The next five weeks were heavenly, in Clark's opinion. Sure he sometimes suffered the consequences of Lois' coffee and alcohol withdrawal as soon as S.T.A.R. confirmed her pregnancy but she didn't have a lick of morning sickness either. They spoiled her silly, him and Conner, and she actually permitted it. He stocked the fridge with sherbets and split foot-massage duty with Conner. His mom cooked several delicious but healthy dishes every weekend. He couldn't keep his big mouth shut, of course, so the Original JL sent gifts-- a Ralph Lauren rattle from Ollie, a Tickle-Me Elmo from Bart, a manatee doll from A.C. and baby's first laptop from Vic.
Best of all, he'd never felt so... chipper. There really was no other word for it. He felt lighter than happy and glowed with something fluffier than joy. Just to keep the status quo, he tried to pick fights with Lois over baby names or the side of the bed but they were half-hearted at best, often ending in giggles within minutes.
Nights were the best and not only because Lois' hormones tilted her libido towards voracious. Clark slid down to her still-flat belly to whisper to their little blob of differentiated cells. "Tell your mother that Chloe is a perfectly good name."
"One, Chloe hated the idea of junior names so you'd be ignoring her will," said Lois as she brushed her fingers through his hair. "Secondly, there's no masculine version of Chloe."
"Clovis," he said seriously.
Lois whacked him on the head with a pillow then hummed as Clark ghosted his lips over her collarbone. "Mmmm, lower."
He smiled, nipped at the tops of her breasts then kissed it better. "We just finished."
"Five whole minutes ago."
She yanked a hank of his hair. "If you can jet all around the world every day, five days a week and still have time to finish a book and write articles, you can sure as hell go for Round Three. Don't forget, I know your weird ET sweet spots." Now it was her turn to tease him with too-soft caresses along the crease running from his hip bone to his groin. "And this one." She traced the bony spines in the small of his back. "And, finally, the ever-so-addictive..." He knew what was coming, meeting her halfway, mouth open. When they kissed, she traced the ruggae on the roof of his mouth with the tip of her tongue. Clark shuddered from head to toe, whining, the sound pulling from the base of his stomach. Something south of his stomach pointed straight up,
Lois nibbled at his lips. "Junior agrees with me." She gave the roof of his mouth a few more swipes and drew more circles around his spine.
"Love you, too, Lane. Just... ummf." He pulled her arms up above her head and pinned her down with his hips. "Hold still so I can get revenge."
"aaaAAAaahhh... hey! Put your hands back there."
"Or this." Clark whipped the blankets and threw them on the floor. Laughing, Lois vised her legs around his neck but he gently pulled her right leg away. Years of dutiful running gave Lois strong, shapely legs. He traced the tendons from her heel to the base of her calf with kisses. The skin behind her knees was another favourite spot of his. It was so soft, the texture much smoother, When he kissed her there, even her thighs got goosebumps.
Lois reached behind her head, hands fisting the pillows as she arched back and moaned. Her breasts flushed, the nipples puckered and dark. He kept his eye on them as he played connect-the-goosebump up her thighs. He'd get there soon but first things, first. Clark was a believer in finishing a job in linear order and he was closer to the juncture of her thighs. He saw the wetness of her labia, almost taste her flavour in the pheromones she exuded. His mouth watered.
"Clark, stop teasing!"
"Nag, nag, nag." But Clark bent his head down to work. Lois' broken, incoherent babbling was a symphony to his ears. She grabbed at his hair with both hands, humping his face even as she breathed sweet nothings she'd never have the guts to say outside this bed.
He knew when she would demand, "Inside, now!" and so he reared back up, letting her legs fall on either side of his knees. He kissed her, a little roughly because she was licking at the roof of his mouth again and he could feel the tingling all the way down to his groin. He slipped inside her just before she made her demand. A husband's work was never done.
Sophomore year chugged along for Conner in the usual manner, meaning he squeaked through the first set of quizzes and assignments on charm and kryptonian brain cells alone. This evening, he bent over his algebra textbook with his music player on and his pencil tapping.
Clark plucked one of the wires out of his ear. "How can you concentrate with music? Especially that kind of music."
Rolling her eyes, Lois said, "Hooboy, here you two go again. If you want me, I'll be in the bathroom trying to pee in peace." She squeezed his hand before going.
