posted on 23-Jan-2002 12:25:41 PM by DMartinez
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.

Crushes
Part 1

Clark dumped his books on the table and then glanced around at the extra furniture sitting in the kitchen. "Mom?"

"In here!" She called out from the guest room where he supposed the furniture had come from. She smiled when he scooted into the room around some boxes. "How was the first day back at school?"

"Like I was never gone... only sophomores get more homework." Clark groaned. "What's going on?"

"I don't know if I ever talked about Nancy Fitzgerald." Martha wiped at her brow as she dusted off a dresser and looked around the room.

"Um... no?" Clark answered hesitantly.

"Nancy Fitzgerald and I were friends way back in elementary school and all through junior high... We kept in touch through high school, wrote letters and talked on the phone, but then she got married and I got married. She had a little girl and then we found you, it got harder to stay in touch..." Martha glanced around again as if she were taking inventory. The room looked barer than he had ever seen it. "Anyway... She called me up this morning and we got to talking. Her daughter, Liz, is starting up at Metropolis University next week and they have a housing problem. Liz was going to have to get an apartment and a job; they were already looking into other options... I offered for her to stay here."

"What?" Clark blinked. "That's a long commute."

"It's the least I could do." Martha, satisfied that the room was clean, retrieved a set of sheets from the closet. "I'm going to clear most of this stuff out of here. Liz has her own desk that she's bringing. Nancy said that Jeff got it for her experiments. They decided that correspondence classes would be best at this point. That way she wasn't overwhelmed with moving and a new place and working..."

Speechless, Clark just stood there for the longest time watching his mother ready the room. "Mom..."

"Yes?"

"It's going to be hard to... to keep things secret with another person in the house." Clark got it out finally. This girl could find out and if she needed a special desk to do experiments... who knew what could happen?

"Well it's not like Liz is going to be stuck in the room all day. Of course she'll be out and about, she'll make some new friends, hopefully." Martha sighed. "Nancy said that Liz fell in with a bad crowd for a while there. Some boy."

"Mom."

"So she's going to come stay with us, in a good little town and study her sciences." Mrs. Kent straightened and tugged at the sheets until they were straight, smooth and even.

"She's a science geek?" Clark rolled his eyes and stumbled into the kitchen. He could just picture the girl now: thick glasses, greasy hair, way too skinny, only interested in things she could dissect. "This is a disaster."

"It's an opportunity. I'm sure you'll be glad to show her around." She followed him and then gestured to the furniture littering the kitchen. "Could you take those down to the storm cellar... After you get your books off the table?"

"Yeah, I guess." Clark knew better than to protest anymore. If he said that he wouldn't want to show Liz around town, she would probably heap him with extra chores and then get some more when his father found out.

"Clark." She stopped him and put a hand on his arm. "I feel I have to do right by Liz. Nancy and I were so close for so long and she's almost like my daughter. Nancy is trusting her daughter with me because of how I talked on and on about you." She touched his face lightly. "I realize that you would rather be doing other things but Liz needs stability. As I understood it, she's been going through a tough time and she needs some time away from the bad influence. She used to be a really sweet girl from what I understand, Nancy and Jeff hope that some time away will help bring that girl back."

"I'll help if she'll let me?" Clark raised an eyebrow.

"That's a good boy. She'll be here this weekend to get settled."

--

Clark stared at the pool table so hard that his x-ray vision jumped into focus and he could see Lex's foot through the rich mahogany. He was curling and uncurling his toes. Clark's brow furrowed as he watched the bones bend and straighten. So that's why Lex always seemed so calm. No one could see his toes nervously contracting inside his shoes.

"Clark. Are you still on this planet?" Lex gestured to the balls scattered across the table.

"Sorry." Clark bent over the table and lined up his cue with the striped ball. He aimed carefully but he was wound so tight that the cue slid off, sending the ball spinning off and bouncing off more than one side of the table with such force that it made loud clacking noises as it went. "I can't play."

"You were playing just fine last week. Of course I still won but I have many years on you." Lex's mouth turned up on one side as he bent to take his turn. "So what's on your mind? Lana?"

"No..." Clark shook his head solemnly. "Liz."

"Liz? What is with you and 'L's', Clark?" Lex chuckled as the ball all but jumped into the pocket for him. He straightened to survey the table for his next move. "You have a friend named Lex, an obsession named Lana and now there's a mystery girl named Liz. Tell me all about her, Clark. Who is Liz and why is she screwing up your pool game?"

"She's the daughter of my mom's friend. She's going to do correspondence courses with Metropolis University and she'll be staying at my house. I'm supposed to show her around." Clark let out a deep breath. "That's all I need, some geeky girl hanging around all the time."

"Clark, you're overlooking the facts I'm sure." Lex lined up his next shot and sank the ball with a soft plop. "Tell me more."

"She got into some trouble back home and her parents are trying to reclaim the daughter that once was. She had a boyfriend that got her into trouble."

"Ah... then you are overlooking the facts." Lex straightened slightly, moving around the table to line up the eight ball. He rested the cue on his fisted hand and made the shot. "College girl."

"So." Clark shook his head in confusion. He set down the cue seeing as he had lost once again. "Explain to me what I'm overlooking."

"I don't know about you but when I was 16 almost 17, I had girls on the mind whenever my father couldn't catch me." Lex leaned on the table, locking eyes with his friend. "Do I look like a science geek?"

"Well... no."

"There you go. This girl, she's a science major and that's all you heard. Have you seen a picture of her?" The bald man waited, his poker face in place. Clark shook his head no. "Ah, so you are basing all this on the science major part. You completely ignored the trouble making boyfriend part. In my experience, those trouble making guys never settled for geeks when they could snag a beauty."

"You think?" Clark's blue eyes went wide.

"I'm willingly to bet that by next week you'll have complete access to a beautiful college girl, every high school boy's dream. She's a science major, which makes her smart. She's leaving trouble behind which probably means she could stir some up in this quiet little fleck of a town." Lex reached out and spun a ball across the table. "Of course you'll have to make sure that trouble making boyfriend is out of the picture because... in my experience those are the jealous types and usually go looking for their estranged girlfriends."

"So, this is perfect?" Clark cleared his throat. The way Lex put it, he could be having the time of his life with this Liz. "But, even if I was interested... there's no guarantee that she would be."

"Forever the pessimist, aren't you." Lex shook his head and motioned for Clark to lead the way out of the billiard room. He wrapped an arm around his friend as they made his way to the office. "I can guarantee you that your natural charm will be enough to get her look twice. Once girls have had the bad boy, they crave a good boy. All we have to hope for is that she is indeed over the bad boy."

--

Liz stared out over the fields as they flew past her. Her parents hadn't spoken to her the whole trip. She had been out all day and night and had gotten home just in time to leave that morning. She had to say good-bye to Max. They had to know how important that was to her if she was going to be separated so long and far from him. She had agreed to the arrangement at last, they could be glad about that.

Max was the one who had insisted she go to college, claiming he couldn't hold her back when she was destined to do much greater things. Of course they had been having their problems, as well.

She closed her eyes as she thought about it. Things were so strained between them, his son and Tess and Kivar and Antar. It was slowly beginning to suffocate her. In the end, it was her decision to take a break. They could go their own ways and if they happened to find their way back to each other then it was really meant to be. If not, then... well she wouldn't think about that at the moment.

So she was going to Metropolis University in Kansas until they found out about the housing problem. Apparently the in house freshman rule had been lifted when the main dorm had caught fire. Then she had made arrangements to study through correspondence courses. She had it all planned out. She would find a job to pay tuition, have her own flexible school schedule and live in the city. That had been shattered when she looked into the expense of living in the city. Then her mother had remembered a friend she had in Smallville. They hadn't spoken since Liz was a little girl but they were close as ever in spirit.

That would be Martha Neil's house up ahead. The one in the middle of the field with a barn and tractor sitting beside it. The one with a Porsche sitting out front? "Mom?"

"Yes?" Nancy seemed to be distracted by the shine of the obviously expensive vehicle. It had to be a crime to call that work of art a vehicle.

"I thought you said that Martha had a struggling farm." Liz blinked but the Porsche was still there.

"She does."

"Well that is one fine piece of farm equipment." Jeff laughed under his breath and pulled into the drive.

"L-X-L-T-H-R. What's that supposed to mean?" Liz pondered aloud as the truck pulled to a stop.

"I don't know." Nancy opened the door and the mid-afternoon air rushed into the truck. They all slid to the ground, relishing a few moments to stretch their travel weary bones and muscles.

The screen door opened slowly. "It's them!" Martha raced out the front door and moved directly over to her childhood friend. "Oh it's been so long!"

"Too long, Martha, too long." Nancy whispered as they hugged tight. Liz and her father hung back a little to let the old friends greet each other. Liz's gaze slid back to the house where three men emerged, two in flannel and one in a suit.

"I thought Mom said that they only had one kid." Liz whispered to her father.

"I get the feeling he's not their son." Jeff whispered back, his eye also on the expensively clad bald man... or boy from a closer look at him.

Clark followed a little behind his father, his eyes sweeping over the girl standing beside her father. She was beautiful, her dark hair parted down the middle and smoothed back into a low ponytail, large hoop earrings hung from her ears, a snug shirt barely covered her belly button, and loose pants hung off her small hips. Liz would definitely stand out in Smallville dressed like that. A quick glance back up to her face revealed the biggest brown eyes he had ever seen. She would definitely 'make a splash.'

Liz shifted under the clear blue gazes of the men. The shorter of the men hung back slightly, standing confidently as if surveying all that was his. The older man reached forward to shake her father's hand. "I'm Jonathan Kent and this is my son, Clark."

"Jeffery Parker and this is our Lizzie." Jeff nudged her slightly so she could smile and offer her hand in meeting.

"I have a feeling these women will still be standing here next week, screaming and crying, so I suggest we move on into the house." Jonathan jerked his head slightly toward the house.

"Jonathan!" Martha let go of Nancy to smack her husband on the arm. "But please, let's all go inside."

The women were already moving, leaving them to shake their heads. Jeff exchanged a look with Liz, who simply shrugged. He started to back toward the truck when Jonathan stopped him. "Don't worry about your things just yet, Clark will get them later, right?"

"Right. Dad." Clark nodded his head and shut his eyes. Of course, right, that he would. He felt the men move on but he stayed where he was.

"You don't have to worry about it. I plan to get my own things." The female voice spoke to him, jerking his eyes open. "I'm Liz."

"I'm--" Clark reached to take her outstretched hand.

"Clark." Liz nodded her head slightly. "I... just don't like to be called Lizzie."

"Right, ok. You want me to show you to your room?" Clark released her hand after he realized he had been holding it longer than necessary.

"Sure." Liz gave him a small smile and then glanced past him to the other man. "Who's that?"

"Oh. Oh!" Clark resisted the urge to slap his forehead. "I'm sorry. Lex!"

Lex bowed his head when Jonathan passed him to get to the house, and then strode over to the teens. Clark stepped back to include Lex in their space of the drive. "Liz Parker, this is Lex Luthor, Lex, this is Liz. Lex is a good friend of mine."

"It's a pleasure to meet you." Lex flashed her a brilliant smile.

"Likewise." She turned her head in the direction of the Porsche. "I'm going to take a wild stab in the dark and say that's your car."

Lex chuckled. "What is that? Number 3, Clark?"

"Number 4, I think." Clark shook his head slightly with a small smile on his lips.

"Hopefully you'll get to see this one around longer than the others and hopefully you'll be able to keep out from under it." Lex and Clark shared another laugh. Liz just nodded, not getting the joke. "Liz, welcome to Smallville and I just hope that Clark will influence you before anyone in this town can scare you off of me. I do believe Clark is the only... one of the only truly brave people in Smallville."

Liz furrowed her brow and then looked to Clark. Clark smiled nervously. "My dad doesn't really... get along with the Luthors."

"I get the feeling I'm still missing something really big here." Liz cleared her throat.

"Get settled, you have plenty of time to hear all about the evil Luthors." Lex flashed her another smile and let Clark lead them into the house. Liz shot Clark another confused look but followed just the same.

They entered the house to see Martha and Nancy still gushing over each other. The men were talking quietly in the living room. Clark guided Liz further into the room and only got her sucked into the women's corner.

"Oh! Look at you! You are such a beauty." Martha smiled broadly. "Watch out Smallville."

"Yeah, well, I'm..." Liz shot a glance over at her father. "I'm going to try single for a while." Nancy waited until Liz turned to meet her eyes. "Max and I broke up this morning."

Her mother nodded. "Liz and Max had been dating on and off for nearly three years."

"Don't worry, Liz. We don't all marry our high school sweethearts. Most of us are glad of that." Martha whispered reassuringly. Her eyes shot past the two women in front of her and noted Clark and Lex hanging back. "Come on in guys. Jeff, Nancy, this is Lex Luthor." Lex nodded in response to the late introduction. "Lex, Nancy is my dear friend. I don't know if you ever knew of the Fitzgerald's. They used to own land on the other side of Smallville, near the grazing pens."

"Fitzgerald... that's hitting me a little young, I think." Lex shook his head. "My father would know better than I would."

"The grazing pens. That's Luth--... oh." Nancy had started to say something but decided against it, but not soon enough for Lex miss it.

"And it looks like I've found yet another adoring fan." Lex shook his head but smiled anyway.

"What?" Liz finally spoke up. "What is it?"

"My father is Lionel Luthor of LuthorCorp." Lex freely admitted. "We're not thought of too fondly in these parts."

Clark stepped forward, clearing his throat. "So, how about I go get your things from the truck?"

"I told you--" Liz started but Clark cut her off.

"Lex, lend me a hand?" Clark pulled Lex out the door.

"Clark, the persistent peacekeeper." Martha sighed as they disappeared out the door. She turned back to Nancy. "He doesn't like to hear Lex bashed on account of LuthorCorp."

"You let him into your home?" Nancy shook her head in confusion.

"They're friends. Clark keeps proving us wrong the longer the two are friends. I think they're good for each other. Jonathan on the other hand can't see it."

"Quite frankly, I don't see it either."

Liz listened to the two women whisper on and on about something she knew nothing about. Apparently LuthorCorp was bad? She wandered over to where her father was still chatting with Mr. Kent. He wrapped an arm around her shoulder and kept talking. They went on and on about how similar and dissimilar their lines of work were.

"So, Liz, have you thought about what kind of job you'd like to get?" Jonathan shifted his gaze to the young lady.

"Well, I've worked for Dad since I was 15 and I interned with a Congresswomen for a while when I was 17. I could do just about anything." Liz nodded and shot a look at her father.

"If you're familiar with a filing cabinet, I'm sure we could keep you out of greasy kitchens." Lex offered as he and Clark carried in suitcases and boxes. His easy smile never faltered, even with the looks the men were giving him. "I could use a local secretary. Get me a resume and some references and you've got a job. That's New Mexican Congressman Ian McGregor, correct?"

"Actually, it was Congresswoman Vanessa Whittaker. She passed on." Liz gave him a small smile. "What is it that you do, Mr. Luthor?"

"Call me Lex, please. We're all friends here." Lex set the suitcase down to approach her. "I'm sorry to hear about your former employer, I had heard good things about her. It was quite the controversy when she opted to run in her deceased husband's stead. I'm sure you gained excellent work experience through that."

"What would I be doing?"

"Aiding in the destruction of local foliage." Jonathan muttered under his breath.

"Perhaps we should continue this discussion another time." Lex took a step back and gathered her suitcases. Clark was already on this third trip to the bedroom with her things. "I'll just put these where they belong.

"Clark, let me help with Lizzie's desk. It's heavy." Jeff shuffled his feet toward the door.

"It's no problem. I got it." Clark waved him off on his way back to the truck.

"That's either a brave or foolish boy." Jeff nodded to the door Clark had disappeared through.

"He's both." Jonathan chuckled to himself. "Don't worry, Clark won't have a problem with the table. He's... very strong and he only turns into a complete klutz around pretty girls." He winked at Liz. "Then again, we really might have a problem on our hands."

Liz had no choice but to blush. Mr. Kent certainly had a charm all his own. Clark seemed to have inherited it by the way her mother had gushed on and on about how great Martha had said he was. At least she could relax soon enough. Her parents were going to stay the night and then they were leaving in the morning so they could reopen the Crashdown Monday. She just hoped she'd survive in Smallville.

TBC

[ edited 6 time(s), last at 27-Apr-2002 10:31:43 PM ]
posted on 23-Jan-2002 12:31:09 PM by DMartinez
Part 2

"... and this is the barn." Clark shoved open the doors so that Liz could go inside.

"Wow." Liz stepped inside and glanced around, her goodbyes with her parents echoing in her ears. They were only gone two hours and she didn't know whether to jump for joy or to weep with homesickness. "So you really help out?"

"When I can. School and all." Clark pushed at the ground with his foot.

Liz noticed a staircase leading up to a loft and approached. For as little as she knew about barns, she knew that was odd. "What's up there?"

"Oh, um... my Fortress of Solitude." Clark blushed a little when she turned to him with a strange expression. He shoved his hands into his pockets. "It's um... where I go to get away from it all."

"Oh." She stepped away from it. "I completely understand. Back home I kinda had a balcony outside my window. It's where I would go to think things out and look up at the stars."

"You're a stargazing thinker too?" Clark smiled sheepishly at his admission.

"You bet. My grandmother got me this telescope when I was a little younger. Then Max and I would look together sometimes..." She trailed off and then shook her head. "No, I'm not going to be sad. We broke up on good terms and that's a good thing."

"Ex-boyfriend?" Clark asked uncertainly.

"More than I thought I could handle." Liz nodded. "But I'm sure you know all about that. Girls are probably falling all over themselves just to stand next to you."

"Not really, hence the Fortress." Clark pointed. "I... I have a telescope up there. If you ever want to, feel free to go have a look."

"I don't want to invade your privacy." Liz shook her head. "It's your Fortress."

"Mom always said I needed to learn to share." Clark started up the stairs. "Come on up."

Liz followed and emerged in a loft, bales of soft hay on the ground, a mirror pointed at the stairway, and a telescope pointed out the wooden door. "Looks comfortable."

"Yeah." Clark sat in his normal spot and caught her staring at him. "What?"

