Chapter 1: Spring
Clark isn't really sure just what the hell is going on, but whatever it is, he doesn't mind it. As the days grow longer, he finds himself feeling kind of warm and restless and lazy. He sunbathes a lot, and wonders if he's going soft from this long peace, stretched out blissful and naked on the floor under the open skylight. Earth hasn't been this safe in a long time, and it isn't until he develops a swelling the size of a quarter on each palm that Clark actually becomes concerned. They're not at all painful, but they do itch a little, and they're warmer than the rest of his hand. Lois blinks in confusion when he shows them to her, and runs a fingertip around the edges of the left one. Clark shivers, that divide becoming more sensitive every day as the swellings get more pronounced.
"Well, Smallville, I'm not sure what to make of it," she says at last, still studying them. "They don't hurt at all?"
"Not a bit."
"You haven't been exposed to anything particularly strange lately, have you?"
"No blue kryptonite or sapient virii from Planet X or anything." He shrugs, a bit disquieted by the pulse he's starting to feel in each palm. "But they're really..." he trails off as Lois pushes on one, the feeling strangely like prostate stimulation. "Ohhh..."
"Clark?" She looks up at him, concerned, and he smiles back at her, feeling himself blushing.
"They're really strange. And also really sensitive, but in a good way."
"Is that so?" she says softly, and pushes both at once with her thumbs, harder and more purposeful. Clark moans, fingers curling as his knees go weak. Lois rolls her thumbs, slow and hard, and soon Clark is on his knees, head bowed as he breathes in quick, helpless gasps, making a soft and ecstatic noise with each exhalation. "Holy shit," Lois whispers, pausing long enough for Clark to raise his head and take in how dilated her pupils are. The scent of her human pheromones hangs in the air, thick and sweet, and Clark groans, leaning forward to nuzzle her thigh and then inward, until he's breathing in the scent of Lois through the yoga pants she wears for lounging on her days off. There's nothing underneath, and he makes a plaintive noise when she pulls him away by his hair. "Bed," she says, "now."
"Yes ma'am," Clark murmurs, and gathers her into his arms, carrying her to the bedroom and shutting the door behind them with one foot. Soon they're stretched out together, Lois sucking on his right palm as Clark moans. He loves this, and not just the way Lois's mouth feels on his skin. There's also the feeling he gets when they use the red sunlamps to take his strength down enough for Lois to tie him up and have it really mean something. Now he wonders if she'd be willing to use the strap-on, and then forgets everything as she lightly scrapes her teeth across the top of the swelling. He wails and bucks and almost comes, begging her to do it again as soon as he can speak. The harder Lois does it the better it feels, and Clark screams when something gives. She pulls away, eyes huge. "Clark? Clark, something popped, are you okay?" She sounds frantic, but for a long moment Clark is too busy spraying the bed with come to answer.
"Y-yes," he finally manages to gasp, and they both stare at his palm, which now has a golden patch of skin with a long, feathery frond growing from it. Tasting the slick fluid on it, Clark finds it sweet and vaguely familiar. His other hand starts to ache, and he shivers, offering it to Lois. "Please?"
"Jesus fuck this is so weird," she gasps, but takes it, licking and biting at the swelling as Clark whines and wriggles against the sheet. When this one pops Clark comes again, dry and a little painful this time. "Clark," Lois mumbles, the tip of the delicate frond in her mouth and making it almost impossible for Clark to listen, "why do you taste like maple syrup?"
"I dunno," Clark slurs, vision going gold around the edges, "but I wanna touch you."
"Uh..." Lois doesn't close her legs as Clark pushes her onto her back and reaches between them, but she does look slightly dubious. "Are you sure it's safe?"
"It doesn't feel like it's not." He feels weirdly fuzzy, and Lois cries out softly as the delicate frond on Clark's hand touches her clit. It strokes and slides just the way Lois prefers, and before Clark can stop it, it's pushing its away inside her.
"Clark?" she yelps, and Clark kisses her.
