Author: Sue Denim (excelaunt on LiveJournal)
Pairing: Original Pairing and Chlark
Short summary: This story is set about twenty-five years into the future. It's a story about how Clark and Chloe's daughter Caryn has fallen in love is will be married to Mark Slouka. As Mark learns more about the Kents we see how Mark and Caryn's wedding also remembers Clark and Chloe's devotion and love.
An old Ford F-150 came to a rickety stop in the middle of the corn field. The occupants of the cab stepped into the crisp December air. Caryn had a thin coat on over her turtleneck and grandma-made wool sweater. Temperature extremes didn't bother Caryn like it bothered Mark. She was Caryn Kent, daughter of Clark and Chloe Kent, and had most of her father's rather odd non-human attributes. Mark didn't know this about her family. He assumed she was cold because he was cold. His teeth chattered in the night as he unzipped his leather jacket.
"Man, Caryn," he said intermittently. "Here, put this on before frost bites you."
Caryn froze still and swallowed hard as Mark held out his coat. She really had to tell him sometime what she was. She just didn't know how to best approach the subject.
"No Mark," she patted his hand. "I'm okay and we'll be warm enough under the blankets, we always are."
Mark wouldn't hear of it. Caryn was his girlfriend and he was fine with being uncomfortable for her sake. He was assisting her with the sleeves as they argued over this minor point. He even zipped her up before depositing a small, loving peck on her forehead.
"Thank you. My Knight."
Mark smiled in response. He might have had a rough upbringing, but he was a gentleman through and through. She didn't want to deny him chivalry.
Caryn unlocked the gate on the truck and Mark fished out the blankets and pillows from the storage bins. He spread one blanket out on the metallic bed. He sat so his back was against the cab. Caryn sat next to him, and draped the other blankets over their bodies. She copied his posture and sat straight up and tilted her head back too. Always at first, it was about the constellations in the sky.
They were stargazers.
Sometimes Caryn and Mark would eat popcorn as they pointed upwards to discuss the changes from last week. If they saw a shooting star, they would kiss. It usually ended with Caryn's head in the keep of Mark's armpit and his arms wrapped around her trim torso
"Are you warm?" Caryn asked. "Your nose is cold."
"There haven't been enough shooting stars."
"Well, it's cloudy. Here, is this better?" Caryn turned to her side and together they let themselves stretch completely out on the floor of the truck.
"We don't do that much stargazing anymore, do we?" Mark murmured as he thought back to when they were still in high school.
Mark can't believe his luck. His geometry and algebra tutor is the prettiest girl in Kansas. She's a good teacher too--very patient and kind. She makes studying fun. He catches on quickly, making up for so much lost time.
They become good friends. She really cares about his odd life as a ward of the state.
He visits her frequently and pesters her in the barn. He knows her well enough to push her buttons. She's embarrassed that she so smart. She hides it. He ruffles her feathers with his flattery. He asks Caryn about her college level calculus class, wondering if he'll ever be so smart. He's still doing simple geometry proofs as she's trying to compute the orbital path of Superman's home planet, Krypton.
"You're such a science geek," he says, twirling a pencil. Mark's officially caught up to the point of satisfying the guidance counselor, but he still insists he needs the study sessions with Caryn. He's decided he wants to graduate if it means more time with Caryn.
"I have reasons for the madness."
"Sure you do." Mark flirts.
She blushes profusely and turns to her papers. Mark's confidence and grin excites her. Should it? They're just friends. Caryn's never had a boyfriend or even suffered from the crushes and bouts of puppy love her girlfriends claimed. Yet lately she's had a bubbly warm feeling about Mark. He praises her to his band mates and teachers. He's complimented her parents about saving him from being another statistic. She likes more than she can say.
Caryn looks at her electronic stop watch and pencils in some constants in her formulas. She's trying to figure out how long a trip to Krypton would take her. To Mark, it looks like gobbledegook.
"Why don't you show me how mad you are?"
Caryn gives Mark a crash course in astronomy. She uses the old telescope in the barn. It's not a very good telescope, but she likes that her dad used to use it too. Mark then suggests to Caryn that they look at the sky with the naked eye. Problem is, Caryn's house is a little too close to Smallville and the city lights obscure with the view. They wander to Potter's field, talking all the way. Mark takes her hand and pulls her into the rows of corn, and when Caryn lifts her head back to look at the sky, he kisses her.
"You're beautiful. You know that?" Mark says. "I'm seventeen now, I'm emancipated. I don't have to move if I don't want to." Mark cups his hand over her face. "We're friends, but can we try for more here?"
"I think that can be arranged," Caryn breathes.
They kiss again, oblivious to anything but each other.
"I think I like stargazing."
"Two and half years of star gazing," Caryn said. "I'm so glad we've starting this. I think I'll keep you."
