By Margaret Brignell <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Summary: From the author who has brought us several excellent fanfics about Clark's pre-Metropolis days comes a companion story — the story of the Alternate Universe's Clark's childhood.
This is the first of a series of fanfics that came out of an idea by Laurie F. She liked my Pre-Metropolis Clark stories (The Rules, The Long Road, and The One) and thought this set would also make a good story. What can I say? I'm a sucker for a good compliment<g>
In order to fully understand this story, you might want to read The Rules, if you have not already done so:) I am assuming that, for the most part, the events in *that* story happened a few years prior to this one. It might also help to have seen the episode "Tempus, Anyone?"
I acknowledge that I am just borrowing the characters created for the television show "Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman." However, the story and additional characters came from the brain of myself and Laurie. It should be noted that in this story too, the British spelling prevails:)
I would like to thank my proofers, Laurie F., Peace, Debby S., Lynda L. and Lauren W. for their input and support. Thanks too, for the discussion on the fanfic list about career options:) Also special thanks to Zoomway … TV historian extraordinaire:)
Words surrounded by *asterisks* are emphasized.
Smallville, Kansas — June 1976
Clark was bubbling with excitement. Mom and Dad were coming home today and he was finally, *finally* going to get to go home and be himself again.
It had only been ten days since he'd come to stay with Mr. and Mrs. Irig, but it seemed like a lifetime! Mom and Dad had gone to Seattle to attend Grandpa Clark's funeral. Mr. Irig said he could handle both farms for a week or so, and as a result they had opted for the less expensive option and had decided to drive to save money on flights. They had not taken Clark. They said a funeral was no place for him … but he'd overheard their discussion about his going and he knew it wasn't because he was ten years old but mostly because Mom's family were kind of snobbish and didn't want anything to do with the "bastard."
Clark knew that he wasn't *really* a bastard, but he also knew that it was the story everyone had been told to explain his mysterious appearance at six months of age. So, whenever anyone referred to him as a "bastard" he didn't contradict them. Mom and Dad had emphasized how important it was for him *not* to give his secret away. It had been *really* hard to hide his Special skills from the Irigs while Mom and Dad were gone. But, today—by five o'clock at the *latest*, that would end—Mom and Dad would be home!
Clark could hardly wait. So after lunch was finished and all the dishes washed, he decided to walk down to the end of the Irig farm driveway. That way he would be *that* much closer to Mom and Dad's arrival. And, if he was lucky, today he would be able to make his eyes do their Special Look as he looked north on the Lawrence Road that ran north to south past the Irig farmhouse.
And if he could, then he would be able to see Mom and Dad the *second* they crossed the horizon over Siegel Knoll.
He could not always get his eyes to do that Special Look thing.
He had tried practising, but so far he had not been able to dependably control the level of detail his eyes could see. This was really annoying right now, but Clark had to admit it had worked in his favour when Mom had taken him to the optometrist last December to replace his glasses. The other times Mom had taken him to the doctor, she had told him to pretend not to see the smaller letters clearly, so he would appear to need glasses.
Mom had deliberately taken him to old Doc Wainthrop because he did not use any modern equipment to test eyes. However, Dr. Wainthrop had retired to Florida two years ago when Clark was eight, and the new man had brought in the latest in equipment. So, this time, when Clark had gone in for his eye exam, he had been *really* nervous about being able to fool the equipment. Maybe because of that, or because it was not one of his Special Seeing days, his eyes had acted up and he really had *not* been able to read the chart. When the doctor had used the machine to measure Clark's eyes, he had determined that Clark was long-sighted in one eye, and short-sighted in the other. Clark knew this difference in his eyes was only temporary, but he also knew better than to tell the doctor that. As a result, Clark had been issued a prescription to counterbalance this "problem." Strangely enough, on days when his Special Seeing wasn't very good he had no problem using the glasses. Today the glasses were getting in the way of him seeing.
Maybe this meant his Special Eyes would work today.
Clark hunkered down beside the road at the end of the driveway, looking over his glasses at the horizon in front of him. He knew he was cheating on the rules Mom and Dad had laid down for him, but there wasn't anyone else around and he *really* wanted to see Mom and Dad as soon as he could. Besides, he had not actually taken his glasses off, so he could easily slide them back up his nose if anyone came along.
He sat very quietly. He was trying to use his Special Hearing to listen for the Kent car. However, the Knoll was just a bit too far away for him to really hear anything over the sound of the wind. He waited—enjoying the countryside. The sky was blue and small fluffy clouds scuttered across it. Close by he could hear bees humming among the wildflowers in the ditch beside the road.
He had been waiting about half an hour when he heard the roar of a truck coming from his left. A semi was coming down the local road from Topeka. Just then Clark noticed that a car had topped Siegel Knoll on the Lawrence Road and was heading towards him. Clark's heart lifted. He focussed, and sure enough it was Mom and Dad.
He scrambled to his feet and started to wave. Then, realizing that they wouldn't be able to see him, he stopped waving, pushed his glasses back up his nose and stood waiting for them to get closer.
Clark heard the truck engine rev on the access road. The semi was coming to the intersection of the Topeka side road and the Lawrence road and Clark could see the driver slumped over the steering wheel. Clark wondered why the man was like that. Then, in a kaleidoscope of images, he *knew* why. The driver was unconscious! The truck was not going to stop! Mom and Dad had the right of way—they wouldn't be stopping! The truck and the car were going to *collide*!
Clark started to run. He had to get there … he *had* to! His breath was coming in sobs. He ran faster and faster. He ran as fast as he could, but before he got to the intersection he saw the semi hit the car. There was the sound of metal meeting metal. The car flipped and rolled over and over, finally sliding into the ditch upside-down. Then, there was silence—except for the creak of metal collapsing and the faint echo of a bird cawing in the distance.
The front of the truck was smashed in and the driver's head had cracked the windshield. The man wasn't moving.
Clark could see Mom and Dad hanging from their seat belts in the overturned car. They weren't moving, either.
He tried to keep running, but for some reason his legs would not obey him anymore. He stumbled and fell, his mouth silently screaming "Mommy!"
Clark sat in the dust on the road feeling numb … it was as if everything were happening to someone else. He stared at the truck and the car, wishing someone would *do* something.
He heard a car coming along the road behind him, but did not feel able to move out of the way. The car screeched to a halt and the driver jumped out, yelling.
"Clark! What the … " Clark heard the gasp as Wayne Irig caught sight of the scene of devastation. " … Oh, no! Oh, my God, *no*!"
Clark felt strong, gentle hands take him by the shoulders and turn him around so that he could not see the crash scene anymore. There was a blanket wrapped around him. He couldn't remember anyone putting it there. He heard people talking, asking "How did it happen?" but he could not seem to make a sound. He wondered where all the people had come from. Then strong hands picked him up and carried him to the Irig car. Mr. Irig drove back to the farm.
As they entered the Irig's kitchen, Clark heard delicate Mrs. Irig ask, "Wayne, what's the matter? Why are you carrying Clark?
Is he hurt?"
"There's been an accident. No … no, not to Clark. It's the Kents. I'll put Clark in his room upstairs and explain in a minute, Mary." Mr. Irig sounded quiet, yet firm about having her wait until Clark was not in the room to hear his explanation.
Clark found himself lying on the bed he had been using for the last ten days. The Irigs were talking downstairs. He could hear them.
Mr. Irig sounded close to tears. "A semi didn't make the stop sign up at the Corners. Looks like the driver had a heart attack.
The truck hit the Kents' car."
"You mean …?"
"Yeah … Jon and Martha … they were killed instantly."
"Oh, Wayne! How … awful! What about Clark? Why were you carrying him?"
"He saw the whole thing. I found him sitting in the middle of the road, near the Corners, in a state of shock."
"The poor thing. To see something like that … and … for them to be … I should go up to him. He shouldn't be alone."
Clark heard the faint rustle of Mrs. Irig's dress and the scrape of wood as she got up out of her chair, then the creak of the third stair from the top as she came up. As a result, he had lots of time to close his eyes and pretend he was asleep before she entered the room, so he wouldn't have to talk about what he had seen.
He could feel her standing looking down at him and then he felt the gentle touch as she stroked his hair away from his face. It was too much. He started to cry. Mrs. Irig sat down on the bed, gathered him up, held him and rocked him. She made quiet shushing sounds, just like Mom used to do.
Almost a week later, Clark was at the Smallville Cemetery watching the two coffins as they were lowered into the dual grave dug into the ground. It was a bright sunny day, just like the day that he had been sitting watching for them to come back from Seattle. He could Special See the calm look on the faces of Mom and Dad as they were being lowered into the ground, but they did *not* look like Mom and Dad. They had always been so happy and full of life … to see these wax-like faces mimicking the people he loved was … He suppressed a sob and was glad when the tears blocked him from seeing them anymore.
Mrs. Irig put her arm around his shoulders and hugged him close.
"There, there, honey. They're at peace now." Dejection settled in as he felt her guide him away from the graveside.
He wiped the tears from his face with the back of his hand and made a conscious effort not to wipe his hand on the black suit the Irigs had bought especially for the funeral. Mrs. Irig had wanted him to look neat and suitably dressed for the occasion. Clark wished he could have worn his regular clothes, the ones Mom and Dad had chosen. That would have felt better—more like being with Mom and Dad. Having to wear these clothes made him feel different—like he didn't belong. But it could have been worse. Mrs. Irig had mentioned that he might want to join Mr. Irig on his trip to the barbershop this morning. Fortunately, Mom had "cut" his hair, with Clark's help, just before she had gone to Seattle, so he didn't have to come up with any strange excuses about why he couldn't visit a barber. It would be really hard to explain to a barber why garden shears would be needed to do the job. Clark realized he would have to learn to "cut" his hair on his own, and only pretend to go to barbershops. He took a deep sobbing breath.
He'd worry about that later.
People were slowly moving away from the graveside. There had been a lot of people at the service for Jonathan and Martha Kent. A good many of them came back to the Irig farm for the wake. Clark was not real sure why people needed to get together and eat cake because his Mom and Dad had been killed, but he didn't question it out loud. In fact he had not said much of anything to anybody since the accident. He'd overheard Mrs. Irig discussing her concern because he wasn't talking out his feelings. She seemed almost pleased that he was able to cry.
He didn't know how he felt. There was just this enormous pain through every part of him. It seemed safest to just not say anything at all.
Clark took the glass of milk and the cake on a napkin that he'd been given into the Irigs' front parlour and sat as far away from the chattering adults as he could. He wanted to be alone.
It was not to be. Everyone kept coming up to him and telling him how sorry they were, and how much Jon and Martha would be missed.
He tried to be polite … and must have succeeded … because he overheard two of the neighbours saying what a nice, polite boy he was and it just went to show you that the right upbringing went a long way to overcoming a person's origins.
Then he heard the Irigs and Mom's cousin Joseph talking in the parlour. The big, broad man and his peevish wife had come to represent the Seattle side of the family.
"We took Clark in to be neighbourly while Martha and Jon were away. We can't keep him much longer. My wife isn't feeling well, she needs rest." Mr. Irig sounded apologetic.
This startled Clark. He hadn't realized Mrs. Irig was sick … although now that he thought about it, she did have to lie down and rest a lot.