"It's okay," he says, watching the frond with microscopic vision even as it receives almost more pleasure than he can deal with. "It's at your cervix now, and... oh." Lois cries out as the golden tendrils slither deeper still, stretching and reaching, and... Clark doesn't realize what it's doing until it happens. Up the fallopian tube, finer than a hair, and then coiling around and sucking in a single oocyte. The lower branches of the frond are rubbing and humming against Lois, and she comes with that beautiful burst of pheromones and colors that only Clark can see as the frond slithers back out the same way it went in. Clark stares at it as curls up neatly, looking for all the world as if it's pleased with itself.
Lois freaks out a bit when Clark tells her what he saw, but she's mostly at peace with his alien nature, and quite willing to go with him to Antarctica to ask the Jor-El AI what the hell just happened. All Clark has to do is enter 'gold' and 'frond' together in Kryptonian and a hologram of his biological father pops up, looking concerned.
"Kal-El, are you telling me that you've Blossomed?" Clark can hear the capital.
"Probably. See?" He holds out his hands, fronds curled up into his palms like they're cold, even though the temperature is set for Lois.
"Oh, dear. Let's see, the original left me some notes about this..." His expression goes blank for a moment, processing. "Ah, here it is. Apparently this wasn't at all likely, but Jor-El was a methodical man. You're reverting to an atavistic form in response to a drastic drop in population, years of exposure to yellow sun, and presumably to those mammalian pheromones of Ms Lane's, since they're compatible enough for you to find them pleasing in the first place. Should one of your fronds take in a human gamete, it is very likely that you will bear fruit."
"I thought that only happened in stories!"
"By Jor-El's time, yes."
"What can you tell me about the process?"
"Kal, your voice patterns indicate rising panic. Has this already happened?"
"Yes," Lois says. "Am I going to be a dad?"
"...In mammalian terms, yes. One of your gametes has been taken into Kal's reproductive system, fertilizing him and allowing him to create your offspring from his body."
"Holy shit." Lois leans on Clark, who scoops her up off her unsteady feet and into his arms for his own comfort as much as for hers.
"So what do we do now?"
"Now you read this information, find a place to root, and explain things to whatever human authorities are interested."
Chapter 2: Summer
"Only you, Clark." There's a certain blue-blooded, razor-sharp sarcasm that Bruce employs for moments like this, and Clark bristles under it, all the more because Bruce is right. If Bruce had suddenly developed new anatomy, he wouldn't have fucked anyone with it without spending at least a month down here in the Cave, running tests. Then again, it's not like Clark minds being pregnant. He smiles softly and puts a hand on his midsection, where the gynoecium is tucked up in front of his digestive tract, resting roughly where the developing fetus would be in a pregnant woman. Bruce just rolls his eyes. "Yes, yes, you'll be a wonderful father and we all know it. Now, what does Clark Kent need to explain his disappearance?"
It's always a bit alarming to see Bruce's criminal skills in action, but soon Clark has so much documentation that he almost believes the history of acute depression and suicidal ideation that Bruce has created for him. "Besides," Bruce says, "after that piece on the Oliver murders, anyone might have symptoms of mental illness."
Clark shudders, feeling tears welling up because that had been depressing enough before his pregnancy started making him all hormonal. Bruce gets that slightly terrified look he does when things get emotional, and then cautiously pats Clark's shoulder. Clark smiles at him. "Thanks, Bruce."
"You're welcome." He pauses, brooding and awkward in that proprietary blend of his. "May I visit you during your confinement?"
Clark laughs, wiping his eyes. "Of course, Bruce. You know you're always welcome at the Fortress."
"Of Solitude," Bruce says, raising an eyebrow.
"It was Solitary at first, I swear," Clark says, standing and stretching.
"And you have everything you need there?"
"Precisely balanced soil, an artificial sun, a comfortable place nearby for Lois... Yeah, I think I'm covered."
"The birth certificate is from Metropolis General, let me know if you need a different location later."
