When Clark was younger, he curled up on the couch with his father and watched football. Football was a wonderful sport, Clark thought. His father loved it, and the whole town loved it. He was excited just at the mention of football, and wished he could play.
When he got older, football took on a different meaning. He was still enthusiastic about it, but now he understood its allure. There was something undeniably masculine about football. It was the ultimate test of masculinity and testosterone, and the ladies loved you. When he learned he was an alien, his desire to be a football player grew even more so. That way he could fit in. People would like him and respect him. The way he was then, he was a complete dork. So when Jonathan shut down his dreams, he was depressed. But he moved on.
But something changed. Whether it was from the fear of losing him, or just finally trusting him, they let him play football senior year. Improbably, he was placed on the varsity. And when another player bowed out, he became quarterback. He couldn't believe his good fortune.
Even though his team mates hated him at first, they warmed up to him, and Clark was having a great time.
Then homecoming rolled around.
One night, after practice, the team decided to go out for pizza and beer. So they piled up in trucks and miraculously arrived unharmed. For about forty-five minutes, they ate, drank, and laughed.
When there was a lull in the conversation, the captain of the team spoke up. "So. Guys. Homecoming is in a week. You know what that means, boys?"
"Scarecrow!" everyone but Clark shouted, laughing. Clark froze.
"Exactly. And we have a dilemma; which freshie do we put up? There are so many to choose from," he said wickedly, "So therefore, in following the tradition of the last few years, the quarterback will choose. Clark? What do you think?"
He stared right through him. He remembered his experience vividly, how painful and humiliating it was to be designated as the scarecrow. How did he forget this little tradition when he joined the team? "I don't know," he managed to say. He should speak out against the act, but how would the team react? They'd probably hate him and string him up with that freshie. He didn't want to loose their friendship. "I'm not familiar with many freshies, Riley."
"Oh? Well, that could be a good thing," Riley replied, "But it's not hard to find them. They're pretty easy to find. We trust that you can find a worthy one in time, don't we?" Everyone nodded. "Good. That's settled."
As the rest of the team started talking about Angelina Jolie's breasts, Clark realized that he had made a huge mistake.
"Clark, I've been hearing some pretty strange things, and I was hoping you could clear them up," Chloe said as they lounged in the Torch offices during lunch.
"Okay..." Clark began slowly, "Like what?"
"I keep hearing that the quarterback is picking the scarecrow this year," she paused for effect, "You are the quarterback, Clark. But I find this all ridiculous, because after freshman year you would never do something like that, right?"
Oh. Damn. He knew that he couldn't keep that a secret from Chloe for that long. He gulped nervously. "Well, in theory..."
"Clark Kent!" Chloe said, outraged, "How could you do that?"
"You don't know what its like!" he exclaimed.
"I don't? Oh, okay, Clark. From what I understand, you were hanging out with a bunch of assholes and got pressured into doing this. Peer pressure I can get, but this is cruel."
"I know, Chloe, but I can't loose their friendship."
"What? You mean Lex and I aren't enough?" Chloe was still angry, but her eyes were starting to mist. She began to leave.
"No, its find Clark, be happy with your football friends and your cruel pranks. But when you realize that it's all worthless, we won't be waiting for you." She stepped out of the office, never looking back.
It wasn't long before Chloe's departure when someone else walked into the Torch office. He was young and short, and looked earnest and curious. Clark immediately suspected that he was a freshman.
"Hi," the boy greeted shyly, "I'm Ben. Is this the Torch office?"
"Yes," Clark said, grumpily. He had been contemplating what Chloe had said, and he didn't want to be disturbed.
"Okay. Um, well, after reading the latest issue of the Torch I wanted to become a reporter." One could tell from the light in his eyes that he was serious.
Clark lacked that enthusiasm. "You want to talk to Chloe Sullivan, the editor, then."
"Where is she?"
"She left," he said gruffly.
"Where'd she go?"
"How should I know?" he spat without thinking.
