playing for them, and they *still* couldn't win the championship!"

Useless. He changed the channel again. The next news station had four people discussing something around a table.

"The entire geopolitical balance of power in the world is in question now — I mean, this kid is a U.S. citizen. I mean, we know that Superman himself is neutral in all human affairs, but his son represents an unknown. What if his government tries to use him to further their foreign policy agenda?"

"I don't know about that, Bill — something tells me that they won't stand for that. Besides, like you said — he's a citizen, so they can't even threaten him with deportation or anything if he doesn't cooperate. And that's assuming that he won't just overthrow the government if they try to manipulate him."

Great. They already had him as both a living weapon and as someone who could impose his will through force. He changed to a different channel, hoping it would be better. A reporter was getting the reaction from the street. She was currently holding the microphone in front of a young woman, who was speaking animatedly.

"Oh, I just think that it's sooooo romantic!" she gushed. "Here are two people who love each other sooooo much that it doesn't even matter to them that they're diff-"

*Click*. Ugh, give it a rest already! He should have known better than to expect anything useful from the TV. He picked up yesterday afternoon's edition of 'The Daily Planet', which was lying on the living room table. Now we're talking!

His parents' paper had really outdone itself this time — because of the paper's special relationship with Superman, each and every single employee who worked at the Planet had an article in their name, even the janitors and copy boys.

Each and every person described their thoughts and reactions on learning that "Clark in the newsroom" was also Superman. Jonathan noticed that the first thing that all of the articles brought up was the complete and utter astonishment that its author felt at either seeing the transformation firsthand, or learning about it from someone else.

The people who worked closest to his dad described him using words such as "honest", "caring", and "compassionate." They made it clear that they didn't think any less of either Clark Kent or Superman now that they knew that they were the same person — in fact, if anything, it made them think even more of him. Those articles generally contained pleas to the public to not give Superman too much of a hard time. Jonathan himself was mentioned in some of the articles written by people he had met before — they generally described him as "a good kid."

The hours passed as Jonathan devoured the articles in the paper, gaining much insight as to what the people closest to his parents thought of the whole thing. Every person had a unique perspective. Some people now wondered why Clark Kent had always seemed to be so jealous of Superman.

Mom and dad must have shared quite a few laughs back then — what with mom practically jumping Superman on national television, then pretending to be just friends with Clark Kent. Dad pretending to be jealous of Superman. Although now that he thought about it, he wondered how his father had been so sure that things would work out that he had trusted mom with his secret so early. They must have really hit it off from the start. Maybe mom had figured it out herself from the very beginning? He might have to ask his parents about that later.

The sound of his parents landing interrupted Jonathan's train of thought. As he saw them come through the front door, the image of them eating each other's faces 20 years ago suddenly appeared in his head against his own volition. He found that he couldn't meet their eyes.

"So, son, how was your day at school? Did anything interesting happen?" Clark asked cheerfully, completely oblivious to the strange way his son was looking at him.

"Uh, I got to bend a steel bar and rip a telephone book in two — hey, where did he get that steel bar, anyways? Did he drive out to a hardware store last night, or do you think that it was just lying around his house?" Jonathan babbled.

"Jonathan, is everything OK? That's weird — your cheeks seem a little flushed," Lois noticed.

"Uh, yeah mom, everything went great. But why don't we talk about your day first?"

Clark smiled. "Well, all right, well here's what your mother and I were doing while you were at school—"

***

Part 5: A Day at Work

Clark Kent held his wife snugly against his chest with both of his arms wrapped around her waist as he flew them over the skies of Metropolis. He wasn't wearing the suit. In fact, he didn't even have the suit on underneath his work clothes. Yep, he was just Clark Kent, an ordinary guy, flying to work with his wife.

As they neared the Daily Planet building, the throng of reporters camped outside of the front doors clearly became visible. Clark took a deep breath before entering through the large window on the newsroom floor, just as he had for the first time over twenty years ago. <Well, Superman, it has to be you or me—>

***

Lois and Clark landed in the newsroom just as the early birds were starting to come in. Incredibly, Ralph had been one of the first people to come into work today, and was greeting each person as they stepped out of the elevator.

"Morning, Eduardo! Morning, Cindy — hey, looking good today!" As he heard the sound of feet touching the ground, he turned around to face the newcomers.

"Oh hey, I was wondering if you guys would show up! *Good* morning, Lois! *Good* morning, Superman!" he said he grinned at the couple.

Clark sighed. "Ralph, please — just call me Clark."

"Yeah, no problem! Whatever you say, Superman!"

Ralph was about to add something before he was interrupted. "Ralph, leave those two alone! C'mon, you two can come hide here in my office!" bellowed the gruff voice of the editor. Despite being nearly 70 years of age, Perry White had still not found it in his heart to retire.

Once they were safely ensconced inside his office, Perry closed the door and drew the blinds shut. As soon as was standing behind his desk, Lois and Clark spoke up at the same time. "Chief-"

"Now hold on a second — let me get a word in before you two say anything," Perry interrupted, holding one of his hands up for silence, "first I have to say, that in all of my years in the reporting business, that I have never seen *anything* quite like this. I mean, boy, I have to hand it to you guys — this was quite some stunt that you two managed to pull off!" he chuckled as he broke into a wide grin.

Lois and Clark exchanged abashed looks before staring at the ground, as if they were kids who had been caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Perry started staring off into space as he continued, "No wonder none of my best reporters could ever get Superman pinned down — if we couldn't even recognize him when he was on our *payroll*—"

Coming back to reality, he placed his hands on his desk and faced his two star reporters. "So—how do you two want to handle this? I mean, what do you want us to do?" he asked.

Clark regained his composure and spoke in well-rehearsed tones. "Well, Chief, everything that I say or do from now on will determine what kind of person the rest of the world sees in me. So the first thing that I want to do is to hold a press conference to put to rest any preconceived notions of who I *really* am."

