by zahra

Clark Kent had expected to hit puberty the minute he turned thirteen. Not at twelve and not at fourteen. At the stroke of midnight on his thirteenth birthday he expected to be transformed like, well, like Octimus Prime. At least that was the impression he had gotten from the library books. It was also what he had gathered from the vague teachings of his P.E. teacher, although those could also have been instructions on assembling a trampoline. But considering that he hadn't been told otherwise, Clark thought puberty was something that simply...happened. Like waking up in the morning.

Naturally, the weeks leading up to that particular birthday were intensely nerve wracking for him, like a countdown to a space shuttle launch. Pete had already started on his adolescent voyage six months earlier and now had some sort of peach fuzz on his upper lip, or so he claimed. Clark wasn't too sure about Lana who just seemed as beautiful as ever with no discernible glitches or changes of any kind. Chloe, on the other hand, had been acting strange since the moment he had met her, so whatever oddness was happening to her seemed perfectly normal to him.

Or as normal as anything ever was to him.

A part of Clark actually had a few qualms about turning thirteen and perhaps finding out he had to keep even more secrets than he already had. Secrets about baling hay and changing tires. About holes in walls and why he should never ever play tug-of-war. Secrets and gifts that were just plain abnormality no matter how he looked at it. Puberty and more special gifts would be a bit much for anybody.

And yet, he had woken up on the morning of his thirteenth birthday expecting some sort of enormous change, and it hadn't arrived. At least not of the 'normal' kind. No change in voice. No high cracking notes or deep bass-like reverberations. No beard, like Reverend Gregory. No great understanding of the universe or why he couldn't play freeze tag or dodge ball with the other kids. No nothing. He was still the same shy, gangly, geeky Clark Kent who couldn't even get near Lana Lang without tripping over his own two feet. It was almost as disappointing as discovering the truth about Santa Claus when he was eight.

It was disconcerting.

When Clark went to the bathroom that morning and looked in the mirror, everything was the same. Same eyes, same mouth, same hands that were too big for the rest of his body. No great wisdom had been imparted to him overnight, but his hair had that special finger-in-the-light-socket quality to it and it made him look a bit like Einstein. For a moment he was convinced that that was as close to all-knowing as he would ever get. Otherwise though, that had been about it.

Just the same plain, ordinary Clark Jerome Kent who still had to complete the same chores before breakfast. Who still had to wear the same flannel shirts and jeans that always seemed too big or too small. Same stuff, different day. So when he was out in the field, feeding the cows, he wished that something would happen. That something would change.

That day at school, he kept thinking that everyone would notice him because thirteen was actually a password into an exclusive club. That they would suddenly realize that Clark Kent had hit 'puberty' - whatever that really meant. That he was a big teenager now and it would be the beginning of a new start. That Lana would look at him and stars would fall from her eyes or something. Only that didn't happen. Nothing happened at all. It was as perfectly normal and mundane as any other day.

At lunch he received an action figure from Chloe and some Twinkies from Pete. And it was something. Something in the thought that counted, but it wasn't what he was after either. It wasn't what he had meant. He realized a bit too late that he should've been more specific, but it wasn't as though he had a how-to-wish-for-exactly-what-you-want guide.

When he thought about it in his room later, at least he had been smart enough to say no to the birthday party this year. He couldn't stand the thought of being forced to be nice to kids who ignored him the other 364 days of the year. Who normally wouldn't even ask him over to their houses after school for cookies and juice. Who had never accepted him as one of their own and probably never would. All he could do was hope.

He still harbored nightmares from his twelfth birthday when his mother had gone all out with a Spiderman motif and only ten people had come - and that was if you added in Nell and his parents. It was, even from the most optimistic-mom viewpoint, a complete bust. When he blew out the candles at that party he had wished that he could erase the entire experience, but when he opened his eyes everyone was still staring at him hopefully. Sympathetically.

It hadn't worked. Everything was still the same. Still blandly and freakishly normal...as normal as things ever were for Clark.

