A/N: This one's for you, Lee. Thanks for the messages on my site! & thanks to all the reviewers at D2C and Ksite. I hope you enjoy!
Chapter 23 – Egression
Clark stood with his hands tucked into the pockets of his jeans and surveyed the land. The yellow farmhouse that had seemed so much larger to him as a child was a sight that would forever mean home to him, no matter where his life would take him.
His thoughts turned to the last four years. His high school experiences would definitely be something he would remember for the rest of his life. He wondered if anything he would come across in the future would be able to compare.
A smile came to his face as he thought about the time when his greatest worry had been to make it to the bus stop on time, or making sure to find Pete and Chloe at lunch. But now everything had changed. Pete was gone - his absence during senior year the start of a distancing that would be hard to breach. Lana was gone – finally able to put the small town life behind her. Chloe was gone – brazenly determined to find her place in the world.
He sighed.Weren't they all.
He then smiled, remembering how he had stood and whistled as Chloe had taken the stage to give her Salutation speech, clapping in support of his best friend.
- Flashback -
"Someone comes up here and gives this speech every year, trying to put the last four years of our lives into perspective. As we go through life, it won't be my words that you remember- you probably will hardly remember who it was that gave the speech. What you will remember, though, are the people you met and the relationships you had. If you're lucky, some of those people will still be on speed dial. Unfortunately, most of them will just be a face in a yearbook, a story you tell. You'll remember the look on your best friend's face the moment they found out that you lied. And then you'll remember the feeling you had the moment they forgave you. That glorious day when you look into the eyes of the person you'll pledge to love forever, you'll remember the person you thought you loved in high school and be thankful that you lived through the pain... Not to say that you lovebirds out there aren't written in the stars or anything! Your GPA will be just another number. You'll hardly think about the B you worked so hard to get in Advanced Trig… or the F you tried to white out on your report card. But you'll remember the teacher that gave you a hard time because they knew you had more potential…"
Hearing the sound of a camera flash going off, Clark felt the need to turn around- he wasn't sure why- people had been taking pictures throughout the ceremony. He turned to see Lois standing near the rear of the auditorium, pointing a camera in the direction of the stage. After taking a picture, she turned and winked at him, before moving to get a closer shot.
He shouldn't have been surprised to see her. It was graduation, after all, but she'd been so busy with Summer School and The Planet that they hadn't talked.
After the class of 2005 finished flipping their tassels and throwing their hats, Lois practically tackled Chloe with a congratulatory hug. When parents and families began joining the students, Clark turned to face her.
"So you made it."
"Of course I did. It's Chloe's big day."
"That's the only reason?" he asked, knowing from her expression that she was going to make him work for it.
"No… I wanted to say hello to your parents, too."
At that moment, the people in question were talking to Chloe and Gabe Sullivan.
Clark rolled his eyes and smirked as Lois gave him a playful punch.
"I wanted to congratulate my favorite farm boy as well," she laughed. "So, how does it feel to be released on the world? I never made it my ceremony."
"Yeah, you never told me why," he commented as they walked toward their families.
"Family issues. Lucy ran into some trouble at school and I needed to go and straighten some things out. Not the first time," she finished under her breath.
Clark stopped walking. He didn't think General Lane would have been that hard on her if he'd known that was the case.
"You didn't tell you dad about it," he stated, knowingly.
"No," she responded, shaking her head to emphasize the word.
"As far as The General is concerned, Lucy is the perfect daughter. That's all he needs to know. I hadn't figured to be sent to the stockyard, though," she laughed, indicating the school with a wave.
"I had already been accepted to Met U so I figured the last semester wasn't a big deal. Hey, go over there next to your folks. I want to get a picture."
- End Flashback -
With his thoughts focused back in the present, Clark stooped to pick up the basketball sitting in the grass near the drive. Tossing it into the air, he jogged over to the makeshift court, stopping about fifteen feet from the hoop. Dribbling, he reflected on how he had almost declared undying affection for Lois right after the Tony debacle. He was actually glad that she had stopped him. He wasn't sure why she had, but it was obvious to him that she wasn't ready.
And that was probably for the best. Without having her near him twenty-four seven, he'd had a chance to think. He couldn't claim to have too much experience in the relationship department. He liked Lois… a lot. But maybe it was too soon to call it love. Heck, last year at this time, he would have said he was in love with Lana.
