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  1. #31
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Eight

    Clark walked down the corridor saying ‘hi’ to a couple of friends before opening the door to the Torch office. Chloe had left him a note in his locker to come down in his lunch period. He was surprised to see Lois sitting at the desk while Chloe sat on the couch playing with Kally.

    Clark smiled at his friend. “Lois. This is a surprise. What are you doing here?”

    “It’s a nice day so I thought I’d come down and visit Chloe,” she said.

    Kally turned to look at him and held her arms out. “Daaaa!”

    With a grin he picked her up and held her close. Chloe pouted.

    “Daddy’s girl!” she said.

    He chuckled. “Can I help it if I’m just plain ol’ irresistible?” he asked.

    “You wish!” the blonde shot back. “On that note,” she added, getting up from the couch, “I’m gonna go get myself some lunch.” She walked to the door and looked at them. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”

    Clark huffed and shook his head, looking down at his daughter.

    “That’s your aunt Chloe for you,” he said. “Thinks she’s a comedian.”

    Kally wrinkled her nose and pouted. Lois laughed.

    “Careful Kally. The wind’ll change and you’ll have that face forever.”

    Clark groaned softly. “My mom’s always saying stuff like that.”

    “Yeah, my dad says it too,” she replied with a laugh. She went to the door and closed it softly. “Okay, so I got your message this morning.”

    He smiled. He’d wondered why she really had come down to the school. At least Chloe was helping their cause in some way by pretending the visit was really for her.

    “I got an email from the Swann Foundation,” he said. “There’s a linguistics professor at Met U.”

    “Did you email him?” Lois asked excitedly.

    “Her, actually. And I didn’t have to. She knew exactly what it was about. There’s an old temple. In China.” He told her the professor knew of someone who had been studying the symbols at the temple. For some reason the Chinese government had left it alone despite destroying other items of cultural significance.

    Lois looked stunned. “China? Smallville, how on Earth are you going to get to China? It’s not like you have access to a plane. Or can you, you know, fly?”

    He grimaced. He remembered being able to fly as Kal-El in the summer when he’d retrieved the first stone, but the fears he had as Clark were still too strong for him to attempt it. He’d told Lois almost everything, including the times he’d woken up floating.

    Lois obviously remembered what he’d told her as she sighed.

    “Honey, you really have to figure out a way to get past all that,” she said.

    “I know. The thing is, even though I can run pretty fast, I don’t think I can run fast enough to jump the North Pacific into China. I’d probably have to run all the way up to Alaska and around the Arctic or something.”

    “That’s at least doable. You could be there and back in … what, a day?”

    “Maybe less, if I don’t run into trouble.”

    “So, it’s at least possible,” she said. “You have to. I mean, there’s more than your future at stake here. I don’t want to come off so ‘Lois’ but we need to know if Kally’s going to have your abilities. I mean, it’s as much for her protection as anything else. You know what it was like to grow up with your powers. And forewarned being forearmed and all that, and you know I’d help you if I could but I don’t think I could convince my dad to let you on a military transport …”

    “Lois!” he said. He’d been trying to get a word in edgewise for at least the last two sentences. She sighed.

    “Sorry, I do that.”

    He chose not to comment on her babbling. She was right. It was more for Kally’s sake than anything else that they were doing this. Clark hadn’t been ready to face whatever destiny Jor-El had apparently laid out for him, but he knew if he was going to protect his little girl, he had to go along with it.

    There hadn’t been any further signs since the bruise on her head. That had faded within a couple of days – fast enough that it had been noticeable. At least to them. They’d been careful to avoid anyone who didn’t know his secret.

    They decided to email the professor and find out a little more detail. Meanwhile, Chloe had returned with food, bringing a banana for Kally. She held out the sweet fruit.

    “Kally, banana. Can you say banana?”

    The little girl frowned as Chloe repeated it, clearly trying to work her mouth in the same way as her aunt.

    “She hasn’t even said ‘mom’ yet,” he told her.

    The blonde shrugged. “Worth a shot. So, I’m all for these little visits, but if Reynolds finds out …”

    “What’s he gonna do, Chlo? It’s a month to graduation.”

    Still, they both knew the principal wouldn’t approve. He’d always taken a hard line with his students, telling them he had high expectations of them. Especially Clark, who had had a run-in with the principal in his sophomore year. Terrance Reynolds had once been the headmaster of Excelsior Preparatory Academy, the private school Lex had gone to. When he’d realised Clark was friends with Lex, he’d warned him about the other man. Clark still didn’t know what the man had against Lex and hadn’t asked his friend either.

    Lois decided not to chance it and left shortly before the lunch period was over. Clark watched her go, promising to visit her the next morning, since he had a free morning.

    Chloe sipped from a can of root beer, gazing at him.

    “What?” he asked.

    “Where do you see this going?” she said.

    “What do you mean?”

    “You and Lois. I see the way you look at her.”

    He shrugged. He hadn’t known it was that obvious that he had feelings for Lois, although he wasn’t sure where it was going. “I don’t know. Right now all we can focus on is Kally and getting through college. We don’t really have time for anything else.” Well, it was partly true.

    “But you admit there’s something there,” she said.

    “Chloe, I’d really rather not talk about this. Not with you.”

    Her stare was almost piercing. “Why?”

    “I don’t need to give you a reason. You’re my best friend, you know that, but I’m not going to discuss my relationship with Lois with you.”

    She frowned. “Are you mad at me? You are, aren’t you? I knew it. You said you forgave me for Uncle Sam, so why are you …”

    He huffed. “Chloe! I’m not mad at you. I know you were put in a bad position where Sam was concerned and I’m not blaming you for that. I just … I don’t even know where this is going with Lois, but you’re not the first person I’d be discussing it with. It’s not fair to Lois, or Kally!”

    She grimaced. “Oh, God. I’m sorry. You’re right. I’m sticking my nose in where it’s not wanted.” She chewed on her lip. “I’m really sorry, Clark. It’s just … well, Lois is my cousin and with everything that happened I just …”

    He subsided, crouching down beside her. “Chloe, I know you care about Lois. I know you don’t want her to get hurt. I don’t want that either. That’s why I need to take things slowly with her. Okay? I don’t know how she feels about me but right now neither of us are ready to take that step. I know that sounds kind of dumb, considering there’s Kally, but us sleeping together was a mistake. I’m not saying Kally was a mistake, because in some ways, becoming a dad has made me see things a lot clearer than I used to.”

    She gazed at him, her eyes dancing. “You sound so grown up, Clark. I kind of envy you.”

    He shook his head. “Becoming a parent forces you to grow up,” he said. “As much as I love Kally, it’s not something I would recommend.”

    “Still, you realise you’re going to be in big trouble when she’s older. She’s going to break a lot of hearts.”

    He smiled fondly, thinking of his adorable daughter. Even his mother often said she was ‘cute as a button’. Of course they might all be biased. Probably every parent, or every loving parent, thought that way about their child. “Yeah, I know. That’s why there’s no way in hell I’m letting her date until she’s an adult.”

    “Like you’re gonna have a choice?” she returned. “I can see it now. She’s gonna be a teenager and come home with a boyfriend, only for him to have to face the wrath of Daddy. You won’t even need a shotgun.”

    He frowned. She’d been saying a lot of strange things to him lately. Her remarks had been slightly off. When he’d announced he wasn’t going to take up the scholarship at Met U, she’d told him she was proud of him for the decision, telling him she was sure he was destined for more than scoring touchdowns.

    “Why do you say that?” he asked.

    She looked hesitant. “Well, I mean, you’re a big guy,” she said after a few moments. “You’d be really intimidating to potential boyfriends.”

    Why did he get the impression that wasn’t exactly what she had been intending to say? Clark pondered the issue for the rest of the day but couldn’t come up with an answer.

    As he was putting his stuff in his locker after last period, he ran into Lana.

    “Hi,” he said.

    “Oh, hi,” she replied. She seemed a little nervous.

    “Is everything okay?” he asked as they began walking toward the main door.

    “Oh, no, everything’s fine.”

    “How are things with you and Jason?” he queried, knowing she was still dating the former football coach.

    “Um, they’re okay,” she said. He frowned, wondering why she was so hesitant and looking like she would rather look anywhere but at him.

    It had been rather a surprise to him when he’d seen Lana talking to the new assistant coach last Fall. He wasn’t that obtuse that he hadn’t caught the vibes from the two of them. It later came out that the pair were dating and once the school administration learned of it, Jason had been fired.

    Clark hadn’t said anything to Lana or even given any hint that he wanted to pick up where they’d left off over a year earlier. As far as he was concerned, they were over and done with. He didn’t know whether it was because of Lois and Kally, but any feelings he had for his former girlfriend had died long ago.

    “Um, so are you gonna go to Prom?” Lana asked.

    “I don’t know. Maybe. I was thinking I’d just go on my own though.”

    He had considered asking Lois, but didn’t know if she would want to go with him. He didn’t want her to get the wrong idea and think that he was ready to explore his feelings for her. Friendship was all he could really handle right now, he thought. He didn’t want to go into the what-ifs of what happened if things didn’t work out between them. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt her or his daughter.

    “You read Chloe’s article though,” she said.

    “You mean the ‘election of prom royalty is an archaic and elitist ritual’ Chloe Sullivan specialty rant?” he asked.

    She laughed. “That’s the one.” She studied him. “What are you planning?”

    He tried to look innocent. “Me? I’m not planning anything.”

    “Yeah, right. I know you, Clark Kent. You’re up to something.”

    “I might have put a couple of feelers out.”

    “About what?” she asked.

    “You’ll see. Tomorrow.”

    She narrowed her eyes at him. “You know, I don’t know Chloe’s cousin all that well, but I think she’s a bad influence on you.”

    He grinned at her, glad she was finally starting to relax enough to tease him.

    “Is that right? Well, maybe Lois had nothing to do with it.”

    “What is up with you two, anyway? You hang out a lot together.”

    He caught the note in her voice that suggested it was more than just a casual enquiry. She was fishing for something.

    “We’re friends,” he said. “Lois has been studying for her high school equivalency and I’ve been helping her with her studies.”

    Lana nodded. “I guess with Kally and everything, she wouldn’t have been able to finish school. It’s nice that you’re helping her. She seems like a really great person.”

    “She is. I think you’d really like her if you got to know her.”

    She turned to head to the parking lot. “Well, I should get going. You’d think the teachers would give us a break from homework this close to graduation.” She made a face and sighed dramatically.

    “Yeah, I know what you mean,” he agreed, wondering what homework she was talking about, since he hadn’t been given any himself and they still shared a few classes. Obviously it was a way for her to end the conversation without sounding rude.

    He got up early the next morning to do his chores. His father came in, frowning at him.

    “You’re up early.”

    “I’m going to see Lois before school,” he said.

    “I thought you only saw her on weekends,” his dad asked.

    “Yeah, but she has some last-minute cramming to do on a paper and asked me to tutor her.”

    “Hmm,” was all his father replied. Clark didn’t want to lie to his parents but he knew how they felt about Jor-El and his orders to search for the stones. He figured they probably wouldn’t appreciate him involving Lois either, but somehow it felt right that she was working on it with him.

    “You two seem to be getting very close.”

    He watched his father work for a moment before nodding.

    “Yeah. I can’t explain it, but somehow, I don’t feel so alone when I’m with her. It’s not because of Kally,” he added. He’d felt that the night they’d met.

    “Lois is a very special young woman,” his father replied. “I know your mom is very fond of her.”

    It looked like she wasn’t the only one, Clark thought.

    “Just, don’t go rushing into anything.”

    “Don’t worry, Dad. We’re just friends right now.”

    The blond farmer looked a little sceptical. Clark could understand. He constantly had to remind himself that he was the one who had made that decision and drawn the line between them. As much as he wanted to, he knew he wasn’t ready to cross that line. Not yet.

    He left the farm an hour or so later. Lois was feeding Kally breakfast in the kitchen. She smiled when he came in.

    “Hi. We’re just having breakfast,” she said, showing the plate of berry yoghurt, which was Kally’s favourite.

    Clark noticed she hadn’t finished her own breakfast. “Why don’t I finish feeding Kally so you can eat your breakfast,” he suggested.

    She nodded. “Okay. But I warn you, she’s in one of those moods.”

    Kally sometimes got a little recalcitrant and would refuse to eat what she was given. He pushed the sleeves up and gazed sternly at his daughter.

    “I hear you’ve been giving your mother trouble, young lady.”

    She shook her head, her dark curls bouncing around.

    He held out a spoonful of yoghurt but the one-year-old again shook her head stubbornly then babbled something that sounded almost like ‘no’, as if she was back-talking him.

    “Kally Lane-Kent, are you talking back to me?” he said, hearing a snort of laughter from Lois. He turned and glared at his friend and she gazed back at him with an innocent expression.

    Kally again babbled something, drawing his attention back to his daughter. She had dipped her hand in the bowl and was scrunching up her fist.

    “Smallville!” The warning came a second too late. The little girl had thrown the yoghurt straight at her father. Lois burst out laughing. “Told you she was in one of those moods.”

    Yoghurt dripped down his face. It was only a small amount but it was enough. Kally was giggling loudly, clearly very pleased with herself, having won whatever game she had decided they were playing.

    Clark growled softly and began tickling his little girl, making her giggle harder.

    “Oh, you think that’s so funny,” he said. “You’re just a funny girl, aren’t you? You’re just like your mom.”

    Lois scoffed. “I never!”

    He shot her a knowing look. “Oh, really? That’s not what your dad told me. At your first birthday party you threw chocolate cake everywhere. He even showed me photos.”

    “Oh, that is a low blow, Kent! I know somebody who decided to go rolling in mud, without his clothes on. And I’ve seen the evidence!” She smirked at him.

    “You always have to have the last word, don’t you, Lane?” he accused.

    “Yup.”

    He looked at Kally who was looking from one parent to the other, a big cheesy grin on her face.

    “Now I know where she gets it from,” he said, glaring as Lois got up to put her dishes in the sink.

    “Poor baby,” Lois cooed.

    Clark stood up, stalking over and standing behind her as she rinsed her plate. She turned, a little disconcerted at his closeness.

    “Smallville! Personal space!”

    He frowned, remembering the night at Atlantis and his efforts to get her to dance with him. He was not exactly a skilled dancer, but on red K he hadn’t cared how it looked. He’d tried to pull her closer, but she’d said the same thing to him that she was saying now.

    Despite her apparent discomfit, he could see her pulse was racing. His own heart was pounding so hard he would have been surprised if she couldn’t hear it.

    Lois licked her lips, leaving a light sheen. Clark couldn’t tell if she’d done it unconsciously or deliberately but he felt the urge to kiss her. It wasn’t the first time he’d felt it but each time it went unfulfilled, it became stronger.

    The little voice inside him that kept those feelings at bay reminded him once again not to cross that line, but he didn’t want to listen. After everything he’d said to Chloe the day before, he realised he knew where he wanted things to go with Lois. The question was, did she want the same?

    “Clark!”

    Frowning, he took in the note in Lois’ voice and heard Kally trying to say something. He turned and looked at his daughter. She was attempting to shove fistfuls of yoghurt in her mouth, getting it all over her face, her hair and the high chair, looking extremely pleased with herself.

    She noticed them watching and grinned. “Mama,” she said clearly, holding out a hand coated in yoghurt.

    Lois began to laugh, her giggles quickly becoming guffaws. Clark joined her a second later.

    Once they were able to get some semblance of control, Clark grabbed the cloth and took the bowl away, wiping down the high chair and Kally’s hands.

    “Looks like you need a bath, little girl,” he scolded. He shook his head. “What a mess!”

    “She’s your kid, Smallville.”

    He snorted. “Yeah, I’m not gonna touch that one, Lane!” He picked up the baby and carried her out to the cabin to give her a bath in the small tub they’d managed to find at a Granville store.

    He was just dressing her when Lois came out with Kally’s bottle. Now that her game was over, the one-year-old was looking ready for a nap. They laid her down in the crib.

    Lois had grabbed his laptop and set it up on the table. He’d forgotten he’d left it in the kitchen.

    “Thanks,” he said quietly.

    She sat beside him as he sent off the email to the professor. They had no idea how long it would take before they got a reply, but since he still had an hour or so before his first class of the day, he decided to wait it out.

    The silence between them felt a little awkward. Clark wondered if Lois was thinking about what had almost happened earlier.

    “Uh, about before,” he began. “I didn’t mean to come on so strong.”

    She frowned at him. “What are you talking about?”

    “You know, in the kitchen.”

    “Nothing happened, Smallville.”

    “But I wanted it to,” he replied.

    “I know. The thing is …” She sighed. “The thing is, I don’t know if I’m ready for that. I mean, what if whatever happens between us falls apart. I don’t want Kally to get hurt.”

    “Kally? Or you? I mean, isn’t that what this is really all about? Even if it didn’t work out between us, it’s not going to change how I feel about Kally. She’s still going to be my daughter.”

    She huffed. “I can’t. I mean, you were right when you said friendship was all we could handle right now. It’s not that I don’t think about it. I do, you know. But not now. Maybe some day, when we’ve got our lives together.”

    She was right. No matter how tempting it was, his logic brain told him it wasn’t the right time. Not yet.

    The computer beeped, letting them know he had an email. He turned to read it.

    “It’s from the professor,” he said. “She’s given me the location of the temple.” The rest of the email sent his heart plummeting. “Somebody might have beaten us to it. Apparently there was some kind of deal done with the Chinese government to allow an archaeological expedition.”

    “You don’t know that they found the stone,” Lois reminded him.

    “No, I know, but …”

    “Go check it out,” she said. “Now.”

    He quickly checked the time in China. It would be night, but that was probably a good thing, he thought. He could investigate the site under cover of darkness.

    He left the inn and ran his way up through Alaska and over the Arctic back down to China. He located the temple on the outskirts of the city of Shanghai. To his dismay, there were still archaeologists working on site. As he got closer, he saw the Luthorcorp logo.

    “Lex,” he murmured.

    He returned to Smallville a short time later. Lois was waiting for him.

    “What happened?”

    He told her what he’d seen. Lois looked as disappointed as him.

    “What are you going to do?” she asked.

    “I have to find out if Lex has the stone.”

    “How are you going to do that? You can’t confront him. For one thing, he’ll deny it. For another, that will just put you back under his radar.”

    He ran a hand through his dark locks. “I don’t know what to do.”

    “Maybe Jor-El can locate the stone,” she suggested.

    It was a long shot, he thought, but he consulted with his birth father, who confirmed that there was no way for him to locate it.

    There was only one other way. Clark was sure if Lex did have possession of the stone, he would have it locked away in a vault somewhere. The question was, how could he find that out without Lex figuring out what he was doing?

    Unfortunately, Dawn Stiles, the school’s resident ‘Queen Bee’ put paid to any opportunity he had to figure it out until prom was over. Dawn had been humiliated when her boyfriend had broken up with her, in public, the day before prom. Smarting over that, and Chloe being nominated for prom queen, she had plotted to find a new date for the senior dance as she drove home. Police would later figure she had been on her cellphone when she lost control of her car and ended up in Shuster’s Gorge.

    Thanks to some green Kryptonite, Dawn’s spirit had been able to possess others and she’d used that ability to get what she wanted, which was the prom crown, through Chloe. Even that hadn’t quite gone to plan and Clark had had to stop her burning down the entire school.

    His opportunity came the day after, when Lex invited him to play pool at the mansion. Careful to ensure the cameras didn’t pick up what he was doing, he was able to x-ray the vault. The stone was nowhere to be seen.

    Either Lex hadn’t found it either or someone else had found it and taken it.

    Bubsy stopped Lois as she finished cleaning one of the rooms.

    “Sweetie, would you mind going into town for me to run some errands?”

    She smiled at her friend and boss. “Of course not.” It was part of her job but Bubsy always made it sound like she was doing her a favour.

