By Anonpip <email@example.com>
Submitted March 2008
Summary: A story about the Kent farm told from four different points of view.
Author's Note: All characters are the property of Warner Bros, December 3rd Productions, ABC, and anyone else who may have a legal claim on them. The story, however, is mine.
In browsing the archive, I came across Caroline K's story Fly Away Home and suddenly found myself writing this. In many ways these stories are very different as Fly Away Home is about alt-Clark and this is about our Clark. But Caroline's story is about what the Kent's farm meant to alt-Clark. I don't think it's that different from what it means to our Clark. And as a result, there are definitely similarities between these. I tried to stick to what I felt I knew about the farm and Clark's feelings towards it from the show, but since I just read Fly Away Home, I can't be sure. Caroline -- I thank you for the idea and anything I "stole" from you.
Thank you also to Larissa who graciously offered to GE this.
Just as a note, in my head, Clark and Lois have children around 1999. So, at the start of this story, their daughter is 11 and their son is 9.
The shutters needed to be repaired. She had asked me to do it last time I had come by, but I had not had the chance. How could I not have had the chance? It would have taken me, what, a minute to go to the barn and get a hammer and nails and fix the shutters?
Nearly knocking over Lois, I flew over to the barn now. But somehow, when I got back to the house, I found myself hammering the nails into the shutter at normal speed. Keeping up super anything was a chore these days.
I didn't even notice that Lois had come back out of the house until I felt her head rest against my back. "Clark?" she whispered and I felt the word more than heard it.
I ignored her. Lois would understand. I needed to do this. I had told her I would. This wasn't a promise I could take back now. My eyesight got blurry with tears, and I hit my thumb with the hammer. But given my invulnerability, I just kept on going.
Clearly, there was no reason why I should have stopped a moment later. Lois' grabbing my arm on my backswing should not have made a difference. I could swing right through that. But Lois might have gotten hurt, and so I stopped.
"You're going to splinter the wood if you keep nailing the shutters like that," Lois said, her voice soft. She was right. I had been hammering on autopilot and had gone too far.
I let my hand drop as Lois' small hands on my waist moved me around to face her. We sat on the porch for a long time after that wrapped in each other's arms, saying nothing, just feeling.
I looked up at the sound of the car coming down the drive. "Rachel?" Lois asked, guessing really as she could not see the car from this distance.
I nodded, and we stood, still in each other's arms, while Rachel made her way up the driveway and got out of her car.
"Clark, Lois," she called as she walked up the porch steps. "I wasn't sure when you were getting here. I thought I'd just check on the place. Where are the kids?"
"My dad is babysitting for the night," Lois explained. "Jessica and Kyle love staying with him. He always has the latest video games."
Rachel nodded, then her eyes seemed to fill with tears as she turned to me. "I'm so sorry, Clark. Really. They were amazing people and everyone in Smallville will miss them terribly."
Lois moved away slightly, so I could give Rachel a hug. I knew I ought to reply to what she said. Say something. But I had no idea what to say. The pain in my heart was too great for me to be able to think of any words at all.
Standing on the porch in the quiet evening light, I heard Rachel's radio crackle. She had left it on when she pulled up, I guess. She had it on a news channel and they were reporting a flash flood in the San Fernando Valley area. I felt ashamed of myself when I realized I had no intention of going.
"Clark Jerome Kent!" I heard my mother's voice in my head. "We raised you better than that." Jewish people take a week off to focus on grieving when someone dies. Not that I was Jewish. But that sounded good to me right now. Still, I doubted anyone would understand Superman taking time off because his parents had died in a car accident.
I took a deep breath and with my eyes closed I saw the reproachful faces of my parents. "I'm going to put these back in the barn," I told Rachel and Lois, holding up the hammer and nails.
I was back a half hour later, having managed to limit the damage of the flood as best I could. When I came in the front door, Lois and Rachel were in the kitchen having coffee. The radio Mom kept on the counter was on, covering the recent Superman spotting.
Lois gave me a sad smile but Rachel said nothing. I hoped that she just assumed I'd wandered off in my grief. It's what I wish I had been able to do.
"Well, I better be going," Rachel said as I poured myself some coffee. "I'll see you in a couple of days?" she asked.
