More encounters

by LaCasta

In honor of Martha Stewart's indictment, a few words about feedback: "It's a good thing."
Dedicated to Ren and Steve, as are all these Baby!Clark stories. Well, maybe not the one with the smellies.

A/N: Harrrumpppfft. My deep dark suspicion is that the only reason the show doesn't give us an occasional cameo from Rusty (the retriever) and Shelby is that Welling and Kreuk refuse to have anyone on the show who can out-soulful eye them. So if you find me bludgeoned to death by tubes of lip gloss, you know who did it and why.

Clark ran to the window and pressed against it, then ran to Martha and, grabbing her by the hand, ran back, pressing against the window and pointing. Martha thanked heaven that Clark had learned that while he could break glass by running through it to get to something, it wasn't a good thing to do. She ruffled his hair, "Yes, that's your Daddy. Look, he sees us, let's wave to him." Clark did, but almost automatically, and Martha realized, making a mental note not to tell her husband, that Jonathan wasn't the cause of Clark's excitement. He was pulling cockleburrs out of Shelby's long collie coat, and Clark wanted to get in on the action.

"Want to go meet the doggie?" Clark looked up at her, nodding enthusiastically, and pulled her towards the door. "Remember, though, just like with the kittens, very very gentle." He looked up seriously again, nodding solemnly, eyes saddened for a moment. Last Tuesday, he'd caught a grasshopper and, bringing it to show them, had squeezed too tightly. When they gently told him why it wasn't jumping any more, he had stared at them, then the squished bug, and then his own hands, with what Martha feared was far too much of a sense of guilt for a three year old. It had taken a day of reassurances to put it out of his mind, but clearly he hadn't forgotten. God knows they wanted a child that powerful to have a conscience, but there was such a thing as too much...

She put it out of her mind, too, and opened the door, the knob fortunately still proving a bit too much for Clark to master. Pushing and pulling he was often too good at, but grasping and turning was still a challenge.

"Wait for me, Clark," Martha laughed as he took off, and then, clearly making the effort to be good, turned to come back and walk with her to where Jonathan was waiting, the dog sprawled across his outstretched legs, all four legs splayed, eyes blissful.

"Clark, this is Shelby. He's the doggie who helps me with the cows. He likes to be petted, do you want to try?" Clark grinned and squatted, clearly at a loss as to where to begin. After a moment's thought, he patted the dog's muzzle, pronouncing, "Horse nose."

"Well, yes, doggies have long noses, just like horses do." Over Clark's rising giggles, he added, "Shelby's sniffing you, that's how dogs meet people. We shake hands or hug or kiss, but dogs sniff." After a leisurely inspection, Shelby unfolded what seemed like about an acre of tongue and gave Clark's face a thorough, leisurely wipe. Clark got his giggles under control enough to start reciprocating, but Martha, stifling her own laughter, explained in a shaking voice, "We don't lick the doggies. They lick us, but we don't lick them."


"Hair balls," Jonathan answered, his face quite serious. Don't meet his eyes, don't meet his eyes, don't meet his eyes, Martha repeated to herself. "If we lick doggies, then we get doggie hair in our tummies, and then there's no more room for cookies." From Clark's expression, she could tell this was quite a convincing argument; he kept his mouth clamped firmly shut as he buried his face and hands in the dog's long fur.

"This is the first time you've gone downtown, Clark," Martha repeated, as she carried the toddler out to the car. His grin was so wide she couldn't resist kissing him gain, on the tip of his nose. She opened the back seat and put him in the child seat, then reached around him to buckle him in.

At which point, Clark emitted a tiny, frightened wail, scrambling out of the seat and out of the truck, knocking her over in his terrified flight. Jonathan reached down to help her up, his expression changing to bewilderment as he saw what happened, and saw how Clark was cowering against the locked front door.

"Clark? Honey? It's okay, honest," she called soothingly, but as they approached, he wailed again in terror and pushed through the door, knocking it from its hinges. She and Jonathan exchanged worried looks. Clark had had eruptions before, but always over something explicable. "Clark? Nothing bad is gonna happen," Jonathan called, but he didn't return.

They walked inside slowly, and found him clinging to the leg of the kitchen table. His face was red and streaked with tears, and he was whimpering to himself. "Shhhh, shhhh," Jonathan soothed, in the same voice he used when calming a frightened animal. Clark froze, but as Jonathan went on his hands and knees to crawl under the table, he darted away, running upstairs as fast as he could move.

"Well, that's not doing any good," he said in resignation, getting up.

"I think we're just scaring him more," she answered, sadly. Usually, their presence was all he needed to recover from his occasional nightmares or sudden breakdowns, which had in fact been less frequent each week. He'd even started coming to them, to be scooped up and cuddled, but now it seemed as though their coming closer was scaring him more. And she had no idea why.