    The older woman nodded, handing her a card and a list. “Why don’t you take Kally with you?” she suggested. “I’m sure you both could do with some fresh air. And don’t hurry back, sweetheart.”

    Lois watched as her boss walked away, before glancing down at the items Bubsy had handed her. There was a voucher for a free coffee at the Talon. She chuckled lightly to herself, thinking how crafty the other woman was. She never said anything but it was her way of spoiling Lois.

    She didn’t need any further prompting, grabbing what she needed and taking one of the cars the inn used to drop guests off at the train or bus station. It was warm as she headed into town. Kally sat in the car seat, happily babbling away, attempting to sing along with the radio.

    Once Lois had finished the errands, she parked outside the Talon and picked her daughter up. A boy she recognised as one of Clark’s football friends held the door open for her. Kally gave him a big grin as a thank you.

    It was busy in the coffee shop with a line about five deep. Martha was working at the counter as she stepped up to give her order. The redhead beamed.

    “Hello, sweetie. Hello Kally. What are you two up to today?”

    “Just running some errands for the inn,” Lois said. She handed over the voucher. Martha shot her a knowing look and turned to start making the order.

    “Can I get some juice for Kally as well?”

    “Of course you can, sweetheart. Why don’t you go find a table and I’ll bring it over.”

    Lois looked around the crowded café for a table. There wasn’t one to be found, but the boy from earlier waved her over. He was sitting with a couple of others.

    “You can sit with us,” he said. “We don’t mind. Any friend of Clark’s …”

    “Thank you,” she replied.

    “So, you’re Lois, right?” one of the others said. “Clark talks about you.”

    She was surprised. “He does?”

    “Yeah. He said you two were good friends. I’m Mike, by the way. That loser is Justin,” he added, pointing to the boy who had invited her to sit with them. “And this jerk is Tom.” He pointed to the third boy. “I’m guessing this is Kally.” He smiled at her daughter.

    “I heard Clark was helping you study for your high school equivalency,” Justin said.

    She nodded in confirmation, curious to know exactly what Clark had been telling them.

    She wondered if Justin was trying to find out if there was more to it than that. She couldn’t help thinking about what had almost happened the other day. Maybe Clark had been teasing her, trying to get her back for laughing at him, but he had been coming on a little strong. She had wondered if he really would have kissed her if she hadn’t seen what Kally was up to.

    It was a little unfair, she thought. Clark had said all along they should really focus on friendship but he kept stirring her emotions, making her think he wanted more than that. They really weren’t ready. They both had four years of college ahead of them and while it wouldn’t be that hard to have a relationship, she had far too much to worry about with trying to raise her daughter and keep her job as well. Bubsy was a good boss and a good friend, but she still deserved Lois’ full attention when she was scheduled to work.

    Lois chatted with the three boys as she drank her coffee and Kally drank her juice from a sipper bottle Martha had thoughtfully provided. Her daughter once again proved just how much of a little heartbreaker she was, giving their table companions big grins as they played with her.

    She was beginning to get the impression that Justin wanted to ask her out. As much as she appreciated it, she knew she would have to let him down gently. If she didn’t already have feelings for Clark, there was no way she could even consider dating, just by the mere fact that Kally and her job took up a lot of her time already.

    The three boys left after a while. Martha came to sit down beside her.

    “Finally time for a break,” she said, giving her grand-daughter an adoring smile. Kally happily agreed to sit on her lap. “So, how are you doing, sweetie?”

    “I’m fine,” Lois told her. “How was the prom last night?”

    She knew Clark’s parents had agreed to chaperone the senior dance. Martha began telling her about the girl who had died and her spirit had somehow been able to possess others. Clark had stopped her, with help from his dad.

    “I would have thought Clark would have asked you to go with him,” Martha said.

    Lois nodded. They’d talked about it over the phone but she’d told him as much as she regretted missing her own prom, she had felt it better that they didn’t go together. People already talked enough about the amount of time they spent together, judging from what Clark’s three friends had told her and if they’d gone to the dance as a couple, it would have just started the rumour mill going full force. She wasn’t sure she wanted to subject her daughter to any potentially nasty gossip.

    As she chatted to Martha, she couldn’t help noticing Lana and Jason arguing about something. The relationship was rather odd. Lana had apparently told Chloe that the reason she’d left Paris was because she had found out Jason had only got involved with her because of some scam he was working. When he’d come to Smallville and got a job at the school, he’d somehow managed to convince her that it was because he was in love with her.

    It seemed like one week they were on and the next they were off again. Clark had even commented that it had been just as bad when he’d been dating the brunette. Lois wondered if Lana really knew what she wanted and was just using excuses to keep backing off the relationship.

    Her conscience nagged at her and she wondered if perhaps she was using Kally as an excuse not to get into a relationship with Clark. While it was true they did have a relationship of sorts, it wasn’t a romantic one. Was she afraid of the outcome? Was she afraid of losing herself by being with him?

    “You look miles away, sweetheart. Is there anything wrong?”

    “No, well, not really. I just can’t help thinking about me and Clark. I mean, I keep thinking I’m not ready for, you know, that kind of relationship with him. I do have feelings for him and I can’t just turn those off, but …”

    “Lois, being in a relationship is never easy. Goodness knows, Jonathan and I have never had it easy. My father didn’t approve. He wanted me to study law and didn’t like it when I chose to marry a farmer.”

    “That’s just it. I mean, what if I lose my sense of self?”

    “I know you, Lois, and that will never happen. I do think the two of you are doing the right thing by focusing on your studies right now. I love my grand-daughter, but having a child complicates your life in so many ways. When you have a young child in the house, you have little energy for everything else. Don’t feel guilty for wanting to get your own life settled before inviting someone else into it.”

    Kally whimpered and Martha looked down at her. The little girl was making a face which indicated to Lois she was feeling uncomfortable - a sure sign she had messed her diaper. “Looks like somebody needs her diaper changed.”

    “I’ll do that,” Lois said.

    The older woman shook her head. “I don’t mind, sweetie. I never got that chance with Clark.” She picked up the diaper bag. “I’ll be back in a couple of minutes,” she added, taking Kally out the back of the shop.

    Lois sat and finished her second cup of coffee. She saw Lana sitting at a table. Jason had obviously left as the brunette was alone. As Lois watched, she began rummaging in her purse for something, pulling out a cloth-wrapped bundle. The cloth appeared to be Chinese silk. Lana unwrapped the silk, revealing something that looked metallic in appearance. Lois got a glimpse of some kind of symbol etched on the surface.

    She hadn’t been able to see much but enough that she thought it could look like one of the symbols Clark had shown her from the drawing.

    Lois quickly turned her head as Lana looked up to see if anyone was watching. She pulled out her phone and sent a text to Clark, telling him to meet her at the inn in half an hour.

    She began to gather her things as Martha returned with Kally.

    “I have to get going,” she said. “Bubsy will be wanting the groceries.”

    “Now don’t forget. You and your dad are invited for dinner next Saturday.”

    She smiled. “I won’t.” She kissed the older woman on the cheek as she took her daughter in her arms. “Thanks Martha.”

    Clark was waiting for her in the reception area of the inn when she finished putting away the groceries. She beckoned for him to follow her outside.

    “What’s wrong?” he asked.

    “I think Lana has the stone.”


    a/n: I know it looks like Clark and Lois keep going back and forth where their relationship is concerned, but I think it's a sign that they both still have a lot of growing up to do before they can cross that line between friendship and romance. Just because you have strong feelings for someone doesn't mean you have the maturity to act on it.

  2. #32
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    a/n: So, it's almost my birthday, and as a treat from me to you, enjoy the next chapter.

    Chapter Nine

    Bubsy was folding the laundry, only half-listening as Lois sat in the parlour, talking with General Lane. Her father was playing with Kally, enjoying a rare afternoon off.

    “Daddy, how did you know Mom was the one?”

    “Well, now you’re asking a hard one,” the General replied.

    “I’m serious, Daddy.”

    “Why do you want to know?”

    “Because I think Clark …” Bubsy could hear the amusement in the man’s voice.

    “Honey, are you just now figuring that out? Even his parents knew the moment they saw you two together.”

    “So why do I keep hesitating? I mean, I know we have a child together, but we’re not … I mean, we haven’t done anything.”

    “Sweetheart, it’s good that you’re questioning it.”

    “It is? Why?”

    “Lo, you’re almost nineteen. Clark’s eighteen. You’re both far too young to get into a committed relationship. You have college ahead of you.”

    “Yeah, I mean, I get it. That’s kind of what I’ve been thinking.”

    “There is nothing wrong with you two spending time together as long as you are both clear on what you want. I know it’s hard. When your mom and I first got together, it was difficult staying apart. But we knew we weren’t emotionally mature enough for an intimate relationship.”

    “The thing is, when I’m with him, I feel like I can be myself. But I also feel like a better person when he’s around. Does that make sense?”

    “It makes perfect sense, sweetheart. Look, don’t worry about all the little details. You two will work it out eventually. You just need to give yourselves some time. By the way,” he added after a slight pause. “If you and Clark want to go out on a date, you just need to say so and I’ll babysit my grand-daughter.”

    Lois laughed. “Oh Daddy, I do love you.”

    “Right back at you, kid. Your mom would be so proud of you, you know. I made my mistakes with you girls and if I had to do it all over again, knowing what I know now, I’d spend more time with you.”

    “But then you wouldn’t be you, Dad,” Lois said sweetly.

    Kally started grizzling. “Sounds like somebody needs a n-a-p,” the General said.

    “I’ll go put her down.”

    Bubsy heard Lois getting up and presumably taking her daughter out to the cabin. She looked up as Sam came in to pour himself a coffee. He appeared relaxed and more at ease with himself than he had the first time she’d met him.

    “Kids, huh?” he said, smiling at her.

    “Lois is a sweet girl.”

    He sighed. “She is. Things could have gone a completely different way if I hadn’t woken up to myself.”

    “We all make mistakes, Sam,” Bubsy said gently.

    “I’m still so grateful to you for what you’ve done for her this past year. Her finding you was the best thing that could have happened to her.”

    “I just gave her a place to stay. The rest was up to her.”

    “I think you’re being too modest, Annie. You were a Godsend to her when she needed it most.”

    “And look at her now. She’s getting her diploma, about to go to college.”

    “I just wish I hadn’t been such an ass to her. I could have lost her forever.”

    “But you didn’t, Sam,” she reminded him gently. “You got her back.”

    He turned to look toward the back of the inn where Lois was talking on the phone. Bubsy guessed she was either talking to Clark or to her cousin.

    “What do you think of Clark?” he asked.

    “I think he’s a fine young man. Yes, they made a mistake two years ago, but even I can see they have a very special bond.” Sam put down his coffee as she picked up a sheet to help her fold it. “I do think they’re not ready to jump into an intimate relationship but I think we need to trust them.”

    He smiled. “You’re right. You’re a very wise woman Annie Harrington.”

    She returned the smile. “It’s wisdom that comes with experience.”

    “How is it a lovely woman such as yourself has never married?” he asked.

    She was flattered by the compliment but tried not to let it go to her head. Obviously Lois hadn’t told her father what she’d shared with her friend and she was grateful for that.

    “I fell in love with someone when I was just about Lois’ age. And yes, I did make a terrible mistake. I had to give up my child and the man I loved married someone else.”

    Sam’s expression was sympathetic as he looked at her. “I’m sorry you had to go through that.” He paused. “I don’t know if Lois told you, but my wife, Ella, died when Lois was six. Cancer.”

    She nodded sympathetically. “She mentioned it. You must have loved her very much.”

    “She was the love of my life,” he said, sighing. “That’s why I could never picture myself with anyone else all those years. Perhaps that’s why I buried myself in work rather than be a good father to my girls. So I could forget the pain of losing her.”

    “I don’t think you were a bad father, Sam. Lois is a wonderful, sweet, compassionate young woman. If you had been a bad father, she wouldn’t be who she is.”

    “I wish I could take all the credit,” he said.

    Lois came back in and her father joined her once more in the parlour. The two sat chatting for the rest of the afternoon.

    Clark had been trying to figure out how he was going to talk to Lana about the stone. He knew he couldn’t just steal it. Since the day Lois had spotted the stone in her possession, Lana had put it somewhere else instead of keeping it in her purse.

    He had asked himself many times how Lana could have got it. If Lois was right about the partial symbol she had seen, it was definitely the one from China. Yet Lana hadn’t gone to China.

    He could only assume Jason had given it to her somehow. Then again, if what Lois had overheard about the couple was true, why would he give it to her? It didn’t make sense.

    He’d recalled every conversation they’d had that year. There weren’t many. Ever since he’d decided dating Lana was a road he did not want to take again and a dead-end street, he hadn’t had much to do with her. There was just too much drama, too much angst. Lana must have sensed his feelings had changed or there had been something else going on. She’d been a little off.

    He didn’t want to discuss the problem with his parents. He and Lois had decided together not to talk about the project with them, knowing how upset they would be on the whole Jor-El issue. After everything that had happened last time Jor-El had tried to get him to leave the farm, it was rather a sore subject.

    As if that wasn’t enough, he had a few problems to deal with, from sudden amnesia to a graduate wanting school to go on forever so he didn’t have to think about how bleak his future looked, kidnapping several students in the process.

    Clark took Lois and Kally out to dinner the night before graduation. Her father had offered to babysit but Clark didn’t mind taking their daughter with them. She was far better behaved than some of the kids he’d seen, eating chicken nuggets quite happily.

    Lois had listened while he told her what had been going on.

    “Wow!” she said. “I mean, I knew it was a weird town and everything, but … seriously?”

    “I know. I don’t know if it’s the meteor rock that makes them crazy, but …”

    “Have you ever actually met anybody who didn’t go crazy from being exposed?”

    He nodded. He told her about the blind lady who could see the future and how, when Lana had been accidentally exposed, she was somehow telepathically linked with a cop who had kidnapped Chloe.

    Lois leaned protectively toward their daughter. “And this stuff can hurt you? Or Kally?”

    “Well, we don’t know about Kally yet,” he said. “We won’t know until Jor-El sees her. Well, you know what I mean.”

    She nodded. “What about Lex? After what happened with that black stuff, doesn’t it seem more likely that he knows about you? At least subconsciously? I mean, you’re not exactly subtle. Especially when you do your head tilt thing.”

    “Head tilt thing?”

    “Yeah, when you’re listening. You need to work on your tells. Anyway, the point is, Lex deep down knows something, even if he doesn’t know what he knows.”

    Clark thought about that. Lex had somehow been split in two. His darker self had committed murder and tried to get Clark to join him in his quest for power. He’d used a ring with a gemstone made of green Kryptonite, basically telling his ‘friend’ that he would hurt him or his family unless they joined forces. That memory was obviously part of Lex somewhere, even though the bald man, once his two selves had been reunited, had claimed he remembered nothing of the incident.

    “I don’t know what we can do about that,” he said. “Right now, we’ve got more pressing matters. If Lex has one of the stones, he’ll be looking for the others. If he finds out Lana has it, she’ll be in danger.”

    His friend looked thoughtful. “That’s if she even knows what she has. Then again, the way she’s been acting lately, like she’s worried about something, I think she at least has an inkling.”

    They finished dinner and headed back to the inn to put Kally to bed. Lois came out of the cabin so they could talk without disturbing her.

    “Seriously, Clark, you need to talk to Lana,” she said, taking up the conversation where they’d left off. “You can’t keep backpedalling.”

    “I’m not backpedalling,” he said. “I just don’t know what to say to her.”

    “Well, think of something. Before things get a whole lot worse.”

    He sighed. “You’re right.” He’d been procrastinating too long.

    “Just remember that there is more than you at stake here. We need to protect Kally. If Lex has figured out she’s your daughter …”

    That was another thing that had come out of Lex’s brush with black K. He’d implied that if Clark didn’t do what he wanted he was going to set his sights on Lois and use Kally. Clark knew he’d wasted too much time already.

    He left the inn and headed to the Talon, figuring he’d know what to say once he got there. The coffee shop was still open, but there weren’t that many customers. The two girls working at the counter didn’t even look up from their paperwork as he passed them to head up the stairs to Lana’s apartment.

    He heard a series of loud crashes and bangs from inside the apartment. They would have been loud enough to have been heard downstairs, if it hadn’t been for the loud music playing in the shop. Wondering if Lana was in trouble, he x-rayed through the door. Lana was fighting with someone. He couldn’t tell who as it appeared a lamp had been broken in the struggle.

    Clark opened the door and ran in using super speed, hitting the woman throttling Lana. She flew across the room, crashing against the wall, knocked unconscious. Lana was barely conscious herself.

    There was just enough light from a lamp on the other side of the room so Clark could see the crystal on the floor. It had obviously fallen in the struggle. Glancing at the brunette, who was too busy coughing and spluttering, he grabbed the crystal. It felt warm in his hand. For a moment it appeared to glow softly before dying down. He thrust it in his pocket and went to help Lana sit up.

    “Are you okay?” he asked. “I heard you fighting with someone.”

    Her voice was hoarse as she spoke. She leaned on him for support.

    “I’m okay, I guess.”

    “You should get checked out,” he told her, seeing the bruise on her throat.

    She nodded, looking over toward the fallen body of the older woman. She was still unconscious.

    “Who is she?” Clark asked.

    “Jason’s mother.”

    “What was she doing here?"

    Lana hesitated, looking around for something. She frowned. Clark guessed she was looking for the crystal.

    “I don’t know,” she replied finally.

    There was the sound of a startled gasp and Clark looked up, frowning at the dishevelled appearance of Lex in the doorway.

    “What are you doing here?” Lex accused.

    “I came to talk to Lana about something and I heard the fighting. When I got in here, Lana was on the floor and she was already unconscious,” he said, nodding his head to the fallen woman.

    He helped Lana to her feet.

    “I must have blacked out,” Lana said, still hoarse as she slowly explained what had happened. “I don’t remember pushing her off.” She tried for a weak smile. “Maybe those self defence lessons of yours last year finally paid off.”

    Lex offered an equally weak smile. Clark wondered if he would actually buy Lana’s explanation. The man’s eyes were wily as he looked around, as if he was mentally analysing the situation. He noticed there was a gun lying on the floor near Jason’s mother. It was clear the woman had come with the intention of if not just threatening Lana, trying to kill her.

    “We should call the sheriff,” Clark said, while Lex offered to take Lana to the hospital to get checked out.

    “I’d rather stay.”

    “You need to get that bruise looked at,” Lex told her gently. Too gentle for someone who could be so arrogant. It made Clark wonder if the man had deeper feelings for the brunette than he would admit to. “She could have crushed your windpipe.”

    “I’ll stay and wait for the sheriff,” Clark offered. He didn’t confirm to Lana what he’d seen, thinking she would assume he had thrown the woman off.

    “Thanks Clark,” Lex said. He grasped Lana’s arm. “Come on, Lana. I’ll take you to the hospital.”

    Clark called the sheriff once they’d left, making sure Mrs Teague wasn’t going anywhere. He sent a text to Lois telling her what had happened while he waited. She replied soon after expressing her shock and hoping Lana was okay.

    The woman was just coming around as the sheriff turned up. Clark told Nancy Adams what had happened. Mrs Teague tried denying it but her denials were ignored. The woman glared at him as she was led away in handcuffs, threatening all manner of reprisals, legal or otherwise. Clark snorted in disgust as she claimed she was rich enough that no one could touch her. The look she shot him was pure venom.

    As soon as they left, Clark sped to the caves, taking the crystal from his pocket. He stood at the edge of the stone tablet, eyeing the space where he’d placed one of the crystals last summer, when he’d been Kal-El. He carefully placed the new crystal. Once the new one was in its place, the two crystals let up. A bright light emanated from the remaining space, beaming upwards toward the roof of the cavern.

    A loud ringing pierced the silence, a similar sound to one he’d heard just a few months before when he’d realised the incarcerated Lionel had one of the stones. He let the sound wash over him, closing his eyes for a moment as he focused, locating the source.