"It's the only way I can concentrate," Conner was saying. "If I don't listen to music, I can hear everything in the surrounding five city blocks."
"Try listening for the baby's heartbeat then. It started pumping two days ago and sounds like ocean waves." Clark couldn't keep from grinning as he spoke the words. Nor could Conner. He stilled, concentrating.
"Um, Dad?" Alarm tinged his son's voice. "I... I don't hear anything."
"Maybe you just have to tilt your head in the same direction--" Clark stopped. Heavy silence came from the bathroom when just hours ago, he could have sworn he heard the rushing of a primitive heart pumping blood through miniscule blood vessels.
"Oh my God, Lois!" He wrenched the door open. "Lois! Lois, I can't... I can't hear the... no, please, no, Lois..."
Lois had her pants down. Bright red liquid stained her underwear and the inside of her thighs, thick, clotted, sickly metallic.
S.T.A.R. confiscated her stained jeans and panties. Lois just lay on the examination table, listening to Beth Chapel officially confirm the miscarriage on her audio recorder. Clark sat beside her, shoulders slumped, his breathing a study in control. Outside the room, Martha sat with her grandson. She insisted on coming after a nearly hysterical Conner called her up with the news. She rejected all Clark's protests about securing her identity. S.T.A.R. could easily recognise her due to her famous pro-meta stances when she'd been on the Senate, but when Martha Kent was intent on something, no one could talk her out of it.
"I'm very sorry to be intruding with my medical interventions so soon after your loss," Chapel said again. "I'm just going to take a few more samples and I can leave you alone." Her lips thinned as she took out yet another sheet of paper. "This is a consent form allowing us to investigate the fetus' cause of death. Because this is such a unique case, I think it would benefit everyone in the future if we--"
"Not now, please," said Clark, his voice hoarse. The bed rails dented under his grasp.
Chapel almost turned to leave but Lois called out, "Hand it over. Do all the tests you need. Figure this out."
Clark stood up sharply and stalked to the door. Conner and Martha's conversation stopped; Martha started to speak but he said, "Give me five minutes." Seconds later, a sonic boom shook the building.
Chapel rubbed the corners of those damn forms into paste but couldn't seem to figure out the next move. She must've skipped emotional detachment class in med-school, Lois reflected. "You had things for me to sign?"
"I can come back."
"No, let me have a look now. This has the usual clause about destroying all tissues afterward?"
"Of course." Chapel gave her the papers. "I really am sorry."
Lois just rubbed her forehead. "Just tell me what you know so far and we'll take it from there, doc. I'll take the sympathy later but for now, the only thing keeping me from yelling my head off are my defence mechanisms so if you could just let me know what went wrong in my body and as soon as I fly home, I can get on my laptop to figure out how to fix it."
"It's not as simple as that."
"Then let me have my goddamn illusions," Lois snarled. She took a deep breath, released it, and spoke again at a lower volume. "What are my discharge instructions?"
She didn't remember the trip home. So much for her defence mechanisms. Conner hovered around her, too scared to touch but too worried to leave. Martha distracted him with a cooking lesson. Clark followed Lois into their bedroom, shut the door and pulled the blankets around them. She pushed it off. She had to deal with this. She had to repress and fix or she'd go break and, dammit, only one of them was allowed to break at a time.
"Where's my laptop?" asked Lois.
"In the office. I'll get it--"
But she already left, eyes resolutely forward. She fetched her laptop and returned to the bedroom where she set her lapdesk up. When next she looked up, Clark put his arm around her and said, "Sweetheart, it's almost midnight. You've been surfing for hours."
"I just need to find more articles on folate intakes."
He sighed, kept her on his lap but let her continue. Eventually, she felt wetness slide down her neck. Lois turned and cupped Clark's cheek. "Hey, Smallville." She wiped his tears away and kissed the tip of his nose.
"I'm sorry," he said.
"What for? It wasn't your fault."
"But it was after we made love. What if I was too rough and--"
"Bullshit." Lois stiffened her jaw against more tremors. "They told us chances were slim for the first IVF. We're still experimenting with the kinds of things I should eat and the supplements I should take. Geez, I was just happy for every day we had with this one. We're going to try again, Clark, and we're going to make this work."
