Harsh rain lashed against the windowpanes like bullets. Lightning cracked against the walls, fracturing the stone. Thunder boomed in counterpoint, shaking the foundation. The wind screamed with a banshee’s wail. Mother nature was in a fury, raging against the castle like a woman scorned. He should have taken it as a sign that this was a bad idea.
But Clark was arching under him, roughly crying out his name. Flushed features twisted in a grimace of pleasure, as a shower of come rained on a broad expanse of bare chest.
Inside, a storm ravaged against the defenses of his heart.
“I’m not an X-man.”
“With a tinfoil hat, you’ll be SuperGrover.”
“You’re not taking this seriously.”
“You’re too uptight. ‘A’ for ‘Anal.’”
“I’m wearing this in public. I don’t want to be laughed at.”
“You’ll be laughed at no matter what.”
“Spandex is practical!”
“Sorry. Guess I’m not in the mood.”
“Obviously. Okay, how ‘bout we look at historical crests, like Joan of Arc or Lincoln?”
“Alexander the Great.”
“Do you really think—”
“Yeah. Good symbol. But I bet Luthor’s laughing his angelic ass off at the spandex.”
Father Knows Best
Green eyes and blue eyes both narrowed, centimeters away from each other, mouths screwed into tight frowns. A freckled hand shot out and yanked on a dark pigtail. A pink sneaker-clad foot kicked a shin.
A hard shove from PJ and Sam stumbled back. “You’re so stupid!”
“Am not! My IQ is higher than you can count!”
“But you still like the Maple Leafs!”
“They’re better than your stupid Ducks!”
“You’re both wrong,” Lex said knowingly, leaning against the doorjamb, interrupting his children’s fight. “The Rangers are best.”
The pancakes were burnt, and the syrup was Kayo and not Mrs. Butterworth’s. The orange juice had pulp. Toilet paper napkins, sporks as silverware, and paper plates so thin they disintegrated within minutes.
Chloe slid into her seat at the kitchen table, a rainbow of rubber-banded ponytails in her hair. She tucked toilet paper in the sailor collar of her blouse, poured Kayo over the two blackened pancakes on her plate, and dug in. She smiled, her braces full of food. “Mmm, this is good. Better than mom’s breakfasts.”
Gabe knew she was lying. He loved her all the more.
“Yeah. See, if you cut off the head of a chicken above the vocal cords, they still make sound when you compress the body. So the local farmers carefully cut a small slice between the ribs and insert a thin, hollow pipe into the chicken’s lungs. They duct tape the hole around the pipe to seal off any excess airflow and then play the chicken like a bagpipe. It’s a lot of fun when a group of chicken-pipers plays together.”
“And when does this vegetarian’s nightmare take place?”
“After the chicken-tossing contest. Isn’t the County 4-H Fair great?”
The tip of Clark’s tongue stuck out the corner of his mouth as he concentrated. The superglue seemed to stick to everything but what he wanted glued. Finally, a glob stayed in the right spot, and he dropped the glue, grabbed the leg, and stuck it in place.
It wasn’t until the glue was dry that he realized the soldier’s leg was on backwards.
The seven-year-old threw the soldier and it embedded in his bedroom wall. He dropped his head, shut his eyes tight, and tried not to sniffle. Pete was never going to want to play with him again.
Lionel stared out the window, eyes searching the city as if for answers. The jet he’d provided Lex had never arrived at its destination, for the honeymoon he’d gifted to his son and new wife. No LuthorCorp plane had landed anywhere in the Caribbean.
This wasn’t supposed to happen.
Lex was fire and life and adversity. He was annoying and spiteful and too intelligent for his own good. Sentimental, too, and emotional, just like his mother.
And just like his mother, he might be dead.
Lionel wiped at his eyes. Who was he supposed to give the world to now?
Lana’s lip trembled and tears stung her eyes, but she wasn’t going to cry, despite the fact that everyone always left her. First her parents, then her best friend Emily, then her dog Coco, then Whitney, then Aunt Nell, then her dad Henry, then Clark – who came back, but wasn’t really there for her – and now Chloe. She thought she could rely on Chloe. They were sisters in spirit! They shared everything, and now Chloe left her, just like everyone else.
“I found some toothpaste.” A pajama-clad Chloe entered the girls’ shared bathroom and frowned quizzically. “Why are you crying?”
“Television is a waste, Clark. It’s for the brain-dead masses, zombies who are too illiterate to pick up a book and read. It’s appropriately nicknamed the ‘boob tube,’ with its dumbed-down teleplays of sappy drama or unfunny comedy about unbelievable situations, and only mindless boobs would find TV shows interesting. And don’t let me get started on these so-called ‘reality’ shows. Popularity contests and publicized sex, is all they are. Television is a worthless way to spend your time when there are many more productive things that you could be doing.”
“They pre-empted your show for basketball again, didn’t they?”
“Ow! Watch where you’re going, Freakenstein.”
“Kinda hard to when the power’s out.”
“Why isn’t the generator coming on? I was watching something.”
“And I was reading something. Let’s go tell Dad. He’ll fix it.”