His thoughts were interrupted by Uncle Joseph's harsh voice.
"Well, he's not related to us. We told Martha that she was a fool to take in that bastard child."
"But, he was Jon and Martha's adopted child … he is more your responsibility than ours. You're kin, we're just neighbours."
"Well, we've looked through all of their papers and can find no record of his adoption. As far as I'm concerned, he's no kin of mine." Clark could hear the sniff that Joseph Clark made as a punctuation mark on his statement. "If I were you, I'd find his natural father and make him take the responsibility he should have taken in the first place."
"How do you expect us to do that? He disappeared almost ten years ago." Mr. Irig was starting to sound angry.
Clark flinched. There was no "natural father" to find. What if they found out about his other, Special parents? Then what would happen to him? The echo of Dad saying, " … and dissect you like a frog," went through his mind. He closed his eyes tightly, to shut out the distractions, and continued listening.
"That's not *my* problem. Martha and her husband left Clark in your care, he's now *your* problem." Clark heard a door close.
Clark felt desolate. No one wanted him, no one at all … and Mom and Dad were gone … and … He couldn't bear it!
He opened his eyes and started to get up to run out of the room and away from all this, but stopped when he heard Mrs. Irig exclaim, "Well, of all the unfeeling … miserable … How did a wonderful person like Martha come from such a rotten family?"
"It's probably just the Seattle side of her family. Jon doesn't have any living kin that I know of. I think Martha has other relatives in Chicago. I'll get in touch with them. In the meantime, we'll look after Clark … don't you say a word to him."
"Oh, I wouldn't dream of it. He shouldn't know about this—and he won't from me. But, I wouldn't put it past that b … uncle of his to do it." Mrs. Irig sounded really upset.
Clark swallowed and glared at the cake in his hand. He did not want any cake—just the thought made him want to choke.
"If you don't want that, I'll eat it."
Clark looked up to see Lana Lang, her red hair neatly tied in a black bow and she was wearing a black dress. He silently handed her the cake—then the glass of milk. He didn't feel much like eating anything.
"Mom says you haven't talked since the accident. Is that true?"
"Not really. I just don't have much to say." Clark felt a warmth of affection at the thought that Lana cared about him. They had been friends ever since he had defended her from a bully that first day in kindergarten—being with her he felt less forlorn.
Lana finished the milk and cake, put the napkin and glass on the buffet table and then clasping her hand around Clark's, pulled him towards the kitchen door.
"Come on. Let's go outside, away from all this noise."
Clark let her lead him outside and followed her to the porch swing. Lana sat on the swing and tugged at his hand to indicate he should sit beside her.
He was glad that she was trying to make him feel better but his feeling of desolation had returned. He sat down and stared at his shoes. Even though he and Lana had been friends ever since they were small, he didn't know what to say. Everything he wanted to talk about hurt so much.
"Now, isn't that better?"
Clark glumly nodded. Besides overhearing conversations he wished he hadn't, the noise in the room had begun to really bother him.
He could hear *all* of the conversations, *and* the refrigerator turning off and on, *and* the timer in the kitchen, *and* the rooster in the barn across two fields. It was all so confusing and overwhelming. Mom had always been able to give him hints on how to focus on what was essential. Who could he turn to for help now?
"Clark?" Lana sounded curious. "Is it *really* awful?"
Clark nodded. He could feel the tears pushing at the back of his eyes. He remembered that when he was little, Mom would pick him up and hold him and tell him stories when he felt bad … and she'd give him buttermilk to make him feel better.
"I … I'd like some buttermilk." Clark started to get up off the swing, but Lana jumped up and said she'd get it for him.
He could hear her in the kitchen, telling Mrs. Irig, "Clark wants some buttermilk," and Mrs. Irig responding, "Oh, thank God! I thought that poor boy would never get his appetite back." He could hear the sound of pouring and almost immediately afterward saw Lana carefully carrying a big glass of buttermilk towards him.
"Here, Clark. It's fresh. Mrs. Irig told me so."
Clark nodded. He sipped at the buttermilk and the familiar flavour did make him feel better.
"Thank you. I feel a lot better." He placed the empty glass carefully on the porch railing.
"I'm glad." Lana sat on the porch swing again. "Clark, remember when we were little and you told those big kids to stop calling me 'Carrot top'?"
Clark nodded and looked down at his hands. Mom had told him what a brave little boy he'd been at the time … and for some reason remembering this made the tears spring to his eyes.
"I want to thank you. That was really nice of you." Lana touched his arm, and as he looked up he saw her shy smile. His tears receded again.
"You're welcome. Any time." He smiled tremulously back at her.
Lana's smile broadened and Clark felt it was almost as if his parents were still just away visiting. It wasn't true. But being with Lana almost made it seem like it was. Clark smiled more widely in return.
"Oh, isn't that cute?" Clark could hear Mrs. Lang talking to one of her friends. "Lana and Clark are so adorable together, don't you think?"
"So, does that mean you'll be willing to take him in?"
"I have thought about it … but, no, what would people say?"
"That you were being charitable?"
"No, it wouldn't do. I have Lana to think about. I don't want Lana and Clark in a brother/sister relationship. Their future … that's what I'm concerned about."
Clark was puzzled. What future?
Mrs. Lang's friend asked, "What about the reason why the Kents adopted him? Aren't you worried about that?"
"Not really. I know his parentage is not exactly above-board, but I don't think that is so important in this day and age—do you?"
Mrs. Lang's friend made a noncommittal sound.
Mrs. Lang left and the woman she had been speaking with, a voice he wasn't familiar with, commented to someone else. "I guess we know what plans *she* has for Lana and Clark." The other woman laughed … it didn't sound like a very nice laugh to Clark. He shivered.
"Clark?" Lana looked at him in alarm. "Are you okay? You looked kind of … I don't know … like you were somewhere else."
"I'm okay." He couldn't tell her he was tired of listening to people gossip. Dad had always warned him to be so careful not to give himself away … with *everyone*. Maybe if he tried *really* hard he could just forget how to Special Hear.
Lana put her hand on his arm. He looked up and into her eyes.
She said, "Really? You look kinda … sick. Maybe I should get Mrs. Irig." Lana started to get up but Clark put his hand on her arm to stop her.
"No, it's okay. I just … I just keep thinking … that's all."
Lana sat back down. "What about?"
Clark took a deep breath. Should he tell? Mom and Dad had said something awful would happen if he told. But how much worse could things be? "About Mom … and Dad … and me."
Lana seemed at a loss about what else to say. Clark sat with her, not saying anything. He was glad when she didn't ask anymore questions. He wasn't ready to answer … not yet.
A few minutes later Mrs. Lang came out of the house to get Lana and they left to go home.
Clark went back inside and stood with Mrs. Irig to say good-bye to the rest of the guests. He felt so tired. It was hard to prevent himself from crying again. He was glad when the last family left and he was alone with the Irigs. He at least felt comfortable with them.
Mrs. Irig made dinner. Clark picked at the food, but managed to eat some of it, and received some praise for being a good boy.
Mr. and Mrs. Irig were trying to be kind. He knew they were. But what he *really* wanted was Mom and Dad … and he couldn't have them. Just thinking about that brought tears to his eyes again.
"Honey, you've had a long day. Why don't you go on up to bed?"
Mrs. Irig smiled at him and pushed him gently in the direction of the staircase.
"Thank you. I … I … just thank you." It came out in a rush and he turned and went upstairs. He could hear Mrs. Irig saying how brave he was being, but he didn't feel brave … not brave at all.
After he had washed and changed into his pajamas, he crawled under the covers, and tried to not hear anything outside his bedroom.
It was so heart-rending to listen in on what people were saying when they thought he couldn't hear. Yet, when he could hear only the sounds inside the room he felt completely desolate. Mommy and Daddy were gone … forever … and he hadn't been *fast* enough. He turned his face into the pillow and sobbed. If only he'd been faster. If only …
Over the next two months, Clark slowly came to terms with the fact that Mom and Dad were gone. Yet, inside there was an ache that just didn't go away. It was like he was two people. The Clark that everyone saw, and the *real* Clark inside. The *real* Clark was hurting all the time. The other Clark, the public Clark, the one who calmly handled each day as it came along, was like a second skin … a kind of protective armour … between the *real* Clark's pain and the world outside.
For the real Clark it seemed like his world was suddenly bleak. People didn't seem to be as sociable as when Mom and Dad had been alive. He heard grown-ups bemoaning the fact that the economy was getting worse. Everyone seemed involved with their own problems.
No one seemed to see the real Clark. They accepted the public Clark as if he were real. Even Mr. and Mrs. Irig stopped seeing his pain.
In one respect this was good, because they also didn't notice when he made mistakes and used his Special skills. He found it easier to try *not* to do anything Special rather than try to hide it after the fact. The only skills he felt safe using were his Special Look and Special Hearing, which were not immediately apparent, as long as he didn't talk about what he had seen and heard. It was an added strain, nevertheless.
In mid-July, Lana left on vacation with her family, and Clark was lonelier than ever. He spent a lot of time in the next few weeks sitting in the attic, or under one of the apple trees in the orchard, reading book after book. His favourites were the "Chronicles of Narnia," especially "The Last Battle." Reading about Lucy, Peter and Edmund seeing *their* parents, gave him hope that *his* Mom and Dad would meet him again when he too went "farther up and farther in."
He also tried to write some of what he was feeling into an old school notebook … but he was so afraid of someone finding and reading it that he burned it late one night in the wood stove.
After that his writing was more descriptive … about the scenes and people around him.
One day he overheard Mrs. Irig talking about taking Clark to the barber and he realized *now* he had to do something about learning to cut his own hair. He searched the attic for something to help him, and found a piece of old broken mirror and a dilapidated mophead. He quietly slipped out of the house with them and took them into upper part of the barn. He made sure the big sliding door was open, so he could see if anyone was coming but they wouldn't be able to see him from the ground. Once settled in, he used the old mophead to practise "cutting" hair. Mom had used garden shears the last time because the wire cutters and tin snips she'd used earlier just weren't doing the job anymore, and even the garden shears barely cut through the strands of his hair. He tried to manipulate the garden shears, but found they were awkward to use on the mop, and he figured they would be even worse to try to use on his own hair, so he gave up. He *had* to come up with a way to cut his hair, or he'd have to tell people about himself.
While he was trying to figure out what to do next, the sunlight that shone in through the open door reflected off the scrap of mirror and into the hay, starting a fire. Clark jumped up and stomped out the fire. He moved the mirror into the shade so the sun wouldn't reflect off it and burn anything else. It was like when he was little, and his eyes would just start fires … for no apparent reason.
That was it! His eyes. He could use his eyes, like the sunlight to burn the ends off his hair. He practised on the mop head until it worked *perfectly*. Mom had always had him hold out the strands of his hair so she had both of her hands free to manipulate the shears, so he knew how to style the front, he just used the mirror and his eyes to do the actual cutting. But, how to do the back? He needed to see the back, and he did *not* have eyes in the back of his head. It took him only a few minutes to realize that if he broke the mirror in half he could prop one half up behind him and use the other to see with. With a bit of manoeuvring with the placement of the mirror halves, he was able to set them up so that he could see behind his head and yet have both hands free to hold his hair in the right position for cutting. The job wasn't perfect, but he didn't have to make up any stupid explanations about why he couldn't go to a barber.