    Clark sped off, heading toward the guesthouse of the mansion. He remembered the cottage from the first year he’d known Lex when the housekeeper and her family had lived there. Lionel had taken up residence there not long after he’d been released from prison.

    Lex, in one of his better moments, had confessed to Clark that he was sure the Teagues had somehow been involved in his father’s conviction being overturned. Considering the two families were rivals after the same thing, it didn’t surprise Clark in the least. Lex was always trying to do ‘backroom deals’ with those he considered business rivals. Why should the two senior members be any different?

    Fortunately, Lionel wasn’t in the guesthouse, but he found the crystal locked in a cupboard. Clark had learned some subtlety from Lois and picked the lock instead of just smashing it. He quickly retrieved the crystal and returned to the caves.

    Taking a deep breath, he reunited the crystals, watching as they formed what appeared to be a large diamond-shaped crystal. Grasping the newly formed crystal, Clark found himself transported to a wilderness of white.

    For a few moments, he stared, disoriented. He had no idea where he was. He looked around him, trying to identify some kind of landmark. All he could see was a huge white expanse.

    It stood to reason he was in the polar region. It was still light so he had to be in the northern hemisphere, he decided. If he was in the southern hemisphere, it would probably be dark, since it was winter.

    The crystal thrummed in his hand and he let it go, watching as it hovered above him. Some instinct told him to throw it. Almost as if it was guided by some unknown force, it sailed several hundred yards through the air, then dropped like a stone to the surface.

    There was a rumble and a tremor shook the ground beneath him. Clark dropped to a crouch, placing his hand on the snow, feeling the vibrations beneath him. Another sound reverberated around him, bouncing off the distant glaciers. He stood up again, watching as crystals began to form to resemble some kind of structure.

    Wanting to know more, he began walking toward it, awed by the sheer size of the construction. It had to be at least forty feet, maybe even higher, he thought.

    The sunlight reflecting through the crystals gave them an almost eerie glow as he stepped through what appeared to be the entrance and down into the chamber. A bank of crystals stood in the middle of the chamber and he moved toward it, uncertain of what he was supposed to do next. A long piece of the crystal, glowing with almost a white light, lifted up of its own accord and he reached out to grasp it.

    “Welcome, my son.”

    “What is this place?” he asked, disconcerted by the echo.

    “It is a replica of our home planet. Krypton. It is where you and I will begin our journey together.”

    “Journey?”

    “I sent you to Earth for a purpose, Kal-El. Only with training can you become Earth’s greatest saviour.”

    “I understand that, Jor-El, but there are things I need to do in Smallville. I graduate high school tomorrow. And there’s my daughter. Kally.”

    “Yes, there were forces at work determined to use the knowledge contained within this fortress for themselves. You have prevented that, Kal-El. However, the danger has not passed. You must bring the child to me where I can determine whether she will be like you, or more like her human mother.”

    “Will you teach me, or her mother, how to keep her safe?”

    “I will, my son. Do what you must to settle your affairs and return to me.”

    “Thank you, Father.”

    Lois left Kally in the care of Bubsy to drive to the farm the morning of Clark’s graduation. Martha greeted her warmly and told her Clark was in the barn getting ready.

    As she climbed the steps to the loft, she could see he was nervous. He kept trying to knot his tie but he kept untying it and grumbling.

    “Let me,” she said, taking the tie from him and putting it around her own neck to tie it. “I’ve done this lots of times for my dad.”

    “I don’t know why I’m so nervous,” he said. “It’s just graduation.”

    She shrugged. “I guess maybe because it’s shutting the door on one phase of your life and opening the door to another.”

    “Yeah, I guess so,” he said. She took the tie off and handed it to him. He appeared distracted.

    “What’s wrong?” she asked.

    “You know how Lana got hurt last night? The crystal was on the floor of the apartment. I stole it.”

    “You stole it?” she asked incredulously. Even knowing what was at stake, she was surprised he would do something that could be considered underhanded.

    “I had to. If Mrs Teague had got hold of it, or Lex …”

    She frowned. “What does Lex have to do with it?”

    She listened as he told her everything that had happened and how he’d found the other crystal.

    “So, this training … How long?”

    “I don’t know. Jor-El didn’t say.”

    “Months? Years?”

    “I really don’t know. Right now, all I can think of is getting him to see Kally.”

    “He’s not going to do anything, uh, like … probing, is he? You know. Like on X-Files?”

    Clark sent her an odd look. “What?”

    “Well, you know, like some alien probe where he …” She didn’t want to finish the thought. The image that popped into her head was too horrible to even contemplate. Especially where her baby daughter was concerned. No way was she going to let some alien entity poke holes in her little girl, she thought fiercely.

    “If you’re that worried, then come with us. Jor-El told me how to use the portal in the caves.”

    “That’s great and all, Smallville, but …”

    He looked at her. “This is the only way we’re going to be able to figure out where we stand with her,” he said gently. “We have to know how to protect her.”

    “You’re right,” she said, sighing. She eyed him critically. When he’d buttoned his shirt, he’d missed one buttonhole, so she corrected that. The colour of the shirt brought out the blue in his eyes.

    “You know, you actually look handsome for a change, Smallville.”

    “Thanks,” he returned with biting sarcasm. “As opposed to the train wreck I usually look like?” he added.

    “Well, yeah, when you’re running around town like a mouse on speed.” She grinned and punched his shoulder.

    He grunted and she rolled her eyes. “Don’t even pretend that hurt,” she told him.

    They started down the stairs together, only to be confronted by what appeared to be a very angry and very hurt Jason Teague.

    “Where is it?” he growled.

    Lois frowned. The man’s shirt was torn and bloody and he had a bad cut above his brow.

    “Where is what?” Clark asked.

    “The stone! I want the stone!”

    “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Clark told him. “You need medical attention Jason.”

    “I know you’re at the centre of it all, Kent. All the strange occurrences, the saves … I know you had to have something to do with it.”

    “You’re delusional, Jason,” Clark said. “You need help.”

    Lois glanced at her friend, wondering what he was planning. She started to edge away, but Jason turned on her.

    “Don’t move, b!tch!” He moved toward her as if to try and attack her.

    “Don’t call her a b!tch!” Clark shouted. Lois wondered if he’d used a touch of super speed as the other man was knocked off his feet, but her friend hadn’t seemed to have moved at all. She knew from what he’d explained that he could move fast enough that most people wouldn’t be aware of it unless he told them what he’d done.

    Jason lay on his back, staring up at the sky. Clark turned to her.

    “Go inside and call the sheriff,” he said. “I’ve got this.”

    She nodded and ran to the house. Martha intercepted her.

    “I’ve already called the sheriff,” she said, making it clear she’d seen what had happened.

    By the time the sheriff came and took Jason away, it was less than thirty minutes to the graduation ceremony. Clark’s parents told him to run to the school so he could get ready and they would meet him there. Lois went with them in Martha’s car.

    She watched as the names were called out and the students crossed the stage. Clark stood tall and proud as he accepted his diploma and Lois whistled and clapped to congratulate him. Lana’s name was called next and she moved slowly across the stage. She had a livid bruise on her neck but seemed otherwise okay. She turned to look at someone in the audience and Lois realised Lex Luthor had come to watch. He had an oddly proud look on his face.

    For someone who only claimed to be a friend, he seemed a little proprietary, Lois thought.

    A few more names were called out and then it was Chloe’s turn. Lois again whistled and clapped for her cousin, grinning broadly as she watched her uncle, Chloe’s father, also whooping loudly.

    She found Chloe a short time later and hugged her.

    “Congratulations, cuz,” she said.

    “Right back at you,” Chloe replied, laughing. Lois had got her own diploma in the mail a couple of days earlier. As much as she had wanted a proper graduation ceremony, it hadn't been possible. Yet, to her delight, Clark and Chloe had mocked one up for her. They'd even invited the General to the 'ceremony'.

    Chloe turned and looked at Clark, who had joined them.

    “So, some of us are heading to the Talon for the graduation party. Are you guys coming?”

    “Thanks, Chloe, but we’ve got something else to do,” Clark said.

    Lois nodded. “We wish we could, but …”

    Her cousin looked a little put-out, pouting. “I get it. You’ve got your own private celebration planned.”

    “It’s not like that,” Clark told her. “We just wanted to do something with Kally.”

    The blonde turned away, obviously a little miffed. Lois wanted to apologise to her cousin, or at least try to explain what was really going on, but knew it would be far too complicated.

    Clark gently pulled her way and guided her toward his parents.

    “We should go get Kally and take her to the fortress,” he said.

    “Um, don’t you think you should tell your parents what’s going on?” she asked. “I mean, they’re going to find out eventually. Don’t you think it should be sooner than later?”

    Clark sighed. Lois knew he thought they wouldn’t be happy at knowing what they’d done and what they planned to do, but she figured they would be even more unhappy at being kept out of the loop.

    “Okay. You’re right. We’ll tell them on the way.”

    Unhappy was an understatement, she thought as Jonathan drove them back to the farm.

    “Why would you have anything to do with Jor-El?” he asked. “Are you forgetting he forced you away from the farm two years ago?”

    “He might have tried, but I ran away, Dad. And this is not about me. It’s about Kally. He’s probably the only one who can help us protect her. If we’re right, Lex is still investigating me. What happens if he finds out the truth about Kally?”

    “Honey, we know you want to protect your daughter, but don’t you think you should have discussed this with us first?” Martha asked.

    “What is there to discuss?” he said stubbornly. “I know how you feel about Jor-El and if I’d told you what I was going to do, you’d have tried to stop me. There was no other way to do this, don’t you see that? It’s not like we can take Kally to the nearest hospital and ask them to examine her. What are we supposed to say? We think there’s something unusual about her and we want to know if it’s going to get worse? The hospital would call the nearest government lab and we’d never see her again.”

    Lois remembered when Martha had told her she had a similar fear for Clark when they’d first realised just how special he was. She could tell the older woman was thinking the same thing.

    “Jonathan, Clark has a point. If Jor-El can help keep our grand-daughter safe, then we need to trust him.”

    Jonathan still looked uneasy, but he nodded. “All right. But as soon as you’ve found out, you come straight back here.”

    Lois knew it wasn’t going to be that easy. Jor-El had informed Clark he needed to begin training to be Earth’s Greatest Saviour. As pretentious as that sounded.

    Clark took the truck and followed Lois back to the inn so they could pick Kally up. Bubsy hugged Clark and congratulated him on his graduation before handing over the toddler. She smiled at Lois.

    “Now you go and have a good time with your dad,” she said. She’d given Lois the whole weekend off so she could take Kally to visit her father at the base. Her sister Lucy had resurfaced as well, after having got into some trouble while at boarding school and was now living with their father.

    “I will,” she promised.

    An hour or so later she found herself inside what Clark called his Fortress of Solitude. She had bundled up in a thick jacket and gloves. Kally was similarly outfitted.

    Clark picked up a crystal and inserted it into what she supposed would be the control centre of the fortress.

    “Jor-El?” he called.

    “I am here, my son. You have returned as promised.”

    “I have. Jor-El, I would like you to meet Lois Lane, the mother of my child.” He took Kally gently from her arms. “And my daughter. Kally.”

    “Greetings, Lois Lane. With your permission, I should like to examine your child.”

    “You’re not going to, um, hurt her, are you?” Lois asked anxiously.

    “I assure you, Kally will not be harmed. Please place her on the bed.”

    A light shone from somewhere above, illuminating a large flat bed of crystal. Clark laid the toddler on the bed. Kally began crying, reaching for her father. He shushed her, assuring her it would be okay. Lois doubted she understood what was happening.

    Clark stood back as lights danced over her. Kally began giggling as if she was being tickled, reaching for the lights. Lois felt Clark’s arm around her waist, providing reassurance as they watched their daughter being examined by the Kryptonian technology.

    After what seemed like an age, the examination ended.

    “Your daughter is very healthy, Lois Lane. Her genetic structure is indeed half of one parent and half of the other. It is difficult to determine at this stage exactly what powers she may have.”

    “So, you’re saying she will have powers?” Clark asked.

    “She will, but not until she is almost fully grown. For now, she may heal at a more accelerated rate than a normal human child, but that is the extent of her abilities from what I can determine. She will continue to develop as a human child but will appear a little more advanced than those her own age. However, I do not believe it will be so far advanced as to cause concern. You have nothing to fear, Kal-El.”

    “What if she gets hurt?” Lois asked, not sure what to do if her daughter should ever need medical attention.

    “You must take care to ensure she is examined only by someone you trust. Her blood will show what human doctors may see as anomalies. I do not anticipate any serious illness requiring medical attention. She most likely will have immunity to all communicable diseases on Earth.”

    “But you don’t know that for sure,” Lois said, catching the slight doubt in his statement. Jor-El didn’t reply.

    She turned to Clark. “So, what happens now?”

    Clark bit his lip. “I made a promise, Lois. I’m not coming back with you to Smallville.”

    “How long?” she asked.

    “I told you, I don’t know.” He kissed Kally’s cheek, then hugged her. “I’ll be back as soon as I can,” he said. “Will you please explain to my parents?”

    She knew they wouldn’t understand but there was no other way.

    “Jor-El?” she called.

    “I am here, Miss Lane.”

    “Promise me you will look after him.”

    “I assure you, Kal-El will not be harmed.”

    “Promise!” she repeated.

    There was complete silence for a few moments. Then Jor-El spoke again.

    “You have my promise, Miss Lane.”

    Lois kissed Clark on the cheek, fighting tears. “Take care of yourself,” she said.

    He handed her the disc. She stood at the console, disc in hand. Clark stood watching as she slowly inserted the disc. Her heart broke as Kally reached out.

    “Daddy!” she said, clear as day.

    Then the beam enveloped them both and she was back in the caves. Lois sobbed, holding her daughter close as Kally cried. “Daddy!” she said again.

  3. #33
    Forum Regular Sykobee's Avatar
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    Here's wishing you a very happy birthday 🎊🎂🎊. Hope your have a day a wonderful as the stories you create and share. This last gift chapter was a bit of a tear-jerker at the end but I'm loving the reimaging of the Smallville plot points that keep it familiar and new at the same time. It's a subtle but effective and powerful lure and hook. Case in point, the stones. I may have mentioned it before but, I like that there is litte of the massive drama and hurkey-jerky Clana riggamarole.

    So again, best bday wishes, thanks for the great chapters and, as always, more please. 😊 ☺ 😊

  4. #34
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sykobee View Post
    Here's wishing you a very happy birthday . Hope your have a day a wonderful as the stories you create and share. This last gift chapter was a bit of a tear-jerker at the end but I'm loving the reimaging of the Smallville plot points that keep it familiar and new at the same time. It's a subtle but effective and powerful lure and hook. Case in point, the stones. I may have mentioned it before but, I like that there is litte of the massive drama and hurkey-jerky Clana riggamarole.

    So again, best bday wishes, thanks for the great chapters and, as always, more please.  ☺ 
    It was always going to be a tearful goodbye and it's going to be just as tearful a 'welcome home'. I love reimagining certain things and changing it up a bit.

    There will be a little bit of Lana in the next chapter, but as you'll discover, she knows she's lost.

    I chose to go a slightly different way with Clark in this next chapter, but there is a good reason for it. Posting shortly.

    Thanks for the bday wishes.

  5. #35
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Ten

    Lois drove back to the farm, doing her best to get her emotions under control. Kally was still crying, obviously not understanding what had happened and wanting her daddy. Lois had no idea how to explain to a thirteen-month-old why her daddy hadn’t come with them. Half-Kryptonian or not, she thought. Her daughter’s brain just wasn’t developed well enough to understand that concept.

    She turned the truck into the gateway of the Kent Farm, grabbing a tissue to wipe her eyes. She probably looked a mess. She’d worn make-up to go to Clark’s graduation and it had probably run by now.

    Clark’s parents were working outside when she pulled up in the gravel driveway. Jonathan frowned as he looked over and saw her driving instead of Clark. She got out and went around to pick up her daughter, doing her best to comfort her still sniffling child.

    “Where’s Clark?” Jonathan asked.

    She bit her lip. “Um, I think we need to talk.”

    He nodded. “Let’s go inside.”

    Martha followed them into the house. Jonathan made them all coffees while Martha held out her arms for her grand-daughter. Kally whimpered, but let her grandmother take her.

    “There, what’s all the crying about, sweet girl?” she crooned. She grabbed a wet wipe from the counter and began wiping the toddler’s wet cheeks.

    Lois sighed as she sat down beside the blond farmer. Martha continued to comfort the toddler until she fell asleep in her grandmother’s arms.

    “What happened?” Jonathan asked.

    Lois related it all as best she could. The couple looked concerned when told Clark had stayed at the fortress.

    “You mean, he just agreed …” Martha said. “For how long?”

    “I don’t know. Jor-El wouldn’t tell us. He did say that Kally probably won’t get her powers until she’s a lot older. Maybe when she starts to hit puberty.”

    “Well, I suppose that’s better than nothing,” Jonathan replied. “But why did Clark stay?”

    “I don’t think he had much of a choice,” Lois told the couple. “He said Jor-El was pretty insistent.”

    They nodded. She could tell they’d seen just how upset she was but had chosen not to say anything.

    “What are we going to tell people?” Martha asked her husband.

    “We’ll just have to tell them that Clark’s gone to visit his grandparents in Coast City,” Jonathan replied. Lois wondered why he looked so glum.

    “What’s so bad about that?” she asked.

    Martha sighed softly. “My father and Jonathan had a few … differences. They never really patched things up. We considered telling my parents about Clark, but when he was young he wasn’t always careful about not using his abilities. We couldn’t be sure, given the way my father felt about my marriage, that he would be understanding.”

    “Clark did try to get us to patch things up a few years ago,” Jonathan told her. He looked at Martha. “We could say that his grandmother had an accident and he went to help out for a few weeks.”

    Lois nodded. That sounded logical. The only problem was, what were they going to do when those few weeks were up and Clark still wasn’t home?

    She missed him. It had only been an hour but she missed him. His laugh, his smile, the way his ‘fangs’ dug in the corners of his mouth when he was smiling.

    She knew now why it had been so hard for her parents, knowing her father’s work often took him away from his family. Maybe they weren’t quite ‘family’ but she felt closer to Clark than she had ever felt with anyone. She had no doubt in her mind that they would be together as a couple one day, but even then she knew she would have to share him with the world.

    Clark stood in a chamber of light, surrounded by it, his brain bombarded with symbols and phrases of the Kryptonian language. He had already learnt so much about his home planet’s history. How environmental damage had caused the Kryptonian council to order crystal domes to be erected for the people to live, away from the radiation poisoning the soil.

    He’d learnt why the pieces of his planet were so poisonous to him and caused such a response in humans. The radiation was like a cancer, mutating the cells until it eventually took over all the healthy cells in the body. Because it had been created under a red sun, when exposed to the yellow sun, or the star Sol, which gave him his powers and increased his metabolism, it increased the speed of the mutation in a Kryptonian. Some humans, their immune system already compromised by sickness or injury, would also be affected.

    That was why, he was told, that the humans hurt in the meteor shower had changed. That was why Jodie, who had used Kryptonite-laced vegetables in a power shake, had experienced a sudden surge in her metabolism. Her digestive system had already been compromised.

    That was why Tina, who had been born with soft-bone disease, had suddenly been able to shape shift following experiments using Kryptonite-laced drugs.

    The meteor rock might have changed their lives for the better, but in many it had left them mentally unstable, Clark was told. He realised Lex was among them. He knew Lex had a problem with anger. Just as he knew from the story Chloe had told him about Lex's breakdown after his brother died. He figured there were other incidents in his life where he’d demonstrated emotional instability.