The two teenagers stumbled along, shoving each other in the dark, until they reached their parents’ bedroom. The door opened easily. In the pitch-black room, they couldn’t see anything, but they could certainly hear.
Sam closed the door. “Maybe we’ll tell them later.”
“Eew! Gross! Our parents are having sex!” PJ shuddered.
“Y’know, most babies are conceived when the power is out.”
“You don’t think…”
At first it was dark, and silent, and cold, and very wet. He opened his eyes and could see nothing but the end of his dreams, breathing despair in a metal tomb. He was alone.
Later, when time ceased and consciousness was a figment of imagination, a screech broke his eardrums and light blinded his eyes. Phantom hands lifted him from his watery grave. A mouth touched against his lips, familiar and safe.
It was dark, and silent, and cold, and he was still very wet, but a beacon of light glimmered in his mind.
He was no longer alone.
She saw him every year on her birthday. He always brought flowers, but his presence was the real gift. She remembered the first time he visited, a young boy crying silent tears and how he’d talked for hours. Years passed and he changed, becoming harder and aloof, but still he came.
He crouched beside her now, flowers sliding into a vase at her side. He was silent, unmoving, as he stared at her for a long moment. Then, he brushed his fingers over the words on her grave and murmured, “I still miss you.”
She missed her son, too.
Clark stood in line to register with the R.A.
He stood in line to get his room key.
He stood in line to register for classes.
He stood in line when the class he’d wanted was full.
He stood in line when that class was full.
He stood in line to get his student id.
He stood in line to get his books.
He stood in line to enter the cafeteria.
He stood in line to get dinner.
He stood in line for the bathroom.
He finally stopped standing and went to sleep.
He stood in line in his dreams.
Martha had done the shopping, like every year, making small talk as she fought the other mothers for the sale items at the store. The things she had purchased were placed neatly on the kitchen table, ready for the first day of school. Seven notebooks, college ruled, in different colors, one for each class. A package of pens, blue ballpoint, with the chewable caps. Several number two pencils, pre-sharpened, with erasers intact. A thin, black day planner that would never be used. A graphing calculator, a gym lock, and a brand new backpack.
Now, all she needed was a son.
For the longest time, he felt like he belonged. The kryptonite was a part of his home world, the mutants had oddities like his, and he had friends and family that wanted him around no matter what. He was different, but different was the norm. He had fit into the puzzle that made up Smallville.
Now, his puzzle piece had been chewed up and spat out again. His edges were jagged or curled up. He no longer fit, though he pounded himself into the shape of the hole to fill the picture. However, Smallville would never look the same again.
New! With Detachable Hand!
“What’re you doing?”
“Looking for my hand.”
“Isn’t it attached to your body?”
A President Lex Luthor doll popped into view. “Not this body.”
“How’d it fall off?” Clark took the doll
Lex didn’t answer.
“Were you playing with yourself again?”
“Liar.” With a burst of speed, Clark was gone and back. He posed two objects on the couch. “I bet you were.”
Lex straightened and saw what Clark had done. “Who plays with dolls?”
“I wasn’t playing,” Clark said, smiling slyly.
Lex pointed at the naked, entwined Lex and Superman dolls. “What do you call that?”
The cinnamon colored freckles dotted Lex’s body like tiny islands in a sea of pale skin. Clark used his tongue to map paths around each freckle, darting in and out of hidden coves and slipping between the clusters. He piloted the swells and dips of bare flesh, sailing against the roiling movement beneath him, until he found a darker island that begged to be investigated.
In the deep recesses of the island, he heard the primal cries of a native and reveled at the discovery. Like every explorer, he was a conqueror at heart.
And conquer he did.
Clark knew he was in love because Lex had told him this thirty times before—
“…See how in this panel Sean is watching Cal out of the corner of his eye, as he’s talking with Eva? Then, in the next panel, Cal’s hand flares at his side. That’s the signal that sets off the events three pages later. It’s the little things like this that makes Warrior Angel so great. Even after the rift, there is still communication between them, old looks and movements that mean one thing when they’re saying something else…”
—and he didn’t mind hearing it again.
“Thanks for coming.”
“See you soon.”
“It was wonderful.”
“It was good seeing you, too.”
“Dude, catch you later.”
“I had a great time.”
“Don’t think I’m leaving without getting a hug.”
“Make sure you guys stop by soon.”
“Thanks for the leftovers.”
“Say goodbye, sweetheart.”
“See you in the morning, kid.”
“They’re gone,” Clark said with a relieved sigh, shutting the door and leaning back against it.
“Know what I liked best about today?”
“The food? Family? Friends? Fun?”
Lex tucked his hands in his pockets, a smile curving the corner of his lips. “Everyone went home.”
The first band-aid was pulled off quickly, bringing tears to his eyes.
“If I take it off slowly, it’ll hurt worse.”
“No, it won’t. Do the next one slow.”
The second band-aid was pried up slowly, tearing and ripping one millimeter at a time. The tears fell down his cheeks.
“I’m sorry, Lex. I told you.”
“I know. There’s still one more.”