As Perry listened attentively, Clark asked, "So, could you get the word out that I'll be holding a press conference at the courthouse at 8:30?"

When the editor nodded, Clark continued, "I'd also like to write an article for the front page to explain myself — if that's OK with you, of course."

"Well yes, of course! That'll give the public a chance to see things from *your* perspective. Uh, I'm assuming that you'll want to take Lois with you to the courthouse?"

Lois and Clark met each other's eyes at they clasped their hands together. "Yes, Chief — I don't know if I can face this alone," Clark said as he exchanged encouraging smiles with his wife.

***

Lois was already positioned a bit behind and to the right of the podium, so she was perfectly placed to stand supportively behind her husband when Clark swooped down from the sky, still dressed in his work clothes. He was even wearing his glasses, which was actually kind of ridiculous now that everyone knew fully well that he didn't need corrective lenses.

Normally, Clark would avoid grandstanding at press conferences, but the circumstances had irrevocably changed now. As soon as he landed at the podium, in between four large stacks of books, he started spinning. <Have to stay on the offense — if I start defending and justifying myself, they'll never give me a chance to stop.>

When he emerged from the spin, he was dressed in—exactly the same clothes as he was before, except that now he had removed his glasses and slicked his hair back. <Make it clear that I'm showing my true colors now — but leave no doubt as to whom they are dealing with.>

Immediately, the gathered reporters all started yelling out questions at the same time.

"Superman! Do you have any comments to make about your double life?"

"Superman! Are you going to explain why you've been hiding so many secrets from the public?"

"Superman! What are all those books doing up there?"

"Superman! Where's the suit?"

"Hey, what's she got on you, Superman? Are you going to file for divorce now that your secret is out anyways?"

The last questions came from one of the National Whisper's reporters. Clark raised his hand for silence. When he spoke, he used the "Superman" voice. "Before I answer any questions, I would like to say a few words." <Stay on offense,> he reminded himself, as he continued, "In the past, I have shown restraint whenever certain unscrupulous individuals *or publications* have called my personal character into question." He looked pointedly in the direction of the National Whisper and Dirt Digger reporting teams when he said the word "publications".

"Throughout the past two decades, I have been accused of fathering illegitimate children, plotting extraterrestrial invasions, and having numerous extramarital affairs, among other things." He stole a glance backwards at Lois as he finished this last sentence, causing Lois to smile slightly both at her own vindication and to encourage her husband. The crowd of reporters chuckled nervously, wondering where he was going with all of this.

"Because of my public visibility, I have frequently been the focus of intense media scrutiny. It is for this reason that up until now, I have never publicly acknowledged my wife, my son, or even myself. Not out of shame — for I am proud to be the husband and father to such a loving wife and wonderful son." Clark took a deep breath, steeling himself as he suppressed the tears that were threatening to form as he proudly displayed his family to the world. He would need every ounce of his steely resolve for what he was about to do next.

"I must accept the freedom of the press to operate — as investigative journalists ourselves, my wife and I fully understand the importance of allowing the unfettered discussion of a representative range of views."

"*However*, I will no longer tolerate defamatory statements that are published about myself, or of any member of my family. This particularly applies to statements about my wife's monogamous character, demeaning descriptions of my son such as 'love child', as well as allegations of myself harboring infidelities towards my wife."

"Such claims would be harmful to both myself and my family. So, henceforth, any individual or organization that publishes material which is slanderous about either me or my family can expect to be contacted by my attorney, Ms. Hunter, and prosecuted to the full extent of the law."

The assembled reporters murmured in astonishment and exchanged worried whispers with each other. *Superman*, threatening legal action? But that wasn't like him at all — in fact, this was more like something that—Clark Kent would do. Superman was all-forgiving, while an ordinary man like Clark Kent might force even the woman of his dreams to spend hours crawling through sewage if she tried to walk all over him, to say nothing of what he might do to the tabloid press.

Before anyone could recover enough to ask him a question, Clark continued his speech. "As this might arise doubts as to whether or not I intend to follow up on my words, I think that now is the ideal time for me to put those doubts to rest."

"The county law library here at this courthouse has graciously agreed to allow me the temporary use of the stacks of books you see up here. The contents of these books contain years' worth of legal education in every field of practice."

The crowd looked on in stunned silence as Clark read all of the books at super-speed right there on the spot. Now, there could be no doubt that he meant business. This new Superman possessed the combined powers of, well, Superman—and a lawyer.

After a long silence, Clark spoke again. "I'll now take your questions."

For the next several minutes, he fielded questions from the reporters still brave enough to ask them. Whenever he declined to answer, citing privacy reasons, nobody dared to question him. Oh, the plan had worked perfectly. Investigative journalist and amateur super-lawyer Clark Kent had the press treading carefully.

After he decided that he had answered enough questions, he scooped Lois into his arms and flew them back to work.

***

"I have to say, that worked even better than I could have expected. If I had known that people were so afraid of lawyers, I would have just threatened legal action every time I needed to stick up for myself as Clark," Clark said with a grin as he took a break from writing his big article to visit Lois at her desk.

"Hmm—even that time when another reporter stole that Superman story from you?" Lois asked in a sweet, innocent voice.

"Well, no—I found a much more pleasant way of handling *her*—" Clark grinned impishly as he reached out from where he was behind Lois to rest his hands on her.

Lois let out an indignant yelp and playfully swatted his hand away from where it had been trying to rest. Clark laughed, and added, "Another advantage that I didn't even realize before is that now people will *have* to stop idolizing Superman. I mean, who wants to place a lawyer on a pedestal?"

Before Lois could respond, the phone on her desk rang. She picked up the phone and listened to what the caller had to say for a few moments before she opened her mouth in shock.

"My husband's sexual proclivities are none of your business!" she shouted into the phone, before slamming it back down on the receiver. The sudden outburst drew more than a few people's attention, but they quickly went about their business when Lois fixed them with her dreaded icy glare.

