Smallville: The Knight and the Naïve
(A story dedicated to fellow fan-fiction author Dannell Lites)
By Christopher W. Blaine
DISCLAIMER: All characters and situations contained in this story are ©2002 by DC Comics Inc. and Warner Bros. And are used herein for fan-related entertainment purposes only. No profit is made from this story. This original work of fiction is ©2002 by Christopher W. Blaine and may not be reproduced in part or as a whole without the express permission of the author.
He always dreams of colors he has never seen and in words he has never spoken and yet it all seems to be a part of him, something that has grown in the darkest recesses of his brain. Some people would call it a nightmare but he thinks of it as being nothing more than a curiosity. He calls out, but his words seem so foul, so ridiculous. He is out of place.
He tries to fill the dream with images of what he knows, of those things that give him the greatest confidence. His friends and family are what help define him and it is they he turns to when the isolation becomes too much. Even then, though, it is only small comfort. How do you explain it when you have daydreams of alien landscapes and the touch of a mother you never knew?
In his restless sleep, he tosses and turns, moving faster than the eye can follow and no doubt another bed would be in shambles by morning. He would will himself to stop but he doesn't know how. He doesn't know anything except every day he discovers some other little thing that separates him from the rest of humanity. He is different and not just because he dreams in colors never seen before on Earth.
He is an enigma to himself, to his adoptive parents and he wonders if he is also one to God. Does God even know he's here on Earth? Was the ship that brought him to the small Kansas farming community off course? Was he supposed to go somewhere else? Home?
Clark Kent shot up in his bed, his body covered in a thick layer of sweat. His heightened senses detected nothing burning and he was momentarily relieved. . Ever since he had developed the power of "heat vision" as Pete Ross called it, he had lived with the fear that extreme emotions felt during dreaming would cause an accidental fire. In the back of his mind, he knew that he constantly had to control his emotional responses; if he didn't people could die.
It was yet another thing that separated him from the rest of the people on Earth. He couldn't get mad like he wanted to; ever since he was a small child he had to rein in his true feelings because he didn't think he could deal with the guilt associated with a loss of control. He couldn't be like other teenage boys, he had to hold back. That meant in everything.
The brief image of Lana Lang stirred his stomach and he felt his eyes begin to burn. He shut them quickly to prevent the wall in front of him from exploding into flame. He wanted to cry aloud so frustrated he had become. He wanted to be normal; he wanted parents to worry…just a little…about their daughters being with Clark Kent. Not that he wanted to be a cad or anything like that; he just wanted to be treated like everyone else.
He wanted to act like everyone else.
His feelings for Lana seemed to always complicate things. He was afraid of telling her the truth that the day the meteorites had struck Smallville, a spaceship carrying him crashed in a cornfield. He wanted to tell her all about the wondrous things he could do and show her that he could be everything she ever wanted. He couldn't do that, though, because of the fear of what would happen.
Like any other teen, Clark thought about sex. He wondered about it, imagining what it could be like. He knew that if he were to have it, though, bad things could happen. Any slight loss of concentration and he could kill. He had read all of the medical books in library (after all, he was curious) and he realized that lovemaking resulted in several involuntary reactions.
The image of the burned corpse of Lana Lang under him kept Clark Kent's libido firmly in check. Regardless of his curiosity, it was not worth any person's life. His only hope was that one day he would learn the control necessary to pursue at least the appearance of a normal life.
Opening his eyes slowly and getting out of bed, Clark moved over to the window and looked into the darkness. Somewhere out there, beyond the stars he was sure, was the answer to who and what he was. Perhaps the answers were within the spaceship that had brought him to Earth, but it had closed after he had been removed and it resisted all attempts to open it. Maybe there was a note from his birth parents explaining why they had abandoned him to this life.
It wasn't a bad life; he loved his adoptive parents. The Kent's were good people and they loved Clark more than anything in the world. It helped a lot, but it didn't completely fill the void in his soul. He wanted to know what he was, who he was, what his purpose on Earth was.
"Rao…" he said absentmindedly. He shook his head and blinked his deep blue eyes. It was one of those words he had never heard before except in his dreams. It was the name of something, he was sure. It was a memory so old that he felt that it had been with him since the womb. Perhaps it was the name of his father? His mother?
Could it be his name?