Clark has never liked lying, but he's prepared to do what it takes to keep his child safe. Mental health leave for himself, a false pregnancy and compassionate leave for Lois, and everything in order. Locking up the Metropolis apartment has a weird feeling of finality to it, even though Lois has her key and will be going back from time to time. She holds onto him tightly as he flies to Antarctica for what will be the last time for the next four to six months. Worried as he is about being sessile for months, the urge to just stand still and work his feet into the earth is unbearable. Barefoot walks every day have kept him from going completely insane, but soon, soon he'll be in his little patch of earth in the Fortress, and everything will be all right.
Standing under the artificial sun, everything is not all right. Nothing is even close to all right and Clark starts crying again because this is wrong and he wants to go home. Lois hugs him and asks what's wrong, stroking his hair and breathing soothing CO2 all over him.
"I want to go home," Clark whimpers, and Lois just rocks him a little and gently asks where home is.
And that's how Clark ends up touching down on his parents's back porch, setting Lois on her feet and knocking on the door until his mother's light switches on. He would rather not wake her, but she insists. Pa sleeps heavier, so it's just Clark and Ma and Lois in the dim kitchen, where Ma makes her amazing hot chocolate and asks Clark what he needs.
"I need to stay here until I have the baby, Ma," Clark says, soothed by cocoa and his mother's presence and everything about the familiar scents and sights of the farm.
"Too cold in your fort?" She always calls it a fort, like he made it out of cardboard boxes in the back yard.
"I guess so, Ma. Can I use the back forty?"
"I'm sure your pa can find room for you, dear."
Lois is tired, but Clark can't bear to wait any longer, feet itching and burning with cellular changes. Ma goes and wakes Pa, and all of them head out to the back forty. The cows are unconcerned, and Pa finds Clark a good place, where he'll be out of sight from the road and provide shade for the stock. Clark thanks him, and takes off his clothes, handing them to Pa and then turning to Lois and Ma.
"Well, here goes."
Ma takes Lois's hand, and Clark is glad of that in the short moment before his bare feet start to worm into the blessedly cool soil. The burning and itching are soothed inch by inch, and he sighs, barely even noticing when his legs meld together, too busy feeling and tasting and loving the soil, his real home. He raises his hands over his head, reaching for the sun even in the night, and he doesn't actually feel weird about any of this until the gynoecium starts to move. It shifts up and out and Clark feels like he's going to vomit or die or something and all he can do is stretch taller, branches emerging from his back and chest and sides, until there's a protected spot in the middle of the big, deciduous tree Clark has become. His face settles above it, and he's able to look down at the developing fruit and at his family below. He smiles, feeling truly comfortable for the first time in at least two weeks.
"Are you all right, Clark?" Ma asks, a little pale, but calm, still holding Lois's hand.
"I'm fine, Ma." Each word seems to take more effort than usual, and they come out slow and syrupy. "I feel good. It's a nice night."
She smiles, and all three of them remain there for a while, stargazing and keeping Clark company as he drifts off into something that's a lot like sleep.
Over the next week, Lois arranges a sort of base camp near Clark's roots. She sketches his grey-green trunk and red leaves, taking most of her meals on a blanket near his roots, and spends the warm nights stretched out under him in a sleeping bag. Clark is never really awake or asleep anymore, dreamy and strange and lovely. His leaves rustle in the night breezes as he gazes down at Lois. He can't decide if he likes her best by starlight or in the sun, and when he herds together enough words to say so, she laughs, and kisses his green-tinted mouth.
"Sweet boy," she says, and touches the hard green fruit where Clark's branches cradle it. "Do you have everything you need?"
"Yes," he says, and that doesn't change until about three weeks later, when a late-summer heatwave makes Clark desperately thirsty. His roots could reach more water, but other living things need it. Lois helps Pa haul water in huge plastic buckets, and so does Bruce when he drops by the way he does, unannounced and in a quiet but still conspicuously nice car. Clark is glad that Lois has some mobile company, and rustles happily when she and Bruce climb up so that Lois can show him the fruit. She's every inch the proud father, beaming as she tells Bruce all about how much their unborn child has grown in the last few weeks.
