Author's note: This was something I had written awhile ago and hadn't posted. Miranda Lambert's song "The house that built me" was the inspiration. Oh, and I couldn't help a nod to Lois and Clark's Martha Kent and her statement I couldn't help but borrow when she comments on Clark's Superman suit.
Pieces of the Past
The ink of the night sky with countless pinholes of light looked back at the man and woman who stood in the back yard of the old historic farm house in Kansas. Some of the twinkling lights in the heavens were brighter than others, but each meant something, a star, a planet, another place where perhaps someone had viewed Earth the same way.
Elizabeth leaned against the worn doorframe of the old farmhouse and looked into the backyard at the silhouettes of the animals, the barn and the stranger who leaned against the split wood fence in the moonlit night. The moon had almost been full, and cast a pale blue light that revealed where the man stood.
How long had it been? More than a year, definitely five, perhaps ten, no, wait it was longer. It had been quite a few decades since his mother finally passed away, and Clark hadn't been back to the farm much since then. Each time he came back he did the usual repairs, kept things up as time passed. However, living with his wife in Metropolis on two reporter's salaries was reality and it became more difficult with each progressive year for them to keep the farm until one year, until they came to the realization that they couldn't.
"We just can't keep it anymore, Lois," he sighed after looking up frustrated at the annual taxes they had just finished.
"Clark, it's the only home you have left, how can you say that?" She asked in surprise.
"Because we can't afford it. It was my home, but so was Krypton. Look, things change, you know that. Besides," he stood, walked to her and enveloped her in his arms, looking lost in her eyes "you're my wife, we're a family. My home is wherever you are."
Once the decision had been made to sell the farm, he knew it would always be there, it just wouldn't be his. When it did sell to a young couple with a baby on the way, he felt it in his bones that new life would be breathed into it, and it would once again serve its purpose to raise a family in a simple but wonderful existance. They seemed like a good couple, honest, much like Jonathon and Martha Kent as they must have been a century ago.
Clark's feet landed on the vacant road nearby and began his journey down the familiar road he had walked countless times toward the farm house. It had been over forty-five years ago he had sold it and since then he had not returned. True to his word he gave to Lois, wherever she was, he was home. They had bought a house, and raised a son.
Recently, things had shifted in his life, and it became empty. A month ago, after fifty-two years of marriage, Clark buried his wife. It was something he knew would happen, as he aged much slower than Lois.
Loving and marrying a human who understood him so well was an easy decision and one he made without regret but it came with a known price; her death was something he knew would be his penance, however it was one all humans faced when they married, including his parents. But simply knowing that the grief he felt was a common emotion amongst all spouses left behind didn't make the blow any less severe, it didn't make the ache that kept him awake something of fiction. It was real.
He felt lost and the identity of Superman allowed him an escape but it didn't take long for pieces of who he was as a husband, a lover and a friend to disappear. One day when he woke up after months of burying himself in Superman's worldly obligations, he looked in the mirror for the first time in a long time and he wasn't sure who he really was anymore. Clark needed a force to ground him. He'd find it where he always felt the most at home.
Clark needed to feel alive, to remember who he was, where he came from. Clark needed to touch the wood of the barn door, to smell the hay and hear the floorboards creak in the hallway of the house.
Despite having been away for nearly half a century, his memory didn't fail him as the sound of his rubber soled shoes crunched on the gravel driveway. It was almost comforting to see the driveway unpaved as it was when he left it.
As his X-ray vision began to scan the house and found a woman dusting, he exhaled, and allowed the insides of the house to melt away as the exterior came into view again. Clark sighed, dug his hands into his jeans pockets to belay the nerves that had suddenly risen up.
The groan of the third step that led to the front porch gave him pause; some things just didn't seem to change or have been repaired. Thank goodness. As his knuckles rapped across the wooden door that looked as if it had been recently replaced, he held his breath and hoped that whoever lived there would be kind enough to allow him in and look around.
"May I help you?" A brunette woman with streaks of grey stood in the front doorway with her brow crinkled in question of the nature an unexpected stranger brought.
