By Mary Potts, AKA Queen of the Capes, AKA Quill <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: August 2004
Summary: Superman gets an unpleasant surprise while out on patrol…but is everything as it really seems?
I posted Rude Awakening and its sequel, Waking a Giant, on the boards a while back. Here's the story behind them:
After finding out I have a style—and an apparently distinctive one at that—I decided to see if I could disguise that style. Adopting a fake identity on the boards, I set about to write a dark story, taking great care to avoid my own style. I ended up with a funny drama with some swearing in it.
Fortunately, my efforts were far from being in vain. People enjoyed the fic and the guessing game; I learned that the English do not use words like "gotten" and "dove", and I also learned that I have an easily recognized email address.
I also now know to heed that famous quote by the bard: To thine own self be true.
Clark lifted up into the night sky. Today had certainly been busy: three armed robberies, a sinking cruise liner, a six-car pile-up, and just now a mugging. He decided to unwind with a nice long flight before going home. There was no need to hurry, since by now Lois and the kids would already be asleep.
It wasn't easy, Clark reflected, juggling a family and two full- time careers. He'd missed quite a few little league games, and even birthdays, thanks to his duties as Superman. A lot of time that he could have spent with his children was now lost forever. In the beginning, Clark had feared that his children wouldn't even *know* him, and even now he wondered how badly that lost time had affected them. But his children seemed to have turned out okay, and when he thought of all the lives he saved as Superman, it all seemed worth it.
As he flew, his super hearing picked up an argument going on inside a car parked at Lookout Point. It was two teenagers, a boy and a girl. Apparently, an otherwise normal date had just gotten out of hand. Clark frowned and dove toward the scene.
"Look, I showed *you* a good time, now it's your turn."
"I don't want to!"
"I said come on!"
"Let go of me!"
"Look, I don't want to have to hurt you, but—" The boy stopped and turned around in shock when the car door suddenly ripped open.
Clark grabbed the young man by the neck and pulled him out of the car. "Excuse me, but the young lady said no. If you're smart, you'll—" Clark cut off the sentence. Now that the boy was out in the light, his features unobscured by the car's tinted windows, he could see the young man's face all too clearly. "CJ?"
Shocked, Clark released his son's neck. This couldn't be right. He wasn't seeing this. He looked from his son to the girl in the car and back again. In an instant, all of his thoughts and all of his emotions gave way to pure anger.
"What the HELL do you think you're doing?!" he demanded.
"Dad," CJ said softly, lest his date overhear, "I know this looks bad, but it's not—"
"Whose car is this?"
"Whose car is this?!" Clark didn't care that his son's date was staring slack-jawed at him. He wouldn't have cared if the whole world had been staring. His focus was solely on his son.
"It's Tommy's car," CJ said, still speaking softly. "He loaned it to me for tonight…"
"Give her the keys."
"Give her the keys!"
CJ flinched at his father's barked command, then obediently fished in his pocket for the keys and tossed them to his startled date.
Clark grabbed his son's arm and escorted him down to the main highway. "Now I want you to go straight home, and don't do anything stupid! I'll meet you there in a little bit."
"Dad, you can't be serious!" CJ protested.
"Damn straight I'm serious!" Clark snapped. "And believe me, CJ, if you think I'm tough on regular criminals, you don't even want to *think* about what's going to happen to you! Now MARCH!"
His son stared at him, too stunned to speak, then started walking in the direction of home.
Once his son was out of sight, Clark took off for Antarctica. There, in the icy wasteland, he roared out in anguish, pounded the ice in rage, sank to his knees in confusion, and finally, wept in guilt. It was his fault. He'd acknowledged to himself only moments earlier that he spent an unhealthy amount of time away from his family, and this was the result. His own son—and possibly his other two kids, for all he knew—was no better than the scum he spent so much time trying to clean up. Oh, he'd *tried* to set a good example for his children; he'd talked with them about right and wrong, and he'd tried to make every minute with them count. But obviously, that wasn't enough. All that lost time had taken a very heavy toll. While he was out rescuing kittens from trees, his son had grown up and become a rapist and God only knew what else!