"You cheater. That mirror is to let you know who's coming when." Liz laughed. "I didn't have that luxury. Windows were too low if you were standing up and if you were sitting down, Max would come of up the fire escape and you won't know until he was already up."

"You liked him a lot." Clark commented almost to himself.

"Like is an understatement. He's my heart." Liz whispered to her hands. "I would die for him."

"Is that why you had to leave?"

"Yeah." Liz sighed. "On to less depressing subjects... What's with the animosity toward your friend?"

"That." Clark nodded slowly. "LuthorCorp is owned and run by Lex's dad, Lionel Luthor. He's not the best of men but he demands the best of everything. He practically owns Smallville. He's got a fertilizer plant just outside of town limits. He's been known to buy out families to save them from bankruptcy only to rip them off in the long run. Dad says that he ripped off a few of the neighboring farms. Dad's not too fond of the name Luthor or anything associated with it."

"So how did you and Lex become friends?" Liz asked softly.

Clark laughed a little. "About a year ago, I was a little depressed and I was sitting on a bridge railing. I didn't hear the car coming until it had crashed through the railing right beside me. It didn't touch me." Clark lied. "I had just managed to jump back roadside before the impact. A silver Porsche had run right through that railing and sunk like a rock."

"Oh my god." Liz's eyes widened, she was starting to get the picture.

"So I jumped in and the rest is kinda a blur. I managed to pull him out and get him on the riverbank. I did CPR and... Lex says that he had actually died in that water. I don't know but if I hadn't have been there, he would be dead."

"Wow."

"Lex decided right then and there that I was his best friend. He bought me a truck that my father wouldn't let me keep." Clark smiled at the thought. "Lex isn't like his father. He's changing the way people think of the name Luthor. He's been running that fertilizer plant I told you about since his 21st birthday. He turns 22 next month."

"Wow." Liz repeated. That story just threw her for a loop. "I guess things like that don't happen in Smallville everyday."

"Not really." Clark blushed because they did and to him. He was constantly saving lives.

"Can I ask you something?" Liz spoke up out of the blue.

"Sure."

"Are you okay with me being here?" She leaned back on the railing behind her. "I know it must have been a shock."

"It was but I'm used to it already."

--

Liz woke to silence. It was too quiet. Almost like there was no one in the house. Sitting up she noted that the sun had risen some time ago. Grabbing her robe, Liz climbed out of bed. She pulled it tight around her body as she pushed the door open.

Faint smells of breakfast lingered in the air. Upon a quick exploration, the house was indeed empty but a plate of food was waiting in the microwave, as was a note.

'Liz,
Went into town for a quick errand. Jonathan is in the south field and Clark is in school. Didn't want to wake you. Have a nice morning. Relax. Help yourself to the kitchen.
Martha.'

"Okay." Liz said to no one and sat at the table to eat the eggs, toast, bacon and sausage. "Wow, that's a lot of food."

She could eat only about half of it before she got full and decided she needed a shower. Being in the Kent house felt so odd. It was one thing to live above a restaurant but quite another to stay in a farmhouse. Living at the Crashdown, she had never thought about how it had been built but being in the Kent home, she knew that a Kent somewhere in time had put his back into it, board by board without help. That much she could gather from the way Jonathan talked and went on about his family history.

As she showered and got dressed, she was struck by the silence. There was no thru traffic or blasting stereos. It was so quiet. She glanced around the guest room. Most of her things had been unpacked by her mother and Mrs. Kent, Martha. Her clothes and her books mostly. She eyed the box beside the dresser.

--

Clark kept glancing at his watch. Chloe and Pete kept giving him strange looks that he never noticed until Chloe opened her mouth. "Have someplace you'd rather be?"

"Huh? Oh. Um. Well. There's uh..." Clark sputtered, making Chloe glare at him.

"Lana?"

"No." Clark shook his head. "Well, didn't I tell you guys?"

"Tell us what?" Pete shook his head. His friend was sputtering more than usual, if that was possible.

"Well, my mom has this friend down in Roswell..." Clark started but then saw the spark in Chloe's eye. "And their daughter is staying with us."

"You mean THE Roswell. As in Roswell, New Mexico. Home to aliens and utterly Wall of Weird-like happenings?" Chloe's eyes were doing that dance thing. "I'm coming over. I want to meet this girl. Is she coming to school here?"

"No..."

"Where is she going to school then?" Pete asked, noting that his friend was completely smitten.

"Metropolis U." Clark took off toward the bus when it pulled into the lot.

"My, my, Clark Kent is moving up in the world. College girl, huh." Chloe half-heartedly teased him. It always stung when Clark had interests in girls not her. "So why isn't in a dorm?"

"Housing problem." Clark nodded stiffly, hoping they would drop it. "It's only her third day here."

"Well, I'm going to introduce myself. She'll need some friends around here." Chloe climbed onto the bus after her friend. "She won't want to spend all her time with you."

"Why not?" Clark blurted out before he knew it.

"Ooh. This is interesting." Chloe nudged Pete. "So, what's her name?"

"Is she hot?" Pete tilted his head at his friend.

"Her name is Liz Parker, and yeah, she's... pretty." Clark sighed and leaned his head on the back of a seat. "She'll never look at me. She's smart and funny and pretty and totally out of my league. She's from a slightly bigger city, what's she going to want from me?"

"Hey..." Chloe reached over and nudged his knee. "You're a great friend."

"Great, Chloe, cheer him up why don't you." Pete scoffed at her. "Hey, she's older... how much?"

"She's 18." The dark haired boy sighed. "She's great. We talked a lot yesterday and she didn't treat me like I was only 16."

"Ah... Hmm... I could help or laugh." She mused aloud. When Clark shot her a look, she tilted her head at him. "I'm still coming over."

--

Liz bopped around her room, putting things away, throwing empty boxes onto the porch outside the kitchen door, sneaking homemade cookies from the cookie jar as she passed. Her music pounded the foundation of the house. The next song was smoother, sultry, the following song somewhere in between. When her cell phone rang, she raced to grab it, still unpacking and dancing as she did so. "Hello."

"Parker." Liz cracked a smile. "I hear you enjoying my going away present."

"Thank you, Sean. It was very thoughtful and it has already come in handy." She moved into the kitchen to grab something to eat while she chatted. "I've been gone two days, you miss me already?"

"Don't you know it. I miss you busting my chops all the time... I heard about you and Max. You doing okay?"

"Yeah. I'm good." Liz nodded into the phone. She picked at an apple. "It's just really quiet here."

"Bet you're already making the heads turn."

"Sean, shut up." She groaned. "The last thing I want right now is another adoring fan."

"Give it up, Parker, you'll find them everywhere you go." Silence. "So, does Cow Poke have a bowling alley?"

"I don't know. I haven't gone into town yet."

"Parker? Are you breathing?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I am." Liz smiled softly into the phone as she glided around to a slow song. "Breathing clearly."

"Promise me you'll lane walk."

"I'll try. I don't know if committing a felony in this town is a good idea. I am an adult now."

"I know. Liz Parker, all grown up. I like it."

"Shut up. Sean." Liz blushed, suddenly glad she had been able to keep him as a friend even after she had led him on. He made her laugh and that's what she needed in a friend. "Thanks for calling, Sean."

"No problem. I had a break and there's only an hour time difference. I figured what the hell. Lane walk, Parker."

"I said, I'll try. Why are you always trying to get me to commit a felony?"

"I'm not the one that succeeded." Silence. "Sorry. I didn't mean that."

"I know. I gotta finish unpacking, Sean. Bye." She shut off the phone, suddenly realizing she had stopped dancing completely.

"Hope you'll consider that felony long and hard." A voice startled her. She whipped around, nearly knocking the bowl of fruit to the ground. A shiny bald head sped toward her to keep the fruit on the table. "Sorry, didn't mean to scare you."

"It's okay. I was just... in my own little world, Mr. Luthor." Liz bit her lip and replaced the fruit bowl in the middle of the table.

"Alright, Miss Parker." Lex nodded and placed an table in the bowl. When she shot him a look. "I'm barely four years older than you. Calling me, Mr. Luthor... it gives me the willies."

"Ah. Right okay... Lex." Liz amended. "So, Lex, do you always walk into people's homes unannounced?"

"Better, Liz. It bugs Jonathan to no end and so I must walk right in whenever I choose." Lex nodded and tilted his head. "Nice music. Can't say I hear much of this outside Metropolis."

"Oh, um..." Liz set her cell phone on the counter. "A friend made me a CD. He thinks they don't even have radio stations in Smallville."

"It's refreshing to find someone who doesn't listen to bubble gum or cow dung around here." Lex flashed her a smile, then noted her blush.

"Um... the Kents aren't here." Liz finally said and then reached down to pick up an empty box. "They haven't been here all day actually."

"Clark should be home any minute now. It's not like Martha to leave a guest unattended, though." He tsked and put his hands in his pockets.

"She left a note, said she had to do something in town but... I was still asleep. It was still early so..." Liz thought about it. She had been awake forever and it was barely three.

"The Kents are early risers. Farm people." Lex nodded slowly, noting her blush again. "Where are you from again?'

"Roswell, New Mexico." Liz took a seat at the table. "It's refreshing to get away from all that alien crap."

"Oh the phone, that the ex?" Lex took a seat across from her.

"No, well, yeah, kinda... it's complicated." She furrowed her brow. "I have no clue what Sean is. He's a guy that I considered being with and we almost were but I couldn't rebound him and we're friends now."

"Complicated." Lex nodded. He watched her squirm under his gaze. She looked sweet enough, maybe she wouldn't break Clark's heart too badly. "While I'm here. Have you considered my job offer?"

"Um. I'm interested." Liz said after a long silence. "I've tried not to bring it up with the Kents after that strange scene Saturday. I am interested though."

"Tell you what. You think about it and drop by my house..." Lex caught her guarded look. "Trust me, it's better than showing up at the plant. Come by the house, Clark will show you where. We'll meet in my office for a proper interview."

"Why do you want to give me a job?" Liz asked softly. "You don't know me or anything."

"Well, first." Lex paused. "I wouldn't be giving you anything. You earned yourself an internship with a state senator, that speaks for itself. Second... You're living with the Kents. Clark is probably my best friend. If he looks out for you, then I should too." He watched her reaction carefully.

"He doesn't look out for me." She whispered. She wanted to say that he was only fifteen but she held it in at the expression, or lack thereof, on Lex's face.

"Give him a few days. He will." Lex stood to leave. "Tell Clark I stopped by." He was almost out the door when he turned. "Nice moves by the way. You'll have to teach Clark how to dance."

Liz blushed furiously when she realized she had been caught dancing by a complete stranger. He was gone before she could respond. Then she wondered why he had watched her so long before making his presence known. She sat and mulled over the job offer. She only stopped when she heard voices.

"What was he doing here?"

"Don't know."

"Maybe he had a craving for Kent produce."

"He's on a mission. I bet he's trying to duplicate the Kent apples in a lab somewhere so he can make money off it."

"Why am I friends with you guys, again?"

"I'm adorable but I don't know what you see in Pete."

"I'm adorable... in a manly football player way."

"Right... Where's that music coming from?" Clark's voice grew stronger as he opened the back door. "Liz. Hi."

"Hey Clark." Liz picked at her apple and gave him a half smile. "How's it going?"

"Good." Clark stepped inside the kitchen followed by two teenagers. "Liz Parker, this is Chloe Sullivan and Pete Ross, my best friends. Guys, Liz."

"Nice to meet you." Chloe stepped forward automatically and reached for her hand. "Are you really from Roswell, New Mexico?"

"Unfortunately." Liz grimaced, another fanatic. "Worked in an alien themed restaurant and everything."

"Really?" Chloe wrinkled up her nose. "Glad we don't have anything meteor related in town. That would make this leafy hamlet that much weirder."

Liz smiled brightly. "You get tired of it." Sigh. "Trust me." A round of awkward silence made her very uncomfortable. "Clark, Lex stopped by. He, um, he didn't actually say what he wanted but wanted me to tell you he was here."

"I just saw him leave as we were walking up." Clark nodded and set his back on a chair.

"Weird guy." Liz nodded then noticed the looks on Chloe and Pete's faces. "You guys don't like him either?"

"I personally don't know the guy. I refrain from judgment in front of his best friend." Pete chucked Clark on the shoulder.

"I have no such qualms." Chloe shook her head. "I think he's really weird. I think he would fit in on my wall. But my dad my have a fit."

"Really, why?" Liz furrowed her brow.

"Lex is his boss. 'Wouldn't want to do anything that might get back to the big man.'" She imitated her father.

"So, just looking for a little advice. I was invited to his house?" Liz searched their faces but Clark looked away. "Job offer."

"Well, assuming it's legitimate, take the guy up on it. The guy's recommendations are awesome." Chloe bubbled over. "He got me an internship at the Inquisitor last summer. Totally rocked."

"The assistant thing?" Clark asked, for a moment he had been worried but he should have known that Lex would never hurt him.

"Yeah. Said you could take me up to the house for an interview. Said it would be better than me going up to the plant, whatever that means." She shrugged.

"It just means that you don't know what's at the plant." Pete joked.

"Please, no manure jokes." Chloe pleaded. "My dad still thinks he's witty and it's frankly very scary."

"Manure?" Liz made a face.

"It's a fertilizer plant." Clark nodded to her disgust.

"Well, at least he's only looking for an assistant and not a new factory worker." Liz managed a weak smile. "So, um, Clark... have any idea who's taking me to Metropolis tomorrow? I would have asked your mom but she was missing in action today."

"Yeah, let me guess, note that said she'd be right back, she was heading into town." Chloe nudged Clark.

"Shut up." Clark nudged her back.

"What?" Liz shook her head. She didn't know if she could get used to all the private jokes in the Kent house.

"Clark eats like a horse and that note usually means that she's gone shopping for something to put in his feedbag. Usually takes all day." Pete answered for his friends.

"Enough." Clark ground out and then faced Liz. "I'm taking you. Dad's lending me the truck."

"Oh? You're missing school?" The brunette blinked at him. "You don't have to do that. If I had known, I would have made my parents stay a few days extra."

"It's no trouble. I'm missing geometry and Kansas history. No big." Clark insisted. "Then afterward I could take you by Lex's."

"Okay then." Liz smiled at them. "I'll just go turn off my incredibly loud music, finish unpacking and get my resume together."

--

Lex barely glanced up when he heard the door open but then snapped his head up when he realized that Jonathan Kent was standing in his office. Lex wanted to laugh once Jonathan had said his piece. He wanted to laugh hysterically, cry silently in a corner that no one liked him, have a man sent after him, or punch the elder Kent himself.

"Excuse me?" Lex rose from his seat to approach the older man. "I only offered her a job that doesn't involve tilling earth or serving greasy food."

"There is nothing wrong with a job like that. It's good honest work." Jonathan insisted.

"She's a science major. She should work in her field a little." Lex shrugged. "It was only an offer, she still has to take me up on it." He paused and turned away slightly from the older man to pick his words carefully. "I care about your family, Mr. Kent. Liz is a part of your home and... Clark filled me in on the situation. I tried to take care of the family and you wouldn't let me. Clark usually takes care of me, so I want to give a little. Your houseguest might appreciate my generosity. She's big girl, smart too. Let it be her decision."

"She is a good girl." Jonathan stated and then left. Lex swallowed as his eyes shifted to watch Mr. Kent leave. He wasn't sure who had just won that round.

TBC
posted on 23-Jan-2002 12:37:08 PM by DMartinez
Part 3

Liz watched with a wry smile as Martha fussed over Clark as they tried to make their way out the front door. "Maybe I should go with you."

"Mom, we'll be fine." Clark tried to reassure his mother but she wasn't having it. The ultimate humiliation of course was the fact she was doing it in front of Liz. "I know my way enough to get to Metropolis U and to get something to eat."

He pushed Liz out the door and then made to follow her when she stopped dead in her tracks, almost knocking her over. "Clark? Who's the limo for?"

"What?" Clark looked over her head to the drive where a limo was sitting. License plates read LXLRTX. "Oh that's nice."

"Whose is that?" Liz asked again.

"Lex--" Clark started when his mother made her way out the door. "Well Mom, I can either send it away or leave you the truck for the day."

"I'm not sure. It would help me to know that you won't get lost but..." Martha trailed off. She glanced toward the fields and then quickly nodded. "Take it and thank Lex."

"I will, come on. The limo is so nice." Clark bounded down the steps with Liz beside him.

"Does he always do this?" She asked softly.

"He likes to help. He'll take anything that he can get away with from my parents. He means well." Clark shrugged slightly and held the door open for her to climb in. "He knows it ticks off my dad when my mom caves for a good reason."

"Interesting." Liz sat with her bag and her papers. "So, how far exactly is Metropolis U?"

"Good two hour drive." Clark admitted. "Or an hour if you drive the way Lex does."

"Can I ask? I mean... do you know why he's..." Liz couldn't make herself ask the question.

"Bald?" Clark finished for her. It wasn't the first time people had asked him since befriending the Luthor heir.

"Yeah. I mean, is he sick?"

"No, just the opposite. He's healthy as a horse." Clark nodded and then realized that she was waiting for an explanation. "Lex likes to tell that story himself."

"Oh." She noted the grave expression on his face. "So, what are we going to talk about for two hours?"

"Um, no clue, actually." He cleared his throat slightly. "You don't mind that I'm coming with you, do you?"

"Oh, um, no." Liz smiled and shook her head. "I would rather this way than trying to go alone. It's not like I've never left New Mexico or anything but... this is different. I'm glad you would come with me."

"No problem, beats geometry." Clark flashed her a small smile and turned to the window to roll his eyes. That was the best he could come up with?

--

"Are you sure you're carrying those all right?" Liz eyed the stack of books in Clark's arms. "I can take some of them. I'm not a complete girl."

"No problem, compared to baskets of potatoes it's nothing." Clark insisted. "I'm fine. Besides, beautiful girls are not supposed to carry their own books. I think there's a law in Kansas about it."

"Oh, is there?" She flashed him a smile. "So, that Kent charm is hereditary."

"Everyone says that." He blushed and nearly missed a step from the campus to the limo. He noticed Liz's silence and took a look around. She was trying to discreetly gaze around at all the people that were staring at them. "They recognize the limo."