"I hope so," he smiled nervously. "See the thing is, I know you don't know me, but I grew up here on this farm, in this house and I was in the area. If it's not too much trouble I was wondering if you would let me look around for a little while."
"Are you sure you've got the right place?" She eyed him suspiciously. He didn't seem old enough to have been raised on this farm.
Clark turned his head, looking down to the corner of the old concrete sidewalk that began at the driveway and ended at the front of the house. Both sets of blue eyes came to rest on a small set of handprints in the cement with initials CK beneath them. "Those handprints, over by the front steps are mine."
"Well I'm not sure," she hesitated.
"Please, I'm not asking for anything other than some of your time, I promise."
The earnestness in his voice apparent, the woman found herself nodding in acceptance. There was something about this man she felt she had to trust.
The furniture was different, the paint colors too, but it was still the same house and the distinct smell of his home hadn't changed. When his mother didn't turn and appear in the doorway that led to the kitchen, smiling as she always did when he came to visit, Clark realized the moment of deception his powerful memories played upon him. Of course she wasn't there, his mother had been dead nearly fifty years. But strangely enough, a part of him still expected her to materialize.
Clark breathed in deeply as one foot slowly went in front of the other as he took in the living room, noting how strange it felt to see the walls and tables adorned with family photographs that didn't have the Kent family in them.
He smiled as he came across an imperfection in the hallway wall, it was a patch he had fixed after he sneezed and had blown his mother's pewter flower vase through the wall.
The young boy stood in front of the mirror and scrunched his face as he noticed people often did before they sneezed, inhaled deeply, paused and exhaled rapidly. No, that wasn't quite it. There was a noise, and time after time, as much as he tried, the sound wasn't like the real thing.
Maybe if he tried to blow hard as he attempted the sound that he only heard as someone sneezed, maybe that was it. Yes, that had to be it. He almost had it…
Clark threw his head back, scrunched his nose and face, then exhaled with all his might and yelled "Aaachooo!"
No sooner had he done so, the sound of shattering glass and plaster breaking was unmistakable. After a hesitation, he opened his eyes, barely enough to see what he had done, and maybe it wasn't that bad.
Nope, it was. His mother's pewter vase had been sent airborne and crashed through the plaster wall. It was a pretty big hole; he couldn't hide that, or the broken mirror. Yup, he was in trouble.
Tears welled in Clark's eyes as he stared in disbelief at the hole in the hallway he had just created. He had marveled for some time how people sneezed and wondered just exactly how they did it. The hole in the wall was proof enough that maybe it was a good thing he didn't need to sneeze like people did.
"Clark? Are you alright?" His mother's voice heavy with concern came from upstairs growing louder as she flew down the stairs. Martha had frozen as her hands flew to her mouth, she gasped in amazement.
"Mom, I'm sorry, I…"
"What happened?" She rushed and brushed the dark hair that had flopped over her son's forehead.
"I sneezed. I broke the wall. I didn't mean to…" his eyes welled up with tears again as sobs began to cut off his words.
"Oh son, you didn't mean to," she smiled and kissed his forehead, then gave him a hug. "You can help your father fix it, okay?"
The boy grinned and nodded. "Okay."
As Clark moved down the hall the familiar echo of his footsteps along the hardwood floors sounded as if he had never left. Before he left, he had never noticed or appreciated how different the sounds of his footsteps sounded in the old farm house compared to anywhere else. It sounded like home and the countless times he ran up and down the hallway as a young boy as his speed developed, his mother helpless to catch him.
Lost in a wash of childhood memories, he hadn't noticed the woman who lived there had been following him.
"You can go upstairs, it's alright." Her words yanked Clark into the present. He smiled.
Without looking, his hand found the newel post and Clark's fingers trailed along the worn banister as he ascended the stairs. Halfway up, he paused and recalled the countless Christmas mornings he managed to wedge his head between the railings as he sat on a stair, inspecting the presents and the Christmas tree down below.
