By Margaret Brignell (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: When Clark is wearing his glasses, he can't walk his *Special* Walk or hammer nails with his fist. He has to confine himself to the things other children can do, so *they* — the people his daddy said want to dissect him like a frog — won't come and take him away.
This is my first fanfic. I thought of the idea over the summer, during the threads about Clark's glasses and his fear of telling who he is. It started out as just a couple of paragraphs on these subjects; but, with a lot of support and encouragement from Debby Stark, plus some of her ideas, this story emerged.
I really want to thank Debby for all of her support :D Without her encouragement and insight I would never have completed this.
Clark was jog-trotting behind his father across the meadow, trying to keep up. If he had used his *Special* Walk he could have passed him, but that would have been against *The Rules*. He was wearing his glasses and that meant he must confine himself to the things that other children could do. He started to skip, paused, considered if this went against The Rules, and, deciding it didn't, continued skipping after his Dad.
Daddy was having a hard time carrying the wood. It was the wood left over from the repairs on the barn and was all different lengths, and difficult to hold. Clark had offered to help carry it, but Daddy said that the biggest person must carry the heavy stuff, it was one of The Rules. Although he thought this was one of the sillier rules, Clark knew he should never, ever break The Rules. If he did, *they* would come and take him away from Mummy and Daddy. He didn't know who *they* were for sure, but knew that if he obeyed The Rules everyone would be safe.
The tree they approached was a glorious one with perfect branches for building his fort. Daddy said he could help with the construction, but Clark must remember to use the hammer, and not his fist, for pounding the nails. That was why he'd had to wear his glasses today. The Rules said that he had to do things the way other children did while wearing his glasses, and that he must never, ever, take them off in front of anyone, except of course Mummy and Daddy. He wasn't sure why this was so, but wearing the glasses was fun, he looked just like Mummy and Daddy, and maybe the glasses would stop *them* from taking him away. So he was very, very careful to keep his glasses on.
Even when the older kids had been mean to him on his first day at school, because he was the only one in the playground wearing glasses, he hadn't taken them off until he'd run home and clung to Mummy. He'd sobbed out the story of how the big kids had laughed at him, saying he looked funny and asking, "What planet are you from, four eyes," and had laughed even louder when he'd said he didn't know. They'd laughed and chanted, "Four eyes, four eyes," and kept up the chant even after he'd escaped their raucous circle and was running home. Mummy had given him buttermilk to drink, and had explained that sometimes kids do mean things because they were afraid of anyone that was different and to not let what they said hurt him. He couldn't understand why anyone would be mean for such a silly reason, but if Mummy said it was so, it must be.
So the next day when these same kids had been chanting "Carrot top," at a new kid in the playground, he'd stepped right up and told them not to be so mean.
They didn't call him "Four eyes" any more. He'd become friends with a lot of the kids at school, including the redhead. Her name was Lana, and she loved the feel and sound of words just as much as he did.
Daddy was sawing the wood into lengths for the floor of the fort. Clark scrambled up the tree to the branches, ready to put the boards in place when they were handed to him and hammering in the nails, with the hammer. Clark was happy working with Daddy: He was being treated like a grown-up and an important part of the construction team.
It had been that same night after the "Four eyes" incident that he'd learned about *them*. He'd been lying in bed, trying to hear what Mummy and Daddy were saying in the living room, when suddenly he could hear every word. Suddenly being able to do that was scary, he'd been able to Special Walk for a long time, at least a year now, and that was fun, but now it seemed he could Special Hear all of a sudden, and that was scary. He curled up under the bedclothes, keeping his eyes tight shut, hoping that his eyes wouldn't change suddenly too if he kept them closed, and that whatever it was that allowed him to Special Hear now wouldn't make him even more different from his friends.
But, even through the blankets, and with his hands over his ears, he heard Daddy say "But we'll have to tell him soon, Martha, he can't go on trying to follow the rules we've set down for him without he has to understand why."
And Mummy was crying! He wanted to run downstairs and comfort her, but didn't want them to know about his new Special Hearing, at least not until he'd heard what they had to say. Mummy was talking, "But he's just a little boy. It's too much responsibility. We can't. Not just yet." He could hear her crying quietly, in a muffled sort of way. "Let's wait just a little while more. He's really good at keeping the rules and today's teasing was just what might happen to any child."
