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  1. #106
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Thirty-Eight

    Lois had been exhausted by the time they’d got away from Cadmus, then her exhaustion had vanished when she’d seen Kally in Oliver’s arms as he walked out of the nightclub with her. Now that the adrenaline had worn off, all she wanted to do was sleep for days. She glanced at her daughter in the backseat, sitting with her father. The toddler had dropped off to sleep almost as soon as Clark had driven off. How she envied that ability to just be able to drop off like that.

    “Okay?” Clark asked softly.

    “I’m tired,” she said.

    “Yeah, I know. It’s okay. She’s back and she’s safe.”

    “No thanks to Lex.”

    “It’s pretty obvious he was trying to cover his tracks,” Clark said. “From what Alfred told …” He glanced in the rearview mirror. “… Batman, Regan Matthews told Green Arrow he was ordered to hand her over to the gang. What they were going to do with her is anyone’s guess.”

    “Probably ask for ransom. The grand-daughter of a senator, not to mention a general …” she said.

    She didn’t voice her other thoughts. That the gang would do worse to her.

    “I don’t think they did anything to her,” Clark said.

    She looked at him. How did he always know what she was thinking?

    “You have tells,” he said. “Besides, it’s not surprising you’d think that. I was thinking it too.”

    “How do you know they didn’t try anything?” she asked.

    He shot her a look and she realised the moment he’d learned where Kally had been taken, he had used his hearing ability. Obviously whatever he’d heard had reassured him that she wasn’t being hurt.

    Lois yawned, finally relaxing in what felt like days instead of hours. She had barely slept at all the night before.

    She realised she had fallen asleep when she opened her eyes to see they were back in Smallville and were probably about a mile from the Inn. Clark must have picked up the change in her breathing as he reached out and lightly squeezed her thigh.

    “Just tell me I didn’t snore,” she told him. He shot her a grin. She gazed at his handsome face. He was looking a little worse for wear himself. He had a five o’clock shadow and his face had that pinched look of someone who hadn’t slept. She knew he didn’t need as much sleep as normal people, but he did still sleep.

    Her stomach rumbled, reminding her she hadn’t eaten all day. They had stopped for coffees on their way to Cadmus Labs and they’d stopped again for something before they’d left the city for Smallville. Lois hadn’t wanted to get something to eat then, anxious to get her daughter home.

    Lucy must have heard the truck as she came running out as soon as Clark stopped the vehicle in the parking lot. Chloe wasn’t far behind. Both girls began talking at once, asking how their niece was. Lois managed to sift through the babble to figure out that Oliver had called Chloe and given her an update.

    Lois watched her boyfriend lift Kally out of the car seat. The toddler slept on as he carried her inside the building. Her sister and cousin followed close behind.

    She felt her father’s arm around her. “You okay, sweetheart?”

    She sent him a weak smile. “I’m fine, Daddy. Just so tired I think I could sleep for a week and still never feel caught up.”

    “I know,” he said, kissing her on the temple. “But we got her. She’s safe.”

    “Thank you,” she said. “For being there, for being …” She couldn’t really put into words how it felt to have her father so supportive.

    He smiled. “Anytime, sweetheart.”

    She watched him go inside. He had been amazing through the whole thing. Even though she’d been initially worried about her father going with them, he had actually been incredibly helpful. Obviously his military experience gave him some insight into different strategies. Normally, Lois would have been all for charging right in, but he’d taught her a few valuable lessons about holding back and learning what was what.

    It had been his idea to let them ‘get caught’. While they hadn’t been able to see much as the security guard had led them inside, Lois had seen enough to know what they were up against. When the scientist, or whatever he was, had made as if to hit her, she could sense her father’s anger. No one hit his kids, she thought.

    Just as he was about to get into a smackdown with the other man, Lois spotted Clark and Batman above them. Not wanting to give her boyfriend away, she had returned her attention to what was happening in front of her. There had been shouts and she realised the others had been caught. Clark must have used his heat vision as one of the monitors in the lab sort of exploded. Chaos erupted and she’d ended up fighting the scientist while her father fought the thug he’d talked to earlier. She’d felt something brush by her and two of the armed security guards were knocked to the ground.

    Batman entered the melee forcing one of the scientists against the wall. He began demanding information on Kally’s whereabouts and what they’d done to her. The scientist had stared at the black caped crusader, eyes wide in fear. Lois couldn’t help but laugh thinking the man had practically crapped his pants.

    “Please don’t kill me,” he begged. “I’ll tell you whatever you want.”

    Batman backed off a little, but not so far that he couldn’t grab the other man if he wanted to. The scientist told him they’d collected blood and some spinal fluid. He had no idea what it was for, but had been told the child was part of a research project into child cancer. He had been alarmed when Batman had told him Kally had been kidnapped. It looked like most of the workers there had been misled.

    The other scientist had finally explained to them that the labs worked on some very sensitive projects and he had thought they were corporate spies. Lois didn’t believe the man’s story for a second, but thanks to Batman, they were able to leave without further incident.

    When they’d stopped briefly for a bathroom break, Clark had checked Kally over completely, making sure to check the site where the scientists had taken spinal fluid. The area was bruised but thanks to her metabolism, already starting to close over. They’d decided that since she didn’t seem to be showing any immediate ill-effects they wouldn’t mention it to the rest of the family, but they were going to get her checked out by Emil once they’d had a little time to recover.

    Lois joined her family inside, laughing as Kally, now obviously awake, began telling her grandma all about her adventures in a babble that Bubsy was barely able to keep up with. Chloe had pulled Clark aside. Lois approached her cousin, seeing Clark looking a little worried.

    “They weren’t supposed to be back this early,” he said.

    “What is it, Smallville?”

    “My parents,” he replied. She frowned. They’d actually taken advantage of a break from the senate and taken a week’s vacation in New York. They hadn’t been due to come home for another day. “They came home and found I hadn’t done my chores or anything and called here. Chloe had to tell them what had happened. They’re pretty upset.”

    She nodded. “You better go talk to them.”

    “Uh, no need,” Chloe said. “They’re here. They just pulled up outside.”

    Sure enough, Martha’s car pulled up in the parking lot and just seconds later, the couple ran in. Martha saw her and came over.

    “Lois?”

    “We just got back,” she said.

    “Kally’s fine, Mom,” Clark told his mother.

    Jonathan frowned at his son. “What the hell happened, Clark?”

    “Lex is what happened,” Lois’s father replied. “And when I get hold of that bald bas … er,” he paused, looking around, but Kally seemed to be still busy telling her grandma all her adventures. “Excuse me,” he said. “But yeah. I’m going to wring that boy’s neck.”

    “Dad, we talked about this,” Lois said. As much as he wanted to go defcon one on Lex and make sure he paid for what he did, there was still no proof. Those that had direct communication from Lex were either refusing to talk or were too afraid of what the bald billionaire would do.

    “I wouldn’t worry too much about that,” a voice said. Bruce walked in. “I heard the news. Congratulations.”

    “Thank you,” Lois said. Clark looked at him.

    “What do you mean? Are we just going to sit back and let Lex get away with …”

    “On this, yes. But we can still find a way to make him pay. I have some very close acquaintances who could begin to make life very difficult for him. Business-wise.”

    “How?” Jonathan asked.

    “Let’s just say that Lex could miss out on some very lucrative contracts.” He looked at Lois’ father. “In fact, I think you might be able to help with that, General Lane.”

    “I’m not a general anymore, Mr Wayne.”

    “Please, call me Bruce. You might have retired from the army, sir, but you still know a few people in military circles. I’ve heard Lex has been bidding for a civilian contract to develop new systems for the military. Of course, he still needs to get the senate committee on side. That’s where you come in, Jonathan.”

    He led the two men away. Lois looked at Martha and laughed. “I hope he knows what he’s in for,” she said.

    Martha grinned. “You wouldn’t be trying to say your dad was difficult, would you?”

    “Perish the thought,” she replied. Then again, he was angry enough about the whole situation that he would probably welcome any suggestion Bruce had on how to get revenge. She watched them talking for a bit then saw her father adopt what she often called the shark’s grin. Whatever scheme Bruce was cooking up, it appeared her father liked it.

    Bubsy smiled at them, handing Kally over to Lois.

    “I need to go help Jenny in the kitchen,” she said. Martha offered to help and the two women left the room. Lucy followed them.

    Lois kissed her daughter. “I missed you, munchkin,” she said.

    Kally said nothing but buried her face in her mother’s neck. Chloe smiled.

    “So, I heard a little bit of what was happening. Want to fill me in on the rest?”

    They went into the parlour, which was empty of guests. Lois sat on the couch, her daughter in her arms. Clark sat next to her and began relating to Chloe what had happened. Lois finally learned what Clark had heard in the club.

    “From the sounds of things, Kally was giving those guys a real run for their money,” he said.

    Kally looked up at the sound of her name and reached for her father. He took her, smiling down at her.

    “You’re like your mommy, Kally. She’s tough and brave and I think you’re the bravest little girl in the world.”

    “They were mean, Daddy,” she said. Or at least that was what Lois thought she heard. “They were gonna hurt Uncle Ollie.”

    Lois blinked. Oliver had been in Green Arrow disguise. How had Kally known? And since when was he ‘Uncle Ollie’?

    “No, baby,” she corrected. “That was Green Arrow.”

    “It was Uncle Ollie, Mommy.” The toddler was insistent. Lois wasn’t even going to try asking her daughter how she knew. “That man was gonna hurt Uncle Ollie.” She looked at her father. “He was mean, Daddy.”

    “He was very mean, sweetie. But you know, you can’t tell anybody about your Uncle Ollie.”

    “Not even Grandpa?” she asked.

    “No, not even Grandpa. It’s a secret. Do you know what a secret is?”

    The toddler shook her head. “No.”

    Lois listened as Clark tried to explain the concept of secrets. Kally seemed to be listening to what he was telling her but from the frown on her little face, it didn’t appear that she completely understood the idea.

    Chloe looked stunned. “Out of the mouths of babes, huh?” she said in a low voice. “I don’t know how true this is, but I think children see the world a lot more clearly when they’re very young. Before they’ve developed stuff like cognitive reasoning. I guess before they develop a more cynical view of the world. That’s why they say you can never really reason with a child.”

    “You get that from psych class, Chlo?” Lois asked her.

    “Well, yeah, I guess. I just mean … I don’t know.” Her cousin shook her head. Lois had to wonder whether Kally’s perceptiveness was just part of her still developing brain or if it had something to do with her half-Kryptonian heritage. Not that she was that willing to find out.

    Kally was still happily chattering with her father when Bruce came in, followed by Jonathan and Lois’ father. The three men were not alone. Oliver appeared behind them. Lois glanced at Clark and he nodded. They left Kally with her grandfathers and went to talk with Oliver.

    “First,” Clark said. “Thank you.”

    Lois smiled at him and kissed him on the cheek. “Yes. Thank you.”

    He returned the smile. “You’re welcome.”

    “Second, Kally somehow knows you’re Green Arrow.”

    Oliver looked at Clark with a shocked expression. “What?”

    Clark raised his hands. “Don’t ask me. I’ve no idea how she knew. But she does. I tried to explain to her about secrets, but …”

    “Yeah, I get it,” Oliver replied. “She’s just a little kid.”

    “We’ll just have to do our best to make sure she doesn’t blab it to everybody,” Lois told him.

    Clark nodded. “I sort of understand what my parents went through when they found me. I mean, it was probably easy at first, since I didn’t speak English, but I was still pretty strong at that age. How they managed to keep me from revealing that to anyone I don’t know.”

    The blond archer nodded. “I can see how that would be challenging. It’s okay. I’m sure we’ll figure something out.”

    “Oh, and by the by? You’re Uncle Ollie,” Lois said.

    He grinned. “I am, huh? Well, I have always been a hit with the ladies.”

    “Yeah, damp down on that ego there, sport,” she said. “Remember I didn’t like you at first.”

    His face fell. “You had to remind me. Okay, so maybe not with all ladies. Uh, speaking of which, your cousin …”

    “Nice try, Romeo, but if there’s one thing I don’t do, it’s matchmake. You want to know anything about Chloe, you go direct to the source.”

    “You know, it’s no wonder Kally’s so feisty, with the genes she’s got. You really should have seen your kid, Clark. She probably could have taken those guys on all by herself.”

    “I don’t doubt it,” Clark said proudly. “She got that from her mother.”

    Oliver looked over toward Kally, who still seemed quite happy.

    “She’s okay?”

    “So far, but we were wondering if you’d ask that doctor friend of yours … Emil? Could he check her over?”

    The blond man nodded. “Of course, Lois. I’ll give him a call. What exactly did they do to her?”

    “Ran a few tests. They said they did a spinal tap.”

    Clark nodded. “From what they said, I think it was done fairly early on, so she’s had time to recover. We’d still like to get her checked out, but we’d rather not say anything to the rest of the family. Not yet, anyway. We don’t want to worry them unnecessarily.”

    Oliver promised to make the call as soon as possible. He told them he had gone back into the club after they’d left with Kally to make sure the gang wouldn’t do anything in retaliation. He smirked.

    “I think they’re too busy licking their wounds, so to speak,” he added, suggesting that their pride had been wounded by the fact that they hadn’t been able to control a two-year-old.

    Bubsy and Martha came out telling them dinner was ready. Lois was hungry enough that she didn’t care what was being served, but it appeared the two women had cooked up a veritable feast of fried chicken with mashed potatoes and all of their favourites.

    Kally wanted to sit on her father’s lap while she ate and they allowed it, knowing she’d probably been frightened by all the strange people around her, poking and prodding. Lois worried that her daughter might have some anxiety over the whole ordeal and watched her carefully.

    By the time dinner was over, the toddler was yawning widely. Lois felt her own exhaustion and wanted nothing more than to curl up with her boyfriend and sleep. Lucy and Chloe went to take care of clean up while the older adults chatted in the sitting room. Bruce and Oliver had suggested they should head back to their respective homes, thinking that the family needed some private time, but Bubsy had insisted they take rooms upstairs for the night.

    Emil Hamilton turned up a short time later. Kally was already half asleep and Lois hated to rouse her, but she wanted to reassure herself that the child hadn’t been physically harmed or too traumatised by what had happened. She took the doctor out to the cabin so once Kally was examined she could be put to bed straight afterwards. Clark followed them.

    Lois sat the toddler on her bed and watched as Emil examined her, checking the puncture site and the areas where the scientists had taken blood. He frowned.

    “Hmm.”

    “Hmm? What’s wrong?”

    The dark-haired man shook his head. “Not wrong, exactly. How long ago did you say this test was done?”

    “We’re not sure, exactly,” Clark said. “Probably not long after she was taken to the lab.”

    “Well, she does have bruising around the area, which is understandable, but the area looks as if the procedure was done longer than twenty-four hours ago. Is this unusual for her?”

    “Not exactly,” Lois said. She glanced at Clark and he nodded. “We think she has a higher than normal metabolism that helps her heal a little faster than normal.” She explained about the bruise Kally had had on her forehead when she’d still been learning to walk and how that had appeared to heal much faster.

    “Remarkable,” the doctor commented. “Is that the only ability she has manifested?”

    “So far,” Clark said. “We don’t know when or if she’ll get any other of my abilities. The best guess is when she’s a teenager.”

    Emil nodded. “Of course. Puberty is when the human body begins the change into adulthood. Are your abilities hormone-related?”

    Clark chewed on his lip. “Uh, not really. I mean, one might be but I don’t know about the rest. I think it just has something to do with the way my body stores energy.”

    Lois hid a grin, remembering the story Clark had told her of how he had discovered his heat vision. He shot her a look.

    “I’d be interested to know more. That’s if you wouldn’t mind, Clark.” The other man grinned. “I’ve met a few, uh, what I suppose we’re calling meta-humans, but I’ve never met someone from another planet before. I’d like to know more about your physiology. It would certainly help me with treating this little lady.” He grinned down at the toddler, who was clearly struggling to stay awake. “I haven’t seen anything of concern. But keep a close eye on her for a few days.”

    “Don’t worry,” Lois said. “We’re not letting her out of our sight.”

