The Eye of the Beholder
by Alexa Jones
Spoilers: slightly for Calling/Exodus
Disclaimer: Didn't think up these characters, don't own 'em.
Summary: AU silly fic. Clark is shunned from Krypton society and sent to earth because he's ugly.
Kal-El's arms were tightly wrapped around his mother's neck. He peered down at the shiny thing, where his father was busy arranging a blanket in its center.
His father straightened, nodding his head. "That will do," he said, and gestured for his son.
Kal-El wanted to cry at sorrowful look in his mother's eyes, and she reluctantly handed him to her husband.
Jor-El unceremoniously dumped him into the silver pod.
"Do not have fear, my son," he said firmly. "You will not be so ugly where you are going."
Kal-El's lower lip trembled. He'd heard all the comments from his aunt and uncles, the gasps of horror upon seeing him for the first time. He knew they had hoped he'd grow out of his ugliness. But he'd turned three years old, and experts had determined that his face would always look too much the same. Numerous doctor visits had confirmed that he was far too non-disfigured for plastic surgery to be a viable option. Eventually, his father couldn't stand having his son disgracing his household, and they'd found the closest life-sustaining planet to send him to his fate.
"They look remarkably similar to him on earth," Kal-El had heard his father say once. "It's disgusting."
Now, his mother had tears in her eyes and he was reaching out his arms for her, but his father roughly attached something to the back of his neck and the cold metal closed over him, plunging him into darkness. He heard a few beeps, and a gentle light illuminated the pod. Then it was shaking and he was jostled around roughly before everything was smooth.
Kal-El curled up into his blanket, tucking his face into it, a single tear running down his abnormally high cheekbone and porcelain skin.
The once spacious ship became claustrophobic as Kal-El grew. He grew out of his clothes and the only thing that hid his ugly body was the blanket. He cried himself to sleep every few hours. He didn't get hungry, didn't get thirsty, but the thing in his neck irritated him.
The tears had started falling again and he rolled onto his side and waited for sleep to claim him and postpone misery for another few hours when, suddenly, the ship met resistance. It rocked and Kal-El braced himself against the sides. The normally freezing metal sides became hot, and he had to pull back his limbs to keep his skin from burning.
Then, the ship hit the ground, opening and flinging Kal-El out from it before closing up. His blanket, still entwined in his fingers, came with him, and Kal-El landed in a heap of dirt. Smoke and dust were everywhere, making him cough.
But there was a glorious warmth, and the sharp pain from where the tube had been unexpectedly yanked out faded quickly. He brought his hand to the back of his neck, found his skin rapidly becoming smooth once more. He wanted to cry at the loss of his only scar, but the big yellow ball in the blue space felt too marvelous for him to feel sad for long.
He found, not far from his ship, other life that looked enough like himself. He smiled brightly at them, something that had always made his family recoil in horror, but the woman picked him up and cuddled him into his blanket.
There was soon another boy in the truck with them. He was beautiful. Kal-El reached his hand out and stroked the boy's cheek. He thought he'd be punished for touching something so lovely, but he wasn't. After that day, he didn't know what happened to the other boy and over time the memory faded.
After the boy left the truck, Kal-El was taken into a strange, yellow structure and dressed in a strange, but welcome outfit. No one had seemed bothered by his offensive nudity, but he felt better covered again all the same.
These new people loved him and hugged him, and never told him to his face how ugly he was, but over the years they still didn't let him do all the things that everyone else got to do. Although they never said, he knew it was because he was so ugly, so he shouldn't have expected any different. They called him Clark, and he liked the name fine. Anything was better than what his birth parents had called him.
Over time, those early memories were forgotten and repressed, and he didn't remember exactly how he knew he was so ugly. But any look in the mirror reminded him of the fact. After he learned his earth parents had found him with the ship, not only did it explain his abilities, but it also explained why he was so ugly. He was an alien, even if some humans were almost as ugly as himself.
Lana Lang was the most hideous eyesore ever.
He was certain that if her parents hadn't died they would have sent her off the planet, too. He didn't see any appeal, with her big eyes and straight, shiny hair, a cute little nose and flawless skin. She reminded him too much of himself. Sometimes he even wondered if they could be siblings, both sent away but in different ships so there wasn't too much ugly in one place. Maybe there was a universal law of physics that two uglies could not occupy the same general space at the same time. Maybe that's why he always felt ill whenever he got near her.