Clark raised his eyebrows. "Now what was that about?"

"Oh, it's just that I've been getting these phone calls all day — some of them harassing, too. The women are worse than the men — I think they blame *me* for ruining a 'perfectly good fantasy'," she replied sadly, turning to her husband for comfort.

Clark winced as he gave Lois a reassuring hug. *He* hadn't gotten any rude phone calls — apparently Superman intimidated people, but the same was not true of Superman's wife.

"Oh—I'm sorry, honey—" Clark apologized, unable to think of anything else to say.

"What? You are!?" Lois asked in a shocked, despairing tone of voice as she quickly broke herself out of Clark's embrace and looked up at her husband.

"No wait, I'm not sorry at all! No, I have no regrets whatsoever!" Clark hastily recovered.

Before Lois could respond, Clark was saved by a timely cry for help. As she saw the familiar faraway look coming into Clark's eyes, Lois asked, "Someone needs Superman?"

"Well, Clark Kent will have to be good enough from now on. If Perry asks where I am, tell him that there's a fire near Hobbs Bay. I love you, honey — I'll be back as soon as I can!" Clark quickly kissed Lois goodbye before running to the window and flying off, without changing into the suit, which he wasn't wearing underneath his work clothes anyways.

Clark's dash to the window had drawn everyone's attention, and a depressed silence now hung over the newsroom as people contemplated what terrible tragedy Clark might be flying off to now.

Lois's phone started ringing again, and she picked it up and yelled, "For the last time, my *private* relationship with my husband is none of your business!"

"Uh—Lois?" said the confused reply of a familiar-sounding voice.

"Cat?? Is that you? I thought it was someone from the National Whisper again!" Lois said incredulously. Lois hadn't spoken to Catherine Grant since the months following the destruction of the Daily Planet all those years ago. They were on good terms, though — they just hadn't bothered to keep in touch as they moved on with their lives. She still considered Cat to be a friend.

"Yes, it's me, *Cat*! Lois, you devil, I didn't know you had it in you!" Cat gushed.

"Huh? Didn't have what in me?" Lois furrowed her brow in confusion.

"*You* know, being married to *two* gorgeous guys! So tell me — do you get to have both of them? Do you alternate nights or something? Which one is the better lover?" Cat asked her questions excitedly in a conspiratorial tone of voice. "I promise not to tell anybody!"

Lois gasped, scandalized. "Cat! This is *Clark* we're talking about! And *Clark* does *not* have some kind of split personality disorder!" she said, a faint blush creeping into her cheeks.

"Oh, that's no fun," Cat replied in a disappointed tone. "But—he's at least treating you right, isn't he? Fulfilling all of your needs?"

Lois sighed, knowing what Cat needed to hear to be reassured for her sake. "Cat, they don't call him *Superman* for nothing," she said, rolling her eyes.

Cat squealed with delight before wishing Lois well in her new circumstances. Really, some people never changed.

***

"Clark, what you working on there? You—seem to be having a little trouble—you OK, son?" Perry asked, concerned. He hoped that everyone knowing his secret hadn't gotten to Clark.

"I'm fine, Chief. But it's just that when I got back from that fire, I started writing up the story like I always have, except that now I have to replace the word 'Superman' with other pronouns. And it's just—stupid!" Clark sighed, frustrated.

Perry took a look at a partial draft that Clark had printed out for editing. He began to read, "—earlier today, 'I' showed up at the scene of a fire at a warehouse near Hobbs Bay. Thanks to 'my' efforts, a man was saved and the fire was put out. Once again, the city owes an enormous debt of gratitude to 'me'!"

The editor burst out laughing. "You're right, son! We sure can't print a puff piece like this, not when it's written about yourself! Well Clark, I guess we'll have to stick someone else on the Superman rescues from now on! Now you just focus on *making* those stories," he guffawed.

"Say — you have that front page article ready yet? I'd like to have it in time to make the afternoon edition," Perry said when he had stopped laughing.

"Just sent it to you, Chief!" Clark brightened up at the mention of his big article. He might not be able to write Superman stories anymore, but he could definitely still pull his weight as a journalist. He had poured everything of himself into that article, and was proud of the results.

"Good! 'Superman's side of the story, as written by none other than himself!' And you can read about it in the Daily Planet!" Perry grinned as he started walking away. Before he had even made it halfway back to his office though, he started laughing again and couldn't stop.

***

"'—and if what I did was wrong, then I'm sorry. But I can't change what I've done. I can only hope that everyone will understand and accept the reasons for why I kept my life a secret, and that I never meant any harm by it.' Smooth, real smooth, CK!" Jimmy Olsen said as he finished reading Clark's article from the copy of the Daily Planet that he was holding.

"I mean, when I first found out about it, I thought it would be tough coming to terms with the fact that you're Superman! But now, after reading this article, I feel like I understand everything!" he continued, the awe that was evident in his voice stemming from his amazement at the clarity of the article, rather than the fact that Clark was Superman.

"That's great, Jimmy. I'm glad that we could sort things out between us," Clark beamed. With any luck, the rest of the world would gain the same understanding out of his article as Jimmy had.

Looking up, Clark saw Stan from accounting heading over to where he and Jimmy were discussing his article. Stan had a panicked expression on his face.

"Clark, there's a confession that I really have to make," he started abruptly when he had reached them, "I'm the one who took the last glazed donut last Thursday."

Ignoring his colleagues' raised eyebrows, Stan started babbling, "I know how much you like them, Clark. I really should have thought about that when I was deciding whether or not to take that donut. But you have to believe me when I say that, I would *never* have done it if I had known that-"

Clark sighed inwardly. Well, nobody ever said that he wouldn't have his work cut out for him if he wanted to save Clark Kent instead of Superman.