I nodded and Lois got up to walk her back out. I took my coffee to the kitchen table and sat down, but forgot to put milk and sugar in it. Lois' hands fell on my shoulders and her head rested on top of mine. "You can take some time off, you know."
"No, I can't," I replied, my voice cracking. "They raised me better than that. People would have lost their lives if I hadn't gone."
Lois moved to sit in the other chair, pulling it close to me and bringing my hand into hers. "Superman can't be everywhere. And sometimes he needs some time for himself. Your parents will understand."
"Would," I corrected.
"What?" Lois asked, confused.
"You said my parents will understand," I explained. "But they won't. They can't. They can't do anything anymore." I felt the tears running down my cheeks, but made no move to stop them.
Lois said nothing, knowing, I'm sure, that this was not the time to argue with me. I stared at a place right above her head. On a normal visit, Mom would be standing right there, making dinner. Dad would be sitting where I am now, cracking jokes about the way she nearly danced around the kitchen while she cooked. And in between stirring what was in the pot, she would look over here to see him and smile.
It was moments like those that had made me want to be Clark Kent. For awhile, when I was a teenager and I realized how different I was, I thought I'd live alone. Not have to deal with being an outsider. Then when I realized all I could do, I thought I'd do something else. I wasn't sure what, but some precursor idea to Superman perhaps. But in my head, that was all that I would do.
But then I'd come in from the tree house and see my parents and I knew I wanted what they had. And I had found that in Lois. We were different, obviously. My dad had never moonlit in tights and I was the one who did the cooking. But the having someone there who loves you and likes you and supports you in everything you do. We had that.
But I still wasn't sure. Did I know how to be Clark Kent without them? I guess all children are molded in some ways into who they become by their parents. Lois' parents were hardly parental figures and that definitely led to her being the woman she is today. But with me, it was so much more than that. If that spaceship had been found by someone else, it would be more than my name that was different.
My parents taught me the importance of helping others. And they taught me to take pride in my work. Without them teaching me to always push, I never would have been a journalist. Writing had not come naturally as a child, but I liked it and my parents had told me that I would always be happier with the accomplishments I worked for than those I did easily. So I had worked on writing ardently for several years. And it had paid off. Without them, I'd probably be playing professional sports now.
I just don't know who Clark Kent is without Martha and Jonathan Kent standing right behind me.
I want to force the issue, but I can't. It's been two years and we visit regularly, and yet neither one of us has packed up more than a box of stuff. I know we should. It would be good closure for Clark, but I can't force him. I open the door to the walk-in closet and breath in deeply as I enter, slamming the door shut behind me quickly.
The closet was a birthday present. When Clark and I were looking at condos in Metropolis, Martha and Jonathan came out to visit and we showed them the short list. There was one apartment, the one we felt sure we would settle for before we found the one we fell in love with on Hyperion Ave. The kitchen was tiny, which was why Clark had not liked it, but it had an amazing master bedroom. Twice the size of the one at Hyperion. Clark had questioned who needed all that space, but I had sort of liked it.
When Martha and Jonathan saw it, Jonathan, like his son, immediately asked why anyone would want such a large bedroom. Martha had said nothing, though. Almost as if she was driven by a force she had no control of, she had moved over to the closed door in the center of the wall opposite the bed. Pulling it open had revealed a closet. It was small, but large enough to walk in and fit a narrow set of shelves, aside from room to hang things.
At her gasp, we had all followed her in there, crowded around the doorway. "It's just a closet, Mom," Clark had said.
Martha's voice was full of fondness when she replied, "My mother had one just like it. It was my favorite place to hide when I was a kid and we'd all play hide and seek. I'd forgotten about it, though. When I was a girl, I pictured my house with a closet just like this."
A few months later, a few weeks before her birthday, Jonathan sent Martha to Metropolis. He told us that he thought it would be useful to have Martha there to help us unpack all the stuff from our apartments since Clark and I had used our vacation time for our honeymoon. And Jonathan was right, so none of us had any reason to question this suggestion.
He used the time she was away to place some false walls in the bedroom, making it a bit smaller, so that there was room for a small walk-in closet, just like the one in that apartment. Martha had cried when she saw it.
It's that closet that makes it hard for me to tell Clark that we need to pack up his parents' things. Whenever we visit, I make my way up here for at least a few minutes. I stand in the center of the tiny room in the dark. I can clearly see Martha's face as it was when she saw the closet and with her clothes all around me, I can smell her as well.