    Eventually, Jor-El moved on to teaching him about the Kryptonians’ war with Black Zero and its role in the planet’s eventual destruction. Clark was shocked to learn that his uncle, Zor-El, had been working with the leader of the Kryptonian army, a man by the name of Dru-Zod, to not only strip the planet of many of its natural resources, but also to attempt to take over the Kryptonian Council in a failed coup.

    Zod would later be sent to prison for his crimes, in a place Jor-El called the Phantom Zone, an inter-dimensional prison.

    Clark was warned Zod had cried vengeance on Jor-El, his onetime friend. He saw many parallels in his father’s friendship with the general and his own friendship with Lex. He wondered if Lex would eventually betray him too.

    He had no idea how much time was passing. Locked in the chamber, he had no way of knowing whether it was day or night. His mind was constantly bombarded so he had no time to think about those he had left behind.

    Lois leaned into the back of the car and undid the harness on her daughter’s car seat, picking her up. She shut the car door, making sure it was securely locked.

    “Nice car,” a voice commented.

    She turned and looked for the speaker, frowning at the bald man standing beside a black Porsche.
    “Is it new?” Lex continued.

    “Well, new to me,” she said. “My dad bought it for me to celebrate my acceptance into college.”

    The bald billionaire raised an eyebrow. “Oh? Which college?”

    “CKU,” she said.

    “Isn’t that the same one Clark was accepted to?” he asked.

    She almost snorted. It was no surprise he would immediately link it to Clark. It had been over a month since Clark had taken her to the fortress and there was still no word from him. Lex had already asked Martha a few times when his friend was returning from Coast City.

    Why did she get the impression Lex knew Clark wasn’t really in Coast City? Then again, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that he would check up on their story.

    “Yes it is,” she said.

    “Have you heard from him lately?” the bald man said, peering interestedly at her. Lois shifted the toddler in her arms.

    “He calls when he can. They’re just keeping him busy,” she said. “Excuse me. It’s getting hot out here and Kally’s kind of heavy.”

    “Oh, forgive me. Of course,” he said, as if it had only just occurred to him how hot it was. The temperature had soared to almost a hundred degrees and coupled with carrying a twenty pound toddler in her arms.

    He preceded her to the door of the Talon and opened the door for her.

    “Why don’t I buy you a drink to make up for it?”

    Lois bit her lip. She didn’t like the man. She probably wouldn’t have liked him even if she hadn’t known about Clark. There was just something about him that made her skin crawl. However, she didn’t want to be rude either.

    “All right. An iced mocha would be nice.”

    He leaned forward and smiled at Kally. “And what about you, missy? What would you like?”

    Lois wanted to smack him. She had been called ‘missy’ a few times when she was younger by someone her father had worked with and he had been extremely condescending. Lex’s tone was almost the same.

    “Juice will be fine for Kally,” she said.

    She looked around and saw Lucy and Chloe waiting at a table for her.

    “Excuse me,” she added. “I see my sister and Chloe waiting for me.”

    Lex nodded. “I hear your sister is quite the virtuoso.”

    “She does all right,” Lois told him, hefting the little girl in her arms again, hoping he would get the hint.

    He turned away to head to the counter, leaving her to go and sit with the other girls.

    “What was that all about?” Chloe asked.

    “I think he was fishing,” she said. She sat Kally in a chair, giving her a toy from her bag to keep her occupied.

    Lucy scowled. “He seems kind of creepy to me.”

    Lois nodded in agreement, remaining quiet while Lex approached with the drinks.

    “One iced mocha for you and one juice for this young lady.”

    She looked at her daughter as Kally reached eagerly for the juice. “What do you say, Kally?” The toddler uttered a reasonably close approximation of thank you.

    Lex grinned. “I’ll take that as a ‘thank you’. It’s good to see you’re teaching her manners.”

    Lois laughed, making it just sufficiently genuine to let him think she found it amusing when she really wanted to punch him for his condescending attitude.

    “Well, with Bubsy around, not to mention the General, she has to learn to mind her manners.”

    The bald man nodded. “Nothing like military discipline,” he said.

    What would you know? she asked silently.

    “So, girls’ day out?” he asked casually.

    “Yes it is, actually,” Chloe said coolly. Lex raised his hands in a gesture of surrender and walked off. Lois stared at her cousin.

    “You know, I don’t like the guy, but that was rude. Didn’t he pay for your safehouse last summer?”

    “Yeah, but he’s still too nosy for my liking. Did he ask you about Clark?”

    She nodded, sipping the mocha. She’d wanted to refuse the drink but knew it would just pique his curiosity even more if she had.

    “So, where is Clark?” Lucy asked.

    She glanced at her sister. They’d had a difficult relationship for years. When their mother had died, the General had told Lois she was now part of the ‘chain of command’. If he gave her an order, she was to carry it out. That also meant anything that involved Lucy, she would have to pass it down the chain. As in any military command, if Lucy did something that went against orders, or required discipline, Lois was not only also punished for it, she was meant to pass down that punishment.

    Lucy had once accused her of trying to be their mother and Lois hadn’t been able to explain it all in a way her two years younger sister would understand. Lucy had also resented being sent away to boarding school instead of staying with them, never knowing that Lois hadn’t exactly got the better end of the deal. In many ways, Lois had resented the fact that her sister got the private school education, as it had implied that the General thought Lucy was smarter than Lois.

    A few months earlier, Lucy had got herself involved with a man running a loan sharking operation in Switzerland. She’d tried to con Lois into bailing her out, but, with Clark’s help, Lois had discovered the truth and told her father, not wanting to do anything to spoil the good relationship they had. Lucy had tried to run away but the General had sent someone after her. They’d caught up with her in Germany just as summer began and she’d been told she had to shape up or face jail.

    “I told you, he’s staying with his grandparents in Coast City.”

    Chloe looked dubious. It was the same expression she’d had a month earlier when Lois had told her Clark had left already. Especially since they’d informed her they’d made plans that didn’t include her.

    They sat at the table for the afternoon, chatting. Lucy wanted to head out to Crater Lake the next day, but Lois couldn’t go with her sister. Bubsy had basically given her a promotion so she could receive wages as well as tips. The money still wasn’t a lot, but it was enough for her to save a little for her college expenses. At least, she thought, I don’t have to worry about child care expenses. There were plenty of people willing to babysit.

    As Chloe and Lucy went back up to the counter to replenish their drinks, she saw Lana talking with Lex. He’d apparently been going over the accounts with Martha in the back of the shop and had run into Lana. The dark-haired girl didn’t look happy at the way the bald man placed a proprietorial hand on her arm.

    The pair ended their conversation and Lex walked out. Lana spotted Lois at the table and came over.

    “Hi,” she said. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you.”

    Lois frowned at her. “What about?”

    She looked around the shop. Chloe and Lucy were coming back with their drinks.

    “Now’s not a good time. Why don’t you come upstairs before you have to go home?”

    Confused, Lois just nodded. “All right. I have to go to work soon anyway, so I’ll come up in a bit.” The other girl nodded and smiled in greeting at Chloe.

    “Hey, Lana,” the blonde said. “Everything okay?”

    “It’s fine,” she replied. “I was just thinking, we haven’t done anything in ages. Feel like a movie night? You could come too, Lois. And you, Lucy,” she added. “If you want to.”

    “Well, my day off is Saturday.”

    Lana beamed but her grin looked a little forced. She’d clearly only just thought of the idea. “Great! How does this Saturday sound?”

    The other girls nodded their agreement. “Sounds good to me,” Chloe replied.

    “Me too,” Lucy put in.

    The brunette again smiled, shooting Lois a quick glance before turning to head up the stairs to her apartment.

    Lois chatted a little while longer before her cousin and Lucy decided to leave. She waited until they were gone, still wondering why Lana had asked to see her, thinking that whatever the other girl had to say was something that was between them. Kally had fallen asleep so she carried her up the stairs, careful not to disturb her.

    Lana greeted her at the door. “Why don’t you put Kally down on the couch while we talk,” she said.

    “Is everything okay?” Lois asked, putting her daughter down. Kally whimpered in her sleep but didn’t wake.

    The other girl bit her lip. “You didn’t tell Chloe about this, did you?”

    “No. Why? What is this about, Lana?”

    “Clark,” she said simply. “I didn’t think you’d want your cousin or your sister to hear what we talk about.”

    “Lana …”

    “I need to know, Lois. Where is Clark?”

    She hesitated, then repeated the same story slowly. The brunette shook her head.

    “No. I remember how badly things went with his grandfather a couple of years ago. He was devastated. His grandfather wouldn’t suddenly forget all about that just to have Clark go and help them out for a couple of months.”

    Lois had known the story wouldn’t really stack up. Not if someone looked at the facts very carefully. She wondered if that was why Chloe questioned it so much.

    “So where is he? Really?”

    She huffed. “The truth is, I don’t really know. What I mean is, I don’t know where he is.” That was the truth as far as she was concerned. It wasn’t like she’d been able to see the location of the fortress on the map.

    “You don’t know when he’ll be back either, do you?” Lana said.

    “No. I don’t.”

    The other girl sighed. “Yeah, I figured that was the case. Look, um, you know Clark and I have a history.”

    “Yes, I know you dated. Before you say anything, Clark and I aren’t dating either.”

    “But I see the way he looks at you. The same way you look at him. I’m not blind, Lois. I’m not so completely self-centred either that I can’t see what’s been going on. I know Kally is his daughter. She looks almost exactly like him. It wasn’t so obvious when she was a baby, but it’s really obvious now.”

    Lois looked down and sighed softly.

    “Please, Lois. Don’t lie to me.”

    “Okay, you’re right. He’s Kally’s father. We decided not to tell anyone other than his parents. My dad knows. So do Chloe and Lucy. And my boss. But they’re all sworn to secrecy.”

    “You know, Lex thinks he knows,” the other girl warned. “He’s been asking me an awful lot of questions about what I think might have happened when Clark ran away. He’s done the maths. You did meet in Metropolis, didn’t you?”

    She stared at the other girl. The brunette had obviously been thinking long and hard about the situation and had begun to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. It still didn’t tell Lois what was really going on.

    “Why do you need to know all this, Lana?”

    “Maybe in some small way I’m trying to do the right thing by Clark. And you. I guess I’m trying to protect you both.”

    “Why? What’s in it for you?”

    She wondered if Lana was still in love with Clark, even though he’d assured her that ship had sailed a long time ago. He was adamant he no longer had feelings for the girl he’d been infatuated with since he’d been six years old, but that didn’t mean Lana’s feelings had changed.

    She huffed when Lois asked about her feelings. “It’s not about that. I know I lost Clark a long time ago.” She looked away for a moment, but Lois thought she saw tears in the other girl’s eyes. “Do you know, I think I had an inkling he’d fallen out of love with me when I found him in Metropolis. He was so … harsh. Almost cruel.”

    “Lana, that wasn’t Clark. I mean, it was, but it … wasn’t. I don’t know how to explain it.”

    “You mean because that was Kal? I heard the waitress call him that.”

    “It’s not just … He was different in Metropolis.”

    “I know. Anyway, when he came back it was like he no longer saw me as the girl he’d loved since first grade. Then when I met you and Kally, I knew I’d lost him for sure. I mean, I know I was with Jason, but I think I only stayed with him because I thought it would hurt Clark. Even though I knew Jason was just manipulating me.”

    “Lana …”

    Lois saw a tear slip from the other girl’s brown eyes. It was odd. They were similar in a lot of ways. They’d both lost family – her with her mother and Lana having lost both her parents when she was young. They both had dark hair and brown eyes, although hers were more hazel than the other girl’s. Where Lana was petite and fine-boned, she was taller and more athletic.

    Somehow though, Lois sensed that Lana didn’t really know who she was. She wasn’t as self-assured as she tried to pretend she was. Three months in Paris last summer hadn’t given her emotional maturity. In many ways, she was still trying to be the girl-next-door; trying to fit an ideal of what she thought others wanted.

    Lois had always been independent. Becoming a mother at seventeen had made her almost more so. She wondered if Lana would have changed if she’d had a similar experience. She highly doubted it. The other girl had basically had almost anything she wanted handed to her, while Lois had had to fight for it.

    It wasn’t that the General had denied her things. He’d just never believed in mollycoddling his daughters They’d never actually been a demonstrative family. Had her mother still been alive, she was sure that things would have been much different.

    “He’s always been yours. I’m not mad at you, Lois. I just thought you should know that I still care about him, even though he chose somebody else.”

    Lois was still confused about what Lana was trying to achieve from this conversation.

    “The thing is, Lex has been coming around a lot. I think he somehow might have feelings for me.”

    Lois nodded. “I’ve seen the way he looks at you, Lana. Almost like he wants to own you.”

    “I know. See, I’m not that oblivious. I think Lex knows about you and Clark and figures he’ll be there to pick up the pieces for me.”

    “Lana, I’m not sure what you want from us. I mean, Clark and I aren’t together like that.”

    “Not yet, no,” the girl said softly, almost resignedly. “But you will. It’s kind of inevitable. Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about. I needed to warn you that Lex is still investigating Clark. I think he knows Clark isn’t in Coast City or anywhere near his grandparents.”

    “Why would you want to warn me about Lex?” Lois asked.

    “Because I owe it to Clark. I know he saved my life the night Mrs Teague tried to kill me. And I’m pretty sure he stole the stone. I don’t care about that. I always had a feeling it was somehow connected to him, especially when I saw the same symbol in the caves. I know he’s different, Lois, and I think you do too.”

    “Lana …”

    “I realised that night that he’s been saving me for years and I never thanked him.”

    Clark’s training had moved on to more physical aspects. Jor-El had instructed him using holograms so he could undertake physical trials. The training was arduous and he was exhausted at the end of each trial.

    In this latest one, he stood atop the Statue of Liberty. It looked so real it felt almost as if he were really there as he looked down on the city of New York. He swallowed. Even though he knew it was all an illusion, his mind was fooled into believing he could feel the wind rushing past him, whistling in his ears. That he could hear the faint sounds of traffic in the streets.

    “You must focus, Kal-El.”

    The voice of his birth father was firm, reminding him that he needed to learn to fly. It was the one power he had not fully mastered.

    He swallowed again, hearing the pounding of his heart.

    “What if I fall?” he asked.

    The illusion faded. “You do not trust yourself. That is why you fail this trial.”

    He had always had a fear of heights. Jor-El had suggested that perhaps it had something to do with the way his ship had plunged to Earth. Because he’d been a baby, only a few weeks old by Earth standards when he’d been sent away from Krypton, Jor-El hadn’t been able to place him in suspended animation. Clark had been fully awake when the ship had come down. While he didn’t consciously remember that happening, his subconscious probably did.

    “I don’t think it’s a matter of trust, Jor-El.”

    “Father,” the disembodied voice reminded him.

    As much as he wanted to, Clark had found it difficult relating to the avatar of his long-dead birth father. He’d wondered aloud if the problem was that he couldn’t see Jor-El, only hear him. The artificial intelligence that contained all the knowledge of the Kryptonian scientist was little more than an interactive recording. It was too abstract. Clark needed something tangible.

    Jor-El decided it was time to move on.

    “What do you know of Earth’s history?” he asked.

    “I guess it’s similar to Krypton. There are always wars going on.”

    “Do you know why there are these wars?”

    “I guess. I mean, America’s at war with Afghanistan.”

    “Why?”

    “Because of what happened in New York.”

    “Tell me.”

    Clark told his birth father about the terrorist attack on the twin towers and the three thousand odd people who had died. He went on to explain about the war with the Taliban and the Jihadist movement.

    “These are facts, but I do not believe you understand why these wars continue,” Jor-El told him. “You cannot help humans if you first do not understand their ways. It is said that people fear what they do not understand. You may appear as one of them, Kal-El, but you are not.”

    “I don’t get it.”

    Jor-El explained that once Clark began saving people, their responses would be mixed. They might not trust what they saw. Clark realised Jor-El was right when he remembered how Lex had investigated him throughout their friendship. He hadn’t trusted what had happened and wanted to know more, instead of just believing that miracles could happen.

    He remembered what Lois had said when he’d told her about the accident on the bridge. She’d been right when she’d told him he hadn’t done himself any favours by ripping off the roof of the car. If other people reacted the same way Lex had …

    “You will be viewed with suspicion.”

    “I don’t know how to get around that.”

    “You must learn. However, that is something I cannot teach.”

    Clark was confused. “How am I supposed to learn that then?” The answer should have been obvious.

    “By living as one of them, Kal-El. You were raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent. Guided by them. Now you must venture into the world and learn more about the humans you live amongst so you may discover where your strength and your powers are needed.”

    As Jor-El went on, Clark realised his birth father was telling him he needed to further his education. To question what he saw and heard so that he could delve deeper into people’s motivations. He finally understood that it would not simply be a matter of him arriving on the scene and saving people.

    He couldn’t just reveal himself to the world. Not in the current climate of intense paranoia. He was reminded of a movie he’d seen on television where one of the characters had commented that one person was smart, but people as a whole were dangerous animals. Faced with the strange things he could do, he knew there was no way they would accept him at face value.

    The only way to get acceptance was by degrees. One save here, another there, without them knowing or seeing, until he decided the time was right.

    Kally was staying for the day with her grandparents while Lois had to complete her registration at Central Kansas and get her textbooks. She had balked at the prices, knowing on her wages she wouldn’t be able to afford everything but thankfully her father had set up a credit account for her on the proviso that it was only for course materials.

    Bless him, she thought as she drove back to the farm, the newly purchased textbooks in a bag on the seat beside her. He was definitely making up for all the years he’d felt he’d never been there for her.

    He’d done a lot for her over the summer. He’d taken her and Kally out almost every Saturday, knowing she was feeling a little lonely with Clark gone. Thankfully the General had stopped asking questions about Clark after she’d got upset. He’d wondered if they’d had a little tiff and that was why she hadn’t heard from him and Lois couldn’t correct him. The truth was, she worried about Clark. Wondered what he was doing in that icy fortress. Whether he even thought of her while he was gone.

    She stopped the car on the gravel driveway and got out, preparing to head toward the house to pick up her daughter. She heard Kally’s childish giggles coming from the barn. Wondering if the toddler was playing with her grandfather, she turned to go to the barn to investigate.

    As she stepped through the doorway, her heart stopped for a moment. For there was Clark, holding Kally up in the air, pretending to fly her. It was their game.

    Kally must have spotted her. “Mommy!” she said gleefully in her baby way. “Look at me!” At least, that was what Lois assumed she was saying.

    Clark dropped his arms, letting his daughter gently down. Kally pouted, but went to play with the dog the family had adopted a few months earlier.

    Lois stood looking at him, unable to believe what she was seeing.

    “I’m home,” he said simply.

    She ran into his arms, not caring what it looked like.

    “God, I missed you!” she cried.

    Without thinking, she reached up, pulling his head down a little and took his lips with hers. Clark responded, kissing her hungrily. They clung to each other as if their lives depended on it.

    “I love you, Lois,” he said. “I missed you so much. I know it was only three months, but it felt like a lifetime.”

    She nodded, unsurprised to discover she was crying. “I know, Smallville. It felt that way for me too. Promise me you’re never going to go away like that again.”

    He looked at her, his top teeth biting down on his lip. “I can’t make a promise like that,” he said. “If I had a choice, I would never leave you again, but …”

    “I know,” she cried. “I’m just being stupid.”

    He shook his head. “No, you’re not. It’s not stupid, Lois.”

    They sat down on one of the hay bales. It was prickly, but Lois didn’t care.

    “What was it like?” she asked.

    “A lot of the time I was in this chamber, learning everything about Krypton’s history and how it got destroyed. At first, there wasn’t time for me to miss everyone. There was just so much to learn. Then Jor-El began teaching me about my powers. Showing me how to control my abilities. Things that I can one day pass on to our children.”

    Children? She knew he was as much as saying he saw them together in the future.

    She’d had a dream while he was gone. They were older, sitting on the swing on the porch of the farmhouse, watching children playing in the yard. Nothing had really happened in the dream. It had just been the two of them, sitting closely together, rings on their wedding fingers. It was peaceful.

