Title: Bleeding Kansas (1-10/27)
Pairings/Characters: Cal/Jaz (OCs), Clark/Lex, Jonathan/Martha, Eben/Sarah (OCs), Chloe/Lana, Evelyn Kendall (OCs), Lionel Luthor, Nell Potter, Pete Ross, Nancy Adams
Genres: Angst, Big Bang/Challenge, Drama, First Time, Holiday, Mystery, Romance
Rating: R overall
Warnings: (Ch. 1: Implied whipping; Ch. 10: Homophobic comments; Ch. 15 & 25: Homophobic slurs; Ch. 25: Whipping, Ch. 25 & 26: Violence; Ch. 26: Homophobia, Fire victim)
Beta: The wonderful me_ya_ri! All mistakes are mine.
Art by: The talented silvervalley! All art can be seen here.
Summary: A Secret from Smallville’s past haunts Clark and Lex.
Dates Of Completion: June 1-July 15, 2011
Date Of Posting: October 28, 2012
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC and Warner Brothers do, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 26,558
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author's Note: Written for the 2011 Smallville Big Bang. Also written for my 2011 DCU Fic/Art Halloween Challenge Prompts: Smallville, Houses Decorated for Halloween, Pumpkins/Jack O’Lanterns, Pumpkin Bread, Trick-or-Treating, Masquerade Ball/Halloween Party, Ghosts/Spirits and for saavikam77’s 2011 DCU Free_For_All Autumn Challenge. Prompt: T12; P14: Haunted and Special Prompt No. 7: Possession.
All chapters can be found here.
Shines down upon
Celebrating the last
Of the growing season
As the wind whispers
In the trees,
“Time to welcome
The ghosts and witches.”
"All Hallows’ Eve"
The Harvest Moon hung low in the night sky, streams of silver illuminating the frost-sprinkled fields and towering woods of the Kansas countryside.
Two pairs of feet pounded on the dirt road that stretched between the fields, one young man dressed in simple brown homespun, the knees of his breeches torn and dark blood staining the back of his baggy peasant blouse. Bright, shaggy hair fell into blue eyes as he reached over and grabbed his companion’s hand, the other man dressed in a more expensive white shirt and black breeches, his stockings torn. Red hair glinted in the moonlight as green eyes searched frantically for something.
“Come on, Jaz!” the blond pleaded breathlessly. “They’re getting closer!”
The baying of hound dogs punctuated his statement as Jaz stumbled.
“We have got to get to my place, Cal! We can be safe there.”
Cal shivered as the hounds bayed again. He looked very young in the moonlight.
Jaz squeezed his hand. “We can use the tunnel.”
Cal’s eyes lit up. “Yeah!” He looked behind them. “We have to hurry. I can see their torches!”
Jaz could see them, too. They began running again, the redhead gasping, “I don’t know the way from here!”
“It will be all right. I know the area like the back of my hand. We can cut through the woods.”
Suddenly a shot rang out, the slender Jaz staggering as he clutched his side.
“Jaz!” Cal grabbed him. “Where are you hit?”
“My…ribs.” Jaz’ voice was laced with pain.
Cal was bigger, his muscles honed by years of farm work. He started to sweep his companion up into his arms.
“No!” Jaz squirmed out of his grasp. “You will be slowed down way too much.”
“If you think I am going to leave you here, hurt and alone, then I am insulted!”
Jaz coughed, wincing as the pain radiated up his side. Cal urged him onward, desperation helping Jaz move with alacrity.
The sound of the hounds was growing closer. Lungs bursting, Cal and Jaz kept running, Cal’s foot hitting a loose stone just before they reached the woods. He cried out as his ankle twisted, sending them both to the ground, Jaz groaning and Cal’s breath coming out with a whoosh of air.
“Cal,” Jaz said desperately.
Fresh blood seeped through the back of the farmboy’s shirt. Jaz winced as he saw the deep welts and stripes crossing the broad back, his shirt in tatters.
“It is all right, my friend. We will get out of this,” Cal said.
Jaz smiled quickly. “Up and at ‘em, then.”
Cal struggled to get up and Jaz helped him. They staggered to their feet and headed for the woods, the hounds’ baying growing louder.
Moments after they had disappeared into the woods, a gang of a dozen men appeared down the road, carrying torches and shotguns and keeping the straining hounds on leashes.
“Jebediah, the hounds say this way,” said a grizzled old man to the leader, a broad-shouldered man dressed in an expensive broadcloth coat and silk breeches. A slovenly man with stringy gray hair and cheap, ragged clothing was at Jebediah’s elbow. The ragamuffin’s gray eyes glowed with messianic fervor, lips whispering in the leader’s ear.
“We’ve got ‘em,” Jebediah growled, curling his fingers around a long-handled pistol.
With shouts of excitement, the men followed their leader into the woods.
Moments later came the sounds of screams and finally, two gunshots. Silence, then wisps of smoke began to curl up from the trees. They developed into full-blown fire as the flames snapped and popped, red-yellow fingers of heat reaching up toward the starry night sky as the hounds bayed mournfully and the wind carried the scent of sweet smoke on the breeze.
FIELD OF DREAMS
Is always with us,
In musty corners,
Waiting for someone
To appreciate it
"The Past Is Prologue"
Smallville’s Henry Harrison Public Library was a small, old-fashioned building built in 1892 during the wave of Andrew Carnegie’s generosity for establishing libraries across America. The brick structure was two stories tall with white columns at the entrance, and two stone lions perched on either side of the porch.
Inside, the high vaulted ceiling was painted in gold and blue, with stars and moons set in constellations of the solar system, though Chloe had always said they were random. Stained-glass windows allowed sunlight to stream inside as rainbow colors, creating diamond patterns shining on the hardwood floor.
The Circulation Desk was made of sturdy oak, with reserve shelves arranged behind it, and the Reference Desk was set by one wall, in between two windows. There were several tables and chairs on this floor for reading, and a small area with computers. The stacks were at the end of the room and continued into the next, and there were more stacks upstairs.
