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Thread: The Losers Club

  1. #31
    Forum Regular Sykobee's Avatar
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    Yay! So thrilled for this story to continue. Also with OLM that was two updates in one day. 🎉🎇🎊 I'm celebrating!

    I like the CPS component used as both assistance and enforcement. It gives a more realistic feel. Also, Clarks comments and encouragement of Lois were great, valid and real. Hoping the Abby situation and Chloe's intensity settles, allowing for peace on the home front.
    More please☺ soon.

  2. #32
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sykobee View Post
    Yay! So thrilled for this story to continue. Also with OLM that was two updates in one day. 🎉🎇🎊 I'm celebrating!

    I like the CPS component used as both assistance and enforcement. It gives a more realistic feel. Also, Clarks comments and encouragement of Lois were great, valid and real. Hoping the Abby situation and Chloe's intensity settles, allowing for peace on the home front.
    More please☺ soon.
    The one thing that bothered me about Lois' entry into the SV universe was her lack of concern for her education. Granted, she was supposedly eighteen when she came along in the show, but you'd think there would be some concern at the fact she was skipping classes. That's kind of what I was going for here with Gabe's gentle reminder that she could very easily be taken away by Child Services if she continues to skip classes. Plus with CS getting involved in helping Abby's case, it gave it more realism in a way.

    I felt because of the connection between Lois and Clark set up from the beginning, he would be the one she would listen to and he'd also be the one to help her with her school work.

    Things will settle down eventually, but of course I am exploring the issues each character faces. Not all of them are as secure as they appear to be.

    New chapter coming right up.

  3. #33
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    Chapter Twenty

    Oliver noticed Abby was quiet at lunch. She was still pale, but he knew from experience a week in the hospital was no picnic. Martha looked at her.

    “Not hungry, sweetie?”

    Abby had barely touched the sandwich on her plate. “Um, I …”

    “Hey, I know things feel a bit strange,” Oliver said kindly. He’d felt the same way for a couple of days after he’d returned. It wasn’t just the way his brother had been acting but everything had felt a little off. He hadn’t wanted to say anything to the Kents but they’d seemed to have got along just fine without him and he’d felt a little like an interloper. Of course, that wasn’t the case. They’d missed him and had done their best to try to keep things normal. If only for Clark’s sake. The past three years had clearly been difficult for his little brother.

    Abby turned to smile tentatively at Lois. “Uh, so what were you guys talking about in the barn?”

    “History, mostly,” Lois said. “I’ve got a test on Monday.”

    Abby made a face. “Ugh, with Mr Donnelly? Everyone hates his tests.”

    “Well, that makes me feel so much better,” Lois said sarcastically. Abby shrugged.

    “Sorry.”

    Lois shook her head. “It’s cool. I’ve just never been much for history.”

    “Me either,” the blonde replied.

    Oliver put up a hand. “I think that makes it unanimous,” he said with a grin. It wasn’t much of a joke but it seemed to break the ice and Abby appeared to relax a little more.

    Conversation turned to other, normal everyday things. Jonathan was having trouble with the tractor again. He was planning on going into town early the next morning to pick up some new parts.

    “You know, Dad, with all the money you’re spending on these new parts, wouldn’t you be better off buying a new tractor altogether?”

    The blond farmer looked at him like he’d just spoken blasphemy.

    “There’s nothing wrong with the tractor,” he said.

    “It breaks down every other week,” Clark pointed out. “Plus it’s old.”

    Jonathan almost choked on his coffee. He aimed a swat at Clark’s head. The dark-haired teen attempted to duck only to almost fall off his chair. Lois and Abby began giggling at the expression on Jonathan’s face and Clark’s mortification. Even Martha was hiding a grin behind her cup of coffee.

    Oliver could tell from the way the older man was looking at them that it was about to turn into a lecture on how they should learn to value what they have and that just because their parents had been wealthy it didn’t mean they had it easy. Fortunately the phone rang before Jonathan could get into it. He got up to answer the phone.

    “Kent Residence. Oh, Collins. Yes, he’s right here.” Jonathan handed the phone to Oliver.

    “Collins?”

    “Mr Queen, I thought you should know that an agent of the FBI came to see me this morning.”

    Oliver frowned. The agents had sure taken their time, considering it had been a week since his story had appeared in the paper. He’d called the Metropolis office and they’d promised to look into the file but he hadn’t heard anything since.

    Which was another reason he wanted to look into it himself.

    “What did they want?” he asked.

    “Details of your parents’ business trips. I told them you had all their papers. Especially from that last business trip.”

    “Right. Anything else?”

    “There’ll be a meeting of the board next week.”

    “It’s Christmas,” Oliver told him. His brother had one more week of school before Christmas vacation.

    “Yes, and the board has a final meeting for the year two days before the holiday. Or in this case, two business days before the holiday. I know you’re not up to speed but as your father’s eldest …”

    “Yes, yes, I know.” Oliver sighed. “Give me details. Where and when.”

    “Friday. Here in Star City.” The board meeting was to begin at ten in the morning. Given the time difference, he could leave Kansas around nine and still have an hour to spare for the meeting. “Are you up for the flight?”

    “I’ll be there,” he promised. “Send me the agenda as soon as you have it so I can get up to speed on any matters they want to discuss.”

    “Will do,” the man replied.

    Lois picked up her plate and took it into the kitchen, rinsing it before putting it in the dishwasher. She sighed.

    “Guess we need to get back to the study,” she said to Clark, sounding reluctant.

    “Guess so,” Clark replied, getting up to rinse his own plate.

    “I’m never going to get this stuff,” Lois complained.

    “Yes you will,” Clark assured her. “You just need to find a method that works for you.”

    Oliver watched them leave, wondering about the relationship between them. He’d had concerns about Chloe because of the way she looked at Clark, but his brother’s friendship with Lois seemed to be on a completely different level. He knew they’d bonded because they’d both lost parents but he wondered if it was more than that. He didn’t get any kind of romantic vibes but then again, Clark was only fourteen and he apparently wasn’t even interested in dating yet. He didn’t know enough about Lois to decide what her perspective was. He was happy, at least, that his brother had been able to form close relationships with girls without the complication of dating.

    He looked at Abby. She had managed to finish her sandwich but looked a little uncertain.

    “I guess I should go catch up on my homework,” she said quietly.

    “You need help with anything?” Oliver asked. “I can’t promise I’ll be brilliant. I barely passed at school.”

    “Hmm, that’s because you didn’t apply yourself, honey,” Martha said.

    “No, that’s because I was a lazy little sh*t who didn’t study,” he replied.

    “Took the words right out of my mouth, son,” Jonathan said, shooting him a wry grin. Oliver shot him an indignant look.

    Abby giggled. “Were you really that bad?” she asked.

    “Spoiled rotten, that was your problem.”

    “Jonathan, don’t exaggerate,” Martha admonished him in response to his teasing.

    Abby looked at the couple as they got up to clear the table, teasing each other as they did so.

    “Do you want any help?” she asked quietly.

    “No, sweetie, you go and catch up on that homework. Oliver will help you if you get stuck on anything.”

    Oliver decided to follow the young blonde out. Chloe had already supplied her with homework, complaining that the teachers had said being in the hospital was no excuse to get out of doing it. While Oliver had agreed with Chloe’s complaints, he wondered if Abby needed to have something to focus on, instead of her problems.

    He’d barely recognised her when he had met her in the Torch the afternoon he’d returned to Smallville. He hadn’t really spent too much time with her when she was growing up, other than the few times she'd been studying with his brother on various school projects. While Clark had gone through Smallville Elementary, then middle school with her, she hadn’t hung out with them much. It wasn’t until she’d started high school that Clark had encouraged her to help out in the Torch. Oliver supposed it was his brother’s way of trying to protect the more vulnerable kids. He didn’t think Abby was weak, but it was clear she hadn’t had too many breaks in life.

    He watched as she began working on some maths problems.

    “Ugh, I hate maths,” he said.

    “I like maths,” Abby replied. “It’s sort of like … I don’t know. You can work out a problem and come up with the answer. I mean, numbers have like a … a pattern, I guess.”

    “Unlike real life?” he asked wryly.

    “I guess. I mean, people think about maths as a kind of universal language.”

    Oliver frowned at her. He’d never really thought about it that way, but he supposed there was some kind of truth to it.

    “What do you want to be when you grow up?” he asked.

    “Well, not my mom, that’s for sure,” she said. She grimaced and looked grieved. It was obvious that she still cared about her mother, despite what the woman had done to her. Oliver had read enough about the problem to know that it wasn’t unusual. “I’m sorry. Was that wrong?”

    “No. You know what your mom did to you was abuse, right? I mean, abuse doesn’t have to be physical.”

    “Yeah, that’s what Dr Sydell said. You know, he was really nice.”

    “For a shrink?” He made a face. “When my parents went missing, the Kents took me to a couple of therapists. Well, I think they had to. Something to do with the courts or social services.”

    “It must have been really hard for you. How old were you when your parents died?”

    “Thirteen. Clark was six.”

    She nodded. “I remember when we all started school together. I mean, most of the kids in our freshman class were in kindergarten together and we didn’t get a lot of new kids. Having a new kid like Clark was big news.”

    It reminded Oliver of those early days in Smallville, when others would look at him with what seemed like suspicion. Small-town people could be so small-minded. He supposed it was different for Clark, since he’d been only little.

    He’d gone out with Jonathan earlier in the week and they’d stopped in at Nell’s flower shop to pick up some flowers for Martha. She had greeted him warily. Apparently she still considered him an ‘outsider’ even though he’d lived there five years before his ill-fated trip.

    “I suppose you’ll be going back to the big city to take over your father’s company,” she said.

    “I don’t know what I’m going to do yet,” he told the brunette. As much as he had behaved horribly toward his mother’s cousin, Nell had been worse. It was bad enough, Martha had once told him, that Nell and Jonathan had dated while in high school, so there was probably a bit of jealousy there. Nell had continued to look on Martha as an outsider and the women had always been cool toward each other.

    His thoughts returned to the young blonde.

    “I can imagine you were all curious about who he was,” he said, smiling at Abby.

    She sent him a half-smile in response.

    “He’s just this really sweet guy.”

    Oliver cocked an eyebrow. “Sweet? My brother? He was a nightmare when I was a kid. Always following me around, asking me questions.” Abby didn’t look as if she believed him. As much as he pretended he’d hated it, he’d found it almost ‘cool’ to have a little brother who looked up to him. Now that Clark was older, of course, it was different.

    “You’re lucky though. I mean I would have loved to have had a little brother or sister, but my mom … well, my dad left when I was a baby. I guess because of her. She was … I mean, she is a control freak.”

    Oliver was beginning to understand a little why Abby was the way she was. Her mother practically suffocated her and at the same time appeared to be extremely cruel to the point of eroding her daughter’s self-esteem.

    “So, are you gonna take over your dad’s company?” Abby asked.

    “I don’t know. I mean, I think my dad would like it to stay in family hands. I’m a little worried though.”

    “Why? Because you don’t think what happened to you or your parents was by chance? How are you going to prove that?”

    “That’s the question, isn’t it? How would you feel about helping us?”

    She looked puzzled.

    “Helping you? How?”

    “Well, I can tell you’re pretty smart. I bet you could help me look over some of my dad’s papers and you might see something I miss. What do you think?”

    She smiled. Oliver couldn’t help but notice the way she brightened when she smiled. She was so pretty when she wasn’t thinking about her acne.

    “You know, you have a really pretty smile,” he said.

    She blushed. “No, I don’t.”

    “Abby, I don’t say things I don’t mean. If there’s one thing the past three years taught me, it’s to be honest with people and tell them what I really think instead of hiding behind a mask. And believe me when I say you have a pretty smile.”

    “Thank you,” she said quietly. “And I would love to help you.”

    “Great! So, how about we see what we can do with your homework and then we’ll go look at those papers. What do you say?”

    She nodded and showed him the problems she was working on. Oliver moved a little closer so he could read and work things out.

    They managed to get the homework done quickly and moved on to the papers. He decided he was right in his initial assessment. Abby had a quick mind and was able to understand concepts easily, whereas he had always had trouble with it. He knew he was at least reasonably intelligent but when it came to academics it just wasn’t his thing.

    A while later he heard Clark and Lois come in. He looked up, frowning, realising it had started to grow dark. They’d been working for several hours and he hadn’t realised it. Jonathan stepped in the door behind the teenagers.

    “Hey son, how about taking a break and come and help me with the cows,” he said.

    Abby looked up. “Can I help?”

    Oliver looked to his guardian for a response. The older man smiled.

    “Sure you can. But put on a jacket, love. It’s cold out there. I think it might be going to snow soon.” He grabbed a jacket from the coat hook. “It’s Martha’s but I think it’ll fit you.”

    Abby smiled and took the jacket, thanking him. Oliver exchanged a smile with the blond farmer. Bringing the young girl to stay with them, for however long it took to sort out the problems at home, had been a great idea. She seemed so much brighter, more animated.

    The three of them went out together. Jonathan showed Abby where the feed trough was and the supplies and she began filling it while Oliver went with his guardian to help with the animals. He shivered as a cold breeze blew. He looked up at the sky. It was looking a little grey. He could see snow clouds on the horizon.

    “Looks like we might get a white Christmas,” he said. Jonathan nodded.

    “Sure looks like it.” He glanced toward the barn where Abby was doing her best with the feed bags. “She seems brighter.”

    “Yeah,” he said, nodding. “You didn’t mind, did you? Letting her stay here?”

    His guardian assured him he didn’t mind at all. “It’s better for her to be around people who care about her. You’re doing a good thing with her.”

    He guessed Jonathan had seen him working on his father’s papers with Abby. While she hadn’t seen anything untoward in the papers, she appeared to understand what she was reading and asked a few questions which Oliver hadn’t considered.

    “I think she just needs someone to believe in her,” Oliver told the older man. If that meant taking her under his wing, so to speak, he was more than willing.

    Part of him had realised that in doing so, he was trying to make up for the terrible things he’d done in the past. The Kents hadn’t been wrong when they’d admonished him about some of the things he’d done at Excelsior. He’d acted like he thought he was better than anyone else and he’d come very close to becoming a bully. His parents would have been so upset with him, had they known.

    Of course, that wasn’t to say that they didn’t know but just chose not to say anything. He knew his mother had gone somewhat easy on him and because of it, he’d been a little spoiled. He’d played on it a lot, which was wrong.

    There had been times on the island when he’d wondered if this was his punishment for being such a brat. He had sometimes felt he’d deserved what had happened, which was why he’d resolved to be a much better person if he ever got home again.

    “You know,” his guardian said slowly, “I’m not as obtuse as you think I am. Helping Abby is a good thing and I’m proud of you for that. But do it because it’s the right thing to do, not because you think you have something to make up for.”

    Oliver looked at him, not realising the older man understood everything.

    “I don’t …”

    Jonathan looked at him kindly, putting a hand on his shoulder.

    “You need to forgive yourself for the mistakes of the past, son. What happened to you wasn’t because of karma, or whatever you kids call it. Someone planned this. That much I’m sure of.” He glanced toward the house. “I know you want to investigate it and I think you should do whatever you have to do to give yourself some peace. Just don’t say too much to Martha. I don’t want to worry her more than necessary.”

    He straightened and looked at the sky. “Getting dark. We should go take care of the cows before it gets too dark.”

    Oliver nodded. “Yes, sir.”

  4. #34
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Reposting

    Chapter Twenty-One

    Helping Lois learn her history was not the chore Clark had initially thought it was going to be. He’d been right in his initial assessment. Lois was smart. She just needed to be able to see history in a different way.

    During the hours they’d studied together, he’d asked her questions about her dad and tried to relate what he did to the subject of the test. His friend didn’t seem too thrilled at the idea and he guessed part of it was because of the way she’d felt neglected by her dad.

    Finally, he’d asked her about it.

    “What bothers you so much about it? Your dad’s job, I mean?”

    She was biting into a cookie and took her time chewing it before answering.

    “I dunno. I mean, it’s not just the fact that he was going off to command troops. I mean, it’s sort of like he was a hero, you know? It’s just … sometimes it felt like that was more important to him than me.” She sighed. “I don’t think I could do what my mom did. She’d send him off on his missions with a smile and a kiss and I know it hurt her sometimes but …”

    He heard the pain in her voice. She obviously carried a lot of sad memories. He wished there was something he could do to ease her pain but even though they were friends, she could be prickly when she was emotional.

    “She did what she had to do,” he said, finishing her thought.

    “Yeah.” She shook her head. “I don’t think I’m strong enough to do something like that.”

    He bit his lip, keeping his tone gentle, hoping he could help her see things from a different perspective. “Did you ever think that maybe it was just as hard on your dad? I mean, he’d be going off to fight wars, right?” She nodded. “So, maybe he couldn’t really talk about it at home, because he was afraid you girls would get scared that he wouldn’t come back. There was always that chance.”

    Again, she nodded. “There was this girl in my class, in fifth grade, I think. Her mom was a lieutenant. She went away on a mission and didn’t come back.” She looked out the window for a moment, her eyes taking on a far-away look, as if she was recalling a memory. “We were in art class and the guidance counsellor came to the room. She had this really, really sad look on her face and we just knew something bad had happened. So, my classmate was taken out of the room and we just stood there. She wasn’t at school for the next week and when she did come back they told us what happened to her mom. She left school for good a month later.”