He'd just let people assume that someone else had taken him … that's how Mom and Dad would have handled it. Clark was pleased to have resolved this sticky problem. He carefully wrapped the two mirror halves in an old piece of cloth and hid them between the slats in the loft of the barn for future use.
In the middle of August, Lana and her family returned to Smallville from their vacation at a cottage in Muskoka. Lana had distant relatives in Toronto, and they had a cottage on an island in Lake Kashagawigamog. Clark thought it sounded like a wonderful place to go to. Lana came over to the Irigs' to tell him all about it.
Once she had told him about the swimming and canoeing and other neat stuff her family had done, she finally stopped talking about her own summer fun and turned to Clark.
"So what have you been doing all summer?"
"Not much. Mr. Irig lets me help him in the barn. I went swimming a couple of times. That's about it."
"You haven't gone back to your farm?"
Clark swallowed. How could he explain that the very idea of going back to the farm without Mom and Dad was appalling to him? He shook his head and quietly said, "No."
Lana looked at him closely. "It still hurts, doesn't it?"
Clark nodded. He wasn't sure if he was relieved that she knew, or afraid that his private mental retreat had been breached.
"Who's taking care of the Kent farm?"
"There's a family Dad's lawyer, Mr. Lawson, hired to look after the farm."
"What are they like? Will you be going to live with them?"
Clark shook his head. "I don't know. Mr. Irig says Mom's Aunt Hilda in Chicago has offered to take me in. I'll be going at the end of the month … so I can start school on time."
Lana looked really distraught at the thought of him leaving. "I'm going to miss you so much, Clark!"
Clark felt tears forming in his eyes. He was going to miss her, terribly. He patted her shoulder and in a choked voice told her how much he would miss her, too.
Mrs. Irig called Clark in to dinner just as Mr. Lang, on his way back from the university in Lawrence, stopped by to pick up Lana.
The next afternoon, Mr. Irig got a call from Chicago. Aunt Hilda had taken ill and was now in a nursing home for people needing chronic care. Clark would not be able to go to Chicago.
He was relieved that he wouldn't be leaving the people and places he knew and loved, and when he called her to let her know the news, Lana was ecstatic. They wouldn't be parted after all.
It seemed no time at all before school started and Clark was busy with trying to keep up his grades. He and Lana talked every day and the ache Clark felt deep inside was starting to ease.
Then, things took a turn for the worse.
After school one Tuesday afternoon in October, Mr. Irig picked Clark up rather than letting him take the school bus. He explained to Clark that Mrs. Irig had gotten really sick and they wouldn't be able to take care of Clark anymore. Clark was going to be moving in with the Stingers, the family looking after the old Kent farm.
Clark was devastated. He knew he didn't really belong with the Irigs, but he liked them and felt comfortable with them—and Mom and Dad had left him with them. While he was in their home he could still make believe that Mom and Dad would come back and retrieve him. But, now, he couldn't pretend anymore … Mom and Dad were not coming back. It felt like his last hope of reprieve had been snatched from him. He was going back to the farm—without Mom and Dad.
That night he cried himself to sleep again. He would be at the Stingers by tomorrow afternoon.
Clark had always known Mom and Dad were the most wonderful parents anyone could have had—and the Irigs had been nice too. But, Mr. and Mrs. Stinger were another thing altogether.
Mrs. Stinger might have been nice—if she wasn't always nursing bruises and trying to pretend she didn't have them. Mr. Stinger was *not* a nice man at all. Clark was horrified to find out that Mr. Stinger beat his wife and children for the smallest "crimes."
Clark came in for a good share of cuffs and beatings as well.
However, much to Mr. Stinger's chagrin, Clark couldn't be abused as easily as the other members of this trapped family. Not only was he physically tougher, but he also didn't have their emotional dependence on Bob Stinger. This was a big part of Clark's current problems.
Clark found it was bad enough that he was back at the farm, where every little creak and house noise reminded him of Mom and Dad.
What made living there even worse was the treatment he received from Mr. Stinger.
It had been a small lapse into forgetfulness. If he had forgotten to fill all the feed troughs when Mom and Dad were still alive, Dad would have given Clark a stern lecture on concentration and then made him do the chore again. However, that was not Mr. Stinger's way of doing things.
"You *cretin*! How many times do I have to tell you to fill *all* the food troughs?" Mr. Stinger followed this up with a cuff to Clark's ear. Clark ducked. This only made Mr. Stinger angrier.
"You stand still, boy, when I'm telling you something." Mr. Stinger grasped Clark by one ear and pulled his other arm back to hit the other ear. "Maybe, *this* will help you to listen."
Clark saw the hand coming towards him. He struggled to prevent the man from hitting his target. Despite Clark's best efforts Mr. Stinger's hand connected with Clark's ear. The man screamed, released Clark, stumbled and fell to the ground. Clark could see with his Special Look that Mr. Stinger's hand was broken.
Clark backed out of the barn and ran to the house. He told Mrs. Stinger that Mr. Stinger was hurt and needed a doctor. She ran out of the house to the barn, leaving Clark to call for help.
Over the next couple of days a lot of changes happened in Clark's life. The police came and interviewed the Stingers and himself about how Mr. Stinger came to break his hand. Mr. Stinger was taken away on charges of assault. Despite Stinger's claim that he'd broken his hand on Clark's head, which did nothing for his case, the police assumed that Mr. Stinger had broken his hand hitting a post because Clark had ducked, since there weren't any marks on Clark. However, with Stinger's confession that he had intended to hit Clark, as well as the bruises on Mrs. Stinger and her children, the police had enough evidence to make the charges stick.
Then a woman dressed in a business suit and carrying a briefcase came to the house. Her name was Miss Chalmers. She took Clark to the Smallville County Social Welfare office. He felt a relief at getting away from the farm … which had nothing to do with his treatment by Mr. Stinger.
Miss Chalmers explained that since Clark's Mom and Dad did not have any close relatives who could take care of him, and because Mr. Stinger had been cruel to him, the county was taking the responsibility of making sure he had a proper home. It might take a few days to find him a permanent home; in the meantime, he would be staying in a temporary foster home.
She sat him down in a lunchroom at the rear of the Welfare office, deposited some coins into some of the vending machines that were lined up against the back wall and gave Clark a sandwich and a carton of milk. She told him she'd be back in a few minutes to take him to the family who would be looking after him for a few days. He nodded his understanding and started opening the plastic container holding the sandwich. Miss Chalmers smiled and walked into another office.
Clark could hear another social worker talking with Miss Chalmers.
"I had another conversation with Joseph Clark. He insists that Clark is the illegitimate offspring of a Julia Kent who committed suicide when Clark was about six months old. I've checked. Yes, there was a Julia Kent and she did commit suicide at about that time, but she had *no* children."
Miss Chalmers groaned. "Oh, great, that's all I need, a mystery— as well as a kid no-one wants."
"He's right about another thing—there is no record of Clark being adopted by the Kents. However, their will *does* refer to him as their adopted son. Perhaps the paperwork got lost in that fire at the Records office in 1967. It wouldn't be the first time. It seems like every time we need a document it disappeared in that fire." The woman sounded very provoked.
"What's the legal opinion?"
"Since the will refers to him as their adopted son, and we can't prove otherwise, he *is* their adopted son. However, Joseph Clark still doesn't want anything to do with him … he maintains we should find his natural parents and get *them* to take responsibility."
"Nice, in theory, but if Julia Kent isn't the mother, where do we start?"
Clark heard chairs being pushed back and decided to concentrate on eating his sandwich.
Miss Chalmers came into the room and sat down beside Clark. She cleared her throat to get his attention.
"Clark. Did your Mom and Dad ever tell you about how you came to them?"
Clark looked up from his sandwich. How much should he tell? He knew he shouldn't give away his Special nature, but if he skipped over mentioning the space ship, maybe it wouldn't have to come out.
"They told me they went to cousin Julia's funeral and on the way back they found me in Shuster's Field."
Miss Chalmers raised her eyebrows in disbelief. "They found you in a field?!"
"Uh, huh. I was wrapped in a blue blanket … they didn't know how I got there." He took another bite of his sandwich, to help stop himself from giving anymore details.
"Did they tell you why they said you were cousin Julia's baby?"
Clark nodded. "They said if I was a relative's baby, it would be easier for them to adopt me. If they told about me just being in a blanket in a field, people would have come and taken me away.
They said they loved me too much to let that happen."
Clark felt tears pressing against his lashes. Mom and Dad had loved him so much! He couldn't explain to Miss Chalmers just how much they had loved and accepted him, but they had … and they weren't here any more. He tried manfully to hold back his tears, but they slowly slid down his cheeks.
Miss Chalmers put her arm around him, and said, "It's okay to cry, Clark." She handed him a Kleenex and Clark wiped his eyes and blew his nose.
"I'm okay now. It was just thinking about Mom and Dad … it makes me want to cry."
"That's perfectly natural, Clark. You had very special parents.
Now we have to try to find you someone to stay with. I'll be back in a minute, okay?" She smiled at him. Then with a quiet sigh, got up and walked into the other office.
"Well, we can forget about finding his natural parents. The Kents found him in a field."
"Oh, for heaven's sake! It sounds like something out of a Grimm Fairy Tale. Now, what do we do?"
"Get him over to the Kratz household on temporary care, and then work on a more permanent solution. At his age, there aren't likely to be too many people wanting to adopt him."
Clark squeezed his eyes shut and covered his ears. The Kratzes must be his temporary home … but after that … who knew! He did *not* want to see or hear anything more. He wished he was "normal," or at least that he didn't keep hearing bad things like this.
The Kratz family kept him for a month. He had a hard time coping with their boisterous household. However, they were nice people and he would have liked to have stayed longer.
Mr. Kratz was the editor at the Smallville Press and let Clark help him with the Linotype when Mr. Kratz went in to the office on Sundays. Clark liked the smell of the newsprint, and felt important helping Mr. Kratz with his work.
The Kratz children were an outgoing, noisy brood. None were particularly interested in quiet pastimes like reading and had no interest in their father's work. Instead, they revelled in team sports and insisted that Clark join in. He protested that he was not very good at team sports, but the Kratz children were adamant that he participate. Any ten year-old should be able to play baseball as far as they were concerned.
This was the first time since Mom and Dad had died that he found he *really* needed to be careful with his special powers. At first he made sure that his plays were well within the range of someone who was, in their opinion, "a bookworm." However, in the excitement of hitting a ball while playing with the Kratz children, he forgot to be careful and had a hard time explaining away his sudden expertise. Fortunately, they bought his explanation that it was just "luck." After that he made sure he did *not* exceed expectations.
He met Lana at school every day, and occasionally was able to meet and talk with her on weekends. She lived on the far side of town, and Mr. and Mrs. Kratz did not want him going that far away on his own. He could have run over there and back without too much difficulty … except he would have a hard time explaining *that* away as "luck," not to mention trying to explain why he had disobeyed the Kratz's.