Clark had always liked this library. He liked the feeling of venerable age, combined with 21st-century modernism. He liked the quiet, and the musty smell of the older books, the stern bust of founder Jebediah Small in the downstairs Reading Room, and the huge 19th-century atlas with its maps of the solar system.
Chloe’s chandelier earrings jangled softly as she walked to the adjoining Reading Room.
“We’d better bring our books upstairs. The older section is up there.”
“So do you have any idea what to do for your history project?” Clark asked as they ascended the wide staircase, the newels smelling faintly of Lemon Pledge..
“No, I’m hoping to get some inspiration from some of the old books.”
Upstairs were rows upon rows of stacks, with long tables and chairs wedged between them. There was an area by a wide plate-glass window filled with a couch and two overstuffed chairs. The view was of the town and the surrounding woods.
“Well, guess we’d better start digging,” Chloe said.
“Shouldn’t we look through the card catalog?” Clark asked.
“Both terminals are in use downstairs. We can use the old-fashioned cards.” Chloe went to the wide wooden cabinet that held the pale yellow index cards in small drawers. “Good thing they keep this updated.” She laughed. “Pretty high-tech, huh?”
Clark grinned. The computer system had only been established in the Smallville library since 1990, and many of the older patrons still preferred to use them.
They were both silent as they flipped through cards, but Clark was not finding anything of interest. He decided to look through the stacks.
As Chloe continued searching through the cards, Clark disappeared into the stacks. The really ancient books were kept under lock-and-key and brought out only after a written request, but there were some old volumes allowed out in the regular stacks.
Clark pulled out books at random, hoping something would strike him. This history paper was one-third of their grade. Their teacher, Malcolm Atterby, was the toughest teacher on the faculty, demanding the most from his Advanced American History students. Clark liked the challenge. If he could ace this course, it would shine on his transcript.
He felt dizzy for a minute and his hand rested on a book to steady himself. Once the odd feeling had passed, he pulled out the book, glancing around automatically for meteor rocks. Feeling foolish, he returned his attention to the book.
It was an old brown leather-bound volume with the words My Journal stamped in gold letters on the cover. Clark carefully opened it, the musty smell strong.
On the frontispiece was scrawled bold handwriting. The name Calvin Kent was inked in fading blue on the cream paper, yellowed with age.
“Kent,” Clark murmured, excited. He turned the page and saw the words, This journal was gifted to me by my mother and father, December 25, 1855. On the next page, the first entry read,
January 1, 1856
I am very excited to have this journal. Ma and Pa know my dream and are supporting me. Someday I hope to be the greatest journalist in America.
Clark nearly laughed out loud. This ancestor of his nurtured a similar ambition, though as for himself, he doubted he would be the greatest journalist ever. He doubted he would ever be the greatest anything.
This journal could help with his paper. It would be extra interesting to do it with an ancestor as the subject.
He returned to the table, reading more. Calvin was a farmer’s son, and he wrote about weather and planning for spring planting.
Maybe this journal won’t be interesting, but if Calvin wrote about details of daily life, this will be a great resource.
Clark decided to read the entire journal before making a decision on his topic.
Chloe came to their table and set down a pile of books. “That’s all you’ve got?”
“Yeah.” Clark showed her the frontispiece. “Check it out.”
“Yeah, isn’t it cool?”
Chloe laughed. “The coolest! Must be an ancestor of yours.”
“I’ll have to ask Mom and Dad if they’re familiar with him.”
“Should be interesting reading, at any rate.” Chloe sat down and began sorting through her books.
“Yeah, I…what’s this?”
Something had fallen out of the journal.
“Looks like a pressed flower,” Chloe said. “Pretty.”
“It’s a lilac.” Clark picked it up. “Still smells a little.” He felt dizzy again. Disturbed, he put the lilac back into the book.
That night, he dreamed of fields of lilacs, and a castle in the distance.
WARM CHERRY PIE
Like a warm pie.
Clark hurried home and was greeted by his mother as he entered the kitchen. He could smell the tantalizing aroma of cherry pie baking in the oven.
Martha laughed. “That’s right, dear. Did you decide on a topic for your paper?”
“Not yet, but I found something interesting.” Clark presented the journal.
“What is this?”
“Calvin Kent’s journal.”
“What?” Martha opened the book. “Was this in the library?”
“Yes.” Clark’s mouth was watering for that pie.
“I don’t remember Jonathan mentioning a Calvin Kent, but he’s got ancestors up the wazoo.”
Clark laughed. “Guess so.”
The oven timer rang. “Oh, good, the pie’s done.” She smiled. “Sit down, honey. Time for a snack.”
Martha laughed, using oven mitts to take out the pie plate. She did not bother to set it out to cool. Cutting a large piece of pie, she handed it to her son on a plate and poured glasses of apple cider, before cutting herself a slice. Sitting down at the table, Martha asked, “Unless Calvin Kent is a boring writer; you should find plenty of material for your paper. Primary sources are always gold in history papers.”
“I sure hope so.” Clark took a bite of the warm cherry pie. “Mmm, Mom, absolute heaven.”
Martha smiled. She had to admit that she baked one mean pie. “So what will be your theme?”
“I’m not sure yet. I thought I’d read the journal first and decide.”
Jonathan came in from the barn. “Hi, son.”
Jonathan washed his hands at the sink. “How was school today?”
“We got our assignment in history class, so Chloe and I went to the library to look up topics.”
“Clark found this journal, dear. Does the name Calvin Kent ring any bells?”
“Hmm, it does sound vaguely familiar.” Jonathan cut himself a piece of pie and sat down, picking up the journal. “1856, huh? That would be at the height of Bleeding Kansas, if I remember my history right.”
“That’s right.” Martha sipped her cider. “Both pro-and-anti-slavery settlers went at each other in the decade before the Civil War, because Kansas had the chance to come into the Union either free or slave.” She smiled. “I’m an expert on that period, because my family came here during that decade, too,” Martha said. “Though they were newspaper editors and lawyers, not farmers.”
