Ren and Steve, this is all your fault, now I keep thinking baby thoughts. Which is scary.
This fic is pure cotton candy, insubstantial PWP fluff.
Mrs. Ross looked, well, the way anybody would expect Pete Ross' mother to look, but to a slightly higher degree than usual.
"Martha, could you keep an eye on Pete for me? The babysitter called and said that she'd be late, her mom is sick, and I have got to get going. Bethany will pick him up on her way. It won't be more than two hours, I promise."
"Of course. Hi, Pete."
"Hi, Mrs. Kent! Mom says that you have a kid, too, but how come you weren't carrying him around in your tummy? What's his name? Or is he a girl, instead?" The last question sounded as though he were asking if she had disgusting personal habits. *Sweetie, one of these days, you won't think like that about girls.*
Mrs. Ross made her escape.
"No, Pete, he's a boy, and his name is Clark. His dad and I adopted him, which means that since his first mommy and daddy couldn't take care of him, they gave him to people who would love him just as much as they would."
A huge frown. "How come they couldn't take care of him?"
"I don't know, Pete. But they loved him enough to make sure that people who could take care of him would become his new mommy and daddy."
"Can I see him?"
"He's out in the barn with his dad. Let's go out there and find them, okay?" Pete grinned widely, as though that was the best idea ever. You are going to be a real menace to female hearts when you get older.
Clark was crouching in a clear imitation of Jonathan's stance, next to a wooden crate.
"Very, very gentle, Clark. Like that. Just like that. They're little, you see, and so you need to touch them like you were that tiny, since you're a big boy."
"Jonathan? Clark? Pete Ross is here and he'd like to meet Clark."
Jonathan got up, wiping his hands on his jeans, and Clark imitated him faithfully, right down to the grin at Pete. "Hi, Pete. This is Clark."
"Hi, Clark. How old are you? Are you my age? I'm three and a half."
"Whoa, slow down, big guy. Clark doesn't speak much English yet."
"He's as smart as everybody who does, but he's from someplace else, where they don't speak English."
Good question. "We don't know."
"Are you going to find out?"
Clark had taken a tiny step behind Jonathan at the barrage of questions, but slipped out again, smiling widely. He turned around and reached into the box, then showed Pete the grey tabby kitten, carefully cradled in both hands.
"Hey, a kitten!" Pete and Clark grinned at one another, and Pete, very carefully, scratched the tiny head with one finger. The boys giggled as the kitten yawned, and as if they'd been cued, imitated its yawn to one another simultaneously. Clark put the grey kitten back and held out a black and white one. Pete scratched its head again, but when the kitten didn't yawn, they giggled again and yawned for it.
"Okay, boys, why don't you help me out by watching the kittens? And then maybe you can help mom make cookies."
"No ulterior motive there, Jonathan," Martha muttered, and retreated at yet another shining smile. Jonathan couldn't manage the innocence, though.
"If your mother's stories are anything to go by, you had a pretty notable career as the Smallville Stripper yourself." Martha wasn't looking at Jonathan--she was folding a blanket over a sound-asleep Clark--but she could imagine his sheepish expression. "Something about a wedding comes to mind?"
"It was the hottest day of a hot summer, I was bored, and I was four years old."
"So, Clark's precocious then."
"Teaching him to get undressed was a mistake."
"He'd hardly have wanted us helping him when he was sixteen," Martha gave the dark, tousled hair a last light stroke and remembered again that as angelic as their son looked, and as much as his arrival in their lives seemed like divine providence, he could make Calvin look positively docile. At least his mother and babysitter could occasionally catch Calvin. And Hobbes was a good influence.
"No wonder he's worn out, he's had a busy morning. Streaking the farmer's market would sap any kid." At least he hadn't used his speed, though it would have meant that fewer people would have witnessed Clark's public debut as a nudist, running through the crowd wearing nothing but a very big grin.
"So when's Pete coming over?"
"Two." Martha looked at her watch. Three hours.
"You want to catch a nap, too? We'll both need all our energy."
"Why don't we get in bed and see what happens?"
"Hi, Philip. Hi, Pete."
"Hi, Mrs. Kent! Where's Clark?"
Philip Ross met Martha's eyes as a sound that would have been a bit ostentatious for an avalanche indicated that Clark was charging down the stairs.
"Hi, Clark! I brought both my fire trucks, let's go outside!" Jonathan followed the boys outside, leaving Martha with Philip.
"Would you like some coffee? I definitely need some just to keep up with those kids."
"I'm amazed that you still try to keep up." Pete had come by his grin honestly, as his father's showed. "I just stand around blinking most of the time and hoping that he'll slow down before I'm on Social Security."
"The problem with blinking is that you miss things."
"No, that's a benefit."
