Friends in Need
“This is easily the greatest thing you have ever done.” Wally told Arthur dreamily. He was standing beside Arthur, Kyle and John Jones aboard the top deck of a triple story yatch that Arthur had hired for the day. Below them, students milled around, laughing and eating from the buffet tables that were placed at strategic intervals across the length and breadth of the ship.
“You need to thank Bruce as well. He put up half the money for the ship, and insisted we take the biggest one I could find.”
“I would not have imagined Bruce to the kind to want to throw parties for large groups of people.” John observed.
“I think his main reason for keeping the ship big was to have more places to hide from Clark.” Arthur said.
“So he’s still trying to avoid Clark?” Kyle asked. “They room together. How could he have managed to avoid him for the past week?”
“That just shows how dedicated Bruce is to never having a conversation with Clark.” Arthur grinned. “Clark says he takes off in the morning at seven and returns late at night to immediately go to sleep. It’s not like Clark is exactly dying to talk to him about what happened at his father’s office last week, anyway. They both need some space from each other for now.”
“And we get to party aboard a giant yatch because of it.” Wally said happily. He led the others down the stairs to the second deck, rubbing his hands together. “Come on, guys, we’ve got three hours till we get to the island. Let’s rock this joint! We’re going to make this a party to remember for future student generations at the university, and-”
Wally’s voice faded away as he encountered a pretty brunette coming up the steps. It was Linda Park. She smiled at Wally, but he was too surprised to smile back. All he could do was goggle at her for a moment before hurriedly moving out of her path.
“What’s the matter?” Arthur asked after she had left. “I thought it was your intention to ‘Rock this joint’?
“You invited Linda, too?” Wally hissed at Arthur. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I invited her friend Marion.” Arthur corrected him. “Who then invited Linda. And the reason I didn’t tell you was because I was looking for exactly the kind of reaction you had to meeting her.”
“That was gold.” Kyle chuckled. “He was looking at her like she was an alien. And I haven’t seen him jump out of the way so fast since he ran into that professor’s class he was skipping.”
“Screw you guys.” Wally muttered.
The party suddenly seemed to have grown considerably less fun for Wally as he wandered moodily around the deck, thinking about what as ass he had made of himself in front of Linda yet again.
Wally spotted Clark leaning on the railing watching the waves hit the side of the boat.
“You look like you’re having a blast.” Wally said, walking up to him.
“I am.” Clark said with a benign smile. “We should do this more often. I love the ocean. I think I saw that girl you like on the lower deck.”
“Yeah, she’s here.” Wally sighed. “Arthur invited her without telling me. I screwed up with I met up. Didn’t say hi or anything. Now she thinks I’m even more weird than she already did.”
“You’re way too hard on yourself, man.” Clark told him. “There’s no reason you can’t have a fresh start. Go up to the girl and introduce yourself. You should start with a joke, since you’re always full of those. Put her at ease. Pretend she’s like any other guy.”
“Wow, start with a joke, thanks man.” Wally said bitterly. “That’s a great help. You should be a dating coach. Next you’re going to tell me that confidence is key, and to actually listen to her instead of starting at her boobs.”
“No need to get snippy with me, I’m just trying to help. You over analyze things whenever you start thinking about this girl.”
“That’s because it is complicated.” Wally said. “That’s why I need advice a bit more specific than the golden oldies you’re dishing out. Enjoy the waves, Clark.”
“You’re over complicating things.” Clark called out to Wally’s retreating back.
Wally resumed his wandering across the deck of the yatch, jumping out of the way whenever he saw Linda and her friends moving in his general direction. One just strategic retreat brought him to the back of the yatch, where Diana lay on one of the deck chairs wearing thick sunglasses and reading a novel on her mobile.
“Your turn.” Wally said as he flopped down on a chair next to Diana.
“My turn for what?” Diana asked, taking off her glasses.