He kissed her on the lips, then her cheek then back on her lips with a gentle sort of desperation. This was the kiss he gave her when they first started dating, when he feared breaking her with the strength of his desire. Lois put the laptop aside and turned around so he could cuddle her properly.
"You're so much stronger than me, you know that?" Clark said as he stroked her from shoulder to bum. "If anything happens to you, I fall apart. But you... if our positions were reversed, you'd get right on that laptop, make phone calls and fix it."
"Military brat brainwashing syndrome. We're not allowed to show emotion," said Lois. "But for the record, if anything happened to you, I'd bawl like a baby while I looked for something to fix it."
He pulled her even closer and squeezed tight. "In about twenty minutes, I'm going to put on my suit and pummel my frustration out on hapless criminals but for now, I'm a little broken. Could you just... fix me for a second?"
She started singing softly. "For you, there'll be no crying. For you the sun will be shining." Tears trickled down her back as she stroked his hair. "And the songbirds keep singing like they know the score. And I love you, I love you, I love you like never before."
Suck, suck, suck, suck.
Balls, suck, suck, suck, suck.
Suck, suck, suck, sucking, motherfucking, wart-ridden balls suck, suck, suck--
"Oh, for goodness sake, Conner." Tana yanked his shirt collar. "Are you actually in class today, or did your brain take a side-trip to the moon?"
"Jupiter actually," said Conner. He stared at the chemistry rig in front of them. "Isn't this too dangerous for high school students?"
"We're only doing acid-base titrations." She shoved the lab book towards him. "If you're not going to actually do anything, you can at least read the instructions. Maybe you'll get participation marks for-- oh, why am I even trying?"
Conner shrugged. Suck.
Tana took a deep breath. "I think I know what's going on."
"I highly doubt it." He hadn't told her about the baby. He hadn't told anyone in the school about the baby, actually, not when it was alive and certainly not when it... when... It was none of their business. He went to school to socialise, not to share feelings or grapple for A's.
"You've met someone else, haven't you? And you just don't want to tell me or Roxy."
Shaking his head, Conner said, "You're so not right you're not even in the same continent as right."
"Well, it's either that or you've made the decision between me and Roxy and since you don't seem to be jumping up and down in front of me, I'm guessing you chose her."
"Honestly? On a scale of importance, you and Roxy are pretty damn low right now."
Sniffling, she said, "Okay. If that's the way you feel."
He stifled a groan. "Please don't cry. It's really not about you, it's... a lot of other stuff."
"Do you want to talk about it?" She reached for his hand.
Even as he wagged his head "No," Conner couldn't let her go.
"We can cut. Like... like when I told you about my parents."
Again, he shook his head. "It's not... I don't want to talk about it."
"Right." Tana went right back to being stiff and angry. "God forbid you open up to anyone."
Now, that just ticked him off. "Believe it or not, I have a whole frickin' life outside school. My world doesn't begin and end on my grades and who the fuck I take to the Homecoming Dance."
"Well, maybe my life doesn't begin and end on whether or not you condescend to commit to one woman!" she said, slamming her pencil so hard on the table it snapped. "I care about you, Conner."
"I know, I--"
"I'm pretty and I'm smart. Girls look up to me. Even some Juniors look up to me, okay?"
When did he lose control of this conversation? Conner wanted someone to attack the school and save him from this confrontation. "Tone down, everyone can hear."
"Then let them hear!" Tana shrieked. "Everyone thinks you're so hot and so sexy and so cool just because you're from Europe and you act badass and... But you know what? For a whole year now, you've been leading me and Roxy along--"
"Tana! Shhh!" Conner sent desperate glances towards their Chem teacher who was trying, and failing, to stop the drama.
"-- breaking dates with us left right and centre while you play around with half the city and I'm fucking sick of it, Conner. I am sick of it and I'm sick of you and I'm sick of you being so selfish and closed in--"
"Me? I'm the selfish one?" He let out a sharp, harsh laugh.
"You spent all morning raving about how you nabbed a story with all
its research from Metropolis East High for your competition article and
I'm the selfish one? Grow the hell up, you hypocrite!"
Horrified, he hugged his arms to himself but even that movement made the tugging increase. His lab set-up shattered; the students at the other table screamed and ran away from the flying glass and corrosives.