After his feet carried him up the remainder of the stairs, he turned to see his old bedroom. At the doorway, he paused, leaned against the frame and smiled. It was a boy's room and uncharacteristically neat, his had never been so tidy.
"Your son seems to keep a pretty clean room."
"It helps when he's not here to disturb it." Clark turned and raised an eyebrow in question. "He's away at college. I don't think it was ever this clean when he was here."
"This was my room as a child. And my mom kept it pretty much as a museum for years," Clark recalled after he had returned to earth, his childhood room had remained unchanged as years had passed. In fact, his high school jacket had still been hanging in the closet.
Clark made his way to the window and leaned on the sill, looking at the barn that still stood as it always had. It had been countless times he had looked at the barn, out into the fields and the sky at night, looking up at the stars and wondering if anyone who had sent him to this planet was by some chance, looking back at him and wondered why they had sent him to live on Earth, wherever he had come from.
Before exiting the room, Clark paused, standing in the middle of the room and realized where he stood was the spot where the beginning of something amazing took place. It was where he wore the blue suit his mother made that now the entire world knew it as Superman's iconic uniform.
Martha smiled with her hands on her hips, beaming with pride as the solid and impressive man who stood before her was her son, her boy who had grown into a man. He was no ordinary man; he had amazing abilities that he used to help people, to make the world a better place.
Martha and her son stood in silence for a few minutes, knowing that Clark's life would change forever as soon as he decided to reveal himself to the rest of the world. Part of her selfishly wanted him to remain hidden, it was safer that way and she could still protect him, yet she knew he was meant for something bigger than their family and small farm.
"You know, part of me wants things to stay the way they are. But I know your father was right about you, that you were meant for a bigger purpose, something better. It wasn't an accident you were sent to us." She sensed her son was somewhat apprehensive. "This is the right thing to do, I hope you know that."
"I wish Dad was here."
"So do I. But I know that he's proud of you. We both are. It's time for this to happen."
They both knew that they had approached the point of no return, with the bold blue, yellow and red suit with his Kryptonian family crest, he would stand out. He wouldn't be able to hide and would need to lead a double life.
"Well?" Clark extended both arms and turned to display the incredibly snug fitting suit.
"I think it's great."
"I think it's a bit…well," he turned his head to the side and looked in the mirror with a note of suspicion. "Tight. Don't you think so?"
"I only had so much fabric to work with; besides, it cuts down on wind resistance. I'm glad it stretches as much as it does, otherwise there wouldn't have been enough. You're not exactly a small person, or even close to the same size you were when you got here, you know."
"Yes Mom, I know. But I kind of feel a bit, um, self-conscious."
"About what? You've got the best body I've ever seen, nothing to be ashamed of. All the women will just swoon over you."
"Sorry son, but it's true."
"I just wish it wasn't so tight fitting."
"Honey, they don't call them tights for nothing. And how else would you be able to wear it under your regular clothes?"
"Great, I'm a grown man who wears tights," he grumbled quietly, then spoke louder. "Couldn't you have made it out of the red? There seems to be more of it than the blue." He turned his head over his shoulder as he inspected the long crimson cape that hung from his broad shoulders.
Martha's head shook. "You don't look good in just red. The blue goes better with your eyes."
"I don't think it really matters all that much."
"Of course it does. Don't you think people are going to notice a flying man? You'll probably end up with more than one picture in the papers, and I do not want my son in the news wearing a red suit. Trust me, the blue is better."
Clark re-examined himself in the mirror as his mother rested her chin on his shoulder from behind. "It will just take some getting used to, I guess. Your judgment has never steered me wrong before, I trust you."
"Good," she squeezed his shoulders. "Because I'm not making another. You should see what that fabric did to my sewing machine."
After Clark had wound his way through the second floor and found himself back downstairs, he noted how much the appliances and kitchen had changed, but the layout had remained the same. Despite the gleaming appliances and the slick countertops, he could still see his parents making dinner together, stealing moments when they had thought Clark wasn't looking to dance with each other in the middle of the kitchen when one of their favorite songs came on the radio.