Mark squeezed Caryn in response. Mark had shared with her some tragic stories of being returned to an orphanage. It was during their quiet times Mark had gotten a lot off of his chest. She listened and didn't judge.
She was always quick to tell Mark how important he was to her.
Her life was ridiculously insane, being the daughter of Superman, but at least she had a home and loving parents and an extended family. As an unwanted foster kid, she though Mark had it worse. He had reasons to feel lonely. Three times he had been told that he would be adopted, and three times he suffered the pain of a broken promise.
Caryn knew if Mark promised her something, it wouldn't be in vain. He would mean it. So whatever it was that Mark said to her, "I'll call you tomorrow." "We'll dance after my set is up." "I'll wait until you're ready." Caryn could trust that.
Telling him she was half Kryptonian wasn't something she was prepared to do. She didn't want to do it because she thought it would change the way he'd look at her. She nearly always could argue a reason not to share, even when it was evident that Mark would always be her friend and comfort. Her dad's super-suit was more embarrassing than Grandpa Sullivan's fart jokes.
Her reluctance to take a risk matched Mark's uncertainty in saying the big three words--I love you.
Mark and Caryn were better at saying I love you by holding hands, with kisses, or when Caryn rested her head on Mark's chest. Sometimes their touching grew reckless. He was shy about sex. He could barely go to second base with her without blushing and apologizing. They hadn't done it yet. He was a simple, traditional guy that wanted his own home and family. She wanted to be a virgin until married. The fact that Mark was willing to wait spoke volumes to her about how he really felt.
Caryn was about to fall asleep when Mark took her left hand into his own. Caryn felt the cool trail of the band slide down her ring finger. Her eyes snapped open and she sat up, giving him her full attention. Her heart was bursting with joy. He was refusing to look back at her but she thought she saw a slight smile on his face.
"Mark," Caryn called.
She saw Mark's Adam's apple bobble. He clenched her left hand and twirled the ring there. He tried to remove it from her hand, as if he had made the worse mistake in the world.
Caryn stopped him.
"I love you Caryn," he said. "You know that I do, right?"
She pressed her nose to against his sideburn and started to kiss his jaw. She felt his fingers twist her hair, passing lightly over her ear.
"Caryn Kent, will you marry me?"
"Yes, Mark Slouka, yes I will."
Chloe woke up when her bedroom door opened and light from the hallway blasted in. In the frame of the doorway, her daughter Caryn stood. Chloe pulled the blue and red quilt over her head to block the light. Absentmindedly she reached for her husband, but Clark's side of the bed was vacant, little to her surprise. She vaguely recalled Clark flying off around one o'clock.
"Is Dad back yet?" Caryn asked.
"Honey, you know Dad's busy," Chloe muttered. "Come in and shut the door."
Gingerly, Chloe lowered the covers as the door shut and darkness returned to her room. Caryn took Clark's spot in her parent's bed as she sat down.
"I know you wouldn't wake me up for just anything. What's on your mind?"
"Mom, Mark asked me to marry him, and I said yes."
Chloe sat up and turned on her bedside lamp. The brightness didn't sting as her pupils were still contracted. Her heart was racing. Maybe I didn't hear right. She looked at her dark-haired daughter. Caryn's checks had gone slightly red. Chloe saw the ring glimmering on Caryn's left hand and she gasped with shock.
"Whoa," Chloe said. She was flabbergasted and felt mute. Caryn was not the emotional dunderheads she and Clark were. Those two had figured things out.
"Don't look at me like that Mom. You look so surprised."
"No, I'm not surprised. No. Well, I am surprised, but you're only twenty." Chloe paused. Then worry took over, "My, you're not pregnant, are you?"
"No Mommy," Caryn said. "No, Mark and I haven't."
Chloe decided not to question her daughter's integrity.
"Well, I know from experience how quickly things can change, when it's ready to change," Chloe said pushing back the covers and upping her body out of bed. "Is Mark downstairs? Do you want me to start some coffee or something so you can fly after Dad?"
"No, no..." Caryn stood and made her way to the door. "Mark went home. I just wanted to tell you and Dad first."
"Well, I can use some coffee." Chloe decided. She then approached Caryn and hugged her. "This is wild. I have no idea what your father will say."
Clark Kent came home after his Superman patrol to find his wife and daughter sipping coffee and reading magazines. It was three in the morning. Normally the house was dark and quiet at this hour. It puzzled him to see every light of the main floor on as he approached the house from overhead.
Chloe had gone to bed after enjoying a generous portion of holiday eggnog. Alcohol made Chloe sleep like a log. Caryn was always very careful to make sure she was rested. She didn't need as much sleep as her mother did, but she still needed some. Her career as a professional model demanded it.