"Is Lex famous or something?" She ducked into the limo and immediately shut her mouth.

"Not famous exactly." Clark shrugged and let the driver take the books from him to put in the trunk.

"Widely despised is more like it." Lex nodded slightly from where he sat inside the limo. "How was the tour of campus?"

"Useful but... I won't be here much." Liz answered then bit her lip. "Um, thank you for the ride. We really appreciate it."

"Pretty and polite. Clark, you better hide her from Smallville, she just might get snatched up." Lex grinned in amusement when Clark blushed and shut the door. "So, I've taken a long lunch. Where shall we dine?"

"You're the townie here, Lex." Clark pointed out and sat back in his seat.

"Right, of course." Lex pretended to think about it but the limo was already rolling. "There's this nice place, not too fancy, not too casual. Clark can still get his daily influx of way too greasy food and I can have something lighter. Liz?"

"I'm fine with whatever. I grew up on way too greasy food. It's nice to get a break every once and a while." She laughed to herself. "At least there won't be aliens, right?"

"I think we can pretty much guarantee that. We are downtown after all. The freaks don't come out until after dark." Lex joked and chuckled when Liz bit her lip to keep from laughing. "It is okay to laugh at my jokes. I'm usually the butt of Clark's jokes and so rarely get the treat of laughing myself."

"It's not my fault if you walk right into them." Clark defended himself. Suddenly, he was glad that Lex had shown up, it helped him to relax.

"God, you guys sound like you've been friends for years and not just a year." Liz shook her head and dropped her gaze to her hands.

"Never felt like that?" Clark turned his blue eyes on her.

"Yeah, I have." Liz shook her head harder. She looked up at her riding companions. "You can also know someone for years and not know them at all."

"Know what you mean." Lex cleared his throat. "But we won't analyze my relationship with my father today. We'll save that until we're really bored."

"Or have gotten our masters in psychology." Clark jibed lightly sending Lex into a round of soft chuckles.

"Touché, Master Kent. Or we could analyze your relationship or lack thereof with Lana." Lex jibed right back. "I'm sure that would confuse even the scholars."

"Girlfriend?" Liz leaned over and swatted Clark's hand. "Thought you said you didn't have any?"

"Not a girlfriend." Clark shook his head and blushed.

"She was once a hopeful contender. She is spoken for, I'm afraid and even my best efforts haven't made her see the light." Lex shook his head ruefully.

"How is Victoria?" Clark asked out of the blue, his wide blue eyes blinked innocently.

Lex set his jaw and cleared his throat. "Vicky and I have parted ways. We had some differences and this was the solution to overcoming them."

"Sorry." His young friend winced. "Was I right?"

"As always, Clark, you were right." Lex turned to Liz. "My former companion it seems has a fidelity problem."

"That's horrible." Liz nodded and turned to stare out the window as the guys continued to go over Victoria's many faults. She could see her reflection in the window. It was comforting that she could see the buildings and people but they couldn't see her. Her eyes saw right through the buildings, people and vendors, over the cornfields, across the miles to her home.

**

The bar that separated the kitchen from the living room took on an interesting shape in the pre-dawn hours. Sounds were different. Her skin felt alien under the sheet, next to his skin. It shouldn't be him. She shouldn't have come to him just because Max is leaving.

His snoring stopped and he shifted, rolled over, wrapped a strong arm around her waist and pressed his slightly pink lips against her shoulder blade. "Liz? You ok?"

"Fine. I'm fine." She answered him quickly, shifting slowly onto her back to face him. She couldn't tell him it was all a mistake, could she? Especially not when he kissed her like that. Kissed her so that she could forget everything, pulling him on top of her to feel it one last time. Tomorrow the pain would begin but this waylaid it.

She shut her eyes to the once familiar ceiling, ran her hands through his curly hair, listened to the steady creaking of the pull-out couch, felt him take her beyond the place he had taken her before. His pants for breath puffed against her ear, intermittent with his kisses to her face and neck.

When it was over, she clung to him, loathe to let the moment pass, to let the pain begin. He finally broke the relative silence. "She'll be up soon."

"Yeah." Liz whispered and pulled her arms away. "I should go clean up. I shouldn't be in here when she wakes up."

"Yeah." He kissed her lips softly before letting her get off the pullout couch to gather her clothes. "M should be in her room."

"Night Sean."

**

"Liz. Earth to Liz." A voice so far away called to her. "I think she's gone back to the home planet." Stifled chuckles. "Shut up, Lex. She's probably just homesick." More chuckles. "Two days in Smallville will do that to you." Tsks. "Shut up... Liz."

"What?" She finally broke free of her daze to find Lex and Clark staring at her. "Sorry, did you say something?"

"We've arrived." Lex gestured to the door.

"Right, sorry." Liz blushed and shifted to get ready to exit. "I was just off in my own little world."

"I hope you kids have sunglasses. Those flashes can blind." Lex straightened his jacket and pulled out his own sunglasses from an inside pocket. "Get ready for the fun."

True to his word, Liz was nearly blinded by flashes when she stepped out of the limo. Thankfully the second that Lex stepped out of the limo, all cameras were aimed at him and she and Clark were able to enter the restaurant to wait for him. "Does this happen a lot?"

"Only in Metropolis." Clark answered and then furrowed his brow. "That I'm aware of."

"So, well known and yet not famous?" Liz asked softly as she glanced around at the foyer of the restaurant. Too upscale for her taste.

"Corporate famous. He's well-known in the bigger cities but unless you keep up with business or agriculture, he's basically..." Clark shrugged his shoulders as he searched for a word.

"A nobody." Lex filled in as he joined them. "Let's have some lunch."

Liz followed them into the restaurant feeling like she should have dressed up more. The maitre 'd guided them upstairs to a window table. They ate a multi-cultural meal, discreetly made fun of the other patrons, made faces at the reporters below them. Liz figured out the game halfway through the meal. They were trying to cheer her up.

"Lex." Liz put down her fork. "Are you sure you're not the one that's 15 at this table?"

"Hey." Lex barked as loud as he dared. "He happens to be 16."

That, of course, sent them reeling with more laughter. Clark recovered first. "I think I've thoroughly corrupted him. I've forced him to regress to my level."

"And somehow, his conscience still speaks way louder than mine." Lex wiped his mouth and glanced at his watch.

"I just had a thought. What if all those reporters just got a picture of you with your finger in your nose? Aren't you afraid of that ending up in a paper somewhere?" Liz took a sip of her soda out of a crystal goblet.

"There's a trick to that." Lex nodded his head slowly and leaned forward to explain. "You see, I've made deals with several of the newspaper editors that employ those reporters. If one defamatory picture of me gets printed, they all get fired and blacklisted."

"You're kidding." Liz gaped and looked to Clark for confirmation.

"You haven't seen my bare butt in any pictures have you?" The statement slipped out before he realized he had spoken and then sucked in a deep breath as he hung his head.

"Clark doesn't need reporters, he just needs to put a muzzle on himself, besides, the angle's back. There's not a reporter in the world that would have gotten that shot." Lex chuckled. Sitting up, he pulled his napkin from his lap. "I have to get back to work but feel free to finish up at your leisure. Bill's all taken care of."

Liz waited until Lex had risen from the table and disappeared down the staircase before she spoke again. "People hate him?"

"Actually, yes." Clark nodded. "Coming from Smallville, I understand it but I don't agree with it. Lex Luthor is definitely not his father. Lionel Luthor is downright scary."

--

"Wow." Liz whispered in awe as the limo pulled up to the Luthor Manor. "Wow."

"I remember when the trucks drove through Smallville to put this house together. No one lived in it for six years and then Lex was put in charge of Plant No. 3 so he moved in." Clark shrugged slightly. "The amazing part is the inside. I still get lost sometimes."

Liz allowed herself to be guided through the corridors to a set of double doors where Lex was typing away at his desk. "Come in, come in. Clark, I think Rosy just finished a batch of cookies."

"See you in a bit, Liz." Clark backed off in what Liz assumed was the direction of the kitchen.

"Have a seat, Ms. Parker and I will be right with you." Lex gestured to the seat in front of his desk. After 20 more keystrokes he turned to her. "So, I hear good things. Why don't you tell me all the stuff you were too embarrassed to admit to this afternoon?"

"Okay." Liz smiled in spite of herself. "I was president of the Science club, Treasurer of the Student Council for two years, class valedictorian, worked at the Crashdown for five years, three of those as assistant manager. I interned under the late Congressman Whitaker where I took phone calls, arranged her schedule, filed complaints and documents." She stopped when he raised his hand.

"Are you sure you're only 18?" Lex cleared his throat and leaned forward. "I suppose you will also tell me about the many community service projects that you headed up."

"Actually, my friends headed up those projects. I merely oversaw most of them in their absence." She waited for another comment from him but he just sat there and stared at her. "What?"

"I'm trying to figure how much I'm allowed to pay you. You have your high school diploma, accepted on scholarship to Metropolis University, you have experience and I can see that you're smarter than a whip." Lex leaned back. "I'd have to pay you out of pocket because my father is a hard ass."

"Um... okay." Liz nodded stiffly. "What responsibilities would I have?"

"Same as with Congressman Whitaker basically. I need someone to keep track of my appointments and scheduling, mainly where I am at any given moment. There would be some filing and a system that I'd have to show you. You would work out of this office and the one next door but I don't actually need you here all the time. Full days at first then mornings mostly, some day trips to Metropolis every once in a while.

"I could provide you with a cell phone or reimburse you for minutes on your current phone. Palm Pilot complete with my address book and appointment table. You will become my mobile assistant." Lex sat up. "LuthorCorp has a college program. If you keep your grades up, we will reimburse whatever you do pay at the end of each semester. You'll get some medical. All of this will be in the paper work."

"So... does that mean I have the job?" Liz raised an eyebrow at him.

"We'll try you out for a few weeks, if you still want the job, you've got it. If you can't handle it, I hear the Beanery is always hiring."

"Fair enough." Liz nodded. "I look forward to being your slave."

"Excuse me?" Lex chuckled lightly.

"When Congresswoman Whitaker hired me, she shook my hand and then leaned in to say, 'Look forward to being my slave.' She then of course laughed and told me to show up 4:00 the next day." Liz smiled to herself. "She was a fascinating woman."

"I'll bet she was." Lex rose from his seat. "You can come in around 9 a.m., dress to impress but not to go dancing and we should rescue the cookies from Clark."

--

Liz stared out the kitchen window with a warm cup of tea in her hand. The silence enveloped her and she welcomed it. She couldn't think anymore. Her heart was miles away.

**

"And I love this piece of skin (kiss) and this piece..." Max dragged his lips across Liz's shoulder. She giggled and smiled down at him. "And god, I love your smile."

"You're not so bad yourself." She ran a hand through his sweaty hair. Sliding a hand down his back, she sighed. The moment was perfect; the glow of post-coitus, playful talks and touches, and her parents out of town to ease any worries of getting caught. Her hand moved back through his hair and paused when she turned over a white patch. "Max, are you going gray already?"

"You're kidding." Max propped himself up on his elbows to look across the room at her mirror. "Where?"

"Right here." She pulled at the strands lightly. "Under a lot of stress, baby?"

"You got the stress and baby parts right." Max climbed out of the bed to examine his new gray. "He's been trying to contact me a lot lately. I guess it's been taking its toll."

"When?" Liz whispered, pulling the sheet up her body, curling up beneath it. Every time he started talking about the baby, she felt inadequate.

"What do you mean when?" He murmured and rubbed at the strands as if that would make them turn back.

"You didn't tell me that he had contacted you at all and now apparently it's been several times or enough times to make you go gray as a result of the stress." She pouted. "What is he trying to tell you?"

"He wants me to find him, Liz." Max turned to face her. "He's scared. I didn't want to bother you with this. I can handle it."

"How can I be bothered if you don't bother to tell me?" She pleaded with him. "It scares me when he contacts you because..."

"Because of the first time when I almost drowned." He finished and returned to the bed. "Do you know how much I love you?"

"I'm not sure. I think you do and then you keep stuff from me."

"Hey." Max reached forward and brushed her hair out of her face. "I do love you. I love you more than anything on this earth and the next." He took a breath. "Sometimes I feel like all I do is complain to you, like you might be getting tired of it." Leaning in, he caressed her face lightly. "I know that if it were reversed, I'd be insanely jealous. I wouldn't want to have it constantly thrown in my face that you had been with someone else." Liz stayed silent and just stared at him. "I get jealous of your guy friends, too. I... just want you all to myself..."

"I feel the same way but Max..." She paused. "You have a son and I have to acknowledge that... you do, too."

**

She was so lost in thought that she never heard Martha walk in. "Homesick?"

"A little." Liz nodded to her reflection in the window. "I... I can't sleep. I... I'm not used to sleeping alone."

"Oh?" Martha poured herself a cup of tea and made her way over to the table. "I thought your mother said you were still living at home."

"I... I was. That was part of the problem, actually." Liz sighed and turned to her host. "Max and I hardly spent a moment apart for most of second semester and the summer. He's wonderful, caring, handsome..."

"You really loved him, didn't you?" Martha sat in awe of the grieving her houseguest was going through. "The way your mother talked..."

"Puppy love. I know. That's what she kept telling me it was but Max and I were never anything less than serious. He's the one. I'm certain of it but I need to get away if I'm going to make it and not hate him for it." She chuckled to herself. "I love him but I can't be with him right at this moment."

"I understand. You know, I had a boyfriend back in Metropolis before I moved here. I thought he was the world and then one day, I got dragged to a Sharks' try-out by a friend and there he was. Jonathan Kent, number 88. He didn't make it but I came to Smallville with him. Best decision of my life." Martha swept a lock of graying red hair behind her ear. "I'm not saying that you should forget Max but keep your options open. Life might surprise you."

"Yeah, I'm trying." Liz nodded and sipped at her tea.

"So you spent the day with Clark and Lex." Martha snuck the younger girl a smile. "I don't get to do this with Clark so you'll have to forgive me for getting excited about girl talk."

"It's okay. My mother goes insane over it and I'm all she's got." Liz laughed to herself. "Yeah, today was nice. Clark is... really mature for his age."

"I'll tell you something, Clark's age might have been miscalculated. He's 16 but looking at him, I'd swear he was your age." She noted Liz's confused look. "Clark's adopted. He's my special boy."

"He's something else, isn't he." Liz shook her head. "Clark and Lex together are something else altogether. I couldn't tell which one was actually a teenager."

"You're kidding." Martha chuckled softly. "I swear, those two are... I don't know. As much as it's hard to trust Lex, the one thing I'm sure of is that he and Clark are good for each other. I don't get to hear tales of Lex and Clark."

"I'm lost most of the time but I'm catching on." She turned her cup slowly. "I've decided to try out that job with Lex. He seems nice enough. It's nothing I haven't done before. It would be better than waitressing again."

"When do you start?"

"Monday but Friday he's going to give me the run down on his office and my office corner place and his filing system. Monday I also get my leash." Liz laughed to herself. "Don't even ask how I got roped into that?"

"Leash?" Martha raised an eyebrow.

"Corporate cell phone so I can keep his address book at any place, any time." Liz rolled her eyes. "He might just prove to be more challenging than the Congresswoman."

"Why don't you tell me about Max?" Martha changed the subject quickly. "I only ever heard your mother's version."

"Which is never reliable." Liz laughed to herself. "Max... Max Evans, adopted son of Diane and Philip Evans, sister Isabel. Works part time at UFO Center as shift manager under Brody Davis. Graduated twelfth in our class... He turns 20 on March 15. He thinks it was a sick twist of fate that got him assigned that birthday in the orphanage. He's also got a twisted sense of humor that so very few people get.

"He's got a great smile but I'm the only one who gets to see it. He's shy most of the time but willing to stand up to my dad when he needs to. Once... he paid a mariachi band to sing back up while he serenaded me in Spanish, then he gave me a bouquet of white roses. Let me tell you, he could never make it as a singer but I loved it." Liz sighed dreamily and set down her empty cup. "I mean, we've had our rough patches and our really rough patches but we always find our way back to each other. When we touch, we can feel it."

"Oh to be 18 again." Martha sighed. "Jonathan is the greatest and I can never resist him."

"He's a very charming man... and he's rubbing off on Clark. That m—boy is gonna break hearts as soon as they realize what they're passing up." Liz rose from the table. "I should get some sleep."

"Me too. I'll take you into town with me tomorrow, give you the tour. You'll fit in, in no time." The older woman smiled as the other disappeared into her room. Her guest was a special girl if she put up with half of what Nancy said she had while dating Max. Sipping her tea, she vowed she'd find someone who could appreciate Liz Parker.

TBC
posted on 23-Jan-2002 12:41:09 PM by DMartinez
Part 4

Liz stretched and did a back walk over in the middle of the room. Joints she didn't know she had popped and cracked. Her trial period was over and she was staying to be Lex Luthor's slave. She arranged his date book, his business schedule and managed to keep him out of touch with hopeful return dates. Rolling her eyes, she walked back to the desk where her biology book waited. The phone rang and she picked it up. "Lex Luthor's office."

"Where is he?"

"I'm sorry but Mr. Luthor is in a meeting." Liz lied. "I could take a message or arrange for a meeting at a later date."

"Put him on the phone now."

Liz straightened at the tone of the man's voice. "Sir, if you'd leave your name and number, I'll make sure that Mr. Luthor gets back to you as soon as possible." Click. The dial tone blared at her. "Or maybe not."

Lex strode by her desk a few minutes later, towel draped around his neck and bottle of imported water in his hand. He nodded slightly before heading to his office door. She had to make a decision on whether to bother him or not. She had risen out of her seat before she had realized it. "Mr. Luthor, you had a call just now."

"Who from?" Lex turned as he opened his door.

"He wouldn't say and he was... demanding to speak to you." Liz bit her lip and winced when Lex just continued to stare at her. "I kept telling him you were in a meeting but he insisted."

"And even in that commanding tone I'm sure he was using, you didn't have the urge to run and find me?" His face remained blank as he spoke, releasing the doorknob and approaching her. She shook her head slowly. He clapped her on the shoulder and grinned. "I knew there was a reason I liked you."