    Clark coughed. “We still have school,” he reminded her gently. “We can’t wrap her in cotton.”

    It was weird. So much had happened that she had forgotten it had barely been twenty-four hours. Not to mention that they had to be at college the next day for class registration.

    “I’m sure your parents or mine will watch her while we’re at school tomorrow,” Clark added.

    Emil nodded. “He’s right, Lois. While it’s completely understandable, you cannot watch her twenty-four hours a day. I do suggest keeping an eye on her overnight. I would not be surprised if she has some residual anxiety, and you might see some differences in her behaviour for a little while.”

    “In what way?”

    “It’s hard to say,” the doctor replied. “She may just be quieter than normal or she may experience some fits of temper. Children are very resilient but at this age they don’t always know the appropriate ways to express their emotions. If she does have tantrums, try not to get too angry with her. Just perhaps take her to a quiet corner and talk to her until she calms down. Reassure her that she’s not in trouble.”

    “What if she starts feeling unwell?” Clark asked.

    Emil took out a business card and handed it to him. “Call me. Even if it’s just to talk over your concerns.”

    Lois nodded. “Thank you for everything, Dr Hamilton.”

    “Emil,” he said. “And if you don’t mind my saying so, I think you both need to get some rest yourselves.”

    “Don’t worry,” Clark said with a smile. “We will.”

  2. #107
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Thirty-Nine

    Clark had stayed with Lois overnight, wanting to keep an eye on Kally and to make sure his girlfriend got a good night’s sleep. She’d protested that he needed to sleep too. He’d told her while he did need to sleep he didn’t need as much as her. He was worried that Kally might have nightmares about what had happened.

    Luckily, the toddler slept through the night and was up early with her usual boundless energy. Knowing that Lois’ parents needed to recover from the stress of the ordeal, he quietly suggested leaving Kally with his parents. Since Lucy didn’t start high school for another day, she offered to stay at the farm as well.

    Lois still looked a little pale when he drove her to the campus. He stopped the truck in the parking lot and turned off the engine. His girlfriend reached for the door handle.

    “Lois,” he said. She frowned at him.

    “We have to get to registration, Smallville.”

    “You don’t have to be so stoic,” he told her gently. “I know this weekend …”

    “It’s not the weekend,” she said. “It’s everything. I worry more than ever now. I mean, Lex isn’t going to just stop just because he covered his tracks.”

    “No. If anything, I imagine he’s going to step up his harassment. But I meant what I said last night. We can’t wrap her in cotton. I know it’s not the easiest thing to deal with, me being what I am.”

    “Clark, your powers aren’t what make you you. I mean … I get it. Despite what Bruce says.”

    He nodded. They’d visited Bruce in Gotham one weekend and the other man had asked them how they expected to have a marriage and a family when there was always a risk that someone might learn the truth about Clark and use that information to threaten Lois or Kally.

    Lois sighed. “I used to think about my mom and dad and how he could go off to fight a war and she could just let him. It always felt like his work meant more to him than his family. I guess I always worried that I’d get left behind.” It was something they’d talked about before but given what had happened that weekend, Clark understood why it had come up again.

    “That’s not going to happen, Lois. Not with us. Because I won’t let it. Even when I have to leave to go help someone, I’m always guided by you. I never want you to feel like you’re in this alone.”

    She moved over and let him put his arm around her. He held her, thinking of when he had returned to Smallville after being trapped in the caves. How he’d found out the truth about Kally. The one thing he had been determined to do was never make Lois feel that he wasn’t going to step up and take some responsibility. Whatever happened between them. Now that they were considering a future together, that was more important than ever.

    “Maybe I’ve said this before, but when I was growing up, trying to figure out each new ability as it came along, I realised that those things set me apart from everyone. It wasn’t just the fact that I’m not human. I guess it’s like someone with, I don’t know, a disability. They sometimes get treated like they don’t belong anywhere. You can have a hundred friends and still feel alone.”

    “I know. I sort of felt the same way every time my dad would move us to a new base. I mean, I know there were other army brats there, but we always sort of felt like we shouldn’t make any friends because who knew when we’d have to move again?”

    He smiled. “We come from two different worlds, Lois. And I don’t mean the fact that I was born on a distant planet. But you want to know something? That night we met in Metropolis was the best thing that ever happened to me. You know what I was going through that summer. When I was with you, none of that mattered. Maybe I was too doped up on the red K to see it at the time, but I know now that I saw something in you that spoke to something in me. I know that sounds sappy, but …”

    “No, it’s not,” she said quietly. “I know what you mean. As hard as it was, finding out about Kally, and everything I went through when I had that fight with my dad, when I met you again and you helped me raise her, I didn’t feel so alone anymore.”

    “The point is, Lo, I don’t want what happened this weekend to be a reason for us to decide the risk isn’t worth it. It’s not just about Lex and his schemes. It’s the fear that something might happen to you or Kally because of me. I don’t want to let that fear dictate how I live my life, or how I feel about you.”

    She sat up, frowning at him. “Did you think I wanted to break up or something?”

    “It did occur to me. Sort of.”

    She settled back into his embrace. “I do get it, you know. I mean, even if you didn’t have super powers and you were a cop or something, you’d still be taking a risk. When my dad went off on missions, I knew he was risking his life. I knew there was always a chance he wouldn’t come back. But I still wouldn’t have asked him to give it up because that was part of who he is. I won’t ask you to do the same, Smallville. Because being a superhero, that’s who you are. I know what it means. I know there’s always going to be someone who might find out the truth about me and Kally and use that against you. We just have to be on our guard more.”

    Clark was glad they could talk about it so openly. As much as what had happened worried him, he couldn’t just stop being what he was. He had his abilities for a reason. Even if he didn’t always like being set apart from humanity.

    They left the truck, walking across campus holding hands. A few of their classmates stopped to talk to them, asking about their summer. They chatted for a while before going to take care of their class registration, which took at least a couple of hours.

    It was early afternoon by the time they got back to the farm. The first thing Clark noticed was the mess in the living room. The second thing he noticed was Kally screaming. His mother was in the kitchen, the toddler in her arms. She was trying to calm her down.

    “Mom? What happened?”

    His mother shook her head. “I don’t know. One minute she was fine, playing happily with her dolls, then she was throwing things and screaming.”

    Lucy came in looking upset. “I think that was my fault. She wanted a cookie and I told her it was almost lunchtime so she couldn’t have one.” Lois’ sister told them it had been going on for at least an hour or more.

    Clark looked at Lois, who nodded.

    “The doctor who looked her over last night warned us this might happen.”

    Clark took his daughter in his arms and carried her outside while Lois volunteered to help clean up the living room. He decided to take her up to the loft. Shelby, obviously alarmed by all the noise, followed him.

    Clark sat down on the couch, holding the toddler close as she sobbed. He stroked her hair, talking softly to her.

    “It’s all right, baby,” he said. “Daddy’s here. You’re okay.”

    She was still sobbing when Lois came up. “Your mom’s a bit upset,” she said.

    “Yeah, I know. I haven’t really had a chance to talk to Mom and Dad about what happened.”

    Kally hiccoughed and began sucking her thumb. She was at least calmer, but showing signs of feeling sleepy. The crying had worn her out.

    “It’s a good thing Emil warned us,” Lois replied.

    “I think she’s still trying to process everything,” he said, looking down at her. Her eyes were drooping. “She probably doesn’t understand what happened. Or why.”

    “Would you?” his girlfriend asked.

    “No. Not when I was her age.”

    Clark heard footsteps on the stairs and looked over. His father appeared at the top of the steps.

    “I heard somebody had a tantrum,” his dad said. “Everything okay?”

    “Yeah, she’s calmed down a bit now. Sorry if it worried you.”

    “It’s not that it worried me, Clark. I’d just like to know what to expect.”

    Clark had tried to warn his parents what might happen but even he hadn’t been sure just how bad it could get. As little as he knew about psychology, he figured it might get a lot worse before it got better.

    With Kally falling asleep in his arms, he decided it was a good opportunity to talk to his parents about what had happened. He carried her back into the house and laid her down on the couch in the living room. Lucy opted to stay with her in case she woke up.

    They sat at the table. Clark told his parents everything, with Lois occasionally interjecting.

    “We asked Emil to examine her last night and he seemed to think she was fine. Physically.”

    Lois nodded. “What he means is, that Kally might act out a little bit, at least until she feels safe.”

    “Well, that doesn’t surprise me. I just hope Bruce’s plan works.”

    “What exactly did he have in mind, Dad?”

    “Using his company’s powers to ensure that Lex is outbid on any contract. Military or otherwise. He mentioned something about negotiations on the Daily Planet.”

    Clark nodded. He’d forgotten that the publisher had been considering selling the newspaper. Both Wayne Enterprises and Luthorcorp had been competing for it, but he had no idea how Bruce planned to beat Lex’s bid when they were supposed to be confidential.

    “How would he outbid Lex?” Lois asked. “I mean, if he somehow found out what Lex was bidding, wouldn’t that be unethical?”

    His dad nodded. “It would, but then again, it’s nothing new in their world. Remember when your mother was held hostage, Clark?”

    Clark remembered that horrible day. Lex’s father had tried to wrest control of LexCorp and had used recording devices to listen in on Lex’s conversations so he could outbid him on a contract. While he had never owned up to it, Clark was sure Lex had sent some people in to plant similar devices in his father’s office, only for the contractors to try to steal from Lionel. Clark’s mother had been working as Lionel’s executive assistant at the time and she’d been forced to work on a Sunday. Which also happened to be the day of Clark’s parents’ anniversary.

    “Would Bruce really do something that underhanded?” Clark’s mom asked.

    “I hope not. I did tell him I couldn’t work with him if he was going to resort to criminal behaviour. He seemed to think he could persuade the Daily Planet’s publisher to look at more than figures, though.”

    Lois nodded. “Sure. We all know Lex would use his status as publisher to shoot down any story that paints him in a bad light.”

    Clark nodded. If the publisher believed in integrity, then he would look at not only each company’s books, but also the character of their respective CEOs.

    “I know it’s not going to change what Lex did to Kally,” Lois said. “But it sounds to me like we’ve got a better chance of making him pay than proving he was behind it.” Clark’s dad nodded in agreement.

    “You’re right, Lois. Much as I want Lex to face criminal charges, from what Bruce was saying last night, this might be the better way to go.”

    “What are we going to do about Kally?” Clark’s mom asked.

    “We can’t watch her twenty-four hours a day,” Clark replied. “That’s just going to upset her even more. I think if we just try to keep to a normal routine, she’ll settle down.”

    “That’s true,” Lois said. “If we get over-protective, she’s just going to feel something’s wrong.”

    Clark’s parents looked at each other before turning back to them.

    “We’ve been talking about this and we think maybe it’s time you had a more permanent solution about Kally’s living arrangements. Lois, that cabin is too small for a growing child. And going back and forth the way you do, Clark, it’s not ideal.”

    “What are you suggesting, Dad?”

    “I know you kids have decided not to get married until you’ve both finished college. Which is great and everything. But Kally’s going to start noticing that the way she’s being raised is not normal.”

    Lois frowned. “What do you mean, not normal?”

    “Sweetie, we’re not trying to criticise your parenting. We just think that maybe she needs a little more stability.”

    Clark thought for a few moments. “I think my parents are trying to say that it would be better for Kally if we were both around her full-time between work and classes. Instead of me only spending a night with you every so often.” He glanced at his parents and they nodded. He realised they weren’t saying that Kally was being raised wrong, but it might make her more secure if he was around every night.

    “So, are you suggesting Clark move in with me at the Inn?” Lois asked.

    “Actually, we were thinking you could live here,” Clark’s mother replied.

    “We talked with your dad and he agreed with us that the cabin is too small for the two of you now. If you lived at the Inn, they’d have to take a room they’d ordinarily use for guests.”

    “It is the better solution,” Clark said. “I bet we could turn the small room upstairs into a bedroom for Kally. It would be right next door to my room. She’d have Shelby to play with, and he’d warn us if anyone came by.”

    “What did my parents say about this?” Lois asked.

    “Well, your dad wasn’t thrilled with the thought of you moving away from the Inn, but he did like the idea of Kally having her own room.”

    It wasn’t as if she’d be moving to another town, they reasoned. She could still go and help her family at the Inn, and Kally would still spend some days with her other grandparents. The only difference would be that both mother and daughter would be living at the farm.

    It was inevitable anyway, Clark thought. Lois had been talking about what she would do when Kally was a little older. The cabin was good for now, but eventually Kally would need her own space. Lois had thought perhaps she should get a place of her own in town.

    He knew when they decided to get married, they would have to work out where to live. As much as he liked Lois’ family, he wanted to be able to raise a family on the farm, teach his children the things his own parents had taught him. As much as he used to protest at his chores, he felt the work had helped him build character.

    “Would she be safer?” Lois said. “I mean, the farm is pretty wide open. Anyone could come on the property.”

    “That is true,” Clark conceded. “But then again, we don’t get that many visitors to the house. That we don’t know. And Kally wouldn’t be allowed to just wander off by herself until she’s older. Same way it is now. That wouldn’t really change.”

    “I guess not.” Clark’s mother put a hand on Lois’.

    “Sweetheart, we’re not asking you to decide right now. But we do want you to think seriously about it. We’re not saying the two of you should get married. We do think you need to finish college first. The fact is, you’ve both proved to us just how committed you are to each other and that you’ve taken your responsibilities seriously.”

    “Martha’s right, honey. If what happened this weekend showed us anything, it’s that we really need to consider Kally’s security.”

    Clark went out to finish the chores he hadn’t managed to get done that morning, leaving Lois to tend to Kally, who had woken up grizzling. He was working on the tractor, doing some basic maintenance, when she came into the barn. She was followed by Kally and Shelby who trotted along after the toddler as if he was her guard dog. Clark looked up.

    “Everything okay?” he asked, smiling as his daughter found a ball and was trying to throw it for Shelby to fetch. She wasn’t very good at it, but seemed to be enjoying the game, giggling as the dog gambolled around, barking softly.

    “It’s fine,” she said. “I don’t know. I’m just … wow, you know? I mean, I knew we’d have to think about moving in together some day, but …”

    “My parents are just trying to think what’s best for Kally. And us.”

    “I kind of just always thought we’d get a place in Metropolis,” she said.

    “Sure, when we have jobs in the city.” He frowned at her. “Is it that you don’t want to live at the farm?”

    “No,” she said. “It’s not that. I just … I don’t know. I mean, I can kind of see their point. It is a bit odd. You know, that we’re raising a child and living separately. I mean, it would be different if we weren’t … you know, together. As a couple I mean.” She frowned. “I’m not making much sense.”

    Clark nodded. Given how conservative the people in town could be, the way they were raising Kally would look odd to some. He realised that once she was old enough to start going to school, she might be around other children who were raised in a more conventional way and that might make her feel ‘different’, or less secure. He’d wondered how they were ever going to explain the concept to his daughter even a couple of years down the track when she might still be too young to understand.

    It wasn’t that he thought the farm was any safer than the Inn. The one major difference at the Inn was that they had guests coming and going all the time and they couldn’t exactly vet all the guests in case one of them turned out to be working for Lex. There were other things on the farm that could potentially be harmful to a child. Clark had already begun teaching Kally about keeping clear of sharp implements and was careful to keep her away from any other things that could hurt her. He knew he couldn’t watch her all the time, however, and she was bound to want to test her limits now and again. He could remember a couple of times when he’d been small playing with tools his father had told him plenty of times not to play with, but he’d done it anyway.

    He’d been sent to his room for disobedience a few times. When he was about five, he’d cut his hand on a saw blade. It hadn’t been that deep, but it had hurt and that had been enough to convince him not to play with it. Back then, he’d still been vulnerable to cuts and bruises, although he still healed remarkably fast.

    “We don’t have to decide right now,” he said. “But I think it’s a good plan.”

    She nodded. “You’re right. It’s just a lot to think about.”

    He wrapped an arm around her and pulled her close, pressing a kiss to her forehead. A childish giggle had them both looking down at their daughter. She was watching them with a cheesy grin. Clark leaned down and picked her up, tickling her tummy. She laughed, wrapping her little arms around his neck as he dipped her, blowing a raspberry on her. Lois laughed at their antics.

