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Thread: The Losers Club

  1. #1
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    The Losers Club

    Author: phoenixnz
    Title: The Losers Club
    Characters: Clark, Lois, Chloe, Pete, Abby, Oliver, Martha, Jonathan, Lex
    Genre: AU
    Rating: PG
    Warnings: Firstly, this is not Clark Kent as you know him as he's adopted by the Queens. Second, there is a death mentioned in the chapter of a recurring character in the show. This also starts right at the beginning but while canon events like the FOTW do get a mention, this is more about the relationships (at first) and how those events affect them.

    Summary: Clark Queen has been orphaned twice over and lives with his mother's cousin in Smallville. It's a pretty normal life. He goes to school, he does chores and he has good friends. Even if the other kids consider them the biggest losers in school. Then Clark's life is turned upside down when Lois Lane comes to Smallville.

    a/n: I originally envisioned a slow-burning romance between Clark and Lois, but it isn't turning out that way, so this is a story of friendship. I plan a second part to the story, however which will include romance.

    a/n2: Reposting these first chapters as they were lost due to the server crash.

    Chapter One

    Clark shivered uncontrollably, his whole body aching with the cold and pain. Normally the temperature didn’t affect him, but this time was different. He’d been in the same position for an hour at least. He’d lost track of time.

    Pain shot through his lower legs as he tried to shift his body on the cross, trying to figure out how he could actually get off this thing. It looked like the guys that put him there weren’t coming back any time soon.

    Damn Whitney and his stupid friends, he thought.

    The blond jock had always been jealous of Clark, ever since he’d come to live in Smallville. Whitney’s parents owned Fordman's Department Store in ‘downtown Smallville’. If it could be called downtown, since it was really only one main street. Sure, there were a couple of other streets with various stores, but Main Street was the central hub of the town’s business district, catering to the town’s population of 45,001.

    Fordman’s had started off in the early 20th century. Whitney’s great-great-grandfather had opened up the store in about 1919. It had just been one building then. A little general store catering for the local farmers. It had expanded three times since that time.

    The Fordmans were one of the wealthier families in the town. Until Clark had gone to live with Martha and Jonathan Kent, Whitney had probably considered his family second in wealthy status only to Nell Potter and her niece, Lana Lang, who also happened to be Whitney’s girlfriend, despite the fact she was a freshman and he was a senior at Smallville High.

    Nell had adopted Lana after her parents, Lewis and Laura Lang, had been killed when Lana was three. The couple had been coming to pick up their daughter from her aunt, who had been looking after her while they’d gone to a homecoming game. They had been killed when their car exploded from the impact of a meteor from the infamous meteor strike of 1989.

    It was too bad for Whitney that Clark’s parents were considered the richest in Star City. Or they had been. Robert and Laura Queen had been on a plane which had disappeared off radar in the Pacific when Clark was six.

    “It never stops.”

    Clark looked up and frowned. It was dark but he could just make out the face of the man standing in front of him. It was familiar. Jeremy Creek. Clark’s best friend Chloe had discovered that Jeremy had been in a coma in the state infirmary for twelve years. She suspected what had put him in the coma was a blast of radiation from the same meteor strike. He’d been strung up in the same predicament Clark currently found himself in.

    Smallville High apparently had a tradition. The football jocks would choose a ‘loser freshman’ and string them up on a cross in Miller’s Field, calling it the Scarecrow. It was a form of hazing. Jeremy had been chosen that year.

    Jeremy started to turn away, but Clark called out to him. “Help me,” he said.

    The man, who seemed not to have aged a day since the meteors, shook his head.

    “I thought if I punished them, it would stop.”

    “Please …”

    “You’re safer there,” the other boy/man responded.

    Clark frowned, wondering what Jeremy meant by that. He’d learned that three former jocks, from around the same time Jeremy would have been at the high school, had been attacked and taken to hospital.

    He hung on the cross, struggling weakly to break the bonds. He had no idea why his strength had left him. He felt weak and nauseated, his body aching and feverish. He remembered when he was about ten, Jonathan had come down with a bad flu and had been laid up for a couple of days. The aches and pains he was describing sounded exactly like Clark was feeling now.

    He heard the sound of a car engine. It sounded to him like it was an expensive car and wondered if it was Lex. The son of Metropolis billionaire Lionel Luthor had recently moved to Smallville. Clark wasn’t exactly clear on why the twenty-one-year-old son of one of his father’s business acquaintances had moved to the town, but they weren’t exactly friends and he wasn’t about to ask. He did know that Lex was now running the Luthorcorp fertiliser plant, which was nearby.

    They’d met a few times when Clark had had to go with Jonathan and Martha to fulfil his family’s social obligations. He’d always found them boring. Lex could often be found hanging out at the bar or hiding in the coat closet reading comics.

    “Clark? Clark Queen?”

    He squinted as a beam from a flashlight shone in his eyes and realised the bald man was the one holding the light.

    “Lex?”

    “Ah geez!” The man dashed forward, quickly undoing the ropes that bound Clark to the cross. “Who did this to you?”

    “Doesn’t matter,” he said.

    As the last of the ropes fell away, the necklace Whitney had placed around his neck also fell to the ground. The effect was almost instantaneous. He looked down at his hands. The cramping pain which had seemed to have turned his hands into arthritic claw-like appendages was gone; as was the stomach cramps and the nausea.

    “You should see a doctor,” Lex said.

    “I’m fine,” Clark told him, grabbing his clothes. He had a feeling that whatever Jeremy had planned, it had something to do with the school. The same school where his best friends, Chloe, Pete and Abby were attending the homecoming dance.

    An hour later, his friends were none-the-wiser as they came out of the school gymnasium to find several of the jocks’ trucks in a pile in the parking lot. Whitney Fordman’s truck was at the very top.

    Clark watched from the shadows as the blond football captain stared in dismay.

    “Serves you right for calling me a loser and stringing me up,” he said quietly. Not that the other boy would have heard any of that.

    He could see Chloe laughing. When he and Pete had told her about the homecoming ‘tradition’, she had wanted to write a scathing editorial damning the hazing. Abby, who had been the target of considerable hazing herself, had egged her on. It was never a good idea to encourage Chloe when she was on one of her crusades. She had only been living in Smallville a year or so and had already managed to get herself involved in various scrapes.

    Clark smirked as he left the school grounds. The Losers Club wins again, he told himself. Maybe the rest of the school would never know who was actually responsible for what happened to the trucks, but he still got a sense of satisfaction out of it.

    He was up late the next morning. Martha had called up the stairs telling him to hurry up or he would be late for the farmers’ market.

    Why the older couple continued to sell their produce at the market when they didn’t really need the money, Clark didn’t know.

    As he lugged a bushel of apples off the truck to take to the stand, he complained about it to Jonathan.

    “You know your father’s will stated the money was to be held in trust until you’re eighteen.” He’d refused to use any of the money, saying it was for Clark’s future, although they apparently had enough of a stipend from the estate to allow them to hire a couple of hands and were debt-free.

    “I just don’t get why you don’t just hire someone to run the stall,” he said.

    Jonathan ruffled his hair. The blond farmer was almost as tall as Clark.

    “Hard work keeps a man honest, son. Do you think your father just sat around in that office of his contemplating his business investments? No, he actually worked for Queen Industries’ money.”

    Clark had been too young to really understand what his father did and had barely even seen his father’s office by the time his parents had disappeared. Oliver would have understood it better, he supposed, feeling a slight twinge of grief.

    His brother, Oliver, had been almost nine when Clark had been adopted by the Queens. The elder boy had been spoiled but doted on his younger brother.

    According to the adoption records, Robert and Laura Queen had been planning on visiting Laura’s cousin, Jonathan Kent, the day the meteors had struck Smallville. The car they had rented from an agency in Metropolis had broken down on the highway and Robert had been looking for a passing vehicle when Oliver had become bored. He’d wandered off into the cornfield, his mother chasing him, when the meteors came down. They’d found a little boy and assumed he was lost.

    Further investigation had found that the little boy’s birth parents had been killed when their car had overturned after it had been struck by a meteor. Feeling sorry for the child, who couldn’t have been more than two or three, Laura had suggested to Robert that they adopt him.

    The truth was much, much stranger. Robert and Laura Queen had been part of a so-called secret society, called Veritas. Working with a philanthropist and scientist, Virgil Swann, they had discovered a message from the stars. The message told of the arrival of a child named Kal-El.

    The scientist had also discovered that a distant planet, which his own advanced tech had found, had suddenly disappeared from the galaxy. Assuming the message was a cry for help, he had shared this information with the others in the society. Lionel Luthor, Edward Teague and the Queens had been the only members.

    Knowing Lionel would have used the boy to aid him in his own ambitions, Robert and Laura had managed to calculate where and when Kal-El was likely to arrive and had put off a business trip to go to Smallville. Fortunately, since Laura’s cousin happened to own a farm there, they had the perfect cover for the trip.

    Coincidence or not, Lionel had also been in Smallville the day of the meteor shower, negotiating a buyout of the local creamed corn factory, which was now a Luthorcorp fertiliser plant.

    Jonathan and Martha had been coming back from town when a meteor had struck the ground, very near to where the Queens’ car had stopped. The truck had overturned. Luckily, Robert had seen the accident and had immediately gone to help.

    Clark hadn’t known any of this until some years later. When his parents had disappeared, he and his brother had been sent to live with Martha and Jonathan. Laura had wanted her boys to be raised in a ‘normal environment’, rather than grow up spoiled.

    Oliver hadn’t taken so well to farm life. He’d been a moody teenager, on the cusp of adolescence. He had wanted to stay at his boarding school in Metropolis, but Jonathan wouldn’t hear of it. The older boy had started freshman year at Smallville High. His attitude hadn’t improved by the time he graduated. Instead of spending a summer working on the farm, he decided he was old enough to do what he wanted and that was partying on a yacht owned by Queen Industries.

    That was the last Clark had seen of his brother. Grief-stricken over losing his brother just a few short years after losing his parents, he had begun acting up. Jonathan had finally taken him aside and told him the truth about his adoption, explaining why his parents had chosen for him and his brother to be raised in Smallville if anything happened to them. The Kents had known the truth about Clark and agreed to protect him.

    “Hey Queen,” a voice said almost nastily. “Stop staring at my girl.”

    Clark looked up and glared at the tow-headed jock.

    “I wasn’t staring at your girl, Fordman,” he replied.

    “Yeah, well, whatever. Loser.” He looked around at the young brunette talking with Martha. “By the way, I need that necklace back. It’s Lana’s favourite.”

    “Well, you better go back to the cornfield and look for it,” Clark told him.

    “You don’t have it?” Whitney’s voice was almost a squeak as he realised how much trouble he would be in if his girlfriend learned he’d somehow lost her favourite necklace.

    Clark had so many choice words he wanted to say to the jock. If the other boy hadn’t chosen him as the Scarecrow, then he wouldn’t be in trouble with Lana.

    “She’s gonna kill me if she finds out …” Whitney wailed.

    “Well, gee, that’s too bad.” Clark turned away, almost knocking Lex over. “Oh, Lex. Didn’t see you there.”

    He helped Martha and Jonathan pack up. Lex walked with him.

    “You want to tell me what that was all about last night?” he said.

    “Just a stupid prank,” Clark said. “By some friends of mine.” That was a lie, but he didn’t feel the need to explain himself to the man.

    “Yeah?” The bald man raised an eyebrow. “Well, if that’s what a friend does to you, I’d hate to see their enemies.”

    Jonathan approached them. “Clark, what is holding you up? Oh, hello Lex. I heard you’d moved here.”

    “Yeah, my father’s idea of ‘introducing me to the business’,” he replied, rolling his eyes. Clark smirked. He’d read in some article that Lex had been expelled from Metropolis University over an incident which had been very quickly hushed up. The older man had told him he’d wanted to do anything but work with his father.

    Clark followed the two men to the stall where Martha was selling someone a basket of produce.

    “Oh, Lex, how are you, dear? I heard you had an accident the other day.”

    Clark looked at the man, raising an eyebrow. “What’s this?”

    “Oh, it’s nothing,” Lex replied. “I just lost control of my car.”

    “Well, I can’t say I’m surprised with the way you drive, son,” Jonathan joked. The bald man shot him a dirty look but the farmer just laughed. Clark had heard the couple talking about the way Lionel treated his son and they’d always tried to be friendly with the younger man.

    “Sounded to me like it was more than that,” Chloe interjected, coming up behind them. She’d obviously heard part of the conversation.

    Lex turned to stare at her. “And you are?”

    “Chloe Sullivan. My dad is your plant manager.”

    Lex nodded. “Oh. Of course. What were you saying?”

    “I have a contact at Smallville Med,” she told him. “Oh, I also edit the Torch.”

    Lex looked even more confused. “The Torch?”

    “It’s the school paper,” Clark told him. “Chloe, shut up.”

    The blonde reporter shook her head and clearly refused to back off. As much as Clark enjoyed her insatiable curiosity, there were some moments when she just didn’t know when to quit.

    “My contact said you not only drove your car off of Loeb Bridge, but you also drowned. If that idiot truck driver who actually caused the accident hadn’t pulled you out, you’d be dead.”

    She went on to explain that the accident had happened when some baling wire had fallen off the truck and rolled into the road. Lex had tried to avoid it, only for one of his tyres to blow out and he lost control of his Porsche. The truck driver had already admitted fault for the unsecured load.

    Lex looked uncomfortable as Martha immediately began looking him over with concern.

    “Lex, my goodness! I do hope you were thoroughly checked out at the hospital.”

    “Uh, yes, ma’am, I was. I’m fine. Just a couple of bruised ribs, that’s all. I consider myself very lucky.”

    Chloe turned to Clark. “We’re going to the Beanery. Wanna come?” From her demeanour, it seemed like she had something important she wanted to talk to him about. Clark saw Pete and Abby looking at a stall a few feet away.

    He looked guiltily at his guardian. “Um, I kinda have to stay here and help,” he said.

    Jonathan clapped a hand on his back. “You’ve earned the rest of the day off, son. Just don’t forget you have chores later.”

    “Yes sir.”

    He went with his friends to the town’s coffee shop. Chloe ordered herself some coffee, a complicated concoction that apparently consisted of about four shots of espresso and some kind of syrup. It was a joke among the Losers Club that Chloe was so addicted to the stuff that they swore instead of red blood she had coffee in her veins.

    As they all sat in a booth, Clark looked at his friend.

    “So, what’s up?” he asked, wondering if she’d somehow discovered that he’d been responsible for the truck pile the night before.

    Instead of talking about the dance, she began talking about her cousin. Lois Lane was a few months older than Clark and was a sophomore. Her father had been in the army.

    “Well, you know how Uncle Sam died a few months ago?” she said.

    Clark frowned, then remembered. Lois’ father had been out on inspection when the jeep he’d been travelling in had crashed into a ditch. The general had fallen out and hit his head. He’d lain in a coma for several days before he’d passed away.

    Chloe explained that it had taken time to settle everything to do with the accident and what little there was of Sam Lane’s estate. Lois’ mother had died years before. Lois had been living with the family of one of the officers on the last base her father had been stationed at.

    “So, what’s going on?” Abby asked. Clark smiled at her. She had terrible acne which marred her pretty face and had shaken her confidence but she was sweet and funny and he’d always liked her. When the jerks tried to bully her, he was always the one who would put a stop to it. As much as the other guys called him a loser for hanging out with the rest of the losers, they usually backed off. Clark was the tallest guy in his year and he could be intimidating if it wasn’t for the fact that he was tripping over his big feet most of the time.

    “Lois is coming to live with my dad and me,” Chloe announced.