"Mr. Luthor?" Liz blinked, stunned at his reaction but followed him into his office as he motioned to her.

"That discourteous man to whom you spoke just now was in all likelihood... my father." He turned to her with an expression she couldn't read. "Lionel Luthor is the most intimidating man on the planet. The phone... that was good but you won't be so lucky when he shows up." He pointed to the clock. "You're off."

"So, if your father does show up, I..."

"Try to be aloof as possible. Avoid speaking to him directly. Be like you were on the phone but don't try to tell him what to do. If he storms in here, let him storm, and pretend you don't see him." Lex took a drink of his water.

"Gotcha, Lex."

"You've got the hang of the employer/employee thing." He commented as she back toward the door. "You do know it bothers me to high hell that you insist on calling me Mr. Luthor when you're on the clock, right?"

"Of course." She grinned. "Did the same thing to my father my senior year... of course I was angry and never addressed him at all when I wasn't on the clock..."

"You are evil, Ms. Parker." Lex laughed and waved her off. "Go home, go study..."

--

Liz shut her book and closed her eyes. Knees drawn up to her chest, she sighed and wrapped a hand around to rub at her stiff neck. A hand lightly massaged her back. Pages flipped somewhere beside her and she knew it was Clark. Relaxing every muscle she could, she allowed him to continue. A small fire blazed in the fireplace a few feet from the couch they were sitting on. She whimpered when Clark moved his hand away from her to fix his book. "Don't stop... I'll love you forever if you don't stop."

"I don't know. It takes a lot of concentration to read this book and massage your back." Clark sighed heavily. "I'm gonna need incentive."

"I'll give you my first born. Please, Clark." Liz begged him, going so far as to turn and lay across his lap to cover his book.

"What in the world would I want with a tiny baby? They cry and crap and sleep." Clark shrugged and stretched his free arm up over his head.

"Clark, please... I'm begging..." Liz whined and pouted.

Clark grinned slightly and relented. Freeing his hands, he set down his book and massaged her back lightly, which still felt too hard to his own comfort. Clearing his throat and trying not to think about the parts of her that pressed against his leg, he asked her, "I'm not going too hard, am I?"

"Nope, that's about perfect." She sighed and shifted more comfortably against his legs. "What are you reading?"

"Antigone." He shrugged slightly. "I fell asleep in class. So... now I have to catch up."

"I like that one. It's pretty good." Liz murmured and ignored the telltale stiffening of his legs beneath her. She was not going to think like that about her host's son... no matter how gorgeous, great or tempting. She was just about certain she could fall asleep right in his lap when her cell phone rang. Groaning, she sat up and reached into her purse for the annoying contraption. "Hello?"

"Liz!"

"Maria!" Liz shouted back at her friend in mock incredulity. "What's up?"

"He's moping."

"Maria..." Liz put the phone to her chest and turned to Clark. "Thank you so much for the back rub. You are such a sweetheart, Clark." She kissed his cheek and rose with her purse and book to continue her conversation in her room. "That was Clark... yes... no... Maria. What are you even still doing in Roswell?"

Clark stared after her and groaned loudly when the door shut behind her. There was no way Oedipus's daughter was going to stay in his brain with Temptation's daughter just behind that door. All he could really hope for was that she hadn't noticed his body responding to hers across his lap. Adjusting himself slightly, he tried to return to Antigone as his parents made their way inside the house from a stroll they had decided to take.

"Sweetie." Martha leaned over and kissed her son's forehead. Brow drawn together, she wiped at the lipstick on his cheek. "Where's Liz?"

"Maria called." Clark dodged the second attempt to rid his face of Liz's lipstick.

"Oh." Martha nodded and tried to remember if she had stocked up on tea. Liz usually couldn't sleep after one of her friends from Roswell called. They had had a few talks over the past month about some of them.

"Guess the long distance friendships run in the family." Jonathan commented as he took his seat in his favorite chair. He studied his son. A blind man could tell Clark had a crush on their houseguest but the boy would never freely admit it. "Something on your mind, Clark?"

"Not really." Clark shrugged slightly. He was definitely getting too old for heart to hearts with his parents. "Nothing... weird anyway."

"She's a nice girl, Clark." His mother teased him.

"Mom..." Clark groaned and put his book over his face. "I'm not even alive to her."

"I know it seems that way now but..." She trailed off until he peeked out from behind the book. "It's not always going to be that way. That's why they call it a crush."

"I'm sure she knows you're alive, son." Jonathan leaned back in his chair. "I've got a knack for knowing these sort of things."

"Besides, I've rarely met the person who could resist Kent charm." She rose from her chair to go to the kitchen, pinching his cheek on the way and ignoring his protest.

--

"Maria..." Liz pleaded softly. "I just can't see him so soon. I'm getting settled here. I've been studying, I have a job, I'm making friends and..."

"Okay, chica. Sorry I brought it up." Maria sighed into the phone. "He's just so miserable."

"And you think I'm not? Do you have any idea how hard it was to leave? We need this time apart. Some wounds just aren't going to heal with us constantly in this cycle where we break each other's hearts over things the other person did. It's not healthy. We just... need a little perspective." Liz wiped away a tear that slipped from her eye. A ringing caught her attention. "Oh god... can you hold on a second, Maria?"

"Sure."

"Who in the world is calling this late on this line?" Liz pulled her purse into her lap and found the other cell phone. Lex in big letters filled the tiny screen. "Hey Lex."

"Liz, I cannot find the files that were on my desk this afternoon." Lex sounded a little on edge. She had never heard him sound like that before.

"The ones marked 'confidential'?" She asked, biting her lip and tapping her other cell phone against her chin. It was all she could do to keep from laughing.

"Those would be the ones. Tell me you know where they are." His tone rang close to panic. She knew it wasn't like him to misplace anything. If he was asking for help, then something was wrong but she couldn't help but grin. "Liz.... I need those files... where did you put them?"

"Lex... calm down. The real question is 'where did Lex put them?' Once you've answered that question..." She trailed off to bite her lip again. She knew exactly where those files were.

"I am calm." The deep voice barked and then immediately quieted. "Liz... come on. I'm desperate. I had them on my desk. The only way they could be lost would be if you filed them but I can't find them in the cabinet."

"Lex, get a grip. Where are you now?" Liz tried to visualize the layout of his office. "I want you to remember that I left right after you came down from your workout. I hadn't touched your desk at all. Lex misplaced the files."

"Fine. I misplaced the files." Lex mocked her. "I am standing at my desk."

"Turn and face the window. Look beside the plant."

"How in the hell?" Lex's sounded amazed. "How..."

"When I was leaving, I heard a noise and I turned around just in time to see a bunch of papers hit the window." Liz explained quickly, adding silently to herself that he must have been really pissed. "Did you need anything else?"

"Your baby, cause I could marry you just about now." She could hear him shuffling through a bunch of papers.

"No problem. I'm sure you could afford me. See you tomorrow." Liz was about to hang up when he stopped her.

"Do me a favor. When you come in tomorrow, cancel my two o'clock as soon as possible. I need the afternoon free."

"Gotcha. Bye." Liz shut her work phone and replaced her personal phone against her ear. "Sorry."

"Who was that?" Maria's tone had taken on a wary quality.

"My boss." She mumbled as she pulled out her Palm Pilot to leave herself a note to make the cancellation.

"Oh. Hey... Sean wants to talk to you." Maria handed over the phone before Liz could say anything. "Parker, you don't call, you don't write."

"Hey Sean, what's going... on?" Liz managed a small laugh.

"Not much without you, Parker."

She winced at the longing in his voice and tried to keep up the conversation. After all that had happened, he was still holding on to the hope that he promised he wouldn't have.

**

Liz couldn't look at his blue eyes anymore. He had greeted her with a really great kiss and been so sweet so far. They had bowled in relative silence for awhile. He had attempted to give her an up close and personal bowling lesson but she had smoothly stepped out of the circle of his body to roll the ball down the lane on her own. That's when she decided what she needed to do. "Sean, we really need to talk."

His arm stiffened around her shoulders. "What is it?"

"It's just that... there was something I didn't tell you the other night... when we were together..." She stared at her hands. "It's just that... it shouldn't have happened..."

"Whoa... Parker, where is all this coming from?" The tone of his voice was heartbreaking.

"Sean, just listen. Don't think that night wasn't great... it was amazing." The tears fell from her eyes onto her skirt. "It's just that I was really hurting and it shouldn't have... I'm really sorry, Sean." Her shoulders hitched with every word she said. "You're just the only guy I've found attractive since I met Max and... you've been such a good friend that I don't want to lose that."

"Hey... can you leave a little of my ego when you leave?" Sean murmured half-heartedly. He took his arm off of her shoulders completely.

"I'm sorry. It's just... that's not what I went over for but it felt so good and..." Liz buried her face in her hands. "I'm glad it was you."

"It could have been someone else." He bit out, shaking his head until she whipped her head up.

"No but I was so... out of it that... I'm glad I made it to you, Sean. I trust you." Liz took his hands in hers; the tears slicked both their hands. "I just... I need you Sean and... I don't want to string you along any more than I already have. I need for you to understand."

"Guess this is the boot then." He sat up and leaned against the back of their bench. "Sorry if I took advantage. You're just really special to me."

"You didn't take advantage of me. I took advantage of you and... you are still really special to me."

**

"You lane walking?"

"No. I can't find a way to sneak in just yet but if I can, I will." Liz cleared her head. "No girlfriends?"

"Nope. No one quite measures up to you... sorry. I..." That awkward silence was back and after they had gotten over it so long ago.

"It's okay, Sean. I've gotta go. I need to be at work early." She hit the button on the phone and shut her eyes. Lately all her conversations with Sean ended seconds after he slipped up and then apologized.

--

"How much are you enjoying having her here?" Jonathan asked his wife after their son disappeared out the back door.

"Well it feels good to not be outnumbered for once. I actually have a shot at watching a show I like now." Martha leaned into her husband. "It bothers me that she's so grown up though. When I envisioned Lizzie, I saw a girl like Nancy used to be. We were so young and naive at her age but Liz has most definitely grown up beyond what any 18 year old that I've ever seen has."

"You think it's her boyfriend?" He snapped his fingers. "That Max kid?"

"It might be. Did you think you would ever fall in love when you were sixteen?" She whispered, fingering the quilt draped over their laps. "Really fall in love. Forever kind of love... no charm, here Jonathan. Be truthful."

"Honestly? No. I wasn't even sure love existed when I was sixteen. I knew I liked N—girls but love wasn't something that occurred in people I knew." He took a deep breath. "I wasn't absolutely certain that love existed until I met you."

"I said, no charm, Mr. Kent." Martha teased him but then sighed heavily. "Liz did."

"Did what?"

"She knew love existed when she was sixteen. She had already found the one. She still believes that he's the one."

"What do you think?"

"I think that things change but I couldn't even begin to predict her life. She is so in control of her life. She's smart, pretty, she can cook, clean, she's funny and willing to work for what she wants..." Martha sighed.

"She's just not ready to commit to a lifelong relationship." He tried to finish her thoughts.

"No, that's just the thing. She just might be, she might have." She turned to her love. "She might have spoken the words and broken up with her boyfriend but she's still in love with him and in her heart, she's still with him."

Liz listened and then was struck with an epiphany. Mrs. Kent was right. She knew all this in the back of her head but was unwilling to recognize it. If she were going to make it through the next few years, she would have to let go of Roswell and Max. She would have to be willing to make a life in Smallville like she kept telling Maria she had. Tiptoeing through the kitchen, she made it outside.

--

Clark sighed as he looked out over the fields separating his home from Smallville. Not a thing had changed for him in the past year. He still had no luck with girls, he still fell down within five feet of Lana when she wore her necklace and he still had no clue what was going on with him. He thanked whoever looked down on him that the floating had stopped.

Turned out to be a good thing as Liz's room was directly beneath his and he had broken his bed those last few times. Being around her turned his body temperature up several notches and now his parents knew, that was bound to get him more than a few ribbings in days to come. He fingered Great-grandfather Kent's telescope and turned it five degrees but didn't look through it.

Sighing, he realized that she had been busy. He saw her briefly in the mornings after his chores and before his mother drove her out to Lex's. He saw her after school when she was helping his mother with dinner, during dinner and sometimes for a little while after before she retreated back into her room with her books. He cherished the moments after dinner when his mom was cleaning up the kitchen and his father was putting away equipment for the night. That's when she spent time talking to him, making him feel that much more human when all day he had felt like something other.

So deep into his brood that Clark never heard Liz walk in until she was practically on top of him. "See anything interesting tonight?"

"Um... oh crap." Clark whirled around and knocked over the telescope, sending it crashing to the ground where the small lens and finder scope popped off.

"I am so sorry. I didn't mean to scare you." Liz dropped to the floor to help him fix the telescope.

"No, it's my fault. I was off on another planet." Clark shook his head and knelt to examine the finder scope. "It'll survive."

"Yeah. Lens didn't get scratched or anything." She pulled the scoped between her legs and wrestled the small glass lens back into place. "There. All better."

"Almost." He scooted over to reattach the finder scope. "Let's get her back on her feet."

Liz sat on the floor and watched him erect the old telescope. "So, what typically goes on tomorrow night?"

"Football game." Clark nodded and then stared off into the cornfields wistfully.

"What's that all about? The look." Liz watched him turn slightly and realized he was mostly muscle. "You play?"

"I wanted to but... Dad needs me around here." He wanted so much to tell her but who would react to that well?

"I know how that goes. I had to sacrifice many dates, parties, and school events because my parents needed me to work." She sighed and turned to lean on a bale of hay. Fleetingly she thought of all the things she had given up for Max as well but she pushed the thought away. "New Year's Eve is something I always do with my father."

"My parents are my best friends. I tell them everything." He sank to the floor next to her. "Well, almost everything."

"That's really good. Yeah." Nodding, she shifted slightly to look at him. "They are very cool parents and yet, they do not get Lex."

"No, they don't." Clark smiled. "Sometimes I don't get Lex."

"He's odd. Tonight he called because he lost a stack of files."

"Lex lost something?" He snorted and shook his head. "That's gotta be a first."

"Well, he threw them at a window and forgot completely that he had lost his temper. It happened right after I told him that his father called. Are things really that bad between him and his father?" She tucked her hair behind her ear. "I mean, it's almost like... he doesn't like his father."

"The Luthors are... special." Clark took a deep breath. "How did Mr. Luthor sound to you?"

"Gruff, I guess. The term Lex used was commanding." Sighing again, she leaned her head back. "He seems to enjoy pissing the man off."

"Yeah, he does. It's the only way to get his father's attention. Most of the time though, Lex doesn't like to get his father's attention. He prefers to be left alone." Clark shrugged uncertainly. "I wasn't joking that day in Metropolis when I said I'd need a masters in psychology to successfully wrap my mind around that.

"Lex... is a disappointment in the skewed vision of Lionel Luthor. He had the best of everything. Private schools, colleges, doctors... you name it. He used to get into a lot of trouble when he was a teenager and that always pissed his father off... Lex isn't always forthcoming but from what I can figure, Mrs. Luthor died a few months before Lex came to Smallville. She was the tie. She was the buffer and without her... The Luthors are pretty much hostile strangers." Clark shook his head. "But that's from what I can figure."

"Wow." Liz was speechless. What made humans into people like that? Clearing her throat, she changed the subject. "So, why do you and your parents have this close relationship? I mean, I used to be really close to my parents but around 15 it just started to fall apart."

"It's not always perfect." He admitted. "Last year we really butt heads over the football thing. Chloe seems to think that my being adopted has a lot to do with the fact that we don't fight too often."

An eyebrow rose as she pondered that. "Do you remember anything from before?"

"Not really. I was little. That was thirteen years ago." His shoulders hunched a little and he picked at the cuff of his jeans. "Wherever my biological parents are... I just hope they had a really good reason for giving me up."

"In any case, you have the best parents on the planet." Liz reached out and rubbed his arm.

"Yeah, I guess I do."

"Come on. We should really get inside. So, football game tomorrow night?" Liz groaned as she rose to her feet.

"You bet. Maybe Pete will get to play. If he does, let's hope Chloe will allow herself to be seen at the game."

TBC
posted on 23-Jan-2002 12:49:31 PM by DMartinez
Part 5

Liz tapped away at the keyboard and ignored the fencing match going on 15 feet away. She had never seen the sport before but Lex seemed to like it as Hykia appeared regularly with her epees for his lessons. The phone rang and she picked it up absently. "Lex Luthor's office."

"My son?"

"Mr. Luthor, if you could hold on for two minutes." Liz spoke as calmly as possible. She cringed as the epees crashed together and Hykia yelled something at Lex in Dutch. "Vormen! Lex, vormen!"

"Interrupt the fencing lesson. Now." The voice boomed through the phone.

"Please hold." Liz repeated and hit the hold button. Stretching her fingers out in a mock-scream, she rose from her desk. "Lex."

"My, my, Ms. Parker, it's not even time to go and you've taken to calling me Lex. What ever is the matter?" Lex clumsily dodged a parry and thrust quickly for the point.

"Lex, it's your father." Liz bit her lip. "I put him on hold. I really don't want to pick it up again."

"Break." Lex called to Hykia. He strode into his office to take the call, tossing the epee to his opponent, nearly catching her off-guard, and throwing his face guard to the ground. Liz nearly jumped when he pulled the doors shut behind him.

"That was fun while it lasted." Hykia sneered and bent to pick up Lex's face guard where he had dropped it, whipping off hers as well. "Who's the flavor of the week?"

"Excuse me?" Liz narrowed her eyes at the older woman when she returned to the desk.

"It's not Victoria again is it?" The blond turned her nose up. "She'll only cheat on him again."

"I wouldn't know. Last I knew anything about it, Victoria was out of the picture." Liz returned to her typing, hoping that she had dismissed the subject.

"Do keep me updated. Lex is always a bit of fun when he's on the prowl." Hykia sauntered out of the room. "Tell him to work on his form."

Unfortunately, Liz was not able to contain the disgust that she felt for the Dutch-woman. Turning her gaze back to the computer screen, she blushed when she saw Lex's reflection smirking at her. He cleared his throat. "She's something else isn't she?"

