posted on 17-May-2002 2:42:09 PM
Can't get to my other post so here's the new part.

Author: DMartinez
Email: shockerdm⊕icqmail.com
Disclaimer: Characters from UPN's Roswell belong to Metz and Katims. Characters from the WB's Smallville belong to Siegel, Schuster, Gough and Miller. No infringement intended.
Rating: PG-13 (possibility of rating increase)
Summary: The Kents get a boarder and Clark gets a crush that he has to share with Lex.
Spoilers: Roswell Season 3 Episode Ch-ch-changes. Smallville Season 1 Episode Leech.


Crushes

Part 13

Liz nuzzled Clark's back as she slowly came awake. Before he could wake, she ran her fingers over the smooth skin of his back, intending to kiss the wounds she had left but smooth skin was all her fingers found. She could have sworn she had raked her nails into his back hard, there should have been scratches at the very least. Sitting up slightly, she allowed some light to fall across his back, not even red welts.

"Is there something on my back?" Clark mumbled into the pillow.

"No… which is the weird part." Liz cleared her throat and ran her fingers over his skin again. "I could have sworn I left marks…"

Clark's eyes popped open and he tensed. Slowly, he rolled over and looked at her. "I… I guess I don't mark easy."

"But there were marks the other night and I… I didn't scratch nearly as hard as I did last night." Liz knew it was silly but it was odd. The kind of odd that stuck out, the kind of odd that was hard to let go.

"How in the world could you tell the difference?" Clark laughed nervously, his brow knitted together, wondering what in the world she was getting at.

"Because last night you were so relaxed and unafraid… and powerful." Liz bit her lip at the memory, her thighs clenched convulsively and revealed sore muscles. Sighing, she lay back on the bed.

Clark propped himself up on an elbow and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. A quick scan of the room made known the absence of Liz's meteor rock. A sense of panic washed over him but obviously Liz was fine. He hadn't crushed her or left many more bruises than usual. His eyes closed in relief at the realization that he didn't need to make himself sick to be intimate.

"Clark…" Liz reached over to put a hand on his chest. "I'm being stupid, really. I'm sorry."

"Really, it's not—" Clark's words stopped the second her lips touched his and her leg slid over his waist. His hands immediately slid down her back to pull her closer to him as he lay back.

--

Max stared at the tiny rock where he had placed it on the kitchen table. He'd have to do some research. Approximately where had the meteors come from? Did they have any connection to the Antarian world? Did the shower really activate the pods?

"Hey Clark, I have a theory on your glowing girlfriend…" The voice died just as the kitchen door swung open. "And you're not Clark."

Turning, he eyed the young blonde. What had she been babbling about? "He's still in bed."

"Oh. Okay." Chloe glanced around and then stepped into the kitchen. "I'm Chloe."

"Max." He answered distractedly, hoping she wouldn't see the –

"Ooh. You found one. Cool." Chloe picked up the rock from the table. "So, Max… You're not from Smallville. Are you a friend of Liz's?"

"Yeah."

"Ooh. From Roswell?" Chloe kept right on talking at his slow nod. "So, does this rock make you feel strange?"

"Strange?" Max narrowed his eyes at the girl as she handed the rock back.

"Yeah, different from normal? I think that the radiation from the Roswell crash affected the locals and I think exposure to the meteor rocks makes people from Roswell feel strange." She sat and stared at him hard. "So… does your skin tingle at all?"

"Um… I think you're confused. There was no crash in Roswell."

"Well duh. Not in Roswell but outside of Roswell. Why are you avoiding the question?" She stared at him harder.

"Chloe?" Clark had her name out before he realized it. He shrugged into his shirt quickly and stepped into the kitchen. Her eyes widened when they took in his form. "What are you doing here?"

"I have a theory about your glowing girlfriend." She had to tear her eyes away from his bare chest to look at him.

"Chloe…" He sighed heavily, it was suddenly hard to breathe. That's when he saw the rock in Max's hand. "Liz is not a meteor mutant. Are you sure you saw what you thought you saw?"

"Yes. I saw it. I'm about to prove it but Liz's friend here is quite shy." She pointed to Max and Clark stiffened, having forgotten that he was still in the house.

"I thought you were leaving." Clark managed to grind out.

"I was but I wanted to say bye to Liz, first." Max sat up, avoiding the younger guy's eyes.

"She's… just give her a minute. I have chores." Clark gripped Chloe's elbow and guided her outside. "Chloe… since when do you start questioning total strangers?"

"He's not a stranger. He's Liz's friend. A friend by default." She tried playing with him but he seemed distracted. "Clark. It was purely innocent interrogation."

"He's her ex-boyfriend."

"Ah and the green-eyed monster is rearing its ugly head. Let me guess, plenty of pissing contests?" She stopped her teasing at the strained look on her face. "Look, I know I said I'd let it rest but I can't. She's from Roswell. Something crashed out there and there's probably radiation all over the place. She said herself that she was born there. 18 years of soaking that stuff up and then she comes here. Radiation of a different kind all over the place. She comes into contact with a fragment, keeps it around and boom… six months later the fragment is making her glow."

"I seriously doubt that's what happened." Clark buttoned up his shirt and moved on to the barn. "I actually do have chores to do before my parents get back."

"Clark?" Chloe stopped walking, tears brightening her eyes. "I didn't hear you stomp down the stairs the way you usually do…" The look on his face said it all and she felt the familiar pang in her chest. "Wow. Clark Kent. Virgin no more. Congratulations."

"Chloe…"

"I have to go."

"Chloe!" He yelled after her but she kept on walking.

--

"Liz, can I come in?" Max's voice drifted through the door.

"Um, sure." Liz called back, straightening the shirt she had just put on. Turned when she heard the door open. "What's up?"

"Clark's friend Chloe was just here… she saw you glowing." Max shut the door gently behind him.

"Yeah… I guess she didn't just forget about it." Sank back onto the bed.

"Well, she also has a theory. Apparently she's not shy." Max leaned on the door. "She thinks that it's a radiation thing. You being near the '47 crash all your life and then coming here." He took a deep breath. "I think that if she pushes… you should play it off that way."

"Probably would be best huh." Soft voice as she looked at her hands. "I don't want to lie to him."

"I know but… I need to tell you something. Last night…" Max ran a hand over his face and started again. "I think the rock does heighten our powers. I fell asleep with it in my pocket and somehow I was touching it with my finger…" Once he saw he had her undivided attention he continued. "You were the last thing on my mind before I went to sleep. I woke up because I saw you with Clark."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that I did more than dreamwalk… I was there. I saw you and him as if I were in the room. I heard the two of you talking, saw you touching. I snapped out of it as soon as I realized but I want you to be careful with this thing." Max handed her the small rock. "I don't want anything happening to you so… don't go around feeling better with it all the time."

"Take it with you. See what you can find out." She placed it back in his hand. "I can always find another one."

"I should really get going. Are you going to be okay?" His fingers squeezed her lightly. "You don't look so good."

"I'm fine. I'm just tired." She averted her eyes. "I'll be fine. Don't worry about me."

"Liz…" Max's eyes shot past her to her flower. It had wilted completely. Odd. "I want you to know that if anything happens, you can call me. I'm not going to jump all over for needing some help."

"But the point is… I usually don't. I really don't think it'd be a good idea for us to be talking on a regular basis right now." She took a breath. "I really like Clark and I don't want to hurt him with us." She pulled her hand away from his. "I really like it here, Max. I have friends… they're not you guys but it's nice."

"Yeah. I understand." Max nodded and placed the rock in his pocket. "We both have new lives. I have to get back. Deirdre is going to kill me when I get home."

"Bye Max."

"Bye… Liz."

--

Chloe tripped over her own feet and threw her hands out to catch her fall. Asphalt bit into her palms and knee. Blood spilled onto the street as she gingerly sat right where she fell. She ached and now she physically hurt. She barely looked up at a soft whirring. Tears were already clouding her eyes when she realized that if she didn't move, some idiot was going to run right over her. Tempting so very tempting but she couldn't use her hands to get up.

A silver blur screeched to a halt and she cursed the click of shoes that rounded the car. Felt his eyes on her. "So is this the new hot spot? No one told me. But I can see it. Open air, easy navigation, risk of death… all good factors in the place to be."

"Can you just leave me alone?" Chloe whispered, wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand.

"The Kent's live just up that way… either that's where you're going or that's where you came from?"

"Do you like Liz?" Chloe asked softly.

"Sure, she's a great girl."

"See, that's her problem. Everyone likes her. Even me. I can't even hate her. Lana I can hate. That one's easy. She's perfect and she's modest but doesn't think she has the flaws that I see. That makes it so easy but not Liz. Liz knows she's not perfect, she's real and still great and I can't even hate her." Chloe gingerly rested her hands on her knees.

Lex squatted beside her. "So I gather you have some information that you rather you didn't."

"You knew, didn't you?" She looked up at him. "That they're sleeping together."

"I did, actually." Lex reached a hand out to help her up. "Come on. Let's get you cleaned up. I'll give you a ride into town."

"Thanks." Chloe nodded stiffly and allowed him to help her into the Porsche. The ride was silent for a minute. "I guess you don’t do the comfort thing."

"I'll admit that I'm not the greatest at giving comfort but I figured you wouldn't want me to." Lex's blue eyes slid over to catch her guilty expression. "What exactly did happen?"

"Well, I was going to tell Clark about this theory I have about Liz and the meteor rocks but when I got there, this guy was in the kitchen. I guess he's Liz's ex or something. I was talking to him and suddenly there's Clark and he's trying to get me out of the house… in this time I'm realizing that I never heard his huge feet stomping down the stairs."

"You remember that Liz's room is downstairs and it being fairly early in the morning… the math wasn't too difficult."

"Right." She nodded and gingerly shifted her hands in her lap.

"So I asked him and you know Clark wouldn’t say anything but his face is like a neon sign. It practically wrote out for me that 'Clark had sex.' I just couldn't stand there and talk to him… so I left and then I tripped over my own feet… which is where you come in."

Lex pondered her story for a moment. "Why didn't you ever let Clark know that you liked him?"

"Cause I don't." She protested and immediately had to give in. "Because he doesn't look at me that way. He had that crush on Lana forever and next thing you know… Liz."

"I'll tell you something. You want to know why Clark didn't go for Lana when she broke up with Whitney?" His eyes left the road only briefly to catch her nod and then he pulled up to her house. "I told him about the rebound. No matter how much she liked him, no matter what, Clark would be the rebound guy. She was with Whitney for a long time and those feelings don't fade."

"What are you saying?"

"Clark has chosen to forget my advice with Liz." Lex turned off the car. "I like Liz… I do. She's a great girl and she is good for Clark but… She's not over Max yet. Liz and Max were practically married from what I understand and whether or not she wants him to be… Clark is the rebound guy." He swallowed nervously. "I'll tell you something else… Liz is a rebound girl. Clark was too far gone over Lana for this to work."

"What are you saying? They're rebounding each other?"

"Something like that. If you are willing to wait for Clark… be his friend. When he and Liz fall apart, you'll be there. Maybe he'll stop wearing those blinders. He'll be ready for you by then. Liz on the other hand. It'll take a few guys to get over Max… if she can."

"So we all have to wait our turns, huh." Chloe lowered her eyes, before lifting them to his with a nervous smile and reached for the door handle.

"Perceptive, Miss Sullivan."

"That's my middle name. Thanks for the ride."

--

Clark couldn't help but whine against Liz's lips when he heard his parents pull up to the house. Grudgingly they pulled apart and entered the house just as the front door opened.

"Oh my goodness, that smells so good." Jonathan inhaled deeply and set down their bags.

"Yes, it does." Martha pulled off her jacket and wandered in to meet the kids. "I can't believe you two cooked something that smells this good."

"Took some patience and a good beating but I got Clark to spill the beans on one of your recipes." Liz smiled and hugged Martha.

"She might be little but she can pack a punch." Clark held his stomach after an elbow in the ribs from Liz.

"Uh-huh. I'd say that the two of you have just enough time to go wash up and then we can have some dinner." Liz gave them both a push towards the stairs.

"Alright then, we'll be right down." Martha shot Jonathan a look and followed him up the stairs. Jonathan disappeared into the bedroom with the bags and she had to pause just outside of Clark's room. His bed sat perfectly made, clothes up off the floor, computer turned off, radio on the shelf where it belonged… It made her gasp and hurry to her bedroom. "Jonathan."

"What?" Muffled sounds came from under his shirt as he pulled a fresh one on. "What is it?"

"Clark didn't stay in his room while we were gone."

"What?" His blue eyes found her panicked ones. "What are you talking about?"

"I just looked in there. It's clean. No clothes on the floor, bed made, radio and computer off." She ran a brush through her hair and went about changing her shirt. "We did not leave so that they could…" Her voice dropped to a whisper. "… have sex."

"Martha." Scoffing, he pulled his shoes on. "Clark and I talked about this before he went to the thing at Lex's. He's not ready to find out if… it's safe. I assured him that… it was perfectly natural and she would understand." He stopped moving to look up at her. "Clark never lies to me. Sometimes he omits the truth but he never lies."

"Fine. Maybe you're right. Clark didn't lie to you on Thursday. Thursday he didn't think he was ready for sex… but today is Sunday. There are three days in which he could have woken up ready." Martha turned to him. "You can't be this calm."

"There's nothing we can do about it. All we can hope for is… if they did, that they used something."

"I wasn't even thinking about that, Jonathan."

Hands on her shoulder, he forced her to look up at him. "We are going to go downstairs and have dinner. I'm going to pretend we never had this conversation and you are going to forget you read anything into a clean room belonging to our pig of a son. Alright?"

"Fine."

--

Liz set a cup of tea in front of the woman who had become a friend. "Sore?"

"I hate the drive. I can't sit or sleep comfortably for hours after one of those drives." Martha laughed to herself. "Ruined the christening of this house when we first moved in." Sipped at her hot tea. "But that was too much information, wasn't it?"

"I think it's sweet. Back home, so very few of my friends had both parents still living together and in love. Here, it's everywhere. You guys, Pete's parents, Cherylynn's, Joey's, Isaiah's…" She trailed off and took a seat at the table. "So, how was your trip?"

"Great. I don't get to spend much time in Metropolis since Jonathan and I got married. We did so much. He followed me around two museums, took me to see an opera but I had to concede to a game and a tractor show." They laughed and fell into silence. "How did you two fare without us?"

"Good. It was uneventful." Liz nodded, eyes trained on her cup.

"That's good. I'm surprised the cattle are still here."

"Clark was up fairly early every morning to run through chores and then he did a good job of checking on them throughout the day. He's really good at this." Liz gestured to the farm just out the window.

"He's had a lifetime of practice but honestly… I don't think the farm will be passed down. Jonathan's been trying to come to terms with it but in the end… Clark won't become a farmer." Her blue eyes settled on Liz, noting her slight confusion and how unsettled the conversation was making her. "Clark was destined for something more."

--

"Chloe, you're insane." Pete sighed into the phone. If his parents caught him on the phone this late, he'd be grounded for the rest of Christmas break. "Why on Earth do you think that Liz and her ex are aliens?"