    Clark began telling her about some trials he’d had to go through. They had been simulations, but had still felt so real.

    “I was standing on the top of the Statue of Liberty and I could see the whole of New York city. I was supposed to drop so I could fly, but I couldn’t. Jor-El said it was because I didn’t trust myself. It wasn’t that. I was thinking about you in that moment. How much I missed you. How much I wanted to be with you.” He turned to face her, taking her hand. “I know we’re still young, Lois. We have four years of college ahead of us, but I know there’s no one else I want to be with.” He paused. “I have something for you. It’s sort of a promise.”

    “What is it?” she asked.

    A slight breeze blew and she knew he’d moved at super speed. His position had changed slightly and he was holding a small tissue-wrapped package in his hand.

    “I was given this a couple of years ago. I was told that one day I would be able to give it to the ‘true one’ in my life. That person is you, Lois Lane. You are the one. You always will be.”

    She watched as he slowly unwrapped the tissue to show her a beautiful silver bracelet with a diamond-shaped turquoise stone set in the centre. It looked Native American.

    “It’s beautiful,” she said.

    “It was made by the Kawatche people,” he said.

    “You mean, the caves?”

    She’d explored the caves a couple of times, careful not to disturb anything. She’d also seen the photographs Clark had kept in his trunk of the pictographs and had seen one of a girl wearing a similar bracelet.

    Luckily, she had never run into Lex although she knew Luthorcorp was the conservator for the caves. She’d been curious after Lana had mentioned what she’d seen down there and how she knew of Clark’s connection to the stones.

    “Yes,” Clark replied. “Will you wear it, Lois?”

    Shelby barked and Kally giggled, distracting her for a moment. She looked over at her daughter but the toddler was happily playing some kind of game with the golden retriever. She looked back at Clark.

    “Yes,” she said. “I will.”

    He beamed happily, opening the clasp on the bracelet and placing it gently around her wrist. The metal immediately felt warm against her skin, making her wonder if there was some kind of magical property attached to it so that it knew it belonged to her.

    Kally chose that moment to get bored with playing and ran to her father.

    “Daddy!” she said, begging to be picked up.

    Clark obliged, holding her close. Lois laid a hand on her daughter’s shoulder, the other on Clark’s thigh.

    They still had so much to talk about but for now, all she wanted to do was be with the man she loved and the daughter she adored.

  6. #36
    Forum Regular Sykobee's Avatar
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    Yay! He's back! I was thinking that he was just just dropping in before going off for his travels -hope that's not going to be a solid block of time, but more broken up as to weeks here and there around college, if at all. I always have a tough time swallowing CK gone for years on end if he has,already connected with Lois.
    I was impressed with the Lana/Lois interaction. It was well constructed, tracked well and was believable for the characters and storyline. I'm really wanting to see how Kally develops personality wise.

    Really enjoying this story, so much so it prompted me to revisit the Consort realm as I wait for more on this and The LC.
    Thanks again🙂 Wonderfully done.

  7. #37
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sykobee View Post
    Yay! He's back! I was thinking that he was just just dropping in before going off for his travels -hope that's not going to be a solid block of time, but more broken up as to weeks here and there around college, if at all. I always have a tough time swallowing CK gone for years on end if he has,already connected with Lois.
    I was impressed with the Lana/Lois interaction. It was well constructed, tracked well and was believable for the characters and storyline. I'm really wanting to see how Kally develops personality wise.

    Really enjoying this story, so much so it prompted me to revisit the Consort realm as I wait for more on this and The LC.
    Thanks again Wonderfully done.
    When I thought about Clark going for his training, I explored the logistics of it. Jor-El isn't all-knowing, all-seeing and he can't possibly predict how people would react to a Superman, especially in this current climate, so I worked that in to the chapter. College was the best solution as Clark can learn more about Earth's history and how he can best use his abilities. Being gone for years just didn't suit the situation.

    I wanted a real adult conversation between Lana and Lois, with her actually accepting that Clark has moved on from what was really an unhealthy relationship for both of them.

    I love the idea of exploring Kally's development as she grows older.

    Enjoy Consort. For me, it's the best example of how my writing has got better and better as the years have passed. I will update LC soon. Promise.

  8. #38
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Eleven

    Clark was running late Monday morning. He’d overslept, which wasn’t really all that unusual, since during the time he’d spent training in the fortress he hadn’t really slept much. He’d gone to school on the Friday before to register for his classes, only to find most of his electives were already full. Of course, he couldn’t exactly explain why he hadn’t registered at the beginning of the summer, like most people had.

    He had to drop off some baked goods at the Talon before heading off to school as his parents were already working. As he turned away after handing the tray to the girl on the counter, he ran into Lex.

    “Clark,” the man said with a smile. “I heard you were back.”

    Clark shrugged. “Small town,” he replied, smiling back at the man.

    Lois had told him about her conversation with Lana and the fact Lex had been asking far too many questions. His parents had also told him the story they’d told around town to try to avoid those questions. They hadn’t known that he’d been emailing his grandfather for a couple of years and while the old man was still prickly, he had managed to build up a relationship of sorts.

    He was sure if his grandparents had been asked, they would have helped in case anyone asked about him. He knew Lex would have more than likely checked his parents’ story.

    “So, how is your grandmother?” Lex asked, walking with him out to the car.

    “A lot better. Thanks for asking.”

    “It was good of you to go and help your grandparents for the summer.” The bald man peered at him, as if he was hoping the scrutiny would uncover the lie. Thank goodness Jor-El had taught him a few lessons on how to lie believably. Clark had never been comfortable with lying and it had been patently obvious in the past. “You were missed around here.”

    “Yeah, I know. Lois told me people kept asking after me. Still, it’s family. You do what you gotta do.”

    “Speaking of Lois,” Lex said before Clark could leave. “Is it true you’re dating? What about Lana?” When they’d first met, the bald man had taken an interest in Clark’s love life, or lack thereof, telling him to go after Lana and even engineering a couple of incidents so the girl would ditch her then-boyfriend and go out with Clark. While it appeared he was still trying to matchmake, Clark wondered if his questions had more to do with his own interest in Lana.

    “We only just decided to start dating,” he told the other man. “Lana and I decided a long time ago to be just friends.”

    “Just friends?” The bald billionaire raised an eyebrow. “This is the girl you’ve had a crush on since you were six-years-old!”

    Clark shrugged again. “Well, what can I say? It was just a crush. You know, sometimes you just need to know when to bow out of an unhealthy relationship,” he added, looking meaningfully at the other man. Lex, of course, had had plenty of experience in unhealthy relationships. Especially the one-night stands.

    His ‘friend’ looked coolly at him. “I suppose you’re right. Well, good for you.”

    He could practically see the wheels turning in the other man’s head. He wondered if the other man was now thinking Lana was a free agent. As much as he wanted to tell his friend to steer clear of the man, he knew she had to work that out for herself. Since she’d told Lois what she had figured out about his months away, he realised she was probably well aware of what Lex was trying to do and was only placating him so she could protect his secret.

    “Well, I have to get going,” he said. “I’m already late for my first class. Not the best first impression.”

    Lex nodded. “You’re right. Come by the mansion later. You can tell me all about your summer in Coast City.”

    “Sure. My last class is at two and I have a couple of things to do at home, so I can come by after that.”

    The other man smiled. “Great. I’ll tell the staff to expect you. I have a meeting scheduled at two-thirty but I should be done by the time you get there.”

    Clark drove to campus but he was still a few minutes late when he got to class. He knew if he’d run he would have made it in plenty of time but his parents and even Lois had been adamant that he not use his abilities unless they were for emergency situations. Jor-El had also told him he needed to maintain the pretence that he was normal.

    He opened the door to the lecture theatre and quickly located a seat up the back. The professor of his world history class had already begun the introductory lecture, explaining the structure of the semester. Just as Clark went to sit down, he heard the woman speak a little louder.

    “While I don’t call a roll, after all we are not in kindergarten, I do expect everyone to attend lectures and to be on time and the young man who just snuck in, pray tell, what life or death emergency caused you to be late to my lecture?”

    Clark felt himself turning red as everyone in the theatre turned to look at him. Lois was sitting in the next row down and she shot him a look.

    “Uh, I’m sorry, professor,” he said. “I … uh, overslept.” He decided not to go into any more detail about having to make the delivery for his mom and being stopped by Lex.

    “I see. Sit down, young man.”

    She turned away and continued on with the lecture. All attention was on the attractive blonde who would be teaching them through the semester. She was aged in her early forties, from what Clark had read, but she looked at least ten years younger.

    She spoke for a few more minutes giving an overview of the semester before moving to the first topic. Clark sat enthralled. She was clearly highly intelligent and explained things in a way that reminded him of some of the stories Lex used to tell him about historical figures. Many a time Clark had managed to get good information for his high school history papers thanks to Lex’s knowledge.

    He was so interested in what she was saying that he was surprised when the lecture ended. The students began to pack up their notebooks and file out of the theatre. Clark packed up his own books and was about to join Lois at the door when the professor spoke.

    “Stay back a minute,” she said.

    He glanced at Lois and she shrugged, mouthing that she would meet him at the campus diner. He turned back to the professor, who had come up the steps to stand beside him.

    She smiled at him. “I do hope you’re not going to be late to all my lectures,” she said.

    “I’ll do my best,” he replied. “That was a really interesting lecture, Professor.”

    She nodded. “I admit my passion for the subject gets away on me at times but I like it when my students become engaged with the material. However, I expect my students to use good time-management skills.”

    “I’m usually up early,” he said. “I live on a farm.”

    “Yes, I know. Clark Kent. You’re planning on majoring in journalism?”

    He stared at her, surprised. She grinned. “I make it a point to know all my students, especially the ones I think will do well in my course. Your SAT scores were excellent, Mr Kent, which tells me that if you apply yourself you can maintain a high GPA. I must warn you, I don’t tolerate laziness in my students.”

    She said it in a friendly manner, but Clark took the warning seriously.

    “It won’t happen again, Professor Abbott.”

    “Good. I’m glad to hear it.”

    Clark left the theatre and crossed campus to the diner. Lois was waiting at the table with a coffee and a maple donut. As long as he’d known her, she always seemed to order the same pastry. He got his own coffee and sat down opposite her.

    “So, what was that?”

    “She just wanted to talk to me about being late to class,” he said.

    “Smallville’s in trouble,” she replied in a singsong voice.

    “Shut up, I am not.”

    “Was she gonna spank you?” Lois teased.

    “No, but I know someone who’s going to get spanked if she’s not careful.”

    “Ooh, kinky,” she replied with a grin.

    He chuckled. “You are trouble, Lois Lane.”

    “You’re just now figuring that out?” she asked, laughing. “Where have you been?”

    Lois glanced at her phone as it gave a quiet beep. It was sitting on the table beside her. She laughed as she saw the message and turned it around so Clark could see. Kally was sitting on her grandfather’s lap making a funny face at the camera. Clark’s dad was making the same face.

    “Your dad the comedian, huh?” she said.

    “Like your dad is any better,” he returned. Sam loved babysitting his granddaughter and they’d often go to pick her up only to find the General on the floor surrounded by toys and having a great time.

    “Who’d have thought my dad could turn out to be such a big softy,” Lois replied.

    Clark grinned and laid one hand on hers. She smiled coyly and sipped her coffee.

    “When’s your next class?” she asked.

    “Not for another half hour,” he said. “Maths.” He’d decided to take statistical mathematics to fulfil his science requirement. “When’s your psychology class?”

    “It’s at noon. I’ve got errands Bubsy wants me to run.”

    While Lois was technically still a maid, her boss often asked her to help out with other duties, like running errands or going to pick up guests from the train station. She would repay Lois for her help with a bonus in her paycheck.

    As they left the diner and began walking around, exploring the campus, he found himself thinking about the things they’d talked about the day he’d returned home. She hadn’t actually said the words, but he’d known from the way she’d thrown her arms around him and kissed him that she loved him.

    They’d been going back and forth for months trying to figure out their feelings and he had decided when he returned from the fortress that he wasn’t going to do that anymore. He loved her and he didn’t want to waste another day pretending they could just be friends for now.

    They hadn’t talked about what they were going to do for their first actual date. Clark wanted to take her somewhere special, but they were both on strict budgets. He knew Lois loved monster trucks, and although it wasn’t really something that interested him, he figured he could at least go along to one for her.

    He’d already done a little research and knew there was a show that Saturday night in Metropolis.

    “So, I was thinking. There’s a monster truck show on Saturday. Do you want to go?”

    Her eyes lit up. “Are you kidding, Smallville? I’d love to go! What about Kally?”

    “Your dad won’t mind babysitting. He did say he would if we wanted to go out.”

    “So, this is a date?”

    He didn’t want to debate his answer. Lois had often told him that there were times when his failure to be more direct frustrated her, but she’d also told him he needed to not say everything he needed to say in one fell swoop. While it sounded like a contradiction, he knew what she meant.

    “Yes, this is a date. I don’t want to waste another moment with you. I mean, I’m not saying we should move in together or anything. We’ve got four years of college ahead of us and …”

    Lois grabbed his arm and pulled her to him. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.

    “Smallville, you talk too much.”

    He grinned and kissed her hard. Their bags dropped to the ground as they kissed passionately. Students on the concourse whistled and a few of them made lewd comments but he didn’t care.

    As they broke apart, he heard what sounded like someone needing help. He looked at Lois. She immediately understood.

    “Where?” she asked, quickly gathering their belongings and walking with him to a secluded spot where he could slip away unnoticed.

    “Not far. I’ll be back,” he added, speeding away.

    A girl had been jogging in the wooded area bordering the campus when a man had tried to drag her off into the trees, bent on attacking her. Clark ran to the spot and saw her struggling with the man in attempts to get him off her. He ran between them, shoving the attacker away with one hand. The man was tossed a few feet, luckily avoiding the trees and lay on the ground, winded.

    Clark paused long enough to make sure the girl was okay. Her shirt was torn and she had a couple of abrasions but otherwise she was unhurt.

    He returned to where Lois was waiting.

    “What happened?” she asked.

    “A girl was attacked on the path,” he said. He listened for a brief moment. “She’s calling campus police.”

    “Hmm, I wonder if there’s a story in it. Girls being attacked on campus.”

    “Probably. We missed the club orientation but we could still go talk to the campus newspaper.”

    “I don’t know. I’m still not sure I want to major in journalism.”

    He shrugged. “You don’t have to decide on your major the first year. You’ve got time to think about what you want to do.”

    “You and Chloe did,” she pointed out.

    “Yeah, but Chloe’s wanted to work at the Daily Planet most of her life whereas I figured it was where I could be in the middle of the action, so to speak. I mean, I couldn’t exactly be a cop if I want to keep my identity secret.”

    “That’s true. Oh well, like you said. I’ve got time.”

    Clark looked at his watch. It was almost time for his next class. He still had to find the lecture theatre.

    “I should get to class,” he said. “See you later?”

    She nodded, kissing his cheek. “I’m picking Kally up at three.”

    “I told Lex I’d go over to the mansion after my last class, but I’ll be home before I go.”

    Lois frowned. “Why are you going over there?”

    He sighed. “I figured at least keep up the pretence a little while longer.”

    His friendship with Lex had been on the outs for a while. Right before last summer, he’d had a fight with the other man over the room where he’d kept files on Clark and his family. What he saw as evidence of Clark’s abilities. They’d eventually patched things up with Lex telling him he had got rid of everything and was no longer investigating them, Clark remained guarded.

    When he’d related everything to Lois about what he saw as Lex’s bad decisions, he conceded he might have been more than a little judgemental, but then again, the man had slept with several women in a series of one-night stands and had been performing dangerous experiments involving meteor rock.

    The problem with Lex, he’d told his girlfriend, was that the man never considered the consequences of his actions. Clark knew it sounded hypocritical, especially since, as Kal, he’d slept with Lois and didn’t consider what might come from his own actions, but he’d at least taken responsibility for his mistakes. Lex still tried to blame everyone else for his own errors in judgement.

    Clark had figured that he should at least try to keep Lex on side for now, so he could protect his family. Keeping up the friendship would allow him to keep a close watch on the other man’s activities so he might have some warning if the bald man did anything to threaten Lois or his daughter.

    He left campus later that afternoon and drove home. Kally was in the kitchen with her grandmother, watching her bake cookies. She looked up, her whole face lighting up when she saw him.

    “Daddy!” she said gleefully, holding out her arms for him.

    He picked her up and hugged her, taking in the aroma of sugar and spices and that sweet baby scent.

    “Hello munchkin. Have you been good for Grandma?”

    She nodded her head, moving it up and down in an exaggerated movement. She was yet to learn she didn’t need to do that.

    “We’ve been baking all afternoon, haven’t we darling?” his mother said.

    “Cookies!”

    “Cookies, huh? And how much cookie dough did you eat?”

    Kally shook her head. “Nope!”

    “Right,” he said. He put her down on the floor. “Go get your stuff, squirt. Mommy will be here to pick you up any minute.” She toddled off happily

    “How was school, honey?” his mother asked.

    “It was fine.”

    He heard the squeak of the screen door and Lois came in, greeted by her daughter with a squeal.

    “Mommy!”

    “Hi, baby. You got your jacket? Good girl!” Lois grinned at Clark’s mother. “Hi, Martha. Was she good today?”

    “She was on her best behaviour. Although she missed you.”

    Lois picked up the toddler. “I missed you too, baby,” she said.

    “How was your first day of classes?”

    “It was great,” Lois said with a smirk. “Clark got in trouble with the history professor.”

    “I did not!” he said in protest.

    “Did too,” she responded. She looked at the older woman. “He was late to class and she called him out.”

    “I overslept,” he replied. “And then I ran into Lex at the Talon. You know, I would have made it early if somebody had let me use my powers.”

    “You know better than that, Clark Kent!” Lois replied. “No using your abilities unless it’s for emergencies. Like what happened this morning.”

    His mother frowned at him. “What about this morning? You didn’t get in trouble, did you?”

    “No, Mom. A girl was attacked on campus. And before you ask, I just winded the guy. She didn’t see me.”

    “I went by the Gazette office after you went to class,” Lois told him. “That wasn’t the first attack. It was just the first time the campus police had someone for it.”

    Clark frowned at her. When they’d talked earlier, it seemed like she hadn’t made a decision about pursuing journalism but he guessed the attack had bothered her. He wasn’t surprised. She wasn’t one to let injustice go.

    “You didn’t …”

    “I just told them I saw campus police dragging a guy off. Anyway, the guy in the office said he needs a couple more reporters, so I signed us both up. And I got us the story.”

    Clark snickered. “You don’t waste any time, do you?”

    She shrugged. “Well, I figured what the hey.” She looked at her phone. “Anyway, I’ve got to get back to the inn. We’ve got a couple of late check-outs and Bubsy wanted me to clean the rooms before the new check-ins arrive.”

    It was rather ironic that Lois had got a job as a maid, considering Sam Lane had told Clark and his parents that she had always been messy at home. That had mostly changed when she’d had Kally, of course.

    Clark hadn’t been able to resist teasing her over it when he’d found out.

    Lois shifted the toddler in her arms. “Say ‘bye to Daddy and Grandma, sweetie. We’ve got to get going.”

    Clark gave his daughter a kiss on the cheek and a quick hug, letting his mother do the same.

    “’Bye bye Daddy, ‘bye bye Grandma,” she said.

    He followed them out and watched as Lois also said goodbye to his father before putting Kally in the car. He continued watching until she turned onto the highway.

    He went back inside to find his mother smiling.

    “What?” he said.

    “Nothing.”

    “Don’t go getting any ideas, Mom. We haven’t even gone on our first date yet.”

    “Sue me for wanting to see you happy. And from what I can see, Lois makes you happy. Speaking of first dates, do you have a plan?”