For all he knew, he might just have a soft spot for L's. Which was the point. He didn't really know himself that well yet. Still trying to figure it all out. What he felt for Lois was different… stronger than what he he'd ever felt before. Probably because she knew more about him than anyone else did.
Like Kyla, he thought, sadly. A beautiful woman he didn't have to hide from. Could that be the same with Lois?
The truth was, his worldly experience was rather limited. His brief trip to Miami with Bart had been evidence to that. Other than the few trips to Manhattan, and the trips to Metropolis, Clark really hadn't been subjected to the world outside of Smallville.
He lifted the ball above his head and aimed for the square on the backboard. He grimaced when the ball bounced off the side of the rim, and ran to catch it before it hit the ground, jumping to lay it in after the rebound.
Sometimes the shots didn't fall until you warmed up. Maybe the same thing goes for love too.
He set the basketball down and walked back toward the house. Sports were not going to be his future after all.
After much discussion with his parents, he'd decided that he wasn't going to take the football scholarship to Met U. They had been very supportive of the decision; he even thought he'd seen a smile peek out from his father's sympathetic expression. He just hadn't wanted the hassle of cheating drug tests and physicals. If high school football had been a trial, college would be a hundred times worse.
Conversations had turned to his other educational options. His father had promised that they would do everything in their power to make sure Clark went to whatever college he wanted to. The debate ended, however, with the information he'd received the last time he visited the caves.
"It is time, Kal-El," the voice had warned. Clark didn't know if it was Jor-El or a machine, but he needed to know what it had to do with his destiny.
According to it, he needed to find the third stone. The stonescouldn't fall into the hands of anyone else or there would be disastrous consequences. A package from Dr. Crosby containing a copy of the map he'd seen at the Luthor mansion the night Bart snuck in had sealed the deal. His journey began today.
The screen door of the house slammed shut as his mother stepped outside. Seeing the wistful look Clark was giving the barn, she walked over and rubbed his arm.
When had he gotten so tall? Smiling at the thought, Martha wrapped her arms around him. "You ready to go?"
Clark finished lacing his shoes and stood, picking his backpack up as he did so. He had just passed through the security check at Metropolis International Airport. It had been harder than he'd expected to say goodbye to his parents.
Not that he'd expected it to be easy… but it felt like they had been saying goodbye for the past week. The moisture in both his mother's and father's eyes attested to the fact that the hug they'd shared right before he'd gotten in line to be x-rayed had been final.
Glancing at his ticket, he headed toward his gate. When he arrived, he sighed and set his bag on the floor. This was it.
"You weren't thinking of leaving without saying goodbye were you?"
Clark was momentarily speechless. "I… didn't know how." It was true for the most part. He hadn't said anything to anyone other than his parents.
Lois narrowed her eyes at him. "For future knowledge, a phone call is better than nothing at all."
He shrugged apologetically. "How did you know?"
"I have my sources."
"My mom called you," he nodded, smiling.
"Surprisingly, no," she replied, tilting her head back in a self-satisfied pose. "It was your dad actually."
"My dad? That's… unexpected." Something dawned on him. "How did you get through security? You have to have a ticket." She didn't look like she was getting ready to take a trip.
"True, but you can get through if you you're escorting a minor or a non-English speaking traveler. You see them over there?" she asked, pointing to a group of Chinese co-eds sitting to the right of the gate desk. "I convinced them to let me pose as their translator so I could get an escort pass. It's kind of scary though because my Chinese is limited to 'hello' and 'where's the bathroom,' not to mention that I think they speak English better than I do."
An awkward moment of silence passed before Lois spoke again. "So, China, huh? Is that a summer-before-college trip?"
"No… It's a one way. I don't know when I'll be coming back."
She was composed enough to not let the shock show on her face and covered with sarcasm. "Let me guess. You got another message from the Cave Man and got spooked. You're running again?"
"Yes and no." He smiled at her confusion. "I did get another message, but this time I'm leaving so I can figure out what it all means."
"Embracing your destiny?"
"More like considering my options." He rubbed his jaw thoughtfully. "Someone once told me that it's hard to fight something if you're running from it."
Lois shook her head and smiled. "Must have been a pretty smart girl."
"Brilliant, actually- but I never said that it was a girl."
"Just a hunch."
"Announcing flight # 9586 to Los Angeles with continuing service to Shanghai at gate B15. Pre-boarding will begin shortly. Please remain in the gate area."