"It makes sense. I met him today. So of course I asked him some questions. He denied that there was even a crash in Roswell." Chloe huffed and clicked through web pages as quickly as she came across them.

"And that means he's an alien?"

"No but… there was a statement issued a few years back that admitted that something other than a weather balloon went down. If he was going to deny it, he should have gone with the weather balloon story instead of denying altogether that something crashed. He's hiding something and chances are that she know what it is." Chloe paused on a Roswell tabloid. "Huh. Yes. Yes."

"What are you babbling about now?"

"September '99. There was a shooting in Roswell at a local restaurant. Witnesses state that a gun went off and shot a waitress. Then a young boy rushed to her side and moments later ran out of the restaurant, leaving the young woman alive and well."

"Uh-huh."

"The waitress is our very own Liz Parker."

"So?"

"So. She was shot and brought back to life by some young man. An alien."

"Chloe, are you sure that was sugar you put in your coffee today?"

"What?"

"Are you sure it wasn't like crack or something?"

"Pete. I am hacking the Roswell P.D. as we speak. I'm going to get that police report. I'll bet you money that it wasn't just a tabloid story. The shooting made it to the town paper and the details are in the secondary paper there."

"It's a tabloid, Chloe. You're the one that claims the Inquisitor is beneath you. You said yourself that they make stuff up. You said you saw them do it."

"But I never said any of the stories didn't have some truth to them." Chloe ran her eyes over the page. "I can't do this here. I'll bet I can do it from the school."

"Chloe. Go to bed. Liz Parker and her ex are not aliens. Just because you're jealous—"

"Stop right there. This is not about me being jealous. This is about me seeing her glow. This is about how nervous she gets when I talk about aliens. This is about how her ex-boyfriend tried to tell me that there was no Roswell crash."

"Chloe. I seriously doubt you're winning your case and I'm going to bed."

"But you'll owe me money when I prove I'm right."

"Night, Chloe."

--

Lex opened the folder for the second time in the months it had been in his possession. Details of the police report from Utah. 'Couple ran into the store, smaller female pulled a gun, taller male disappeared from shop owner's view. The camera corroborates the story until it cut out. Three minutes later, both ran out the door. They were then met with P.D. who had an anonymous tip about the robbery. The couple proceeded to evade P.D. Car chase ensued. Couple were picked up and arrested. No gun was ever found. No items stolen from store.'

"Liz, why hold innocent people at gunpoint if you weren't going to steal anything. What was Max doing when he disappeared?" Lex closed the folder and moved to place it within his vault. After placing it safely in a drawer he shut his eyes. "What the hell were you doing in Utah?"

TBC

[ edited 9 time(s), last at 15-Feb-2003 5:46:58 PM ]
posted on 14-Jun-2002 1:26:13 AM
Part 14 A(This part is running long so I'll try to finish it tomorrow or something)

Liz tiled her head and smiled when she entered Lex's office. "Yes sir?"

"How was your Christmas?" Lex poured himself a brandy and swallowed it in one gulp.

"Good. Thank you. Should I ask about yours?"

"Not if you want an honest answer." Brilliant smile that didn't reach his eyes.

"Lex…" Liz plopped down in a chair and watched him. "Did you even go?"

"Didn't have to. He mailed me my present. Five shares of the worst company we own. I know how he feels about me."

"Is this why you wanted me to come in?" Liz rose from the chair, eyeing him suspiciously. "I could have brought Clark if you need to talk to someone."

"I don't need Clark's pity right now. Don't forget… you're the one that asked." Lex flashed her a bright smile that faded slowly. "But the reason I called you over was this." He motioned her over to a table where a folder was laid out. "Look it over. I'll bet some of it is familiar."

"What is this?" Liz gasped when she saw the pictures. "Where did you get these?"

"I intercepted this package on its way to Metropolis. Apparently… my father thinks the way to get to me is through you. He could be right but I'm not going to let him." Lex poured himself another brandy but sipped it slowly. "I just wanted you to be aware that someone apparently followed you around for close to three years and those are the results."

Silence filled the room as she sifted through the pictures that depicted much of her life in high school. "These are old. Two years at the most recent. The Unit is gone."

"Actually, you're right. Those are from the Special Unit and the Unit is indeed gone. How did you know that?" Blue eyes watched as she lined the pictures up carefully. Her eyes trained on the table and all its information. Saw the flick of the brown orbs to the fire.

"It's not something I talk about." Eyes flicked to the fire again. Eyed the files in front of her. Police reports and tabloids that were seemingly unrelated to the uninformed eye. "Ever. How… why?"

"My father is ruthless. He wants to make me look bad and he's doing it through you. I didn't think it would work but I did look through them. I do believe I'm missing pieces but that it's all there." At her silence, Lex threw his own gaze to the fire. "Why do you keep looking at the fire like it can save you?"

"These files would ruin too many lives. Eight lives to be exact. But the ripples would be endless."

"Be my guest. Burn them."

"Why?" Finally her eyes lifted to his.

"You've got a luxury that I don't. If these files are gone… there's nothing left to hold over your head." Lex furrowed his brow at the slow shake of her head.

"Nope. It's never over but… it's a start." She flung the stack of pictures into the fire, followed quickly by the files. Tears filled her eyes but the smoke turned them dry. "Thanks for the heads up."

"Why did you say those were old?"

"He really did get them from the Special Unit. It's been gone for two years. I hope it stays gone." Liz adjusted her shirt and watched as the files burned to ash. "I have to go."

"I hope you're not quitting over this." He set his glass down and approached her. "It'd be a shame to lose the only employee that I can trust."

"Lex, you don't understand what you and your father got yourselves into. Having the files is one thing, knowing what they're about is another. Even the Special Unit only had a third of the story." Her brown eyes met his unwavering. "Like I said. I don't talk about it."

The knock at the door broke the tension in the room. Lex called for entry and one of his staff appeared. "Mr. Luthor, the storm has moved in. I've sent George to tend to the animals and the vehicles are locked down in the garages. Ma'am, I don't suggest you start out in this."

"What storm?" Liz's eyes widened.

"Surely you've lived in Kansas long enough to keep tabs on the weather, Liz." Lex turned to the door. "Thank you for the update, Jeseph." He waited for the man to exit before turning to Liz. "Was it snowing when you got here?"

"Well, yeah but just a little." She protested.

"High winds, snow and ice. Low visibility. I don't think you should drive in this weather."

"Maybe you're right…"

--

Martha knocked on Clark's door and pushed it open slowly. "Clark?"

"What's up, Mom?" Clark sat up. He had already seen to the animals and they were fine. This had to be something else.

"Where's Liz?"

"She went to talk to Lex about something. I don't know. He called so it's gotta be about his schedule or something." He shrugged.

"That was Gabe Sullivan on the phone. Do you know where Chloe is?"

"She's not home?" Swung his feet onto the floor.

"No. Pete hasn't seen her either. Where are you going?"

"To school." He yanked on his boots and hunted for his jacket. "When Chloe isn't with either of us, she's… utilizing high-speed connections at the school."

"Clark, be careful. Just stay with her. It's supposed to get really bad and while I know you can make it back home…" She gave him a meaningful look as she adjusted his collar. "She can't. Call me when you get there. Then call her dad."

"Will do." Clark grinned and sped down the hall and out of the house. His feet moved so fast that they barely disturbed the snow where it fell. X-ray vision was the only way he made it to the school without incident. Finding the door that Chloe had entered the building through only ate time and got his clothes soaking-wet with snow that melted against his body heat. "Chloe?"

"Clark?" She spun in her chair to see that last person she had expected to find her. "What are you doing here?"

"I don't know if you noticed but we're having a mighty fine blizzard and no one but me knew where on Earth you were." Clark shook his head and the snow fell to the ground. "I was actually going to take you home but it got a lot worse while I was trying to find a way in. You might want to call your dad."

"Okay, wow. Breathe, farm boy." Chloe furrowed her brow. "People are looking for me?"

"Well, yeah. Your dad's been calling all over looking for you. I'm the only one who thought you'd be here and here you are, no doubt hacking something and now it's too late to leave the school." Clark pointed out the window. "See. I'm lucky to have made it here."

"Why are you here?"

"Because… city girl… I needed to at least stop you from going out in that." Really gestured for her to look out at the white wall that had enveloped the town.

"Huh. Can't drive in that." She turned slowly. "Don't suppose you brought food." At the look on his face, she scoffed. "So we're both trapped here without food. Some savior you are."

--

Lex suppressed a laugh at the way Liz paced in front of the fire. Her files had long since become ash. "You're allowed to relax."

"Huh?" Her head snapped around.

"You look tense… like you're about to do that back walk over you do when you've been sitting too long." His eyes followed her movements as she just sank to the floor and put her head in her hands. "I did see that."

"I gathered." Tossing her head back, she looked up at him. "I'm just nervous… you knowing whatever you know…"

"I'm not a threat to you, Liz." Didn't she know that? Maybe local gossip had gotten to her after all. "Liz?"

"Lex. It's a big deal. It's a really big deal. I could trust you with my life but not with the lives of my friends."

"Liz, you're worrying me. I don't believe I have enough of the details to destroy any lives." Lex shifted in his chair and watched her response. "How about if at this very second, I promise never to speak of this again… to anyone?"

"Can you honestly do this?" Liz rose to her feet. "The knowledge you have is potentially lethal. Lives have been marked and people have died and that is all I can say."

"You have my word that I will put it aside." Raised his glass to her. Flashed her a smile. "Don't suppose you'd like a drink."

"Oh, um. No. Alcohol and I aren't, shouldn't… no." Liz said finally.

"Liz. 'No, thank you' would have sufficed." He smirked and sipped from his glass. "I have to ask. What in the world is lane walking?"

"I never told you?" Wrinkled her brow at him.

"No and every time you talk to the ex that wasn't, it comes up." Waited for an answer.

"Do you listen in on my phone calls?" She scoffed at him and sat on the couch nearest to him.

"No, I don't. However, whenever you speak to Sean, your volume raises about two notches." Rested his chin on his hand. "I'm intrigued."

"Well, Sean and I had a very awkward friendship before we were together and the only thing we ever really had fun doing was lane walking. He would sneak us into the bowling alley after hours and we would… slide on the lanes in our socks. It's freeing." Looked up to see him staring. "What?"

"You snuck into a bowling alley."

"Well… broke in is more like it."

"Teach me."

"What?" She blinked. "To break into a bowling alley."

"Lane walking. I have two lanes in the basement. Jeseph keeps it up. I can't say that I've ever bowled." Lex set his glass on the tray and stood.

"Are you sure? Sean said that they put like a thousand coats of oil on the lanes and that's what makes the sliding so easy." Slowly, she got to her feet. "Lead the way, then."

--

"It's cold." Chloe sat huddled in her chair and idly opened windows on her screen to hide the ones she needed and would save when Clark wasn't looking.

"Your powers of observation are astounding." Clark mumbled and shook out his jacket. Finally, he looked up at her. "I'm going to check the lost and found. Maybe there are some more jackets in there."

"Thanks." She nodded and began saving files to disk the second he was out the door. She had found plenty of useful information in the Roswell Police Department's files.

"You know, only you would sneak into the school to do extracurricular research." His voice reached her ears before he even became visible through the doorway. He had a pile of jackets and set them on the floor. "What were you looking up?"

"Nothing really." She shut a window down.

"Uh-huh." Clark studied her hard. "That's why you snuck into the school during Christmas break. You were bored."

"Okay. You caught me." Chloe sighed. The best lies were wrought from the truth. "I came in to look up on Liz."

"Chloe…"

"I haven't found anything to support my outlandish theories… so you can rest easy."

"Are you still mad at me?"

"Mad at you?" Her brow creased as she looked at him. "I was never mad at you."

"Then what was the deal with you running off the other day?" Clark began arranging the jackets into a blanket by snapping them to each other instead of their intended partners.

"It was nothing. I was just having a bad day." She rose to her feet and grabbed the quarter jar from a drawer. It was for the after hours vending machine raids. Lucky for them, it had a decent amount of quarters in it. "I'm hungry, let's go get something to eat."

Clark followed reluctantly and offered his services when her choices got stuck in the machine. "So you're not going to explain?"

"No." She slid more quarters into the slot. When she punched the buttons, the popping in her joints tipped Clark off to how hard she was pushing them.

"Chloe." Slammed his fist into the machine to get the bag of chocolate to fall into the catch. "Come on."

"Well…" She took a breath and retrieved the items from the catch and thrust them into Clark's arms. "I'm hurt."

"Hurt."

"Yes. You keep me in the dark about your whole relationship with Liz. I never hear any anecdotes like… We were in the barn and she fell off the couch we were laughing so hard." Snuck a glance up at him to find a mask of confusion.

"You're… going to have paint me a big neon sign because I'm not getting it. You want me to tell you more stories?" They ambled down the hallways slowly.

"I'm your girl—I'm your gal-pal and you don't talk to me any more. If… I know we've had this talk before about the out-growing as friends and as much as you say that we aren't… I can't help but feel that we are."

"Chloe." Clark had take a deep breath. "I am not and will not ever out-grow you."

"Don't make promises that you can't keep, Clark." She plucked a bag of chips from his arms and kept walking to the Torch office. By the time he caught up, she was making herself comfortable on the jackets he had arranged, so he plopped down next to her. "Clark. You mean a lot to me and it hurts a lot that you have this life that I can't be a part of, that I can't even know about."

"I'm not keeping you out. You hang with us—"

"On the rare occasions that you venture into Smallville with her. Lex knew about the man that Clark Kent became before I knew it was an issue." She chewed on a chip for a moment. "You talked to Pete about it, I'm fairly positive of that."

"It's just not something I felt comfortable discussing with you." He hung his head and rearranged the many jackets for a moment.

"Clark. I'm a gal-pal. That's what I'm here for. You… you did, huh?"

"Did what?" He finally looked up at her. "I did what?"

"Had problems deciding if you could… sleep with her." Chloe lowered her eyes to her bag but knew he was nodding. "Female perspective. That's what I'm here for."

"I guess I didn't realize how it might hurt you. I'm not used to doing this. Usually I can just go to my mom or Lex… sometimes Pete but he doesn't usually help much." Clark chuckled and opened a bag of M&Ms. "Lex… isn't normal and that doesn't help. Mom… is my mother and therefore excluded from the sex talks."

"Hold on. Lex. You talked to him and it's not normal?" Chloe pressed and nudged him in the side. "Speak."

"It's just that… Lex is Lex and everything that I want to do… he's already done and he was younger than me when he did it."

"Ah." Nodded thoughtfully and continued to chew. "So what was the deal with the sex?"

"The usual, I guess. She's been with two guys before me and I wondered how I would measure up. I was worried I'd mess it up." Clark sank against the wall. "When it finally happened, it just happened."

"It still wasn't how you pictured it, was it?"

"No, I guess not. It was still really great but sometimes I think it was missing something." Mostly that feeling came from not disclosing his other-worldliness but he couldn't admit that to Chloe. "How… um, how do you picture your first time?" He managed to get the question out but his face flamed red.

"I'm trying not to. I'm a cynic and if I try to picture it, I'll not want to do it." She glanced at his downcast face. "I suppose that when I finally lose it… it would be nice for it to be someone I know fairly well. Someone I trust."