  2. #2
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Two

    Lois dumped the last piece of clothing in her suitcase and pulled the top flap over to close it. She reached for the zipper, pulling it, but it wouldn’t budge. The pile of clothing was bigger than the case itself and the top bulged. She tried pushing it down but to no avail. She turned around and tried sitting on it but even her own body weight was not enough to push it all down and make it manageable so she could pull the zipper closed.

    The door to her room opened and a woman came in.

    “They’re at the gate,” she began, stopping to stare at Lois as she struggled with the suitcase. “What are you doing?”

    “Trying to get this stupid thing closed,” Lois replied.

    The woman, who worked as an administrator on base, frowned. She was probably in her early forties and would have been attractive if her skin didn’t look so leathery. She gestured impatiently at Lois to get off the suitcase and glared at it as if that would make the clothes behave. She stood with her hands on her hips.

    “Well, you’re never going to get it closed that way. It’s much too full.” She lifted up the flap and gazed at the contents. “Ugh, no wonder you can’t close it. Did you just dump all your clothes in here?”

    Lois shrugged. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t done it before. She’d travelled halfway around the world before she was twelve.

    As much as she liked Keira, the past couple of months living with her had been difficult. The brass in the army had refused to let her be by herself after her father’s accident, saying she was a minor. Lois was fifteen and had been taking care of herself since she was six, but that didn’t matter to them. They’d left her in the care of the woman who ran her father’s office with militant precision.

    Keira was career army. She’d joined at eighteen and was probably the most unfeminine woman Lois had ever met. Not that Lois considered herself very feminine anyway. Keira was married to another career army man and they had two kids who were loud and annoying.

    When the general had passed away, never having regained consciousness, Keira had offered a detached sort of sympathy. Death was a part of everyday life in the army and most of the soldiers didn’t really have time to get emotional about losing a colleague. It was almost as if the older woman had expected Lois to just carry on as normal, even though her world had just completely fallen apart.

    Lois knew life had to go on, but rather like when her mother died, she half-expected the world to freeze for even a moment, just to acknowledge the loss. Of course, her father would have just told her to be a good soldier and ‘buck up’. Lois didn’t want to buck up.

    Kiera pulled the clothes out, tut-tutting as she began folding the clothes neatly. Lois ignored her and went to stare out the window. The houses in the street just looked like average family homes. Most of them appeared to be clones of the next one, except for the exterior colours.

    A woman in fatigues got out of a car in a driveway across the street and looked over, waving in greeting. Lois nodded in reply. Sally was a corporal who had served under General Lane and had always been friendly to Lois. She was about ten years older and had two very young children. Her husband was an officer. Sally had been on maternity leave when the general had passed away and had been stunned when she had heard what had happened.

    Kiera was talking about … something. Lois hadn’t even bothered to listen to the older woman.

    “Are you listening to me?”

    She turned and looked at the woman. Today was the day when she would be leaving army life behind her forever.

    “What?”

    “I asked you if you were looking forward to going to live with your cousin.”

    Lois snorted. “My cousin lives in Podunk, USA.”

    Kiera scowled. “You could at least be grateful. You could have been placed in a foster home. At least you’ll be with family.”

    That was true, she supposed. She and Chloe had always been close. She had been too young to remember when her aunt had had an accident while travelling through Smallville. Aunt Moira had ended up with a couple of bruised ribs and a sprained ankle, but then three-year-old Chloe, who had been in the car with her, hadn’t had a scratch on her. All Lois knew was that the accident had been caused by a freak meteor shower.

    Her mother, Ella, had packed up Lois and her little sister Lucy and driven to Metropolis to help her sister.

    At least Lucy didn’t have to worry about being dumped in the middle of a small town in Kansas, Lois thought. Her sister was back at boarding school in Switzerland where she was in eighth grade. Lois would have given anything to have been allowed the same opportunity as Lucy, but for some reason the general had kept her with him.

    Lois could barely remember what her parents’ relationship was like. She’d been six when her mother had been admitted to hospital with cancer. Ella had spent five weeks there before she’d died. The general, or rather the colonel as he had been then, had been stoic, telling his daughters that as long as they followed the rules and executed the chain of command then they would all get along fine.

    A green sedan was being driven slowly down the street, pausing as the driver looked at the numbers on the houses. Eventually it turned into the driveway of the house she was in. Keira, having heard the sound of the car, looked out the window.

    “That’s them,” she said.

    Lois watched as a blonde girl a few inches shorter than her got out of the car and looked toward the house. Keira went out to greet the visitors. Sighing, Lois turned away from the window and went out to join them.

    “Lois!” Chloe’s greeting was effusive as she stepped out on the porch. The blonde came forward, her arms held out to wrap around her in a hug.

    Gabe Sullivan, a dark-haired man in his early forties, placed a hand on her arm as she tried to gently extricate herself from her cousin’s enthusiastic hug.

    “Hello Lois. How are you doing?”

    She shrugged. Kiera shot her a dirty look, obviously telling her she was being rude for not answering her uncle’s query.

    They all went into the house. Lois lagged behind her cousin, not even listening as Keira asked her uncle how long they’d been travelling and what they had planned next.

    “Chloe has school and I could only get Monday off so we’ll stay in a motel somewhere overnight and head back to Smallville in the morning,” Uncle Gabe was saying. “I want Lois to have a day to get settled before she starts school.” He turned and smiled reassuringly at her.

    Lois did not want to go to Smallville. She didn’t want to go to Smallville High and be stuck in the sophomore class where she didn’t know anyone. It had been bad enough when her father was alive and changing schools every couple of years.

    By the time they left the base, the sun was setting. Lois sat in the back of the car with Chloe, who tried to engage her in conversation. Lois didn’t feel like talking. She knew if she did she would just start crying. And Lanes weren’t supposed to cry. They were supposed to be tough and strong.

    “So I guess you’ll be a soph at school, but you can still hang out with us. I mean it’s cool, if you don’t mind hanging out at the Torch.”

    “The Torch?” Lois asked, curious in spite of her resolve not to talk.

    “Yeah, the school paper. I’m editor.”

    Lois frowned at her cousin, wondering why the principal would allow a freshman to edit the paper. Chloe went on to explain that because she’d already been working on school newspapers since third grade and had also submitted stories to the Daily Planet, which had been accepted, Principal Kwan had decided she had more than enough experience.

    “So who works on the paper with you?” she asked tentatively.

    “Well, there’s Pete, who does the photos. Sometimes. He can be a bit of a lazy ass sometimes so you have to give him a good kick in the butt. Same with Clark, but he’s sort of got an excuse because he has to work on the farm.”

    “The farm?”

    “Yeah. He and his brother – well, Oliver’s sort of been missing for about three years now, went to live with the Kents when Clark was six and Ollie was like twelve or thirteen. Clark’s sort of rich. Well, not really. I mean, the Queens were like the richest family in Star City – that’s where Clark lived until they died …”

    Chloe chattered on and Lois became lost at the way her cousin talked in circles. She barely managed to follow along. From what she could glean from it all, Clark was Chloe’s best friend, and teenage crush, although Clark probably wasn’t aware of her feelings. His parents’ plane had gone down somewhere in the Pacific and the couple had been presumed dead. Clark’s older brother was also missing. She managed to learn from Chloe that a person had to be missing about seven years before they were officially declared dead.

    Then there was Abby, another freshman. She helped out in the Torch office although she didn’t write for the paper. Together, the four of them were called the Losers Club.

    “Why the Losers Club?” she asked.

    “Well, we could have gone for the Scooby Gang but since we’re more of a literary group than a chasing vampires kind of group, it sounded better.” Lois easily understood the reference. Chloe was a fan of a tv show about a girl who slayed vampires. She had a small group of friends who were often referred to in the show as the ‘Scooby Gang’.

    “Why?”

    “You know, from the book. It.”

    Lois shook her head. She didn’t know the book, although she’d heard about it. She liked some horror films but had never liked Stephen King. Apparently the kids in the book were known as the Losers Club, because they were the school losers.

    Chloe kept up a steady stream of chatter as they got ready for bed at the motel. Lois let her cousin go on, figuring the other girl would barely notice she wasn’t contributing much to the conversation. Chloe only shut up when her father told her to settle down and go to sleep.

    Lois lay in the bed she was sharing with the other girl, wishing she was anywhere else but here. Ever since her mother had died, she’d had a difficult relationship with her father. Yet she couldn’t help wishing he was still alive. It hurt, deep down, like a knot in her gut. I want my daddy, she wailed silently.

    She sniffled and wiped her nose roughly but the tears she had fought from the day she had watched her father’s coffin being lowered into the grave wouldn’t be suppressed. She was barely aware she was sobbing her heart out until she felt strong arms around her.

    “It’s all right, sweetheart.” Her uncle patted her on the back. “Everything’s going to be okay.”

    She felt her cousin sitting up in the bed beside her but she was too deep in her grief to care. She continued to cry, comforted by the strong presence of her uncle. She cried until she was too tired to cry anymore.

    She was still feeling exhausted when her uncle roused them the next morning. Chloe was quiet as they dressed and got ready to leave the motel. She kept shooting Lois looks as if worried she might burst into tears again, but Lois just got dressed and washed her face.

    Her uncle gave her a quick hug before getting into the car. He was going to stop at a diner on the highway.

    The trip back to Smallville would take roughly six hours, she was told. Lois had never been very good at geography, despite having lived on a few army bases all over the country. She was too tired to care, or even to look out the window at the passing scenery. It was all mostly just fields anyway, she thought.

    She picked at her pancakes in the diner, not feeling at all hungry. The diner itself reminded her of something she had seen in an old tv program, with booths lining the walls and an old jukebox in the corner. The red leather on the seats was cracked and worn, the colour badly faded. The formica tabletop where they were sitting was also scarred from years of abuse. She was sure if she put her hand under the top she would feel old pieces of chewing gum.

    “Are you not hungry, sweetheart?” her uncle asked.

    She chewed on her lip and tried for a bite, but it could have been cardboard for all she knew. It certainly wasn’t any worse than the meals her father had tried to cook sometimes. She remembered one time he’d tried to make pancakes but the batter had been almost raw. She’d tried not to complain, knowing he did his best, but he’d lost his temper. Sam Lane could be one mean son-of-a-***** when he wanted to. Not that he had ever hit her. He’d yelled at her, but usually because she had failed in her duty to execute one of his commands.

    Thinking of her father had the tears welling up again. Lois hated crying. It was exhausting.

    The waitress approached their table and asked Uncle Gabe if the food was not up to scratch. Lois felt guilty for not eating her pancakes but she could barely find the energy to move, let alone eat.

    “It’s fine. My niece is just not feeling well. She just lost her father.”

    “Oh, I’m so sorry. Perhaps we can put the pancakes in a container and she can eat them later if she’s feeling hungry.”

    That did it. The tears began falling despite her best efforts to stop it. She hated it all. The looks of sympathy, the concern. She knew most people didn’t really mean it and were just saying words of sympathy because they thought they should.

    She fell asleep in the car not long after they left the diner, waking with a headache and a crick in her neck. Chloe was asleep beside her. She blinked and looked around. The scenery outside didn’t look any different from what they’d left.

    “Where are we?” she asked, sitting up.

    “We’re about a hundred miles out of Smallville,” her uncle replied. “How are you feeling sweetheart?”

    “I’m okay, I guess. A little headache, but …”

    “I’m not surprised. You slept for quite a while.” He told her to grab one of the bottles of water he had stored in the back of the car and asked if she was hungry.

    “Not really,” she answered, sipping the water. It wasn’t cold but it was still refreshing. “What time will we be in Smallville?”

    “Probably not until close to four. We’ve been invited to the Kent Farm for dinner. I know it’s your first night and all, but it would do you good to have a decent home-cooked meal. And Martha Kent is the best cook in the county, or so I’ve heard.”

    She didn’t want to go out to some stranger’s place for dinner, but she didn’t want to seem ungrateful to her uncle either. He was trying his best to help her come to terms with everything. It probably wasn’t easy taking in a girl who had just lost everything.

    Chloe woke up shortly after but didn’t chatter. Lois decided her cousin had figured she wasn’t in the mood to hear her going on about things as she just sat silently. Lois resumed looking out the window at the passing scenery. Despite the headache, the sleep had done some good and she didn’t feel as exhausted as she had earlier.

    They arrived at the outskirts of Smallville almost two hours later. It looked almost the same as every other small town Lois had seen. A small central business area and houses surrounding it. There were a few farms dotted around but nothing really aroused her interest.

    Uncle Gabe drove by a huge complex which was owned by Luthorcorp. That was where he worked, he told her. He gave her a quick tour of the town, even passing by the town’s one and only high school.

    The house where she was going to live was in a new suburb of Smallville. A placard at the end of the block proudly proclaimed it to be ‘Pleasant Meadows: Another Luthorcorp Development’. A two-storey building in a street where almost all the houses looked the same, except for the way each family decorated the house exterior or kept their gardens. Uncle Gabe had apparently bought the house a few months earlier when he’d accepted a permanent contract to manage the Luthorcorp plant.

    Her uncle took her suitcase into the house and showed her the bedroom. The house had three bedrooms. Hers was the smallest, although it was still big enough to fit a double bed.

    “Why don’t you leave your unpacking until tomorrow,” he suggested. “Just unpack what you need for tonight.”

    She nodded. “Thanks.”

    He reminded the two girls they were going to the Kents for dinner and to be ready in about an hour before leaving them to it.

    Chloe sat on the bed watching as Lois took a few things out of the suitcase.

    “You okay?” she asked.

    Lois shrugged. “I guess.”

    “You don’t have to pretend, you know. It’s me.”

    “I know,” she said with a sigh. “I’m just …”

    Her cousin got up from the bed and wrapped her arms around her in a hug. Lois fought not to pull away. She wasn’t used to gestures of affection, or comfort. She could barely remember ever getting any such affection from her father.

    Chloe must have decided a change of subject was in order and went to her room, returning with a pack of cards, announcing they should have a game of Go Fish. Lois followed her cousin’s lead, thankful for the distraction.

  3. #3
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Three

    Clark wasn’t annoyed as such by the news they were having guests for dinner, but he wasn’t in the mood for company either. He’d received a letter that day from the lawyer looking after his parents’ estate, saying the man appointed as CEO of Queen Industries wanted to declare his brother dead. It had only been three years since Oliver disappeared and he wasn’t ready to give up on his brother just yet.

    Some years ago, the boys had begged for their own space and Jonathan had built them a space in the loft of the barn. Clark used it mostly for studying these days, but it was nice to have a place he could go to where he could be by himself and not have to talk to anyone. The loft had an old couch and a desk where he could do his homework, as well as a couple of bookshelves. Unlike Oliver, who was more interested in archery than books, he could lie on the couch and read for hours.

    He sat in the loft, staring at the last photo taken of his brother. It had been at graduation. The red and gold gown didn’t really suit his brother’s fair complexion. Clark, by contrast, had more of a golden skin tone and dark hair. When he had been little and with his parents, most people had commented on how much he looked like his dad, who had dark hair. Even though the news of his adoption had made the society pages, he figured people had forgotten.

    Oliver was smiling on the day of his graduation but Clark knew the smile was just for the camera. His brother had been a little bitter about the fact that he’d not been able to graduate with his friends at Excelsior Prep and instead had been forced to attend a public school. Even Clark had to admit that the older boy had been a bit spoiled.

    “Clark? Son, you need to finish your chores before dinner.”

    Clark got up from the couch and looked over the railing at his guardian. “I did them.”

    “No, you didn’t,” Jonathan replied. “The cows haven’t been fed and the stables haven’t been mucked out. I could really use some help with the tractor as well.”

    Sighing, Clark sped down the stairs. “I don’t know why you don’t just go and buy a new tractor. It’s not like you couldn’t afford it. I mean, I could just write to the attorney and get you the money.”

    “That’s not the point, Clark,” Jonathan told him. “Sometimes taking the easy route isn’t any better, it’s just easier.”