“Right. My ancestors settled here as anti-slavery people.” Jonathan smiled slightly. “Grandpa Kent told us kids plenty of stories he got from his father and grandfather. It was a real struggle to establish and keep a farm going when the pro-slavery faction shot cattle and burned houses and barns, and then the Free Staters retaliated.”
“Sounds like both sides were pretty violent,” Clark said.
“They were, but the decade before the War saw a lot of trouble. You might find events connected to the political troubles in that journal.”
Clark nodded, and after his snack continued reading up in his bedroom.
January 6, 1856
The snow last night blanketed everything. In a way it is a relief. I tire of the Border Ruffians and their constant attacks. The New England Emigrant Aid Society financed our move here two years ago, but they are not the ones living here and facing the dangers on a daily basis.
So, with this blizzard, we only have to fight Nature.
Clark wondered what it would be like to live with danger all around you on a daily basis.
Though I suppose the meteor mutants provide danger on a frequent basis.
Clark gazed out the window of his bedroom as he sat on the window seat. The stars twinkled in the Kansas sky, endlessly fascinating. He wondered if Calvin Kent had looked out at the sky from this very bedroom.
He liked the idea of being connected to the past. He had no idea who his birth parents were, but he was part of the Kent and Clark families. He was loved, and that was the best thing.
His thoughts turned to Lex. He had a biological father but from what Clark had been able to read between the lines, had not enjoyed a happy childhood and things had not improved now that Lex was an adult.
He shuddered at the thought of Lionel as a father. Lex really needed a friend, and Clark hoped that he could fill that role.
He shut the journal and went to bed.
OATMEAL RAISIN COOKIES AND APPLE CIDER
On an autumn afternoon
Is Nature’s peace.
For the soul.
Sir Alan Emerson
Clark lived a very ordinary existence the next day, going to school and doing his chores before and after, but the journal was on his mind. If the events of Bleeding Kansas were going to play a big part, then he needed more background. He had his family’s stories that he had heard growing up and the general knowledge he had picked up in school, but he wanted to read more scholarly works on the subject. Mr. Atterby liked the scholarly stuff, and Clark admitted that he liked sinking his teeth into some of the complex writings.
It also gave him a good excuse to visit Lex.
He smiled to himself as he thought of his friend. He really enjoyed spending time with him. And there were the daydreams he had about him…
This time Clark blushed, glad that he was walking alone on his way home.
Once he reached home he did his chores and then asked permission to go over to the mansion. Martha said it was fine as long as he was home in time for supper.
Clark walked at a normal human pace as he headed for what some grandly called Castle Luthor. He knew that he was attracted to Lex and had been ever since he had saved him from drowning that day on the bridge, their calamitous first meeting.
He had been interested in Lana for a long time, but ever since meeting Lex, his hormones had been focused on the young billionaire. Despite having to keep his Secret, he felt more like himself with Lex than with anyone besides his parents.
Lex was brilliant, a boy genius, they said, and another reason that Clark wanted to read scholarly works. Lex devoured treatises and dissertations before breakfast. He liked smart people around him.
Luckily, Clark had a good I.Q., but he still felt woefully inadequate next to Lex. That was why he had to expand his knowledge and be able to converse intelligently with him.
He blushed as he wished that he could be a companion in other ways, too.
Well, he would take what he could get. He saw the mansion through the trees and was soon ringing the front doorbell.
The door was opened and the butler, Jenson, smiled at him. “Master Clark, good to see you.”
“Thank you, Jenson.”
Clark followed the middle-aged man down the hall. Jenson was tall and had a noticeable limp. Clark was glad that Lex kept him on. He knew that Lionel wanted his son to get rid of the butler due to his ‘imperfection’, as Lionel called it, but Lex refused, which scored him a bunch of brownie points with Clark.
“You can go right on in. Master Lex said that you require no announcement.”
Pleased, Clark went on into the library. “Hi, Lex.”
“Hi, Clark.” Lex’s genuine smile of welcome always warmed Clark. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”
“Well, I’ve got a history project and thought I might find something I could use here.”
Lex waved his hand toward the walls of books. “My home is yours.”
Clark smiled. “Thanks. Lex.” He moved over to the books, trying to distract himself from how good his friend looked in a deep-purple shirt and gray pants.
Focus on your paper. It’s safer that way.
He could feel Lex’s gaze on him. Lex’s hints of interest kept his fantasies going, though sometimes he thought it was just his imagination. Surely someone as sophisticated as Lex would not be interested in an awkward country boy like him.
He sighed as he scanned the titles. One book looked especially promising.
“So what’s your topic?” asked Lex.
“Hmm, that’s a good one. I assume you have family history to draw on?” Lex opened his laptop as he sat at his desk.
Clark nodded. “Dad told me some stuff. Mom’s family has stories to tell, too. Her ancestors were involved in the New England Abolitionist Society and when they formed the Emigrant Aid Society, the Clarks came West.”
“Interesting.” Lex rang a little silver bell and Jenson appeared.
“Would you bring refreshments, please?”
Clark chose two other books and spread them all out on the coffee table. He took out his notebook and began taking notes.
Gradually Clark ended up sitting on the floor as he used the coffee table as a desk, and Lex sat on the couch working on his laptop. Each one had plates of oatmeal raisin cookies and glasses of apple cider readily available.
The ticking of the antique clock on the mantel was the only sound in the room except for the soft snick of the laptop keys and the scratching of Clark’s pen on paper.
Clark felt very happy as he worked in the peace of the mansion’s library. He felt perfectly relaxed, pleased that the silence between him and Lex was comfortable instead of awkward. A robin sang outside the window, and the afternoon sunlight began to slant across the floor, forming diamond patterns on the hardwood. He took a bite of cookie and wrote quickly.
When it was time to go home, Lex allowed him to take the books until he did not need them anymore.
“Will I be seeing you at the game Friday night?” Clark asked as he gathered his things.
“I’ll be there,” Lex promised. “Are you sure you still want to move our Friday Movie Nights to Saturdays?”