Chapter 3: Fall
Every day the fruit gets heavier, growing larger and deeper and deeper green. It's mostly round, with a slight taper to the stem, making it look like a giant hen's egg or a fat teardrop. As the leaves start to change around Clark, his stay red and blend in just fine. He's not sure what will happen when he's the only tree in the county that hasn't dropped its leaves, but for now the other trees around the field turn various flame colors and flicker in the wind. There are times when Clark feels like they're talking to each other and that he can almost understand. He sways with them in the autumn winds, and as the fruit gets heavier it sways too. Sometimes Lois worries, but Clark can feel how strong the stem is. He can also feel the little creature inside, starting to turn and ripple. The rind of the fruit is too thick for Lois to feel it, but she says that it's warm to the touch, even on the coldest mornings. Summer is truly winding down now, and there are times when Lois is shivering, her breath hanging in the air as she cuddles into Clark's warm branches, not wanting to leave him and go inside.
Tonight is warm, though, almost like an extra summer night, come after all the others are gone. Lois grins as she climbs into Clark's branches in the darkest hour before dawn, barefoot and wearing a coat over her nightgown. "Hey," she whispers into Clark's ear, nibbling the rim that's somewhere between bark and flesh, "you awake?"
"For you," Clark mumbles, and moans softly when she kisses him, the sound like creaking wood. Lois sighs, pressing herself against Clark, one hand reaching out to rest on the side of fruit. They haven't done anything but kiss since Clark rooted, but now Lois hitches up her skirt and grips Clark with her thighs. The bark on the inside of his branches is smooth and soft, and Clark's whole arboreal body shudders as Lois starts to grind slowly against him. He can't consciously control his shapeshifting, but he can feel that bark becoming softer and more fleshlike, and he can see his branches radiating heat into the night as he warms to her. He wants to reach out so badly that it raises bumps where Lois is touching him, and she moans, kissing him again and purring into his ear about how well he always treats her.
"Always so good to me, Clark," she murmurs, and then shudders and gasps, coming. That isn't the end of it, of course. Clark has a personal rule to give Lois a minimum of three orgasms per encounter. Unless she's sore or tired or kicks him in the head, of course. Now he thinks warm, vibrating thoughts, and Lois bites into his bark to muffle a cry. She rocks on him, moving with him when the warm wind makes him sway. Clark shivers, half-dreaming as she comes again and then again, holding him tightly as she trembles through the aftershocks. She's making soft, sweet, mammalian noises and biting him, and as he listens the noises resolve into, "I love you, love you, love you love you so fucking much..."
"Love you, Lois," he manages to say, and she shudders.
They don't get many more chances, the unseasonable warmth giving away to a more typical Smallville autumn. The days get shorter and the nights get colder than ever. Clark knows when it hits freezing. It's an unpleasant chill that rouses him from a half sleep into a half-waking state, and he curls protectively around the fruit, radiating more heat than ever. He croons a song to the baby that's mostly vibration, and it vibrates back, turning inside the fruit as Clark's homeostasis adjusts. At last things are comfortable again, and Clark goes dim and syrupy-slow for a while, blinking and coming back to himself at the sound of Lois's voice. She's on the phone with Bruce, crunching over the dead, frosted grass toward him.
"He looks all right, and he wasn't worried last night..." Clark isn't sure how to tell her that right now he's having a hard time worrying about anything, but it is all right. He sways toward her as much as he can, reaching out with heated branches. Lois beams at him. "Well, he's trying to hug me. Morning, Clark!" She hugs a branch tightly. "Mm, you're really warm. How are you and Baby?"
"Good." It takes a lot of effort to say anything else, but he manages after a few moments. "Chilly in the night, but I fixed it."
Lois relays this to Bruce, and then climbs up to hug the huge fruit to her chest for a long moment, kissing its hot side before kissing Clark's mouth, lingering over it until Ma bangs on a skillet to call Lois in for breakfast. She sighs and gives Clark a last kiss before hopping down onto the grass again. Making her way to the gate, she gently pushes some of the cows aside, fearless as a real country girl, and Clark smiles softly.