He rubbed his temples, trying to massage the answer free, but it eluded him just as sleep was. Sighing, he decided to wash up and make an early breakfast. He had a long day of school ahead.
Chloe ran up to Lana, her shoes clicking and clacking madly as she tried her best not to slip on the linoleum floor of Smallville High School. The blonde-haired girl nearly fell over, but was lucky her friend was quick to offer a supporting arm. "Whoa, girl! What's the hurry?"
Chloe fumbled with the armload of books and then propped herself up on her tiptoes. "Do you see him? Do you see him?"
Lana smiled and tossed back her long, dark hair before trying herself to look over the other students milling about in the hallway. "I see a lot of people; who in particular are you looking for?" Lana asked. She had a good idea that her friend was most likely trying to get a good view of Clark as he entered the school. Lana was still confused on how she felt about her friend's attraction to their boyhood friend.
"You haven't heard?" Chloe said, suddenly surprised. "What? Do you live under a rock?"
Lana gave her a sarcastic grin. "No, I'm a troll that loves under the bridge. Now, answer my question: who is coming?"
"Only the most gorgeous, most wonderful, most…"
Chloe didn't get a chance to respond as the students in front of them began to part like the Red Sea before Moses. Guys elbowed each other and girls whispered as a tall, handsome young man walked with another student down the hall. Lana immediately guessed the escorted man was about her age, maybe a little older. She recognized the other person as a student guide assigned to new students. "Isn't he it?" Chloe whispered.
Lana didn't say anything as she was somehow drawn to look at the man…boy…demi-god. He was as tall as Clark and looked to be easily as massive, but he didn't carry himself like a football player. There was a certain arrogance to his stride, but not one that made the impression he thought less of others. It was the walk of somebody who was a natural leader and knew it.
His hair was dark and cut professionally; this was not a person who had a bowl stuck on their head while mom watched the television. His clothes were expensive as well and Lana realized he was wearing more that one day then she would spend in a year. She was about to respond to Chloe, whose smile almost radiated the overhead lighting it was so large, when the new student stopped in front of them.
The student guide was about to introduce them when Lana saw the new guy's hand outstretched. She took it wordlessly and felt a slight quiver in her knees. She figured she must be hungry until she saw the half-eaten apple in her hand. "Hello, I'm Bruce Wayne," he said.
"Yes, you are," Chloe said. Bruce smiled at her and after shaking Lana's hand, he took Chloe's. His eyes, however, never moved too far away from Lana and she suddenly found herself enjoying the attention.
"I'm a new transfer from Gotham City," he said.
"You're awfully far from Gotham," Lana managed to say. Chloe's expression died a little bit as she realized that Bruce had already dismissed her. "Why on Earth would you come here?"
Bruce shrugged. "I'm trying to get a well-rounded education. Most of the courses in Gotham are so…stuffy, you might say."
Lana suddenly had a thought and put a finger to her bottom lip. "You wouldn't happen to be Bruce Wayne as in the Wayne Foundation?"
"Guilty as charged," he said with an easy laugh.
"You have more money than Lex Luthor," she said without thinking.
He nodded. "Last time I checked he had pulled out ahead of me, but my accountants and investment planners are working on that."
Chloe, feeling herself in the cold, decided to act. "Are you here for any particular reason, Bruce?" she asked, pulling out her little notebook.
"Ah, I was warned about you by Lex," Bruce commented dryly. "It's Chloe, right? Look, if you know who I am, then you know I don't like being interviewed. I went through a lot of interviews after my parents were murdered."
Slightly embarrassed, because she had indeed checked with a friend at the Daily Planet in Metropolis and discovered that fact, Chloe put the notebook away. "I'm sorry…"
Bruce held up a hand. "It's okay, really. I suppose I could be newsworthy to the really bored people," he said. Lana was amazed by his humility. She knew that he was rich beyond most people's wildest dreams and it was no secret that he would one day become the world's most eligible bachelor. Certainly Lex Luthor had hoped to gain that title, but now that Lana saw the way Bruce's biceps pulled at the expensive shirt he was wearing, she saw that Lex was outclassed.
She found herself wondering if he had a washboard stomach when Clark appeared. She blushed, feeling as if she had somehow betrayed her friendship with the Smallville youth by thinking such tasty thoughts. "C-Clark!"
