On the last day of his first semester of his last year of college, Clark woke up three feet above his bed, and he couldn't get down.
The floating thing had happened a few times before, but he'd always plopped painlessly back to earth as soon as he registered the situation. He'd never been stuck for over ten minutes, paralyzed by fear and a lack of a solution. Now, nearly late for his journalism class, he was starting to get annoyed.
He flopped around a little bit, like a child just learning to swim, and managed to maneuver over to his desk, where his cell phone sat innocently on top of his astronomy notes. With the longest reach down he could muster, he grabbed it and, with a silent prayer, called speed dial three.
"Chloe Sullivan." Chloe had been practicing her work salutation in preparation – Perry was going to offer her the promotion any day now. "What is it this time, Spock?"
"I need your help. There's been a new development." He tried to float back to his bed in case he fell; he didn't want to break anything valuable.
"Where are you?"
"About four inches from the ceiling."
Chloe shifted into action mode – Clark heard it in her voice. "Hold it right there, I'll be there in no time."
Clark sighed, crossed his legs, and lay back onto nothing. "Not going to be a problem."
Chloe poked her head into Clark's third-story window. "Hey there."
Clark sat up abruptly. "Jeez, Chloe, you scared me." He sat Indian-style mid-air, still trying to get comfortable. "You'd think I'd be used to that by now."
"Considering how quickly I adjusted to your super-weightlifting act, yeah, you would think that." She pushed the window open and deftly climbed inside.
Clark rolled his eyes. "Well, you always knew there was something weird about me."
"And you always knew I was going to get powers eventually." She pulled her legs into a sitting position and hovered at Clark's level. "Shove over. There's barely enough room in here for just you."
Clark tried to scoot himself closer to the wall; it worked just barely. "You have to admit, the flying thing is extra weird."
Chloe crossed her arms and cocked an eyebrow. "Says you, newbie."
Clark banged his head against the wall in frustration. "So can you get me down?"
"Not with an attitude like that, I can't." She smirked, savoring the moment. "If you want to kiss the ground again, you're going to have to inject a little…levity into the situation."
Clark groaned, but smiled inwardly. "I hate you, you know."
"Keep talking like that and you're never getting down."
"Hearing and obeying, mistress," Clark drawled flatly.
Chloe rubbed her hands together and grinned, showing all her teeth. "Ooh, I'm going to like this." She leaned in close and whispered, "Almost as much as I like your Warrior Angel jam-jams."
Clark blushed and tucked his legs underneath him, an action that proved futile mid-air. "Yeah, well, whatever. Are you going to help me or not?"
"I will indeed." Chloe cracked her knuckles. "Okay, first thing, you need to clear your mind. Which means back to Indian-style." Disgruntled, Clark pulled his legs out and re-folded them petulantly. "Now, close your eyes, and take a deep breath. Think of something calm, like, say…the Fortress." She closed her own eyes as Clark closed his. "Mm, all that snow. So white, so blank. Imagine that you're there, alone, completely at ease. And that you don't have a paper about the projected course of Alpha Centauri due tomorrow."
Clark opened his eyes with a frown. "Chloe!"
She grinned, eyes still closed. "Sorry."
"Thank you." Clark closed his eyes again. "Okay, I'm in the Arctic. What now?"
"Direct your body downwards. Imagine the feel of your bed underneath you. Take a deep breath in through your nose, slowly exhale, and…" She floated serenely downwards onto Clark's bed, barely even disturbing the sheets. "Voila."
Chloe watched Clark breath in and out, in and out, and soon, he fell a few inches. He smiled at his victory but kept his eyes closed, giving it one more try. In and out and in and-
He dropped through the air and onto the bed, springing Chloe up as he hit. She bounced up and down, clapping. "Again! Again!"
Clark laughed with relief and lay down, enjoying the weight of the mattress beneath him.
Chloe had suggested that they relocate to Big Sky territory for more training, so as they took a break early that afternoon, Martha brought them a tray of cookies and lemonade.
"Thanks so much, Mrs. K.," Chloe said as she inhaled a big breath of Smallville air. "It really is nice to be out of Metropolis and back home."
"I would still have believed you, even if you hadn't spent the whole trip here singing 'Sweet Home Smallville, Kansas,'" Clark said with a smirk.
Chloe scoffed. "Yeah, the entire ninety-second run." Chloe turned to Martha as the older woman laughed. "This whole flying thing's put Clark a little on-edge."
Martha set down the tray on the fence where Clark and Chloe were seated. "Well, if you need some more calming down, Clark, I have plenty of cookies in the kitchen."
Clark took a sip of his lemonade and smiled meekly. "Thanks, Mom."
"You're welcome, dear," Martha said, enjoying being the farmer's wife again. "You kids have fun now. Don't scare the cows too much." She gave Clark a final kiss on the cheek before heading back to the farmhouse.
After Clark polished off the plate of cookies, he patted his knees and turned back to Chloe. "All right, Obi-Wan, what now?"
Chloe floated off of the fence and back to the ground, exaggerating the gracefulness of her movements. Clark was always the leader when they were together – he was more powerful, more experienced, more principled, and more comfortable in the role of 'superhero.' Chloe was just the floating sidekick, waiting for directions from the six-foot tall, super-strong god she followed around. She had to confess, she thought to herself. Being in charge, this one time, was pretty damn cool.
She looked into the sky, shielding her eyes from the sun and checking for aircrafts, birds, and spectators; she saw none. "I guess you've got take-offs and landings pretty down pat. Want to try some intermediate flying techniques?"