He entered the house and did a super-change into his bed clothes before he meandered into the kitchen. He thought maybe Caryn had been booked for a magazine. He was in the mindset to remind Caryn of their agreement was that she'd stop modeling on her twenty-first birthday and then enroll at Met U. He worried that her career would ruin his cover, that someone would see the resemblance between her and Superman and conclude correctly, that Caryn was Superman's daughter.
The conversation Chloe and Caryn engaged in didn't sound like her work related jargon. So Clark hung back a bit at the kitchen counter and considered what would make both his wife and his daughter almost giddy at three a.m.
"Two weeks isn't enough time," Chloe said, shaking her head. Caryn was skimming through the pages of what looked to be like a bridal magazine. "It's Christmas Day."
"Mark hasn't had a lot of merry Christmases. I want him to have one to look forward too."
"I suppose on the plus side he won't forget his anniversary, but it's still not much time." Chloe answered. "We have so much shopping to do, and cooking, and the flowers."
"Dad and I have super-speed, there's time." Caryn countered. "Christmas Day is completely possible, even if it's two weeks away."
"What's this about?" Clark grimaced as he tasted the leftover coffee. He then heat-visioned it to his liking. "Have you been booked now on the bridal beat?"
Chloe and Caryn stopped bantering.
"One could say that. Clark, you may want to sit down." Chloe placed her hand on his shoulder when Clark took his spot at the head of the table. "Caryn, do you have something to show your dad?"
She lifted her left hand and showed her father the ring Mark had given her.
Clark's jaw dropped and he stared at his folded hands to recollect himself. This was a punch in the gut stronger than a Green K wallop.
"Mark asked and I said yes."
No, no, a million times no. You're too young.
"Chloe, is this true?" Clark asked with a gulp.
"Yeah," Chloe answered in her most comforting voice. "It's a tough break, isn't it?" She hugged him and then resumed her spot next to Caryn and grabbed a New Winter Brides for her reading.
"Caryn, you're twenty years old. Why do you want to rush? You have such a long life ahead of you."
"Mark and I have been dating for two years, and we were best friends before that, we're not rushing." Caryn argued back. "Dad, we're in love. Please be happy."
"Have you told him our secret?"
"Not yet," Caryn admitted. "I can't quite figure out how."
"I just thought you'd have told him, if you're that close. You weren't even tempted?"
"Dad, it scares the crap out of me. He's never suspected I even had powers."
"Well, he should know what he's headed into," Chloe piped in.
Clark looked at his daughter's hands as she twisted them together. Handwringing was a habit that she learned from her mom.
"You don't really think that you can hide this forever, do you?"
Well, no. Of course not.
"Caryn, your mother is right."
Agreeing Caryn tilted her chin up and pushed her cup of coffee away. "So, you're okay with me and Mark getting married? If I tell him?"
"I think maybe you should try out the secret on him first." He wanted to hug Caryn and reassure her. "Mark's a good guy, if you trust him, I will, but...I really think you should wait to be married. Have a two year engagement. Your mom and I will plan a big party, grand as you want."
Caryn pondered the idea.
"Do you trust him?"
"Yes," Caryn whispered, "but Mark wants to be married right away and I can't imagine disappointing him. If I say no, or say ‘let's wait' he'll be hurt. It might give him reason to reject me--I can't imagine him not being in my life."
Caryn started picking up her magazines, notably more depressed than she was minutes ago from the serious expressions her dad kept giving.
"I love him and he's had to wait on so many things, I don't want him to wait on me. So, if we get married, it will be in two weeks, on Christmas, just like he asked. As far as the other....I don't even know how to bring the subject up. That's my problem, and he could have so many questions, like for you or about mom's Kryptonite infection or even with Aunt Lois. It's a family thing, and I don't know. I mean, he's never had a clue and the glasses work great for all of us, does he really need to know that I'm half Kryptonian?"
"As much as I don't want other people to know our situation, your husband is not one of them. He might have questions if you have children. If you don't tell him, I will."
"Daddy, no. I'll do it." Caryn said collecting her copies of magazines. "I'll tell him I'm Superman's daughter. I'm just nervous--it could end badly."
"Honey," Chloe assured. "I've watched you two since you were sixteen. He's not going to reject you."
"No, I don't think he would, but he'll never see me as the same."
"These things go a bit better than not," Clark assured her. "Sharing something like this with someone you love and trust can be really amazing. And I'll be here."
"So will I," Chloe said.
"Mark, what are you doing tomorrow?" Caryn asked as they drove into Granville to shop for wedding rings. She twisted her engagement ring nervously. She then held her hand in front of her and fussed over a chip in her polish. "Mom and Dad want to have a small get together. My Aunt Lois will be there."
Caryn indicated yes without saying so.
"I forget she's your aunt. Will Superman be there too?"
Mark was only kidding, she knew that.
"He's always nearby," Caryn said. "Lois is his unofficial press agent."
Mark sat up a little. His fingers drummed the steering wheel.