Chloe smiled, she saw how frustrated Lana had become and she enjoyed seeing her friend squirm a little bit. The truth was that it seemed like every cute guy that Chloe started to become interested in was only interested in Lana. She didn't want to go through life living off of Lana's throw-aways. "Clark! Good to see you, buddy!" She reached out and grabbed him by his bulging bicep and pulled him close.
Clark and Bruce eyed each other and Lana could have sworn she smelled burning testosterone in the air. "Clark Kent, meet Bruce Wayne."
Clark held out his hand and Bruce took it. They were easily the tallest people in the hallway, but Bruce had more muscle mass. It showed, too, and Clark found himself a little jealous. He ended up applying a little more power to handshake then he had intended. Bruce didn't seem to mind and returned equally what he had received. "Are you a new student, Bruce?" Clark asked.
"Yes. I understand you are quite the athlete, Clark."
Clark shrugged. "I try my best. Nothing to write home about."
"I wouldn't go that far; Lex has told me all kinds of things about you," Bruce responded.
The class bell interrupted the meeting and Clark looked to Lana to see if she was going to be joining him in getting to class. She hesitated slightly and then Bruce excused himself, saying they would talk later. She agreed and turned to see a perplexed look on Clark's face. "What?" she asked as she closed her locker.
Chloe only laughed and left the two alone. "Quite a guy," Clark said.
Lana smiled. "Yes, yes he is."
Lex Luthor sat at his desk in his private study, looking over various financial statements and making notes about which companies to sell for not meeting projections. The life of a businessman suited him because it made him feel powerful. Lex liked power because it meant that if anyone tried to hurt him, he could hurt them back. If anyone was kind to him, he could return that kindness a thousand fold.
He supposed that was shy he stayed here in Smallville, away from the hustle and bustle of Metropolis. He now had the reigns of his father's empire, but he preferred to surround himself with the honest opinions of his friends rather than the butt-kissing mutterings of the "Yes-Men" that his father had chosen to employ. Of course, he would eventually root them out as well, but Lex was still young and could afford to wait.
The doors to the study opened and Clark Kent strolled through. Lex smiled at his best friend and put his paperwork down. Clark wasn't interested in money and that gave him a certain power that Lex envied. No matter what, Clark could never be bought and so the only reason he could have for associating with Lex was friendship. Lex realized that his relationship with Clark was more important to him than so many other things.
Even if he lost all of his money and power tomorrow, Clark Kent would still be his friend. "Hey, buddy," Lex called out.
Clark put his book bag down and strolled over to Lex's desk. From the look on his face, Lex could guess what was on his friend's mind. "I see you met Bruce."
Clark nodded and out his hands in his pockets. "Friend of yours?"
Lex laughed with surprise. "More like rival. One day, he and I will be competing against each other. He doesn't have full control of his father's fortune just yet but I understand that his people have done a fine job in investing."
"Maybe you should have hired his people," Clark responded as he took in the massive study. "Then you wouldn't have to settle for such a small place."
Lex scratched his baldhead, the result of an explosion caused by a landing meteorite. "Don't think my dad and I haven't tried. He's got the best, I mean that, the very best financial planners working for him. You would not believe the amount of money they have made for him." He paused and then stood up to get a drink. He didn't bother to offer Clark any; he knew the younger man never touched alcohol. Another reason to admire him. "I suspect that you aren't here because you're worried about Bruce's finances?"
"I looked him up on the Internet at school today, " Clark started. "They say he's a playboy. They say he slept with that actress from the video game movie…you know, the one with the girl with the big…"
"Guns?" Lex asked amused. Was he seeing some sort of chink in the armor of the great Clark Kent? "Actually, that was me who was sleeping with her, but Bruce does have a reputation as something of a playboy." He sipped his drink and then realized that Clark was asking the questions for only one reason" Lana. "So, you think he likes Lana?"
Clark rewarded him with a look that made Lex feel like he was overstating the obvious. "I just don't want her to get hurt."
Lex nodded and then slowly walked back to his chair. "Yes, well, we wouldn't want Lana to get hurt, would we?" He sat down and tried his best to cover the growing mirth in his voice. "I wouldn't worry too much; Bruce is a lot of talk. He usually only dates a girl until he gets what he wants and then dumps them. He doesn't string them along and get their hopes up."