    “Clark. Lois. Dinner!”

    Holding hands, they walked back to the house for dinner.

  3. #108
    Forum Regular Sykobee's Avatar
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    Just realized that my comment for the previous chapter didn't post!😒 . . . This update gives further weight and validity to poor Ms. Kelly's trauma. I liked Emil's advice. The Clois convo in truck was well developed; it felt "organic" and allowed the moment to flow naturally. -When I read things that seem overdramatic or forced I notice the actual mechanics for processing the reading of each word. You have that not very common gift that allows the characters, words and feelings to transcend the page. More often than not, your work flows so well I can forget I'm reading.- I was happily surprised by Martha and Jonathan's suggestion, Again, I'm wondering about the story length and timeline. Care to offer any hints on those? Regardless more is always appreciated 😊

    Thanks again, as always for the time and dedication that result in awesome updates for us readers. The world is still on high alert for bizarre, sad and scary with COVID-19's resurgence. And here in the US the citizens of Dumbshcmukistan are butt-hurt over impending the loss of their ruler, the Orange Idiot, so our crazy has a new edge to it. Hope your corner of the world is more sane.

    ~Health and happiness to you and yours.
    Last edited by Sykobee; 11-16-2020 at 07:02 AM.

  4. #109
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sykobee View Post
    Just realized that my comment for the previous chapter didn't post! . . . This update gives further weight and validity to poor Ms. Kelly's trauma. I liked Emil's advice.
    There was never any question that Kally would not get any residual anxiety from what happened, even if it wasn't immediately apparent. At that age, I believe children take time to process things and even though it was less than 24 hours, that's still a very long time to a child.
    The Clois convo in truck was well developed; it felt "organic" and allowed the moment to flow naturally. -When I read things that seem overdramatic or forced I notice the actual mechanics for processing the reading of each word. You have that not very common gift that allows the characters, words and feelings to transcend the page. More often than not, your work flows so well I can forget I'm reading.-
    Firstly, that is a huge compliment. Thank you. It was important to me that the conversation wasn't forced, but the subject needed to be addressed. The longer they left it, the harder it was going to be. The one thing that I enjoy about Clark and Lois as a couple is that they do work on their communication.
    [I was happily surprised by Martha and Jonathan's suggestion, Again, I'm wondering about the story length and timeline. Care to offer any hints on those? Regardless more is always appreciated
    Martha and Jonathan's thinking was to give Kally a sense of security. Not that there wasn't any before, but once she starts interacting with other children, she may see that her parents' situation is a little different and that might make her a little self-conscious. The bonus is they can ensure that no-one who isn't welcome on the farm can approach her.

    As for how long this story's going to be, at the moment I'm just going with the flow and seeing where it takes me. As much as I would love to explore Kally's formative years and the problems that come with school and adolescence, I think after a while it may feel a bit like repetition. I do have a couple of scenes written for when she becomes a teenager, but where those sit is another thing. The hardest thing about ending stories is the knowledge that it does eventually end.
    ~Health and happiness to you and yours.
    To you and your family as well, my friend.

  5. #110
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    Chapter Forty

    The week seemed to go fast as they settled into their classes. Lois had decided to take history for a second year. She’d also signed up for a politics course, thinking it might help her in her career in the future.

    She still didn’t really know what to think about Clark’s parents’ suggestion that she move in with Clark at the farm. While she could understand their concern that Kally have more security, given how conservative Martha and Jonathan were in their views on sex before marriage, she was unsure why they were proposing such a move.

    She decided the best person to talk to about it was her father. He was in the kitchen making a chilli which was his specialty. She leaned on the counter, watching him as he chopped peppers and onion.

    “Can I talk to you about something?” she asked.

    “You can talk to me about anything, sweetheart. You know that.”

    She nodded. “Martha and Jonathan suggested I consider moving in with Clark at the farm. Especially now, with Kally getting older and stuff. “

    He glanced up at her before moving to the pan to add the vegetables.

    “Are you asking me if I think it’s a good idea? Well, in all honesty, Lo, I wish you wouldn’t, but that’s more a father not wanting his daughter to grow up. Sometimes dads just want their little girls to remain that way forever.” He offered her a cheesy grin.

    “Dad, come on.”

    “Okay. In all seriousness, Lois, I’m worried. About you and about Kally. All the years I spent in the military, I put my faith in the system. I thought it would always do right by those who trusted in it. I realise from what young Bruce and Oliver both have been saying that faith can be misplaced sometimes. And I worry that even if we’d gone to the police to tell them about Kally, Lex would still have gotten away with it and we might not have got her back. As much as I dislike the idea of taking the law into my own hands, I think this time it was warranted. And it didn’t hurt that we had both Batman and Green Arrow to back us up.”

    She sighed and bit her lip.

    “So …”

    “So, as much as I don’t want you to leave home, I do think that now, more than ever, you and Clark need to be there to protect your daughter. If that means living together at the farm, then that’s something we have to live with.”

    “You don’t think I should live here?”

    “I think there would be more room for you at the farm. And as much as I worry about the fact there are more open spaces, the fact that the farm doesn’t have people coming and going like here at the Inn works in its favour.”

    She leaned on the counter watching him work as he added ingredients to the pan.

    “Do you ever think … I don’t know. Do you wish things were different?”

    He smiled at her. “There’s a saying. I forget how it goes but it’s something about a barn door and a horse.”

    “You mean something like it’s too late to shut the barn door when the horse has bolted? Did you pick that up from the Farmer’s Almanac.”

    He grinned. “Yep. Jonathan has a few of them. It’s like saying we can think what if, but we can’t go back in time and change it. Do I wish you’d grown up with a mother? Sure. Do I wish I’d been a better father? Absolutely. But the thing about turning back time is if you had to do it all over again, you’d have to know how things had gone before so you can change it. And the one thing I wouldn’t change is what we have now. Sure, Kally can be a handful, like her mother,” he added with another cheesy grin. “But in many ways, I think she’s the best thing that ever happened to you.”

    “Why?”

    “Because you have someone who not only cares about you, but has also given you a reason to care about your future. I have to admit, Lo, I was worried about you long before you met Clark. You were skipping classes and I didn’t think you’d graduate high school or ever settle on a career. Now look at you. You’re working towards a career in journalism, you’re making good grades in college. And you’re a wonderful mother. No father could be prouder.”

    She felt herself blushing at her father’s words.

    “As for whether moving to the farm is the right thing to do, only you can decide that, sweetheart. You’re an adult now and that’s a decision you and Clark need to make together.”

    While that didn’t make it any easier, she understood. He didn’t want to be seen as micro-managing both her relationship with Clark or her relationship with her daughter.

    Suddenly there were raised voices in the reception. Frowning, Lois went to investigate only to discover that Chloe and Lucy were practically screaming at none other than Lex Luthor.

    “What are you doing here?” Lois asked, trying to shush her sister and her cousin.

    Chloe looked at her. “We ran into him in the Talon,” she explained.

    Luthor looked as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. “Your sister began accusing me of hurting your daughter. Did something happen?”

    “Save the innocent look, Luthor. We both know you’re lying about not knowing anything,” Chloe said. Lois again shot her cousin a look, trying to get both girls to back off.

    “Mr Luthor …” she began.

    “Lex. I’ve told you before to call me Lex. Now, look, if you have a problem with me, please, let’s discuss it.”

    “Oh, let’s not and say we did,” a voice drawled. Oliver had come in behind him. He had Kally in his arms, making it obvious he’d been to the farm. Clark’s parents had decided to take the toddler for the day so they could take her to the city. “Going to add stalking to your list, Luthor?”

    “Queen,” Lex said coolly, his eyes shooting daggers at the man.

    “I don’t think there’s anything to discuss, Lex,” Lois said, her tone icy. “And I’m going to ask you from now on to stay away from my family. That means Clark and Kally.”

    “That is your prerogative, Lois. I can’t imagine what I could possibly have done to vex you so, but I understand your motive is to protect your daughter. We both know she’s a very ‘special’ young lady.” He turned to leave, then stopped at the door. “I had planned to discuss a small business arrangement with your parents but since my presence bothers you, I think we’ll just let matters lie.”

    Lois wanted to tell him that there was no possible reason why her parents would want a part of any kind of business arrangement with Lex.

    Once the bald man was gone, she turned to Oliver. “Is everything okay?” she asked before giving her daughter a kiss. The toddler appeared quite content in the man’s arms. Oliver explained that Clark and his parents were not far behind. He’d been keeping the little girl occupied so Clark could work and he’d suggested taking her back to her mother so she could have her own dinner and be put to bed before the adults sat down for theirs.

    “Yeah, fine. I just had something to discuss with your dad. Business stuff.”

    “He’s in the kitchen. Making chilli,” she said.

    He nodded and left the room, but not before giving Chloe a long look. Lois glanced at her cousin, who was smiling at the blond man.

    “Don’t you have a boyfriend?” Lois asked. Chloe had begun dating someone over the summer, although she’d been very cagey about it.

    “I can still look,” Chloe replied.

    Lucy broke in. “Did you know they’re selling the Talon?”

    Lois stared at her sister. “What?”

    Chloe nodded. “It’s true. There’s a for sale sign on the doors. That’s not all. My dad heard something from one of his old coworkers at the Luthorcorp plant. They’re talking lay-offs.”

    “How many?” Lois asked. Her cousin shrugged.

    “I don’t know. But I’m guessing from how upset Dad was, a lot.”

    Lois wondered if there was more to it, but didn’t voice her concerns. When Clark arrived a few minutes later, she took him aside and relayed what Chloe had told her.

    “What do you think?” she asked.

    “I think Lex might be cleaning house,” he said. “Getting rid of anyone who might know too much about Lex’s activities.”

    “Yeah, that’s kind of what I was thinking.”

    “I don’t think there’s anything we can do,” he said. “I don’t think even Bruce or Oliver can help.”

    “But it’s hundreds of people,” Lois said.

    “I know that. And I hate it,” Clark told her. “Lex is starting a war with us and the people working for him are caught in the crossfire.”

    He was right, she thought. There was little they could do. For all his abilities, there were just some things Clark couldn’t fix. He was still brooding over it after they’d given Kally her dinner and put her to bed. He’d stood in the cabin, watching her for a few minutes as she settled down to sleep, his brow furrowed with worry.

    Lois pulled him back inside. “Don’t you dare think you’re responsible for his actions,” she told him. “Lex made this decision all on his own.”

    Clark sighed. “I don’t know. Sometimes I wonder if I’d been honest with him about my abilities …”

    “No! We both know Lex would have found some way to exploit you.”

    “I couldn’t help overhearing,” Oliver said, having come up quietly behind them. “Lois is right. I’ve known Lex a lot longer than you and believe you me, he would have done exactly as she says. Especially if there was something he wanted.”

    “How do you know?” Clark asked.

    “Something happened at Excelsior. I’m not proud of my part in it, but what Lex did was far worse.”

    “Do tell,” Lois said. She could see from Oliver’s face that it was not going to be pretty story and she was right.

    He’d already told them about bullying Lex and he’d intimated there was something he’d witnessed at the school that had convinced him Lex was the kind of man who would turn on a friend just as easily as an enemy.

    He explained that he and his friends had sneaked into the headmaster’s office to steal the answers to a test. Lex had apparently seen them doing it and had decided to blackmail them into leaving him and his friend alone. Only when his friend, Duncan, had found out, Lex had turned on him. The pair had argued, causing Lex to begin beating on the boy who was his only friend at the school. At first, Oliver and his friends had been egging him on but as the situation quickly got out of hand, Oliver had realised that he had to stop it. He’d pulled Lex off, horrified at the look of sheer malice on the other boy’s face.

    “So what happened when you pulled Lex away?” Lois asked.

    Oliver rubbed a hand over his face. His voice was grieved when he spoke.

    “Duncan ran out into the road. He was hit by a car, right in front of us. I … God, if I could take back everything I did … you know, that moment, when I saw Lex’s face, I went cold. I’ve never seen anybody look so … so …”

    “Evil?” Clark said.

    “Yeah. Maybe,” Oliver said, coughing to try to clear the hoarseness out of his throat. He went on to tell them that he’d begun drinking after that day, trying to erase the memory. It was that drinking which had led to the ill-fated trip on the Queens’ yacht.

    “The thing is, I think when Lex first came to Smallville, he really was trying to be a better person, but …”

    “What happened to Lex isn’t your fault, honey,” Lois told her boyfriend. “You told me Lex made some bad decisions, even when he was still trying to do the right thing.” She sighed softly. “You know, I read somewhere that people who are evil think that what they’re doing is for the right reasons. Like in their heads, it’s not evil. They just have some twisted view of the world.”

    “I don’t know,” Oliver said. “I mean what kind of twisted thinking is it where you almost beat a kid to death because he won’t go along with your schemes?”

    “I guess the same one that kidnaps a two-year-old,” Clark said.

    “I know I don’t exactly come out smelling of roses either,” Oliver said. “It’s part of the reason why when I came back from the island, I wanted to do some good.”

    Lois nodded. While Oliver could certainly share some of the blame, what had happened to Lex’s friend had been a terrible tragedy and the one person who deserved to shoulder the blame was Lex. If he hadn’t fought with the other boy, Duncan would not have run out into the road. Had the driver been able to see the teen run out onto the road and stopped in time, things would have been different. Lex would still have lost his friendship and Oliver might have spent the rest of his time at Excelsior learning to become a better person, instead of getting himself into more trouble trying to drink away the memory of that awful day.

    They still had no reasonable resolution for what Lex was doing. Lois decided to broach the subject with the parents to see what they had to say on the matter. Jonathan and her father were all for going and beating the tar out of Lex.

    “And what is violence going to solve?” Martha admonished her husband.

    “Besides, sir, you’re a senator. It wouldn’t look good,” Oliver told him.

    Jonathan sighed. “It would make me feel better,” he grumbled. “But you’re right.”

    “I’m not sure what legal recourse the employees would have, if there is any at all,” Oliver told them. “I think Kansas is an at-will state.”

    “What does that mean?” Lois asked, not having studied employment.

    “It means that any employer can fire someone without just cause,” her father told her. “It also means an employee can resign without notice.”

    “In other words, Lex can fire anyone at the plant, no matter what their record, without a reason,” Clark said. “That …”

    “Sucks,” Lois finished.

    “It could do some damage to the town’s economy as well,” Martha put in.

    “I don’t know,” Chloe said. “My dad said something about restructuring rather than closing down the plant.”

    “Which is kind of my theory about Lex getting rid of people who know about his activities,” Clark said. “I mean, if Lex is replacing some employees then it won’t make much difference to the town.”

    “Sure, but I don’t think we should hedge our bets,” Oliver said. “I’ve got a meeting with Bruce next week. I’ll see if I can find out what he knows and maybe we can come up with something to help. I can’t guarantee anything though. Bruce has his hands full already. Especially with his bid for the Daily Planet. His company’s CEO has been having meetings with the publisher.”

    It wasn’t very reassuring. Lois still had one more concern but couldn’t say anything in front of the rest of the family. She glanced at Clark as her dad got up to clear the table. He nodded and murmured something to Oliver. The blond man followed them out the back.

    “We’re still forgetting one thing,” Clark said. “Lex has some of Kally’s blood.”

    “Not to mention the spinal fluid,” Lois added.

    “I know what you’re thinking and we’re working on it. I didn’t want to say anything in there, but I think this is one of the things Lex is hoping to cover up by getting rid of some of his workers.”

    “Why?” Lois asked.

    “Because we have been tapping into Luthorcorp for months. Ever since Lex had Kally kidnapped the first time,” Oliver said. “When I talked to Doc Loman, he gave me the impression that Lex wasn’t going to give up that easily. I knew it was only a matter of time before he tried again.”

    “So did we,” Clark replied. “But even if you do have someone giving you information from the inside, how does that solve our problem?”

    “I’m working on it,” Oliver assured him. “Regan Matthews gave me enough info to give me a place to look and I’ve got Bart and the others trying to dig up some more information. If Bruce didn’t have other things on his plate, I’m sure he’d be trying too.”

