Martha's fingers hovered above the keypad on the kitchen phone, hesitating just for a second before dialing the familiar number.
"Hello, Marisol? It's Martha Kent." She tapped her fingers nervously against the counter. "Yes, I'm aware that Lionel is in Thailand for the week. I was wondering if I could leave a message for Lana – I mean, the lady of the house." She glanced outside, spotting Clark in his red jacket, fiddling with the underside of the tractor. "Could you just tell her that she's invited to dinner tomorrow night? Tell her that Mrs. Kent will not take 'no' for an answer. Yes, thank you very much, Marisol. So long."
Martha hung up the phone and sighed deeply. Clark was a man now, one of ever-growing strength and wisdom. She barely saw him at all lately, and when she did, it was during a crisis, usually of the paranormal variety. Martha possessed neither heat vision nor super breath, so she wasn't much of a help anymore. It was why she was eager to lend a hand when Clark had come her one night, worn down, defeated, and unusually decisive.
She supported her son's decision to finally bring Lana into the family – she had advocated it years ago. But now she could see in Clark's eyes that he was desperate to handle it on his own terms. Martha was just a bit player in their grand scheme; she was to plant the seed, and then, should something go awry, help pick up the pieces. Clark was going to do the hard part alone.
Martha glanced again out the window. It seemed Clark had fixed the tractor – he was standing now, dusting himself off, grabbing his tool box with one hand. When he picked up the tractor with his other hand, Martha figured that he could handle the hard part just fine.
Clark had heard Lana coming since she'd closed the screen door back at the house, but when he saw her round the barn stairs, he still felt his heart flip-flop a little – for a moment, he was a freshman in high school again. He stood up from his desk a little too quickly and tried to tuck in his chair. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Lana's nose crinkle with a grin. He decided to give up on the chair and turned to face her.
"Lana," he said. "Um. Hi."
Lana stood up straight, thrusting her shoulders back and looking more adult than he could ever hope to. "Your mom said to tell you that dinner won't be ready for a while." She looked over her shoulder with a frown. "She was acting sort of strangely, though." Her eyes shot back to Clark with a sidelong glance. "Like she had some kind of…ulterior motive."
"Really?" Clark tried to laugh, but it came out strained; his heart was doing jumping jacks in his chest. He leaned forward and gripped Lana's shoulders, trying to steer her toward the couch. "I can't imagine why."
Lana sat down with a plop, powerless against Clark's strength and the growing weight of her belly. She looked up, up, up at Clark with confusion. "Don't let anyone ever accuse you of being normal, Clark," she said.
Clark's nerves bubbled up in a burst of laughter. Already fidgeting with his fingertips, he began to pace. "Funny you should say that."
He cautioned a glance at Lana and was crushed to see all humor drain from her face. Her features fell like he had just told her some horrible news, but in her eyes…was that excitement? She leaned forward, ever so slightly. "Is today the day?" she whispered. "Is today the day I learn Clark Kent's secret?"
Clark sighed, and the weight on his shoulders felt heavier than ever. He pulled up a chair and sat backwards in it ponderously, fixing Lana with a measured gaze. Finally, he said, "Yes."
Lana sat back against the couch, crossed her arms, and took a deep breath.
"Look, Lana," Clark said, recalling the words he had practiced earlier in his room, "I'm the last person in the world who can claim that he's always been honest with you. And it was wrong of me to lie to you as much as I did for as long as I did – I'm well aware of that. I did it to protect you, and to protect myself, in a way. But I wasn't lying when I told you that I wasn't infected by the meteors."
Lana exhaled slowly, thinking of the chisel, the bullet, the necklace, and all of the mysterious disappearances. "You weren't."
"I swear I wasn't. Tobias was right about that." Clark picked up a pen and fiddled with it, avoiding Lana's eyes. "But he was wrong when he said I was normal. Because I'm…really not."
"But how?" Lana's eyes were wider than Clark had ever seen them.
Clark set down his pen tersely. "This is one the reasons I never told you about my powers. I love – loved you so much, and I couldn't bear the thought of you being afraid of me. But what you said last week, when you said that I'd still be me, even if I weren't who you thought I was... I hope you don't change your mind when I tell you the truth."