Daddy said, "Okay, Martha, but I'm afraid that one day he's going to make a mistake we can't explain away, and then they'll come and take him from us."
Clark, lying as still as possible not to attract attention to the fact that he wasn't asleep, could see *their* leader's eyes staring at him. Clark clearly remembered sitting alone in front of the TV watching the news, and seeing the cut in the man's forehead, shaped like an X with feet, and the piercing eyes that had looked straight at Clark through the television screen. Clark whimpered quietly and whispered a promise into the dark. He'd always follow The Rules and give *them* no reason to come and take him away.
The floor of the fort was finished. Daddy was opening their lunch, so Clark climbed down from the tree and started to eat his sandwich and drink lemonade from the thermos cup. After lunch they would make the walls and windows and the door to the fort and then, finally, the roof. It was going to be the most… what was Lana's word?… the most *splendiferous* fort that ever was. A place just for him, a place where he could be Clark all the time, not just when he wasn't wearing his glasses. It was going to be wonderful.
Clark heard Mummy in the summer kitchen, humming to herself. He was too far away to legally hear her with his glasses on, but he figured if Daddy didn't know he was Special Hearing, it would be okay. Then he decided that even this small infraction of The Rules might alert *them* to his presence so he stopped.
Nevertheless, his curiosity was getting the better of him. He needed to know about *them*: who they were, why they would want to take him from his Mummy and Daddy, and what Mummy and Daddy were going to tell him that was too much responsibility.
He sat, chewing his sandwich slowly, puzzling over these questions for a few minutes until Daddy asked him why he was looking so serious. Clark looked up and said, "Dad, when we finish the fort, can I live here?" His dad started to interrupt, but Clark continued, "I can hide here where *they* can't find me. Mummy and you won't have to worry about *them* anymore. I'd be safe here." Clark smiled confidently as Jonathan paled.
Martha was kneading dough on the table in the summer kitchen. She hummed as she worked, knowing that the child and man she loved were out in the sunshine and fresh air having the time of their lives.
Martha remembered suggesting the fort to Jonathan as a way to give Clark a private place to be himself. She knew that sooner or later Clark would need a place to be alone, to act without fear of discovery and to be a little boy. It had been the morning after their discussion about Clark's school yard episode. All kids go through that kind of teasing, but for Clark the ability to cope with the teasing would not counter the fact that he was different, very different. Somehow she and Jonathan had to let Clark be himself but protect him from potential harm.
There had been that time, the week after the 17th, just after they had found Clark when she had feared that someone in authority might come and take him from her. She recalled answering the door that morning, a morning when fortunately Jonathan, in a ridiculous fit of newfound fatherhood, had taken the baby out to show him how to drive a tractor. She smiled, they still laughed over his zealousness.
The man had said he was a land surveyor. She might have believed him, except that he didn't seem to be interested in any property not even Shuster's field, even though he said he'd been hired to survey it. What he had done was go around to every farm in the neighbourhood asking about the meteor sighting on May 17. Since everyone had seen the flash across the sky, she and Jonathan had been able to appear like all the other farmers in the neighbourhood. They had told him that yes they had seen the meteor streaking across the sky, but had been too busy with their errand, to visit their cousin Bertha's niece, Julia, in Witchita, to pay any attention.
Martha sighed, she must have been paranoid to think the surveyor was even interested in where they had been that night. The man had only been asking about meteors and she had jumped to the conclusion that he wanted to know about Clark. At least, she hoped she'd just been jumping to conclusions.
Julia, wherever she was, would hopefully forgive her for being used as an alibi. Martha and Jonathan had never actually said she was Clark's birth mother. They had just let everyone assume that the reason they were out late at night was to take care of the aftermath of Julia's suicide, and the reason why they had come back with the six-month old baby, Clark. Everyone knew that cousin Bertha was too old to be caring for an infant.
A couple of years back she'd read that the Air Force had come to the conclusion that UFOs were not a threat to national security and in fact weren't even of extra-terrestrial origin. Martha often wondered how the hierarchy would have explained the little space ship that Jonathan had buried in Shuster's field, just before the land surveyor had come to town.
The bread was left under a cloth to rise again, and Martha returned to the house, to get some lunch and work on the farm's books. She looked out across the meadow in the direction of the tree that the fort was being built in, but it was too far for her to see her menfolk at work.