    Clark looked at his friend with sympathy. How it must have hurt when she had learnt of her father’s accident. Granted, it hadn’t been in combat, but it had been devastating all the same.
    It would be a good lesson for the period of history she was studying.

    “Imagine what it was like for all those families in the Civil War,” he said quietly. “I mean, a lot of men didn’t come home and it wasn’t like it is now where women can earn their own money.”

    “Yeah,” she said, nodding. “I bet it was really tough for them. I know some of the women on the base used to talk about being ‘war widows’ but those women really lived it.”

    “You know,” he went on, “the one thing they don’t really talk about with the Civil War is not just that it was a war between the states. Imagine if we were living in that time and your dad had a cousin who was with one army and your dad was with the other.”

    “God, how awful would that have been?” she asked, her expression showing she was picturing what it would have been like. “I mean, what if they had to meet on the battlefield?”

    “Yeah,” he replied.

    “I kind of get it. I mean, these are people who don’t really agree with what they’re fighting about but they have to do it anyway. It kind of sucks.”

    “You’re right. It does.”

    Lois looked at the textbook and began reading from a chapter. As Clark began testing her on some of the reading, he noticed that she was relating more to the material. Maybe the discussion about her father had helped a little, he thought.

    They returned to the house late in the afternoon. Oliver and Abby went out with Jonathan to help with the chores while they sat and talked to Martha, who was in the middle of preparing dinner.

    “Are you staying for dinner, Lois?”

    Lois was busy helping herself to some potato chips from the bag on the counter but smiled at the redhead.

    “Would it be okay?” she asked. “I’d have to call Uncle Gabe though.”

    “You’re more than welcome, sweetie. How did the study go?”

    “Good,” Clark said.

    “Clark’s a good teacher,” Lois added.

    He grinned at her. “Well, I don’t know about that. It’s like I told you. You just need to find your own way of learning the material.”

    “Yeah, but you explain things way better than Donnelly.”

    He blushed at the compliment and grabbed a handful of chips. “Anything we can do to help, Mom?”

    “How about you set the table for me while Lois calls her uncle.”

    “Sure.”

    The others came back in a short while later, having finished all the chores. Jonathan kissed his wife.

    “What’s for dinner?” he asked, trying to dip a finger in the saucepan.

    “Nothing unless you wash your hands first,” Martha scolded, smacking his wrist. “You too, Ollie.”

    Oliver grinned and looked at Abby, who was looking rosy-cheeked and much better than she had at lunchtime.

    “Come on,” he said. “Half-bath’s through here.”

    Clark could hear the two lightly teasing each other as they went down the hallway to the bathroom. He’d initially worried that Abby might feel out of place, but it sounded like she was adjusting already.

    At dinner, Oliver kept up the teasing of Abby, which she returned. It was clear she had never worked on a farm before and Clark noticed his brother was gently teasing her about her inexperience.

    “Like you were any better, son,” Jonathan told him, chuckling as Oliver’s face fell. He grinned at Abby. “His first morning on the farm, he was out in the field trying to herd some of the cows into the milking shed. Tried to grab one of them and slipped on a cow pat. Muck all over his clothes. Martha wasn’t going to let him back in the house until he stripped off.”

    Abby laughed. “That must have been embarrassing.”

    Oliver scowled. “I was thirteen. It’s not cool for your parents to see you naked, or almost,” he complained.

    Jonathan reached over and tousled his hair. Oliver tried to look annoyed but soon joined in the laughter.

    “Try having the birds and the bees talk with your dad when you’re a girl,” Lois tuned in. “He pretty much said, ‘don’t have sex’ and ‘no dating until you finish college’.” She snorted. “Like that would ever stop me. I had this crush on a guy when I was twelve. He left last summer to join Special Forces.”

    “So, you’re saying …” Clark began, wondering if that meant she’d already slept with someone. He had a feeling that if her father had been alive, she probably would have done all those things just to rebel against her dad’s over-protectiveness.

    “No, god no. I haven’t met anybody I want to do that with. I’m not even ready to date.” She frowned. “Is that weird?”

    Martha shook her head. “No, sweetie. It’s actually very sensible. Sometimes I think teenagers are in too much of a hurry to grow up. You’ll know when you’re ready.”

    Clark shrugged. He felt there was way too much pressure to be like every other teen. He knew of a couple of girls his age who had done it already and he thought they were way too young.

    “There was this girl in my sophomore class at high school,” Oliver interjected. “She was only fifteen but she had to leave school because she got pregnant.”

    Jonathan frowned. “Wasn’t that Ethan Miller’s niece?” he asked. “I’m sure I heard it somewhere.”

    “Yeah, Dad. I think so.”

    Martha tut-tutted. “Well, I know you three are far more sensible than that,” she said, smiling at Clark, Lois and Abby in turn. They grinned back at her. Clark had had his moments when she had looked at him with disappointment but it was nice to know she thought so highly of him.

    After dinner was over, Abby offered to help Oliver with the dishes while the rest sat in the living room to watch television. After a while, Lois gathered her stuff.

    “I should get going. Uncle Gabe will probably be worrying,” she said.

    Clark got up to see her to the door. He’d noticed she’d been quiet for the rest of the evening.

    “You okay?” he asked.

    “Yeah, just, you know, thinking about my dad. And Wes.”

    “Wes?”

    “The guy I told you about. I haven’t talked to him in ages.”

    “If he’s gone into Special Forces, he might be busy with training or work or something.”

    “Yeah, I guess so.” She sighed. “I think sometimes about what things would be like if my dad were still here, you know? I mean, there were times when he could be so annoying, and we’d have so many fights but …”

    “You miss him.” He leaned forward and touched a hand to her arm. “It’s okay to miss him, you know. He was your dad.”

    He felt bad for her. While things hadn’t been great while Oliver was missing, he was happy that he had his brother back in his life. It didn’t mean he couldn’t empathise with her and understand how hard the past few months had been.

    She punched his shoulder. He pretended to flinch as if it had hurt.

    “Thanks, Smallville. I know I can always count on you for some perspective.”

    He snorted. “Whatever, Lane.”

    Next morning, Clark had finished his chores and was studying at his desk in the loft when Oliver bounded up the stairs.

    “Hey, kid,” he said.

    Clark rolled his eyes. “Stop calling me kid.”

    His brother reached over to tousle his hair. “You’re still a kid to me. What’re you working on?”

    “Just homework.”

    “Oh. So, I was thinking about that stuff we talked about the other day.”

    “What stuff?”

    “Mom and Dad. The drawing. That stuff. Anyway, I’ve been working on some ideas.”

    Clark looked at him. “What ideas?”

    Oliver reached past him to the bookshelf and pulled out a notebook. He sat down on the couch and opened up the book. Clark turned his chair around to look at the drawings.

    “Arrows?” he said. The drawings were of different designs of arrows.

    He remembered their father had been involved in the sport, although not really competitively, and he’d begun teaching Oliver. Clark hadn’t really been all that interested himself. With his strength, he figured his parents would have been afraid he would break the bow or something. He hadn’t learnt much control when he was little.

    “Yeah. I mean, I got pretty good at it while I was on the island. So, I thought up some different designs. I mean, there’s your basic arrowhead. I figured I could get some made with steel, or whatever. Then I thought, what if I came up against some bad guys. I mean, I couldn’t exactly use that kind of arrow against them.”

    “Well, no, I mean, even if you didn’t kill them, you’d still wound them pretty badly. Stuff like that you’d get away with in Robin Hood’s time, but you know, you’d probably get sued or something. You know, like on that movie where that lady is talking about her friend who got sued because a guy got hurt breaking into her home …” Clark trailed off at the withering look from his brother.

    “You think way too much about this stuff,” Oliver returned dryly.

    Clark shrugged. “That’s America,” he said. “People sue for all sorts of crazy things.”

    “Anyway, so I was thinking of maybe designing something like a punching glove but then I thought that would be too ridiculous, so what if I could design an arrow that delivers some kind of knockout gas, or, I don’t know, an electric shock.”

    He frowned at the older man. The designs sounded great but there was just one problem. How was he going to make all these things? He was sure the designs would need some kind of electronics expert. Neither one of them had that kind of expertise.

    “Um, how exactly are you going to get someone to create all this?” he asked.

    Oliver shrugged. “We’ve got an R&D division. I think. I’ll just get one of them to do it.”

    “And as soon as you use one of those arrows on the street, they’ll know who you are.”

    His brother sighed. “I’ll admit there are a few kinks I need to work out, but I’ll come up with something.”

    “What about the stuff with what happened to Mom and Dad?”

    “That’s why I need to do this. I called one of my friends from Excelsior, but they didn’t seem to want to talk about what happened with the yacht.”

    “Maybe we should go see Dr Swann?” Clark asked. If what had happened to their parents had anything to do with Veritas then he was sure Dr Swann might know something.

    “Yeah, you’re right. He might at least be able to steer us in the right direction.” Oliver scratched at his nose. “How about we go see him right after Christmas?”

    “Why can’t we go next week?”

    “Because you still have a few days of school left and I have to go to Star City for the board meeting.” He paused, looking thoughtful. “Why don’t you come with me on Friday? You might as well get to know the board.”

    Clark nodded. The school would break up for Christmas early on Friday afternoon, so he wouldn't be missing much school. As long as it was okay with Martha and Jonathan.

    His brother put a hand on his shoulder. “I promise, I will contact Dr Swann and make an appointment to see him during the break. Okay?”

    “Okay. Sounds good.”

    When they went in for lunch, he told the older couple about the plan to go to Star City. Jonathan nodded his agreement.

    “I think that’s a good idea, son. It will give you the chance to get to know a bit about your family’s business.”

    Clark wasn’t sure he wanted to know too much about Queen Industries. While he hadn’t really thought too much about the future, he couldn’t see himself putting on a suit and doing a lot of flying. He would rather leave that up to his brother. At least Oliver had it in his blood, so to speak, he thought.

    The opportunity to spend some time with his brother, even if that meant sitting in on a boring board meeting, was too good to pass up.

    Conversation turned to the coming week. Abby looked a little uncertain.

    “I’m not looking forward to going back to school tomorrow,” she said.

    Oliver put an arm around her shoulders. “Don’t you worry. If anyone gives you any trouble, and I mean, even if they sneeze wrong in your direction, you tell me and I’ll take care of it.”

    “Ollie, honey, don’t do something you might regret.”

    Oliver shrugged. “Don’t worry, Mom. I’m just planning on beating them to a pulp.”

    “Oliver …” Jonathan said warningly.

    “I’m kidding. I’ll just put the fear of God into them.”

    “Me too,” Clark piped up, grinning at the girl next to him.

    “How are you going to do that, kid?” his brother retorted. “Stare at them really hard?”

    “I can be intimidating if I want to,” he returned, ignoring the ‘kid’ remark.

    Abby shook her head, laughing in spite of her anxiety. “Not you, Clark. You couldn’t be intimidating if you tried. You’re like a big teddy bear.”

    He cocked an eyebrow at her. “Teddy bear? I don’t know whether to be flattered or insulted!”

    “Well, just think, sweetie,” Martha said. “Teddy bears are cute and sweet.”

    “And that’s you,” Abby said. “You’re like the sweetest guy I know.”

    Oliver looked disappointed. “What am I? Chopped liver?” he complained.

    “You’re like a big brother,” Abby told him. “Only cooler because you don’t treat me like a little kid.”

    “Hear that?” he said, beaming. “I’m cool.”

    Clark snorted. “Don’t let it go to your head,” he replied. “Your ego’s big enough already!”

    His brother shot a glare. “You are so going to get it, kid.” He gestured between. “You and me. Yard. Basketball hoop. Right now. I’m so going to beat your ass.”

    “You and what army?” Clark shot back, hearing the laughter from his guardians and Abby’s giggles.

    They went out to the yard. Clark grabbed the ball from the barn and began bouncing it on the drive.

    “You better not cheat,” his brother told him. Clark threw him the ball, using just enough power to knock the wind out of the blond man’s sails.

    “I’m not the one who cheats,” he replied, recalling a game a few years earlier when Oliver had indeed been cheating.

    “I’m not the one who can move in the blink of an eye,” his brother returned.

    “Actually, I can move faster than that,” Clark said.

    “Yeah, yeah, quit bragging!”

    “Will you just shoot already!”

    He noticed Abby had come out to watch them play. He hadn’t thought about telling her about his abilities but he supposed that now she was living with them he would have to. It wouldn’t be fair to her otherwise if he hid them from her. He decided he needed to discuss that with the rest of the family before making any further decisions.

    Clark managed to get the ball back but Oliver tried to trip him up and block him from getting to the basket. He feinted and dodged, laughing as his brother failed to prevent the move.

    “He shoots, he scores,” Clark cried in triumph as the ball bounced on the frosty ground. Oliver shot him a dirty look before retrieving the ball.

    “Better not get used to that,” he said. “That’s the only point you’re going to get.”

    “We’ll see.”

    They played for another half hour, continuing to taunt each other. Abby stayed on the porch, a cup of hot cocoa in her hands. Clark asked her if she wanted to join them but she shook her head, smiling.

    After a while, Martha came out to join her on the porch.

    “Boys, shouldn’t you come inside?” she called. “It’s getting cold out.”

    “We’ll be in soon, Mom,” Oliver called back, dribbling the ball.

    Clark frowned, feeling something wet on his shirt.

    “Hey, look,” Abby called. “It’s snowing!”

    The brothers turned and looked toward the house. It was only light but it was definitely snowing. Oliver glanced at him and nodded his head in the direction of the porch. Clark threw the ball into the barn and followed his brother back to the house. They stood on the porch, watching the snow coming down.

    Abby finally turned to them. “So who won?” she asked.

    Funnily enough, neither one of them had remembered to keep score. Abby shook her head and gave an exasperated sigh.

    “Boys,” she said.
    Last edited by phoenixnz; 03-29-2020 at 08:52 PM.

  5. #35
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Twenty-Two

    Lois and Chloe had made a plan the night before school started that Monday. They were going to meet their friends at the school gate and make sure no one bothered Abby.

    They were surprised when not only Pete showed up, but Whitney and Lana as well. The brunette freshman shrugged.

    “We thought it would help Abby if we presented a united front,” she said quietly.

    “Plus it would give all the jocks the message that I’m not gonna let them bully her,” Whitney replied. From the way the couple looked at each other, Lois wondered if it had actually been the blond football player’s idea, rather than Lana’s.

    “Hey, man, that’s cool,” Pete said.

    Chloe pursed her lips, looking dubious. She had told Lois she hadn’t had a lot to do with the former cheerleader in middle school, but they’d been talking lately. The biggest surprise was that while the girl had been cheerleading all through middle school and had made the high school team, she had quit after only a few weeks. Chloe had assumed it had something to do with her mother, as she’d been asking about an address at graduation.

    Lois watched as the Kent farm truck turned into the parking lot. Clark got out first, holding out his hand to help Abby from the front seat. Oliver got out on the driver’s side. The trio approached the entry.

    Oliver looked coolly at Whitney.

    “Fordman.”

    The jock nodded. “Oliver.” He smiled at Abby, who looked at him almost fearfully. “Hey, Abby. How are you doing?”

    “I’m okay,” she said quietly.

    “I just wanted you to know that I’m real sorry about what happened. As far as Anderson goes, he even blinks wrong in your direction, I’m getting him kicked off the team.”

    Lois looked at the jock. From what she’d heard, it would be an even worse punishment for Anderson than getting suspended from school. His father had also played football when he’d attended Smallville High and his son getting kicked off the team would be humiliating.

    “Thank you.”

    Oliver nodded. “Yeah, thanks Whitney,” he said, his tone more friendly than before. “Uh, we have a meeting with Principal Kwan before class.”

    “We just wanted you to know that if you need anything, just tell us,” Lana said.

    Lois frowned, glancing at Clark. It seemed more like they were trying too hard. She knew Whitney did feel partly responsible for what had happened to Abby. After all, he had not only condoned the bullying, he had in many respects participated in it. She appreciated that he wanted to make up for it, but in her mind it was the same situation when her father had died. Abby needed time to get her head straight and she didn’t need to be crowded.

    Clark stood aside to let his brother and Abby enter the building and head to the administration wing. He turned and looked at Whitney and Lana.

    “Look, I appreciate you wanna help, but Abby doesn’t need to be crowded either, okay? The best thing you can do for her is let her be.”

    He added that it would also help if they made sure no one breathed a single insult in Abby’s direction. Lois knew it would never stop completely. Bullies came in all shapes and sizes and most weren’t bright enough to realise the consequences of their actions.

    If she could say one thing about Whitney, it was that he’d learned from this experience. She doubted he would support another hazing any time soon.

    They all walked into school. Lois’ class in history was first period. She had done some last-minute cramming the night before and felt confident she knew the material.

    Chloe hugged her as she left for her own homeroom.

    “Good luck,” she said.

    Clark smiled at her. “Yeah. Good luck.” He paused. “You better ace that test after all the study we did. My reputation’s on the line.”

    She rolled her eyes at him. “Oh, you’re hilarious, Smallville.”

    Lois put her things away in her locker and headed to class. Several other students had already filed into the classroom ahead of her but she managed to get in before the history teacher closed the door. Donnelly was a stickler for punctuality and anyone who was late to class would get an automatic fail on their test.

    The teacher was a short, skinny man aged in his late sixties. While he wasn’t exactly feeble, he was clearly not as fit as some. What hair was still on his head was pure white.

    He walked slowly up and down the rows of desks, handing out the test booklets.