And he never even knew.
It was some time before Clark finally returned home. He landed behind a hedge, spun into his civvies, and entered the house. CJ was waiting for him quietly on the sofa. Lois was sitting next to him.
Clark wordlessly crossed the living room and sat in a chair facing his wife and son. He turned to Lois. "Do you know what happened tonight?"
She nodded. "Yes."
"Do you know what I found *our son* doing?" He fought to keep his voice low, in order to keep from waking up their two youngest.
"Dad, if you'll just let me explain—"
Clark's eyes narrowed. "Explain? CJ, I know what I saw and heard back there. Don't make things worse by inventing any 'explanations.' I'm not an idiot. All I want to know is what else has been going on while my back was turned? Have you been running around with any kind of gangs? Experimenting with crack? *Stealing*? How do I know that you really only *borrowed* that car?"
CJ was taken aback. "Now wait just a minute! You overhear one conversation between me and a girl, and all of a sudden I'm an axe murderer?! I suppose next you'll be demanding to know where I hid the bodies!"
"Don't push me, CJ."
CJ took on a glare that matched his father's. "Dad, I know things looked pretty bad back there, but you should at least hear me out! Aren't I innocent until proven guilty?!"
"Not in this house!"
"Clark!" Lois rose to her feet and shot the two male Kents a look that told them they'd better shut up. When the room was silent, she cast a glance at the stairs. Clark lowered his glasses and looked up, then after a while nodded that the other two were still asleep. "Enough of this," Lois said quietly. "Clark, you of all people should know that things aren't always what they seem. Give your son a chance to tell his side of the story."
Clark leaned back and sighed. "Okay, fine. Explain. What was it you were doing?"
Clark gave a humorless laugh. "CJ, don't insult me. 'Lines from a play?' That line is older than I am!"
"I know it's a little cliched, but it's the truth!"
"CJ." Clark sat up straight. "I know I was very busy while you were growing up; I've missed out on a lot of your life, and as a result, there's a lot about you I don't know. However, I *do* know that you're not in any plays! You *hate* acting!"
CJ nodded. "You're right; I do. But Dina lives for it!"
"The girl you saw in the car. Her name's Dina Goldman; she's a classmate of mine. We have homeroom, third period, and gym together, and we've gotten to be pretty good friends. She's an actress; she takes theater, and she's involved in all these acting groups. Recently, she got a part in an off-Broadway play, and she asked me to go over her lines with her."
"In a car, at Lookout Point, at this hour?"
"Well, that was my idea. Like I said, Dina's involved in a lot of groups, so the only time she's free to rehearse her lines is after dark. And since her parents like to get to bed early, she has to be careful that her rehearsing doesn't bother them. So, I suggested we go to Lookout Point so that we could go over her lines without being disturbed. Then you showed up."
Clark stared at him skeptically.
"Dad, it's true! If you don't believe me, you can talk to Dina and have her show you the script. It's called 'Betty and the Bikers'. They start selling tickets next week!"
Clark looked over at Lois, and she nodded.
"It's true, Clark. I called and checked."
Clark closed his eyes and sighed with relief. It wasn't a rape; it was just CJ helping a friend. He opened his eyes and looked at his son. "CJ, I think I owe you an apology."
CJ shrugged. "No sweat; you didn't know."
He reached over and hugged his son, grateful that his fears had been unfounded…this time.
Later, as he and Lois lay in bed, he told her about the realizations he had come to in the Antarctic. "It's too much, Lois. I haven't been around enough, and the price for that is just too much. Something's got to change. I think maybe it's time for Superman to retire…"
"I just hope it isn't too late for Laura and John."
Lois sat up. "Clark Jerome Kent! Are you telling me that after all that discussion downstairs, you *still* think CJ was trying to hurt that girl?!"
She lay back down. "Good! I should hope you'd know your son better than that!"
"That's just the point, Lois," Clark said quietly. "I don't."
To be continued in Waking the Giant…