"Do we wait for him to come to us?" He didn't like the thought of that. Every instinct, every emotion was telling him to go comfort and reassure his boy, envelop him in all his love and caring until he felt safe and happy again, but he could just imagine what would happen if Clark took off and headed out of the house.

They might never see him again. He could run too fast and too far. Nothing could hurt Jonathan more than the thought of somebody else finding him. Somebody who wouldn't see him as a person to be cherished, but as a phenomenon to be studied. Or a threat to be contained. Or an object to be exploited. Since his arrival, Clark wasn't the only one who had nightmares.

Martha knew what he was thinking--she could see every emotion pass across his face, and they were all too familiar to her--she could associate each feeling with its accompanying mental images.

"Let's just sit calmly. Wait for him to come to us." She paused, fighting to keep her voice under control. "He will," she said, but not as firmly as she had wanted to.

The hours that passed were the longest ones of their lives. She and Jonathan weren't hungry, couldn't have imagined eating, but at noon she made Clark's latest favorites, baloney and peanut butter sandwiches, put them, an apple, and more cookies than usual on a plate, and carried them and a glass of milk upstairs, her heart beating in terror at the thought that he might run again. She placed them at the head of the stairs and went down again. Only the sound of continued sobbing told her he was even in the house.

They turned the television to PBS, so that he'd hear the familiar sounds of Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. Maybe that would reassure him that things were normal.

She buried her face in Jonathan's shirt. "I just wish we knew what was wrong," she whispered again.

He sighed. "Let's look at it again. He was fine when we told him we were taking him downtown. You said that you'd take him to the library, so we could get him some more books, and that we'd get ice cream on the way back."

"And then I reminded him, no running, no lifting things," she nodded.

"He was okay-"

"No, he was excited," she interrupted. "Until we got to the truck, and I put him in the seat."

"Did he see something?"

"Not that I can think of." Her eyes widened. "Wait. He didn't have a problem until I started to buckle him in. What if-"

There was a lot they didn't agree on, but each nearly always knew where the other's mind was going. He nearly pounded his fist on the counter. "That must be it. He must have been afraid that..." He couldn't finish.

"That we were going to send him away. We said it was a place he'd never been, and then...neither of us got in, and I started to fasten him in." Her eyes filled with tears of sympathy. "Oh, poor Clark..."

"Okay, I think now, we can explain."

They walked up the stairs, taking it in turns to call to him. "Clark? Nobody is ever going to send you away. Not ever again."

"You're our son, Clark. You'll always be ours. No matter where you go, we'll always be there."

"Clark, baby, we love you. We'd never make you leave us."

"I'm sorry we scared you. We were going to get in, too, and go with you downtown."

They heard the sobs subside to sniffles, and a tiny, somewhat dusty head emerged from under the bed in his room. His lips were still trembling and he looked at them uncertainly. They both sat on the floor and waited for him to come to them. He finally catapulted into their arms, tears starting again as he clung to them. "Clark, you're staying with us forever," Jonathan repeated, dropping a kiss on his son's head. After a while, Clark smiled, hesitantly, burying himself deeper in their embrace.

AN: I wasn't expecting this to be a traumatized!baby!Clark story, it was going to be a baby!Clark meets baby!Lana at the flower shop, but I realized just as I was getting them into the truck that they'd get him a car seat and he'd probably get scared, poor scrap.

Bloop. Bloop. Bloooooop. Blooooop. BLOOP.

The sounds started hesitantly at first, then grew in volume and duration. Martha realized what was going on a fraction of a second too late.

"Clark, don't-" The room was transformed into a wetter place, interrupting her. "Blow in your milk," she finished, though by now the lesson was definitely to be saved for later.

"Raining milk," he announced, with a tone of decided satisfaction.

Well, what can you expect when you give a superstrong toddler a glass of milk and a straw, and then turn your back? Martha decided, as she picked up two washcloths.

"Okay, Clark, help me clean up the kitchen, and then you can take the straw and some water outside." He nodded happily and scrubbed at the floor and table, occasionally even wiping up some milk as he did so. He started humming to himself, and Martha wished that she knew more about music as she listened--it was pleasant to hear, but it was strange at the same time, as though there were somehow more notes than usual, and just when she thought she picked up a pattern, it changed. She wondered what he made of their music, if it sounded strange but pleasant to him. Except, of course, when Jonathan sang to him. That was just strange. As she got onto a chair to wipe the milk off the ceiling, she couldn't help smiling to herself as she remembered Clark listening with wide eyes, and then, in a gesture of obvious sympathy, patting Jonathan's cheek the way they patted his when something wasn't quite right.