    “You have forty-five minutes to complete the test,” he said. “There will be no talking, no going to the bathroom. Anyone caught cheating will not only be automatically failed but will be sent to Principal Kwan. Is that understood?” No one in the class dared answer. “Fine. You may begin.”

    Lois opened her booklet and wrote her name at the top. She quickly skimmed over the questions on the first page and smiled to herself. She knew this material. She knew it inside and out.

    She finished the fifty questions in good time and spent the remaining ten minutes checking her answers but she felt confident she had done very well. The teacher called out “Pencils down” five minutes before the period was due to end and began collecting up the papers. A few students began groaning and complaining but Donnelly snapped at them to shut up.

    As Lois left the classroom, a boy she knew from her English class nudged her.

    “Hey,” he said.

    “Oh, hey Justin.”

    “How’d you do on the test?” he asked.

    Justin Gaines was cute with dark, curly hair and a nice smile. He could often be seen in the cafeteria drawing in a sketchpad. He also drew a comic for the Torch.

    “I think I did okay,” she said. “I spent all weekend studying.” She made a face.

    He nodded. “Yeah. History’s not my thing either.”

    “Oh well, you do what you gotta do. So, I really love your comic.”

    “Thanks.” He frowned slightly. “Chloe’s your cousin, right? Is she, uh, you know, dating anyone?”

    “No.”

    He bit his lip. “Funny, I thought her and Clark were a thing.”

    Lois shook her head. “Nah. I don’t think Clark’s interested in anyone right now. You should ask her out if you like her.”

    He smiled. “I think I will. Thanks, Lois.”

    She watched him walk off. He was a nice guy and Chloe deserved to date someone who liked her for who she was rather than for looks. Not that her cousin wasn’t cute.

    She ran into Clark when she went to her locker to get her books for her next class. He smiled at her.

    “So, did you pass?”

    “I don’t know yet,” she replied, rolling her eyes. As if she would know immediately after the test was over.

    “Well, I’m sure you did great,” he said.

    “Yeah, well, you’ve got a reputation to protect,” she responded with a grin, reminding him of what he’d said earlier. “Can’t have anyone thinking you’re a terrible teacher.”

    “Exactly.” He grinned, showing his fangs. If Lois had been the kind of girl who practically swooned at the sight of a cute guy, she would have done so the moment he showed those sharp teeth. She’d known some guys who were as good-looking as Clark, but they had no apparent flaws. Except for their vanity. It sounded kind of odd, but she felt that even a slight imperfection made them even more attractive to her.

    They walked along the corridor together. Lois spotted Justin talking to Chloe and sent him an encouraging smile. Clark looked at the pair as they chatted. Chloe was smiling and laughing, so whatever Justin was saying to her was clearly amusing.

    “What’s that all about?” Clark asked softly.

    “Justin likes Chloe,” she said. “I think he’s asking her out.”

    “Oh. That’s great. Justin’s a good guy. He’ll treat her well.”

    Lois was glad Clark felt the same way about Chloe dating someone. Who wasn’t him. They’d talked a little about her cousin’s crush on him and he’d told her he didn’t want to hurt Chloe but he didn’t feel that way about her. Or anyone, really, he’d said.

    The rest of the day was fairly uneventful. Lois went to the Torch after her last class as she had to wait for Chloe. Abby was sitting on the couch, talking about her day.

    “Well, then I had to go see the guidance counsellor and it was like I’d suddenly developed two heads or something. She just looked at me kind of strange.”

    “I think that’s what they call overkill,” Lois said, sitting down beside the blonde. “They did it to me when I first came here.”

    She opened her bag and pulled out an orange, peeling it and offering a wedge to Abby. The other girl took it gratefully.

    “Oh, how did your test go?” she asked.

    “I think it went well,” Lois told her. “Thanks to Clark.”

    “Talking about me?” Clark said, entering the room.

    “Why? Your ears burning?” Chloe asked, grinning as he rolled his eyes.

    “What are you looking so happy about?” the dark-haired teen asked.

    “Justin asked me out.”

    “That’s great, Chlo. He’s a nice guy.” Clark smiled at her, appearing genuinely happy for her.

    Lois listened as the two reporters talked over story ideas for the next issue of the Torch. Chloe clicked a few keys on the computer and waited a few seconds before looking over at the printer. She sighed.

    “The printer’s jammed again,” she said. “I really wish Principal Kwan would cough up for a new one.”

    “Considering he’s already ripped you a new one about your conspiracy theories, I doubt he’ll consider that any time soon,” Clark commented.

    Abby got up and went to look at the printer. She opened the drawer and did something with the ream of paper inside before checking the side door of the machine. Within a few seconds, the printing came out.

    “You keep filling the tray too full,” she told Chloe. “That’s why it’s jamming.”

    “Don’t look at me. Clark loads the paper tray.”

    The girl glared at Clark, but he raised his hands in surrender.

    “It’s not like I do it on purpose,” he said.

    “Right. Why do I get the feeling you do it so it makes me think I’m useful around here?”

    “That’s not why,” he said. “I like it when you hang out with us.”

    Lois could tell Clark meant every word. It was obvious he had a soft spot for the bespectacled blonde. She guessed that he knew what it was like to be treated differently. For any reason.

    She heard voices in the corridor and recognised Pete’s, along with Brett Anderson.

    “You heard Whit, man. You really don’t want Oliver coming down on your ass.”

    “I don’t care. Queen can threaten all he likes, but I’m not gonna apologise. I don’t even know why you hang out with those losers, Ross.”

    Lois headed for the door but was intercepted by Clark.

    “Hey! Anderson!”

    The football jock turned around and smirked at him. Pete stood beside him, looking uncomfortable.

    “Never mind about my brother,” Clark growled. “You worry about me. And if you even so much as put a foot wrong in Abby’s direction, I won’t be responsible for my actions.”

    Brett sneered at him. “You threatening me, Queen?”

    “He’s not the only one,” Lois told him.

    The freshman jock scoffed. “You think I’m afraid of a girl?”

    “You should be,” Lois told him. “I was taught how to fight by Green Berets and Navy Seals.”

    “I don’t care. I don’t have anything to apologise for.”

    Abby came out and faced the teen. “So are you trying to say you didn’t call me ‘ugly’ and a ‘skank’ the other day?” she asked.

    He flushed. “You must have me confused with someone else,” he said. “I would never …” He kept trying to avoid her steady gaze, his eyes darting from side to side.

    “Oh, I wasn’t confused,” Abby said. Her voice was trembling and she looked pale, but appeared determined to face the boy who had hurt her so deeply. “I know it was you. And do you know something, Brett? I thought you were a good guy when we were in grade school together. We might be called the Losers Club around this school, but the only loser here right now is you. I’m not going to have acne forever, but you? You will always be a jerk!”

    He stared at her, admiration in his expression. “Abby, I …”

    She raised a hand in dismissal. “Goodbye, Brett! We both know you won’t learn a single thing from this, so I’m not going to waste my breath a second longer.”

    “Wait,” he said. “Abby, I’m …”

    She turned and walked back into the Torch office, refusing to hear another word. Lois glared at the jock, who stood with his mouth open.

    “Stunned is a good look for you, Anderson,” Pete said, laughing at the other boy’s wounded look. He walked away from his team-mate and entered the office.

    Lois and Clark watched the boy slink away in total humiliation. Clark sighed.

    “She’s right about one thing. Guys like Anderson and girls like Mandy won’t learn anything from this. They’ll still be jerks.”

    “Yeah, but at least he won’t dare pick on Abby anymore,” Lois told him. She rejoined her friends in the office.

    Abby was standing with Chloe, who had an arm wrapped around the other girl’s shoulders..

    “You sure told him a thing or two,” Chloe said. “When that story gets out, no one’s going to want to tease you.”

    “I was shaking so badly,” Abby admitted.

    “But you faced him,” Clark told her gently.

    “I did, didn’t I?” she said.

    Whatever Oliver and Clark had done that weekend had obviously given the girl some courage, Lois thought. She wondered if Oliver had coached her on what to say as it hadn’t sounded completely spontaneous. Abby still had a long way to go before she would fully deal with all her self-confidence issues, but facing a former bully was a step in the right direction.

    What Lois had liked was that she’d still managed to face him down and hadn’t resorted to petty name-calling. Maybe she had called him a jerk, but that was what he was.

    Oliver came in a short while later to drive Clark and Abby home. He looked very proud as Clark told him what had happened between Abby and Brett. The other girl still looked shaky but happy that she’d done it.

    After the brothers left with Abby, Pete sat next to Chloe and helped her sort out a couple of photos for the next edition. He left shortly after, saying he had chores to do at home.

    Lois looked out the window. It had started to rain, and given the cold temperatures it was more sleet than rain.

    “What time is it?” she asked her cousin.

    “About four-thirty,” Chloe replied.

    “It’s getting dark out there. Your dad’s probably waiting for us.” Chloe’s dad was picking them up since they’d taken the bus to school.

    Chloe nodded. “You’re right.” The fax machine beeped and she stood up. “Let me just see what this fax is.”

    She bent over the machine to grab the printout, then gasped.

    “What is it?” Lois asked. Her cousin looked like she was about to cry.

    “The police blotter,” she said. “Justin was in an accident. Hit-and-run.”

    “Oh my god, Chlo.” She immediately went over to hug her cousin.

    “I’m just gonna call the hospital.”

    “They won’t tell you anything,” Lois reminded her gently. “This isn’t like what happened with Abby.”

    “I do have a couple of contacts …” her cousin began but Lois shook her head.

    “No. You’re upset and it will just make you even more upset. If it just happened, they’ll be too busy to talk. I mean, it was hours before the hospital would tell me and Lucy about Dad.”

    “You’re right. I can call them later. Let’s go home.”

    Sure enough, Uncle Gabe was waiting in the almost empty parking lot for them.

    “Had a good day, girls?” he asked cheerfully.

    “It was okay,” Chloe said. Her father frowned.

    “What’s wrong?”

    Lois told him about the fax and Justin’s earlier conversation with her while Chloe sat quietly in the front seat.

    “I’m sorry, honey,” he said, reaching over to pat her arm in a gesture of comfort.

    Lois wished there was something she could say to help ease her cousin’s pain. She clearly had liked Justin Gaines and for him to have been in an accident after asking her out on a date had to have hurt.

    Chloe was quiet all through dinner as well. She chose not to watch television with them afterwards and went to her room. Lois decided the best thing to do was let her have her space for a while.

    After an hour of silence, she knocked on her cousin’s door. When there was no reply, she opened the door. Chloe was sitting up on the bed, the phone next to her.

    “Chlo?”

    Her cousin sighed. “I called Justin’s mom. She said he’s stable, but in critical condition. They won’t know anything more until tomorrow. If he makes it.” Her face crinkled as if she was going to cry.

    Lois sat on the bed and wrapped her arms around the other girl. She knew from her own experience that the next few hours were critical. If a patient made it through the first twenty-four hours, it was positive.

    “Maybe it’s me,” Chloe said with a sigh. “Maybe I’m a jinx.”

    “What are you talking about?”

    “He asks me out and has an accident. Maybe I gave him bad luck.”

    “Don’t talk like that. You’re not a jinx. Bad things happen. Luck has nothing to do with it.”

    “Am I such a bad person?” her cousin asked.

    “No, you’re not. Chloe, don’t think that way. Justin wouldn’t want you to think like that.”

    “I wish Clark …”

    “What?”

    “I don’t know. Maybe if Clark had been there he could have stopped it.”

    “How could he have done that?” she asked.

    “He saved Lana. Twice. I mean, he saved her from Greg Arkin. And Tina.”

    “Who’s Greg Arkin?”

    “Just this guy who had a major crush on Lana. He’s kind of … weird. Nerdy. And he was obsessed with bugs.”

    “So, what did this Bug Boy do?” Lois asked.

    “He killed his mom and decided he was going to mate with Lana. We think he got changed somehow by the meteors and …”

    “And what? Became like some kind of insect? That’s too weird.”

    “That’s Smallville,” Chloe said. “I mean, haven’t you read some of my articles? People blame Luthorcorp, but I don’t think it’s them. I think something about the meteors made some people in town go schizo.”

    It sounded like a wild theory but as Lois listened to her cousin, she realised there was a certain kind of weird logic to it. For one thing, if the emissions from the plant were the problem, the strange incidents, like the two-headed cow, or the mutant hand, would be more widespread. As Chloe explained, the events were too random. Most had occurred around the time of the meteor shower but some, like Bug Boy, had happened years afterward. There was no actual pattern other than the fact there had been meteor rock involved somehow.

    Still, knowing that Clark had been able to stop Bug Boy and Tina didn’t mean he was omniscient. It wasn’t like he could see the future. As much as Chloe wanted to think so, there was no way he could have known what was going to happen to Justin. Nor could he have stopped it in time.
    Sometimes it really was just bad luck or bad timing.

  6. #36
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Twenty-Three

    “Mom, have you seen my briefcase?”

    Martha appeared in the doorway. “What briefcase, honey?” she asked.

    Oliver frowned. “I got it just the other day at Fordman’s,” he said. He offered a cheesy grin. “I figured if I’m going to be a corporate goon, I should at least look the part.”

    She clucked in amusement. “You could never be a corporate goon, sweetheart. As for your briefcase, maybe it’s in the study?”

    Oliver remembered. He’d been working with Abby in the study the night before, reading some of the company paperwork.

    “You’re right. I think I left it in there.” He looked over at the clock. “Is Clark still sleeping? We’re gonna be late to the airport.” Smallville had a tiny airport that didn’t cater for private jets, so they would have to drive to the city.

    “You know your brother,” Martha replied with a rueful smile. She tilted her head toward the ceiling and called up the stairs. “Clark! You’re gonna be late!”

    Abby came down the stairs, shivering. “Brr! It’s freezing!” she said.

    Oliver smiled at his foster sister. “Yeah. Jonathan keeps the thermostat low, even in winter. He thinks it keeps the heating costs down.”

    “No, he’s just being stingy,” Martha commented.

    “I prefer to call it being economical,” Jonathan said, passing them on the way to washing his hands. His wife scowled at him.

    “Jonathan! How many times do I have to tell you to keep your muddy boots off my clean floor?”

    Oliver exchanged a wry grin with Abby, who observed:

    “I guess it’s a bit chaotic around here,” she said.

    “Yeah. It always is on a farm. You have to be up with the rooster or nothing gets done.” He looked at the clock again. Clark still hadn’t made an appearance. He decided to call up the stairs for his brother.

    “Clark, get your sorry butt down here or I’m leaving without you.”

    No sooner had he spoken when Clark stumbled down the stairs, all bleary-eyed, his hair a tangled mass of knots. He was wearing just a t-shirt and pyjama pants. He looked ill at ease, shadows under his eyes. He seemed not to know what to do with his hands, alternating between dropping them in front as if he was trying to hide something, or at his sides, attempting to look nonchalant.

    “Afternoon, sleepyhead,” Jonathan greeted him, grabbing a cup of coffee from his wife.

    Martha frowned at Clark. “You’re not even dressed! You and Oliver have to be at the airport in less than two hours. Get back upstairs and get dressed. Right now.”

    Clark grumbled and moved toward the kitchen to grab himself something to eat.

    “I said now, young man!”

    The dark-haired teen just shrugged and sighed heavily, going back up the stairs at slower than even normal speed.

    When Abby had gone to an appointment with her psychotherapist at the hospital, Clark had talked over the problem of his abilities. It had been decided that they would have to be kept a secret from Abby for now. The girl had enough to deal with while she recovered from what had happened and learned to deal with her own issues.

    So far, Abby’s mother hadn’t made any moves to try to regain custody, although she had apparently been seen watching the school. Oliver had wondered if the woman was just going to try to kidnap her daughter and take off with her but no one was going to give her that opportunity.

    Abby was surrounded not only by the so-called Losers Club, but Whitney and Lana had also done their part by rounding up some of the school’s athletes. Anyone who tried to bully Abby, or anyone else, for that matter, were told their behaviour was completely unacceptable.

    The school’s atmosphere seemed to have changed in just a few days. It looked like what happened to Abby had cut everyone deeply and the members of the student council had got together with some of the faculty members to ensure that anyone who was having any kind of trouble would have a safe place to go to and be able to talk to someone about what was going on. So far, a couple of students had admitted to being abused at home and the authorities were already looking into it.

    It had made Abby realise that people really did care. The biggest surprise had been a letter of apology left in her locker from Brett Anderson.

    Oliver was proud of her for standing up for herself, even if she had admitted afterwards just how much it had scared her. He could be cynical and think that the football jock had been forced to write the apology, considering he was facing expulsion from the football team and a suspension from school, but Clark had told him how Brett had looked after Abby had called him out to his face. It seemed that her own words had cut him deep.

    He glanced at the clock, then looked upstairs.

    “Damn that kid,” he said. “Clark,” he called. “Move your ass!”

    Martha frowned at him. “Oliver, you know better than that.”

    Abby giggled as he adopted a sheepish look. “Sorry, Mom,” he said.

    Clark finally came back down the stairs, dressed in his usual uniform of baggy jeans and plaid shirt over a t-shirt. Oliver glared at his brother.

    “We’re going to a board meeting, not a hoedown,” he told him.

    “This is comfortable,” Clark returned, scowling at him. “Besides, what are you panicking about? We don’t have to leave until nine.”

    “We have to fly at nine,” Oliver corrected. “It takes an hour to get to Metropolis and the way you’re going, we’re not even going to leave the house on time.”