***

"—and so that's pretty much how the day went," Clark said as he finished explaining to his son. "So how was school? Were you able to handle it all right?"

<My history teacher showed us a video of you and mom making out on national television right before you went to go smash an asteroid. I nearly died of humiliation.>

Out loud, Jonathan said, "Well, I heard about that fire that you mentioned. The principal came running in with the news, and everyone seemed to expect me to be able to just fly off and put it out. Intellectually, I know that I shouldn't feel bad about it, but I still feel as if I let everybody down somehow."

Lois and Clark's faces became masks of sympathy. "Don't go beating yourself up about it, son. There was nothing that you could have done."

"You can't be a slave to expectations — especially unrealistically lofty ones," Lois added.

"But, I'm sure people will adjust to your limits soon enough. What I'm actually more worried about now isn't how this whole thing will affect us — it's about how it will affect other people," Clark began, pausing to make sure that he had his family's attention.

"I ran into Stan from accounting earlier today, and it caused me to think. Everyone seems to want to try to please me now, and be more like me. I'm worried that people will stop expressing *themselves*."

"Don't you think that you're getting a little ahead of yourself there? I mean, sure, people think you're *super*, but that doesn't mean everyone's going to be *that* obsessed. I think you might just be worrying a little too much," Lois tried to reassure her husband.

Clark silently picked up the remote control to turn on the TV.

"Have you *always* wanted that *super* intelligent look, but never needed corrective lenses? Well, now 20/20 vision isn't a problem anymore! Lenscrafters is offering frames fitted with plain glass, so you can have that look you've always wanted!"

The commercial zoomed in to show a display rack full of glasses that looked exactly like Clark's. Clark raised his eyebrows at his wife as he turned off the TV.

"All right, fine. But don't you dare say 'I told you so'," Lois huffed.

"We're going to have to make some adjustments. Why don't I fix dinner and we can talk about them as we eat," Clark said as he began to busy himself with his domestic duties at super speed.

***

The Kents' television screen was tuned to a cable news network as they discussed their next course of action while they ate. Eventualities both large and small were discussed, and no detail was left uncovered.

They had already agreed that there was very little possibility that NFL football players would stop trying their hardest to win just because they were facing the Metropolis Tigers, the team that Superman was now known to root for.

They interrupted their conversation to look at the television when the coverage turned to the subject of the fire that had been burning near Hobbs Bay earlier.

"Witnesses were generally dismayed at seeing that Superman was not wearing the 'super-suit'. We've heard comments ranging from 'not as hope inspiring' to 'less sexy'. But this is what the man who was rescued had to say:" The news rerun showed the female reporter who was talking holding a microphone in front of a disheveled looking man with soot all over his face.

"Sir, what do *you* think of the new Superman?"

The man spoke with a cheerfulness that belied his appearance. "I think he's great! He saved my life today — I think we should really give him a break! Granted, I would have liked to see the suit too, but the guy's over 40 years old — I mean, how do you go about requesting a man his age to wear that thing?" Catching his breath, he continued, "After saving my life, he even gave me free advice on how to file a trademark application for my new company!"

Lois shot Clark an amused smile. "Superman giving free legal advice now? Now you'll be even more of a hero — solving our lawyer problem while saving people's lives!"

Clark smiled at her joke before becoming serious. "But that gets us back to what we were just talking about. I don't want to put anyone out of a job. *We've* already sold out of back issues, and a third of the Metropolis Star's subscribers have already canceled. If we let that continue, hundreds of people will be out of work."

"So, what are you going to do?" Lois asked.

Seeing his family's expectant looks, Clark explained, "I'll talk to the owners tomorrow morning. I'm pretty sure that I can convince them to purchase the Star. I really don't want to use the influence that Superman has on people like that, but it's the only way that I can think of the keep the Star up and running."

"Is there anything else that we need to do, dad?" Jonathan asked, impressed by his father's foresight.

"Actually, there is. We need to be careful about what we buy from now on — if 'Superman's family' is seen as being partial towards a particular brand of anything, there's potential for economic damage from driving all of that company's competitors out of business, creating a monopoly! We'll have to switch between buying different brands of things from now on," Clark responded.

The television started trumpeting another commercial. "Watch 'Superman: 20 Years of Subterfuge' this weekend! Watch as we investigate the life of the Man of Steel and separate *fact* from *fiction*!"

The commercial played some of Superman's past public statements.

"Clark Kent is a very good friend of mine. The reason my suits were at his apartment was because he was kind enough to agree to wash them for me. I don't own a washing machine, and I don't have a place to hang up my spare capes."

"*Clark Kent* loves Lois Lane — and I would never do anything to betray that love."

"I am not having, nor have I ever had, an illicit affair with Lois Lane."

Lois and Clark both shot embarrassed glances at Jonathan, whose face registered no surprise. After what he had seen earlier in school, he wasn't surprised at all at learning that his parents had trouble hiding their feelings for each other in public.

"We'll cover old misconceptions, like where Superman lives!" The screen displayed a picture of the Arctic, with the caption "Superman's secret subterranean lair?" before changing to an outside view of the brownstone at 348 Hyperion Avenue.

"We'll meet Superman's son, Jonathan!" A picture of Jonathan's face filled the screen.

"Superman's best friend, Jimmy Olsen!" The picture changed to a shot of Jimmy.

"What kind of powerful authority figure could be *Superman's* boss?" Jimmy's face was replaced by a silent video clip of Perry White barking orders to the newsroom staff.

"And of course, the woman who has the most remarkable and powerful being in the world cooking for her, cleaning for her, and doing the laundry!" The video of clip of Perry faded away, and Jonathan once again saw his parents kissing during the Nightfall crisis.

Lois and Clark's eyes widened at each other as their faces started turning red, and Clark turned off the television. "Uh, son, about that—" he stammered, while Lois, recalling her behavior during her whole Superman obsession, was too embarrassed to say anything at all.