“Sure, during football season.”
“Don’t you want to keep Saturdays open for dates?”
“I’m happy with it. What about you?”
“Me? My clubbing days are over, at least in Smallville.” He grinned.
Clark laughed. "Considering that there are no clubs in Smallville, I can see why. Metropolis must miss you.”
Clark smiled. “Thanks for the books, Lex. See you this Friday.”
“See you then.”
Clark smiled all the way home.
On the wind.
The faint smell
To the ruins.
And burns away.
Clark shivered. Why was he here?
The old foundation was grown over, the chimney crumbling after well over a century of exposure to the elements. The woods surrounded the small clearing as Clark sat on a tree stump, wind whispering through the branches, as if the trees were heaving a great sigh.
He had never felt quite comfortable here on Stone Hill. Even when playing here with Pete as kids, he had felt sad.
He was feeling that now. The blackened stone of the chimney indicated the fire that had burned down the house here in the 19th century. Burned timber had long ago rotted into dust, and there was nothing else to indicate anyone had ever lived here, thieves taking away what was valuable long ago. His super-senses thought that they could still detect the smell of smoke, even centuries gone.
Tears prickled Clark’s eyes. The great sadness pressed down on him like a cascade of woe. He rubbed his face, watching the dappled patterns of sunlight play along the ground, a breeze rippling the patterns.
He had come up here, taking a walk after a stressful day at school. He had not been here in years, his mind on the journal as he walked until he had found himself here.
Maybe he was just feeling melancholy as it was the first anniversary of the events of 9/11. Sighing, he pulled the journal out of his backpack and carefully opened it.
January 16, 1856
Pa and I thought we saw someone lurking around the barn last night. We checked right away. We cannot afford to have people snooping around. We are a stop on the Underground Railroad, after all.
Pa and Ma are all right with me writing this down. I hide it in a very good spot away from prying eyes. Ma and Pa want a record of our activities, since they say it will be very important to history.
I agree with that. There is nothing more important than helping people achieve freedom. The courage these escaped slaves show shames me when I complain of our danger.
If this journal can help inspire someone else, it will be worth writing.
Clark felt pride in his ancestors. He might be adopted, but the Kents and Clarks were his family.
Ironic that they had a big Secret, too.
The sadness was clinging to him like silk on skin. He did not understand why he had come up here after all these years.
Sighing, Clark stood, but heard a noise. He whirled, suddenly nervous.
This was silly. He did not have to be afraid of anyone. Still, meteor mutants were plentiful in Smallville, and some had been capable of harming him, powers or not. He frowned as he smelled a faint scent of lilacs.
The wind whistled through the trees, Clark shivering. He pulled his light jacket closer around himself, and he clutched the journal against his chest, almost like a shield.
He thought that he could hear a wail as if someone was in pain. Tucking the journal in his backpack, he cautiously entered the surrounding woods. Using telescopic vision, he searched far ahead but saw nothing.
He spent twenty minutes searching, trying to be thorough, but heard no more wailing or other noises except for birds and small animals. Relieved, Clark headed for home.
He missed the shimmer next to the blackened chimney.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS
"Friday Night Lights
In Small-Town America"
Clark eagerly scanned the stands. Spotting Lex, he said, “Right over there!” An amused Martha and Jonathan followed their son to the row where Lex was sitting.
Lex looked up and saw them, smiling in greeting. He stood up and shook hands with Jonathan, and escorted Martha to her spot on the bleacher. Clark sat next to Lex with Martha on his friend’s other side, and Jonathan sitting next to Martha. Jonathan tucked the blanket they had brought around her, and she smiled.
Clark unscrewed the lid of the Thermos he held and offered Lex a drink.
“What is it?”
Lex picked up a cup he had set by his feet. “Pour.”
Clark poured, Lex’s gloved hand steady as he held the cup. He was wearing a pearl-gray coat and dark-purple gloves and scarf. Clark and Jonathan were wearing lumberjack coats, and Martha a Kelly-green jacket. She had put on her gloves, too.
It was a cold night, typical for Kansas in September. The stands were packed, everyone eager to watch the first game of Smallville High’s season.
Clark always felt a pang watching football.
At least I have memories of being the quarterback for awhile.
The Smallville Crows took the field to the cheers of the home crowd, even Lex joining in.
Clark was totally absorbed in the game, but was also very aware of Lex’s presence beside him.
“Hmm, looks like Mason’s hot tonight.” Lex sipped his hot chocolate.
“He is. He’s a good quarterback.”
“Pete’s his favorite target tonight.”
“Yeah, he’s got three catches so far.”
“He was your favorite wide receiver when you played, wasn’t he?”
“Yeah.” Clark took a sip of hot chocolate. He was grateful that Lex did not ask him why he was no longer the Q.B.
Lex smirked. “They should run a naked bootleg.”
“Aren’t you the football expert?” Clark asked wryly.
“Hey, I know America’s game.”
Jonathan saw the grin on Clark’s face, brighter than the lights illuminating the stadium. He felt irked but kept his emotion off his face.
He knew that he was being unfair to Lex, but he could not help it. The kid was a Luthor, and Luthors could not be trusted.
He sighed as he took a sip of hot chocolate. His distrust was mostly aimed at Lionel.
Maybe I should give the kid a break.
Jonathan was well aware that Clark had gotten very chummy with the younger Luthor, but that was the way of things right now. He hated being at loggerheads with Clark.
He jumped up with everyone else as Pete Ross scored a touchdown for the Crows.
Lex let himself into the mansion. He had told his staff to leave at their usual time. He could make himself a late-night snack if he needed one. Unlike his father, he treated his servants as people, not just mere appendages to be used.
It did mean that the mansion was empty, his footsteps echoing as he walked to the library. Discarding his coat and scarf, he looked at his desk and the work piled up there, but decided to go to bed early instead.
He had enjoyed the time with the Kents. Even Jonathan seemed to be warming to him, he thought with a smirk.