Lana shook her head soothingly – maternally. "Clark, nothing could possibly–"
"I'm an alien."
Silence. Clark's heart fell when he saw tears brimming in Lana's eyes. Quietly, she said, "What?"
"I was born on a planet called Krypton. It's…gone now, but my biological father sent me here. The Kents raised me – they were my parents in all the ways that matter – but they couldn't change the fact that I'm different." He reached out his hand. "It's still me, Lana. Like you said. I'm still Clark Kent."
Lana ignored Clark's hand and cried silently. Clark let her. She hadn't been prepared for it, and Clark knew it. In her world, people with powers were evil, they came from the meteors, and everything was tied up in a bow at the end of the day. He should have primed her first – shown her his powers, given a little show of strength, charmed in her into a feeling of security before dropping the kryptonite bomb.
"You want to see what I can do?" he asked quietly after a few moments. "I can show you some of Chloe's favorite party tricks. There's this one thing with a candle and–"
"What was the other reason?" Lana demanded, her voice laced with anger.
Clark was taken aback. "Reason for what?"
"You said that you…not being from Earth was only one of the reasons you never told me your secret." She leaned in again, looking at Clark with new eyes. "What was the other one?"
"Oh. Right." Clark knew he'd gotten too comfortable. "It's, well…I had nightmares, in high school, about telling you this. I'm really, really sorry." He thought again of the sleepless nights, the overwhelming guilt. "Really."
"Clark." Lana was getting impatient. "I'm still here. Just tell me."
"Jor-el, my biological father, sent me here as a baby – I was three when I landed. There was a little ship my size, and it entered the atmosphere undetected because…something else was tripping up the satellites that day."
Lana's heart sank. The words left her mouth before she had even registered them: "The meteor shower."
"The meteor shower," he said in grave affirmation as all the old guilt flooded back. "The meteor rocks are pieces of Krypton that followed my ship to Earth. I was the reason they came. I'm responsible for all of the people who were infected, for Lex's hair, for…" He stopped, afraid of the words that were about to escape. He choked back emotions he had held in for five long years. "I'm so sorry, Lana."
"Clark." It was beginning to sink in; Lana was starting to regain rational thought. "If everything you told me is true – if you really are from another planet – then you had no control over your own fate, let alone anyone else's." Clark's large hand was resting on the table now, and Lana covered it with her small one. "My parents' deaths were a tragedy, but they weren't a crime." She offered a feeble smile. "It wasn't your fault."
Clark heaved an enormous sigh and tried to smile back. "You have no idea how much I wanted to hear you say that."
"And you have no idea how long I waited to hear the truth from you," Lana said, smiling through her shellshock. She looked down at her hand, rested on top of Clark's. Her voice was faded and distant, almost a whisper, when she said, "You feel so…you look so…human."
Clark pulled his hand back, feeling stabbed by the words. He understood the reaction – he had been expecting it – but it stung nonetheless. He sighed, clasping his hands together, feeling the skin that felt so much like his father's, his mother's, Lana's – except that it wasn't.
"I felt the same way," he admitted quietly. "When I first found out. My dad showed me the ship freshman year, and I freaked." He laughed to himself. "Understandably, I guess. I mean, I felt so human, except for the powers, and I couldn't understand…" He trailed off, daring to look again at Lana, whose eyes were still shining with shock at his admission. "Well, I guess I don't have to tell you what it's like to find out something is alien," he said glumly. "I guess you know."
Lana was still studying him, and now she reached up to touch is face tentatively. She ran her fingertips over his cheekbones, his eyebrows, his nose, his lips. She was examining him, feeling what she had touched so many times before with new awareness. She had always suspected…something; now she could finally have her answers.
"So if I stabbed you, or shot you…" she asked quietly.
Clark smiled, small, to himself. "It wouldn't do you any good. If you're thinking of getting even."
A tight smile escaped her. She brought her hands back to the table. "It's an amazing gift, Clark. And you use it so well."
Clark leveled his gaze. "Well," he said, "there's more."
Lana's face fell, almost imperceptibly. "More…what?"
Clark smiled, stood up, and shrugged on his backpack, which had been perched, packed, on his desk. He held out his arms. "Come here. I'll just show you."