Just as she sat down with her sandwich, the phone rang. It was Beryl, from two farms over, asking if Martha had heard the news and wasn't it strange and didn't Martha think that anyone would wonder why they bothered and… Martha knew that Beryl would go on like this for several minutes before getting to the point so she continued using the calculator and interspersed "Uh uh" sounds until Beryl said "And he's brought an assistant this time."
Martha decided to focus the conversation and asked "Who's brought an assistant?"
"The land surveyor," said Beryl, "Didn't I say?"
Martha swallowed hard, "No, what land surveyor?"
"You know, the one who came asking all those nosy questions around the time you brought Clark home, and he's asking them again, only this time he's asking about children around five or six years old, not the meteorite. He was particularly asking about Clark."
Martha paled, but managed to ask "What did you tell him?" in a reasonably normal tone of voice.
Beryl proceeded to summarize the gossip that had been circulating at the time Clark was found. How Julia had been deserted by her boyfriend shortly after giving birth, and subsequently committed suicide, and that Clark was her love child.
The story had lost nothing in the years in between. Martha swallowed convulsively. She knew that Beryl meant well, that she was just trying to warn her about potential trouble from the "true" father, but Martha felt she just had to get off the phone before she started denying the whole story. Trembling, she thanked Beryl for calling, said that her bread needed taking care of and she'd talk later.
Martha put trembling fingers to her mouth. Why was the surveyor back? Why now? What should they do? Did these people really suspect that Clark was not from Earth? Why had the land surveyor brought an assistant? She needed Jonathan, now, but knew that he and Clark wouldn't be back until dinnertime.
Martha gathered up the dirty dishes and proceeded to then wash them. She finished the books, the bread and proceeded to clean the kitchen to within an inch of its life. She knew this wouldn't help the time pass more quickly, but she needed to keep her mind off Beryl's chatter. The words "O, Jonathan! Please come back early. I need to talk to you. Please." kept running around and around in her head like a squirrel in a cage.
Jonathan picked Clark up. It was one of Clark's *light* days. They'd never been able to figure out why sometimes Clark weighed almost nothing and at other times he seemed to weigh too much. Today Clark was so light it seemed impossible that the wind didn't just blow him away.
He sat Clark on his knee and asked Clark what he knew about "them". When he had listened to Clark's story he tried to reassure Clark that no-one was going to take him away and that when they got home the three of them would sit down and talk about Clark living at the fort. Clark seemed satisfied and was eager to start work again on the fort. After all, if the fort wasn't finished he couldn't live there so his folks wouldn't have to worry so much.
Jonathan too was determined to make as quick work as possible on the rest of the fort. He and Martha needed to talk, and soon.
Martha had made the kitchen spotless, the bread was baked and cooling on the counter, and the books were all up-to-date when she heard Jonathan and Clark on the porch. Clark burst into the room, ran up to her and flung his arms around her neck as she knelt down to catch him. Jonathan came in more slowly and quietly said "Clark wants to live at the fort."
She looked into Clark's shining eyes and asked him why he would want to live at the fort. When Clark explained about "them", she caught her breath and looked at Jonathan for help. When Jonathan just shrugged helplessly, she sat Clark on one of the kitchen table chairs and asked him who he thought "they" were.
Clark described the man with the X with the feet cut into his forehead and how the man could see right into Clark's mind through the television screen. Martha got a pencil and paper and asked Clark to draw the X with the feet. When Clark gave her his drawing she picked him up, thank goodness it was one of his light days otherwise she might have had a problem lifting him after all the work she'd done today, and held him close. "Clark, that kind of X is called a swastika. The man with the swastika cut into his forehead is a wicked, wicked man, but he's in jail, he isn't going to come and take you away". Clark let out a sigh of relief. "Besides we'd miss you awfully if you went to live at the fort. Stay with us. Please." Clark smiled and hugged her.
"I'll stay here, it would be awfully lonely living all by myself at the fort."
"Now go upstairs and wash up, dinner will be ready soon". Clark scrambled down from her lap and ran up the stairs. When he was about half way up she reminded him "Don't forget to wash behind your ears."
Jonathan came over to Martha and kissed her on the forehead. "You handled that really well. I wish they wouldn't have Charles Manson all over the news these days?".
Martha shrugged, looked up at Jonathan, and told him what Beryl had said about the land surveyor and his assistant.
Jonathan sat down heavily. "Why can't they just leave us alone?".
Martha shushed him, pointing upwards and mouthing "Little pitchers have big ears".
