Into your very core,
And see your soul
“C’mon, Jody, we can help you.”
The wild-eyed teenage boy stood in a meadow surrounded by purple and blue wildflowers while he crouched defensively, brown hair falling into his eyes. Clark was ready for anything, though he wished that he knew what power this particular meteor mutant possessed.
One thing about this situation caused conflicting emotions: Lex was beside him, which gave him a good feeling, yet in the next minute he was fearful for his friend’s safety. Was Jody the source of all the strange things that had been happening the last month in Smallville, more so than usual, he amended wryly, or did he possess some completely unknown power?
& & & & & &
One Month Ago
The Kents were enjoying lunch in their kitchen, the menu consisting of chicken on whole wheat bread with crisp lettuce, ripe tomatoes and mustard with pickles on the side. Drinking a glass full of cranberry juice, Clark asked, “How were things in town, Mom?”
“Oh, the usual, though people were talking about Elva DuBarry.”
“What about Elva?” asked Jonathan.
“She’s taken up sculpture.”
“Sculpture! I never knew she was artistic.”
“I guess even seventy-year-olds can discover new things about themselves.” Martha’s tone was amused.
“Good for her,” Clark said.
“Clark, could you go over to the Dawson place this afternoon? We have to deliver a special order.” Jonathan picked up his glass.
“I’ll have a fresh-baked apple pie ready for you by the time you get back,” Martha said with a smile.
& & & & & &
He was looking forward to watching a movie with Lex tonight. More and more he was enjoying spending time with his friend. In the short time that he had known the older man, Lex had become very important to him. Thinking of tonight made him even more cheerful than ever.
He understood that his feelings ran deep and that could be problematic as he was sure that Lex only wanted friendship, but he decided to worry about that later and just enjoy the time he spent with his friend.
Clark arrived at the Dawson farm and drove the truck up to the barn. Outside the structure he saw Lem Dawson, a white-haired man of sixty-five who coached the Little League team and was an assistant coach on the high school football team, always ready with a helping hand for any charitable cause. He had coached Clark during his brief stints on the baseball and football teams.
“Hi, Mr. Dawson. I’ve got your order here.”
“Great, bring it on into the barn.”
Clark carried the baskets of apples into the barn, taking two trips to unload the truck. Once inside on the last trip, he set the final basket down. “All set, Mr. Dawson.” Clark turned and found Dawkins uncomfortably close. “Um, I’d better be going.”
The pale blue eyes glittered. “You’re a beautiful boy, Clark. You always were, and now you’re even prettier, all grown up.”
“It’s okay, Clark, just relax, you’re gonna enjoy this.” Dawson grabbed Clark’s shoulder and pulled him close.
“Mr. Dawson, stop this!” Clark broke the older man’s hold and pushed him away.
“Don’t play hard to get, Clark. I hate it when pretty young men play coy.”
Dawson lunged for Clark, who sidestepped him with alacrity. He ducked and threw a punch, careful to restrain his strength. Dawson staggered back.
“Mr. Dawson, you need help.”
Dawson lunged for him again and Clark grabbed him, turning him around and restraining him.
“Let me go!”
Clark managed to get Dawson up against a post and tied him with rope he found on the workbench. Shaken, he went into the house to call the sheriff.
& & & & & &
He, Martha and Clark were setting in their living room. Sheriff Adams had stopped by with Clark to tell the Kents about the attack.
“What worries me is how many others he night have attacked over the years. He’s a Little League coach!” said Martha.
“Predators usually cover themselves well.” Jonathan shook his head. “You never know what a man’s true nature is.”
Clark shuddered. “I’d hate to think what might’ve happened without my strength.”
Martha squeezed his shoulder. They were sitting on the couch while Jonathan sat in his favorite chair.
“I never suspected that Mr. Dawson was a…” Clark swallowed.
“No one did,” Jonathan said.
“I’m just glad you’re all right, honey.” Martha brushed back Clark’s bangs. “Though maybe he hasn’t attacked children. A pedophile likes his victims younger than you.”