The new family that had taken over the old Kent farm were willing to take him in. However, Miss Chalmers had the report from his psychotherapist which recommended that he not be returned to live at the farm. There was some concern about the emotional trauma he had encountered with the Stingers, as well as the association with his deceased parents. Miss Chalmers complied with this recommendation. For this Clark was grateful … he didn't think he could bear living at the farm again.
The Kratzes were only interested in short-term care of foster children. As a result, it came as no real surprise when Miss Chalmers came to tell him he was moving again, right after the holidays. He could stay with the Kratz's over Christmas, and then move in with his new family.
He hoped the new family would be close enough to Smallville's main street for him to continue helping Mr. Kratz with the newspaper.
He really liked the feeling of being in the newsroom.
Unfortunately, his new family did not live anywhere near the main street. They lived in a different school district altogether.
Not only did Clark have to leave the Kratz household, and forgo helping at the newspaper, he wasn't going to be able to meet and talk to Lana either. Clark felt so completely alone.
Lana and he met at the Christmas Social held in the church basement, and he told her about the change in his life.
"Oh, Clark. We won't be able to talk anymore." Tears sprang to Lana's eyes.
"We can talk on the phone." Clark tried to calm her distress.
"But, it won't be the *same*. We won't be able swap books, or tell stories, or *anything*!"
Clark couldn't stand to see her so distraught. They *could* meet and talk, but only if he could make up some reason why he could get back and forth to her place. He couldn't think of anything to use as an excuse, so he hesitantly said, "Well, I could come over to your place and we could talk and stuff."
"Clark! The Levines live ten miles from my house. Even if you had a bike, that would be a two hour round-trip! There isn't *any* way, unless I can talk Daddy into driving me over, and back."
Clark knew that this was not likely to happen. Lana's father was a busy stockbroker. He didn't have the time to be Lana's ongoing chauffeur as well.
Clark swallowed and looked around. There were a number of people within hearing distance. He looked up through the ceiling of the Sunday school room and saw that the church above was empty.
"There is a way. If you can keep a secret."
"Well, of *course* I can keep a secret!"
"Good." Clark took Lana by the hand and led her towards the church staircase.
They entered the cloakroom of the church and Clark closed the door. He did *not* want to risk being overheard. On one side of the room there was a bench, intended for people to use to put on their boots, and he indicated that Lana should sit there but he couldn't calm down enough to sit beside her.
He double-checked the adjoining area. There was no-one around, so he took a deep breath and spoke.
"You have to promise that you will *never* tell anyone this. Not your Mom or Dad, or *anyone* … okay?"
Lana looked puzzled, but nodded.
He waited. When she said nothing more, he insisted, "Say it!"
"I promise I won't tell *anyone* when I find out what it is I'm not supposed to tell. Cross my heart and hope to die."
Clark took a deep breath. "You know how I'm adopted?"
Lana nodded, again. "Mr. and Mrs. Kent adopted you because your mother died when you were little."
"That's not exactly the truth. I don't know who my other mother and father were. Mom and Dad found me in Shuster's field, wrapped in a blue blanket."
"Oh. So this is what I have to keep secret?" Lana sounded disappointed.
"No. Miss Chalmers knows about *that*. The part that's secret is they … Mom and Dad … they found me wrapped in a blue blanket, in a *spaceship* that had crashed in Shuster's field." Clark gulped then waiting for Lana's reaction.
"A spaceship? What *kind* of spaceship?"
"I dunno. I never saw it … Dad buried it when I was real little."
"Oh!" Lana sounded disappointed again.
"And, I can do Special things … things no one else can do … because I came in a spaceship!"
"Clark Kent! If you think I'm going to believe a fib like *that* you are … "
"No, wait! I can show you."
"Show me what?"
Lana watched him as he picked up a piece of scrap paper off the floor, took off his glasses and used his Special look to make it burst into flames.
Lana's eyes grew wide and she put her hand over her mouth.
This was the first time he'd openly used any of his special skills since Mom and Dad had left for Seattle. It made him nervous, but it was *such* a relief.
"How … how did you *do* that?" Lana was still staring at the charred paper.
"I did it with my eyes. Sometimes I can control it, sometimes not. That's why I have to wear the glasses. Mom and Dad think … thought, I got these Special skills from my other mother and father—the ones that sent the spaceship to Shuster's field."
"Skills? What kind of skills?"
"I can hear things that are really far away, which mostly isn't very useful. I just hear stuff I'd rather not know about."
"No kidding!" Lana stared at him, open-mouthed. She swallowed and said, "What else can you do?"
"I have really tough skin, that's why Mr. Stinger broke his hand hitting me … and I can run really, really fast … and I don't get tired doing it. That's what I meant when I said we could still meet and talk, and stuff. We could arrange to meet someplace close to your house, and I could be there and back without anyone suspecting. I'd just have to be real careful that no one saw me doing it."
"That's amazing!" Lana was looking at him admiringly. "Who else knows about this?"
Clark shook his head. "No one. Not anymore. Mom and Dad said I shouldn't tell anyone … and they're not here anymore, so now you are the only one to know."
Lana looked pleased. "That's good, Clark. I mean if anyone else found out, they'd come and take you away … and we could *never* talk again!"
"You don't mind? I mean about me being … different?"
"No, of course not. You don't *look* any different. You look nice and normal. Tim, my Dad's secretary's kid … now *he* looks weird. *Anyone* would believe *he* came from outer space." Lana leaned forward. "But, don't tell anyone else about you coming in a spaceship. My Aunt Zelda … in Toronto … she reads all those tabloid newspapers … the ones that are *full* of stories about creatures from another planet … and stuff. If you tell … maybe *they* would tell those tabloids and then the newspapers would take pictures of you and say horrible things about you … it would be *awful*."
Clark swallowed. "Dad used to say they'd 'dissect me like a frog' … "
"Or, worse yet," Lana continued in a whisper, "the government might come and take you and put you in some kind of lab and use you for *experiments*." Her voice sounded sepulchral. Then she continued in a normal tone of voice, "They always do things like that in the movies."
"Dad always said that, too! About me and experiments … not about the movies. So, you won't tell … will you?"
Lana stood up. "No, Clark, I'll never tell." She picked up his glasses from the bench where he'd laid them down and put them back on his face. "This is *our* secret!" She smiled and Clark felt a great relief. He was not alone anymore.
A few weeks later, Clark and Lana were sitting in the loft of the abandoned barn on Mr. Irig's back forty that bordered on the outskirts of Smallville. The barn was only half a mile from Lana's house and it made no difference to Clark where they met, as long as no-one saw him.
"Jim went to the show last Saturday. He saw the trailer for that new movie 'Star Wars.' He says it looks neat."
Lana smiled, "Yeah. I saw that trailer too. It seems like all the people in space look like us … well, mostly … there's this big hairy thing that kind of looks like a huge gorilla. But mostly they look like us. I wonder if your real mother and father lived out there?"
"I dunno. The people from space on Star Trek, they don't look like us … most of the time. Maybe my space ship wasn't from outer space … maybe it was from here." Clark sort of remembered Mom and Dad considering that he was part of a Russian or American "experiment," but he didn't want to admit that. He wasn't really sure which would be worse … being from outer space or being the product of an experiment gone bad … he would just rather not think about it.
Lana, on the other hand, seemed to like the idea that he was from outer space. "Don't be silly, no one here can do what you do."
Lana was scornful.
"I guess so." Clark didn't want to disagree with her. She might not want to be with him anymore. She hadn't spoken to her best friend Shirley for three whole weeks the one time Shirley had disagreed with Lana. He couldn't bear the idea that Lana might not want to talk to him.
Clark heard someone approaching. "Lana, I have to hide … someone is coming." He scurried to the rear of the loft and hid behind some bales of hay.
"Lana! Lana!" Pete Ross, a boy about their age who lived next door to Lana, came into the barn. "I thought I saw you sneaking in here. What are you doing?"
"Nothing. Can't a girl find a private place to read without being followed?"
"Oh, yeah. I guess so. It's getting dark. Your Mom sent me to find you and bring you home." Lana's mother often used Pete to run errands for her.
"Okay. I'll be down in a minute." Lana crawled to the back of the loft and whispered, "Sorry, I have to go."
Clark whispered "Okay," and watched her climb down the ladder to meet Pete.
As Lana descended the ladder it started to shift sideways. Pete caught the side of the ladder to stop it from falling down and helped Lana get off the bottom rung.
Pete made sure that Lana was okay, then saying, "we can't let this thing fall and hurt someone," he took hold of the ladder and flipped it so it lay on the barn floor.
Clark, watching this through the hayloft floor, groaned inwardly.
How was he going to get down, now? Lana obviously had the same thought, because she looked up and back with an anxious expression on her face.
Clark waited until they were gone and then crept to the edge of the loft. Maybe if he hung by his hands from the edge of the loft and dropped to the barn floor he'd be okay. He hadn't hurt himself falling in quite a long time. He took a few deep breaths and lying on his stomach, with his feet dangling over the edge of the loft, he slowly manoeuvred himself so that he was hanging over the chasm below by just his fingertips. He closed his eyes and let go. He felt the initial drop and then … nothing. He opened his eyes.
He was *floating* down—definitely going down, but at a *very* slow pace. He didn't even hit hard! How had he *done* that?
Clark was afraid—almost as afraid as the time he'd found out he could Special Hear.
He didn't want to have to do *that* again, so he lifted the ladder back into place. It was as if the ladder did not weigh anything at all! Did this mean there were *more* changes in store? Clark chewed on his lower lip. He *really* hoped not. The Special skills he had right now were hard enough to hide!
Smallville, Kansas — June 1979
Clark crouched in the hay of the barn loft, his fist in his mouth, struggling to prevent himself from crying.
He could hear his current foster parents arguing, even at this distance, and he wished with all his heart that he could *not* hear what they were saying.
"I'm telling you, Bertha, he's not right in the head. We got our own two to think about. You call that Miss Chalmers and tell her she has to find someone else to take care of him. I don't want anymore to do with the likes of him."
"But, Frank, he's got nowhere else to go. He's all alone in the world. Just be patient."
"Patient! I been patient. Now you do what's right and phone that woman at the Social Welfare. I don't want him here another day."
Clark heard the door slam, and Mrs. Winneker make a small sound like a sob.
He knew it was all his fault, but he wished he could be more careful … or something. Miss Chalmers would give him *that* look again and he would be shunted to yet another stranger's house to be "taken care of." He'd already been to five foster homes, not counting the Irigs and the Stingers, and two different school districts in the last three years.
Clark sucked in his breath, to stop a sob from escaping. He had not been able to explain, because that would mean *telling*, and he knew the importance of keeping his Special skills a secret. It wasn't fair! He had been trying to *help* and instead he was being blamed for what happened! This time the sob escaped around his fist. Why, oh why, couldn't things be different? And they *would* have been different, if only he had been able to run faster and save Mom and Dad from being hit by that truck.
Clark wiped the tears from his cheeks with the back of his hand.
He took a deep intake of breath and gave himself a mental shake.
There was no point in wishing things were different. That only made his day-to-day life seem that much worse. He had to accept things as they were. It was better that way—his therapist had said so, and she was right.