    Clark grumbled to himself. Sometimes he hated Jonathan’s ‘country boy wisdom’. The tractor was always breaking down, but the man refused to replace it, saying there was still ‘life in the old girl’.

    He set to work helping Jonathan by lifting the tractor so the man could get underneath and fix a broken axle. Jonathan continued to talk to him as he worked.

    “Now, you know Mr Sullivan is bringing his niece to dinner. I want you to be nice to her. She just lost her father.”

    “Why? I mean, what if she’s not nice to me?”

    “Clark, I shouldn’t have to explain these things.”

    “So, what? She’s allowed to say anything she wants because her father died? How does that work?”

    “I didn’t say that. Don’t twist my words, son.”

    Sometimes it irritated him when Jonathan called him ‘son’. He’d never been officially adopted by the couple, so technically he wasn’t ‘theirs’. They were just his surrogate parents. He kept his feelings to himself, knowing it would just upset them.

    He finished his chores and returned to doing his homework. He didn’t usually leave doing his homework until the last minute but after the week he’d had, he really didn’t want to deal with any more schoolwork. A kid he’d known since childhood had suddenly turned psycho, trying to kidnap Lana, who he’d always had a major crush on. He’d attacked Clark who had tried to protect the young brunette.

    He was starting to learn there were distinct disadvantages to living in Smallville. There were meteor rocks everywhere and he was apparently allergic. He would rather be living in Star City so he could get away from the rock, but the Kents wouldn’t even consider moving. The farm had been in the Kent name for three generations and they weren’t about to give it up.

    It was dark when he went to the house for dinner. Chloe and her dad were already there, talking to the Kents. A girl with dark honey-coloured hair was sitting on the couch looking miserable. Her face was pale and had that pinched look that told him she’d been crying. He guessed this was Lois.

    He could understand the whole crying thing. He’d cried plenty of times since his parents had disappeared. He’d tried not to do it when Oliver had gone missing. When you were eleven, and a guy, crying was just not the thing to do.

    “Hi,” he said, trying to be polite. “I’m Clark.”

    She shrugged. “Whatever.”

    Well, fine, he thought with a scowl. If that’s the way you’re going to be, then I’m not going out of my way to be nice to you. Whatever Jonathan said. He chose to turn away and ignore the girl.

    “Oh, Clark, honey would you set the table please?”

    He nodded at Martha’s request and went to grab the silverware and the placemats. He placed that around the table then went to grab glasses from the cupboard, setting them out as well.

    He didn’t mind doing chores most of the time. Jonathan didn’t make too many demands of him and he knew his parents would have wanted him to be good to the other couple. He remembered once when he was about four, they’d come to visit his mother’s cousin. He’d asked his mother why Martha didn’t have any children and she’d told him that there had been something wrong with Martha so having children wasn’t possible.

    The cousins had been close, rather like Chloe had told him she and Lois were. It was little wonder that Laura had decided her two sons would go to live with Martha if anything happened to her and Robert.

    They all sat down to dinner a short time later. Clark was sitting next to Lois and found her silence a little discomfiting. Chloe had mentioned that her cousin was quite talkative, so for her not to talk was unusual. He knew she was grieving, but felt it was a bit rude of her to not say anything at all.

    He finished his dinner quickly but noticed Lois had barely touched hers.

    “Lois, is the food not to your liking?” Martha asked gently.

    The girl pushed her plate away. “I’m not hungry,” she said.

    Mr Sullivan looked at her. “Lois, sweetheart, you haven’t eaten a thing all day. You really should eat something.”

    “I said I’m not hungry!” the girl snapped. Martha looked taken aback. Lois abruptly stood up from the table and walked out. Before the adults could get up, Clark went after her.

    She was sitting on the outside steps to the barn.

    “That was kind of rude!”

    “What do you care?” she said.

    He sat next to her. “Look, I get it, okay? My mom and dad died when I was a kid.”

    She snorted. “Don’t pretend for a second you know how I feel!”

    “Well, you don’t have to be a b!tch about it!” he retorted.

    She stared at him, her hazel eyes huge. For a moment he thought she was going to cry but she appeared to give herself a mental shake. She didn’t say anything in reply.

    “I mean, your dad died. So what? At least you’ve got Chloe and her dad who cared enough to take you in. You can’t sit around sulking all the time.”

    She gave a deep sigh, but didn’t reply. He went on.

    “When me and my brother first came to live here, Jonathan said something I’ll never forget. He said that sometimes bad things happen to good people and you can’t change that. Feeling sorry for yourself won’t change it. Sometimes you just have to make the best of a bad situation. And like I said, you got Chloe and her dad. Starving yourself is just going to make them worry.”

    He fell silent, letting her absorb the meaning of what he’d said. He was too young to remember what it was like when his parents had disappeared, but he could still remember when he got the news that Oliver was missing. He’d hated the way people walked on eggshells around him, as if he was going to break. Sure, it hurt, and the thought that he might never see his brother again was like a deep cut that could never really heal over, but the unending looks of sympathy were just constant reminders of the loss.

    “When does it stop hurting?” she asked quietly after a while.

    “I don’t know if it ever does. Not totally. I guess sometimes you just learn to deal with the pain and it becomes like this dull ache that you can sometimes forget is there.”

    She turned to look at him for a long moment. He studied her face. She was pretty, in an understated way. Her face was bare of make-up and showed the strain of everything that had happened to her in the past few weeks.

    She got up from the steps and went down, starting toward the house. She paused and looked at him again. It looked to him like she was saying thank you.

    He sat on the steps for a while, not sure if he should go back in. Jonathan came out of the house a little while later, clearly looking for him.

    “I don’t know what you said to her, son, but thank you.” He smiled and sat down. “It’s been pretty rough for you the last couple of years, hasn’t it?”

    He nodded. That was pretty much an understatement. Oliver’s disappearance, then finding out the truth about his heritage had all been very overwhelming. “Yeah.” Jonathan must have noticed his tone was a little off as he sounded apologetic when he spoke again.

    “I’m sorry if I was a bit harsh with you earlier, Clark.”

    “It’s not you,” he said quietly. “I got a letter. From the attorney.”

    “I thought something was bothering you. What was in the letter?”

    Clark explained. Jonathan was silent for a few moments when he finished, probably considering his response.

    “What do you want to do?” he asked finally.

    “I don’t know. I don’t want to give up on him.”

    “Then don’t,” the blond man replied. “The man is paid to run your family’s company. That does not mean he is in charge of your family’s affairs.”

    “He won’t listen to me. I’m just a kid.”

    “Then talk to Martha,” Jonathan suggested kindly. “She’ll set him straight.” The older man wrapped an arm around his shoulders. “If your brother is anything like your father, he’ll find his way back to us. Your dad always did say Oliver was as stubborn as him and twice as smart.”

    Clark grinned. His father had often complained about how stubborn his brother was.

    The talk helped a lot. At least he knew the couple were on his side. It sounded crazy but somehow he just knew Oliver was still out there somewhere and if it was possible for him to come back home, he would.

    School the next day was quieter than usual without Chloe. She was staying at home to help her cousin unpack and get settled. Clark was in the Torch struggling with the printer. It was constantly jamming but the principal wouldn’t hear of replacing it.

    “Uh, hey, is Chloe here?”

    Clark looked up, surprised to see the jock standing there. “Trevor? No, she’s out for the day. Why?”

    The blond jock looked uncomfortable. “Uh, no reason. See you later.”

    Clark sighed and shook his head. Most of the football players made fun of the newspaper, and especially Chloe. It seemed unusual for one of them to even come to the Torch office, let alone ask for the freshman editor.

    Abby came in, dumping her bag on the old couch. The springs squeaked slightly as she flopped down beside her bag. Clark looked at her.

    “You okay? You seem kind of upset.”

    She shrugged. “Between my mom and those jerks out there …”

    “Is that guy Brett bullying you again?” he asked, knowing that the dark-haired freshman was one of the instigators of the teasing. “I can go talk to him if you want.”

    “No, that’s okay,” she said. She frowned. “What are you doing to the printer?”

    “It’s jammed.” He rolled his eyes. “I just can’t see what’s wrong with it.”

    She got up. “Let me,” she said. He moved aside so she could take a look. She pulled out the paper tray and opened a flap, pulling out a paper that looked like it had been concertinaed. She closed the flap and the printer whirred into life. “There’s your paper jam,” she told him.

    “Thanks Abby. You’re a miracle worker.”

    She beamed. “What would you do without me?”

    “Let’s never find out,” he replied, going back to the computer to finish the layout. Chloe had left strict instructions that he was to follow to the letter. Clark was not that bad with computers but between working on the farm and his schoolwork he didn’t have time for gaming.

    “So, I heard Chloe and her dad had dinner at your place last night.”

    “Yeah. Along with Chloe’s cousin. Mr Sullivan didn’t feel like cooking after the long drive to pick her up.”

    “So, what’s she like?” Abby asked, taking a container out of her bag and pulling out a carrot stick. She made a face but began eating, clearly wishing it was something other than a carrot.

    Clark shrugged. “She’s okay, I guess. She was kind of quiet.”

    “Who was?” Chloe asked, coming into the office.

    “I thought you were off today?” he asked.

    “I just had to come down and get Lois’ class schedule. We’re going to the Beanery later. Want to meet us there?”

    Clark wondered if Lois was ready to be surrounded by people who would just give her sympathetic looks although he did think getting out and about was better than moping at home alone.

    “So, who were you talking about?” Chloe asked.

    Clark shrugged. It wasn’t like he was actually saying anything bad about Lois.

    “I was just telling Abby about Lois.”

    “Oh. Yeah. You know, it’s been pretty tough for her, losing her dad and everything. She just needs time, I think.” She went on to say something about being kind to Lois and giving her space.

    He wondered if that was really the right approach, but didn’t comment. She went on talking to Abby about the trip in the car and how she’d been trying to get her cousin to open up. Another thing that he felt was the wrong way to approach it. Forcing Lois to talk about her feelings was just as bad as trying to be sympathetic.

    Lois didn’t need sympathy. She just needed some sense of normality.

    Pete had football practice after school got out. Clark had thought about trying to join the team himself but decided he had enough to worry about with some of the things he was required to do as the ‘heir’ to the Queen fortune. He hadn’t told Pete what his teammates had done to him. He would rather just forget about it, although he would never completely trust Whitney.

    The Beanery was busy but he and Abby managed to get a booth. Clark went up to the counter to order them some drinks. Abby wasn’t a coffee drinker and avoided sweets, although it hadn’t helped her acne any so she had ordered green tea. As he returned from paying for the drinks, he spotted Lex in one of the armchairs, studying some papers.

    “Hey, Lex,” he said.

    The bald man looked up. “Oh, Clark. Didn’t see you.”

    “S’okay. You looked like you were doing some intense studying.”

    Lex sighed, putting the paper down. “Yeah. My father wants me to cut some of my workforce.”

    “How come?”

    “Cost cutting.”

    “Isn’t there any other way around it? Like cutting production costs or something?”

    “When Lionel Luthor says jump, you’re supposed to ask ‘how high?’” He sighed again and looked annoyed.

    “Geez, sounds like a real fun guy,” he returned. Lex grinned at him.

    “You have no idea.”

    “Maybe I can take a look at the accounts or something.”

    “This is more than a math problem, Clark.”

    “Yeah, but ever since Ollie …” He paused, not really wanting to think about his brother. “I mean, I still get all the reports and stuff from the board and Martha helps me with stuff I don’t understand. I bet between the three of us we could work out something that will cut your expenses and get around your dad. I mean, he tells you to lay off some of your workers, then what next? Closing down the plant?”

    Lex considered it for a few moments.

    “Thanks, Clark, but I’m not sure the old man will see it that way.”

    “Yeah, but you can’t just give in to him. He sent you down here to manage the plant, so you should have a say in what happens there. Otherwise he’s just micro-managing you. Anyway, you can always say that by cutting your workforce, your production goes down, and so does your profit. By cutting costs somewhere else, your profits increase without affecting production.”

    The older man studied him. “You make a very good point. Guess those lessons in business management came in handy.”

    Clark frowned, wondering how Lex knew he’d been studying a little about business management.

    “Clark, your coffee’s getting cold.”

    He looked around and noticed Chloe and Lois were sitting at the table with Abby. Lex followed his gaze.

    “Who’s that?” he asked. “The brunette, I mean.”

    “Chloe’s cousin. Lois Lane. She just came to live with Chloe and her dad.”

    “Where are her parents?”

    “Her mom died a long time ago and her dad died in an accident just recently.”

    Lex nodded. “Poor kid.”

    “Yeah. I better go.”

    “Well, thanks for the suggestion, Clark. I’ll think about it.”

  4. #4
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Four

    Lois hadn’t wanted to go to the Beanery with Chloe. All she wanted was to just stay in her room and let herself adjust to this new life. She’d tried to beg off, but her cousin wouldn’t hear of it.

    It was little wonder Chloe was the editor of the school newspaper. She was very persistent, although the general would have called it stubborn. It was apparently a family trait on her mother’s side.

    As soon as they arrived at the Beanery, which Lois quickly figured out was a coffee shop – coffee, beans, go figure – Chloe began looking around. She waved to a girl with dark blonde hair who was sitting in one of the booths. The girl waved back and her cousin began walking toward the table. Lois followed behind.

    They passed a group of jocks who began making what sounded like dog howls. Lois paused and glared at them. Chloe’s step faltered just a little but she carried on.

    She remembered her cousin saying something about her little group being known as the Losers Club, but she didn’t think it deserved whatever the jocks were trying to imply.

    “As*holes,” she muttered, just as she got to the table. The girl now sitting opposite her cousin stared at her. The look was almost fearful.

    “What?” the girl said.

    “I meant those jerks,” she replied, nodding her head toward the group as she sat down. The other girl nodded, appearing confused.

    A waitress set two cups on the table. She then turned to speak to someone standing talking to a bald man. Lois couldn’t tell who the guy was from behind but he was tall with dark hair.

    Lois explained what she’d overheard. Chloe didn’t comment, looking almost resigned.

    “Oh, they always do that,” the girl replied, sounding like she was used to it and even worse, accepting of it. Lois was immediately pissed on the girl’s behalf. No one should have to put up with crap like that, she thought. The girl went on, indicating a boy with dark wavy hair. “Especially that guy.” Lois looked at him. He wasn’t that cute. He was staring at them with an arrogant smirk.

    Lois glared back. “What are you staring at, you piece of sh …”

    Chloe quickly grasped her wrist and pulled her down to sit beside her. “Lo, let’s not and just say we did.” She turned to the girl. “Abby, this is my cousin, Lois. Lo, this is Abby.”

    “Wow!” Abby looked impressed. “I wish I could talk back to those guys like that.”

    “You just stay as sweet as you are,” Clark said, coming to sit beside Abby in the booth. He smiled at Lois and she realised he was the one who had been speaking to the other man. Abby blushed at the compliment and fidgeted with her glasses. She was clearly not used to compliments, even from someone who was obviously a close friend.

    Lois wondered if the two of them were going out. From the way they seemed so familiar with each other, she could almost see them being girlfriend and boyfriend. Abby would be very pretty if it wasn’t for the acne scarring on her face. That was something only time and some good skin treatment would take care of.

    “Clark’s our resident knight-in-shining-armour,” Chloe told her. “Always ready to defend the honour of yon fair maidens.”

    Clark rolled his eyes and laughed.

    “So, where’s Pete?” Chloe asked.

    “He had football practice.” Clark scowled as he looked at the three boys at the table. “I guess those guys decided they were too good to stick around.”

    “Actually, I think those are the guys that Kwan suspended,” Chloe confided.

    Lois bit her lip. She noticed Clark and Abby had drinks already.

    “Uh, why don’t I get us some coffees,” she told her cousin. Since she was sitting on the outside edge of the booth, it made sense for her to go up and order.