"What?" Clark roared, but Lex could no longer hold in his laughter. Tears streamed down his face and Clark got the idea he was the butt of a joke. He wanted to get mad, but he knew that Lex would never do anything to intentionally harm him
The last person in the world Clark was sure would ever hurt him, besides his parents, was Lex Luthor.
"Easy, tiger, I'm just kidding! Bruce…I don't know what to tell you. His parents were murdered when he was eight and he's been raised by his butler ever since."
Clark found that odd. "His butler?"
Lex wiped a tear from his eye. "Well, I suppose his uncle is his guardian, but that guy is a financial idiot. He gets just enough money to keep him happy and Bruce travels the world with his servant."
Clark shook his head. "He said he transferred from the Gotham Academy…"
"Oh, sure, but before that he spent a year in Tibet, six months in England, blah, blah, blah. He can't stay in any one place for very long." Lex sat back and stirred the ice in his glass with his finger. "The only reason I would say he's here is because he needs some quick credits for graduation."
"He could buy his diploma if he wanted," Clark said with a dismissive wave.
"Yes, but if it ever came out he would be the laughing stock of the financial world. Nobody trusts a billionaire without a high school diploma."
"So, why come here? Clark asked.
"Probably to annoy me, most likely. Hell, Clark, Smallville was probably on the way to wherever he's going to next. Who cares?" Lex put the glass down and stared up at his friend. He looked so innocent and Lex guessed that Bruce Wayne represented some sort of challenge to Clark's manhood. Bruce had the looks and the money and it looked as if he were going to get Lana as well.
Certainly other boys had come along to lead Lana away from Clark, but Lex was always reassured when those relationships did not work out and the two friends seemed to be drawn even closer. Maybe Clark saw things that way as well and that was why he played it so cool with Lana. Now, Bruce Wayne had arrived, bringing his Gotham City chic and East Coast attitude.
Lex considered having a talk with Bruce, but figured that affairs of the heart were better left to fend for themselves. He didn't know how Clark would react to his meddling. "I'm going to Metropolis this weekend, you want to come with me?" he asked, dangling the prospect of the dangerous nightlife of the urban sprawl before his friend. Any other male at Smallville High would jump at the chance, meeting Lex's private helicopter with a case of condoms and a big smile.
"Naw, I've got to do some work for my dad," Clark said. Lex laughed inwardly. "But my mom really enjoyed those chocolates you brought back last time." Clark reached into his pocket to get some money but stopped when Lex gave him a hurtful glance. "I know, Lex, you've got it."
Lana sat across from Bruce, sipping plain black coffee, trying her best to seem as worldly as possible. Bruce had come into the coffee shop that Lana owned along with Lex Luthor, specifically to speak with her. She had been surprised, but was happy for the opportunity to get to know the handsome stranger a little better.
They spent almost an hour in small talk and Lana realized that Bruce was much deeper than she would have thought. His masculine charm had initially attracted her, but she now saw him for more than a pleasant face. He seemed to know about everything, seen it all and then some, but he discussed it without the touch of ego one would expect.
He had the million-dollar smile of a fashion model, one that was so different from the grin Clark would always give her. Clark's smile showed his innocence and it seemed that no matter how infuriated she would become with him, he could just smile and she would forget it all. In a way, Clark was childlike in comparison to Bruce.
Bruce's smile had no innocence, but was more like the wolf grinning at Little Red Riding Hood. He was hiding something but trying so hard to be nice. She felt some sort of connection between the two of them once she had started talking about the death of her parents so many years before. She knew about his parents, of course, the story was replayed every two years or so in People magazine, but she would have thought that he would be bitterer. Maybe he was and all of this was an act, but Lana could not imagine someone spending their entire life hiding behind a façade of such normalcy.
He said something that made her laugh and her chin went to her chest as she tried her best to regain her composure. When she looked up, she saw both Clark and Pete Ross walking in the front door.
Again she had the feeling she was doing something wrong by being here with Bruce. She caught Clark's glance, but he turned away before any subtle emotions could be exchanged. Pete, on the other hand, gave her a wave, which she returned. Bruce, seeing the gesture, turned. "Another friend of yours?" he asked.
"Well, you know that we all know each other in these small towns," she replied.