    “I looked around Cadmus,” Clark began.

    “Yeah, I know. But Dr Groll apparently took the samples with him when he took Kally out of Cadmus. What he did with them after that is …” Oliver frowned. Clark had cocked his head as if he was listening for something. “What is it?”

    “It’s Kally. She’s crying.”

    Lois was immediately concerned for her daughter. Kally had been having nightmares since that night, which wasn’t unexpected.

    “I better go check on her,” she said.

    Clark followed her to the cabin. Lois opened the door to find Kally not in her crib. The blankets were bunched up at the end. For a moment her heart stopped, until she realised that Kally was sitting on the floor with her favourite doll in her arms. She looked up at her mother.

    “Mommy,” she said, her voice quavering a little.

    Lois immediately went to her and lifted her into her arms.

    “What’s wrong, sweetie?”

    “The bad man wanted to take me away,” Kally said. Or at least, Lois thought that was what she had said. The toddler’s words were a little garbled.

    Lois hugged her. “It’s all right. I’m never going to let that happen,” she said.

    She sighed, looking over at Clark before looking around the cabin. His parents were right. She couldn’t protect her here. Anyone could come through the garden to the cabin without them realising. Even with Clark’s super-hearing or the baby monitor, it was no guarantee.

    At least at the farm, Shelby could also keep an eye on her and warn them if any stranger came near. It was the most logical place.

    Clark seemed to know what she was thinking as he took her hand. She leaned back against him, glad of his support.

  6. #111
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    a/n: Sorry for the long delay in posting. I went on a short holiday and published a new novel. I was also focusing on one other fic for a bit (not being posted here).

    Chapter Forty-One


    Even though the decision had been pretty much made, it was still going to take some time before Lois could move to the farm. Clark had to convert the small bedroom, which had been his mom’s sewing room, into Kally’s room.

    “What do we do with your sewing stuff, Mom?” he asked as he looked over the room with his parents.

    “Most of it can go in the attic,” she said. “I barely have time to sew anymore, what with your father’s duties.”

    “What if we partitioned off a space in the attic,” his dad suggested. “You could turn that into your sewing room.”

    Clark nodded. “That’s a good idea, Dad.”

    His mother seemed to agree. “All right. You boys work it out.” Lois called out from downstairs. Clark could hear Kally running about. “I need to rescue the cookies before Kally eats them all.”

    Clark grinned and shrugged. “She gets that from me.”

    Mom snorted. “Yes, I know. Even when you were little it was always a battle between you and your father who could eat the most cookies.”

    His dad wrapped his arms around his wife. “What can I say? I’ve always loved your cookies.”

    “Uh-huh.” Kally could be heard calling for ‘Gramma’. She turned and left the room.

    Clark looked at his dad, who just grinned. “All right. How about we tackle the attic first and clear this space out. Then we can plan Kally’s room.”

    “Sounds good to me.”

    They went downstairs to greet Lois who was sitting at the kitchen table chatting with Clark’s mom while Kally was sitting on her grandmother’s lap. She was already eating a cookie, a glass of milk in front of her.

    Lois smiled at Clark. “Hi,” she said. “How’s the planning going?”

    He told her what they’d worked out already. They would have to clear a space in the attic and then build a couple of walls to partition the area off, ensuring there were sturdy stairs to the room. The attic wasn’t huge and was used mostly for storage, but there was one area which would be suitable.

    Lois, meanwhile, had been talking to Chloe, who seemed to know everything that was going on at the Daily Planet. Negotiations were still continuing with the current publisher, and it looked like both Luthorcorp and Wayne Enterprises were neck and neck. From what Chloe could make out, Lex was resorting to dirty tactics to try to persuade the publisher to sell to him.

    “What does she mean by dirty tactics?” Clark’s dad asked.

    “I don’t know. I mean, knowing Lex, it could be anything from bribery to blackmail.”

    “The publisher’s the majority stakeholder though, isn’t he?” Clark said. He’d talked to Bruce a week or so earlier to try to understand the buyout process. “I mean, even if Lex did manage to buy shares from the other directors, he still wouldn’t have majority stock, so the ultimate decision would be Mr Mason’s.”

    That depended, of course, on how desperate the man was to sell the newspaper. From what Bruce had told him, Mason’s family had owned the Planet for the last fifty years, but the publisher was well into his seventies. A lifelong bachelor, he had no family to leave it to, since he had no siblings and neither one of his parents had siblings. There were some cousins somewhere, but none of them showed any interest in the publishing business.

    Burt Mason was a big believer in publishing the truth, even if it hurt a company’s reputation. A few years after his father had bought the newspaper, a disgruntled company owner had tried to sue the paper for slander but had lost his case. Even Lionel had once tried to sue after the paper had reported on a business deal that had gone sour, but the suit had never gone anywhere.

    Maybe that was the key to getting the deal, Clark thought. If Bruce could show his company had more integrity than Luthorcorp, it might help his case. Then again, if Mason was set on having the paper’s ownership pass to someone from Metropolis, that would work more in Lex’s favour.

    The last thing he wanted to do once he graduated college was to work for a newspaper where Lex Luthor controlled the message. If Clark had been assured that Lex would maintain a ‘hands-off’ stance when it came to editorial, he might feel better about it. Or even if they’d still been friends.

    Where had it all gone wrong? Why had Lex given up on all his good intentions when Clark had first met him? As much as he wanted to believe that he wasn’t responsible for the way his friendship with Lex had ultimately ended, he couldn’t help thinking that if he had just been more honest with the other man then perhaps things would have been different.

    “Do you really believe that?” Bruce asked when Clark brought the subject up with him a couple of days later.

    Bruce had come to town to continue his discussions with Oliver over their plans to bankrupt Lex as well as the education program he was working on with Clark’s father. He’d stopped by the farm after Clark’s classes had finished for the day.

    Bruce watched as Clark worked on building the frame for the partition for his mother’s new sewing room.

    “I don’t know,” Clark said. “Sometimes I think yes, and sometimes I think no.”

    “That, to me, sounds like all the responsibility goes on you, rather than Lex. Do you not think he’s responsible for his own actions?”

    “Sure.”

    “Then why do you seem to have this guilt complex over it? Tell me this. Why did you choose not to tell Lex your secret from the start?”

    “Well, at first I didn’t know when I met him.” Clark realised he hadn’t told Bruce everything about how he’d met Lex and related the circumstances. “Dad and I sort of had this argument and that’s when he told me the truth. I didn’t want to believe it at first. I mean, I just thought I was …”

    “Human? Just with a few added differences?”

    “Yeah.”

    “I can see how such a revelation would send you in a bit of a tailspin, but that doesn’t really answer my question, does it?”

    Clark shrugged. “I don’t know. I mean, Dad was telling me about stuff that Lionel did and why I shouldn’t trust Lex.”

    “Ah, yes, the whole sins of the father thing. It’s from the Bible. Basically it means that the children suffer for the sins of their father. I think it also goes with the nature versus nurture principle.”

    “Which means what? Exactly?”

    “That in Lex’s case, he inherited much of Lionel’s ruthlessness. As well as his grandfather’s penchant for grand larceny. Not to mention the fondness for drink and the violent tendencies. Although, I do think it’s possible the meteor rock may have enhanced those tendencies.”

    “So it is my fault then.”

    Bruce frowned at him. “How did you come to that conclusion, genius?”

    “The rocks came with my ship.”

    The other man shook his head. “Firstly, the rocks were attracted to the magnetic field generated by your ship. Second, they are debris from an exploded planet. Now, unless you somehow managed to go back in time and blow up the planet, I don’t see how you could think it’s your fault. You were just a baby, Clark. These were outside forces beyond your control.

    “Now, while I don’t think it’s necessarily right that Lex should have been blamed for his father’s wrongdoings, he is responsible for some of his own. I went to a different school than Oliver, but he’s told me about the incident at Excelsior. I know he’s also told you. He seems to think he bears some of the responsibility for what happened to Duncan Allenmeyer, but he’s not the one who made the decision to use blackmail. Nor is he the one who told Lex to beat up his only friend. His friends, Jeffrey and Alden, however, did egg Lex on, and they did bear responsibility for that.”

    Clark nodded. A few weeks earlier, Oliver’s school friends had both been killed. Worried that Oliver would be next, Clark had been alarmed to discover that Lex had been attacked and had barely got away. He’d begun investigating with Lois and they’d learned that Duncan, who had been thought killed by the car that had struck him, was actually still alive, albeit in a vegetative state. The hospital had been trying some experimental treatments using meteor rock, ordered by Lionel, and then by Lex. It had somehow given Duncan the ability to astral project and he’d used it to murder Oliver’s friends before setting his sights on Oliver and Lex. Fortunately, Clark had managed to get there in time, blocking an experimental arrow Oliver had been testing, using an electro-magnetic pulse. Unfortunately, it had also caused Duncan’s brain to essentially short-circuit.

    “Now, I’m not saying you’re perfect, Clark. You made some bad choices but I can understand why. You were trying to protect not only your secret, but you were also trying to take responsibility for your mistakes. Sometimes that ended up making things worse. I’m not admonishing you,” he added, raising a hand. “I made some bad choices too. One, of course, you know about. It’s what got Rachel killed.”

    Clark didn’t agree, but he did understand why Bruce would blame himself for that. It also explained why he chose to close himself off from any potential relationships. It was wrong, but the Gotham billionaire was clearly not going to change his mind.

    “But getting back to the point. Was your dad wrong to blame Lex for his father’s wrongdoings? Yes. But as you eventually discovered, Lex made his own bad decisions. It was his dealings with Roger Nixon that led to the reporter trying to dig up anything about you. Do I think you should have told Lex the truth? No.”

    “Why?”

    “Because as much as you would like to think that the Lex you knew then wouldn’t have used that knowledge to exploit you, he would have found some way to manipulate you. Do I think his friendship was genuine? Yes, to a point. But he lied to you about you being his only friend. He had you investigated behind your back instead of trusting you to tell him the truth once you felt comfortable. He made your secret a condition of your friendship. That is not what a real friend does, Clark.”

    “You investigated me. So did Oliver.”

    “True. But we were not friends then. And as much as I would like to think that the things you have shared with me are because you trust me, I know it’s not. You trust Lois. You would never have come to Gotham that day alone. You brought her because you trusted her instincts about people. I envy you, Clark. You have someone who you not only can trust wholeheartedly, but she has your back in every way.

    “As for whether you hold any responsibility for why Lex has become what he is, no. Absolutely not. Lex is responsible for his own choices. The fact is, he never fully trusted you. He fed into your own insecurities about your abilities. In essence, he gaslighted you.”

    “I don’t see that.”

    “Don’t you? Do you really think he took Kally because he just wanted her blood? He took her mostly to punish you for turning your back on him. Again, he blames you for his bad choices. With him, there is no sense of personal responsibility. It’s always somebody else. His father. His mother. You. Duncan. Oliver. The meteor rocks. His childhood asthma. It’s never his fault. In his mind.”

    “You seem to know an awful lot about this stuff.”

    “I read a lot. Plus I know someone who is a psychotherapist. And before you ask, no, I am not in therapy. She was studying Batman.” He scowled. Clark gathered the prospect of being studied by a psychotherapist was not pleasant.

    Bruce helped him by holding the framing in place, keeping it stable so Clark could fix it down.

    “So, this is going to be your mom’s sewing room?”

    Clark nodded. “We’re turning the other room into Kally’s bedroom. Lois is going to move into my bedroom with me.”

    “That sounds like the best solution.”

    “Yeah, it sort of happened a little earlier than we planned, but we decided Kally was safer here.”

    “Safer?” Bruce cocked an eyebrow. “With what you’ve got in the barn?”

    “I grew up here and I turned out okay.”

    “Except for the occasional attack by meteor freaks. Sorry, meteor-infected. And anyway, your situation is a little unique, don’t you think? You don’t even know if Kally will have any powers.”

    “No, I know. But with people coming and going at the Inn, she’s hardly likely to be any safer and probably more vulnerable if someone wants to kidnap her.”

    Bruce nodded. “That is a possibility.”

    “We’ve considered it from every angle and even Lois thinks Kally’s better off here. I mean, we’ve got Shelby.”

    “I do think you need more than a dog, Clark. What about some kind of perimeter warning system?”

    “I think that would be going overboard,” Clark remarked.

    “Hello?” Lois called from downstairs. “Smallville?”

    “Up here, Lois,” he called back.

    She came up the stairs and stood at the bottom of the steps to the attic. “Where are you?”

    He stepped over to the hatch. Kally was in her arms but as soon as the toddler saw him, she squealed.

    “Daddy!”

    “Hey, munchkin. We’ll be right down. Guess it’s time for a break anyway.”

    He glanced at Bruce, who followed him down. Kally reached for him and he took her out of her mother’s arms. Kally began sucking her thumb, watching Bruce with a wary eye. Bruce smiled at her but she turned her face away.

    “Guess she doesn’t like me,” he said.

    “Don’t take it personally,” Lois told him. “She’s in one of her moods.”

    Clark tickled her. “Are you in one of those moods, munchkin?”

    She squealed again and tried to squirm away from him. “Tickles, Daddy.”

    They went downstairs. Clark got his daughter a glass of milk, listening as Lois asked Bruce about the negotiations for the newspaper.

    “How are they going?”

    “Lucius, my CEO, has been meeting with Burt Mason and his representatives. Mr Mason still seems reluctant to sell to an outside company but he doesn’t like Lex either. From what Lucius tells me, there’s a bit of bad blood between him and Lionel. He seems to think the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”

    Clark was reminded of his first visit to the Luthor mansion and Lex saying exactly the same thing, except it was about Clark’s father. He realised now it wasn’t that the apple had fallen far from the tree. More like the sapling that had branched from that tree had taken it over. Lex was far worse than anything Lionel ever was.

    He sat Kally down in the chair and handed her a glass with cartoon figures on it. Lois had seen it in Fordman’s and thought it was perfect for Kally. Just as she’d started to drink her milk, Shelby began scratching at the screen door.

    “Daddy, want to play with Shelby,” Kally said.

    “Finish your milk first, sweetie.”

    “I want to play with Shelby!” she demanded.

    Clark exchanged a look with Lois and spoke firmly to his daughter. “Finish your milk.”

    Kally’s face took on a stubborn look. Clark knew that look. She was gearing up to a tantrum. She reached out looking like she was going to pick up her glass. Instead, she pushed it over, spilling milk all over the table. Fortunately, the glass was specially designed for children so it was made from a tempered glass.

    Clark could have stopped it falling if he’d used super speed, but he’d promised Lois he wouldn’t use his abilities in front of Kally unless it was a life-or-death situation. A child’s tantrum was not one of those times.

    Kally got off the chair and ran to the screen door, pushing it open. Instead of letting the dog in, she ran outside.

    “Kally, you get back here young lady,” he called.

    “No!” she called back.

    Clark sighed and looked at Lois, who shrugged. “I told you she was in a mood.”

    “Excuse me,” he said. He went outside. Kally was not out on the gravel drive. For a moment his heart pounded, but his super hearing picked up the sound of childish giggles. She was hiding from him.

    “Kally Kent, you better get back here or you’ll be in big trouble.”

    “No!” she said.

    He activated his vision and scanned the area. As he turned, he realised she was under the porch. The little devil had found a gap.

    Suddenly Shelby growled. Clark quickly realised why. It had been a wet, cold day. Cold enough for any creature to want to seek shelter in any place that radiated warmth. Cold enough for a snake.

    Trying to keep his voice calm, he called to his daughter.

    “Kally, baby, come out of there. Come to Daddy.”

    “No!”

    “Honey, you need to come out of there.” He kept an eye on the snake, unsure what kind it was. Even if it was one of the non-venomous kinds, he didn’t want the toddler to panic.

    Lois came out with Bruce. “Smallville?” She started for the steps, but he shook his head.

    “No, stay there.”

    “What’s wrong, Clark?” Bruce asked.

    “Just stay there.” He again looked underneath. Kally hadn’t moved from her position, but Shelby had put his body between her and the snake. The dog was snarling now. “Kally, honey, crawl to me. Very slowly.”