"So, what you're saying is, I'm going to meet Lois and Superman? I know that you've met him. I've seen some of your family pictures."
"I don't know if he'll show up or not," Caryn replied. She bit her lip. She didn't mean to lie. It was just natural for her to refer to her dad's alter-ego as a different person. "I know Dad wants to talk with you because of..."
Mark interrupted her and Caryn was quick to let him.
"I probably should have asked permission or something," Mark said in a rush. "I hope he's not mad. We're going to get married and your parents can't stop us. We're old enough. We don't need their permission."
"I don't think they're going to try to change our minds. I sort of told them it's happening. I just think they're just worried about our age and other stuff."
"Oh God, Caryn. If your Dad talks to me about sex I'm going to die."
"No Baby." Caryn shook her head. It was one conversation that might be worse. "I don't even want to know if that happens."
"So, it's not about sex then," Mark nodded. "What else could worry you and make you bite your nails?"
Caryn let her free hand fall away from her mouth. She felt her voice form the words, "Dad's Superman" but for whatever reason she choked on them.
"You'll have to come over and find out I guess."
"You don't have any idea?"
"I didn't say that," she shrugged. "It's a family concern, that's it. We've got a thread of weird you need to know about."
"What kind of family secrets could you possibly have? I've seen it all Baby. Your family is all about love."
"So you're coming," Caryn said hopefully. "Afternoon we'll trim the tree, evening we'll eat. And then...you'll know."
"I hear all sorts of worry," Mark said. "It can't be that bad."
"It's not bad, but it's not what you're expecting at all."
Mark pulled into a parking spot in front of Powell's jewelry. The Powell's had been his foster parents once. Things didn't work out so that he could stay with them. Mrs. Powell had suddenly died, but Mark remained on good terms with Elijah Powell. Mark had looked forward to this errand all day. He wanted to show off his future wife to one of the few pseudo-dads he actually liked.
Mark went around the truck and met Caryn at the curb. He placed his hand on the small of her back as they walked away from the vehicle. He could feel her tremble with nerves. Caryn was still anxious over their conversation.
"Are you nervous?" Mark asked as he helped her over the gray slush piled deep in the crevice of the curb.
"It's sort of a big deal. I'm afraid I'm going to lose you once you know."
"I think that's an unfounded fear."
Mark then reminded her that he loved her as he held the door open.
"I love you too," Caryn replied back.
"Daddy," Caryn said as she knocked on his bedroom door. "Can we talk?"
"Don't I always have time for you?"
Caryn crawled onto her parent's bed and sat Indian style. She wore one of her dad's old flannel shirts with her jeans. She stared at her reflection in the mirror above Chloe's vanity. Clark sat down next to her.
"I tried to tell him." Caryn said.
"Good. He should know if you're going to get married."
"I agree, but I sort of suck at the whole part where I talk and tell him something like this. Anyway, he's coming over tomorrow like you asked.... How did you tell Mom?"
"Caryn, you know this story." Clark said as he removed his tie from his day at the office.
"I hear it from her point-of-view. I want to hear it from yours."
"Well, I, sat down next to her, and told her that the meteor rocks didn't make me who I was."
"Because Mom thought you were..."
"Kryptonite infected. She had seen me use my powers." Clark watched his daughter's eyes blink away. "Has Mark seen you use yours?"
"I don't think so." Caryn answered. "But he notices small things. Last summer he thought I was sick or something because I wasn't sweltering in 100 degree heat. Nothing really remarkable. I'm good at hiding. You taught me well."
Clark toed off his dress shoes.
"Oh, Dad," Caryn wrinkled her nose. "Super-smells."
"Sorry. I need to change my socks." Clark said. He blurred to the laundry room and back to Caryn's side. "So, how do you think he'll react?"
"I think he'll be hurt I didn't tell him sooner."
"I had a friend that reacted like that once."
"Yes. Uncle Pete. Pete's never been comfortable with knowing the secret."
"Why did you tell him?"
"He found my spaceship. I felt like I had to do it."
"So, if that hadn't happened, do you think he'd know?"
"Maybe, maybe not," Clark said. "The experience made me very gun shy to telling anyone else. Even admitting to Dr. Swan that he was right about me, that I was Kal-El of Krypton, was very difficult. But I'm glad I did it."
"I hope things will go okay," Caryn said. "I think it will, but people can surprise you."
"I think it depends on how you say it. I blew it with Pete because he thought my powers were cool and that I had been holding out on something wonderful with him. My reaction was didn't really support Pete's conclusions. Your Mom was different because she understood the why in the hiding. Also, it's all a lot to take in. Pete didn't get eased into it like your Mom was either."
"Mark's had to handle a lot in the past, including foster parents that looked at him as only a source of income. I just want him to know that we accept him, and that these lies aren't about him or how we feel about him."