Bruce considered that but decided it wasn't actually true. It was a nice thought, however; he couldn't imagine a place where everyone knew each other and that they weren't all out to get something. Everyone here was an open book and that was what had made it so attractive to him.
Deep in his heart, Bruce Wayne carried the awful burden of an oath he had no idea of how to fulfill. On his parent's graves he had sworn vengeance on all criminals, promising that the tragedy that had befallen him would never happen to anyone else if he could help it.
Even though he didn't have the complete plan for his war on crime, he knew that it would require him to develop and all skills he could, mental and physical. He had been hard at since the age of nine and would still be pursuing masters of their crafts if Alfred, his dearest friend and chaperone, hadn't call for a halt.
"Master Bruce, you push too hard. You act like a computer, a damned infernal machine that you just dump information into," he had said only a month before when Bruce had finished an accelerated course in the Arabic language. "How do you expect to help people if you do not know how to interact with them? Do not look at me so, young sir, for I am putting my foot down. You will finish this academic year like a normal teenager or else I will have to seek employment elsewhere."
That had thrown Bruce for a loop, but he wasn't willing to sacrifice his relationship with Alfred, because without him, Bruce would be forced to live with his uncle until he turned eighteen. At least, that was what he told himself. Together, they had decided on Smallville because of its relative isolation but also because Bruce secretly hoped to torment Lex Luthor a little. He considered it practice for their eventual business conflicts. "Lana, can I ask you something?"
"Clark?" she replied. When he nodded she sighed. "Have you ever thought something was there, but then realized it wasn't? How do I describe Clark and I?" She looked up to the ceiling then brought her head down. She could see that Clark was doing his best to look like he was not paying any attention to her, which made it all the more obvious. "Friends. Very close friends."
"Good," Bruce commented as he put another sugar in his coffee. "I don't like to intrude on other's personal lives."
"And why would you be intruding, Mr. Wayne? We are only having coffee," Lana said with an impish grin.
Her smile was genuine, fresh and full of life. For too many years Bruce had watched people force smiles on their faces when he entered the room. They didn't care about him, only the money that he was waiting to inherit. He wanted a real friend, someone who didn't see him as a way to become important. Certainly Alfred counted, but he was also from another generation. Hell, he was from another country and their relationship was soured by the loss both of them felt. Thomas and Martha Wayne had meant just as much to him as they had Bruce. The tragedy put a barrier between them that they both seemed perfectly content to keep in place.
Bruce wondered how Lex did it. Whenever he ran into the man, he always had a smirk or smile on his face. Somewhere along the way, Lex was able to discuss the bad things associated with money and power, but he couldn't imagine with whom. Whoever that confidant was, they were partly responsible for Lex's sudden rise in the business world. His deals were beginning to overshadow even the best the senior Luthor had been able to make.
"I was hoping that we could go out sometime, though I don't know where; I'm not familiar with Smallville if you remember," he said.
Lana responded slowly. "I figured someone like you would offer to whisk a girl away for a romantic weekend in Metropolis on your private jet." Her tone indicated that she meant it in jest, but Bruce wanted to put the matter to rest. He was quite aware of the rumors of his skirt chasing.
"I don't have a private jet available and I honestly don't like Metropolis. It lacks the flavor of Gotham. All I would like to do is catch a movie…dancing?" He held his hands up to say he really had no idea of what there was for teenagers to do in the small town.
"This is about as exciting as it gets, but if you want to go to the movies…"
"Do I have to pay?" he joked.
"Typical male; keep that up Mr. Wayne and you won't get a goodnight kiss," she said as she stood up to clear away the coffee cups.
He stood up as well, preparing to leave. He had to get in another hour of weightlifting before he started his homework. "It would be your loss. You know they say once Gotham gets a hold of you, it never lets go."
She winked at him. "Gotham might get a punch in the nose then!"
Bruce chuckled and turned to get his coat when he saw Clark looking at him. He considered going up and asking him what the problem was, but realized that this wasn't Gotham City; people were more sensitive to things here. That was what Alfred was trying to get across to him: that not everyone was like the citizens of Gotham.