As he passed through the back door onto the porch, he noted how many times his mother or father stood there and called him in for dinner.
He watched the wheat ripple in golden waves as the setting sun glinted off the surface. "We grew wheat too."
"We tried corn for a few years, but the wheat does a lot better."
Clark nodded. "My dad noticed the same thing. You know, people always say how beautiful the sun is when it sets on the water, but I think the sunsets here are highly underrated."
The woman smiled. "Well, not that many people are able to have that privilege I suppose. Most people just drive by farms on the interstate, not many have stopped to look out across a field and admire it."
"Their loss," he smiled over his shoulder at her and continued walking toward the barn. As he did so, the last words his adopted father Jonathan Kent spoke echoed in his ears.
His father's strong arm wrapped around Clark's shoulder as the two of them walked toward the barn past the house. The gravel crunched underfoot.
"When you first came to us, well, we thought people would take you away if they could see of all the things you can do. Then a man gets older and he thinks very differently and things become very clear. There is one thing I do know son, and that is you are here for a reason. I don't know whose reason, or what the reason is…" he trailed and they continued walking. "I don't know," he threw up his hand and shook his head. "But I do know one thing," his father turned and smiled "it's not to score touchdowns."
When Clark had turned around to see his father's frame crumple lifelessly to the ground, he was powerless to stop it. It was a heart attack. It was something that with all he could do, he couldn't save his father. And it was then, that Clark vowed he would do everything within his abilities to save those he could.
Clark leaned on the split rail fence that separated the yard and the fields, rested his frame against it and looked out at the brightly painted sky that grew more indigo as the light faded. He had come to the singular most important revelation of his life a long time ago as he leaned on the fence looking into the setting sky. He learned he could embrace everything about himself and love someone.
After all, it was the place he had realized he loved Lois Lane, and at that very spot nearly sixty years ago on a night quite similar to the present, he proposed to her.
Lois leaned against the fencepost, flustered yet her face seemed somewhat unreadable. It has been a few months since he had told her he was Superman and they hadn't spoken much since then. Clark knew he had to pull his last chance tonight, it was his last ditch attempt to salvage any hope of having the woman he loved in his life. He didn't need much in life as food was a luxury, sleep was something he didn't require much of and even the air was something he could do without for a substantial amount of time. But he needed Lois.
Things at the office had been less than civil; icy perhaps, was a better description. But true to Lois's word, she kept his secret and knew how much he needed her to remain quiet. But she didn't hesitate to make him suffer either, as her subtle jabs or hints didn't go unnoticed.
Clark needed Lois in his life, not as a girlfriend, not as a colleague, but he needed her in a way he had never imagined needing anyone or much of anything else. He just didn't feel whole without her, and a part of him he never knew existed when she wasn't there. He needed her to be his wife. He loved her.
"Lois, I know things have been strained between us lately."
"Really, what would make you say that?" She avoided eye contact and instead, focused her attention on the crimson sky that had strokes of lilac clouds across them in the setting sun.
Clark looked down at his hands, seemingly unaware of what to do with them.
He looked up at her, catching her in the act of actually watching him. "I know you, Lois." She visibly shivered in response to his low voice. "You can't lie to me and expect me to be fine with it."
"I've been busy. You and I are fine."
"No, we're not. And since I've told you the most important detail of my life, you've barely said a word to me."
She sighed, rubbed her temple and turned to him. "You look different without your glasses," she mused.
"You've seen me without them a lot, you've practically been my personal press agent since we met."
"Right. But that's with the suit. I mean, your clothes," she gestured to the unassuming white T-shirt, worn jeans and flannel shirt. "You're different."
He shoved his hands into his pockets. "Is that what bothers you? Do you think I'm a different person because you know both sides of who I am?"
"Do I know you, Clark? You've been awfully good at telling me what you want me to know, and what I thought I knew suddenly isn't the truth anymore. Do you understand how big of an upset in my life that is?" Her voice began to rise. "I didn't ask you to bring me here, and quite frankly, I'd like to go back."
"I'm still the same person, Lois," he responded quietly. "I'm Clark and Superman. They're both just different parts of who I am."