    “Sure, Lo,” Chloe said distractedly, already talking to Abby about something that happened at school.

    Lois got up, glancing at Clark, but he was listening to his friends and didn’t look up. She started for the counter to give the woman her order. As she waited for the customer ahead of her to give what sounded like a very complicated order, she felt the presence of someone behind her.

    She turned. It was the bald man.

    “Uh, hello,” she said.

    He smiled. For some reason it made Lois feel a little uncomfortable. It was almost a shark’s grin. Lois had seen plenty of movies about sharks to know what it looked like.

    “Lex Luthor,” he said, holding out his hand. Lois shook it for politeness’ sake. “I hear you just moved here.”

    “Um, yeah,” she said. “Excuse me,” she added as the customer finally moved away and she gave her own order.

    Lex continued to hover. How old was he, anyway? she wondered.

    “I just moved here myself,” Lex told her. She didn’t answer, not sure what he expected from her. “Clark told me about your father,” he continued. “If there’s anything I can do to help make your transition in Smallville easier …”

    “Uh, thanks, but I’ve got my cousin,” she said, not sure what else she was supposed to say. “Um, it was nice to meet you, Mr Luthor.”

    “Call me Lex,” he said with a smile. His gaze throughout the brief conversation had been kind of intense and she didn’t know how to react. She fought a shudder and brushed by him to get back to the table.

    Clark frowned at her as she sat down but didn’t ask what was wrong. He had clearly seen the exchange between her and Lex.

    It was one thing she found she liked about the guy. He understood her in ways that Chloe never could. They’d both lost family and that gave them something in common. He also didn’t look at her with sympathy and constantly ask her if she was okay; something that was becoming increasingly irritating. She hated people acting like she was fragile.

    It was a contradiction of sorts, she thought. She’d hated the army way of shrugging it off and just moving on, but she also got annoyed when people would act like they had to walk on eggshells around her. She wanted to scream at them and tell them she wouldn’t break and would just rather be left alone.

    At least Clark seemed to understand that.

    She wondered what had happened to his brother. From what Chloe had said, it had been about three years since he disappeared. She didn’t know what she’d do if something ever happened to Lucy. They didn’t always get along, but she still cared about her sister.

    The waitress came over with their coffees and she sipped hers quietly, listening to the conversation around her. Chloe was talking about some story she was working on – something about favouritism in sports. Lois’ attention was caught when her cousin asked Clark a question about a scarecrow.

    Clark looked taken aback.

    “How did you hear about that?” he said.

    Abby stared at Clark in concern. “They picked you for the scarecrow? Why didn’t you say something? You really should go to Principal Kwan.”

    “And what’s he going to do?” Chloe said. “It’s not like he does anything about the bullying that goes on.”

    Lois nodded. “There was something like that at my old school,” she said. “This kid got beaten up and he tried to kill himself.”

    “Well, gee, thanks for that cheery note, cuz,” Chloe replied. “Anyway …”

    Clark interjected. “I don’t think Lois was finished,” he said. He smiled at her. “Go ahead.”

    “Well I wasn’t going to say much more, but they found out that this guy had been bullied for ages. The kids on the bus would pick on him and stuff and he left a note saying he couldn’t take it anymore.”

    “Was the school on the base?” Abby asked.

    She shook her head. “No, it was just a regular school. I hated those guys. I walked home rather than catch the bus. They always tried to bully the army brats too. I told my dad about it but he just told me kids needed to toughen up.”

    “It’s not that simple though,” Clark said.

    “What’s the scarecrow thing?” Lois asked, figuring she’d said enough already.

    “The football players choose a freshman and take him out to Miller’s Field,” Clark said. She listened as he described how they would strip the student down to his underwear and tie him to a post. It sounded almost to Lois like a crucifixion.

    “Why did they pick you?” she said.

    “It wasn’t all the jocks. Just this guy, Whitney. He’s going out with this girl who lives near the farm. I walked her home one night.”

    “So, he was jealous? What an as*hole! Maybe you should have said something. Like to Mr Kent,” she said, feeling horrible for Clark being put in such a situation.

    “I don’t know. I mean, Jonathan played football when he was at Smallville High. I think he knows about the hazing, but figured it was just supposed to be all in fun.”

    “That doesn’t sound like much fun,” she said.

    “You’re right. It isn’t.”

    She wondered what she was going to be in for when she started school the next day. Clark must have seen her face as he put a hand on hers.

    “Don’t worry,” he said. “If anyone gives you a hard time, you let me know. We may be the Losers Club but I won’t let anything happen to the others. Besides, it takes a lot to beat me down.”

    It sounded to her like he would take whatever was dished out to protect his friends. Which was great and everything but just because he was a big guy didn’t mean he should have to take it.

    Chloe came into her room later that evening. She sat on the bed while Lois was stowing some of her things in the closet. She turned and looked at her cousin.

    “What?”

    “Nothing. I just … you and Clark seemed to hit it off pretty well.”

    She frowned. “So? He seems like a good guy. A little, you know, straight-arrow, but …” She wondered if her cousin was jealous. She remembered Chloe talking about Clark in some of their phone calls and had always had the feeling the other girl wished it was different. “He’s kind of protective.”

    “Yeah. He is, but it’s kind of nice, though.”

    Lois didn’t really think she needed a protector. She’d basically been taking care of herself from the age of six and knew how to defend herself.

    “Um, are he and Abby, you know … dating?”

    Chloe frowned. “No. Why would you think that?”

    “They just seem really friendly.”

    “Oh. Well, there was this pep rally and Abby was the mascot. The jocks were making fun of her and Clark told them to leave her alone. Guys like Whitney kind of hate him because his family is richer than anybody, well, except for the Luthors, and he doesn’t act like he’s better than anyone else.”

    Lois frowned at her cousin. She could see that. Some rich guys could act kind of pretentious, but Clark just seemed like a normal guy. If she hadn’t already known about his family’s wealth, she would have thought it too.

    “So, they pick on him?”

    “Yeah. Sometimes. I mean, I guess they think he should be doing more for the town, but it’s not like he actually has access to all that money. Most of it’s tied up in investments and stuff and any cash assets are in a trust until he turns eighteen.”

    She bit her lip. Chloe seemed to know an awful lot about Clark’s financial status.

    “Did Clark just tell you this?”

    Her cousin huffed. “Well, no, I kind of did some research.” She looked affronted when Lois shot her a look. “What? I like to know this stuff!”

    “It’s kind of an invasion of privacy, Chloe.”

    “Well, if I’m gonna be a reporter at the Daily Planet someday, I better know how to research somebody’s background.”

    “Still, that’s not really fair. I mean, don’t you think Clark would be upset if he found out exactly how much you know?”

    Her cousin sighed. “Yeah, I guess you’ve got a point. It’s not like the Luthors. I mean, they’re practically in the society pages every other week, whereas Clark kind of keeps a low profile.” She sucked in her lower lip. “Uh, speaking of the Luthors, I saw you talking to Lex earlier.”

    “Yeah, he came over to introduce himself. Has he always been that creepy?”

    Chloe looked concerned.

    “Creepy? What did he say to you?”

    “Oh, just something about helping make my transition easier. The way he was looking at me was kind of intense.”

    Her cousin nodded sagely.

    “Uh, yeah, he is like that, from what I’ve heard. Don’t take it to heart.”

    “Why shouldn’t I? I didn’t like him.”

    “I just mean that he can be a little arrogant. I remember there used to be a lot of stories about him in the tabloids when we were living in Metropolis.”

    She supposed she could understand. While she didn’t know anything about the Luthors, she had met one or two people who had come from similar backgrounds and they had been just as arrogant.

    She sighed and sat on the bed. She really was not looking forward to going to school tomorrow. Since she was a sophomore, she wouldn’t share any of her classes with the Losers Club. Then again, it wasn’t as if she hadn’t started a new school before. She would just have to treat it the same as every other time.

    “Girls, it’s getting late. You should be getting to bed.”

    “Dad, it’s only nine-thirty,” Chloe called out in protest.

    Uncle Gabe poked his head in the gap between the door and the frame.

    “And you both have to be up early for school tomorrow,” he said. “Since this is Lois’ first day, I think she’d want to get a good night’s sleep.”

    Chloe grumbled but got up. “Fine. See you in the morning, Lo.”

    “Yeah,” she said, nodding, watching as her cousin went out.

    Uncle Gabe smiled at her. “You okay, kiddo?”

    “I’m fine. Just not looking forward to school tomorrow.”

    He came in and gave her a quick hug. “You’ll be okay. Chloe and her friends will look after you.”

    “Thanks,” she said. He was trying too hard to make her feel more comfortable but she couldn’t fault him for that.

  5. #5
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    Chapter Five

    Clark was relieved that it had been a quiet day for once. Maybe the jocks were more worried about the trouble they were in. He’d heard the rumours that some of them had been caught cheating on a test, because someone had supplied them the answers. Principal Kwan had refused to let them play football until he’d investigated the matter.

    The rest of the school usually left the gang to their own devices. Like any other school, it had its cliques, but most of them didn’t mix with the rest outside of class.

    Clark went to the Torch office intending to finish an article he was supposed to be writing. He had managed to write a few paragraphs before Lois came in and flopped down on the couch, sighing heavily.

    He hadn’t seen her much that day, but figured since it was her first day she was still trying to get her bearings. He had heard some of the other students talking about the ‘new girl’ since it was a rare occurrence. Most of the locals, as much as they loved the town, often wondered aloud why anyone would choose to move to Smallville. Especially from the big city.

    Chloe had faced some of the same problems when her father had moved them from Metropolis. Even in middle school, the other students had treated her like she was an alien. Clark had had similar treatment although since he’d only just started school when his parents had died, the kids had been more curious than suspicious. Plus the fact that he was an orphan twice over gave him a free pass.

    Smallville could be kind of parochial. The locals tended to treat outsiders as if they were interlopers until they proved themselves. Even Martha had been treated the same way, despite marrying Jonathan, whose family had lived in Smallville almost since the town was first developed.

    He sometimes wondered if that was the reason most of the kids called them the Losers Club. With the exception of Pete, all of them had been born away from Smallville. It didn’t matter when they came to the town. They were all outsiders. Pete was treated that way because he was one of a small number of African-American students at the school. He'd also been friends with Clark since their first day together in the first grade.

    Pete’s family dated back to the Civil War when his great-great-great-grandfather had served with one of the then-titled Colored Regiments, serving in Kansas. After the war, he’d chosen to settle in Smallville. The town was the same as any other town. It had its share of bigots.

    Clark finished typing and looked up. Lois was looking a little disgruntled. “Tough day?”

    “Ugh! I had to go see the guidance counsellor. He kept asking me about my dad and how I was doing. Why can’t people just leave me the hell alone?”

    “Yeah, they did it to me when we found out Ollie was missing,” he said. “I think they do it so the school can look like they’re doing the best for the students.”

    Lois wrinkled her nose, letting him know exactly what she thought of that idea.

    “Or they’re just trying to make sure I don’t have a breakdown or something! Why do people always have to act like I’m a fragile butterfly?”

    “The worst thing is the looks,” he said. “You know, where they do the head tilt and say: ‘you okay?’.”

    She laughed. “Yeah, I’ve seen that head tilt.” She picked up her bag and took out an orange, beginning to peel it. “Chloe should have warned me about the cafeteria food.”

    “That’s why I brown bag it,” he told her with a chuckle. “Think I want food poisoning?”

    Not that he could actually get food poisoning, he thought. Lois didn’t need to know that. No one except the Kents and Oliver knew about his abilities and that was the way he wanted to keep it. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust his friends. He just felt it was better them not knowing.

    “Oh God, don’t even go there!” she replied, her sour mood appearing to be improving by the second. “Have you ever tried army food?”

    “Can’t say that I have,” he replied. He had watched his fair share of military-related movies and television shows and they all implied the food was horrible. “Tell you what. I’ll see if I can sneak a little something extra in my lunches and share it with you.”

    Lois beamed at him.

    “You, my friend, have a deal.”

    “What deal?” Chloe asked, entering the office.

    “Nothing,” Lois told her cousin.

    “We were just talking about the cafeteria food,” Clark said.

    “Oh, yeah, I probably should have warned you not to touch the meatloaf,” Chloe replied.

    “At least it’s not green,” Clark interjected. “It’s been known to be that colour from time to time.”

    Lois groaned and clutched at her stomach. “Ooh, not while I’m eating!”

    Chloe nudged Clark out of the seat. “Let’s see what you messed up while I was out yesterday.”

    He mock-glared at her. Chloe didn’t like anyone taking over her job.

    “I didn’t mess up anything, thank you very much. Last time I do you any favours, Miss Editor.”

    She rolled her eyes at him. “All you did was type up the lunch menu. I would hardly call that ground-breaking news.”

    “Whatever!” he retorted. “As if you would let anyone else touch your precious paper anyway!”

    “Damn straight,” she returned.

    “Are you always this territorial?” Lois asked her cousin, handing Clark a wedge of orange.

    Clark smirked at the brunette as he popped the wedge in his mouth. “Oh, you bet she is. Don’t get between her and her future journalism career.”

    “Hey, at least I know where I’m going,” Chloe said. “Can you say the same?”

    He sighed. The last thing he wanted was to run Queen Industries, but with Oliver gone, it looked like he wouldn’t have much of a choice. He supposed he could leave the current CEO in the position. It would be a good seven or eight years before he would have to decide what to do with the company anyway. It wasn’t like Jonathan and Martha were pushing him to make any firm decisions yet, saying he should wait until he went to college.

    “On that note, I’m out of here. Lois?”

    “I’m supposed to wait for Chloe,” she said, rolling her eyes. It seemed she was already familiar with her cousin’s one-track mind when it came to the newspaper.

    Chloe waved her hand. “Don’t sweat it. I’m gonna be here another couple of hours at least.”

    Clark didn’t think Lois would want to hang around school waiting for her cousin to finish on the paper.

    “We’ll have missed the bus, but I can walk you home.”

    Lois frowned at him. “Isn’t it out of your way?”

    “I live on a farm. I think I can handle it.” He figured he could run home after he’d left her at the door.

    The girl considered it for a few moments. “Okay. You sure you don’t want me to stay, Chlo?”

    “Don’t worry about me,” her cousin replied, her eyes locked to the screen. She was already absorbed in what she was doing and likely wouldn’t miss them leaving.

    They walked through the streets, chatting quietly. The subject eventually came around to his home life.

    “So, I don’t get the connection between you and the Kents.”

    “Well, Martha was my mom’s cousin,” he said. Martha’s mother and Laura’s mother had been cousins as well. Laura’s family had also come from Metropolis. She’d only moved to Star City when she’d married Robert.

    “So, your family owned like this big company in Star City? How come Jonathan makes you do chores on the farm?”

    “I guess it’s his way of getting me to appreciate what I have. He’s always saying that hard work keeps a man honest.”

    “Wow, does that sound like a cliché,” she remarked. “I don’t envy you.”

    “Gee, thanks. I’m touched,” he replied sarcastically.

    She laughed. She had a nice laugh. He changed the subject and began talking about a film he’d gone to see during summer vacation, asking her if she’d seen it. They were discussing the merits of various movies when he heard the beep of a car horn. A Porsche pulled up beside them.

    Lex leaned out of the driver’s side window and smiled.

    “Hello Clark. Lois. May I offer you a ride?”

    Lois immediately tensed. Clark had seen her brief exchange with Lex the day before and had the impression she didn’t like him much.

    “No, we’re fine,” he said.

    “Are you sure?” Lex asked, eyeing Lois with a curious gaze. “It’ll be dark soon.”

    It was barely four-thirty, Clark thought. It wouldn’t start getting dark for another hour at least.

    “Thanks, but I don’t mind walking,” Lois replied.