"Yeah. I like being with her. She's great and she's amazing in bed but… sometimes... it's like we're not on the same level." If only he could put that in the right words but he was bound to mess it up in any way.

"How do you mean?" Case in point.

"It's things she says sometimes. It's not a lot or anything but like when I ask what kinds of things she got into with her friends… she just says that it was normal stuff or that I wouldn't understand. She's really good about not talking down to me about some stuff…" Clark sighed. "But I mean, really. How much trouble could they have gotten into in Roswell?"

"Oh, you'd be surprised." Chloe muttered to herself.

"Are we good?" He rolled his head around to look at her.

"Yeah. Just… don't shut me out any more, Clark."

"I promise." He smiled and drew her closer. "You still cold?"

"I'm getting warmer, thanks to you. Clark Kent, Human Electric Blanket."

TBC
posted on 14-Jun-2002 1:06:35 PM
Part 14 B

Liz slid into the far wall and watched Lex attempt to do the same. He immediately slipped and barely caught himself with his hands. "Is there a trick I'm missing?"

"Balance." She laughed at him and slid over to help him up. "I still cannot believe you've got a swimming pool and a bowling alley in your basement."

"My father fixed the place up when he shipped it over." Lex straightened and examined the beams over their heads. "He kept the styles but he Americanized some of the rooms. I believe this was a dance studio or something to that effect." Shrugged his shoulders slightly. "He probably forgot he had it built. 'You must know the working man, son.'"

"Joy." Liz nodded as they slow-stepped their way to where they had left their drinks. She watched him sip at yet another glass of brandy and raised an eyebrow. "Does that stuff really taste that good?"

"Brandy is an acquired taste." He held the glass up to the light and stared through the color. "To find a really fine brandy takes quite a bit of money and expertise."

"Why drink it?"

"Would you like some?" Lex offered her a glass. He poured just a bit into an empty glass. "I will tell you something that I was not told. Sip it. Don't drink it, do not gulp it. Sip it."

"Sip it." She repeated and stared into the glass. Carefully, she raised the glass to her lips and tipped it back slowly. The warm liquid slid into her mouth and burned down her throat. She held the glass away from her as she fought the urge to cough. It went straight to her head. "Yeah." Her voice came out hoarsely. "Sipping was a good idea."

"What you just tasted was quite possibility the second best brandy on the planet." Lex raised an eyebrow when she set the glass down and stepped away. "Too much for you?"

"I, um." Liz laughed a little and brushed her hair out of her face. "I shouldn't get in the habit of drinking."

"Oh?" After a moment, he leaned forward. "I hardly think that one sip will make you an alcoholic."

"Oh. Um, no. It's just that uh…" Liz inched back toward the lanes. "I went to a boarding school for two weeks and managed to get myself quite drunk on several occasions. I believe I was completely drunk for at least four days straight."

"Oh were you?" Lex set his glass down and followed her back onto the lanes. "Care to explain?"

"I had this roommate and she showed me this place that girls went to drink. I have no clue how they got so much liquor up there. It was really insane." Liz pushed off with one foot and slid about three feet.

"Fighting with the great Max?"

"Kinda."

He made another attempt to slide with her and finally succeeded. "Yeah. I guess I could see how that would be freeing. It's almost like flying." He stared back over the expanse of lane that he had slid over and chuckled. "I like flying."

"Oh yeah?" She executed a series of turns before sliding to the floor to watch him get his feet under him.

"I used to hate it. It scared me to death. One day… thirteen years ago, my father brought me to Smallville in a helicopter. He was buying the plant. I, uh, ran off into the corn field next to it. I saw something that scared the crap out of me." Lex turned to face her. "A boy, strung up on a stake, like a scarecrow. I, of course, ran. I was barely nine years old. When I tripped, I saw the sky and it was burning. The next thing I knew, I was running and then I was flying."

"What happened?" Liz rose to her feet uncertainly.

"The first meteor hit. It threw me yards away. That was my last day as a red-head and the beginning of my love for flight. Airplanes I don't mind but helicopters just… let me feel like I'm flying. Almost like this." Lex slid over and took her hand. They ran a few steps and slid into the far wall, bounding back and spinning in each other's arms. They repeated that a few times until they nearly spun out of control.

When Liz lifted her head, her face was inches from his. Just a little closer and she could taste his lips. Her eyes fluttered closed and just as his breath puffed on her lips… They jerked apart. The banging noise was reverberating through the basement. Lex shook his head slightly, his heart was pounding. "Jeseph!"

"Sorry, sir. The wind blew a rather large plate from the new stables. I suppose the constructors did not bolt their supplies down." The man nodded and disappeared as if he had never been there. Liz cleared her throat and extracted herself from Lex's arms.

--

Chloe practically climbed into Clark's lap while the storm blew its frosty breath on the school. She chewed on a thin mint slowly as her teeth kept chattering. Clark tried rubbing her arms and back but it didn't seem to be working. Clark wished he felt what she felt so he would know what they could do to be warmer. "The heater?"

"Controlled by the district downtown. We're not supposed to be here, remember?" Chloe pulled a jacket up over her ear and buried her face in Clark's chest.

"Right, right. You're a snoop." Earned himself a smack on the arm and a pinch on the chest. "Well, you wanted some quality Clark time and you got it."

"It's not funny."

"Sure, it is."

"You're impossible, Clark." Chloe smiled to herself and dared to look up at him.

"Why is that?" Clark raised an eyebrow at his friend.

"You are impossible because despite the impossible genetics, you've inherited Jonathan Kent's charm. You definitely have a way with the ladies and I don't believe a single female on the planet could dislike you, even after all the bone-head stunts you pull." Her eyes were drawn to the shy yet bright smile on his face, which had her focused on his mouth. "There you go, being charming again. It's no wonder people just fall in love with you."

"What people?"

"People. Strangers, newcomers, people who have been around awhile." Was it just her or was his face getting closer? "Clark Kent, people magnet."

"You are insistent on giving me a title." Broad smile. "I don't think I'm a people person."

"It's because you hide. No one in town would guess that Clark Kent is a good kisser or that he has sex or even that he thinks about those things. Guess that's what makes me special?"

"What?"

"That I know how human you can be and that you're still a wonderful person. It's there for the whole world to see but I get an up close view." Two beats and there they were, his lips brushing against hers, his tongue sweeping over her lips, diving into her mouth.

--

The storm raged beyond the stained glass windows and the storm boards over them. Liz stretched out in front of the fire in the library. "I can't believe it's gone on so long."

"Potential tornado weather. Blizzard is more like it. It if gets really bad, we'll be fine. There are enough supplies in the house to last for months, which is highly unlikely." Lex sipped at his brandy where he sat in his armchair. It amused him at the very least that Liz had chosen to make herself at home on the floor when there was a very comfortable couch not four feet away.

"I am constantly amazed at this place." She oohed. "You have four bowling lanes down beside your basement..." She cleared her throat and quickly moved on. "... a heated pool, a weight room..."

Lex noted how she quickly ran over the bowling lane. That moment was still with him as well. They had been so close. Centimeters at most. Confounded wind had ruined it all. Then, of course, the humanizing thoughts: Liz was Clark's girlfriend. Clark was his best friend. They had almost done something monumentally stupid. "The perks of living in a house owned by a billionaire."

"I guess." She stared at him as he put the glass to his lips once more. When she looked at the brandy decanter, she knew something was wrong. He had been drinking at least since she had arrived and the bottle was very slowly lowering in volume. That sip had given her a buzz but her biology wasn't exactly normal. It wasn't too far off but not normal, which probably meant that Lex was near to drunk by this point. "Does any of this stuff make you happy?"

"I suppose not. Only you can… make yourself happy." Lex poured himself a little more and shifted slightly in his seat. "There is a secret to life. What goads me is that we won't learn it until approximately two seconds before we're nothing but a corpse."

"Lex."

"It's different for you. For all your parents don’t trust you, they still love you. I'll bet that everyone that has ever met you has fallen completely into you and never been able to get back up."

Liz dropped her gaze at the tone of his voice. It should have been a compliment, if not for that tone. "I'm sure your father loves you."

All he could do was laugh. "I'm sure."

"Lex."

"Who do you see yourself as in ten years?" His blue eyes reflected the fire at her. He wasn't seeing her or the fire. He was some place else.

"Microbiologist in charge of genetic mapping." Liz had to ask the question back. "Who do you see yourself as in ten years?"

"My father." Lex spit the words out and raised his glass to rinse the bad taste they left. "For about a year I had deluded myself into believing he was a genuine white knight... saving these companies from their own demise. I was such a fool... because then... then I got my brutal awakening. He's a shark. He can smell blood for miles and at the right moment he swims in and rips it apart."

"God." Liz whispered and moved to sit on the couch next to him.

"And I'm going to become him. It's inevitable."

"Lex." She chided softly.

"No. And know what's irks me?" He took a big drink from the glass and poured himself some more. "What really got under my skin?" He drained half the glass and held it against his chest. "Not that he doesn't love me. I know and accept that. That I can live with because I don't love him either but... He slept with her. He slept with her even after I trampled what was left of her dignity."

"Who?"

"Victoria." The name slid out of his mouth and hung in the air, eerily calm. Too calm that name had spilled from his lips. The next thing Liz knew, he had thrown the glass into the fire, shattering it, causing the flames to rise from the fine alcohol. The fire crackled and spat as it resumed its normal blaze.

"Did you love her?"

"I don't know. I thought I didn't but she's under my skin and I can't forget." Lex sank down into the couch and kept his eyes off of his companion. They sat in silence for maybe a few minutes, maybe a few hours before Jeseph entered the room.

"Forgive me, sir, but the storm has abated. If Miss Parker is ready, we'll bring the car around."

"Thank you." Liz nodded to the man and turned to her friend. "If I leave… will you be okay?"

"I'm fine."

"Lex, tell me you're going to be okay."

"Liz." He smiled up at her. "My destructive phases are over. You don't have to worry about me."

"Okay. I'll see you in a few days." Liz rose and waved to him. Her heart ached to see him this way. He just nodded her off and returned his gaze to the fire where shards of his glass turned black and slipped into the ashes of her files.

--

"We shouldn't have done that." Chloe gathered her things and kept her back to him. He hadn't said a word since the kiss had ended. Her mind was racing. She swore to herself that she wouldn't interfere with Clark and Liz. She was determined to be a gal-pal but that couldn’t work if her tongue was in Clark's mouth.

"The storm died down." Clark stayed cowered against the wall. His heart and mind were filled with all sorts of jumbled thoughts. Two girls and he really didn't know which one he really wanted. "Come on. I'll walk you home."

"Clark." Chloe stopped his movement. "Don’t do anything stupid."

"Like what?" Clark adjusted his jacket and wouldn't look at her.

"Don't shut me out, please? I need you to be my friend at the very least." Tears filled her eyes as she pleaded with him. "I couldn't take it if we couldn't be friends after this. It was just a kiss and you're Liz's. I'm going to return to the world of gal-pal and you just be with Liz."

"Chloe." Clark started to speak but he didn't know what to say. He just nodded and motioned to the door. "It's pretty dark out. We should get going."

The walk home was silent but was heavy with the thoughts in their heads. By the time that Clark made it home, his chest was heavy with burden. He couldn't even ask his parents if Liz had come home. He just had to be alone.

Liz had seen him walk by but she needed to sit in the kitchen with her tea and think. It seems all she did anymore was think. Think about what was in Roswell, about what was in Smallville… who were in Roswell and Smallville. Think about how much she had wanted Lex to kiss her. Think about how wrong that was. Think about how she didn't really have anyone to talk about her problem to.

TBC
posted on 29-Jul-2002 3:12:16 PM
quick note:

Going through a smallville dry spell. I WILL finish it eventually. '-)
posted on 13-Aug-2002 4:43:45 AM
I don't know if you guys feel it but something's been missing from these parts. It's glaring at me in this part. Do you guys know what I mean?

Part 15

Silence hung heavy over Clark's head as he stared at the far wall of the loft. Two days since the kiss. Two days until he would see her again. Two days to decide which course of action would be best. Two days to either tell Liz or tell Chloe that nothing could happen. There were so many things to consider. How did the kiss make him feel? Were there precursory feelings or was it just something that happened? If it was just something that happened, should it be forgotten or pursued? How would Liz react if she knew? Was there a way that he subconsciously wanted to feel about the kiss? If there was a decision to make… what was it?

With Liz, it wasn't great keeping things a secret from her. He couldn't stand her knowing about the meteor shower stories and he couldn't tell her about himself. It wasn't fair to either of them. Chloe knew all the meteor story stuff, she was his best friend but he couldn't tell her the truth either. Chloe was open with him, where Liz shied away from talking about herself for whatever reason.

Liz had a tendency to hold back, consciously or not, and he could tell. A lifetime of holding back and lying had taught him to spot when something wasn't right.


Staircase. Not too many steps or hard to climb… if one had nothing to worry about. She had to tell him. Liz took a deep breath and stepped up on the first step. It was time to be single, to date a little and not just one person. That had been the original plan when she had arrived in Smallville but Clark was so great and wonderful that she had fallen. The night with Lex could have led to something more, she had almost wanted it to. Thank goodness for that loose board.

She didn't want to hurt him and she didn't trust herself should another opportunity arise. "Clark?" She called up and took three more steps. "Can I come up?"

"Um… sure." His deep voice floated over her head. Clark sat up straighter and ran a hand over his face before turning to watch her come into view.

"I need to talk to you." She had the words out before she had mustered up the courage to said them.

"Yeah, um, there's something that I need to tell you." Clark swallowed thickly and ran his hand over his face again.

"Oh?" Liz sank onto the couch. "What is it?"

"Go first. I need to… find my words." He shifted and then suddenly dreaded the look on her face. "What did you want to talk about?"

"First, I want you to know that this has nothing to do with you or how I feel or could feel for you." Liz wrung her hands and pulled her knees up to her chest. "You're great and a great person and you deserve someone that can give you the… um, the attention you deserve. I'm not able to do that right now." She snuck a look at him and found a dumbfounded glaze in his eyes. "Clark?"

"Did you just break up with me?"

"Kinda." Liz bit her lip and then covered her face with her hands. "I don't know. I'm just so confused and I didn't do what I needed to do and now it's getting dumped on you. I'm sorry, Clark."

"What you needed to do?" His head swam, spun, twirled with trying to wrap a single neuron around what was going on.

"Clark, I was with Max for like three years and then I was going to be single but I didn't do that. I got together with you. You are the best but I have to be alone and just be for awhile. I am not the best that I could be when I'm with you and I need to work on that but to work on that…"

"You have to be alone." Clark nodded. The debate raged fiercer in his head. "We're breaking up?"

"Well, yeah. I mean… I guess we could still hang out and it'll be hard to avoid the shower line." Stared at the palms of her hands for a long moment. "I'm not girlfriend material right now and if you need a girlfriend, you have every right to get one."

"Uh-huh." He nodded again and tried to wrap his mind around how things had just fallen into place for him. It wasn't perfect but it was dumb luck. "Okay."