In his mind he *knew* that—but a part of him still wanted his life to be the kind that dreams were made of. He wanted Mom and Dad, alive and as loving and accepting as they'd always been. He wanted to go to the same school year after year. He wanted to have lots of friends. He wanted to *help*, and to know people *wanted* his help. He wanted … he wanted to be *himself*. He choked back the last of the sobs. He was 13 years old and had to stop being such a cry baby. He had to go back to the house and accept whatever they told him as the reason for why he was leaving, and he had to act as if he really believed it. It was the proper thing to do.
He stood up and walked to the edge of the loft. There was no ladder down, he'd pushed it away after he climbed up so that no one would suspect he was hiding up here, but since he did not need a ladder to get down, and hadn't for a couple of years now, this hardly impinged on his conscious mind. He floated down to the barn floor and after straightening his clothes he walked outside.
He splashed water from the pump over his face to wash away the last remnants of his tears and walked into the farm house. By now he felt calm, almost numb, and capable of accepting the excuses that Mrs. Winneker would give.
Lately, it seemed like everyone around him was getting more and more distrustful and anxious. Everyone seemed to be on the lookout for odd behaviour and shunned anything that was "different." This outlook was making it harder and harder for him to hide his abilities. He lived in constant fear of making a mistake that *couldn't* be disregarded. Consequently, over the last three years he had learned to hide his feelings from even the people who should have been closest to him, except for Lana.
He was afraid that he had made that unforgivable mistake this time. It was a relief to hear Mrs. Winneker tell him, "I had a call from the Social Welfare office. I'm sorry, Clark, they tell me you'll be moving on to another family tomorrow."
"Another family?" Clark figured this was an appropriate question.
"Yes, Miss Chalmers said you would find them more compatible than ours. The children there are more your age." Mrs. Winneker was looking over his head. Clark could tell she hated lying to him.
"I'm sorry to see you go, Clark."
Clark did not know what to say. He adjusted his glasses and stared glumly at the floor.
At school, the next Monday afternoon, he met Lana behind the gym.
"Clark, why did they move you *again*? You didn't …" Lana made the tight hand gesture that she often used to indicate using his Special powers. It reminded Clark of someone fending off the evil eye. " … did you?"
"No, not really. I mean, it didn't seem like much at the time. I was trying to help Mr. Winneker with the haying and the load of hay toppled over, almost pinning him underneath." Clark held his head down, ashamed at his failure. "I moved as fast as I could to stop the hay from falling. But … somehow, Mr. Winneker thought I *caused* the hay to topple. He was *furious*. He said … " Clark gulped. "He said that his 'charity case' had 'tried to murder' him."
"Well, that wasn't very nice of him, but I'm afraid when you … "
she made the hand gesture again, " … when people can see you.
They could take you away! Promise you'll be more *careful*!"
Clark sighed. She was right, of course. He had to be more careful.
Lana let her hand rest on his arm. "I know it's hard, Clark. But I'm only saying this because I worry."
"I know, Lana. I like it that you worry." When she worried, Clark knew that Lana cared about him. He wanted her to care for him and he vowed to himself to try harder in the future.
A couple of weeks later, Clark met Lana for the afternoon at the Irig Pond. Clark did not have to do any Special running to meet her nowadays. His new foster home, with the Jamiesons, was only a short distance from the Lang house.
Lana and he were sitting on a log beside the Irig Pond, watching the ducks and just enjoying the sunshine. She smiled at him and said, "So, Clark, what are you going to be doing now that school's out?"
"Mr. Kratz asked me to help at the Press. I'll be working there a few hours a week." Clark pitched a pebble into the exact centre of the pond in an effort to be precise with his ability to throw to great distances. He tried to take every opportunity to learn to control his abilities.
"Is that okay with the Jamiesons? Don't they need you to help on the farm?"
"They said it's okay. They know I'm not all that interested in farming, and they want their own two sons to learn about the farm.
They still expect me to help out, though." Clark threw another stone into the pond. "Besides, since I'll be earning a bit of money at the Press, that means they won't have to worry about giving me an allowance."
Lana latched on to the first part of his explanation. "If you're not interested in farming … what *do* you want to do when you grow up?"
"I was thinking I'd like to get into journalism … I really like working at the Press and maybe one day I could become a writer … or even an editor. That would be *really* neat."
"I guess. You *are* a good writer." Lana paused, thinking. "I like writing too, but I think I would really like something more interactive … you know, like talking to people."
Clark paused for a moment while he took aim with throwing a stone again. "I guess." He wasn't exactly sure that would be the best option for Lana, she had a tendency to be impatient with people who didn't agree with her. He decided to change the direction of the conversation. "Are you going away again this summer?"
"Yes, next month. We'll be gone for a month. Daddy is taking us to the Grand Canyon and the Petrified Forest. He wants us to see the 'amazing things that nature can create'." Lana giggled and elbowed Clark. "If he only knew!"
Clark gave her a crooked smile. "You really think I'm created by nature?"
"Well, what else? It's not like there are mad scientists out there creating people like you … is it?"
"Why not? They do it in the movies all the time."
"Yeah, but the people they create in the movies are always *ugly*- -you're not … so you must be created by nature."
Clark thought this was kind of a dumb reason for thinking he was a product of nature, but didn't argue—what was the point? He couldn't prove otherwise.
To change the topic, Clark said, "I saw an ad for the Star Trek movie that's coming out later this summer … would you like to go see it?"
Lana shook her head. "Nah. I could never get all that interested in the TV show. I think the movie will be even worse. My Dad says it's just cowboys and Indians in space."
"Your Dad's probably right … but I still like it. I'd like to think that the human race is capable of doing all those wonderful things."
"What 'wonderful things'?" Lana looked puzzled.
"You know, travelling in space … 'the final frontier.' Exploring strange new places. Seeking new life and civilizations. Going where no one has gone before."
"You want to do that? Explore strange new places … new civilizations?"
"Yeah! I think that would be neat." Clark felt the charm of the unknown calling to him.
Lana sniffed. "But, that would mean you would have to leave Smallville."
"I guess. But, I think it would be wonderful to go 'where no one has gone before'."
"Clark! It's just make-believe!" Lana stood up in a huff and turned to look down at him. "Of course, you might have a problem distinguishing between reality and make-believe because of what you can do."
Clark stood up. "Lana, don't get mad! I didn't mean to make you mad … honest!"
Lana had her lips pressed together and her arms crossed. "You make it sound like you *want* to go away … to leave Smallville!
To leave me for someplace where no one has gone before. How *could* you?"
"I didn't mean *that*. I just mean that it would be neat to see new places … and stuff. Maybe we could do it together?"
Lana's arms relaxed and she slowly smiled at him. "Okay, but I don't want you to leave without me. I'd miss you."
"Me, too." Then Clark heard voices across the other side of the meadow behind them. "Someone's coming." Lana and Clark sat down on the log again. Clark pitched another stone into the pond.
Two sing-song voices chanted, "Lana and Clark sitting on a log,"
"k - I - s - s - I - n - g,"
"first comes love,"
"then comes marriage,"
"then comes *Clark* pushing a *baby* carriage." There was uproarious laughter at this witticism.
Lana stood up, put her hands on her hips, and said with deep disdain, "Bobby and Jimmy Jamieson, you should be *ashamed* of yourselves!"
"Oh, so Clark's letting *you* do his fighting for him, is he?"
Bobby sneered at her.
Clark stood up slowly. "Come on guys, leave us alone, will you."
He wasn't sure why the Jamieson twins were so set on annoying him, but they had been on his case ever since he had moved in. When he had talked to Miss Chalmers about it, she asked him to be patient.
It was only natural that his foster siblings might resent the attention he was getting from their parents.
Jimmy Jamieson stepped up to Clark and said, "Why, what you gonna do? Hit us with your big right arm—four-eyes?" and snickered.
Clark clenched his teeth. He was aware that the Jamieson twins were just trying to get under his skin, but it was hard to stay cool under the circumstances. Nevertheless, he *had* to stay calm … he might hurt them.
"Come on, Clarkie. Let's see what kind of *man* you are." Jimmy was in front of Clark with his fists up, prepared to fight.
"Look, I don't want to fight … I … "
"Hey, Bobby, the bookworm don't wanna fight. What do you think of that?"
"Not much, Jimmy. Let's … get him!" Bobby jumped onto Clark's back, just as Jimmy punched him in the stomach.
Clark pulled away from the punch. He didn't want anyone else to break a hand on him, it would be too hard to explain. Bobby was trying to get a strangle-hold on Clark's neck, Clark pretended to gasp for air and then lurched suddenly so that Bobby lost his grip. Lana rushed forward in an attempt to help—but only succeeded in bumping into Bobby. There was a resounding splash as Bobby fell off Clark's back and into the pond.
"Why, you little *pip-squeak*!" Jimmy screamed and charged at Clark. Clark dodged and Jimmy went head first into the pond.
Bobby climbed out of the pond and charged towards Clark and then stopped. Jimmy was lying still, face down in the water. "Jimmy!
What has he *done* to you?"
Clark waded into the pond, pulled Jimmy out of the water and carried him to shore. He cleared Jimmy's breathing passages and gave him artificial respiration to start his breathing again.
Jimmy coughed and started breathing on his own. Bobby helped his brother to his feet. "Just you *wait* until I tell Dad what you did! Just you wait!" The twins squelched off across the fields towards the Jamieson farm.
"Oh, Clark! We have to get to their father and tell him what *really* happened."
"Who's going to believe me? Especially after what Mr. Winneker said."
"Well, *I* was here—and all you did was defend yourself—*and* you saved Jimmy from drowning, so let's go!"
Mr. and Mrs. Jamieson were *not* pleased. Their twins gave them one version of the story and Clark and Lana another. However, they were reasonable people and knew that the truth must lie somewhere in between. Mr. Jamieson told the four of them that he figured there was blame on all sides, which Lana would have argued if Clark hadn't elbowed her softly to indicate keeping quiet. Mr. Jamieson said that he'd overlook the problem this time, but if he found them fighting again, he'd get the strap out.
The twins glowered. Clark's stomach sank. A strapping wouldn't hurt *him*, but the threat of such a punishment was bound to result in some kind of sneaky retaliation from Bobby and Jimmy.
Clark was right. The twins made it their mission to spy on Clark and try to catch him doing something wrong they could report to their parents and get him into trouble. Clark had been having enough problems with his emerging powers, but now that he had the twins watching his every move it was even more difficult. He couldn't even sneak off to see Lana and talk it over with her.
The only time he was "safe" was while he was helping Mr. Kratz at the Smallville Press.
Just before her family set off on their trip around the Southwest, Lana dropped into the Press offices while Clark was there to say goodbye.
"How's it going, Clark?" Lana looked concerned.
Clark found it comforting to know that Lana cared. "Okay, I guess. They watch my every move … but so far I've been able to keep out of trouble. It helps that I can hear what they're planning to do." Clark grinned at the one "advantage" he had over the twins.
"That's good. Just be careful. Okay?"
Clark nodded. She was going to be gone a whole *month*, how was he going to survive? Lana kissed him on the cheek and said goodbye. Clark watched her leave the newspaper office and felt as if the only person who cared for him in the whole world had left his life—even if it *was* only for a month.