They are not even my parents, and I am having trouble giving them up. In some ways they were more parents to me than my own were, although that's changed now. My parents were changed by the Kents. All of them. It wasn't until Martha died that she said it, but before that I knew. I knew that my mother had seen what Martha had with Clark and felt sad that she did not have that with either Lucy or me. So, she made efforts, big ones, and they worked. My mom will never be Martha Kent, but she's the best Ellen Lane she's ever been.
But in the early days, before that, Martha and Jonathan made me feel more at home with them than I had ever felt with my parents. I guess it shouldn't be surprising that it's hard to say goodbye to the people who raised Superman.
Reaching over, I turned the light on. With the door closed, it was cramped in there, but I didn't want the scent of Martha's perfume to leak out and get lost. I slowly pulled things off the shelf and put them in the box at my feet. Clark said I could do the closet and I knew it was a task that was going to take me all day as I reverently stroked the material on a sweater before I placed it in the box.
It's funny the things you learn about your parents without really knowing and the things that come later, that take thinking about them. Realizing your parents are real people, too. I imagine sometimes it's the big things that take thinking about. But for Kyle and me it was the small things.
Or maybe that's just one of the differences between us and other families. Our "small" things may seem bigger in other families as they aren't so dwarfed by the big Secret. And I do mean secret with a capital "S".
I'm guessing it was hard on Mom and Dad, trying to determine when Kyle and I should know that they weren't ordinary people. I mean, just starting school would teach us that. "You're Lois Lane's daughter, aren't you?" my kindergarten teacher asked me that first day.
Kyle didn't notice it until he was a little older. People didn't make comments like that to him, but he started to notice notations on his English assignments that he never saw on his math quizzes. And it wasn't just because he's always been great at math. He'd get A's on his assignments, but the teacher would write things like "This is good work, but surely you can do better than this."
He didn't tell Mom and Dad as he didn't want to get into trouble, but he eventually told me and I knew exactly what the problem was. I had learned in the fifth grade that all the comments about being Lois Lane's daughter weren't because I looked like my pretty mother. It was Mrs. Willis. She was a good teacher and I had liked her before that. But then I got the paper that said "Good work, Jessi, but I know Lois Lane's daughter can do better than this."
So, it wouldn't have really taken us very long to figure out that Mom was special even if no one told us. And by the time we got to high school, it was worse. Somehow, while he had been her partner for years and years, Dad's name was not as well known. But when Mom and Dad won the Pulitzer, that all changed.
And Kyle and I found that both of our grades in English suffered when our teachers realized that it wasn't just our mother, but both of our parents were brilliant writers.
But there was really no reason why our parents had to tell us about that stuff. Learning on our own was not that big a deal.
It was the other secret that I'm sure they agonized over. And there was no need to really. Neither Kyle nor I can remember a time when we didn't know that Dad was Superman. Mom says she's not surprised. She says Dad looks at us with such love in his eyes whether he's in the suit or not, that the glasses sort of disappear. She says that's what happened to her. She hadn't known about Dad for awhile, I guess, but then one day she said Superman looked at her with such love in his eyes that the glasses disappeared and she realized it was Clark Kent she was looking at. Apparently, that didn't go over too well. Mom's never been that fond of surprises.
But since Kyle and I have always known, it wasn't a surprise to us. And while I'm not sure how, we also always seemed to know that this was a big secret we couldn't share with our friends.
And growing up, I kind of knew that my parents were closer to Grandma and Grandpa Kent than to Nana and Papa Lane. But it wasn't until a few years ago, right before the accident that I really understood that. Unlike Dad being Superman, it wasn't something I just knew.
It was Papa who told me. We were spending the night with him. We loved it there. Papa is into all sorts of robotic stuff, so he's always buying the latest video games to look for new ideas.
But that day I was tired of playing video games and so I had gone into our room to read. Papa came in to sit next to me on the bed and reached out to pat my head. "You're so much like your mother," he said softly.
I smiled. I liked being like my mother -- she's pretty and smart, and people seem to like her. Not like Dad, but still.
"Sometimes, I wish..." Papa said but then stopped. Off my quizzical look, though, he continued. "I wasn't a very good father. I was too busy, I thought. And Nana wasn't the best mother, either. Your mom virtually raised herself. It's why she likes Grandma and Grandpa Kent so much, I think."