Clark stared at him hard and Bruce got the distinct feeling that he was being looked at from the inside out. There was confusion in Clark's eyes and Bruce could well understand it, but he had asked if he and Lana were an item. They were not and so Bruce had fulfilled the requirements of chivalry. If Clark Kent couldn't appreciate a pretty girl, then Clark Kent deserved to sit and stew.
Bruce walked by and nodded to Clark, who returned it quite by habit. Bruce realized that Clark was angry and hurt and didn't know how to deal with it. He wore his emotions on his sleeve for the world to see. Was I ever that innocent he asked himself.
"Clark! Clark!" Pete said again, punching his bigger friend in the shoulder. Clark suddenly turned to his best friend.
"If you don't stop that, you're likely to fry Bruce where he stands," Pete commented in a hushed tone.
Clark thought about that for a second. He had been thinking about Lana and his emotions were running high. He could tell from the dizziness he felt, but he had not let loose with his heat vision. That brightened his mood because it meant he was starting to develop some control. If he could learn to control that, he could control his other powers too.
That meant that maybe one day he and Lana…
"I've never seen you so worked up," Pete said as he chewed on a doughnut. "It isn't like you and Lana are going out."
"I know," Clark said, his cheeks flushed. He wanted to just get up and walk over to Lana and tell her to stay away from Bruce. Bruce was bad news, he was sure. You didn't need super-powers to pick up the darkness that surrounded the other teen.
Clark wondered if that darkness was what attracted women to Bruce, like moths to a dark flame. He had always heard that girls liked so-called "bad boys" because they represented danger and adventure. Boys like Clark were the exact opposite. Clark was the guy you married.
Bruce was the guy you dreamed about.
Clark walked through the weight room on his way to the showers, catching the basketball Pete tossed to him. He noticed that several guys and even a couple of girls were hanging around the room. That wasn't normal; usually only the football team was in here. Clark hardly ever lifted weights; too much work on the farm kept him trim.
Pete had already headed to the locker room when Clark saw what had attracted everyone's attention. Bruce Wayne was pushing the bar up again, his cord-like muscles sticking out, advertising their power. Clark had never guessed that Bruce was in such great shape and he suddenly found himself mentally comparing his own physique to Bruce's.
Clark was certainly in shape, but Bruce was more like a small tank. He wasn't big like a body-builder; he was able to maintain what appeared to be a normal athletes form. Clark counted up the weight and was shocked. He hadn't seen anyone except himself being able to lift so much and not be a professional. Clark also noted Bruce's chest hair and that truly made the farmer's son feel like a child.
His ears picked up the snippets of conversation that were rippling through the other student's groups and he caught one in particular. He listened in as Chloe and Lana made detailed observations about Bruce's attributes.
Another person would walk up and punch Bruce; in the world of teenagers, you didn't actually need a reason to be a jerk. Clark knew that would be wrong and the punishment he would receive from his father would be too much to bear. Jonathan Kent expected better of his son.
Bruce put up the weights and sat up. One of the members of the crowd threw him a towel and he accepted it wit gratitude. Some of the older boys began asking him about steroids and special diets, but Bruce replied that he had begun working out to battle obesity. Clark wasn't fresh off of the pumpkin truck and he knew that was a blatant lie. You could be active like Clark to keep from getting heavy; Bruce Wayne worked out like a man on a mission.
"Do you play any sports?" one of the girls asked.
He smiled and shook his head. "No time. Too busy doing other things."
"Yeah, must be hard traveling around the world," Clark blurted out, much louder than he had wanted. All eyes turned to him, including Lana and Chloe and he desperately wished for the power to turn invisible. Bruce only smiled, accepting the verbal challenge.
"I do travel quite a bit, that's true, but I also involve myself in other things as well…Clark isn't it?" Bruce stood up, which brought a collective sigh from the women and a few choice curse words from some of the boys. Bruce wasn't just ripped, he was torn, thrashed and exploded. Clark had seen professional wrestlers with less abdominal muscle. "I spent last summer working with the Peace Corps in Africa. You can understand why I wouldn't have time for things like football camp."
"I meant that…" Clark started as Lana used her own version of heat vision to make him uncomfortable.
"Oh, I know what you meant, Clark. You think that just because I have money that I don't need to concern myself with the despair of others. It's easy for you to say that, it gives you reason to scorn me." Bruce stepped a little closer. "However, just for your information, I did wrestle for a year for the Gotham Academy…so I understand the allure of sports. Competition is what defines us."