"How does he *do* that?" Clark overheard Jimmy ask Bobby. "How does he *always* know what we're going to do?"
Clark swallowed as he was walking along the main street. How to explain that he could hear all of their plans? He had managed to avoid the falling bucket of water that the twins had placed over the kitchen door. The twins had been *sure* that he couldn't escape their trap this time. He would have to come up with some kind of rational explanation, otherwise who knew what the twins would do next. They had already tried to spread the rumour, among the other kids at school, that he was an "accident magnet," that accidents happened wherever he went. Clark sighed and turned into the Press office door.
There was a loud squawk as he entered. "Damnation. Why doesn't this thing work? I've followed *all* the instructions." Mr. Kratz sounded exasperated.
"Can I help, Mr. Kratz?"
"Only if you know something about intercoms or electricity. I've installed this intercom system, but all I can get out of it is meaningless noise."
Clark looked at the instructions. Everything seemed to have been installed correctly. He checked the connections at all the terminal points and found the problem—one of the factory connections was loose. He soldered the connection with his eyes, pretended to fiddle with the external wires, and asked Mr. Kratz to try again. This time it worked fine.
"Clark, I don't know what I'd do without you."
Clark grinned—not just at the praise, but because the intercom had given him an idea.
He asked Mr. Kratz if he could have some of the extra wiring and connectors. They weren't any use to the Press, but Clark figured he could rig up a fake "spy system" in the twins' bedroom. Doing the work quickly and quietly would be a good test of the mastery of his skills. Lately, he found he could move *really* quickly … almost instantaneously between points in the same room.
If he could get into the twins' bedroom, install the equipment and get out quickly enough they'd never know he'd been there today, and might assume the equipment had been there since he moved in with them.
He practised in his own room, until he had the "installation" down to seconds. He waited for the twins to go down to do their chores in the barn and then did it again in their bedroom. As an added touch, he strung a wire to his own room and attached it to a set of earphones that had not worked in a long time. If he did this right they would *never* know that the "spy system" didn't really work.
Over the next few weeks, he continued to dodge the "traps" set by the twins. One afternoon he overheard them talking about telling the other kids about their idea that Clark could read minds.
Bobby had seen a rerun of 'The Girl With Something Extra' in which a woman had an extra ability—ESP. Bobby was, apparently, going to tell the other kids that Clark had the same abilities.
Jimmy was scornful, "Oh, sure. Whose goin' to believe that? Uh?"
Bobby paused for a few seconds before responding. "Everybody! Because … well, because Sally, the woman on that show, has dark hair—just like Clark—and, and … well, how else does he know what we're doing?"
There was no response from Jimmy, but Clark peered through the wall and saw him shrug.
"So, you're with me? We go to all the kids and tell them.
"I … guess … "
It was a dumb idea, but you never knew what the other kids might believe. He didn't need a lot of kids scrutinizing his every move so Clark decided it was time to "reveal" how he did it. He put the headphones on his bedside table and tugged at the wire, so that the speaker in the twins' bedroom moved slightly and gave out a squawk.
They stopped talking instantly. "What was that?"
He could hear movement and looking through the wall saw Jimmy climbing on a chair to look at the top of the bureau, behind the stacks of comic books that were there.
"It's a microphone!" Jimmy yanked at the mike and pulled it away from the wiring. "He's been *spying* on us … *that's* how he always knows what we're doing!"
Clark quickly left his bedroom and shut the door just loudly enough so the twins would be able to hear. He could hear them rushing out of their room and into his.
"Here's the headphones."
"Well, that little *sneak*. We'll get even with *him*."
Clark swallowed. Maybe this hadn't been such a great idea after all. He finished his chores, came in and washed up and sat at the table. He wondered what form the "revenge" would take.
The twins looked so smug, he figured they had already done whatever it was they planned to do. Since they hadn't talked about any plans he wasn't as prepared as he'd been before.
However, as he walked upstairs he used his vision to explore his bedroom and found the booby-trap over the door. It was only a sack of flour. It wouldn't hurt him, but it would create one heck of a mess!
In order to convince the twins that they had "won" he'd have to walk into the trap. Good thing he wasn't wearing his best clothes. He could hear Mrs. Jamieson coming up the stairs after him. As he entered his room, the sack of flour poured over him.
He choked on the flour dust and backed out into the corridor.
"Clark? What on earth?" Mrs. Jamieson exclaimed .
Between coughing, Clark said, "Someone … booby-trapped … my door."
"Jimmy! Bobby! You two hooligans get right up here! I want an explanation and I want it *now*!"
Clark was amazed. None of his previous foster parents had sided with him against their own children. Mrs. Jamieson not only chewed out the twins for their "shenanigans" but also made *them* clean up the mess. He couldn't believe it. Also, the twins were warned that if any other "accidents" happened to Clark, they would be held responsible. The tricks and traps stopped. The twins weren't happy, but they stopped trying to annoy him. After this incident, they avoided him whenever possible. He had never expected them to be his friends, that was reality, but it was heaven not to have them watching his every move.
That weekend Clark was doubly grateful that he wasn't being spied on anymore. Otherwise, the twins would have witnessed when he accidentally broke the main door to the barn off its hinges. He had barely touched it and it fell down. He managed to mend the hinges and rehang the door before anyone discovered what he had done—but Clark was getting afraid. He had thought his skills had become what they were going to be. This incident made him realize that they were *continuing* to change as he grew.
His Special skills had been appearing gradually ever since he was little. He could still feel the terror he had felt the first time his Special Hearing had kicked in. He'd always been strong even when he was in kindergarten—and Mom and Dad had given him the glasses as a reminder to only do what other children could do.
But lately—lately things had begun to change more quickly. Now he could move so fast that he figured he'd be invisible to the normal eye. He could now control the things his eyes did, most of the time, and his hearing now mostly seemed to kick in on its own whenever trouble was brewing within the vicinity of his ability to Special Hear. He wasn't sure why that was, but that's what it seemed to do. And now, *now*, he was becoming strong—really, *really* strong. He was having a hard time judging when too much pressure was being applied, like with the barn door. Mrs. Jamieson had asked him to clean out the cold storage room. There was a chest freezer in there, as well as boxes of root vegetables.
He had been able to lift the chest freezer with one hand while he vacuumed under it. It had been almost scary. Fortunately, he hadn't dropped the freezer and no-one had seen him do it. Mrs. Jamieson was just pleased that he'd done such a thorough job.
One day when he was in the barn on his own, he'd decided to lift a tractor just to test just how much he could lift. Lifting it had been no problem at all! It was almost as if the item became weightless as soon as he decided to lift it.
He'd been able to float down from any height for the last couple of years. Now he was beginning to wonder if this was the beginning of some other new talent. He remembered Mom and Dad commenting that sometimes his apparent weight would fluctuate so that he had "light" days and "heavy" days, even when he was very little. Sometimes, he woke up in the night and found himself floating about a foot off the mattress. He was *really* glad that Social Services required that he have a room of his own … it would be *impossible* to explain *that* one away. Clark wondered, if he tried hard enough, if he could make himself so light he would float *up* when he wanted to. He tried testing this theory by jumping over higher and higher objects. He could jump over the ten foot high wall out behind the gymnasium at the school. There were no windows on that side of the school, so he was safe as long as no one was there to see. However, he could not jump over the old barn at the Irig farm. At least not yet. He didn't dare try any of the other structures around that were in more public locations.
He had hoped as he grew older that his Special skills would level off and he would be able to hide them more easily. This wasn't happening … and he was getting more and more scared. He wished Mom and Dad were here to help him. All he knew was that he could *not* reveal any of this to anyone else. Lately, even Lana was getting a little afraid of how he was changing—and getting more and more intense about him *appearing* to be "normal."
Late in August, Lana was back from her trip. Clark was thrilled, he had missed her so much.
He had talked her into seeing the Star Trek movie with their mutual friends from school, but even he had to admit it was pretty awful … and they were talking about doing a sequel. They must be crazy—who would go see Star Trek II, after they had seen what the studio had done to the first one?
The group from school gathered at the soda fountain in the drug store after the movie. After they'd run through their opinions of the movie itself, they got onto other topics.
"Wouldn't it be neat if you could say 'Beam me up, Scotty' and it really happened?" Rachel said between mouthfuls of chocolate sundae.
There was a chorus of "Yeah!"
"You think people will really go into space?" Jim asked. "I mean regular people, not just astronauts or cosmonauts."
"Oh, sure!" Peter responded. "They launched Voyager this month.
They even included a record, with instructions on how to play the earth sounds and pictures, just in case it finds people already out there."
"Yeah, I heard that." Rachel responded, now finished with her sundae. "You think that it will?"
There was general shrugging around the table. "Who knows? But it would be kind of neat if people from outer space came here … I mean people like Mr. Spock—not those Klingons they seem kind of nasty," Shirley wrinkled her nose at the thought of the Klingons.
Clark noticed that Lana was starting to look a little nervous about the direction the conversation was taking. He was kind of nervous too, but he decided to ask, "So what do you think people from outer space would look like?"
"Little green men."
"Tall stringy guys, like those aliens in Close Encounters."
"Pods that look just like earth people so they can't be detected— like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I saw the remake last year. It was great!"
"Yecch!" Rachel exclaimed. "Let's talk about something else."
When they were finished their sodas, Lana asked Clark to walk her home, and after some teasing from the others, they left.
"What do *you* think?" Clark asked, "Are they right, or could people from outer space look like me?"
"Don't be silly. They're talking about movies. You're no pod … that's for sure." She stopped and thought for a minute.
"Maybe your Dad was right, maybe the Russians were experimenting with human babies and something went wrong."
"I guess. I just wish I knew when it was all going to stop."
"Something new happened while I was gone?"
"I'm getting a lot faster … and a lot stronger. If I'd been this fast and strong three years ago, Mom and Dad would still be here."
Clark stared forlornly at the road ahead.
"Clark, you couldn't help that. You did the best you could.
Don't blame yourself. Daddy always says that no matter what, one person can't make that much of a difference to the whole world."
"Thanks, Lana. I need to hear that."
"Did you hear about Mrs. Irig?"
"No. What about her?"
"She went into the hospital, last night."
"I knew she was sick, but I didn't realize she was *that* sick."
"Mommy says she's been sick a long time. I guess that's why they couldn't keep you after … well, back then."
They parted at the Lang gate and Clark went back to the Jamieson's. He could never think of it as "home."
As he entered the kitchen, Mrs. Jamieson was just hanging up the phone.
"Oh, Clark. I'm so glad you're home. Sit down, I have something to tell you."
Clark obediently sat at the kitchen table. Mrs. Jamieson sat in a chair beside him.
"I just got a call from Maisie Bell. Mary Irig passed away a few minutes ago."
"Mrs. Irig is dead?" Clark felt a coldness settle into the pit of his stomach.
Mrs. Jamieson stroked his head. "Yes, honey. I was wondering if you wanted to go to see Mr. Irig tomorrow? … to pay your respects."
Clark felt tears pricking at his eyes, and simply nodded. He didn't think he'd be able to talk for a few minutes.
Just then the twins burst in, laughing and carrying on, as usual.