"I'll do what I can to make it clear to him I trust him because you do. And, I'll even be the bad guy too. You can blame me if he thinks you wanted too long."
"I've know him for three years," Caryn said. "How do you know when the time is right?"
"Usually when they start asking questions that are hard to answer."
"Mom knew already though, you just gave her the missing pieces."
"Well, maybe that's way it worked so nicely with her. Why don't we just let him make the conclusion and then you can explain? Do you think that would work?"
"All you have to do is take off your glasses."
"So, we have a plan for tomorrow then, don't we?"
"Dad, are you sure?"
Caryn looked at her left hand again and felt reassured.
"Okay, let's do it."
Lois Lane pulled back the lace curtain framing the picture window. Outside she saw Caryn with her fiancée. Caryn was no longer a child, but Lois still thought of her that way. She remembered her baby scent as if the aroma still lingered in the house. Now it probably wouldn't be that long before Caryn would have babies. Babies having babies. Lois didn't want to think about how her second cousin had beaten her to the altar.
Lois felt old, very, very old. Watching young people in love tended to do that to her now. Mark and Caryn were more interested in each other than stringing up the holiday lights along the wooden fences.
They stopped at the start of the fence. Together they pulled out a string of lights. He took one end and she held the other. They twisted them around the horizontal slabs of the wooden crossbars. Then the wind picked up. Caryn's red hat blew off her head and she let him catch it. He jumped high and grabbed out of the air. Mark took her hand and she stepped up to him, almost standing on his feet. He smoothed out her hair before putting her hat back on her and sneaked a kiss too.
Lois let the curtain fall as she heard Martha enter her living room.
"You're supposed to be decorating, not spying." Martha reminded her. "Or are you going to make Clark and Chloe do all the work?"
"How can you know that Martha?" Lois said as she helped the eldest Kent to her easy chair.
"Well, I know you and I know you don't sit still unless you've got something distracting you."
Lois smiled at the elderly woman. Gone was her vibrant red hair and most of her eyesight, but she still saw Lois in a way that few others did.
"What is it Lois? Spill the beans."
"When Clark told me the news, I didn't believe it." Lois said picking up a dusty box labeled ‘Xmas Stuff.' "Who would have guessed Caryn would bet me to the altar?"
"Wow, that's a dose of self-pity I've never heard from you before," Martha said. "Clark as a young man was so uncertain about everything, I'm glad that Caryn's found what she wants in life so quickly."
"Well, she is a smart girl. I just can't believe it."
"Mark and Caryn have been dating a while now and were friends before that. It's not that surprising. I'm sure Clark talks about this a little bit at work."
"No. Not at all. You forget. I'm a foreign correspondent now. My trip to the office is an internet connection. I rarely step inside the Planet anymore now that I'm sort-of Superman's liaison with the world." Lois added. "I just wanted to write stories. I never signed up for this press agent side job."
"Oooh, yeah," Martha sarcastically commented. "I don't believe that. You're loyal and Clark needed you and more importantly, you do a good job with it. Clark and Chloe need someone they can trust to protect the family's secret. Who better to turn to than someone who is family?"
"I know what I do matters. It's just not what I aimed for all those years ago when I decided to go into journalism."
Not one to stay bitter, Lois threw herself into completing the work started that morning. The first floor of the Kent house was already very festive. The walls were trimmed with red and green. There were silver and gold knickknacks spread about. In the middle of the floor were boxes holding the regular décor. Clark needed to take them up to the attic still for a short stay.
"Where are you going to put the tree?"
"Southeast corner, next to the fireplace." Martha pointed too.
Lois moved the coffee table from the wall and carefully found new homes for the magazines and pictures on top of the table.
"Where should I put the table?"
"The barn will be fine for that one." Martha said. "Caryn can do it. Don't pull a muscle or anything."
"The table is in the middle of the room along with the boxes. Be sure you use your cane until Clark can get things cleared up. Other than that, it's starting to look a lot like Christmas in here."
"It won't be Christmas until the tree is up. I told Clark to get a fir. Nothing says Christmas to me more than the scent of a blue-green fir."
The side door bursted open. Mark and Caryn returned with several feet of Christmas lights tangled up in a ball. Lois got a good look at Mark for the first time. The blond man had a hand up against the wall as he removed his snow boots. His face was raw from the wind. His paleness was a pleasant contrast to Caryn's looks. She removed her coat and Mark playfully tossed her his. She hung them in the closet under the stairs. They were oblivious to Lois's gaze.
"It's going to be a cold one tonight," his husky voice said, he wrapped his arms around Caryn. "Maybe we could cuddle up in front of the fire."
"Interesting idea," Caryn said. "Depending..."
Lois cleared her throat. "Don't I get a hello?"
Caryn turned and caught glimpse of her aunt in the living room.
