Clark and Pete
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Image from Oxoniensis.
You say it's your birthday
We're gonna have a good time
-The Beatles, "Birthday"
It hadn't been a bad birthday, exactly. The cake had been nice, at least. His mom had baked him a big cake, frosted green to look like one of the fields that spread out around the house, complete with plastic cows and a little toy tractor.
But there hadn't been anyone else there to share the cake. Just him and his parents.
And so Clark had blown out the five candles... and made a wish.
Now he was moping around outside. Sometimes he moped in the barn, but today he was moping on the front porch. It was a sunny May day, beautiful and bright, but he paid no mind to the relentless sunshine. He was a good moper. He could mope in any weather.
Today, he felt like he had good reason to mope. There wasn't anything to do. Living as he did on a hundred quiet acres, he was pretty good at keeping himself entertained, but today playing by himself just wasn't enough.
It was his birthday. Today ought to be special somehow.
While he sat there on the old wooden steps, playing dejectedly with the little metal tractor from his cake, a car turned into the gravel driveway and crunched its way toward the house.
Clark looked up with only vague interest. The Kents sold most of their organic produce at the farmer's market, but people came to the farm fairly frequently. This was probably just someone looking for a pie or something. They'd do the same thing everyone else did-- pat him on the head and tell him what a handsome boy he was, and then go back to talking to his parents. No one ever came to the farm to see him.
But when the car came to a stop, two people got out. A mom... and a kid.
Clark stared. The kid was a little boy, and he looked about Clark's age. His skin was almost as brown as Clark's hair, and he wore a happy smile, like he'd never moped in his life.
The kid looked in Clark's direction. And waved.
Stunned, Clark lifted a hand and offered a tentative wave of his own. The kid glanced toward his mom, as if asking permission, and then headed in Clark's direction at a trot.
Clark knew his parents didn't like him playing with other kids. He was stronger than his parents, and could do stuff that other people apparently couldn't. That was why he wasn't in preschool, and why he hadn't had any friends at his birthday party. His parents worried he'd hurt someone by accident, and he knew they wouldn't be thrilled about him playing with this little boy, either. So he hesitated, frozen on the porch, looking around guiltily.
His dad was just coming out of the barn, wiping his hands on an old rag. He'd probably been working on the tractor again. He was always working on the tractor. He headed for the woman, smiling and calling out a friendly hello.
"I brought Pete," the woman called in response, loudly enough that Clark had no trouble hearing her. "I thought he could play with your son while we caught up."
Clark saw his dad's stride break, saw the concern sweep across his face. But then he smiled and shrugged. Clark could tell it wasn't because he wanted them to play, but because he couldn't figure out any way to get out of it without making a big deal about it. And if there was one thing his parents hated to do, it was making a big deal out of anything to do with Clark.
He didn't much care that his dad didn't want the two of them to play. He'd wished for someone to play with, and through some miracle his wish had been fulfilled. It was an unexpected birthday gift, and he intended to take advantage of it.
He jumped off the porch, not bothering with the steps, and headed for the other boy at a trot.
"Hi," the kid called, looking impressed by Clark's leap from the porch. "I'm Pete."
Clark already knew that, because the woman had called out the name. But he thought it best not to say so. He slid to a stop in front of the kid and offered a tentative smile. "I'm Clark."
The kid offered him another big, wide grin. "Want to play?"
"Sure," Clark said.
The two of them stared at each other, while an awkward silence grew. Clark had a feeling he was supposed to suggest what they should do, but he'd never played with anyone else before, and didn't have a clue how two kids were supposed to play together.
"So," the other boy said at last. "Got a basketball hoop?"
Clark blinked. "A what?"
Pete goggled at him. "You know," he said, making a series of motions with his hands while jogging in place. "A hoop. A basketball. Shooting hoops."
Clark stared at him blankly. He gathered vaguely that the gestures Pete had made had been intended to illustrate the concept, but he still had no idea what "shooting hoops" might involve. "Uh," he said, feeling stupid. Maybe everyone in the world played basketball except him. "No, no hoops."
"You gotta come over to my house, man," Pete said, grinning. Clark noticed with relief that he didn't seem horrified by Clark's lack of knowledge. "I play with my brothers all the time. I'll teach you."
Clark knew perfectly well that his parents would never, ever let him go to Pete's house, but he smiled anyway, pleased by the invitation.
"Cool," he said. His parents had promised him a trip to Fordman's General Store in downtown Smallville, to buy him something special for his birthday, and he instantly resolved that what he wanted most in the world was a basketball hoop and a ball.
"But right now..." The other boy looked around and shrugged. "How about we play hide and seek?"
Clark grinned, relieved. He'd played that one with his parents, lots of times, so he knew how it worked.
"Awesome," he said. "You want to be it?"
"Sure." Pete covered his eyes and started counting. Clark cast a guilty glance in his dad's direction, but his dad was still talking to Pete's mom, and didn't seem to notice that Clark was playing, actually playing, with another kid.
He figured he better hide before his dad remembered, and found some excuse to get him away from Pete, like chores that needed to be done or something.
As he turned back toward the house, he saw his mom standing at the screen door, smiling at him. And all of a sudden he understood.
The fact that a kid his age happened to be here wasn't coincidence, and it wasn't because of the silent, plaintive wish he'd made. His mom had known he was lonely. She'd known that he hated being alone all the time.
She'd planned this.
And as long as he didn't screw it up, hopefully Pete would be able to come back again. Maybe the two of them could actually be real friends.
He flashed a quick grin of thanks at his mom, and then jogged off to hide behind the house.
For the moment, he felt just like any other kid, playing a regular kids' game with a boy his age, having ordinary, everyday fun. For the moment, he felt just like everyone else. He felt... normal.
And that was the best birthday present he could possibly have wished for.