Title: Bart Allen: The Making of a Hero
Pairings: Mostly just Bart, but there is Clark/Bart friendship, Bart and the League, & a hint of Chlart
Spoilers: Through “Justice”.
Disclaimer: I don’t own Smallville.
Summary: The story of Bart’s life before “Run”, and what happened between “Run” and “Justice”. Basically explains how Bart went from average kid to petty thief to superhero.
Warnings: Mild swear words, angst (but hopefully not too much)
Notes: Please comment with any thoughts you have about the story! I’d like to know. I hope I didn’t write Bart too sad or angry, but there were definitely hints of this in “Run” and I wanted to expand on the story, since the Smallville writers never bothered to. I love how fun and lighthearted Bart is, and it’s a valid part of his personality, but I figure with what he’s been through, there’s bound to be more to him than that. There are more notes at the end, but they’re not worth reading unless you’re nitpicky or really interested in details.
Bart Allen is a normal kid. A little scrawny, a little brash, but other than that? Normal.
Being struck by lightning changes everything.
For one thing, there’s the other kids. They don’t exactly see him speeding around, suddenly a hundred times faster than he could before, because no one can see him at all when he does it. But kids have a way of sensing when someone else is different, not normal, not like them. And maybe it’s all a coincidence, maybe it’s just because it happens right before Bart is supposed to start high school and kids start worrying about who they need to exclude anyway. But whatever it is, they keep Bart at a distance. No one feels comfortable around him, though they can’t put their finger on why. Soon all he’s got left is his life at home.
But it’s not the same home anymore, since the accident. His parents see the changes he goes through, bit by bit, after his body speeds up. They try to help him, but there’s not much that they can do when their son is just a blur that they can barely even perceive. For a while, that first week that feels like a year, the change is hell for Bart: he can’t stop, he can’t slow down, and although he’s still there in the same place as always, he feels like he’s not living on Earth, not really.
Gradually he works it out, and it starts to feel like his body is working with the super-speed, not against it. He can adjust it a little, he can direct it; soon he has it more or less completely under control. Moving at normal speed bores him just a little, but he does it. He suppresses and tries to act like this way is actually the one that feels normal and effortless, the way things were before. He stops himself from speeding up to clean or fetch things when he sees the strained little looks his parents get when he does. It feels like he’s been hiding a long time before he even thinks to leave.
One day his parents come home and Bart’s wearing a new pair of sneakers – bright red, expensive – and blasting music on a shiny new stereo. He looks at them, daring and begging them to acknowledge that he is different now, and they in turn look hesitant and unsure. They sit him down for a serious talk about how he shouldn’t steal, and he can see that they’re being as sensitive as possible, they’re trying so hard, but they just don’t know what to do with him anymore. It kills him a little bit to see them like this and know it’s his fault.
Bart’s parents tell him everything is okay, everything is normal. But he knows better. He knows that normal isn’t trying, consciously, to act like things are normal. Normal just is, and it’s not something he’s meant to have anymore. Bart can run fast, very fast, but not faster than the world around him can change.
When he finally considers it, Bart knows that running away won’t be the cartoon movie fantasy that most kids imagine, with grand yet safe adventures and no consequences. He knows that for him it will be real, and he has to do it anyway. He doesn’t leave a dramatic note for his parents, either. He never blamed them; he’s the one who changed, and they didn’t. Instead he just goes, taking nothing from his old life with him. Planning isn’t his style, but he has a general idea of how he will get by on his own, thanks to his super-speed. It hasn’t done him any good so far, but now, he decides, it will.
Stealing becomes his most useful talent. He can have whatever he wants in an instant. The kid without a home surrounds himself with nice things that allow him to feel accomplished and special for a little while. But it’s not quite as fun as he convinces himself it is.
He buries the truth of the past with half-truths of his own invention, and believing them makes him stronger. He doesn’t feel alone because there’s no one else like him; he’s unique and different and better than regular people. He isn’t taking care of himself because no one else will; it’s because he likes the way he is and he wants to be in control of his own life. He never feels like crying or thinks about the way things were before; he’s having a good time, the life he leads is fun and carefree.
Bart goes on like this for a while. He runs and runs all over the world and he never stays anywhere for long. He doesn’t care much about safety – he figures with the life he lives, the risks he takes, he’ll probably die young and it won’t much matter. He just wants to enjoy himself for a little while, so he does.
Then, purely by chance, he meets Clark Kent. Clark is super-fast like him, and it makes Bart happy to have someone to talk to and race with, but it quickly becomes clear that they’re very different. Clark tells Bart that he should think about right and wrong and how he hurts other people when he steals. Bart wants to ask Clark what planet he’s from, that he actually thinks other people are worth caring about long enough for them to become disappointed in you. He only takes what he needs most of the time. It’s so little, and it’s not like anybody’s about to hand it to him. So Bart rejects Clark’s preaching, because Clark doesn’t know what it’s like to be in need of things like food and shelter and love. He turns around and steals something much bigger than usual, in fact, just to piss Clark off and make himself feel better.
