Chapter 53: Home
Kara moaned in her sleep again.
Someone ate too much candy, thought Caitlin. Of course, she wouldn't be making observations like this at five-thirty in the morning if she hadn't, too. She'd slept fitfully all night.
Trick-or-treating had been more fun than she'd expected. She hadn't expected to go at all, but Kara had cajoled her into being Harry to her Hermione; it was a good fit given her black hair and green eyes. She'd felt guilty adding to the costume panic of the previous evening, but Kara's mother had told her not to worry about it. She'd put her hair up in a bun, and makeup on her forehead gave her the lightning bolt scar.
Borrowing non-prescription glasses was not a problem in the Kent household.
Jordy hadn't gone trick-or-treating, opting instead for an early evening showing of a new horror film. He'd invited Caitlin to come along with him and his friends, and she probably would've gone but for her promise to Kara.
Mr. Kent had had to beg off accompanying them at the last minute, saying something had come up for "work." He'd try to join them later. Ms. Lane and Emily had escorted the three girls around the neighborhood.
Emily and Caitlin had both felt liberated walking out the front door. There was nothing forcing them to stay in the Kent home, but the lack of identities or money had tied them there. Now that those problems were solved, for the first time in a long time they felt free.
Emily was going to be meeting with Dr. Lane the next day and talking over the hospitals she'd researched. Next was job interviews, and after that, apartment hunting.
Mr. Kent, true to his word, had joined them towards the end of their trick-or-treating, and they'd returned home in plenty of time for Laura's bedtime. And for eating way too much candy.
Caitlin turned over and tried, again, to go back to sleep. Kara moaned again, but this time it escalated into crying; Caitlin sat up quickly to look.
Kara was floating above her bed, tangled in her sheets. Her hands were clapped over her ears, her eyes squeezed shut; she was curled up in a ball and clearly in pain. "Daddy…" she whimpered. Caitlin scrambled out of bed but wasn't sure what to do.
Suddenly Mr. Kent was there, blurring into the room wearing a bathrobe and his glasses. He gently gathered Kara into his arms, and murmured so quietly in her ear that Caitlin couldn't even hear the sound. Kara nodded, her face still contorted.
Mr. Kent turned to her and whispered, "Caitlin, could you go tell Kara's mom that I'm taking her to Smallville? The city is a little too much for her right now; she needs a quieter environment. The same thing happened to Jordy, and she should be fine in a few hours if this goes like it did for him. But we'll have to tell her school that she's home sick today."
Caitlin nodded, and Kara and her father vanished.
• • •
"Could you take it up a little higher, sweetheart? Thanks."
Clark watched uneasily as his father worked under the one-ton tractor that Kara was currently holding above her head. She was hovering a few feet in the air already, and floated a bit higher.
A little practice had gotten her hearing under control again, faster than Jordy had done so, but Clark reasoned that Kara had had lots of practice with her hearing already. She merely had to get used to the difference in controlling it here. It was considerably more difficult than it had been in that other reality, but she'd managed.
However, he'd been shocked that not only her hearing, but all her powers had returned. He'd kind of expected her to follow the same sequence as he and Jordy had now that she was home. Maybe it was because she'd already developed her powers in the other world, or maybe it was because she was a girl, or maybe it was something else. He guessed he wasn't as much of an expert on the subject as he'd thought.
Bernie would have a field day trying to figure this all out.
Having her powers all kick in at once had been hard on Kara, but it had only taken her half a day to get everything somewhat under control. At least, enough not to break or burn things inadvertently. He'd had to repair the screen door to the kitchen after she'd ripped it off its hinges, and she'd managed to plow a new furrow in one of the corn fields on her first flight.
He was also surprised at how rapidly she'd regained control. Then again, he had to admit that Ultra Woman, Resplendent Man, and the New Kryptonians hadn't taken too long to control their powers after getting them. Even Jesse Stipanovic had managed to partially master his, and he'd only been three and a half. Clark was baffled, but it wasn't as if he wanted her to have a hard time with it. And Kara was clearly delighted and relieved to have her powers back.
None of that helped his nerves as he watched his father work with the Tractor of Damocles looming over him. "Dad, are you sure you don't want me to…"
"Relax, Son. Kara and I are doing just fine, thank you. Anyway, I'm done." He backed out from under the tractor, straightened himself, then winced, massaging his lower back. "You can put it down now, sweetheart."