He looked out at the formal gardens and decided that he would have to talk to the gardener tomorrow. He wanted to see about putting a statue in the northeast corner. He liked the statues in the center of the garden: Alexander and Hephaestion locking arms in a gesture of friendship, both dressed for battle.
He had felt like part of a family, even if only for a few hours. Spending time with Clark always made him feel good.
Careful, Alexander, or Jonathan will be getting out the shotgun again, Lex thought wryly.
But since the moment that he had first laid eyes on Clark while he gasped for breath after being pulled out of the river by the teen, he had known that Clark was special. He was sweet, innocent and gorgeous with those green eyes and kissable lips, but he would not make a move, at least not until Clark graduated from high school.
In the meantime, being Clark’s friend was important to him. He was learning about the simple joys of friendship and did not want to complicate things. He needed simplicity in his life, not more Byzantine machinations.
He glanced at the brandy decanter but decided against drinking.
No, bedtime for you.
As he started to turn away from the window he thought he saw a light in the woods surrounding the estate. Curious, Lex opened the window.
He shivered, and not just from the cold. An unearthly wail drifted over the slight breeze as the trees swayed, the faint scent of lilacs carried on the wind.
He shut the window. He had enough experience with meteor mutants to know that this could mean trouble. He opened his desk drawer and took out a pearl-handled pistol.
He kept watch, tension knotting his shoulders, but ten minutes went by without any more noises or strange lights. Satisfied, Lex went upstairs to bed, missing the ribbons of sparkling gold lights that seeped out from the trees and caressed the Greek statues with luminous fingers.
"When Lilacs Last
In The Door-yard Bloom’d"
Smallville citizens went about their business as the leaves began to turn and the final harvest came in. The light grew more golden, especially in the afternoons as the sun set earlier than in summer. Squirrels scurried in a frenzied search-and-carry for acorns while birds flew majestically in V-formation as they headed south.
Clark was busy with school, working on projects with deadlines sooner than the end of the semester. He was making headway with his ancestor’s journal, though preferring to read secondary sources first, setting up the background.
“So have you decided on the topic for your paper?” Chloe asked one day at lunch.
“Yeah, I want to show the events of Bleeding Kansas through a primary source and contrast that with the secondary sources.”
“That’s pretty ambitious.” Chloe took a bite of her pizza.
“But a surefire ‘A’ if I do it right.”
“Well, you up for a study session at the library? Lana and I are going right after school.”
“Sure. I can stay for about an hour, but then I have to get home for chores.”
“Yeah, since the Crows are away at Granville, Lana and I thought we’d take advantage of a nearly-empty library.”
It was just right, Clark thought. He could get some studying done, do some chores, then head over to the mansion for his Movie Night with Lex.
Clark met Chloe and Lana at the entrance of the library and they went inside. It was nearly empty, and Chloe and Lana went into the next room to choose a table. Clark had brought the journal with him and went over to the Circulation Desk.
Evelyn Kendall smiled at Clark’s approach. She was middle-aged with shoulder-length reddish-blond hair, blue eyes sparkling behind her wire-rim glasses.
“What can I do for you, Clark?” She tugged on the sleeve of her mustard-colored cardigan sweater.
“Could I keep this out all semester?” He held out the journal.
“I don’t see why not.” Her pearls clacked as she turned to consult her computer. “Since you’re listed as a patron, not staff, I’ll have to ask you to renew it on the 8th of each month.”
“I can do that.”
“It hasn’t been checked out in years, so I doubt anyone will want it.” She looked at the back of the book and saw the old stamped dates, the most recent 1963.
Clark took the journal back and headed for the table where Chloe and Lana were sitting. He saw Lana cup Chloe’s cheek, the two of them gazing into each other’s eyes. Surprised, Clark deliberately bumped into a table to make noises, and Lana took her hand away.
“Got your journal all set?” asked Chloe.
“Yeah. Ms. Kendall said I could keep it all semester as long as I renewed it every month.” Clark took the seat next to Chloe.
Lana’s hazel eyes danced. “That’s so cool, finding a journal written by an ancestor! Aunt Nell has some old family journals. I should read through some of them.”
“So, what’s your topic?” Clark asked.
“I’m not sure yet. I’m thinking of doing something on the Nouveau Art Movement at the turn-of-the-century. The last century, that is.”
“That sounds interesting,” said Chloe.
“How’s your research going into William Randolph Hearst?” Clark asked, opening his journal.
“Good. I figured doing a study of his newspaper methods and how they impacted 20th-century journalism would be right up my alley.”
The girls talked about other possible topics for Lana as Clark began reading.
February 14, 1856
I saw Jaz today. He was in town to order some flowers for spring planting. He said that even though where he is living now is temporary, it is going to take time to start the building of the new house, so he might as well have something pretty to look at. He wants to plant more lilacs, adding more white and deep purple to the light purple.
Jax’s parents gave him this project to keep him out of trouble, he says. He winked at me and said he was a little too well-known in the taverns of Metropolis.
His family is prominent in the anti-slavery movement, and they have decided to make their presence known here in Kansas. Admirable.
Jaz is older than me by six years. He is far more sophisticated, for certain. Sometimes I feel like a country bumpkin next to him.
Clark paused in his reading. It was exactly the way he felt sometimes when he compared himself to Lex. He was immediately intrigued by this Jaz person. He resumed reading, hoping to learn more.
Jaz is a real gentleman. He wears frock coats and spats, and kid gloves. His top hat is always of the finest silk. He looks out of place here in Smallville, and I suspect he was lonely. When we first met on the bridge over the Loeb River, he invited me for an ice.
Clark’s eyes widened. The bridge over the Loeb River! That was where Lex had run his Porsche into him, and Clark had saved him from drowning.
Hand shaking slightly, he went back to reading as he turned the page.
Of course I had to demur as we were both soaking wet at the time. He had nearly run me off the bridge with his horse! He was going too fast and he went sailing into the pond after swerving to avoid me, Bucephalus stopping short, and he was gone into the watery depths until I dragged him out, silly rich boy.
“Clark? You all right?”