"Ready to go, sweetheart?" Clark nodded tentatively, and Martha held him tighter. They'd realized that in case of an accident, Clark was hardly likely to get hurt, anyway, so they'd taken out the seat. Jonathan opened the door and Martha, still holding Clark, got in, watching him carefully. His grip on her tightened and his eyes were watchful, but he wasn't panicking again. Martha brushed her lips against his hair, and when Jonathan got in, he chucked Clark under the chin, "You want to drive, tiger?"

Clark grinned, and Martha felt him relax.

After the library, they walked in the direction of the ice cream store, but Clark planted immobile feet in front of Nell Potter's flower shop, staring in the window. "Pretty," he declared, and made for the door.

Jonathan and Martha followed, Jonathan muttering something about how there were plenty of flowers in the garden at home, and why was Clark so entranced by these, anyway. Just as he was drawing a breath for the next mutters, he and Martha saw the attraction.

Lana was sitting at her table, squeezing foam into various shapes. She glanced up to see Clark looking at her with wide eyes and open mouth. "Pretty," he repeated.

"I'm Lana," she said, and at being spoken to, Clark suddenly turned pink and stared intently at his shoes.

"Hi, Lana," Martha crouched next to the table. "This is Clark."

"Aunt Nell said you dopted a baby, just like she dopted me." Lana's face puckered as she finished the sentence, and Clark moved from his frozen position to sit next to her.

"Don't cry," he said, so quietly they could barely hear him. "Too pretty."

Lana tentatively smiled at that, and Clark, seeing her smile, began to grin. His hands moved to the buttons of his little flannel shirt, and Jonathan, recognizing the signs of Clark about to display his proudest accomplishment, grabbed his son's hand. Bending over, he reminded Clark, "We don't take our clothes off in the flower shop."

"Well, not often," Nell Potter said, as she came from behind the counter with a decided smirk.

"Oh, hello, Nell," Martha responded, not letting the remark or smirk fluster her. "We're just taking Clark for ice cream, could we take Lana, too?" Clark nodded an enthusiastic agreement, forgetting even his aborted stripping mission.

"Oh, I'm sorry, but she's already had sweets today, haven't you, Lana?"

"Ice cream is nice," the little girl said, wistfully, and Nell answered, "Maybe tomorrow we'll go get some," in a softer tone.

Even knowing that he was about to get ice cream didn't seem to make Clark's departure from the shop any less reluctant, and as the Kents left, he was still looking back, with one final, "Pretty."

"I'll show you something cool, Clark," Pete offered, reaching for the yellow and blue crayons. The boys were lying on their stomachs, coloring. "See, if you color yellow, and then color blue on top of the yellow, you get green."

"How?" Clark was staring at the crayons and at the duckling Pete had just colored.

"Dunno. Just the way crayons are, I guess." Martha fortunately didn't have to hide her grin at his worldly-wise tone, as he was reveling in Clark's amazement. "Hey, it stopped raining, can we go out again, Mrs. Kent?"

"Okay, but no more mud puddles, guys." Clark nodded solemnly, Pete cheerfully. Neither of them had quite understood why it was a bad thing to come indoors again, dripping mud and running around, but had philosophically put down the Kents' objections to another adult weirdness. Jonathan had finally taken them outside and stood them under the hose, so at least all they dripped on their return to the house was water.

Pete headed directly to the barn, and Clark and Martha followed. "Whatcha doing, Mr. Kent?"

"Milking the cow. Usually, a machine does it, but Maggie hurt her leg so it's easier if I do it by hand." Clark had seen this before, but Pete was fascinated.

"I thought you put milk in bottles," he commented, after a few minutes.

"No, first a bucket, then we heat it to get rid of any germs, and then we put it in bottles." Maggie was the best-natured of the herd and had already gotten used to Clark. "Do you want to try? Pete, you sit on this side here, Clark, you go around to that side. Okay, now take the part that's hanging down, and squeeze it from the top down."

"It feels like a water balloon."

"You're right, Pete, it does. There, you got it, just like that." Pete grinned hugely as a stream of milk squirted from the teat into the bucket.

Several loud meows demanded attention as Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, and their assorted offspring, attracted by the smell of the milk, approached. "Watch this, guys," Jonathan whispered. Without missing a stroke of the two teats he was holding, he aimed for Emily, the grey tabby, who opened her mouth expectantly. A stream of milk shot right in, and Jane, whose black and white pattern made her a natural for the barn, let out a raucous feline screech for her turn. The kittens, realizing they were missing on something, began to clamor, but hadn't quite understood how to open their mouths to catch the treat and were soon milk-spattered, occasionally sneezing in between licking themselves and one another.

