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Thread: The Losers Club

  1. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sykobee View Post
    I like this young, insightful Lois. Horse tactics for dealing with young, brooding Clark? Inspired.
    Well, Clark does live on a farm Seriously, Lois has learnt and matured from what's happened to her, but she's still going to act like a teenager now and then.

    Hoping to get some Tess info and Ollie point of view soon.
    All I will say about the Ollie/Tess situation is I plan to follow canon a bit with their relationship, although not quite as implied on the show. Let's just say that I plan to come up with something a little more palatable to explain what happens.

    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.
    Clark's reaction is understandable. Oliver has changed a lot (and that will become very clear in the next few chapters) and Clark doesn't quite understand what is happening. The brothers will clear the air in the next chapter.

    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.
    I think if Whitney had been there for more than one season he might have grown on us. He was always set up for conflict though, because of the Clana thing. This story will not have Clana, except in friendship, which Lana has already made very clear to Whitney. He needed the smackdown.

  2. #17
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    Chapter Eleven

    Oliver liked the girl Clark had befriended. She seemed a little quiet but that was understandable given what she had gone through. The poor kid just hadn’t had a break, he thought sympathetically.

    He was still feeling jet-lagged but figured it would be a while before he felt truly like himself again. Even the doctor in the hospital had told him it would take time for things to come right. His body had had to adjust to living without the comforts of modern life for three years. It would have to readjust.

    He didn’t know exactly what they were going to do now that the media had somehow managed to get hold of the story. The early morning news bulletin had already aired a brief story saying he had ‘returned from the dead’, but it had been the bare bones of a story.

    Oliver was still concerned about the reporter who had ambushed them at the school, wondering how Nixon had even learned they were there. A journalist from the Metropolis Inquisitor had no business even being on school grounds. The Inquisitor was a tabloid newspaper, more into publishing sensationalist stories rather than actual news. Which begged the question. What trashy article was the man chasing in Smallville?

    There was a knock on the door. Clark got up to answer it, coming back a minute later with the blonde girl Oliver had met the day before. He remembered she was the one who had demanded the exclusive.

    “Did you know there are a ton of news vans out on the highway?” Chloe said.

    “Is there a sheriff’s department vehicle out there as well?” Jonathan asked, telling them when the calls had started coming in he’d asked his friend, Ethan, who was the local sheriff, to send someone out.

    “Yeah,” she said. “Uh, anyway, Lois asked me to look into this guy Roger Nixon and let me tell you, he is a real piece of work. You know that story that was in the Ledger the other day?” she added, looking at Clark.

    “Which one?”

    “The one on Lex.”

    Oliver frowned, wondering what Lex had to do with Smallville, but kept listening as Clark explained to everyone that there had been a robbery at the Smallville Savings and Loan. The girl who had done it had apparently the ability to shapeshift and had taken on Lex’s form.

    “Why is Lex in Smallville?” Oliver asked. Martha touched his hand.

    “Sorry, sweetie, we forgot to tell you that Lex is living in Smallville now. He has the mansion on Beresford Road.”

    “Uh, why?”

    “Because Lionel sent him to work at the Luthorcorp plant,” Clark explained.

    “Anyway,” Chloe continued, “the Inquisitor ran an article basically implying that Lex got off scot-free, even though the evidence plus a ton of witnesses proved it wasn’t him. So, get this: Nixon decides to come down to Smallville, but not before he gets his brother to pull some of Lex’s juvenile records.”

    Martha gasped and looked at Jonathan, who nodded.

    “That’s highly illegal, not to mention totally unethical.”

    Chloe snorted. “Like that ever stopped a guy like Nixon. Word from my contact at the Planet is that Nixon was fired from his job at a paper upstate because he employed the same sort of tactics he used to get the dirt on Lex. He’s come within inches of being jailed for breaching court orders. The Inquisitor was the only paper that would hire him, only because the editor’s just as much of a sleaze. I don’t know why he’s so interested in you guys, but whatever it is, it’s not good.”

    That was an understatement, Oliver thought.

    Knowing it was going to be at least another three or four hours before the PR person would arrive at the farm, Oliver figured there was very little they could do in the meantime.

    “Mom, I’m gonna go out to the barn with Clark. Help him with some of his chores.”

    She sent him an odd look. He got up and went to the kitchen, knowing she would follow.

    “Everything okay, sweetheart?” she asked in a low voice.

    “Yeah, I just thought Clark could use a big brother talk, that’s all.”

    He might have been exhausted the night before but it hadn’t escaped his notice that his brother seemed out of sorts. He’d fidgeted a lot at dinner and barely spoke two words.
    Leaving the others in the house he went out with Clark to the barn. His brother looked a little confused.

    “I don’t have any chores,” he said.

    “I know, kid. I just thought we should clear the air. Come on,” he added, leading the way up the stairs to the loft.

    He waited for Clark to flop down on the couch before grabbing the chair at the desk, turning it around and sitting down so his chest faced the back.

    “So, what’s going on?” he asked. Clark shrugged. Oliver kicked his ankle. “Don’t shut me out, okay? I know when something’s bothering you.”

    “I don’t know. It’s just been kinda …”

    “Yeah,” he said. “So, tell me more about this Tina kid. How did you figure it out?”

    Clark bit his lip. “Well, here’s the thing. I sort of found out I can see through things.”

    Oliver looked at him, stunned. “What?”

    “Yeah. It was really weird. I thought I saw Lex in the street and stopped to talk to him, and then he threw me through a window. Well, when that happened I got this headache. At first I thought I’d hurt myself but then I saw their skeleton. Like I was looking at an x-ray. Like I said, it was weird.”

    “Boy, you’re not kidding. What else happened?”

    “It did it again in school. Me and Pete were in gym, you know, climbing the ropes and that’s when it happened. I was so shocked I fell to the floor. Must have been at least fifteen feet.”

    “I’m surprised you didn’t put a hole in the floor,” Oliver commented. Clark had done that once, when he’d been little. He hadn’t learned to control his strength and in the midst of a tantrum he’d stamped his foot and it had gone through the floor.

    “I managed to control my strength so that wouldn’t happen.”

    Oliver vaguely remembered after the incident, their father had begun talking to Clark about controlling his strength. It had taken a lot of experimentation but they’d eventually achieved it.

    “I really wish you’d been here, Ollie. I mean, I try to talk to Martha and Jonathan but it’s hard.”

    Oliver had no idea what to say to that. He would never really know what it was like to be Clark – there was no way he could ever walk a mile in the kid’s shoes without getting his abilities, but at least his brother felt he could confide in him.

    “Can I ask you something?” the fourteen-year-old asked.

    “Sure.”

    “What really happened? I mean, did you leave on purpose?”

    He looked at his little brother, stunned that Clark could think he would ever do that to him.

    “Why would you think that?”

    “Something Whitney said the other day. Like you left because you couldn’t stand to be around us. Or me.”

    Oliver got up and went to sit by his brother.

    “How could you ever think I would do that?” he said. “Man, I could strangle that kid.”

    He had never liked Fordman. The kid was three years younger than him and had always acted like he was better than anyone else. Not just because his family was fairly well-off, but also because he’d been born in Smallville. The town was one of those that didn’t take too well to outsiders.

    He was surprised at Whitney’s apparent change of attitude the day before, but given that Clark had saved Lana, the kid had probably been given a hell of a wake-up call.

    “It was … he was stupid.”

    Oliver wrapped an arm around his brother. “Yeah, he is. The thing is, he doesn’t know anything about us, and that’s probably why he thinks he has the right to say things like that.”

    “What did happen?” Clark asked.

    Oliver told him everything. His little brother listened without interruption, practically hanging on every word.

    “I had a lot of time to think on that island. I realised the way I acted toward the Kents before – that was just wrong. They didn’t have to take us in, but they did it for Mom and Dad. Because they promised them they would protect us both. Or you, anyway.”

    He got up and went to look out the loft window. The sun was shining brightly but he felt as if he would never be warm again. Part of it, he knew, was the illness, and the fact that he’d spent three years on an island where the climate was a lot milder than Kansas. Another part was something that had haunted him during those three years.

    “You want to hear something? I don’t think what happened to Mom and Dad was an accident. Nor do I think what happened to me was just chance.”

    “What do you mean?” Clark asked.

    “I think someone was trying to kill me. And I think our parents were murdered.”

    Clark stared at him, stunned at this revelation.

    “How do you know?”

    “That’s the thing. I don’t. Not really. But like I said, I had a lot of time to think on the island and I remembered things. Conversations between our parents and other people. I’m just not sure I know where to start looking.”

    “I can help.” Clark looked almost excited at the prospect of having a genuine mystery to solve.

    Oliver grinned, remembering his little brother had loved watching Saturday cartoons like Scooby Doo mysteries with their father.

    “Yeah, I bet you can. With your abilities, we might even have a chance of uncovering the truth.”

    “Not just me. I bet Chloe could help. So could Lois. I mean, Chloe knows a few people.”

    “And Lois?”

    “Well, her dad was a general. I bet she’d know a few people in the military.”

    “All right,” he said. “We’ll talk to them.” Something occurred to him. “How much do they know about you?”

    “They don’t know about my powers.”

    Oliver didn’t know if Clark’s abilities had anything to do with what had happened, but he wasn’t going to rule it out. As for telling the girls, he figured they would just cross that bridge when they came to it.

    Given Chloe’s apparent curiosity, Oliver wondered how long it would be before the girl uncovered something about Clark anyway. It was a concern, but he wasn’t going to voice that to his little brother. Not yet.

    Speaking of whom, he thought, as the girl in question came out of the house and ran across to the barn. Oliver saw the vehicles on the highway were still there, with photographers and news crews trying to get past the small blockade of sheriff’s deputies.

    Chloe came up the stairs.

    “Mrs Kent just got a call. Your PR girl is on the way from Metropolis.”

    “Thanks Chloe. Tell Mom we’ll be right in.”

    She turned around and left, going back to the house. Oliver looked at his brother, who was frowning..

    “Why are you calling Martha Mom?” Clark asked. “You never did that before.”

    Oliver had thought about it many times on the island. If only he could see his family again, he would show them how grateful he was for everything the couple had done for them. They could have refused to take them in, but they hadn’t. Martha had been there all along to help them come to terms with their loss and support them. If that wasn’t the definition of a parent, he didn’t know what was.

    “Well, in many ways, she is our mom, Clark. I mean, maybe they never officially adopted us, but they’ve been there for us since you were six. I think our parents would be happy to know that we were loved and cared for. And I think it’s the least we can do.”

  3. #18
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    Chapter Twelve

    Clark followed his brother back into the house. Martha had made coffee and baked some cookies. They were still warm from the oven, the aroma of sugar and buttery goodness in the air. Oliver looked almost gleeful as he grabbed a couple of cookies.

    “Ooh, you know there were a few things I didn’t miss about civilisation on the island, but I sure missed your cookies Mom.”

    She laughed. “Well, help yourself, sweetheart. There’s plenty more.”

    Clark took a couple for himself and went into the living room. Lois and Chloe were sitting quietly together, looking at Chloe’s laptop. She looked up at him as he sat down next to her.

    “You okay?” she asked.

    “Yeah. I’m fine.”

    For the first time since he’d heard the news that his brother had been found, Clark felt he could really relax. The long talk with Oliver had definitely helped. Not only had he managed to talk over his new ability, but he’d been reassured that one of his long-held fears had been just that. A fear.

    He’d never even told Martha and Jonathan about his worry that Oliver had left them on purpose. It was true that his brother had had a few problems after they’d moved to Smallville. He’d resented being sent to a town in the middle of nowhere. Despite that, Clark had never thought his brother would run away and it hurt to think that there had been a possibility he’d done just that when he’d disappeared.

    He was relieved to know that hadn’t been the case. Although now he was worried that whoever had caused their parents’ deaths and Oliver’s disappearance might try to do it again.

    He looked at his brother but Oliver just smiled at him before shooting a look at the others. There was plenty of time to discuss the problem, the look said.

    The woman from Queen Industries’ PR department knocked on the door a short time later. She was a petite woman, a little plump but seemed nice enough as she introduced herself to them. She appeared to be a little self-conscious, pushing up her glasses by placing her middle finger on the bridge.