    He nodded. “I’m taking her to Monster Trucks in the city on Saturday. We’re gonna ask the General to babysit. That’s okay, isn’t it? I mean, you and Dad still have to work and I can’t …”

    “Clark, I don’t mind babysitting a few hours a week. Goodness knows, you do the work of about a dozen farmhands around here. Besides, she’s a joy to look after. You and Lois seem to be doing all the right things with her.”

    He was pleased by the praise but knew it wouldn’t always be this easy. He’d read enough about child-raising to know that it could be much worse. Kally hadn’t hit the ‘terrible twos’ yet. He was glad, however, that she wouldn’t get any of his abilities until she was an adolescent. God only knew what she would be capable of.

    He went to the refrigerator and poured a glass of orange juice.

    “What was it like when I was a kid? When I first came to live with you?”

    She looked at him. The timer on the oven dinged and she picked up the mitt to get the tray. Clark shook his head and took the tray out of the oven for her, putting it on the counter.

    “Mom?”

    “It wasn’t easy, at first,” she admitted. “You didn’t know any English and it was hard to get you to understand us. I gave you a bath as soon as I got you home and you put your hand under the hot faucet. I thought you would scald yourself so I shouted at you. I think you were more frightened than hurt as you screamed.”

    She bit her lip. “After a few weeks it started to get easier but you got so frustrated because you couldn’t understand what we were talking about. You would have temper tantrums where you’d stamp your feet, or punch the walls. We were so afraid you’d bring the house down on top of us.”

    “I’m sorry, Mom,” he said.

    She shook her head. “No. You have nothing to be sorry for. As I said, you were frustrated and you didn’t know how to control your strength yet.”

    “How long did it take before I learned to speak English?”

    “Not long at all, really. You were so young and I think when you are that young, it’s easy to pick up another language.”

    “I guess I babbled a lot. Like Kally.”

    “Mmm, but she’s learning so fast. Don’t worry too much about what it says in those books, sweetie. You and Lois will learn how to deal with it if and when the time comes. Just remember that she needs you both to back each other up on decisions and to be firm.”

    He smiled and kissed her cheek before grabbing a still-warm cookie.

    “Thanks Mom. I’m heading over to Lex’s for a couple of hours but I’ll be back before dark.”

    “All right, honey. Don’t forget the produce order,” she reminded him.

    He drove over to the mansion with the produce, handing it over to the housekeeper before walking through the house to the library.

    As he was about to enter, he heard Lex discussing something about Leviathan. He made a note to check up on that later.

    The bald man smiled, shutting the lid on the laptop and getting up.

    “Clark. You’re just in time. I just finished my meeting.”

    “Great.” He started to walk over to the pool table. “How about a game?”

    “Not right now. I thought we should catch up. You spent the whole summer away in Coast City.” Lex frowned at him. “Not even a phone call?” He tried to look offended.

    “Yeah, I’m sorry about that. My grandparents kept me busy. I think Grandad was trying to convince me to study to be a lawyer like him.”

    “Heaven forbid,” Lex returned. He gestured toward the leather couch. No sooner had Clark sat down when the maid came in with soda for Clark and a tray of snacks. He turned, watching as his friend poured himself some scotch from the wet bar.

    The other man sat opposite him in the chair.

    “Did you ever want to do something else?” Clark asked. “I mean, instead of going into business with your dad?”

    “Apart from rule the world?” Lex replied sardonically.

    “I’m serious.”

    “So am I. Serious as a heart attack.”

    “Lex …” Clark sighed.

    He’d always known the other man was ambitious. He’d once proclaimed he wanted to like his idol, Alexander the Great, who had become ruler of Macedonia before the age of thirty. Lex had wanted to go one better.

    The other man huffed, sipping his scotch. “When I was younger and more naïve, I thought I could change the world through science. That dream came to an end when I was expelled from Met U.”

    Clark wanted to ask him why he’d been expelled from the university but he knew the other man would never tell him. He was tempted to investigate the incident anyway but doubted he would find it in the university records. Lionel had deep pockets and thought the exchange of money could make anything go away.

    He knew the other man had done drugs before. He’d often done things designed to anger his father in a bid to get him to pay attention to him. The only thing the elder Luthor had ever said to his son was to not get caught. Since Lionel had done much worse, including murder, it was hardly surprising that he would choose to ignore Lex’s behaviour.
    It wouldn’t have been a total surprise if Lex had been caught manufacturing drugs on campus and that was why the Met U dean had expelled him.

    “I ran into Lois in the Talon a few times while you were away,” Lex said. “Her daughter’s grown a bit over the summer. How old is she now?”

    “Her first birthday was in April.”

    “I have to admit, I’m a little concerned at you getting involved with a girl like her. I mean, let’s face it, raising a child on your own isn’t easy. It’s a lot of pressure to put on a potential partner.”

    Clark frowned at him, wondering what the other man was getting at.

    “What are you trying to say, Lex? That Lois and I shouldn’t date just because she has a child? It doesn’t make her a bad person. People make mistakes.”

    “I’m just a little surprised, is all. I wouldn’t think she’d be your type.”

    “There’s a lot more to Lois than you think,” he replied. “I feel like I can be myself around her. I didn’t feel that with Lana.”

    “I see,” the other man said coolly.

    Clark decided to change the subject, asking Lex about the company and what was going on with his father. Lionel had been conspicuous by his absence lately, which suggested he was planning something himself.

    Lois had finished cleaning the two rooms and had gone downstairs to see if there was anything else her friend needed her to do. Bubsy was in the dining room, giving Kally her dinner.

    “All done?” the older woman asked, smiling brightly.

    “All done. Is there anything else you need me to do right now?”

    “No, not that I can think of,” she said, then frowned. “Oh, wait. I did get a late reservation this morning. The young man said he would be here by now but perhaps he’s running late.”

    Kally banged her spoon on the tray of the high-chair, either trying to get attention from her surrogate grandmother or wanting more food. Lois grabbed the spoon from her daughter, who protested.

    “No, you don’t,” she said. “No banging spoons on the table. And don’t poke your tongue out at me, young lady,” she added as Kally proceeded to do just that.

    The bell at the front desk rang. Bubsy turned her head to look out to the reception area.

    “I’ll go,” Lois offered, since her boss was still trying to get her daughter to eat her dinner.

    She had done a couple of check-ins before when Bubsy had been otherwise busy and the woman who was employed to cover reception during the day had finished her shift. She went out and stared at the young man with a garish orange sleeveless t-shirt and green pants that appeared to be swim trunks. The colours clashed. The clothing also looked a little damp as if he had been out swimming. Crater Lake was a good five miles from the inn, but there were only two places in town visitors could stay short-term. The inn or the motel on the highway near the Wild Coyote bar. The guest before her didn’t look like the type who would enjoy staying in a rough part of town.

    The man was probably only a year or so older than Clark. He was good-looking, with short blond hair and a cheesy grin. Still nowhere near as good-looking as her boyfriend, she thought.

    He looked her up and down as she came out, his expression suggesting he liked what he saw. Other men had done the same thing to her, especially some of her father’s officers on base and normally Lois would have told them to take a hike and stop treating her like a piece of meat before reminding them who their ranking officer was. She couldn’t really do that with guests of the inn.

    “Well, hey there. If I’d known the owner of this place was so gorgeous, I would have got here sooner.”

    Lois snickered. “Charming,” she replied. “I’m not the owner. I work here. And I have a boyfriend,” she added, touching the bracelet on her wrist.

    The man’s gaze was drawn to the movement. She didn’t explain the bracelet and he didn’t ask.

    “Well, I hope your boyfriend knows how lucky he is,” the man replied. “I’m A.C. Arthur, actually, but everyone calls me A.C.”

    Lois checked the book and saw the reservation for an Arthur Curry. The inn was usually quite full this time of year but he’d managed to get the last room available.

    She completed the check-in procedure and told him there were brochures available of different activities around town.

    “Oh, I’m not here for sightseeing,” he said, waving his hand.

    Lois nodded before turning to grab the key off the hook. “Well, you’re in room ten. Upstairs, third floor and it’s the fourth door on your right.”

    “Thanks, beautiful,” he said, taking the key and heading up the stairs.

    Shaking her head and chuckling, Lois returned to the dining room. Bubsy smiled at her.

    “Thank you, darling. You know, I really don’t pay you enough for what you do around here.”

    She didn’t answer that. Bubsy paid what she thought was fair and let her live there for free, even providing meals. She was also treated more like family than an employee. It was an even trade as far as she was concerned.

    “So, how was school, sweetheart?”

    “It was great. I had world history first thing. Clark was late to class.” She began telling her boss about her day as Bubsy finished feeding Kally. A few guests came in for the buffet dinner, stopping by the table to compliment the older woman and play with the toddler a little bit. Like she did with everyone else in town, the little girl somehow managed to charm the visitors.

    Lois finished her own dinner before taking her daughter out to the cabin to put her to bed. She took the monitor with her and sat near reception to do her homework while she waited for the night manager to come in. It wasn’t normally part of her duties, but the manager often had trouble getting in on time. Lizzie had three children and her partner sometimes had to stay late at the office, which would then cause a delay in her getting to work.

    She completed her shift at eleven and went out to the cabin, checking on her daughter. Kally was sleeping soundly, her arm curled around the teddy bear her father had given her. Lois stroked her cheek and pulled the blanket up a little. She sat up in bed for a while, reading her textbook. It was dry and had her falling asleep within a short time.

    Next morning she was eating her breakfast between trying to feed her daughter when A.C. wandered in to grab his own breakfast.

    “Good morning,” he said brightly.

    “Good morning,” she replied. She saw him eyeing the backpack on the table beside her. “I have class this morning,” she told him.

    “You go to college and work here?”

    She nodded. “My boss lets me work around my class schedule.”

    “Oh.” He smiled at Kally, who tried to turn on the charm. “Is she yours?”

    “Yup. Her name’s Kally. Kally, say hi to Mr Curry.”

    “A.C.,” he corrected.

    She smiled. “A.C. then. So, what brings you to Smallville, A.C.?”

    “Oh, this and that,” he said.

    She looked him up and down. He was wearing the same orange and green outfit from the day before.

    “Well, just a suggestion. You might want to rethink your wardrobe if you’re going to stay in town a while.”

    He looked down at his clothes. “What’s wrong with my wardrobe?”

    “It looks like Flipper threw up,” she told him.

    He just laughed. “I tell you what. I let you teach me about what not to wear and I’ll take you swimming out at Crater Lake.”

    She kept her tone even as she looked at him, trying not to glare. The man was obviously a flirt.

    “Number one, don’t flirt with me. I have a boyfriend. Two, I have class, a job, and a daughter. I don’t have time to go swimming and even if I did, I would go with my boyfriend.”

    Kally looked up and exclaimed in delight. “Daddy!”

    “Speaking of whom,” Lois continued, smiling up at Clark, who had just come in. “Hi.”

    He bent and kissed her cheek. “Hi yourself. I thought since we both have classes starting at the same time, we could go together.” He looked at A.C. “I’m Clark.”

    “A.C.,” the other man replied. “Your girlfriend was just giving me the lowdown on Smallville.”

    “Nice,” he said. His tone was friendly but his expression made it clear he was marking his territory. Lois nudged him and shook her head slightly. He wandered over to the breakfast buffet to help himself to some fruit.

    “So, that’s your boyfriend, huh?” A.C. observed. “Nice guy.” He said it in such as way that she knew he was being sarcastic.

    “He’s actually really sweet,” she told him.

    The man didn’t look like he believed her. Clark came back and sat down at the table beside her, turning his attention to Kally. A.C. began talking about Crater Lake, asking Clark whether he’d been down there lately.

    They’d spent part of Sunday at the lake just hanging out with Lana and Chloe. Lois didn’t know why, but Chloe had been a little stand-offish lately. She knew her cousin was preoccupied with starting at Met U and trying to get an internship at the Daily Planet but she didn’t think things had gotten that bad between them that Chloe would give her the cold shoulder.

    As Clark drove them to school, she mentioned the problem to her boyfriend.

    “I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe she was upset I went away without telling her.”

    “That doesn’t really explain why she’s upset with me,” Lois said.

    Clark shrugged. “We used to hang out a lot together at high school. When you came to town I guess I spent more time with you and Kally, so maybe she thought you were taking her place. I don’t know.”

    Lois decided after her first class she was going to call her cousin and talk to her. Chloe was in town, spending part of it with her father, since she didn’t have class that day. She agreed to meet at a café on campus. The shop was mostly empty and they chose a quiet corner.

    “What did you want to talk to me about?” she asked when Lois sat down with her.

    “Are you upset with me? Or Clark?”

    The blonde shrugged. “Why would I be? I mean, Clark did go away for three months without telling me.”

    “It wasn’t as if it was actually planned,” Lois told her. “His grandmother had an accident.”

    Chloe shook her head. “No, she didn’t. And Clark didn’t go anywhere near Coast City. I checked.”

    “Chloe!”

    “Did you think I wouldn’t?” her cousin asked. “Where was Clark for three months, Lois? I know you know.”

    “I can’t …”

    “Does it have something to do with the caves? Or why you two are so secretive about Kally? What really happened when he ran away to Metropolis?”

    Lois raised her hand. “Okay. Stop. Did you ever stop to think that we were trying to protect Kally?”

    “Of course you were. That’s why I didn’t say anything. But I can’t take it anymore. Clark’s my best friend and I would have thought he’d at least have gotten the hint that I knew something about him. I mean, what’s it gonna take for him to get a clue, Lo? A huge anvil dropped on his head? And I know that won’t hurt him. I mean, I saw him catch a car.”

    “You what?” Lois stared at her incredulously.

    She had so many questions she wanted to ask her cousin. Like how long she’d kept the whole thing a secret. Why she hadn’t just come out and told them what she’d seen.

    She could understand a little why Chloe was upset. She cared about Clark and wanted him to trust her enough to tell his secret but the blonde also needed to understand that there was far more at stake than his abilities. If word got out that not only did he have such abilities, but also that Kally was his, there was no telling what certain people would do with that information.

    “If you’re worried about certain people finding out, don’t. I mean, loose lips sink ships and I’m not about to be the iceberg to his Titanic.”

    Lois rolled her eyes. Her cousin had always had a way with words, but comparing Clark to the Titanic … Then again, Titans had once been gods and with his abilities, Clark would have been considered something akin to a God in ancient times, and …

    “My God, can you get any more over-dramatic?” Lois asked herself.

    She huffed. “All right. We’ll start at the beginning. The first night I met Clark was that night in Metropolis.”

    As she talked, telling Chloe everything about how they’d met, she fired off a text to Clark. She knew he’d had a class an hour after his first one had ended, but he should be free by now.

    Clearly he’d used super speed as she had barely sent the text when he appeared in the café.

    Lois finished relating the story as he sat down. She’d informed him in the text that Chloe knew about his abilities. Her cousin didn’t look at all surprised to see him.

    “I knew you were fast, Clark, but I didn’t think you were supersonic fast.”

    “Chloe …”

    Lois glanced at him and shook her head, then turned back to Chloe.

    “How did you figure it out?”

    The blonde shrugged. “I always knew there was something different about Clark, but it wasn’t until Alicia came back.” Alicia had apparently teleported her then called Clark telling him something was wrong with her car before teleporting them both to a hiding place. Chloe had watched her friend catch the car and speed away once he realised no one was inside.

    “That was eight months ago,” Clark said incredulously. “Are you telling me you’ve kept that secret all this time?”

    “I did try to tell you, but I don’t think there is a subtle way of telling you what I knew. And I don’t know everything, obviously. After what Alicia showed me, I did some digging and put a few pieces together, but … I mean, I did figure it couldn’t have been from the meteor rock. I had that list so I knew most of the meteor-infected only had one ability. Maybe two. Not as many as you, though.”

    “I was born with them,” he said. He looked at her with an odd expression. “I should have known from all the things you kept saying to me.”

    “I knew from all the times you got so defensive when I investigated anything to do with your secret that you wouldn’t be happy, so I went out of my way to be supportive.”

    Clark nodded. “Yeah. I wouldn’t have taken it well if you’d just come out and say it. Thanks for that. So, have you told anyone else?”

    She shook her head. “No. But it’s been bothering me. Especially after you went away for three months. I did my best to cover for you, even hacking into the bus service to make it look like you caught a bus to Coast City the day we graduated. That way if Lex did any digging, he wouldn’t find anything too incriminating.”

    “Smart thinking, cuz.”

    “Anyway, I have to admit I was kind of jealous because of how close you two were getting and I thought you’d forget our friendship.”

    “I wouldn’t do that,” Clark said.

    “Well, I know that. Now. I’m sorry, you guys. I guess I just felt a little left out.”

  9. #39
    Forum Regular Sykobee's Avatar
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    Forgot that I had started reading this last update and didn't finish. Crazy days here as It's the last week of school before summer break. Our four young savages are running me ragged and the heat is climbing.🙄
    Finished/reread these last two chapters; still really enjoy the freshness that Kally's character adds. AC and a Chloe's reveal were both subtle and nicely done. Also liked Lois' move with signing both she and CK up for the campus paper. Can't wait to see where things go next and how you weave in the series plot points. Still strolling through Consort, about halfway done. You have every right to be proud of it. It's a very fine example of what seems to be your forte. Well thought out, compelling twist, intense interactions and steam, great pacing and humor and an obvious dedication to quality overall. So I'm pleasantly occupied while I wait for further updates.😊
    As always, 👏 👏🏽 👏 👏🏽 👏.

  10. #40
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sykobee View Post
    Forgot that I had started reading this last update and didn't finish. Crazy days here as It's the last week of school before summer break. Our four young savages are running me ragged and the heat is climbing.
    Finished/reread these last two chapters; still really enjoy the freshness that Kally's character adds. AC and a Chloe's reveal were both subtle and nicely done. Also liked Lois' move with signing both she and CK up for the campus paper. Can't wait to see where things go next and how you weave in the series plot points. Still strolling through Consort, about halfway done. You have every right to be proud of it. It's a very fine example of what seems to be your forte. Well thought out, compelling twist, intense interactions and steam, great pacing and humor and an obvious dedication to quality overall. So I'm pleasantly occupied while I wait for further updates.
    As always,     .
    I love writing the interaction between Kally and her parents. I say it about every story where I've written in children, but I adore them all. It adds a new dimension, I think.

    I had to include A.C. as he was a fun character. Plus the flirting with Lois just adds to the fun between her and Clark, especially when he gets jealous.

    As for Chloe, there was no other way for her to reveal what she knew, since there was no trip to the fortress, no Clark losing his powers. Honestly, I would say she would have got a bit frustrated at being left out of the loop but I'd rather show a more realistic friendship than just have her be Clark's own personal Google. He's smarter than that and sometimes close friendships go off in different directions.

    Lois was obviously inspired by Clark's rescue, so of course that's her stepping stone to her career. As for the rest of the series plot points, things will go in a slightly different direction now that there's no Brainiac, no Zod. The threat will be a little more close to home.

    I am immensely proud of the work I did on Consort. There are some things I would have done differently, looking back, but that's the curse of a writer - always wanting to improve on what we've already done. There were many things I loved exploring - the what ifs with Lois being more involved in the show plots, the idea of getting involved in a deeply committed relationship so young, and of course, the intimate relationship. It remains one of my favourites out of all the stories I've done.

    Happy reading!

  11. #41
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    a/n: Well, I finished one paper and sat my exam, so I'm now able to focus on my writing for a bit. At least until the new semester starts up. Anyway, have been trying to finish this chapter for a few days now.

    Chapter Twelve

    Bubsy was covering the reception desk when Lois’ father came in. He’d volunteered to babysit Kally while Lois was at school. He was carrying his grand-daughter, grinning from ear to ear. The toddler was holding a bunch of flowers in her hand.

    The inn owner smiled at the pair as the general approached the desk.

    “Are those for your mommy?” Bubsy asked the toddler.