When his mom had started making clucking noises and dropping hints about this year, he had mumbled something about having other plans and other stuff he knew she didn't buy. He didn't want to lie to her, but he just couldn't do it again. No matter what his mother had said about small intimate parties and exclusivity, Clark knew who was really being excluded. Not that Clark didn't have high hopes for thirteen. True, so far they had fallen flat but that was all right with him. He knew it had to get easier as you got older.

Clark's always been unfailingly optimistic.

However, in the end, thirteen had kind of sucked - and fourteen wasn't much better. As a matter of fact, it had sucked about the same. He had figured that at least he wouldn't have to deal with all sorts of people hearing he was thirteen and offering his mom their sympathy for the 'terrible teens' that were just beginning. He had been wrong.

Fourteen had been when the puberty mess had actually started, but it had been a lot more complex than he had been prepared for. Suddenly he was less worried about his voice changing or growing facial hair, and more worried about how many inches he had grown inside the week. Wondering whether or not anybody would actually notice that he was sprouting up like a weed on steroids. Whether anyone would notice that suddenly there weren't quite as many farmhands working for his family as there used to be.

There had been no birthday party at fourteen either. When his mother had attempted to broach the subject, he eyes had started rolling in his head like he was being forced into slave labor. Being a teenager had some advantages; and knowing a lost cause when she saw one, his mother had simply swatted him with a towel and gone back to her cooking. However, on the morning of his birthday there had been a chocolate cake with vanilla icing. His favorite, and his parents had sung 'happy birthday' to him, quite loudly, before he had fled to the safety of the school bus.

That night he had had Chloe and Pete over to watch movies and have cake and ice cream. He had tried to invite Lana, but apparently her Aunt Nell had made plans to take her to the ballet in Metropolis. So, that was that, or not. Clark still had hope. Always.

His birthday wish that year had been that Lana would finally notice him. But the only thing of note from that day hadn't even technically happened on his birthday. It had happened at about three a.m. the morning after. He had had his first wet dream and that was something new. If he hadn't actually read about things like that happening he probably would've thought his insides were leaking out. He still can't remember what he was dreaming about that triggered it in the first place, but that night started the beginning of his close relationship with the washing machine.

And that was pretty much how all of fourteen had gone. Chloe, Pete and he hanging out - unless he was off by himself - and Lana always busy... elsewhere. Not quite as bad as thirteen, but nothing to send in a Letter to the Editor of the Ledger.

So, in all honesty Clark had actually kind of hoped that everyone would forget his fifteenth birthday. It wasn't really a number of note. It didn't have the glamour of 16, or 18, or 21. It was just there. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, kind of like Clark's life. But he was halfway done with his teens and that made him smile that morning when he shaved in the mirror.

For some reason things didn't seem quite so bleak. He was growing more accustomed to his 'gifts' and he was a little more sure of himself, even if he was in the throws of his much maligned adolescence.

When he sat down to pizza and soda with Chloe and Pete that evening, they had made a toast to him and he had made his birthday wish. Broken record though he was, he just couldn't help himself. Couldn't stop hoping, wishing, that this would be the year that Lana would notice him. That something would happen to make him more like everyone else.

That maybe this year would be better than the last.

So now when he looks across the Beanery at the person sitting across from him, he has to smile. An enormous, blinding grin that reaches eyes that will never wrinkle. Can only blush modestly in the smirk that he gets in return and be glad that he's finally found someone who understands. He thinks that this is what people mean when they talk about better late than never, and he's glad that he's found a reason to be so optimistic.

Clark wanted something to happen to him, anything, and something did. A maniac hit him in his Porsche Carerra while going sixty miles an hour out on Route 18. And so, at fifteen years and three months of age, Clark Kent met Lex Luthor and his birthday wishes was granted. It wasn't his prayed for normalcy or that Lana notice him. But it was even better than what he hoped for because it wasn't what he asked for, it was what was given; and it wasn't who he wanted as much as who he needed.


Dedication: To Kassie. The gods of weed have planted many plot bunnies. Be afeared. And to Yvette for humoring me and my residual side effects.

Feedback: Desired like a brand new bong.

Notes: Inspired by Fran Healey's chronicle of teen angst - 'Twenty'. I wouldn't be a teenager again for all the gold in Fort Knox.

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