All the worry about Clark's leaves turns out to have been wasted, because a light, early snow coats everything before the other trees finish losing their leaves. His hot bark melts the snow, but he keeps his leaves cool enough to cover their unearthly blood-red with white. The color of his trunk is less remarkable, and on a Thanksgiving visit Bruce tells him that he blends into the landscape better than he would have expected. Clark chuckles, the sound watery and strange but definitely a laugh.
"Thank you," he slurs, and Bruce pats his branch.
"Take care of yourself and Baby," he says softly, and Clark smiles.
All this time Baby is growing larger and larger. Now Lois can at least feel a faint vibration when it kicks, and spends a lot of time bundled up against the cold and warming her hands on the giant fruit. It's two feet long now, and getting even plumper and rounder, the green darker than ever and starting to acquire a blue tint. It radiates enough heat that with her winter clothes on, Lois is quite comfortable. She sleeps in Clark's embrace for a few nights, but despite his best efforts, it gives her various muscle cramps and strains. She makes up for it by spending all the short day with him, discussing Kryptonian and American names, and whose eyes it will have and which of Clark's powers.
Some days Ma brings cocoa out, and she and Lois and sometimes Pa sit under Clark and drink it, watching the snow-dusted cattle wander. It's a restful time, and even with less and less sun, Clark is able to keep himself and Baby warm. He's pretty sure they're having a daughter, but he hasn't said anything to Lois. For one thing, speech is getting more and more difficult. He feels sleepy and removed, and his memories of flying or even of walking feel like dreams. Every day he curls a little more around the fruit, holding his baby close and warm as the temperature drops, soothed whenever Lois comes out to talk to him, even if her words are just beautiful noise a lot of the time.
Chapter 4: Winter
Bruce joins them for Thanksgiving dinner, and everyone comes out afterward to sip hot cider under Clark. He's glad to be included, and happy to let Bruce climb him and just sit there beside the fruit, basking in its warmth. Everyone says it's getting hotter every day, but other than knowing that the baby is comfortable, he has a hard time knowing that kind of thing. Now Bruce measures the exact temperature and the circumference of the fruit, noting small color changes and muttering to himself as he takes notes.
"I'm going to want to run tests on this rind, after." he says at last.
"Of course you are," Lois says, and Clark chuckles, a little snow falling from his leaves.
"So will I. This has been strange."
Bruce's expression softens. "I'll bet."
Ma comes forward and pats Clark's trunk. "We hope you'll be able to eat Christmas dinner with us, but I can always make a nice meal later."
"Speaking of meals, son," Pa adds, warming his hands on his mug of cider, "are you sure you don't need mulch or anything?"
"I feel good," Clark says, losing a little snow as he instinctively tries to shrug.
Pa just smiles, and leans against Clark. "That's good, son."
Even as all the other trees go completely dormant, Clark's mind is becoming more active and more awake as the fruit gets even heavier. The weight has gone from nearly unnoticeable to cumbersome, and Clark groans as he shifts just a little bit, relieving one aching branch. Soon now, soon. The baby moves less now, because it has less room, and the rind has deepened from green to deep, dark, royal blue. Lois says there's a violet blush on the bottom curve, and as the winter deepens Clark can see it crawling up the sides toward the stem. There's a clear patch under Clark where he has been melting the snow away all winter, and it's convenient for Lois to make her way out to him. She checks on him constantly as the day draws nearer and nearer. None of them are exactly sure what will happen. It's not as if trees have labor pains, and Clark starts to have awful waking reverie-dream-things about fruit rotting on the vine, about watermelons cracking open to reveal gray sludge, and the sound of wailing babies.
In the end, Clark just knows. One morning he wakes up feeling like he has to move, like he's all bound up in the earth and inside the rind of the fruit and can't bear it for one more minute. He's about to scream for someone to come and dig him up when Lois comes out for her usual morning visit. When she sees the way Clark's leaves are trembling she comes running and climbs up into him, kissing his cheek and asking if he's okay. With her there, he is, and stills.
"Yes. It's today. Pick the fruit."
