A/N: And the honor of the first fic I've written in months goes to Man of Steel and Henry Cavill's puppy dog eyes.
It's days before he thinks to fly back to his fortress in the North Pole. There's just so much to do, so much need for this newly unveiled "Superman" in the world, to help humanity get back on its feet after an honest to God alien invasion.
Clark can't really wrap his mind around that part yet.
Sure, he's technically an alien as well, and even the same species as the invaders, but no matter how his far his lonely travels drove him, the humans called to him more strongly than Zod had. Not to mention that his only experience with Kryptonians had been attempted murder of himself and mass genocide of his entire planet, other than his father of course, but that didn't count. Jor-El was his father, was his family.
So Superman spends his time helping to rebuild, to extend a hand to a people who've been knocked over, to encourage them with a smile when sometimes that was all they really needed. And Clark Kent spends his days settling into his new job, getting to know Lois Lane and the rest of his coworkers, and travelling the city learning the ropes of journalism. It's exhausting work, in both his personas, and there's just so much to occupy his attention, to anchor him in the world, that he doesn't once feel the restlessness that drove him to wander far from his family's farm. And yet it's the thought of his family—not Ma, though he's made a point to check in with her every few days, join her for dinner just to see her smile, but his birth family—that makes him pull up short one day at work.
"And I want that article by—" Perry cuts himself off, presumably at the look on Clark's face. "Kent. Are you alright?"
Clark blinks. "Uh, actually, not really, sir. Suddenly got this weird feeling…"
"Weird feeling?" Perry says skeptically. "You look like death warmed over all of a sudden. Maybe you should go home early today. In fact, why don't you head home right now?" Clark shuffles his feet, wondering if he should protest, but wanting to get out of there as fast as he could. "You can work on that article from your home," Perry adds.
Clark forces a smile. "Thanks, sir."
And then he's grabbing his jacket and heading out the door, tossing out a "See you, Monday!" to a startled and concerned Lois. He finds a convenient alley to disappear into and Superman flies out of it.
The North Pole is cold and bleak when he lands, exactly how he remembers it, but the Fortress is ruined. He knows it as soon as his feet enter the doorway and his father is not there to greet him, a smile as welcoming as Ma's always is warming the stern features. He looks around blankly, the walls that remain exactly the same, and yet different. Once, they seemed to pulse with life, with the last remnants of his native culture, with home. Now they are silent and unforgiving.
He doesn't know why he's surprised to see the message Zod left for him. "He died knowing I would destroy you." And Clark—Kal—feels something twist deep inside him. He falls to his knees in front of the console where he had first entered his house sigil and seen his father. That sigil is lost forever, blown to bits to save his adopted planet. And he can't bring himself to regret it, even if his heart feels hollow and lost in a way he hasn't felt for a long time, because he knows what he had bought with the destruction of that sigil and all that it had meant.
He is Superman, a symbol of hope and justice far more important than the prices paid by Kal-El and Clark Kent.
Superman walks out of his fortress into the blinding whiteness of the Arctic and takes off to answer the cries for help always echoing around the earth, his home.
And if sometimes the part of him named Clark Kent, who sometimes feels more like a small lost child than a superhero, aches a little because he'd never gotten to say goodbye to either of his fathers, Superman just smiles a little wider, pours a little more heart into whatever he's doing, whoever he's helping.
If he's lucky, it sometimes hurts a little less that way.