Author's Notes: Thanks again to my reviews, I really appreciate your feedback. Here's another chapter! Caution: mild Lana/Clark ahead. This is a Clark/Lois story all the way, but these scenes were necessary at this point in time because I write this story in the interest of keeping it realistic.
~ Personal Trials ~
In the early hours of Monday morning, every member in the Kent household realised they had taken sleep for granted.
The baby would cry each hour until eleven at night, and by then everyone had gone to bed thinking they could sleep until sunrise, at least. It was just after three in the morning when the baby started crying again. Clark still hadn't adapted to waking suddenly, and had to blink a few times to make sure he was awake enough to leave the couch so he could tend to his son.
Lois was much less adapted.
While Clark lifted the crying infant from the cot, which was only several feet away from where he'd been sleeping on the couch, Lois made her way downstairs in a disgruntled, half-sleep state. She had a pillow under her arm and a "Do Not Disturb" blindfold sitting on her head, which had been removed so she could see the clock on his bedside table, then stumble her way down the stairs in her fluffy slippers and helicopter-printed pyjamas.
Clark tried not to take much notice of her as he held his quieting son close to his chest. After he had fed, changed, and soothed the baby, Clark placed the boy back inside the cot in hope he'd sleep for several more hours. Instead, the crying broke the regained silence of the house. The sound startled Lois awake from where she'd fallen asleep standing near the kitchen counter, using her pillow against the surface to rest her head.
~ E ~
When the bright sun rose over the green farmland of the Kent residence, everyone was up and dressed as they prepared for breakfast.
Martha and Jonathan had gone to bed earlier than the teenagers, knowing they'd need any extra rest they could get, which was likely the reason they looked relatively awake and active, whereas the other pair were quite the opposite.
Clark lay awake on the couch, staring upwards at the ceiling, while his son gurgled talkatively in the cot beside him. Lois was at the counter with her head down as she tried to sleep for a few extra minutes; she was dressed in a pair of jeans and one of Clark's shirts as she'd been too tired to locate the rest of her own clothes.
'Don't babies at that age sleep properly by now?' Lois groaned from the inside of her elbow, which she was using to shield her eyes from the penetrating sunlight and existence of the bright, Monday morning.
'Usually.' Martha answered by the stove, where she was making pancakes for breakfast. 'It's different for every baby. I think he's just going through an adjustment period. This is a new situation for him too, and a new home. He's probably missing his mother.' She said sadly.
The only response she got from Lois was incoherent mumbling, as the teenager sat upright and blinked at the blinding sunlight. Lois reached across the counter to snatch the cup of coffee placed in front of her. She curled her fingers around it and she clung to the item as though it was her sole lifeline.
Jonathan found it amusing, and shared the look with his wife when he passed her on the way to the fridge. The current time of day bothered him the least; Jonathan was used to getting up at this time to feed the cows and do his early-morning chores. He was woken multiple times during the night because of the crying, but otherwise Jonathan felt like he did most mornings – ready to face the new day after a filling breakfast.
Martha seemed to be handling it the same as Jonathan, and for a moment they each forgot how drastically different their lives already were, compared to a mere several days ago. But during breakfast that Monday morning, the pair believed everything was going to be okay and they'd deal with the new situation as a family, like they always did when something new and unexpected happened in their lives.
'Do you think he knows who I am?' Clark finally spoke, reminding the others he was still there.
He'd been so quiet since they'd come downstairs to prepare for the day that for a while it seemed as though he wasn't even there.
Exhaling, Clark rose from the couch and moved to sit across from Lois, where she'd slumped into a chair at the table. He kept the cot in his line of sight over her shoulder, always keeping his son in view as he so often did since the baby was brought into their home barely a few days ago.
'It's hard to say.' Martha answered. 'Maybe.'
'He does seem calmer when you're around, Clark.' Jonathan added. 'It's possible.'
'I hope so.' Clark looked over at the cot again, watching with amusement when the baby started kicking his legs and giggling. 'He's certainly well-behaved.'
'Speak for yourself, Smallville.' Lois grunted. 'That baby is a menace to my ears.'
'Hey, you chose to stay here.' Clark defended.
'A decision I'm now regretting.' Lois grumbled and sluggishly got up to refill her coffee cup to the brim.