"Yeah, dad, I was kind of wondering about that. I mean, do you have any idea how embarrassing it was for me when they showed that in class today?" Jonathan blurted out.

His parents could only exchange horrified looks. After a long, awkward silence, Clark decided to change the subject.

"That commercial brings up a good point, though. I've been hiding who I am for the last 20 years. I mean, technically I'm an illegal alien right now! We should probably deal with that — I got some ideas while I was reading all of those law books at the press conference."

Jonathan looked at his father in surprise. "Well, that shouldn't be a problem, should it? I mean, nobody ever minded Superman being around — you've saved so many people, and that's not going to change."

"It's not about that, Jonathan. I know that nobody's going to try to deport me, or take my job away because I don't have a green card. But that's because people think that Superman is above all of that — and the fact is, I'm *not* Superman. I need to show that *Clark Kent* doesn't consider himself above the law, and that I take *all* of the laws of this country seriously. If I show up at the immigration office, they'll realize that. But if there's anything that I've learned from being Superman, it's that people will see what they expect to see, unless you go out and *make* them change their impressions of you. And right now, they expect to see *Superman*."

Jonathan nodded his understanding. It made sense — unless he actively sought out *equal* treatment, people would probably just start worshipping Clark Kent instead of Superman.

"So, from what I read, it seems that U.S. citizens are given great wherewithal when it comes to bringing their spouses into the country," Clark began, looking at Lois. "But honey, that's *not* why I married you."

Clark exchanged a loving smile with his wife before continuing, "But as a result, a large percentage of green card applications are fraudulent — for example, a couple might pay a crooked attorney to arrange American spouses for them, while they continue living together. A lot of times, they never even meet their 'spouses', and can't even remember their names!"

"So, more scrupulous lawyers will tell their clients to make sure to bring proof that their marriage is genuine to the immigration office. And we've got plenty of that — for starters, our mortgage papers will provide evidence of cohabitation."

"But there's one thing that immigration officials will pretty much always accept as solid proof even by itself — a lot of couples will bring their newborn infants with them when they go to the immigration office. And we've got Jonathan to prove that we-" Clark started, before he turned away from Lois to look at Jonathan, realizing that he was sitting at the table with them.

"—uh, that we have a real marriage, I mean."

It was eventually decided that Clark would apply for a green card so that he could continue working at the Daily Planet, but not for U.S. Citizenship. Since he was such an international figurehead, it was better for him to remain as detached from the U.S. as he could possibly remain. It was also decided that he would continue to use all of his important information such as his social security number, driver's license, and birth certificate, except that he would arrange to have his location of birth changed from "Smallville, Kansas" to "Krypton".

As he discussed the changes that would have to be made in their lives with his family, Jonathan began to get past what had happened at school that day. The future seemed like it would be OK for the Kent family, as long as they had each other.

***

Part 6: Humanity

Note: Another story that I wrote, "The Return of The Suit", takes place between part 5 and part 6; it starts right after part 5

***

<A few months later>

"David, this is *not* funny!" Jonathan spoke vehemently to the school's yearbook editor. In his hand was a draft of the senior awards section; Jonathan had been voted "most likely to take over the world" by his classmates.

"Whoa, easy there, Jonathan. It's just a joke!" David responded, holding his hands up in front of him defensively.

"Sorry, I shouldn't have raised my voice like that," Jonathan sighed. "But I'm *serious* — for me, this isn't like being voted class clown or anything like that. The problem is, *I could actually pull that off*! Nobody's found a new sample of kryptonite in over a decade, and that's even assuming that it would work on me!" he stressed.

"Even right now, nothing much short of a nuclear explosion could kill me; in a couple of years, I'd be unstoppable but for my dad."

"But, everybody knows that you're not *really* going to take over the world," David replied, still confused.

"I'm not so sure — everybody at this school, maybe, but what about others? I just don't want anybody getting any ideas about me. Please, David, it would really make my parents and me uncomfortable. There's enough pressure on my folks as it is; knowing that if I don't turn out right, all the good that my father has done over the years could be undone," Jonathan said.

"Well, all right. I guess I can see how it might be a problem," David relented.

"Thanks, David," Jonathan said with a smile. To lighten the atmosphere, he joked, "Besides, do you have any idea how long I'd be grounded if I tried something like that?"

David did not respond to the question, for he was suddenly staring at the ceiling, lost in thought. "Wow, I never thought of that—being grounded by Superman—" he mused.

***

"So, are you looking forward to college?" Ben asked as he and Jonathan ate lunch in the cafeteria.

"You bet! But I'm also kind of nervous about it; people didn't know that my dad was Superman until senior year here in high school. But at the University everybody will know straight from the start — it might be kind of weird," Jonathan responded to his best friend.

"Yeah, I had kind of realized that. Here, look at this article that I found in the newspaper," Ben said as he slid a newspaper clipping from the Daily Planet over the table to Jonathan.

The article was titled "University Officials Reject Proposed Regulations." Apparently, a small group of concerned parents had asked the University's board of directors to mandate that the walls of the women's locker rooms and showers all be painted with lead. The board had turned down the plan, citing the fact that "see-through vision works just as well through clothes as it does through walls", and therefore the measure would be useless.

Ben grinned at his friend and asked conspiratorially, "So, have you ever looked into the girl's locker rooms?"

Jonathan smiled wryly. "No, I never have."

Ben groaned in mock disappointment. "Oh, but Jonathan, Jonathan — nobody would ever know!" he ribbed.

"Yeah, I know. But my dad and I don't have the luxury of such vices. You do it once, and then it becomes easier to do it again. And the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Then, before you know it, you start doing bigger things, and still bigger things after that. Such is the nature of evil," Jonathan said.

"Wow, I never thought of it that way. So, you have to be totally scrupulous in everything, just in case you end up taking over the world or something?" Ben asked cautiously.