    Lex shrugged as if it was their loss. He drove off in a manner that seemed to suggest he didn’t like their answers.

    “What is with that guy?” she muttered.

    “I don’t know. I only see him at some of those social things I have to go to. I mean, I know he just moved here. Maybe he’s just trying to be friendly. I mean, you’re both new in town,” he added, although he didn’t really buy that as an excuse.

    “There’s friendly and then there’s being kind of creepy,” she said.

    He had no idea what to say to that. Chloe had mentioned her cousin’s ill-feeling toward the man but hadn’t been able to come up with any reasonable explanation for Lex’s behaviour.

    He left Lois at the house and ran to the farm. Jonathan frowned at him.

    “You’re late,” he said.

    “I was walking Lois home,” he told the older man, who raised an eyebrow.

    “Is this something we need to talk about?” he asked.

    Clark almost rolled his eyes. They’d already had the birds and the bees talk when he was ten. He didn’t need to tell the older man that he was not looking to date anyone just yet. He liked the girls he hung out with, but as far as he was concerned they were just friends. Not that they weren’t all pretty, in their own way. Even Abby. While the girl had self-esteem issues thanks to her pushy cosmetologist mother and the constant bullying, she was sweet and kind and Clark knew once she got older she would be a knockout. That didn’t mean he was interested in a romantic relationship.

    Besides, he’d only known Lois two days. It was hardly long enough to even declare themselves friends, let alone anything else.

    “No, it’s not like that. It’s just … well, I guess we have something in common.”

    He explained about her feelings of not wanting to be treated like she was fragile. The farmer nodded.

    “That certainly sounds logical, son. It’s good that you’re there for her.”

    Clark nodded in reply. “Yeah. Uh, I should go do my chores.”

    He went in to dinner an hour or so later. Martha asked him about his day and he once again explained about Lois. He told his guardians what had happened when he’d walked Lois home.

    “Hm, that does seem a little odd,” Martha said. “Lex can be a little arrogant, but that’s more to do with Lionel. And she is a little young for him. She’s only fifteen.”

    “You know what I think it might be?” Jonathan suggested. “Remember that deal Lionel was talking about a couple of years ago?”

    Martha frowned. “What deal?”

    “Something to do with the military? What if Lex realised who she was and thought she might have a few contacts she could put him in touch with?”

    “Hmm, that certainly makes sense. He’s been trying to get out from under Lionel’s thumb for a while.”

    Clark listened as they discussed the issue. He barely remembered the deal they’d mentioned, but he had heard rumours that Lex had been trying to make a few of his own deals. If he was working on any kind of project involving the military, then Lois might be able to provide him with an opening.

    It was exactly the sort of manipulative tactic that his father had been against, according to Oliver. Robert Queen had been the kind of businessman who preferred all his dealings to be above-board and completely ethical. He had refused to play mind games.

    Clark still wondered what had happened when his parents had disappeared. Had it had something to do with a business rival? The last he’d heard, their plane had gone down in the Pacific, while they’d been flying to South Korea for some deal his father had been involved in. Had their plane been sabotaged?

    As much as he wanted to find out, he had no idea how to go about it.

  6. #6
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    Chapter Six

    Her first week at school had turned out to be mostly good, considering. She’d expected to be teased or for some of the other students to gossip about her, especially because of her cousin, but Lois had been surprised at how most of them just left her to it.

    She wondered if Clark had had something to do with that. For a guy who was supposed to be considered a ‘loser’, it appeared that many of those at Smallville High preferred to steer clear of the tall brunet. Anyone seen with him was apparently also considered off-limits.

    The next week was a different story.

    Chloe had written a scathing editorial about the football jocks’ cheating, which had not made her popular with the athletes. The rest of the school - those who often found themselves below the grade curve due to such blatant favouritism, seemed to be on the side of the school paper.

    Of course, that didn’t stop the article from stirring up trouble. Principal Kwan had been attacked. Somehow a fire had started in his car. The fire department had concluded it was an electrical fault but Chloe didn’t think so. It looked even more suspicious after her cousin was almost killed in a fire that started in the Torch office.

    Thankfully, Clark had managed to sort that out, but a third incident involving Coach Walt hadn’t turned out so well. The man was dead and the football players decided Chloe’s article was somehow to blame, and the rest of the gang was guilty by association. It was as if each member of the Losers Club had bullseyes on their backs. The jocks stepped up their harassment. Clark had done his best to run interference but it had little effect.

    They had all gone to the Beanery after school on Friday to recover from the week from hell. Chloe had her head down on the table while Abby was doing her best to cheer her up.

    Clark came back from getting their coffees. As Lois watched, a group of guys tried to trip him up but the tall farmboy was too quick for them, dodging their efforts. She frowned. For someone who had confessed he had two left feet, he seemed to have amazing reflexes.

    He put two cups down on the table. “Your hazelnut latte, madame,” he said. “Non-fat, double-shot, just the way you like it.”

    Chloe lifted her head wearily and tried for a smile. “You are a lifesaver, Queen.”

    He shrugged. “One green tea for you,” he continued, handing Abby her drink before smiling at Lois. “I’ll be right back with your coffee.”

    “Thank you,” she said, smiling at him. As he turned away, she couldn’t help but notice the way her cousin’s expression changed. One minute she was smiling, the next she looked almost annoyed.

    Lois decided to talk to her about it when they got home but as soon as they walked in the door her uncle told them he had ordered pizza.

    “I’ll be out tonight, girls,” he said. “Will you two be all right on your own?”

    “We’ll be fine, Dad. We’ll just watch movies or something.”

    Lois smiled at her uncle as she helped herself to a slice of pizza. “Doing anything special?” she asked.

    “No,” he replied. “Just poker with some of the guys from work.”

    Chloe looked like she was going to say something cutting, but Lois nudged her to be quiet. Uncle Gabe left the house shortly after and they sprawled on the floor to eat the greasy treat and watch movies.

    Lois decided since they were alone it was a good time to bring up the subject of Clark.

    “So, Chlo, what was with the look today?”

    “What look?” her cousin asked.

    “This afternoon. When Clark went to get the rest of the coffees.”

    “I didn’t have a look.”

    “Yes you did.”

    “No, I didn’t.” The blonde was clearly trying to deny it but Lois caught a flash of a guilty look from her.

    “Does it bother you? I mean, don’t think I haven’t noticed the way you look at him. Not that Smallville’s stupid or anything, but he hasn’t noticed a thing. Just in case you were worried about that.”

    “I’m not worried,” Chloe replied with a shrug. “Who said I was worried?”

    She got up and walked out. Lois frowned, wondering what that was all about.

    “Chloe!”

    “I’m just getting a drink!” her cousin shouted back. “You want a soda?”

    “Yeah.”

    The other girl came back in with a couple of cans of Coke. She handed one over.

    “All right,” she said. “If you must know, yeah, it does bother me a little. You and Clark, I mean.”

    “What exactly is it that bothers you?”

    “He didn’t offer to bring me food.” For a moment, Lois had forgotten about Clark bringing extra for his lunch. She figured he would do it for anyone if they asked but so far, Chloe and Abby had seemed resigned to buying food from the cafeteria.

    “Did you even ask him?” Lois pointed out.

    “Well … no.”

    “What else?”

    “It’s just … you two seem to have some sort of secret communication, that I’m not a part of.”

    She understood now. Chloe was feeling left out, thinking that Lois was usurping her best friend. Chloe had had a whole year with the tall farmboy and probably felt she was being replaced. Not only that, she thought the confidences Lois had shared with Clark meant there was something more than a burgeoning friendship.

    It wasn’t that Lois hadn’t thought about guys that way. What her cousin probably didn’t understand was that she wasn’t ready to date anyone. She was still trying to come to terms with the direction her life had taken and there was no way she was going to jump into any relationship other than friendship.

    “Did you even stop to think about why that is?” she asked.

    Chloe studied her for a long moment. “No. Not … not really.”

    “Clark’s the only one who doesn’t act like I’m gonna fall apart at any second. He doesn’t treat me like I’m made of glass.”

    Her cousin frowned. “Is that what I’ve been doing?” she asked.

    “Well, yeah,” Lois told her gently. “I know you didn’t mean to, but it was kind of wearing me down. Clark’s the only one who really gets what I’m going through.”

    Chloe bit her lip, clearly trying to see it from Lois’ point of view. “I never thought of it that way. You’re right. I mean, he lost his parents, and his brother. God, I’m such an idiot. I’m sorry, cuz,” she said, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “I guess I have been a bit of a pain in the ass.”

    “No, you haven’t. Just … quit with the asking if I’m okay every so often. If I’m not okay, I’ll tell you.”

    “Will you? Because I heard you the other night. Crying.”

    Lois sighed. She had been dreaming about her parents and woken up crying. She’d tried to muffle it with her pillow but Chloe’s room was right next door and the walls were kind of thin.

    “I just had a dream about Mom and Dad. It was just hard, that’s all.”

    Chloe nodded. “You know, I don’t know if I believe in heaven or anything, but I bet they’re together.”

    “Yeah, I think so too. My dad never really got over losing Mom.”

    “It was kind of hard for my dad too, when my mom walked out. At least, that’s what he told me happened.” She explained she didn’t really remember what had happened. All she knew was that her mother had left when she was eight. “I’ve sort of been looking for her, putting feelers out, but I haven’t found anything.”

    Lois bit her lip. She wondered if her cousin really should be opening up that particular can of worms. There had to have been a reason her mother had chosen to leave and not contact the family again. Maybe Chloe’s father knew where she was but was trying to protect his daughter. She wasn’t sure Chloe’s mission to find her mother was such a good idea; she might not like what she found.

    “I didn’t want to go to Dad’s funeral,” she confessed. “I hate funerals.”

    She knew part of it was because of her mother’s funeral. She’d cried until she couldn’t cry anymore and her father had just stood there stoically. He’d buried friends and fellow soldiers, but burying her mother had been the hardest.

    “Everybody hates funerals,” Chloe said.

    “Yeah, that’s what my dad used to say. Sometimes … I …” Her voice began breaking. Talking about it was difficult. It felt like only days had passed since she’d lost her father and she still expected to see him walking in the door. “Sometimes I hear him saying ‘buck up soldier. Don’t let anyone see you being weak’.”

    Chloe hugged her. “Lo, it’s not weakness to say you miss your dad. You might have had your problems, but I know he loved you.”

    “I miss him, Chlo.”

    Her cousin nodded. They sat in silence for a few minutes until Lois no longer felt like crying. Chloe lifted up a couple of movies and waved them with a cheesy grin.

    “So, what movie do you want to watch next?” Chloe asked. “Keanu, or Keanu?”

    Lois laughed. When her cousin was ten, she had admitted to having a huge crush on the actor Keanu Reeves.

    Glad they’d managed to clear the air a little, she settled down as Chloe put in one of the movies.

    They met up with Pete and Abby at the Beanery early the next afternoon. Lois hadn’t had a lot to do with Pete, since he had been busy practicing with the football team. She did remember he had had a bit of a quarrel with Chloe over the cheating article. In the argument, she’d also told him what the football players had done to Clark.

    To his credit, the teen refused to take sides over the issue. He had not been happy that Chloe had almost been hurt once more. Lois had the impression that Pete’s feelings went deeper than friendship, but her cousin only had eyes for Clark.

    Lois didn’t know what she was going to do about that. Clark had quietly confessed to her in one of their talks that he was steering well clear of the subject of dating. He had too much going on in his personal life to even consider asking a girl out.

    Clark came in just as they’d been served their drinks. He stopped by one of the armchairs where a dark-haired girl had been reading. She said something to him and he replied. Lois couldn’t hear what they were saying but it looked to be a fairly friendly conversation.

    “Oh no, here comes trouble.”

    While Clark had been talking to the girl, a blond guy in a letterman’s jacket came up behind him and shoved him. Clark turned around, frowning at the jock.

    “Who’s that?” Lois asked.

    She had met a few of the students but couldn’t remember if she’d actually met the guy.

    “That’s Whitney. Remember?” Her cousin frowned at her.

    She shook her head. Chloe sighed.

    “He’s Lana Lang’s boyfriend.”

    “And Lana is …”

    “The girl Clark was just talking to. Geez, keep up, cuz.”

    “Well, gee, sorry. Since Lana’s a freshman and I’m a sophomore, I don’t have a lot to do with her.”

    “I told you about her. She’s the girl whose parents were killed in the meteor shower.”

    Oh, right, Lois thought. She had forgotten about that. She glanced uneasily at her cousin as Whitney began pushing Clark around. The blond shoved him so hard Clark fell back into one of the servers, which caused her to drop the tray she’d been carrying.

    The manager hurried over. “All right, that does it. I’ve warned you boys before about fighting in here. Both of you. Out!”

    Lois and Chloe hurried over. “It wasn’t Clark’s fault,” Chloe told the manager.

    “I don’t care whose fault it was. I’m sick of you kids and your nonsense.” She glared at Clark and Whitney. “You heard what I said. Out! The same goes for the rest of you,” she added.

    “Wait a second. That’s not fair!” Lois returned. “Clark didn’t do anything!” She turned to look at Lana who had just stayed in her chair. The girl looked up at her, her almond-shaped eyes wide. “It’s your boyfriend who started it,” she told her. “Why didn’t you stop him?”

    Lana just looked worried and refused to say a word. Lois snorted in disgust.

    Clark had just huffed in defeat and walked out. The gang followed him in time to see Whitney trying to start another fight.

    “Hey jerk, you wanna act like a Neanderthal …”

    Whitney ignored her and resumed trying to shove Clark. “I told you to stay away from my girl! You’re delusional if you think she could ever be interested in someone like you!”

    “Lana was just asking me a question about the maths homework,” Clark replied. “If you don’t believe me, why don’t you go ask her? And anyway, I’m not interested in her and I never will be!”

    Whitney snorted in disbelief. “You’re a liar, Queen. You f*cking loser! You walk around this town like you think you’re better than anyone else. Like you think everyone should feel sorry for the little orphan boy. I bet your brother isn’t missing at all. I bet he just ran away so he wouldn’t have to look at your ugly face!”

    Lois saw Clark’s face and knew he was one step away from losing it completely. She looked at Chloe and together they got in-between the two boys before things could get any worse. Pete and Abby looked on helplessly.

    “You think you’re so clever, don’t you, Fordman?” Chloe said. “If anyone walks around this town like they own the place, it’s you.”

    “You’re an a*shole, Whitney!” Lois told him. “At least Clark doesn’t have to resort to childish bullying tactics!”

    The tow-headed boy lashed out but before his fist could connect with her face, she saw that Clark had blocked the blow, grabbing the boy’s fist with his hand. Lois could swear she heard a sharp crack.

    “You’ve got some real anger problems, Fordman!” he said. “Now get the f*ck out of here before I do something I’m gonna regret.”

    Whitney pulled away, his other hand cradling his fist. He turned and began walking away, stopping only to hoick and spit on the ground, his expression full of disdain.

    Chloe was staring at Clark. “Wow! I’ve never heard you say that before!” she said.

    He shrugged, looking a little embarrassed. “He had it coming.”

    Lois grinned and punched his shoulder. He shot her a look.

    “What was that for?” he asked.

    “You’re full of surprises, Smallville!”

    He cocked an eyebrow at her. “Smallville?”

    “Yeah. It kind of fits, don’t you think?”

    He chuckled. “Whatever works for you, Lane.”

    They began walking along the street, talking about where they were going to hang out for the rest of the day. Lois heard the sound of a sportscar engine and a Porsche pulled up alongside them.

    Not this again, she thought, as she recognised Lex Luthor. He leaned out of the window.

    “Clark!”

    The teen turned and looked at the bald man.

    “Lex?”

    “I was just over talking to the Kents,” Lex replied. “They need you at the farm.”

    Clark frowned. “What for?” he asked.

