Family, Friendship, and Love
"Hi, Mrs. Kent," Chloe greeted, entering the kitchen through the back door. Friends needn't knock in Smallville; it was an unwritten custom, just like always using the back door. "I've come to kidnap your Clark-shaped son."
Martha was standing at the island counter, paring apples. She smiled in welcome, but the expression was a little strained. "Hello, Chloe."
Chloe shut the door behind her, keeping the heat out. It was only 10:00 AM and it was already well over ninety degrees outside. She removed her bright pink floppy hat, wiped her forehead with her bare forearm, and tucked the hat in her back pocket. "Phew. This trip to Jackson's Hole might be a short one, although it is a lot cooler underground."
Jackson's Hole was an old sod house built into the ground. A rumor had made its rounds that the place became recently haunted. It was a perfect story for the Torch Online. So far, this summer's only excitement had been when Freddie got stuck in the drainage ditch pipe and didn't want to be rescued because it was cooler in there than at his house.
"Chloe, I don't think Clark will be going with you today," Martha said, not unkindly.
A quick frown worried Chloe's brow. "Oh. I thought it was already cleared with you. Unless he's sick. Clark's not sick, right? He never gets sick."
"No, he's not sick," Martha assured her. Clark's footsteps sounded on the stairs as Martha moved to the sink. "I'll let him explain."
Chloe looked expectantly towards the stairs leading to the second floor, wondering what they mystery was about. Did Clark somehow manage to get grounded between yesterday evening and this morning?
Clark rounded the landing, and the first thing Chloe noticed was the bottle in his right hand. He was cradling something in his left arm. A baby?
Clark's strained smile of hello echoed his mom's when he saw Chloe. "Hey, Chloe."
"Hey, yourself," Chloe returned as Clark finished his descent. He was, indeed, carrying a baby. A very tiny baby, who instantly triggered her girly genes. "Who's this adorable little one?"
Clark glanced at Martha and seemed to fortify himself, as if what he was about to say would alter Chloe's world.
"This is Sam," Clark said. "My son."
Chloe blinked several times, smiling pleasantly, a reaction of hers to shock. "I'm sorry. I must have misheard you. Did you say your son?"
"You heard right." Clark set the half-empty bottle on the counter. "Sam finished half the bottle this time, Mom."
"Good," Martha said. "Do you remember what to do next?"
"Change him, then put him down for a nap," Clark answered. He looked down at Sam. "Or, continue his nap, since he fell asleep while I was feeding him."
"Son?" Chloe couldn't believe it. "Like, as in, you are the father of that baby?"
"It's Sam. And yes," Clark said. He started upstairs again. Chloe followed on his heels.
"But how? When? With who? And why didn't you say anything before now?" Chloe asked in rapid-fire succession. She was unable to wrap her mind around the fact that Clark Kent had a child. It was Clark. Mr. Perfect. He couldn't even say the word "sex," let alone do it.
Chloe paused in the doorway to Clark's bedroom, taking in the changes. A bright yellow crib was pushed against the wall opposite Clark's bed. A white changing table with drawers was beside it. There was a laundry basket under the crib, filled with infant toys. Her reporter's instincts told her Sam's appearance was not a surprise.
Chloe joined Clark at the changing table. She tried to examine Sam objectively, even though she mostly wanted to coo at him. He was so, so cute. Teeny-tiny hands and feet. Itty-bitty fingers and toes. His entire upper body was hidden by Clark's hand spanning his chest, gently holding him in place as his cloth diaper was removed.
"Well?" she prompted, watching as Sam's face scrunched. He didn't cry, though.
"There's not much to tell, Chloe," Clark said. "I went to a party with Lex last October, I met someone, things happened, and now I'm a father."
Chloe narrowed her eyes. His answer sounded rehearsed. Then again, Clark usually spouted rote answers when trying to keep something private. "Where's the mother?"
"Gone. She didn't want Sam, but didn't believe in abortion. It was left to me to decide if I wanted to give him up for adoption or not. I chose not."
Another pat answer, but wholly plausible. Chloe handed Clark the safety pin and he finished fastening Sam's clean diaper. "You could have told me sooner, Clark."
"I know," Clark said, dumping the dirty diaper in the diaper pail.
Chloe waited for him to make his excuses. He didn't. The rebuff stung.
Clark fastened the blue onesie over Sam's diaper, picked him up, and held him towards Chloe. "Would you like to hold him?"
