by cracked rib
The barn was silent, a cool breeze running through and playing with pieces of paper on the table, sending them off in separate directions. Ignoring the flying papers, Clark remained stretched out on his couch, one leg hanging off the side idly, one hand holding his book upright on his chest, the other pillowing his head. He sighed and kept reading without any real reflection. Left to right. Left to right. Down the page, turn it over, left to right. Minutes later he sighed and just gave up reading.
Slowly getting up from the couch he made his way to the window and picked up a pointless sketch of someone off the floor. He folded the paper into an aeroplane and sent it on a flight out of the window and up into the sky. It disappeared within a second of being launched. He wondered if it would just carry on flying away, or if it would eventually land back down somewhere.
The sky was a bright blue, clouds floating by like boats and the sun shining amiably. There was a calm about Smallville after the tornado. As though everything blown away in the chaos had finally come back down to earth.
Clark wondered what the weather was like where he came from. Clark Kent, an alien from another planet. It was so absurd. Was there even any real way of knowing if he was from another planet? He could have been an experiment gone wrong that was somehow affected by the meteorite shower. There was no real proof. The spaceship didn't really have to be a spaceship.
Clark turned to his telescope, a constant companion in his longing and watching. There she sat, the object of his sometimes misplaced affections. Lana Lane sitting on her porch, a book in her hands as she read with a hundred percent focus. Lana with her dead parents. Lana with her killer necklace. Lana with her jock boyfriend who wanted her to wait for him. Lana his friend who made his heart beat so loudly when she was near that he was afraid one day someone would hear it. It occurred to him that his sketch plane could come back down and land somewhere near Lana. What would she think if she saw it? What would she say if a paper plane fell from the sky and she opened it to see her own image staring back? Clark grimaced at the idiocy of his act and thanked God he hadn't signed the sketch.
Clark stood watching Lana for what could have been seconds or hours. He watched as a sudden wind pushed her hair onto her face and she pushed the errant strand back behind her ear. She sighed as though she couldn't concentrate on the book anymore and finally closed it, still holding it though like some precious piece of sentiment. She stared at the ground for what seemed like a small eternity, her eyes fixed, face expressionless in some sad memory.
Clark let himself float out of the barn and towards Lana. He floated in close, right to her face, looking at it, searching it for something new. Something that said she might have been thinking about him. Reaching out slowly, he stroked his fingers down her cheek. She still didn't move.
"Lana," he whispered.
Lana looked up as though startled and Clark jumped from the telescope. He watched as she looked around her, a confused frown appearing on her face. And then it seemed she looked right at him. As if she could see him from her porch. Hear him loud and clear. Clark stepped away from the window and stood against the wall, eyes closed.
"Stargazing in the day Clark?"
Lex smiled as Clark's eyes snapped open and flustered he stepped away from the wall. He gave a familiar smile of nerves, the kind he gave whenever Lex felt he was nearing some kind of Clark Kent secret.
"Hey Lex, what are you doing here?"
"Driving through. Thought I'd drop by. Stars in the daytime Clark? Isn't that a sign of something?" Lex sat down on the couch and picked up Clark's bible of gender difference, a smirk on his face.
"Yeah, madness," Clark said pulling the book away.
"Still reading that thing huh?"
"Not really." Clark sat down on the couch next to Lex.
"The answers are out there Clark. Not in a book. You just need to ask the right questions."
Clark frowned. "What are the right questions?"
Lex smiled. "I'm afraid I don't have the answer to that."
Clark rolled his eyes. "Very funny Lex."
Lex simply grinned at the annoyance of his friend and tried to remember if life had been that complicated when he was sixteen. It had. More so in fact.
He envied Clark Kent. It was something he came to know a while back. Clark with his devoted friends. Clark with his devotions. Clark with his salt of the earth parents. Parents that loved their son openly and probably even more in their hidden depths. Clark that seemed so easy to read on the surface, yet he was full of lies.