There was a knock at the door and everyone apart from Lois, whose priority was to gulp down her third cup of coffee, turned to see who it was. Clark rose from his chair quickly and felt nervous, unsure how to react when he saw who their early-morning visitor was.
'Lana.' He whispered.
'Hi.' She said quietly and pushed open the screen door. 'May I come in? Sorry it's so early.'
'Early?' Lois rolled her eyes, placing the empty cup on the counter louder than necessary. 'Here, who needs sleep?' She said sarcastically and moved to pass by Lana. Pausing at the doorway, she placed a hand on the other girl's shoulder.
'Proceed with caution.' Lois nodded.
And seconds later, her car was pulling out of the driveway before anyone could object, and she was gone.
'So it's true?' Lana spoke softly, her gaze trailing to the living room where the cot was, while Clark invited her inside.
Even though the back of the cot was facing the door, it was at an angle so anyone near the table could see inside, which was something Clark had done strategically. It also meant Lana had a clear enough view of the kicking, arm-waving baby inside, contentedly laying on his blue blanket.
'Chloe told you?' Clark guessed.
He appreciated his parent's actions then, as his father went outside to give them their space, and his mother distracted herself with cleaning up the kitchen as though she couldn't overhear them.
Even so, Clark just wished he knew what to say.
'She told me you asked her to.' Lana looked at Clark, her eyes wide with disbelief and her tone wasn't quite her own. 'She said you couldn't find the words.'
'She's right.' Clark sighed, turning his gaze downward so he didn't have to face her.
'I think it's wonderful that you're doing the right thing.' Lana nodded. 'I mean, you only found out a few days ago that you're a father and here you are looking after him.'
'Thanks, Lana.' Clark exhaled and reluctantly met her gaze. 'To be honest I...this is not how I thought you'd react.' He smiled a little, though it had the underlining of a wince.
Maybe he had been silly not to tell her himself, if she was reacting this well? Though, she'd had an entire day to process, he assumed.
'After seeing you with Evan, Clark, I wasn't worried.' Lana offered him a similar smile in return. 'Chloe said he doesn't have a name yet. Do you have anything in mind?'
'No, nothing yet.' Clark didn't want to admit he hadn't even thought about it.
For now he was coming into terms with the situation and working out how he was going to handle it, so the fact his son needed a name was still low on his priority list.
'Well, many parents often name their children after people they care about. What about Ryan, or even Evan?' Lana suggested.
'It's a good idea, Lana.' Clark sighed. 'But I want him to have his own name, so he can be his own person – someone who doesn't have to live up to the reputation that someone else was.'
'Can I meet him?' Lana smiled.
'Oh, sure.' Clark walked over to the cot and lifted his son out.
The baby was dressed in a blue baby-suit, with red socks, and without a hat on his head his dark hair was free to curl in every direction. Passing him over to Lana, Clark noticed she still remembered how to hold a baby from when they'd looked after Evan, even if it had only been for a short time.
'Hello.' Lana whispered to the little boy.
The baby stared up at her, his brown eyes filled with curiosity, as he seemed to wonder who she was, but had little objection to being held.
'You're very lucky.' Lana said. 'Because I know your daddy is going to take really good care of you.'
Clark smiled at the praise and only hoped he could fulfil the promise.
'So, what did you think?' Chloe asked Lana after she'd briefly shared the story of her visit to the Kent farm that morning. The girls stood in the office of the office of the high school newspaper, The Torch.
'I don't know. To be honest, it was still a shock.' Lana shrugged. 'But I have faith in Clark. And he seemed to be handling it really well, considering.'
'Considering he's a teenager who's suddenly a father by a girl he doesn't remember and who never told him she was pregnant?' Chloe finished bluntly. 'I agree. I mean, in his place I probably would have lost it for at least a week before I could focus. That's Clark though, he always pulls through when someone needs him.'
'Yeah, he does.' Lana nodded. 'And the way he is with the baby...it's just like with Evan, only the look in his eyes is stronger. He almost seems at ease, but there's something else - like he's already really protective of that baby. I'm kind of glad it was proven to be his son. Can you imagine how Clark would feel if someone had to take the baby away from him?'
Chloe hadn't been around Clark or the baby long, but she had seen the same expression and noticed the significant emotion in his tone when he spoke of or to his infant son. She knew the same answer Lana was thinking, and it worried her.