Jonathan dipped his head slightly in acknowledgement. "I once believed that my father was na´ve in his approach towards megalomaniacs. How easy it would have been to kill, say, Lex Luthor, for the good of humanity! But that would make him judge, jury, and executioner, well on the way to becoming a tyrant."

Ben sighed. "Tough decisions — do you kill somebody you *know* to be a murderer and save lives, but risk becoming a murderer yourself? I guess there's no easy answer to that one; thank goodness your dad has already dealt with all of the really big criminals."

Jonathan nodded in agreement. He had read the tales of those four years, in which certain criminals had somehow gained unprecedented power and resources, threatening entire societies. Their stories seemed so unrealistic, so unlikely, and yet they had happened. Thankfully, after that period, the odds had started prevailing again, and no more one-in-a-trillion criminals had emerged.

"Yeah, seems people have wised up over the years. I'll probably mostly be dealing with natural disasters and accidents and such when my brain kicks in, which should be around the time I get my bachelor's. Hey, I wonder what my first rescue effort will be — do you think it will be an earthquake? A tsunami, perhaps?" Jonathan speculated.

"Nah, the odds of that are pretty slim. Most likely it'll just be a car accident — *maybe* a burning building. Still, the stakes will be high and there'll be a ton of pressure. Man, I wish you luck with that! In the meantime, try to enjoy yourself in college," Ben said.

***

Lois and Clark were at home, leisurely going through the mail together. Clark was sitting at the dinner table, inspecting the normal mail that came through the mailbox. Lois was rummaging through the large post office bag that contained the fan mail.

"Oh no, I wish they would stop doing this! It looks like the electric and water companies 'forgot' to send the bills again! I'll have to fly over to pick them up," Clark complained.

"Well, I guess that was to be expected once everyone found out about you being Superman. At least the IRS didn't increase the amount of your tax refund by as much as we had thought they would," Lois remarked.

"Hey — and just *what* is this!?" Lois had pulled a lacy black bra out of the bag of fan mail. A note was attached to it along with an address.

"'If you ever get tired of the old lady, you know where to come for some *real* action??'" Lois read indignantly. "How dare she! I thought these would stop once they found out that you're *married* to *me*!"

Clark stood up to stand next to his wife with a rueful grin on his face. "Most of them did stop, but there're some real crazies out there."

As he wrapped his arms around Lois and leaned over to breathe on her neck, Clark murmured, "If only they knew just how much action I get—"

"You know, I *really* could have done without hearing that!" Jonathan said as he walked into the room, seemingly out of nowhere.

Clark instantly disengaged himself from Lois. "Oh, Jonathan! I, uh—didn't hear you coming home!" he exclaimed, embarrassed.

Jonathan waved the sheaf of papers he was holding in front of his father. "I need some help in filling out these forms for college — that is, unless you're *busy*?"

Clark turned to Lois for help, only to find that she had become totally engrossed in the mail. Great, no help at all. "Uh, no, of course not! What is it you need help with?" he queried.

"All right, so what should I fill out under ethnicity? Should I check 'Caucasian' or 'Other'?" Jonathan asked.

Clark scratched his head. "Well, I check 'Other' and write in 'Kryptonian'—but I guess you could go with either one," he replied.

Taking a look at the form, he brightened up. "Well, it says 'check all that apply' — so I guess you just check both boxes and write in 'Kryptonian' on the line for 'Other'!" he said cheerfully as he beamed at his son.

Jonathan fervently prayed that the college officials wouldn't think that he was some kind of weirdo.

***

The rest of the school year passed relatively uneventfully — people had adjusted to his family's secret as well as could have been expected, and Jonathan had more or less gotten over the humiliation of his first post-revelation day of school. Still, sometimes he could have sworn that he could hear people making kissing sounds when he got near.

Not all of the jokes made were to tease him about his parents' relationship, though; he had gotten a good laugh out of it when one of his classmates had presented him with a Superman action figure. However, it was no ordinary Superman action figure — the gift giver had replaced the figure's voice box with one he had taken out of a Darth Vader action figure, so that Jonathan could hear Superman say to him in Darth Vader's voice, "I am your father!" That had been a riot.

There had also been a popular fad going on for a while where students would use Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Paint pictures to digitally create pictures of Jonathan wearing a variety of ridiculous superhero outfits. That had lost its novelty quickly enough, however, when Jonathan had made it clear that he was *not* going to wear anything of the sort.

Jonathan had also developed cold breath during the school year, although so far he hadn't found too much of a use for that beyond chilling drinks. But then, over the summer, something strange and wonderful had happened.

One day, after waking up in bed, he just *knew* that he could fly. It had been something that he had been looking forward to for years — in fact, even more so than the prospect of gaining super brainpower. He had immediately shouted out with joy, and had taken great pains to demonstrate his new ability to his proud and delighted parents.

Lois had insisted that Jonathan immediately fly off all by himself to inform his grandparents of the news. Flying to the Lanes' hadn't been too difficult, as they lived in Metropolis. Grandma Ellen had been insufferable, pinching Jonathan's cheeks while exclaiming how great it was that "cute widdle Jonathan" had taken his "first eentsy weentsy baby flight".

The Kents had shown more dignified pride. However, getting to Smallville had been tricky. Jonathan's brain didn't yet possess innate, precise senses of time, direction, and location, nor could it process his surroundings fast enough to control where his super-speed would take him.

So, he had practiced hurtling himself through the air at constant, high speeds while his father flew alongside him, telling him to slow down or speed up such that he would end flying at a constant 10,000 miles per hour.

After that, Clark had done the exact calculations in his head, given Jonathan a stopwatch, and pointed him in exactly the right direction to Smallville. When Jonathan took off, he started the stopwatch, flew his constant 10,000 mph, and stopped when the display read 6 minutes and 27 seconds. He didn't land exactly at the farmhouse, of course, but his stopwatch-controlled flight had put him close enough so that he had been able to fly the rest of the way at more manageable speeds, using a map to guide him to the proper address.