Lex knew a lie when he heard one. The face changed. The voice changed. Clark was not someone that had been taught to lie. To have one face and show everyone another. When he lied, the very composition of the air between them would change. What kind of secret made the son of the Kents, those paragons of virtue, lie? And what did those lies cover? Lex knew Smallville was a vacuum of the bizarre. He also knew that Clark had a story in all this strangeness. Possibly the biggest one. The one that would explain why instead of dying after being hit by a car, he turned around and saved Lex Luthor's life. Questions. Always so many questions.
"Being honourable and noble will only leave you full of regret Clark. Whitney's gone. There's no reason why you shouldn't step up to the plate."
Clark stared down at the book in his hands. "I can't risk my friendship. Look what happen with Chloe. I left her at that dance and she hates my guts. I don't know how I'm going to fix that."
Ahh yes, the dance, thought Lex. Once again it seemed Clark Kent had been conveniently at hand. In the middle of a tornado no less. He had found Lana and now the world was normal again. But those damn questions again. There was a pattern forming, a pattern of endangered lives followed by Clark Kent and saved lives. It didn't take a genius to see the pattern.
Lex smiled at Clark and chose to bite back the questions. There would be time later.
"Regret is unfortunately a large part of life Clark. You can try, but you never completely escape it."
"You sound like the voice of experience."
Lex ignored the comment and the accompanying images and sounds that flashed in front of his eyes. The rushing of the tornado wind. The breaking of the window and his fathers hands holding his face just before they were separated. It was never to do with love. All their meetings were just confrontations.
First an affirmation. *You're my son!*
And then the rejection. *I'll bury you...*
And his father lying there with the sword of Damocles hanging over his head. Pleading for his sons help when moments ago he had promised to bury him. The father that lived in fear of his son outdoing him one day.
Lex had watched and seen a whole future flash in front of his eyes. Lex Corp instead of Luthor Corp. His fathers hate gone, his love never having existed. The lives of the people of Smallville left intact. In one swift moment, everything could be okay. He would rebuild himself away from his father's image. Lex Luthor: the man of tomorrow.
But he couldn't do it. He couldn't let his father die. One day he would be a great man. Not because his father died at the appropriate moment, but because Lex would be the better man. Because he knew, he was the better man.
Lex got up and headed towards the telescope. Repositioning it he saw the daytime star that had Clark stargazing. She looked as melancholy as her admirer.
Looking back at Clark who had a sheepish expression on his face, Lex wondered if it was a Smallville tradition to love from afar. Don Clark and his Dulcilana. It made Lex want to laugh. But then what could he say? He had a hundred hidden desires of his own. It was probably something in the town's water supply.
"You should call her. Chloe's a bright girl. She'll understand," Lex said as he turned back to the telescope and watched for a while.
The photograph showed her and Whitney holding each other tight with smiles that implied laughter bubbling under the surface. It was high school love. It wasn't supposed to be real and it wasn't supposed to hurt so real either. It was supposed to be novel. It was supposed to make you feel grown up. It was like pretending with dolls when you were young. Dressing up and fake weddings. Being with Whitney had not been a forever plan. But then she hadn't looked beyond him either. He hadn't been a practice boyfriend. She felt real love. Being away from him hurt. Watching him go had broken her heart.
The wind blew and made her think of the tornado again. Lana pushed back an annoying strand of hair and sighed as she closed the book on her and Whitney's photograph. Just another source of confusion and depression. He had asked her to wait for him, like some 1950's movie. She could see it now, her working at the Talon and him walking in wearing his uniform. They would look at each other like in the movies. A long lingering stare. Maybe there would be tears. Time might even stand still. She would drop something. Something unbreakable hopefully. Then she would automatically without realising it start walking towards him and he towards her. He would hold her and they would kiss each other until they faded away.