"You were my best friend, and it's different now, everything's changed. I don't know how to be around you anymore."
"Sorry?" Her eyes narrowed as they glinted with tears in the fading light. "Do you think a simple apology is going to fix everything and we can go back to the way we were? Things don't work that way."
"I'm sorry, Lois, but there was never a good time to tell you and before I knew it, I was terrified. Because the longer I knew you, the more I cared about you and the more difficult everything became. I knew that when I told you there was no turning back, and I knew you'd be furious with me. I didn't want to loose you." He slowly approached her, retrieved a hand from his pocket and took her hand in his. "I can't loose you. I love you, Lois."
Her mouth hung open wordlessly as she looked at the diamond solitare ring he placed in her palm. His large hands cupped hers and closed them around the ring. He bent down, kissed her knuckles and kneeled in front of her.
"Lois, I need you. Please, marry me. Will you be my wife?"
Silently, she stepped closer, pulled her hands from his, held the ring in the palm of her hand and let the other hand brush the thick black hair from his face and bent forward as he looked up at her. She met him on her knees and kissed him.
"Yes," she whispered.
The man Elizabeth watched from her back porch remained nameless. He was odd and his simple gestures sent an occasional chill down her spine when his fingers and eyes seemed to grace the surfaces, rooms and farmyard as if he was as much at home as she was. It was strange, because it had been her home as long as she could remember. The bedroom that belonged to her son had once been hers as a child, and the bedroom that she shared with her husband once belonged to her parents. She and her husband were the second generation that had farmed the property but the strange man who was obviously in his mid-forties, late forties at most, claimed he had lived here.
The timeline didn't match up; she grew up in this house, and never hesitated to take over her parents' farm when they grew too old to care for it themselves. It was simply impossible for this man's claim to be true, as their ages seemed similar, yet there was something about him, a longing, an ache so visible in his eyes, she couldn't found herself simply nodded in acceptance and allowed the man who arrived late in the afternoon unannounced to look around at the house he claimed was his old home. Was he mentally unstable with delusions? Perhaps, but he didn't seem that way. He had a quiet nature about him, humble, kind and charming. It was nearly Eight-thirty, and he was still there.
"Sir, are you alright? If you're getting hungry, the restaurant in town is going to be closing soon, and I'm afraid since Joe's at the feed convention in Topeka, I'm just left to sandwiches for dinner, not much exciting."
When the man who still remained in a seemingly meditative state failed to respond to her, she found herself wandering across the yard to him, and she hesitantly placed her hand on his shoulder. He stirred in response to her touch.
"I know you must think I've lost my mind," the man mused.
"No, not really. I'm not much for judging people I don't know all that well."
"The patch in the east side of the barn," he nodded in direction to the nearly two-hundred year old barn.
"How did you know there was a patch there?" She asked in amazement. It was only visible from the inside, and probably seventy-five years old at least, maybe older.
"I helped my dad fix that."
"It's getting late, sir. The two restaurants in town are going to be closing up soon, and I'm afraid I've only got sandwiches for dinner, seeing how my husband's still in Topeka for the annual feed convention." She felt the need to repeat herself in case he hadn't heard her earlier.
The crickets that seemed to drown the noises of the night pressed upon them, and then the man sighed.
"Thanks for letting me come back here, it's meant a lot." As her eyes had adjusted to the low moonlight, her heart leapt as the man's somber face broke into a nearly heartbreakingly handsome smile. "It helped me remember who I am, where I came from. I needed that."
The two stood silently yet oddly comfortable for two strangers.
The man felt the need to speak again. "Have you ever felt that if you just went back to someplace, and touched it, that you'd feel more like yourself again?" He smiled at the fairytale like notion and shook his head. "I'd better be going, I've imposed plenty on you today, and I appreciate your hospitality."
He turned on his heel, paused and with the silvery moon glow to light the farm, glanced longingly at the barn, the yard and the fields of wheat, nearly ready for harvest as if he needed to drink their sight in one last time, then he began to walk down the drive to the chip and oil farm road.