“You look a little pale,” said Chloe, looking at her friend in concern. Lana also looked a little worried.
“Oh, I’m fine! Really, I think it was something I ate for lunch.”
“Can’t blame you if you ate the cafeteria meatloaf.”
“No, I stay away from that.”
“Good idea.” Chloe smiled. She patted her stomach. “I like meatloaf, but not the kind Smallville High serves.”
Clark set the journal aside. He opened another book, trying to focus.
Was it coincidence that my ancestor and his rich friend from Metroopolis met on the same bridge that Lex and I did, and as a result of an accident because of reckless speed?
Coincidence, or just another typically weird day in Smallville?
Clark arrived at the mansion promptly at seven. Jenson smiled as he answered the door. His uniform was crisply-pressed as he tugged on the coat, leading Clark to the library.
“Go right on in.”
Clark smiled his thanks and went inside.
“I’ll be done in a minute.” Lex tapped the keys of his laptop as he sat at his desk.
Clark nodded, going over to the window by Lex’s desk. He looked out at the garden, smiling at the statues. Alexander had shoulder-length hair, Hephaestion’s shorter. Both were dressed in similar tunics and battle armor, short broadswords and longer swords attached to their belts.
The gesture of friendship particularly intrigued Clark. They were clasping each other’s arms in an almost Romanesque style. The level of devotion they projected in their expressions was something that attracted Clark. He loved tales of legendary friendships and the devotion between men.
He blushed, checking to see if Lex noticed, but the older man was absorbed in his laptop. Clark returned his gaze to the garden.
Dusk was falling, and stars were beginning to come out in the violet sky. Fireflies twinkled in the woods, putting on a show.
Clark startled. “What?”
Lex smiled. “Didn’t mean to startle you. Want to go into the den now?”
“Sure thing.” Clark turned away from the window, missing the increased glow in the woods, and followed his friend down the hall and into the lavish den, which doubled as the entertainment center. The widescreen TV was set up in front of a comfortable couch. A state-of-the-art stereo system was located against one wall, Lex’s collection of vintage records stacked in an old-fashioned rack. A pool table, twin to the one in the library, was set in the other part of the room.
Clark smiled at the bowl of popcorn and glasses of Coke set out on the coffee table in front of the couch. Each of them had an empty bowl to fill.
Lex put in the movie and they both sat on the couch, Clark pleased that there was little space between them. If he moved just right, he could brush his thigh against his companion’s.
The movie was a bad action flick, prompting plenty of snark from Clark and Lex, and as they noshed on the popcorn and drank their Cokes they groaned at bad dialogue and cheesy special effects.
Clark was calming down with the familiar Friday night routine. He did not know why he was so reluctant to tell Lex about the journal and what he had read earlier that day, considering that his friend was now accustomed to Smallville weirdness, but he just was, for no clear reason, as far as he could tell.
Lex would understand.
Or would he? It was one thing to be friends with a teenager, and learn about friendship, Clark saddened at Lex’s lack of experience, and quite another thing for said teenager to be in love with him.
Clark sighed. Being a teenager sucked.
“You okay, Clark?”
“Oh, yeah. Just a little tired, I guess.”
“Do you want to go home?”
“Oh, no, I’m having a great time. It’s just really been a stressful week.”
“I can identify with that.” Lex smiled.
“I’ll bet you can.” Clark grinned.
Lex ate a handful of popcorn. “Just relax, Clark. More where this came from.”
Clark laughed. “You know me too well.”
“You’re a growing boy,” Lex smirked.
Clark hid his blush by leaning over to get more popcorn.
They enjoyed the rest of the movie, and when the end credits rolled on the screen, Clark yawned and said regretfully, “Guess I better get home.”
“It’s late. Let me give you a ride home.” Lex set his bowl on the coffee table.
“It’s okay, Lex, I don’t want to put you out.”
“It’s no trouble, Clark. It’s cold this time of year.”
Clark could have made it home in seconds with super-speed, and the cold did not bother him, but a ride meant spending more time with Lex. And the Porsche was cool, too.
Once they got in the car, Lex pulled them out of the driveway and down the road. Clark luxuriated in the ambience of the Porsche, enjoying the smooth, quiet ride that did not rattle your bones like his dad’s old truck.
Lex was smiling as he drove as if aware of Clark’s thoughts. Accustomed to luxury, he nevertheless liked to share the wealth. He drove at a reasonable speed, a miracle in itself, Clark thought with a smirk.
As they rode in comfortable silence, Clark noticed a glow in the cornfields next to the road. “Lex, what is that?”
Lex took a look. “I don’t know.” He slowed the car down. “I saw something like that the other night.”
Clark bit his lip. “I hope it isn’t a meteor mutation.”
“Anything goes in Smallville, right?”
Clark laughed at Lex’s rueful expression. “Guess so.”
Lex parked the Porsche on the side of the road. “Should we investigate?”
Clark hesitated. If he needed to use his powers, things could get sticky, yet there was no way Lex was going to stay behind while Clark went alone.
Lex nodded, shutting the engine off. Pocketing the keys, he followed Clark into the cornfield.
Clark used his telescopic vision to check ahead, but he only saw the glow. There did not appear to be any people, mutated or otherwise, around.
It took him and Lex five minutes to get even close to the glow. Both were on alert for anything, stopping short as an eerie wail made their hearts race and their limbs shiver.
“What the hell is that?” Lex hissed.
“I wish I knew,” Clark said grimly.
The unearthly wailing started gain, chilling Clark’s blood. The mournful sound touched his heart, as if someone was calling from the grave.
Lex clutched Clark’s arm. “I don’t think that’s a meteor mutant.”
Inexplicably, a great sadness washed over Clark. “No.”
Lex looked at his young friend closely. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Come on.” Lex tugged on Clark’s arm, the clouded green eyes trying to focus on him.
Clark felt as if he was trying to slog through mud. The sadness was just so heavy…
They were standing by the Porsche, Clark shaking his head to clear it. Lex was gripping his shoulders.