Reacting to the intercom announcement, Lois pulled a greeting-card sized envelope from her pocket and handed it to him.
"Thanks," Clark said, reaching for the flap.
Lois's hand shot out and covered his, stopping him from opening it. She blushed at the quick motion and pulled her hand away.
"Open it on the plane," she mumbled, biting her lip and looking away.
"Okay," he agreed, giving her a questioning look. He bent down and tucked the envelope into his bag.
"So…" he sighed once he'd stood again.
They seemed to have reached a conversational impasse.
"Have you talked to Chloe recently?"
She brightened at the introduction of new material. "Yes! She tells me that Gotham is a pretty weird place… not Smallville weird, but she say's it's got some dark secrets that she is determined to uncover."
Lois smiled fondly while talking about her cousin. "She's going to be pretty pissed that you took off without saying anything."
"I kinda figured that she had enough going on right now. Has she made contact with her mother yet?"
"No. She's still working up to it. I'm just really glad she's there."
"How are things with you… you know, at The Planet?"
Lois met his gaze. "Great. Really great."
He wondered if they were talking about something else for a moment.
Then she smiled and continued. "They tried to make me a copy girl when I first got there. Can you believe it? Not only do I have a problem with 'girl' being part of the title, but it's such a waste of my talent. One day, I'm going to run the investigative department, just watch. Speaking of which- I got a really great break when I did this story exposing a stolen car ring. Front page, above the fold. The first piece comes out tomorrow."
Clark grinned when she finally stopped to take a breath. "I don't want to know what you did to break that story do I?" Lois had a tendency to throw caution to the wind.
Lois laughed. "Probably not."
She glanced at the people milling around the gate. It was as good of a time as ever to say goodbye. "Well, be safe," she said, turning to face him.
"I should be saying that to you." He flashed the megawatt grin again. "Thanks for coming. It means a lot."
"I guess I'll see you around… Smallville," she smirked, hitting his shoulder lightly with her fist. She scrunched her nose… hitting was high school.
She stepped in and wrapped her arms around his waist.
Clark got over his surprise quickly and pulled her close. His chin dipped as she turned her face to lie against his chest. This was the type of thing that had made him want to follow her like a lost puppy. It had been so long since he had felt her in his arms that he was hesitant to move in fear that she would step away.
Feelings that he'd tucked away began to resurface, and heclosed his eyes, trying to immortalize the memory of her feel and scent.
"We'd like to welcome you to flight 9586 to Los Angeles, continuing on to Shanghai. Pre-boarding will now commence through the door on my right. Passengers with small children or anyone needing extra time in boarding may now approach the gate. Please remove your boarding passes from the jacket to assist…"
"I guess you'd better get ready to go," Lois sighed, still holding onto him.
He wondered if he had imagined the catch in her voice, and pulled back to look into her eyes. Noticing that they were extra bright, he placed a hand on the side of her face.
She leaned toward him, stopping a few inches from his lips to smirk; an eyebrow arched in challenge.
He cleared the rest of the distance without hesitation, brushing her lips lightly with his before moving to latch onto her bottom lip. He was pleased that she was meeting him move for move. When he dared to brush his tongue against her lips, she immediately granted him access.
Neither of them was aware of anything happening around them. The noise and movement of their environment faded, as they were only able to focus on each other.
The kiss eventually broke as Lois smiled.
Clark gazed at her expression. "What?" He couldn't help but feel like he was on top of the world.
"They just called for open boarding."
They had been so preoccupied that they had missed his group being called. She stepped out of his embrace, maintaining contact by holding his hand.
He rubbed the back of her hand with his thumb. "So, I should go."
"Yeah," he repeated. He moved back in and was momentarily once again lost in her presence.
"…Final boarding for flight 9586. All passengers should now be on board."
Clark lifted his head to glance at the gate attendant. She was looking at him with an amused expression. He was obviously the only passenger not yet on board.
Lois couldn't help but smile as his arms tightened around her one last time. She had seen couples in a deadlock embrace at airports – but she'd never imagined that she would be in one.
"No promises, okay?" she interrupted, a hand caressing the back of his neck. She realized that whatever he was about to get into would require all of his attention and energy.
If you love something let it go...
Nodding, he pulled away and reached down to grab his bag. As he jogged toward the door to the jet way, he heard her mumble, "You're wearing my lip-gloss."