'He'd be crushed.' Chloe whispered the truth.
Both girls jumped when the door suddenly opened and Clark walked in as he usually did, except with a serious expression on his face and darker lines under his eyes. He wasn't human so his ability not to sleep and still function was still higher than those around him. Even so, the impact on his energy and well-being was more emotional than physical.
'Sorry I'm late.' Clark sighed, but didn't have to explain. They knew he'd had an enduring night with the baby's crying and then trying to put the boy down again.
They nodded with understanding and waved off his apologies.
'Well, I better go.' Lana said and turned to leave. 'I'll talk to you later?'
'Sure.' Chloe nodded and glanced at Clark once their friend had left. 'Rough night?' She smiled knowledgeably.
'It's bad enough without Lois coming downstairs and giving me hell for it, like it's somehow my fault she's woken up by a baby who doesn't want to sleep normal hours.' Clark complained.
Because Chloe knew her cousin would do something like that, she only found this to be amusing, even as she sympathised with those who tried to get any sleep or peace at the Kent farm these days.
'Were you able to get anything from the hospital cameras?' Clark brought up the subject of pre-class their meeting.
'Yes, and no.' Chloe sat at her computer and showed the security footage on her screen. 'She kept her back to the camera the entire time, both days. I wasn't able to get much off it other than to confirm she has light-coloured hair, and everything happened exactly as the witnesses said they did.' Chloe detailed, while Clark watched the black-and-white footage of the girl who had mothered his son.
'She came running in, chaos ensued, and while they took the baby she pretended to fill out the insurance forms. The second the receptionist turned her back, she dumped the forms and discreetly left. No one noticed a thing until afterwards.' Chloe sighed. 'How could she just do that, Clark? That's her baby, her child, and she just left him there.'
'I've been asking myself the same thing, Chloe.' Clark replied. 'What about the next day? Dr Malcolm said he found the letter on his desk when he came in Sunday morning.'
'She must have gone in another way because I couldn't find any footage of her coming in.' Chloe reported. 'I did managed to find her leaving, though. But Clark, she planned this.' She turned in her chair to gaze at her serious-looking friend.
Chloe didn't want to tell him, but it was the truth and he needed to know it wasn't a last-minute decision for the mother to leave the hospital without the baby. It was her intention to leave her child behind, since before she even set foot inside the hospital.
'She knew where the cameras were, what times were busy, and the best way in or out without anyone being able to trace her. The baby had no clothes because they might have been able to trace them back to her otherwise, right? This girl came and went without anyone being able to track her down.' Chloe lowered her gaze and paused as she thought about her own words, and the disbelief she felt towards the mother of Clark's adorable son.
She had been around their age, but even with the pressures and shock of the situation, Chloe thought it should have been harder for a mother to abandon her infant child. The woman in the security footage was cautious and strategic, but otherwise mostly relaxed and relieved in her actions to leave the baby at the hospital.
'I hate to think someone could be capable of that, but I don't think she's coming back for her son, ever. I wonder if she even wanted him in the first place.' Chloe shared her opinions, as sad and cold as they were.
'She kept him for six months, Chloe.' Clark leaned away from the computer screen, his eyes narrowed with determination to believe in people until he had a reason to think otherwise.
The girl had taken his son to the hospital, not the side of a street, so she wanted him to be cared for and raised by his father.
'That has to stand for something, right?'
'Maybe.' Chloe shrugged. 'What was in the letter she left you? I don't mean to pry, but did it tell you anything useful? I might be able to compare her handwriting-'
'No.' Clark said simply. 'I have to get to class. Thanks, Chloe. But I doubt we're going to find her until she wants to be found. I think we should drop it for now.'
Chloe watched Clark walk away with a puzzled look on her face. She wondered what was in the letter because Clark Kent did not give up or stop trying, especially when a baby's mother was involved. She wondered if he was scared his son would be taken away if they found the mother, but Chloe knew Clark was too good a person to not at least try, for the sake of the baby.
He certainly knew more than she did, of that Chloe was certain.
~ E ~
Clark thought being back at school was going to be hard, but no one gave him a second glance.