"Conner Kent, that's enough!" shouted the teacher. "Everyone out of the way!"
Someone tried to tackle him. He ducked away; they'd break their hands trying to punch him. The ceiling lights exploded. Stools slid across the floor and tables shook. Tana was crying. He made Tana cry. Conner covered his head with his arms and curled into a ball.
His reputation notwithstanding, Conner had only been in the principal's office twice-- once when he transferred in and once as a witness to a gang of bullies. Principal Jhadav was one of those rare adults who actually got it, who was actually cool because he didn't try so hard to be cool; he just was. No amount of punishment could have hit him harder in the gut than Jhadav saying, "I never thought I'd see you in here, Conner."
And now he was talking with his dad.
Conner focussed out of the waiting room and into the principal's office. "--am frankly amazed, Mr. Kent," Jhadav was saying in his funky Indo-British accent. "There has never been any indication of violence from or surrounding Conner. In fact, most teachers think of him as the peacekeeper because he refuses to be goaded into any altercations. If you'd told me yesterday that I would suspend him for assaulting another student, I would have laughed you out of the city."
Shit, he was going to be suspended. He hurt Tana and three other people in his class because he couldn't get a hold of his stupid powers and now, as icing on the cake, he was suspended. Conner dropped his head into his hands. Suck. Balls.
"I understand, Mr. Jhadav," said Dad. "And thank you for telling me this. I really don't understand it either unless..." He sighed. "My... my wife suffered a miscarriage just two days ago. We were all devastated. Conner was very much looking forward to finally having a sibling."
Jhadav hummed thoughtfully. "Has he seen anyone about his feelings towards the miscarriage?"
"N-no," Dad admitted. "It's still pretty raw. For all of us. He hasn't really... I guess I just assumed he was dealing with it."
"If I may, Mr. Kent, I suggest some sessions for Conner with a counsellor. The one here at school is quite good but if you'd prefer someone in private practice, that is also acceptable. A good young man like Conner doesn't just lash out like this without reason."
"Yes, of course, Mr. Jhadav. Please send my deepest apologies to Tana's family and the families of the other students."
"I will. Thank you, Mr. Kent."
Conner tuned out when he heard chairs rolling across the floor. He kept his head in his hands even when the door opened so he couldn't see his dad's expression. He was one-point-eight metres in height, almost over six feet, almost catching up to his dad but the hand on his shoulder felt like a giant bear's paw.
"Conner. Are you ready to go home?"
He nodded. He literally couldn't uncover his face. "Sorry," he whispered so that only Clark could hear.
His dad crouched down in front of him. "I know," he said in the same volume. "We'll talk about it somewhere else. Come on."
This time, when they ducked in an alley to change into their JL colours, Conner didn't protest being carried. Smallville's familiar acres of gold and green cornstalks whipped by underneath and his dad began to descend. But not to his grandma's house like he feared but out to the Kawatche caves. Relief suffused him. Jor-el was okay. He was just an AI. There was no way to disappoint a computer.
They entered the caves through a hole hidden by some brush, a mile away from the main entrance. "So, can you tell me what happened?" asked his dad.
It all came pouring out-- the stupid fight with Tana, that mission in Krysybestan when it all started and other power hiccups. Conner couldn't look at his dad while he talked, positive of his condemnation.
"I wish you'd told me all of this before," he said. "We could have consulted Jor-el and prevented a lot of grief on all parts."
Conner nodded. "I thought I'd get into trouble," he said, knowing how stupid the reasoning was in hindsight. Stupid hindsight. "I'm sorry, Dad. I really... I really totally fucked up."
Clark tousled his hair before putting a hand on his shoulder. He always did that. Conner had no idea what it was all about except maybe his dad really hated his haircut. He'd seen his dad's high school pics though; his hair had been just as shaggy.
"When I was your age, I was so angry at Jor-el, I blew up my spaceship," Clark said, his tone far-away. "What I didn't know was that Grampa Jonathan and Grandma were in the pickup in the driveway. The shockwave from the explosion flipped their car over. Grandma miscarried her baby."
Conner's jaw dropped. "But... but that was an accident," he said. "You didn't know they were coming."
"No, but I should've known better than to try to destroy anything Kryptonian within a hundred miles of any town. You caused a true accident; you don't know what's wrong or how to control it. I was just selfish and stupid, acting on my fear." He clapped Conner's shoulder.