It was a nice picture. But then she looked at it another time. They stopped kissing and he was holding her. She looked past him and there stood someone else. There stood Clark hands by his side as he watched, headed slightly tilted.
"Lana," he whispered.
Lana, startled, looked up from the ground. A shiver ran through her as she looked around her. It almost felt as though someone had stood right in front of her for a moment. She frowned, irritated at letting her imagination torment her even further.
Looking in the direction of the Kent farm, she thought about Clark. The sun glinted off something, like a small star. Probably the telescope in his barn she thought. She wondered what it was that he looked for. What could you possibly find amongst the stars that you didn't have anyway? They were even further away than hopes and dreams.
Clark the enigma, she thought. As normal as he appeared, he was so much more. Where could you even begin to unravel someone like that? The words out of his mouth were usually one thing, but his eyes always seemed to be saying something else. If ever the eyes could tell the state of a heart, Clark's always seemed slightly broken.
Then there was the day she almost died. The tornado was all around her and then she was okay. That simple. But then sometimes it seemed as though she remembered things. A blur. Something within the tornado. Something stronger than the whirlpool that tried to kill her. If only she could focus and remember what she had seen.
Feeling heavy under the glare of the sun, Lana got up and went into the house. She had intended to head for the kitchen and a cold drink, but found herself staring at the phone instead. A sudden urge to hear Clark's voice. To hear someone say the right words.
Tentatively, Lana reached out and picked up the phone. Five minutes later she stood looking at it and wondering why she wanted to call Clark. Clark with sometimes broken blue eyes. Clark with a sometimes faltering smile. Clark with words on the tip of his tongue that sometimes she wished he would say and sometimes she was afraid to hear.
She dialled the number. Then she put the phone down.
The phone rang. Chloe looked at it hoping it was Clark and hoping it wasn't. She picked it up, but remained silent.
"Hello?" Clark's voice sounded apprehensive.
"Hi," Chloe said quietly.
"You're not going to hang up are you?"
Chloe found herself not wanting to speak.
"Chloe?" The voice was gentle.
"Still here," came Chloe's defensive reply.
"Right. How are you?"
A moment of silence. There was so much that Chloe wanted to say, but she couldn't do it. She couldn't admit she was hurt. She didn't want to open up her insecurities to anyone. Especially to Clark. The cut had been deep. She wasn't sure she could forgive it. Not yet anyway.
"We need to talk about this Chloe," Clark urged.
"I know," Chloe replied before her voice could break and completely betray her feelings.
"Why won't you see me then?"
"I can't," Chloe's voice hitched. She closed her eyes as tears formed and bit her lip before humiliating herself any further.
"I'm not ready okay?" Chloe tried not to snap. "You...hurt me. That was supposed to be a special day Clark. You promised. And then you left me there."
"I'm sorry," Clark sounded defeated, "I don't know what to do. Tell me how to fix this Chloe, I promise I..."
"No. Don't make any promises okay? I just need some time. I need to think."
Another deafening silence and Chloe gripped the phone tight, tears rolling down her face. She hated herself for feeling hurt and for feeling so much for Clark. He was just her friend. So why did it hurt so bad?
"Clark?" she said in a broken voice.
"What?" Clark's voice seem to strengthen somewhat.
Chloe shook her head, "Nothing. I have to go."
"Chloe...I care about you a lot. I'll do whatever it takes to fix this."
Chloe sniffed, the tears subsiding. "I know."
"Okay...I'll call you?"
Chloe sighed. "Sure. Bye."
"Bye," Clark said flatly.
Chloe put the phone down and wiped her face with the back of her hand. Her laptop sat open in front of her, an editorial on the recent tornado in process of being written. She stared at the words that currently meant nothing.
Her mind wandered to the current state of calm in Smallville. The crisis was over. People were resuming their lives. Everything was back to normal. Normal in the sense of Smallville normal of course. But there was something wrong with this calm. Wasn't there a saying that the calm always came before the storm?
But wasn't the storm over?
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