The sting lessened slightly. "I'd love to," Chloe said, taking him. She carefully cradled Sam in her arms, remembering to support his head, and gave in to the urge to coo. "Hi, Sam. I'm your Aunt Chloe, one of your daddy's best friends, even though he seems to forget that sometimes."
"Chloe," Clark grumbled, putting away the A&D and baby wipes.
Undaunted, Chloe continued speaking to the baby. "His other best friend, your Uncle Pete, is going to have a cow. Yes, he is. Yes, he is. A very big mooooo."
Sam opened his eyes. They were the same slightly slanted, startling green-blue that she'd been writing sappy poems about since meeting Clark. There was no mistake: Sam was definitely Clark's child.
"Wow, Clark," Chloe whispered as reality fully hit her. "You're a father." She looked over at him. "Your parents must have flipped."
Clark ducked his head, rubbing the back of his neck self-consciously. "Yeah. Mom's okay with it, or at least she's pretending to be. Dad didn't talk to me for months, not until Sam arrived last night."
Chloe rocked gently, watching as Sam's eyes fell shut again. "So, what are you going to do now, Mr. Mom?"
"Get a job and raise Sam, like any other single parent."
"Are you going to move out?" Chloe asked.
"No, I'll still be living here until I'm at least eighteen." Clark walked over to her and she reluctantly gave up Sam. "I won't be going back to school, though."
"You're dropping out?" The remainder of Chloe's high school career would be sans Clark? She couldn't imagine what that would be like, and she had a very vivid imagination.
"Yeah," Clark replied. "I'll take the GED test next summer." He laid Sam in the crib and brushed his fingertips along Sam's cheek. "‘Night, little guy. See you in a few hours."
Clark ushered Chloe out of the bedroom. She was still flummoxed by Clark's announcement about not returning to school. It was almost more of a shock than Sam. Everything was going to be different. She wasn't going to see Clark everyday. She was losing a really good reporter for the paper. When they got together, she would talk about trivial stuff, like homework and bad cafe food, when he was experience real life stuff, like full-time employment and childcare. In fact, Clark might not have time for her at all. She was going to lose one of her best friends. It was inevitable. She'd seen the After School Special, and despite being hokey, they always fell true.
"You're not coming to Jackson's Hole today, are you?" Chloe said.
Clark shook his head. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay," Chloe lied, as the first step towards inevitability was made. She removed her hat from her pocket and plunked in on her head. "I'll stop next door and bribe Lana into coming with me."
They went downstairs. Chloe barely paused to say goodbye to Martha as she headed out the back door. "Bye, Mrs. Kent."
"Bye, Chloe," Martha said.
"Bye, Chloe," Clark echoed.
Chloe smiled with false brightness before pulling the door shut, leaving her alone outside in the heat.
Clark and Sam Kent were the hottest topic in town within days of Sam's birth. No one could believe that the perfect Kent boy was a sixteen-year-old father. That sort of thing was supposed to happen to those punks, not someone like Clark.
"It's a shame. He was always such a good boy," was said. "It must have been that Luthor kid's bad influence. Didn't Clark used to be friends with him? Such a pity that Clark's kindness with everyone included that Lex Luthor."
Martha and Jonathan were pitied, but not blamed, for Clark's indiscretions. The Kents were pillars of the community. Their adopted child must have gotten his sinfulness from his biological parents.
The gossip and locker room talk ripped Clark's "good name" to shreds once school began again. The guys made fun of his sexual prowess, betting the virgin lasted all of five seconds and was lucky he even found the hole to put his dick in. The females blamed him for getting some poor girl pregnant, and it served him right for her making him take responsibility for Sam. The students all agreed on one thing, though: "Shy, geeky Kent. Who knew?"
Chloe, Lana, and Pete defended Clark as best as they could, although Pete was angry with Clark for a while for not sharing that he'd lost his virginity. "You probably told Lex," Pete had accused sullenly. Since Lex was actually the person to take his virginity, Clark hadn't needed to tell him, which made the lie fall easier from Clark's lips.
Lying was a fact of life for Clark, but added to it this time around was shame. For a long time, he was embarrassed and uncomfortable going out in public, whether running errands in town or hanging out with his friends. He knew what people were saying about him, and the pitying, disgusted looks he received from the older townsfolk were worse than the jeers from his ex-classmates. As a result, more lies were told to his friends about being okay sitting at the Talon with them, or when he said it didn't bother him when they talked about school and the Torch. He lied when he said he was sorry for breaking a group ‘date', not telling them that he'd rather stay home than see them, which happened more and more often as time passed.