It's too heavy and too hot for Lois to do it by herself, but with Pa's help and the huge towel Ma thinks to bring, Lois is able to pluck their baby from its dried up stem without burning her hands, and she and Pa stagger back a little with the weight before setting it on the ground, where it billows steam into the frosty air. They're just looking to Clark again when he starts to change. It's more comfortable going back, without that nauseated, choking feeling, and within minutes he's pulling his feet from the frozen earth. Ma looks up from the fruit and beams at him. He doesn't feel awkward at all, still thinking like a tree. "What now, Clark?"
Clark shrugs, looking into the fruit where the baby is all bunched up and looking fussy and beautiful. "I guess we just take it inside and cut the rind open." The fruit has been losing heat since Lois picked it, and by the time they reach the house, Clark is carrying it in his arms, the towel around his waist. Now it's just fever-warm, and everyone touches the rind as Clark sets the fruit on the kitchen table, looking into it again to figure out how best to free his child.
The rind is thickest near the stem, so Clark sets the fruit up on its round bottom and slices the top off, passing it to Pa, who pokes curiously at the thick purple skin and the pale red-lavender flesh. It's like softer and more moist orange zest, about four inches thick. The cut side of the fruit shows a thin, tough membrane with purple-black beneath it. "Ma, can you get me a stock pot or something?"
"Of course," she says, and fetches the enormous copper-bottomed one that she used to make twenty packages of spaghetti at once when Clark was a teenager, and for making soup for the Firemen's Charity Supper. The fruit fits with room to spare, and Clark carefully tears the membrane, sending up a rush of sweet, dark purple juice. There's a bubbly bawling noise, and then Clark slides his hands into the inner cavity and hauls out the baby, fat and tightly curled up, skin stained a vivid purple. Lois laughs, and the baby looks over at her. It doesn't seem truly newborn, closer to a six-week-old baby. Clark beams, and flash-boils some water with his heat vision, breathing on it to cool it down and then carefully washing his daughter with Lois's help.
"So, looks like we're going with Doris after all," Lois says, beaming. It's her grandmother's name, and had ended up the favored choice for a girl. Clark smiles. "Looks like it."
Her whole, fat, happy little body clean, Doris shows no inclination whatsoever to sleep, cooing and babbling in Clark's arms. Ma pins a diaper together for her, since the package of Newborn Size is too small, and all four of them are left free to adore the baby and to wonder what on earth they're going to do with all this alien fruit.
"Figure we should bury it, Clark?" Pa asks, and Clark's stomach growls. He feels a sudden and true deep-winter hunger for fresh fruit, and glances over at the vivid flesh in the pot, blushing and shrugging.
"Well, I've been doing this whole thing by instinct..." Just to be safe, though, he leaves Doris with Lois and makes a quick flight to the Fortress with a piece of the fruit as well as some juice for analysis. Both turn out to be harmless to humans, and full of valuable vitamins, trace minerals, and other beneficial things. Jor-El also says that Clark's hunger is completely normal for his situation. With that in order, he eats the samples and flies back to tell the others.
The fruit has a very nice flavor, rich and berrylike with a hint of something that has to be called maple for lack of a better name. Even though Pa says it's 'kinda cannibalistic for my tastes, son,' he tries some along with everyone else. Clark eats a huge chunk, and Doris drinks the juice hungrily from a bottle and gums ferociously on small pieces, devouring the scraped and mashed flesh from a spoon as fast as Ma can prepare it.
Over the next few days Doris fades from violet to pink, and her eyes darken from baby blue to her mother's dark brown. She's active and coordinated, wiggling in people's arms so much it worries them, but she almost never fusses, too easily fascinated by the world around her to stay in a bad mood. Ma systematically bakes the last of the fruit into pies, and Clark takes samples to keep at the Fortress. He takes Doris with him when he does, so she can stare at her holographic grandparents and try to pet the baby sun-eater. Bruce has thoughtfully provided them a certificate of home birth with a doctored date that makes Doris the right age, but there's one more thing to do. Clark holds his daughter close as he sears her name into a traditional golden tablet, just like the images of his own, which was too heavy to come with him and blew up with the rest of Krypton.
"Welcome to the family, Dara-El."