“Helping me out. Linda Park is on this ship, and I just had a super embarrassing encounter with her. How do I recover from that?”
“I can introduce you to her.” Diana offered. “I can act as a ‘wingwoman’, I believe the term is.”
“Do you know her?” Wally asked hopefully.
“No, but I won’t be so overawed by her beauty that I would freeze up in front of her.”
“That won’t work.” Wally waved her suggestion aside impatiently. “I have a better idea. You and I stand next to her and we pretend to flirt.”
“You laugh loudly at my jokes and hit me playfully on my shoulder.”
“We make her jealous so she thinks I’m a hot stud instead of a loser.”
“Oh come on, Diana! I’d do it for you, if you ever had to make a guy jealous.”
“No, Wally. You must not start a relationship based on a lie. Linda will appreciate you based on your own personal positive attributes instead of your imaginary ‘studliness’.”
“You’re as bad as Clark.” Wally said bitterly as he jumped to his feet. “You two deserve each other.”
“Why? Did he say something to you?” Diana asked, but Wally was already striding away.
All of his other friends were busy talking to other people on different parts of the yatch. Then Wally saw Bruce skulking near a buffet table soundly ignoring a gaggle of girls nearby who were eyeing him. He spotted Wally beckoning to him, and walked over to join him at the railing of the ship.
“Hey, Bruce, I was trying to think of a way to get Linda to see me as a guy she’d want to be with instead of a dork. You have any idea how to do-”
“We isolate her from the pack.” Bruce said. “Carry out the classic ‘Savior’ maneuver. Make her think she’s in danger, and then you swoop in to the rescue. Our choices are limited to the yatch area. But wait! Are they? I’ve got a plan forming that will probably work. Wait till she’s walking next to the railing. Set off a flash bomb next to her. Screaming and confusion ensues. She’s disoriented and is temporarily blind. That’s when I bump in to her and send her over the railing. She’s screaming and thrashing in the water, and that’s when you jump in to rescue her. Now you’re her hero. The only flaw in the plan is she might know how to swim, but that’s a risk we’ll have to take, unless we can get the information out of her friend who’s-”
“Wait. Wait.” Wally’s head was swimming slightly. “How do I get a flash bomb?”
“I’ve got one, obviously. You think I was going to go to a party without one?”
“What? You… okay, I don’t even know where to start asking… look, you’re joking, right, Bruce? That whole plan you just spelled out was a joke?”
There was a long pause while Bruce stared at Wally.
“Of course, that was a joke.” He said at last. “I would never actually suggest such a course of action because of… all the obvious reasons.”
There was a long pause again. “Remind me never to come to you for dating advice.” Wally said.
“Oh sure, because I’m dying to hand out advice to lovesick shmucks who’re too weak to take practical action.” Bruce called out to Wally’s retreating back.
Wally spied Linda on the deck railing one story above them standing with her friend Marion and a blonde-haired guy. A large, flowery blue beach hat was hung next to Linda on a railing knot.
Great. She’d found someone already. She was laughing at something the guy was saying, and Wally felt a stab of irritation at not making his move quicker. He forced himself to stop staring at Linda as he moved over to the buffet table to look for a bite.
And then he saw a hat fluttering through the air. It was the same hat that was been hanging on the railing next to Linda, and must have been swept away in the strong breeze.
As Wally watched, the hat landed in the on-deck pool built on the left side of the ship which was currently empty as the party-goers were more interested in the buffet.
In a few moments, the other guys standing near the spot where the hat floated were going to notice it and try to retrieve it. Wally had only seconds to distract their attention. He spotted Diana making her way to the deck from one of the rooms through the glass windows and made a rapid choice. He raised his voice and pointed towards her.
“Hey, looks like Diana found that bikini she was looking for.”
Every guy on deck and some of the girls rushed to the window.
Diana strolled into view, clad in a comfortable pair of jeans and a sweater while munching on crab cakes from a plate. “Anyone want one?” She asked, and wondered why they all looked so disappointed.