    She got to work quickly, accepting a cup of coffee from Jonathan before taking out a laptop. She listened as Oliver told his story for what was apparently the third time in less than a week.

    “All right,” she said. “How do you want to do this? I could write up a press release, but given that the media are practically camped out on the highway, I would say getting the news out is not a problem.”

    Oliver nodded. “What would you suggest?”

    “I’ve worked as a journalist, Mr Queen, so I know what they are hoping for. We can call an immediate press conference. It’ll only take a few minutes to set up. As for what to say, I would suggest just telling them the bare facts of what happened and where you’ve been for three years.”

    Chloe spoke up. “Don’t you think they’d want an exclusive interview?” she asked.

    The woman looked at her. “Miss …”

    “Sullivan. I edit the Smallville High school paper.”

    “I see. Yes, that is something that can be done, but right now, the reporters out there are looking at looming deadlines. They want a front-page story; they want a headline, not a tell-all.”

    “We’ve already had a reporter from the Inquisitor trying to get an interview,” Oliver told her.

    “Yes, so Mr Collins advised. If you want my advice Mr Queen …”

    “Please, call me Oliver,” he said with a smile.

    She smiled back. “All right. Oliver. Please call me Robyn.”

    “Thank you, Robyn. What is your advice?”

    “Steer clear of the likes of the Metropolis Inquisitor. They’re more likely to come up with some sensationalist bullsh!t … oh, sorry, please excuse me.”

    Everyone, including Tess, who had been observing quietly for much of the day, laughed. Robyn blushed and apologised again.

    Martha smiled at her. “No need to apologise. Jonathan’s said worse.” To which her husband shot her a look that Clark supposed was meant to be innocent.

    “Besides, I like someone who isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade,” Oliver replied warmly.

    “So, first things first, we need to deal with the media already out there. They’re not likely to go away now that they’ve sniffed a good story, so I would suggest I go out there and talk to them, giving you the chance to think about what you’re going to say. I do advise just sticking to the facts.”

    Clark decided to speak up. “What if they start asking questions about what happened?” he asked.

    “I’ve no doubt they will. If they want answers as to what you think was behind what happened, all I would say if I were you is that is a matter for the authorities to investigate and leave it at that.”

    Oliver nodded. “Thank you, Robyn.”

    As agreed, she went out to speak to the reporters. Within a few minutes they had all gathered their equipment and were allowed onto the driveway. Oliver went out, supported by Martha and Jonathan, while Clark, Tess and the girls watched from the porch. He heard several camera shutters clicking. Once Oliver was finished talking, several reporters put up their hands to ask questions. Robyn controlled proceedings by picking one reporter at a time.

    The impromptu conference went on for an hour, by which time Oliver was starting to look very tired.

    “How much longer is this going to go on?” Tess asked. “He needs his rest.”

    Clark nodded at the redhead. He still didn’t know that much about her, other than what his brother had told him, and wasn’t completely sure he could trust her, but he could see she was worried about Oliver.

    It appeared Martha and Jonathan could see Oliver was flagging as well as he saw Jonathan speaking quietly to Robyn. She glanced at Oliver and nodded, turning to the reporters to call a halt to the conference. Some protested but she was firm with them. Clark liked the manner in which she dealt with it all. She was coolly professional but not unfriendly.

    The sheriff’s men quickly made the reporters return to their vehicles. Within minutes the highway was clear.

    They all returned to the house. Oliver sank down on the couch, clearly relieved it was over. Robyn gathered her things. Martha protested she should stay for dinner but the woman gently declined.

    “I’ll be staying at the Smallville Inn,” she said. “I’ll come back in the morning when you’ve had a chance to get a good night’s sleep so we can go over any media requests and communications with stakeholders.”

    “I’ll be here,” Oliver promised. “Bright and early.”

    “Get some rest, Oliver,” she said. “You did well today, but I’m afraid the media circus is only just beginning.”

    He groaned. “Don’t I know it. Thanks Robyn. See you tomorrow.”

    Martha got up to show Robyn to the door. She came back in a few moments later.

    “I should get dinner on,” she said. “Tess, would you like to help me?”

    The redhead got up, clearly happy to have something to do rather than just listen to the conversation around her. While she didn’t strike Clark as the shy type he wondered why she had chosen not to contribute to the discussion.

    “Uh, we should get going,” Chloe said, looking at her cousin. “My dad’s probably wondering where we are.”

    Martha nodded. “Thank you for investigating Mr Nixon for us, Chloe.”

    The blonde beamed. “No worries.” She looked at Clark. “Are you gonna meet us at the Beanery tomorrow?” she asked.

    “I can’t. I got banned, remember?”

    Lois scowled as the others spoke up, wanting details. “It was totally bogus. Whitney tried to start a fight with Clark and the manager kicked them both out.”

    “Who was the manager?” Martha asked. “Perhaps I should go down and talk to her.”

    “It won’t do any good, Mom,” Clark said. He’d thought over everything his brother had said and decided Oliver was right. Jonathan and Martha might not be their parents officially, but they’d always been there for them. He saw his brother hide a smirk and knew what he was thinking. So what if he copied everything Oliver did? If she noticed, she didn’t say anything.

    “It’s probably best if you lay low tomorrow anyway,” his brother replied. “All the papers will be out by then.”

    “That is true, honey.”

    “Good thinking, son,” Jonathan said at the same time.

    “Well, we should get back home,” Chloe said, nudging Lois.

    “Thank you again, girls,” Martha said. “We do appreciate your support.”

    Clark got up to let them out, watching as they stepped off the porch and got into their cars. The sky was beginning to darken and it looked like it was going to rain.

    “Drive carefully,” he called.

    “We will,” Chloe said with a smile. “See ya.”

    He went back in to find Jonathan had turned the television on, probably looking for the news bulletin. He’d tuned into a varsity football game and settled back on the couch. Oliver was leaning back in the armchair, his eyes closed.

    Clark sat down next to Jonathan and tried to focus on the game but kept glancing over at his brother. It wasn’t long before the other man’s chest began rising and falling in a steady rhythm. He nudged his guardian and nodded in the direction of the armchair, smirking.

    “Don’t even think about it,” Jonathan whispered.

    Clark rolled his eyes, but settled back to watch the game. He’d often thought about joining the school team, but Jonathan had told him it wasn’t a good idea, given his abilities. He claimed Clark would have an unfair advantage.

    Maybe that was partly true, but it felt like the older man just didn’t trust him to know how to control his abilities. It was one of the few things that had bothered him since he’d learned the ‘big secret’. Martha had tried to assure him that it wasn’t about trust, but he didn’t really know what else it could be.

    Lost in thought, he didn’t realise the football game had been paused for the news break.

    “In breaking news, the eldest son of the late Robert Queen, former CEO of Queen Industries, has been found. Oliver Queen returned to the United States yesterday after an absence of three years. Mr Queen told reporters he had been stranded on a desert island in the Pacific. He claimed in a press conference today the family yacht, the Queen’s Gambit, was taken over by pirates and later destroyed.”

    Footage of Oliver with the Kents at his side was shown next, talking about his ordeal.

    “Who was behind it or why it happened is something for the authorities to investigate and we will be talking to them very soon.”

    “Mr Queen was discharged from a hospital in Manila two days ago and left the Philippines in the company of his guardians, Jonathan and Martha Kent, as well as a woman who has not been identified at this time. Martha Kent was the cousin of Laura Queen and took in both Queen boys at the behest of the late Mrs Queen. We’ll have more on this story as it unfolds.”

    Oliver snorted and sat up, blinking. “Did I miss it?”

    “Afraid so, son. At least they stuck to the facts.”

    Clark was very familiar with the way news reporters tended to write things out of context, which could sometimes skew things, but it hadn’t happened in this case. At least, not with that news report. The next one might be different, he thought.

    Tess came back in. “Dinner’s almost ready,” she said. She looked at Clark. “Martha wants you to set the table, please.”

    He nodded and got up, going out to the kitchen to get the cutlery and dinnerware.

    “Was that the news bulletin I heard?” Martha asked.

    “Yeah,” he said, putting the plates down on the table. “It wasn’t too bad.”

    “Good. I imagine it will get worse though.” She turned and looked at him. “You okay, sweetie?”

    “Yeah, Mom. I’m fine. We had a long talk, out in the barn. It’s cool.”

    He didn’t know if Oliver wanted to tell their guardians his suspicions and Clark wasn’t going to say anything without checking with his brother first.

    “That’s good. I’m glad you two had a chance to catch up. I know it’s going to be an adjustment, having him home. You just need to remember he’s been away three years. It will take time for things to get back to normal.”

    “I know,” he said.

    Guided by instinct or whatever, he wrapped his arms around the redhead in a hug. She appeared a little startled but pleased.

    “What’s that for?” she asked.

    He shrugged. “You know. Whatever.”

    She smiled and shook her head, obviously a little flustered. “All right. How about you finish setting the table.”

    “Yes, ma’am,” he returned with a grin.

  4. #19
    Settling In Sykobee's Avatar
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    Hoo & ray! We are snowed in and internet isn't quite reliable so my email and pages load as they see fit. Really nice to find multiple chapters and really warm chapters to combat the freezing temps. Glad Ollie realizes the value of family in despite the varying incarnations. Also happy the Chloe was able to get a better understanding about respect and chasing the story blindly. Again I really like how Lois is written. She hasn't lost any of her fire yet you've given her depth, tact and some subtlety, minus the uncomfortable, knee-jerk embarrassment that got old as she matured. I'm still not getting a clear picture of this version of the Kents yet but JK and his coffee maker I find funny when he was mostly seen with tea on SV.
    Will Tess still be a closeted Luther? Will Chloe end up with Ollie again? Will Pete still bail on his friendship with Clark? All questions I'll be hanging out to find the answers to. Even more, I'm enjoying all the fun of great story-crafting along the way.
    Thanks again. Have a great week and if you observe "Valloween", I hope yours is wonderful.

  5. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sykobee View Post
    Hoo & ray! We are snowed in and internet isn't quite reliable so my email and pages load as they see fit. Really nice to find multiple chapters and really warm chapters to combat the freezing temps. Glad Ollie realizes the value of family in despite the varying incarnations. Also happy the Chloe was able to get a better understanding about respect and chasing the story blindly. Again I really like how Lois is written. She hasn't lost any of her fire yet you've given her depth, tact and some subtlety, minus the uncomfortable, knee-jerk embarrassment that got old as she matured. I'm still not getting a clear picture of this version of the Kents yet but JK and his coffee maker I find funny when he was mostly seen with tea on SV.
    Will Tess still be a closeted Luther? Will Chloe end up with Ollie again? Will Pete still bail on his friendship with Clark? All questions I'll be hanging out to find the answers to. Even more, I'm enjoying all the fun of great story-crafting along the way.
    Thanks again. Have a great week and if you observe "Valloween", I hope yours is wonderful.
    I didn't want to make Lois the 'comic relief' in this story. That's why she's a little more serious, but she does still get into trouble. There will eventually be hints of the future when it comes to her and Clark.

    Oliver has definitely learnt from his experience and he values his family much more than he did.

    I always felt Jonathan had a playful side and the incident with the coffee was just my way of bringing that out in him. As for him drinking tea on the show ... really? I'm sure he drank coffee.

    As for the rest - where Tess and Pete are concerned, there will be some following of canon and some not. There will be a big difference coming up but it's also a way of showing how much Oliver has changed and what leads him to becoming Green Arrow.

    Sadly, I don't have a partner so Valentine's Day is pretty much a normal day for me. That's okay. I've got my cat, Poppy, to snuggle up to, when it's not so hot, that is.

    New chapter coming right up.

  6. #21
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    Chapter Thirteen

    Lois was just getting ready for bed when Chloe came in and sat down on the armchair in the corner of the room. She frowned, her hand digging for something underneath her. She pulled up a bra which Lois snatched off her and stuffed in the drawer.

    “So, Oliver’s pretty cute,” she said.

    “So is Smallville, but you don’t see me jumping his bones anytime soon.”

    Her cousin cocked an eyebrow at her. “You think Clark’s cute?” Her tone sounded off, as if she was a little offended by that.