"You're here! I'm so glad you're here," Caryn said as she hurried into the living room.
"Your dad didn't give me much choice. He dropped in on me and said, ‘Come'. Martha's been filling me in on the why. It's really great news."
She grabbed Caryn's left hand and inspected the sparkly circle of diamonds. "You're really engaged then, huh?"
"Why is this so hard to believe?" Caryn happily pulled her man over for Lois to inspect.
"Aunt Lois, this is Mark Slouka, my fiancée."
Lois found herself shaking Mark's hand.
He was handsome and very tall, at least six foot six. He had several tattoos and piercings. Despite his loud, flashy exterior, he seemed very kind and patient. Lois already knew he loved music. He played drums in several bands and Caryn went to all of his out-of-the way concerts.
Lois wondered how this guy reacted to the news Caryn's father was Superman. Looking dead into his eyes, she thought she could see that he'd taken it all in stride. Lois approved and smiled to say so.
"So, this is the famous Lois Lane. I forget that your Caryn's aunt, always interviewing Superman, I suppose one day, I'll meet him too--the most famous resident in the world."
"You don't know then?"
Lois glanced at Caryn. Caryn was shaking her head.
"Don't know what?"
Martha, Caryn and Lois exchanged meaningful glances. Mark clearly didn't know that Caryn was Superman's daughter yet.
"I'm actually Caryn's second cousin," Lois clarified and sidestepped. "Chloe's like a sister to me and when she and Clark found out they were expecting I decided to be the cool aunt. Every kid needs a cool aunt."
"Mark," Caryn interrupted, trying to control the spin Lois was building. "Let's go to the kitchen and make some cocoa. Would you like some too Grandma?"
"Oh sure. Why not?"
Mark's brow expressed confusion as Caryn tugged his arm, trying to pull him away from Lois. The guy wasn't an idiot; he knew there was something he missed.
"No Baby," Mark said to Caryn. She let go of his elbow. Mark faced Lois and apologized. "I wasn't hinting that I wanted to meet Superman, Ms Lane. I just think that by marrying your niece, that the odds are good I will."
"Oh." Lois said. She slugged Mark's arm half-heartily. "Well, I can't speak for Superman, but I think he'd be mighty interested in you."
"Oh, enough Superman talk," Caryn said quickly. "Com' on, let's make some cocoa for the chill and untangle those lights. We'll put on a pot of coffee for Mom and Dad."
This time Caryn was able to divert Mark. They walked out of the living room together. Caryn grabbed the balled-up lights as she went and tossed the tangled mess to Mark. Soon they were playing basketball with hoops made from circled arms.
Lois knelt down close to Martha and spoke low.
"So, she hasn't told him the secret?"
"That's why you're here." Martha explained. "She just wants everyone that loves her nearby in case Mark rejects her."
"She's only twenty," Clark moaned to Chloe once again. "She's too young to get married."
Caryn was a Kent through and through. Furthermore she was her Daddy's little girl. Clark was bonded with Caryn before she was born. He used to stroke Chloe's belly during her miracle pregnancy. He used his x-ray vision to coo at her and spent hours describing the way Caryn sucked her thumb.
He remembered every detail from the day he learned she was expected.
It is a hard pregnancy for Chloe psychologically. Chloe can't bear to get too attached as she and Clark have had miscarriages before. She's hopeful but she remains guarded. Clark isn't so timid about falling in love with this one. The stress from the worry forces Chloe to rest more than ever and finally gain control over her healing powers. Every morning after Clark super-zips off to the Daily Planet, Chloe heals the baby inside of her. She wants Clark to have this baby more than anything else.
It works for the most part, although, Caryn is born blind which she later outgrows. Other than that, no one has a reason to think she's half alien. She's just like all babies, she knows how to cry and respond to her parent's voices and touch. Clark adores his little girl and Chloe finds herself in a contest with her husband on who gets to do the mothering.
He handles the midnight bottle and her diaper changes (sometimes flying in from Metropolis in full Superman uniform). He reads books to her every night, and sees that she has ballet lessons when Chloe turns her nose up on the idea. He attends her tea parties. He speaks to her in Kryptonian. She grows up with both her parent's languages. When her powers develop, he mentors her through each one.
Super-strength came first, around her fourth birthday. Clark has to discipline Caryn so she won't accidently hurt her mother or destroy the house. She already understands that Mommy is delicate, but Daddy is strong like she is. Hurting Mommy is an immediate swat on the rear from Dad. She fears and respects her Dad and constantly seeks his approval.
At six she's running at light speed and gets into everything on the farm and in the county. Unable to keep up with her daughter, Chloe fills in at the Planet so Clark can be the stay-at-home parent. Father and daughter grow closer still.