"But Mom loves you," I told him and he smiled at me.
"Yes, she does. And I think she always has, we were just too stupid to realize it. But it wasn't until she got married to your Dad that we realized how much we had missed."
When we went home the next night I was still thinking about it and I realized Dad told us stories about being on the farm all the time, but Mom rarely talked about her childhood. And while I guess things with Mom and her parents are better now, she never seems as relaxed when they come over as she did with Grandma and Grandpa.
And then when the accident happened, it was crystal clear for me. Uncle Jimmy came over to baby sit for an hour or two while Mom and Dad were at the farm and Papa had a meeting. Kyle had downloaded a picture of Dad at a flash flood in California. He didn't understand how Dad could go off and be Superman like that after losing his parents. Uncle Jimmy showed us how if you zoomed in on the picture, you could see that Dad looked different than normal, stiffer, with slumped shoulders.
It brought what Papa said together for me. Grandma and Grandpa weren't just my grandparents. They were Dad's parents. He had grown up with them. I tried to imagine what it would feel like if Mom and Dad died and I realized it would be a lot harder than I thought. It wasn't at all like losing Grandma and Grandpa and that was hard enough. But Grandma and Grandpa meant more to Dad.
And then Superman disappeared for three weeks after that. After we all flew down to Smallville for the wake and then the funeral, Mom and Dad had gone back to work. They were quiet at night, but things were getting back to normal. Except Superman was still gone.
The day I found him, Kyle was staying after school to play baseball with his friends and I was supposed to stay to work on the newspaper. (I know and I tried to avoid it, but the truth is I actually like to write.) But I just didn't have the energy for it that day and so went home.
When I walked in the door, I saw Dad sitting on the couch. He hadn't even heard me come in, which never happens, and he was just staring into space with tears streaming down his cheeks. I put down my book bag and went to sit next to him. He looked startled to see me there, but then wrapped me in a big hug.
"I heard about the shooting, Dad," I whispered. It had been on the radio on the bus. My super-hearing was just starting to work then and I'd find it sometimes sounded like the volume was turned way up on something for a moment. That had happened with the radio on the bus that afternoon right when they were talking about a shooting at Metropolis Bank.
"Grandma and Grandpa would want me to go out there and help," he whispered to me. "But I don't know how."
We sat there in silence for another hour and that night when I went to bed, I thought about what Dad had said. About how he didn't know how to be himself anymore, now that Grandma and Grandpa were gone.
He figured it out, though. It took awhile, but slowly Superman came back. Mom wrote a really great story about how even heroes need vacations and everyone welcomed him back with open arms. I think Dad was surprised by that. He thought people would be angry at him for leaving, and maybe they would have been. But Mom curbed that by writing a story accepting his break first.
Now everyone accepts that Superman needs to take vacations and every year when we come out to the farm for two weeks, Dad does everything without super powers and he rarely runs off for rescues. It was hard the first time we came back to the farm, Dad felt like he had to go help, but Mom insisted and Dad was so sad, it was good that he hadn't gone.
Now he comes to the farm and fixes up the house and ploughs the fields (just cause he likes to as some local kid does it most other times) and he bakes pies from Grandma's old recipes.
He's just Dad for two weeks. Still, though, it always feels like he's looking for something when we're here and he never seems to find it.
I don't much like going to visit Smallville anymore. I used to like it, when I was a kid and Grandma and Grandpa were alive. Then the farm always seemed like a busy place. I'm not sure why since it was just Grandma and Grandpa. But I was never there when we weren't all there, so the way I remember it, there were six of us in the small farmhouse. It always seemed like during the day Grandpa was busy in the barn and Grandma would be cooking in the kitchen. And Mom and Dad, who were normally inseparable, never seemed to be together. They seemed to take turns helping Grandma and Grandpa, but never together. And Jessi and I were free to roam about the farm doing whatever we wanted. Then at night, we'd all sit down to dinner. Grandma would go overboard praising Mom for whatever help she'd provided for dinner, and we'd all laugh as we knew Mom never did much more than set the table. Dad's the one who can cook in our family.
And after dinner, we'd all settle into the den to sit around the fire. Mom would often sit on Dad's lap, as if being apart all day caused them to suffer from withdrawal symptoms. And Grandma and Grandpa would have entire conversations with their eyes across the room.