    Clark sighed and rolled his eyes, grumbling as he went back upstairs to change. A car horn beeped and Abby looked outside.

    “That’s Lois and Chloe,” she said. “Chloe’s driving us to school today.”

    “Well, have a good day, sweetie,” Martha replied.

    Abby grinned at Oliver as she passed on the way to the door. “Have fun at your board meeting.”

    “Yeah, thanks,” he replied sarcastically. “I’m sure it’ll be a lot of fun listening to a lot of blowhards waffle on about nothing.”

    “Better you than me,” she returned.

    “Oh, you’re funny.”

    She laughed as she went out. Clark was back, this time in a jacket and crisp, light blue shirt over jeans that were a little less baggy.

    “Happy now?” he grumbled, turning around for inspection.

    “Yes,” Oliver returned. “Now hurry up and get your breakfast. We have to leave in ten minutes,” he added, looking once again at the clock.

    He heard Clark saying something under his breath about bossy brothers and exchanged a smile with Martha. As sulky as his brother sounded, it gave more of a sense of normalcy. In many ways, his first few days back home, he’d felt like Clark had been walking on eggshells around him. Now his brother seemed to be acting as if Oliver had never been away.

    Clark was still munching on toast when they left the house. Since they had no idea how long the board meeting was planned to go on for, he’d decided they could stay in the penthouse apartment in Star City overnight and fly back the next morning.

    Oliver tried to concentrate on the road. It had been snowing for the past couple of days and the roads were icy. Jonathan and Martha had kept the SUV Oliver had had before he’d left Smallville after graduation and he’d had snow chains fitted.

    Clark fiddled with the radio. The next sound to be heard in the car was the discordant screams of some kind of what Oliver assumed to be a heavy metal band.

    “Turn that off,” he said.

    “No.”

    “Well, then find another station. I don’t want to be deafened.”

    “No.”

    Oliver risked a glance at his brother. Clark was sitting in his seat, pretending to watch the road. He had a sulky look on his face. He reached over and switched off the radio.

    “What’s going on?” he asked.

    “Nothing!”

    “Well, then, why are you sulking like a child?”

    “I’m fourteen. I’m not a child.”

    “You’re not acting like an adult either. What’s going on, little bro?”

    The kid sighed and shrugged.

    “Nothing!”

    “If you didn’t want to come along to the board meeting, you could have said so.”

    “I wanted to come. You said I could.”

    “Then stop acting like I killed your best friend or something. What’s going on?”

    Clark sighed again. “I told you, it’s nothing. I just didn’t sleep very well, that’s all.”

    “What? You wet the bed or something?”

    Oliver glanced at him again and saw his brother’s face was beet red.

    “Oh god, that’s it, isn’t it?”

    “Uh … I was having this really weird dream. It was like I was, um, flying and when I woke up I was floating.”

    Why did he get the feeling there was much more to the story than that?

    “And?”

    “Um … “

    God, it was like pulling teeth. “What were you dreaming about?”

    “Some girl at school.”

    “What girl?”

    “I don’t wanna say.”

    “Why not?”

    “Because.”

    “Because why?”

    “Because I don’t think of her that way. I thought I didn’t.”

    “What was the dream about?” As if he didn’t know.

    “Um, we were in the loft. Studying. And suddenly we were …”

    “Making out?”

    “Like a porn movie.”

    Oliver cocked an eyebrow at his brother, fighting the urge to laugh at the teen’s predicament.

    “Clark, have you been watching porn?”

    “Well, uh, Pete’s brother Sam, you know, you went to school with him.”

    “I know Sam. He’s a little s*it, but go on.”

    “Well, he had this movie. Pete thought it was just an old movie only it turned out to be porn.”

    Oliver understood. Sam had done the same thing to him around the same age. It was an old trick they used to play on the younger boys at school. When Jonathan and Bill had found out what was going on, they’d both pitched a fit and threatened to take them both out to the woodshed. The two men weren’t naïve, but they had both made it clear they thought the boys were too young at sixteen to watch such things.

    Clark hesitantly explained that at some point in the dream he’d been floating over the dream girl.

    “So, you had a wet dream, does that about cover it?”

    “And I was still, you know, hard. When I woke up.”

    Now Oliver understood why his brother had been so ill at ease when he’d first come downstairs.

    “Clark, I get it. But just because you had a dream about Lois, it doesn’t mean you actually have those feelings for her. You’ll probably have the same dream about Chloe. Or any other girl at school.”

    He explained about the hormones, wondering why Jonathan had never talked to Clark about it. Then again, he supposed that with all the changes to do with Clark’s abilities, something as ‘normal’ as this would probably feel too embarrassing.

    Clark looked surprised that Oliver had figured out the dream had been about Lois, but the obvious clue had been the studying.

    “When did you … How old were you when you … yanno?”

    “I was … I don’t know. Twelve, I guess. Dad caught me and sat me down and told me it was perfectly normal. Just not to let Mom see. Believe me, it was embarrassing enough realising the maid had to wash my sheets.” Not to mention his first time had been at boarding school. His roommate had seen everything and made fun of him.

    He had no idea whether it was just the fact that Clark wasn’t human or if the signs of puberty had just taken time to develop.

    Clark blushed hotly. “I had another dream like that once and I tried talking to Jo – Dad about it, but it was just too embarrassing. Anyway, I figured he had enough to deal with … my abilities, I mean.”

    Which confirmed Oliver’s suspicions that Clark had just been reluctant to say anything.

    “You know you can talk to me about this stuff, right? And I promise, I won’t make fun of you.”

    “It sucks,” his brother said, staring out the window. “It’s like I don’t know how to control it.”

    “It still happens to me from time to time,” Oliver said. “On the island, I’d sometimes be thinking about some girl from high school and get the same thing. You do learn to control it eventually. I mean, it’s just like your strength and your speed. You learned how to control those so it’s kind of instinctive now. You just have to practice, that’s all.”

    “The really weird thing is, in the dream, I started to feel all sweaty and my eyes got hot. You know, like how you said your eyes felt when you got that flu.”

    Oliver nodded. He’d been the same age as Clark when he’d come down with a particularly bad case of the flu. It had been spreading like wildfire around school. He’d ended up in bed for a week with a high fever that would make him alternately hot and cold so he would be throwing the blankets off one minute and shivering the next.

    “Do you feel sick or anything?” he asked.

    “No. Not like I do when I’m around meteor rocks.”

    Oliver frowned. “What about the meteor rocks?” he asked.

    “I thought I told you. I get sick around them.”

    Oliver shook his head. “No. I don’t remember you telling me this. I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise, really, considering they came from your planet. And because of what they do to others.”

    Clark sighed. “Yeah, just another thing to add to the list of things that make me a freak.”

    He reached out to his brother. “Clark, you are not a freak. I don’t ever want to hear you say that. You hear me?”

    “You just don’t get it. You don’t know what it’s like. I mean, it’s like that song by Tom Petty. You don’t know how it feels to be me.”

    “Maybe I don’t, but I have never, nor will I ever, think you’re a freak. What’s brought this on?”

    “I just … I can’t help thinking that I’m always gonna be alone. I mean, how am I ever gonna be able to have a girlfriend? I don’t even know if I can … what if I blow a hole in her or something?”

    Oliver tried not to laugh, but the image just struck him as funny, even though the subject was quite serious. It certainly explained his reluctance to date.

    “It’s not funny, Ollie!”

    “No, you’re right, it’s not. But, look at this way. When you have these dreams, do you put holes in the sheets when you … you know?” he said, gesturing with one hand.

    “What? No! Anyway, that’s not what I mean! What if I’m with a girl and I lose control? I mean … sex is all about losing control. Isn’t it?”

    Oliver bit his lip, trying to figure out a way to help his brother without making him feel even more self-conscious or insecure. Then he remembered something.

    “Do you remember when you were about eight and we were fooling around in the loft?”

    “Um, I guess so.”

    “We were wrestling and you fell from the top. Dad was supposed to have replaced the railing and he hadn’t done that so you fell all the way down to the barn floor. What happened then?”

    Clark frowned. “Um … I just fell. Nothing happened.”

    “Think, Clark. Remember how you were learning to control your strength and you had a few accidents where you stepped through some floorboards and stuff? But you didn’t even put a dent in the floor when you fell. You controlled your fall somehow.”

    “But this is different,” he argued.

    “I don’t think it is. Look, I’m no scientist. I don’t even think Dr Swann could explain it, but there’s something about physics.”

    “You mean about the unstoppable force meeting immovable object one?” Clark replied.

    “No, it’s … I don’t know. I’m just reaching, I guess. But I’m sure there is some kind of explanation. All I’m saying is, don’t suddenly go and decide that you’re meant to be alone or something because you’re afraid of a problem you don’t even know exists.” He reached over and tousled his brother’s hair. “Okay?”

    Clark shrugged. “I guess.”

    They both fell silent on the remainder of the drive to Metropolis airport. Clark took out a book to read on the plane while Oliver went through the agenda and meeting papers one more time to make sure he was as prepared as he was ever going to be for this meeting.

    It came as a shock to discover that one of the board members was none other than Lionel Luthor. Oliver tried to hide his disgust as the man practically barrelled his way through the assembled directors to greet them.

    “Ah, Oliver. I heard you had resurfaced,” he said, reaching to shake Oliver’s hand.

    The man’s tone was as oily as his shoulder-length hair. As much as Oliver hated Lex, he now felt a little sympathy toward his former classmate. Having witnessed his brother’s earlier meltdown, he realised that was exactly how he’d made Lex feel growing up. Like a freak.

    What made it ten times worse was the fact that Luthor senior appeared to be adding salt to the wound with his long, thick hair.

    “Mr Luthor,” he said coolly. “You know my brother.”

    Luthor smiled brightly but the smile didn’t reach his eyes. “Of course. Carl, isn’t it?”

    “It’s Clark,” the brunet replied, his tone just as cool. It was clear Clark despised the man just as much as Oliver.

    “I must say, I’m surprised to see you here. I would have thought you would still be recovering from your, uh, ordeal. I heard you had taken ill shortly after your, uh, rescue.”

    “Well, as you can see, I’m alive to tell the tale.”

    “Indeed.” The man’s gaze was almost malicious. He was still holding onto Oliver’s hand, his grip strong enough to cause pain. “Most fortunate that you were found when you were.”

    Fortunate for me, unfortunate for you, Oliver thought. He was so sure Lionel had not only been responsible for his parents’ disappearance but also for his own. Proving it was going to be another matter entirely.

    The directors were asked to take their seats. Collins quickly introduced himself to Oliver and sat down beside him. Clark sat on Oliver’s other side. As CEO, Collins was the board chairman.

    “Well, firstly, I’d like to welcome Oliver and his brother Clark. I’m sure you are all as relieved as I am to know that young Oliver survived a three-year ordeal on an island.”

    There was a murmur among the other directors but Lionel still glared daggers.

    “Now, before we get to the first item on the agenda, are there any apologies?”

    Oliver did his best to keep up with the discussion, asking questions when something wasn’t clear. While most of the directors patiently put up with his questions, one of the others sighed heavily.

    “Really? Must we tolerate this … child?”

    Oliver shot him a glare. He could remember coming to board meetings with his father from time to time and the man who had spoken had always been almost belligerent, refusing to take any orders from Robert Queen.

    “Firstly, Mr Merlyn, I am hardly a child. Second, Queen Industries has been my family’s company for three generations … four if you count me and Clark. If you have a problem with my father leaving the majority shares to us, as his sons, then by all means, let’s address that now. Or better yet, let’s not and say we did. I may be inexperienced when it comes to running a company, and you may have a problem with that but right now, I have zero f*cks to give. As for your remark, I would counter that by asking who is the childish one here?”

    Merlyn tried to argue a little more but to Oliver’s surprise, Luthor raised his hand.

    “Allow me to apologise for my colleague’s ill-advised remarks, Oliver. You have much to learn about running a company, that is true, but there is no call for such offense.” He turned to Merlyn and began whispering something. Oliver wondered if the two men were conspiring against them.

    The dark-haired man looked at him, his blue eyes icy. Nevertheless he offered an apology.

    The meeting continued for another hour, then broke for lunch. Collins turned and smiled at him.

    “Phew. I thought for a minute it was going to come to blows there. While I might take issue with your words, I think you handled that well, Oliver.”

    Oliver shrugged. He figured it was the best way to ensure that Merlyn got the message that he wasn’t just some kid playing games in his father’s office.

    “So, anymore visits from the Feds?” he asked.

    “No. But one of the agents did request a meeting with you about your parents.”

    Clark frowned. “Why didn’t they just come to Smallville?” he asked.

    “It’s probably out of their jurisdiction,” Oliver told his brother.

    If what he suspected was true, the local office would have to be assigned to investigate the plane crash since the Queens had flown out from Star City.

    As for his own case, he still hadn’t heard from the Metropolis office and figured he wasn’t likely to. Which meant it was up to him to find out who had engineered his exile.

    Collins left the board room to check on something. Clark pulled his chair up closer to Oliver.

    “I don’t get it. We’ve heard nothing from the Metropolis office. Are they even investigating what happened to you?”

    “I guess not,” Oliver said.

    “That sucks. They should do their damn jobs!”

    “Calm down, kid. I just figured they weren’t interested in the case.”

    “So, does that mean we have to investigate it ourselves? Where do we start?”

    Oliver glanced over to where Merlyn and Luthor were talking. The two men kept shooting glances their way. He had a feeling they had colluded over something but what it was he had no idea.

    The board meeting continued for another two hours after lunch by which time it was obvious Clark was bored. He fidgeted in his chair and began kicking the table. Collins, ever astute, decided it was a good time to wrap up the meeting, even though they still had a couple of items on the agenda.

    “I think we can hold over the last two items until the next board meeting,” he said. “If there is no other urgent business, I’ll bring this meeting to a close.”

    Luthor looked as if he was about to bring something up but the other board members shot him dark looks and he sat in silence.

    Oliver and Clark followed Collins out and along the corridor to the CEO’s office. The last time Oliver had been in this office was the day his parents’ wills had been read. It had been the day after that they’d moved to Smallville with Jonathan and Martha.

    The office décor had been slightly updated. The furnishings were coloured in warm tones of brown and cream. A long glass table had been pushed up against one wall. Collins sat in the leather chair behind the table.

    He leaned forward and pressed a button on the phone system.

    “Maria, would you please contact Agent Pryor and have him come down to Queen Towers?”

    “Yes sir.” The voice that came through had a strong accent which Oliver suspected was Hispanic.

    Collins nodded. “Maria’s been with the company since just before your parents died. Your dad sponsored her from Mexico so he could help her escape an abusive marriage. Her kids are in college now. Both great kids.”

    A set of double doors opened and a woman in her early fifties came in, smiling. She was carrying a tray with glasses and cans of soda. Oliver noticed there were also snacks.

    “I thought the boys would like something to drink and a snack,” she said.

    Collins grinned. “Maria, you’re a gem as always.” He gestured toward Clark and Oliver. “You’ve met the boys before. Oliver and Clark.”

    She nodded. “The day of your Mama and Papa’s memorial service,” she said. She smiled at Clark. “You were just a little boy. Now you are big and handsome like your Papa.” She turned to Oliver. “You are just as handsome, but so like your Mama. They would be so proud of you.”

    “Thank you, Maria,” Oliver said, noticing his brother blushing, ducking his head even as he reached for a can of Coke.

    Collins waited until she’d left the office.

    “Now, what are your plans, Oliver?”

    “I’m not sure. I’ve only been back a couple of weeks so I think I still need some time to adjust. Read over some of my dad’s papers.”

    “Did you bring them with you?”

    Oliver nodded. He’d made copies and left them at the farm, locked in a safe. Martha had talked him into keeping extra copies in a secure facility. Not that Collins needed to know that. While the man was kind, Oliver was still conscious of the fact that this man could still have arranged his parents’ disappearance.

    They talked quietly while waiting for the agent to arrive. Oliver was careful not to give away too much about his plans.

    Maria announced the agent’s arrival half an hour later. The man entered the office.

    “Mr Queen, it’s good to finally meet you,” he said. He smiled broadly, looking completely at ease.

    He was young, in his late twenties at best. Oliver disliked him on sight.

    “Mr Pryor,” he said.

    “Did you bring your father’s papers as we asked?”

    “Yes. Have you looked into this case?”

    “Well, we needed some idea of what kind of business would take your parents out of Star City.”

    “So, you’ve done nothing.”

    “Well, we weren’t sure there was a case to investigate,” the man replied, his smile fading.

    “Well, let me point out something that should have been glaringly obvious. The plane went down in the Philippine Sea, at least 1600 miles from their destination. How do I know this? Because I found their bodies. Now, I may not know much about trajectories, or flight paths but I know someone who is pretty good at maths and even she couldn’t explain how that plane got so far off course. Even accounting for bad weather. And you’re just standing there telling me you don’t think there’s anything to investigate?”

    Clark stood up and faced the agent. The man was not small, but Clark was still bigger by at least two inches and thirty pounds.

    “My parents died and you’re trying to say that what happened was some kind of accident?”

    “Well, no, of course not, but …”

    “Then how about you go do your job and don’t waste our time?”

  7. #37
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Twenty-Four

    Clark was frustrated at the FBI man’s apparent indifference. They’d apparently sat there and done nothing instead of opening up an investigation into his parents’ deaths. He glared at the man, hoping his size would intimidate the agent into doing something … anything.

