By The Hawk and The Wolf a.k.a. Lote <email@example.com> and Jon Wolff <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: February 2002
Summary: An ordinary man fighting on New Krypton, Clark writes letters to Lois, reflecting on his wartime experiences and how they have changed him.
Lote: This story is dedicated to the soldiers who fought in Afghanistan, the civilians who suffered in the crossfire, the aid workers who had their own battles in bringing in supplies to those who need them the most, all of their loved ones, and more. Most of all, this is dedicated to the Afghan refugees who are, at this moment, making their way back to what is left of their homes, to pick up the pieces and start rebuilding their lives with whatever little they have and to the men who are trying to help them do so.
We'd also like to thank Carol Malo for going above and beyond her duties as GE to this story.
Lois clicked open her Eudora program and downloaded her emails. After the "You have new mail" message appeared, she saw that there was one message without any email address. She was intrigued. How could an email be sent without a sender's address? Curiously she opened it. It said…
@Subject: Missing you
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=iso-8859-1
I miss you so much. There were times in these last few months when I wondered if I'll ever be able to return to you. But you are never far from my thoughts, Lois.
I'll be home soon, I promise. However, I've yet more duties to discharge. The war has totally crippled the New Kryptonians and now that it's over, they will need help to rebuild their world. I cannot, in good faith, abandon them at this point. So be patient for a little while longer, honey.
I do love you and miss you. The following attachments are letters I wrote you as the war progressed. Some of them may sound bitter and grim. If so, I'm truly sorry, honey. I would never want to expose you to such elements. However, in reality, they were the only way I had to stay sane. I'm afraid that I've seen too much, grown too hard to be the Clark you once knew. However, my feelings for you have never changed. You're my one constant.
When I do get back, please be even more patient with me. I'm trying to imagine you at this moment and hoping that you will understand the pain I will be carrying with me in my soul. The things I've seen and done have changed me, sometimes beyond recognition. I do not regret coming, but I do wish that things weren't so bad as to have forced me to act as I did. I will need time when I come back to become the partner that you deserve.
So once again, my dearest Lois, I beg for your understanding and patience.
Your loving fiance,
She stopped reading, her heart was beating so fast. Finally, to hear from him again. It wasn't satisfying just reading from the screen. She needed to touch him. Well, if not him then something physical. She knew what she would do; she clicked on the print button. She dashed to the printer and waited impatiently for the machine to churn out the letters. As the first page came through, she snatched it up and greedily read it. 'Oh Clark," she thought as her heart broke at the tone of the email.
Date: Day 1, AA (After Arrival)
Good morning Lois.
Morning has just broken here. Though you wouldn't think so, the sun being red and less hot than our sun. I'm trying to stay warm under the many layers of clothing I have on at the moment, without much success. We've only just arrived at the central city of New Krypton. It is definitely not what I expected at all, but then again, I had no idea what to expect.
The council is going to meet soon and Zara said that they will acknowledge our 'marriage' and my right to rule New Krypton without much dissension. Everyone here knew that I was the only one who could unite the people, both the nobles and the commoners, against Nor's forces. It would seem that I'm somewhat a legend here.
Zara is calling me now so I've to go. I'll write you later.
Missing you so much,
Date: Day 7, AA
I'm so tired. Not much rest these last few days. Just hours after the council named me the ruler of New Krypton, Nor and his allies attacked the city. Caught unprepared, many civilians died. I felt so helpless not being able to help these people. My powers are now gone, since I no longer have the yellow sun to energize me. If ever I wished for my powers, it was then. The worst hit were the residential areas of the commoners. They had very little protection since they were in the outskirts of the city which has no protective walls. Women and children were brutally killed.
I cannot fathom the minds of these men (and women) who thoughtlessly, or without remorse, kill others, especially innocents, to further their goals and agendas. Some of them do it for reasons that are insane even though they seemed to be justified in their minds. Some others do it merely out of greed. That is why I am here. To fight these people who would kill without remorse, to prevent them from killing again. To prevent them from enslaving others with their insanity.
Since the attack, the army has been mobilized and aid workers are frantically trying to help in the rescue efforts around the city. Perhaps one heartening thing to see is how the nobles and commoners have banded together in these difficult times. Everyone is made equal by the attacks. Well, except for a few lords who still demanded to be served first, but I soon put a stop to that.
I've been involved in organizing the army. They are a motley crew at best. Unfortunately, New Krypton had been so peaceful before Nor's attacks that its leaders have let their standing army go to pot. Our time is limited to get them back into shape. Ching has been invaluable in getting the armies organized, having much more military experience than me. He's also been very supportive of my leadership. His words carry a lot of weight within the military, and they were able to accept me without reservation due to his support and loyalty. I knew before we left that Ching and Zara were in love with each other, and I knew that it killed him to see me with her. I took the time to confide in him the business-like nature of our relationship. He has been a fierce and loyal friend ever since.