    Lois rolled her eyes. “Come on, Chlo. I know you’ve got a major crush on him but you don’t have to be jealous! I’m not looking to date either of them.”

    Chloe looked slightly disgruntled. “Why not? You could have practically any guy you want.”

    “So could you, if you quit with the self-pity routine. What guy wouldn’t want you? You’re smart, pretty. Smarter than me.”

    “Guys don’t want smart. They want bimbos.”

    “What rock have you been hiding under? Besides, if a guy’s threatened by intelligence, then he’s an idiot. Or a jerk.” She turned away from her cousin to pull on her pyjama top. “You know, my dad once told me this story. About when he met my mom. He said she got the best grades in high school and all the guys were after her. Okay, so some of them only wanted her to help them cheat on a test, but that was their loss.” She sat down on the bed and pulled her socks off.

    “Anyway, Dad said he wasn’t the brightest kid in their class, but she once told him he at least tried. And that mattered to her more than the smartest guys in the entire school.”

    Her cousin bit her lip. “Yeah, but …”

    Lois sighed. “Look, I may not have known Clark that long, but he seems to really care about you. I just don’t think he sees you the way you want him to.”

    “I just wish …”

    “Well, don’t. Life isn’t like one of those commercials where the dowdy secretary starts wearing this amazing perfume and suddenly the hottest guy in the office notices her. If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen. You can’t force him to like you that way.”

    Chloe studied her. “You seem to know a lot about this stuff.”

    Lois shrugged. “There was this guy. Wes. When I was twelve I got this huge crush on him. He was like five years older than me and he wanted to join the special forces unit. Anyway, right before he was about to leave for a new assignment, we were fooling around in this storage unit. We weren’t supposed to be there and Wes had snuck in this bottle of bourbon.”

    Her cousin stared at her incredulously. “You were drinking at twelve?”

    She shook her head and explained that the incident had happened the summer before. Not long before her father had died. They’d been stationed at Fort Addelson, where her father had been assigned to close the fort down. They’d moved to Colorado two months later.

    Lois and Wes had just been talking. He’d been as close to a best friend as she ever knew. An army brat like herself, Wes’ father had been stationed at some of the same bases as the general. Lois had spent a lot of time with her friend.

    Whether he realised she’d had a crush on him was something she hadn’t known at the time. She’d just drunk enough bourbon to feel emboldened and had leaned forward to kiss him. Wes had fallen off the crate they’d been sitting on. It had never been clear if he’d just fallen because he was drunk or because he was trying to pull away.

    Not that it mattered, she thought. Wes had left two days after that and she’d never known how he felt about her.

    “Wow!” Chloe said. “So you never …”

    “Nope.”

    “And you haven’t seen him since?”

    “I got a card from him when Dad died, but he never mentioned what happened.”

    “Well, that sucks.”

    “Yeah.” She huffed. “Anyway, my point is, with you and Clark, if it’s meant to be it’ll happen. If not, you’ll still be friends. Besides, I think sometimes people are better friends because they don’t date. I mean, who needs all that pressure? Trying to look your best and act like someone you’re not.”

    “You know, you’re right. The whole dating thing is just dumb.” Chloe yawned. “I should go to bed. Night cuz.”

    “Night Chlo.”

    She lay awake for a long time that night, thinking about Wes. Her father hadn’t exactly approved of Wes, not because of what he wanted to do with his life but because he was considered too old for Lois to be hanging out with. Never mind the fact that she had been independent since her mother died.

    He’d once asked her if she’d thought about joining the army herself. Having witnessed the way her mother had tried to hide her disappointment in her husband’s constant comings and goings on missions, Lois had decided it would be the last thing she’d want to do. She couldn’t imagine being with someone who put their work ahead of their family. She didn’t want to be the one left behind.

    Her dreams that night were full of images of her father, of Wes the last time she saw him, looking smart in his uniform. They were so vivid it was almost like they were really there with her. Then things got weird. At first it was just something red flashing by, then it felt like she was flying with someone. She couldn’t tell who it was, only that he was wearing red and blue.

    She didn’t mention the dream to Chloe when they got up. They went out to breakfast, still in their pyjamas. Her cousin looked just as tired as she was, helping herself to her father’s black coffee. Uncle Gabe tried to grab the cup from her hands.

    “You don’t normally drink coffee this early on a Sunday,” he said. He frowned at her and laid a hand on her forehead. “You all right, honey? You look a bit peaked.”

    Chloe shrugged. “I’m fine, Dad. Just … weird dreams.”

    Lois moaned. “Mm, me too,” she said, helping herself to a cup of coffee.

    There was a soft thud at the door. Uncle Gabe looked up. “That’ll be the paperboy,” he said.

    He went out and opened the front door, grabbing the paper from the doorstep. He returned to sit at the counter, unfolding the paper.

    “Hmm, there’s an article here on Oliver Queen.”

    Chloe immediately made a grab for the paper, but he pulled it away.

    “Come on, Dad!” she said in protest.

    “You’ve got plenty of time to read the paper,” he said. “I’ve got to be at work in an hour.”

    “On a Sunday?” Lois asked. Her uncle shrugged.

    “Luthorcorp doesn’t care about weekends when there’s work to be done.” He swivelled on the stool to grab the toast as it popped up, shaking his hand and hissing as he dropped it on the plate. Chloe tried to take advantage of his momentary distraction to snatch the paper but he was already onto her.

    Lois hid a grin in her coffee, watching as her uncle became absorbed in the article. He already knew the gist of it, since he’d watched the news bulletin the night before, but obviously the article was a little more detailed.

    “Goodness, three years on an island. And he found his parents’ bodies on there? The poor boy.”

    “Uh, he’s twenty-one now, Dad,” Chloe said. He didn’t reply, continuing to read the article. She shrugged. “I wonder who he thinks might have been responsible for what happened to his parents.”

    Lois knew what the contemplative look on her cousin’s face meant. She was thinking of doing some digging.

    “Uh, don’t you think you should talk to Clark and Oliver before you go doing any digging?”

    The blonde tried to look innocent. “I wasn’t thinking of doing anything!”

    “Sure you weren’t. I know that face, Chlo.”

    Uncle Gabe looked at his daughter. “Honey, I really don’t think investigating this would be such a good idea. Oliver says in this article he’s going to demand an investigation by the authorities, which is where I think you should leave it. With the authorities.”

    “But Dad …”

    “No buts, honey. If someone really did kill Oliver’s parents and get him out of the way, then they’ll be dangerous.”

    The phone rang and he picked it up. “Gabe Sullivan. Yes, I’ll be there shortly.” He hung up and looked at them. “Problem at the plant. Be good, girls,” he added, kissing them both on the tops of their heads before leaving the kitchen. A couple minutes later Lois heard the car start up.

    She looked at her cousin.

    “So, what do you want to do today?”

    “Go talk to Oliver and Clark some more.”

    “Don’t you think Oliver needs his rest? He’s been back in the country less than two days, Chlo. He really doesn’t need to be badgered. He probably needs some time to adjust.”

    “What better way to have him adjust, or readjust to living in Smallville than to act like everything is normal. I mean, you know what they say about falling off a horse …”

    “This is different,” Lois told her. “You should leave him alone and let him spend some time with his family.”

    There were times when Chloe needed to learn to back off and this was one of them. She knew her cousin was the curious type. If she had a question about something, she would worry at it until either she found the answer or someone gave it to her. This was a different type of situation and she knew better.

    Chloe sighed. “I guess you’re right. So, um, who was that girl with him?”

    “Tess. Her name is Tess. I don’t know, except for what Oliver told the press.”

    “She seemed kind of reserved.”

    “Your point is?”

    “Is she his girlfriend?”

    Lois rolled her eyes. “What’s with the twenty questions, cuz?”

    “I can’t help it,” Chloe said, sounding a little disgruntled at the mild rebuke. “It’s what I do.”

    “And if Oliver wanted you to know all the details, he’d tell you! Just let it go.”

    Chloe propped her chin on her hand, her elbow on the counter.

    “So, what do you want to do?”

    “I’ve got homework I didn’t get done yesterday,” she said.

    Lois was not the best student. She had way better things to do than study a chapter on Shakespeare. She liked books but the Shakespeare plays just weren’t that interesting to her. When she was twelve, she had been forced to take part in a school production of Romeo and Juliet. The girl playing the lead had come down with a case of mono so Lois had been told to learn the role. The boy playing Romeo had refused to kiss her and made fun of her behind her back. It was only through a couple of the girls who were also army brats that she learned about it.

    “What’s the homework?”

    “Shakespeare’s sonnets.”

    Chloe groaned. “Ugh, I hate those. Let’s go to the Beanery.”

    “You’ve just had breakfast,” Lois told her, indicating the dishes. “Don’t we have to clean up?”

    Her cousin shrugged. “The last thing I wanna do is housework. Pete might be at the Beanery.”

    Lois still didn’t know very much about Pete Ross. They’d met a couple of times in the Torch office, and in the Beanery, but since the rest of the gang were a year behind her, she had a different timetable.

    “Okay,” she said. “Race you to the bathroom.”

    Chloe jumped off the stool but Lois was already ahead of her. She managed to get to the bathroom before her cousin.

    “Don’t go taking your usual marathon shower,” Chloe called through the closed door. “I’d like to get my own shower sometime this century.”

    An hour or so later they entered the Beanery. The manager who had been on duty the week before looked at them, then looked behind them. Lois figured she must be thinking Clark would be with them. Since he was obviously not with them, the manager couldn’t say they were defying the ban. Which Lois still thought was ridiculous. Clark hadn’t done anything wrong.

    Abby and Pete were sitting together in armchairs in the corner, nursing drinks. Abby saw them and waved. Chloe paused to order them a coffee each and joined the others.

    “So, big news,” Pete said, a huge grin on his face. His white teeth seemed to gleam brightly against the cocoa-coloured skin. “I’m surprised you haven’t got an exclusive already,” he added, looking at Chloe.

    “Yeah, well I think I might be too close to it,” Chloe replied, surprising Lois. “I mean, Clark’s our friend. I don’t think I could be impartial.”

    “I guess. Where’s Clark?”

    “You know he got banned,” Lois reminded him.

    “Oh, yeah.” He looked up, then scowled. “Ugh, I hate that guy.”

    Frowning, Lois turned around to see who Pete was talking about, then groaned quietly. Lex had just come in and was talking to the girl at the counter. She turned back to Pete, wondering why he had such a beef with the guy. Not that she liked him anyway.

    “What do you have against him?”

    “His dad cheated my family out of that creamed corn factory. They were just about to sign an agreement when the meteor shower happened.” He added his uncles had decided to back out of the agreement, having heard Lionel could be ruthless in business.

    “Yeah, but the factory wasn’t exactly making a profit,” Chloe told him.

    “Lionel Luthor promised my uncles he wouldn’t do anything drastic but he fired all the workers and gutted the whole place.”

    “Forgive the interruption, but I hardly think you’re qualified to judge my father’s business decisions,” Lex replied. Lois looked at him, not realising the man was standing beside her.

    Pete snorted. “Yeah? Of course you’d defend him. He’s your dad.”

    “And if you’d done your due diligence, Mr Ross, you would realise that all those workers you say my father fired would have lost their jobs when the factory closed for good. The business wasn’t just not making a profit, it was headed for bankruptcy.”

    “It’s not as if the fertiliser plant is making money either,” Chloe pointed out.

    “True, but that’s due to bad management in the past. Your father is doing an admirable job trying to keep the workers in line and I’m sure with his able assistance we’ll be able to have the plant operating in the black in the next few months.”

    “You have an answer for everything, Luthor,” Pete said, grumbling.

    “Perhaps, but you should know, Mr Ross, there are two sides to every story. Speaking of stories, I hear Oliver Queen had a rather harrowing experience.”

    Lois frowned at him. “Why do I get the impression you think he might be exaggerating?”

    “I never meant to imply such a thing, Lois,” he said with what she guessed was supposed to be a friendly smile. “Oliver and I went to Excelsior together for four years. And of course our fathers knew each other very well. I’d be interested in meeting up with my old classmate.”

    I bet you would, she thought, shuddering inwardly, watching him walk away. Why did she feel dirty every time the man spoke to her?