    “They got a call. Your brother’s been found.”

  7. #7
    Settling In New2smallville's Avatar
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    I have so many of your stories to catch up on now that I have some free time, just wanted to let you know it’s good to see a new one in the works.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by New2smallville View Post
    I have so many of your stories to catch up on now that I have some free time, just wanted to let you know it’s good to see a new one in the works.
    Thanks, yeah, I've had a few New chapter coming right up.

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    Chapter Seven

    Clark stared at Lex in disbelief, wondering if what the bald man had just told him was a hoax. It couldn’t be true, he thought. Could it?

    “Are you … are you sure?” he asked tentatively.

    “I was there when they got the call, Clark. They seemed fairly sure.”

    Chloe looked at him, her expression full of excitement. She was clearly already thinking of the story possibilities. Lois, on the other hand, was unreadable.

    “You should go,” she said quietly.

    She didn’t have to say it. He already knew what she was thinking. If there was ever a chance of seeing her parents again, she would jump at it.

    Abby and Pete also told him to go. He hesitated. He was normally allowed to drive the farm truck into town. Being a farm kid, driver licensing was different for him. However, today he’d decided to just run.

    Lex looked at him. “Jonathan said he’d dropped you off at the library a couple hours ago. Get in. I’ll drive you back to the farm.”

    “Uh, yeah, thanks
    Lex.” He glanced at his friends but they waved him away. Lois shot him a look that was half hopeful, although she seemed to be trying to contain her emotions.

    He sat beside Lex in the car, staring out the window. The other man drove reasonably fast.

    “I’ve been meaning to talk to you.”

    “About what?”

    “About your plans for the future. I guess it’s all moot if Oliver’s alive.”

    “We don’t know that for sure,” Clark said quietly. “Anyway, I have just as much say in the company as he does. That’s what this is about, isn’t it?”

    “Honestly? Yes. I was hoping to convince you to invest in a couple of business deals I’m researching. Nothing’s confirmed yet.”

    “Do these have something to do with the military?” Clark asked, remembering the conversation he’d had with Martha and Jonathan over a week ago.

    “The military?” Lex frowned at him. “What makes you think that?”

    “Well, you came on kind of strong with Lois. We thought you were only talking to her because of her dad’s connections.” Lex was silent for a moment but Clark noticed his gloved hands tightened a little on the steering wheel.

    “I’ll admit I did think about that, but she’s a very attractive girl. Is it beyond the realm of possibility that I might be interested in her for herself?”

    “She’s fifteen. Last time I checked you’re six years older than her.”

    “It’s not illegal to be friends with a fifteen-year-old, Clark.”

    “No, but that’s not how she read the situation.”

    “I’ll apologise for upsetting her, if that’s what you think I did, Clark.”

    “It’s not what I think that matters. It’s what Lois thinks. And you did upset her, Lex.”

    The bald man nodded. “Then I’ll apologise to her.”

    His tyres skidded on gravel as he turned sharply into the driveway.

    “You don’t need to go so fast,” Clark cautioned.

    “What’s the point of being rich if you’re just going to live life in the slow lane?” the man returned. The pointed barb hit home.

    “You saying I should be taking a leaf out of your book? No thanks. I’ll stick to the bus.”

    “Your loss.” The car came to a shuddering halt. Jonathan came out of the house, frowning at Lex. They got out of the car.

    “You think you left any rubber on those tyres, son?” the blond farmer asked Lex, who shrugged.

    Clark knew Lex was in for a lecture as Jonathan looked at him and nodded toward the house.

    “Go on in, Clark.” He put an arm around Lex’s shoulders. “Let’s have a little talk. Man-to-man.”

    “Uh oh,” Clark said, earning him a sharp look from his guardian and a withering look from the twenty-one-year-old. He went into the house.

    Martha was on the phone.

    “All right. The flight is at ten tonight. It’s the earliest we could get.” She looked up at his step and nodded before turning back to the phone. “Yes, I understand. Just tell him we’ll get there as soon as we can.”

    She hung up the phone and turned to him, making him sit down at the table. She gave him a glass of milk.

    “Is it true?” he asked.

    “Yes, sweetheart. It’s true.”

    “Where is he? Where’s he been all this time? Is he okay?”

    “One question at a time, sweetheart. Oliver is in a hospital in the Philippines. As for where he’s been all this time, I’m not completely sure.”

    “In a hospital? Is he sick?”

    “From what the doctors can determine it’s some kind of malaria-type virus. All I know is he collapsed shortly after they arrived in the Philippines.”

    “But … what’s he doing there? Why isn’t he here?” And who was ‘they’?

    “I don’t know, Clark. I’m sorry. Now, Earl is going to oversee the farm for a few days and we need you to take care of things here at the house.”

    He stared at her. He’d hoped he’d be able to go and help bring Oliver home, but it looked like that wasn’t going to happen.

    “I want to go with you,” he said.

    “I know, and I’m sorry, but you can’t. We couldn’t get you an emergency passport and your principal refused to even let you have one or two days off school. He said you have a history test coming up which is a third of your grade.”

    “But … that’s not fair! Ollie’s my brother!”

    Martha stood beside him. “I know, honey. We tried to arrange it, but we just couldn’t. I’m sorry.”

    Jonathan came back in, followed by Lex.

    “Martha, where’s that order of produce for Lex?”

    “It’s out back, honey. I’ll get it.” She turned and went out. Jonathan went to the counter.

    “How about some coffee, Lex?” he said. “Martha ordered this new coffee maker. Swear the damn thing looks like it could fly to the moon or something, but it makes some fine coffee.”

    Lex grinned. “Sure.” He turned to look at Clark and raised an eyebrow at the glass of milk. Clark stared back at him defensively. So he was drinking milk. He was fourteen for crying-out-loud!

    There was a series of noises coming from the coffee machine as Jonathan worked. He let out a curse a couple of times, causing Lex to duck his head to hide a smirk. The noises stopped and he looked up again.

    “Oh, I forgot. There’s a charity gala at the Metropolis Museum in January. You might want to put that in your calendar.” The bald man rolled his eyes. “It’s in the Luthor wing.”

    Lex had always viewed his father’s over-indulgences with a dose of cynicism. He often said it was pretentious and rather pointless. It was well-known that Lionel Luthor was not liked among the rest of Metropolis society.

    “I think the less said about that, the better,” Jonathan replied, handing Lex a cup of coffee. “Try that.”

    Lex sipped it. “You’re right. That is great coffee.”

    Martha returned from outside. “Lex, I left the crate by your car. Is there anything else you need, honey?”

    “No. I’m fine. How long do you think you’ll be gone?”

    Martha shook her head, her red hair brushing her shoulders.

    “We’re not sure. It depends on how bad Oliver is, I guess.”

    “We hope we can get him home within a couple of days, even if we have to get him transferred to Metropolis General.”

    “I can keep an eye on things here,” Lex offered.

    “I don’t need a babysitter,” Clark interjected crossly. “I’m fourteen, not four.”

    Jonathan grinned at him. “Just don’t go having any wild parties while we’re away,” he said. He turned to Lex. “That goes double for you, son. We wouldn’t want you to be a bad influence on Clark.”

    “Me?” Lex tried to look innocent. “Perish the thought.”

    The blond man laughed. “Yeah, don’t think we don’t know about all those parties while you were at Met U, young man.”

    Lex looked crestfallen. “My reputation precedes me. I’m doomed.” He laughed to show he meant no offence.

    Jonathan wrapped an arm around the slighter man’s shoulders and gave him a gentle squeeze. “Like I said out by the car. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

    Clark wondered why the couple chose to be so nice to Lex when there were times when he wasn’t sure he could trust the man. He didn’t know if Lex knew anything about the ‘society’ Lionel had been involved in with Virgil Swann and his father.

    He hadn’t contacted the billionaire philanthropist, unsure if he wanted to hear the whole story. His guardians hadn’t pushed him into doing so either.

    After Lex had left, he asked them about their approach with the bald man.

    “Sometimes it’s better to take the high road,” Jonathan told him. “If we treat Lex with civility, we may be able to at least provide a little guidance for him and perhaps prevent him from getting too curious about you. Or why your parents chose for you to raised by us.”

    Martha nodded. “Robert told me he was worried about the way Lionel was treating Lex. The man strikes me as rather cold and overbearing. Lex may be learning some harsh lessons from his father.”

    Clark realised that in being so friendly with the younger man, they were trying to counter Lionel’s treatment of his son. Of course, the purpose was twofold. If Lex was able to trust them, he might eventually inform them if Lionel was doing something underhanded which would impact Clark’s welfare.

    “Now, Clark, are you sure you’re going to be okay on your own?” Martha asked. “There are a few casseroles in the freezer you could heat up.”

    “I’ll just order pizza,” he said.

    “No, you won’t,” she admonished. She turned to Jonathan. “Maybe I should just …”

    “Sweetheart, he’ll be fine. Won’t you Clark?” Clark nodded and smiled. Jonathan took his wife’s hand. “We need to go pack if we’re going to get to Metropolis in time for check-in.”

    “Right.”

    The couple went upstairs, leaving Clark on his own. He finished his drink and rinsed out the glass, staring out through the windows at the back fields. He hoped Oliver was okay. Part of him was excited about his brother coming home but another part was a little nervous. Where had Oliver been for three years? What had he been doing? Had he just run away or had something more sinister happened? Would he have changed from his experience? Would they still be brothers or would his brother now be a total stranger to him?

  10. #10
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    a/n: I opted for a more realistic approach to Oliver's return.

    Chapter Eight

    Oliver shifted in the bed. He felt like the time he’d had the flu, his whole body aching all over. No matter what he tried, he just couldn’t get comfortable.

    When he was five, he’d had his tonsils taken out. Even then, he could remember, the hospital bed had not been the most comfortable. Despite
    him being in one of the best hospitals in the entire state. The bed he was currently in was just as bad.

    What was worse was the moments when he’d break out into a sweat, pushing the blankets off, only to be shivering a minute later. The sheets didn’t help. The cotton was coarse and felt like sandpaper against his skin.

    Obviously
    a hospital in an island nation like the Philippines wasn’t going to have access to the same kind of healthcare they had in the U.S. Not that that was anything to write home about. Still, he had to be grateful. Three years stuck on an island, bitten by mosquitoes until his skin was covered in welts; skin that was already raw and blistered from constant exposure to a hot sun. There were definitely worse things.

    He rolled onto his side, but even that didn’t help. Filipinos were apparently much shorter than him and the bed had not been designed for someone who was six foot three, he decided. He rolled over again and sat on the edge of the bed, his hand on the nightstand to support himself as he slowly got to his feet.

    Not slow enough, he thought as the room swam before him. Oliver had been drunk a few times and this felt exactly like one of those times. Bad idea, he thought. Very bad idea
    .The vertigo, if that was what it was, made him feel dizzy. Like the time a kid he knew had challenged him to spin in a circle, faster and faster until they both fell. Of course, then the kid had begun breathing really heavily and his father had yelled at him for his stupidity.

    “Whoa, what are you doing?”

    He looked up, squinting at the woman in front of him. She had a hand on his shoulder, barely keeping him from pitching face first onto the hard wooden floor. She was shorter than him by about half
    a head, but at that moment, far stronger.

    He searched for an answer but nothing came to mind.

    “Never mind,” she said. “Let’s get you back on the bed.”

    He felt
    himself lowered back on the bed, the woman’s touch gentle as she helped him get more comfortable. She began wiping his face with a damp rag.

    “You’d make a good nurse,” he said. “You know what they say about nurse-patient relationships.”

    “Now I know you’re delirious,” she said.

    He blinked at her, his vision still blurry. She leaned over and picked up something from the nightstand, then held a glass in front of him.

    “You need to drink more fluids,” she told him. “You’re dehydrated.”

    He obeyed, letting her hold the glass so he could sip using the straw.

    “Your parents should be landing in about half an hour,” she said casually.

    He frowned. His parents? But his parents were dead. He
    should know, since he’d found their bodies, or what was left of them on the … on the … he couldn’t remember.

    “It’s the fever. He’s been in and out for days.”

    He blinked and tried to sit up, hearing the rumble of a man’s voice in reply to the woman. They
    were distant, as if they were across the room. Hadn’t she just been at his side?

    “Sweetheart?”

    “Mom?” he said weakly.

    “No, baby, it’s Martha. Tess called us when you were admitted.”

    “Admitted where?”

    “You’re in a hospital in Manila, son.”

    Oliver frowned and stared at the blond man, trying to think of his name.

    “It’s Jonathan. Do you remember what happened?”

    He shook his head. The last thing he remembered was boarding the yacht, the Queen’s Gambit, partying with his friends before deciding to take the yacht on a cruise, thinking he could handle it by himself. How had he gotten from Metropolis to the Philippines?

    The voices faded. He dreamed of being washed ashore on a small island, his yacht having been taken over by pirates. At least he assumed that’s what they were. They’d beaten him before leaving him for dead. He’d managed to stay conscious long enough to drag himself overboard just as the yacht exploded, debris falling all around him.

    The cold water of the Pacific and the fear of the possibility of sharks in the murky depths kept him from going under. He’d hung onto a broken board, using it to keep him afloat. He’d drifted for a day and a half before the tide had washed him ashore.

    Hunger had aroused him from sleep and he’d gone in search of food. His efforts to catch a wild boar had gone in vain. Unable to stomach the thought of eating one of the many grubs, he managed to fashion a bow and arrow, his
    belly aching with hunger. It took him a few tries but he was able to catch a wild animal and cook it.

    When he was fourteen and his little brother had been almost eight, Jonathan had taken them camping. The farmer had taught them not only how to catch fish, but to clean it, then cook it. Oliver called on those skills to hunt for game.

    He held little hope of being rescued as the days passed and spent the time honing the archery skills his father had taught him.

    He’d been on the island probably a week when he heard voices. Wondering if he was about to be rescued, he followed the sound, only to discover there was a primitive tribe living on the island. They jabbered at him in their own language. With much difficulty, he did his best to communicate using a rudimentary sign language.

    During the weeks that followed, he began exploring the island. One day, while walking the south end of the island, he spotted debris from either a shipwreck or a downed plane. As he neared the site, he saw something which made him recoil in horror. It was a piece of fabric with a name on it. Queen Industries.

    He explored further and found two bodies. They were mostly skeletons, covered in rags, but he saw enough to conclude they were the bodies of Robert and Laura Queen. Oliver fell to his knees, sobbing for what might have been.

    He buried them in a shallow grave.

    He had no idea how much time had passed when he returned to his shelter after a successful hunt to hear voices speaking English. He ducked down into the bushes, watching through the foliage as a redheaded woman was threatened by a dark-skinned man.

    Oliver soon realised the man and his companions were drug smugglers and the woman was their hostage. A body of another girl lay near the shelter. The smugglers had obviously killed her as a lesson to the woman.

    Thinking quickly, he gathered his weapon and ran to another part of the island where he could look down on the shelter. The men, having obviously realised someone had been living there, were waiting for him to return. Oliver came up with a plan, waiting and watching for his chance.

    The dark-skinned man, clearly the leader of the trio, sent one of his men off with a rifle. He picked up his own rifle and began walking off in the opposite direction. Oliver moved swiftly, firing off an arrow to hit the one remaining man left guarding the woman. The arrow didn’t pierce
    anything vital, but was enough to knock the man down.

    The redhead, startled, stared at him as he ran toward her.

    “Who are you?” she said.

    “Oliver. Come on.”

    “I can’t just …”

    “They’ll kill you if you stay.”

    Knowing he would never get another chance to get off the island, he found the smugglers’ boat. Together he and Tess – she had told him her name as they were running for the shore – stranded the two smugglers.

    Tess had convinced him to alert the authorities of the drug smuggling. Knowing little about navigation, he left it to her to find a location where they could get help.