"Okay?" She looked up at him and found him deep in confusion. "Clark, do you understand?"

"Yeah, yeah I do but…" He buried his face in his hands, still debating on what he needed to tell her. "I have to tell you that this is possibly a good thing."

"It is." She stared at him for a moment.

"Because if you hadn't called it off just now, you would have after I tell you what I wanted to tell you." Quickly he shook his head and rose to his feet. "No, I didn't want to but I didn't want to lie to you either. But, this is insane. I've never had this problem before and I have no way of dealing with it."

"What are you talking about?" Liz caught his eye and she had seen a look like that before. "Clark, what were you going to tell me?"

"I didn't know what to do about it. Girls don't usually throw themselves at me, not that she did but that's beside the point. I've never had any girls to arrange in my life and then I had you and then…" Clark realized he was babbling and just stopped. "I kissed Chloe two days ago."

--

Liz sipped her tea and stared out the window. Martha plopped into a chair across from her and waited. "I'm not up for talking about it tonight."

"Alright. Good job on dinner tonight." Martha sat and shut her eyes.

"Thanks. I'm still nowhere as good a cook as you are."

"It takes practice. Jonathan suffered through many horrible meals before his mother sat me down to learn about cooking for a farmer." A broad smile crossed her weary face. "A city girl like me, learning to cook on a farmer's budget was hilarious."

"How old were you when you married Jonathan?" Liz turned to face her host fully.

"Oh, I was 23 years old. We dated for two years before he asked me and then when he did, we were married before I knew it." She sighed happily.

"I'd like that someday." Liz admitted softly. "Husband, kid, house and a respectable living but most days it seems like the farthest thing from happening and others it's the farthest thing from my mind."

"You've got time."

"I know that and that's why I'm here. I'm doing the things I want to do before I get settled down…"

"But?"

"Huh?" Liz snapped her head up.

"But what? Sounded like you were going to 'but' something." Martha rose to fix herself a cup of tea.

"I was supposed to do it alone. To be alone. To avoid romance at all costs and I didn't exactly do that." Guiltily she stared into her cup. "I haven't given myself space and I need that."

"Clark?" Martha turned slowly.

"We talked about it. He agreed and then told me that he's… interested in someone else."

"Chloe?" The older redhead leaned against the island and nodded her head. "I'm sorry, Liz."

"No, it's okay. No hearts were broken but… it's just that Clark… he did the one thing I didn't think he was capable of." Liz looked up and sat Martha's expectant face. "He lied to me. I guess it wasn't a lie so much as withholding the truth but that stings a little."

"I know what you mean." It was Martha's turn to look guiltily away.

"I forgave Max, and he did more than kiss another girl. Besides… I don't think anyone can resist that Kent charm." Liz let a smile cross her face, she didn't even notice Martha's quirk of the head at her words.

--

Liz reached for the nearest sturdy object as she was almost trampled by movers delivering a fountain for the ballroom. Then she quickly let go when she realized she was clutching onto a very expensive, yet heavy, vase. She found Lex hiding in his office, sipping a bottle of water, obviously having just come down from a workout. Before he even noticed her, she had whipped out her palm pilot and stood poised and ready for notation of any sort. His face remained an expressionless mask as he took in her position. "That eager to get back to work?"

"Ready when you are." She smiled and adjusted the stylus in her hand.

"No meetings until after the new year. I'm on vacation. Don't you have anything better to do?" Lex reclined in his chair and waited for a response.

"What do you know?" Liz cleared her throat and replaced the stylus in its holder.

"Is there something to know?" Head tilt, no smile, just piercing gaze.

"Not really." Liz shook her head and put away the palm pilot.

"I'm curious now. Why did you assume I would know something?" He studied her closely as she took a seat on the other side of the table. "Something to do with Clark?"

"He didn't talk to you?"

"I haven't spoken to him since before Christmas. Liz, what happened?" He ran his towel over his head and took a sip of his water.

"We broke up… and then he told me that he kissed Chloe." Liz dropped her gaze.

"Hold on. He kissed Chloe and then broke up with you?" Lex shook his head and leaned forward. "I thought you two were still in the honeymoon phase."

"I broke up with him and then he told me about kissing Chloe the day of the storm. I didn't ask for details so I don't know." She shook her head.

"Why did you do it?" He leaned back again and folded his hands over his lap.

"I don't know. I guess I realized that I kinda jumped from one sack to another without taking a real breath to get my head on straight."

"What are you going to do with your new-found freedom?"

"Be single. I can date without getting involved. No big deal. I can't even be mad at Clark though. He did kiss another girl but he's Clark."

"I know what you mean. He could murder someone and somewhere in your heart you'll forgive him because it's Clark and he must have had a good reason for it." Lex chuckled at the incredulous face she made. "But that is why Clark Kent has no enemies. The only time people even gather the energy to be mad at Clark is when they know they're wrong and are mad at Clark for pointing it out."

"It must be a genetic thing or something." Then she frowned at her words and looked up at him. "Environment, I mean."

"I'll admit that a lot of things with Clark are nurture vs. nature but also… I think it's just him." Those blue eyes darkened just a bit. "I mean, no one is an exact recreation of their parents. That's the reason we have personalities."

"You're not your father." Liz whispered quietly.

"That's the rumor." He lifted his brows and then jerked his head to the side. "Let me go get cleaned up and then we'll go for a walk in town. With all the people in the house for the party, it's going to get a little claustrophobic."

"Relatives showing up?" She narrowed his eyes at him. "Is your father coming? You know it'll only make him angry if he finds out you were piddling with me in town."

He simply cleared his throat to call attention to her choice of words and laughed when she rolled her eyes. "Feel free to piddle around here. I'll be back, then we can go piddle in town. Who knows? Maybe we'll piddle along the way."

"Go get dressed." She shook her head at him. She shrugged out of her jacket and took a seat behind his desk to make sure his calendar matched the one in her palm pilot. She was relieved by the easy conversation they had made. After what had almost happened a few days before, she had been worried about their dynamic. She was glad that it was going to become this thing between them. While she was excellent dealing with non-spoken, non-physical yet tension inducing things, she didn't want one of those to spring up with Lex. Aside from Clark, Lex was the closest friend Liz had in Smallville.

--

"What's with you?" Chloe poked Clark in the side as they cruised the convenient store for sugar-laden foods for the movie-thon they were having at Pete's.

"Nothing." He shook his head and continued on down the aisle. He tried to act cool but she kept staring at him. She had pretended that nothing had happened between them when she picked him up. "Are you okay, Chloe?"

"I'm fine. Why wouldn't I be okay?" She took her selections to the counter, allowing him to follow. When they had paid, she rushed out onto the street and headed for the coffee shop to pick up their beverages.

"Chloe." He called after as he jogged to catch up. "I told her."

"What?" She spun around in the middle of the street. "Why would you do that?" Tears filled her eyes as a million thoughts swam through her head. "Of course, Clark Kent can't tell a lie. He had to tell her."

"Chloe. It's okay." Clark wrapped an arm around her and guided her to the other side of the street. "She had already broken up with me when I told her. She was upset but she wasn't mad. She's only mad at me."

"Why?" Her blue eyes shone as she stared up at him.

"What?" His brow furrowed.

"Why did you tell her? Why is she only mad at you?" Her voice came out so quietly that he wasn't sure he heard her. "Why, Clark?"

"I couldn't just not tell her. I was going to tell her but then she broke up with me. Then I told her. She was upset because her ex-boyfriend kissed another girl when they were together." Clark hesitantly lifted a hand to touch her shoulder. "She said she's not mad at you."

"We were so stupid. Why did she break up with you?" Chloe asked, softly still.

"She needs to be single, whatever that means." He shrugged and reached around her to open the door to the Beanery.

"Okay." She nodded and walked past him. "Okay. Then I can finally ask you why?"

"Why what?" Clark found himself more unsettled the longer the conversation went on.

"Why did you kiss me?"

--

"Are you enjoying the convent life?" Lex stopped on the street to look through a window.

"Why use that word?" Liz turned to look at him.

"Why are you offended by it?" He had to laugh as she faced forward and kept walking, all the while letting him have it.

"I'm not offended but when a guy chooses to be single, he's a bachelor, a lady's man. When a woman chooses to be single, she's a nun or a born again virgin. Why can't I go out and have fun? Why do I have to be chaste?" She raved. "It's a sick double standard."

"And Gloria Steinem has been channeled through Liz Parker." Lex ran a hand over his head and opened the door to the Beanery. "Accept my apologies. How many men will you be sleeping with in your new single life?"

"Funny." Glared at him and stepped through the door. "Anybody asked you or cared how many women you sleep with?"

"Aside from you? No one." He patted her head and moved ahead of her to the counter. "Glad to know you care, Ms. Parker."

"I don't care, Mr. Luthor." She thought quickly. "But since you inquired about my sex life, I thought it only fair to inquire about yours."

"My sex life is thriving." He grinned and turned to the amused girl behind the counter. "I'll have a de-caff-mocha. The child will have a glass of milk."

"Don't bother." Liz nudged him aside. "Regular, black. I'll add my own sugar. Thank you."

"But you're already sweet enough as it is."

"How kind of you to say so." She smiled up at him. "But if the contents of our drinks are directly linked to what we already have… what exactly are you missing, de-caff boy?"

"Bring that around to us, please." He threw a twenty on the counter and led her around to the couches. "Now, Ms. Parker. No one has called me a boy in quite some time."

Her smile was sickeningly sweet seconds before she delivered her barb. "Not to your face."

"Ouch. I take it that Max never won a fight." Lex leaned back in the armchair.

"No. He didn't and I haven't even told you all the things I have over his head." She smiled at the waitress when their drinks arrived.

"Clark?"

"We don't fight."

"Huh." Lex took a sip of his drink and studied her. "You and Clark never fought… about anything?"

"No. I mean, we disagreed slightly on the party at your place but nothing big."

"Huh." He took another sip.

Liz could feel the hairs standing up on her arms. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"I didn't say anything."

"You implied with that 'huh' you keep doing." Setting down her cup, she waited and waited. "Lex."

"Every couple fights. Maybe that's why you broke up with him. No passion." They stared at each other for a long while. "Lust doesn't count as true passion." Settling into the chair, he watched her turn his words over in her head. "Take your time. Don't force the issue. I do think that you used Clark for sex, though."

She gasped and threw a napkin at him. "Lex Luthor, you take that back." She caught the smile as he lifted his cup to his lips again. "If that's what I wanted, I would have just propositioned you." She laughed when the coffee in his mouth flew out over the table in front of him.

Lex cleaned up his mess and glared at her. That shouldn't have surprised him. Other women had been much more blatant than that and he hadn't batted an eye. Maybe it was just the whole conversation and Liz Parker.

--

Clark paused on Pete's porch, still debating his answer to Chloe. She waited patiently. Had waited for their drinks to come, the walk to Pete's and ten minutes. Finally Clark looked up at her. "I don't know. I can't find a single reason for kissing you that day. I'm just kind of glad that the pressure is off."

"Pressure?" Chloe felt her eyes sting with tears.

"I'm kinda relieved that we broke up because I didn't know what I was going to do." Clark ran a hand through his hair. "Liz is great but I… I don't know. I'm still trying to figure out what she means by the way she broke up with me." He avoided looking at her but his hearing let him in on her slight sniffles. "I can't just say that I'm ready to go out with someone else right this second but I'm glad I've got my friends."

"Your friends." Chloe blinked rapidly to dry up her tears.

"Yeah. I have this really great friend, maybe someday she'll be more." Clark was never more grateful when Pete poked his head out the door and demanded to know how much longer they were going to keep him waiting for his food.

TBC
posted on 29-Sep-2002 12:28:00 AM
Part 16

Liz adjusted her dress and smiled into the phone. "I love you too, Daddy. I'll be careful tonight. Happy New Year, in case I don't get a chance to call tomorrow… What? Maria? Put her on. … Why on Earth are you working New Year's Eve?"

"Dumb and Dumber is why." Maria scoffed into the phone. "Max and Michael have been joined at the hip ever since the big break up."

"You broke up with Michael again?"

"No. Funny, Liz. Deirdre dumped Max for being a selfish ⊕#%$. Take him back, please. He's a miserable man without you."

"No. We're on a very long break." Liz sighed and sank onto her bed.

"That's right. You've got the hottiness of Clark Kent. I saw the Christmas card you sent with the very fine Clark with his arms around you." Maria sighed heavily.

"We broke up." Liz nodded to the phone and pulled it away from her ear seconds before a screech reached across the lines.

"What? Why? I thought you were all happy and getting with the loving."

"Yeah well, things developed and I couldn't cling to Clark anymore… especially when he could do better right now. I'm just… not ready to be tied to anyone, especially with my history with Max." She waited a moment. "Maria?"

"I'm thinking. You just slept with the guy like a week or two ago and now you're broken up. I'm thinking is all. It's kinda weird that you and Max would ditch your bed partners at the same time."

"Maria! I don't want to hear this." Liz shut her eyes tight against the imagery.

"Seriously, though. Max and Michael have been joined at the hip, they do everything together and half the time, nobody knows where they are. It's getting insane. They are seriously developing some very odd mood swings and it's damn annoying." Maria huffed. "I don't know what's with them, Liz."

"When did this start?"

"I don't know. It kinda crept up on us. It's probably not an alien thing because Isabel is still… well, Isabel. Kyle's okay. He's freaking out thinking that any minute he's going to cross over."

"Nothing else is wrong? Just Max and Michael? That's really odd."

"Which is what I'm saying. I'll keep you posted because something is definitely going on." Heavy sigh. "What's going on in Smallville for this grand New Year?"

"Party at the high school, The Beanery, Lex wants me to save him at his party for an hour or so."

"And where do you plan to be stuck at midnight and who do you plan to be kissing?" Liz nearly rolled her eyes at the tone of Maria's voice. "Come on. Tell me. Is Clark still going to give you a smooch or are you cuddling up to the billionaire come midnight?"

"Maria." She sighed heavily and tried not to wrinkle her dress as she reclined slightly. "Clark… he'll probably be with Chloe."

"Chloe?"

"Oh my god, Maria. She's like the quirkiest person you ever met. She's smart and pretty and totally cool. She's been friends with Clark since the seventh grade."

"Uh-huh."

"She's also had this huge crush on him that he was completely blind to. She kinda took me and him kinda bad. Somehow, I don't know how, he's taken off the blinders and finally noticed her."

"How can you be so excited about this? You were dating him the last time I talked to you."

"Well, he's in a good place. It makes me feel better about breaking up with him. If he's serious about her then he's not thinking about me and …"

"You can be free and single and worry free." Maria scoffed. "Sometimes you worry me Liz. Do me a favor and stick to the billionaire tonight. I'm going to have a heart attack if you tell me that you just found some random guy to spend tonight with."

"Maria!" She gasped into the phone. "When have I ever done anything like that?"

"Sean spilled the beans."

"What?" Liz sank down onto the floor.

"I can't believe you lost your virginity six months before you told me that you did. What kind of friend are you?" Maria's voice softened. "It is kinda weird that we both lost our virginity the same night though. Who would have thought?"

"Yeah, huh. I guess I hadn't thought about it."