    Pete was still grumbling about Luthors and their business tactics. As much as she disliked the younger Luthor, Pete was not being fair.

    “Um, Pete, can I ask you a question?”

    He shrugged. She took that to mean assent.

    “Your mom’s a judge, right?”

    “So?”

    “Well, say one of the kids at school’s father commits a crime and your mom puts him in jail. Does that mean that the kid can attack you because of your mom?”

    “No,” he said, looking puzzled.

    “I think I know what you’re getting at,” Abby said. She rarely spoke but when she did they listened. “What Lois is trying to point out is that you’re holding what Lex’s dad did against him. Right?” she asked, looking at Lois, who nodded.

    “Lex doesn’t control what his dad does. Besides, he was like nine years old when his dad took over the factory.”

    “Well, I guess you’ve got a point,” Pete conceded grudgingly. He turned to stare for a moment at Lex who had sat down in another corner. He turned back to look at Lois. “Do you like him or something?”

    “No. God no,” she said, suppressing another shudder. She might not agree with Pete’s dislike of the man, but she was sure she would have a whole different reason to dislike him.

  7. #22
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Fourteen

    The phone had been ringing practically off the hook all morning. Robyn, who had turned up shortly after breakfast, had been fielding calls and talking to reporters. A couple of magazines had already begged for the inside story but the older woman had declined on Oliver’s behalf, telling them he wasn’t ready for an indepth interview.

    Oliver was starting to feel a little more like himself, although he still wasn’t used to ‘normal’ food. He’d hunted wild pig and birds on the island but even then, he’d only managed to catch a couple a week. The rest of the time he’d survived on what vegetation he could identify.

    When he wasn’t talking to Robyn, he was trying to talk Tess into staying. She’d confessed she felt like she wasn’t needed and had already hinted she wanted to go talk to her old boss and see if she could get her job back. The deaths of the others in Tess’ research group had been reported to the authorities two months earlier and Tess had been reported missing. She had told Oliver her boss was something of a harda$s who would not have accepted kidnapping as any kind of excuse. He’d fired one of the research assistants after she’d ended up in a car accident and had been comatose for a week.

    “Tess, at least stay another day,” he said.

    She grimaced. “I’m not really any use here,” she told him.

    “What if I got you a job working for Queen Industries,” he returned.

    “As what?” she asked, half-laughing. “A secretary?”

    “We do have a marine science division in Star City,” he told her. “At least, I think we do.” He looked at Martha for confirmation and she nodded.

    “You barely know what your father’s company does,” the younger redhead told him. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

    He pulled her aside. “Tess, I …”

    She sighed. “Oliver, if you want to ask me out, ask me. That’s what this really is all about, isn’t it?”

    “Well, yeah,” he said. “Will you go out with me?”

    “I’ll think about it,” she replied. “You need to be completely healed first.”

    “Okay, I guess you’re right. But at least think about my offer.”

    “Fine. I’ll consider it,” she told him.

    Robyn came over. “Sorry to interrupt but speaking of Queen Industries, the question will inevitably come up.”

    “What question?” he asked.

    “Whether you plan on taking over as CEO for Mr Collins. It is your right as the oldest heir.”

    Oliver looked at his guardians. Martha shrugged.

    “Honey, it’s your decision, but if you want my advice, I do think you need to get a college degree first.”

    He chewed on his lower lip. If the accident or whatever had never happened, he would have been headed to Metropolis University. He hadn’t had the grades to go to UC Star City, which had been his dad’s alma mater. Even a private college wouldn’t have taken him on his low grade point average.

    Getting a degree was low on his list of priorities. He knew he owed it to the Kents to listen to their advice, but he had other plans that he hadn’t talked to them about. Not even Clark knew what he wanted to do.

    While he’d told his brother some of the things he’d been thinking about while stuck on the island, he had also been thinking a lot about various things he’d witnessed as a child. The one thing his mother had always taught him was that things happened for a reason and he felt the reason he’d been able to survive, the reason he’d been left on that island was so he could change from the spoiled kid he’d once been and help those who needed it.

    Before he could do that, however, he knew he needed to solve the mystery of his parents’ deaths once and for all.

    Robyn left a short time later and Tess decided it was a good time for her to leave as well. Since he couldn’t persuade her to stay, he offered her the use of the corporate jet to fly her wherever she wanted to go. She declined the offer, since the lab she’d worked in and her apartment was on the east coast and Star City was in California. She did accept Jonathan’s offer to pay for her flight out of Metropolis, saying she would pay it back.

    Oliver decided to go out to the barn so he could get some peace and quiet. Martha had insisted he take an extra blanket out with him as the weather had turned cold. He turned on the CD player Clark had installed and listened to music as he sat idly sketching on a notepad.

    He didn’t realise he’d fallen asleep until he heard his little brother’s voice. Clark was sitting on the chair, the notepad in his hands.

    “What’s this?” he asked.

    Oliver blinked and sat up. “What? Oh, that. Just something I’ve been thinking about.”

    “It looks like some kind of … costume.”

    “Give it back, Clark,” he said, reaching for it.

    “No.” His brother pulled it out of his reach. “I want to know what this is about.”

    “It’s nothing to do with you, Kid.”

    “Don’t call me Kid. I hate when you do that. I’m just as big as you now.”

    “You’re still a kid,” Oliver pointed out. “Clark, please, just give it back.”

    “No! What are you going to do? Dress up like Warrior Angel or something?”

    “Not exactly. I don’t plan on shaving my head. And how do you know about Warrior Angel?”

    “Lex. I went to this party once with Mom and Dad and Lex was in the coat closet, reading the comic. So if you’re not gonna dress up like him, what are you doing?”

    “Just something I’ve been thinking about. For a long time.”

    “Why?”

    “Don’t ask stupid questions, Clark!” he said, irritated with his brother’s questions.

    “Damn it, stop treating me like a little kid. I’m fourteen, not four!”

    “I don’t want you getting involved.”

    “You just said I could help you find out what happened with the plane crash and stuff.”

    He huffed. Maybe he had agreed to that, but he’d also made a promise when he was on the island, saying his final goodbyes to his parents, that if he ever got off the island he would do his utmost to protect his little brother.

    “I know what I said, but I don’t think you should get involved! There’s too much at stake!”

    “Like what?”

    “There’s a lot you don’t know,” he told his kid brother.

    “You mean, like Veritas?”

    Oliver frowned at him. “Wait. How did you know about that? I didn’t find out about it until I was twelve.”

    “It was after you went missing,” Clark told him. “Jon … Dad told me. About Dr Swann and Lionel and … everything.”

    Oliver was even more worried. Clark could keep a secret but that didn’t mean things couldn’t slip out. What worried him the most was who his little brother was coming into contact with.

    “Speaking of Lionel …” he began. “What is the story with Lex?”

    Clark frowned. “What do you mean?”

    “I mean, why is he here? In Smallville?”

    “I told you. He’s here to look after the plant.”

    “Why do I get the feeling that’s not the whole story?”

    His brother shrugged. “I dunno. I mean, we heard he got into trouble and got kicked out of Met U, so Lionel sent him down here.”

    “Lionel never cared one iota about Lex or what he did as long as he didn’t get caught.”

    “I guess Lex did something that could have got him put in jail? I don’t know. I didn’t ask. Anyway, what do you mean?”

    Oliver huffed. “Look, you haven’t grown up around people like that, Clark. You’ve been kind of sheltered. That’s not your fault,” he added, raising his hands as if to pre-empt any indignant response his brother might have. “It’s actually a good thing. Mom and Dad made me promise to always protect you and they made Martha and Jonathan promise too.”

    “You mean, because of the … you know.”

    “Mom and Dad’s worst fear was that someone might find out who you are and have you taken away for study.”

    “Study? Like in a lab?” His brother’s expression suggested he hadn’t considered that idea.

    “Yes. Just like that.”

    “That won’t happen,” Clark replied, shaking his head.

    “You don’t know that. Look, I hate to say this, but how much do you really know about your friends? I mean, Chloe seems like a nice girl but rather naïve, especially with her journalism. I’ve been reading some of her articles about her theories on the meteors. She has no idea how close she could come to getting herself into some real trouble. It’s probably a good thing her theories aren’t being taken too seriously.”

    “Chloe wouldn’t …”

    “Wouldn’t she? If it suited her ambition, yes, she would. If she didn’t value your friendship so much. I can see how she feels about you, Clark, and that’s probably the only thing stopping her from digging too deeply into you.”

    His brother appeared confused. “What do you mean how she feels about me?”

    “She has a major crush on you, Kid.”

    “No she doesn’t!”

    “Yes, she does. Anyone with eyes can see the way she looks at you. The thing about that kind of infatuation, Clark, is that it can turn dangerous if it isn’t handled carefully.”

    “Chloe would never do that,” Clark told him, clearly having more faith in the girl than Oliver did. Then again, he supposed it was too soon to judge her, since he’d only known her a couple of days.

    The girl’s cousin, on the other hand, was too new of an acquaintance even for Clark to make that kind of call.

    “And there’s Lex,” he said.

    Clark huffed, looking annoyed. “I told you …”

    “I know what you said, Clark, but I’ve heard some things about Lex. Look, I know I was not exactly an angel at school. At Excelsior, anyway. I did some stupid things that got me in a lot of trouble. That’s probably why Mom and Dad wanted me to be raised by Martha because they knew she’d refuse to take any nonsense.”

    He’d reflected a lot in the past few days on his behaviour. He’d been spoiled and had made some very bad choices. However, nothing could top what he’d heard from his old schoolmates at the prep school. His friends, thinking they were superior to everyone else at the school, especially Lex and another kid who happened to be a scholarship student, had taken to bullying the more vulnerable boys.

    One thing Oliver had always heard in his particular social circle was that most people didn’t flaunt their wealth. His friends had been somewhat of an exception, but Lionel Luthor had been the type to throw money around, using it to get his own way. He’d obviously tried to pretend he came from old money, telling anyone who was anyone that he came from a long line of Scottish nobility. Even Oliver’s father had scoffed behind closed doors saying that if he really had come from such noble ancestry, he would hardly need to brag. There was also the fact that most of those noble families had lost their wealth long ago.

    Oliver knew his parents wouldn’t have liked the way his friends had behaved toward Lex, who was hardly to blame for his father’s snobbery. Robert had never believed in the whole ‘sins of the father’ idea. Still, Jeffrey and Alden, along with another boy of their acquaintance, had taken every opportunity to bully Lex and his friend Duncan, saying they thought he was a weird kid. Plus Lex had been top of their class. The trouble with bullies was that things that made a kid stand out was always a good reason in their minds to take him down a peg or two.

    One day, Lex had pulled the two boys aside and told them he’d seen them stealing the answers to a test. Jeffrey and Alden had not been particularly bright, and too lazy to even try with their schooling. Stealing the answers to the test wasn’t the worst thing they had done, but the headmaster had been cracking down on cheating. Knowing they could get expelled, the two boys had agreed to Lex’s terms, which involved them leaving him and his friend alone.

    Unfortunately, Duncan had refused to go along with the plan and it had resulted in Lex beating his friend. The other boys had stepped in, pulling him back, alarmed at the way in which the young Luthor scion seemed to have turned so violently on his friend.

    Clark stared at him as he finished relating the story.

    “So what happened?”

    “Duncan ran into the road and was hit by a car. The driver didn’t even have the time to stop.”

    His brother looked horrified. “Oh my God! Why didn’t you tell someone?”

    “Because they told me the night of the party on the Queen’s Gambit.” He’d never had a chance to tell someone what had happened until now.

    “The thing is, Clark, it’s not the first time Lex has had some sort of breakdown. When he was about twelve, his little brother died. We don’t know what happened, but Julian was a baby. Lex began sleepwalking and the headmaster found him screaming his brother’s name, standing on the ledge of one of the school buildings.”

    “That doesn’t mean …”

    “I don’t know what it means, Clark, but I’m telling you, you need to steer clear of him. Lex is dangerous. Whatever Lionel sent him here for, it’s not as a punishment. I’m sure about that. If he knows about Veritas, then it’s possible he knows the truth about you.”