    “Daddy?” She sounded a little scared. He figured she must have picked up on the alarm in their voices.

    “It’s all right, baby. Just come out of there.”

    If he could just get the right position, he might be able to use his heat vision, he thought. The hole Kally had crawled through was just big enough for the toddler and far too small for him to get through. She’d gone far enough in that he was unable to reach in and pull her out. The question was, could he aim well enough to hit the snake without hitting Kally or Shelby? There was only a couple of feet between them. If he hit it wrong, he might just anger the snake and it could attack.

    He tried once again to get Kally to come out. He could see her thinking about it, then slowly start to crawl toward the hole.

    “That’s it, baby. Nice and slowly.”

    He crouched beside the gap, grabbing her just as she appeared. Then he shot a bit of heat toward the snake, hoping it would get scared off. It hissed once and slithered back, long enough for him to call Shelby to his side.

    Kally burst into tears. He held her close, stroking her curly black hair, reassuring her that he wasn’t mad.

    “Clark?”

    “It’s all right, Lois. I’ve got her.”

    “What was it?” Bruce asked.

    “A snake.” Lois gasped.

    “It didn’t …”

    “No. I think it just crawled in there to get warm. Shelby got between Kally and the snake.”

    “I take back what I said earlier,” Bruce replied. “If your dog just went up against a snake, he’s braver than I am.”

    “It wasn’t poisonous, was it?”

    “I couldn’t get a good enough look at it, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was non-venomous. It probably just wanted shelter.”

    He would have to board up the gap so Kally couldn’t crawl under there anymore, he thought. He decided to let the snake be. It wasn’t the first time they’d had snakes under the house, or in the house and it wouldn’t be the last.

  7. #112
    Forum Regular Sykobee's Avatar
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    Thanks for the new chapter. Congrats on your latest publication.
    Still very much enjoying this story.

    I do not always appreciate Bruce and or The Bat but he's seemingly more subtle as you depict him. While the character's keen intelligence is part of his core and he's nothing if not complex, he can be portrayed as such an aggressive, blunt force that his impact registers more negatively for me. While I think that there is always some of that regardless, its not always the most prominent factor when Bruce is part of the story; it is then that I'm better able to enjoy Bruce and his contributions. I especially like when he's able to open enough to be a positive, supportive to Clark. Bruce's breakdown of Lex, Clark, the sins of the father, and how they all relate to the to each other, past and present was exceptionally well done. Very Bruce, but in a good way.

    Kally, her and her interactions with the characters throughout are still a highlight of the story. You portray so much feeling especially through how both Lois and Clark interact/respond, regarding, with and to Kally. Some of it jumps off the "page". Clark clutching his daughter, after she crawled to him from her hiding place, again went beyond printed letters and reading words.
    ~Brava

    As always, will be on the lookout for more.

  8. #113
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sykobee View Post
    Thanks for the new chapter. Congrats on your latest publication.
    Still very much enjoying this story.

    I do not always appreciate Bruce and or The Bat but he's seemingly more subtle as you depict him. While the character's keen intelligence is part of his core and he's nothing if not complex, he can be portrayed as such an aggressive, blunt force that his impact registers more negatively for me. While I think that there is always some of that regardless, its not always the most prominent factor when Bruce is part of the story; it is then that I'm better able to enjoy Bruce and his contributions. I especially like when he's able to open enough to be a positive, supportive to Clark. Bruce's breakdown of Lex, Clark, the sins of the father, and how they all relate to the to each other, past and present was exceptionally well done. Very Bruce, but in a good way.

    Kally, her and her interactions with the characters throughout are still a highlight of the story. You portray so much feeling especially through how both Lois and Clark interact/respond, regarding, with and to Kally. Some of it jumps off the "page". Clark clutching his daughter, after she crawled to him from her hiding place, again went beyond printed letters and reading words.
    ~Brava

    As always, will be on the lookout for more.
    Thanks. I chose to portray a Bruce who still has his edge, but is the type of man who could be a good friend to Clark, as is often depicted in the comics. I think many people when they write Bruce try to make him a little too cold and a little less human. It's why I also choose to use the characterisation from the Dark Knight trilogy, because as much as he fights it, he does come across as someone who, when he begins to care for someone, he cares deeply. In this story, he was initially wary of Clark, but Clark's own humanity is starting to rub off on him. He's also beginning to see that it is possible to have both the family and the love, and still be the hero he needs to be.

    The one thing I do like about Bruce in this story is he's neutral enough that he can see things from a different perspective and is able to offer that in a way to Clark that is supportive without being condescending, yet makes it clear he really has no emotional stake in it either way. Hence his take on what happened with Lex.

    As she grows, Kally is definitely more curious about her world and that can get her into trouble sometimes. What it all comes down to, however, is that she's still very young and prone to misbehaviour, as all toddlers are and it's how Clark and Lois deal with it that I really love exploring. The moment with the snake is heart-stopping but also so realistic for the environment and I really wanted to explore Clark's dilemma, where sometimes there are things that powers just won't help him deal with and he has to think outside the box.

  9. #114
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Forty-Two

    Lois had been putting fresh towels in the rooms when she came downstairs to find Oliver in the foyer. “Oh, hi,” she said.

    “Hi yourself,” he returned with a smile. “I wasn’t sure anyone was here.”

    “Oh. Mom and Dad are in the city. Dad had a meeting. With Bruce, I think. He took Mom with him so she could go spend some time with Will. Did you want Dad for something?”

    “Actually, no. It was you I came to see. I called Clark but he wasn’t answering his phone.”

    “He’s probably out working on the farm. He has to go make sure some of the crops are protected against frost. He doesn’t usually take his phone with him.”

    “Oh, right.”

    He followed her into the parlour where Lucy was watching over Kally. It looked like Kally had cornered her aunt into playing with the tea set her grandparents had given her. Lucy looked up.

    “Mr Queen,” she said, her eyes widening. “I didn’t hear the door.”

    “It’s okay. I haven’t been here that long.”

    Kally got up and ran to him, begging to be picked up. He grinned, obliging.

    “Hey, squirt. Playing a game with your aunt, hey?”

    Kally giggled. She’d been rather mischievous lately, getting into all sorts of things which had everyone running around trying to keep her from doing herself an injury. Since the incident with the snake at the farm, she’d somehow figured out how to climb up on the stepladder and had tried to pull down items in the pantry. Clark had guessed she was trying to find the Hallowe’en candy they’d been keeping for trick or treaters. She’d tried to grab something heavy and had lost her balance. Luckily Clark had been watching her and had got to her in time before she fell.

    “She’s been getting up to all sorts of things, lately,” Lois replied, petting her daughter’s hair. Kally’s curls were shoulder-length. They’d taken her to a hairdresser for a general cut and she’d squirmed in the chair the whole time. Even stern words from her father hadn’t made her keep still.

    Oliver chuckled and tickled her. “You giving your mom and dad trouble, huh?”

    Kally just giggled again. Lois couldn’t help smiling. It wasn’t that Kally was being naughty on purpose. Emil had warned them she might play up from time to time. While it was three months since Lex had her kidnapped, Lois knew it would take time for her daughter to feel more secure.

    The bell rang at the reception desk and Lucy went out to see to the guest while Oliver carried Kally into the kitchen. Lois offered him a coffee.

    “Thanks,” he said. He sat down at the table with Kally in his arms. She was preoccupied with playing with the buttons on his shirt. Lois got her daughter a cookie, but she ignored it in favour of the shirt.

    Lois made the coffees and brought them over, sitting down opposite the blond billionaire.

    “So, what did you want to talk about?”

    Oliver took something from his jacket pocket and placed it on the table. Lois stared at the little box.

    “Is that…?”

    “Kally’s samples. Yeah,” he said. Kally reached for it but he gently pushed her hand away. “No, sweetie. You don’t want that.”

    She whimpered, but went back to playing with his shirt.

    “Here’s the really good news,” he said. “According to my contact in Luthorcorp Lex didn’t get what he was after.”

    “What do you mean?”

    “The purpose of getting the samples was to test them on his 33.1 project. They weren’t viable.”

    “So …?”

    “I’m not a hundred per cent sure, but if I had to guess, he was trying to splice some cells with another of his 33.1 subjects, but it didn’t do what he was expecting.”

    “Hmm. Clark and I had the theory he was looking to see if Kally has the same abilities as her dad. We don’t even know what powers she’ll have. Clark’s bio-dad said she probably won’t show anything until she reaches puberty. That’s if she gets them at all.” As much as Jor-El had seemed so sure that Kally would get something, Lois had her doubts.

    She wondered if the reason the experiments hadn’t worked was because Kally was too young.

    “That makes sense. That’s usually when a kid starts to transition to an adult. But why do you think she might not get Clark’s abilities?”

    “Because Clark’s powers come from the yellow sun. The planet he came from had a red sun. I don’t really know the science of it, but it’s something to do with the way his body stores energy. Kally has half his DNA, but she was born under a yellow sun.”

    “Therein lies the difference,” Oliver returned, nodding.

    “So, how are we going to stop 33.1?”

    “I don’t know. Bruce and I have been working on the business side of things. We were hoping that if we could stop Lex winning any bids, it might bankrupt him.”

    “But it didn’t? Why am I not surprised? I mean, Lionel had some funds squirrelled away. Especially when he was trying to take back Luthorcorp. It stands to reason Lex would do the same thing.”

    “That’s true. Anyway, I have my suspicions Lex is using someone in Washington. We’ve yet to figure out who.”

    “Maybe Jonathan can help,” Lois suggested. “I know he’s on the Education Committee but I’m sure he’ll have some contacts in Washington.”

    “You’re right. I think that’s more a job for you and Clark. Especially with the way you two figured me out.”

    She smirked at him. “Flattery will get you nowhere, Oliver.”

    He looked down at Kally, who was chewing on her cookie. “Your mother’s mean, Kally.”

    The toddler grinned up at him, nodding her head. Lois snorted.

    “Yeah, like that would work. Kally would agree to anything as long as you had cookies.”

    He grinned at her. “I had to try.”

    Lucy came in, after having seen to the new guests and the conversation turned to general topics. Lois had already explained to Oliver that her father and Lucy knew nothing about Clark’s abilities.

    The blond man began asking questions about Chloe. Lois knew she was dating someone she’d met at the Daily Planet, but how serious it was between them, she had no idea. She hadn’t even met Jimmy Olsen. Oddly, his first name was actually Henry, and he had a younger brother who was also called Jimmy, which could make things very confusing. The younger Olsen was almost ten.

    It seemed Oliver was interested in knowing more about her cousin. As much as Lois was beginning to like the man known as Green Arrow, she wasn’t so sure about encouraging his interest in Chloe. Her cousin had little experience with boyfriends and Oliver was a little too … she couldn’t think of the word but she thought that if Chloe had been a few years older and a little more worldly-wise, it wouldn’t have been a problem.

    Not that Chloe would thank her for the assessment. As much as she loved her cousin, there were times when Chloe was a little too trusting and Lois was just trying to look out for her.

    Of course, her cousin might say something about how quickly Lois had fallen for Clark, but there was a big difference between Clark and Oliver. And it had little to do with Clark’s abilities. At least in how different the two men were. Clark had trusted her with his secret. Even the fact that it had been mostly for Kally’s benefit didn’t change things for Lois. She’d had to trust him with his daughter when she’d first started getting to know him, so it was a two-way street.

    Jenny came in to start cooking for everyone. Clark’s parents were in Topeka for a conference and it was normal for Clark to come over for dinner, since Lois felt it was kind of pointless him cooking for himself. She asked Oliver if he wanted to stay for dinner but he declined, saying he was expecting some business calls and needed some of his papers. Lucy was curious as to what kind of business he would be conducting after hours. Lois knew he was planning on patrolling as Green Arrow, but the white lie was still believable since Queen Industries did deal with some companies overseas.

    Her parents had decided to eat dinner at a restaurant in Metropolis and would be back late. That left Lois and Lucy with Clark and Kally, as well as three guests. It was the slow season at the inn, although Lois expected it would pick up around Christmas as it usually did.

    After dinner, she sat on the swing on the back porch with Clark, who was holding a sleepy-eyed Kally.

    “Oliver came over today,” she said. “I think he wanted to talk to both of us, but you might have been out on the farm.”

    “What did he say?”

    She told him about the samples and what Oliver had learned from his contact. Clark still looked a little concerned, which she understood.

    “If you’re right and Kally’s too young, Lex could still come after her when she’s older.”

    “That’s true,” she said. “I mean, if she does get abilities, we’re just going to have to teach her to not show them to anybody. And to protect herself.” She frowned. “How did your parents do it? I mean, you were … what, three, and you already had super strength.” She just wasn’t sure a three-year-old was old enough to understand the dangers.

    “You’d have to ask them. I don’t really remember back that far. I do remember them telling me to be really careful because I wasn’t like other kids. And the thing is, being friends with Pete, I kind of got to see how kids with differences got treated at school.”

    “Yeah, I can see how that would happen. As much as we’d like to think people are more enlightened these days …”

    “Racism still exists.”

    Clark didn’t talk much about Pete Ross, but from what she’d heard, when they were little, Pete and Clark had been bullied. The bully had targeted Clark because he was a farm kid and his parents had isolated him from other children, worried he might reveal his abilities. Pete had been bullied for his skin colour.

    There weren’t that many African-American families in Smallville. Pete’s parents had both been lawyers, although Abby Ross had been promoted to a judgeship. Pete’s uncles had also owned a lot of land, as well as the old creamed corn plant, which had been bought by Lionel. His family might have had a certain amount of power, but that hadn’t stopped some of the kids at school from bullying him.

    Lois guessed that Clark had learned to hide his own differences by osmosis. Witnessing the treatment of his friend so early on would have taught him that such differences were not welcomed. It was a harsh lesson.

    She understood in many ways. Having lost her mother so young, being made to transfer to a new school every other year, Lois had faced teasing of her own. When they’d been living in a base on foreign soil, all the military brats had been sent to their own school. On American soil, however, Lois had attended a regular school. Often, she’d been seen as an interloper, especially when she’d transferred in halfway through the year. The other kids had long-established friendships, and didn’t like someone new coming in.

    “At least we’ve got the benefit of my parents’ experience,” Clark murmured. “They didn’t have anyone to tell them how to handle the whole powers thing. I remember when I was about fourteen, I floated for the first time. When I told my dad, he kind of freaked. I remember so clearly he said that he was supposed to have all the answers and it killed him that he didn’t. I mean, we don’t have all the answers with Kally either, but we’ll work it out. As long as we back each other up.”

    “And I guess make sure she’s aware of the kind of man Lex is." She paused. "Oliver thinks Lex is talking to someone in Washington about his project.”

    “You mean for financial backing?”

    She frowned. “No. That’s just it, I don’t know, but I think there’s a whole other reason. I wonder if your dad can do some asking around for us.”

    “Your dad might have some contacts too,” he said. “I mean, Lex has tried working with the military before on a project. Remember Leviathan?”

    She nodded. Lex had been working with the Navy, developing a weapon that ended up killing a lot of marine life. He hadn’t seemed to care what it was doing to the ecology.

    “So, if he’s trying to collect abilities and, I don’t know, create some kind of super soldier …”

    “Then maybe we should be looking for someone in Washington who makes a lot of decisions for the military,” Clark finished.

    Kally shifted in Clark’s lap, whimpering.

    “I think we need to put the munchkin to bed,” he said. “She’s already half asleep.”

    Lois got up and started for the cabin. Clark followed her, helping her to put the toddler in her pyjamas. Martha had found some material that was a close copy to Lois’ favourite pyjamas - the ones with pictures of pastries on them. She’d given Kally the pyjamas, telling her they were ‘just like her mommy’s’.

    Clark laid the sleepy toddler in the crib.

    “She’s getting a bit big for the crib,” Lois commented.

    “We’re getting her a bed for her room at the farm, remember?”

    Lois nodded. The room was almost ready. Clark just had to paint the walls and add some pictures. He had already built a new dresser and painted it in Kally’s favourite colour - purple.Lois was still a little nervous about moving in to the farm, but she knew it was the right thing to do. For Kally’s sake, at least. Not just for security, but to provide her with more of a sense of stability.

