Clark and his parents talked afterwards for what felt like hours, and only later did they realize that they had actually talked for hours. And while Clark wasn't ready to open up his wounds, he had been able to tell them about some of the people he had met. Like the Terror twins, Tommy and Tuppence. They were Clark's cellmates when he was four, just weeks after they'd taken him. Clark fondly remembered his fear of them at first, considering the fact that they were extremely intimidating and super-strong. Not as strong as Clark had been back then, but extremely strong nonetheless. They had taken Clark under their wing the moment they looked at him for the first time – tear-stained cheeks, puffy red eyes betraying the fear he had felt then, and, of course, his whole body shaking like a leaf in a fifty-mile wind.
„They taught me how to write," Clark said to his parents. It was obvious they were trying not to cry, making it that much harder for Clark not to break down, too. „Not everything was that bad in there. They were good. They helped me, they took care of me. They cared about me."
Clark had decided even before telling the story to not mention the part where the assholes took the twins for their daily examination, and Clark not having heard of them ever since. Clark sincerely hoped they were okay, even though, deep inside, he had known for some time that they most likely weren't.
Ever since losing the twins, Clark had decided not to attach to anyone in that hellhole. Attachment only brought more pain when the people he cared for were eventually ripped away from him. Then, years later, Dr. Hamilton showed up. He had helped Clark escape. Or, to put it better, he had helped him escape only for him to be caught once again. The good doctor was most likely dead, making the stone in Clark's chest only heavier. That only proved the point.
Now, however ... now, that Clark was free? He could finally let himself get attached to someone. Clark knew that it wasn't healthy to always be on his own. Clark also knew that it wouldn't be easy. He still had a long way ahead of him, and he did not want to hurt anyone.
Well, he did want to hurt most of the employees of 33.1, but they didn't count.
Still, the talk with his parents helped him. He felt easier after that, even though he barely told them a thing. He was sure that in time, he would be able to open up. Clark didn't know whom he'd be able to open up to if not his parents.
Later, once they all decided to call it a night, Clark was happy to see that his parents had not changed his old room at all in all these years. Okay, maybe not that happy, considering the fact that bed was a little too small for him. Pa seemed to have realized this as well and offered him the couch, saying that they would buy a bigger bed tomorrow.
That night, Clark only had two nightmares, which, to him, was pretty much a success on its own. One was the one he'd had before – about the couple, Jor and the woman, presumably his mother, putting him in a pod. When he was a kid, he used to think it was just a pigment of his imagination. He knew better now.
The other one Clark would rather not think about, though when he woke up, panting, cold sweat all over his body (Clark chuckled when he realized that he only sweated when having nightmares. Huh.), his heart racing wildly and pounding away in his ears. His parents were there, most likely hearing his screams, helping with through the aftereffects. And Clark couldn't be more grateful if he wanted to.
He really, really wanted to.
The next day, Clark woke up to the smell of bacon and pancakes, something he hadn't smelled in years. Sad, really. His stomach immediately made itself known, and Clark was pretty sure that it would wake the whole house had his parents not been up already. Slowly turning around, he checked the clock on the wall and was pretty shocked to see that it was 11 AM. Clark went to bed at 9.
He never needed this much sleep. Was this just his body healing itself through years of abuse?
„Good morning, sleepyhead," said Pa affectionately, some amusement coloring his voice, from the kitchen. Clark felt a smile grow on his face. It felt nice.
„Mornin'," Clark grumbled, his voice still a bit sleepy. Facing the window, Clark felt the sun's rays hit his body. His skin started to tingle. His whole body, really.
I could get used to this.
„Wonder Woman called, and how she got out number is beyond me," said Ma as she came out of the kitchen, wearing a Kiss The Cook apron, „and I honestly don't even want to know. She said she'd be here to pick you up at 1:30, so you have some time to eat and do whatever you like. Good morning, sweetheart."
She kissed his cheek, and Clark smiled down at her. When he was a kid, Clark used to cling to her, wrapping his small arms around her legs when she was trying to leave the room or... basically, trying to do anything.
Ma led him to the kitchen and once he sat down, she put at a least dozen pancakes in front of him, along with some scrambled eggs and fresh bacon on another plate. Clark thanked her with a huge grin and dug in, and really, it was one of the best things he had ever tasted, though that wasn't saying much. Ma kept adding pancakes onto his plate, and Clark had no complaints whatsoever.
„Thanks, Ma," Clark thanked her after he finished. His Ma gave him a watery smile in return, still not quite over the fact that she had her son back.
„You're welcome, Clark."