By then, they'd reached the hollow holding the portal. His dad placed his octagonal key into the wall. Light shot out from the portal gate, leading the way into the control room. He dropped the crystal key into the hollow carved into the centre of the controls and pressed the sigils to spell "Fortress" in kryptonian.Blue and green shot out from the crystal key, spread through the table and lit all the sigils as they orbited around the crystal. Clark tapped another sigil. The light went blinding white. Conner's skin tingled. The cave compressed around him into a dot of pure darkness then it dropped past his feet as the light threw him through a fold in space-time. When his body readjusted, he was inside the fortress.
"Welcome, my son," said Jor-el. "Welcome, son of my son."
Clark nodded stiffly. "Jor-el."
"Heya, Jor-el." Conner didn't understand his dad's animosity towards the AI. It wasn't real. It wasn't much fun either but at least interesting things happened when the crystals from the main console mixed around with other minor consoles. Not that Conner ever did that while his dad was around to see.
"Conner's been having some trouble with his powers," said Clark. "I need you to scan him for any abnormalities."
"You mean besides the fact that I exist?" Conner said under his breath.
"As you will, Kal-el. Kon-el, step on the platform for a diagnostic and describe the nature of the problem while I access my data banks."
"Things explode when I touch them," he said as lights from the platform and its surrounding crystals passed repeatedly over his body. "While it's happening, it feels like something's tugging on my skin, like my skin's made of rubber and someone's pinched a corner of it so they can drag it to wherever."
Sigils ran up the crystal closest to the main console. Conner wasn't at a correct angle to read them but his dad nodded his head. "Your forcefield's energy readings are fluctuating."
"Correct," said Jor-el. "The tugging sensation may be the instability of the forcefield."
"Why's it happening?" Conner wanted to know.
Jor-el paused. "Due to the randomised nature of the human genomes grafted on your genes, I estimate two hundred seventy possible variations, permutations and malfunctions. Of these, sixty-eight match the pattern of the energy fluctuations I have scanned."
Great, Conner thought, now he was a malfunction. He was beginning to see why his dad resented the AI so much. Apparently, Krypton didn't program with tact.
"Can you give us the three most likely?" Clark asked.
"Certainly. Kon-el may require more energy from the sun due to inefficient solar energy conversion in his cells. He may have weaker mental control over his energy-field. Conversely, he may be developing stronger control over his energy-field albeit uncontrolled at this moment. I suggest intensive training here--"
Clark cut him off right away. "That's what you said about my powers. I didn't let you trap me in here for twelve years and I'm not going to let you do that to my son."
"As you will. There will be consequences to your decision."
"Of course there are." Sighing, he said, "We'll be back for further consultation. Please just continue to analyse the data and alert me when you've found something useful. Come on, Conner."
The trip from the Arctic to Kansas always felt a lot rougher. Conner caught himself on the cave wall. The smoothed limestone crumbled to sand under his cheek. There would be imprints there later but at least he hadn't whipped a sandstorm with his freaky powers. "We've got to recalibrate that transporter."
"Would you like to do it? You've always been better than me at manipulating that thing." Clark retrieved the crystal the octagon key. "First things first: let's go milk cows."
Conner's expression dropped further. "Awww, come on! That's why Grandma hired hands to work the milking machines."
"It's good practice for your control and patience."
"I'm patient." At his dad's disbelieving look, he said, "I am usually. It's just that when I should know how to do something, I just should."
Clark said, "No getting out of this, son. You milk the cows, I'll try to distract you and if any of them kick you in the head and you get hurt, you can have an entire pie."
"That's a cheap bribe."
"Fortunately, it works." His dad slung an arm over his shoulders as they made their way back to the hidden entrance. "Fine motor skills are good habit to cultivate anyway. If or when we have a baby, your Aunt Lo's going to need a lot of help around the house."
"Free babysitting duties. Gotcha."
"Actually, I was referring to the League. I want to be there to help care for the baby too which means I can't spend as much time in the second job. I'll probably go into semi-retirement."
Conner stopped dead. "What? You can't do that! There's like a frillion and one things only Superman can do."
"I know. Which is why I hope you'd like to train to replace me."
For the second time since he moved in with his father, Conner was speechless.