"Anyway. It explains why he constantly moons when he hears your name. I mean he dates and all but he's always too eager to hear about you. Sometimes he gets adorable. He told me that the first time with you was the first time he had ever made love. It's almost sweet… until I realized that all the girls before that were just for sex. God, what a pig."

Liz had to laugh out loud. It was a sweet sentiment but Maria was right about Sean's outlook in general. "Listen, I have to go and you have senior citizens to entertain."

"Yeah, yeah. Call you soon. Come home for Spring Break."

"I'll see what I can do. I have to head up to Metropolis in a couple of weeks to get a handle on this next semester. I'll call you next week or something."

"Bye. Have fun."

"You too."

"Right." Click.

Liz stood and straightened out her dress. Time to decide where she was going.

--

Clark straightened his jacket one last time and bounded down the stairs. He only paused long enough to say goodbye to his parents and wipe off his mother's lipstick before he was out the door and jogging towards town. As soon as he had put reasonable distance between him and the house, he broke into a full sprint, slowing only when the first headlights came into view. He met Chloe in front of the gym. "Hey."

"Where did you come from?" Chloe stared at him and hit the button on her cell phone. "I just called your house exactly three seconds ago and they said you had just left."

Clark cleared his throat and scratched at his ear. "They were making out when I left. They probably just realized I was gone."

"Oh." Chloe blinked. "Oh. Alright. That's pretty sick, Kent." She took his elbow and lifted her other hand to gesture at the whole of Smallville. "What are we going to do?"

"I don't really care that much. Can we just… stay away from Lex's though? I mean, we'll go for a little bit to make an appearance but can we not stay long?" He shrank back from her scrutinizing.

"What are you hiding, Kent?" She stared at him hard. "Since when do you not want to up and head to Lex's? I thought he was your best bud."

"He is. I mean we're friends and all but I'm not up for one of the Luthor's parties, you know?" He swallowed a lump in his throat and had to relent. "Liz is going to be there and I'm not sure that she and I should share much space these days. While it's not exactly awkward, it's not completely comfortable either."

"Kinda hard when the ex is in the house, huh." She managed a nod and linked her arm through his. "Let's check out this school thing, then we'll swing by the community center, then out to Lex's for a minute and then we'll decide what was more fun."

The gym was crawling with people, loud music and dancing. Just as they were making the rounds, a familiar face popped up. Bright blue eyes and long black hair. "Chloe! Clark!" Lana rushed up to them. "Clark Kent."

"Lana Lang?" He tilted his head at her.

"I have been promised a dance at every event and yet I never get it. You and I are on the dance floor now." She gripped his arm and began pulling him away. "You can sit with Chloe all night but I demand that I get my dance."

"Um… okay…" Clark followed her but had to glance back at Chloe. She just blinked and walked away. "Just one… dance."

--

"Fashionably late?" The voice and the champagne glass appeared before the man. Liz took the glass and an arm settled on her shoulder and she found herself led around the room. "I was, too. Don't worry. You look fabulous by the way." Lex took a sip of his champagne and turned his head to gaze around the room. "I know almost no one in this room."

"You're not drunk, are you?" Liz looked up at him.

"No." A shake of the bald head. "How about we go hide in the coat room for a while? I've got the bottle stashed in there for now."

"Lex. Is it really that bad?"

"It's worse." His arm dropped from her shoulder.

"No offense but I didn't exactly plan to come here tonight."

"Pardon?" Lex stopped walking to really look at her.

"I got in the car with no destination and ended up here." She looked up to see the 'why' in his eyes. "Clark's in town and it's gotten awkward."

"Again, coat room?"

"Good idea."

--

Clark tried to smile at Lana but it just wasn't the same. Admittedly, he had dreamed of this for a long time but it wasn't what he wanted. She kept smiling up at him and it wasn't what he wanted. Finally, her smile faded and her head lowered. "Clark, is everything alright?" No answer, just a deep intake of air. "I heard about you and Liz."

"Is that getting around already?" He shrugged wearily. "It's no big deal." He managed a smile. "Really."

"Ok." She shifted her body against his and suddenly he realized what was wrong.

Nothing. Lana was pressed up against him, swaying with him, shifting her body against his and nothing. It wasn't like with Liz. Liz would subtly move like that against him and he's want more. Want to kiss, to make out, to go find a deserted place and… but with Lana, nothing. It wasn't like with Chloe in the newsroom. She'd brush against his arm and there'd be a moment of frozen uncertainty before both pretended it hadn't happened…. But with Lana nothing.

"Clark?" Lana felt the light sting in her eyes. Clark was barely holding her. They were dancing but there was not the subtext she had hoped for. No nervous glances around, no hitched breath, no killer Kent smile. They were just dancing.

"Yeah?"

"Is something wrong?"

"No." He gave her a small, genuine, smile. "Nothing's wrong."

"Is it too soon?" Lana whispered softly. "I mean… you said it wasn't a big deal but are… do you need some… down time?"

"No." His shoulders rolled and he cleared his throat. "You and me are friends, right?"

"Of course." That sting just wouldn't leave.

"Good. You're a good friend." Clark glanced around for Chloe. "I might need time to gather my nerve but not much time." He spotted her. Armed crossed leaning on the bleachers next to Pete and his date.

"I guess I was too late." Lana followed his gaze and couldn't stop the hurt. "Chloe's great."

"She is but… I don't know how much she trusts me."

"She trusts you with her life."

"With her life but with her heart? With Chloe, the two are not necessarily the same."

"Give her a little time then." Lana sighed. "Come on. I need to get something to drink and you need to work up some nerve."

"Lana." Clark stopped her before she left his grasp. "Thank you." He bent and kissed her forehead. "I really appreciate your support."

"Hey, that's what a friend is for." Lana blinked back her tears and led him off the dance floor.

--

Liz tried to sit modestly on the low shelf and hold her glass. She had yet to sip from it but Lex was doing a great job with the bottle and his own glass. It had been silent a while and Lex just seemed to want company while he drowned in his sorrows. "Lex?"

"I'm simply enjoying the company. Why don't you try the champagne?" He tapped her glass with his. "To this fine New Year's Eve."

"And a Happy New Year." She nodded and took a small sip of the bubbly liquid. The room spun and she had to set the glass down. "I guess champagne isn't for me either."

"You cannot sit there, completely sober and allow me to get drunk." He protested.

"Then don't get drunk." She leaned her head back. "If it makes you feel any better, I will be drunk if I take another sip."

"You're kidding me."

"No. My tolerance for alcohol has severely dropped in the last four years. Mostly in the last year or so." She picked up the champagne glass and held it up to the minute light.

"Why is that?"

"Changes on the molecular levels. Hormones, shifting, reactions to birth control." Without even thinking, she took another sip. She coughed slightly and let the buzz take over. "Yep. Drunk."

"You have got to be one of the most intriguing people that I have ever met, Liz." He rose to his feet and held out a hand. "Let's go mingle and then we'll either come back here or find a nice quiet balcony." She took his hand and he pulled her to her feet. She rocked into him and then found her balance. "You okay?"

"Sure."

"Or I could drop you off in a guest bedroom somewhere and wait until you sober up?"

"It's an option." She nodded.

Lex laughed. "Okay, note. Liz can't handle more than one sip of anything alcoholic."

"That's right." She attempted to start walking but stopped abruptly. "I need to eat something."

"Okay. Come on. Down to the kitchens we go."

--

"Chloe…" Clark dragged her out of the school dance and out to the parking lot. "Come on. Let's go check something else out."

"You go… and take Ms. Lang with you." She bit out.

"No… I'm taking you to the community center and we are going to check it out."

Reluctantly, she walked with him, snow crunching underfoot, and refused to look at him. When they were about ten yards from the community center, she spun to face him, nearly falling to the ground. He steadied her and she slapped his hands off. "Clark. I will not be pitied. I will not be your play-date for the night. We agreed to check these out as friends but don't stay with me or keep your promises if you'd rather be back in that gym with Lana Lang wrapped around your little finger."

"Chloe." Clark snapped at her and threw his hands up in frustration. "Believe it or not but my world does not revolve around Lana Lang and it hasn’t for quite some time. I don't know what your problem is and as of this moment, I don't care." He backed away and began walking away from the community center and away from Chloe. "I wanted to have some fun with you tonight but if that's not what you had planned, I'll just go." He turned. The weight of the world crashed down on his shoulders and pulled them down. The night wasn't supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be fun. It was supposed to be worry-free. Chloe wasn't supposed to flake out like that.

"Clark!" Footsteps ran after him. "Clark, wait!"

--

Liz felt a little sturdier after Rosy had fixed her up with a warm soup and a few soft breadsticks. She sipped her water as she waited for Lex to return from the rounds. The kitchen staff had their own party going on, that quieted just a bit whenever the door opened to admit one of the Luthors for instruction. Lex had carefully hidden Liz behind a crate to watch as the staff worked and played. They welcome Liz easily enough into their New Year's Eve celebrations but they quieted when Lex returned. A few had not bothered to hide their disapproval when he stashed her in the kitchen to sober up. A nice conversation with one of the girls had quickly cleared up the whole situation and soon any tension was gone. Lex reached for her hand and she eagerly took it. She kissed Rosy on the cheek in passing and followed Lex back out toward the noise. "I've just replicated a migraine in front of my father. I told him about the near chemical spill last week and explained that while no one was injured and the report waited on his desk, it was the experimental chemical and we're still not sure of the side effects. He implied that I was an idiot and I reminded him that I've not been sick for nearly 13 years and if something has affected me, it would do well for me to get as much rest as possible to avoid passing out amidst his board of trustees and their gossiping wives."

"He bought it?"

"Just the part about me passing out in front of the people." He cleared his throat and led her up to his room and out onto the balcony. "How are you feeling?"

"Less tipsy and more like myself." She inhaled sharply and wrapped her arms around her cold body. "It feels good to be up so high and no be afraid."

"Overcoming acrophobia?" He asked as he leaned on the railing with a glass that she had not noticed.

"Kinda. I fell out of a… five-story window. It leaves a little anxiety but nothing too bad." The buzz kept spinning in her head, so she shut her eyes.

"You fell out of a five-story window and walked away?"

"Staggered away but yeah. But there were a few things to break my fall." She let herself fall into the quiet and they stayed there on the balcony until they heard the shouts below them. "It's midnight."

"Happy New Year, Liz."

"Happy New Year, Lex." It was feather soft but there all the same. When she opened her eyes, Lex was standing directly in front of her. She knew he had kissed her but it was almost as if he hadn't.

"I'll have them bring the car around." Lex stepped back and opened the doors to his room.

"I like it out here." She protested.

"Well, I'm cold." He smiled. "But if don't mind keeping me company a while longer, I certainly won't object."

"Of course not. Just let me call to the house to let them know where I am." Liz pointed to the phone and he nodded.

"It feels nice not to… I mean, it's nice to have a friend to spend tonight with. Don't think I've done that before." He fingered the chess pieces near his armchair. "Do you play?"

"Um, no." She picked up the phone and turned back to him. "I wouldn't mind a lesson though." She dialed quickly, left a message on the machine and turned back to her host. He had a small glass of champagne in one hand and his brandy in the other. "One more."

"Okay?" Liz took the glass and lifted it.

"To a New Year and a new life."

"Definitely." She smiled and clinked his glass with hers.

--

Chloe turned up the heater and shoved her Twinkie into her mouth. She rubbed her father's head as she passed him where he'd fallen asleep in his chair in front of the TV. She found Clark messing with the radio in the kitchen, a cupcake sticking out of his mouth. "I can't find a good station."

"Just someplace that will play the countdown." She poured the cokes and took a seat. He joined her a second later and stared over the table covered in junk. "So we have all the sugar we can handle and more. No coffee but coke will do nicely."

"Perfect." Clark mumbled around his cupcake. He looked at her for all of two seconds as she set up the Trivial Pursuit board. Her hair had fallen from its 'do sometime earlier. Her eyes snapped up and caught his. Her head tilted to the side. "How long until midnight anyway?"

"Just a few minutes." She grabbed the deck and shuffled before replacing them in their holder. "You first."

"Um, okay." He rolled the die and examined the spot his turn had landed him in.

"You know, Clark. I'm sorry about the way I acted earlier." Chloe apologized without warning. "I just… you know? The kiss and then what you told me and then you were dancing with Lana two minutes after we got there. Then you looked all cozy and you were talking…"

"Chloe…" Clark set the cards down and looked her in the eye. "Yeah, we were talking but it was anything but cozy, trust me. I mean, she wanted but I did and it was weird."

"Wanted." She repeated.

"It didn't feel right." He explained. "She's a friend, just a friend." From the radio, soft cheers of midnight rang out. "I wanted to be with you."

"With me?" His hand cupped her face. Then his face bent to hers. Then his lips warmed hers. Her hands hesitantly slid up his arms and wrapped around his shoulders when his mouth opened over hers. She moaned softly when his hands snaked up her back and his tongue invaded her mouth.

--

Mr. Sullivan took a deep breath and opened his eyes before letting it out. He had a crick in his neck and an ache in his back from sleeping upright. There on the floor in front of him lay his daughter and her friend asleep with snack cake wrappers and coke cans between them. He rolled his eyes heavenward and thanked God for honest, gentlemanly boy scouts like Clark Kent.

--

Lex woke when the door to his bedroom opened. There stood his father, arms crossed and eyes narrowed. Lex didn't even bother to glance at Liz lying on the other side of the chessboard on the bed. He knew what his father was going to say and he didn't want to hear it and he certainly didn't want Liz to hear it.

--

Martha opened Clark's room only to find it empty. She woke up instantly and stumbled down the stairs. She noted the answering machine blinking but checked Liz's room before she could be bothered with it. Empty. Trying to calm herself down, she checked the message. She knew where Liz was but where was Clark? She put her hand on the phone and it rang, nearly ripping her heart from her chest. Calming herself down, she picked it up. "Hello? … Gabe? … He is? Thank you for calling… He is a good boy, just forgetful. He had me worried to death for all of fifteen minutes… Thanks, Gabe. Why don't you bring Chloe over later for a late lunch. I'm cooking… We'll see you then."

"Martha!" Jonathan stopped down the stairs. "Clark's not in his room."

"I know. He's at Chloe's." Martha set about making coffee and getting started on the cooking for the day. "Gabe just called. I don't know why Clark can't remember to call and tell us where he's going to be."

"I'll talk to him." Jonathan held out his hands. "Let me go tend to the animals and then I'll go pick him up."

Martha nodded and waited until he left to look at Liz's door. She was a smart girl. She had good judgment… hopefully.