" We'll just do what we did the last time. I just hope Julia forgives us for maligning her memory."
Clark charged down the stairs again and clambered up on to his chair at the table. Just as they finished dessert, they heard a knock on the kitchen door. Jonathan opened the door to two men. One was the land surveyor from five years before and the other was a young man no older than twenty-two or twenty- three. They said they were investigating some problem with a land survey at Shuster's field and were trying to track down potential claimants for the strip of land in question.
Jonathan closed the screen door behind him and said that he had no claim on land that was that far away from his own farm. The men just shrugged. They proceeded to ask questions about the Kent farm, how they had acquired it, when, what other lands adjoined it and then questions about the adjoining farms. Jonathan balked at the questions. The men weren't phased, they'd met with this kind of resistance all over Smallville.
Martha came onto the porch with Clark clinging to her skirts. and asked why they needed to know all these things, the men ignored her and just kept right on asking more questions. Jonathan frowned at the men's rudeness.
Eventually the questions were about Clark's relationship to them. Jonathan asked Martha to take Clark back into the house while he finished talking to "these gentlemen". Once Martha and Clark were inside the house he turned and told the men to leave. He wasn't going to answer any more questions, especially that kind of question in front of the child.
Clark was hiding behind Martha near the screen door, and peered at the two men through his glasses. The younger man glared at Clark, then at Jonathan. The older man led the way off the porch and Jonathan entered the house, slamming the door behind him.
Martha gulped. "What do you think they really wanted?". Jonathan shrugged looking pointedly at Clark to indicate they shouldn't be having this conversation in front of him.. "I don't know. If we could hear them we'd know. They seem to be just standing in front of their car at the end of the laneway". Clark tiptoed up to Jonathan and whispered, helpfully, "I can hear them. They're talking about what to do next".
Jonathan picked Clark up. He was heavier now. Clark stared out the window and in a faraway voice said "Look, they're lying. The kid's the one we're looking for." "What makes you say that? They may not want the kid to know about what kind of mother he had. Do you want to be the one to tell the kid is mother was a whore?". "I don't believe it. There's something real fishy going on here and I want to know what it is. I don't care what Project Blue Book says. We have a space ship now and I know there was something inside it. I just know it." The older man sighed and said "Look Trask, you're new at this game. You can't just go around jumping to conclusions. Just because some kid's parental history is shady doesn't mean he's an alien. If every kid that was born on the wrong side of the blanket was an alien, we'd be overrun with 'em". Clark stopped speaking as Jonathan saw the two men get into the car and drive off.
Clark looked at Jonathan and Martha in turn and said "Mummy, why did that man say you were a whore? What's a whore?"
Martha took Clark from Jonathan. She carried him over to the sofa and sat down with him on her lap. She stroked his hair out of his eyes. Soon they'd have to find something else to cut his hair with, the wire cutters were just barely doing the job now. She took a deep breath and said "Clark, the man wasn't talking about me. He's talking about the woman he thinks was your mother. He's wrong about that, and about her being a bad woman."
Jonathan knelt on the floor in front of the sofa. He took Clark's hand in his and explained. "Clark we wanted to tell you this when you were older, when you would understand better. The truth is that you have another Mummy and Daddy that we don't know very much about."
Clark looked up at Martha for confirmation. Martha nodded as she said, "We wanted a little boy very, very much and when we found you we were so happy. We knew we loved you from the very minute we saw you."
Clark asked "Who are my other Mummy and Daddy?"
Martha stroked his hair and said, "We don't know, honey".
Clark chewed his lower lip and asked, "Are they going to come and take me away from you?"
Jonathan said "We don't think they can, Clark. We think your other Mummy and Daddy sent you to us because they were in trouble and they couldn't come themselves".
Clark thought about this and asked, "Mummy, does this mean I have two Mummy and Daddies?" Martha nodded. "Do you think my other Mummy and Daddy can do the Special things I do?"
Martha nodded again. " So they're my Special Mummy and Daddy and you're my Real Mummy and Daddy?"
Jonathan laughed. Martha hugged Clark, and in a quavering voice said, "I think that's just about right."
Jonathan and Martha then told Clark the story of the night they found him in Shuster's field. How they'd been coming back from visiting cousin Bertha's niece when they had seen a meteorite and gone to investigate it. How they'd found a tiny ship with Clark inside wrapped in a blue blanket and taken him home. Clark was fascinated. It explained so much. Except for one thing. He decided to ask "But, if the man with the swas…swastika isn't coming to take me away and my Special Mummy and Daddy aren't coming to get me, who are "they"? Are they those two men?"