Clark was extremely ashamed of himself, for not wanting to be with his friends, for sullying the Kent name, for causing embarrassment to his parents. However, he didn't let slip to anyone about how he felt, except to Sam during his late night feedings.
Clark wasn't ashamed of Sam, though, and he told off anyone who dared to say anything negative about his son. Sam may have been an accident, but he was not a mistake. He was the best thing Clark had ever done with his alien abilities and meant more to him than anyone, even his parents and his own life. Clark would move heaven and earth for his child, something that was possible when he learned he could fly.
Being a father wasn't easy, Clark learned very quickly. Sam hardly slept and required constant activity, or else he cried. Consequently, Clark also hardly slept and was constantly worn out. He was quite happy to leave Sam with Grandma and Grandpa five evenings a week so he could get some rest while at work.
Clark had gotten a job at the LuthorCorp Plant, working second shift in the maintenance department. He'd had to obtain a work permit, signed by his parents, in order to work full-time, and even then the only place that would hire him was the plant because of his lack of a high school diploma. The pay was slightly better than average and he managed to sock away a reasonable amount out of each paycheck for the future.
Working full-time was nothing like going to school and Clark told his friends to hold off becoming an adult as long as possible. Sick days meant no pay and there was no summer vacation, winter or spring breaks off. Clark received an unpaid week of vacation per year, increasing to two weeks after he'd been employed for five years. The job itself wasn't too bad, but it wasn't challenging, either. Being a father, however, required certain sacrifices and Clark accepted them, although not happily (but he hid his unhappiness well).
Lex was one of the hardest sacrifices that he had to make. Clark had wanted so badly to talk to Lex about his feelings of ashamedness and the problems he had adjusting to being both a teenager and a parent, even if he couldn't share that Sam was Lex's son, too. Lex would have told Clark some historical or philosophical anecdote on the greatest parents, followed by a cutting remark about his own upbringing, to make Clark feel better.
Lex was never straightforward, a trait that both amused and annoyed Clark. It would have been nice if Lex would just say, "I think this," instead of, "In fifteen BC..." It took awhile, but Clark had figured out that Lex was actually insecure, not believing that anyone would listen to his own opinions on something. He used history as a way to convey his thoughts without having the blame being pinned on him if the advice turned out badly and, conveniently, none of the hurt, either, if the advice was not followed. It was also the sign of someone who'd had a very solitary childhood, who didn't have friends to keep him distracted from reading book after book.
Clark hadn't called Lex on it, because he was afraid it would make Lex clam up all together. Lex was a very cautious man and didn't let anyone get too close. Clark was probably the closest person to Lex and he hardly knew anything about what made Lex tick. Clark knew Lex was a good man, though, someone who tried to show his caring by spending money on things for others. It was too bad people saw it as either bribery or snobbery, like Jonathan Kent. No matter how many times Clark tried to explain it, the Luthor name and his own past associations with Lionel blinded Jonathan.
It didn't matter, though, since Clark wouldn't be seeing Lex again. Lex was Clark's alibi. If he found out, he would undoubtedly lie for Clark, but would demand the truth in return and that was something Clark could not give him. Clark didn't want to hurt Lex by blatantly denying him the trust he craved.
So, Clark suffered alone with his shame and teenage woes. The pregnancy part hadn't bothered him, once he'd accepted that it happened and had told his parents. It had almost seemed unreal, as did the first two weeks after Sam was born. It hadn't been until Clark had brought Sam up to the loft to show him the telescope, musing about how he'd let Sam operate it in the future, that reality had set in.
Clark had sat down quickly, holding his son close to his chest. He'd stared at Sam in fear and awe for a very long time. Clark was a father. He was responsible for creating the little boy in his arms. What he did would determine whether Sam lived or died, barring unforeseen circumstances. He would be the one to show Sam all the things Jonathan had shown Clark. He would have to try and explain why Sam had two fathers and how one of them was from another planet. He would have to teach Sam to keep secrets and how to lie.
That night, Clark'd had his first serious conversation with Jonathan in a very long while, pouring out his fears about fatherhood. Jonathan had told him that the secret was to take things one day at a time. The platitude was the best advice Clark had ever gotten from his dad. It helped greatly when he learned that Sam was an exceptionally gifted child.