    However, Pryor didn’t back down. He glared back at Clark.

    “The FBI has bigger priorities than a case that is eight years old,” he replied.

    “In other words,” Oliver said. “You’ve done squat.” Clark glanced at his brother. Pryor began to look increasingly worried at the blond man’s anger. “Has your office done anything since they died or have you all just sat on your asses?”

    “Oliver,” Collins warned.

    “As I said, Mr Queen, we weren’t sure there was even anything to investigate. A plane disappearing off radar is not exactly a crime and frankly, is out of FBI jurisdiction.”

    “Maybe, but sabotaging a plane isn’t,” Oliver told him. “Nor is stealing a boat.”

    “We only have your word for that, Mr Queen,” Pryor returned. “Considering you were either drunk or high at the time, it does not exactly lend any credibility to your story.”

    “Are you suggesting I hallucinated the entire thing?” Oliver asked.

    “Uh …” The man backed off hastily. “No. Of course not. But you have to admit …”

    “I’m not admitting anything, Pryor. I know what happened to me out there. The question I’m asking you is, what are you going to do about it? Are you even going to investigate it?”

    “The idea that you were kidnapped, hijacked, whatever …”

    “Then explain how that boat managed to get out as far as it did. Even under the influence … actually, especially because I was under the influence, there is no way in hell I could ever have managed to sail that far. So, why don’t you tell me again what you’re going to do about this?”

    The man swallowed. “Right. I’ll need to talk to my superior,” he said.

    “You do that.”

    The agent left. Clark watched as his brother turned to Collins.

    “Now, I’ve been doing some research into an R&D company. How are the company finances? Do you think they can handle a new acquisition?”

    Collins appeared uncertain. “Uh, are you sure you want to purchase a new company? You’ve only been back a couple of weeks.”

    “And even I know that it takes months for all the research to be completed and for the company to do its due diligence. Never mind. I’ll take this on myself.”

    Clark listened as the two men began to discuss the direction Oliver wanted the company to go in. He was curious about the company his brother had mentioned but didn’t want to ask him what that was all about in front of the CEO.

    By the time they were done for the day, he could see Oliver was exhausted. Queen Industries owned a penthouse apartment in the central city as well as an estate on the outskirts of Star City. Since it was closer, they were staying at the penthouse. He’d gone with the Kents a couple of times when they’d had to fly to Star City to attend meetings and they’d always stayed in the apartment.

    Oliver flopped on the sofa as soon as they got in. He leaned back with a groan and closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose.

    “You okay?” Clark asked.

    “Just a headache.”

    “Want some aspirin or something?”

    “You don’t need to take care of me, little bro.”

    Clark shrugged. Maybe he didn’t need to, but he wanted to. He’d missed out on so much with his brother in three years. Sure, Jonathan had tried, but there were so many things he’d wished he could tell his brother.

    This morning’s issue had been one of them. Having already had the birds and the bees talk with his surrogate father was fine, but it hadn’t helped ease any of his insecurities. At least Oliver understood in some way. Being closer in age, he could remember what it was like to have strange things happening to his body.

    Of course, not having been born on the planet added a whole new dimension to the term ‘stirrings of puberty’. Clark still had no idea what was in store for him and not even Oliver could help him where that was concerned.

    He went to the kitchen to look for the aspirin. There was a housekeeper who often came in to clean and she would have stocked up on a few things for them. They usually ate out when they stayed, so she hadn’t put in anything but the basics, like coffee and milk. There was some fresh bread on the counter.

    Having found the aspirin, Clark took it back out with a glass of water, handing it to his brother. Oliver frowned at him.

    “I told you you didn’t have to do that.”

    “You needed it,” Clark said simply.

    His brother studied him for a few moments, then shrugged, downing the medication.

    “Um, so what do you want to do for dinner?” Clark asked. “I could order some takeout. Pizza maybe?”

    “Yeah, pizza sounds good. Thanks, kid.”

    Clark called in the order. The pizza restaurant informed him it was going to be a forty-five minute wait if he had it delivered. He decided he’d rather pick it up, since it would be faster.

    Oliver had once more leaned back against the cushions and closed his eyes. Clark took the opportunity to call the farm. It was after six in Star City so it would be around eight in Smallville.

    “Kent Farm, Abby speaking.”

    “Hey, Abby. It’s Clark.”

    “Hey Clark. How was the meeting?”

    He faked a yawn. “Boring,” he said, before launching into complaints about old men who droned on about nothing. There were some parts he’d found interesting. Especially watching Malcolm Merlyn and Lionel Luthor. Those two were clearly conspiring about something.

    Abby laughed at him. “Well, school was just as bad,” she said. “Me and Lois got pulled into the Guidance Counsellor’s office.”

    “Sounds like fun,” he said, listening as she went on to explain that the principal had ordered it, obviously wanting to make sure both of them were doing okay. Clark guessed the man just wanted to avoid any future incidents.

    Martha came on and he spoke to her for a few minutes, reassuring her that Oliver was fine, just tired and that they would be back in Smallville the next afternoon.

    By the time he was done with the call, it was time to pick up the pizza. He glanced at his brother, who appeared to be napping. He woke up when Clark slammed the door on his return from getting the pie.

    “Oh, hey,” Oliver said. “Is that the pizza?”

    “Yeah,” Clark told him, nodding. He went to grab some napkins, figuring his brother didn’t want a plate.

    Oliver sprawled on the sofa as he ate. He chose not to talk. Clark didn’t know if it was because of the headache or the exhaustion but kept shooting him worried looks.

    Finally, his brother put down his slice. “Quit looking at me like I’m the alien, kid.”

    “What?”

    “You keep staring at me. I’m not gonna break, you know.”

    “Sorry. I’m just …”

    “Yeah, I know.” He stretched and got up. “There any booze?”

    Clark bit his lip. “I don’t think you’re supposed to drink on top of medication,” he said.

    Oliver cocked an eyebrow. “Who’s gonna tell? You?”

    “I just don’t think it’s safe, that’s all.”

    The blond man sighed. “Yeah, you’re probably right.” He looked around the living room of the apartment. “We should get some movies in here. Especially if I’m gonna live here.”

    Clark frowned at him. “You’re gonna move here?” he asked.

    “I can’t stay at the farm forever, kid.”

    “Stop calling me kid,” Clark interjected but Oliver went on as if he hadn’t spoken.

    “If I’m gonna take more of an interest in the company, I can’t run it from Kansas. Unless I move to Metropolis. Since all the divisions are here, it would make more sense to be here.”

    “But … what about me?” he asked, even knowing it was selfish to expect his brother to stay on the farm just for him.

    “You’re fourteen, Clark. Not four. You don’t need me. You’ve been doing fine since I’ve been gone.”

    Clark shook his head. “No, I haven’t. It’s been hard. I mean, Ma … Mom and Dad have been great, but I can’t talk to them about some things. It’s just … it’s easier with you.”

    “What things? Being an alien?”

    “Intergalactic traveller,” Clark said. Alien just sounded way too much like an old sci-fi movie. Not counting the little matter of his abilities, he felt human. Whatever that meant.

    Oliver sat next to him. “Look, I know things have been hard, but I can’t just stay on the farm for the next four years while you go to high school. I have things I want to do. You know that. Besides, it’s not like you can’t run here in like a flash when you need me.”

    “I guess,” Clark said dubiously.

    “Is this about what happened this morning?” Oliver asked.

    “No. Yeah. I don’t know. It’s just … stuff.” He hated the thought of his brother investigating what had happened without him. He wanted to be involved. He needed to be involved.

    He asked what was going to happen with the FBI investigation. Oliver got up and went to look out over the darkened city.

    “I’m not convinced the FBI is going to investigate any of it. They’re right about one thing. Too much time has passed. Any clues that might have been left behind will have been long gone.”

    “What if we looked at the flight manifest?” Clark asked. “Maybe tracked down some of the people who were there eight years ago.”

    He’d been talking to Chloe about the issue, thinking she might have some clue as to what to do. She’d warned him that it wasn’t going to be that simple. If someone had been paid to sabotage the plane, they would also have been paid to keep silent about the whole matter.

    “I don’t know what I’m expecting to find,” Oliver said. “Even if we could track someone down who knows what happened eight years ago.”

    “It’s still worth trying, isn’t it?”

    “Yes, you’re right. We have to at least give it a try.”

    “What were you saying to Collins about the other company?”

    “It’s a research and development company. I read in their company bio that they’ve worked with athletes to help enhance their performance.”

    “Are you thinking they can help you develop some arrows, or something?” Clark asked, knowing Oliver had been working on some designs. “How is that going to help you with your idea? I mean, won’t they still know it’s you?”

    “Not if I don’t tell them,” Oliver replied.

    “What do you mean?”

    “I’m thinking of creating a shell company. They can still find out the parent company but this way they won’t know where the order actually comes from. I think. I haven’t worked out all the details yet.”

    Clark shook his head. He didn’t understand any of this business stuff.

    “What about college?” he asked.

    “Even if I did consider going to college, I wouldn’t be able to start until next Fall.”

    He frowned. “So, you’re not going?”

    Oliver sighed. “I’d be four years behind my classmates - which isn’t so bad, I guess, but … I don’t know. I don’t think there’s really anything I can learn in college that I can’t already learn by working in the company.”

    “What about Collins?”

    “Don’t worry so much about this stuff, Clark. You’ve got three and a half years of high school left and by the time you’ve decided on college, you might have another career in mind. You could make a pretty good journalist. I mean, you’re a good writer.”

    “I write the lunch menu,” Clark replied with a heavy sigh. “And throwaway pieces that are only good for lining a litter box, or something.” Or so the journalism teacher had told him. They rarely saw the teacher, who was supposed to be the faculty adviser for the school paper.

    “Don’t underestimate the value of a throwaway piece. Besides, I saw what you did with that follow-up piece on Coach Walt. Don’t try to tell me that was nothing.”

    He shrugged. “Maybe. Chloe’s the one with the writing skills.”

    “Don’t sell yourself short, little brother. You have a way of explaining an issue that simplifies it without dumbing it down. Like you did with Lois and her history test. I mean, Lois doesn’t strike me as unintelligent, just not engaged with the material. After you were done tutoring her, she was not only more engaged, but she actually looked like she’d absorbed it all. That takes smarts.”

    “You really think I could be a writer?” Clark asked.

    “I think you can be anything you want to be, if you put your mind to it. I wish I was as smart as you.”

    Clark shook his head. “You are smart. Don’t tell me that you’re not.”

    Oliver looked like he disagreed. “I barely scraped by in school. It’s like with Lois. I wasn’t engaged with the material and I was more interested in causing trouble than actually studying. Dad knows all about it, by the way. They just didn’t tell you everything.”

    “Why? I mean, why would you do that?”

    “I was angry, Clark. For a long time, I was angry. At everything. At our parents for leaving. At Martha and Jonathan because they weren’t our parents. I hate to admit it, but I was even mad at you for a while.”

    Clark stared at him. “What? Why? What did I do?”

    “That’s the point, kid. You didn’t do anything. You were just a little kid. But I saw you as an interloper. I kept thinking that if it hadn’t been for you, Mom and Dad might still be here. It’s not your fault, okay? None of this is your fault. It was just how I thought at the time.” He huffed. “Three years on an island can really change your perspective. I took a long, hard look at myself and I didn’t like who I became. That’s why this thing, with the archer, is so important. There are a lot of people out there who need someone to help them. Donating to charity isn’t going to cut it. Not when most of the money goes to line people’s pockets instead of being distributed to the people that need it most. There’s a lot of corruption in this city, and I aim to do something about it.”

    “How do you know?” Clark asked.

    “Dad kept a diary. I found it one day when we were cleaning out the house, getting ready to move to the farm. I didn’t much care what it meant back then, but I kept it. I was bored one afternoon, not long before I ended up on the island. I didn’t want to go out and do chores so I started reading. Even then, I don’t think I was ready to accept the truth. Anyway, I dug it out again when I got back and read it all over again.”

    “What was in it?”

    “Mostly names of people who Dad had thought about looking into. Guess who was at the top of the list?”

    “Lionel?”

    Oliver nodded. “Yup. So was Merlyn.”

    “Is that why you said what you did in the meeting today?” Clark asked.

    “I needed to … well, I guess you could say I needed to show them who’s boss. Dad was the majority shareholder of Queen Industries. Lionel and Malcolm only have five percent shares each. From what I read in the company books, they’ve been trying to persuade the other directors to sell their shares to them, but that still won’t give them majority. Dad was smart enough to retain fifty-five percent.”

    That was smart, Clark thought. It also meant they could very possibly have been behind Oliver’s disappearance as well. He wondered if Lex had perhaps been sent to Smallville so he could persuade Clark to sell his shares of the company. If that was the case, then Oliver’s return had well and truly thrown a wrench in their plans.

    “If what you’re thinking is true, why would Lionel want to kill Mom and Dad?”

    “I think it has everything to do with you, but then again, I could be just reaching. That’s why we need to go see Dr Swann.”

  8. #38
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Twenty-Five

    Uncle Gabe was waiting in the school parking lot for them when they left the building. Chloe had once again been working late at the Torch. Lois chose not to grumble about her cousin’s apparent workaholic habit. Ever since she had heard about the accident that nearly killed her would-be date, Justin, she had thrown herself into writing articles for the paper.

    It had been a good day, up until the point Lois had been called in by the guidance counsellor. She had just finished her last class when the counsellor had sent Abby with a note.

    The counsellor gestured toward one of the uncomfortable chairs in front of the desk. There were actually two counsellors at the school. As far as Lois knew, they job-shared. Julianne, or Ms Taylor, as Lois was told to address her, worked part-time as she had a six-month old baby. Phil Gordon was the other counsellor. He was apparently a single dad and thought that meant he knew everything about what it was like to have been raised by one.

    “I heard you got a 98 in your history test,” Mr Gordon told her. “Congratulations.”

    Lois nodded, biting her thumb nail. Donnelly had put the paper down on her desk and informed the rest of the class that she was the only one in the class who had had almost a perfect score. She’d suppressed the urge to roll her eyes as the rest of the students turned to glare at her for messing up the grade curve.

    “See what happens when you apply yourself?” the counsellor commented.

    She was sure there was some note on her file from Ms Taylor that she had been warned about skipping class or getting low grades. When she’d first met Mr Gordon, he had told her that her transcripts showed she was a bright student, but just didn’t apply herself to her studies.

    The man sat in his chair opposite her and placed his fingers together, like a church steeple.

    “I haven’t talked to you since your first week at the school. How have you been doing?”

    “I’m okay,” she said. “I figured all this would be in the file.”

    Gordon smiled and leaned forward. “Those are just words on a piece of paper, Lois. They don’t really tell me how you are.”

    “I’m doing okay, I guess. It gets easier.”

    “I understand you have been working with Clark and Chloe on the Torch. It’s good to see you taking up some extra-curriculars.”

    “Yeah, well, I don’t know if I want to be a reporter or anything, but Clark’s cool. And Chloe … well, she’s my cousin.”

    “Yes. Yes, of course. Relationships are important but don’t neglect your schoolwork.”

    “I’m not. Clark was the one who tutored me for my history test.”

    “Great. Clark is a smart young man.”

    Lois tuned out a little as the man droned on about her studies and where she saw herself in a few years. As much as she liked helping out her cousin sometimes, she just didn’t know if she could write well enough to even be considered as good as Chloe. She did like the idea of being some kind of voice for justice, even if her cousin, and Clark, teased her for her bad spelling.

    She told her uncle about the test on the way home.

    “That’s great, sweetheart. All that study paid off.”

    “Thanks to Clark,” she said. “He helped me get to grips with the material.”

    “I’m so proud of you,” he replied. “How about we do something to celebrate?”

    “Like what?” she asked, looking at Chloe, who still appeared a little glum. She was just looking out the window, not paying attention to the conversation.

    “We could get some pizza,” he suggested.

    She bit her lip. “I don’t know. What do you think, Chlo?”

    The blonde turned, apparently startled by the question. “Hmm?”

    “Do you want pizza for dinner?”

    “Um, what about Chinese?” her cousin said.

    “Ooh, that sounds good,” Lois replied. “I’m in the mood for some Kung Pao Chicken.”

    Her uncle grinned at her knowingly. He understood she was really doing it for Chloe’s sake, not out of any particular craving. “Chinese it is then.” He pulled into the driveway and stopped the car. “Why don’t you girls order it while I go wash up.”

    Lois pulled out her keys and got out of the car, unlocking the door. Chloe was still sitting in the back seat.

    “Chlo. You coming?”

    Chloe started, then got out of the car. “Sorry.”

    Lois chose not to say anything until after she’d called in the order. She found a couple of sodas in the fridge and set one down on the bar next to where her cousin was seated.

    “Everything okay, cuz?” she said.

    “I’m fine.”

    “No, you’re not. You’re brooding. It’s not like you.”

    Chloe sighed. “I talked to Justin’s mom today. He’s doing better, but they don’t think they can repair the damage to his arms.”

    Lois frowned. Apparently both Justin’s arms had been broken when he’d been hit by the car. He’d required surgery and pins inserted to keep the bones stable while they healed. The driver must have been going at a very high speed to have caused such damage, she thought. Poor Justin.

    “How can he lose the use of his arms?” she asked.

    “Mrs Gaines said it’s some kind of nerve damage. I don’t know. They’re going to try rehabilitation therapy, but it doesn’t look good.”