After the most amazing breakfast he'd had since ... ever, Clark brushed his teeth and ran a hand through his nonexistent hair, though it seemed to be growing out ever so slowly. Clark did not complain. He thought he looked like an idiot with the buzz cut.
His Pa went into town earlier and after ordering a new bed, which would come in a few days, he also bought some clothes, since his wouldn't be a fit – Clark was a few inches taller than him and was much skinnier.
Almost too soon, Clark heard the telltale knock on the door, and the sound of Diana's voice greeting his Ma and Pa. Clark went downstairs and greeted her as well. She wasn't in her usual Wondersuit, as Clark had dubbed it, but in a pair of formfitting jeans and a white t-shirt.
„Hey, Clark. Ready to go? Are you joining us, Mr. and Mrs. Kent?" she asked with a smile, and her eyes seemed to be glowing in the sunlight.
„We aren't, unfortunately," said his Ma with a smile on her own, albeit the smile being a bit disappointed, „we still have a farm to run. We'll visit during the next one, if that's okay with you, sweetie?" she cast a look at Clark.
„It's alright, Ma."
Clark then looked at Diana nodded, telling her that he was ready. Once outside, he said goodbye to his parents, giving them a tight hug which almost resulted in cracking one of his Pa's ribs. Diana picked him up, since Clark still had no idea how to fly, and together, they flew over to the nearest teleporter to the Watchtower.
Once aboard the Watchtower, Clark was met with pairs of curious eyes, both from the heroes and the civilian staff, which, apparently, the tower also employed. Diana said that they had already prepared everything for the tests, and that they would like to do a scan of his body, take a DNA sample, and, of course, test his abilities.
„If any of this makes you feel uncomfortable, or you start panicking, or anything of the sort, just tell me, and I'll cancel the tests, okay?"
Clark nodded. He wasn't really sure about the DNA sample. Still, Diana's presence was somehow calming him down, and when she led him into a sterile room, which was apparently primarily used as an infirmary, Clark couldn't help but feel extremely grateful for the fact that she was by his side.
A kind looking woman came in, wearing a white lab coat, which made Clark stiffen involuntarily. Clark hoped no one noticed, but Diana apparently did, and put a hand on his shoulder, silently telling him that she was there both with him and for him.
The woman introduced herself as Dr. Kirby and told Clark that there was nothing to worry about. Clark hoped she was right. She took out a needle, and yeah, guess what?
Diana, seeing his distress, immediately came in front of him and knelt down so she was looking into his eyes. She held her hands in his. „It's okay, Clark. You don't have to do it if you don't want to."
Clark looked into her eyes, and he could see that she was telling the truth. He didn't have to do this – he could easily refuse to participate in this test. But still, Clark wanted to learn about himself. He was an alien – a Kryptonian. The last of his kind. What was the source of his powers? Okay, that one Clark sort of figured out already. But still - did he even have a DNA? How different was he from humans? From Diana? From other metahumans? His kind was supposedly ancient.
He wanted to learn more.
So, with steely resolution and determination in his eyes (Clark hoped it was there, anyway), Clark looked at Dr. Kirby and nodded, silently giving her permission to proceed.
The needle broke when it came into contact with his skin.
„Th-That ... that was a titanium needle," stammered Dr. Kirby. Titanium. The strongest metal on Earth, according to Neckbeard Number One, commonly known as the scientist that had experimented on him a couple of times. He had said that Clark wouldn't be able to break out of titanium bonds. He had been wrong. Clark was twelve.
They had decided to use Nth metal after that – Clark hadn't been able to do shit against that one, even though he suspected he hadn't been nearly as strong back then as he was now.
„Okay, let's move on," suggested Diana after a beat. Clark nodded at once, agreeing wholeheartedly.
„Maybe we could try a saliva sample?" the doctor asked. Clark shrugged and nodded, and a few minutes later, a probable DNA sample was sent to the Watchtower lab to be analyzed.
They then decided to do the scans, despite how anxious Clark felt. Logically, he knew they were only trying to help him. He knew that. But years of tests had taught him not to trust anyone with a „Dr." in front of their name. Not to trust anyone. To run. Clark shook those thoughts away – they wouldn't do him any good. It was a survival reflex, an instinct to run, to hide, and to survive. Clark didn't want to do that.
Clark literally felt Diana's smile widen and her expression brighten before she even looked at him, her eyes sparkling, „J'onn's here!"