"Um... yeah." Liz nodded, striking 12 keys and then pausing. "Did you...?"

"Hear? Of course, I did." Lex pulled at the snaps on his fencing jacket as he made his way around the desk. "You're off. I don't need you all day after all. Go. I hear that there is a game tonight that you might be interested in."

Liz froze for a second and then cleared her throat. "Does Clark tell you everything?"

"What does Clark have to do with it?" Lex tilted his head in a sideways nod. "I was just saying that's what the folks in Smallville do on Friday nights... Why? Did Clark ask you to the game?"

Blushing furiously at her own blunder, Liz turned her eyes to her lap for a few seconds before lifting her face to her employer. "Not exactly."

"Oh, I see." Lex leaned forward on the desk. "You asked what there was to do on Friday night, he mentioned the game for the fifth Friday in a row and you hinted that you might want to go... again."

"Do you make a habit of predicting other people's thought processes?" Liz asked, cocking her head to the side, eyes narrowed.

"Clark's good guy. You could do much worse. I approve." Lex started to walk off, still talking. "Besides, all Clark told me was that you hinted last week... I assumed the plans were set from here on out. Go home, you have better things to do."

"You are incorrigible." Liz called after him before gathering her things to leave. Hefting a book into her arms and sliding her purse up her shoulder, she quickly saved and shut down her station. The simple black Cadillac sat in wait to take her home but she stopped short when she saw Clark toeing around in the drive. "Clark?"

"Hey." He spun around with a smile. "It's a nice day for a walk."

"Yeah, it is." Liz waved to the driver and crossed to join Clark on his slow journey down the drive. He took her book and slipped it into his book bag. "Get out early?"

"A little." He ducked his head, signaling that wasn't the whole truth. "Chloe got us out of class early, she told the teachers that we were helping with the stands, getting them decorated for the game. Then we put up our five posters and disappeared."

"Uh-huh. And you were just in the neighborhood?" She nudged him slightly.

"It's a nice day for a walk." He pointed to the clear blue sky as they passed through the gates that closed off the Luthor Manor.

"How long does it take to get to your house walking?" She squinted her eyes at him.

"Not as long as you think... but long enough. Good thing we both got out early... we'll get home right on time." A wide grin took up his whole face. She took his arm and walked in silence along side him. It wasn't often she got a chance to take a look at how green Smallville was compared to Roswell. There were trees, plenty of grass, fields ripening for the fall harvest, orchards dropping their bounty and just enough houses to show that civilization touched it.

"God, it is so green here." She whispered.

"There's a system of rivers here. Most of the water ends up in the creeks but the soil holds a lot of it as well... that and the son of the master of fertilizer lives back up the road." He teased her.

"So, strong water table and fertilizer make the Earth green, huh." Liz laughed a little. She actually knew something about water tables.

"That's right... most of the time but you also need someone who knows how to work the land. Green thumb." Clark turned his blue eyes to the bridge they were approaching. His eyes darkened as he eyed the parts that had been replaced. "This is the place where I met Lex."

"Really?" Liz peered over the side and stared into the dark waters. "Must have been scary."

"It was. He... He says that he died for two minutes. Says I brought him back from the dead." Clark took a deep breath. "I just did what I could."

"Wow. Bet he would do the same for you." She squeezed his arm and pulled to a stop to lean on the railing.

"He... Lex is a good friend. Last year we took this field trip to the plant and this guy, Earl that used to work with us on the farm He had gotten a better job with LuthorCorp... in that same plant.... He was injured and got sick. He wanted to get better so he took the plant hostage, only he got us instead." Clark sighed and leaned on the railing next to her. "It was scary. There was nothing we could do and then here comes Lex. He walked in with a bulletproof vest and pulled it off in front of him. Said, 'take me instead.' And we were supposed to walk out of there..."

"Supposed to?" Liz frowned.

"Oh everyone got out fine but I couldn't leave Lex in there alone with the guy. I ended up saving Lex's life again. Earl was sick beyond any help from local doctors. Lex fixed it so LuthorCorp would foot the bill to help him get better, though."

"Isn't that a good thing?"

"Oh, for Earl yeah, but for Lex... his dad was pretty mad. Mr. Luthor had planned to spin the whole thing but he was mad at Lex for going in there and he was mad at Lex for telling the reporters that LuthorCorp was footing the medical bills for treatment and research." Clark pushed himself to his feet.

"That's horrible." Liz took his hand and began to follow him off the bridge. "Does his father have any relation to Satan?"

He burst out laughing. "Not sure but I think my dad thinks so." He sobered the second he realized that he and Liz were holding hands and walking down the road... together. "So, um... game tonight. Are we going?"

"Yep, we are." She nodded, daring to walk a little closer to him than she had been. It still blew her mind that this tall, well-built... guy was actually only 16 and not the 19 he could pass for. "Does Chloe always sit between you and your friends?"

"Well, Chloe is my friend." He raised an eyebrow at her.

"I mean..." She squeezed his hand lightly.

"I think she's jealous." Clark supplied suddenly. He had noticed that too. At the game the previous week, Chloe sat herself between Clark and Liz, obvious to the looks everyone was giving her. "She's been the only girl for so long, you're competition for our attention."

"Uh-huh..."

"You know... um... my dad actually gave me a talk last week. Rules." He cleared his throat and cast a glance at her from the corners of his eyes. "About... me and you..."

"Oh really?" Liz slowed suddenly, waiting to see what Clark had to say.

"Apparently... we... exude some chemistry and he wants to make sure that everything is understood... especially since you live in the house..."

"Uh-huh..." Liz bit at her lip and nodded for him to continue. She knew she had been obvious in the past week but to have Mr. Kent point it out was a little embarrassing. "Rules."

"Like... if ever I'm in your room or you are in mine, the door stays open." Clark's face turned red and he suddenly couldn't remember why he was telling her all this. "There's a whole bunch of others but... if I start acting funny, you'll know why."

"So, are we really that obvious?" She teased him, pulling on his hand to slow his pace and face her.

"Um, well... I..." He stammered uselessly. Time seemed to slow down as she stepped closer and reached up to bring his face down to hers. Their lips brushed together a moment before his arms wrapped around her to support her wavering balance. Mouths opened for a searing kiss. Then he was the one falling. Was that weak in the knees thing literal?

"Clark?" Liz pulled away to find him slipping to the ground. He suddenly looked very sick and slightly green. "Clark, what's wrong?"

He struggled to keep his eyes open as he sat on the side of the road. Green rocks, meteorite fragments. They were the only things that made him feel like this. Running his eyes over the roadside he noticed a patch of overturned earth, the top of which was littered with shiny green specks. His insides felt like they were trying to get outside. His molecules were imploding just before the big explosion.

"Oh my god... Clark?" Liz knelt beside him. "Clark? What's wrong?"

"I need to... oh god... to get out of here." Clark moaned and struggled to get his feet under him again. His stomach leapt into this throat, leaving pain behind it.

Liz tried to help him up but he was so heavy. There was no way she was going to be able to get him home by herself. Her panic cleared when she saw the car coming up the road behind them. She leapt out into the road and waved her arms around. The Ferrari screeched to a halt and Lex leapt out of it. "Lex! You have to help. It's Clark."

"Where?" Lex turned, searching the roadside until he found his friend still trying to get to his feet. "What happened?" He bent to study his friend. Pale, greenish skin, looked about to vomit and he was shaking. Lex had seen this a few times but never this bad and never had Clark been willing to talk about it once the... fit was over. "What happened?"

"I don't know. One moment he was fine and the next he was..." Liz watched as Lex hefted Clark into his arms and began to guide him to the car. She rushed to open the passenger side.

"Clark? Are you... what's wrong?" Lex set him in the seat but he didn't seem to be getting any better. "Clark! Can you hear me?"

"The rocks..." was all Clark could say. Furrowing his brow, Lex stood up. Liz had retrieved Clark's bag.

"Let's get him out of here." Lex ordered, letting Liz into the car on his side. He had the Ferrari speeding away in seconds. "What happened?"

"I don't know. We were walking home and he was fine." Liz took a deep breath. "We stopped to talk on the bridge and then we started walking again. Then... we stopped again and I kissed him and then... he was sick. Just like that. Fine one second and not fine the next."

"Liz, calm down." Lex cursed inwardly as they sped through the fields. "Get his parents on the phone." Lex never noticed when they had cleared the field but as he was about to turn toward town, Clark sat up. "Clark lay back down. I'm getting you to a hospital."

"I'm fine." Clark cleared his throat.

Liz peered into the front seat at the sound of his suddenly strong voice. The green tinge was gone. He looked perfectly healthy. "Are you sure? You didn't look so well back there."

"I'm fine now. I swear." Clark rubbed his hands together and took a deep breath. The rocks must have still been in the air from when the field had been tilled. He hadn't noticed on his way to Lex's because he had taken several shortcuts through the woods to get there faster. He didn't feel whole just yet but he imagined that if he dusted off his jeans he would be fine. "Just... take us home."

"What was that you were saying about rocks?" Lex asked cautiously.

"What?" Clark's blue eyes popped open wide. "What about rocks?"

"You said, 'the rocks'. What were you talking about?" The bald man pressed as he steered toward the Kent farm.

"Probably nothing."

"What happened back there, Clark?" Liz whispered, reaching her hand out to touch his shoulder from the back seat.

"Nothing. I'm fine." Clark turned his face to look out the window. "I'm fine."

--

Clark took a breath and shut his eyes for a second. They were going to tell his parents and maybe then they could figure out something to tell them. He opened his eyes again to look through the window where he could see Lex and Liz talking by the Ferrari. She probably thought he was a freak.

The meteor rocks. He should have known that problems would turn up sooner or later with those damned things. As Chloe kept telling him, there were meteor fragments all over this county and the next. Of course the freshly tilled field on the way home from Lex's would be filled with them. Bowing his head, Clark felt like crying. He knew that keeping the truth about his non-human status away from Liz was going to be impossible but he hadn't counted on anything like this. Before, she just didn't know and now he was lying to her. What a great way to start off dating someone.

--

"You're right, Liz. He did look really sick." Lex nodded and leaned on the car to slip on his driving glove. "But... where Clark's concerned, I've learned to be open minded. He keeps secrets even from me. Remind me to show you the blue Porsche someday. You won't understand anything any better but you'll accept that... with Clark, there is always an exception."

"What do you think happened?" She pressed. "You're an observant person and... you seem to pay close attention to Clark. I know you're smarter than most. I want to know."

"I think that maybe there was something out there that didn't agree with him." Lex tilted his head at her as he rose to round the car. "You are really worried about but I'll tell you... Clark does not get sick and he doesn't get hurt easily. The guy can pull through with some amazing strength sometimes. Look after him."

"Yeah I will." Liz nodded and backed toward the house. She watched him drive off and prayed that the Kents would get home soon. Entering the house, Liz was struck by the quiet. Clark swore up and down that he was going to rest and she didn't want to risk bothering him. The way Clark had looked reminded her so much of the way Michael had looked when the Native American sweat hut had nearly killed him.

Pulling out her phone, she dialed the number without a second thought. It rang a few times before anyone answered. "Crashdown."

"Hi Dad." Liz smiled gently into the phone.

"Hey Sweetie, what's up? Homesick? You usually don't call until Sunday." Jeff prodded.

"Actually, I uh... I wanted to talk to Michael. Is he working right now?" She asked hopefully.

"Sure sweetie, here he is." She could hear mumblings as the phone was passed on to the unruly teen. "What."

"Good to hear your voice, too, Michael." She bit her lip to keep the smile off her face.

"What's up?" His tone sounded more guarded than usual.

"Nothing, I just kinda needed to hear that you were alive. I had a weird afternoon and I thought of you."

"Oh. Okay. Yeah. Things are cool. Your dad keeps piling the hours on though." He took a breath. "Sorry about the way I answered. I thought you were calling to check in on Max."

"I'm not." The decision to be curious was answered for her by the springs creaking upstairs. "You and Maria still... not."

"Pretty much but then I perform a manly deed which, depending on how manly, gets us closer to a bed than she wants to admit." She had to smile at the way he said it. No shame, or thought to how it might sound.

"That's good, I guess."

"You? Max told me about the whole spending time apart thing. Dating other people and all." If she didn't know better, she'd swear he was fishing around for details.

"And if I was?" Liz sat down at the kitchen table to pick at a place mat.

"Cool. You should... date guys... cause if you ask me, Max isn't the greatest guy in the world."

"I would be the one that realized that first." She teased him lightly.

"Still, you know. It's good that you guys are dating other people because you guys were all serious and stuff and we're not even... real adults yet. You should, date other guys." The more Michael rambled, the more Liz could hear what he wasn't saying. "That way you're both not mooning over each other for four years without, you know, a break."

Liz felt her heart drop a little. She should just hang up but she couldn't. "That's good that he's dating. That was the deal. We would break up and start dating other people."

"I, uh, didn't say that he was." Michael stammered and then cursed to himself.

"No, it's okay. I'm dating, he's dating. We're all dating and moving on with our lives." Liz bit out. "I'm ... it was good to talk to you again, Michael. I'll try to call some other time. I'm sure your break is up by now." She hit the button before he could say one more word.

"Liz? Clark?" Martha pushed her way into the kitchen with a bag of groceries in her arms. "I just saw Lex leaving, he pulled me over to tell me that I had better keep an eye on Clark."

"Yeah um, something weird happened with Clark earlier." Liz rose to her feet. "He says he's better now but I made him go lay down."

"What happened?" Martha reached for the younger girl.

"Clark showed up at Lex's to walk me home and he was fine but after we crossed the bridge..." Liz swallowed a little. "He just kinda got weak and then he looked almost green. He couldn't stand on his own. If Lex hadn't been heading out, I don't know how long we would have been out there. After a while though, he was fine, or at least he seems fine. I just have no clue what would make him do that." Liz took in Mrs. Kent's shaken appearance. "It was scary but he insists he's fine. Lex and I wanted to take him to the hospital but he really does seem better than he was. He's asleep now though."

Martha nodded uncertainly at her houseguest. Casting a wary glance to the stairs, she started back out to the car. "Mind helping me with the groceries? Clark will be fine. I'll see about him in a bit."

--

Clark opened his eyes when his door opened. His father took a seat at the foot of the bed after making sure the door was shut soundly. "What happened, son? Liz seems pretty worried."

"What did she tell you?" He sat up a little to show his father that he was fine.

"Just that you two were walking home and you nearly collapsed on her. Lex brought you both home. That's about all I know." Jonathan cleared his throat. "You want to give a little more detail?"

The younger Kent sighed and propped himself up on his elbows. "Chloe and I got out of school early so we could help decorate the stands. We finished really early so we left. No one saw me but I ran... really fast... to Lex's. He saw me walking up the front drive and motioned for me to wait there. A few minutes later Liz came out. We were walking home and we stopped a few times. I should have been able to feel it but I guess I was too distracted..." Clark trailed off and took a deep breath. "... And the next thing I know, I'm on the ground and the entire field next to us... you know, Gundersen's farm. He must have just tilled it today because I wasn't all that close and the meteor fragments were so small..."

"Son, are you sure about the field? Last I heard he had thrown out the last of those fragments." Jonathan prodded.

"There were there. I saw them. Tiny... like... pebbles. Nothing that would really bother the tractor." The son insisted. "I knew it would be impossible to stay below the radar with her in the house."

"Hey, it's okay. She's just worried. We'll think of something."

"Dad." Clark gestured to a bag near his door. "Can you take those somewhere to shake them out? They're still making me a little dizzy."

"What?" Mr. Kent rose to his feet to open the bag. Tiny green glowing dots littered the shirt that Clark had put on that morning. "Yeah, sure. Take a shower and maybe the rest will wash down the drain."

"Can we still go to the game?" Clark raised an eyebrow. "I mean, I'm fine... Liz is the one that made me come up here and lay down."

"We'll see what we can do. Hurry up and shower. I don't think you'll win your case if your mom can't see that you're fine." At the door, Jonathan turned an amused look on his son. "How did you know to look for the rocks?"

"I'm sure not even Liz is that good a kisser..." Clark shrugged with a light blush coloring his face. His father's laughter boomed through the room and echoed down the hall as he made his way down to the kitchen.

--

Clark led the way to the concession stand, all the while feeling Liz's concerned eyes on him. Finally, he turned with a smile. "I'm fine, Liz. Sometimes those chemicals in the fertilizers get to me."

"Then why weren't Lex and I affected?" She whispered softly, her deep brown eyes pouring over his face.

"It's an allergy I've had since I was a kid. It's kinda like a lot number. Some batches are stronger than others and those make me sick." He insisted and then pointed to the menu board tacked to the booth. "What'll you have?"

"Are you sure?" She tugged on his hand. "That you should be walking around?"

"Liz, I'm fine. You've met my mother. You think she would let me out of the house with even the slimmest possibility that I could be sick?" He ducked his head. "It's just a little embarrassing. I hadn't felt sick like that in front of you."

Liz felt her lips turn up at the corners. Clark Kent was a charming guy, no doubt about that. For such a shy guy, he had a way of making her forget everything else in the world. She was about to open her mouth to say something when he suddenly stiffened beside her. A turn of the head revealed a pretty brunette with blue eyes. "Hey Clark. I haven't seen you around this year. You still alive?"

"And kicking." Clark managed, weakly. After an awkward moment of staring at Lana's necklace, he remembered that he was holding a pretty girl's hand. "Oh. Um... Lana Lang, Liz Parker. Liz, this is Lana."

"Nice to meet you." Lana extended her hand, which Liz took with a slight nod and a raised eyebrow. This was the Lana Lang that Lex had given Clark more than a few ribbings about... and that he was currently staring at. "I haven't seen you much in town. Are you new to Smallville?"

"Yeah, I've only been here about a month or so." Liz nodded again and glanced up at Clark. Yes, he was still staring... at her chest. Liz bit her lip and set her jaw.

"Almost six weeks." Clark agreed. "Lana's aunt owns the set of fields across from us... about a mile down."

"Oh. I've seen that house." Liz tried to keep a smile on her face but it was becoming difficult. "It's really beautiful."

"Thank you." Lana smiled beautifully, glanced down at their joined hands and cleared her throat. "I have to get back to my aunt. It was nice meeting you, Liz. Clark... don't be a stranger."