    “That was when I got sick,” he said.

    Martha was sitting on a chair beside his bed, where she’d been off and on for the two days since they’d arrived. She looked at Tess.

    “Well, thank goodness you knew what to do,” she said.

    The young redhead nodded. Oliver didn’t know how old she was but guessed she was about a year or two younger than him.

    Oliver’s fever had finally broken around midnight the night before and he was feeling better than he had in a long while. The doctors had told him that it sometimes happened that a patient could contract malaria and appear to recover, only to relapse. They surmised that was what had happened to him.

    His chest still bore scars from injuries he’d suffered while on the island. Without proper medical attention, the wounds had not healed well, leaving him with ragged scars. He didn’t really care, preferring to see them as a mark of his survival.

    His blond hair was down past his shoulders. His jaw was covered by a long beard which he couldn’t wait to shave off. When he could get out of the hospital, the first thing he was going to ask for was a pair of scissors and a razor.

    Jonathan came in. “I’ve just been talking to the doctor,” he said. “If you continue to improve over the next twenty-four hours, he thinks we’ll be able to take you home.”

    Home, Oliver thought. Maybe Smallville wasn’t Star City, but at least he had people who loved him. And his little brother. God, what he must have gone through, not knowing what had happened.

    “Clark,” he said.

    Martha nodded. “He took it hard when you disappeared. He’ll be so happy to know you’re going to be okay.”

    Oliver nodded and bit his lip. “I … Before I left, I … said some things.”

    Martha cupped his cheek. “We know you didn’t mean it, sweetheart.”

    There had been plenty of times on the island where he’d thought about his parents and what they would have said about his attitude. His mother wouldn’t have asked Martha and Jonathan to be his guardians without a good reason. While it had been mostly about protecting his little brother, he knew she wanted him to have a loving and stable home.

    He’d been such a spoiled brat. He’d often refused to do chores and acted like everything that was asked of him was a burden. Compared to everything he’d gone through the past three years, there was nothing they’d asked of him that deserved his attitude.

    “I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m so sorry for everything I did. I acted like a spoiled brat
    and I …”

    His guardians wrapped their arms around him. Oliver had never been the type of guy to cry at the drop of a hat but he found himself sobbing in their embrace.

    Tess looked on, clearly worried, but relieved at the same time.

    A day later, Oliver sat with the girl, waiting for Martha to bring him some clothes. Not knowing what they would find once they got to the hospital, they hadn’t thought to pack anything for him. Not that his clothes would have fitted him now, he thought. He’d lost quite a bit of weight in three years. He’d always been athletic but now his body was lean and more muscular.

    “So I guess you’ll be going home,” she said.

    He looked at her. “You’re coming with us, though, right?”

    She bit her lip. “I don’t know. I mean, they’re your family. I’d just be in the way.”

    “You’re not in my way, Tess. If it hadn’t been for you, I might not have lived to tell the tale.”

    She shook her head. “I don’t believe that. You’re a survivor, Ollie.”

    “So are you,” he said.

    Her blue eyes dimmed for a moment. He wondered what that was about. The few days they’d been on the boat together, she had never talked about her own past. All he knew about her was that she was a marine biologist who had been doing research when the drug smugglers had attacked the party and kidnapped her and her roommate.

    He didn’t have the opportunity to ask her about it. The Kents came in with the clothes.

    “Here you go, honey,” Martha said, handing him a pair of jeans and a couple of shirts. “The hospital gave us the papers and we have your emergency passports and your travel papers.”

    Oliver didn’t miss the passports, plural. Neither did Tess.

    “You said passports?” she asked. “I …”

    “Well, we couldn’t exactly leave you stranded here, now could we? Not after what you did for Ollie.”

    Oliver smiled at her. He was planning on asking her out when he got back home. Of course, that all depended on whether she decided to stay or go back to work at the lab.
    It was another day and a half before they arrived back in Smallville. While they had been using the Queen Industries jet to fly between the States to the Philippines, it hadn’t been a direct flight. They’d had to fly to Topeka International Airport and there had been a delay through customs checks.

    Tess had opted to stay with them for a couple of days. Jonathan drove the four of them down from Metropolis. Oliver stared out the window as the car passed the sign letting them know they were in Smallville.

    “Can we stop by the high school?” he asked.

    Martha turned and frowned at him. “Why the high school, sweetie?”

    “It’s Friday, right? Clark will be in class?”

    “He’ll probably be at the Torch,” Jonathan told him, saying at that time of the day he had a study period where the students had to work on electives. “Can’t wait to see your little brother?”

    “No
    sir.”

    “Are you sure you’re up to it?” Martha asked, sounding a little worried.

    “I feel fine, Mom,” he said, not realising what he’d said. “I’m tired, but that’s just jet lag. I just … I really want to see Clark.”

    He’d missed his brother. More than even his guardians. Sure, when he’d been younger the kid had been a pain in the ass, but it had been kind of nice as well, having someone who looked up to him.

    Jonathan elected to go with him, to reassure Martha that he wasn’t going to collapse in the middle of the hallway. The last time he’d been at the school, the newspaper office had been little bigger than a broom closet. Now, apparently due to a fire, it had been set up in a disused classroom.

    Other kids were hanging around in the corridor as he walked the familiar hallway. He paused now and again to gaze at photos or notices on the board, ignoring the stares from the kids. Most of them probably didn’t know who he was, and that was perfectly fine with him. He wasn’t here for them.

    A girl with
    short hair cut in a
    flippy sort of style was sitting at the computer when he knocked on the office door. Another girl with slightly darker blonde hair and glasses was stretched out on a couch on the far wall, reading from a book.

    “You can leave it at the door,” the girl at the computer said, not looking up.

    “Excuse me?”

    “If you’re leaving a letter vilifying the editor …”

    “Sorry, I’m looking for Clark.”

    She lifted her head and stared, her eyes widening. “Oh! Oh my god! You’re …”

    “Oliver?”

    He turned. Clark was standing about twenty feet away, staring at him. He’d obviously gone to get something from the snack machine as a can and a couple of candy bars were now at his feet.

    Before Oliver could move, Clark ran toward him, flinging his arms around him. Jonathan stood back, chuckling at this enthusiastic reunion as Oliver staggered under his brother’s weight. The kid clearly had forgotten to hold back on his strength.

    The last time Oliver had seen his little brother, Clark had been at least a foot and a half shorter. Now they were almost the same height.

    “Damn, kid. When did you get so tall?”

    Clark spoke, but whatever he said was muffled against his brother’s shoulder. Other kids were staring at them.

    As much as Oliver had looked forward to this reunion, he was beginning to feel the effects of the jet lag. Jonathan must have noticed as he gently laid a hand on Clark’s shoulder.

    “Might want to take it easy there, son. We only just got back and Oliver’s still recovering.”

    “How about we take this inside?” Oliver suggested, guiding his brother into the Torch office.

  11. #11
    Settling In Sykobee's Avatar
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    💗💗 Well done. Even got a little misty-eyed. Wonder about the Tess impact/roll long-term but lived the way the brothers respond to each other and the feel of the rescue-return-reunion overall.
    Thanks again.

  12. #12
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sykobee View Post
     Well done. Even got a little misty-eyed. Wonder about the Tess impact/roll long-term but lived the way the brothers respond to each other and the feel of the rescue-return-reunion overall.
    Thanks again.
    Thanks. I'm glad you managed to catch up. As for the reunion, it isn't all going to be sweet. Let's just say that it doesn't quite meet Clark's expectations, which aren't really all that fair.

  13. #13
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    Chapter Nine

    Clark had been too busy to miss the Kents that week. He and the rest of the gang had had to investigate another meteor-infected person. Tina Greer had been born with soft-bone disease and at some point she was given treatment which involved meteor rock. None of them had known it but she had gained the ability to shapeshift.

    Envious of others, especially Lana Lang, who appeared to have the ‘perfect life’, Tina had decided to use Lex Luthor’s form to rob the Smallville Savings and Loan. Clark had been in town when the robbery had occurred and thanks to a new power, had figured out the Lex Luthor he was seeing wasn’t the real Lex.

    Fortunately for the twenty-one-year-old, he’d been at a meeting, speaking in front of around two
    hundred witnesses.

    The Losers Club quickly figured out who was really responsible. Abby had acted as lookout, to warn Clark when Tina was getting close while he investigated her locker. Lois and Chloe had done some digging themselves and learned the antique shop Tina’s mother had owned had been in serious financial trouble.

    They quickly realised that Tina was obsessed with Lana and planned to take her place. Using Whitney’s form, she had lured the brunette to the cemetery and left her in a tomb to suffocate. Clark had gone after Tina and stopped her in time, saving Lana’s life in the process.

    The biggest surprise had been Whitney. Clark had been coming out of English with Chloe and Abby when the blond jock intercepted him.

    “What do you want?” Chloe said tersely.

    “I just want to talk to Clark,” he said.

    Clark stared at him. For once the boy’s face didn’t have its customary sneer. He looked at the girls.

    “I’ll meet you at the Torch,” he told them. Abby looked at him, obviously worried, but he shook his head. He waited until the girls had walked away before confronting the senior.

    “What do you want, Whitney?”

    “Look, I … I need to apologise for the other day. I acted like a jerk. Lana set me straight on a few things and told me if I didn’t apologise she was going to break up with me. The thing is, you saved her, when you didn’t have to, and I …” He heaved a sigh. “Anyway, I’m sorry for being such a jerk, and for you know, the scarecrow thing.”

    Clark wanted to doubt the older boy’s sincerity, but he did seem genuinely remorseful. While the girls had been furious that Lana hadn’t lifted a finger to do anything to stop her boyfriend, Clark had wondered whether she had just been so shocked at his behaviour that she didn’t know what to do. The young brunette had obviously never witnessed Whitney’s bullying.

    He accepted the older boy’s apology and let him go. They would never be friends and he wasn’t going to hold his breath that the bullying would stop, but at least he’d got an apology.

    He decided to detour to the vending machine to grab a couple of candy bars for the girls and a soda for himself. As he rounded the corner and headed down the corridor toward the Torch office, he spotted Jonathan. He stared. Standing in the doorway of the old classroom was his brother.

    Clark dropped what he was holding. “Oliver?”

    He ran to his brother, flinging his arms around the blond. Oliver staggered back but kept his balance.

    “Damn kid! When did you get so tall?”

    “Last summer,” he began to say but his words came out muffled.

    He felt a gentle hand on his shoulder and Jonathan spoke.

    “Might want to take it easy there, son. We only just got back and Oliver’s still recovering.”

    Clark looked at his brother. Oliver had dark circles under his eyes and was clearly not fully recovered from whatever had put him in the hospital.

    “How about we take this inside?”

    Clark nodded at his brother’s suggestion and let himself be guided into the Torch office. Chloe and Abby were staring at them.

    “Uh, this is Chloe and you remember Abby,” Clark said quietly.

    Chloe was the first to break the ice. “Hi. Chloe Sullivan,” she said, shaking Oliver’s hand. “I’m the editor of the Torch.”

    “Right,” Oliver said. He turned to look at Clark, raising an eyebrow.

    “Mr Queen,” Abby said quietly. “Welcome home.”

    “Thank you.”

    Clark smiled at his friend. Abby was shy and didn’t say much but when she did, it was often something very profound or what everyone else was thinking but didn’t have the courage to say.

    They had barely sat down when Whitney appeared in the doorway. Clark stared at him, puzzled. The blond jock had never been in the newspaper office before.

    “Uh, I thought you should know. There’s a reporter sniffing around school. He …” Whitney stared. “Oh! Wow! No wonder. Hey, Oliver. Man, we didn’t know what happened to you.”

    “Fordman,” Oliver said coolly. Clark didn’t know if his brother knew about Whitney’s bullying but his manner suggested they had never been exactly friendly.

    Clark saw his brother wipe a hand over his eyes and sway almost as if drunk. Jonathan noticed it as well.

    “We should get you home so you can rest,” he said, helping Oliver get to his feet.

    Clark wanted to skip the rest of his classes and go with them. He looked at Chloe, who frowned.

    “You better get me an exclusive to your brother’s story, Queen,” she said.

    As much as he cared about his friend, he thought it was a bit presumptuous of her to demand an exclusive. Their lives had been a media circus before when Oliver hadn’t returned on the yacht. He had no desire for the same thing to happen all over again.

    He shot her a glare and shook his head. They would talk about this later.

    Jonathan led Oliver out. Clark followed them, wondering why Whitney was also following behind. No sooner had they stepped outside the building when they were intercepted by a balding man in a grey suit. He thrust a recorder in Oliver’s face.

    “Roger Nixon, Metropolis Inquisitor.”

    “Told you,” Whitney said quietly. “Hey, why don’t you back off and leave them alone?” he told the reporter.

    “What’s a reporter from the Inquisitor doing out here?” Clark asked.

    Nixon scoffed but didn’t answer. “How about an interview, Mr Queen?”

    “If you don’t mind,” Jonathan said, “Mr Queen has just come off a very long flight and he’s exhausted. As for your interview, Mr Nixon, your paper would be the last one we would grant an interview to.”

    “You have to admit this is newsworthy, Mr Kent.”

    Principal Kwan appeared. He still had bandages on his hands from the burns he’d received when his car had caught fire.

    “I’ve already warned you, Mr Nixon. You are trespassing. Now leave before I call the sheriff.”

    “You can’t …”

    “I can!” Kwan already had a cellphone in his hand and was dialling.

    Whitney nudged Clark and nodded toward the reporter. Together they approached the man, standing over him in an effort to intimidate him. Nixon backed up and they stepped forward. The man sneered at them.

    “You can try to intimidate me all you like, boys, but you can’t stop me.”

    Martha approached, taking Oliver’s arm. “Come on, honey. Let’s get you home.” She guided him toward the car.

    “If you don’t leave, Mr Nixon, I will be putting in a call to your editor,” Jonathan said, glaring at the shorter man.

    “Is that a threat?”

    “Don’t even try it,” Whitney told him. “Get out of here!”

    Clark watched as his brother got in the car. Jonathan got into the driver’s seat. He frowned at the young redhead sitting beside Oliver but figured he would soon find out what the story was.

    Nixon was forced to step back or be run over by the car as Jonathan reversed out of the park and drove off. He turned and sneered once more at Clark.

    “You haven’t seen the last of me,” he said.

    Clark rolled his eyes, watching as the reporter walked away.

    “A*shole!” Whitney said.

    Clark looked at him. “Thanks for your help,” he said.

    The jock shrugged. “No problem. See ya, Clark.” He started to walk away, then turned to look at him. “I’m happy for you. I mean, with your brother and everything.”

    Sighing, Clark turned to go back into school, but Principal Kwan stopped him.

    “I think it’s best if you go home. I doubt it will be long before the news media gets hold of this.” Clark nodded. “Do you need a ride?” the man asked.

    “No. It’s cool. Thanks Mr Kwan.”

    He went back to the Torch office. Chloe and Abby immediately began asking questions, but he shook his head, picking up his bag.

    “Mr Kwan is sending me home for the rest of the day. That reporter might have already told someone else that Oliver’s back.”

    “You’ll still give me first dibs though, right?” Chloe said.

    He frowned at her. “Come on, Chloe! That’s not fair! For starters, he only just got home. Can’t you leave him alone for five minutes?”

    “But …”

    Abby touched her arm. “He’s right, Chloe. You practically ambushed him the moment he got here.”

    “Well … you know a story like this will …”

    Clark didn’t want to hear it. “Chloe, I get this is a big story for you, but back off, okay?”

    He turned and walked out, bumping into Lois. “Hey,” he said.

    “Hey. Is everything okay?”

    “Yeah. I’ll let Chloe explain it. I gotta get home.”