Ah. J'onn J'onzz – the Martian, as Diana explained yesterday. An alien like Clark – the last of his kind, apparently, as well. Diana motioned with her hand at an extremely tall figure, even taller than Clark, and Clark realized that this was the Martian. If not for the fact that his skin was a deep shade of green, the fact that he was wearing a pair of dark blue boots and a cape of the same color would've revealed his origin to Clark, anyway.
„Hey, J'onn, I'd like to introduce you to Clark," greeted Diana once they approached the Martian. He turned around and smiled at her, but his smile disappeared immediately the moment his eyes landed on Clark. His expression looked solemn. It was the only way to describe it. As if he was seeing a ghost from his past.
„Jor-El?" he whispered quietly.
„No," Clark answered softly. The Martian thought Clark was the man from his dreams, or nightmares, really. Jor. His father. Jor-El.
The surprise on his face was evident. He looked at Clark, as if he was trying to see into his mind – his eyes started glowing bright orange, and then as fast as it came, it disappeared.
„I am sorry. I am aware that I should not look into the minds of the innocent. Kal-El," he said, and Clark felt something burn within him when he said the name, „it is a pleasure to meet the last son of Krypton at last."
„The last..." Clark mumbled quietly to himself. So it was true. He was the last. The last of his kind.
The last Kryptonian.
„Come with me, please. We have much to discuss," the Martian said, and looked pointedly at Diana. „Diana may come as well, if you wish."
Clark looked at her and recognized her expression – she was giving him a choice. She had the same expression when she'd asked him if he wanted to do the tests. Back then, which was yesterday, Clark thought about that for some time. Now, though, the answer was clear. And so, with a nod, which seemed to satisfy both J'onn and Diana, they started walking towards the cafeteria. At least that's what it looked like to him.
They sat down at one of the many tables present in the room, and for a second, there was silence. That was, until Clark broke it.
„Who am I?" he asked him quietly. Knowing the basic facts, he still wanted to learn who he truly was.
„You," answered the Martian after a while, „are the son of two of Krypton's best scientists, Jor-El and Lara Lor-Van. You are Kal-El, the Star-Child, the last son of Krypton, the last member of the noble House of El."
Lara. So that was the name of his mother. The beautiful woman he saw in his dreams (nightmares), right next to his father.
„Why am I the last? And how do you know so much about Krypton?" Clark asked a few seconds later. He saw Diana from the corner of his eye, looking almost as interested as Clark himself.
He sighed. „My race perished hundreds of years ago. I have traveled across many a star, searching for a new home, when I arrived on Krypton, where I met your parents. I left months before the planet perished, not knowing what was about to happen. I have a suspicion that Jor-El was aware of the events that were to take place.
„Krypton was a planet of advanced science and military. Its gravity was hundreds of times stronger than that of Earth, making even my muscles strain, and it circled a red sun, a red supergiant the Kryptonians called Rao – the God of all creation, of light and life."
He then went on, and told Clark everything he knew. About Krypton's supposedly unstable core, leading to the planet's destruction. How Kryptonians were one of the most advanced civilizations in the universe, far ahead of even the Martians, comparable to the New Gods, whoever they were. How happy Clark's parents were when they found out Lara was pregnant, even if it was against Kryptonian laws to give birth naturally.
He explained how Kryptonians were born through a Birthing Matrix – how the parents would put their DNA into it, making the Matrix process it, modify it, and then create an embryo, from which the child would be born in a few months.
He told that while Kryptonians were cold and aloof, Jor-El and Lara were different, how they had taken the Martian in and allowed him to live with them.
„You look so much like your father," he said eventually with a kind smile. „You have your mother's hair and eyes, however. Jor-El claimed he had never seen eyes as deep and beautiful as your mother's."
His mother's eyes. Deep blue with speckles of white in them – Clark's Ma used to say that they were the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen. Those eyes were now filled with tears. Diana's hand found his own, offering him a watery smile when he looked at her. Clark noticed she had tears in her eyes, too. Clark decided to change the topic, otherwise a breakdown would be inevitable.
„H-How ... how do my powers work?" Clark asked shakily. The Martian smiled gently, obviously understanding Clark's need to change the subject.
Letting Clark compose himself, J'onn started, „As I have told you already, Kryptonians evolved on a planet billions of years before humans," Clark nodded, and he continued, „Krypton's environment was much, much harsher than that of Earth, which meant that Kryptonians' muscles had to adapt. Your muscles are genetically strong enough to live on a planet with gravity hundreds of times stronger than that of Earth."
Clark nodded in understanding. That's how he was able to break through the wall even though he was the definition of a walking skeleton. That's why they couldn't cut him with ordinary equipment.