TBC
posted on 29-Oct-2002 2:09:19 PM
Part 17

Liz entered the manor with two cups of coffee from the Beanery and a smile on her face. Lex's office door was closed. She knocked but there was no answer. She sat and began typing away at a set of memos. It was nearly an hour before the doors opened and Mr. Luthor strode out of the office without even a glance in her direction. She waited until she was sure that he had left the house before picking up the coffee and entering the office. "Lex?"
"Morning, Liz." He was turned to face the windows.
"I uh, brought you a coffee from the Beanery." She set the cup down on the desk.
"Thanks."
Silence.
"Lex, are you okay?"
"I'm fine." He turned and looked over a paper on his desk. "Did you need something?"
"You're sure you're okay? I didn't even think your dad was still in Smallville." She took a seat across from him and felt relieved when a smile crossed his face. "See, there. That's the Lex I've come to know and annoy."
"You don't annoy me." He picked up the cup, pulled off the lid and inhaled deeply. "How on earth do you manage to get them to get the order right?"
"I don't order from ex-cheerleaders is how." She smiled brightly. "So, what did he say?"
"Trust me when I say that you don't want to know." He sipped the warm coffee and swallowed carefully. "He never left after New Year's. Let's just say that he thought a few threats might make me more compliant."
"When does he wake up from his disillusion?"
Lex burst out laughing. His dazzling smile filled his face. "It's too bad you think he's intimidating. I'd like to see you say that to his face."
"It have anything to do with why I woke up alone New Year's Day to a note that said you had business to attend to and that my car was waiting when I was ready to go." Eyebrow's raised as she sipped her own coffee. "I hope you don't do that with the women you date. Really. Please tell me you don't do that."
"I don't… not exactly like that." He rocked his head a little. "And yes, the two are related." He shrugged slightly. "Don't worry about it. It's just more of my father's undying love for his only heir."
"Okay." Liz cleared her throat and acknowledged the closed subject. "So the doctor will be here at two." She rose and froze at his confusion. "The doctor. To check your vitals, make sure that I'm not the only one who knows that your heart is still pumping blood instead of ice water…"
"Who set this up?" Lex flipped through his planner and there it was in blue ink.
"You did." Liz tilted her head at him. "Last week. You felt like you were growing a tumor and you called to make an appointment."
"I did?" Lex shook his head. "I do not need to see a doctor."
"I only remind you of the appointments you make." Liz turned and exited.
--
Pete opened the newsroom door, stopped, tilted his head and nodded. He waited. And waited. And waited. "You guys going to come up for air any time soon?" He was rewarded with a sudden jolt from the two and a rapid departure from the other's arms. "So, what needs to be done for the first issue of the new year?"
"Um, well, there isn't much. We cover the dance and since I assume that you and your date stayed…" Chloe flashed him a smile. "You get to report."
Pete groaned and took a seat. He hadn't actually paid attention to the dance itself. "So, I assume that if anyone asks for your number, I'm to say you're taken?"
Chloe glanced at Clark without turning and found him standing stock-still. She didn't want to assume anything but she was tired of waiting. "Yes." She bent her head over her stack of papers and watched Pete's reaction. Pete's eyes were on Clark, and slowly a smile spread on his face. "What are you smiling at? Get to work."
Clark bit his lip to hide his own smile. That felt good. Chloe had claimed him. He sat at his own computer and waited for his assignment. She took her time, flipping through pictures and articles. "Chloe?"
"What?" When she glanced up, she lost all train of thought. "Huh?"
"My assignment."
"Yeah." Pete piped up. "Just because he's making the boss happy is no excuse to show favoritism."
Chloe's eyes cut through him. "Just for that, you're getting the cafeteria article."
"That's cruel and unusual."
"I'm the boss."
--
Liz sat down at the table in the Kent kitchen and suddenly felt wiped. She hadn't done any more than usual at the manor but she felt so tired. It had seemed like minutes but it had been an hour since she sat down when Martha walked in from the barn. "Liz, are you okay?"
"What?" Liz picked up her head. "I'm just tired. I guess I'll just head off to bed."
"You won't stick around for dinner?"
"I’m not hungry." Liz waved her off. "I just got tired all of a sudden."
Martha watched as Liz stumbled to her room and wished she knew what had brought that on. Liz hadn't gotten sick when everyone else had gotten the flu but maybe she was just late catching it.
--
Jonathan stared at the table in confusion. He wanted to comment but he got the feeling he was the only one not in on the current arrangement. Clark's goofy smiles were aimed at his best friend of three years. Liz was nowhere in sight. Sipping his water, he kept silent except when spoken to.
--
Lex sat and pondered his visit with the doctor. He had not made the appointment. The doctor had been just as surprised when his secretary had made the appointment in the first place. That was interesting… very interesting.
--
Jesse glanced at his wife. She was just as scared as he was. Max was out of control and Michael wasn't helping. That's when he noticed the rings they were both wearing.

TBC
posted on 4-Nov-2002 5:33:16 PM
catch up here:

http://pub65.ezboard.com/frealmdmfrm3.showMessage?topicID=9.topic
posted on 6-Nov-2002 11:01:22 PM
Part 18

Martha pulled her latest batch of pies from the oven to cool before delivery and nearly dropped the cinnamon apple when the outline of a man outside the screen door entered her view. Carefully, she set the pie down and called out to her unexpected guest. "Who's out there?"

"Mrs. Kent."

"Lex? Come on in. What can I do for you?" She hurried to wipe her hands clean and motion him into the house.

"Actually… I was pondering the whereabouts of my secretary and decided to come and see for myself when she didn't answer her phone." Lex inhaled the intoxicating aromas. "I don't suppose you have her hidden in one of those pies?"

"Liz didn’t show up?" Martha glanced to the closed door. "That's not like her… and it's certainly not like her to just not tell us about a change in plans." Furrowing her brow, she gestured for Lex to wait a moment. She hadn't seen Liz that morning but surely the girl had gotten up. She hadn't made a sound if she was still in her room and she hadn't heard a phone ring once. Knocking softly, she called in, "Liz?" Cautiously, she tried the handle and it opened easily. There she lay, still asleep. "Liz."

Liz sat bolt upright in bed. "I'm sorry. I must have fallen asleep. Did you need help with dinner?"

"Dinner?" Martha blinked at her. "Liz, it's nearly lunchtime and… don't tell me you slept through the night…"

"What time?" Liz looked to her clock and jumped out of bed. "Oh my god. I am so late. Has Lex called or—" She stopped with an armful of clothes and her cell phone in her hand when she spotted him over Martha's head in the kitchen. "Oh my god. I'll be ready in just ten minutes."

"Liz, honey, are you okay?" Martha stopped her. "Liz?"

"I'm fine. I don't know why I slept so long." Liz paused to catch her breath and turn the phone on. "Tell Lex I'll be ten minutes."

Martha nodded and shut the door behind her. When she turned to Lex. "She said she'll be ready in ten minutes."

"Is she alright? If she's sick, I understand. I don't need her today. I was just concerned when she failed to show up with out calling me first." Lex had seen the pale girl around Mrs. Kent. She did not look well. "Tell her to rest… maybe see a doctor. Then she can call me when she's cleared."

Martha stopped him when he turned to leave. "Lex… was she okay yesterday? She came home and slept until just now."

"I don't know." Lex sighed. "I think she's prouder than she looks. She scheduled an appointment that I didn't need."

"That doesn't sound like Liz."

"No, it doesn't."

--

Jesse leaned on the chair his wife occupied and looked at the two teens on the other side of his desk. Maria and Kyle just stared dumbly back at him. "Well?"

"Rings?" Maria shook her head.

"Silver rings with green stones. Not emeralds from what I could tell… but I'm not a jeweler." Jesse shook his head and squeezed Isabel's shoulder. "I may have my issues with Max but I've never been afraid of him before. Last night, he wasn't just obnoxious and rude, he was more than a little menacing."

"Those two are way out of control. They're going to get themselves killed chasing after… ghosts." Isabel shook her head. "They wanted me to go with them but I said no and they were furious. They accused Jesse of poisoning me against them."

"They have been acting weirder than normal." Kyle shrugged. "I try to stay out of this… crap."

"I just thought they had both succeeded in becoming like all the other scum on the planet." Maria snapped her eyes to Jesse and then to Kyle. "Present company excepted, of course."

"You have to know when they started acting like this?" Isabel pressed. "You're the only one that spends constant time with them."

"Honey, I haven't spoken to Michael in over a week. He's a jerk. I know this." Maria sighed and rolled her eyes back in her head. "Although… I did think it was odd that Max and Deirdre broke up like at the same time that Liz broke up with Clark."

"Who is Clark?" Kyle ran a hand over his face.

"He was her boyfriend and now he's not because she's got the hots for a billionaire." Maria scoffed at him. "Pick up the phone and call her once in a while."

"How did my brother's trip to see her go?" Isabel gave in since Maria was obviously fishing for questions about Liz.

"Decent considering Max chose to show up the same time Liz was getting closer to Clark. She didn't say much beyond Max assuming he still had any right to rescue her from herself…" Maria pinned Jesse with a look.

"He mentioned the name after the guy popped up in a tabloid… with Liz, I might add." Jesse shook his head. "What Isabel meant was… do you think those rings could have come with him?"

"No… the only thing Liz gave Max was a piece of her mind…" Maria trailed off and then snapped her head up to the Ramirezes. "And a piece of meteor from the local crazy."

"What do you know about it?" Isabel leaned forward.

"Nothing. Liz barely even said anything about giving it to him. He would know more than I do." Maria slumped in the chair. "We wouldn't have this problem if anyone else bothered to call Liz. She's gotta be dying in that little hick town."

"So, I'm calling her." Isabel pulled out her cell phone.

--

Liz pulled her head out from under the covers just long enough to pull the phone off her nightstand. She hit the button and sighed. "Lo?"

"Liz?"

"Who is this?"

"Isabel."

"Isabel?" Liz took a moment to let the information sink in. Isabel on the phone… Max's sister from Roswell. Isabel on the phone. The panic barely made it to the surface. "Is everything okay? Did something happen?"

"Sort of." Isabel cleared her throat. "My brother is acting really strange. More than bossy lately, girlfriend dumped him, he's been acting all caveman and I heard you gave him something."

"What?" Liz tried furiously to clear her head but it just wouldn't wake up. "Gave Max?"

"Maria said you gave him a meteor or something?"

"Oh." Liz shook her head and rolled over. "Yeah. I had a small piece of a meteor. I gave it to him. Why? What happened? Is Kyle okay, did he need it?"

"Kyle? What does it have to do with Kyle?"

Liz rubbed at her head and took a breath. "Isabel, can we get to the point please, with as little running around as possible? I have the biggest headache."

"Liz… Jesse and I think that Max gave Michael a piece of that meteor. They were wearing rings with this shiny green thing in them. I need to know what the deal is. They are acting very strange… and not like my brothers."

"Nothing. It gives a little boost is all. It wards off my infrequent glowing spells… um… Max had an episode where he was somewhere he couldn't have been… no big. I can astral project." Liz shifted the phone to her other hand as the one holding the phone began to shake.

"A little boost. What else do you know?"

"Look it up. I'm really not feeling good."

"Liz. Tell me."

"God, you're a bitch. I'm not feeling good, Isabel. Just look it up. Smallville, Kansas. Meteor Shower '89. Bye." Liz turned off the phone, removed the battery and shut her eyes. Her head really was throbbing. She was so thirsty. She slid out of bed and had to climb back to a standing position. Four steps out of her bedroom she blacked out.

--

Clark looked up when Lex burst through the doors. The bald man wasted no time in reaching Clark and Chloe where they sat outside a room. "I came as soon as I heard. Is she okay?"

"We don't know." Clark shook his head. "Chloe and I had just gotten home from school and we found her laying on the ground… twitching."

"Twitching?" Lex repeated.

"Yeah. She wasn't at dinner last night. Mom said she was asleep." Clark ran a hand over his face.

"She didn't come to work today either. I just figured she was coming down with something but if she had a seizure of some kind." Lex stopped his speech when the two teenagers exchanged looks. "What?"

"The doctor keeps asking us if she was on anything… medication… drugs."

"They think she overdosed?" Lex shook his head. This was unbelievable.

"They think she's going through withdrawal." Chloe whispered. "Should we call her parents?"

"My parents will be here soon. I don't want to scare her parents until we know something." Clark leaned his head against the wall.

"I'll take care of the doctors." Lex patted the younger man's shoulder and disappeared around a corner.

"You didn't tell him about the glowing." Chloe whispered.

"She stopped." He protested.

"She's glowed before, Clark. Only that time she wasn't seizing on your kitchen floor. What if there's really something wrong with her?"

"I've thought about it." Clark had to concede. "How do we know if it's meteor related?" Or related to him? For all he knew, he could have given her something. An alien STD?

"I don't know."

--

Liz heard the voices before she could even open her eyes. She caught phrases here and there. "… spacing out… imagining conversations… all recent."

She tried to lift her head but it wouldn't budge. "… won't eat… sleeping all day… fine when I left…"

"Who's there?" Liz finally managed to squeak out.

"Liz?" A strange voice spoke to her. "Liz, do you know where you are?"

"Who are you? Why are you in my room?" She cleared her throat and tried again to open her eyes. When they opened, the familiar walls were gone.

"Liz, I'm Dr. Ross. You're in the hospital. Do you know why?"

Her addled brain supplied the memories but only pieces. "I was thirsty. Going to get some water."

"You've had an episode. We're working on finding out what it was. Just stay calm and we'll take care of you. You need to tell us anything that might help."

Liz nodded and let her eyes close for a second. She couldn't move her arms but that didn't concern her so much. The headache was still very much there. "Head hurts. Hurt when I was on the phone… before."

"Have you taken anything? Hallucinogens?" Dr. Ross whispered as she leaned in. "Liz?"

"No. Nothing. I don't even take aspirin." Liz tried to lift a hand to rub at her sore throat but it wouldn't budge. "Why can't I move?"

"Procedure, I'm afraid. We had to restrain you. We're waiting for your blood work to come back and then we'll see if we can release yo—" Dr. Ross was cut off by a hand on her shoulder. "Mr. Luthor?"

"Take them off. Liz would never try to hurt herself. She's not on drugs. While I agree that something is definitely wrong, I don't believe it to be self-induced." Lex told her. "I've been with her nearly everyday since she arrived in Smallville… I would know if something was wrong. Ask the Kents, Liz isn't a girl who has identity issues or has lost her way. She's obviously ill but I'm sure you can find what's wrong and cure it."

"Mr. Luthor, you said yourself that she hasn't been herself in the past weeks."

"Hindsight is 20/20, doctor. Tomorrow I might remember she may have looked pale. If you tell me that there are indeed drugs in her system, I might remember her taking more breaks than necessary." Lex paused and glanced to the Kents for a second. "In truth, I hadn't noticed much beyond a discrepancy in one event in the past week. She failed to show up to work for the first time in almost six months. That is what I know. Everything else is up for interpretation." He took a breath. "I want you to see that you do all you can to put her guardians at ease and let them only send a report to her parents that she fell ill and has recovered quickly."

"I'm still awake and in the room last I checked." Liz muttered and let her eyes flutter closed. "I just need to sleep."

--

Chloe couldn't resist. When Clark went upstairs to change his shirt, she took a look into Liz's room. She picked up the pieces of the phone and put it back together. Eye-level with the bed, she eyed the scorch marks on the comforter. She nearly screamed when the phone ran in her hand. "Hello?"

"Who is this?"

"Um, who is this?"

"I'm looking for Liz Parker."

"Um, this is a friend of hers. Chloe. Um, is this Maria?"

"Isabel Evans.