“That’s true. He must have found his victims in high school because he’s an assistant coach on the football team.”
“Or maybe he went to Metropolis to satisfy his appetites,” Jonathan said darkly.
They were silent for a minute, Clark finally breaking the silence. “I better get going over to the mansion.”
“Whoa, wait a minute. Shouldn’t you stay home tonight?”
“No, I’d rather see Lex, Dad. I don’t want to miss Movie Night.”
“Go on, dear.” Martha gave his shoulder a final squeeze.
& & & & & &
Lex had the snacks laid out on the coffee table. He was just about to sit down when he asked, “Clark, what’s wrong?”
Since when did you get to know me so well?
Clark finally told Lex about the afternoon’s events. He would find out, anyway. Secrets never lasted long in small-town Smallville, though Clark had to admit that he was amazed that his secret had lasted this long.
Lex’s anger crackled, then once he found out that Clark was all right, he shook his head. “No matter how many times you hear something like this, you still feel a bit of shock!”
“What, a cynic like you?” Clark teased.
“Ha.” Lex sat down next to Clark and turned the TV on.
& & & & & &
Clark delivered a produce order after school to Elva DuBarry. She was busy sculpting in a room that she had converted especially for her artwork. Clark blushed as he looked at previous works. She seemed to have a taste for male nudes. He had to admire a woman in her seventies still appreciative of the male form, but he had heard people speaking in scandalized tones about it around town.
“Oh, thank you, Clark. My boarders always appreciate your family’s fresh fruits and vegetables.”
“We’re happy for your patronage, Ms. DuBarry.”
Elva was sitting on a stool in front of her casting. She wore a painter’s blue smock and her white hair was pulled back into a bun. She was working on a sculpture, her hands resting on the thighs of her statue. Clark blushed a little.
“Glad to give it, Clark.” Elva looked critically at the sculpture. “Dang, I gotta redo this hip.” She laughed as she saw Clark’s blush. “Don’t be shy, boy. Art is nothing to be ashamed of.”
“I know, ma’am.” Clark had to admire the statue. The male nude was lovingly sculpted. “Were you always artistic?”
“Oh, I had a hankerin’ off and on but something always managed to get in the way: marriage, raising two kids, running this boardinghouse.” Elva picked up a chisel. “Guess I just decided to be true to myself at last.” She smirked. “I’ve scandalized the town, but it’ll do them good. It’s a small town and it is Kansas.”
As Clark turned to leave, Elva said, “If you see Jody Turner, tell him thank you for the supplies.”
& & & & & &
He caught a glimpse of Jody in the school hall in between classes but was distracted by Chloe. He lost sight of Jody and forgot about him as he hurried to history class.
& & & & & &
Clark purchased a cappuccino and joined Lex at the table. “Mmm, I like the chocolate shavings on the whipped cream.”
Lex smiled. “I agree.”
Clark sipped his drink. “You were frowning when I came in. Anything wrong, Lex?”
“I know the good citizens of Smallville can be odd, being small towners and all, but even this behavior seems unusual.”
Clark set down his mug. “I’ll overlook your big-city snobbery about small-town behavior and also overlook the fact that this is Smallville, so weirdness is part of the package. What’s bothering you?”
“Max Silverman is into the leather scene.”
Clark had just taken another sip and started coughing. Lex leaned over and pounded his back. “Wha…cough, cough…what?”
Luckily the other diners were too far away to hear anything but coughing. Overheard conversations could spread fast in a small town.
“Are you okay?” Lex asked.
“Uh, yeah.” Clark leaned forward. “What do you mean Max Silverman’s into leather?” he asked in a low voice.
“I saw him in Metropolis.” At Clark’s confusion, Lex added, “He was coming out of Club 59. It’s a place where the leather crowd hangs out.”
“Max Silverman? He’s a forty-year-old farmer who never exhibited any, um, kinkiness.”
“Clark, we all have secrets.” Lex smiled.