    The one thing they hadn't really talked about was Kally's education. Lois knew from experience that children from single parent homes had a harder time fitting in than those in a normal family environment. Her moving permanently to the farm would at least stop any questions about their living arrangements once Kally started school.

    “I was talking with Julie Carmichael the other day,” she said. “Wasn’t she a year ahead of you at Smallville High?”

    “Yeah. What about her?”

    “She got married a couple of months ago. And they’re already talking about preschool. I mean, not that she’s expecting or anything, but she said that you pretty much have to get in early.” Lois had run into the girl in the Talon and Julie had mentioned Clark and Kally. She’d asked if Lois had signed Kally up for preschool. It was something Lois hadn’t really given a lot of thought to. Especially with what had happened with Lex.

    Clark nodded. “I guess that’s something we have to think about. I don’t know. I mean with Lex and his projects, I’m not sure it’ll be all that safe for her. You know, my parents actually homeschooled me until the first grade.”

    “We’re not exactly going to have time to homeschool her, Smallville. Not with classes. And we’ll have full-time jobs by the time she’s ready for first grade.”

    “That’s true. Maybe we should talk to the parents about it. See what they think. I mean, Mom and Dad do have some experience at this.”

    “We can’t keep running to our parents whenever we have a problem,” she reminded him gently. “I mean, it’s great that we do have them to turn to when we need advice, but we’re going to have to learn how to get around these things ourselves. Besides, most preschools these days are pretty strict about making sure only the parents or approved caregivers pick up the kids.”

    “That’s true. Okay. How about we go visit the preschool between classes next week? I can call the teacher and set up an appointment.”

    She nodded. That sounded like a good plan.

    They left Kally to sleep and returned to the main house. Clark made them both hot cocoa and they sat out on the porch swing, just talking about their day. The conversation turned to Oliver once again.

    “You know, I think Oliver likes Chloe. He was asking all sorts of questions about her.”

    “But she’s dating Jimmy.”

    “I know. That’s what I told him. I don’t know. I mean he’s a little … what’s the word? Sophisticated?”

    Clark frowned. “Chloe isn’t that naïve.”

    “But still, I’m not sure I should encourage things.”

    “On the other hand, Chloe’s a big girl, Lois. Maybe you should just let her decide whether he’s someone she wants to date.”

    “I can’t help it. She’s my baby cousin.”

    He sent her a long look. “She’s hardly a baby. Besides, I like Oliver. Sure, he can be a bit cocky sometimes, but his heart’s in the right place. Look at how quickly Kally’s taken a shine to him.”

    “Puh-leeze. Someone just has to bribe her with a cookie or candy and she’s anybody’s.”

    “I don’t know. I think she’s got great instincts. After all, they came from you.”

    “Don’t try to butter me up, Smallville.”

    He grinned. “I’m being honest here, honey. Give her a little credit. She’s learned a lot from watching us. Plus, she knew he was Green Arrow.”

    “I still don’t know how she did that,” Lois said.

    “Maybe that’s something we’ll never really know,” he replied.

    A cold breeze blew in from the east and Lois shivered. Clark wrapped an arm around her shoulders and she snuggled against him. They fell into a comfortable silence, just taking in the sounds around them as they sat in the growing darkness.

  10. #115
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Forty-Three

    “Of course, we’d be pleased to have Kally join our school next term. She seems like such a delightful child.”

    Lois and Clark exchanged looks. When Clark had called and made the appointment, the preschool’s director had suggested Kally spend a couple of hours with other children. She’d been on her best behaviour. Even playing happily with two of the children. Both were about her age.

    “Delightful?” Lois snorted. “That’ll be the day.”

    “Oh, I do understand,” Mrs Kimble replied. She was a friendly woman in her late forties who seemed to have taken an instant liking to Kally. She’d told them that she had two adult children and a grandchild. She also had a Master’s degree in early childhood education. “Children her age often play up as they test their limits. It’s not that they mean to be naughty.”

    Clark nodded. “So, what do you do when a child plays up?”

    “We usually give them a time out, put them by themselves in another part of the classroom, just so they understand that behaviour is not allowed. Of course, the teacher does keep an eye on them, so they’re never completely alone.” She pursed her lips. “Is Kally especially difficult?”

    “She has her moments,” Lois replied. “But we do our best to be consistent with her. Clark backs me up if we need to scold her.”

    Clark squeezed her hand. “She’s not really naughty, per se,” he said. “I mean, she does have tantrums sometimes, but I guess all children do that. She is mischievous, though.” He related the incident of Kally managing to climb up into the pantry at the inn.

    “Children her age are naturally curious,” Mrs Kimble informed them. “That’s why it’s a good idea to start their education at this age. Especially when they are as bright as Kally.”

    Lois bit her lip. “We do have a couple of concerns, though. Security-wise.”

    The director nodded. “Oh, yes, I completely understand. What with Kally’s grandfather being a state senator. I prefer to be honest with my parents. We can’t completely guarantee security, but we have a policy that we have a list of those approved to drop off and pick up children.”

    “Sometimes my parents or my sister, or Clark’s parents will have to pick Kally up. Especially if we have classes.”

    “Of course. If it helps, your parents and your sister can meet with the teachers. It’s not unusual for parents such as yourselves to worry about leaving their children, and I do understand yours is an exceptional case. However, Smallville is a close-knit community and we do protect our own.” She smiled at both of them. Clark took her words to mean that they were under that protection.

    While she hadn’t said it in so many words, some of the things she’d said in the meeting had implied that someone like Lex was considered an interloper and really not part of the community. Being a business owner who employed a lot of locals hadn’t helped his case any. Clark remembered that Lex had never really done anything to ingratiate himself with the town’s elders. He had never really participated in any community events and other than trying to save jobs by taking over the plant six years ago, he had kept his distance.

    It probably didn’t help that Lex’s family reputation preceded him. From what Clark had learned, no one had liked the way Lionel had come in and taken over the plant. Nor had they liked the way he conducted business. Smallville had no patience for ruthlessness in business. Much of the community still had small-town mentality where they looked out for each other. Some businesses still preferred to operate on trust and there was no trust when it came to the Luthors.

    Yet, when it came to Lois and her father, it was a completely different story.

    Clark’s mother had told them she’d been treated like an intruder when she’d first come to Smallville. It hadn’t helped that Nell, Lana’s aunt, had been completely jealous of the fact that her former boyfriend had chosen someone who hadn’t been born in Smallville. Then one rainy night, things had changed drastically. Clark’s mom had joined the rest of the community members in helping save people’s homes as the river threatened to burst its banks. From that moment on, she was one of them.

    It was the same with Lois and her dad. It wasn’t just the fact that Sam Lane was now married to Bubsy. He had made every effort to help out in the community, even recruiting some of the soldiers at Fort Ryan to help when a tornado had ripped up some buildings on a couple of properties. Lois had also become a part of the community by helping with fundraisers. On the strength of that, the town had accepted them. Of course, it helped that Kally seemed to have her own little fan club. Even the older members adored her. Which wasn't hard.

    They left the director’s office and returned to the classroom where they’d left Kally. Lois was ahead of him but stopped in the doorway.

    “Smallville, look,” she said.

    Kally was in the middle of a small group, a cardboard crown on her head. She was clearly the ‘queen’ of the other children.

    “Oh god,” Clark moaned. “Now she’s gonna want that at home too.”

    Lois chuckled. “Like she doesn’t have you wrapped around her little finger anyway,” she replied.

    “Does not.”

    “Does too. Admit it, Smallville. You spoil her.”

    Kally saw them watching and greeted them with an enthusiastic shout. “Mommy. Daddy.”

    Clark crouched down to her level. “We have to go home now, sweetheart,” he said.

    She looked almost disappointed with the idea of having to leave all her new friends behind. Lois also crouched down.

    “We’ll come back again soon, sweetie.”

    Kally nodded and got up. A little boy, probably only a year older than her, wrapped his arms around her in a bear hug, pressing a kiss to her cheek. Clark frowned at him, wondering why he looked so familiar. Then he remembered this was the same little boy who had acted as ring bearer at Sam and Bubsy’s wedding. He was also the same boy they’d found curled up with Kally in one of the rooms a couple of hours later.

    The inn was quiet when they returned. Sam and Bubsy were sitting out on the back porch, relaxing before dinner.

    “How did it go?” Sam asked.

    “The director seemed to take an instant shine to Kally,” Clark told him.

    “We can give them a list of people authorised to pick Kally up,” Lois added, explaining that the director thought it was a good idea to meet the whole family so she would recognise them. “Kally can start next term.”

    “How are you two feeling about it?” Bubsy asked.

    Clark had considered talking it over with his parents but he’d realised Lois was right. They couldn’t keep turning to their parents for every decision they needed to make about Kally. As much as he wanted to protect his daughter from every conceivable threat, he couldn’t exactly keep her in a bubble either. Sooner or later, she would have to go to school, and she needed to learn to socialize with other children. Otherwise she could develop psychological problems.

    He didn’t blame his parents for keeping him away from other children for the first few years of his time in Smallville, but in many ways, he felt it was one of the reasons he’d felt so isolated. His mother had once told him she felt bad about not being able to give him birthday parties and letting him have friends over. While he understood her reasons, he wondered if he’d picked up his shyness because of it. That was the last thing he wanted for Kally.

    “Well, I think if we make sure that no one can pick Kally up except the family, she’ll be safe enough. And she does need to be around other kids.”

    “What about Lex?”

    Clark glanced at Lois, who nodded. “I just have this feeling that Lex won’t try again,” she said.

    At least, not until Kally was older, Clark thought. Judging by what Oliver had discovered through his contact at Luthorcorp. That was something they didn’t really want to talk to the parents about. It was still one of those ‘unknowns’.

    “So, how is the redecorating coming along?” Sam asked, changing the subject.

    “Good,” Clark told him. “I’m almost finished with painting. I think the room will be ready for Kally and Lois to move in after Christmas.” That was only two weeks away.

    Bubsy shivered as a cold wind blew in under the eaves. “Looks like it might snow soon,” she said.

    “It is getting cold,” Sam said. “Come on, sweetheart. How about we go and make some chilli. Just the thing for a cold evening.”

    Clark returned home after dinner and decided to finish off some of the painting. He’d found some pictures of animals which he’d used to trace on the walls to make decals. He was sure Kally would love them.

    It was a water-based paint so it didn’t smell as bad as when he’d painted the walls.

    “That’s looking good, son.”

    He turned and looked at his father in the doorway. “Hey. I didn’t think you guys would be back until the weekend.”

    “We got an early flight. Your mom’s downstairs making hot cocoa. It’s pretty cold out there. Looks like it’ll snow early this year.”

    “Yeah, it was threatening earlier,” he said, putting away the equipment before following his father downstairs.

    “So, how have things been here?”

    “Doing okay,” he said.

    “How’s Kally? Any more misbehaviour?”

    “I think she’s settling down.” He’d told his parents about the incident with the snake and all the other incidents. His parents were impressed with how they’d handled it all.

    He sat down at the table. “We took Kally to the preschool today.”

    His mother frowned, looking a little worried as she brought the cocoa.

    “Preschool? Isn’t she a little young?”

    He shook his head. “No. They have lots of kids her age. And younger.”

    “What about Lex? What if he tries to take her again?”

    “I don’t think he will, Dad. I mean, it’s been nearly four months and he’s been keeping his distance.”

    Half of that he believed was because Oliver and Bruce’s activities were keeping him occupied.

    “I don’t know,” his mother said. “I’m still worried.”

    “Mom, I get it, but we can’t keep her wrapped in cotton. Even the psychology books say that Kally needs to be around kids her own age. I don’t want to keep sheltering her, otherwise she’ll never learn how to protect herself.”

    His mom bit her lip. “You mean, the way we did with you.”

    “Mom, no. That was a completely different set of circumstances. I mean, you knew I had abilities from the start. Kally isn’t showing any signs of that yet.” He tried to explain what he’d been thinking. The last thing he wanted was for his daughter to develop a complex and if they kept her essentially locked away, she would never become a well-adjusted child.

    His parents still looked dubious, asking why they hadn’t discussed it as a family. As much as Clark wanted their advice, he knew what Lois had told him was right. The fact of the matter was that they were Kally’s parents and ultimately they had to make the decisions for her. Otherwise, they might just as well turn her over to his parents, or Lois’ to be raised.

    “Mom, Dad, I get where you’re coming from, but Kally is my daughter. Mine and Lois’. We’re the ones who are raising her, so we need to make the decisions concerning her. We can’t keep coming to you, or Sam and Bubsy, any time we’re not sure about anything. I mean, you didn’t have anyone to turn to with me. You just had to deal with things as they came along.”

    “He’s right, Martha,” Clark’s dad pointed out.

    His mother smiled and caressed his cheek. “You’re so grown up.”

    He nodded and smiled back at her. “We’re probably going to make mistakes, but that’s part of learning how to be a parent, right? And where the school is concerned, the director understands the situation. Well, not the full situation, but she realises it’s kind of a special case, since you’re a state senator,” he said, looking at his dad.

    He related what had been discussed with the director regarding school security and making sure only family could go and pick Kally up.

    “What about any medical records required?” his dad asked.

    “We’re going to talk to Emil Hamilton and see if he will help us out. We’ve thought about this really carefully.”

    “You really have, haven’t you?” his mother responded.

    “We’re just trying to do what’s right for her. And she is at the age where she’s going to start questioning things. Wanting to know how the world works.

    “Besides,” he added. “If we keep living like we expect Lex to do something to Kally, or to us, then what kind of life is that? Does that mean I should stop doing what I’m doing just because there’s a danger that someone might come after me? Or Lois? Even Lois wouldn’t want that.”

    “That’s a good point, Clark.” His father nodded, before looking at Clark’s mother. “It’s the same as me being a senator. There is always a risk someone might not like what I’m doing. Does that mean I should resign?”

    “No,” she said. “And I wouldn’t want you to.”

    Clark smiled at his parents. He knew his mother had been uncertain about supporting his dad in the senate race, but she’d mostly been worried about his health. Of course, she’d also been concerned that it might put them under a microscope, risking Clark’s secret, but so far, that hadn’t happened.

    ***

    Christmas came and went. Kally was excited when she was allowed to accompany her parents to pick out a bed for her new room. While they’d considered going to Fordman’s, the store had recently undergone some major changes. With both George Fordman and Whitney gone, Betty had sold the store and moved away from Smallville to start over. While the new owners had kept the name, they’d decided to downsize, focusing less on homewares and more on sporting goods and hardware.

    Clark drove them to a furniture store in Metropolis. Kally was practically jumping up and down in excitement as he helped her out of the truck.

    “Hold on to Daddy’s hand, sweetie,” Lois told her as they entered the store. They were almost immediately pounced on by a salesperson.

    “Hi there,” she said in what sounded like a southern accent. “How can I help you folks today?”

    “Kally here is getting her very first bed,” Clark told the woman.

    “Aww!” She bent down to Kally’s level. “And I bet you’re very excited, aren’t you, honey? Well, let’s see if we can find something you like.”

    Lois shot Clark an amused look before Kally pulled at his hand to make him follow the woman. She led the way down the aisle to the bedroom furniture department. Clark stared at the range of beds. They had everything, from the normal wooden frame beds to race cars.

    “What’s your favourite colour?” the girl asked Kally, focusing all her attention on the toddler.

    “Purple!” Kally exclaimed.

    “Well, you know, I bet you’ll like this.” She led Kally to a mattress and base with a headboard coloured in a very pale lilac.

    Clark could only watch as the salesgirl continued to point out beds she thought the toddler might like. Kally climbed on one and immediately began jumping up and down.

    “Honey,” her mother called. “Don’t jump on the bed.”

    “But, Mommy …”

    “No, Kally. Beds are not for jumping,” Clark informed her sternly.

    She got off and went to try another one, giggling excitedly.

    “Well, she’s a little ball of energy, isn’t she?” the saleswoman observed.