Martha and Jonathan looked at each other. Jonathan cleared his throat and said "Clark, because you're Special, because you can do all those Special things, there are people who would want to find out exactly what it is that makes you Special. If those people find out about what you can do they'll come and take you away to dissect you like a frog. Do you understand?"
Clark saw tears in Daddy's eyes. He'd never seen Daddy cry before. He nodded, "I understand, Daddy," he said to make his father stop crying though he didn't really understand why someone would want to "dissect him like a frog".
Martha said "Clark, you remember the fairy tale we read together the other night? The one about the goose that laid the golden eggs?" Clark nodded. "What happened in the story?"
Clark frowned, concentrating. "Well there was this goose and it could lay golden eggs and the man wanted the eggs and thought that if he cut the goose open he would get more eggs, only the goose didn't have any eggs inside and she couldn't lay any more 'cause the man had cut her open."
Martha hugged Clark close to her and said "Clark, we're afraid that if people find out about the Special things you can do they'll try to get at *all* the Special things about you."
Clark stared at her horrified, swallowed hard and said "But, if I follow all The Rules and they never find out about me they can't come and get me, can they?"
Martha answered, with tears in her eyes, "No honey, If you're able to follow all of The Rules, no one will know and you can stay with us always, until you grow up and become a man and do what you want to do."
Martha set Clark down on his feet and hand-in-hand took him upstairs to get ready for bed. After the bathroom routine, she took the fairy tale book off the shelf and sat beside Clark on the bed. She read Jack the Giant Killer to him and when Clark had fallen asleep she tucked in the covers and kissed his forehead.
Jonathan looked up from his newspaper as she came down the stairs. "How is he?"
Martha smiled and said "He's fine. I read him his bedtime story and he went right off to sleep."
Jonathan frowned "I thought he'd be more upset that's why I agreed to delay telling him."
"Maybe in comparison to the terror of thinking that Manson was after him this seems pretty tame, or maybe it doesn't seem any more real to him than the fairy tales I read to him at night. I don't know. We'll just have to try and give him all the love and care we can," with this Martha snuggled close to Jonathan and they sat quietly contemplating the events of the day.
It was morning and the smell of breakfast pulled Clark out of bed. He remembered the events of last night and sighed. He'd been so looking forward to today, to spending the whole day in his fort, now it all seemed spoiled.
Mummy and Daddy were at the breakfast table, like always. With a deep sigh Clark got up on his chair and started to eat his cereal.
Mummy asked him "Why the heavy sigh?" When he said how his fun day at the fort was spoiled because he would have to obey The Rules, she smiled and told him all about the box lunch she'd made for his day at the fort. She also brought out something from behind her back that kind of looked like a soft slipper made out of one of Daddy's old ties.
Clark asked "What's that?" Mummy laughed, "It's a pocket."
Clark was puzzled, why did he need a pocket. He had lots of pockets in his overalls. "A pocket for your glasses. When you get to the fort I want you to hang it up inside, near the door. Whenever you go to the fort you put your glasses in the pocket. They'll be safe there until you leave to come home."
Clark was thrilled. He didn't have to wear his glasses when he was at the fort. "But, Clark, you must always remember to put your glasses on when you go out through the door. That's the only rule you have to follow when you're at the fort."
"Okay!" Clark jumped up and hugged his mother to thank her.
Clark trotted across the meadow with his lunch in one hand and the pocket and nail in the other. After scrambling up the tree, he crossed through the doorway into his fort. He gently put his lunch on the floor, very carefully placed his glasses on top of his lunch, took the pocket and the nail over to the doorway, and with a quick slam of his fist hammered the nail through the tongue at the top of the pocket. He quickly got his glasses, carefully folded their arms and gently dropped them into the pocket He sighed with relief. He could be himself now!
Clark ran round and round the inside of the fort as fast as he could, in tight circles, until he fell down on the floor exhausted and laughing. He lay there, breathing hard. He gazed up at the ceiling, focusing on the tiny patterns in the wood. His heart was pounding, much more from joy than having worn himself out. It felt *so* good to be here, in his own place, a place where he didn't have to follow The Rules. *This* was going to be fun.