Of course this backfires on him. If he’d given it any thought at all he would’ve guessed as much. Miraculously, Clark gets him out of the web he’s gotten himself caught in. The crazy bastard appears out of nowhere and beats some guys up and tries – again – to talk Bart out of stealing. Bart still leaves with the manuscript he stole from Lex Luthor, but he feels uneasy about it. Clark is so ridiculously, impossibly good that it sticks in his mind and messes him up. He could never be like that, but suddenly he wants to be.
He returns the stolen manuscript and he makes up with Clark, because he figures having a friend isn’t so bad, and maybe he needs to at least take a step towards not being afraid to care about people anymore. And when he leaves Smallville, it’s not to go back to his former life of stealing and avoiding long-term connections with people and places. It’s to take some time to think about how he can turn himself around.
There are other people like him. That thought gives him hope. Other people know what it’s like, and maybe if he looks all over, he can find them and they won’t be alone anymore. Maybe he can even tell them what Clark taught him, that they can make a positive difference in the world using their special abilities.
While Bart’s searching, he tries hard to sustain himself through legal means. He gets a job as a courier, wondering why he never thought of such an obviously perfect occupation before. He can do what he’s been doing for years now – travel all over the place, stay somewhere new every night, run around just for fun and the adrenaline rush – and make an honest living.
He still occasionally steals food. Considering how much he needs to keep his energy up, his salary doesn’t always cover it. But he only steals when he’s really hungry, when there’s no other option – and he makes sure it’s never very good food. (He isn’t sure why, but he thinks maybe that makes it a little less bad to steal it.)
One day he’s eating a stolen burger in Star City (fast food, har har, his brain, feeble with hunger, jokes) when a clean-cut young blond man approaches him. He gets up, ready to dash, and stops when he realizes that he recognizes the man. It’s Oliver Queen, GQ-esque gazillionaire. Why would the CEO of Queen Industries himself apprehend Bart for stealing?
But that’s not what he’s doing, it turns out. Oliver asks Bart how he got the food, smirks at the obvious lie he gives as an answer, and says point-blank that he saw Bart super-speeding just moments ago. But he doesn’t sound mad at all. Bart would run, except he’s just so in awe and so curious as to what this rich guy wants, exactly. When Oliver asks Bart to work for him – not him as in Oliver Queen but him as in the Green Arrow, who is the same person holy shit – Bart realizes he’s getting his chance to do good, the way that Clark does with his abilities.
He says yes right away. He knows it’s dumb how excited he is but he can’t even hide it when he asks Oliver if he’s thought of recruiting other super-people. Oliver says actually, he’s got a couple guys in mind who would be perfect, now that he thinks of it, and Bart can’t believe that this is happening. He’s finally going to find more people like him, just like he wanted, and they’re going to stop Lex Luthor from doing… whatever that thing is that Oliver was talking about, and his abilities will have a purpose.
What makes him even happier is that this work Oliver has offered him will mean returning to Smallville. He’s glad that he’ll get to see Clark, still the best friend he’s ever had; the Kents, who welcome him wholeheartedly like he’s family; and Chloe Sullivan, friend-of-Clark and possibly the most perfect woman in existence. In fact, this is the first time since he can recall that he has had so many reasons to be happy, thinking of them all at once makes him dizzy.
He’s working with Oliver and the other guys, Arthur who has water-related powers and Victor who’s got robotic gizmos in his body, and he’s having a great time doing it. Oliver makes them wear goofy outfits to go undercover but they get to pick the colors, and Bart’s red and yellow costume, flashy as it is, makes him feel like a badass. He does covert-type things for Oliver’s super-team and in the meantime he swings by the Kents’ barn to say hello to Clark and Chloe, making sure that even if they don’t remember him that well, they will next time.
The mission doesn’t go as planned. In fact, Bart gets kinda-sorta-kidnapped by Lex and his crooked goons, and the gang has to save him and then blow up the whole building. But Bart’s never worried, not really. The whole time he feels confident, proud, and invincible. He even honorably refuses to say anything and taunts the baddie, Lex, when the frankly intimidating bald guy questions him about the team in that icy tone. Because truth be told, he’s having a ball, and even danger can’t quite dampen his spirits. He belongs somewhere.
The building leveled, Bart reassembles with the team in the Kent barn to discuss Lex’s operation and their next move. Oliver steps in to say that 33.1, that evil thing LuthorCorp is behind that they’re trying to stop, is going worldwide, and so will they. They’re leaving in thirty minutes. Bart walks out with the other guys – to a future that, while uncertain, is everything he wants. He used to have no one, but now he has Oliver, Arthur, Victor, Clark, and Chloe, and all of them, in turn, have a cause. The world, which seemed to have turned its back on him all those years ago, needs him. And he knows now that what he really needs is to help save it.
*Notes: When it says Bart is looking forward to seeing the Kents again, that’s because I figured he wouldn’t be aware at that point that Jonathan had died. Also, I skipped over his first meeting with Chloe, even though I love Chlart, because I think Bart’s friendship with Clark was more instrumental in shaping him as a person. And the bit about Bart being a courier – I know he was lying when he told Clark in “Justice” that that was his current job, but I think it’s possible it was true before he started working for Ollie. Also, my interpretation of the Smallville Bart is that he’s sort of a combination of Bart and Barry Allen from the comics, and in some ways he’s not like either of them. But I figured the accident that gave him his powers would probably be similar to Barry’s, with lightning and a combination of specific chemicals.