“Are you all right?” Concerned blue-gray eyes were looking intently at him.
“What…what happened?” Clark blinked. “The glow!” He whirled.
“It’s gone.” Lex squeezed his friend’s shoulders. “You kinda zoned out there on me.”
Clark touched his temple. “I remember feeling so sad.”
“You did?” At Clark’s nod, Lex frowned. “I did, too, but apparently not as deeply as you.”
Clark kept staring out at the cornfield. “I’ve never felt anything like that.”
“Just another Friday night in Smallville.”
Clark smiled. “Guess so.”
“Let’s get you home.”
Clark was more than happy to get back into Lex’s Porsche, unable to suppress a shiver.
What had just happened in that cornfield?
Spoke of endless sorrow.
I felt as if the cry
Mourned for our tomrrows.
March 17, 1856
I am going to meet Jaz later today. First, however, we received new travelers last night.
The Negro family in our barn is tired and frightened, but we will get them to freedom.
The mother is named Hetty, the father is Sam, and the daughters are Addie and Jolene. The girls are really sweet. They all have decent clothes, courtesy of their last stop. Ma fed them with a feast. They are so grateful, and with the grace of Providence, shall find travel by the North Star and be free.
Sad to say, the Miller farm was hit last night by the Border Ruffians. They are growing bolder.
I really cannot wait to see Jaz. I know I should resist, but can no more do that than the sun will refuse to rise.
September 27, 2002
Clark felt the same way about Lex. He would see him tonight at the mansion, since last night the Crows had been in town.
Clark was sitting at his desk in his Fortress of Solitude, better known as the barn loft. He was caught up with all his assignments except for his Advanced American History paper. He still had months before it was due, but he was having a hard time focusing.
The encounter in Miller’s cornfield the week before had shaken him up. He had not told his parents about the weirdness, probably a mistake, but he just felt for some reason that he should keep it to himself.
He resumed reading.
This deep emotion I feel is like wine in my veins. I never felt this way before I met Jaz. He makes me feel special, as if I were worth something on this earth.
Of course Ma and Pa make me feel this way, but it is different with Jaz. He stirs feelings within me that most would say is a sin, but I cannot stop.
I think I am in love with Jaz.
Clark stared at the words in fading blue ink across the yellowing page. His ancestor had been in love with another man? He sat back in his chair.
As problematic as being in love with Lex was in 2002, it was a thousand times worse in 1856. Clark shuddered as he thought of what might befall Cal if his true feelings were discovered.
He read the next few entries, but there was no mention of Jax, almost as if Cal had shocked himself and was afraid to write any more about his feelings in his own journal.
The next entry with Jaz’s name in it was almost a month later:
April 6, 1856
I have tried and tried to deny my feelings, thinking perhaps that I was merely in the throes of spring fever, but I do not think that is the case.
Dear God, I am in love with Jaz.
There is no way around it.
What do I do now?
“I sympathize with ya, Cal.” Clark murmured. He gazed out the large window over the fields, wondering what it would have been like to have lived way back then and know your love was hopeless.
At least I have a chance.
Well, a slim one, anyway.
He sighed and continued reading.
April 8, 1856
I am not sure what to do. I have thought about it but have no solutions. Certainly this is something I cannot go to my parents about.
Why am I cursed with these feelings? Why cannot I just fall in love with Sally Hawkins and marry and have a thriving brood? Why must I always be different?
“Again, I sympathize with you, Cal.”
Clark sighed. He seemed to be doing that a lot lately.
He glanced at his watch. Time for some chores and then to get over to Lex’s place. He placed the journal in his desk and hurried downstairs.
Lex had been in Metropolis most of the week so Clark was especially eager to see him. They had kept in contact via e-mal, but Clark had seen or heard nothing unusual, even visiting the cornfield again.
Lex opened the door himself. “I let Jenson off early,” he said with a smile.
“Got popcorn?” Clark asked with a wink.
Lex laughed. “Come on in.”
They walked to the den, Clark grinning as he saw the popcorn and Cokes.
“I’ve got some imported chocolates, both Belgian and Canadian, that I’d like to share.”
“Sounds great to me.”
“I know your palate’s more used to American chocolate like Hershey’s, but…”
“…other chocolates are better.” Clark’s green eyes sparkled.
Lex could never resist those green eyes.
Far gone, Luthor, far gone.
He had missed seeing Clark all week. Usually he was able to see him almost daily, if not here at the mansion, then in town at The Beanery or on the street.
Metropolis was sophisticated, exciting, and leagues above sleepy little Smallville when you did not count the meteor mutants. It had high finance, museums, the clubs, and anything else to amuse and entertain.
Yet Lex found himself missing the bucolic charm of Smallville’s Main Street, The Beanery, The Bluebird Diner, but most of all, Clark. Coming back to Smallville had felt like coming home.
Clark eagerly sampled the dark chocolates, his expression blissful. “Mmm, Lex, they are good. Heavenly, in fact.”
“Glad you enjoy them. Bring home both boxes so your parents can enjoy them, too.”
“You’re more than welcome.” Lex sipped his ice-cold Coke. He knew how domesticated he had become when he was drinking more Coke than Scotch lately. “I’m glad you didn’t see that candidate for Chloe’s Wall of Weird.”
Clark laughed. “Maybe whatever it was is gone.”
“We can only hope.” Lex stood. “I’ll put in the movie.”
He settled back down on the couch, pleased that he was enjoying some relaxation with Clark, whose presence could be anything but relaxing, in a good sort of way.
Oh, the ironies of life: a Luthor brought down by an apple-cheeked farmboy.
“What are you smiling about?” Clark asked.
“Hmm? Oh, the dialogue. Not bad this week.”
Clark smiled and returned his attention to the movie and Lex relaxed.
Good save, Lex.
After the movie, Lex drove Clark home, laden with his boxes of chocolates, both of them tensing as they passed Miller’s cornfield, but they saw nothing. Clark remembered being saved by Lex in that cornfield not so long ago, and wondered if that field was slated to be a nexus of weirdness in every way, though getting rescued by Lex made for some wonderful fantasies.