    Clark was quiet, obviously absorbing everything he’d said. Oliver heard the crunch of tyres on the gravel and stood up to look out through the window. A Porsche had pulled up. Lex got out of the car, removing leather driving gloves. He clearly hadn’t noticed Oliver at the window as he headed over to the house.

    “Great,” he said with a sigh.

    “What is it?”

    “Speak of the devil.”

  8. #23
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Fifteen

    Clark followed his brother back to the house. He heard Martha speaking to Lex.

    “Oliver’s resting, sweetie.”

    “I’m here, Mom,” Oliver said as he entered the house. Jonathan and Martha were holding coffee cups, talking to the visitor.

    The bald man turned and smiled at him, holding out a hand.

    “Oliver. Good to see you. I heard you had a rather interesting experience.”

    Clark saw his brother cock an eyebrow and elbowed him before he could make some caustic remark. The hostility was coming off his older sibling in waves. Oliver got the message and shook the other man’s hand.

    Clark remembered when the company’s CEO had decided to hold a service for their missing parents. Lex and his father had turned up. The elder Luthor had been almost jovial, greeting the two boys with vigorous handshakes and fake sympathy. Lex had just smirked and acted like a bored teenager.

    It hadn’t been long after that that Lex’s mother had died from a long illness.

    “I heard you’d moved to Smallville.”

    Lex sighed. “Yeah. My father’s idea. Anyway, I just wanted to catch up with you. See if there was anything you needed.”

    “I’m fine,” Oliver replied. “My family’s looking after me.”

    “Must have been difficult. Being on an island for three years.” Lex’s tone was casual enquiry, but it sounded to Clark like he was digging for something. “The paper said you found your parents’ bodies?”

    “Yeah, I did.”

    “I’m sorry,” Lex said, although his sympathy seemed insincere. Now that Clark knew some of the things the bald man had done in the past, he couldn’t help but think that Lex was using the situation to his own advantage somehow.

    What if he did know about Veritas? Clark thought. That would make his move to Smallville more suspect.

    “You know, when you’re caught up to speed on the company, we should meet. I have some deals I think you might be interested in.”

    “Oh, really?”

    Clark glanced at his guardians. If Lex was looking at some business deals, why hadn’t he approached Martha and Jonathan? Unless he was trying to take advantage of Oliver’s own lack of knowledge of the company. Given that his brother was technically in charge of the company, Lex might be gambling on Oliver’s eagerness to fill their father’s position without studying the company’s books.

    “Well, I do have a lot of catching up to do,” Oliver replied, giving Lex the hint that his offer was not welcome. Not this time. “How about I give you a call.”

    “Of course. Well, I won’t wear out my welcome,” Lex said, sending a smile the older couple’s way. “It really is good to see you, Ollie.”

    Oliver grimaced. No one called him ‘Ollie’ except his family and close friends. Of which Lex wasn’t one.

    “Oh, before I forget,” Lex said, taking an envelope from the inside pocket of his jacket. “Your invitation to the museum exhibition next month. I hope you’ll come along, Ollie.”

    He left without looking back. Oliver huffed. “I hate that guy.”

    “Oliver!” Martha admonished him. “You could be a little more charitable.”

    “Mom, if you knew what I’d heard about him from my friends at Excelsior, you wouldn’t be so welcoming.”

    “These are the same friends who used to bully some of the other students at your old school?” Jonathan said.

    Oliver stared at them. “Uh, you knew about that?”

    “Why do you think we refused to let you return to that school the Fall you came to live with us? We’re not blind, young man. We knew your friends were becoming a bad influence on you and frankly, we expected better.”

    The blond looked shamefaced. “Uh, yeah, I’m sorry. I know I keep apologising for how I behaved, but …”

    Jonathan put a hand on his shoulder. “Son, we know you regret some of the things that happened before you went missing. You can’t change the past, but you can learn from your mistakes. As for Lex, we believe you when you say there are things about that young man that are concerning. It’s why we chose to treat him with kindness. Perhaps we won’t reverse some of the damage his father has done already, but it may work better in our favour should the need for appealing to his better nature arise.”

    “So, this is some kind of strategy?”

    “I suppose you could call it that.”

    Jonathan made a coffee for Oliver and Clark helped himself to a glass of juice. They sat down at the table.

    “Clark said he knows all about Veritas,” Oliver said. Martha nodded.

    “We haven’t spoken to Dr Swann, but we have your father’s papers, plus his Veritas journal.”

    “Do you think Lex knows?” Clark asked. “That I’m … you know …”

    “It’s hard to say, son,” Jonathan said. “Lionel may suspect but as long as you don’t reveal your powers he has no proof.”

    “You know, I remember some of those meetings Dad had with the group. I overheard Lionel and Edward Teague planning something."

    “Your father never really did trust those two, which is why he talked to Dr Swann and used his own calculations to figure out where and when the ship was likely to land.”

    As reluctant as Clark had been to pursue matters, he wondered if Veritas was the reason their parents had been killed. When he voiced his thoughts, he could tell his brother had been thinking along the same lines.

    “I don’t know,” Martha said, looking dubious. “If that’s so, then why didn’t Lionel do something sooner? That’s if you’re really thinking Lionel was behind it.”

    “Maybe he just didn’t have the opportunity,” Oliver said. “And Mom and Dad’s attorney would have handled the adoption details.”

    What that meant for him, Clark had no idea. Obviously, Lionel had had plans for him, if he’d found him first. Given what he’d already heard about Lex and the sort of treatment the bald man had from his father, Clark was glad the Queens had found him first.

    “I’d hate to think what Lionel would have turned me into,” he said morosely.

    Martha smiled at him and laid a gentle hand on his cheek. “Well, I for one am glad he didn’t. You are a gift, Clark. Both of you,” she added, looking at Oliver.

    “You are both very special young men,” Jonathan put in. “Your parents would be very proud of you.”

    Clark felt warmed by the older couple’s love and praise. He knew he’d been very lucky his mother had asked the Kents to take them in. He and Oliver could have ended up being split up and sent to foster homes or worse.

    “Anyway, I want to start my own investigation into what happened to Mom and Dad,” Oliver said.

    “And I’m going to help,” Clark announced. Oliver sent him a sharp look. Clark quickly cut him off before he could say something. “I’m not a kid anymore, Ollie. You don’t know what’s been going on around here.”

    His brother bit his lip, looking dubious.

    “Clark’s right, honey,” Martha said. “He’s old enough to make his own mind up. That doesn’t mean the two of you shouldn’t be careful.”

    “Where do you plan to start?”

    “The plane should have some maintenance records. I don’t think there’s any way to retrieve the black box.”

    Clark nodded. The black box was what they normally called the flight recorder. Since the plane had crashed into the ocean, the box was probably at the bottom of the sea. Too much time had passed.

    “As for what happened to me, I was going to start with the company books.”

    “Do you think someone in the company might have arranged your disappearance?” Jonathan asked.

    “I don’t know. I might be grasping at straws, but it’s a place to start.”

    “You’re right. I’ve got all the files for the past few years,” Martha said. “We can start tomorrow.”

    “Why not now?” Oliver asked, but the answer was obvious. He was beginning to look a little feverish. As much as his brother tried to pretend otherwise, Clark knew recovery from the illness would take time.

    Martha looked sternly at him.

    “You, young man, need your rest. You’ve barely been out of that hospital four days and you’ve been on a restricted diet for the last three years. You can’t expect to bounce back within a day or two.”

    Clark grinned as his brother sighed heavily and reluctantly obeyed Martha’s order to go upstairs and rest. He decided to finish the rest of his chores from earlier. He’d taken a break and gone up to the loft, only to see Oliver asleep on the couch. Then he’d seen the drawing on the sketchpad. It wasn’t a great drawing. His brother was a lot of things, but a good artist he wasn’t.

    He’d still been able to see that the sketch was supposed to be of Oliver in a green outfit. Something like a jacket, with green, almost skin-tight trousers. Alongside the sketch were notes on what materials should be used.

    The drawing closely resembled a painting Oliver had once shown him of Robin Hood. His brother had once had a book about the legend of the famed archer. Given that Oliver had begun learning archery from a young age, it was hardly surprising that he’d choose something similar to wear if he was really planning on some kind of crusade.

    Clark wanted to go back up to the loft and look at the drawing again, trying to figure out what his brother had been so cagey about. He didn’t think Oliver was planning on doing anything illegal, but the fact that he had tried to hide the sketch from Clark meant it might not be approved by the Kents.

    He set to work cleaning out the feed trough. Jonathan came out to help him.

    “Everything okay, son?” he asked. “You seemed a bit quiet in there.”

    He shrugged. “Yeah, I’m fine, I guess. It’s just, a lot to take in, you know?”

    “It’s certainly been a hectic couple of days. But you know Oliver didn’t run away.”

    “I know. We had a long talk about that yesterday.” He paused and looked at the blond man. They’d had their clashes over the years, mostly over Clark’s frustration at never being able to show what he was really capable of, but he knew the older man was only trying to protect him. There had been an incident when he’d first started school. Pete was being bullied by a third grader. When Clark had stepped in to defend his friend, even though he’d only been six-years-old at the time, the bully had tried to punch him. Clark hadn’t meant to do it, but he’d shoved the boy, who had wound up falling through a door. Luckily the door had been a wooden one, rather than one with glass panes and the impact had basically stoved-in the wood panelling.

    Jonathan had had to come down to the school and cover for Clark. Thankfully, the principal had believed Clark’s story about the bully and his guardian’s explanation that the wood had been cracked already so it wouldn’t have taken much force to break it.

    Once they’d got back to the farm, Clark had been in tears, afraid his guardian was going to punish him severely, but Jonathan had just taken him aside and talked gently to him about being careful as he was a lot stronger than other boys his age.

    Jonathan would have made a great dad, Clark thought. He knew how to be strict but fair.

    Clark paused in his work, watching as the farmer began using a fork to distribute the hay.

    “I’m kind of not looking forward to going to school tomorrow,” he said, confessing something he’d been thinking about all day.

    While he had been grateful for Whitney’s help on Friday, he knew there were going to be a lot of questions about Oliver and the news articles. He preferred to mostly keep to himself, or his small circle of friends, and wasn’t prepared to answer any questions about his brother.

    “What’s worrying you about school, son?” Jonathan asked.

    “Well, I know the kids are gonna be asking a lot. I just don’t know if I …”

    “Clark, you don’t have to answer any questions from the kids at school if you don’t want to. I already spoke to your principal, Mr Kwan, and he and the teachers are prepared to run interference if it gets to be too much.”

    “You didn’t have to do that,” Clark said quietly.

    Jonathan put the fork down and came over, putting a hand on his shoulder. “I know I didn’t have to, but that’s what parents do, son.” He smiled. “You’re a good kid, Clark. I’m sorry if I don’t tell you that often enough.”

    Clark grinned at him and nodded, returning to work. The two of them worked alongside each other, talking about trivial matters, until it started to rain. They covered what needed to be protected and headed back inside.

    Martha was waiting at the door for them. She looked troubled.

    “Mom?”

    “What is it, Martha?”

    “Chloe just called. It’s Abby. They think she tried to kill herself.”

    Clark stared at her. “What?”

  9. #24
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    Chapter Sixteen

    “I hate hospitals,” Lois grumbled. She had stretched her long legs out in front of her, crossing them at the ankles. The plastic chair she’d been sitting on for the past two hours was too low and extremely uncomfortable. Chloe was faring a little better, being petite, but she was also fidgeting, looking as if she would rather be anywhere but there.

    The sound of hurried footsteps could be heard along the corridor. The linoleum floors weren’t exactly the best for walking quietly, especially when the approaching party was wearing boots. Said boots came swiftly into view. Lois looked up and quickly got up off the seat as Martha reached her.

    “Lois, Chloe.”

    The whole family had turned up. Oliver looked a little sleepy-eyed and Martha explained he’d just been having a rest when he heard her talking.

    “What happened?” Clark asked Chloe. He looked a little shell-shocked himself. Lois knew he had a soft spot for Abby.

    They were still trying to work it out themselves. Abby had been with them in the Beanery most of the day, but she’d left mid-afternoon. Her mother, Elise, had apparently called her and told her to run some errands for her as she was stuck at work.