His classmates and teachers were as oblivious to his personal situation as he'd hoped. He hadn't really expected Lana or Chloe to tell anyone, yet Clark had an irrational belief that everyone would stare and point at him once he walked through the main doors. Instead, for the most part, it could be considered just another day of school. Except, Clark thought things at Smallville High looked different or out of place. He spent a while trying to work out if the walls were a shade darker, or the floors more reflective than before, and if anyone he knew had undergone a dramatic change of appearance.
Everything and everyone looked the same, yet somehow it was all different.
By the end of the day, Clark knew nothing about school had changed even a little. He was the one who was different. Nothing looked as it once did because his perception had altered and his priorities shifted. He felt disconnected from the building he had spent years inside, and every person he passed in the hallway or shared a classroom with. Clark reminded himself constantly that he only had to endure school for one more week, then he was free.
The fact did nothing to reassure him, not even a little.
The previous day, when Clark had sat alone in his loft to get a break from the baby's cries and Lois' complaining, he'd mused about what school might be like. Clark thought he'd feel awkward and unsure around Lana, while Chloe tried to support him in her own way. He expected to look at them and see their lingering shock or sympathy. It turned out to be nothing like that. In fact, there was no indication from Lana or Chloe that showed there was anything on their minds other than the last of their homework, getting their yearbooks, and the pending graduating ceremony less than a week away.
Clark and his classmates had already taken their final exams, and all that was left was to get through their last week of school. If anyone asked him what he'd done at school on Monday, or what his teachers had talked about, Clark wouldn't have an answer to give. All he was aware of was his own mind and the thoughts racing through it faster than those around him could speak. The rest of his body was in auto-pilot to move to and from his classrooms, with Clark being alert enough to prevent himself from walking through a wall or knocking someone over.
Otherwise, he was lost in his thoughts all day, remembering the discussions he'd had with his parents about his future. They'd talked about it the day before he'd discovered he was a father of a six-month-old little boy, and though it was only a few days ago, it felt as though lot of time had passed since then.
When he wasn't pondering on the past few days, worrying about his future, and trying not to ignore his friends when they talked to him, Clark mentally questioned himself as he tried to figure out what to name his son. Once Lana had mentioned it that morning, Clark had been trying to think of ideas. No names seemed to stand out, and something that sounded good in the morning he thought was ridiculous by the afternoon.
Ignoring the school bus, Clark decided to walk home when the school day ended.
He felt the air of freedom the moment he walked away from the institution of high school. Clark thought he'd worry about leaving his infant son at the farm with his parents while he was at school, but instead Clark felt guilty for being relieved at a chance to get away. He knew his parents would look after the baby, but it was more a fact of the relief to not to face the crying when Clark needed to think about what he was going to do. It wasn't the baby himself, who Clark already cared about and wanted to protect, but rather the situation that strained him every time he had to face it.
Stopping at the bridge Lex had once driven through, Clark rested his elbows on the railing and looked down at the water below.
Once again, the world faded away from Clark and succumbed him inside his own mind, where he focused on other things he felt needed to be taken into consideration. Such as Lex Luthor. He still lived in Smallville, and was no longer a friend of Clark's. Lex's obsession over Clark could extend to his to his still-unnamed son and it really scared Clark. His son was six-months-old; he didn't know about protecting his father's cover or lying to evade possibly revealing situations. And as a baby, he relied solely on those around him, making him vulnerable to anyone who came near him.
Clark spent the entire day thinking, and still it gave him no further clarity than he'd had at sunrise.
He pushed away from the railing and turned to head home. Clark could have super-sped the entire distance in seconds, but decided to walk the whole length in attempt to do some last-minute thinking before he had to deal with reality again.
Walking up the driveway and into the house, Clark dumped his schoolbag by the couch and moved to the cot where his son was sleeping. He'd seen his father in the field on the tractor, and heard his mother doing laundry in another room. Clark wasn't worried and merely sank onto the couch, exhaling a long breath as quietly as he could, careful not to wake the baby.
In a few days he would be graduating from High School.
His plans for college had been crushed and Clark knew his parents could not afford to pay for a baby on their own in addition to the current expenses with the farm, which they still had to maintain regardless of any need to babysit. His son had Kryptonian DNA, but he was probably human as well and that swamped Clark. Would the baby grow up to develop powers or would he seem completely human?
And so the contemplations and endless questions continued, until two hours later, when his parents asked him how his day was.
'Fine.' Was the only answer Clark could give them without lying.