Later, he found out it was only because of the kryptonite, and it comforted him somewhat to know that there was another human on earth that was nearly as ugly as himself. He'd found himself wishing for her since he was five, even though he could hardly bear to look at her, because he didn't think he really deserved anyone better looking, and she might be the only chance he'd have at getting a girl.
Then, one day, Lex Luthor had hit him on the bridge. Clark hadn't thought much about men before, but Lex was so handsome. He had a bald head and a skinny body, with a bump on the back of his neck, slightly crooked nose, and a scar on his thin lips. He was pale, almost sickly-looking. However, despite these attractive features, he was still slightly ugly, after all, his face was somewhat symmetrical and had no outstanding blemishes, but his parents wouldn't have rejected him on Krypton, and he had a charisma that more than made up for it.
Clark knew he could never dream to have anyone as good looking as Lex.
He was pretty sure Lex thought he was very ugly. He was always looking him over, subtle glances and knowing smirks. It made Clark uncomfortable.
Lex had looked at him like that today. He was telling Clark that he was happy he'd gotten together with Lana. Probably happy that Clark had found another equally ugly person to be with.
Then, he'd met his birth father. The ship had lit up, spun, and branded him with their symbol for "Ugly." Flashbacks of his Kryptonian childhood came back, and he finally knew the reason they'd sent him away. Jor-El told him again that he was ugly. It didn't comfort Clark much to have learned from Dr. Swann that Krypton was destroyed. Sure, they had all died, but he was condemned to a life of ugliness and celibacy.
The next morning was cloudy. Clark felt mopier than usual when he woke up, only able to remember his father's words of the previous day. So, he stood naked in front of his mirror, studying himself.
Muscles that bulged out from under his skin. Strange ripples and indents along his stomach. He knew some humans had them, but not many and he'd never found it attractive. He hadn't seen Lex shirtless before, but he bet that Lex didn't have them.
Clark's birth parents would think their son wasn't skinny enough or fat enough. He was just average. His arms had too much muscle showing. He leaned in closer to the mirror. Everything about his face was perfectly shaped. His eyes were the right distance apart, his nose straight, lips full. His cheekbones were high and his skin was too perfect. Even his jawline was too right. No, there was nothing uneven about his appearance, and he was glad his parents couldn't see what an appalling being he'd become.
The sun came out later that morning and Clark was glad. His favorite past time was nude sunbathing. His skin could soak up as much sun as it could hold, and although he didn't like to have his body uncovered, the sun made him feel good enough that he didn't care.
That was how Lex found him, sprawled in the grass behind the barn, on his back, eyes closed and oblivious to anything but precious solar radiation.
"Starting your summer tan?"
Clark gasped and his eyes snapped open. "Lex!"
Clark glanced around frantically for something to cover himself, but he usually just super-sped back and forth and no one could see him, so he didn't bring out clothes. It was too late to speed now.
"Umm, what are you doing here?" Clark asked, ready to die of embarrassment at any second. Even his parents hadn't seen him naked in years, and no one really knew just how ugly he'd become since puberty.
Lex shrugged. "I was just stopping by to say hello, but...." Lex grinned, his eyes flickering over Clark's bare body.
Clark wanted to curl into a ball and disappear into the ground. He knew he could have punched a hole deep enough, but if he could do that in front of Lex, he could have ran away, too.
"Well, I already know how ugly I am, so you can just stop staring!" Clark wanted to burst into tears.
Lex burst out laughing.
Clark was now officially traumatized for life. "Fine, laugh at the revolting farm boy."
Lex sobered, but his eyes still twinkled. "Clark, you are the farthest thing from ugly."
"Don't kid around, Lex. It's not nice."
Lex kneeled onto the ground next to Clark. "I'm not kidding."
Clark saw perhaps one of the most sincere looks he'd ever seen from a Luthor.
"Let me assure you, Clark, you are quite breathtaking."
Clark swallowed hard. "But... look at me... I mean...."
Lex grinned. "Oh, I'm looking. And you're perfect."
"Exactly! I'm too perfect!"
Lex shook his head and chuckled again. "I don't know what planet you're from, Clark, but that's a good thing."
Clark looked alarmed. "It is?"
"Oh yes," Lex purred. "In fact, I can show you exactly how attractive I think you are."
Lex was straddling him then, kissing him and his hands trailing over the muscles that Clark thought nobody would want to see, much less touch.
And Lex did far more than touch, and eventually Clark learned that he really was the most fucking gorgeous man to exist on this planet. But Lana was still ugly.