Lana moved toward him, slowly, expecting a hug, or maybe some kind of electric touch. But before she knew what was happening, Clark was scooping her easily into his arms, cradling her against his chest.
"Put your arms around my neck," he whispered, "and hold tight."
Suddenly, they were moving, and everything was blurry, and Lana could do nothing but shut her eyes against the wind and nausea. Her stomach flip-flopped once, like she was on a roller coaster, and then the wind settled. Clark was putting her down and whispering close: "Open your eyes."
Slowly, she did, and she was greeted with a familiar sight: the Metropolis skyline, distant despite the clear air. They were sitting atop the windmill, just as they were years before, in what felt like a different lifetime.
Lana looked up at Clark, who was taking in the view. "We're clear across town," she said, her voice sounding odd through her surprise. "How did we get up here?"
Clark smiled, but avoided her eyes. "I ran," he said serenely, "and then I jumped."
Lana looked off into the horizon, unable to even make out the Kent Farm in the distance. "But…we're so far…" She turned around and Clark was unpacking his bag. On the platform between them lay a crowbar, a candle, and a deck of cards.
"You'll see," Clark said with a smile. "Soon enough."
The curtains in the kitchen fluttered familiarly, and Martha smiled at the subtle change in the air. She peeked through the window and saw Clark set Lana down delicately, concern etched on his face. Lana simply looked dazed; her hair was slightly tangled from the wind and her eyes scoured her surroundings in wonder. Martha knew the look well – she had worn it on the few occasions that Clark had run with her. The adjustment was difficult even for the woman who had cleaned up Clark's inordinately large childhood messes. But she knew that Lana was a smart girl, and she had confidence that the shock would wear off soon.
The door opened and Lana staggered in, no doubt still off balance from the run. Clark kept a large, steady hand on the small of her back, steering her toward the set dinner table. Lana looked up at Martha, her eyes fluttering. "Mrs. Kent, I…I don't know what to say."
"Don't say anything, dear," Martha said gently, setting a glass down in front of her. "Here, have some lemonade."
Clark reached into the oven, gloveless, and pulled out a roasted chicken. "I think she'll feel better once she's eaten something," he said to his mother as Lana slowly sipped her drink. "It's just been a lot for one day."
"Oh, sweetheart," Martha sighed, watching Lana's eyes as Clark set the steaming dish onto the table with his bare hands. "It's been a lot for sixteen years."
Clark ducked his head, embarrassed, and poured a glass of lemonade for himself.
"I understand," Lana said suddenly, her breathy voice piercing the silence. "The secrets, I mean. The lying, and the hiding, and the excuses. I just wish you'd told me sooner. I think I could have taken it."
Clark sat at the table and looked Lana squarely in the eye. "I know you could have. It was just…selfish of me." He ran his fingers through his hair with a heavy sigh. "I didn't want you to look at me like you didn't know me anymore. Like…an alien. Because when someone looks at me that way, it always reminds me that, well, I am one. That I can never be human." Lana started to speak, trying to choose words to soothe him, but his eyes cut her off. "It was what you said, Lana. That I would always be Clark Kent to you. I realized that you're not my friend because I'm human, or normal, or whatever. You're my friend because I'm me. That's when I knew it would be okay."
Martha stood aside, watching the exchange with teary eyes. She had always hated her inability to convince her son that he was human. She was constantly proven wrong, by either the holes in the walls, the spaceship in the storm cellar, or the heat in his eyes. All she had ever wanted for him was the feeling that he belonged, and she was eternally grateful to Pete, Chloe, and now Lana for giving him that affirmation.
Clark was right; Lana did feel better after dinner. And as the sun set over the farm, Clark led her back to the barn so she could see the rest of the story – his sketches of the Kawatche caves, the last remaining parts of the ship, and, later, the arctic fortress. They talked long into the night, reevaluating every paranormal incident, every unexplained miracle, every mysterious rescue that populated their long relationship. The light in the loft was still on when Martha slid into bed, dreaming of a strange and wonderful little boy, now lost to time, and the strong, exceptional man he was becoming.
When Martha awoke, she wasn't surprised that Clark was already gone.