With all his expectations for the day, he'd hoped to get home and see his parents doting on the baby, now they'd accepted the child as part of their family. However, seeing the way they looked at the cot, Clark recognised the sadness in their eyes. He guessed they still thought he'd made a big mistake and was too young to take this kind of parental leap yet. He couldn't really disagree with them, even as Clark was trying to do the best he could for the baby, but the truth in his parent's eyes was discouraging and his circling doubts returned.
When Clark got up from the couch to change the baby's nappy, he used his super-hearing to eavesdrop on his parents, who were upstairs folding laundry. They thought he was much more vulnerable now he had a baby to care for, and he had so many plans he would have to give up. They mentioned possible dangers and what might happen if Lex found out. Clark began to doubt himself even further, and a sense of helplessness began to sink in, making him feel lost and conflicted.
Clark lifted his son into his arms and stared down at those big, brown eyes. The baby sighed and placed his head against Clark's shoulder. Holding his son close, Clark called out to his parents to let them know he was taking the baby for a walk, and headed out the door before they could object or question him.
Clark knew what he had to do.
He walked the entire way, though somewhat faster than he usually did, until he reached the Kawatche caves.
He intended to try and communicate with Jor-El, even if he still felt resentful and hesitant. Clark wanted answers, but more than that he hoped he could tell someone what was going on and not see the disappointment or worry he saw in the depths of the gazes of everyone around him who knew. With Jor-El, Clark could only hear it, and he assumed it would be easier to deal with.
Stepping inside the familiar cave marked with Kryptonian symbols and drawings, Clark held his son with one arm and used his spare hand to shine the torn over the symbols on the walls. They supposedly predicted his life and presence before his arrival, but the walls had no place for his recent, unexpected situation.
Not that he was aware of, anyway.
As Clark ventured closer to the main wall, where the key used to fit in the similarly-shaped hole, he glanced around cautiously to make sure they were alone, even if he knew they were.
'Jor-El?' Clark called out. 'I need to speak with you.'
Not even a whisper in the air.
Clark tried again, several times, but the result was the same - total silence, apart from the gentle wind and his own breathing. Not even the baby was making any noise, as he drooled on Clark's shoulder and gripped his father's shirt with his small hands.
'Jor-El!' Clark called again. 'I have a son! Or at least that's what I believe. He's got Kryptonian DNA and I don't know what to do.'
He ducked his head and felt horribly defeated. He almost dropped his torch when a bright light beamed down onto himself and the baby. His son cried at first, likely from being startled, but soothed when he realised he wasn't being harmed.
'The child is of your blood, Kal-El.' Jor-El's voice finally spoke around them. 'He may be Kryptonian, but he is also half human. Such a hybrid has never existed before. How did this happen?'
'I don't know.' Clark replied, feeling a rush of relief to being answered and having it undoubtedly confirmed the baby was his son. 'It was after you tricked me into coming here.' He frowned with distrust, the blame evident in his tone. 'Did you do something to cause this?'
'What occurred during those nine days was not my doing, Kal-El.' Jor-El told him. 'This hybrid is your son and the child will show his Kryptonian side.'
'What do I do?' Clark pleaded for advice. 'I don't know how to be a father or even if I'll be a good one.'
'The personal trial of parenthood far exceeds any I could have set for you, Kal-El.' The voice responded. 'You asked for guidance, but in this instance you do not need it. The answers lie within yourself, my son. The struggles you face at the beginning of this new journey may benefit from a change of perspective, if you are lacking in direction. Becoming open to new possibilities, in an alternative surrounding, may be the key to gaining the knowledge and strength you require to overcome these unexpected trials.' Jor-El continued while Clark listened and tried to work out what he was supposed to do.
'It may be a crucial step to figuring out your own son's destiny. His life is in your hands, Kal-El. I know you will make me proud.' Jor-El finished and the light faded, plunging the pair into the torch-lit darkness of the cave.
Clark knew, as he always had, that his biological father was gone and all that remained was a voice of a person no longer there. When everything around him became still and silent once more, Clark felt alone. The only contradiction was a shift of movement in his arms caused by an alarmed, yet oddly content, baby boy.
Clark looked down at his son, from what he could see in the dim light, and saw his brown eyes staring up at him. The baby watched him quietly, then reached his hand to touch Clark's cheek in a small gesture of comfort. He didn't know how much the baby understood, but Clark liked to believe his son was letting him know he wasn't alone.