    Sam looked a little bashful. “Actually, they’re, uh, for you.” He nudged his grand-daughter. “Go ahead, sweetheart.”

    The toddler handed them over. They were nothing too fancy. Bubsy figured they’d come from Martha’s garden, not that she minded. It was a rather sweet, thoughtful gesture from the man, who sometimes tended to be a little too gruff.

    He cleared his throat. “Uh, I was wondering if you … uh, would like to accompany me to a function on Friday evening.”

    “A function?” she echoed, gazing curiously at the man.

    “It’s really nothing. Just a dinner and a few old warhorses like myself exchanging war stories.”

    He hesitantly explained that it was a fundraiser for the Kansas Veterans Administration, raising money for the welfare of veterans. Luthorcorp was apparently the main sponsor for the evening. Of course, the general would be expected to show up in his dress uniform but his invitation had included a ‘plus one’.

    “You don’t have to come, if you don’t want to,” he said, as if about to change his mind. He continued to babble on about how these things tended to be rather boring and he wouldn’t want to impose on her.

    “Sam,” she said, interrupting him. “I’d be delighted to accompany you.”

    He looked at her, almost wide-eyed, as if surprised by her acquiescence, then broke out into a huge smile. It was obvious it had been a very long time since the man had asked any woman out. Probably since his wife died, she imagined.

    She liked the man. They had been spending a lot of time together, particularly on the days when he would drop off his grand-daughter. He’d often come early just to chat over coffee and they’d found they had a few things in common.

    She’d even told him the story about the child she had given up and he had offered to use his contacts to see if he could find out what had happened to it.

    Now that the issue of asking her to the function was over, Sam relaxed, taking her up on her invitation to chat with her over coffee. Kally was sitting on the floor playing with a few toys and they were good-naturedly arguing over a book they’d both read when Lois and Clark came in.

    Lois stopped in the middle of the reception area to stare at them for a second before she turned to Clark and nudged him. He rolled his eyes at her and went to his daughter.

    “Hey munchkin. Whatcha doing?”

    Kally handed him the rag doll she’d been playing with. Bubsy watched, amused, as Clark played with his daughter, pretending the doll was real and talking to the teddy bear.

    “How was school?” Sam asked Lois.

    “It was great, Daddy.” She put her bag down and sat on the sofa, watching Clark and Kally before turning back to her father. “Did you want to stay for dinner?”

    Bubsy looked at him. “Please stay, Sam. There’s plenty of food.”

    Lois went to grab the reception book, looking over the entries. While it wasn’t exactly part of her job, she liked checking up on the guests, making sure they had enjoyed their stay. She’d even convinced Bubsy to let her work on the inn’s website and some of the comments had been put up on the site.

    It had actually been suggested by the young man who had stayed at the inn a few months ago. Arthur had spent half his stay flirting with Lois, while also giving Bubsy ideas about how to encourage more people to stay. Even in winter time, Smallville could be quite pretty. Not to mention its interesting history with the meteor shower. Some tourists apparently liked to explore strange phenomena.

    “Any comments, sweetie?” Bubsy asked.

    “Some,” she replied. “All good.”

    “Well, I’m not surprised,” Sam said. “This place is charming.”

    Bubsy nodded, not commenting on the man’s choice of phrase. It wasn’t something she expected from him, considering his military background. She did agree with it, however. The inn had once been a stately manor, built when Smallville had first been established in the late 19th century. It had first been owned by Ezra Small, who had founded the town. Of course, the building had gone through a few cosmetic changes since then.

    “Well, I’m grateful to you and your men for all the repairs they did,” she told the general.

    The roof had certainly needed some decent repairs and the men had made sure the building would be warm and cosy throughout the winter.

    Shortly before dinner, Bubsy went out to the kitchen to check on the meal preparation with the cook while Clark took his daughter out to Lois’ room to give her a bath and get her ready for bed.

    As she finished her conversation with the cook, Bubsy turned to notice Lois watching her.

    “Is everything all right, sweetie?” she asked.

    The nineteen-year-old nodded. “Everything’s fine. I just … I couldn’t help picking up on some vibe between you and my dad. He invited you to the dinner on Friday, didn’t he?”

    Bubsy bit her lip, suddenly wondering if perhaps she shouldn’t have accepted the invitation after all. Lois grinned and hugged her.

    “I told him to,” she said. “He’s been talking about asking you out for ages and I kept telling him I didn’t have a problem with it. He likes you. And if I’m not mistaken, I think you like him too.”

    She looked at her friend. “You really don’t mind?”

    “Of course not. I mean, I can tell you’ve become pretty good friends and why shouldn’t you go out and have fun? It’s not like you’re ready for the old folks’ home or anything.”

    Bubsy narrowed her eyes at her, before realising Lois was teasing.

    “You’ll get yours, young lady.”

    Lois just laughed. “Call me biased, but you’re quite the catch and any guy would be lucky to find someone like you. I’m just glad my dad got there first.”

    After dinner, Lois had to attend to her duties, while Clark sat in the main room working on a paper. It hadn’t taken long for the homework to start piling up and she was grateful for Clark’s extra tutelage.

    They had been spending a lot of time together. Or at least, as much as they could spare, since Lois and Clark’s parents had continued to remind him to be careful about using his abilities unless he was out helping people. Even on the farm. They had all agreed to keep up the illusion that Clark was just a normal guy.

    Lois had told her boyfriend about the conversation with Lana and they’d both noticed the brunette had been spending a lot of time with Lex. Or, rather, he’d been taking her out to different events. Clark had been keeping his distance from his friend, not wanting to give away anything which Lex might somehow learn about. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Lana. It was more that he was worried she might not have a good poker face.

    So they were surprised a week later when Lana came over to the farm. They’d gone out for their usual Saturday family date and were just relaxing in the loft. Kally was in the playpen, playing with a few toys and babbling away to herself, while Clark and Lois sat on the couch, exchanging kisses.

    Lois heard the creak of the stairs and pulled away from Clark. He frowned at her, looking slightly dazed. He’d obviously been distracted enough that he hadn’t been listening.

    “What?” he asked, confused. “What did you pull away for? We were just …”

    She heard the creak again and punched his shoulder. “Nice, Smallville. Could you try thinking with your other brain for a second?”

    His frown deepened and he turned his head toward the stairs.

    “Mom?” he called out.

    A figure appeared at the top. “No, it’s me.”

    “Lana?” She looked uncertain, pushing her hair back with one hand as if the long, dark curtain suddenly annoyed her.

    “Your mom said you were out here. I hope it’s okay that I came by. I just … I needed to talk to you. Both of you.”

    She looked over toward the playpen, a soft smile on her lips.

    “She’s growing so fast,” she said quietly. “Feels like ages since I’ve seen her.”

    Lana had decided shortly before graduation that she wasn’t going to go to college. Her three months in France had led to her deciding that studying art probably wasn’t the best direction for her but she had no idea what else she was going to do.

    Lois had the sense that Lana was still a little lost as to her purpose in life. While she claimed she still cared for Clark, and was happy they were in a relationship, Lois had to wonder if the other girl was only doing so out of some misguided attempt to keep holding onto the past. As if Clark represented a way for her to identify herself.

    Lois was comfortable in her own skin. Having been independent most of her life, she was secure in herself and didn’t define her own identity by her boyfriend. Clark understood that and never tried to change her.

    She had the feeling Lex had latched onto that insecurity in Lana and was exploiting it for his own purposes.

    “Is everything okay, Lana?” Clark asked.

    The brunette hesitated. “Um, I don’t know.” She looked a little uncertain as she pulled the chair out from the desk and sat down. “You know I’ve been spending a lot of time with Lex lately.”

    Clark nodded. “Yeah. I know.”

    They hadn’t really talked to her, not in-depth, for well over three months. What with school and their respective jobs, as well as their weekly dates, it had left little time for anything else.

    “I guess that’s why we’ve hardly talked lately. Um, I assume Lois told you about the things I said when you were away. I’m not going to ask what that was all about,” she said. “That’s not why I’m here.”

    “Then why are you here?” Lois asked quietly.

    “I was over at the mansion the other day and Lex was talking with a doctor in the study when I came in.”

    “How do you know?” Clark asked.

    “Other than the fact Lex called him ‘doctor’?” Lana replied with a ‘well, duh’ look.

    “Okay, fine. You got me.” Clark looked concerned as the information sunk in. “Is there something wrong? Is Lex sick?”

    She shook her head. “I don’t think so. I didn’t hear much of what was said but it didn’t sound like that kind of meeting. Anyway, I don’t know what made me do it but I looked up the man. He’s a researcher. But his research involves children.”

    Lois gasped in horror, her gaze immediately turning to her daughter. Clark squeezed her hand.

    “Is there anything else you can tell us about this guy?” he asked.

    “I don’t know. Not really.” She took a slip of paper out of her pocket and handed it to Clark. “Here’s his details. I thought you might be able to dig up some more about him.”

    “Thank you, Lana,” Lois said. “This is really valuable information for us to know.”

    The brunette sighed. “It feels like I’m betraying Lex, somehow. I mean, he’s been nothing but good to me, but … I don’t know. He keeps asking about you and why you don’t come around much anymore. I mean, I know things have been busy with your dad’s campaign … and with Lex and his.”

    Clark’s ‘uncle’ Jack Jennings, who was his father’s best friend, had served as state senator for the last two terms. A month earlier, he had come to Smallville to, as he had put it, get away from the rat race and take a break from the upcoming election. No sooner had he arrived when Clark learned the senator was embroiled in a scandal. He’d been cheating on his wife with a woman who had been a stripper at a Gentleman’s Club in Metropolis. The woman had been killed when she'd been hit by a car.

    Chloe, who had managed to get an internship at the Daily Planet, had answered a hotline late one night only for a woman to beg her to tell her story. Lois had been at the Planet at the time, spending the night with her cousin. The two had teamed up to investigate when the young woman had been murdered.

    Clark had done some investigating of his own, hoping to clear his uncle’s name, and had ended up at the club where Lois had been forced to pretend to be a stripper, so Chloe could question the dancers backstage.

    Lois couldn’t help remembering the look on her boyfriend’s face when he’d realised what she was doing. His face had been almost fire engine red. She’d gone to the table where he’d been sitting and sat in his lap, unsurprised to find that despite his mortification, he was very much enjoying the show.

    Chaos soon ensued when the police raided the club and Lois was hauled out of there by a man who had turned out to be the killer. Luckily, Clark and Chloe had figured out what had happened and come after them.

    The upshot of it all was that Jack had chosen to step down, suggesting Jonathan put his name forward as senator instead. After some family discussion, Jonathan had decided to run. Lex was his opponent.

    Lois was so deep in thought that she almost missed the rest of what Lana was saying.

    “I guess he understands there’s kind of a conflict of interest.” She stopped. “I’m babbling. I just … I don’t know what I’m doing anymore. I mean, I know you guys are still here and everything, but it just feels like everyone I care about is gone. Nell, Chloe, Jason … It just feels like there’s nothing left for me in Smallville.”

    Lois looked at Clark, who was frowning at his friend.

    “Are you leaving?” he asked.

    “Nell thought a break away from here might be good and I … kind of agree with her. I didn’t tell anyone but when we were applying for colleges, I got accepted to Columbia. It’s just General Studies, but Nell and I talked to the Dean and I can start in the spring.”

    “New York?” Clark looked incredulous. “You’re going to New York?”

    “No, Clark, she means Colombia the country.”

    Clark shot Lois a glare. “Very funny.”

    Lois smiled at Lana. “I think that sounds great, Lana. I mean, we’ll miss you, but you have to do what you feel is best for you.”

    Lana got up and hugged Lois. “Thank you. That means a lot. Anyway, I just wanted to warn you about Lex. I hope I’m wrong, but …”

    Lois nodded as the other girl looked down at Kally. As much as they all hoped Lana was wrong, she had a feeling she wasn’t. Lex had been asking too many questions about Kally. There was no way he would ever believe the story that Kally’s father was someone other than Clark. There were just too many similarities between father and daughter.

    Lana turned and went back down the stairs. Clark got up and picked up his daughter, holding her close.

    “I know what you’re thinking,” Lois said, “but you can’t run away with her. Nor can you wrap her up in cotton.”

    “You don’t know what I was thinking,” he replied.

    “Don’t go all over-protective Daddy. We don’t know the full facts yet. Lana did say he was some kind of researcher. Maybe it was about something completely different.”

    “You really believe that?” he asked.

    As much as she wanted to tell herself it was all completely innocent, she knew Lex well enough now that nothing that man did was innocent. He was scheming something involving her daughter.

    God help the man if he ever did do something to Kally. There wouldn’t be a jury in the world that wouldn’t side with her if she did something in retaliation.

    At dinner that night, they discussed the problem with Clark’s parents.

    “I’m not dropping out of the race,” Jonathan said.

    Clark shook his head. “We don’t expect you to. That’s not what this is about. I don’t want to make the same mistakes I made with Phelan. Or with Roger Nixon.”

    He’d told Lois about the ex-cop who had witnessed him doing a save when he was fourteen and the reporter from the Metropolis Inquisitor who had threatened to take what he knew to the papers. There had been a connection with Lex both times, although the first time hadn’t been his fault.

    Clark sighed. Lex had a habit of doing things that pushed ethical boundaries. The last project had been Leviathan, although thanks to Arthur Curry, that project had failed spectacularly. Clark had initially been wary of the young man who had flirted with Lois every time he saw her. That wariness had led him to do some digging on the University of Miami student, learning he had got himself in serious trouble when he’d broken into a resort and released some dolphins back into the ocean.

    He’d followed him and learned A.C. was trying to stop Project Leviathan, which was some kind of weapon being tested at Crater Lake. It was killing marine life.

    While Clark hadn’t agreed with the other man’s tactics, he understood A.C.’s concerns. When he’d talked to Lex about it, his friend had denied any knowledge of what the weapon was doing.

    It looked like the bald man was doing it again. Clark realised on some level that Lex thought he was trying to do what was good for humanity, but his interest was more in protecting Luthorcorp’s interests than actually doing what was right. In a lot of ways, Lex had become worse than his father.

    “So, what do you think he’s doing?” Clark’s mother asked.

    “At a guess, I would say he’s looking for any kind of dirt he can use against Dad,” Clark told her.
    Lois nodded her agreement. “When Lana talked to me during summer, she pretty much implied that Lex knew Kally was Clark’s. Chloe did her best to cover Clark’s training at the fortress, but Lex obviously has access to resources we don’t know about.”

    “I think the important thing is to keep a close eye on Kally at all times.”

    “What about when she’s at the Inn?” Lois asked. “We can’t exactly tell Bubsy, or my dad.”

    “That’s true,” he conceded.

    As much as he wanted to believe Lex wouldn’t just try to snatch Kally in the middle of the day from a busy inn, he knew the other man was just that ruthless.

    “Speaking of the Luthors, what is Lionel up to these days?” his father asked.

    “I wish we knew. He’s been oddly quiet.”

    As far as Clark knew, Lionel was still staying in the guesthouse at the mansion. Lex’s relationship with his father was volatile at best and it wouldn’t have surprised him if there had been some kind of blow-up between the two Luthors and Lex kicked his father out.

    Lionel had been travelling back and forth to Metropolis, but while Chloe had done her best to keep an eye on the man’s activities, she was only able to do so much.

    The revelation that Chloe had known about his abilities for a while had actually helped their friendship. He’d wondered if she had been a little jealous of his relationship with Lois and it looked like they were growing apart, but now that she knew the truth about him, they were closer than ever. He was glad in a lot of ways that they hadn’t decided to pursue dating after freshman year. The idea of them losing their friendship over a failed romantic relationship was something he didn’t want to think about.

    As he drove Lois and Kally home, he talked to her about maybe getting Chloe to do some digging.

    “We can check this doctor out ourselves,” Lois said.

    “I know. And we will. I just think that Chloe might be better placed to look into Luthorcorp itself. She has a few contacts. Maybe she can figure out what Lex is up to on her end.”

    “Is this your idea of not wanting her to feel left out?” Lois asked, smiling at him. “That’s what I love about you, Smallville. You’re always thinking about others.”

    He grinned at her, slowing the truck to pull in at the inn. “Chloe’s important to you and she’s important to me. I mean, one day she’ll be my cousin too.”

    His girlfriend cocked an eyebrow at him. “One day? You’re awfully sure of yourself, Clark Kent.”

    They hadn’t exactly talked about marriage, but as far as he was concerned, that was the future he saw for them. Marriage, a home of their own, more children. He loved her. Maybe they weren’t quite ready for that step, but he was never more sure of anything.

    Lois kissed him and got out of the truck. Clark got out the other side and picked up his sleeping daughter, careful not to wake her as they left the parking lot and walked through to the back of the inn.

    Together, they got Kally into her pyjamas without waking her and put her down in the crib. Clark picked up the teddy bear he’d bought her the year before and placed it gently beside her.

    Lois sighed. “It’s late,” she said.

    “Yeah. I guess I should get going.”

    His girlfriend pressed close to him. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her. Lois pulled him over to the bed. They stretched out together, holding each other, exchanging long, passionate kisses. It was a long time before Clark looked at his watch again. When he did, he realised it was after midnight. He began to pull away gently and his girlfriend whimpered.

    “Don’t go,” she said.

    “You want me to stay?” he asked quietly.

    “I … I don’t know if we … I mean …”

    They hadn’t slept together. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to. It was more that he knew it would be too hard to leave.

    Lois looked up at him, her hazel eyes searching his. “Do you … I mean, I …”

    “Lois, you know I love you.”

    “I know. And I feel the same way. You know I do. I just don’t know if I’m ready for that. I mean, the last time I slept with you, I got pregnant. Not that I regret having Kally for a second. I just …”

    He nodded. They both needed to focus on their studies and they couldn’t do that if they ended up having another child so soon. As much as he adored his little daughter, there were already so many complications in their lives.

    “I could stay and just hold you,” he suggested. “We don’t have to do anything else.”

    She nodded and pulled away, getting up to grab her pyjamas from underneath the quilt folded at the end of the bed. She smiled at him and went into the bathroom while Clark stripped down to his boxers and t-shirt. He pulled the covers down, unsure which side she would prefer.

    Lois came out of the bathroom wearing long cotton pyjamas with what looked like pastries on them. Clark grinned, looking down at the bunny slippers she wore on her feet.

    “What?” she asked. “My dad got me these last Christmas.”

    “I know. They’re cute.”

    She wrapped her arms around his waist and lifted her head for his kiss. “You’re cute,” she returned.

    “I know I am,” he responded. She rolled her eyes and punched his shoulder.

    “Careful of that ego, Smallville.”

    He laughed softly, taking her hand and guiding her over to the bed.

    “Come on, Lane. Into bed with you.”

    She grinned mischievously. “You going to tuck me in and read me a story?”

    He jabbed her in the ribs until she laughed. They settled down in the bed together. Lois lay with her head on his chest.

    “Thank you,” she said softly.

    “For what?”

    “For being you.”

    He cuddled her close and listened to the gentle rhythm of her breathing as she fell asleep in his arms.

  12. #42
    Forum Regular Sykobee's Avatar
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    I didn't realize just how much I'd been missing this story. Glad you have a break in your studies and are back.

    Lots going on. Glad Lana is putting some distance between herself and Smallville in general, Lex in particular. Wondering if an actual relationship will develop for Sam and Bubsy. Also hoping that there won't be anything to awful awaiting Kally because of Lex's greed and need for power. Loved the Clois togetherness❤😊
    Thanks for a wonderful ending to a ho-hum Monday.

  13. #43
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sykobee View Post
    I didn't realize just how much I'd been missing this story. Glad you have a break in your studies and are back.

    Lots going on. Glad Lana is putting some distance between herself and Smallville in general, Lex in particular. Wondering if an actual relationship will develop for Sam and Bubsy. Also hoping that there won't be anything to awful awaiting Kally because of Lex's greed and need for power. Loved the Clois togetherness❤
    Thanks for a wonderful ending to a ho-hum Monday.
    Yep. I felt Lana needed to walk away for her own personal growth. Her life has revolved around others. I do have plans for Sam and Bubsy. As for Lex's plans for Kally, Clark and Lois are on the case.