    “I’m so sorry, cuz.”

    “It’s not just the accident and everything. I mean, he had this cartoon that he’d draw for the Torch and now … I guess that makes me sound kind of selfish, doesn’t it? Here I am thinking about what the paper’s lost and he …”

    Lois shook her head. “That’s not selfish. Sometimes when something like that happens, people focus on intangible things. Like if they look at the bigger picture, it’s too much.”

    “Is that what you did when your dad died?”

    “Kind of. I mean, I started thinking about all the times he’d yell at me and I kept thinking, well, who’s going to yell at me now?”

    “That’s really weird, Lo,” her cousin replied with a frown. “But I kind of get it.”

    Uncle Gabe came in, having finished washing up. “Any soda left for me?” he asked.

    Lois frowned. “Um, I didn’t see any more. Maybe there’s beer?”

    He nodded. “We’ll have to go shopping tomorrow for more groceries. The stores are a madhouse around this time of year.”

    “Yeah, it’s like they’re shopping for the apocalypse or something,” Chloe said, with just a little bit of sarcasm.

    “Ooh, don’t say that,” Lois told her cousin. “It might just be true one of these days.”

    “Ha, yeah.”

    The phone rang and her uncle picked it up. “Hello? Oh, Lucy. Isn’t it rather late where you are? Yes, she’s right here.”

    He handed the phone over. Lois took the handset.

    “Luce?” She glanced at the clock. “Isn’t it like one o’clock in the morning?”

    “Hi, Lo. Yeah, I know, but it was the only time I could get the phone at school. How are things there?”

    “It’s okay? Can’t believe it’s almost Christmas.”

    She hesitated, wondering if her sister had made plans for the holiday. Lucy was still at boarding school in Zurich. The school had vacation programs for all the students if their parents were unable to keep them home for those times.

    “Would it be okay if I came home for Christmas?” Lucy asked hesitantly. “I mean, if I can get a flight this late.”

    Lois glanced at her uncle, who nodded, obviously having heard the question.

    “Sure it is,” she said. “Chloe and I will sort out the tickets tonight, okay?” Her father had left them some money, although it wasn’t a lot, and the army paid them a pension of sorts. There would be enough spare for her to pay for her sister’s flights out. Lucy tried to insist that she could sort it out on her end but Lois refused. They could get the tickets online and get them faxed to the school. Or something. Airport security had been stepped up since what had happened in New York just a few months earlier, but she hoped it wouldn’t be a problem.

    “Okay. I can’t wait to see you, Lo. I missed you.”

    “Yeah, I missed you too,” she said. “Love you.”

    “Love you back.”

    A few weeks earlier, Lois had had a long talk with her sister about the way her father had acted toward both of them when their mother had died. Lucy still hadn’t quite understood but it had helped to get some things out in the open.

    She was glad her sister was going to stay with them for Christmas. Sure, the house would be a little more crowded, since it was only a three-bedroom home, but it was only a few days. They would cope.

    Her uncle smiled at her as he sipped from a beer bottle.

    “Lucy’s going to be home for Christmas, then?”

    “That is okay, isn’t it?”

    He came around the breakfast bar and wrapped an arm around her waist, giving her a kiss on the top of her head.

    “Of course it is, sweetheart. She’s your sister. She shouldn’t be all the way in Switzerland on Christmas.”

    The food was delivered shortly after and they sat and chatted as they ate. Lois told them about the visit with the guidance counsellor.

    “I think they’re just wanting to make sure you’re coping,” her uncle said.

    “Yeah, I know, but with everything else going on, I mean with Abby and everything, I think it’s kind of overkill.”

    “How is Abby doing?” Gabe asked.

    “She’s actually doing really great,” Chloe said. “The Kents are being really great to her and Ollie and Clark treat her like a little sister. I mean, I know it’s only been a couple of weeks and everything, but she looks happier than she has been for a long, long time.”

    Lois nodded in agreement. “I think Mr Kent said something about setting up an appointment with a psychiatrist in Metropolis in the New Year.”

    Chloe nodded. “I heard Abby’s mom got a lawyer and there’s supposed to be a hearing in January.”

    Uncle Gabe looked thoughtful. “I think Elise may have a battle on her hands, if what I’ve heard is true.”

    Chloe studied her father. “Did Mom ever … I mean …”

    Lois frowned. She wasn’t sure what the real story was but according to Chloe, she had come downstairs one morning when she was eight years old to find her father trying to make waffles, and making a complete mess of it. When she’d asked where her mother was, Uncle Gabe had told her that her mother had left them. He hadn’t even tried to sugar coat it.

    What had completely confused her cousin was that she couldn’t understand why her mother had left. She hadn’t been able to recall any problems between her parents. As far as she knew, they had a good marriage. They’d had arguments, but not anything that would make her mother walk away.

    Lois could remember a few arguments between her own parents but it was the same as her aunt and uncle. Her mother had been upset at her father having to go away a lot but she had never threatened to leave.

    Uncle Gabe looked saddened for a moment. “Honey, if your mom ever did come home, I know she’d want to do what’s best for you.”

    “Oh. Yeah, I guess so.”

    Later that evening, Lois was doing some reading for history, waiting until she could call Clark in Star City when Chloe came in and flopped down in the chair. Lois sat up.

    “What’s up?”

    “Don’t you think it’s weird that I never hear from my mom?” Chloe asked.

    She supposed it was odd that her cousin hadn’t spoken to her mother in years. It was as if Aunt Moira had suddenly vanished off the face of the Earth.

    “Well …”

    “I mean, I’ve tried looking her up. Even put a few feelers out on some of those Internet groups but … nothing,” the blonde said, waving her hand. “Do you think she’s forgotten about me?”

    “No,” Lois told her, shaking her head. “I don’t think she’s forgotten about you.”

    “Then why hasn’t she called? I mean, she doesn’t even write. And it’s like my dad doesn’t even care. Every time I ask about her, he just clams up like …”

    “A clam?” Lois offered. Her cousin sent her a withering look. “I’m sure your dad still cares about your mom, but maybe he doesn’t really know where she is either. Maybe it’s just too painful for him to talk about. You ever think about that?”

    “I guess you’d know.”

    “Why? Because of my mom?”

    “Except your mom died. My mom just … left.”

    “That doesn’t change the fact that she’s gone, Chlo. I mean, yeah, my dad never really talked about my mom after she died. I know it hurt him to talk about it. So, I guess what I’m saying is, cut your dad some slack.”

    She glanced at the clock. It was almost ten. She assumed Clark and Oliver would be at the apartment, maybe watching some tv or something. Unless they’d planned to go out. Then again, with Oliver still recovering from whatever had made him sick after being found on the island, she doubted they would be up to much.

    “Hey,” she said. “I was gonna call Smallville in Star City. You know, harangue him a little bit. Wanna sit in?”

    Chloe grinned. “Sure.” She paused. “Why do you call him Smallville, anyway?”

    Lois rolled her eyes. “Puh-lease. Like I could make that name up.”

    “Uh, newsflash, cuz. We live in Smallville.”

    “Yeah, but it annoys the heck out of Clark,” she said.

    Chloe grinned. “You just love to yank his chain, don’t you?”

    Lois laughed. It was true. Maybe it had something to do with the way they’d met. She had been feeling down and he’d come out and pretty much told her off, told her she was being rude, then sat down and talked to her about how she was feeling. He had been the one person who had seemed to understand how overwhelming it all was. When everyone else was walking on eggshells around her, he was the only one who refused to let her wallow in self-pity and treated her normally.

    Ever since that night, they had begun to build a good friendship. Not that she considered him her BFF or anything, but she found she could talk to him about a lot of things that she wouldn’t normally talk to anyone else about. Not even Chloe, who was practically a sister to her. Clark listened even when the subject might seem a little uncomfortable.

    So, of course she had to counter that little bit of discomfort by teasing him and calling him Smallville. Just so he wouldn’t get too comfortable with their friendship.

    She grabbed the phone and dialled. Clark picked up after a few rings.

    “Hey, Lane.”

    “Hey yourself, Smallville. How did the meeting go?”

    He groaned loudly. “Ugh, boring. I just about fell asleep at one point.”

    She laughed and saw her cousin smirking as well. “I bet. By the way, I got a 98 on the test.”

    “Congrats. My reputation is safe, then.”

    “Yeah, go ahead and take all the credit, farmboy.” She shifted on the bed. “Chloe’s here too.” She held the handset, hearing Clark call out a greeting to her cousin.

    “Hey, Clark,” she said in reply. “So, what’s Ollie doing?”

    Oliver was apparently sacked out on the couch. They’d eaten pizza and had been watching some movie on television, but it hadn’t been long before Clark’s brother had started snoring. She felt a little sorry for the guy. He clearly hadn’t been up to a board meeting so soon after coming home.

    They continued to talk, exchanging gossip. Lois did learn that they’d talked with an FBI agent, but Clark wasn’t overly optimistic about the man’s response to their demands that the office open an investigation into the Queens’ deaths. Clark in fact sounded quite disgusted at the way the agent had handled things.

    She was intrigued when she heard that Lionel Luthor was not only on the Queen Industries board but seemed to be working with someone else. She wondered if she should look into this Malcolm Merlyn character.

    She mentioned it to her cousin after hanging up with Clark.

    “What are you expecting to find?” Chloe asked.

    “I don’t know. He just sounds a bit … you know …”

    “Skeezy?”

    “Something like that.”

    Chloe nodded. “How about we work on this tomorrow? I’m beat,” she added, yawning before getting up and going to the door.

    Lois glanced once more at the clock. They’d talked to Clark for nearly an hour and it was after eleven.

    “Yeah, I should get to bed too. ‘Night cuz.”

    They were both up reasonably early the next morning. Lois checked her emails as she ate breakfast and saw her sister had replied to her message saying the flight had been booked. Lucy would be flying out on Sunday, Central Time and would arrive late Monday. It wouldn’t give her much time to recover from her jet lag, as Christmas Day was the next day, but since they were invited to the Kents for dinner, Lucy could still spend the morning sleeping it off.

    Chloe had brought out her laptop and was already tapping away. Lois glanced over. Her cousin had already pulled up a company bio on Malcolm Merlyn.

    “Hmm, owner of Merlyn Corp. Doesn’t really have much to say other than the usual spin. Sits on the board of Luthorcorp and Queen Industries.”

    “Why am I not surprised he has some stake in Luthorcorp?” Lois commented.

    “I think if we’re going to get past the PR, we’re going to have to try to dig deeper,” Chloe said.

    “Well, that’s a given. How do we do that?”

    “Find some contacts.” Chloe frowned, continuing to scroll through the various pages. “Hey, it says here there was some kind of project with the military. Maybe you could reach out to some of your dad’s people and see if they know anything about the project.”

    “Yeah, maybe. But I won’t be able to do anything right now.”

    Her phone beeped, indicating she had a message. She glanced at the screen.

    “Lucy got the tickets,” she said.

    “Great.” Chloe shut her laptop. “I’m gonna go into town. Got some last minute Christmas shopping to do.”

    “Chloe! You always leave things ‘til the last minute,” Lois scolded her.

    “Ha! Look who’s talking! First one to the bathroom loses!”

    Lois ran after her cousin, her longer legs allowing her to quickly overtake her.

    “Hey, that is so not fair,” Chloe complained. “You’re taller than me.”

    Lois just laughed at her as she closed the bathroom door.

    An hour later, they were browsing through Fordman’s department store when they bumped into Mrs Kent and Abby.

    “Hello girls,” the redhead said with a smile. “Doing some last-minute shopping?”

    Chloe nodded. “Just some presents I forgot to get.” She seemed to spy something and made a beeline for the other side of the store. Lois chuckled.

    “How are you doing, sweetie?” Mrs Kent asked.

    “I’m okay. Oh, um, Lucy’s coming home for Christmas. She’ll be here Monday night. Will it be okay if she comes for dinner?”

    “Of course it is. Jonathan’s forever complaining I make too much food.”

    Lois scoffed. “You can never have too much turkey on Christmas.”

    Abby looked a little overwhelmed at the thought of having so many people around. Mrs Kent turned away to look at something and Lois moved closer to the younger girl.

    “You okay? You look a little, I don’t know, like you wanna hide or something.”

    Abby sighed. “Yeah. Usually on Christmas it’s just me and my mom. We don’t really have Christmas dinner. It’s mostly just a couple of tv dinners, watching some old movie. I think if somebody wanted an appointment on Christmas Day, Mom would rather work than spend the day with me.”

    Lois felt sorry for the girl. Her mother seemed to be the kind of woman who cared little about what her daughter needed. When she’d been little, Ella had always tried to make the holiday extra special, even if it had just been the three girls. There had been times when Lois’ father had been unable to be there for the holiday, which had been painful. It had been far worse once her mother had gone.

    “I kind of get where you’re coming from,” Lois said. “It’s the first Christmas without my dad. I mean, we didn’t really celebrate the holiday much either. Dad was always on duty.” She smiled at the other girl. “How about we make a deal? If either of us finds it a little too much, we just give each other some kind of signal and go off somewhere. I bet Clark wouldn’t mind if we hung out in the barn for a bit.”

    Abby snickered. “Okay. Sounds like a good plan.”

    It was early afternoon when they returned home. Uncle Gabe greeted them from the living room.

    “Come and help me with this,” he said. Lois saw he was struggling with a 6 foot tall pine tree, trying to put into a large tub filled with soil. She quickly moved to help him by holding it upright.

    “When did you get the tree, Dad?” Chloe asked. She was rifling through a box of decorations

    “This morning. I thought it was about time we had a decent tree, so I got one from Baker’s lot.”

    Lois was slightly overwhelmed by the heady scent of pine, tickling her nose. She had once gone to school with a kid who had allergies and they had always complained that they could never have a real Christmas tree because they were allergic to the pine.

    She kept her hands on the tree, continuing to hold it steady as her uncle packed the soil around the trunk.

    “There. That’s got it, I think.” He stood up. Lois and her cousin stood back.

    Chloe frowned. “Uh, I think it’s a little crooked.”

    Lois eyed it critically. She was right. The tree was tilting a little. Her uncle frowned.

    “Hmm, maybe I didn’t pack it deep enough?” He grabbed a trowel and began digging into the tub. After a few minutes, he stood up again. “How’s that?” he asked.

    They studied it. “Yeah, that looks better.”

    “All right. How about you girls decorate it while I go get the groceries?”

    Lois smiled at her uncle. “Sounds like a plan.”

    When he left, Chloe put on some Christmas carols and they began singing as they pulled out the decorations, placing them around the tree. Chloe would dance a little to the music as her singing became louder and louder. Lois laughed at her cousin’s antics, thinking this was the first real Christmas she could remember being happy since before her mother died.

    Lucy arrived shortly before dinner time on Christmas Eve, looking happy and excited to be spending Christmas with them. She wrapped both of them in hugs.

    “Oh, I’m so happy to see you guys,” she said. She stepped back and admired the tree. “The tree looks amazing!”

    Chloe wrinkled her nose. “It’s not perfect.” They had been rather haphazard in their decorating, but Lois didn’t care. She liked the fact that all the decorations were random rather than uniform. Every Christmas on whatever base she’d been on, it had been expected that the tree decorations would be done to a certain order.

    Lucy shook her head. “No, I like it!”

    “So, how was the flight?” Uncle Gabe asked.

    “Exhausting,” Lucy replied. “I sat next to this lady with her four-year-old boy. He wouldn’t sit still for a minute. And he didn’t seem to understand a word I said when I told him to stop and sit down.”

    “Ugh. Kids,” Chloe said. “If I’m ever lucky enough to have one of my own, I’m never going to let them grow up like that.”

    “Who wants egg-nog?” Uncle Gabe asked, bringing out a tray of cups filled with the treat.

    The next day saw them at the Kent Farm for Christmas dinner. As Abby had predicted, it was a little overwhelming. Everyone seemed to be talking and laughing and it was so noisy she couldn’t hear herself think.

    Abby glanced over at her and nodded. Lois quietly excused herself from the table and grabbed her coat from the stand, going out to the barn to sit in Clark’s loft. He had a space heater in the corner and she switched it on, rubbing her hands together to warm them. She heard footsteps on the stairs and looked over the railing.

    “Hey, Abby,” she said.

    The other girl sat beside her on the couch. Lois grabbed a rug from the back and put it over their legs.

    “You okay?” the blonde asked.

    “Yeah, it just got a bit much in there.”

    “I know. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve been really wonderful to me the last week or so but …”

    “Sometimes you just need space,” Lois agreed.

    They sat without talking for a few minutes, appreciating the quiet time. Lois began to feel her eyelids drooping a little, the warmth from the heater and the pleasant full feeling from the food made her a little drowsy.

    She started awake at the sound of Clark’s voice.

    “So this is where you two disappeared to,” he said.

    She looked up at her friend. “Uh, yeah. Are they …”

    “Don’t worry. They probably won’t miss you for a little while yet. You guys okay?”

    Abby nodded. “Yeah. Sorry. It just got a little …”

    Clark smiled, grabbing the chair from his desk and pulling it out, sitting down so his chest faced the back.

    “I get it. This is actually the first Christmas we’ve had so many people here, so I do understand.”

    Lois chewed on her lip. “I guess all our Christmases have kind of sucked the past few years.”

    It was one of the many things they all appeared to have in common. They’d all lost something or someone.

    “It doesn’t have to be that way,” Clark said. “Ollie says it’s about learning to appreciate what you have.”