"Oh. Are you Max's sister?" Chloe picked at the scorched blanket. Her mouth was moving without any real knowledge of carrying on the conversation.

"Yes. Have you met Max?"

"Sure did. He doesn't talk much."

"Did he seem… strange to you?"

"No more than any jealous ex-boyfriend. I'm afraid I was a bit nosy. I may have put him off."

"Where is Liz?"

Chloe returned to reality. "You're her friend right? You're pretty close?"

"As close as I am to anyone." Came the cool reply.

"She… was glowing, twitching and unconscious, so we took her to the hospital. You probably know her better. Does that happen often?" Chloe blinked when she heard the dial tone in her ear. "Bitch much?" Shaking her head, she returned to her study of the scorch marks. They were the size of hands… a girl's hands. The fabric was bunched where it would be fisted in hands. "Clark!"

--

Maria burst into Isabel's apartment. "Liz's parents just left by helicopter. They left Jose in charge and I just left without his permission."

"Did they tell you that Liz is in the hospital?" Isabel pulled Jesse's suit-bag from the hall closet. "We're going. I've been calling Max all afternoon. Hopefully we can get at least him to come with us… if not… Liz is going to have to get better really quickly."

"What happened?" Maria felt all the blood leave her face.

"I only know what Chloe told me. Who is Chloe?" Isabel stopped her movements to look at Maria.

"The girl Clark kissed when he was still dating Liz. For some reason Liz likes her." Maria found herself hyperventilating. "What's wrong with Liz? Nothing can happen to Liz. If something happens to Liz."

"Maria!" Isabel gripped the girl's shoulders. "Calm down and breathe. I'm sure everything will be fine. You have to stay here and make sure we keep an eye on the idiot twins." She took a breath and let it out. "I want Max and Michael separate. Whichever one we can get to go will be good but we have to keep the other here. Alright?"

"Okay." Maria took deep breaths. "Keep one here."

"That's it. Now. Go back to work. Jesse's giving my dad an excuse why we have to go. We'll be back and hopefully it's soon." Isabel ran a hand through her hair. "I have to finish packing and you have to go back to work."

"Isabel… will you call me when you find out what happened to Liz?" The girl looked so lost that Isabel just nodded. She couldn't promise anything and she had a feeling that she'd have to do some damage control.

TBC
posted on 8-Nov-2002 4:29:53 PM
This part will seem a bit rushed and confusing but it is best to remember everyone knows something and most people don't know the same things. the next part will be more revealing.

[center]Part 19[/center]

Lex greeted the Parkers when they finally reached the hospital. Liz was still slipping in and out of consciousness but she hadn't had another episode. Lex led them to the room. "It's a shame to greet the two of you under these circumstances. Liz always speaks very highly of you."

Jeff nodded and entered the room behind his wife. "Thank you for sending for us."

"It's no problem. The doctors don't seem to know what's going on. I would have rather spared you and your wife the anguish but it may be a while yet before we know anything." Lex stood just inside the doorway. He didn't want to intrude but he couldn't miss seeing yet another happy family that he wasn't a part of. "I'll warn you that when she is conscious… she's very irritable."

"I heard that." Liz mumbled. "Who are you talking to like I'm not here, Lex?" Her eyes remained closed to ward off the throbbing that consumed her brain when she opened them.

"Sweetie?" Jeff took her hand.

"Dad?" Liz cracked her eyes open to look at his worried face. "You called my parents? I'm fine. I want to go home."

"You're not fine, Liz." Lex sighed.

"I think I’m a better judge of that than you."

Lex turned to her shocked parents. "Apparently, she's chosen to ignore the shaking, memory lapses and hallucinations. Aren't you going to say hello to your parents, Liz? You haven't seen them in a while."

"I hate you, Lex." Liz's head rolled around on the pillow. She tugged on her restraints. "Can't you take these things off?" She turned her head to see her mother. "Tell them. You know I would never take anything. I hate aspirin. I only take Echinacea when I feel sick. Ask Lex, I don't like to drink. I am not on anything."

"We know, sweetie." Nancy leaned forward and kissed her daughter's forehead.

--

Clark examined the scorch marks. The more intense marks were higher up on the bed. "She pulled herself up."

"My thoughts." Chloe nodded. She glanced around the room for the thousandth time. "So… where's that meteor fragment you said she kept in here?"

"Um… in the vase on the desk." Clark gestured over his shoulder and turned at Chloe's tongue clucking. The vase was empty. No rose, no rock, no water. "It was there."

"She got rid of it? Put it somewhere else?" Chloe grimaced as she opened a jewelry box then carefully slid a drawer open. She shut it immediately. "If I were Liz and I had a meteor rock… and I was hiding things about my ex-boyfriend…"

"She's not hiding things." Clark protested.

"Clark, the girl glows with green radiance and goes into convulsions. This isn't exactly new. The last time that I know of was when her ex-boyfriend was here." Chloe stopped suddenly. Thoughts flew through her head. "He's an alien. Liz has a meteor. She gives it to him for whatever alien purpose… and a month later goes into withdrawal."

"Why is Max an alien?"

"I told you why. There are other things, Clark. I've been doing my research." She turned to face him. "I know that I've had my history with meteor boys… face it. You've got a girl in your house that's been affected. She could be doing this as a result of the alien ex. She's my friend, too, Clark… maybe I don't know everything about her but who knows what sex with an alien could do to a human."

--

Isabel pulled her jacket around her as she climbed out of the rental car. She felt horrible from the flight and her brother was really getting on her nerves. She shot Jesse a look and disappeared into the hospital. Jesse gripped the wheel and turned up the heater. He chanced a glance at Max through the rearview mirror. "Max."

"What?"

"That's a strange ring. Where'd you get it?" The amber orbs met his and sent a chill through the older man's back. "I didn't make you come."

"I couldn't let you take Isabel away from me where you could fill her mind with more reasons not to trust me." Max bit out.

"Forget it." Jesse muttered and turned his gaze to the hospital in front of him.

--

"Mom, go get some sleep. I'm fine." Liz sighed heavily. Her head was clearing but she was still so tired.

"I'm staying, Mrs. Parker. She'll need someone to yell at, anyway." Lex assured the woman.

"I'm not yelling." Liz attempted to glare in his direction.

Jeff held out his hand to the young man. "I'm relieved to see Liz has such a good friend in her employer."

"Dad…" Liz whined.

"She's a pleasure to know and work with… when she's feeling herself." Lex shook hands with the man and slid a glance to the woman in bed. "Go do what you have to do. Talk to the doctor, get some rest. I won't leave until you get back."

"Thank you." Jeff nodded and guided his wife out of the room.

Lex took a seat next to the bed. "You should rest?"

"I've sleep for nearly 24 hours straight." Liz whined.

"I never realized what a brat you are."

"I am not a brat." She scoffed. "I'm fine. I should go home. Lex… make them let me go."

He reached between the rails of the bed and took her hand to squeeze. "You know, I would if I didn't think we needed to find out what's wrong."

"Fine."

"I'll stay until your parents come back. Promise."

"Thanks. I really don't want to be here alone but my mother can be a little suffocating when she's worried." Liz took a deep breath and felt more awake than she had all day. "Can you untie me? You know I won't bolt."

"Sure." Lex rose and began working at the restraints. As soon as the restraints were off, Liz hopped off the bed and struggled to keep her gown closed. "I thought you wouldn't bolt."

"I have to pee."

"By all means, this way." He gestured to the door behind him. The second the door shut behind her, the door to the room opened. Clark and Chloe slipped into the room. "Well, if it isn't our local hero and his quirky sidekick."

"I am not a sidekick. I happen to be the brains of this operation, thank you." Chloe turned her nose up at him.

"What can I do for the two of you?" Lex took a seat.

"Just checking in. She's out of bed?" Clark pointed.

"Yeah. Don't tell anyone outside that I've freed her. She'll be out in a moment."

"That's good, right?" Clark sat on the edge of the bed.

"It should be. I think she's addicted to meteor rocks." Chloe furrowed her brow at Lex's smirk. "Laugh. Go ahead but we've got evidence that she could be burning from the inside out. She's been… infused by an alien and then she came in contact with our little green friend here in Smallville. She gives her rock away and then suddenly she's convulsing, glowing AND going through withdrawals. It's obvious."

"Please tell me you're a better reporter than investigator." Lex chuckled. "I seriously doubt that she's been… infused as you put it by an alien. What was she infused with, by the way?"

"Um… her ex-boyfriend is an alien. They had a physical relationship. He saved her life by healing her… I'm sure either way would have changed her somehow." Chloe cleared her throat, determined not to blush. "She scorched her bedspread today. I saw her glowing… Clark did too."

"Yeah. She was glowing when she was convulsing." Clark nodded. "Burn marks are the right size for her hands."

"Why didn't you tell the paramedics or the doctors?" Lex leaned forward.

"Do you think they would have believed us?"

"Probably not."

Liz shut the door and took a breath. They were too close but that theory about the meteor rock sounded plausible. But she was feeling better… she had not had a seizure or emitted any kind of glow since the house… that had to mean something… right?

Making all sorts of noise, she exited the bathroom. "Hey guys. Come to see the crazy lady?"

"How you doing?" Chloe attempted a real smile. "You look better."

"I feel better and I'm so sorry for um… making you guys worry. This is all nothing. Really." Liz sat in a chair near to the bed and made a big show of examining the food. "Hey Lex. Something for your agenda. Find someone to invent a hospital gown that actually closes. Use Velcro or something. Give the illusion of security at least." She poked at the puddle of gravy. "They expect us to eat this and assume it's healthy?"

"Yikes." Chloe grimaced at the food. "Would you like some contraband?"

"Would you?" Liz flashed her a bright smile. "Something sweet… Oh! And if you could find some hot sauce, that would be great."

"Okay. Clark?" Chloe pulled him to the door.

"Slick." Lex commented as the door shut behind them. "What exactly made you want them out?"

"I didn't want them out. I just don't want to eat that." Liz pointed to the tray.

"What do you think is happening to you?" His face showed much concern but Liz couldn't let him know that she suspected that Chloe might be right to a certain extent. The silence stretched out for several long moments before he caved. "Okay. Do you think the doctors will find an answer to your little mystery?"

"I don't think there's anything wrong with me." Liz told him seriously. She crossed to the bed and arranged herself comfortably just to eat time. "What do you know about half-lifes?"

"Chemistry." He nodded. "Just what was applicable to my classes."

"I was just thinking that we know about them mostly from the short carbon-dating isotopes. The longer ones are pretty much a guess. Radiation takes time to fade away completely."

"Yes, it does. Did you know that the residents of Smallville have unusually high white cell counts?" Lex sat beside the bed and noted that she looked like she was falling asleep again. "Technically, the town is still radioactive. There are fragments everywhere, even after the clean up they did. Hell, I'm probably radioactive to a point. I don't disrupt cellphones or microwaves but I've had the most exposure of anyone that survived."

Liz took a deep breath and examined his profile from drooping lids. "Do you think that the intense radiation fried your hair follicles or that the radiation you absorbed is what keeps you from growing hair?"

"A little of both, possibly. I've stopped trying to grow hair, unless of course you think that will make me even more resistible." He leaned over to look her in the eye and was rewarded with a weak smile.

"I think that bald suits you. I wouldn't have you any other way." She fell asleep soon after and Lex shook his head. She knew something about her condition and she didn't want anyone to know.

Seriously reconsidering his offer to stay with her, Lex tilted his head back to stare at the ceiling tiles. The cool metal from the top of the chair met his scalp. Idly, he wondered if he should have just made sure she was taken to Metropolis. Standing, he stretched a little. He was a little surprised when the door opened to admit a tall, leggy brunette. She looked startled to see him. "Liz Parker's room?"

"You're not hospital staff. Are you a friend?" Lex flashed her a dazzling smile. "Liz didn't mention having a model for a friend." He held out his hand. "Lex Luthor."

Isabel hesitantly took the offered hand. "Isabel Ramirez."

Liz groaned from the bed. "Lex Luthor, wipe that sexy smile off your face. You can forget it."

"Why, Ms. Liz, whatever are you talking about?" Lex didn't even bother to look in Liz's direction.

"Forget it, Lex, she's happily married." Liz muttered as she struggled to open her eyes. "Isabel?"

"Yeah, Liz… I tried calling you back and there was no answer and then some Chloe girl answers and I think she was a little crazy." Isabel brushed past Lex and placed herself in Liz's line of sight. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah. I'll be fine. You shouldn't have come."

"I didn't come alone…" Isabel trailed off.

"Really? Jesse's here?" Liz attempted to sit up but the eyelids weren't even cooperating. "Hey Lex, could you go see what's taking Clark and Chloe so long?"

"No problem." Lex nodded. "Nice to meet you, Mrs. Ramirez."

Isabel just nodded and waited until the door shut to turn back to Liz. "Listen, something's happened to Michael and Max. I've got Max in the car with Jesse. You gave Max that meteor piece and I think it's changed him somehow. He didn't even tell us anything. He wouldn't talk about it on the way here… I figured you need him though. That Chloe person said the glowing was back?"

"Slow down, Isabel." Liz made a noise in her throat as she shifted. "I was feeling find earlier but I don't know anymore… Isabel… I think you're right about the meteor fragment. Chloe thinks I'm going through withdrawal. If it works like a drug on me… what about on Max?"

The former Evans tried to tap into her brother's cognitive skills but there were too many factors. Hybrid versus human with slight alien similarities. A meteor that came who knew where and what that meant. "Withdrawal. You think if you had a piece that you could feel better?"

"It's possible but do I really want to become dependant on a rock? What's going on with Max?" Liz finally got her eyes open but the throbbing in her head returned.

"He is not Max anymore. He's rude and obnoxious. He thinks he runs the planet. He gets mad at the drop of a hat." Isabel got to her feet. "Well, if I know anything about my brother… he'll want to help you. Maybe I can get him to take that damned ring off."

--

Clark held the door open for Chloe so she could pass with the bag of goodies. He waved to Lex, down the hall talking on his phone, and entered the room. He ran smack into Chloe who had just stopped to stare. Liz was convulsing again. Green crackled up and down her arms. At the same time, they moved to touch her. Chloe was thrown against the door at the contact but Clark was able to keep his feet under him.

Just as he got a good grip on her hand, she stopped moving and he couldn't move. A turn of his head revealed a tall woman with something clenched in her hand. Clark gathered his strength. "Don't come in here with that."

"Get away from her." Isabel growled at him. She should have let Jesse come back in with her. "Liz."

Liz could barely lift her head. "Isabel?"

"Yeah, I'm here." Free hand raised, Isabel stepped toward the bed. "Let go of her."

Clark was powerless to do anything but sink to his knees. Isabel saw her window and quickly slipped the ring onto Liz's thumb. Liz gave a weary shake of her head before she began to feel the effects of the meteor fragment against her skin. "Yeah, it's not right to feel this good."

When she reached for Clark, he crawled as quickly as he could for the door where the effects weren't so bad. "Don't touch me."

Liz stretched her arms over her head. "Isabel, you should go. I'll try to get out of here and we'll talk."

"What about them?" Isabel got that quiver in her lip, the one that showed up when she was extremely worried.

