Clark Kent was tired. His old and battered leather briefcase lay open on the table beside him, the unmarked essays within longing for his attention. Much as he loved his job, he would gladly do away with marking thirty senior English assignments scribbled illegibly in scrappy notebooks. Not to say he wasn't proud of his students – he most definitely was, and held each of them in high regard – but he found the endless assessing and correcting of written work to be taxing. He was thankful; at least, that his son wasn't in his class – fiercely competitive at sixteen years old, Sean Jonathan Kent was tall and gangly, with a remarkable resemblance to his dark-haired dad. They shared the same bright blue eyes, and with a height six-two, the boy was sure to reach his father in the near future. Like Clark, he loved the outdoors, and had wanted to be a journalist since he first learned to read. Being responsible for his grades could have been a major cause of trouble at home.
The big man rubbed his eyes wearily and sighed, deciding that the essays could wait. He had more important things to worry about for the moment, such as whether his wife would be coming home or not.
He and Lana were separating. After fifteen years of marriage, she had decided that enough was enough, and told him that she was sick of his "indecision", as she called it, citing his "uninspired" approach to life and "penchant for secrecy" as grounds for a furtive liaison with a coworker. They had tried to keep the truth of it from Sean, and their five-year-old daughter, Martha, to protect them, but Clark was fast becoming aware that they would have to come clean soon and explain the situation, if not the gory details. He had discovered early on that the hardest part of parenting was not dealing with bad behaviour, or cleaning up dirty diapers – it was knowing just how much to share. As Lana had pointed out, he had his secrets, but with Sean fast approaching adulthood he was wondering if he should open up more, and be completely honest. There were some things about him even his soon-to-be-ex wife didn't know.
A small knock on the door interrupted Clark's heavy train of thought, and he turned in his seat to see his small daughter poking her head into the cramped home office-cum-library, filled to bursting with well-loved books and records. Stashed conspicuously on a high-up shelf was a small and shabby red suitcase.
'Dad?' she asked quietly.
He smiled gently and spread his arms invitingly. 'What is it, Martha?'
The small girl made her way through haphazard piles of paper to seat herself on his lap, biting her lip.
'Mom is here. She's in the kitchen.'
Clark stood hastily, lifting the girl onto his hip and glanced out the small window overlooking the driveway.
Sure enough, there sat Lana's gunmetal grey sedan.
'Shoot, I didn't hear her pull up.' He had been waiting for her to arrive all afternoon, and was annoyed that Martha was now caught up in what was sure to be an argument.
Martha clung a little tighter to his shirt as he moved out of the office and into the hallway.
'Stop wriggling, honey.' Clark hoisted her up a bit, higher on his hip, trying to stop her slipping.
'Should I go tell Sean that Mom is here?' she enquired, pointing up the stairs in the direction of her brother's messy bedroom.
He hesitated, choosing his words. 'Not just yet. You can go play in the yard or with your dolls - I'll come get you when I'm done talking to your mother and you can go get your brother then. How's that?'
Martha nodded accord, her messy red hair getting caught on his shirt button as he carefully put her down.
'Run along, we won't be long.'
Clark leaned heavily upon the doorpost, and exhaled. Just a few feet away was the kitchen door, and behind that door, awaiting him, was a probably-very-pissed Lana.
He ran a hand through his hair, already wanting the meeting to be over as he slowly turned the handle and entered the cozy yellow kitchen.
Sure enough, there she was, sitting at the dark wooden table and tapping her fingers against its surface impatiently.
Even when she was mad, she was still beautiful. Her long red hair was tied up in a neat ponytail, and her green eyes could still cut his heart in two. He seated himself across from her, awkwardly folding his tall frame into the chair. He folded his arms across his chest, subconsciously creating a closed body language.
'So.' He said, smiling tightly.
'So,' she repeated, ceasing her tapping.
'I was expecting you earlier, before Sean got home from school.'