Clark knew he was talking about Lana, but he didn't know how Bruce could know how important she was too him. Did he know how he felt about Bruce as well? Suddenly he was embarrassed that he had not given Bruce the benefit of the doubt from the beginning. His mistake was now opened wide for all to inspect and he could see that from her look, Lana was not pleased with him.
"You know, Clark is pretty good at wrestling," Pete called from the doorway to the locker room. Clark started to shake his head, but Pete ignored him. He was just trying to be a good friend. "He can get out of any hold."
Pete was surmising that Clark's superior strength could overpower any who would challenge him. "Well…"
Bruce raised an eyebrow. "Really? Let's see…you know, a little competition."
Clark wanted to walk away, in fact his mind was screaming for him to do so, but if he did, he would lose face. There was nothing wrong with being humble, but that didn't mean he had to be humiliated. Hopefully, Bruce wasn't as good of a wrestler as Clark feared.
The anxious crowd of students, Lana and Chloe at the very back, pursued the two. "Isn't this exciting?" Chloe said with glee.
"No. Clark is being an ass and I don't see why," Lana remarked as she folder her arms over her chest.
Chloe wanted to smack her. It was obvious to everyone except Lana and Clark that they had strong feelings for each other. "Don't worry; Clark has never been beaten when he puts his mind to it."
They reached the gym and moved over to a floor mat with a circle painted on it. Clark pulled off his outer shirt and got down on all fours. Bruce circled him, as if trying to decide which side to take. Finally getting down next to Clark, he put his arms around Clark's waist. "I'll try not hurt you," Bruce whispered.
Pete came up next to them and called for quiet. Clark looked up to see Chloe smiling wide and Lana frowning. Something told him that this was not a good idea.
"He kicked your butt," Pete said as they walked out to his car.
Clark was rubbing his arm; it still hurt from the hold Bruce had put on him. "That hold wasn't anything I've been taught. The harder I pushed against it, the more it worked against me. It didn't matter how strong I was…"
Pete got in and started the convertible up. "How much strength did you use?" Clark looked sheepishly around, trying to find something to steer the conversation towards something else. "All of it? You used all of your strength?"
Clark rubbed his forehead. "I don't know…I mean, I don't know how strong I really am. I've never really let loose. I did use a lit, though."
"I heard he was trained by Ted Grant," was Pete's only comment.
"Ted Grant is dead," Clark replied. The professional wrestler and boxer had been a champion in the 1940's and 1950's. There was no way Clark could know that the Ted Grant was still alive, a metahuman who kept his powers secret. Only Bruce Wayne's tenacity and superior detective skills had allowed him to find the man.
They were halfway to the Kent farm when Pete began to speak again. "You think Lana is mad at you?"
"No more mad than I am at myself. I don't know what is the matter with me," Clark said as he made a fist. "He makes me so mad!"
"Good," was Pete's answer. "You never get mad, it's what makes you seem so not…I don't know…normal. God, Clark, you are allowed to get angry. That doesn't mean you can go and hit people; even us guys with no super powers can't beat people up because we're not happy."
"I know, but I'm so afraid that I will lose control…"
"So you keep it all bottled up inside? That ain't good, man." Nothing more was said until they pulled up to Clark's home. Jonathan Kent came walking out of the house and waved to the boys. "Go talk to your dad, Clark."
Clark nodded and thanked his friend before getting out of the car and walking to his waiting dad. Jonathan Kent saw the way his son was favoring his arm and immediately became concerned. It was something that had never occurred before. "Son?"
Clark dropped his school bag and immediately launched into a description of the events of the past few weeks up until the wrestling match earlier in the day. Jonathan nodded and kept quiet, understanding that his son was needing to vent his frustrations, but had also come to him to seek advice. When Clark had finally finished, Jonathan put an arm around his shoulders and told him to get his books. "Son, you have to understand that in life, you are going to meet people that are better at things than you are. You've lived your whole life knowing that physically, you were the strongest, fastest guy on Earth. You're no dummy either and we both know it.
"Now, you've met a guy who has not only money, but looks and skill. You've lost confidence in yourself and that is a hard thing to accept, believe me. Why, when I first met your mother, you would not believe all of the other richer, taller, stronger guys who were hoping to court her."