"I'll take care of it." Liz reassured her. "Check on Max." Liz climbed out of bed and found her jeans. She hopped into them and then went to check on Chloe. She winced when she realized the girl had hit her head. "She'll be okay. We need to wake her up though."

The door opened to admit a confused Lex. "Did I miss something?"

"Chloe slipped and hit her head." Liz tilted her head at the blond. "Chloe?"

"Where do you think you're going?" Lex crossed his arms.

"To find a doctor and get out of here. I don't need to be here. I'm fine." Liz lied. "Chloe, come on. Wake up."

"You realize if you get sicker… we'll just have your parents take over?" Lex helped get the young girl to her feet and glanced at Clark. "Maybe it's catching. You don't look so good, Clark."

"I'm fine." Clark waved him off and sat on the bed.

"Ow." Chloe gently touched the back of her head. "What the hell happened?"

"Slipped." Liz answered and then turned to Lex. "I'm leaving. Tonight, the morning at the latest." They stared each other down for a full minute before Lex backed down. "Do me a favor and find the doctor."

"Alright." Lex gestured for calm. "Give me a minute and we'll see you tucked into your own bed tonight. You are not coming to work for a few days. I want to make sure whatever this was… that it's not going to happen again… Even if I have to get my doctor down here, understood?"

Liz nodded and helped Chloe to her feet. "You really have to be careful." She met Clark's eyes and saw something. She had seen it before and now she had a clue. Fear but not for himself. The truck. "Clark? You okay?"

"Yeah." Clark stood up and had to steady himself on the bed. Liz knew… something.

TBC
posted on 16-Dec-2002 8:38:17 PM
So the story changed direction on me. sigh. It happens. I even forgot what I wanted to happen but this just might be just as good. We'll see.

[center]Part 20[/center]

Liz had watched Clark get near to sick several times on the ride home. He had waited a good while before entering the house. She managed to ward off her worried parents and the Kents and get to her room. Pulling the ring off her thumb, she set it on the nightstand and lay down. She felt ten times worse than she had the day before. She was tempted to put the ring back on but… no. She had to. The rush of energy made her feel like she could run 15 miles, bake a cake, do all her homework for the semester and then have time to clean the house… tonight.

She hadn't felt this way before but she had never had withdrawals before. She had never held the meteor fragment for more than a few minutes at a time… but it had always been near before. Clark worried her. The last time he had looked so green was the day last fall when he had just collapsed on her in the middle of nowhere. Taking a long look at the fragment, she marveled at the design of the ring. It was thin and the fragment sat inside the ring so that it had surfaces exposed on top and on bottom where it touched her flesh. Why had Max done that?

Slowly, she slipped the ring off her thumb and onto another finger where it hung loose and prohibited contact with the green stone. She felt fine but… not as fine as she did when she had contact. Absently, she reached for her phone and dialed. She held the phone away from her ear, redialed to compensate for calling areas and waited for Isabel to answer. "It's like a steroid."

"What?"

"I think it's acting like a steroid."

"Liz?"

"Jesse, either stay with me or find someone who can." Liz scoffed and rolled her eyes. "So, I'm going to need some supplies. I don't have enough slides for this."

"For what?"

"Examining molecular differences in humans, hybrids and my ex-boyfriend. Geez, Jesse, keep up."

"You know what, Liz. I put up with this crap from Max because he's my brother-in-law and my wife loves him. I'm not taking it from you, too. I know all about you wearing the ring now and you're probably going to get all rude and obnoxious. Save it and just tell me, detail by detail what the hell is going on so that someone sane can back up your plan."

Liz had to remember to close her mouth. Jesse Ramirez yelled at her? She coughed and began again. He had better get it this time.

--

Chloe looked over everything she had gathered. Strange shootings, strange reports about kidnapping, trespassing, reference to an out of state case, FBI involvement. Aliens made a very convenient answer. What were they here for? World domination? Would humanity be 'infused' one person at a time? Shaking her head, she shut her eyes. She still had school tomorrow and the theories would be waiting then.

--

Max listened to every word that Jesse said. Twice. It didn't sound right and it was way too early in the morning to be discussing the biology and side effects of aliens and humans. Max poured a little more Tabasco onto his breakfast and picked at it while Jesse finished up the second explanation. Isabel seemed to have a permanent headache where she still lay in bed. The breakfast wasn't sitting well in Max's stomach. He felt just a bit ill and very much not like himself. "So, Chloe is saying that because I've 'infused' Liz, she's changed?"

"Well, you did heal her. That was the initial change, wasn't it?"

"Yes but Liz has never changed more as a result of us having sex… I mean… nothing's happened to you, right?" Max turned the idea over and over in his head. "You're not changing and you've been married well over a year… much longer than Liz's and my physical relationship."

"I see what you're getting at and I agree that the 'infusing' theory isn't valid or else Isabel is now Hispanic."

"Refrain from comments like that." Max shook his head to rid himself of the unpleasant image. "When is Liz getting here?"

"In an hour." Jesse poked at his eggs but watching the mess that Max was consuming had dampened his appetite. "Nice to have you back to normal."

"I'm still not understanding how that rock could control so much." He paused with his fork in mid-air. "Not only in me but Liz. It shouldn't have any affect on her. People in town aren't doing this."

"Max, the point is that she's not a normal human girl. She's been changed and that is the reason she was addicted to the rock in the first place." Isabel groaned and rolled over. Suddenly she sat up. "Jesse, do you see that?"

"What?" Max asked but then saw her eyes on him. His hand. It was shaking just enough to be noticeable.

"Liz better hurry." Jesse nodded.

Liz didn't show up for another hour, just as promised. When she entered the room, Jesse sat against the headboard, Isabel in his arms and Max sat at the foot of the bed. She cleared her throat and sat on the other side of Jesse. "So."

"So. Your theory… it has holes." Max twisted his hands together, trying to easy the tremors that had begun to decrease since Liz had entered the room with the ring.

"Yeah. I… I slept with the ring on and I tried to avoid as many people as possible. My parents are still scared to death that I'm going to die on them. Lex won't let me go to work and the Kents are hovering." Liz looked to Jesse and Isabel. "You two are the only ones with clear heads."

"Max was different when he came home. I didn't notice at first because I was busy. Then Michael… well it was more noticeable in him at first." Isabel explained. "Nobody buys the alien infusion theory."

"Yeah. After some time… Chloe's theory has holes in it. And besides it's all speculation on her end." Liz fiddled with the ring and sighed. "All I can figure for certain is that I react to it because of what Max and I were. I can't be certain that I react this way because of any other factors."

"I called Kyle. He and Maria were supposed to wrestle the ring away from Michael… see if Kyle reacts to it." Isabel cleared her throat. Her headache was lessening and that scared her. "I need air. Max, come with me."

The two left Jesse and Liz alone in the room. Jesse made the first move. "Why do you really discount the sex theory?"

"I've never had any after-effects. Not the first time. Not with Max and not with Clark." Liz shut her eyes.

"Before Isabel, it was great. Now, everyone else I can remember just seems like bad sex." Jesse stopped when she snapped her eyes open. "What?"

"I've… been with someone before Max. It was great and then after Max, it didn't seem so great…" Liz swallowed nervously. "Clark was great, too…after Max."

Jesse looked to the door and opened his mouth to speak.

--

Max ran over details in his mind but it was so hard when it felt like he was coming down. That time he had gotten drunk, he had felt horrible since he came to with Liz's lips on his. He felt horrible for hours afterward. This was nine times worse. Isabel was taking deep breaths of air. He could tell her headache had come back. Liz had been gone a while now and Isabel was reacting. 1947, the pods crash and were hidden. They didn't open when they were supposed to. 1989, a meteor crashes and littered two counties in Kansas with its sparkling green particles. The great cleanup managed to leave some pebbles behind. A month later, the pods open up and release its occupants slightly less than whole. All of a sudden, the podlings were having reactions from the fragments. Jesse and Liz's theory suggested that Clark might not be human. Liz knew he was adopted at age three or four, he exhibited some odd behavior but nothing was conclusive.

--

Clark looked up when Chloe entered the newsroom. "You were right."

"About?" Chloe set her things down and looked him over. He looked awful.

"Last night… you didn't slip." He caught her wide eyes. "Liz convulsed again. You touched her and you flew back. When that girl came in, she put a ring on Liz, it had a meteorite piece in it. Liz felt better immediately. She covered everything up really well." Clark picked at the keyboard in front of him. "I'm ready to hear your evidence… although… I highly doubt her ex was an alien."

--

Jesse led Liz through the park. She was weaning herself. She had wrapped a piece of tape around the ring so that she could wear it on another finger. She was weak and he could see she was probably trying harder to draw on whatever the rock gave her. He cleared his throat. "I think we're going to have to leave soon. Isabel is getting sick and it's not good for her… or the baby."

"She's pregnant?" Liz whispered.

"Yeah, I think she is. I think she's afraid to tell me." He cleared his throat again. "If she is, I'm going to ask her to move to New York. There was a job offer and when I suspected, I called to see if it still stood."

"And it does?" Liz wrapped her arms around herself.

"Yeah but she's got to tell me soon. We can't afford a baby on what her father pays me… but more importantly… I think that's why she's getting sick here. Max didn't get sick while he was here, did he?"

"No. No, he didn't." Liz stopped to sit on a bench. "You know, I'll talk to her when we get back. If she is, I'll talk to Max."

"It's not his business."

"He'll think it is. You'll need someone to make him see that it'll be good for her, for you guys as a family. He's not going to want to let her go so far away. He's the reason that you guys got together."

"How's that?"

"He forbade her from going to LA. She stuck around Roswell and then met you that summer." Liz shrugged. "Lucky for you, she couldn't say no to him. It'll be what keeps you from going."

"Then by all means, talk to him. Make him understand." He remained quiet a while. "I don't want to lose her over this."

--

Lex took a sip of water and stared at the teens in front of him. "You expect me to buy this?" He sighed when he saw their resigned faces. "Okay, let's go with the more plausible of what you've said. Our dear Liz was born in Roswell. Maybe a fraction of whatever radiation is a part of her. She moves here. Different radiation. Maybe they do clash and the rocks do have some sort of affect on her. I'd hardly think they'd be addictive."

"Why not? With all the bizarre incidences with the meteor fragments, why couldn't someone become addicted to it?" Chloe challenged him.

"Don't you think Liz would be smart enough to avoid something like that?" Lex cleared his throat.

"Only if she knew prior to contact that it would do this to her. If she didn't know, it'd be too late by the time she knew."

--

It was early morning when Max and Liz sat on the back of the rental car. The sun was turning the horizon pretty shades of pink. "Your parents aren't wondering where you are?"

"Probably, the Kents, too." Liz shook her head. "I'll apologize and make it up to them when you leave. When's your flight?"

"Two hours." Max nodded. He looked around and then at her. "I really screwed things up, huh."

"This time, Max, it wasn't your fault." She nudged him lightly. "I'm just tired of pressure. As soon as I can, I'll be weaned off this thing. You too." She stared at his profile for a minute. "You know, Jesse and Isabel might be moving?"

Max's head snapped around, eyes wide. "Why? And how did you know before I did?"

"Max, you want her to be normal. You tell her that everything has to be normal. Normal people have to get on with their lives and they're going to. Jesse's got the chance for a faster pace and a lot more money. It's what he wants… and I think Isabel will like New York."

"It's the baby, huh." Max slouched against the car.

"You know?"

"Isabel told me the second she knew. She's scared, Liz."

"Jesse's waiting for her to tell him and I think she's waiting for your permission… but you know what, Max?"

"She doesn't need my permission."

"Exactly." Liz rubbed her finger where the ring had been. She left it in her jacket in the car.

"Will you slap me if I do something?"

"Yes." She answered him honestly. It felt good to be near him but she couldn't. Not now.

"Fair enough." Max sighed and shoved his hands into his pockets. "I'm still afraid that when you're done finding yourself that you'll realize you don't need me in your life."

"If the rebounds were any indication… I don't see that happening."

"My was pretty bad." Max laughed. "It's probably a good thing she dumped me."

"Clark was great… just… Lex pointed out to me that we didn’t have any passion. That and I don't think Clark was ready to be with one girl."

"He cheated on you?" Max mumbled something under his breath.

"It should have bothered me but it didn't. That was a big clue." Liz cleared her throat when the Aston Martin rounded the parking lot. She wasn't as surprised to see it as she should have been. "I guess they've sent out a hunting party."

Max stared at the car where it stopped across the parking lot from them, taking up four spaces in the process. "Guess I should be glad there are people to look out for you when I can't."

"You couldn't have predicted this, Max." Liz pushed off from the car and stepped around to retrieve her jacket. "I'll send you a fragment to help you wean yourself. Try to get Michael off it, too."

"I will." Max couldn't help it, he pulled her to him and held her tight. "I miss you. Always."

"I miss you, too." Liz kissed his cheek lightly. "I'll see you the next time I go home."

"Bye."

"Bye." Liz turned and made her way to the passenger seat of Lex's car. "What do I owe the pleasure?"

"He's here?" Lex jerked his head to indicate Max.

"Yeah. He was worried." Liz nodded. "I'm ready to hit the hay."

"I hope you don't mind but I told your parents that you wanted some time alone and would be staying at my place." Lex pulled the car onto the road. "They think you've been there all this time. Your mother had some choice words to say about that and surprisingly, your father calmed her down."

"You reached out that long Luthor arm to get them here, you stayed with me, you tried to protect me and I'm guessing you told him that you'd have nurses brought in from Metropolis on standby in case I relapsed." She watched his jaw set as she obviously hit the nail on the head. "My father and I have had our fights but I know him better than he knows himself."

"How are you feeling?"

"Better. No strange episodes. It's getting better and I don't intend to let it control me but I think that a few weeks off from work might do me some good. I can handle my homework and chores but keeping up with you will stress me out and set me back."

"I think you're right." Lex steered them out of town to his house. "All long as it's under control."

"It is." Liz looked out the window for a long time. "Tell me… you're always making noise that Clark is more different than I realize. What do you mean by that?"

"Why do you ask?" Lex cleared his throat.

"I've… experienced things with Clark that aren't… normal. You seem to know something. We'll see."

"I guess we will."

TBC
posted on 25-Jan-2003 9:00:06 PM
Sorry for the lack of posts but the story stalled on me. I'm waiting for inspiration.
posted on 15-Feb-2003 5:47:21 PM
quote:
I can't describe the way I felt when I read Jen's farewell. It didn't seem possible but here I figured if the mods and such were able to put up with all the conflict that made my head hurt, then I could too.
No pretty words from me. When the Captain and builder of a ship won''t stay aboard, it's time for even the rats to go. Consider me a rat, I'm... I'm not comfortable posting here, haven't for quite a while now. Guess I've found my excuse to go.
I've enjoyed the board since I found it way back when three or four episodes into the series. I've tried to follow it even through my own personal trauma. I've grown tired... not of writing (people who know me best will know that I would write if no one but a sand crab and I would read it). I don't like people and I'm tired of dealing with people. If you want to continue reading, you know where to find me. Least there I don't get ranted at for following through with a story line.

Huh. A weight was just lifted. Funny that.

DMartinez