At seven years Caryn starts the first grade. Clark and Chloe start her late on purpose. They don't want her to go to school until they're certain that their little girl knows how to pass for normal. It means not speaking in Kryptonian and not using powers. If asked about her family, she taught to say they are farmers and journalists. She's never to talk about Superman. Even if people say mean things about Superman, or Aunt Lois, she has to let ugly words go unchallenged.
When Caryn is ten, she develops super breath. Clark finds her in the back forty, lying on her back hidden by the tall prairie grasses, moving the clouds into new shapes on her exhale.
"One day, I'm going to touch them," Caryn says. "Just like you. Just like Superman."
"What do you know about that Caryn?"
Clark smiles and hugs his little girl. "You're right."
"Dad, why is it that we can do what we can do?"
Clark and Chloe have always said that they weren't going to hide answers to her questions. If she is old enough to ask, she's old enough to receive a small measure of truth.
"The sunshine does it," Clark answers. "It's the way we were made."
"Oh--I like having powers." Caryn says. "They're fun. I can't wait to fly."
At thirteen, over breakfast, and to Clark's astonishment, Caryn tells her parents she can fly. Chloe calls the school to report her absence. Father and daughter spend the day in the sky and Clark tells Caryn everything. He tells her about Krypton, about the meteor shower and arriving on Earth as a little boy, about how he was raised. He even tells her about how he couldn't fly until he was in his twenties.
That night Clark can hardly rest next to Chloe. He's so happy, because of Caryn, he no longer fells so unique. His little girl is exactly like him.
Chloe wasn't surprised to hear Clark's devastation as he walked Chloe through his objections to her marriage. He still wants Caryn to be his little girl and not the young woman she had grown into. Chloe squeezed Clark's hand and placed her head on his strong shoulder as the hayrack moved into a half acre of blue firs on tree farm in Vermont.
"You can't stop her from growing up and falling in love. Caryn and Mark have been together now for a while. It's sweet that Mark is such a good friend too."
"You're still my best friend. Lest you forget." Clark pecked her cheek. "I suppose it does happen to the best of us. Still, twenty's too young."
"Clark, imagine what our lives might have been if we had gotten married at twenty, two years out of high school."
Clark grimaced at the memory. He's glad those days are over.
The people mover stopped and Clark slid off the hayrack. He wore a brown bomber jacket and leather gloves. He held his arms up for Chloe. She was gracefully caught when she slid off the mover.
A salesman appeared.
Clark explained what they wanted--a nice, ten foot tall, blue-green fir, just like his mother asked for.
"Your mother sounds classy," the salesman said.
"My mother's pretty direct. She could boss Superman around. She has this way of making you say yes."
"Like anyone can boss that guy around," the salesman laughed, not realizing that Clark was being truthful, not sarcastic. The salesman would never figure out that Clark was Superman so long as he had his glasses on.
They were made from Kryptonian materials. The science of his home world protected him from identification. The glasses didn't obscure his vision, but the vision of those that looked at him. People just couldn't see past the glasses to the truth, unless Clark took them off and allowed them to do so. The glasses also protected everyone he loved as his own.
Clark realized a while ago that Mark was quickly becoming part of his inner circle. He loved how happy Mark made Caryn.
"So, which will it be?" The cheerful salesman said, gesturing to two trees. "Why don't we let the little lady decide?"
Chloe touched the ends of the tree, letting the four sided needles roll between her figures. Curious, she took off her gloves and reached into the interior of the branches to grasp the truck. Clark knew that Chloe was using her healing powers to figure out which tree was healthiest and would last the longest once cut down.
"My woman's intuition tells me that the one on the right will last longer in a pan of water."
"Well, there you have it," the salesman said.
Chloe smiled as she put her glove back on her hand.
Clark handed over some cash to Chloe and she distracted the salesman with her purchase.
Clark used his laser vision to cut the tree. In the moment it took for the money to be counted, Clark had already taken the tree home and set it up in the living room, ready to trim.
"Hey, where'd your tree go?" The salesman asked.
"They cut and loaded it when you weren't looking." Clark answered.
The salesman didn't seem too convinced that was true, but, after looking Clark up and down again, he let it go, moving on to the next customer.
Clark and Chloe ambled into away from the crowds. Once alone, Clark pulled Chloe to his hip and took her up into the air back home.
Mark sat on pins and needles at the dining table. Everyone seemed slightly off. Chloe helped her mother-in-law serve. Lois took her time in describing how the table was set to Martha.
"I made the centerpiece myself," Lois said with pride.
Mark cast his eyes towards the center of the table and saw cornucopia filled with fun-size Hershey chocolates instead of miniature, plastic pumpkins and squashes.
"Let me guess," Martha said. "The cornucopia chocolate explosion, right?"
"Right," Lois said. She sat down and lifted her glass of wine that Chloe had poured. Mark and Caryn also had alcohol in front of them, even though they hadn't yet reached twenty-one.