As the day of his High School graduation ceremony arrived, everyone thought Clark looked like any other graduate, with the additional impression of a man who had everything figured out. No one knew he had gone to see Jor-El, and neither did they know what was handwritten in the important letter from the mystery mother. They were clueless, but uncomplaining about his shift in mood and boost of confidence, which was something Clark was very thankful for.
His friends had left an hour ago to get ready. Clark remained in his loft, overlooking the sight of the farm, until Lois joined him. She didn't say much, as she added the final touches to his appearance and fixed his tie.
When she turned to leave him to his thoughts, Lois looked over her shoulder and stared at him. She smiled in a way Clark considered to be encouraging, despite her joke about praying to God he won't trip on the stage when his name is called.
Her gaze, lasting only a few seconds, reassured Clark he was going to be okay.
Listening to the fading footsteps of Lois, Clark returned his attention to the horizon. His parents were in the house looking after the baby, which they'd promised to at Clark's request. It was his day, and they respected that, as they wanted him to enjoy it and not worry about where his son was or if he needed tending to.
Clark stayed in his loft for a while, looking over at the farm with a reminiscence expression, thinking of all the times he'd spent there growing up. Reaching into his pocket, Clark pulled out the crumpled pink letter from the mother of his child. It was folded and creased, as he had read it over so many times in the last few days.
Sighing, Clark moved to sit on the sofa to gaze upon its page once again.
I'm so sorry for doing this to you, I really am.
I never told you I was pregnant and you had no warning that this would happen. No doubt you have some great life planned for yourself, but I had to do this. I'm really sorry for everything I've put you through. You're the last person on Earth that I ever wanted to hurt.
You were my first, Clark. I don't regret what happened between us, only the outcome. To be honest, though I don't remember a single other guy in my life at the time, I'm still not 100% convinced you're his biological father. But you are the best person I know to raise him. I know we both don't remember much about what happened, yet I think it's better this way.
I don't want to be found and I'm not going to make it easy for you if you try. He's your responsibility now. I don't think he was ever meant to be my son...he was always only yours.
Maybe one day you will find him a proper mother who loves him.
I didn't gave him a name because that's your right more than mine. I still don't understand how you couldn't remember your last name or where you lived. I guess it's all a mystery we'll never solve, and I'd rather leave it all in the past where it belongs. I wish you all the best for the future and I hope I haven't ruined it too much. You're an amazing person and I will never forget you.
Thank you for being a part of my life, Clark.
To anyone else, the letter might have appeared simple and rather unrevealing.
Clark knew better.
The single letter "K" wasn't much to go by, but it was a clue in itself. Plus, she said in the letter that he couldn't remember his last name or where he lived, but the details were a part of the forms she'd left behind at the hospital, so the police could locate him as the father.
Chloe was right; whoever "K" was, she had planned and researched her act of abandonment.
Everything she did was done to ensure Clark would, without a doubt, be granted sole custody of her baby. He had no idea who she was, or why she'd done what she had, but Clark doubted she would be coming back any time soon. It made him sad, that perhaps it was what she wanted, to never see her son again or have any part in raising him.
Walking to his desk, Clark lifted a framed picture of his own father and hid the letter between the back of the frame and the photograph. Replacing it on the desk, Clark checked it over and was confident the only way to know the letter was there was to have prior knowledge of its exact location. Content it was seemingly erased from existence, he sank into the desk chair and looked towards the outside scenery once again.
It was the day of his graduation, and while he was dressed to take part in the event, his mind was far from concerned for the coming hours. Hearing footsteps, Clark lowered his gaze to the floor and didn't look over at his visitor until his father spoke.
'Are you okay?' Jonathan asked.
Clark paused, taking a moment to think of a response. He wasn't miserable or regretful, but Jonathan knew something weighted heavily on Clark's mind, which is what had triggered the question.
Clark was confident his father did not suspect.
'Can I answer that in about five years?' Clark returned in a passive tone. He let the silence fall over them, making it clear he didn't want to discuss anything serious right now, and perhaps not anytime soon.
Not on this day.
'Lois is saying goodbye.' Jonathan said after a moment. 'She's heading back to Metropolis.'