Ben looked concerned. "Are you alright?"
"I'm perfectly fine." His tone indicated that you should just drop it and leave. Ben didn't pick up on that.
"You sure?" he asked, moving to sit in Chloe's usual chair next to Clark.
"Yes," he said, then turned his attention to the computer. When would this boy just leave already?
"You and Chloe are friends, right?" Ben asked. Clark was silent, and Ben interpreted that to be yes. "I shouldn't be prying, but if you guys had a fight, I'm willing to help."
"You're already as nosy as she is. You want to help? Then leave."
He winced. "I didn't mean to offend--"
"Okay." He got out of Chloe's chair and looked awkwardly at Clark. "It was nice meeting you." He left.
Clark was glad. The boy was annoying; too sickeningly sweet. And obviously a dork, with his enthusiasm for the Torch. He continued to type his article, when he had an idea. He wished he didn't have it, but he was smirking anyway.
The sun was setting in the distance, leaving the sky in beautiful shades of oranges and yellows.
The football team was gathered in the middle of the cornfield. Clark had just arrived, with his chosen freshman in tow.
"He certainly looks stupid enough," said Riley.
"Well... he is a dork," Clark said slowly, wanting to back out, "And he's so nice. Must be gay." He winced, as he remembered that was what a player had described him as when he was being tied up.
The team started to chant "Faggot" over and over again as Riley punched and kicked him. When the boy lost his resistance, Riley backed off. "Everything else is your job now," he said, giving him a can of red spray paint.
He took it, and he looked away as he stripped the boy to his boxers. When he looked back, he saw Ben's eyes staring at him with clear hurt in his eyes. He felt his conscience tugging at him, telling him to drop the can and run away with the boy, but... his friends were looking on expectantly. He mouthed Ben "sorry" as he painted an S on his chest. With that, he picked him up with Riley, and held him up to the cross so his other teammates could tie the boy to the wood.
With the task accomplished, the team let out a whoop and started chanting "Kent." He felt awful about what he had done, but he didn't feel awful about earning his friends' praises.
The dance was almost over, and it was his job to get Ben off the cross. He ran slower than usual to get there, because he didn't want to see Ben.
When he approached the area, he thought he heard some conversation. So he kicked up his superhearing to listen.
"Are you okay?" Lex.
"I wish I could say yes."
"Did the football team do this to you?"
A pause. "Was there a tall boy with dark hair and green eyes there?"
"Yeah. He was the one who did this to me."
"Clark Kent did this to you? But he was once the scarecrow."
"I don't know." The voice was anguished and exhausted.
"I'm sorry... here, I'll bring you to the hospital, okay?"
Clark started to get angry, so he ran at a human speed to catch them. "Lex! What are you doing here?"
Lex didn't look surprised. "Ever since I found you out here, I've made it a habit to rescue all the scarecrows. But I could ask you the same thing."
Ben was glaring at him. Clark ignored him. "I was about to do the same thing." It was the truth. Sorta.
Lex looked at Ben, and caught the look he was giving him. Slowly, he asked, "Clark, did you do this?"
"Of course not, Lex." Now he was outright lying.
"You're part of the football team, Clark... surely you could've tried to stop this."
"He's lying!" Ben gasped, "He's the one who choose me!"
For a second, Lex looked horrified--but then he controlled his face to be emotionless. "I'm impressed, Clark. You have changed so much since I first met you, three years ago. But now... I don't even know why I bothered to try to win you back."
Carrying Ben, he started to walk away, when Clark's voice stopped him. "Because you love me."
Lex froze. "Are you ever going to tell me, Clark?"
About his origins? "No."
Lex sighed. "You're right Clark, I did love you. But now... I'm not willing to put up with your crap anymore. Goodbye, Clark." He walked away, and Clark heard him whispering something to Ben. He didn't care.
Watching him leave, a part of him was filled with a great sorrow, as if he just lost two of the most important things in the world.
But then he remembered the faces of the football team, and realized that he still had his friends.
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