    “She gets that from her father,” Lois responded dryly. Clark shot her a look.

    The woman laughed. “Oh, I can imagine. I have two myself. Well, one is in first grade now, and the other one is just about Kally’s age.”

    She paused, going over to Kally, who was bouncing on another bed. She bent down, talking softly to the toddler, who nodded and went to try another bed. She returned to them.

    “You’re good with her,” Clark told her.

    She nodded. “My philosophy is that children should still have some input when it comes to things like this. Make them feel like they’re a part of the process.”

    “Mommy, Daddy, I like this one.”

    Kally was sitting on top of a bed with a wooden frame. It was very similar to the bed Clark had. Clark glanced at the price. It was within their budget and gave them enough to buy new bedding as well.

    “Looks like she’s made her choice,” Lois said, going over to sit on the bed. “You like this one, sweetie?”

    “Yes, Mommy.”

    Clark grinned at the saleswoman. “We’ll take it.”

    “Great. I just need to fill out some paperwork. Will you be wanting delivery?”

    “No, we’ll be able to pick it up. How soon will that be?”

    She led him over to a computer and tapped a few keys. “We actually have stock in our warehouse, so you’ll be able to pick it up from the store the day after tomorrow.” She looked at Kally. “How does that sound, honey? You’ll be able to sleep in your new bed soon.”

    “Yay!” Kally clapped her hands.

    “All right, munchkin. Daddy just has to pay the lady and then we can go have lunch with Aunt Chloe. Would you like that?”

    “Yay!”

    “Yay!” Lois responded, laughing.

    A surprise was waiting for them when they arrived at the diner to meet Chloe. Lana was sitting with the blonde. She smiled at them.

    “Hi, Lois. Hi, Clark.” She greeted Kally with a smile.

    “Lana! This is a surprise.”

    “Yeah. I was spending New Year’s with Nell and Chloe mentioned you were shopping for a bed for Kally. Look at you, Miss Kally. You’re so big now!” She pulled the toddler into her lap.

    Kally began telling her all about the trip to the furniture store, in her jumbled way. Lana listened and nodded as if it was all making perfect sense.

    Clark grinned at his friend. They emailed back and forth, but this was the first time he’d seen her in person in almost a year.

    “So, how’s Columbia?” Lois asked.

    Lana began telling them about her classes and the friends she’d made. She’d even begun dating someone although she didn’t know whether it was serious or not.

    The waitress came over to take their orders. Clark glanced at the menu.

    “Do you want chicken fingers?” he asked Kally.

    “Nooo!” she said.

    Lana looked at him questioningly. Lois spoke up. “She recently learned where chicken comes from,” she said.

    Chloe hid a grin. She’d been there when Kally had made the discovery. The toddler liked to think of the chickens in the henhouse as her pets. She had been shocked when she’d learned where the meat came from. She’d refused to eat chicken fingers since then.

    “Would you like Mac ‘n Cheese, then?” Lois asked.

    “Okay.”

    Clark nodded at the waitress before ordering a steak sandwich for himself. Lois, careful to ensure she didn’t upset Kally, ordered a steak quesadilla. Lana looked at her own menu, deciding what to order while Kally kept pointing things out and asking: “What’s that?”

    “Sorry,” Clark said. “She was so excited about coming to town.”

    “It’s okay,” Lana replied. “I don’t mind. She’s just being curious.”

    The waitress’ smile grew a little strained at Kally’s continuous questions, but Lana finally managed to order something. Clark sent the woman an apologetic look and she shrugged. He sighed. Not everyone was patient with children, obviously, he thought.

    They chatted while they waited for their food. Kally began squirming, then announced, much to Clark’s chagrin: “Mommy, have to go pee-pee.”

    Lois rolled her eyes. “Toilet training,” she said. Clark stood up to let her out of the booth and watched as she took Kally’s hand and led her to the ladies’ room. A couple of diners had obviously overheard Kally as they smiled as mother and daughter passed.

    “Kids,” Clark said.

    Lana and Chloe both laughed at him. “You get embarrassed by that now, Clark Kent. Imagine what it’ll be like if you have a boy. It’ll be your turn to take him to the little boys’ room,” Chloe told him, still chuckling.

    “Yeah, thanks.”

    Lana sobered. “Uh, there’s something I wanted to tell you. Lex has been emailing me. He keeps hinting that he wants to come and visit me in New York. I keep putting him off, but … He’s been asking about you and Lois.”

    “What have you told him?” Clark asked gently.

    “Nothing, actually. I mean, I didn’t deny that we email, and that we’re still friends, but … Chloe told me what happened in August. Is Kally okay?”

    He nodded, sipping his water. “Yeah. I mean, she was a bit upset for a few weeks, but I think since we decided to live together at the farm, she’s been a bit more settled.”

    “The farm’s always a good idea,” Lana replied.

    “I think so,” Chloe said. “I mean, it’s isolated, but you don’t get that many visitors.” She looked at Lana. “You heard about the snake, right?”

    “You were lucky you had Shelby,” Lana agreed.

    Clark nodded. “Lesson learned there, though. I boarded up the hole, so Kally won’t be crawling under there any time soon.”

    “Anyway, I just thought you should know about Lex. He’s scheming something.”

    “When is he not?” Chloe asked with a sigh. “But I have it on good authority that he’s too busy putting out fires, so to speak, in his own company, to worry about what Clark and Lois are up to.”

    Lana looked at her. “How so?”

    “We have friends working on it,” Clark told her, explaining briefly about Bruce and Oliver.

    “Oh.”

    Lois came back with Kally, just as the waitress delivered their food. She practically dumped the plates on the table with a sour expression.

    “That was kind of rude,” Chloe murmured as the woman walked away.

    “It’s not as if Kally’s running around making a nuisance of herself,” Lois commented.

    Clark could understand the waitress’ attitude. To a point. They’d once gone to a restaurant for a late dinner and a couple had brought their two young children with them. The couple had then proceeded to ignore the children, letting them run around, getting in the way. The two youngsters had even stolen food off people’s plates, and then stolen tip money. When the manager had tried to kick the couple out, they had threatened to sue the restaurant. Clark had been annoyed to discover that the manager had just let them have their way.

    “Mommy, what’s a noosance?”

    “It’s when children make a lot of noise and bother other people.”

    “Don’t worry, sweetie,” Clark said. “You’re not a nuisance. I think maybe the lady is just having a bad day.”

  11. #116
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Forty-Four

    Despite her initial worries about making such drastic changes, Lois was excited when moving day finally came. She woke up early enough that Kally was still asleep.

    She glanced over the boxes she’d already packed for the move. There were only a few items left to pack. The bed was staying. Lucy had asked if she could take over the cabin so she had a quiet place to study and work on her designs. She had been accepted to the arts college in Metropolis. While it would be a bit of a commute, she wanted to stay at the Inn at least until her junior year when she would (with any luck) get an internship with a fashion house.

    Kally’s crib was going to the farm to be stored in the attic until it was needed again. Even if she and Clark never had another child, Lois was sure Lucy would want it. Chloe, too, probably.

    Lois got up and went into the main house to make herself a coffee. Her stepmother was already in the kitchen making coffees for herself and Lois’ father.

    “Morning sweetie. You’re up early.”

    “Yeah,” Lois said. “I woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep, so figured I’d get up and make a coffee.” She kissed Bubsy on the cheek.

    “How are you feeling?” Lois frowned at her. “About the move,” Bubsy clarified. Lois chose not to reveal her real feelings.

    “Oh, okay. I mean, a little nervous, I guess. It’s a big step.”

    “One you would have taken with Clark eventually. I know it’s a big change, honey, but your dad and I are still here.”

    Her father came in, smiling at his wife. “Morning, sweetheart.” He turned to smile at Lois. “How’s my Little Lo?” he asked.

    “Daddy, that’s what you called me when I was a little girl.”

    He winked. “You’re still my little girl. Just taller.”

    She chuckled affectionately, taking her coffee from her stepmother. The swinging door opened and Kally came running in. She was still in her pyjamas. She’d recently been asserting that she could get dressed all by herself, but wasn’t so successful at it.

    Her grandfather caught her and lifted her up, blowing raspberries on her tummy. Kally giggled.

    Lois watched the game, smiling fondly. She knew her father was going to miss what had become his morning ritual, but even he’d told her it had to happen sooner or later.

    She decided since they were all up early she could help out with making the breakfast. Jenny didn’t usually come in until eight, and most of the guests didn’t rise until then, but there was still the family to make breakfast for. Lois had no doubt Clark had been up for at least a couple of hours already as there were farm chores to do. She had never been much for lending a hand on the farm, but Clark had never expected her to. She was always there to help out when it came to Martha’s annual house cleaning, however.

    The breakfast was almost ready when Clark’s truck pulled up outside. Lucy went to let him in.

    “Hi,” she said. “We’re just about to have breakfast.”

    “Thanks Lucy,” he replied, following her into the dining area. “I’ve already had breakfast but …”

    “How about a coffee?” Lois suggested, kissing his cheek.

    “Coffee sounds great,” he returned, giving her a quick hug. He looked over at Kally, who was sitting in on one of the chairs. They’d used a booster seat to give her some height so she could see what was going on. Her Grandpa was trying to feed her, getting more oatmeal on the tray than in her. “Why don’t I do that, Sam?” he asked.

    “Yes, dear,” Bubsy said. “Before your breakfast gets cold.”

    Lois’ dad grinned as Clark took over the feeding. “Still way better than cold rations in the field,” he replied. He winked at Kally. “Your grandma’s cooking beats the army’s hands-down.”

    “Anything beats army rations, Dad,” Lucy returned with a snort. “Even Lois’ cooking.”

    Lois narrowed her eyes at her sister. “You saying something about my cooking?” she asked.

    “Well, sweetie, you did almost burn the kitchen down when you first tried to make scrambled eggs,” Bubsy told her.

    “Oh great, it’s pick on Lois day,” she grumbled.

    Bubsy gave her a one-armed hug. “Oh, it’s only because we’re going to miss you around here, sweetie.”

    “Geez, it’s not like I’m moving to … I don’t know, New Zealand or something.”

    “Aww …” Lucy said, with a hint of sarcasm. “If you did, would you send me back a Kiwi?”

    “Human or bird?” Clark asked. Everyone laughed. Even Lois joined in after a few moments.

    They were still laughing when Chloe came in.

    “What’s so funny?” she asked.

    “Nothing. You had to be there.” Lois smiled at her cousin. “You come to help with the move?”

    “Actually, I thought you’d like to see this.” Chloe handed her a copy of the Daily Planet. The big headline of the day was the news that Wayne Enterprises was now the official owner of the newspaper.

    “Wow!” Lois said. “Bruce didn’t tell me about this.” She looked at Clark. “Did he tell you?”

    Her boyfriend shook his head. “I haven’t talked to him in a few days.”

    Her father cleared his throat. “Uh, he told me a couple of days ago, but he swore me to secrecy.”

    Lois frowned at him. “Why would he tell you and not us?”

    “I think it might have had something to do with the old man. He didn’t want any leaks.”

    It probably also had something to do with the fact that her father was working with Bruce on some project designed to take Lex down a peg or two. The takeover of the Planet was part of it. From what Lois had been able to glean from the conversation, her father had taken a liking to the Gotham billionaire. Which was kind of ironic, she thought, considering both men had the tendency to be a little abrasive with people who weren’t akin to family.

    “Lex is not going to be happy,” Clark commented.

    Her father nodded. “You’re right. He’s not. I think we should steer clear of the coffee shop for a while.”

    The Talon was still trading, but there was already some interest from potential buyers. From what Lois and Clark had managed to learn from the woman who had been hired to manage the store after Martha had left, Lex had sent in one of his many division reps to oversee the management until the purchase was final. The atmosphere in the store was almost icy. Even the high school students were staying away.

    “I wonder what’s going to happen to the shop once it’s sold,” Lucy mused.

    “They’ll probably tear it down,” Chloe said. “That’s what Lex wanted to do originally. Tear the building down to build a parking garage.”

    “Well, let’s hope that doesn’t happen,” Bubsy told the girls. “The Talon’s been a big part of the community for so long. I still remember going to the cinema there when I was a girl.”

    “We still do,” Sam told her.

    Lois chuckled. “Yes, I know all about your late night sessions canoodling in the back of the theatre, you two.”

    Her father arched an eyebrow at her. “Canoodling? If you weren’t too big to take over my knee, Little Lo.”

    She laughed at him. “That a threat or a promise, Daddy?”

    Clark shook his head at her. “You’re trouble, Little Lo.” He looked down at Kally, who had oatmeal and honey all over her face. “I think we need to get you cleaned up and dressed, young lady.”

    Kally babbled something about being able to dress herself. As Clark lifted her up, Lucy offered to take her to the bathroom to get her washed.

    “That’s okay,” Clark said. “I got it.” He disappeared out the back door of the kitchen.

    Lois smirked at her sister. “Don’t think that’s going to get you out of KP duty,” she said.

    Lucy made a face at her. “Fine. Whatever.”

    Bubsy laughed. “Well, Sam, why don’t we go check the emails? See if we have any new guests coming to stay.”

    “Yes, dear,” he replied. The couple went out to the reception area. Lois guessed they must have sensed she needed to talk privately to Lucy.

    Lois shrugged, glancing at her cousin. “You sticking around, cuz?” she asked.

    “Sure. I guess I can lend a hand.”

    “Okay, why don’t you go talk to Clark and see what he needs,” she said, flicking her eyes toward the back of the property.

    Chloe got the hint immediately and went out. Lois began rinsing the dishes.

    “Okay, what was that all about?” Lucy asked.

    “I just wanted to talk to you.”

    “About what?”

    “About Mom and Dad.”

    Her sister frowned. “What? They’re okay, aren’t they?”

    Lois interjected before Lucy could jump to conclusions. “They’re fine. It’s just, with me and Kally moving to the farm, things are going to be a bit quieter around here. I just want you to keep an eye on them. And try to stay out of trouble.”

    “Lo, I know I got a little … I mean a lot … I mean …” She frowned as if she didn’t quite know what to say. Lucy had really changed in the past year. She was quieter, more introspective. It had helped a lot that she had been able to live at home instead of being shipped off to boarding school. She’d also realised that her jealousy over Lois had been seriously misplaced.

    “Luce, I know. You’ve made up for all of that. It’s just …”

    “You worry too much.”

    “I guess I do.”

    “I get it though. I mean, you’re a mom, so you worry more. We’ll be okay. I really love living here, having Dad, and Bubsy. And I love being an aunt.” She sighed. “I am going to miss you, though. I feel like we missed a lot, growing up. I mean, with me away at school and that.”

    Lois hugged her. “I know what you mean. I’m really glad you came home, Luce.”

    “Me, too,” Lucy replied with a grin.

    Together they finished cleaning up the breakfast dishes, just in time for Clark to come back with a now dressed Kally following behind. Clark had two boxes in his arms and Kally was carrying a much smaller box. Lois recognised it as the one she’d packed with all of her daughter’s plushies. She’d figured Kally would want to ‘help’ and had made sure there were a couple of lightweight items for her to carry.

    “All right, let’s get this stuff on the truck,” Clark ordered.

    Chloe came in behind them, laughing as Clark led the way out to the truck and Kally attempted to copy her father’s movements.

    “What’s so funny?” Lois asked.

    “Those two. I mean we joke and say that she’s got Clark wrapped around her little finger, but I kind of think it’s mutual.”

    Lois chuckled. “Yeah, it is kinda like that. Whenever I go to stay for the weekend at the farm, she follows her dad around like she’s afraid he’ll get lost. Not that Smallville minds.”

    She left her cousin to go help Clark with the boxes and she went out to the cabin to pack the remaining items so they could also go on the truck. Bubsy had told her not to worry about cleaning, but she did some of it anyway, wanting to make sure it was clean for her sister.

    She looked around, making sure she hadn’t forgotten anything, feeling a little wistful at what she was leaving behind. Despite the circumstances which had brought her to Smallville, she had been happy living here. She’d found a home here. More than that, she’d found a family here, both new and old.

    She felt a hand on her shoulder.

    “All right, sweetheart?”