Clark nodded only in acknowledgement. He wasn't sure what to say, and showed no interest in going to say goodbye because he knew he could see Lois any time he wanted. She always had a way of being there, anyway. Lois annoyed him, but Clark didn't dislike her at all. However, when the city was mentioned, Clark looked over towards the exteriors of the loft with a thoughtful expression.
'Clark?' Martha joined them, though he'd heard her coming, especially since she was wearing soundly high-heeled shoes. 'We're leaving in ten minutes. Are you coming with us?'
'Yeah.' Clark nodded and stood upright to re-adjust his tie in front of the mirror. 'I'll be there in a minute.'
'We're so proud of you, son.' Jonathan smiled. 'You've got the whole future ahead of you now.'
Clark narrowed his eyes at his father's words, and looked towards his equally smiling mother. Their words of support and pride didn't lift his mood, or ease his mind. Sighing, he shook his head and turned to exit the barn.
'My future has changed.' Clark said as he walked away.
Jonathan and Martha stood in the loft, having only just heard his words as he'd left. They were concerned, but determined to help Clark get through this stage in his life. They knew he had a lot on his mind, so they let him be for now. They had faith in their son and assumed he would talk to them when he was ready.
As Clark continued on his path towards the house, he passed Lois just outside the barn and had to do a second-take. He only realised now, that while his parents had been talking to him, his son wasn't with either of them.
'What?' Lois frowned at his look as she readjusted the baby's weight in her arms. 'Someone had to watch him while you and your parents had a heart-to-heart.' She shrugged, as though it was nothing, but Clark knew this was the first time she had ever held the boy.
Clark didn't comment, only smiled.
He looked at his son's young face and the way his dark hair matched his own. The baby was so peaceful in Lois' arms that it almost looked unnatural, with all the complaints she'd given about the crying and drooling, and how convinced she was that the baby would only wail in her presence.
'I guess he's not so bad after all.' Lois also looked down at the baby. 'Too bad he's related to you.' She teased.
'I heard you're going back to Metropolis?' Clark took his son from her.
'Yeah.' Lois exhaled, relieved to not be holding a baby any longer. 'Maybe I'll see you there sometime?'
Clark wasn't going to answer, as he had other things to focus on, but the almost hopeful look on her face made him hesitate.
'Maybe.' Clark nodded.
'Well, I'll see you around, Smallville.' Lois said and headed for her car.
'Goodbye, Lois.' He whispered.
~ E ~
His voice was called out and echoed in Clark's ears.
He walked onto the stage, in his graduation attire, and accepted his high school diploma. The applause of the crowd made him turn in the direction of the onlookers and grin, holding his roll of paper to show them. Lois, who had decided stay long enough to see his ceremony, whistled and Martha called "Yeah, Clark!", which only amused him further. His father took pictures, as he stood with Martha and Lois on either side of him, and smiled proudly at his son. Beside Martha sat the blue and grey stroller, which contained his infant son. The baby's interest was elsewhere, despite the noise and colours around him, as he drooled happily onto his rubber toy shaped as a letter "S".
Clark stepped down from the stage and continued to smile, even if he felt anxious inside. He looked around and waited until the ceremony was over before he approached his small group of those who cared about him. Lifting his son from the stroller, Clark was aware that several eyes were on him, but no one seemed too interested in him, or the baby in his arms, when they had their own celebrations to focus on.
'Well done, son.' Jonathan clapped Clark on the back, while Martha tried not to become emotional.
'Yeah, and you didn't even trip.' Lois teased. 'Too bad, it would have at least given me something to write about.' She pouted.
'So you're really working at the Daily Planet now?' Clark asked, using a tissue to wipe some of the drool from his shoulder.
'I'm thinking about.' Lois nodded. 'It's not as bad as I thought it would be, and it pays the bills.' She shrugged.
'Good for you, Lois.' Martha smiled with encouragement.
Clark stood in the isle as he watched his parents talk to Lois, becoming too distracted to hear what she was actually saying to them. Clark glanced over the crowd and saw Chloe amongst his former classmates, and Lana. They were both smiling in celebration of their successful graduation.
His friends and family were so happy at this moment, and it was how he wanted to remember them.