"Later." Clark managed a wave and let out a deep breath when his classmate and former crush walked off.

"Right." Liz muttered and let go of Clark's hand to move into the concession line.

After a moment of confusion, Clark noticed that Liz had gotten away from him and that she seemed slightly angry. "Hey, what's wrong?"

"Nothing." Liz shook her head. "You know, aside from the fact that you were staring at her chest."

"I wasn't... what? I wasn't staring at her chest." Clark protested and then realized what it must have seemed like. He had to come up with something quick. "Liz, really. I'm just... I was kinda... looking below her face but I was not looking at her chest. I was feeling kinda guilty."

"Guilty?" Liz turned slightly for the explanation.

"I just... we were getting kinda close last year with school and all these weird things that kept happening and during the summer, we didn't speak at all. This is the first time I've spoken to her since school started. I haven't been that good of a friend to her is all." Risking a glance at her, he cleared his throat. He couldn't tell if she believed him or not. Lying was definitely not his arena. "Which, I have to say is your fault... having such a pretty girl around the house is a big distraction."

"I'm not hungry anymore." Liz announced and pulled him out of the line and into one of the tunnels beneath the stadium.

"Where are we going?" He didn't need an answer once he realized they were in a deep shadow, where the sounds from the game were muffled and the crowds were reduced to a dull roar. The blood rushing past his ears soon blocked out all other sounds and the only place he could feel was where his lips were pressed against Liz's. Like their first kiss, he had to wrap his arms around her to support her teetering balance, all the while bending down to meet her slight height.

Liz sighed, not even her heeled shoes could help make up for the 13-inch height difference. His responses were soft, tentative and inexperienced but not in any way unpleasurable. He had a very strong mouth with impossibly soft lips. Finally, the need to breathe caught up with them.

"Wow..." Clark murmured. "I... thought you were mad at me."

"That Kent charm seems to have a life of its own." Liz breathed and then sank back to her feet. "Next time we try this, we need to find a ladder or something."

"Was that a crack about my height?" He cocked his head at her.

"Maybe it was. What are you going to do about it?" Her fingers tugged at the hair at the base of his neck.

"Buy you some platforms."

"You are such a jerk." Liz smacked him across the shoulder.

"Either that or get a permanent crick in my neck." He snickered when she buried her face in his jacket.

"This is the last place I thought I'd find the two of you." A voice boomed from the end of the tunnel, startling them both. "Making out in the dark like a couple of... wait a minute. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised then."

"Hey Lex." Clark turned to lean against the wall. "How's it going?"

"I think Smallville's winning. I can rarely tell. Your parents are looking for the two of you." Lex slid his hands into his pockets. "Shall I go report back? The longer I know you, Clark, the more I do for your parents... feels nice." With that, the bald man turned and walked away.

"Ok. I think we should get back." Liz bit back a laugh.

"We should hurry. Then we can catch Lex and embarrass him by having you teach him about football." Clark chuckled and took her hand to lead her out of the tunnel.

TBC
posted on 23-Jan-2002 1:00:32 PM by DMartinez
Part 6

Liz adjusted her earpiece slightly. "Can you hang on a moment?" She picked up the ringing receiver off the desk. "Lex Luthor's office... regarding? ... Yes, ma'am. If you'll give me a second..." Liz turned to the monitor in front of her and began a search through Lex's date book. "Mr. Luthor can see you Tuesday morning at 11 at the LuthorCorp building in downtown Metropolis... I'm sorry but Wednesday he'll be at the plant outside of Smallville, Tuesday morning would be more convenient for all parties.

Liz cleared her throat as she waited for the affirmative answer. "Yes, ma'am. The LuthorCorp building downtown... Thank you, ma'am." She set down the receiver and sighed. "Where were we?"

"I was talking about how Max is miserable without you."

"Maria, I'm at work."

"I can tell."

"Right. Max is far from miserable, Maria. I really wish you would stop meddling."

"Meddling? Who's meddling? I am stating facts."

"Facts. Like the fact that Max is dating Deirdre Johanssen." Liz could feel the silence over the phone. She could almost picture Maria pursing her lips together while trying to think of anything to say. "Like I said. You're meddling."

"Who told you that?" Maria demanded.

"I've been talking to Michael lately. I talked to him about two weeks ago and again this past weekend. He's been really forthcoming with the truthful answers." Liz filed the appointment she had just made and sent a notification to Lex's computer. He had been waiting on that meeting for weeks. Then she started in on a few memos for Plant No. 3 employees regarding safety equipment upgrades and training sessions.

"Michael doesn't know what he's talking about. Why were you asking?" She caught the insinuation at the end of Maria's question.

"I didn't ask. I called to see how Michael was doing and he let it slip. Then when I called my parents Sunday, Michael answered the phone. He just told me that Max was fine with Deirdre. I didn't ask. He did however ask how Clark and I were doing, which I answered truthfully, also which you have failed to ask me since you called." Typing away, she registered the opening of the front door and managed to keep silent as the foreboding man approached.

"Clark. Doesn't it bother you that the guy is 16?"

"That has yet to be proven beyond legal documents, which by the way, were guesstimated. At the time, there were not procedures to determine that factor for certain." Liz glanced up and took in the long wild hair on the man who didn't even pause to greet her before he barged into the office behind her.

"Why are you talking like that? Is the boss in the room?"

"Sort of. I have to go, Maria. Please stop trying to get Max and I back together. We're moving on and I know that I can say that I am happy. Let it be." Liz pleaded with her friend.

"She's not good for him."

"You never asked how things were going with Clark and me."

"I'm sure they're going great. I'll talk to you later."

Liz sighed as she hit the off button and pulled the earpiece from her ear. She had really wanted Maria to ask. She really wanted somebody to ask how things were going with Clark. She needed a sounding board that wasn't his mother.

**

Clark aimed the spray carefully, rinsing off his mother's car before going to work on wetting down the truck for its bi-monthly bathing. Yanking off his soaked shirt, he reached for the soap bucket. That's when his hand met Liz's. Their eyes met. "Need some help?"

"Not really." Clark shook his head. "I got it."

"How about if I volunteer?" She flashed him a smile before taking one of the sponges. They had fun; splashing and throwing sponges, stealing the hose and soaking one another, fighting for control of the water source. They had even managed to steal more than a few kisses.

Then she slipped after she had cleaned the top of the truck's cabin. She saw the panic in his eyes as she started to fall. Next thing she knew, Clark had her by the arms to keep her from hitting the ground. Then the pain registered in her arms. He hauled her back into the bed of the truck to make sure she was alright but his grip never loosened. "Clark. You're hurting me."

Her voice had sounded so small, even to her own ears. His blue eyes had flashed some emotion that she couldn't quite discern. He had quickly released her throbbing arms and shut his eyes. "Go on in the house. I'll finish up."

Liz climbed out of the truck bed carefully, as not to slip again. She stopped at her name. "Liz, I'm sorry." The remorse in his voice was unmistakable but not warranted. At least, she didn't think it was.

**

As she shrugged out of her jacket, the intercom startled her out of her thoughts. "Liz, what's my schedule for Tuesday?"

Liz quickly hit the window with his appointments and then the intercom button. "Terrance and Brasher for 11:00 a.m. in the downtown office. Sydney Incorporated for 2:30 p.m. at their office. NuTech for 4:00 p.m. at Drake's."

There was a click but she could still hear the office. "Lex... son... do you think it's wise that the 10 year old at that desk handle your appointments? She's a gossipmonger."

"Hardly."

"I'm only looking out for your interests. What did you say her name was?"

"I didn't."

"Liz, isn't it?"

"... It doesn't matter what you think. Do you realize that young woman handled Congresswoman Whittaker's tight schedule on a part time basis?"

"Is that so? ... Interesting. You certainly are a collector of oddities."

Liz reached over and hit the mute button and went back to typing her memos. A few minutes later the doors swung open and Mr. Luthor swept out of the office and out of the house. In his absence, the castle suddenly seemed small. A chill ran up her spine. How could one man have so much power as to shrink an ancient Scottish castle with only 10 minutes of his presence?

"I think he likes you." Lex commented as he pulled his doors shut behind him. Then he narrowed his eyes as he stared at her. "What happened to your arms?"

"What?" Liz blinked and him but when she shifted her arms, the telltale soreness reminded her. "Little accident."

Lex motioned for her to rise from her seat and then placed his hands around her biceps. The bruises conformed to the grip of a human hand. "Accident?"

"I fell, Clark caught me. He held on a little too tight." Liz nodded slightly and then caught a knowing look in his eyes. "He didn't mean to. He keeps apologizing but it's not even that bad. Better than the broken tailbone I probably would have gotten from the fall."

"I told you. Clark is a very strong person. That strength has saved my life more than a few times." Lex lightly brushed his hands over her bruises one last time and then flashed her a bright smile. "I'm fairly certain that the last thing in the world that Clark wanted to do was hurt you, even like that. Don't hold his superstrength against him."

Liz nodded uncertainly, an odd look on her face as he chuckled to himself. "I'm trying not to but Clark doesn't make it easy. He keeps walking around like he did something wrong."

"Clark wouldn't hurt a fly if he could help it." Lex shook his head and moved around the desk. "So, you're coming with me?"

"Where?" Liz asked warily as she resumed her seat.

"Tuesday, busy day. Also, I believe the day of someone's midterms." He prodded. "We'll ride in together. You take your test. I close these deals. We do lunch and you can be pretty for the later meetings."

"Lex..." Liz whined, rather unattractively.

"Come on. It'll be fun. You'll need to relax after your exams and I can't stand to be with those people all day long."

"You are the worst businessman in the world." She pointed at him. "You were not meant for this shtick."

"Shtick?" He laughed. "Okay. I admit that business was not my first choice but I happen to be good at it."

"Yeah, yeah." Liz keyed a few words. "So it sounds like fun... minus the mid-term parts... and getting another look at Metropolis. Adult company sounds nice..."

"Who are you convincing?" Lex leaned on the desk. "I could use the immature company myself." She tilted her head at him. "Come on. You'll get to hear terms like carrying cost and MPR used in context."

"This will really piss off your father, won't it?" She jibed lightly.

"And if it does?"

"Maybe." She glanced at the front door. "You know, he really fills this place."

"Know what you mean."

"I mean, you seem perfectly... at home here. You don't look lost and you don't seem bigger than you are but he... he dwarfs this place." Liz whispered at last.

"It's a deal he made with the Devil. To make big places seem small. Intimidation is half of what his power relies on." Lex pushed off the desk. "The rest of it is natural ability. I'll swing by Tuesday morning to pick you up."

"Alright." Liz nodded and turned back to her typing.

--

Clark trudged up the steps to his Fortress. That's where he had spent every night since that Saturday he and Liz had washed the truck. He and his father had been over it already. His mother had given her sympathies. Both parents had told him that it was important to keep his abilities a secret and to be careful. Of course, he still had no clue about what he was going to do and so he sat with his head between his hands.

He nearly leapt a foot when he felt an arm wrap around his waist and a cascade of brown hair fell over his shoulder. Liz propped her chin up on his shoulder. "You want to talk about it?"

"You know, we're not supposed to be alone up here." He muttered, eyes on his feet.

"I have permission because you, Mr. Kent, have been in a funk and your parents have noticed." Liz reached up and ran her fingers through his hair for a moment. "I personally think you're avoiding me and I'm not having it. I'm just not because you and I both know that you did not mean to hurt me. It doesn't even really hurt." She felt him tense beneath her. "It bothers me that you must think you'll hurt me but contrary to popular belief, I am not made of glass. I'd rather have bruised arms than a broken tailbone."

"Liz, I'm really sorry." Clark turned slightly to look at her.

"I know you are but really Clark... Could you honestly hurt me on purpose?" She prodded his ribs. "Apparently Lex thinks you wouldn't hurt a fly if you could help it. I'd like to think I'm more precious than a fly."

"You are." Clark sat up slightly.

"God, you are so incredibly sweet." Liz ducked under his arm and leaned her head on his chest. She waited for him to relax enough to tighten the arm that lay around her before lifting her head to kiss on his neck. She smiled when his hand gripped her side suddenly.

"Liz, what are you doing?"

"Taking advantage of the environment." She sat up a little to press her mouth against his. He hesitated for all of one second before reciprocating. His tongue eagerly sought entrance to her warm mouth. It felt so good that all other thoughts fled both their minds.

She released a sigh when his hands began to roam over her blouse. At some point Liz had realized that Clark had never really dated and some days his inexperience was sweet and other days it was all she could do to keep from screaming. Their bodies turned, her legs slid over one of his, and his body pressed hers against the wall beside the box they were on.

His hand slipped down to the hem of her shirt, sliding beneath it to caress the skin on her side. Breathing heavy, their kiss moved deeper with her hand speared into his hair to keep him in place, the other hand clasping the flannel on his chest. When she didn't protest, his hand disappeared inside her shirt, creeping its way up to her satin clad breast.

Liz moaned into his mouth when his hesitant fingers brushed over her nipple through the thin fabric. He froze for a split second until he realized the moan was a good thing. Continuing to touch her softly, he pressed her further back, slipping his other hand beneath her body.

Frustrated with his soft teasing touches, Liz released his shirt to clasp at his hand through her blouse. She pulled her mouth away from his, kissing up his jaw to his ear. "I'm not glass, Clark."

Running his mouth across her throat, he acquiesced and let his hand fall heavy against her breast. One of her legs slid up against his thigh. Her small hands gripped him hard enough to feel like there was actual pressure against his body...

"Clark! How long are you going to keep me wai---" Chloe stopped both speech and step when her eyes fell upon the couple in the loft.

--

"Clark sure came home in a bad mood." Martha raised her eyebrows as she poured herself a cup of tea.

"Yeah." Liz nodded and sipped her own cup. Clark had come home from working on the paper and gone straight upstairs feigning sleepiness.

"Is he still upset about hurting you?" The graying red head took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

"Not anymore. That's kinda the problem." She tucked a strand of brown hair behind her ear. "I don't think Clark told Chloe about us."

"Oh dear." Martha sat up.

"Clark and I were kissing when she came over earlier. She... was very upset." Liz sighed heavily. "I knew that she was jealous but... I don't know..."

"I see..." The older woman nodded. "Chloe has had a crush on Clark for about as long as they've known each other." She set her cup down carefully. "You can see it in the way she looks at him. The way her eyes light up when she sees him, the way she stops smiling when he talks about other girls. Clark is, of course, oblivious to all of it."

"I feel bad about this, though. She's his best friend..."

"Can you think of a time when someone you cared about kept something from you until finding out hurt more than you thought possible?" Martha watched the emotions flash through the younger woman's eyes. "Ever talked about it?"

"I try not to." Liz shook her head, feeling the bile rise in her throat. "It's just that... when Max and I weren't together... he was with someone else. I knew this... I was kinda seeing someone else myself."

"I bet seeing them together was a shock."

"Yeah and I got used to it but then... he dropped a bomb on me. We had been fighting after one of our friends died in a car accident and he kept trying to tell me something. I didn't try hard enough to listen and then it was all out there." She bit her lip. "I knew he was with Tess but I didn't know he had been with her."

"Oh dear." Martha whispered.

"That wasn't all." Liz took a deep breath. She hadn't even told her mother this part. "She got pregnant. That was the worst of everything."

"I can imagine... Your mother didn't say anything about that."

"No one knows, really. Our circle of friends, his parents... she took off and took his son with her." She could feel her tea turning cold but she couldn't drink it. "All Max knows is that she kept the baby. He's never seen him."

"And this is why you needed space..."

"Yeah. I needed my out while I could get it. I'm 18. I am not ready to be a mother and eventually I will really have to accept that this person exists. This little person that is one-half of the man I love and that this person is not part of me." Liz shut her mouth. "It's funny how those feelings fade but don't hurt any less."

"It's funny how once you're rid of them, you expect them to pine endlessly. Then comes the day when you find out about the new woman in their lives." Martha leaned forward on the table, hands flat on the table. "About the time I had worked up the courage to tell Jonathan that I wasn't a virgin, I had run into my high school boyfriend and his new girlfriend. It was like..."

"A kick in the gut." Liz furrowed her brow. "I like Clark. I really care about him. I rarely think of Max and a couple of weeks back... I found out Max was dating." She leaned on the table as well. "I couldn't breathe for about two seconds. Then I was mad at myself. How can I move on with my life and not expect him to?"

"That was my thought exactly. It hurt even though I was the one who left him." She cleared her throat. "You're right. It fades, the love but the hurt lingers. I love Jonathan and it may be hypocritical but knowing that I am expendable even in one person's heart... hurts. The minor regrets make you feel stupid but... when you get it right, it feels better than anything you can imagine."

"I regret... letting Max think he was my first." Liz whispered. "I'm not proud of myself and I hate myself for hurting someone like that, and lying to Max but it's too late. All I can do is..."

"Not make that mistake again." Martha finished for her.

"Wow. That was depressing." Liz managed a strained laugh. "On the bright side... Kents make wonderful significant others."

"That's right." Martha smiled. "Good night, sweetie."

"Night." Propping her chin on her knees, Liz stared right through the book in front of her on the kitchen table.

**

Max laced his fingers with Liz's as they strolled through the park with barely a breath between them. The goofiest grins were plastered on their faces; memories of the night before constantly flying through their minds.

Only one thing seemed to be plaguing Max's mind. "Liz, can I ask you something?"

"Sure." She whispered as she rubbed her nose against his leather jacket.

"Did it hurt?" His pace slowed considerably as he felt her tense up.

"Hurt?" It didn't even sound like her own voice.

He didn't want to remind her but he had done it before. "Last night, you didn't hurt?"

"Max..." She wanted to tell him the truth, she really did. Taking a step back she looked up at him. That worry in his eyes stopped her. Instead, she tilted her head to the side and furrowed her brow. "You mean when we made love?"

"Well, yeah." He ducked his head a little. "I mean..."

"Max, sex isn't the only way to... break it." She watched the relief pour into his face. He let out the breath he'd been holding and pulled her close to kiss her. She hadn't lied and he hadn't come right out and asked her.

