All jobs are difficult in some way, but surely most people would agree that elementary school teachers have a particularly rough time when dealing with complicated children. It can be a wonderful job, too; forming kids, spending a large part of the day surrounded by their innocence and optimism, it’s definitely a nice change from the outside world, where individualism and materialism have consumed it all. But, it can also be overwhelming. Children can be difficult. And when one is not the person raising them, it can be difficult to correct bad habits.
Still, according to Clark Kent, second grade teacher, that wasn’t the toughest part of his job. No, what he genuinely hated was when one of his students was sad or hurt and there was nothing he could do to help.
There was something he could do to help Jason, though. Or at least, he could try.
The first time he’d noticed Jason sad, he’d thought it had been a one-time thing. School had ended almost half an hour ago by the time he finished organizing everything for the following day and clearing his locker with the few papers he intended to take home and was surprised to find the boy still sitting outside, waiting for someone to pick him up. It was Friday, and almost no one was left, so he was alone, sitting on a bench. Clark’s heart ached with the view, but he figured whoever was picking him up was delayed for one reason or another; that sort of thing happens sometimes.
But then, when he left around the same time the following Monday, he found the same scene.
And on Tuesday.
And on Wednesday.
So, when it happened on Thursday, he decided he would have a word with Jason’s father.
He’d heard a thing or two about Mr. Wayne. The man was a successful business man and was probably busy because of that. He knew that Jason’s mother was dead, but he didn’t know if Mr. Wayne was seeing anyone else. He knew that he was supposed to be charming, but he didn’t know if he was good with children or how much patience he had or how much time he spent around his kid, which was the type of thing he wanted to know but not the things the other teachers talked about. Still, he was satisfied when he managed to schedule a meeting for the next day, and decided he could make his own opinion of the man when he saw him in person.
Then, on Friday at nine am, he regretted that he told Diana he didn’t need to see any pictures, and he understood why the PE teacher had smirked at that.
Of course Mr. Wayne was the most attractive person Clark had ever met. That was just his luck. However, his looks didn’t make him a better father. And that was what Jason needed from him. That was the one thing that mattered to Clark. The fact that the moment he sat, he asked what Jason had done only pissed him off more. He knew it was showing on his face, and that he should keep his hands on the table to not look as menacing as he knew he did with his arms folded on top of his chest, but he was angry.
“Mr. Wayne, I didn’t call you here because Jason did anything. I called you here because I wanted to talk about you.”
Clearly, the man hadn’t been expecting that. “What?” he asked in shock.
“You’re late every day. Jason had to wait over forty minutes yesterday, and he was all alone. I tried to keep him company, but mostly he ignored me because he was embarrassed.”
Mr. Wayne had paled. “He was…” he swallowed and ran a hand through his hair, distress clear on his eyes. “I’m sorry.” He covered his mouth with a hand and repeated a little shakily: “I’m so sorry.”
Clark could’ve forgiven anything, staring into those eyes, that were so sincere and so blue. He took a deep breath and forced himself to blink. Then he fixed his eyes on a point over the man’s shoulder. “I’m not the one you ought to apologize to.”
“I know, but…” he shook his head, “I can’t make it earlier. I can’t. Jason told me it was okay. Fuck, I should’ve, I should’ve known. I… fuck!”
“Mr. Wayne,” Clark frowned, “please, mind your language. We’re at the school.”
Mr. Wayne’s eyes widened comically. “Yes, of course, sorry.”
“Why can’t you make it earlier?”
“I need to pick up my other son, Timothy, at the nursery school about half an hour before Jason finishes, and that is far enough from here, but then I also need to pick up Richard at ballet. That’s at the same time Jason is off. But Jason can stay here at school, and Richard cannot stay in the academy. They have another class, and it’s a small building, with no other children and no teachers, so I…” he shook his head, “I can’t make him wait there. But the school it’s at least twenty minutes from there, and there’s always traffic. I asked Jason if he wanted me to pick him up before Tim, but he said no.”
Clark hadn’t even known the man had more children. Was he single? He cleared his throat and tried to soften his expression. “Isn’t there anyone else who can pick them up for you?”
Mr. Wayne shook his head. “My… my uncle used to help me, and I still leave the kids with him, but he can’t drive since last month. He had an accident and is using crutches.”
Clark wasn’t going to ask about the pause. Maybe the man wasn’t his uncle, but obviously he was the one person Mr. Wayne trusted with his children. He sighed. “Okay. I understand. I’m sorry, I didn’t think you had told Jason you’d be late.”
“I try to make it in twenty minutes. I try, but…”
“Mr. Wayne, I understand. Really,” he smiled, and was relieved when Mr. Wayne gave him a small one in return. “I’m sorry. I… how about I take Jason with me? Maybe I could meet you there, at Richard’s academy? Or in the middle?”
“You would do that?”
“Of course.” He just wanted to make things better for Jason. And maybe, just maybe, he wanted to make things better for Mr. Wayne, too. If it helped keeping there that slightly awed expression that made him look younger, if it helped keeping the frown away… “Then maybe when your uncle gets better, you can find another solution.”
Mr. Wayne nodded. “Normally he picks up Richard.” He licked his lips, his eyes never leaving Clark’s face. It made him slightly nervous. “I don’t know how to thank you, Mr. Kent. Really, thank you.”
“That’s okay.” He realized he would have to shake Mr. Wayne’s hand in goodbye soon, but his palms were all sweaty for some reason. He swallowed hard and hoped the growing panic didn’t show on his face.
“Maybe some dinner could be a good start?”
Clark blinked, unsure for a minute what the man was talking about. “I’m sorry, what?”
“To thank you. Could I take you out for dinner, Mr. Kent?”
That would be highly inappropriate. It was a good thing they were alone in that small conference room. And he really hoped he didn’t look as eager as he felt while he nodded. “That could be a good start, yes.”