Clark held his son very close to his chest and super-sped through the crowd of students and their families. Because of his speed, the entire two seconds were much longer to him. Everyone was almost frozen as he ran by, seeing the grins of joy and pride all around him. He saw those who would be going on to college, getting full-time jobs, finding someone special to spend their lives with, or making a name for themselves somewhere in the world. None of them had any reason not to strive for whatever dream they wanted to achieve for themselves.
They were all hopeful and eager to embrace their new freedom, to explore and welcome their futures.
To Clark, it was the longest two seconds of his life. He made sure to gaze at every face, every person, and take in each detail he could. Looking over his shoulder, just before he turned around the corner of a nearby public toilet building to hide out of sight, he caught a final glimpse of his parents with Lois. They didn't realise he was gone yet, and they wouldn't until it was too late.
Clark looked at his son with concern once he was concealed from the crowd on the other side of the building. He had never dared to speed in such a way while holding the infant before, and only did it now because he knew it was the only way he could slip aside unnoticed. The fear had become considerably less when Jor-El had told him his son's Kryptonian side would one day become clear as well. And the boy handled it well, even gurgling with amusement, as though the entire event had been rather enjoyable.
Clark stood there a moment longer, listening sadly to the sounds of cheering and chatter in the background, which he felt would take a long time to drown out even after he'd long left the scene.
Turning, he sped home without his loved ones realising he was no longer beside them.
Reaching the house, Clark placed his son inside the baby basket sitting on the coffee table. It mirrored the day when his ordeal had first begun. Except, instead of sitting to stare at the baby, Clark sped around the house to collect and pack several items he needed, and as much as he could take with him. With his speed and strength, it was still a considerable amount of luggage.
Stopping at the basket, Clark reached inside and lifted out his red and gold dressed son. Even though he knew it would still take time for the truck to reach the farm, if his parents had noticed his absence yet, Clark did not want to waste any time. A few minutes of delay could crumble his decision, along with his determination to go through with the plan.
Clark held his son tight, and made sure he had all the things he could gather to take with them. He sped out of the house, letting the screen door swing closed behind him.
A second later, he returned only to drop a letter on the counter.
Leaving a cloud of trailing dust in his wake, Clark sped through the driveway and followed the long road towards the city of Metropolis.
~ E ~
An hour later, a red truck pulled up outside the house and his frantically worried parents rushed inside to look for Clark. They called his name and searched every place they could think of, but with no result or clue as to where their son had gone, or why.
They returned to the house to take a moment to breathe and come up with a new strategy, and that was when Martha Kent noticed the letter on the counter by the fruit bowl. Unable to face what it may contain, as Clark's handwriting printed "Mum and Dad" plainly on the front, her imagination took over and she sank into a nearby chair.
Martha was upset by the mere sight of it, but Jonathan knew someone had to read it if they wanted any kind of an answer to where their son had gone. He approached it and slowly unfolded the paper, lowering his gaze to read the contents neatly written within.
Mum and Dad,
I didn't mean to leave without saying goodbye or explain why this is what I have to do for my son's future and my own. I knew that if I stayed to tell you and actually say goodbye, I wouldn't be able to go through with it and you would convince me to stay.
I'm sorry, because I never meant to hurt you and I know that I did. This won't be forever, but I really need my own perception and to figure out what's best for my son. I can't do that on the farm. I would always turn to you for help, and right now I need to learn how to handle this on my own.
You have both taught me so much about what it means to be the best parent in the world and I hope I can live up to that myself. I will try to keep in touch, but please don't come looking for me. The more you look, the further away I will go. We'll be okay and I promise I've thought this through.
I love you and I'm sorry I didn't tell you about this first. I hope one day you'll forgive me.
Goodbye for now,
Jonathan didn't react at first, until his hand covered his mouth to contain his emotion.
He handed the letter to Martha, not trusting himself to speak, and closed his eyes in effort to think clearly. Disregarding her previous hesitation, she snatched the letter and began to read, which became difficult through her sobs.
Jonathan looked through the kitchen window and stressed about what they were going to do now. As he tried to remain strong and comfort his wife, Jonathan could only worry deeply for his only son and unnamed grandson.
Author's Notes: As you may have noticed, the chapters are getting longer. Next chapter will be set in the main time frame of the story, which is five years from this moment. There will be some scenes from moments between now and then though, when necessary, to provide additional insight. I really appreciate any feedback my readers send, so please take the moment to review.