    “I got a call from a friend of mine who volunteers here,” Chloe began explaining. “She told me Abby was brought in. We don’t know any other details.”

    Lois nodded. “The shrink’s in with her now,” she said, nodding toward the room they’d been sitting outside since Abby had been moved from the emergency room.

    Chloe added that it looked like Abby had taken some pills as there had been a bottle found with her. A neighbour had called it in.

    The door to the room opened and the psychiatrist came out. He looked startled to see them gathered outside.

    “Are you the family?” he asked.

    “No. We’re friends,” Clark told him.

    “I’m afraid I can only discuss matters with the family,” he said.

    Chloe spoke up. “There’s only her mom, and she’s at her clinic in Granville. I tried calling her but all I got was her voicemail.”

    “I see.” He didn’t sound too pleased to hear that. The fact that her mother was unreachable was already a tick in the negative column.

    “Can we see her?” Clark asked.

    “I don’t think that’s appropriate. Not until I’ve spoken with the mother.”

    “I’m afraid you’ll have difficulty reaching her, Doctor,” Martha said quietly. “I don’t like to speak uncharitably of others but Elise Fine is …” She scowled and wouldn’t elaborate. It was pretty obvious she didn’t like the woman.

    “Selfish? Self-centred?” Chloe put in, earning her a look of reproach. “What? We’re all thinking it!”

    Jonathan turned to the doctor. “Look, Doctor …”

    “Sydell.”

    “Doctor Sydell, we’ve known that young lady since she was six-years-old and I imagine right now she is feeling very alone. Now I’m no psychiatrist but I think it would be helpful to her state of mind if she saw a friendly face right now.”

    The man seemed to consider it for a few moments.

    “All right. Five minutes. But if the mother shows up before then, I’ll have to kick you out.”

    “Five minutes,” Chloe said.

    They entered the room. The blinds had been closed, giving Abby some privacy but Lois could see she was pale and wan. She lay on her back, her eyes closed as if she was trying to pretend she was asleep.

    Clark sat down beside her, taking her hand. Abby opened her eyes.

    “Hi,” Clark said softly. “Are you okay?”

    She screwed her face up in sheer misery, shaking her head. She was clearly not okay.

    “What happened?” Chloe asked, moving to the other side of the bed.

    Lois rolled her eyes at her cousin. “Chloe …”

    “No, it’s okay,” Abby said softly. Her voice was a little hoarse but Lois guessed that was because they’d had to stick a tube down her throat. “I just … You know how I had to go do those errands for my mom?” They all nodded. “Well, I …” She put a hand on her throat. “Sorry, my throat hurts.”

    “You don’t have to talk if you don’t want to,” Clark said.

    “I do. I want to tell you.”

    She slowly began to explain what had happened. She had run into one of the football jocks while out. Brett. The worst part about it was that she had had a crush on the boy since tenth grade. Brett somehow must have known about it as he began making fun of her, calling her names like: ‘Scabby Abby’. She was used to that particular insult but when he’d resorted to calling her ugly and a ‘skank’, she hadn’t been able to take it anymore.

    She’d left the store without getting what her mother had asked her to get. She’d tried to tell her mother what had happened but Elise had been so angry on the phone, telling her she was useless and a waste of space. It had been the last straw. When she had returned home she had spied her mother’s sleeping pills.

    “Abby …” Clark said softly, squeezing her hand. His voice trembled as if he was fighting back tears.

    “I know I should have just ignored Brett, or talked to you guys, but I didn’t want to bother you. Not with your brother coming home and stuff. I saw the article, Clark. I’m so glad you …” She faltered at the sound of raised voices outside.

    “I have a business to run! I can’t just drop everything just because my stupid daughter …”

    “Don’t you dare, lady!” Lois recognised Oliver’s voice. “How dare you put your personal life over your own daughter!”

    “I suppose you have no idea what your daughter’s been through the past few months!” Martha accused coldly. “My son has told me all about the bullying going on at that school and frankly, I think you need to take a long, hard look at yourself and the way you treat your daughter!”

    “Oh, you’re a fine one to talk about children, Mrs Kent. I don’t believe for one second that preposterous story your son has spun about being stuck on an island! Don’t stand there and lecture me about parenting! You with your privileged life. Don’t think I don’t know how much easier it is for those born with natural good looks! The fact is, how I treat my daughter is none of your business!”

    Lois looked at Abby. She was crying.

    The door was flung open and a woman with dyed blonde hair and far too much make-up stormed in.

    “You can stop that nonsense, Abigail! Get up and get dressed. I’m taking you home!”

    “Mrs Fine …”

    She turned to look at Dr Sydell. “Doctor Fine, if you don’t mind!”

    “Doctor of what, if I may ask?”

    “Cosmetic surgeon.”

    Chloe got up and faced her. “A cosmetic surgeon who was struck-off for illegal experimentation on patients,” she accused. “Now you’re just a second-rate cosmetologist!”

    “How dare you?” the woman spat. “I’ll sue you for libel, you little b!tch!”

    “Libel?” Chloe laughed in her face. “Lady, first of all, you need to get your terms straight. Libel is printed, slander is spoken. And it’s not slander if it’s true. I did a little digging while we were waiting for the doctor and I got it all from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.”

    Check, Lois thought with a grin.

    Elise pursed her lips but didn’t argue. Dr Sydell told her there was no way she was taking Abby home tonight, or for the next week. She still had to be assessed and a decision would be made whether to commit her to the psychiatric ward. Meantime, she was going to be under close watch.

    “I think we should let the young lady get some rest,” Dr Sydell suggested quietly, giving Abby a kind look. She appeared grateful for the doctor’s intervention.

    They all left the room. Elise looked as if she still wanted to argue but it was obvious she was outnumbered. She followed the psychiatrist down the corridor.

    “Isn’t there something we can do, Mom?” Oliver asked. “If that’s an example of what that poor girl has to put up with at home, she’d be better off living somewhere else.” It was clear what he was suggesting. That they take her in.

    “I don’t know, honey. Perhaps we should call our attorney.”

    “Can we do that? Now? Before that witch drives Abby further over the edge.”

    Lois grinned. “Don’t you mean something else?” she said.

    “I wasn’t gonna say it,” he returned with an answering grin.

    “I’d have to wash your mouth out, young man,” Martha returned with a chuckle. “As for calling the attorney, it is rather late. We can do it first thing tomorrow.”

    Lois couldn’t help watching the blond man. She knew from what Clark had told her that his brother hadn’t exactly behaved like a model son before he’d disappeared. Obviously his experience had taught him some compassion.

    She wished there was something she could do for Abby but even if there was room at her uncle’s house, she knew it was going to take more than just providing a home for her. Abby needed some serious counselling. There were probably going to be some legal ramifications as well, since she was still a minor. There was no way they could afford an attorney to help, especially if her troll of a mother decided to fight it.

    As the group left the hospital she listened to the conversation. Martha clearly knew something about child welfare laws as she felt there was a good case of at least neglect against Elise Fine. Given her attitude towards Abby, Lois figured there was some kind of abuse as well.

    School the next day was chaotic. Everyone was either talking about Abby or Oliver’s return. Oliver had been a popular student at Smallville High. He’d competed for the school in Track, as well as archery. It had been inevitable that he would be the chief topic of discussion.

    Clark was surrounded by students who wanted the ‘inside scoop’ on his brother. Of course, all the girls could talk about was how good-looking he was, fawning over Clark as if he could help them meet his brother.

    Lois had gym class before lunch and as she headed out on the field to class, she passed Brett and some of the other wastes of space that called themselves jocks. They were laughing about Abby, calling her a loser for trying to kill herself. Lois had to remind herself that fighting on school grounds was not allowed. Brett must have seen the look on her face when he walked past her as he looked down at her hand which was balled up into a fist. His eyebrow shot up.

    “You got a problem, Anderson?” she asked.

    “No, but I’d sure like to,” he replied with a smirk.

    “Yeah, well keep walking jerk. Don’t think I didn’t hear what you said about my friend. You’ve got one hell of a nerve!”

    “Anderson, get your butt into the showers,” the gym teacher, Mrs Cooper called. “And you, Lane, just keep walking.”

    “Real scary, Lane!” Brett shot back.

    “You wanna see scary, Anderson? I’ll show you, you pathetic creep!”

    Mrs Cooper grabbed her arm. “That’s enough, Lois. You’ve said your piece.”

    Forced to continue walking, she was left seething. The teacher kept in step with her.

    “Look, believe me, I know how you feel about what’s happened. I’m well aware of the bullying that has been going on in this school and if there were any proof that Brett Anderson or his friends were responsible for what put that young lady in the hospital, I would be the first to call for a suspension.”

    “Can’t you do something?” Lois asked. “Abby didn’t deserve this.”

    “I know, honey, but it’s up to Principal Kwan and unfortunately his hands are tied by the school board. Brett’s father is on the board and we both know he’s going to believe Brett over Abby.”

    “It’s not fair!”

    Mrs Cooper stopped walking and looked at her. The woman’s face was full of sympathy.

    “I think you know that life isn’t fair, Lois. You would probably know that better than anyone at this school. I admire your compassion and I know you want to help your friend. I’m glad she has such good friends at this school. Otherwise I think this might have happened sooner.”

    Lois had the impression the teacher knew a lot more than she was saying about what had happened to Abby. As if she understood it on a different level.

    “Mrs C, did this … do you … I mean, you kind of seem to know more than you’re saying.”

    “You’re very astute, Lois. You know, I think you and your cousin would make excellent journalists. You have a gift for seeing through what’s on the surface. Yes, my sister and I were bullied when we were teenagers, just like Abby.” She sighed and made a face. “I had so many skin problems I got nicknamed Miss Vesuvius.”

    Lois bit her lip. It was funny, but … not. She could imagine how hurt the woman must have been. She guessed it had probably been only a decade or so since Mrs Cooper had been a teenager.

    “Go on, it’s okay, you can laugh. It is funny, now that I look back, but the boys could be cruel even then. I had a slightly thicker skin than my sister.”

    “What happened?” Lois asked, guessing from the slight tremor in the woman’s voice that something bad had occurred.

    “She committed suicide. Two days before her sixteenth birthday.”

    “I’m so sorry,” Lois said.

    The older woman nodded and turned to where the rest of the class was waiting.

    “We’d best start class,” she said.

    a/n: Can you tell I hate Elise? I know in the show she was still a cosmetic surgeon but I changed it. I don't think the little experiment she did with Abby was the first time she'd done it and frankly I think she was manipulating her daughter to get her way. As you can also tell from the chapter, there's a little hint of the future for Lois. Whether she takes it on board at that point in time is another thing.

  10. #25
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    Chapter Seventeen

    Oliver had spent most of the day studying Queen Industries’ accounts trying to sort through them all and figure out if there was anything untoward about them. He'd been trying to distract himself from thoughts over what had happened the night before. He was still angry over what had happened to the sweet girl he’d known since she and Clark had been in grade school together. Sure, she had bad skin and could probably use some counselling, but she was far from ugly.

    Martha sat down at the table with a coffee, placing a plate of freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies in front of him.

    “Eat up, honey. You’ve barely eaten all day.”

    He grabbed a cookie and put his papers aside. “So, what’s the verdict, Mom?”

    “Well, I talked to Abby Ross. She’s a judge now, by the way.”

    “Cool! Good for her!” he said. He’d always liked Pete’s mother. She was a brilliant lawyer and would make an even more brilliant judge.

    “Anyway, she only handles criminal cases but she did say we might have a case against Elise Fine. If we can get Child Services to investigate.”

    She’d called the family attorney who had promised to start the ball rolling. Oliver didn’t know if they’d be able to take Abby in as a ward, but they had to try at least, he thought. There was no way he was going to let that little girl go back to live with that witch of a mother of hers.

    “What happens if they decide she has to go stay in the psychiatric ward?” he asked.

    “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Unfortunately, the authorities do need to investigate. I don’t think it’s illegal, per se, but it is concerning.” She lifted her coffee cup to her lips. “Are you sure this is what you want to do, honey?”