Uncomfortable, Clark said, “Sure, but that means they’re our true natures, in a way.”
“Part of them. No one’s defined by one thing.”
“That’s probably for the best.” Clark sipped his cappuccino and avoided Lex’s eyes.
& & & & & &
“We can help you, Jody.” Clark smiled and began to edge forward.
“Don’t come any closer!”
“It’s all right, Jody. You aren’t to blame for meteor mutant powers.”
“So is Smallville.”
Lex smirked. At least Clark could admit that.
“I touch people and they…change.” Jody backed away nervously.
“How?” Lex asked.
“They look pole-axed.” Jody shuddered.
“How do you know they’ve changed? In what way?”
“They…they’ve all acted strange since I touched ‘em. People are makin’ crazy sculptures and runnin’ off to Metropolis or tryin’ to jump teenagers’ bones.”
“Or go to leather clubs,” Clark muttered. “Jody, listen, it’s not such a bad power.”
“How would you like to touch people and have ‘em just go crazy?”
“Sculpting or running off to Metropolis to pursue a lifelong dream isn’t crazy.” Clark was getting closer.
Lex figured these was something more than anxiety over ‘changing’ people. It was an odd power but at least it was easy to corral.
“People are just being true to themselves,” Clark soothed. He was confident that the power wouldn’t affect him. It wasn’t as if Jody could zap him with electricity or punch him into next Sunday, after all.
“There’s a reason people keep secrets! They should be allowed to have them.”
Jody began to run but Clark grabbed his jacket sleeve. A jolt went through him as he staggered back. Lex ran forward and brushed against Jody, who was looking on in horror.
“See! I told you to stay away!”
Lex gasped as a surge of energy went through his body.
Clark’s strained voice broke through Lex’s fogged mind. Lex blinked and looked into deep, emerald eyes. Compelled beyond his ability to resist, he leaned forward and kissed Clark.
& & & & & &
“What the fuck?” Farmer Beau Stratham shook his head and shoved Clark. “What’s your father think of you, boy?”
Clark lifted his chin. “He’s proud of me.”
“A likely story, kid.” Beau reared back in laughter. “Jonathan Kent ain’t about to embrace a faggot for a son.”
“Come on, Clark,” Lex said and escorted his friend into The Talon.
“Hey, guys,” Chloe said, hesitating only a moment as she saw their joined hands. “Uh, guys, since when are you so lovey-dovey?”
“Since we met up with Jody Tuner,” Lex said wryly.
“Oh. Oh!” Chloe nodded briskly. As a long-time Smallville resident, she understood these things. “But do you have to canoodle in public?”
“You’re not being homophobic, are you, Ms. Sullivan?” Lex asked.
Chloe threw him a look as if to say, I won’t dignify that with an answer. “So Jody was the meteor mutant?” Clark and Lex had discussed the possibility with her.
“You were right,” Clark said. “All the people who exhibited unusual behavior had come into contact with Jody the past week.”
Lex noticed DeShawn Barry laughing with a girl at one table, probably a fellow Drama Club actor. Apparently being true to himself had meant giving up football for acting, which had not gone over well with some citizens of the town. It had taken courage for the kid to do what he did.
Can Clark and I do less?
“You guys finally took the plunge.”
“Just being true to ourselves.” Lex sipped his cappuccino.
“Helluva strange power.”
“No kidding.” Clark rubbed his forehead. “Chloe, what are we going to do? Part of the effect is compulsion to be true to yourself, meaning secrets exposed. Everyone Jody touched revealed some secret part of themselves, whether it was wanting to act over playing football to snapping at your boss.”
“I never knew Mr. Fletcher had it in him,” Chloe grinned. “Or Callie Baker suddenly becoming a dancer.”
“Ballet.” Chloe sipped her drink.
“Never would have guessed Callie wanted to be a prima ballerina.” Clark shook his head. “So now what do we do?”
“Just be yourselves, I guess.”
“Easier said than done,” Clark groused. “I never came out to my parents.”