Blushing, he rubbed his lips as he handed the attendant his boarding pass. He turned to wave as he crossed into the tunnel, the closing door blocking her view of him.
Clark ducked his head as he made his way down the narrow aisle of the plane. By the time he found his row, he was sure that his face was permanently red- a number of women had given him knowing smiles as he passed.
"That's me," he said, pointing to the window seat. "Sorry."
He stepped back to let the other two people in the row stand and move into the aisle.
"Sorry," he repeated as he slid into his seat, stuffing his bag under the chair in front of him. He fidgeted awkwardly, attempting to reach for his seatbelt and move his long legs into a comfortable position.
Once securely fastened in and settled, he let out a short breath. He pulled the emergency card out of the seat pocket in front of him and glanced at it. He quickly returned it to its place, hoping he wouldn't need the information any time soon.
The middle-aged woman in the seat next to him smiled.
"First time flying?" she asked.
"Uh… not really... Just never for as long as this flight is going to be."
She chuckled and held up her magazine. "I fly all the time, but I still don't like the takeoffs. It helps to have something to read."
Clark smiled in reply and she turned back to the article she was reading. Abruptly he remembered Lois's envelope. He leaned forwardto pull it from his bag.
Pulling at the flap, he opened it to see that instead of a card, the envelope held a picture. It was face down as he pulled it out and there was writing on it.I hope you find what you're looking for. –L
Flipping it over, he gazed at the picture of Chloe, Lois and him from the day of his graduation. He vaguely remembered taking the picture. Martha had taken Lois's camera and insisted that she get in the picture. In full agreement, he had pulled her in, wrapping his arms around both girls.
Chloe was laughing, her wide smile captured in the shot as she faced the camera. Lois was frozen in mid protest, her eyes sparkling with amusement as she looked up at him. He was grinning and looking down at her, prepared to respond to whatever snarky comment she was about to dish out. He couldn't help but to notice how closely he was holding her. To a casual observer, it lookedas ifa telling moment had been captured and preserved on film.
If memory served him correctly, though, there had been no moment, as they had immediately faced the camera and dutifully posed as the adults clicked away.
When Clark looked up, he realized that the plane had backed away from the jet way and turned to take it's place in the line for take-off. The new positioning put his window in sight of the terminal, and his enhanced vision allowed him to make out Lois's figure standing in the window.
He watched her until the plane rolled past, catching her mouthing 'Bye' as she moved out of sight. Smiling to himself, he lightly ran a finger over the picture and considered the inscription on the other side.
I hope you find what you're looking for.
He wondered if he already had.
Fin. (After all, every season must end, so the next can begin, right?)
When Worlds Collide 2 - Collision CourseMarch 2010
Clark Kent reached to massage the back of his neck as he marveled at the remains of the ancient Aztecan temple. He tried to imagine what it had looked like during the time when the ancient civilization that had built it thrived.
He'd been all over the world in the past five years. When he arrived in China five years ago, he'd found out that the map hadn't been a map at all. It was a drawing of the temple from a position outside of it. When he'd found the location, it had only served as a clue leading somewhere else. There were times when he felt like he was on a crazy treasure hunt. There were also times when he felt like he wasn't the only one searching.
He'd learned a great deal about every civilization he'd encountered. It was like a real life history lesson each day. He had never really paid much attention in his tenth grade world history class – but this was so much more… intense than any lecture could ever be.
He'd studied under a sensei to learn the way of the samurai. His time in Africa had earned him the ability to recount all the animals that had passed through an area within weeks. In Greece, he had reached the peak of Vasilista, visualizing the fantastic tales of the Greek divinity.
As food and supplies grew scarce, he'd had to work, finding a certain comfort and familiarity in doing the labor he once shared with his father. Work as a sailor earned his passage on ships, and farm duties often granted him lodging and a meal. Writing became an outlet, as he described the sites he'd seen, the people he met, and the world he never knew existed.
Sometimes he was able to submit an article to global news services, a small income that helped fund his never ceasing travels. Yet there were still questions he didn't have answers to.
Glancing down at the black pouch in his hand, he took another look at the temple. This was the place where he'd finally found the third stone. It was time to go home.
A/N:Thanks for being such a great audience. I'll see you over at WWC.2!
We love you Cincinnati! Thank you, and goodnight!