    “I think it’s the right thing to do, Mom. And you’ve never worried about taking in strays before. According to Clark, Chloe practically lives here as it is.” He hadn’t voiced his worries to Martha, especially about Chloe’s crush on Clark. He’d seen things like that get ugly before and the last thing he wanted to do was worry his little brother. Or his guardians.

    She was kind of cute. He had to admit that. The hair could use a slightly longer style, but she was pretty. Once she had lost some of that naivete and matured a little, he was sure she would be a woman to be reckoned with.

    “So, how is it going with the papers?”

    He sighed. “It’s going to take me a while, I think. So far I don’t see anything untoward, but maybe Dad’s papers might give me more of an insight. I don’t know. Maybe I’m looking for something that isn’t there.”

    “Don’t think like that, sweetie. You’ve only just started and you probably have a lot of papers to go through.”

    “You’re right, Mom. Anyway, I thought about going and talking to some of the guys who were at the party the night I decided to take the yacht out.”

    “There is one thing I’m curious about. Metropolis is a long way from the Philippines. Do you remember much from what happened?”

    That was the trouble. It was all rather hazy from a certain point. He recalled that he’d decided to have the yacht sailed from Star City to Gotham where he’d partied with his friends for days. Soon, the novelty had worn off for his friends, or some of them had decided they were more interested in the vacations their parents had offered than getting drunk.

    Oliver didn’t want to admit to the older couple that he’d been drinking and doing drugs. He knew they would not approve, especially Martha.

    Whether it was the alcohol or the drugs, or a combination of both, he had no idea, but he’d kicked whoever remained off the yacht and proclaimed he was perfecting capable of sailing it all by himself. Without any idea of where he was headed or what he was going to do once he got tired of it, he had left.

    That was the last thing he remembered clearly before several men had boarded the yacht. He had figured they must have known the yacht at least and assumed who he was. Hmm, he thought. It had never occurred to him that it might not have been anything to do with the yacht itself.

    If only he could remember what the men looked like or the boat they’d been on before they’d boarded.

    “What is it, Oliver?”

    He sighed. “I wish I could figure out who the guys were that boarded the yacht. I think if I saw their faces, I might be able to identify them, but …”

    “It would be like looking for a needle in a haystack,” she said, nodding. “Is there anything you can remember at all? Like facial features?”

    He shook his head. “No. Not really. I mean, they all had beards. One of them was African-American, but …” He frowned, trying to remember. The man had had very dark skin - darker even than many of the kids he’d known. Almost black.

    He hit his forehead with his fist, trying to coax the memory from his mind.

    “Don’t try to force it, honey,” Martha said.

    Jonathan came in from the fields. “Hello, sweetheart,” he said.

    She got up to make him a cup of coffee. The blond farmer smiled at Oliver.

    “How’s the studying coming?” he asked.

    “I don’t know. So far I can’t make head nor tail of it.”

    “Yeah, I couldn’t either. I was a terrible student at Smallville High. Guess I was more suited to farming than business.”

    “Well, that’s why you have me,” Martha said, coming back with the cup. She ruffled her husband’s hair before sitting down again. She turned to smile at Oliver. “Did I ever tell you how Jonathan and I met?”

    Oliver shook his head. “No.”

    “It was a finance course at Met U. My father wanted me to be a lawyer, like him, but it didn’t interest me.”

    “Well, at least he wasn’t trying to push you into marrying one,” Oliver replied, earning a grin from Jonathan.

    “You should have seen her dad’s face when we told him we wanted to get married. I don’t think there’s even a name for that shade of red.”

    “Puce, I think,” Martha said. She grimaced. “Telling him was the easy part.”

    “What happened?” he asked, sensing things had not ended well.

    “We got into a fight,” Jonathan replied, his expression suggesting he wasn’t exactly proud of that fact. “He told me there was no way he was going to let his daughter throw her life away to marry some farmer. I hit him.”

    Oliver suppressed a laugh, realising that Martha probably wouldn’t have been happy. He only had vague memories of Martha’s father, who had been present at the reading of his parents’ wills. Mr Clark, who he supposed was technically a relative, had been handling the Kents’ side of legal matters.

    He’d never known his grandparents. Both sets had died long before he was born. What he did know about his own family was that Laura had been a Metropolis socialite. She had met Robert when she’d gone to a mixer at Excelsior. The pair had corresponded for a couple of years when he’d left for college.

    “Speaking of college, what have you decided about that, honey?”

    He knew she’d talked to the dean at Met U asking about the possibility of him starting mid-way through the school year.

    “I don’t know, Mom. I mean, I’m gonna be three years behind everyone. Not that that matters, I guess. I still have a month to decide.”

    “Your education is important, son,” Jonathan advised.

    He understood that. He also knew that as the eldest son and heir to Queen Industries, he needed to think very carefully about whether he should take over the company.

    “Take your time,” Martha told him.

    He nodded. “Yeah, I will.”

    “Meantime, how about you come and give me a hand with the cows,” Jonathan suggested.

    He got up, glad to have a break away from the paperwork. “Sure, Dad.”

    “Put a coat on, honey. It’s cold out there.”

    He started to say something about a coat not being necessary but she shot him a look which told him not to argue. He grabbed the tan coat from the rack. It was Jonathan’s but it fitted him well enough.

    They went outside to help Earl and one of the other farmhands to move the cows to the inner pasture. Oliver shivered despite the jacket he was wearing. The Kansas air had a definite ‘wintery’ feel to it. There were still a couple of weeks until Christmas. Some years they only had a light dusting of snow in the lead-up to the holiday, but there had been a couple of winters since he’d come to live in Smallville where they’d had a heavy snowfall.

    They chatted as they worked. Jonathan caught him up on a few things that had happened in his absence. Clark had mentioned something about new abilities but he hadn’t mentioned anything about floating in his sleep.

    “God, that must have been scary,” he said.

    Jonathan sighed. “He looked at me like he thought I knew all the answers, or that your dad’s papers might hold the key to what we can expect, but …”

    “It doesn’t work like that,” Oliver finished. “Yeah, I get that. Still, the kid’s probably confused as all hell.”

    They moved on to other work and different subjects. Finally, Jonathan asked about the island.

    “What was it really like?”

    “Lonely,” Oliver said. “I mean, there were the natives, but at first I didn’t know how to communicate with them. I had no idea what they were saying to me or if they were friendly. We eventually got around that, I guess.”

    Finding the bodies of his parents had been the hardest thing he’d had to endure. Even worse than trying to sleep with his stomach cramping with hunger pains - the result of not having eaten for days.

    When he’d been fourteen, he’d gone on a field trip with his high school freshman class to the Metropolis museum. While he was there, he had seen a woman getting out of a car. She’d had blonde hair, the same colour as his mother’s. For a moment he’d imagined it was Laura, until she’d turned around. For just a moment, he’d hoped and prayed his parents had come back alive.

    Finding their bodies on the island had broken him. He’d wept for what seemed like hours, praying to whatever deity existed that if he could only just get off the island he would change, be a better person.

    As time went on, he’d given up hope of ever being rescued, but he’d never forgotten that lonely afternoon and the words he’d spoken in despair.

    “I told myself that I would make them proud of me. I’d make up for every horrible thing I said to you and Mom before I left.”

    Jonathan put a hand on his shoulder. “Your parents would be proud of the man you’ve become, Oliver. Never doubt that.”

    He looked up at his guardian and gave him a teary smile. Jonathan squeezed his shoulder and nodded toward the field.

    “Come on, son. It’s starting to get dark.”

    They had almost finished with their chores when Clark came home from school. Oliver looked at his watch, wondering why his brother was so late. It was almost dark.

    “Been helping on the newspaper, son?” Jonathan asked.

    “Yeah. Chloe was cracking the whip.” He sighed. “Of course, the big news of the day was Abby.”

    Oliver wasn’t surprised at that. His return was big news in the town as a whole but since he had graduated Smallville High three years ago, it wasn’t relevant for a school paper. Clark began working alongside them, telling them how he’d been surrounded by students asking for all the gory details of Oliver’s ‘adventure’.

    It seemed that Clark was no longer a member of the ‘Losers Club’. Temporarily anyway, Oliver thought.

    It was odd that his brother was considered one of the school losers, especially because he’d been so popular himself. Then again, Clark was not as outgoing as he had been at school. That was not all Clark’s fault. He’d been taught to hide his abilities and while he hadn’t been told to in so many words, he’d tried not to do anything that would make him stand out.

    God, kids could be cruel, he thought, his mind turning once again to the sweet girl in the hospital. He’d always liked her in a big brotherly kind of way. She was smart and funny. Who cared if she had acne? It was part of growing up. Sure, he’d been blessed with good skin which had fewer breakouts, but he’d still had them.

    He supposed the point was that he had grown up knowing that that kind of thing was only temporary and it didn’t change who he was, or that he had family who loved him. Therein lay the difference, he thought. Abby’s mom was definitely not ‘Mother-of-the-Year’.

    Martha called them in for dinner an hour or so later. Oliver sat at the table, feeling even more grateful for the loving home and the second chance he’d been given. He knew it could have turned bad on that island. The natives could have been hostile or he could have ended up eating something poisonous.

    There were plenty of people out there who found themselves in circumstances that were just as bad, if not worse. Maybe this was what his second chance was all about. Helping those who weren’t able to help themselves.

    “So, what’s going to happen to Abby?” Clark asked when the conversation turned to her.

    “Our attorney is contacting Child Services,” Martha said. “I’m sure they’ll investigate.”

    “If Elise is found to be unfit, what then?”

    “Well, we don’t know what happened to Abby’s father,” Jonathan told Clark.

    “Chloe said she was going to look into that.” Clark bit his lip. “You know, Chloe was really upset. I mean, this isn’t about a story for her. She feels bad that Abby …” He trailed off, looking just as upset as Oliver imagined Chloe was. He realised they were both blaming themselves for not being there for Abby.

    “Honey, you can’t blame yourself for what happened. Neither can Chloe. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do except be there to support your friend.”

    “Besides, we’re doing something about it now,” Oliver told his brother. “No matter what, she’ll know she’s not alone anymore.”

  11. #26
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Sorry guys, this is not an update. I have a deadline looming for my non-fiction work and I need to focus on that for a bit. I do have more chapters of this story written but I need to work on my RL project.

  12. #27
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Eighteen

    It had been a rather strange day at school. As soon as Clark had walked in the front gate, he’d been surrounded by girls all eager for him to dish the dirt on his brother. It was as if the past few months of him being considered a ‘loser’ by the rest of the school hadn’t even existed.

    Thankfully, Mr Kwan came to his rescue. Sort of, he thought, since the principal had berated them all and told them to get to class before he started handing out detention slips. The girls had all looked extremely annoyed but went off to their respective classes.

    Most of the day he didn’t seem to get a moment’s peace. Even in class, all the kids could talk about was the return of Oliver Queen. Either that or Abby’s suicide attempt. Clark was pissed when some of the girls who had been fawning over him, clearly trying to get him to introduce them to his brother, began talking crap about Abby. As if things weren’t bad enough for his friend, he thought.

    Sometimes he hated living in Smallville. Being such a small town, it didn’t take long for gossip to spread and the false rumours about Abby had already been around the entire school twice.

    He ran into Chloe during the day and she appeared to be on a mission, trying to write an article about Abby that wasn’t completely biased. She seemed to be upset about what had happened, talking a mile a minute as she usually did when she was on one of her crusades.

    He was heading to the Torch after school when he overheard some of the cheerleaders standing by the lockers talking about his friend.

    “She’s just trying to get attention,” Mandy was saying. “She’s so ugly it’s the only way she can ever get anyone to look at her.”

    Mandy was one girl he particularly disliked. She thought she was cool because she’d been picked for the cheerleading squad in the first round of trials. While she was considered an attractive girl with her dark blonde hair and lightly-tanned skin, Clark didn’t think she was all that pretty.

    She also had a habit of only dating boys who she considered had some ‘power’. When Clark had first started high school, Mandy had tried flirting with him, simply because of his family’s money.

    As soon as she noticed he was watching her she smiled flirtatiously.

    “Hello, Clark. Isn’t it wonderful your brother came home?”

    “Yeah, wonderful,” he said coolly. “I heard what you were saying about Abby.”