"Not with our Clarkster. Now that he can get undressed by himself, it's become a point of honor to do so. This morning, he showed the farmer's market just what he's made of. I'd just turned my back for a moment, and when I turned around, there was a pile of clothes and a horrified crowd."
"Pete hasn't gone through that phase yet."
"Calm your impatience."
"By the way, the Fordhams were talking about starting a play group. There are lots of people out of jobs now, and even preschool is pretty expensive. If you'd like to enroll Clark, there'd be plenty of room." He'd looked suddenly ten years older and a hundred grievances angrier as he mentioned the lost jobs. When Lionel Luthor had bought the plant, there had been an agreement that no jobs would be lost. He'd kept to the word of that; anybody who was let go was offered work in the processing area. That meant not only the decrease in salary, but no unemployment--anybody who turned down a job offer was ineligible.
Martha hated saying no. She'd seen how excited Clark had been about playing with Pete, and wanted him to have the chance with other children, too. But she knew what could happen. They were still trying to teach Clark not to use his abilities, his strength or speed, and had already learned that no matter how many times he fell, he never got cut or bruised. Somebody would notice. Then the questions. And then--she didn't even want to think. She shook her head. "He's still got speech problems--we'd better hold off."
Philip got up, putting down his mug. "You're probably right. Great kid, though. Anybody who can impress Pete...I've got to run now, I'll be by at three-thirty."
"Take care, Philip." Martha went out back, where one high-pitched and one low-pitched voice were making "vroom vroom" noises. She laughed quietly as she saw Jonathan directing the fire truck operations as Clark and Pete enthusiastically squirted everything that he told them was on fire.
"Don't even think about it," she warned him as he looked up.
Pete looked at her with awed eyes. "Clark is good at spitting." Clark happily demonstrated.
She'd better show them what a real master of the skills can do.
"Wow," Pete said. "You spit even better than Clark."
After all, it would be boring being the only one who wasn't a bad influence.
Jonathan cuddled Clark in his lap as his sleeping son nestled happily after having another story read to him, one finger following Jonathan's faithfully as he showed Clark the words. He sometimes worried that Clark's not speaking wasn't that he was still learning English, but that it might stem from a physiological cause, that he was essentially mute. What if his people didn't speak, but communicated with some kind of telepathy, or physical movements? Was this child of theirs perhaps constantly trying to speak to them and wondering why they never talked like normal people should?
At least he didn't seem traumatized by it; when they spoke to him he listened attentively and happily, and seemed quite able to communicate his needs and wants and feelings without words. Sometimes he suspected that Clark knew the effect of those huge blue-green-grey eyes and beaming grins, but at other times he was certain that his son was just as guileless as he seemed.
His perfect little boy.
He'd been raised in an overly devout household, where "condemn the sins of thy neighbor" ranked far higher than "love thy neighbor" as a priority, but sometimes he felt just like Joseph, feeling privileged just to raise this miraculous creature, but fearing what the future might hold in a world that all too often destroyed the divine that it thought it worshipped. Most of the time, though, he was able to relax and enjoy being a father.
Clark slept with such perfect abandon, as though it were the only important thing in the world. Sometimes his face was scrunched up in concentration, as if he were making sure that he was getting this sleep thing perfectly right, other times he looked so relaxed that Jonathan felt himself want to yawn just looking at him.
"Pete's coming over in a few minutes," she said quietly, and Clark snapped to wide-awake, scrambling to be let down. "Whoa, honey, he won't be here for another five minutes. His mom is dropping him off," she added, catching him by the back of his denim overalls as he rushed to the door.
Clark sat cross-legged in front of the door, clearly willing it to open so that Pete would be there. He jumped up at the sound of a car pulling in. Judge Ross opened the door and carried Pete inside.
"Hi, Clark! Hi, Mr. Kent, Mrs. Kent! My ankle's all tied up with a really big bandaid that stretches," he informed them as his mother put him down.
"Oh, what a day. Somebody," she sighed, putting a hand on Pete's head, "decided to try jumping down all the stairs. It's just a twist, but I've got an Ace on it, and he'd better keep pretty quiet for a couple of days."
Clark, with an air of intense concentration, stared at Pete's bandaged ankle, and she chuckled, "Looks like he's trying to x-ray it with his eyes. He's going to be okay, Clark, you'll just have to play sitting-down games today." Clark climbed onto the sofa and picked up the book, fixing Jonathan with a stare that left no ambiguity about what he wanted.
As Martha walked the judge back to her car, Jonathan sat down himself, gathering both boys and the book on his lap. Martha watched as he read to them, triumphantly ending, "Fox in socks, our game is done, sir, thank you for a lot of fun, sir!" Pete shouted the words back, repeating them faster and faster each time, while Clark laughed.
Out of breath, he stopped, and Clark, taking the book by the edges, pointed to the picture. "Fox in red and blue socks," he said firmly, looking at Jonathan for approval.
It was forthcoming.
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