“I’m sure they’ll be okay with it. They seem to roll with things pretty easily when it comes to you.”
“Are we talking the Kents here?” Lex asked. “Martha maybe, but Jonathan?”
“You’d be surprised.” Chloe’s eyes twinkled as she sipped her drink again.
Clark looked a little uncomfortable as he sighed. “Well, I’d better get home and break the news, though Mom and Dad probably already know, via the faster-than-light Smallville grapevine.”
“I’ll go with you,” Lex said. At Clark’s skeptical look, he chuckled. “Maybe I’ll get invited to Sunday dinner once in awhile.”
Chloe laughed as Clark looked pained.
& & & & & &
“Um, hi, Dad.”
“Guess he knows,” Lex said.
”Inside,” said Jonathan.
The screen door creaked as the young men obeyed.
& & & & & &
“And that’s how it happened,” Clark said in conclusion.
“That’s some story.” Jonathan sat with his arms crossed.
“Just life in Smallville, Dad.”
Jonathan snorted. Martha said, “Darling, you must know that it’s not going to be easy. This might be the twenty-first century, but it’s still a small town and it’s still Kansas.”
“I know, Mom.” Clark put his hand over Lex’s. “But I’m willing to take whatever they can dish out.”
Lex felt warmed by Clark’s declaration. He could imagine his father’s reaction but he would stand up to Lionel. It was worth it.
& & & & & &
Lex taught Clark the ways of love, amazed at his own capacity to love. After years of living without love, he was surrounded by it, as warm and solid as Clark’s arms.
Clark had some trouble at school, which he kept from Lex, or thought he had. Lex began to plot to make life very difficult for the teenage Neanderthals who were trying to make Clark’s miserable.
One day after school, Clark appeared in the library doorway of the mansion. “Lex, cut it out.”
“Cut what out?”
“Going after those guys on the football team who think they’re giving me a hard time.”
“They think they are?” Lex closed his laptop.
Clark came into the room. “Yes. You think the teachers and other kids are letting them get away with their nonsense?”
Lex stood and came from around the desk. “They’re actually sticking up for you?”
“Some are, some aren’t, but the principal and faculty aren’t about to let one of their students be bullied.”
“How magnanimous of them.”
“Ha, ha.” Clark drew Lex into a deep kiss. “Mmm.”
Lex laughed as he drew back. “Tasty, am I?”
“Yummy as can be.” Clark’s eyes sparkled.
Lex nearly sighed. “Hello, Dad.”
Lionel sauntered in, his smile wolfish. “Should I welcome you to the family, Clark?”
“Did anyone ever tell you that you have lousy timing, Dad?”
Lionel laughed as Clark suppressed a shiver. It wasn’t a pleasant laugh.
“I hear that you two have been making spectacles of yourselves in town.”
“Well, you know we Luthors, Dad. We love spectacles.” Lex smiled. “Like a Roman Colisseum.”
& & & & & &
Clark remained on guard. Lionel was a charmer but that façade covered a Machiavellian core. He remained quiet and let Lex take the lead. His friend certainly had more experience in dealing with Lionel.
“Don’t you think you should have been more discreet, Lex?” Lionel asked as he wandered over to the wet bar.
“Well, we didn’t have much of a choice.”
“How so?” Lionel poured himself a brandy.
“The latest meteor mutant had an unusual power: compelling people to be true to themselves.”
“And being gay is your true self?” Lionel asked archly.
“Damnit, Lex, you can’t just mince around town.” Lionel turned, Clark tensing. How had child Lex stood up this ferocious man? “You’re a Luthor! Remember that.”
“Oh, believe me, I never forget.”
Lionel smirked as he drank his brandy. “Well, then, shouldn’t you stop going around town hand-in-hand?”
“We told you, we don’t have much choice.” Lex took Clark’s hand. “Do we, Clark?”
“That’s right. Part of the effect of the meteor power is compulsion to reveal yourself.”
“Hmm, that sounds like a useful power.”