It's very early morning here, and I'm going to catch a couple of z's before dawn approaches and we head into the enemy territory. While I don't wish for you here, I do wish I could be with you right this minute.
All my love,
Date: Day 27, AA
I just got back to headquarters, and it's about 1:30 in the morning. It was cold and drizzling here most of the day, but I think the clouds have just begun to move off. I'm taking this lull to write you. I wish I could write more often, but the situation does not permit.
I feel guilty sometimes about having to go away. I know you would say that I shouldn't feel guilty (I can hear your scolding tone in my head), that I had to leave. But that doesn't make me feel any less guilty. I know that it was right for me to go, to help the New Kryptonians fight against a tyrant. Seeing what devastation Nor had wrought amongst his own people, I have no doubts that I made the right decision. However, that doesn't lessen my guilt at leaving you behind.
In many ways I have become a very hard man, out of necessity; because of what I had to experience, because of what I have seen here, because of what I had to do. Sometimes I think all of the capacity for love inside me has been torn out of my heart by being here. Now I know why Thomas Jefferson called it "Liberty's Price". The New Kryptonians let down their vigilance, now they (and I) have to pay the price. To fight for the liberty of the New Kryptonians I must harden myself against the horrors of war I find here. I have to do it because I never can show and tell anybody here about my feelings and because my men depend on me to make the right decisions, to be the strong one.
I know that the tone of this letter seems to be rather depressing, so let me share with you something good for a change. There are rewards here sometimes. Even the smallest triumph can help me deal with the heartaches. I was out on patrol, with a few of my men, near one of the commoners' villages within the enemy's borders. There was this ten year old kid from the area playing near one of the destroyed buildings. Somehow, one of the enemy soldiers surprised us and fired a rocket at us. I couldn't just leave the kid standing there when that maniac started firing that rocket launcher.
Unfortunately I fell back on old habits and thought that my super speed (now nonexistent) would save me. So I didn't quite beat that rocket to the big rock I dived behind <shrug>. So now, I'm being treated for a little shrapnel embedded within me. Probably I'm going to have a scar. Don't worry; it's not a serious wound. I'm glad I managed to save the kid. But doing this without benefit of my superpowers helps me to better appreciate the courage it takes for those men who fight and help to save lives day after day. Every day they put their lives on the line to protect the innocent without any special gifts other than the desire to protect those whom they love. It felt good to be able to help in that way.
With this more uplifting note, I'll end this letter. Till we meet again, my love.
I'm keeping the ring close to my heart, Clark.
Date: Day 64, AA
When will this war end? I'm not sure how much of me will be left by the time I get to go home. I don't think I will be good for anybody when this is all over. Could you accept me as I am now? I have no illusions that I can easily move past the emotional scars of this war. Right now I feel colder, perhaps even bitter. But I need to keep the reason I'm here in mind. That when this is over innocent people can go back and have their own lives again, free of the fear that invades their lives daily.
I'm so tired but I can't get to sleep, so I'm writing to you while I have this chance. I hope you don't mind me dumping this on you, but somehow I know that you would tell me not to be silly.
It's damn cold here. The cold seems to be able to penetrate your body all the way deep inside to your bones. Maybe it's the situation here that makes it feel colder; nothing to warm your soul. Do the men who had fought in the various wars feel this way? I don't know but this is what I feel.
War definitely doesn't warm your soul. In fact, it burdens the soul and detracts from it. There is a dirtiness to the acts of war that cannot be easily washed clean from your hands or from your soul, even if the war is justified as the case is with this one. There is no simple wiping out the images of battle after battle impregnated on our minds. No easy way to drown the sounds of weapons and the cries of dying men from your dreams. Perhaps that's one of the reasons I sleep so little these days.
I'm proud of my men, proud to call them my men. They're no longer the ragtag army that I first encountered. This war has changed them, as much as it has changed me. For some, the war has less impact because they were able to detach their feelings from the acts we must do in the name of duty. For others, it has been very difficult. Nevertheless it's a brave thing that these men do. And the sacrifice they make here is something to be proud of. Not the killing mind you, nor the destruction, but the sacrifice.
The men who serve with me (I will not belittle their efforts by saying they serve under me) have become special brothers to me and to each other. They've gone to hell and back with me as this war progressed. Experiences like these forge strong bonds between men… ones that will last the rest of our lives.
I wish that these letters were more cheerful. However, I've not enough energy to muster much cheerfulness. I'm sorry, honey, and I miss you so.
Date: Day 85, AA
Would you recognize me if you saw me now, I wonder?
Scruffy looking, I don't dare to look in the mirror. I'm glad you can't see me as I am now. Hmm…do you think I could scare Nor and his allies into surrendering by my appearance alone? Sorry, just being silly. Not that there're many chances to be silly here.
I feel so bitter right now. I went out today to visit one of the places we 'captured' from one of Nor's allies. And what did I find? It killed me to see the vacant look in the eyes of the women and children there. There are almost no men left; either they have been recruited by Nor and his allies or killed by them for not seeing things their way. Some of the women are so afraid… they look like walking ghosts. It just rips at my heart to see them.