I asked Grandma about those conversations the year before the accident. Dad had gone over to help the Irigs with something and Mom and Jessi were helping Grandpa in the fields. Grandma stopped mixing the batter for the cake she was making to look at me with a soft smile.
Then without warning, she put the spoon down and came to sit beside me at the table.
"When Grandpa and I were first married, we wanted children very much," she told me. "But we weren't having any luck. Then your father virtually fell out of the sky and into our hands.
"When he was a boy, he was a lot like you. He was really a wonderful little boy." I sort of wished she'd say that in front of Mom. Mom was angry at me as I had been playing with her laptop before we left for the farm and I spilled soda all over it. While Uncle Jimmy thought he could fix it when we got back, I was pretty sure Mom wasn't thinking I was wonderful right then.
"But when he realized he was different than other kids, he was very lonely," Grandma continued, bringing me back to the story.
"What do you mean?" I asked. Jessi had started to develop some powers, but so far I hadn't. But Jessi didn't seem lonely.
"Well, there was no one like your dad in the entire world, honey. You and Jessi have your dad to explain what it's like. And I imagine it will still be hard to be different from your friends. But Grandpa and I didn't know what was going on with your dad. We tried to be supportive, but we couldn't really understand how he was feeling.
"And so when your dad grew up and decided he needed to help people, for awhile he moved around a lot as he was always afraid of being caught. Your dad makes friends easily, but it was still no fun to always be moving.
"But everything changed when he met your Mom. That's when he decided to become Superman. So he could stay in one place. So, I guess, when you guys come to visit, Grandpa and I get to see how happy he is now. How he has a family he fits into. It makes us happy. And that's what we're talking about with each other. How happy we both are to see all of you together."
I felt the tears in my eyes, but brushed them away impatiently. I was getting too old to cry.
When we come visit now, I think about that each time. And I wonder what Grandma and Grandpa would feel like now. Cause it never seems like Dad is all that happy when we're here. He's always quieter. Mom is, too. Jessi says it's because Mom and Dad loved Grandma and Grandpa so much that they get quiet thinking about how much they miss them. But I keep thinking that if what made Grandma and Grandpa happy was seeing Dad happy, they wouldn't be happy now.
So, this year, I asked to stay home and stay with Bobby's parents. But Mom said no. She insisted going to the farm was something we did as a family.
So, as we drove the rental car down the long driveway, I felt dread at seeing the farmhouse. I knew Dad was quietly withdrawing further and further into himself and while he wouldn't be Superman for the next two weeks, he wouldn't really be Dad either.
Half way down the drive, he stopped the car and looked back at us. "You know, before I came to Metropolis, this driveway was my favorite place in the world."
"This driveway?" Jessi asked.
"It meant I was almost home," Dad said. "I'd see this from the sky and the farmhouse would be all lit up and I'd feel this little burst of happiness. Sort of like I felt the first time I met your Mom," he said, glancing at her. She reached over to run a hand through his hair and leaned forward to kiss him.
Then Dad turned around and drove the rest of the way up the driveway. Dad made dinner that night using old recipes of Grandma's as he does every year when we're here, but this year after dinner, he went into the den and lit a fire in the fireplace. Before now, he always took a walk after dinner. Sometimes Mom went with him, but usually he went alone.
Now, he lit the fire and took a seat on the couch. We were all so surprised, we peeked into the den. Dad gave Mom a look and she walked over to him and sat on his lap. Jessi grabbed my arm and we moved into the room to sit on the floor. We sat there in silence for a moment, before Mom started to speak.
"I just remembered the first time I met your grandparents," she told us. Dad laughed and together they told us the story. When they finished, Dad told us a different one about the first time he discovered he could fly and how hard it was to get Grandma and Grandpa to believe him. All night long, Mom and Dad told us stories about Grandma and Grandpa.
After a couple of hours, Jessi and I got up to go to bed.
But now I can't sleep, and feeling restless, I come back downstairs. Mom and Dad are still sitting quietly in the fire-lit room, and I linger in the doorway for a moment. They haven't noticed me yet and I see Dad looking at Grandma and Grandpa's empty chairs across the room from each other. He's smiling at them and I can almost imagine they are smiling back at him.