Meanwhile, Wally had jumped into the pool and was swimming towards the hat. He imagined Linda watching his progress anxiously, maybe a hand clasped to her heart at the dangers he was facing on her behalf. Okay, maybe he wasn’t facing any actual dangers, but still. The water was quite chilly. He could easily catch a cold…
He caught hold of the hat and swam to the side of the pool. His wet shirt clung to his body as he emerged from the pool, and he wished he’d gone to the gym more often. He looked up at Linda and her friends, who were watching his progress with great interest, and waved the hat towards them. He then made his way to the stairs leading to the upper deck.
He reached the deck and spied Linda and her group coming towards him as he held out the hat and smiled. The blonde-haired guy who had been talking to Linda got to him first.
“Thanks so much, dude.” He enthused. “You totally saved my hat.”
Wally’s smile faltered. “What?”
The guy seized the hat and began to examine it anxiously. “It was in the water for only a few seconds, so I don’t think it was damaged too much.”
“This is your hat?” Wally asked, as Linda and Marion watched them from a few feet away.
Something in Wally’s expression made the guy turn defensive.
“Oh, man. Not this again. Look, this hat is unisex, all right? Women and men can wear it. I burn easily so I need to wear hats. It’s really a very practical accessory for the beach.”
“Right. Okay.” Wally turned away in disappointment.
“Look, I’ll show you some photos on my phone.” The guy said, grabbing his arm. “There are so many photos of male models wearing the hat.”
“Dude, I don’t care.” Wally said irritably, shaking off the guy’s grip and moving rapidly towards the staircase to the lower deck.
He got back to the lower deck and took up position at a railing, watching the ocean moodily. In any case, the trip was coming to an end. The island the yatch had been headed for was coming into view, and the students were making preparations to disembark and explore the place. Bruce had asked the others to meet him at the entrance to the yatch so they could all get off together, so Wally starting making his way towards the spot.
“Hi.” Wally turned to find that it was Linda Park who had offered him the greeting.
“Oh.” Wally’s brain seemed to freeze. “Hi.”
“That was pretty sweet of you to get yourself wet to get Bobby’s hat back.” Linda said with a twinkle in her eye.
“No problem.” Wally said, his mind still unable to think of something to say.
“So listen, how many times are we going to bump into each other before you ask me out?”
“Er…” Surprise wrestled with Wally’s regular brain functions, and a single line emerged from his mouth. “I was definitely going to get around to it sometime before graduation.”
Linda laughed, and that sound served to allow Wally to get over the bouts of embarrassment that he usually felt in her presence.
“But since all my professors have banded together to assure me that my current level of academic performance means that won’t be happening any time this decade, I might as well move up the date a bit. I’d love to take out some time.”
“I’d like that.” Linda smiled again. “Me and my friends were planning on exploring the island. You’re welcome to join us.” Out of the corner of his eye, Wally saw Bruce beckoning to him. The others had all assembled near the yatch’s entrance.
“There is nothing I would like more.” Wally said fervently, turning back to Linda. “But there’s this other thing I need to see to first. I’ll meet up with you back at the yatch later, okay?”
He moved away from the surprised Linda and headed to his friends.
“What are you doing?” Clark asked him in amazement as he jogged over to them. “You finally get her talking and now you’ve walking away from her?”
“This is more important.” Wally said soberly. Clark stared at him in surprise, then looked at the others, who’s expressions had also turned grave.
“What’s going on?” He asked uncertainly. “Who died?”
No one cracked a smile.
“Let’s take a walk.” Bruce said. He led the others off the yatch. While the other students were heading towards the island’s beach area, Bruce led them towards the nearby forest which exhibited minimal signs of human inhabitation. Bruce seemed to know exactly where he was going as he led the others through a winding path deeper into the forest.
“What is this place?” Clark asked.