“How would you like to do this? Fast or slow?”
“Tell me about Helen Bryce.”
The third band-aid was torn from his psyche.
“No matter how many times I prepare myself for the sting, it still hurts.”
“There are stories for each star, you know.”
The telescope sat at the window, pointed towards the sky. A thick coating of dust marred its surface.
“And I bet you know every single one.”
A silent figure stood beside the telescope, looking out at the night.
“Do you have a favorite?”
“My mother once said that the stars were actually peepholes, so that angels could look down on their loved ones from heaven. Unrealistic, but sometimes that doesn’t matter.”
Clark lifted his hand in an awkward wave and said softly, “Hey, Lex.”
“No, it doesn’t matter at all.”
Clark held the turkey bone up between them. “It’s Thanksgiving tradition. We both pull on the wishbone, and the one with the larger piece after it breaks gets their wish.”
“I think I’m glad I had a deprived childhood.” Still, Lex took hold of the other side of the u-shaped bone. “Tell me when.”
“On three. One, two—” Clark swooped in, over their hands, and pressed his lips to Lex’s in an awkward kiss. He pulled away quickly, face flaming, and looked at his toes. “Three.”
The wishbone snapped.
“What do I do if I already got my wish?”
“Purdue beat IU cleanly, and Wake Forest slaughtered Texas A&M, with a final score of a hundred eight-three to ninety-five.”
“Damn, I’m out.” Clark shut off the ESPN and tossed the remote on the coffee table.
“Who’d you have?” Wally asked, sprawled in the corner of the couch beside him.
Wally smirked. “I have Kentucky.”
“It’s all in the luck of the draw, my friend.”
Clark looked suspiciously at Wally. “You were the one to pick them out of the hat.”
“Like I said, it’s all in the speed-palming of the highest odds team, my friend.”
Calming the Vortex
Lex looked nervously at Clark in the dimly lit barn, wondering if this would be the thing that finally drove Clark away. He’d been waiting for it to happen since the day Clark returned the truck.
Clark closed the distance between them and embraced Lex tightly.
“It’s okay,” he said in Lex’s ear. “It’s okay, Lex.”
Lex felt the knot residing in his chest relax at the benediction. It was just what he needed to hear.
He tentatively returned the embrace, relieved that their friendship would continue one more day, then released him. “Let’s go find your father.”
“It’s…” Clark struggled to find words that did not sound like ugly, gaudy, or gawdawful. “Very red.”
“The Romans used bold colors,” Lex said, gesturing grandly at the walls of his newly painted bedroom. “Reds, oranges, yellows, and golds. History dilutes the truth, because the ancient ruins are whitewashed by time.”
The paint on the walls could use some diluting, Clark thought. “Still,” he said, “It’s very… red.”
“Tell me the truth. What do you really think?”
“I think your bedroom looks like a whorehouse.”
Lex smiled slyly, sliding his hand up Clark’s arm. “Want to try out the goods?”
Tailored pants cuffed at the hem, Lex’s bare feet made lazy ripples on the surface of the lake, making the reflected sunlight wave on the cool water. Sitting at the end of the weathered dock, he tilted his face up to the sun, bathing in the warm rays with eyes closed. The gentle lap of the lake against the shore and the light twittering of the birds in the trees relaxed him. There was no stress, no worry, no pressure or pretense. The fresh air blew the cobwebs from his mind, allowing him to just be.
He was at peace.
I… Came out here to talk to my parents. You must think I’m pretty weird. You know, conversing with dead people. -Lana
“Dad wants to know if you’re upset about a guy.”
“He’s lying.” Lana looked curiously at her mother. Laura nodded sagely. “No question about it.”
“He is, honey,” her father said. “He’s been bitten by the love bug. It’s an obvious case of love-at-first-sight.”
Laura laid her head on Lewis’s shoulder and sighed. “Tell him it’s okay,” she said to Lana. “Tell him that love comes in many packages, but it’s still love.”
Lana glanced between her ghostly parents, and then smiled softly at her graveyard companion. “Mom says you’re lying, Clark,” she said. “So, who’s the guy?”
Color of Love
The red paint on the barn was whitewashed pink from the years. The deep green of the tractor was mottled with rust spots. The pale wheat on the property lay fallow and blackened. The buttercup yellow on the house chipped and weathered, curling brown on the edges.
The woman in the house once had vibrant auburn hair, now faded gray. Smooth, tanned skin had wrinkled and spotted. Sparkling hazel eyes had dulled with age. But when she took his hand and smiled softly, the world no longer looked weary and old.
The color of her love made everything bright again.
“It’s not that bad.”
“Okay, so it’s a little… tight.”
“The cape is cool though, right? All the really good superheroes have them.”
“The boots are kind-of girly, I admit, but the queen in me thinks they’re fabulous.”
“And yes, I know, it looks like I’m wearing my underwear outside the pants, but they’re specially made to protect my, ah, tackle.”
“And this - the shape is kryptonian, but the symbol is modeled from, um, Alexander the Great’s breastplate.”
Lex blinked, finally. “I hadn’t realized you were colorblind.”