Clark eased himself off the fence and shoved his hands in his pockets. "Yeah, sure, as long as we don't go too high. I have a thing."
"A height thing?" Chloe giggled. "Clark, Clark, Clark. Nature bestowed upon you the very rare and very awesome power of flight, not to mention almost-complete invulnerability, and you want to eschew these gifts because of a little neurosis?"
Clark blushed and scuffed his toe in the dirt. "Well, it sounds pretty stupid, when you put it like that."
Chloe was emphatic. "Yeah. Yeah it does."
"Well," Clark said, looking up into an infinite sky, "what do we do?"
"We…a ha!" Chloe pushed off the ground and headed upwards. "We go to the roof of the barn."
Clark sighed and jumped up with a little running start. Hanging in the air, he cautiously held up his fist and rose slowly.
Chloe was floating lazily, arms limp at her sides. "Why are you doing that? It looks kind of stupid."
"I don't know," Clark said, never breaking concentration. "It helps me. It's an instinct thing, I guess."
"Wow." Chloe reached the peak of the roof with a smirk. "Glad I'm not Kryptonian." Clark grinned and playfully blew air at her. The wind, like a light breeze, rustled her hair. "Ha, ha," she deadpanned.
Clark found the roof a little clumsily and climbed to the top. Chloe reached up for his shoulders and positioned him at the very top, at the very end.
"Now," she said, "breathing in and out as you do, just lean forward."
Clark was starting to get a little shaky. "Lean forward? How far?"
Chloe placed her hands on her hips and blew a piece of hair out of her face, taking in the view and getting the lay of the land. "Well, until you're horizontal, I guess. And then we'll just…push off." As Clark's eyes widened, she offered a bright smile. "Don't worry, I'll hold your hand."
Clark closed his eyes and held up his arms and then, after sneaking a glace at Chloe out of the slit of one eye, he started to lean, slowly at first, and then more hurried and excited. He stopped before he reached the horizontal, eyes still closed.
"Can I try taking off like this?" he asked. "I've still got a thing."
Chloe laughed. "Yeah, sure. Now just push off hard, like you're swimming, and we'll see what this baby can do." Clark turned in Chloe's direction and raised his eyebrows above his closed eyes. Chloe smiled gleefully. "And by 'this baby,' I mean your incredible alien powers."
Clark swiveled around, facing forward again. "Thank you," he said. And with a deep breath, he tentatively bent his knees and pushed off.
The resulting wind nearly knocked Chloe off the roof. Clark had vanished in a red blur that Chloe followed with amazed eyes, far higher than the windmill and the water tower, up into the clouds. Faintly, she could hear Clark whoop with delight.
The red streak made a few loop-de-loops, rushing back and forth in the sky, making lopsided shapes between cloud formations. Suddenly, a huge boom sounded, like a thunder clap, and Clark disappeared into the blue.
Chloe sat down, remembering the joy and freedom of her own first flight. She couldn't go as fast as Clark, of course, nor could she venture into thin air – like all kryptofreaks, she got the one-power deal – but she had felt equally cathartic. It had presented a whole new world of possibilities, a world that not even the Wall of Weird could have mapped out for her. And even in the mind-numbing rush of antigravity, flying created instant cognitive clarity and the sensation that anything was possible.
She was fairly surprised that Clark, for whom everything short of reading minds and talking to fish already was possible, could still experience the wonder of flight as thoroughly as she did. It was comforting, she thought, that Clark wasn't so jaded that he could take the extraordinary in stride – at least, not yet. It was the human side of him that allowed him to be amazed, to see the world as the rest of them did. In a way, Chloe thought, it was the most important part of Clark's super-persona.
The red blur reappeared again suddenly, and Clark's features slowly re-formed. He landed carefully on the roof, stepping with a new kind of lightness. He ran his fingers through his wind-swept hair. His eyes were astounded, and he opened his mouth with excitement, but no words came out. Finally, he broke into a brilliant grin and pulled Chloe into a bone-crushing hug.
"Chloe, that was…I can't explain how incredible that was." He pulled away and gripped Chloe by the shoulders, looking into her eyes with a new confidence. "I saw the stars, Chloe. They were so beautiful, so vast. And then this…feeling just came over me. It was indescribable." He startled Chloe with another hug. "The universe is just so amazing. How could anyone possibly hurt it?"
Chloe's laugh was muffled against Clark's chest. "Not invulnerable, remember, big guy?"
Clark let go and sprang backwards almost too fast for Chloe's eye. "Sorry, sorry! Are you okay?"
She brushed imaginary dust off her shirt and grinned. "I'm fine. And I'm glad to see that you've finally had your superhero epiphany."
Clark looked out over Smallville. "If you say so." He ruffled Chloe's hair with a laugh. "Thanks, Chloe. For everything."
Slowly, Chloe sat back down, and motioned for Clark to join her. The sun was setting.
"I guess we're even now, powers-wise," Clark said slyly. "I mean, now that I, too, can defy gravity."
Chloe shoved him lightly. "Dream on, super-dork. I'm still the only one who can do the three-hundred-sixty degree triple loop in reverse." She smiled, self-satisfied. "I choreographed it myself."
Clark put his arm around Chloe, smiling down at her. "Give me two weeks, and I'll have that thing mastered."
Together, they watched the sun set in silence. When Martha rang the dinner bell, they floated to the farmhouse, touched down carefully on the porch, and headed in for supper.