Elizabeth sat cross-legged wide awake with adrenaline despite the old grandfather clock chiming one o'clock in the morning. As her husband was away for the night and her son had just started college, she knew she was alone and felt safe bringing some of what she had found in the barn into the quiet living room.
"It's pretty dark, sir, and if you'd like, I can give you a lift to town," she offered. "It's a far walk, and the town taxi is closed down for the night. You'd be likely to get hit by a car if you walk."
It seemed out of character or common sense to let a stranger poke around her house for the afternoon, and subject herself to possible danger by offering him a ride with just herself as the other sole occupant of the car in a rural area, but there was something about him. She felt it in her core; she just felt on an almost instinctual level that with this complete stranger, she felt safe.
"Thanks, but don't worry about me, I'll be fine."
And there was something in his voice that made her believe he would be.
"Sir?" Elizabeth called out and began to jog, following him down the gravel driveway. He stopped midway to the road and waited for her to catch up.
"Yes," he waited.
She had to ask, as her curiosity had gotten the better of her. "How, how long ago did you live here?"
"It's been quite awhile." He nodded. "When you were a girl, did you ever play in the barn?"
His question seemed out of place. She couldn't help but answer.
"Of course, what child doesn't?"
"Did you ever find the door on the barn floor in the back on the south wall?"
"There isn't a door there."
Another chill swept through her that had nothing to do with the weather. "How long ago did you say you lived here?" He had never directly answered her. It was really something that bothered her, and she had to know. He knew too much about the house, the barn and the property to have landed on her front porch mistaking her house for his childhood home.
"Your parents bought the property from my family, after my mother passed away."
"But that was nearly fifty years ago."
He smiled again, and spoke. "Take care of your family, and the farm. And whatever you find in the root cellar in the barn beneath the door, take care of it. It would mean a lot to me."
"Alright," Elizabeth found herself making an agreement with the odd man. "Goodnight sir. I hope you found what you were looking for."
"You know something? I think I did. Do you think you'd mind if someday I brought my son here to see where I grew up? He might like that."
"No, I wouldn't mind." To be truthful, she didn't.
"Thanks again. Goodnight," he waved, turned his back and didn't look back again as Elizabeth watched him leave.
She turned back to the house and when she reached the front porch, passed and turned to yell something to the man, but he had disappeared. [/I]
Stacks of old newspapers from ages go surrounded the curious woman as she gingerly flipped through the yellow and somewhat brittle pages. As she skimmed, it seemed that it was quite the collection of annual subscriptions to the Daily Planet, and every one of the papers were organized into chronological order, neatly bound by twine older than her.
Despite their age, the stories vividly written jumped off the pages of Superman's first appearance and questions of who he was and where he had come from were printed as ground-breaking news instead of the folklore she grew up with. He was an ageless figure, or perhaps aged slowly, as he seemed slightly older today than he had from the photographs she was looking at from sixty-five years ago. But whatever the case, his presence in Metropolis was something perhaps people had come to accept or grew up with as a norm, as did the rest of the world. Granted, everyone appreciated his help when it was needed, but it had never occurred to her what things must have been like before he existed and how exciting it was when he came to Metropolis.
Fatigue of the late hour had set into her bones and her brain finally relinquished the battle of fighting off her muscles for sleep. After brushing her teeth and settling into the thick covers of her empty bed, she rolled over and looked out the window to the barn that had kept secrets buried for nearly a century.
She knew why the former owners of the house had kept the papers, as the blanket of primary colors with the familiar crest Superman wore was burned brightly into her mind. It had been left in its resting place beneath the barn for quite some time and she had left it there. It felt wrong somehow, to disturb it.
Elizabeth sighed and smiled as she drifted off to sleep. She felt a sense of pride, because on a small farm in the middle of Kansas, was where Superman was raised. She was amazed he felt enough faith in her and her family to keep his secret and his history safe. If he ever wanted to return, she'd gladly let him.
"Don't worry Superman; it's still your home. You're always welcome here."
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