    “Don’t tell me you believe that loser,” she replied with a scowl, her demeanour immediately changing to a hostile one. “Seriously, why doesn’t she just build a bridge and get over it?” The other cheerleaders tittered as if that was the funniest thing they’d ever heard.

    Clark wanted to grab the snotty little so-and-so and show her exactly what he was capable of. He stepped forward, prepared to berate her at least when he felt someone standing beside him.

    “You better apologise, Mandy, before Clark says something I know he’s gonna regret. For your information, it’s because of little bi!tches like you that Abby’s in the hospital in the first place. Maybe for once you should try imagining how it feels to be bullied all the time.”

    Clark turned and stared at Whitney, stunned by not only the way he was speaking to Mandy, but also by the way he was defending Abby.

    Mandy scoffed. “Oh, come on, Whitney, we both know …”

    “Yeah? I know I’ve been pretty much a jerk, but at least I know not to kick someone when they’re down. I’ve had my faults but you know what? The one thing about Abby is that if the situations were reversed she wouldn’t be standing here gossiping about you.”

    Clark immediately understood what the blond senior was saying. Abby was a far better person because in spite of the bullying she would still have the compassion to feel sympathy for someone in a similar situation.

    “Now why don’t you girls make like a tree and leave.” The cheerleaders nodded and pulled Mandy away before she could say something else.

    Whitney turned to Clark. “I’m sorry, man.”

    They began walking along the corridor. Clark shrugged. “It’s okay.”

    “No, it’s not. After Lana threatened to break up with me, I took a long, hard look at myself and I didn’t like what I saw. I mean it, Clark. I’ve done some things I’m not proud of and I …” He ducked his head. “I mean … will you accept my apology? For everything?” He’d already apologised for the scarecrow incident but Clark guessed that wasn’t what he meant.

    “Yeah.” He offered a small smile to the jock. “Thanks.”

    Whitney shrugged. “So, how is Abby?”

    Clark had called the hospital after his first class and they’d told him Abby was resting but she was doing okay.

    “She’s recovering, I guess.”

    “You know, your friend, Lane, she nearly ripped Anderson apart.” Whitney quickly related that he’d seen Lois talking to Brett on the field and had caught enough of the conversation to know what had gone down.

    Clark grinned. Chloe had told him enough that he knew when Lois was mad, everyone needed to duck and cover. She was like a pit bull on a pant leg.

    “Heh, that’s why we call her Mad Dog Lane. Not to her face, though,” he added hastily.

    Whitney laughed. “Must be something to do with all those army guys she hung out with.”

    “And then some.”

    The blond stopped walking. “Well, I better go. Lana’s going to look over my English paper for me. See you.”

    Chloe was already in the Torch office when Clark entered. Lois was on the couch eating a candy bar. Chloe looked up from the computer.

    “Hi. I was wondering … you’ve known Abby since grade school, right?”

    “Yes,” he said slowly. “Why?”

    “Well, do you know what happened to her dad?”

    He shook his head. “She never talked about it much. I think he left when she was a baby.”

    “Oh.” She began tapping some keys on the keyboard. “I was thinking of trying to track him down.”

    Lois shook her head at her cousin. “Like I told you, Chlo, if her dad was interested in her at all, don’t you think he’d be here?”

    “Well …”

    Clark chose not to deter her. Chloe would do what she wanted to do with or without their input anyway. Besides, he thought, Child Services were probably already investigating.

    He flopped down beside Lois. “Clark Bar?” she said. He frowned, then realised the candy bar she was eating was a Clark Bar. He rolled his eyes.

    “I ran into Mandy in the corridor,” he said.

    Chloe scoffed when he told the girls what had happened. “Mandy is a b …”

    “Don’t say it,Chlo.”

    “Well, she is.” Lois shot her a look and Chloe subsided. “So, what happened?”

    “Whitney told her off.”

    “Whitney?” Both girls looked stunned. “The same guy who strung you up in a cornfield?” Lois asked.

    “Yeah, I know. I guess he had some kind of epiphany,” Clark told them.

    Lois smirked at him. “That’s a big word for you, Smallville.”

    “Shut up, Lane.”

    “Ooh, great comeback!” He scowled at her. “Well, you wanna hear about my day?”

    “Do I have to?” he asked, earning a nudge from her.

    “I was talking to Mrs Cooper before gym. She told me her sister committed suicide.”

    Chloe frowned. “Are teachers supposed to tell kids that stuff?”

    Lois shrugged. “Well, I’m not gonna tell Principal Kwan. Anyway, she said I would make a good reporter.”

    Clark guffawed. “You? A reporter? Sure, you’re like a pit bull on a pant leg, but a reporter? That’ll be the day.”

    “Oh, I’m not gonna go for it. I mean, with my luck I’d probably end up stuck sharing a desk with the biggest geek of the newsroom.” She huffed. “Anyway, I took this test in Cosmo.”

    Clark stared at her. Cosmopolitan? Well, since she apparently didn’t like reading books, Cosmo was probably her speed. She glared at him, as if reading his mind.

    “Is that the one about what career you should have?” Chloe asked. “You know those tests are a joke, right?”

    “Whatever. Anyway, it said I could be a radio disc jockey.”

    Clark laughed at her. “You? Well, I guess that would make sense. You talk enough. There wouldn’t be any dead air.”

    She narrowed her eyes at him. “You are so gonna pay for that, Smallville.”

    “You and what army, Lane?” he retorted. Chloe interjected before Lois could carry out her threat.

    “Well, whatever you decide, Lo, you’re still gonna have to actually graduate high school. And you’ll have to actually go to classes to do that.”

    Lois turned her narrowed gaze on her cousin. “What are you trying to say, cuz?”

    Clark knew what his friend was suggesting. He’d seen her transcript from her last school and she’d apparently skipped a few classes. It looked like she was doing it again.

    Chloe raised her hands. “Nothing. I’m not saying a word.” She turned to Clark. “Are you gonna sit there or are you gonna help me with the Torch?”

    “Umm …”

    “Yeah, that’s what I thought. The paper’s not going to write itself, Queen. Where’s your article on the student council?”

    Sighing, Clark got up and went to sit down at the other desk to finish his article.

    It was almost dark by the time he got home and he found his brother and Jonathan working and chatting. He set to work alongside them doing his own chores.

    The discussion at dinner that evening inevitably turned to Abby. Clark was hopeful that Child Services would be able to help.

    After dinner, he asked if he could go to the hospital to see his friend. Oliver volunteered to join him and drove the car.

    “You know, what Mom said is right. This is not your fault. If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s Elise’s.”

    “I just …”

    “No, Clark. Stop thinking like that.”

    He sighed. He knew he had something of a guilt complex.

    “I sometimes wish I’d never come to Smallville.”

    “Well, Mom and Dad wanted us to …”

    “No, not that. I mean, the ship. If I hadn’t come here, Mom and Dad would still be alive and there wouldn’t be people running around with those meteor powers attacking people.”

    Oliver swerved the car to the side of the road and stopped, leaving the car running as he turned to his brother.

    “What the hell are you talking about, Clark?”

    “If the meteors hadn’t landed with the ship …”

    “No, you stop that right now! You are not responsible for the meteors, Clark. Nor are you responsible for what happened to Mom and Dad.”

    “But … don’t you think … I mean, if someone did kill them, it was because of me.”

    “Oh my god, kid, I would smack you if I didn’t think I’d break my hand doing it. You listen to me! Whatever happened to Mom and Dad, it was because bad people made a bad decision. I’m glad you came to Earth, Clark. Because of you, I have a little brother. I don’t ever want to hear you blaming yourself for every bad thing that happens, okay?”

    “What about the meteors?”

    Oliver looked thoughtful. “Look, I’m no scientist, but …” He brightened, clearly having thought of an idea. “Maybe we can go talk to Dr Swann. See if he can explain about the meteors.”

    Clark nodded. He realised he was being stupid. Jumping to conclusions without any of the facts.

    They continued on to the hospital and went to Abby’s room. She was happy to see them but Clark could tell she was not in good spirits.

    “What happened, kiddo?” Oliver asked kindly. He must have also seen she was down.

    “My mom. She was in a while ago telling me how much this was going to cost her business, not to mention her reputation.”

    Clark huffed. It was like all the woman cared about was her reputation, which had already been damaged when she’d been caught doing experimental procedures. Chloe had shown him the articles. Elise had been using prisoners as guinea pigs in experiments in creating a Fountain of Youth.

    There had also been something about the woman having had several cosmetic procedures when she was younger; possibly trying to create the ‘perfect’ look. There was no such thing as far as Clark was concerned.

    Abby went on to tell them that her mother had told her to just get plastic surgery like she had done. She’d apparently been developing some kind of serum and wanted to try it out on Abby.

    Oliver squeezed her hand. “Don’t listen to her. You’re only fourteen, Abby. You still have some growing up to do.”

    “I know. But what if she’s right and it’s never going to get better on its own. I mean, the kids at school …”

    “I know what they say, Abby,” Clark said quietly. “And they’re wrong. You are not ugly. You’re a good person.”

    “I hate to go all Psychology 101 on you, but kids like that probably project their own insecurities on you.”

    “What do you mean?” Abby asked Oliver.

    “Well, I mean, I never studied it, but I bet those kids think that by putting you down it makes them feel better, when really it just makes them look like the bigger jerks. I know it won’t help you feel any better about yourself but you could change that.”

    “How?”

    “By talking to someone. My mom … when my parents died, she suggested I go see a therapist.”

    Clark frowned at his brother. “I didn’t know that.”

    Oliver shook his head. “We didn’t tell you. I mean, you were only six. It’s not like I went though. I was angry for a long time.”

    “How did you get over that?” Abby asked.

    “By being stuck on an island for three years. Trust me, as a kind of therapy goes, I wouldn’t recommend it.” He grinned at her and she smiled back. “The one good thing it showed me is that I’m a survivor. So are you.”

    “I’m not so sure,” Abby said, looking down at her hands. She still had a needle in one hand.

    The nurse came in a short while later and told them they needed to leave, but Abby appeared to be in better spirits by then. Clark sighed as they went out to the car.

    “I really hope we can do something,” he said. “Even if it means finding her dad. I’d hate to think what her mom will do when she does get out of hospital.”

    “I’m not going to let that happen,” Oliver said. “She’s a good kid and she deserves way better than that.” He looked thoughtful, bouncing the key ring in his hand. “People like her are the reason I want to do something.”

    “Like what?” Clark asked. “Does it have anything to do with that costume?”

    “It has everything to do with it, Clark. There’s a whole world out there of people who need the kind of help only we can give. It’s not about money. It’s about doing the right thing.” He paused. “I’m sorry I tried to keep you out of it. From what Mom tells me, you’ve been doing fine on your own.”

    “Yeah, maybe. But I sort of had help.”

    “Still, I think we could really make a difference. You got your abilities for a reason, Clark. Just like I know there was a reason I survived three years on that island.” He smiled. “You with me, little brother?”

    “Not so much on the little, thank you very much.”

    Oliver wrinkled his nose. “I don’t know. I think you’ll always be the pain-in-the-ass kid who used to follow me around.”

    “I resemble that remark,” Clark returned.

    His brother laughed. “Get in the car, kid.”

  13. #28
    Settling In Sykobee's Avatar
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    Thanks for the update. Caught your comment on ASiL and with what you mentioned was a bit surprised (happily) that there was an update here. Busy lady still managed a great chapter especially for the relationship between the brothers. Also, the bigger shock, unprompted human kindness from Whitney.😏 Enjoying the Queen Brothers and the dynamics of the Losers.
    Hope your projects are going well. Thanks again.

  14. #29
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sykobee View Post
    Thanks for the update. Caught your comment on ASiL and with what you mentioned was a bit surprised (happily) that there was an update here. Busy lady still managed a great chapter especially for the relationship between the brothers. Also, the bigger shock, unprompted human kindness from Whitney. Enjoying the Queen Brothers and the dynamics of the Losers.
    Hope your projects are going well. Thanks again.
    Thanks hon. The projects are pretty intense, and sometimes you just need to take a break and do something a bit lighter. I'm glad you're loving the dynamics. Yeah, Whitney's actions came as a surprise to everyone but at least he's not being a total douche.

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