It comforted him – the science, the explanations. The knowledge. Clark felt lighter, somehow. Maybe it was finally learning about his biological parents. Maybe it was finally learning about his kind. Maybe it was Diana's calming presence next to him, her hand clasped in his in silent support. Or maybe it was the Martian finally answering the questions Clark had had for the longest of times.
J'onn continued, „Krypton used to orbit a red supergiant. Earth, however, orbits around Sol – a yellow star. Each and every one of your cells absorb the energy of the Sol."
This time, Diana cut in, „That was the reason you didn't have your abilities in the facility we found you in," she explained, „it was all lined with lead, not allowing even the passive radiation to peak through."
They must have had something similar like that in 33.1.
„So, I'm a solar battery?" Clark asked.
The Martian let out a weak chuckle and nodded. „Basically, yes. Your body had already adapted to Earth's atmosphere and environment, and if my suspicions are correct, your ability to absorb Sol's radiation are already more efficient than would be that of an average Matrix born Kryptonian."
Somehow, that didn't make him feel any better. The knowledge that he would most likely never meet another of his kind.
„I know how you feel, Kal-El," said J'onn softly, „I am the last survivor of my species as well, and while the pain will not pass, it will get easier. In time."
Clark nodded and gave him his thanks. Once they left the Martian, who apparently really loved Oreos, whatever that was, they decided to go and test Clark's abilities. To be honest, Clark was happy for the distraction, even though it still gave him the creeps.
„Oh, and Kal-El?" asked the Martian, and somehow, Clark heard him. Turning around, Clark gave him a confused look, and he smiled in return, his chin a little smeared from the ... cookies? Oh, right. Oreos were cookies. „While you are physically alright now, I would be careful. Your body will now evolve now more than ever, adapting to your new abilities."
Clark nodded at him in thanks and gave him a light smile. Adapting? Somehow, Clark had a feeling it wouldn't end very well.
Once they left the cafeteria, Clark couldn't stop thinking about Krypton and his biological parents. Diana kept offering him her silent support, and Clark couldn't be more grateful. He didn't know what to say, and apparently, neither did she. Still, he felt grateful for her calming presence alone.
Two hours later, the tests were finished. As not even J'onn had any idea how Clark's powers would evolve, they'd decided to test him only with the abilities they were sure Clark had already possessed – durability, strength and flight.
Flying still caused him a little trouble, but he was sure he'd be able to master it in time.
„So, how did I do?" Clark asked once he left the gym where the League had decided the test would take place. Batman was reading through some data on his tablet and Diana was smiling at Clark, her grin huge. Clark was a little afraid that she wouldn't be able to ... uh ... ungrin? Yes. Ungrin. Let's leave it at that.
„You are getting stronger by the second," answered Batman. „We gave you the strongest weights we have and you lifted it like it was a paperweight. Your strength most likely already outmatches Diana. There is no known limit yet."
Clark looked at her, and while he couldn't read all the emotions on her face, he could still see the trust in them. He was glad that she wasn't afraid of him. She was a warrior. She could most likely still kick his ass into oblivion.
„Your durability's limits also remain unknown."
„You shot bullets at me," Clark said.
Batman smirked. „I know."
„You have potential, Kal," said Diana, and Clark immediately registered the name rolling off her tongue. She seemed to notice it, too, but decided not to pay any attention to it. Clark kind of liked the way it sounded in her Themysciran accent, as it was apparently called.
„With proper training, you could be a valuable member of the League," said Flash, appearing out of nowhere.
Clark was pretty sure he would've choked on his own spit if not for the fact that he probably couldn't.
She shot Flash a look. He shrunk a little.
„He's not ready, B—Flash."
Clark nodded, agreeing wholeheartedly. He wasn't ready. However, there was something he had wanted to ask for some time now. „You ... you think I have it in me? To be like you?"
„Like us?" Diana asked, clearly confused.
„To be a ... hero," Clark said uncertainly.
She frowned. „Of course you have, Kal. I've seen the way you care for others, even after all you've been through. How worried you were about others when we found you in Cadmus, how much you care about your parents. You are a hero already, for surviving what you have and yet still remaining a gentle, caring soul.."
Clark felt touched at her words, but even more at the sincerity and complete faith in them.
„There are more prisoners, Diana. In 33.1. I want to set them free. I want to help them."
„And you will. Together, we will. But right now, you need to heal, you need to adapt to your new way of life. Let Batman and the rest of us work on this. And when you're ready, we shall bring you in."
Clark looked at her, noticing the tightness of her jaw and her unwavering gaze. He sighed. „Okay."