**

Liz snapped her head up when Clark thudded down the stairs. He had whipped open the refrigerator and taken a swig from the milk bottle before he noticed her. "Hey, what are you doing up?"

"Studying... or trying to." She stretched her arms in front of her.

Clark replaced the milk in the refrigerator and moved to sit behind her at the table. His arms came around her as she leaned back into him. Silence filled the kitchen for several long moments before Clark let out a sigh. "Chloe was upset."

"Did you still get the paper out?"

"Yeah but she wouldn't talk to me." He sighed again.

"You didn't tell her."

"I could have sworn I did. I don't know why she's acting like this." He turned his head to kiss her on the neck.

"You didn't tell her, Clark." She turned in his arms. "You're her best friend and you didn't tell her."

"Yeah." He bowed his dark head and listened to the silence. "So, I've got tests tomorrow and after school, no homework. Want to go catch a movie?"

"Sounds good." Liz nodded and then cursed to herself. "But I can't."

"What?" He blinked down at her.

"Mid-terms. I have to go into Metropolis tomorrow. I promised Lex I'd keep him company between meetings." She dropped her head onto his shoulder. "So... I'm working until late. His last meeting is at four and we'll probably grab something to eat on the way back... I don't know yet."

"How do you like working with him?" Clark nudged her lightly.

"Better than trying to get a job in town." She smiled slightly. "He's hardly around when he is, he's rarely actually working... and he's got more girlfriends than I can keep track of. His sense of humor takes some getting used to."

"That's Lex." Clark rested his head on top of hers.

"You haven't actually seen him in a while, have you?" Liz sat up slightly.

"Lex is a busy guy. I see him when I can... plus... I've got a big incentive to stay home." There went his lips on her neck again.

"I thought you were tired."

"I am suddenly very awake." Liz bit back a moan as she gripped his white shirt. His mouth kept coming back to that spot on her neck.

"I thought this was against the rules." She managed to force the words out of her mouth when all she wanted to do was melt into this incredibly gorgeous guy.

"Clark? Are you downstairs?" Martha's voice drifted down to them.

"Just getting some milk, Mom." Clark called back while extricating himself from Liz and the table. They kissed once more before he was on the move back up to his room. She scooted back in front of her book. Mid-term. Mid. Term. No trying to sneak up to her boyfriend's room for a make-out session. Study. Study. Sleep.

TBC
posted on 27-Jan-2002 11:17:22 PM by DMartinez
Part 7

"You look stressed." Lex commented after about ten minutes of awkward silence in the car. His eyes slid over to watch her, which is how he caught her words.

"Stressed isn't the word I'd use." She had tried to keep her tone low but he still heard it.

"I see." He nodded and jerked his head to the side. "Living with the Kents cramping your style?"

"No." Liz protested. "That's not it."

"Let me guess. Clark's parents are cramping your style. No excuses for dates or places to hide to be alone together. Nowhere to let the hormones flow free." He smirked at her, taking his eyes off the road long enough to catch her eye.

"You're in a good mood." Liz turned to face him. "Run over a cat on your way over?"

"Ouch, your words wound me." He shifted gears as he sped up. "Come on. You can tell me. We're friends, right?"

"I really need to get more girlfriends." She muttered to herself. "Okay. So living in the same house as my boyfriend isn't the greatest thing in the world."

"How bad could it be?"

"There are rules, which compared to the ones I used to live with at home are nothing, but rules nonetheless. We get away with what we can." She watched as he raised an eyebrow. "I don't suppose that you've ever had to adhere to restrictions."

"Speaking of... Where are you taking your test? I can drop you off at the closest corner to the campus." He turned his head only slightly. "I'm not allowed on campus for another three years, at least not without police escort."

"What?" Liz blinked at him.

"I attended Metropolis U when I was... 17 I guess it was. I was dropped from enrollment by administration after an incident with campus instruments and a party gone wild."

"I'm not even going to ask." She waved her hand at him. "I am surprised though."

"That's right. You're new. You don't know better." He jibed lightly.

"Why do you keep insisting that you're this horrible person? Your father, I understand, you, I don't."

"I'll take that as a compliment." His smile aimed at the open road, he slid into the next gear. "You seemed surprised to see me pull up this morning."

"I wasn't expecting you to drive. I figured we'd be in the limo." Liz admitted as she opened a folder on her lap.

"I like to drive." Then his jaw set with a hard pop, making Liz glance up at him. Clearing his throat, he knew he had to elaborate. "My father doesn't drive anywhere anymore. He has his own limo company and nice black cars with their drivers. I, on the other hand, have learned to drive as many cars as possible. I like the control of knowing your immediate destination and being able to decide how to get there without consulting with a number of nameless faces that kiss ass with the best of them."

"You don't like your father. Duly noted." Liz whispered.

"I apologize. Clark got used to my tirades... mainly because I only did so with him." There went that wry smile.

"And he hasn't been around lately."

"He's busy with school and the paper and I'm busy much of the time that he's free."

"Well, that's a load of bull." Big toothy smile from Lex, Liz felt like she had won the lottery. She was willing to bet that no one else had been willing to call him on his bull before and he was enjoying the moment. He wouldn't look at her of course. "He blamed it on my presence but... I see you more than he does. I thought you guys were best friends."

"Clark and I try to be friends. I tried to help him steal the lovely Miss Lang from under the quarterback's nose but Clark isn't crooked enough to go through with my plans. I tried to help his family out and they refused. We try to be friends and last spring... I was caught up with Victoria." Lex explained, his eyes trained on the road and his speed steadily climbing. "I didn't mean to shut Clark out but it was business. Important business that fell through before anyone knew about it, good thing for us. The relationship was the one thing that lasted past the business and that's when Clark and I started talking again."

"Keep going." Liz prodded. "I imagine this puts you in late spring."

"Smart girl." Lex comment ruefully. "So with Clark around again, I was feeling ungrounded and when he told me he thought Victoria was seeing someone else... I told him he was lying. We didn't talk for nearly two months until I figured it all out on my own. After that we made a point to get together once a week to hang out. Week four is where you came in."

"Wow."

"Precisely. In fact, week three was spent on pondering whether you would be a welcome addition to the Kent home." Lex released his hand from the gearshift and pinched her cheek, much to her dismay. "And I was right."

Liz had to scoff. So many things could be read into cheek pinching, though she had never pegged Lex for the cheek pinching kind. "And what is it that you were right about?"

"I told Clark, based on the vague information he had gathered, that in all likelihood he would have a very pretty housemate that would be smart enough to fall for him." He cast a glance at her stunned face. "Oh come on, you know you're gorgeous. I'm willing to bet that hearts broke all over Roswell when you left."

"No." She protested weakly. "Only three ex-boyfriends, thank you. Two of them, I left as friends."

"And the third?" Silence. "Oh come on. It couldn't have been that bad."

"Max."

"Oh, I see." Lex nodded to himself. "This would be the bad boy that forced you out of your hometown to see bigger and better things."

"Ugh." She scoffed at him again. "He's not a bad boy and nobody forced me. This was my choice."

"Ah, yes. To leave the mediocrity of Roswell to embrace the modesty of Smallville... I could see how anyone would make that choice." He nodded to the steering wheel. "Let me guess, this Max guy. Your parents hate him. He's your first true love. Probably the only guy you've ever slept with and that was about twenty minutes before embarking on this journey to find yourself on the outskirts of a town. You broke up with him because it would be unfair to make him wait for you."

"No." Came yet another scoff. "For your information, while Max was my first love, he was not my first lover. We broke up about two hours before I left because if we were really in love then any person we dated in the meantime wouldn't change that." She paused to take a breath. "I'm not saying that I don't care for Clark or even that I'm not capable of loving him but love is a strong emotion that you just can't shut off. It's powerful and it lingers... which is why you still hurt."

A long silence filled the small but expensive car before Liz changed the subject slightly. "So, the plan was to move to Metropolis because that's kinda where my mom is from. That's where she grew up with Martha."

"I thought your mother was from Smallville."

"My great-grandparents were the Fitzgeralds they were talking about when we came to town. My grandparents moved to Metropolis before my mom was born. Then when she was in junior high, they moved to Roswell, which is where she became friends with my dad and his girlfriend. Sometime after she died, my mom and my dad got together." She cast a glance at Lex. "You following this?"

"I think so."

"Yeah, so that's how I came about." Liz cleared her throat. "So, I was going to move to Metropolis but sometime this past summer the main dorm burned down and it took me forever to get the notice. I sent in a request for a transfer... to you know, keep what classes I could but so that I could do them by correspondence. There was no way I could go full time and afford rent on part time jobs. We were supposed to come to Metropolis to check out the neighborhoods and apartments but then Mom remembered Martha and that she had moved to Smallville after she got married."

"Thus the reason you live with your boyfriend."

"Oh shut up." Liz laughed a little. "You going to share how you ended up in Smallville?"

"I'm Dad's personal disappointment and so he stowed me away in Smallville to work and get a taste of the real world before I go back to Yale." Lex cleared his throat slightly. "That was the deal over a year ago and I'm closing in on a year and six months."

"Wow. You got into Yale?" Liz's eyes went round. "I applied to Yale but... I hit a slump my junior year and bouncing back was harder than I thought. Also, I couldn't get a scholarship large enough to cover my expenses. What's your major?"

"Well, after getting a Bachelor's of Science in biochemical engineering from Princeton, I was shipped off to Yale for my graduate work." Lex tilted his head at her. "I see you approve."

"I didn't realize you were a science geek too." Liz smiled and bowed her head. "Wow. Princeton and Yale. Where did Metropolis U come in?"

"That actually came first. I graduated from boarding school at 16 and I needed to cut loose..." He cut himself off and then looked at her. "You didn't want to know so I won't say anything. After that debacle, I followed in dear old Dad's footsteps. Difference being... science is my thing and I can double check the work on the fertilizers while my father pretends he knows what he's reading."

"Interesting." Liz shook her head at him.

--

"Chloe, would you talk to me?" Clark chased his friend down the hallways of Smallville High. The blonde just set her jaw and kept moving. "Chloe!" He chased her through the halls and into the newsroom where everyone else cleared out immediately after getting the vibe off the two. "Chloe, come on."

"What do you want me to say?" She refused to look at him. "Congratulations on getting to second base?"

"Why does it bother you so much?" Clark let his bag slip to the ground and waited for her to give him a sign, a clue, something to explain what exactly this was about. "Is it because I forgot to tell you? Because I could have sworn that I did. Pete knew."

"Probably because it was something you could discuss at the urinal." She bit out, hands on her hips. "You didn't tell me, Clark. You haven't been around except for the occasional movie and to work on getting the Ledger out."

"Chloe, I'm sorry. I really am but I am still your friend." His brow furrowed at her dry laugh. She turned to face him and that's when he saw the tears in her eyes. "What is it?"

"You swore that you'd never outgrow me, Clark." Her bottom lip trembled as she spoke. "You swore that we'd always be friends and suddenly there's this girlfriend I didn't know you had. At least I knew she existed, this person... this person that could have potentially been a friend and bam! Together long enough for the extended second base and I'm wondering when exactly you stopped talking to me..."

"Chloe. I'm sorry. I really am." Clark stepped forward. "I didn't mean to. I just didn't realize..."

"Clark, you know what. It's okay. It was inevitable. At some point... boys and girls just stop being friends." Chloe turned back to the computer before she realized that there was no reason to use it. The weekly paper had been sent out and she hadn't thought of any ideas for the next week.

"I'm really sorry Chloe but we don't have to stop being friends." He wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "Come on. Tonight. You and me, some coffee at the Beanery, some catching up on each other's lives?"

"I don't know. Can you stand to take an evening away from Liz Parker?" She lifted her chin before tilting her head to look up at him.

"She'll never even miss me. Come on. You and me. You can ask me all the questions you want."

"I want that in writing, Kent." Chloe gave in to that Kent charm and hugged him back. His friendship was better than nothing.

--

Liz rolled her eyes at Lex as the elderly men departed from Drake's second floor restaurant. Lex just rocked his head a little. "My sentiments exactly."

"Was I dreaming or was that complete B.S.?" Liz scoffed and straightened her skirt. Lex hadn't had a free moment between meetings the way he thought he would and so after he had picked her up from her exam, he had introduced her to many clients and partners while silently instructing her to look pretty and busy.

"You catch on quick. He's bluffing. He doesn't have a patent on a new and improved fertilizer. He would have brought specs if he did, not to mention a truck load of patents and contracts." Lex shook his head and noted her yawn. "Shall we grab something to eat and then head back or risk eating in Smallville?"

"I honestly stopped thinking around 10 this morning." She sighed. "That test really fried my brain."

"I'm sure it wasn't that bad." Lex fiddled with his napkin. "You seem very bright."

"So all my teachers keep telling me." She took a glance around and watched a husband surprise his wife with a ribboned box. Must be her birthday. "Looks like she likes the present."

"Excuse me?" Lex set down his drink and followed her gaze to the couple not far away. Obviously eating at Drake's was a luxury for them.

Liz turned to him, her brow furrowed. "Wait. I missed your birthday, didn't I? Clark told me you were going to have one soon after I moved here."

Lex shook his head for a moment and then grimaced slightly. "Clark doesn't actually know my birthday."

"What?" She blinked at him. "He told me you were going to turn 22 in September."

"He's mistaken." He shook his head again, lips pursed. "Clark must have seen the card my father sent me last year and just assumed..."

"Why would your father send you a birthday card if it's not your birthday?"

"I've gotten one two Septembers in a row, now. Either three months late or nine months early. Dad tends to get my birthday confused with the date of conception." Lex raised his glass to his lips. "Who knows, maybe he knows exactly what he's doing? I turned 22 last May. The third, actually... not a Greek coincidence and I think the Machiavellian date makes my dad keep an eye on me."

"Didn't you say anything on your birthday?" Liz leaned forward.

"I'm sure you recall the conversation we had earlier..." Lex trailed off to let her put the pieces together on her own.

"Your birthday fell in those months you were lost with Victoria..." Liz tsked. "Well, I hope she remembered."

"She did... She gave me a very special present." The way Lex rocked his head, Liz just bit her lip to keep from commenting. "Did I embarrass you?"

"No... In fact, that's probably the same present that I gave Max for his 19th birthday." Liz met his gaze as evenly as she could.

"Why, Liz, whatever would your mother say?" Lex lifted his glass to his mouth. "I do hope you're teaching Clark."

Liz's mouth dropped open in shock. "Lex."

"What? I would assume Clark is learning something from you, the elder."

"Seriously, he's sixteen and... some things can wait." She composed herself and took a sip of her water. "And I do believe that this topic is inappropriate for this environment."

"You're probably right." Lex nodded stiffly. "Cheeseburger?"

--

"Thank you for a lovely evening, Clark." Chloe pinched him and put down her napkin. "I am afraid though that curfew is rearing its ugly head."

"Come on. We still have twenty minutes and I know you still aren't through making me pay." Clark nudged her hand and sat back in his chair. She had chosen the Beanery to exact her torture, which included him paying for everything, putting up with her occasional table-hopping and wacky meteor-induced ideas.

Chloe picked at a lone fry on her plate and thought about it. "You really like her?"

"Liz? Yeah. Why?" Clark leaned forward on the table but her eyes were on her French fry.

"Why do you like her? I mean..." She took a deep breath and started again, flicking a short glance his way. "What is it about her that makes you act like such an idiot?"

"I honestly have no clue." He shook his head. "She's just so smart and she doesn't treat me like an idiot even though I sound like one 50 percent of the time."

"Is she.... does she...?" Chloe shook her head and waved her hand at him. "Never mind."

"What is it? I said you could ask me anything." Silence filled the table. "Come on, Chloe."

"Is she a good kisser? Maybe I don't know what I'm doing and everyone but me knows it. Maybe it's stamped across my face." Before she could say another word, Clark was sitting on her side of the table with an arm around her shoulders.

"Chloe, what's really up? Haven't you and Pete been talking?"

"That's the whole thing Clark. I haven't been talking to anyone. You have Liz and Pete has football and all the cheerleaders he can handle and I'm left alone in the newsroom most days... and there's only so many of Lana's questions about you and Liz that I can possibly take. Now that I think about it, she knew before I did. What did you do, Clark? Take out an ad? Clark Kent's dating Liz Parker, sh, don't tell Chloe Sullivan. She might actually have a clue about what's going on with her friends."

"Come on, Chloe. There's no conspiracy. I'm an idiot. I freely admit it and I promise to be better."

"I mean it, Kent. I want that in writing." Chloe elbowed him and managed a smile. "Where is the lovely Miss Parker this evening? She let you off the leash so readily and all."

"Liz went into Metropolis today with Lex. She had a mid-term and then she was going to keep him company between meetings." Clark glanced at his watch. "Wow. They should really be back by now."

"Oooh. Scandal. Are you sure he hasn't run off with her?" Chloe elbowed him again.

"Please. I'm sure they're just going over contracts or something." Clark pinched her and moved to stand up. Curfew was drawing high nigh.

--

The tater tot flew into the air and landed right in Lex's mouth. Liz tossed hers up and it landed on her nose before bounding onto the concrete at their feet. "Do you always have to be perfect?"

"Excuse me?" Lex sobered at her question.

"You walk around like you own the world and granted, you probably do but even the tater tots obey Lex Luthor." She wiped at her greasy nose with a napkin and tried to ignore the stares aimed their way. After all, how many people were ever treated to seeing Lex Luthor and a female friend leaning on a Ferrari and eating tater tots in front of the Sonic like they were pre-teens and not the adults that law said they were.

"It's called aim, Liz." He tossed another into the air, turned his head up and leaned forward for the catch. "Double Xs make for trouble..."

"Was that a crack at my gender?" She shoved him lightly. "I personally believe that Y chromosome is a wild card... in all species."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yes." Liz pushed off of the car gingerly to face him. "It makes them all crazy and territorial and prone to spout off about instincts."

"Then that's all men. Clark included."

"I realize that. I do."

"Had many possessive boyfriends?" He shrugged at her glance. "You just seem to have a bit of a chip on your shoulder about it." Twirling a greasy tater tot between his fingers, he weighed his next words carefully. "Now, I don't take you for the promiscuous type but you've intrigued me... how many lovers have you had? That offhand remark about the love of your life not being your first lover really threw me for a loop."

