The invite to graduating ceremonies at Sky High arrived with pomp and circumstance every year, and he accepted the invite every time out of obligation though the kids seemed to get younger and rowdier every year, hair dyed or grown every color of the rainbow. They still bothered to send it by personal courier, after all, and he wasn't above the implied flattery there.
"They make me feel old," Kal-El complained as he checked the fit of his costume before packing it away for the flight. He no longer went by Clark Kent, because though Perry White had passed on the torch to his nephew long since and the Planet had reasonable turnover, those that remained would question why their ace reporter still looked and moved like twenty-eight when the rest of them were pushing sixty.
"Oh, now why would you say that?" Richard replied, giving him an arch look. He pointedly did not run a hand through his hair, which was still thick and wavy but streaked from the temples with distinguished silver.
"I don't know, maybe it's the twentieth-century values I still stand by, or the fact that they have an entirely separate language built on index fingers and Bluetooth," Clark said with good humor. "At least they don't ask me to give the keynote speech."
"No, they have the Commander and Jetstream for that," Richard replied, holding an arm out for his cape after Kal-El disrobed.
"Yes, and the fact that they... Well, it always seemed kind of ...I don't know. I'm not even retired yet!" Kal-El said in a plaintive tone. "Do I look retired to you?"
"You look a little younger than most people expect of their superheroes nowadays," Richard said, soothing as ever. "Especially for one who got started in the Golden Age and is still going strong." He stowed Kal-El's cape and continued to eye him speculatively.
"I suppose..." Kal-El said, looking somewhat disconsolate nonetheless. Then he caught Richard's gaze and grinned. "What?"
"How long before that limo-jet gets here?" Richard prompted.
"Oh," Kal-El said, catching his drift. "Well, long enough."
Richard winked and tugged the bedroom door shut, drawing near.
They got there early to make an afternoon of it, as planned. There was a banquet luncheon sponsored every year by Principal Powers that Kal-El made a point of attending, partly to keep up his profile in the community, but also because all griping aside he enjoyed being in the company of heroes. For one, they got to talk shop - something his current cover as an itinerant freelance photographer didn't really afford.
After lunch, Kal-El left Richard deep in conversation with one of the staff, Professor Oblongata, while he took a stroll around the grounds. The stadium was still Kent Memorial, he was pleased to note. Save the world a few times, get a superhero high school stadium named for you - not a bad trade-off; he'd take it. He walked around to the end of the track, took a supersonic lap for fun - faster than an eyeblink, there and back too fast for anyone to notice more than a flicker as if he'd stumbled. He grinned and loosened his tie.
In the distance, hover-cars and buses were arriving on the front lot to bring kids and their parents to the graduating ceremonies. Kal-El stood at the margin of the track with a smile, hands in his pockets as he watched families disembark; parents in or out of uniform, teenagers scrubbed-clean and decked out in brand-new costumes. There was still a little time before ceremonies, so he turned away to finish his stroll around the grounds. If memory served, there was an Olympic-sized swimming pool around the back. If they lingered late enough, he and Richard could put it to some use.
"Whoa!" a voice cried out, and Kal-El turned. A young man flailed his way through the air to a less-than-perfect landing, tangled up in the length of his long, red cloak. Kal-El reached out to steady him as the teen stumbled to a halt.
"You all right?" Kal-El inquired.
"All right is relative!" the young man said, tone doleful but he pulled a grin as he met Kal-El's eyes sheepishly. "Sorry to plow into you like that."
"You'll get the hang of it," Kal-El assured him. He recognized Will Stronghold, son of superheroes Commander and Jetstream, from several of the newsletter articles that were delivered quarterly to his doorstep. This third-generation boy had been making waves since his first year of enrollment.
"I don't know about that. You have NO idea how embarrassing this is," Will Stronghold groaned, holding his hands out, palms-upturned as if to indicate his bold primary-colors uniform. "I mean, the cape flourishes. I don't even have to do anything, it does it all by itself! And that's where my problems start."
Kal-El grinned, albeit with sympathy. "I have some idea," he replied mildly. "My son was class of '19. He was adamant about designing his own uniform, though - no tights. Or cape. Actually, he pretty much wanted to avoid every element that made my uniform distinctive."
Stronghold blinked. "You're--" He frowned, then squinted appraisingly. "Wait a minute, you're..."
"Still out of uniform," Kal-El filled in the blank, tipping the young man a wink.
"Hey, Superman," Richard called out, hailing him from the front steps. "Hurry up, I think we've got to take our seats soon."
From the other direction, the rear of the school, another costumed figure approached. "Stronghold," called a solidly-built, handsome young man with long, dark hair and streamlined black and red armor. No spandex for that one. He sounded irked but he was grinning. "There you are. Come on, the seniors are lining up - and if you come in late for Layla's speech she's going to wither a few oak trees or somethin'!"
Will Stronghold glanced over his shoulder, then back at Kal-El with his mouth hanging open, then back to his friend.
"Time to go," Kal-El said, flipping him a jaunty wave. "Commencement awaits."
The young man broke into a huge grin, nodded vigorously, then scrambled toward his friend - whom Kal-El then recognized as the promising rookie hero Flamestrike, Warren Peace. With an indulgent smile for both kids, Kal-El turned to join Richard.
"Having fun?" Richard said, raising a brow, but he couldn't contain his smile for long.
"They're good kids," Kal-El said, linking arms with his partner. "That Stronghold reminds me a bit of Jason."
"No, Jason is much handsomer," Richard said at once. He grinned rakishly.
"You know what I mean - being that age, the whole world on your shoulders. He'll take it seriously and he'll do a good job."
"But it's hard to let go of another corner of the world?" Richard said softly, his blue-green eyes keen.
"Every year," Kal-El admitted, but he was smiling. "That's the way of things."