    “I guess he’d know better than anyone,” Abby replied.

    “I guess he does.” Clark nodded his head toward the stairs. “Come on. Why don’t you guys come back inside before you freeze.”

    Lois frowned. Clark didn’t seem to feel the cold at all. Despite the heater, there was an icy draught coming in from outside, but it didn’t appear to bother him. As much as she wanted to ask him about it, she figured he would probably have some kind of explanation. Like maybe he wore thermals or something.

    Lucy greeted her with a smile when she returned to the party. Her sister was looking a little pale and tired, but that was probably the jet lag.

    “Um, can I talk to you about something?” Lucy said.

    “What is it?”

    “I don’t wanna go back to school,” the younger girl said. “I want to stay here with you.”

  9. #39
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    8,835
    Chapter Twenty-Six

    Oliver had enjoyed the holidays with his family, but he’d found Christmas Day just a little bit overwhelming. Not wanting to worry his parents, he had spent the day in the farmhouse, helping out where he could. He had done his best not to let on that he was feeling a little uncomfortable with all the people around. It wasn’t that he minded spending the day with Chloe, her two cousins and her father, but it did mean the farmhouse was a little crowded.

    He had taken advantage of the opportunity to go out and tend to the animals early the next morning, before anyone else was up. He wasn’t surprised to see Jonathan out and about a short time later.

    “How are you doing, son?” the older man asked.

    “I’m okay.”

    The blond farmer eyed him critically. “Really? I couldn’t help but notice how quiet you were yesterday. I guess it was all a bit much.”

    He shrugged. “Honestly? Yeah, just a bit. I didn’t want to worry you guys.”

    The other man clapped a hand on his shoulder. “Son, you know you can come talk to me or M … your mom if anything’s worrying you.”

    “It’s not that. It just … felt a bit crowded.” He’d been accustomed to solitude during his three-year exile.

    “I suppose we should have really talked about that,” Jonathan said. “We were just so happy to have you home that we wanted to celebrate, and Clark wanted to invite his friends.”

    “I’m not begrudging him that, Dad,” Oliver told him. He’d noticed, however, that Clark had slipped out at some point, as had Abby and Lois. “It’s been really lonely for him the past few years, hasn’t it?”

    The older man nodded sombrely. “It has. It’s not just the fact that you were gone. It was dealing with his abilities. No matter how much I want to help him, this is something I don’t think either of us can really understand.”

    “I was thinking of taking him to see Dr Swann. Maybe he can help us make sense of the whole Veritas thing.”

    “Martha sent an email to his office a couple of years ago but never got a reply.”

    “I have to try, though. Especially after that board meeting. You should have seen the way Lionel looked at us. It was like he knew something.”

    “You’re hoping Dr Swann might be able to provide you with some answers about your parents’ deaths, aren’t you?”

    He nodded. “Yeah. I need to know the truth, Dad. If not just for Clark’s sake. Mom and Dad would have wanted me to protect him, but I can’t do that unless I know what I’m up against.”

    “I know your parents trusted Dr Swann, but I want you to be careful about what you say to him.”

    “Don’t worry,” he replied with a smile. “I will.”

    Once breakfast was over, he began researching Dr Swann, hoping to find a personal contact for the man. All he could learn from his reading was that the man was notoriously reclusive. He’d been in an accident some years earlier, well before he’d even started the group with Oliver’s birth parents and the Luthors. The man had been a brilliant astro-physicist prior to the accident which had made him a quadriplegic. He’d virtually disappeared around the time Clark’s ship had come to Earth. Whether that had anything to do with it was unclear.

    He sent off an email to the Swann Foundation, not really expecting any reply. Once he’d done that he got up from the table and went to check on what his brother was up to. He found Clark in the barn with Abby. The pair were sitting on the couch, their heads bent over some papers. Oliver managed to read a little bit to figure out it wasn’t homework before they realised he was there. Clark quickly put it away.

    “That doesn’t look like homework,” he commented.

    “It’s not,” Abby said, shooting Clark a look. He looked back at her.

    “What’s with the non-verbals?” Oliver asked. “Are you two hiding something from me?”

    “No, it’s just …”

    “We were just reading some stuff Chloe gave me,” Abby said. “She was doing some more research into my mom.”

    “Shouldn’t that be handled by the lawyer?” Oliver asked.

    Clark coughed. “Uh, it’s not exactly legal. Chloe hacked into Dr Fine’s personal files on the experiments she was doing.”

    “I see,” he said. “What’s that supposed to prove?”

    Abby shrugged. “I don’t know if it’s going to prove anything in court, but if we get enough on her, it might make her leave me alone.”

    He frowned. “Is that an issue? I thought the lawyer got a restraining order?”

    Clark nodded. “Yeah, but she’s been hanging around school. Principal Kwan said there wasn’t anything he could do as she stays outside the gate. I guess she’s hoping she can catch Abby alone.”

    “It’s okay, Ollie,” Abby said quietly. “When school broke for the holidays, Lana and Whitney came out with me.”

    He still thought they should talk to the lawyer. The hearing was coming up in a couple of weeks and if their attorney heard that Abby’s mother was hanging around the school with the intention of trying to coerce Abby into leaving with her, against the custodial order, it would not look good for her.

    He was impressed at the way the football jock had stepped up to offer help. He was surprised at how quickly things had changed within the school. Perhaps it had been a wake-up call for the staff. Bullying had always been present at the high school, but now it seemed the principal was doing something about it.

    Abby left the loft to go and help Martha with getting lunch together. There were a lot of leftovers from Christmas dinner so they were making turkey sandwiches.

    Clark looked at him. “So, what’s up?”

    “I emailed Dr Swann. Or his foundation, anyway. I don’t know if I’ll hear anything back.”

    “You really think he can help?” his brother asked.

    “I hope so. At the very least, we might be able to figure out what’s going on with Lex being at the plant and everything.”

    “You don’t think it’s a coincidence, then,” Clark stated.

    “No. I don’t. We both know Lionel doesn’t do anything without an ulterior motive, so there’s got to be another reason for him sending Lex down. I know Mom and Dad have this policy of being nice to the guy, but I don’t trust him.”

    “Is it because of what your friends at Excelsior told you?”

    “That, and … I don’t know. I think maybe he’s trying too hard to ingratiate himself.”

    Clark nodded. “Yeah. Lois doesn’t like him. He told me he just thought she might have some contacts in the military or something. I think it’s more than that. I mean, he so much as implied it was because she was a pretty girl. Or something like that.”

    “Yeah, that kind of attention could get him arrested,” Oliver told his brother. “What else has Lois said?”

    “Something about him giving off a creepy vibe.”

    Clark intimated that he’d told her to stay away from Lex if he bothered her that much. Oliver understood the girl’s distrust of the man but wondered if there was more to it. The girl had good instincts if she had disliked the man on sight. Of course, she was too young to really understand those instincts, but that was something she would grow into, he thought.

    “You know, Lex invited us to that museum exhibition next month,” Clark reminded him.

    “As much as I hate exhibitions, I think we should go. We might be able to get a handle on what he’s up to.”

    “I guess.” Clark looked toward the loft window. “Mom’s calling.”

    “That’s lunch.”

    As they walked back to the house, Clark looked at him. “You think Dr Swann will answer you?”

    “I don’t know. I hope so.”

    They spent the next few days of the holidays helping out on the farm where they could. Oliver was keen to do some more research on the company he was thinking about buying. Clark’s guess about the arrows had been right. He had realised that any researcher who had worked on the arrows might connect them with him, figuring out that he was the archer. What he planned was far from foolproof, but he’d already read enough to know that creating a shell company might protect him from discovery.

    There was still the problem of how to work on his archery skills. There had only been so much he could learn on the island. He needed to perfect those skills.

    Clark returned to school just over a week after New Year’s. He reported that it was mostly uneventful, although he had piles of homework. Oliver knew only too well that his teachers liked to think up methods of torture over Christmas and often planned pop quizzes in the first week of school to test their students’ ability to remember everything they’d learned the previous semester.

    On his way to pick up his brother and Abby from school late Wednesday afternoon, he stopped in at the Beanery to buy a cup of hot cocoa to go. As he was leaving, he bumped into Lex. The bald man smiled.

    “Oliver. Haven’t seen much of you lately.”

    “Yeah,” he said. “I’ve been busy helping my parents.” Lex looked at him oddly but didn’t comment. “Working farm and all that,” he added.

    “Oh. Well, I’m glad to run into you. I wanted to remind you about the exhibition opening tomorrow night. You are still coming, aren’t you?”

    Oliver had discussed it with his parents. The Kents had decided to bow out but figured the boys could still go. After all, the invitation had really been for Clark and his guardians. Oliver was sure the Luthors had some ulterior motive for the invitation.

    He nodded. “I’m looking forward to it.”

    “Great. Please give the Kents my regards.”

    The next evening, he dressed in a long-sleeved silk shirt and black pants, topping the look with a blazer. He met Martha on his way downstairs.

    “Does this look okay?” he asked. He’d forgotten what to wear at such things since it had been so long since he’d attended any kind of social event.

    “You look wonderful, sweetie,” she said with a smile. “Clark’s almost ready.”

    “Good. Are you sure you guys don’t want to come?”

    “No, honey, you two go on your own.” He looked at her as they reached the bottom floor.

    “I’m still not so sure about Lex.”

    “Honey, I know you think he and his father are up to something, but don’t do anything or say anything rash. Be nice to him.”

    “What if he’s not nice to us?” Clark asked, fidgeting with his collar. He too was wearing a shirt and blazer with tan-coloured pants, but his hair was messy. He’d clearly sped down the stairs. Oliver shot his brother a look. It was lucky that Abby was out helping with some of the chores.

    “Comb your hair, kid,” he said.

    Clark returned the look with a glare of his own, but grabbed a comb and ran it through the curls. “Is that better?”

    Oliver rolled his eyes at him, even as Martha admonished the teen.

    “I’m just saying you should be nice to Lex. We both know what his father is like.”

    Oliver nodded. He’d once seen Lionel grab Lex at the back of his neck in a threatening manner. Jonathan had a bit of a temper on him, but other than a threat to take him out to the woodshed, the worst punishment he’d ever had was to be assigned more chores. Jonathan was a big believer in hard work keeping a person honest.

    “Don’t worry, Mom. We’ll be good,” he said. “Come on, Clark. We don’t want to be late.”

    Clark was quiet in the car on the way to the city.

    “Everything okay?” Oliver asked. “School okay?”

    “It’s fine.”

    “You’re not worried about tonight, are you?”

    “No.” Yet his voice seemed to waver a little. “Why are we supposed to be nice to the guy?”

    Oliver knew his parents had already talked to Clark about it, but it couldn’t hurt to talk it out a little. He could still remember his time at Excelsior and thinking Lex was a little weird. He vaguely remembered a few months before the meteor shower and being in a house with Lex, Jason Teague and Patty Swann playing games while their dads had some kind of meeting. Lex had been quiet but acted like any normal kid. Oliver didn’t know whether it was the meteor shower or the way he’d been raised. Perhaps it was both.

    “Look, I get it, Clark. I don’t like the guy either, but I guess they figure we need to give him a break. I mean, you know what Lionel’s like. Maybe they thought they could counter Lionel’s treatment. Anyway, I think they’re just asking us to show Lex a bit of compassion.”

    “I guess.”

    “That doesn’t mean we should trust him completely, though,” Oliver added. “From my perspective, especially after what happened to me, I’m even more convinced that Lionel sent him to work at the plant for a reason.”

    “You think Lionel had something to do with your boat being hijacked?” Clark asked. “Why?”

    “To get me out of the way. He probably thought I’d die on the boat, or on that island.”

    “And then what? Send Lex so he could, I don’t know, manipulate me?”

    “It’s just a theory,” Oliver said.

    “But why wouldn’t he have done that three years ago?”

    “Maybe he figured he had some time. I mean, Lex would have still had to go to college, take some business courses. It might have looked odd if he’d sent Lex to run the plant straight out of high school.” Not to mention the accusations of nepotism, he thought.

    “I guess so,” Clark said.

    “Look, all we can do is keep our eyes and ears open and be on our guards.”

    His brother nodded. “You’re right.”

    There were quite a few guests at the exhibition. Oliver was surprised to see Lois and Chloe had also been invited. Chloe seemed far more comfortable than her cousin, who appeared to be a little perplexed as to why she had been invited. Oliver was immediately suspicious. He was sure Lois knew a few people with military connections and he suspected Lex was hoping to cash in on that.

    He stopped to talk to her. “You look as if you want to be anywhere but here,” he said.

    She smiled at him. “Yeah. Chloe looks like she won the lottery.”

    He laughed. The blonde was busy circulating, chatting to anyone who would give her the time.

    “Smallville, on the other hand, looks like he’s about to hurl,” she said with a chuckle.

    Oliver glanced at his brother. Clark was standing with a glass of orange juice in his hand, staring at a piece of armour with a large ‘S’ emblazoned on the chest piece. He appeared to be trying to hide it but he was clearly anxious. His anxiety seemed to increase when Lex stopped beside him. Oliver continued to watch, wondering if he should intervene, but it turned out not to be necessary when a woman with reddish-brown hair approached. From Lex’s expression, it was clear he knew her.

    “Ah, Oliver. I heard you had returned.”

    He turned and looked at the man who had greeted him. Simon Westcott was another of Lionel’s business acquaintances. Just as Oliver had no time for Lionel, he had no time for the older man, but he remembered his parents would not be happy if he was rude, so he made polite conversation for a while, barely following what the old man was talking about. He saw Lois managing to drag Chloe to get some orange juice and a few nibbles while Clark had gone off somewhere.

    Suddenly there was a loud screeching noise that sounded a lot like metal scraping against metal. Oliver turned to look at the two girls, who both appeared equally startled. Everyone in the museum rushed toward the main doors and out to the street. He was stunned to see a bus on the sidewalk, next to the bus shelter. The entire front of the bus was stoved-in, as if someone had taken a large battering ram to it.

    It had to be Clark. He looked around, but couldn’t see his brother anywhere. Everyone else stared as if they couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Even Lex looked completely shocked. The guy was good at hiding his emotions, but he wasn’t that good.

    He decided he’d better make his excuses and find his brother. Oliver said a quick goodbye to Lois and Chloe before thanking Lex for the invitation.

    “Is everything okay?” Lex asked. “If it’s about what happened just now …”

    “No, I’m fine. I just really need to call it a night. Thanks again, Lex.”

    He made his way to the car only to find Clark already in the front seat. He was shaking like a leaf.

    “What happened?” Oliver asked gently.

    “The bus …” It had come around the corner and it looked as if the driver had lost control. Clark had seen it was heading for the bus shelter where a homeless man was sleeping and he’d decided to stop it before anyone got hurt.

    “Did the old man see you?”

    “No, I don’t think so. It’s just … I was really scared, Ollie. I mean, I didn’t think about it, I just … did it. You know? I could have been killed.”

    “But you weren’t.” If he’d seen it himself, he would have been terrified for his little brother. He was relieved that Clark was okay.

    “It sure hurt like a mother, though.”

    “I bet.” As relieved as he was, he worried that someone might have seen the incident. Lex, especially.

    When his parents found out about it the next morning, they were equally concerned. Clark went off to school with Abby, apparently none the worse for it. Oliver looked at Martha and Jonathan as the door closed behind his brother.

    “You sure no one saw anything?” Jonathan asked.

    “Clark doesn’t seem to think so,” he said. “I don’t know. I got there the same time as everyone else. After it had happened. He was pretty shaken up though.”

    “I’m not surprised,” Martha said.

    “I really don’t know how he did it,” Oliver told them. “I guess it means he’s getting stronger. Maybe even invulnerable.”

    “It certainly looks that way,” Jonathan commented. “I should get to work.”

    “Yeah, I’ll join you in a sec, Dad. I just want to check my emails.”

    Oliver sat down at the desk and switched on the computer. He quickly logged in to his emails, thinking he should check to see if there were any company updates he should know about. He scanned the list of emails and saw one from V.Swann. It had to be Dr Swann, he thought. He opened it up.

    “Mr Queen, I heard of your return. We have much to discuss.” There was an address. He quickly looked it up. It was the New York Planetarium. The man had agreed to meet with him at a set time the next day. Only him. The scientist was specific. He was not to involve Clark yet.

    Clark was not happy when he heard this news.

    “Why doesn’t he want me to come?” he asked.

    “I don’t know, Clark. I’ll ask him when I see him.”

    “You promised we’d go see him together.”

    “I know, Clark. But he asked me not to. Otherwise he won’t see me. We don’t really know enough about him to take the chance.” He clutched his brother’s shoulders. “I know you want answers, but for now we need to just follow his lead. Okay?”

    Clark still didn’t look happy but Oliver did his best to placate his brother. He figured Dr Swann was cagey, especially given that he had been pretty much a recluse for most of the last twelve years.

    He was greeted with an icy cold wind from the east as he arrived in Manhattan shortly before the appointed time. He stood outside for a short while, staring up at the building, unsure if he should go in. He needed answers. Clark needed answers.

    When he entered, the room was full of what appeared to be old equipment. He frowned, wondering if he had actually got the right room. There was no one to greet him and nothing to suggest otherwise.

    “Hello?” he asked hesitantly. He ventured further when there was no reply, looking around him, wondering why the man had told him to come here.

    “Hello, Oliver.”