And the children. They were carrying weapons as if those weapons were a status symbol. They had been taught that it was an honor to kill your enemy. I don't understand how Nor had twisted the moral values that every human being (I'm using the term human being loosely here) should hold. These kids should be taught love and kindness instead of violence and hatred. Some of my men were saddened at the way Nor had twisted the values which the New Kryptonians uphold so dearly. To them, honor is important. Yet it has to be tempered with mercy and justice. These kids weren't being taught mercy at all.
I'm going to stop here before I sound too bitter. As I write this, I'm afraid that I'm losing you one day at a time. That frightens me more than anything else.
Date: Day 100, AA
To the wife of my heart,
I truly wish that I could go home today. The war is finally over and Nor has surrendered. Zara and the council, in acknowledgement of my 'contributions', have released me from the 'marriage' contract and from my position as ruler of New Krypton. They have agreed to allow Zara and Ching to marry and become the new rulers. I am free to go back. Yet, I have a few things to get settled here first.
I hope you understand my decision to delay for a few days more. Looking around me, I see death and destruction everywhere. Some of which I've contributed to. I need a little time before I leave to do something positive and constructive. Before I leave I need to see something positive to offset the images of the war here. The New Kryptonians need help to start their rebuilding process.
A few of my men and I recently went out to a refugee settlement near our camp. The people had just begun to return to the place; most of them were women and children. They had almost no supplies left. The men and I decided to start an impromptu fast and all of our supplies mysteriously ended up in the hands of the settlers. I wondered how that happened? <innocent hum>
We spent the rest of the day trying to figure out how to best use what was left of their houses to help them make adequate shelter for themselves. We decided that night that we might accidentally lose our tents on the way back <more innocent humming>. By noon on the second day we had finished drawing up some plans for them and packed up to get back the next day.
When we woke up that morning, one of the little boys came to speak to me. He was trying to be all brave and grown up, formally thanking me for the assistance we gave. He couldn't have been more than twelve, and I could tell he was trying to be the man of the family. After his proclamation, he started to walk away to return to his family. But then he suddenly hesitated for just a moment, and then turned around to give me a quick hug and murmur something to me. After he left the interpreter (this region seems to talk in a different dialect than what I'm used to) told me that the little boy was thanking me for the food because his little sister had been hungry for so long. After all I had been through, I think that little boy's hug was a gift from God… something to lift my heart above the sadness.
And so, my dearest Lois, I hope you can understand this final delay, and then we will be together again. So, be patient with me a little longer.
I'm going to see if Zara could arrange to send this letter and all the others I've written to you so you know that soon we will be together again.
All my love,
Lois clutched the last letter to her chest, tears streaming freely from her eyes. He was safe. He was coming home to her. She loved him more than she had words to describe, so she would be patient for his return.
To hell with that, patience was always over rated in her mind. She wanted him back now. She wanted to hold him in her arms and chase away the demons in his soul. She wrapped her arms around herself and could almost feel his presence there in her embrace. She knew that he was the most powerful being on this planet, but he was so vulnerable in many ways. He took responsibility for every hurt he witnessed… every wrong he could right. She knew that he needed her as much as she needed him.
She reread the letters again and again in the comfort of her bedroom, missing him so much. She wished with all her heart that she had gone with him and that she had been able to share what he had gone through. Her heart ached for him. She wanted to be by his side, supporting him. Reading the last letter, she couldn't help but say a small prayer for the little boy who had given Clark such a beautiful gift.
Lost in her thoughts she almost didn't hear the sound invading her consciousness. Like something hitting her window. Must be the late night wind rattling her window. Opening her eyes she turned to look at the gathering gloom of the coming storm which had been predicted that day. Instead, the dark silhouette of a man was framed in her window. Without a thought she flew to the window, almost ripping it off its hinges to get it open. The letters from Clark were forgotten, abandoned to scatter to the floor.
She didn't even need to see his face; their connection assured her who it was before her. He floated slowly in and touched down on her floor. Solemnly he closed the window and turned to face her. "Lois…" he began. But her name was barely off his lips before she jumped up and wrapped her arms around his body. Over and over again she repeated his name as if it were a lifeline holding her above a stormy sea.
"Lois," he continued, "I'm so sorry that it took me so long to get back to…"
She interrupted him again. "Shut up Clark and just hold me."
The predicted storm finally arrived in Metropolis and they still held each other. Night fell, and they were still in each other's arms. No words were needed just yet. For now they would cling to each other, allow their souls and hearts to entwine each other. Later would be the time for words, the time for healing. But not now. Now would be the time to love each other.
And the next morning when they awoke in each others arms, they would waste no more time and be married that day. Later they would figure out the excuses for the world. But not now. For without words or explanations the love of one woman would heal the wounded soul of one soldier. And for now that would be enough.