Kara floated down, then gently lowered the tractor to the ground. She examined her filthy hands. "Grandpa, can I borrow your rag?"
"Sure thing, sweetie." He handed it to her and she wiped her hands. "Oh, and can you hit my lower back with some heat, if you don't mind?" Clark opened his mouth to object, but Jonathan shot him a warning glance, and he closed it.
"Sure, Grandpa!" Kara lowered her glasses and warmed her grandfather's lower back. Clark relaxed when his father's flannel shirt didn't burst into flame.
"Ahhhh…" sighed Jonathan, "that was just right." He turned and smiled at his granddaughter. "Thank you, sweetheart." He held his arms open and Kara ran to hug him.
She tilted her head at the same time as Clark. "Grandpa, Grandma's calling us for lunch."
"Well, then, why don't you run ahead, wash your hands, and help her set, and your dad and I'll follow, OK?"
"Sure!" said Kara. Rather than run, she shot up into the air, looped a loop, then flew off towards the house in a corkscrew.
Jonathan laughed out loud. "Someone sure likes being able to fly again." He motioned Clark, and they started walking back to the house at normal speed. "We won't be able to do this kind of thing much longer though, I'm afraid."
Clark turned to his father. "What do you mean, Dad?"
Jonathan didn't answer directly. "I'm getting too old for this work, Son. I'll be eighty in a few years. It's about time for me to retire, I think, and relax a little while I still can."
Clark tried not to let his disquiet show. "What are you thinking?"
"Well, I've been talking to Paul Irig about leasing the fields to him for farming, and keeping just the house and the land right around it. Your mother and I have thought about moving to Metropolis to be closer to the grandchildren. She likes the idea, but I'm not sure I could take living there. Too crowded, too busy.
"Still, I'd like to see them more often, too. Another few years and they'll all be able to fly out here on their own to visit, but I don't know if we'll still be around in a few years."
Clark wanted to object, but held his tongue.
"Maybe we could live in the suburbs, where it's quieter. Maybe we'll stay here. We're still talking it over. But I've made up my mind to retire.
"With Paul and his brother working the land it'll be harder for you and the kids to fly in and out without being seen, or for the kids to practice. We'll have to be much more careful." Jonathan shrugged. "You'll have to move your Kryptonian stuff somewhere else, too. Too risky leaving it here with other folks on the property all day."
"That's OK, Dad. Don't worry about the kids having a place to practice. There's lots of places I can take them where there's no one around. And I can find another place for the globes and the spaceships. You do what's right for you and Mom."
Jonathan nodded, and was silent for a while. "What are you going to do about Kara and Jordy?"
"Lois and I think they're still too young. We'd like to give the kids more time to have a normal childhood."
Jonathan quirked an eyebrow, but didn't say anything.
Clark ducked his head in admission. "OK, OK, I know that's not really in the cards. But as normal as possible. They need to concentrate on school, and growing up, but most of all on making friends.
"As hard as being Supergirl was on Kara, the friends she made there made it easier. She needs friends here, too. Superman never would've lasted if Lois hadn't been there to support and encourage me."
"Fair enough," admitted Jonathan, "and eleven may be too young. But do you really think you can get them to wait till they're adults?"
"Maybe not," agreed Clark. "Still, once they go public there's no going back, and everyone'll be watching everything they do." He sighed. "Then again, Supergirl did all right… I don't know. Sometimes Lois and I want to let them help now, on easier stuff — maybe in secret. Sometimes we want them to wait till they're thirty." He smiled sheepishly. "I guess we have a little time left to figure it out."
"I'm sure you and Lois will know when the time is right. You've done a good job raising those kids so far."
"I just wish there was a superpower for parenting."
Jonathan laughed and clapped his son on the back. "Me too, Son. Me too."
• • •
"Oh, I like that," said Martha. She tugged a little on Kara's cape. "It's very cute. Did your foster mother make it?"
Martha walked around her granddaughter, taking in the details of her uniform. "Do you want to keep this look for now?"
Kara tilted her head and thought, then shrugged. "I like it."