Clark could see the calculation in Lionel’s eyes. Lex squeezed his hand.
“We’ll just have to ride it out,” Lex said.
“You do realize you’ve made the tabloids and are all over the gossip sites on the Internet?” Lionel swirled the brandy in his snifter.
“I hadn’t bothered to check, but it doesn’t surprise me.” Lex shrugged.
Lionel shook his head. “You’re playing a dangerous game, son. LexCorp has to maintain a certain image.”
“Let me guess.” Lex disengaged from Clark and gently rubbed his back. “The CEO romancing a farmboy isn’t the image.” He looked steadily at his father. “Gee, I never would have guessed.”
“Sarcasm doesn’t become you, Lex.” Lionel drained the snifter.
“Sorry, Dad, I learned from the best."
Lionel’s eyes glinted but he put the snifter down. “Do you think you can just go on your merry way, gentlemen? What do the good citizens of Smallville think of your new-found romance? Are they all hunky-dory about it?”
Clark wanted to come to the defense of his fellow townspeople but remembered the few incidents that had already occurred.
Lex kept up his massaging. “Not everyone’s fine with it, but it would be the same in Metropolis or anywhere else.”
“I’m glad you’re so blasé about the whole thing.”
“Beats getting all worked up.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Lionel said, though his tone indicated the opposite.
After Lionel left, Clark looked at Lex with troubled eyes. “Do you really think that we can carry this off without too much trouble?”
“I guess we’ll find out.”
Lex drew Clark into a kiss, which the younger man returned enthusiastically.
& & & & & &
“Thanks, Clark.” She smiled at the young man. “How are you and Lex doing?”
“Pretty well, considering.” Clark looked at the nearly-finished sculpture. “It’s really beautiful.”
”So you appreciate fine art.”
Clark laughed. “Particularly this kind of sculpture.” He admired the graceful curve of thigh and broad chest.
“He is a fine specimen, if I do say so myself.” Elva finished cleaning her tools. “Though perhaps he needs a mate.”
“He’d probably like that.”
Elva chuckled. “No doubt.” She removed her smock.
“You’re so talented.”
“Thank you.” Elva pushed back a lock of white hair. “I have to sculpt.”
“I know what you mean.” Clark sighed. “Lex and I have to show our love.”
“Is that so bad?”
“I’d say you were lucky.”
Clark smiled. “I suppose so.”
Elva looked at him with a speculative glint. “Clark, are you ashamed of being with Lex?”
“Oh, no. I just...it’s a little difficult.”
"That's understandable." Elva smiled. "Romance isn't easy, especially when everyone in town knows about it and some have a less-than-favorable opinion."
Clark grinned ruefully. “That’s definitely the case.”
Elva patted his shoulder. “Chin up, my boy. You’ve got a fine young man there. You’ll do fine.”
Clark beamed with pride. “Thanks, Ms. DuBarry.”
Feeling better about the situation, he went to The Talon to meet Lex. With a big smile, he kissed his lover as he leaned over the table.
“You’re chipper today,” Lex said with a smile of his own.
Clark slid into the booth. “I’m just happy that we’re in love and not having to hide it.”
“Even in small-town Kansas?”
“Even in small-town Kansas.” Clark swept his arm out. “Look, Lex, most people don’t really care. Sure, some will always hate us, but so what? You’re used to enemies because you’re a Luthor and some folks have always thought I’m a little weird, so what’s a few scowls or grimaces? Mom and Dad accept us and your father is at least keeping hands-off for now, and our friends accept us, too. Not too bad, huh?”
Lex smiled as he sipped his hot chocolate, the whipped cream tickling his lip. “Got it all figured out, huh?”
“Needs chocolate shavings.”
Clark pointed to Lex’s mug. “That whipped cream needs chocolate shavings.”
Lex laughed. “All right, you sure know your hot chocolate.” His eyes sparkled over the rim of the mug.
Clark grinned a typical incandescent Clark Kent smile as he plucked Lex’s mug out of his hand and took a sip.