"Boys, will you be quiet! Go upstairs and tidy up your room … Now!"
The twins left, muttering to themselves.
"Are you okay, Clark? Do you want to be alone?"
Clark nodded again. Mrs. Jamieson went out to the barn to tell her husband the news.
The only sound in the kitchen was the ticking of the clock. Clark deliberately shut out any sounds outside of the room. He couldn't bear to hear anything just now. A small sob escaped into the silence. Why did all the people he liked have to go away?
After Mrs. Irig's funeral, Clark was having trouble getting back in focus. All the really nice people, like his Mom and Dad and Mrs. Irig weren't around anymore. And the people who *were* around seemed less and less sociable. Certainly, Mr. Irig was starting to get irritable at the smallest thing.
And, it wasn't just in Smallville. He read about all kinds of awful things happening in the paper. Americans being held hostage in Tehran, President Reagan being shot and wounded, an attempted assassination of the Pope, and the economy was getting worse and worse. No wonder people were less optimistic and more impatient.
Even Lana wasn't as reassuring as she had been right after Mom and Dad died. She seemed to be more apprehensive about what people might think—and afraid of what would happen if anyone ever found out about Clark's skills. She seemed less trusting, and sometimes misconstrued innocent remarks as threats to leave her.
All the while his Special capabilities kept growing and changing.
He was trying to lead as normal a life as he could under the circumstances. Just before Columbus Day, Rachel Harris asked him to go to a movie with her, and he accepted. Rachel was a good friend and fun to be with. She made him feel like he was a regular guy. He briefly considered letting her in on his secret, but decided against it. Lana had known him since kindergarten, and *she* was having trouble coping with the knowledge. What would it do to Rachel whom he had only known for a few years? He *couldn't* put anyone else in that position.
After the movie, they had gone to the Adnyl Rexall drug store for a soda, and Lana had been there with a number of their other friends. He and Rachel had joined the group. Lana had *not* been pleased to see him with Rachel. He and Lana had always been friends—he wasn't really sure why she was upset.
Lana did not leave him in doubt as to why it was a problem. The next afternoon, she cornered him on the way to the Press offices and let him know that Lana considered them to be boyfriend and girlfriend. And the idea that he would take someone else to the movies—well, she just wouldn't stand for it!
Clark was startled, to say the least. He hadn't had any idea that Lana thought of him *that* way. He wasn't sure if he could return that kind of feeling for her. They had been friends for what seemed like forever, but *girlfriend*—he wasn't so sure about that.
However, he didn't feel that way about Rachel either, so he did the thing that Lana obviously wanted, and asked her to go to the show that Friday night. Lana seemed pleased at his perceptiveness.
After that he was divided between these two girls. Both of them were pulling him to feel something he didn't. The guys at school ribbed him about having two girls fighting over him. Clark was starting to feel overwhelmed by the whole situation.
The contest between Rachel and Lana reached its peak on Valentine's Day. Both girls asked him to the Valentine's dance.
He had to choose between them. It took Clark *days* to come to a decision. Finally, he did it. He turned both of them down. He didn't want to hurt either of them by accepting the other's invitation.
Unfortunately, this didn't solve his problem.
Rachel came to see him at the Press, and gave him the Valentine card she had intended to give him at the dance. She seemed resigned to his decision—but still hopeful.
Lana, on the other hand, intensified her pursuit. She invited him to a dinner party at her parents' house the next Saturday night.
Clark wore his good slacks, black turtleneck and a black blazer that he had bought to attend Mrs. Irig's funeral. The blazer was a bit on the small side now, but if he didn't button it up, it looked okay. At the last minute he remembered to put on an overcoat. He didn't need one, but it would look odd not to be wearing one in the middle of February.
Mr. Lang was his usual bombastic self. Mrs. Lang seemed anxious to ensure that he and Lana were enjoying the food and the evening.
Lana was dressed in a simple green dress that complemented her eyes and hair colour, as well as outlining her budding figure.
Clark realized that Lana was developing into a woman. When had that happened?
When the dinner was finished, Mr. and Mrs. Lang took them to a concert put on by the Lawrence Campus Gala Choral Society. After the concert, Mr. and Mrs. Lang were talking with some of the other concert-goers.
As Clark was helping Lana into her overcoat, Mrs. Lang asked, "Clark, would you please see Lana home? We'll be right along."
"Yes, Mrs. Lang."
Lana looked pleased and hooked her hand through his left elbow as they left the hall to walk to her house.
"Did you like the concert?" Lana looked up at him.
Clark nodded. "Yes, it was … interesting."
Lana smiled, and let her hand slide down his arm and into his left hand. She intertwined her fingers into his. Clark felt a little scared by this move. Their relationship seemed to be moving in a direction that was out of his control.
"Lana … I … "
"Yes, Clark?" Lana stopped and turned to face him, her eyes gazing into his.
Clark swallowed. Why had he never noticed her eyes before?
"I … I … like you and everything … b-b-but … " Clark was so nervous he was starting to stutter.
Lana moved closer. "But?" Her breath was making soft swirls in the cold evening air.
"I'm n-n-not real sure about this." He lifted their entwined hands.
"Oh!" Lana looked embarrassed. She quickly let go of his hand and shoved her hands into her coat pockets.
Clark could see the hint of tears on her eyelashes as she turned away from him. He caught her by the arm. "I'm sorry, Lana. I didn't mean to hurt you."
Lana pulled away and kept walking ahead of him until they reached the gate set in the picket fence surrounding the Lang house. Once there she pushed her shoulders back, turned, looked up into his face and said, "Would it be okay if I kissed you goodnight?"
She usually gave him a peck on the cheek as a means of saying goodbye, so he nodded. She must be feeling totally rejected by his previous hesitation, if she had to ask permission this time.
To show that he wasn't averse to her goodbye peck, Clark leaned forward to give her easier access to his cheek. However, to his surprise, she didn't kiss him on the cheek. The delicate pressure of her lips on his was amazingly pleasant. Unfortunately, when he tried to move into a better position to appreciate this new sensation, his glasses got in the way, and the magical moment was gone.
"I'm sorry. I … I … " Clark was feeling dazed by the experience.
"You have lipstick on your cheek." Lana wiped the edge of his mouth with her finger. "There, it's gone." She smiled up at him.
"Thank you." Clark was trying desperately to figure out what he was supposed to do next.
Lana turned, opened the garden gate and softly said, "Goodnight" over her shoulder. Clark watched her walk up the path and into her house.
Smallville, Kansas — June 1982
"But, Clark! It will be *fun* and we can do things together."
Lana was using her coaxing voice.
She wanted him to play football for Smallville High next fall.
She thought it would be a great way for them to be together on weekends and at practices since she was applying to be a cheerleader. Clark wasn't so sure. His strength seemed more under control, now—and he could judge speed pretty well, but …
"Lana, they demand a *physical*. I can't take a physical.
They'll find out!"
"Oh! But, you've had a physical every year of school, and no one's found out, yet."
"That's because … I never really take the physical."
"What!" Lana exclaimed. "How do you manage that?"
"Well, when Mom and Dad were alive they'd sign a waiver. Since I never got sick, the school never questioned it."
"And since then?"
"I've always been away the day the medical team comes to the school, then afterwards I go to the nurse and she does a quick check-up. Since I make sure my vital signs are always on target, I've never had to go through a full physical. But the football coach expects every player to have a full physical. I can't fake that."
"Can you find out what you need to provide in the way of samples?"
"Then it's simple. I'll provide them, and you just have to put them in the containers they give you."
Clark sighed. "Lana—in case you haven't noticed—you're a *girl*. The blood analysis will *show* that. They'll be checking for testosterone levels … for drugs. It won't work."
"Well, get one of your buddies to provide them, then."
"And, just how am I supposed to explain why I need some of their urine and blood? Lana … let's just forget it, okay?"
Lana got that look on her face—the one that had become really familiar over the last few months—the one that meant it wasn't over … not until Lana Lang said it was over. Well, she couldn't *make* him apply for the football team. He just had to remain strong.
He decided to change the subject. "What time should I pick you up for the year-end Memory Masquerade on Friday?"
"7:30 … and be sure to be on time. Daddy likes my dates to be punctual."
"Yes, Lana, I know." He'd already had *that* lecture from her father. "I'll be there at 7:30, Friday. What colour corsage should I buy?"
"Clark, let it be a surprise … but not pink … or orange. That would clash with my dress."
Clark and Lana had agreed that they would not wear costumes to the Masquerade. Lana didn't want to wear a "silly costume" to their last high school prom of the year. She thought it would look "ridiculous." He knew, after overhearing a conversation she had with Shirley, that she was going to be wearing a blue prom dress.
He decided to go with a white corsage as being a safe choice.
He was going to wear his new charcoal grey suit. His current foster family were an older couple and conservative in their ways.
They insisted that he be "properly" dressed at all times and made sure that he had the appropriate clothes. He bought a corsage of white carnations for Lana, and a boutonniere for himself out of the money he earned helping Mr. Kratz. This won him both Lana and her parents' approval. By the time they got to the Memory Masquerade, the dance was in full swing.
Their usual friends had gathered in their customary corner, equidistant between the buffet table and the restrooms, and were chattering to each other between dances.
Rachel asked him to dance, and when Lana nodded, he accepted. It was a dance with an upbeat tempo and everyone on the floor was moving quickly and occasionally bumping into other couples. The dance was half over when Rachel tripped over someone's foot and would have hit the dance floor *hard* if Clark hadn't moved to stop her fall. Even so, he wasn't fast enough to prevent her from falling on her foot.
"Are you okay?"
"I … I … think so." Rachel sounded a little out of breath. Clark looked at her face. She appeared to be in pain.
"Here, let me help you up." Clark put his arm around her and raised her up on her feet. She continued to lean on him for support, even after he had let go. "Are you sure you're okay?"
"I … I … " He felt her sway against him and he put his arm around her again for support. Clark visually checked her for injury.
Her ankle was beginning to swell. He picked her up and carried her off the dance floor.
"Clark, what's going on, here?" Lana came up beside him as they left the dance floor.
"Rachel fell and hurt her ankle."
"Oh, *really*!" Lana was definitely annoyed.
"Yes. Now if you'll let me pass I can put her down in that chair."
Lana stepped back and made a snorting sound as she did so. He knew he was definitely going to hear about this later. Lana could never seem to forget that he and Rachel had dated for a brief period.
"Is there something I can do?" It was Dr. Milhoon.
"Oh, yes. Rachel fell, and I think she's hurt her ankle." Clark stepped back to allow the doctor to examine Rachel.
Lana had disappeared. Clark knew he'd better go in search of her, and make amends. He found her coming out of the Ladies room and asked her to dance. It was a slow dance—her favourite kind.
She was very remote for the first part of the dance, but as the dance progressed, her icy exterior melted and she seemed to have forgotten why she was angry. She moved her arms up so that her hands were clasped behind his head and their bodies were moving in sync with the slow rhythm of the music. He wondered if she had any idea what this did to his blood temperature. As the music faded, indicating the end of the dance, she kissed him on the lips, sweetly, gently. His face was flushed and he was breathing a little harder than he had been when the dance started. He took in a deep breath and followed Lana off the dance floor.