Some time later, Clark had flown to Kansas so that Jonathan could find his way home just by following him on the return flight. But those were all small, unimportant details — the important thing was that he could *fly*!

Flying under his own power was unlike any experience Jonathan had ever had before. Sure, he had flown before when his father had carried him, but actually *doing* the flying was totally different in a way that he just couldn't put into words.

Jonathan grinned as he flew over the city of Metropolis aimlessly, going nowhere in particular, just flying for the sake of flying. Life was good.

***

Jonathan's flying had made big news; photos of him soaring through the air soon graced the front page of every major metropolitan newspaper. Although the media hadn't detected his rarely utilized cold breath, a soon-to-be college freshman flying through the air was pretty visible.

Unfortunately, it also had the effect of bringing his powers to the forefront of the public consciousness again. Jonathan hovered over the living room, watching the news.

"The latest controversy is over the NCAA's proposed 'one-drop' rule. As all of you know, if this rule is adopted, any athletes of extraterrestrial descent — people who have 'one drop' of non-human blood running through their veins — would be ineligible to participate in collegiate sports. The measure has already encountered fierce opposition from the ACLU, which has a representative here to speak to us today."

The news anchor gestured towards the distinguished looking black gentleman who was sitting across the table from him. "Mr. Walters, would you care to explain your organization's position?"

"Certainly, Tom. Our position is that this rule is clearly discriminatory towards a certain small minority group. While it is undeniable that members of this group possess a clear advantage in athletics, you *cannot* have it *as a policy* to exclude individuals from participating based on either species or race. It would be preferable, and more equitable, to change the rules of the sports — for example, explicitly prohibiting the use of flight in the game of basketball."

Mr. Walters continued, "I would like to pose a question of your viewers. If you start discriminating against interspecies children, are interracial children next? What we have here is a yet another example of a half-white—"

Jonathan turned off the TV, a sinking feeling beginning to form in his chest. Although he had no intention of joining any sports team, he was still unsettled by the debate. College was going to be complicated.

***

By the time the University had been in session for a week, Jonathan's worries had mostly subsided. Everything had gone pretty smoothly so far — he had been able to register for all of the courses that he wanted, he was forming good relationships with the professors, and he was making friends among his fellow undergraduates.

He had even been pre-accepted into the Computer Science major under the Early Decision program, no mean feat. He wasn't sure whether or not he had been given preferential treatment as Superman's son, but it wasn't as if he should just remove himself from consideration from everything just because of his father's celebrity status. Heck, if he did that, then he wouldn't have even been able to apply for college. Besides, his grades were good enough anyways to have been a strong candidate for Early Decision consideration.

Hovering over campus after his last class of the day, Jonathan noticed a large group of people gathering in the plaza. As he flew lower, he realized that it was actually two groups of people — a small protest and a much larger counter-protest. The antagonists were shouting at each other angrily.

Landing next to a student in the large group, he asked, "What's going on?"

The student responded with his lip curled. "White supremacist group." Turning to face Jonathan, he said apologetically, "I—think they're here because of you."

Jonathan raised his eyebrows. "What? I'm probably just as white as they are!"

The other boy shook his head. "Not by their definition — they're going by 100% *Caucasian*. I know, it's ridiculous — but technically, your dad isn't *Caucasian*," he said, rolling his eyes.

Before Jonathan could think of a response, a voice called out, "There he is! There's the filthy half-breed! Beware the alien, the abomination — for in his heart, he yearns to be your master!"

This brought a chorus of boos from the larger group. Jonathan turned to look at the person who had made the remarks; apparently, he was the leader of the protest. Behind him, his lackeys started unfurling a large banner. Jonathan clenched his teeth when he saw what the words were.

The banner read, "E.T. GO HOME". By now, the demonstrators on both sides had worked themselves up to a frenzy; it looked as if they might be about to come to blows. Deciding that his presence could only exacerbate the tense situation, Jonathan flew off towards the other end of campus, wanting to be alone in his thoughts.

***

Jonathan stared through the Astronomy building's telescope into the evening sky. The observatory was deserted except for himself, so it was completely quiet. However, Jonathan was so sequestered within his own thoughts that he didn't hear the sound of encroaching footsteps.

"'When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the Earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return'," a voice quoted reverently.

Surprised, Jonathan turned around to face the newcomer. "Leonardo Da Vinci, source unknown," he said. "I didn't hear you come in, professor."

Professor Stout raised his eyebrows slightly. "Impressive. I didn't realize that you were so well-versed on the figures of the Renaissance."

Jonathan blushed slightly. "Actually, I heard it from a computer game. What are you doing here, professor?"

"Looking for you, actually. What was it that you were looking at?" the professor responded.

"Oh, nothing," Jonathan shrugged.

"I see. Well, you were staring quite intently at nothing."

At that, Jonathan let out a deep sigh. "It's just that I was thinking — somewhere out there," he gestured in the direction the telescope was pointing, "there are people who are just like my father. But I am completely alone in the universe," he finished in a slightly bitter voice.

The professor made a grim face. "Pay them no heed — those who spread messages of hate are themselves the architects of their own tears and isolation."

Jonathan nodded, but said, "Yet they're right about one thing; among all of the beings on Earth, I alone can look at both of my parents and see an *alien*."

Professor Stout's eyes widened. "Surely you don't-"

"No — of course I've never looked at or thought about them that way. I never actually gave much thought to being half-human until recently; in fact, I believed myself to be fully human for most of my life," Jonathan interrupted.

"Would you change it, if you could?" the professor queried.

Jonathan shook his head. "No. The alien-ness, the powers — they're part of who I am. I wouldn't change anything about myself, but the fact remains — I'll always be different from everybody else, perhaps never quite fitting in."

"Humanity is about more than just biology-" the professor began.