    New chapter coming right up.

  14. #44
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Thirteen

    Clark quietly closed the door and tiptoed across the floor to make his way upstairs. He had barely managed to step onto the first stair when he heard the sound of a cough.

    “Something you want to tell us, son?” his father said.

    He turned and looked guiltily at his parents. He’d thought by coming in the front door, he could avoid a confrontation, but obviously not. Even as busy as they were with the campaign, they were still in the habit of getting up early.

    “Uh … I spent the night with Lois,” he said, deciding honesty was the best policy.

    “I see.” The older man did not look impressed. Clark bit his lip.

    “It wasn’t like that, Dad. It was late and she wanted me to stay. But nothing happened. I promise.”

    His mother sighed. “Clark, honey, we get that you’re both adults and we can’t stop you doing what you want when you’re not here, but …”

    “Mom, I promise. We just slept. That’s all. Considering what Lana told us yesterday, we really don’t want the extra complications. I mean, if Lex is planning on doing something to Kally, it would be ten times worse if we had another child together.”

    “So … you’ve talked about this?” his father asked.

    “Yeah, Dad. We have. And we both agreed that it’s just the wrong timing for a sexual relationship. I mean, we will. Eventually. But with school and jobs, we decided that that’s plenty to concentrate on.” He gazed at his parents. “I know you think we’re too young for a committed relationship and, well, we’re old enough to know that this is what we want. I mean, we haven’t really talked about the future, but I know we’re going to get married one day. When we both have jobs and a steady income.”

    He could understand their concerns. After all, the one time he had slept with Lois, she had ended up pregnant. Even though they’d used protection. Obviously it wasn’t one hundred percent effective, and he had no idea if it was because of his differences, or if it had just been luck.

    “Well, it seems like you’ve thought this through,” his dad said.

    “We have. Um, anyway, I have to go do my chores and shower. I’m taking Lois and Kally out for Sunday brunch with her father.”

    “Remember what we said about your abilities, Clark,” his mother reminded him.

    “I know, Mom. I’ll be careful.”

    Kally had woken them up early that morning. Clark had been planning on leaving early in the morning, so he could do the majority of his chores before the sun rose, but his daughter had woken up crying and he’d gone to comfort her, hoping Lois would still be asleep.

    No such luck, she’d told him. Having a child meant she usually slept with one ear open in case her daughter needed her.

    She’d begged him to stay for a little while longer and he took the toddler back to the bed, holding her close until she settled down again. He and Lois had talked quietly about Lana’s revelations and decided they needed to warn the general in case somebody did try something.

    What they were going to tell the elder Lane was another issue.

    Clark had left the inn shortly after the sun rose. Lois had gone back to sleep again with Kally cuddled up with her mother.

    He managed to get through the chores fairly quickly, then showered before returning to the inn. Lois was dressed and ready, looking pretty in a cream knit roll-necked sweater and jeans. Kally was similarly dressed.

    “Daddy,” she greeted him.

    “Hi munchkin. Ready to go have brunch with Grandpa?”

    “Grampa,” she said with a giggle. She’d recently learned how to say the word, although her pronunciation wasn’t perfect yet.

    Lois bent to buckle her into the child seat but Kally squirmed, kicking her legs, giggling as if she thought it was a great joke.

    “Stop squirming, brat!” Lois scolded her.

    “You brat,” Kally returned.

    “No, you are,” her mother replied, trying to hide her laughter at the toddler’s cheekiness.

    “Daddy brat,” the little girl said, looking at Clark, who gazed back at her with an incredulous expression.

    “Why am I a brat?” he asked.

    “Daddy brat.”

    “Okay, that does it. Here comes the tickle monster,” he said, reaching over to tickle her. It was enough to distract her so he could strap her in. Kally looked rather put-out at her little game being foiled, pouting at him. Lois laughed.

    “That’s what you get for squirming,” she said. The toddler responded by blowing a raspberry at her mother.

    “Don’t you blow raspberries at me,” Lois replied. Kally pouted. Clark couldn’t help but laugh as his girlfriend leaned forward and pressed a kiss to their daughter’s lips and blew a raspberry. Kally giggled.

    “All right, enough of this tomfoolery,” Clark interjected, thinking he sounded a lot like his dad when he’d been younger. His dad had played similar games. "We need to hit the road or we’ll be late meeting the general.”

    He drove them to the diner in Granville where they often went for their family dates. The staff knew them there and were always happy to see them. Lois made sure Kally didn’t misbehave, unlike some children Clark had seen.

    Louisa, the assistant manager, greeted them with a smile.

    “Hello again. Here for brunch?”

    Clark nodded. “Thanks.”

    Louisa grinned at Kally in her mother’s arms. “Hello sweetheart. Look at you. You’re getting so big. How old are you now?”

    Kally looked a little confused, so Lois answered for her.

    “She’ll be two in April.”

    “Wow!” Louisa looked wistful. “They grow up so fast.”

    Clark nodded and smiled at her. “Um, we’re meeting Lois’ dad here.”

    The woman nodded in return. “Is he a stocky man? Kind of balding?”

    Lois smiled. “Yep, that’s my dad.”

    “He’s here already. Follow me.”

    Sure enough, Sam Lane was sitting in a booth. He had a glass of orange juice in front of him. The older man smiled in greeting, holding out his arms for his grand-daughter. Lois cheerfully handed over the toddler, who sat in her grandpa’s lap.

    “Are you late or am I early?” he asked.

    Lois rolled her eyes at him. “Hey, you can blame your grand-daughter for that. She wouldn’t let me strap her in.”

    “We had to resort to other tactics,” Clark said, aiming the ‘dad’ look at his daughter. Kally just grinned innocently.

    Her grandfather tickled her ribs, making her giggle. “Is that right, little girl?” he said with a laugh.

    The server came to take their orders. She was another long-term staffer who served them regularly. She chatted with them for a little while, before taking their orders to the kitchen. She had left a pitcher of water with lemon for the table.

    Lois looked at her father. “Dad, there’s something we needed to talk to you about.”

    He raised an eyebrow. “You two aren’t getting married, are you?”

    Clark almost dropped the pitcher. “Uh, no, sir. Not yet.”

    “I see.”

    “Dad, we decided together that that can wait until after college and once we’ve got good jobs.”

    “Well, good. I’m glad you’re being sensible about it. So, what is it you wanted to talk to me about?”

    “Lex Luthor.”

    The general looked at Clark, clearly confused.

    “What about him?”

    Clark told the man what Lana had told them about the doctor.

    “He’s taken an odd interest in Kally,” Lois said. “We don’t know why.”

    “I’m still not sure what this has to do with me.”

    “We’re worried that Lex might do something, like try to take her,” Clark said.

    The older man still looked puzzled. He had worked with Lex the summer Lionel had been awaiting trial for the murders of his parents, but Clark had no idea how the general really felt about his former friend. He’d learned the hard way that doing any kind of deal with Lex didn’t come without some sort of price.

    “Why would he want to take her?”

    Lois sighed. She shot Clark a questioning look, but he minutely shook his head. He wasn’t ready for the general to know the truth about him.

    “How much do you know about Lex?” he asked.

    “Other than what he did for Chloe last summer,” the older man replied. “Not much. And you have to understand that he came to me. He told me that he was concerned Lionel might have got to one of the federal agents working on the indictment against his father and that Chloe was a witness. He wasn’t convinced the agents could protect her. So I called in some favours and had my men pull Chloe and her father out of the safehouse.”

    The server brought their meals out, placing them on the table.

    “What do you think of him?” Lois asked, once the server had left.

    “Personally, I have very little time for the man. I find him to be brash, arrogant, and more concerned with profits than people. I heard about the debacle with the Navy and environmental issues aside, I felt the project was too ambitious and risky.”

    Well, that was a relief, Clark thought, realising Lois’ father was definitely no fan of the Luthor scion. Perhaps he, too, realised that any deal with Lex was a Faustian deal at best.

    “Did you know I saved his life?” Clark asked.

    The older man looked at him curiously. “No, I didn’t. Care to explain?”

    Clark told him what had happened the day Lex had drowned, leaving out the fact that Lex had hit him before they’d both gone in the water.

    “Ever since then, he’s been convinced there is more to it and he’s investigated my family behind my back.”

    “The thing is, we haven’t told anyone in town that Kally is Clark’s, and Lana believes he knows the truth. We’re worried that he wants to use Kally in some twisted scheme to win the election.”

    Sam nodded, sipping his orange juice. Clark noted he was holding his grand-daughter more firmly, as if fearing she would be snatched from him.

    “You’re right. That is something to be concerned about. What can I do to help?”

    “Other than being vigilant,” Lois told him. “Especially when Kally’s with you.” She sighed, reaching a hand across to his. “We didn’t want to alarm you, Dad, but we don’t want anything happening to you. Or to Kally.”

    He smiled at her and squeezed her hand. “I’m glad you told me, sweetheart.” He turned back to Clark. “What’s your plan?”

    “We’re going to do some digging into this doctor and see what we can find out about him. We have some time after our history class tomorrow, so we’ll go use the computer at the newspaper office.”

    “Good,” he said.

    Lois was quiet in the truck on the way back to the inn. Clark glanced at her.

    “You okay?” he asked.

    She looked at him. “Yeah, I’m just glad my dad didn’t ask too many questions.”

    “I think he knows more about Lex than he’s letting on. I mean, maybe it’ll turn out to be nothing, but …”

    “With Lex, we can’t be too sure.”

    Clark thought about the rest of the conversation at brunch as he drove back to the farm. Once they’d got the issue of Lex out of the way, Lois had asked her father about his dinner date with Bubsy. The general had initially tried to deny that it had been a date but even Clark had known it was. He finally admitted it had gone very well although hadn’t hinted at asking her out again.

    Lois had been talking for a couple of months about the way she’d seen her dad and her boss chatting together several afternoons a week. She was glad that her father was actually building a friendship with Bubsy and even quietly hoped it would turn into something more. Sam hadn’t dated or even so much as looked at another woman since Ella and the time the pair spent together was promising.

    As she’d told Clark, she wanted her father to be happy. The fact that she adored Bubsy was just an added bonus.

    The early morning frost had just started to thaw when Lois joined Clark outside their history class. Professor Abbott had been giving them pointers for their mid-terms, which were coming up in a matter of weeks.

    Lois hadn’t enjoyed history in high school but the professor just seemed to have a way of telling stories that made it a fascinating subject. Her genuine enthusiasm for the topic was contagious and practically every student spent the hour lecture hanging on every word.

    “How did you do on the paper?” Clark asked. The professor had handed back their research papers on the way out of class.

    Lois grinned at him and showed the circled ‘A’. She couldn’t help crowing a little, so proud of herself for the grade. “I never got an A in history in my life!” she said. “I always thought it was so boring, but she …I mean, it’s not boring when she’s teaching it.”

    “I know,” he said. “It shows just how good a teacher she is.”

    “Well, thank you for the compliment, Mr Kent. Ms Lane.” They turned and looked at the professor, who smiled at them. “You’re right. I’ve always felt a good teacher is able to inspire their students to do well, and it’s very gratifying when I see it in my own students.”

    With another smile, she moved to pass them, meeting another professor in the hall as another lecture let out.

    “Let’s go grab some coffees and get to the Gazette,” Lois said.

    The newspaper office was small, but they had a computer that could be used for research, as long as it was being used for a potential story. Michael, the editor, asked them what was up.

    Clark lied and told him they were researching for a story on children’s illnesses. As it turned out, it wasn’t that much of a stretch. The doctor, Frederick Loman, had been a long-time researcher in paediatric health. He’d published a paper which, for Clark, was about someone from his past.

    “Tina Greer,” he said, pointing out the paper.

    “What about her?”

    “She was born with soft-bone disease,” he said. “It looks like Dr Loman was part of the team treating her. They used some kind of experimental serum to see if they could cure it.”

    Lois read the paper on screen, skimming over the statistical stuff to get to the point of it. The serum had been made up of several chemical compounds including one she’d never heard of. Not that she’d done all that well in chemistry in high school.

    “What’s this?” she asked, pointing it out.

    Clark’s eyes widened as he read it. “Jor-El told me about this,” he said in a low voice. “It’s Kryptonite.” Lois remembered that his birth father had been a scientist on Krypton and would have known the chemical composition of Kryptonite. He had obviously told Clark what to look for, probably hoping that some day Clark would be able to come up with something to reduce the effects of the rock’s deadly radiation.

    “I remember when I x-rayed her, she had it in her bones. This must have been what caused her ability to morph into someone else. That was how I realised it was her instead of Lex that robbed the bank that time.”

    How weird it must have been, Lois thought. Clark hadn’t known at the time that he was able to see through things and the discovery would have been almost freaky.

    He’d told her that Tina had become obsessive to the point of almost committing murder to get what she wanted. Clark’s theory was that the meteor rock inside her body had exacerbated some psychological issues the girl had had through her childhood.

    “It says here the study on Tina was financed by Luthorcorp,” Lois read.

    Clark nodded. “Why am I not surprised?”

    “Do you think we should talk to Lionel?” she asked. “I mean, he’d probably know about the study done on Tina. He might be able to tell us more about this doctor.”

    “We could, I guess. But then we could just go straight to the source.”

    “You really think this doctor’s going to tell us what he’s doing with Lex?” Lois asked.

    Clark made a face. “No. But then again, Lex has a way of twisting things to hide what he’s really up to.”

    Lois had her doubts about going directly to the doctor. They had no way of determining just how honest the man was. While their research hadn’t turned up anything which might be considered a concern, there also hadn’t been anything which could clue them in as to the man’s personal morals.

    She voted for going to talk to Lionel before going to talk to the doctor. Clark gave in without too much of a fight.

    “Is this how it’s going to be with us? You calling the shots?”

    She smirked at him. “Did you ever think it was going to be any other way?” she asked.

    “Well, you do like to be on top,” he quipped.

    Lois found herself blushing. Just because she’d slept practically on top of him on Saturday night, she thought.

    “You are not funny, Smallville,” she said.

    He nudged her. “Yeah I am.”

    She groaned. If Kally took after her father in that respect, they were going to be in for a world of trouble.

    Since she didn’t have to be at work until late and Clark’s afternoon class had been cancelled, they decided to head into Metropolis. Kally was at the farm with her grandparents and they figured she would be safe enough there.

    Chloe met them at the main entry to the Daily Planet. The building was overshadowed by the tower of Luthorcorp Plaza, which was barely half a block away. Lois recalled Clark had once jumped from the roof of the Daily Planet to the tower to save his mother.

    “Lionel has an office on the twenty-fifth floor,” Chloe told them. “I think Lex just gave in to his dad to make it look good PR-wise. Anyway, he has a meeting scheduled uptown that he should be leaving for in about five minutes.”

    Lois wondered if Chloe had said anything to the staff when she’d been enquiring about Lionel’s schedule that day.

    “Don’t worry. I didn’t need to contact the staff,” her cousin replied with a smug expression. “I just hacked into his diary.”

    “Chloe!”

    “Did you expect anything else? I mean, if Lionel got wind of your visit, he might make something up to avoid it.”

    “That’s true,” Clark said.

    She bit her lip, wondering how they were actually going to intercept the elder Luthor. Clark appeared to be listening, his eyes slightly unfocused as he concentrated.

    “Okay, he’s on his way down. He’s using a limo,” Clark said.

    As he spoke, a black limousine pulled up on the street outside the main entrance to the tower. Lois grabbed Clark’s hand and they ran together to get to the car before the older man emerged. They had just made it across the street when Lionel appeared, carrying a briefcase. The bearded man paused to speak to the driver, which gave them just enough time to make it to his side.

    For a moment, his cool demeanour seemed to shift slightly, indicating to Lois that he was surprised to see them, but quick to hide it.

    “Mr Kent. Ms Lane. To what do I owe the, uh, pleasure?”

    “We wanted to talk to you,” Lois said, exaggerating her breathlessness a little. “About a story we’re doing.”

    “Well, I’m afraid I have to run to a meeting,” he said. “Call my assistant.”

    “We won’t take up too much of your time,” Clark told him. “It’s for the CKU Gazette.”

    “I really …”

    “We can talk in here,” Lois said, shooting the man a look as if to say that they weren’t taking no for an answer.

    “Well, Ms Lane, I admire your tenacity, but …”

    She pushed him toward the door the driver had been holding open. “You can admire it on the way to your meeting,” she said.

    The bearded man looked amused. He relented, allowing them inside the vehicle. Lois sat opposite him while Clark sat beside him.

    “What is this about?” Lionel asked as the limousine set off to its destination.

    “We’re doing some research on a Frederick Loman. He’s …”

    “In paediatric research. Yes, I know him, if that’s what you are asking. Many years ago, I asked him to look into my son’s case.”

    Lois frowned. “What case is that?”

    “His hair loss. Or did you think it was an affectation?”

    Clark shook his head. “Lex told me years ago it happened in the meteor shower.”

    “Then you would know that I took Lex to doctors over several months to see if they could cure him. Unfortunately, his affliction is permanent.”

    Lois shrugged. “My dad’s bald. I don’t see a problem with it.”

    “Ahh, but your father was not a ten-year-old boy, was he?”

    Clark narrowed his eyes. “So you were doing it out of concern for your son, is that it? What about Tina Greer?”

    Lionel looked at him, raising an eyebrow. “Who?”

    “She was a girl born with soft-bone disease. She’s also the girl who morphed into Lex and robbed the Smallville Savings and Loan. Luckily for him, he had over a hundred witnesses to give him an alibi.”

    “Yes, well, that was an unfortunate incident. Tell me. What is your interest in this Dr Loman?”

    “He’s been meeting with Lex. We don’t know why.”

    Lionel peered at Clark, suddenly appearing very interested in the subject.

    “Hmm, well, that is interesting. I don’t recall Luthorcorp being involved in any research project involving children.” He seemed to realise exactly who he was talking to. “I’m afraid I cannot help you with your story. I have not talked with or done any dealings with Dr Loman in years.”

    He ordered the driver to let them out. Lois sighed.

    “Well, that was a dead end,” she said.

    “Not necessarily,” Clark told her. “I x-rayed his briefcase. He had some papers inside with a label. Apex Consortium. I managed to read some of the papers. It’s some sort of coup.”

    Lois stared at him. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking, Smallville?”

    “That Lionel is trying to take Luthorcorp off Lex?” She nodded. “Yup.”

    She thought for a few moments. “I bet Lionel’s worrying about the amount of money Lex has been spending lately. I mean, what with Leviathan going down the drain, and his campaign for senate, he’s got to be leaking money.”

    “Remember that class we had last month?”

    She frowned, then remembered it had been a lesson in the stock market. Lex was obviously stretching his resources and the more money he spent, the more risks he took with company assets, the greater the chance Luthorcorp stock would go down in value. Making it vulnerable for takeover.

    “So, do you think Lionel is using Lex’s balance sheet to drive the stock prices down?”

    Clark nodded. “I do. I mean, remember what Professor Abbott said? The greatest weapon has nothing to do with actual arms. It’s money.”

    “Capitalism at its finest,” Lois commented. “But how is this going to help us with protecting Kally?”

    “I don’t know. But if Lionel is planning some sort of coup, let’s hope that means Lex is too preoccupied with that to think about going after Kally.”

  15. #45
    Forum Regular Sykobee's Avatar
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    Awesome update😊 The senior Kents were well managed and informing the general to be on his guard, smoothly accomplished as well. Great mix of info, some sleuthing, confrontation, silliness and family fun. Between Lois's desire to be 'top banana', CK's sly, subtle sense of humor, and Kally's mix of her parents' talents, lively exchanges are predictable. Can't wait for more. Soon please😇

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