Clark surreptitiously opened his own mouth and squeezed, then sputtered. "It's warm," he complained.

"Well, yes, it's warm when it comes out of the cow. But people shouldn't drink it right from the cow, it's not been cleaned up yet."

"But cats can?" He sounded worried.

"Cats can, just fine."

"That's probably your dad now, Pete," Martha said, hearing the sound of a car pulling up the drive. Pete tore out the door, then re-appeared, leading his father.

"And see, that's where milk really comes from," he finished explaining.

His father nodded as if finally enlightened. "I always wondered, since orange juice comes from oranges, and apple juice from apples, but you can't go to the store and buy milk fruit to squeeze."

"Cows are milk fruit," Pete added, firmly. As the youngest in his family, he wasn't often in the position of informing others, and enjoyed the opportunity when it came.

"That's good to know. We'd better go pick Mom up now."

"Thank you, Mr. Kent and Mrs. Kent, see you later, Clark!" Pete was still explaining more of milk production as he and his father left.

Back in the house, Clark returned to the living room, where he lay on his stomach again. He colored a house blue, and the house next to it, red. "Blue and red make..." He frowned. "Mommy, what's this color?"

"That's purple, Clark. Blue and red make purple."

Martha heard Jonathan's voice coming from near the barn.

"Clark, no, that's not a kitty."

She couldn't make out the words of Clark's response but the tone was stubborn.

"I don't think it wants to be picked up."

Another unintelligible response.

"Clark, put it down."

Definitely stubborn answer.

"I said, young man, put that down."

Martha decided to play UN and headed outside. Clark was holding something and staring defiantly at Jonathan. "Goes in the barn. Nice kitty."

"It's not a kitty and I told you to put it down." The toddler retreated, though still facing Jonathan with a stubborn pout. His arms tightened across his chest and his burden, at which a particularly acrid stench filled the air. Jonathan grimaced and turned away and Clark's eyes widened. He let go of the creature he'd been holding and as she rather reluctantly continued to approach, Martha watched a very indignant animal stalk majestically back to the cornfield.

"Kitty doesn't smell good." Clark sulked, wrinkling his nose.

"It's not a kitty, it's a skunk. Skunks make things smell bad. That's why I told you to put it down." Jonathan was definitely keeping his distance from Clark.

Martha had a sneaking suspicion that they didn't have any tomato juice in the house.

"Okay, Clark, I think it's just about ready." Jonathan pulled at the tire again but neither the rope nor the branch showed any signs of giving.

Clark had been so eager to help that hanging the tire swing took about four times as long as it would have without him and was giggling with excitement as he sat in it and Jonathan came behind him to push.

"Flying!" Clark yelled at the top of his lungs, "Flying!" Jonathan pushed harder on each swing, and Clark wriggled with excitement as each one sent him higher.

Gradually, he slowed down, and told Clark, "My arms need a rest now." He sat on the ground and Clark sat next to him. "Let's watch bugs."

This was one of Clark's favorites, watching just a few inches of soil and the different insects there. He'd watch intently, reporting on what he found. "There's an ant, and it's got a seed. It's taking it home for lunch. And there's a katydid, it's green."

"It sure is."

"And that's a roly-poly, it just uncurled."

"Look, Clark, there's a ladybug." Clark's mouth opened as he stared at the insect. "Can you tell me how many dots it has on its back?"

Clark concentrated, "Three?"

"That's right son, it's got three dots on its back. Look, it's going to fly away now."

"It doesn't have wings."

"It does, but it keeps them hidden. See?" Clark was practically nose to nose with the ladybug as he watched the armored shell on its back lift to reveal its tiny wings. "There it goes."

"Bye-bye, ladybug." Clark turned to Jonathan again. "Fly again?"

"Let me give my arms a rest for a couple more minutes."

"No, you fly, I push."

Jonathan managed not to laugh. From anybody but their son, it would have been ridiculous, but Clark was perfectly capable of it. When Clark started to grin, Jonathan gave in. "All right, just a little." Clark scrambled up and stationed himself behind the tire. Jonathan sat, tucked his legs up so they wouldn't brush the ground, and Clark gave him the first push.

"Daddy's flying!"

Martha rounded the corner just then, carrying the kid that they'd been bottle-feeding, since its mother had milk only for one and had given birth to twins. She waved absently with her free hand, then stopped and looked again in disbelief.

Clark stopped pushing and ran over to her. "Mommy's turn!" As Jonathan untangled himself and got out, Clark led her eagerly. "I flew and then Daddy flew and now Mommy gets to fly." Good thing, Jonathan mused, that Clark made it clear that he'd had the first go, or Martha would never let him forget it.

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