    She looked around at her dad. “Yeah. Just … remembering. I was so lucky to find Mom when I first came here.”

    “I bless the day you came here and she found you. Not only because I found someone I want to grow old with, but because in a lot of ways, she saved both of us. All of us,” he amended.

    She kissed his cheek. “I love you, Dad.”

    “I love you too, sweetheart. Let’s get the rest of your stuff and get to the farm. Martha invited us all to lunch once everything’s moved in.”

    She nodded, picking up her last couple of boxes while he picked up her suitcase. They left the cabin, closing the door behind them.

    It took about an hour to drive to the farm and unload. The rest of the time was going to be taken up with unpacking.

    Clark had made sure there was room in his closet for her clothes, although he jokingly complained the entire time about Lois having far too many. Especially her shoes. He’d compared her collection to that of a character from a tv show.

    She rolled her eyes at him. “At least I’ve got taste.”

    “Well, that’s true,” he returned. “I mean, you did fall for me.”

    “Ego much?” she replied, stalking him. She poked him in the ribs. He just laughed at her.

    Kally came running in, Shelby at her heels.

    “Mommy! Daddy!”

    “What is it, munchkin?” Lois asked. Her daughter grabbed her hand and pulled her out of the room. She led the way to her bedroom. It was chaos. There were toys on the floor where Kally had thrown them instead of putting them away neatly.

    Lucy was trying in vain to sort out the mess. She looked apologetically at Lois.

    “Hurricane Kally,” she said.

    Clark went to help her. “We’ll get this sorted,” he said. He lifted Kally onto the bed so he could talk to her at her level. “Now, sweetheart, what did we say about putting things away?”

    “Umm,” she said, her finger in her mouth.

    Clark handed her a plush pig. “Where does Bobo go?” he asked.

    “Umm, there,” she said, pointing to the top of the dresser.

    “Okay.” He lifted her off the bed and tapped her backside. “You know what to do.”

    “But Daddy, I’m too little.”

    Lois chuckled. She did have a point, but Clark already had that figured out. He’d made her a little step-stool. It had wide steps so she wouldn’t fall. Once he showed her how to use the steps, she was able to climb up to place the toy on the dresser. She repeated the action for a couple of other toys. The rest she proclaimed would go on the bed or on the chair.

    Chloe came in with one more box.

    “Where do you want this?” she asked.

    Lois frowned. “What is that?” she said, not recognising the box.

    Her cousin shrugged. “Your dad gave it to me.”

    Lois glanced at Clark and took the box. She put it down on the bed and opened the flap.

    “Oh my god. I’d forgotten about this.”

    “What is it?” Clark asked.

    “It’s keepsakes. Family heirlooms.”

    She’d last seen it not long before she’d run away from her father. She realised he’d kept it all this time. He’d probably been waiting until she had a place of her own, instead of the cabin.

    Kally crawled onto the bed and began looking in the box. She pulled out a little bundle wrapped in a cloth.

    “What’s this, Mommy?” she asked, unwrapping the cloth.

    Lois recognised the glass bird right away. Every place they’d lived, until her mother had died, it had been placed on the sill underneath the kitchen window. Lois could remember as a child watching in fascination as the sun beamed through, throwing rays of blue on the walls.

    “That was …” She frowned. “That was Mommy’s when she was a little girl,” she replied, not wanting to confuse her daughter by telling her that she once had another grandma. “Its name is Ol’ Blue,” she said.

    “It’s pretty, Mommy.”

    There were other things in the box. A small collection of video tapes and keepsakes from when she had been little.

    Clark must have sensed her emotions as he suggested they take the box into their room so Lois could put the stuff away, leaving Chloe and Lucy to help Kally put her things away.

    Lois felt herself gently pushed out of the room and into Clark’s … their … room. He sat her down on the bed.

    “What are you not saying?” he asked gently.

    “The glass bird, was my mom’s. I didn’t want to confuse Kally.”

    “She’s too little to understand about her other grandma. I get that.”

    “My dad gave me the bird before Mom died.” She took the bird out of the box and held it in her hands, feeling the grooves in the glass. “I didn’t go to see her in the hospital when we found out she had cancer.” She swallowed hard, not wanting to cry. “What kid wouldn’t go to see their dying mother in the hospital?”

    “A really scared one,” Clark told her, his arms around her.

    “Do you think she was angry at me? For not going?”

    “No, Lois. I don’t think she was. She would have understood. You were only six years old. It’s a lot for anyone to handle, let alone a little girl.”

    Lois looked at the tapes. They were dated the same time her mother had been in the hospital. Clark glanced at them.

    “Honey, if you want to, we can watch those a little later. When we have some time alone.”

    She pressed close to him. “I’d like that,” she said.

  12. #117
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Forty-Five

    Kally was clearly getting sleepy, but she was trying to resist. Clark wondered if she was a little over-stimulated. It had been a very long day with a lot of activity. Even though she’d had a few overnights at the farm, this was her first night in her new bed, in her new room.

    She was playing games with her Grandpa Sam. He’d initially tried playing patty-cake but she kept changing the rules on him.

    “All right, munchkin. I think it’s time we put you to bed.”

    “Nooo!” she whimpered. “Wanna play with Grandpa.”

    “No, sweetheart, you heard your daddy.”

    Lois came out of the kitchen where she’d been helping with cooking dinner.

    “Your daddy’s right, sweet pea. It’s bedtime. Maybe after you’ve had your bath, Daddy will read you a story.”

    Clark grinned. “How about that?” he asked. “You can even choose the story.”

    Kally brightened. “Okay.” She allowed him to take her hand so they could go upstairs together. She had been insisting she was a big girl and didn’t need to be carried.

    Clark took her upstairs and gave her a bath, making sure she brushed her teeth before helping her dress in her pyjamas. Once she was dressed, she ran to her room and picked out a book from the little bookshelf Clark had made for her. To his amusement, she’d chosen his favourite book when he was a child.

    “I want this one, Daddy,” she said.

    “Okay. First, let’s get you into bed.” He pulled back the covers and helped her into bed. He sat on the side so she could curl up with him and opened the book. “The Velveteen Rabbit.”

    “What’s it about, Daddy?” her little voice asked.

    “Shh, you’ll find out,” he replied.

    He was barely halfway through the story before he noticed she’d fallen asleep. He put the book down on the nightstand, making sure the night light was on. He’d wanted to get Kally a new night light, thinking she’d want something ‘girly’, but when she’d been exploring the attic one day, she’d found his Elmer Fudd night light. She’d decided that was what she wanted, so Elmer Fudd had been installed in her room.

    As Clark got up, he noticed Lois standing in the doorway.

    “How long have you been there?” he asked.

    “Long enough,” she said, her voice barely above a whisper. She nodded her head toward the book. “I loved that book when I was little.”

    “Yeah, me too,” he replied. He made sure Kally was warm and not lying in an awkward position before tiptoeing out and closing the door softly.

    “You’re so good with her,” Lois observed.

    He shrugged. He was modest about his parenting. He knew it wasn’t that easy and even experience with some of Kally’s tantrums had taught him that it took a lot of patience not to give in, but he always looked to his parents’ examples. God knew, it had never been easy for them raising a child like him.

    It was late by the time dinner was over and the house had become quiet. Clark’s parents had gone to bed and Lois’ family had already left. Clark went out to check everything was locked up that needed to be and returned to the house.

    Lois came out of the kitchen carrying a tray. “I made hot cocoa,” she said. Her expression was kind of neutral.

    He remembered his promise to her earlier, but it was up to Lois whether she wanted to watch her mother’s tapes. He guessed it was going to be rather emotional for her.

    She sat on the couch, curling her legs under her. Clark sat next to her, noticing she was trembling a little. She bit her lip.

    “You don’t have to stay,” she said.

    He shook his head. “I promised. You don’t have to do this now if you think it’ll be too much.”

    “I want to,” she told him. “I’m just … what if she was angry?” She’d already pondered that, but Clark knew she needed reassurance.

    “Don’t think like that, okay? Your mom loved you.”

    He picked up the remote and handed it to her. She took it almost hesitantly then seemed to steel herself before pressing play. He turned to the screen and watched as static gave way to an image of a woman sitting down in front of a camera. She had dark hair cut in what he assumed was a bob. It was shoulder-length, framing a pretty face that even to Clark’s untrained gaze looked a little pale. Her eyes were what stood out the most. She had hazel eyes like Lois, but they were eyes full of pain.

    As she started to speak, it looked almost as if she was too full of emotion. She turned her face away from the camera for a moment, her hand brushing the curtain of her hair. It was something he noticed Lois doing occasionally and wondered if she’d picked up the gesture from her mother.

    He listened as she began to talk, realising that Lois’ memory of her mother’s last few weeks of life had been a little faulty. She’d blamed herself for not visiting her mom, but it was her mother who had made that decision. He thought it over as he continued to listen. She was wrong. He knew Ella wanted to spare her daughters the pain of losing her but he felt that had robbed the girls of being able to say goodbye.

    Lois curled into him and he could tell she was crying as her mother’s words to her sunk in. He said nothing, just quietly took her hand and squeezed it gently, letting her know without words that he was there for her.

    As the tape came to an end, Lois sighed. “Thank you,” she said. “For watching this with me.”

    He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and held her close, letting her work through her emotions.

    “I think I would have liked to have seen her in the hospital. I think I could have handled it.”

    “Maybe she couldn’t,” he murmured softly. “I guess sometimes even our parents are afraid of appearing weak.”

    “Yeah, maybe.” She yawned and stretched. “It’s been a long day. I’m gonna go up to bed.”

    He nodded. “I’ll be up in a couple of minutes,” he replied.

    He got up to walk with her to the stairs. She started up, then stopped on the second stair.

    “I love you, Clark.”

    “I love you, too,” he responded.

    He watched her go before going back into the living room and turning off the tv. He picked up the cups, taking them into the kitchen and rinsed them. He switched off the lights and went upstairs.

    The door to Kally’s room was open a crack so he opened it a little further. Lois was checking on Kally, straightening the bedclothes. She looked up to see him watching.

    “I was just checking on her,” she said.

    He grinned. One of his earliest memories was of his parents coming in to check on him a few times a night. As he’d grown accustomed to his new home, they hadn’t done it so often. Clark wondered if it had been to make sure he was okay or just to reassure themselves that he wasn’t laying awake afraid of his new surroundings.

    Kally was clutching her teddy bear, her face pressed up against the faux fur. She was sleeping soundly.

    “Come on,” Clark whispered. “She looks fine.”

    Lois nodded and followed him back out. He nudged her toward the bathroom.

    “Go brush your teeth and get ready for bed.”

    “You ordering me around now, Kent?” she asked.

    “Yup!”

    She narrowed her eyes at him. “You’ll get yours.”

    Clark grasped her wrist and pulled her close, kissing her. She grinned and pulled away, disappearing into the bathroom. A few moments later he heard the shower. As he turned to go into the bedroom, the bathroom door opened.

    “You know,” Lois said softly. “We’ll save on water if we shower together. I mean, now that we’re both paying the bills around here.”

    Clark didn’t need to be told twice.

    ***

    He was up early the next morning to make a start on the chores so his parents could sleep in. He was just emptying the feed trough for the animals when Kally came running out. She had clearly tried to dress herself as she was wearing leggings and a sweater. The leggings were inside out with one leg bunched so it was halfway up her calf and the other looking a little stretched. She had also managed to somehow mess up the sweater. Her hair was also sticking up.

    His immediate concern was whether she was warm enough. It was still icy on the ground.

    Clark bit back a laugh as she looked rather disgruntled. “Daddy!” she said in the demanding voice she always used when she wanted something.

    “What are you doing?” he asked.

    She mumbled something about wanting to help with chores. Before she could go wandering off he grabbed her.

    “All right, you can help. But let’s fix these first,” he said.

    She grumbled, but let him strip off her leggings and put them on again correctly. He went to adjust her sweater, only to find she wasn’t wearing a shirt underneath.

    “Kally, you can’t help if you get cold,” he told her. “Come on. Let’s go find a shirt and your jacket.” He took her hand and led her back to the house.

    Lois was up, making coffee in the kitchen. “So that’s where you got to,” she told Kally. She frowned. “What are you wearing?”

    “She wanted to help with the chores,” he told his girlfriend. “I’m just gonna get her a shirt and find her jacket so she won’t be cold.”

    Lois was clearly trying not to laugh, her expression implying she knew something Clark didn’t. She sipped her coffee, hiding her face away. Clark shook his head and took Kally back upstairs. He groaned quietly at the sight that greeted him. In her search for something to wear, she had tossed almost every item of clothing out of the drawers.

    He tried to be stern with her as he scolded her for making a mess but he just couldn’t manage it. She didn’t look in the least concerned with the state of the room. Clark shook his head.

    “What am I going to do with you?” he said.

    Kally picked up her stepstool and climbed up to the top of the dresser. She reached for Bobo and climbed down before handing the stuffed pig to Clark as if it was meant to be some kind of peace offering. Clark laughed. He couldn’t stay mad at her for long.

    He quickly undressed her and changed her pull-up before dressing her in her leggings, shirt and her sweater. She squirmed as he helped her put her clothes on the correct way, still insisting she was big enough to dress herself.

    “What’s all the ruckus?”

    Clark looked up to see his father grinning at him from the doorway.

    “Kally wanted to help with the chores,” he explained, telling his dad about Kally’s outfit.

    “Oh, I remember those days. You were just a little bit older than Kally when you began trying to dress yourself. You wanted to help with the chores too. You came out to help put hay out for the cows but when one of them came up to meet you, you ran to your mother screaming your head off.”

    Clark chuckled. He guessed his version of ‘helping’ didn’t include getting up close and personal with the farm animals.

    “Daddy!”

    He looked down at his daughter’s disgruntled face. “All right, munchkin. We just need to get your jacket and your boots and then you can come and help me and Grandpa. Okay?”

    “Okay.”

    She ran out of the room, calling to her mother as she ran down the stairs, yelling something about going to help with the cows.

    Clark sighed and looked at his father. “Was I ever that loud?” he asked.

    “Louder,” his dad replied.

    He rolled his eyes. “Gee, thanks.”

    His father wrapped an arm around his shoulders. “Get used to it, son. Two more females in this house means we’re seriously outnumbered.”

    “I heard that, Jonathan Kent!”

    Oops, Clark thought as his mother came out of his parents’ bedroom. He slipped away, going downstairs while his parents bickered.

    Kally was waiting impatiently for him at the door. Still with no jacket and no boots.

    “You a slowpoke, Daddy,” she said.

    God only knew where she’d heard that term before. He decided to ignore it and grabbed her, tickling her ribs until she giggled.

    “Slow am I? You’re just impatient, little girl.”

    “Me not patient,” she said, clearly trying to say impatient, but had obviously missed something in the translation.

    “Yeah, you are. Let’s get your jacket and your boots, sweetie. You don’t want Jack Frost to get your toes, do you?”

    She shook her head emphatically. Clark grabbed her jacket from the coat stand and helped her put her boots on.

    “All right, kiddo. Let’s get to those chores.”

    As much as he wanted to use his super speed to get through the chores, he knew he had to be careful to ensure she didn’t see him. He was able to get most of the heavy stuff done, leaving her to help him put out some of the feed. Since she was too small to heft one of the sacks, he let her use a small trowel to lay the feed in the trough.

    Lois came out as they were finishing up.

    “How’s it going?” she asked.

    Kally looked up at her. “Look, Mommy.”

    “I can see, baby girl. Why don’t you go wash up? Breakfast is ready.”

    “’K Mommy.” Kally put the trowel down and ran toward the house.

    Lois walked over to him and wrapped her arms around his waist. “How’s it really going?” she asked.

    He chuckled. “I know she wants to help, but …”

    “I know. She just wants to be like you.”

    He kissed her. “I should get the rest of the chores done.”

    “Okay. Don’t be too long.”

    He watched her go back into the house, eyeing her butt in the jeans she wore. She paused and looked around at him with a smirk, knowing full well what he was looking at. She resumed walking with a deliberate sway of her hips. Clark felt his eyes grow hot and looked away before something combusted.

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