“The island belongs to the government.” Bruce said. “They use it as a storage area of sorts. Nothing dangerous. Just relics from past projects they would prefer not to bring to the public’s attention.
They kept walking in silence for twenty minutes before Bruce finally stopped. They had reached a clearing. In front of them, a slope led to a garden that looked like it had been left untended for some time. Wild plants had sprouted up in many areas, ruining the orderly appearance of the place. A single black marble wall rose ten feet high in the air at the center of the garden, in what appeared to be a memorial of sorts.
“I did some digging around.” Bruce spoke up abruptly, addressing Clark. “Turns out the inhabitants of Krypton were cremated by the US government and their ashes scattered at a remote, uninhabited location. This is that location, Clark.”
Clark stared at him. “What are you talking about?”
Bruce gestured towards the giant marble monolith. “This memorial marks the spot where the ashes were scattered. And it contains the names of all the scientists working on Project Krypton. I… I thought maybe you’d want to…” For once Bruce was unsure of what to say, and his voice trailed away.
For a long moment Clark stood staring at the garden. Slowly, he moved down the slope towards the garden gate. The others did not follow him, and he founding himself walking alone towards the memorial with leaden steps.
He reached the marble statue in the center of the garden. There were etchings carved into the face of the rock. The opening lines were in Latin. Then followed a long list of names. Clark started scanning the list, running his eyes up and down randomly, both hoping and dreading to find the names. Simon Brown… Corey Songs… Adelaide Parker… John Ingles… Jor El… Lara El…
Clark’s breath caught in his throat. He reached out to touch the etching that spelled out the names of the parents he had never known he had.
In that moment, the truth of his new reality finally hit Clark. Jor and Lara El were no longer simply names he had read in a letter, but actual flesh and blood people who had lived and died once. These were the people Clark had belonged to before he had even known the meaning of such a relationship. Their blood ran in his veins. But he could never meet them. He would never hear Lara call him by the name they had given him. He would never feel the embrace of Jor El’s arms. He had no memories of the people who had brought him into this world, and whose ashes now lay scattered on the island. Clark felt a deep welling of sadness within him, and a sense of loss for something he had never owned in the first place.
For a long time he stood staring at the names on the memorial. He wondered if there was something he should do. Some mark of respect or acknowledgement that he should perform in memory of his birth parents. But he could think of nothing. He knew no prayers nor words to express what he was feeling at the moment.
Slowly, he turned away from the memorial and began the walk back up the hill. The others were still waiting for him at the gate, their faces showing various degrees of pity, sadness and compassion. Diana reached out a hand as he came up to them, and he squeezed it as he stared at the others.
“I saw their names.” He said, his voice more hoarse than he had intended. He could not think of anything else to add to that.
He stared at Bruce, who stood in an almost defensive posture. “Thank you, Bruce. For arranging all of this.”
Bruce’s entire body relaxed. “No problem.” He said, feeling for some reason suddenly embarrassed to look at Clark.
“I wish I’d known them.” Clark said simply. Diana’s hand tightened in his. The looks of commiseration on the other’s faces deepened. “I wish they were here right now. I wish they hadn’t died.”
He took a deep breath. “But you know, If I could send them a message to where they are now, I’d thank them. I’d thank them for sending me to Smallville. I’d thank them for choosing Ma and Pa to raise me. And I’d tell them that it’s because I was raised as Clark Kent that I got to meet all of you. I’d tell them I’ve got friends who always have my back, and who’ve done more for me than families do for their own.”
The tears were shining in Clark’s eyes. “I can’t thank them, so I’m just going to thank you. All of you. Thank you for coming with me here today. Thank you for always being there for me, no matter what.” He stepped forward, and before a surprised Bruce could react, had enveloped him in a hug. Clark reached out to the others as well, and soon all seven were joined in the hug.
“You better believe that’s never going to change, man.” Wally said quietly. Bruce found himself hugging the others back as well.