"Is it? From a scientific standpoint, I would have to disagree," Jonathan cut him off.

"Yes, you're right — forgive me for being trite," Professor Stout sighed. "But what makes you believe that you are so different?"

Jonathan turned his back to the professor as he looked through the glass ceiling at the darkness of space. "Did you know I never dated in high school?"

Before his confidante could respond, he continued, "Not from girls' lack of interest, either. I always told myself that I never asked them because it would be better for them not to be seen dating a 'computer nerd'. But all along, deep down I've known that that was never true — I could just never escape from the idea that I would be imposing myself on them as a half-alien."

"That was never a problem for your parents."

"True — I suppose they've done unspeakable things together," Jonathan smiled slightly, "things that some would hate them for, that they would hate *me* for. My father didn't find out that he was an alien until he was 27; I wonder if my mother was ever intimidated by it."

"She must have a remarkable character — most humans would find it extremely difficult to even contemplate associating outside of the species, regardless of what they may say to the contrary. Perhaps you should look at it this way — rather than feeling isolated, you must think of yourself as belonging to *both* sets of peoples," the older man responded.

"Perhaps. I guess it's just easier to see differences than similarities," Jonathan stated.

"What you must also consider is that humans have great potential to fall into hatred, deceit, excess."

"As do I."

"No doubt. But my point still stands — perhaps, when it comes to *people*, whether or not they are human may be as trivial and unimportant as race or gender. You must find your own validation in life — and until you do that, you may very well be alone in more ways than one."

***

As Jonathan flew over campus the next morning, he found that he still couldn't escape all of the insecurities that had accumulated over the course of his life. It was Saturday, so he had the entire day to brood to himself.

<Humans get sick. Humans die without food and water. Humans can be killed by bullets. Humans feel the heat and the cold.>He didn't understand why it bothered him so much. Humans and Kryptonians were evidently genetically compatible, so it could even be argued that they were different strains of the same species.

Neither of his parents had ever shown the slightest discomfort with the fact that he was half-Human and half-Kryptonian. His mother had actually *gotten into bed* with an alien — well, he supposed both of his parents had. People generally didn't seem to think of them as deviants or anything — so why had he always felt so—different?

Was it the powers? Did he feel, deep down, that the advantages in every field of human endeavor that he would have in a few short years would separate him from the rest of humanity?

His thoughts were interrupted by the sight of a large crowd clustered around something on the ground. Some of the people saw him in the sky, and immediately started hollering and gesticulating frantically.

Worried, Jonathan started to descend towards the crowd. When he saw what was going on, his blood stopped cold. His own self-pity completely forgotten, he took stock of the situation. A life was in danger, and he had no idea what to do! Panicking at the sight of the hopeful, expectant faces in the crowd, he did the only thing that he could think of.

Whipping out his cell-phone, he dialed his dad's number at the Daily Planet. <Come on, please answer!> There was no response. <Oh no, what am I going to do now?> It wasn't as if anyone else had any experience with these types of things—wait! Mom had been Ultrawoman for a while! She might know what to do! While he waited for an answer, Jonathan mused at the irony of the fact that his mother, who had no superpowers of her own, had more experience being a superhero than he did.

"Lois Lane of the Daily Planet."

"Mom! Thank goodness you're there! Look, there's an emergency here, and I don't know what to do!" Jonathan spoke frantically.

As quickly as he could, he provided his mother with the details of the situation.

"Oh my god, OK, don't panic, here's what I think you should do—" Lois started babbling nervously.

After listening to his mother's directions, Jonathan steeled himself for the ordeal that was to come. <It's now or never,> he thought as he flew down towards the trapped individual.

One grueling minute later, Jonathan descended to the ground amidst the jubilant cheers of the assembled throng. As he looked at the life that he had saved, Jonathan knew that he had come to terms with his humanity. >From now on, people could say what they would — it wouldn't change the fact that he had done something truly spectacular.

***

"—And it must have been over 50 feet tall!" Jonathan boasted as the Kents excitedly discussed the big event of the day over the dinner table.

In the center of the table, the Daily Planet's front-page headline read, "SUPER-KID RESCUES KITTEN FROM TREE!"

Clark beamed at his son. "That's nothing. Why, I remember this one time—"

Lois lowered her gaze down to her food as she smiled knowingly. Men — if you asked them, rescuing kittens from trees was the most macho thing to do in the world. Oh, they'd be all humble about it at first, but with each telling of the story, the tree would get taller, the kitten cuter.

"You know the Patterson's kitten? Well, this one was like—*10 times* cuter—"

***

Epilogue — four years later

Jonathan was completely, hopelessly, in love. Oh, he had practically just found out her name, but from when he had first laid eyes on her, he knew that he was lost.

She was a *beautiful* reporter that he had been assigned to work with; unusually for a man of his vocation, Jonathan had followed in his parents' footsteps and had gone to work at the Daily Planet after he had graduated from college.

She had made it abundantly clear that she wasn't intimidated by his powers, and that he had better do his job properly or else there'd be hell to pay. They had started talking, however, and she revealed that Superman had saved her, along with all of the other passengers, from an out-of-control train over 10 years ago.

Jonathan remembered that day well. It had been his 12th birthday, and he had been sorely disappointed that his father had been unable to be present for the festivities. Never in his life had he ever wished more that his father did not have to be Superman.

Suddenly, he heard a cry for help. Looking up from their work to exchange a brief nod, father and son flew off to the rescue, for the first time, together.

As they sped to the scene of the highway pile-up, Jonathan silently though to himself, <Thanks, dad. I owe you one.>

***

Back at the Daily Planet, a certain beautiful reporter yelled aloud from sheer frustration. She angrily marched off in the direction of the editor's office to air her grievances.

"Jimmy! Is this the quality of the help that you hire around here?? How the heck am I supposed to get my computer fixed if the tech support guy keeps flying out the window???"

THE END