"This is a special occasion for us," Chloe said. "I won't tell anyone you're only twenty if you don't."
"Mom," Caryn whined.
"Your father will ignore it. There are more important things to worry about."
"Where is Dad?"
"Mrs. Kent," Mark asked while he unfolded his napkin. "I can't imagine what the secret is here."
"You'll know soon enough." Chloe said. "Clark will be here in a minute."
Caryn sighed nervously.
Mark looked around from Caryn, to Lois, to Chloe and then to Grandma Kent. He saw how anxious they were as they were cutting their pork chops. Caryn was pushing a bit of potatoes around her plate, mixing them with some green beans. Only Caryn's grandmother seemed relaxed.
Mark also ate timidly, determined that whatever it was, he'd handle it and not over react. Whatever the secret was, it wasn't going to be talked about without Caryn's father. The strained chitchat about recipes and work drove Mark's nuts.
He took chocolate from the centerpiece when Clark walked into the room.
Caryn's dad looked pale too. He was in a blue dress shirt, with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows.
"This looks nice," Clark said sitting down. "Glad you didn't wait."
Clark filled his plate. Food was passed as he called for it. Just before he'd taken a bite, Clark took off his glasses. Mark followed Lois's eyes as he set them down.
"Chloe, why don't you go first," Clark said gruffly. His head was folded down a little, and Mark couldn't see Clark's eyes.
His attention shifted to Caryn's mom as she spoke.
"Mark, I'm Kryptonite-infected. I have been since before Clark and I started dating." Chloe said. "Of course, back then, they didn't call it Kryptonite-infection. Superman wasn't doing his thing yet. The P. C. term was meteor-infected, but I've been known to swing around the term meteor freak."
"Lot's of kids in our class had Kryptonite infections," Mark said. "Do you know how it happened?"
"Clark and I have a theory."
Mark looked over to Clark. Clark now looked familiar in a way that wasn't Caryn's dad. "Uh-what theory would that be?"
"That I infected her." Clark answered. "I didn't intend to though."
Mark paused, taking a few bites of food and then he swallowed a swig of wine.
"Everything I know about the disease says that you have to be in contact with Kryptonite." Mark said.
"Or prolonged exposure to a Kryptonian," Chloe answered.
"I don't think that can be true," Grandma Kent offered.
"Not this debate again," Lois piped up.
"Well, it's just a theory. I couldn't tell you the amount of green, red, silver and blue rocks I've helped..."
"She was helping me and in return, she's got a disease."
"End story is, we're not sure that I can die," Chloe answered. "It's a gift. I think my infection is more direct than a rock."
Mark stared at Chloe again. He realized that Caryn's mother didn't look a lot older than Caryn herself. Why have I never noticed this before? "Wow, that's amazing," is what he said. He put his napkin on top of his plate and stared at Caryn and back at Chloe. "I could have sworn that you looked older just a few minutes ago."
"I probably did," Chloe said. She looked at Clark glasses and then back to Mark.
Clark looked very young now too. "Are you infected too, sir?"
"Everyone at first thinks I'm meteor-infected."
Mark dropped his fork as he registered Clark's face as Superman's. He pushed his chair back, got up, and swore.
"Here we go," Lois said under her breath.
"Holy shit!" Mark repeated. "I can't believe it."
When Mark next looked at Caryn's parents, Chloe had her hand over Clark's as they silently exchanged words of encouragement. Clark was looking at his wife for comfort. He looked back to Mark's direction.
"Mark. I see you've figure things out."
"What, that you're Superman!"
"Not so loud, I think Hubbard's just heard you." Clark stood and tried to invite him back to the table. "Please sit. Eat. I know it's a lot to take in but we're still the same people you've always known. I just happened to be an alien."
"Caryn," Mark gasped as he saw how much Caryn took after her father. "You're...an alien?"
"No, I was born on Earth Mark."
"But you're like your Dad, right?"
"Mark," Caryn got up and tried to do something to reassure him. "I'm Caryn, only Caryn. What does it matter if I might be half Kryptonian and half Kryptonite-infected?"
"It matters a whole lot," Mark said, not letting Caryn touch him. "I... I never saw this coming." Mark was pacing the dining room; with every step he was closer to leaving.
"Mark," Caryn said loudly, "Don't leave."
"I need some air."
Caryn started to follow Mark towards the door, but stopped when she heard her father say, "Let him go."
"I said let him go. He's got a lot to think about."
Caryn sat down in her chair, exasperated. "I didn't think it would go that bad."
"Oh, it's not so bad," Martha answered. "Clark was more upset when he was told."
"Well, Lois's reaction was much worse," Clark chuckled.
"Hey," Lois said. "I came around. I'm your best ally now."
Caryn could still hearing Mark pace outside uttering, "Oh my God," repeatedly. This will never do. She excused herself to go after him.
Link to Part II: Here