Lana grew visibly more irritated. 'Well, I'm sorry. Unlike some people, I often have to work overtime.'
'Oh, believe me, Lana, I know. Tom knows it too.' It was a low blow, he knew, but discovering her fling had cut him deep, and despite his best efforts he wasn't able to forgive her right away. He didn't even know how many times she'd lied to him about where she was after hours.
She blanched slightly. 'That's not what I'm here to talk about, so can we not do this right now?'
He shrugged in a show of nonchalance. 'Well, unless you're ready to tell the kids the whole truth, I don't really know what you want from me.'
Lana spread her hands. 'I've decided that I want Martha to stay with you. Permanently.'
Clark stilled, feeling the tension in the room diffuse somewhat. He looked up and met her pained gaze, unsure of what to say.
'…Are you certain?' he asked quietly.
She nodded slowly. 'I've thought about it a lot. I know things are difficult between us, but I can tell that you two need each other. This is your home, and it's where she's spent her entire life. I can't take that away from her.'
Clark felt there was still more. 'Is that your only reason?'
Lana shifted uncomfortably, reddening. 'Not entirely.'
He let out a little sigh. 'Please, just tell me, else this in-between state will just drag on forever.'
'Tom has asked me to come to Los Angeles with him. I said yes.'
Clark Kent felt winded, as if someone had just punched the air right out of his lungs.
For a few minutes, there was silence.
'Clark?' There was concern in her tone.
Lana looked awkward. 'I think it's for the best.'
He pinched the bridge of his nose in something like resignation. 'Will you tell them?'
The redheaded woman clasped her hands in her lap, thinking.
'I'll tell them why I'm leaving, but I think you should try a little truth too."
His stomach dropped a little bit. "What do you mean?"
She raised an eyebrow accusingly. "You know exactly what I mean. You need to tell Sean the truth about a certain Ms. Lane before he finds out for himself, and hates you for it."
"Lana, I'm not even sure if…if it was her." His deep voice cracked on the last word.
Lana laughed mirthlessly, looking close to tears. "Clark, of course it was her. It's always been her. Our entire marriage I've been trying to work around this other woman – a woman I've never even met. I know you love me, but not as much as you still love her. I'm done settling, and so are you. I love Sean like my own, but he is her son."
Clark was overwhelmed with a flush of anger and unhappiness, not at Lana, but at the biting truth of her words. His calm exterior was betrayed by his faltering voice. "Lana, you know that I can't do that."
"The man I married could do anything. He was wonderful."
The tall man bowed his head. "If this is all about what's in that locked red suitcase, I can tell you. If you want to know what I never told you, just say so. But don't ask me to ruin my son's life."
She shook her head. "That time is past. I want to know, but you don't want to tell me. Sharing it now is worthless. I've always accepted that you were different, but since you arrived back in town years ago with your son you've shied away from whatever it was that made you you. Clark Kent is a shadow. You're a wonderful man, kind, generous, and a fantastic father, but you're not mine."
"And that's why you're with Tom." It wasn't a question.
Outside in the fields, the warm afternoon sun was settling into a pale dusky blue that cast grey shadows over the seemingly endless patches of golden corn.
Lana glanced at her watch. "I have to go."
"Before you go…" he paused. "You're wrong to think I didn't love you enough. And please, go see the kids. They miss you."
She ignored his first comment, and smiled awkwardly. "Of course I will. I'm their mother. That hasn't changed."
Clark stood, and stretched his tall frame as he looked about the room at the unwashed dishes, realizing just how much work he had to do.
Lana pushed back her chair and made her way to stand beside him, patting his arm uncomfortably. She seemed to know what he was thinking, and tried to offer some reassuring words.
"Clark, don't stress. This is hard – break ups are supposed to be. But you'll do great. We'll all come out of this as happier and stronger people, so don't be too hard on yourself. You're not Superman, after all."
Clark momentarily centred his attention on a loose thread hanging from his shirt, avoiding Lana's gaze. "You're right, I'm not."