    He turned, startled by the voice. He stared at the man sitting behind a desk, tucked away in some far corner of the room. If he hadn’t heard him, he wouldn’t have even known to look there.

    Virgil Swann was in his fifties, although he looked a little older. Oliver figured that had something to do with the debilitating injuries which had left him a quadriplegic.

    “Dr Swann?” he asked.

    The man nodded. “Come.”

    “Thank you for seeing me,” he said quietly, moving closer. “I …”

    “I know why you’re here. You want answers about your parents. Your brother.” He nodded toward the desk. Oliver saw a newspaper clipping on the desk. It was the Daily Planet’s article about his return.

    “And Veritas,” he said.

    “Veritas is no longer.”

    “Thus not my concern? What about my brother? I know Lionel had something to do with my parents’ …” He trailed off at the man’s look. It wasn’t annoyance or impatience, but it was close. “I’m sorry. It’s just, you have no idea what it’s like. Not knowing what really happened to them. I mean, if Lionel did have something to do with what happened, it makes me worry about Clark even more.”

    “I understand, Oliver. I can only warn you to be careful of Lionel Luthor. And his son. I cannot help you with your investigation. I can only tell you that if you continue down this path, you may not like what you find.”

    “I read my dad’s journals about Veritas.”

    “The purpose of Veritas was to protect the child from the stars. Unfortunately, there were those who sought to use him to their own ends. That is why you must proceed with caution. If what you suspect is true, then Lionel will stop at nothing to get what he wants.”

    “And what he wants is Clark. What’s to stop him now?”

    “Clark is protected somewhat by you and your guardians. That may change, however, especially if he falls under the influence of Luthor’s son.”

    “So Lex is really there to try to manipulate Clark.”

    “He may not know his full purpose.”

    Oliver listened as the scientist went on. It sounded like Dr Swann had an informant inside Luthorcorp who was keeping him abreast of Lionel’s plans. It seemed Lionel was not even telling Lex what he was really there for. The younger Luthor was being used and manipulated as well.

    He asked why the doctor had chosen only to see him and not Clark as well, but the other man would only say that Clark was not mature enough to know everything. Oliver wondered if that meant Dr Swann had some other knowledge about Clark’s origins that he wasn’t ready to reveal.

    He did impart one small piece of information, however. A name of someone who might know the truth of what happened to Robert and Laura Queen.

  10. #40
    Forum Regular Sykobee's Avatar
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    Wow, its been a while. In think I may need to do a refresher re-read. Regardless, I'm happy the LC is moving forward again. Hope your holidays are happy and healthy.

  11. #41
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    a/n: Wow, I can't believe it's been so long since I posted something on this. All I can say is, life has been busy for me and it's about to get busier. I got a full-time job and I start in two weeks.

    Anyway, this chapter focuses on the episode Rogue. While not quite a rewrite, I thought there had to be another way to deal with Sam Phelan, so this is my take on it.

    Chapter Twenty-Seven

    Clark was worried. Not about his brother’s visit to Dr Swann, although he still resented the fact that the scientist had refused to allow him to come. He’d come home from hanging out in town to have a generator dropped on him in the barn. Then to find out that a cop had witnessed him stopping the bus. If that hadn’t been bad enough, the cop had then threatened to reveal his secret unless he did something for him.

    The cop had told him to meet him at the Beanery the next day.

    He didn’t know what to do. Oliver had gone to New York and he couldn’t exactly turn to his parents. They had been worried enough about the incident. They wouldn’t be happy to know that not only had someone seen him, that person was now trying to use that information against him.

    He thought about trying to handle it himself by not telling his parents, but as he thought over the situation, Lex dropped in for a visit.

    “Sorry, there’s nowhere to knock,” Lex said.

    “What’s up, Lex?” he asked, remaining polite.

    “I had a visit, from a Metro PD detective. He was asking me about you.”

    Clark blinked at the bald man. “Really? Did he say why?”

    “Just that you were a witness. Look, I know this guy. He’s a real piece of work. Whatever he thinks you’ve seen, stay away from him. He’s bad news.”

    Clark nodded. “Thanks. I appreciate the heads up,” he said, even if it was too late.

    He decided not to tell his parents, or Oliver when he called. His brother was staying overnight in New York. The next day, he went to confront the detective, telling him he wasn’t going to do what he wanted. The man looked pissed, warning him that he could make things look very bad for Clark. Or his family.

    Clark glared at him. “You leave my family out of this!” he told him.

    “Well, that’s up to you, Sport.” He smacked Clark on the arm with his papers. “Think it over. But don’t think too long. You never know what could happen in the meantime.”

    Clark stared at the cop, incensed at the veiled threat the man had made. He turned to leave the coffee shop, but ran into Lois.

    “Whoa, where’s the fire, Smallville?” she asked.

    “Sorry, Lois, gotta go.”

    She frowned at him, looking past him to the cop. “What’s going on?” she asked. “You’re even more weirder than usual.”

    “It’s nothing.”

    She grabbed his arm and pulled him aside. “It’s not nothing,” she said. “You looked rattled. Does it have anything to do with that jerk I just saw you talking to?”

    “Lois …”

    “Smallville.”

    Clark sighed. She clearly wasn’t going to let it go.

    “He wants my help with something. Something … illegal, I’m guessing.”

    Lois stared at him, wide-eyed. “Who the hell is this guy?”

    “A cop. Metropolis PD.”

    “Sounds like a dirty cop.” She pulled him away. “Is this guy trying to blackmail you, or something?”

    “Something like that.”

    “Why you?”

    Clark shrugged. “No idea. I’m not even sure what he has on me,” he lied.

    “Or thinks he has. Okay, I think we need to turn the tables on Mr Clean.”

    “Uh, Mr Clean is …” Clark began, but she punched his arm.

    “I know what Mr Clean is. Ever hear of irony, farmboy?”

    He huffed. He really wasn’t in the mood for Lois’ brand of humour.

    “What do you have in mind?”

    “Why don’t we see what we can find out about our rogue cop? C’mon, let’s head back to my house. I can use Chloe’s computer.”

    “You know, Chloe hates people using her stuff.”

    “She’ll get over it once we tell her what’s what. You know she likes to think she’s James Bond, or something.”

    “Uh, James Bond’s a spy. Plus he’s a guy. I think you’re thinking of Nellie Bly.”

    “Potayto Potahto,” Lois replied with a shrug. Clark could only shake his head in exasperation at his friend.

    At the house, Lois grabbed her cousin’s computer and set it up on the kitchen table. Clark watched over her shoulder as she connected to the ‘net. She side-eyed him.

    “Hello? Personal space?”

    Yet it seemed to be different when he was working and she hung over his shoulder. He grabbed a chair and sat beside her.

    “So, where’s Lucy?” he asked.

    “She and Uncle Gabe had to go talk to Social Services. I think. Something about Lucy wanting to live here.”

    Clark wondered where Lucy slept, since it was only a three-bedroom house and Lois and Chloe both had rooms to themselves. He looked around and could see items on the couch, including what looked like some ‘personals’.

    “Stop eyeing my sister’s underwear,” Lois said crossly. “I know your eyes kind of bugged out when you saw her, but she’s still my little sister.”

    “They did not bug out,” Clark returned.

    “Whatever! What’s this guy’s name again?”

    He hadn’t told her in the first place, but he gave the name. “Phelan. Sam Phelan.”

    “All right. Let’s see what we can find on him,” she said, typing something on the computer.

    A number of news articles came up mentioning the detective, but nothing incriminating. Clark spotted a photograph and pointed to it.

    “What’s that?” he asked.

    Lois quickly read the article. “Something about a man dying at Club Zero. What’s that?”

    “Dunno.”

    She peered at the photograph. “Is that Lex?” she asked. “What’s he doing with Phelan?”

    The photo could have been innocent. Lex was talking to the detective in the photo. He didn’t look happy.

    “Huh, well, I’d say if Lex is involved, then nothing good came of it.”

    “He could just have been a witness,” Clark said, remembering Lex had warned him about Phelan.

    “Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was involved with the Luthors somehow,” Lois commented.

    “What are you doing on my computer?”

    Lois spun around in her chair. “Uh, hey, Chlo. We were just looking something up.”

    Chloe approached them and peered at the article. “Who’s Sam Phelan?”

    “Some a*shat who’s trying to blackmail Clark into doing something for him.”

    “Like what? Write a book report for his kid?”

    Clark shook his head. “No. Something illegal.”

    “What would he have on you? That you missed a comma?”

    Clark sighed. “Chloe!”

    “Well, you are the proverbial Mr Clean,” she said. Without a hint of irony.

    “I am not,” he protested. “Anyway, we think this guy’s dirty, but we don’t know how to …”

    Chloe shoved her cousin out of the way. “I have ways,” she said. “But it doesn’t matter what I find. I don’t think it’s going to help the situation.”

    “Not unless we use it against him,” Lois told her, sounding a little put out that Chloe had displaced her.

    “If he’s as dirty as you think he is, he’s not going to let that stop him,” Chloe replied, typing something in the computer. “Have you told your parents about this guy?” she asked Clark.

    The last thing he wanted to do was tell them what was going on. They were already worried about what had happened with the bus.

    “No. And I’m not going to.”

    “No offence, Clark, but I think you might be out of your league with this. What about Oliver?”

    “He’s not back from New York until tonight. Look, why don’t I just contact the guy and … I don’t know, wear a wire or something?”

    “Where would you propose getting this wire?” Chloe asked. “It’s not as if there’s a Radio Shack in Smallville.”

    “I can handle that,” he said.

    Both Chloe and Lois still looked dubious.

    “I don’t know, Smallville. This sounds a little nuts. Even for you.”

    “Gee, thanks,” he said, giving Lois a disgruntled look. “It’s all I can think of.”

    Chloe’s computer beeped. “Well, he’s dirty, all right. He’s under investigation by Internal Affairs. Whatever you’re thinking, I wouldn’t suggest it. According to this, he’s suspected of killing someone. If he’s the type of guy to resort to murder, he will do his best to ruin your life. I mean, I’m all for the intrigue, Clark, but he’s not worth it.”

    “I don’t know what else to do,” he said. “He threatened my parents. And Oliver.” Plus there was the not-so-little matter of his secret.

    “I get it. I do. But you can’t mess around with someone like Phelan. You give him an inch, he’ll want a mile.”

    Clark frowned at the blonde, not sure what she meant.

    “If you do what he’s asking now, he’ll be back for more. And you’ll never be free of him. Do you really want to go through life being a dirty cop’s errand boy?”

    “She’s right, Smallville. You gotta nip this in the bud.”

    “Maybe go to the police.”

    He shook his head. That was the last thing he thought he should do. They would ask too many questions, especially why Phelan was blackmailing him in the first place.

    Not sure what to do, he returned home to find Oliver was back already. He was sitting on the couch in the barn loft, reading a newspaper.

    “I thought you weren’t back until tonight?” he asked.

    “Yeah, I managed to get back early. What’s wrong, kid? You look like you got the weight of the world on your shoulders.”

    “It’s nothing,” Clark told his brother, flopping down on the couch.

    “Nothing, huh? Is that why there’s a dented generator downstairs? What’s going on, Clark?”

    “It’s nothing.” Clark started to get up. He could have used his speed, but when his brother reached out, he knew if he pulled away too quickly he could likely hurt him.

    “Clark, talk to me.”

    Sighing, Clark knew he couldn’t hide the truth. It all poured out. The bus crash, Phelan, and what the cop was doing. He told Oliver what he’d talked about with Chloe and Lois.

    “They’re right. Look, I know people like him. They will do anything to get what they want. You can’t play his game.”

    “Then what do you suggest I do?”

    Oliver sat back, looking thoughtful. “I think your plan to use the wire was good, but I don’t think you should be the one to use it.”

    “You mean, you?”

    Oliver nodded. “We can rig something up.”

    It wasn’t much of a plan, but Clark hoped it would be enough. He ran to the city and picked up what they needed for the wire, returning to the farm a short time later.

    Phelan turned up at the farm shortly before sunset.

    “Well, kid?” he said. “You better have made a decision.”

    “He has,” Oliver said. “And he’s not going anywhere with you.”

    Phelan glared. “Queen. You don’t know who you’re dealing with.”

    “I don’t?” Oliver pretended to look surprised, but not scared. “You can threaten all you like, Phelan, but we both know like all dirty cops you’re as cowardly as they come.”

    “I’ll tell the whole world about him.”

    “And who’s going to believe you? They’ll put you in a straightjacket.”

    Phelan suddenly pulled out a gun. “Now you listen …”

    “No! You listen! You stay away from my little brother and you stay away from my family. You got me?”

    “You think I care who you are, Queen?” The man continued to rant on, threatening to frame Oliver for murder if Clark didn’t do what he wanted.

    “I’m not going to repeat myself, Phelan,” Oliver told him. “Get out. Get off this farm and get the hell out of our lives or you will be. Very. Sorry.”

    Phelan tried for one more threat. Clark, having had enough, used just a touch of super speed to knock the man over. The detective sprawled on the ground, but it looked like Clark hadn’t moved at all. Phelan looked confused and more than a little angry, but he got the message. He left.

    Oliver looked at him. “I wish I could say I doubt he’ll be back, but …”

    Clark nodded. At least they had the recording, he thought.

    They managed to edit the recording so there was no mention of Clark’s abilities and sent copies to both the Metropolis Police Department and the Smallville Sheriff.

    It wasn’t Phelan who returned the next day, but Sheriff Ethan and his men, claiming they had a warrant to search the farm. Clark’s parents were confused, not knowing what had been going on. They were even more shocked to hear that one of the deputies had found a body in the barn.

    Abby, luckily, was at Lana’s working on an English paper they’d had to team up on.

    Oliver nudged Clark, telling him to quickly check around the farm using his x-ray vision. The nudge came at just the right time. One of the deputies was about to search the truck and had the door open. Clark spotted what looked like a handgun under the passenger seat. He managed to grab it before the deputy could.

    Phelan turned up just as the coroner was leaving with the body. Since they had no proof anyone on the farm had anything to do with the death, the officers left with only a warning that the matter was still under investigation.

    The detective looked smug. “I warned you,” he told Oliver. “Don’t mess with me.”

    Clark’s parents looked at him. “What’s going on?” Jonathan asked.

    “It’s nothing, Dad,” Oliver said. “Just some unfinished business.”

    Phelan looked like he was going to argue. Clark used the opportunity to slip away. Making sure any prints had been wiped off the gun, he hid it under the seat in Phelan’s car.

    Realising his threats and arguments were going nowhere, the detective returned to his car. He glared at them. “This isn’t over,” he said.

    “Oh, I think it is,” Oliver told him. They watched as he sped away.

    Their parents turned to them. “Want to tell us what that was all about?” Martha said.

    Clark looked at his brother, who sighed and nodded. They explained everything.

    “Why didn’t you talk to us?” Jonathan asked.

    “Because I knew you’d be upset,” Clark told him.

    “I hope this plan of yours works,” Martha commented. “Phelan could come back.”

    “I think he knows he’s well and truly lost. Plus I don’t think he’ll be able to explain away the murder weapon in his car,” Oliver replied. He looked at Clark. “You did put it in the car, right?”

    Clark nodded. “Yup.”

    While he was fairly sure they had won, he wasn’t completely certain until the next day in the Torch office when Chloe dropped a copy of the Daily Planet down in front of him.

    Rogue Officer Killed in Street Shootout

    Clark quickly read the article. Phelan had been confronted by detectives from Internal Affairs and his car searched. The man who had been murdered had turned out to be a police detective who had been investigating Phelan’s dirty dealings. When the murder weapon had been found in his car, Phelan had tried to plead his innocence, but once he’d been confronted with all the evidence, he had tried to run. When that hadn’t worked, he had started shooting. The officers had returned fire.

    “I guess he got what he deserved,” Clark said, chewing on his lower lip.

    “Yeah, how’s that for poetic justice, huh, Smallville?” Lois responded. She stood with Lucy, who looked confused.

    “Did you know this guy?” Lucy asked.

    “No,” Clark said, glancing at his friends. “Not really. He was just someone we were doing research on.”

    “Right. For an article,” Chloe said.

    “Oh.”

    Mr Kwan came in, looking annoyed. “Where’s Lana?” he asked. Not seeing her, he turned and walked out again.

    Clark frowned at Chloe. “What’s that all about?” he queried.

    Chloe explained that Kwan had gotten annoyed with her editorials on meteor rocks and what they did to people so he’d basically fired her as editor. Lana had gone to the principal to beg for another chance and had been given the job herself. She’d written her own editorial which criticised the principal for Chloe’s firing suggesting he’d crushed freedom of speech.

    Clark could understand Kwan’s position. Chloe was constantly reporting on meteor-rock related incidents, which really had little to do with school activities. Oliver had asked him why Chloe was even given the position of editor since she was a freshman and it really should have gone to a junior or senior. All Clark knew was that Chloe had been writing on school newspapers since she’d been in third grade and she had ambitions of working at the Daily Planet. Maybe her experience had given her the edge over other students, he thought.

    As a result of Lana’s editorial, Chloe was reinstated as editor, although the principal made it clear she would have to tone down her investigations into the incidents and focus more on school activities.

    It was a good thing the whole issue with Sam Phelan was nothing to do with the school, Clark thought, or else there would have been some serious questions. As it was, he still had to try to explain away why Phelan had come after him in the first place. He managed to skirt around the issue of what had happened with the bus, implying that Phelan had been worried Clark might have seen him do something. The girls seemed happy with that explanation.

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