At the farmhouse, two relieved friends parted for the night, Lex driving a little faster on the way. He drove the Porsche into the garage at the mansion and started walking toward it when something flickered in the garden.
Lex hesitated. Should he investigate alone? Wasn’t that always the trope that had you yelling at the screen when a character blithely went off alone to investigate things in a horror movie?
His scientific curiosity won out and he walked toward the garden, the night air whistling through the trees.
He wondered if he should reconsider his decision. The mansion loomed dark and empty, and Lex could feel his skin prickling. He looked around, unable to see anything out of the ordinary.
I am definitely losing it. Must be the Smallville Effect, though honestly, it’s probably the opposite, just taking weirdness in stride.
Lex shook his head, resting his hand on the stone thigh of Alexander, preparing to return to the house when he felt a great melancholy sweep over him as the statues began to glow.
We need to be together. Do not leave us. We have to be together!
The sadness filled him like water filling up a Grecian urn, endless and eternal, the abyss of eternity yawning out before him, endless as the sea.
Yearning and sorrow filled him and tears spilled down his cheeks as the wind blew, cold and unforgiving.
When he awoke the next morning in his own bed, Lex was not sure whether he had dreamed his endless sorrow or not.
Just another day in Smallville.
Pay your dues,
Children of the corn.
Autumn had come to Smallville, people busy getting in the last of the harvest and decorating their homes and businesses in the spirit of the season.
At the Kent Farm, Clark helped his mother decorate the front porch, twining strands of red, yellow, and orange leaves around the columns, and placing a giant pumpkin on each side of the doorframe. Martha strung tiny pumpkin lights along the railing, and framed the windows with other sets.
“Pumpkin lights,” Jonathan said as he shook his head. Martha and Clark laughed.
“Halloween is the best holiday of the year, right, Clark?” Martha smiled.
“That’s right, Mom.”
Jonathan rolled his eyes. “Listen, you two, every day is Halloween in Smallville.”
Martha and Clark laughed again. They put the Witch cut-out on the door’s window.
“The pumpkin harvest is good this year,” aid Martha. “Hmm, I wonder if I should carve or paint faces this year?”
“Why not do both?” suggested Clark.
“That’s a good idea, honey.”
Jonathan shook his head again.
Clark smirked as he helped his mother decorate the inside of the house with small pumpkins in the windows and changing of knickknacks in the living room and kitchen.
“Do you think that Lex would like to come over to help with carving and painting?” asked Martha.
“I’ll ask him tonight.” Clark was pleased that his mother thought so often of including Lex in family activities lately.
“Are you still meeting Chloe and Lana at the library?”
“Yeah, we’re got that joint Social Studies project due at the end of the week so we thought we’d dig in for a couple of hours.”
Chloe and Lana had several good ideas, Clark tossing in a few of his own, and they got to work.
Lana’s charm bracelet jangled as she touched Chloe’s arm. Clark could hear a snicker and looked up.
Three boys from their Social Studies class were at the next table. Clark frowned. He recognized the two burly football players, Charlie Dineen and Carl Simpson, and the third one was Mitch Clemmons, a troublemaker of the first water, as his mother would say.
Lana smiled at Chloe, who ducked her head shyly with a smile.
“Isn’t that sweet?”
Both girls looked over at Mitch, who was smirking. His mop of brown curls framed a sharp-angled face.
“What are you looking at, Clemmons?” Chloe asked.
“A couple of hot lezzie chicks.”
Chloe rolled her eyes while Lana and Clark frowned.
“Ignore the peanut gallery,” said Chloe.
“You’re pretty mouthy for a lesbian.”
“Hey, why don’t you mind your own business?” Clark said.
Mitch snorted. “So wimpy Kent speaks.”
Clark began to retort when Chloe put a hand on his arm. “Ignore him. We’ve got work to do.”
Mitch reached out and touched Lana’s hair. “Pretty. How about I show you a real time, Princess?” He smacked his lips as she pulled away.
This time Clark stood, scraping his chair back. Evelyn Kendall looked up from the Reference Desk and frowned.
“Whattaya gonna do, Kent? Beat me and my posse up?”
Both of his ‘posse’ smirked. Charlie was nearly as wide as he was tall, a stalwart offensive lineman, and Carl’s gray eyes were small and mean. He played outside linebacker and was known for bone-crunching hits, some of which were dirty.
Clark kept his anger in check. All he needed was to have wayward heat vision! But he could not let these three get away with treating Lana and Chloe this way.
Mitch and his friends began to get to their feet when Evelyn asked, “What’s going on here?” as she came over to the tables.
“Nothing, Ms. Kendall.” Mitch smiled charmingly. Clark had a sudden vision of Eddie Haskell.
“Good. Are you boys ready to leave?”
Mitch never faltered. “Yes, Ms. Kendall.” He and Charlie and Carl gathered their books and left.
“Sorry about that, Ms. Kendall,” said Clark.
“It’s all right, Clark. I’d be willing to bet that it wasn’t your fault.”
“It wasn’t,” Chloe said tartly. After Evelyn returned to her desk, she said, “You didn’t have to play Sir Galahad, you know. Lana and I aren’t damsels-in-distress. We can take care of ourselves.”
“Who are you, Liberty Belle and Hawkgirl?” Clark retorted as he sat back down.
The girls smirked. “We would be honored to be two of the Justice Society, even if they are long retired.” Chloe’s earrings jangled as she tossed her head.
Lana’s smile faded. “Seriously, Clark, you should be more careful. Those three gorillas could have pounded you!”
“Hey, I was on the football team, you know. I can handle those knuckle-draggers. And Mitch isn’t that big.”
The girls giggled. “Okay, but…Chloe and I…” Lana looked uncomfortable.
Clark held up a hand. “Whatever you girls are into, I’m good with it.” Like I should talk.
His friends beamed. “Okay, let’s get back to work,” Chloe said. “You’ve got a date with Lex, after all.”
Lana giggled as Clark dropped his pencil.