"Well, I have some ideas for when you feel like a change. Hmmm." She rubbed the skirt's fabric between her fingers. "This material may be a little too stiff, I think. I'll try a lighter fabric, but not what I use for the rest: that wouldn't hang right or move right. Maybe I'll try some of the cape material, and put some pleats in it…"
Clark shifted uncomfortably. "Mom, she's not going public just yet."
Kara and Martha exchanged a glance that Clark was unable to decipher.
"Oh, I know. She's going to be practicing her powers, though, like Jordy. I know you don't want her to be seen, but if she is she should be in uniform. And you know she's going to be flying, don't you?"
"I know," admitted Clark. It was a given: if she could fly, she would. He'd never attempt to deny her that.
"Before Superman, when people saw you fly they just thought they were hallucinating. Now things are different. Better that someone see Superman's children practicing their powers or flying around than Clark Kent's. Besides, I made your uniform, I made Jordy's, and I want to make one for her."
"Jordy has a uniform?" asked Kara. "What's it like?"
"Similar to your father's. Jordy plans to go by 'Superboy.'"
"What's he going to do when he's a grownup? He can't call himself Superboy then." Kara looked to her father. "Dad, are you going to retire as Superman and have Jordy take over?" Martha laughed out loud at the look on Clark's face.
"I don't plan to, sweetheart, at least not that soon. We'll figure out a new name for Jordy when the time comes."
"Hold your arms out, honey," instructed Martha, as she applied a tape measure and started jotting down measurements.
"Why did you make Dad's uniform… I mean, why is the…" She blushed and stopped.
"Why is there underwear on the outside?"
Kara's and Clark's ears turned red together. Clark coughed.
"Um, yeah," answered Kara.
"Well, first of all, it's more modest with that detail than it would be without it, trust me. Second, it's a symbol. The whole point of the outfit being so loud and colorful was to make people focus on it; it became a part of who Superman is. That's why Superman never appears in anything other than that suit, and why you kids need your own." Martha smirked. "The first time your father wore it, I told him no one would be looking at his face."
• • •
"Hold out your hand," instructed Dad.
Kara did so, and one of the two globes sitting on the table in the treehouse lifted into the air, glowing. Kara's mouth fell open as the globe floated over and landed gently in her palm. The moment it touched her, somehow, she knew that it and she were both from Krypton.
The globe flared white, and the brilliant light washed away the world around her; she was left facing a man and a woman. Even if there hadn't been a family resemblance, the woman's blonde hair and blue eyes were a giveaway. These were her birth parents. She felt disheartened; she didn't recognize them at all.
"Daughter," said Alura's image, and suddenly a shiver traveled up her spine. She might not remember their names, she might not remember their faces, but she remembered that voice. It stirred an echo inside her of something she hadn't even known was there. "Ieiu," she murmured, not even realizing she was speaking the only Kryptonian word she knew: Mother.
"Daughter," repeated Zor-El's image, evoking the same feeling. "You are not yet of age. When you are, we will have more to share with you, of your history and heritage."
"Do not dwell on us," continued Alura's image, "for we are the past. Kal-El is the only father you will have known; if he has a human wife, she is your only mother. That you survive and thrive in your new home is enough. We are content."
Zor-El went on, "You must live in the present and the future, and your task for now is to grow into adulthood. Become who you are to be; discover your callings. Then, there shall be time enough to learn of the past."
"Until then," and for the first time Alura's image showed emotion, a tear tracking down her cheek, "dearest Kara, farewell."
The glow faded, and she was back in a treehouse in Kansas with her father. And she was crying. "Daddy," she whispered, and he lifted her into his arms.
Kara's heart ached for the parents she had never gotten the chance to know. But her senses took in her father's heartbeat, warmth, touch, and scent, and all the other little signals that defined him; she relaxed into his embrace. Zor-El and Alura were right: this was her father, holding her. Her mother was waiting for her, back in Metropolis. She might have been born on Krypton, but she belonged here, on Earth.
Everything she'd learned about her heritage, about her abilities, about her family, hadn't changed who she was. She was Kara Zoe Kent, age eleven.
She might not be sure what that meant yet, but she had plenty of time to figure it out.
"Come on, Kara mia," said Dad. "Let's head home."
• • •