    He ran at half-speed, figuring the girl with Oliver would start asking too many questions if he showed up at the farmhouse before they even arrived. Even at that speed, it still took him only a minute or two. He hung back, waiting out of sight until he estimated enough time had passed so it could look like he’d been dropped off.

    Oliver was sitting on the couch next to the redhead, drinking Martha’s homemade lemonade when he entered the house.

    Jonathan frowned at him. “Clark?”

    “Principal Kwan suggested I leave school early,” he said. “I guess he was worried about the media surrounding the school.”

    Oliver sighed. “Sorry, I wanted to stop by the school. That was a dumb idea.”

    “No, it wasn’t, sweetie,” Martha said, coming into the room with a cup of coffee for herself and Jonathan. “You wanted to see your brother.”

    The girl nudged Oliver and he looked at her. “Oh,” he said. “Um, Tess Mercer, this is my little brother. Clark, this is Tess.”

    “Hello,” Clark said, feeling more than a little awkward. He wanted to be excited that his brother had returned, but everything felt so strained, he didn’t really know what to say. “So, what happened?”

    “Son, Oliver’s very tired so I think it can wait.”

    “I promise, Clark. I will tell you everything once I’ve had a chance to settle in some.”

    Clark nodded. He didn’t want to pester his brother. It was not that they’d had a bad relationship before Oliver had disappeared, but it hadn’t been ideal either. They had three years of catching up to do. It was nothing that couldn’t wait a few hours.

    The strain and awkwardness continued through dinner. It should have been a happy occasion, but everyone appeared too tired to make even casual conversation. Clark fidgeted the whole time, nervous energy causing him to shift in his chair.

    Martha had called the local restaurant and had food delivered, a sure sign she too was exhausted. The older woman was adamant there should always be wholesome, good food on the table, so ordering takeout was a rare occurrence.

    Oliver could barely hold his fork, his own exhaustion clear in the trembling of his hands. He was pale and wan.

    “Are you all right, sweetie?” Martha asked.

    “I’m just feeling really tired,” he said. “I’m fine, Mom. I probably just need a good night’s sleep.”

    ‘Mom’? Since when did he call Martha ‘Mom’? Clark thought. He’d never done that before.

    His brother had definitely changed. The question was, just how much had he changed?

    Clark put down his fork and pushed his plate away.

    “I’m done,” he said. “I’m gonna go out and do some homework.”

    He left the house and went out to the barn, wondering why not even Jonathan had said anything about the abrupt way he’d left the table. Or the fact that he didn’t even bother to clear the dishes, since that was usually his job after dinner.

    He did his chores at normal human speed, occasionally looking over toward the house. The lights went on upstairs not long after he’d left but the porch light was left on. It wasn’t even seven o’clock, he saw from the clock on the desk.

    Not wanting to disturb anyone in the house, he stayed up in the loft, reading until midnight, before deciding to sleep on the couch with just a rug for cover.

  14. #14
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Ten

    Lois watched Clark working as he cleaned out the stalls. She might not have known him for very long but she could tell when he was brooding. He had a distant look on his face, as if he was thinking about something yet doing his work almost automatically.

    She wondered why he was working when he could be spending time with his brother. Unless the reunion hadn’t gone as he’d hoped.

    She hadn’t known the Kents were back until she’d stepped into the Torch office just as Clark was leaving the day before. She’d looked at her cousin.

    “What was that all about?” she asked.

    “There was a reporter here,” Abby answered instead of Chloe. “Well, that’s what Whitney told us.”

    “Wait. Jock Boy came to warn you about a reporter?” she asked. “What’s up with him?”

    The girls shrugged. Chloe was sitting at her computer looking a little miffed.

    “Oliver was here,” she said.

    Lois stared at her cousin. “Here? As in here at the school? Physically here?”

    “No, Lois. He astral-projected!” Lois rolled her eyes.

    “I meant …”

    “I know what you meant!” Chloe snapped. Abby shot her a look. Lois looked at the other girl, raising an eyebrow.

    “What’s that all about?”

    “Clark sort of told her off because she wanted him to give her the exclusive on his brother.”

    Lois bit her lip. On the one hand, it was a pretty big story, but on the other, she could understand Clark being upset about Chloe wanting an interview. As much as she loved her cousin, the blonde could be single-minded to the point of being obsessive when it came to her journalism career. Getting an exclusive interview with the prodigal brother, so-to-speak, would be a career-changer, but her cousin had to realise that this wasn’t just about some stranger. This was her best friend’s brother.

    “Chlo, I get it,” she said gently, “but maybe you need to put yourself in Clark’s shoes. He lost almost everything. To have his brother back from the dead would be tough enough to deal with. Demanding an interview on top of that …”

    Her cousin adopted a guilty look. “I know,” she said, sighing. “Clark accuses me sometimes of forgetting everything else in my relentless pursuit of the story, and he’s right. It’s not that I’m unfeeling, or that I don’t know what he’s gone through, I just …”

    “You just can’t help but think what a story like this will do for your prospective career.” Lois put an arm around Chloe, squeezing a little. “Maybe you just need to give him a little time to adjust.”

    “You’re right, you’re right, I know you’re right.” She grinned.

    Lois laughed at her. They’d decided to watch a romantic comedy the other night, after they’d got bored of Keanu. Not that she really liked rom-coms that much, but her mother had loved it.

    After school was over, she managed to talk her cousin down from going to visit the Kents, saying they were probably jet-lagged and wouldn’t be up to visitors. Uncle Gabe went out for his usual poker night, leaving them to watch movies.

    Chloe was quiet for most of the night, although it was obvious her mind was not on the movies.

    “Do you think I’m, you know …”

    “Sorry, Chlo. I don’t speak psychic.” Or telepathic, she thought. Whichever.

    “Well, I mean, I guess I didn’t think, you know, about how Clark was feeling.”

    “Are you asking if he had a right to be upset with you?”

    “Well, yeah, kind of.”

    She looked at her cousin. “Chlo, I’m gonna tell you something that I haven’t really told anyone. After my dad’s accident, me and Lucy were in the hospital. He was just laying there in a coma and we were praying he’d wake up. Anyway, we’d been there just about round the clock. We were tired and afraid that if we left his side for one moment, he might wake up and find us not there.”

    Deciding they both needed something to at least wake them up, Lois had left her sister to get coffees from the hospital café. As she’d headed down the corridor, she’d been ambushed by a man with a camera. He’d identified himself as a reporter from the local paper and asked her about the general’s condition.

    She had refused to comment and asked him to leave her alone. The man continued to pursue her as she walked quickly down the corridor, frantically looking for the MPs who were supposed to have been guarding the room.

    Luckily, they’d only been a few yards away and made the reporter leave. A few days later, the man had tried again, this time at her father’s funeral. Even Lucy had been outraged at the man’s audacity.

    “Can’t you see we just buried our father?” she asked, tears streaming down her face, making her mascara run. She was only thirteen, but tried to look older to fit in with many of her boarding school classmates.

    Chloe was stunned when she finished telling her story.

    “Oh my god, Lo. I’m so sorry that happened to you!” She shifted closer and wrapped her arms around Lois. They hugged for what seemed like ages.

    Chloe lifted her head and looked at her. “Promise me something.”

    Lois canted her head as she studied her cousin.

    “Well, I don’t know if I can promise something without knowing what it is first.”

    The blonde chuckled. “Yeah, guess I stepped into that one. Just promise me that if I ever get like that guy, you’ll tell me.”

    “Chlo …”

    “No, I mean it. I don’t want to be the kind of reporter that only cares about getting the story and nothing else. Especially at times like that.”

    She could see her cousin meant it. If anything good came out of what had happened that day, it would be that Chloe would learn that there were times when it was inappropriate to expect someone to just drop everything for an interview.

    The next morning, Chloe had decided to go into school and work on the next edition of the paper. She took her own car to the school. Lois had been allowed to drive her uncle’s car so she drove to the Kent farm, wanting to get Clark’s side of things. The house had been quiet but when she’d checked the barn she’d found Clark.

    “So, when’s the party?” she asked as Clark paused in his work. He turned and looked at her.

    “What party?”

    “The welcome home party for your brother.”

    He scowled, which made her think she was right about things not going as he’d hoped. He flung the fork he’d been using away.

    “Unless you’ve come here to help with the chores, Lois, I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

    She approached him cautiously. Clark was angry about something and this required gentle handling. She’d worked on a horse ranch the summer she was twelve and had watched one of the handlers working with a horse which had bolted in fright, just about breaking down one of the fences. He’d eased the animal’s fear by talking softly to it and approaching it slowly.

    Not that Clark was a horse, but she figured the same idea could work.

    “You’re upset,” she said.

    He glowered at her and turned away, stomping up the stairs to the loft. She followed him, standing on the last step as he flopped down on the couch.

    “I know what this is about,” she said. “It’s not quite how you imagined it, is it?”

    He shrugged, refusing to comment.

    “You got this picture in your head, maybe played it over and over. It would be so perfect. Your brother would be the same guy who left three years ago and he’d be out playing ball with you, doing all the big brother things he used to do. But it didn’t happen like that.”

    “What would you know?” he said sullenly, but his reaction suggested she was very close.

    “Maybe I don’t really know what you thought would happen, but I know how it would have felt for me. My mom would still be alive and I would come home to find her making a mess in the kitchen and my dad would come in from work and she would tease him about something and I’d just watch them dance around the kitchen.” She sighed softly. It would have been just like it was when she was little. Maybe she embellished it in her memory, but it didn’t matter. They would have had the perfect family.

    Clark shifted on the couch, the tension appearing to leave. She moved closer and sat down beside him.

    “I guess I just … I wanted him back. I wanted it all back. The way things were before he left.”

    Lois nodded. Clark had told her that Oliver had been sullen, especially toward the Kents, but he’d never acted that way toward his brother.

    “So, what happened? Last night, I mean.”

    “It was like I didn’t know what to say to him. Plus, he had his girlfriend with him. Well, I mean, I don’t know if she’s actually his girlfriend. He met her on the island where he got stranded. And he barely talked to me.”

    “You said he was in the Philippines, right?”

    “Yes.”

    “Um, I’ve been there. My dad took me there when I was about ten. It was some army thing. It’s a really long way away, even on military transport. Almost a whole day.”

    “So what are you saying?”

    “Just that he might have been really tired and stuff. If he was sick in a hospital, well, it’s not like he could just get over that in a day.”

    Clark bit his lip. “Yeah, I guess I never really thought of it that way.”

    “And here I thought you were just avoiding me,” a voice said from the stairs. Lois turned and looked at the man standing there.

    Good-looking was not the word. The man was hot! Tall with blond locks and brown eyes. Even pale, with dark circles under his eyes, he was very attractive. Not that Clark wasn’t. Hell, if she hadn’t known Clark was adopted, she would have wondered if it was in the genes. It was insane how both brothers could be so good-looking.

    Clark stood up abruptly. “Oliver, um, this is Lois.”

    “Hello, Lois. It’s nice to meet you.”

    “Hello. Um, how are you?” she asked politely.

    “Well, as you rightly pointed out a minute ago, I’m still recovering.” He looked at Clark. “Martha wants us both in the house. Apparently the news is out that I’m home.”

    “Nixon?” Clark asked. Oliver shrugged.

    “I don’t know.”

    “Who’s Nixon?” Lois asked.

    The blond looked at her.

    “Roger Nixon. He’s with the Metropolis Inquisitor. He tried to ambush me and Clark in the school parking lot yesterday.”

    “Oh. Maybe I should talk to Chloe. She might know him.”

    “I don’t know,” Clark said. “Chloe and I …”

    “I know all about it,” she assured him. “And we talked about it last night.”

    “Oh. Good.” He seemed surprised by that. Surprised, but pleased.

    Lois followed them into the house. Martha smiled at her.

    “Hello, Lois. How are you, sweetie?”

    “I’m good, Mrs K. Um, can I use your phone to call Chloe? I haven’t gotten a new phone yet.” She’d had to cancel her account when her father had passed away and hadn’t got around to asking her uncle to sort out a new one for her.

    “Of course you can, sweetheart.” She turned to the boys. “Clark, Oliver, we need to talk about what to tell the media.”

    Lois watched as the family sat down at the table. A woman not much older than her was hovering nearby, looking as if she didn’t quite know what to do with herself. Jonathan stood by what looked to her like a space-age coffee machine.

    “Would you like one, Lois?” he asked, clearly having seen her eyeing the thing.

    “Um, if it’s not too much trouble,” she said.

    “No trouble at all,” he replied with a grin.

    Lois called her cousin’s cellphone. Chloe picked up immediately.

    “Clark?”

    “No, it’s me. Um, do you know of a guy named Roger Nixon? He’s a reporter at the Inquisitor.”

    “Nixon … Nixon. I don’t know the name, but I do have a contact in Metropolis. Give me a few minutes to do some research on him.”

    “Okay, come out to the farm when you’re done,” Lois told her cousin. The phone began beeping in her ear, indicating there was another call on the line. “Um, sounds like someone’s trying to call. I’ll see you soon, I guess.”

    “No worries,” Chloe assured her.

    As Lois ended the call, the phone rang again. Jonathan handed her a cup of coffee and took the phone from her.

    “Kent residence. Oh, Mr Collins. Good. You got my message. Yeah, we’ve had calls here already. No, listen, I want you to get someone from the PR department … I know you’re in Star City, but we need to get something in motion quickly. He’s barely had time to … I’m aware of that,” Jonathan said, his voice rising. “But you need to understand that Oliver only just got back in the country yesterday and he’s still recovering from his illness. No, I will not put him on. I don’t want my boys’ lives to be disrupted by this, you understand me?”

    Oliver got up from the table. Lois could tell from the slowness of his movements that he was not completely well. She guessed that even though he’d been discharged from the hospital, he was supposed to be resting. That obviously wasn’t going to happen since his return was going to be big news.

    He stood next to the blond farmer and gestured for the phone. Jonathan looked worriedly at him but handed it over.

    “Collins, it’s Oliver. No, you listen. I don’t care what it takes, you get someone from the PR department here as quick as you can. We’ve already had a damn reporter try to ambush us and I am not up to … Well, as I am now officially the owner of the company, I am telling you to follow my orders, or you’re fired. Oh, you bet I can. I’m not some snot-nosed kid anymore. You’ve got the company jet. Send them over. Yes, I do understand it can take a few hours. I just spent three years on a goddamn island, Collins! I learned patience.”

    Lois stared at him as he hung up the call, almost slamming the phone down. The conversation reminded her a little of her dad, who often barked orders the same way. She felt a little twinge of pain and swallowed. Oliver frowned at her.

    “What?”

    “Uh, nothing. It’s just … it sort of reminded me of my dad,” she said.

    “Your dad?” he asked.

    Jonathan nudged him. “We told you about Lois on the plane,” he said. “Her father was General Lane.”

    “Oh,” he said. “I’m sorry for your loss. How are you doing?”

    “I’m okay. It’s gonna take time, I guess.”

    He nodded and put a gentle hand on her shoulder. “I was just about your age when my parents died, so I know how you feel. It gets easier. I think you’ll always miss your parents but one day you’ll be able to think of them and smile rather than feel bad because they’re not there.”

    She smiled at him, comforted by his words and sympathetic look.

    “Oliver, honey, come and sit down. You too, Lois.”

    She followed the blond man to the table and sat down, nursing her coffee, listening as the family began talking about strategies.

  15. #15
    Settling In Sykobee's Avatar
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    I like this young, insightful Lois. Horse tactics for dealing with young, brooding Clark? Inspired. Hoping to get some Tess info and Ollie point of view soon. I'm hoping hrs patient with his brother despite the illness and strain. Yes, years stranded will obviously change a person. But this Clark is only 14 so I'm thinking his response to the situation seem on target. It was nice for Whitney to be less of a troll but, honestly, I never liked the character. However, this story has a very different feel and pacing so who knows. Awesome updates.

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