"Yeah, but Bruce is so…"
Jonathan smiled. "I know, son, I know; you just to be satisfied with being the best that you can be. Don't worry about the other guy, worry about yourself. In the end, honesty, good will, and sincerity will beat out looks any day."
"It's just, you know, his reputation and everything…I'm afraid of what will happen to Lana," Clark offered.
"Then, if you are Lana's friend, talk to him. Tell him how you feel, let him know that Lana means a lot to you, that she is a special person that needs to be treated with respect." Jonathan opened the door to the house. "Now get inside; your mom has dinner ready and I'm starving!"
Clark heard Bruce coming up the stairs long before he saw him and rose to greet him. "Hi," he offered with an outstretched hand.
Bruce looked at the hand and decided to take it. "Hello yourself. How's the arm?"
Clark rubbed it and invited Bruce further into the barn loft. "Still hurts, but I guess I deserved it."
"Yes, you did," Bruce said. He stopped in the center of the room, but refused to sit down. Clark noted that Lex did that a lot as well. Perhaps people listened to you more when you stood. "I don't get you, Kent."
"I was being a real jerk, I know…"
"No," Bruce said, holding up a single finger. "You don't talk, you listen. You make all kinds of assumptions about me based upon rumor and scandal, but you never gave me the respect of just coming and asking me. You have no idea what my life is like and for that I am happy, because it isn't pretty.
"Do you know what it's like to be all alone in the world, Clark? Have you any idea what the isolation does to you, knowing that when you see other people going about their lives, that it can't be you? It is so difficult for me to hide behind this façade of a happy, go-lucky high school student. The truth is I would rather just go about my business and be left well enough alone. So I wanted some companionship, excuse me for living!"
Bruce shook his head and Clark got a quick glimpse of the rage in Bruce's eyes. "I'm sorry that my presence here offends you, but you'll have to deal with it for now. I'm sorry that Lana seems more interested in me than you because, to be honest, I think you two belong with each other. She's not just a pretty face, Clark, so I'm sure you can understand why I'm attracted to her. Quit acting like a bull moose guarding its territory! You have had every chance in the world with Lana and you blew it, don't get mad at me because you are too scared to try."
"No! Do not talk! Let me give you some advice, Clark Kent: if you care about someone, you better tell them." Bruce turned and headed towards the stairs. "Because you never know when you won't be able to."
Two days later, Lana came to Clark to tell him that Bruce had been accepted into a private school in Japan and would be leaving at the end of the week. Clark wanted to go and talk to him, but Lex talked him out of it. Instead, Clark tried to devote his energies into trying to heal his relationship with Lana.
She was still talking to him and he was glad for it, deciding that he needed to start worrying more about being part of the world than being afraid of what he could do to it. He had seen the pain and anger in Bruce's gaze and it was a pain he never wanted to feel.
The day Bruce Wayne departed Smallville, Clark found a stuffed moose in his loft. It told him that there were no hard feelings.
Ten years later, Bruce Wayne was stripping off his Batman costume as his sidekick and ward danced around joyously. "Did you see him, Bruce? Did you see him? He was awesome!" Robin threw his fist in the air.
"He's an alien," Bruce replied dryly. "He can't be trusted. You should look up to other people." He wanted to, of course, tell his young ward that he was hurt that the Batman was no longer his only hero. Bruce didn't like the idea of sharing that honor with Superman.
"But he's so cool and so…not dark," Robin said as he pulled off his cape. "man, I wish I could fly."
"I'll get you a pilot's license."
Robin grimaced. "That's not the same thing and you know it. Say! Do you know who he really is? Can we go see him? Does he have a secret identity?"
Bruce refused to answer the questions, instead vowing to call Clark Kent in the morning and warn him once again about coming to Gotham City. The Batman didn't need any boy scouts running around his city. "We're not in Kansas anymore," he whispered after putting the boy to bed.
Bruce entered his bedroom, his bedclothes laid out faithfully by Alfred before the butler had turned in for the night. He noticed some lying on top of them and turned on the lamp next to the bed. He smiled, but did not change his mind about calling Kent up at the Daily Planet.
Bruce put on his pajamas and smacked the stuffed moose out the open bedroom window. "Damn farm boy," he said just as he drifted off to sleep.