"Hi, Rachel. How are you feeling?" Lana sounded gracious.
"Fine. Dr. Milhoon says I've just sprained my ankle. It would have been much worse if Clark hadn't caught me." She smiled up at Clark.
Lana looked like thunder, again.
Clark decided a change of subject was needed. "I'm getting myself a snack. Does anyone want anything?" He memorized their wishes and headed for the buffet. He really wished Lana wasn't quite so … so possessive. He and Rachel were just friends. Anyone would help a hurt friend. He piled a plate with the favourite foods listed off by the group and managed to balance it and three drinks as he made his way back to the group.
Lana took one of the drinks and said "Thank you." Rachel and Jim had disappeared. Peter took one of the remaining drinks, Clark kept the other.
Pete volunteered: "Jim took Rachel home. She wasn't feeling all that up to a party anymore."
"Is she going to be okay?" Clark took a sip of his drink, trying to ignore the peeved look on Lana's face. She always looked like this when he helped people, as if it reflected badly on her. He didn't understand why that would be, exactly, but that was how it seemed.
"Yeah. The doctor told her to soak her ankle in ice, and see him tomorrow, if she still had swelling."
The conversation hit a lull for the next few minutes as everyone racked their brains for another topic of conversation.
Eventually Lana tugged him back on to the dance floor and worked out her aggression in a frenetic dance. Clark was hoping she'd have worked through the whole problem by the time he took her home. He wasn't really ready to deal with her anger, again.
He was relieved when she made absolutely no mention of Rachel and her injury during their walk to her house. Lana's moods were unpredictable at the best of times, and right now she seemed to be perpetually peeved with Clark. He wasn't sure why. He tried to please her. Really he did.
When they got to the Lang gate, she stopped and said they should part here. She didn't want to disturb Mummy and Daddy. She lifted her lips for him to kiss her good-night and when his lips touched hers he found her melting against his body. Their kiss deepened and only ended when Lana had to come up for air. The blood was pounding in Clark's ears and he was breathing rather erratically. He'd heard the guys in the locker room talking about this kind of feeling. His doubts about being from Earth faded at times like this. He *must* be human, if kissing a girl did *this* to him too.
Clark bent forward to see if a repetition would give him the proof he needed—that he was human. Lana put her hands on his chest and gently pushed him back. Breathlessly, she said, "Clark, I should go inside … I … We … shouldn't go any further … not yet."
Clark swallowed, disappointed, but willing to wait … feeling like this was worth a wait.
Mr. Kratz had just finished putting the final touches on this week's edition of The Smallville Press when the fax machine geared up and spat out an urgent message.
Clark picked up the fax and as he was walking it across to Mr. Kratz's office he glanced down and gasped.
"Mr. Kratz! Turn on the TV! Now!" Clark rushed towards the set that usually sat underneath a layer of proofs and old editions of the paper.
"What's up, Clark?" Mr. Kratz stared in surprise as Clark tossed the papers off the set and turned on the TV.
"The fax! It can't be true … it *can't* be!" Clark shoved the fax into Mr. Kratz's hand.
Mr. Kratz glanced down at the message and gasped. "Oh, my God … No! Not, *again*!"
The TV finally sprang to life. " … and the Secret Service have cordoned off the area … " The picture showed a chaotic scene just outside a hotel ballroom—of people rushing about, yellow tape being strung around the perimeter of the scene, and a news anchor being jostled by police and onlookers.
The scene flipped to the anchorman in the studio, with the previous scene inset above and behind him.
"For those of you who have just tuned in: The President has been shot! I repeat, the President has been shot!"
"It is believed he may not have survived this second attempt on his life in less than a year. The Vice-President has been declared dead at the scene. Several security personnel are also either dead or injured."
"This mass attempt on the President and his entourage is believed to be the work of some, as yet undetermined, enemy to the United States. We are making every effort to find out the latest information." The anchor turned to face the screen "Peter! Has there been any more news since we last talked?"
Peter turned from listening to one of the President's aides and putting the microphone to his lips said, "They are not confirming or denying the rumours that the President is dead. They *are* telling me that the President is being rushed to Mercy Hospital.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives will be holding a press conference at the White House Press Room in … " Peter looked at his watch, "20 minutes. I'm moving over to there now."
The camera panned back as the anchor turned to face the camera.
"We will continue to provide live coverage until after Speaker of the House Presley holds his press conference. Stay tuned." The screen faded to black and then into a commercial for bleach.
Mr. Kratz sat down slowly. "I don't believe this! Twice in my lifetime a President has been assassinated. It doesn't seem possible!"
Clark didn't know what to say. "They don't know for sure that he's dead, yet."
"I know. But it doesn't look good that the Speaker is giving a Press Conference. He's the next one up for President if both the President and Vice-President die on the same day."
Clark made a non-committal noise.
"But, that's not the immediate problem. I have to revamp the news for this week. Mrs. Tenni's prize-winning begonias just don't seem like the right headline after this."
Half an hour later it was confirmed. The President was dead. The new President of the United States was the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Elvis Aron Presley. In an emergency session of Congress, President Presley's choice for Vice- President—Charlton Heston had been confirmed.
The next few days leading up to the funerals were a marathon of television coverage and a rehash of what could have been done to save President Reagan and Vice-President Bush from the massacre at The Mayflower Hotel. No individual or group came forward to claim responsibility for the tragedy. The men were buried with honours, without anyone knowing *why* it had happened.
After the funerals, life for Clark seemed to be a strange juxtaposition of the normal and the surreal.
Lana continued to try to get him to apply for the football team, but since he could not figure out a way to get around the medical, he did not cave in to her wants this time. For some reason, this made Lana less peeved at him. She still wanted him to play football, but stopped being so critical in other areas. He eventually figured that this was because she felt less sure about his feelings for her. He tried to reassure her that it was only the difficulty with the logistics of complying with her request that he play football, that was the problem … not that she had wanted it.
She was finally close to accepting his decision when, in early September, she found out she had been rejected as an applicant for the cheerleading squad. She was devastated, as if this were *the* one goal in life she had wanted to achieve.
After that, she changed. She became more and more intense and obsessed with Clark hiding his Special nature. She not only didn't want him to reveal himself to others, because he might get caught, she now seemed to not want him to do those things at all!
It was as if she now had another goal in life … to prove she was a *real* woman and that he was "normal."
Meanwhile, the news was going from bad to worse. The economy was going down even further. President Presley was describing the Soviet Union as "an evil empire." There were floods in Ohio and Kentucky, earthquakes in California, and a drought in Maine.
Fortunately, this kind of devastating weather had not, yet, touched Kansas.
Closer to home, late that fall, Lana got her driver's licence and was able to borrow her father's car as long as she was careful, and made sure the gas tank was filled up when she returned it.
This new freedom gave them more opportunities to be together— without sneaking around.
Mid-December Clark gave her his class ring, to solidify their relationship. Her mother thought that sixteen was too soon for such a commitment, but Lana was more than willing for the pledge.
After Christmas, the school held aptitude tests and college entrance practice exams.
Once they both had their results, Lana and Clark discussed their futures. Both agreed that they wanted careers in journalism.
Clark stuck with his original desire to be a writer/editor.
Lana made her usual quick decision—in favour of television. Her mother was in favour of this too, since it would allow Lana to dress elegantly and look beautiful. Looks were very important to Lana's mother. This support almost made Lana reverse her decision. She and her mother did *not* get along. Lana found her mother too controlling.
Smallville, Kansas — June 1984
Clark and Lana had been in a steady relationship for almost two years, now. Recently, Lana had been pressing Clark for even more of a commitment. They had finally agreed that once they both finished college and had good jobs, they would become engaged and get married. Clark wanted a home and a family and someplace to put down roots. Lana was willing to give him all of that. His gratitude knew no bounds. Although, there *was* this nagging voice inside him that kept *insisting* that this couldn't last.
He endeavoured to ignore the voice.
Lana was anxious for their relationship to be binding and "normal," which made Clark a little nervous. He was always afraid of hurting her while his hormones took over from his conscious mind. There had been one hot night, late in August last year when they'd been in the back seat of her father's Chevy, and they'd been interrupted by Officer Fitzgerald. Clark had been afraid to think of what might have happened if the officer hadn't come along.
When he told Lana about his fears, she laughed. "Clark … you couldn't hurt *anyone*, so I know you're not going to hurt *me*."
At first, he was able to put a limit on her obsession to prove she, and he, were "normal." However, by September, she had talked her mother into permitting her to get birth control pills and continued to torment him in such a way that he couldn't say no. By Christmas he had surrendered to her. The ecstasy and the agony of that moment was something he would never forget.
Unfortunately, it was also something Lana would never forget either. She now seemed to think she *owned* him.
All this was skittering across Clark's mind as he sat on a ledge overlooking the Grand Canyon. He gazed at the panorama in front of him in awe and wonder. The view below was spectacular! He stared at the amazing scenery, finding it helped put this phenomenal day's events into perspective.
This morning had been the most wonderful, and most frightening, of Clark's young life. For years now, he had wondered if he could make himself float *up* and not just down. This morning, he had not only *floated* up, he had *flown*! He couldn't believe it himself. What other eighteen-year old could *fly*?
And here he was at the Grand Canyon! He could hardly believe he had *flown* here—under his own power! He was elated and afraid all at the same time. Should he tell Lana? She would be *really* upset, and even more fearful that he would be exposed. He sighed, of course he *had* to tell Lana. She had a right to know. She, of all people, would understand.
He recalled that when he found out he had won the scholarship to the School of Journalism at the University of Kansas, she had not been as pleased as he had hoped. He did not have the money to go out of state to university. Her father was paying for her education and insisted that his "little princess" only go to the best. She was going to the much more prestigious school of journalism in Metropolis.
He had eventually come to the conclusion that Lana's lack of enthusiasm over his scholarship was because they would be separated, except for holidays, until after graduation. With today's milestone he had the means to visit her whenever they wanted, she should be ecstatic. Why was he even hesitating?
He sighed and got to his feet. Standing at the very edge of the cliff he stepped off into the chasm below. He had been doing this stepping and floating down movement since he was eleven, but *today*, he could do more than that!
He pushed that mental button that said "fly" and soared … and soared … and soared … and then giving himself another mental *push* zoomed higher yet. The rush was incredible! If it wasn't for the fact that he might get caught, he'd be laughing out loud for the sheer joy of it! Speaking of getting caught, he sighted a plane and swiftly ducked behind a cloud to hide from a jet on a flight path into Las Vegas. That had been close! But he didn't *care*. This was the *best* feeling no matter what Lana might say.
He came to a halt in mid-air. *That* was why he was unwilling to tell Lana. She would tell him all the rational—and legitimate— reasons why he should *not* do this. And, she would be *right*.
But, he *wanted* to fly. It felt *wonderful*!
Well, he didn't *have* to tell Lana. Clark took a quick intake of breath. He was dismayed. How could he be so disloyal? Lana was his friend, his only *real* friend—she was going to be his wife someday. She had a *right* to know about this. Clark's joyous mood shrivelled. He *had* to tell Lana all about this—of course he did. He turned and headed back to Smallville.
… to be continued
Last revised: March 1, 1998