"Anh-ah." Liz shook her head. "I don't share unless you do."

"It's a deal but you better go first. It might take me awhile."

"You are so full of yourself." Liz scoffed at him but leaned on the pole in front of the Ferrari. "Two."

"Two." Lex repeated carefully. "Well, I wasn't expecting so low a number but I guess I should be relieved. Feel free to elaborate."

"What do you want? Details?" She laughed dryly.

"Who's this guy that talked you into the sack before Max." Lex tossed the tater tot back into the carton, wiped his hands and then shoved them into his pockets.

"Sean." She smiled almost tenderly. "He's Maria's cousin. The ultimate bad boy. I was in this really pathetic place and then in swoops Sean DeLuca, fresh from juvenile hall. 18 and on the prowl. I remember the way he looked at me when he first walked in. Head to toe and then at my face. Then I guess he remembered who I was. Of course, I denied any interest and Maria kept telling him to stay away from me..."

"So what happened? Back seat of a stolen vehicle? Then off to the next girl, leaving you with a broken heart?"

"You can be so crude." she scoffed. "As it turned out, I wasn't really over Max. We hadn't been together for 8 months and I just couldn't do it. Sean and I would hang out, talk, lane walk—"

"Lane walk?" Lex stopped her mid-sentence. "What's that?"

"Remind me to show you one day." She smiled brightly. "So like I was saying. Sean was good for me. Took my mind off Max. Then boom Max lays all the crap in the world on me with the announcement that he's leaving... Roswell for good. I was upset and so I rushed to my good friend Sean. I didn't cry. I just kissed my way into his bed. Not a fairy tale but... mmm... Sean was amazing."

"I have never heard a tale of lost virginity where the words 'insert guy's name here' was amazing.' I always hear that it hurt too much or 'that jerk got off and fell asleep.' Someone's lying."

"I am not. Though I have to admit that the second time was much better than the first. Although... had I to go back and do it over... I probably would have picked a better location. He sleeps on his aunt's living room pull out."

"Let me get this straight. Out of pain and tears, you slept with this bad boy in an open room in the same house as his cousin and aunt?" Lex furrowed his brow and shook his head. "Where and when was the second time?"

"About three hours later in the same place." Liz nodded to herself and crossed her arms. "Spill."

"Well, if we're only doing first times..." Lex took a slow breath and stared at the concrete at her feet. "When I was 15... I was hiding in the coat closet as per my usual at the annual Luthor Christmas party. I was thoroughly embarrassed that year because at that point... I was six months away from graduating high school and my father thought it would be nice to invite the more elite members of my graduating class to the party."

"Your peers and not your friends?"

"Exactly." He nodded and shrugged. "One girl, I think her name was Cindy, maybe Candy. Anyway, she was on her way out and found me with a bottle of my father's brandy, hiding on a low shelf between some traveling boots. I think she felt sorry for me but it was the best five minutes of my life." He met her eyes and the expression on her face. "Did I not say I was fifteen years old? Besides, I had a great lucky streak after that. You can ask Ms. Lana about that."

"What?" Liz blinked at him. That comment had definitely thrown her off guard and she had no clue how to take it.

"In an expression of hormones and cockiness, I invited a girl over to the house in Metropolis for a swim." Lex cleared his throat slightly. "Rounding second base I heard a shriek and found a little girl wandering around. In our naked state, we couldn't get out of the pool but she took off running anyway. As it turns out... that little girl just happens to be Lana Lang. She was nice enough to call me on it shortly after moving to Smallville."

"I'll bet she did. What was she... eight?"

"Nine." He corrected her.

"So... how many women have you slept with? Ballpark figure." Liz watched, as he remained silent for a few moments. "It can't be that hard to figure out."

"Maybe around 20. Honestly there are some nights that I do not recall."

"Yeah, Clark mentioned something about you getting into a lot of trouble as a teenager." She pushed herself to her feet, noting the late hour and lack of people in the lot. "But really, how bad could it be?"

"How bad was Max really?" Lex countered.

"So, we should head home." Liz reached for the abandoned cartons of food from the hood of the Ferrari and was met with Lex's hand on her arm. Slowly she looked up at him.

"Sorry. I don't even know how much money when into hiding that information. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable by bringing up Satan." Lex told her sincerely, sparse eyebrows rose inquiring for forgiveness.

"It's okay. Really. He's not quite Satan." Liz shrugged and turned to chunk the remains of their dinner. "He'll always be special to me. Sorry, for prying."

"Not a problem. Come on. Let's get out of here before the manager has to come tell us they closed half an hour ago." Lex handed her a peppermint and popped the second into his mouth. "If only Drake's served these with their meals."

Liz managed a laugh as she slid into the passenger seat. She couldn't remember the last time she had had so much fun with a guy that she wasn't dating. It felt nice.

The drive home was silent for the most part, mainly because Liz kept dozing off. Lex had to nudge her awake when they finally pulled up to the Kent farmhouse. Liz gave him a weary wave as she trudged up the steps, for once since arriving, this was home.

TBC
posted on 8-Feb-2002 10:48:46 PM by DMartinez
Part 8

Clark carried the crate of produce inside for Rosy, meeting up with Lex in the process. The bald man grinned and took a swig of imported water. "Long time, no see, Clark. To what do I owe this pleasure?"

"Hey... yeah." Clark shoved his hands into his pockets. "I kinda need some advice." Both men nodded to Rosy, who smiled knowingly, and waved him off as they exited the room. "It's kinda personal."

"Clark, I'm honored. Please. Ask me anything." Lex escorted Clark into the billiards room and shut the door firmly.

"It's just that my parent's anniversary is coming up and they plan to go away again. They're willing to trust me again even after what happened last year." Clark took a deep breath. "And that is mostly due to Liz being there."

"Uh-huh. I see. So. Two days, maybe three... alone in a house with your girlfriend. Gee, I can see how that would be a problem." Lex smirked at his friend. "So what thought have you given to the situation?"

"Things are still on the slow path, mostly due to the constant proximity of my parents..." Lex's eyes held something indefinable in them as Clark continued to bumble. "I'm not saying this will be it. The big it but I imagine that things will progress very fast. I'm not basing this on just myself. I can tell that she's... frustrated by everything."

"Perceptive."

"I want to but I'm ..."

"Male and that's what we all want. What does she want?" Lex leaned on the pool table and waited. He was thoroughly enjoying Clark's discomfort on the subject.

"I just wish I knew what she expected of me." Clark leaned against the door with a heavy sigh. "I... think she's... before but I can't just ask her and if I do she'll think that's what I'm thinking about."

"You've got a busy mind. I'm a firm believer in natural progression. Just let it flow and whatever happens, happens."

"Since when?" Clark shoved his hands into his pockets and hunched his shoulders. "Last I checked, you took what you wanted."

"Who said one occurred independently of the other?" That glint was back in his eye and Clark had no clue what it meant. "Wanting and taking happen to be a natural progression of most of my dates." A smile replaced the smirk. "So what is it you want? Pointers? Technique?"

"No... I... How... how old were you the first time?"

"Fifteen." Lex answered and managed to look bothered about it. "She was seventeen and let me tell you... it was more bumbling and awkward than romantic. I had no clue what I was doing."

"Oh." Clark shoved off the door and crossed to lean on the pool table with his wiser friend. "So, what should I do?"

"Take the cue from her. For all you know, she's not as ready as she thinks for this step." Lex realized that he was being counterproductive but he couldn't help being a little protective over his secretary. Obviously she hadn't been as open with her boyfriend as she had been with Lex.

--

Liz lifted her shaking hand to the melted water kettle again and concentrated. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she shut her eyes to focus. The energy poured into her hand and out to the kettle. When her eyes opened, the kettle had reformed. The tears stung at her eyes. All this time and this was the first time anything like this had happened since coming to Smallville.

Taking a deep breath she removed the kettle from the stove and placed it in the sink. She needed to get out of the house before she melted anything else or started glowing. Why? Why now? Things were going so well. She didn't even look up until she had been walking for some time and found herself on a strange highway covered with trees. How long had she been walking?

Sighing, she sat on the side of the road to wipe at her tears and clear her head.

**

"Max!" Liz screamed from the back room. Her replacement physics book lay in flames. He burst into the room and immediately rushed to put out the fire. She couldn't keep the sobs down, even after he wrapped his arms around her. "Why does this keep happening?"

"Sh. It's okay. We'll figure something out. I promise." Max kissed her head and rocked her gently. "I promise we'll fix this."

"What if you can't fix this? What if this is something that we can't fix? What if I'm going to be the spaz human hybrid or whatever? I can't keep setting things on fire, Max." The whole thing scared her. Because of Max saving her life, she was a changed person. They had known it all along but now it could be dangerous. "I can't live like this."

"Liz..."

"Max... I love you but... when I'm around you these things happen but if you're not, I get so scared that they happen and you're not there to fix it..."

"Sh... It'll be okay. We're going to fix this. You're going to get better."

"And what if I don't?"

"You're going to get better." Max told her firmly. "There's not anything we can't do. You're going to get better."

**

"I can't say I get many visitors out here... You must be lost." A male voice broke Liz from her thoughts. A turn of her head revealed an older African American man with a trash bag in hand. "Can I help you?"

"Sorry. I went for a walk and this is just where I stopped." Liz wiped at her face and rose to her feet. "I didn't mean to trespass."

"Oh, you're not trespassing and I doubt you could find a cop that would say otherwise. Two kinds of people come out here, fanatics and troublemakers. If you're not either of those, you're in the wrong place." He cleared his throat and continued on his way to the trash bin.

After dusting off her pants, she took a good look around. Sure enough, there were a couple of buildings just down the road behind her; a house and a shack. Tilting her head, she approached the latter.

"You obviously aren't from Smallville." He spoke lowly as he rushed ahead of her to the shack. "Or else you'd be on your way home now."

"What is this place?" Liz stepped forward to examine a sign proclaiming the sale of meteor fragments inside. Brows furrowed she turned to face him where he paused at the door.

"You aren't from Smallville. Everyone in these parts knows about the meteors."

"I've heard people mention it but no one talks about it." She shook her head. "I've been around since late August."

"'89 Meteor shower, swept over this county and the next. Littered the ground full of craters. Destroyed farms and lives, left its signature everywhere you go." His deep voice rumbled as he stepped inside the shack, leaving the door open for her to follow. "Government came in, gave a little help to those that needed it. Declared the fragments benign and left."

"There are still fragments around? Wouldn't the government have confiscated all the bits they could find?" Liz pondered aloud as she stepped inside the shack, eyes raking the walls and shelves. Green rocks sat on the shelves but she could tell they were plastic chips. "These are fake."

"Good eye."

"Are there fragments left?"

"Take a walk through the woods sometime. Plenty of shards lying around. Wouldn't do you any good. No one has figured out what they are or if they are capable of anything. I plan to be the first."

"Are you a scientist?"

"I was."

"I'm going to be a scientist." Liz whispered as she squinted her eyes at a green speck embedded in rock. "A microbiologist, actually."

"Attending Metropolis U?" He stopped moving around suddenly.

"Correspondence."

"I'm here if you have questions but don't go mentioning to anyone that you were here." He stared at her until she met his gaze and resumed moving around.

"Why?"

"Hamilton isn't exactly a cherished name in these parts. In some ways worse than being a Luthor. No money to hide behind, no prestige to lift one up... You're better off never coming back here." He stopped and then took a good look at her. "Who told you about me?"

"No one. I've never been out this way and I don't really go into town much. I just wandered through here by accident..." Liz nearly jumped when her phone went off. "Sorry." She pulled out the slim phone and turned it on. "Hello? ... No, I'm fine. I'm sorry, Lex. I hope they aren't freaking out too bad... No, I just went for a walk and kinda got myself lost."

"Ma'am. You're not here. I suggest you leave right now." The man spoke lowly and pointed to the door. "I don't need that man coming here."

"No, Lex. Really." Liz furrowed her brow and headed out back toward the road. "There are a lot of trees and a couple of buildings off the road... No. I haven't seen anyone... They aren't too worried? I didn't mean to just take off but I guess I wasn't in my head." She glanced back at the shack only to find that all the lights had been shut off and the man nowhere in sight. Then a glint caught her eye. A green rock mostly hidden in the dirt. "I'm fine, Lex. God. You sound like my mother."

An engine roared not far away and then head lights poured from around a bend. "You're in your car now?" The car pulled up to where she stood and the window rolled down. A bald head leaned over passenger seat. "They were that worried?"

"You bet. One minute you had gone to make tea and the next you were just gone. Clark called me." Lex pushed open the door. "Get in. I'll take you home."

Sighing, she climbed into the fine car. Almost all thoughts of the reason she left had gone from her mind. Instead she fingered the small rock in her hand. That man must have dropped it when he took out the trash.

"What do you have there?"

"A rock." She turned it over between her fingers, holding it up to the weak light of the setting sun. "It's very pretty."

"Looks valuable." Lex eyed it when he wasn't watching the road. "Where'd you find it?"

"Outside in the dirt. Almost like an emerald but not. There are striations inside big ones. It's not a crystal, really." Liz murmured aloud, turning the stone this way and that. "You know... Lana Lang wears a similar thing around her neck. I've seen it a couple of time but I wasn't paying much attention."

"You've got a good eye."

His comment struck her as odd since that man had said the same thing. "I wonder if it's a piece of the meteors..." She turned it over and over.

"Let me guess, you've been talking to Chloe?" Lex turned his head to her with a wry smile.

"No... why?" She turned to face him and that smile just drove her crazy. "What?"

"Spend some time with the girl. She'll tell you all about her theories. Some of them are very interesting." He switched his eyes back to the road. "So... what ever will you and Clark do to keep yourselves entertained?"

"How'd you know about that?" Liz pocked the rock and waited for his explanation.

"Last time his parents left him alone, he threw a big party. Fireworks and all..."

"The cops broke it up. Didn't they? And he got grounded."

"I thought you had more faith in me than that." He clucked his tongue at her. "Actually, there were no cops involved in the breaking up of a party. A former Kent employee was hiding from the cops in the barn and that put a damper on things. I take care of Clark when I can."

"No parties this year. I plan to spend some quiet evenings..." She trailed off, signaling that she hadn't even given it much thought.

"How are things between you and Clark?"

"Good." A blush and a smile crept across her face.

"Do girls ask about bases?"

"No. So, girlfriend, all you'll know is that we are comfortable." She shot him a look. "God, sometimes you remind me of Maria. With her it was always... 'so spill, what nasty, depraved thing did you and Max do?' All the time."

"I like to think I have more tact than that." He chuckled softly, his blue eyes sparkling. He pulled into the Kent drive.

Liz studied his face and something clicked. "You don't laugh a lot, do you? I mean, not really."

Lex parked the car and turned to her. It seemed as if he were going to comment but then he flicked his gaze to the house. "I'll see you tomorrow."

Taking that as a cue to close the subject, Liz nodded and smiled. "Thanks for the ride. How you know all these back roads, I'll never know."

--

Martha had watched as her son fought 'stomach aches' all evening. Once she even saw his hand shrink in on itself. She was worried but he wasn't saying anything so she had to assume that it was something related to his gifts. Handing Liz her tea, she forced a smile. The stress was getting to her.

The girl had just disappeared without explanation and ended up getting lost. She had apologized profusely after she had returned but Martha suspected that there was something she wasn't saying. There she went out the backdoor, mumbling about a walk that wouldn't end up in another zip code.

--

Liz curled up on Clark's couch and finished up her tea. That afternoon episode with the teakettle had to be a fluke. She had to think that it wouldn't ever happen again. It was the only way to stay sane. She figured she had left it all behind in Roswell with Max.

Setting down her empty cup, she leaned back on the arm of the couch and just stared out the window of the loft. Just a few more minutes and she'd go back inside. Boots on the steps caught her attention but she knew it was Clark. He seemed to be taking his time in shuffling toward her. "Hey."

"You want to be alone or can anyone join?" Clark pointed to the other end of the couch.

"The view's bad from that end." Liz pointed as he crossed to the other side.

"Says who? A pretty brunette with beautiful eyes is just my kind of view." Clark lifted her legs and shifted beneath them.

"It is impossible for anyone to be this charming..." She stopped herself short when she realized she was about to accuse him of being from another planet. "I think your dad sat you down for lessons when you were ten."

"Not true... I was nine." He joked and shifted again to lean against the arm of the couch. "What's up? You've been quiet since you got back."

"It's nothing. A little homesick. I miss Maria and Alex..."

"Alex?"

"He's... He died two and a half years ago." She whispered. "Once in a while it hits me that he's not there. It's hard."

"Yeah, last year a few kids died. It's weird how one day, there they are and the next not." Clark lowered his eyes to his hands on her feet. "Have you talked to Maria lately?"

"No." Liz shook her head and sighed. "She's not taking my break up well." She laughed dryly. "Sometimes it was like she was more invested in my relationships than I was. She liked living vicariously through her friends. It's not like she never had anybody but I guess it always seems like someone else has it better than you do."

"Yeah. Whitney is the guy to be around here. Star quarterback, dating the former head cheerleader, reporter of the school paper and... I know that I could not be him. His dad is sick and he holds it together a lot better than people would think." Clark nodded his head slowly. "Lana..."

"What about her?"

"Well, I guess if you're a girl, that's who you want to be and I know she's had it rough." He shrugged his shoulders.

"You keep forgetting that I hardly know these people. Your mother doesn't gossip and I rarely go into town." Liz sat up and leaned against the back of the couch.

"Her father was Lewis Lang. Big guy around town, married Laura Potter, town sweetheart. They had a really successful bunch of farms and loads of property." His brow furrowed. "Then in '89... the meteor shower came. They were hit by one of the meteors that hit the town."

"Oh my god." Liz gasped.

"Her aunt Nell adopted her. Everyone knows all that but what no one understands is that she's not that little girl on the cover of the magazine. She's a person just like us. She wants to fit in. She wants to share your pain. She can handle it."

"Sounds like you're a better friend to her than you think." They stared at each other for a few moments before she smiled. "You are the only guy I've ever known that talks more about other people than he does about himself."

"Is that good or bad?"

"It's good." Lightly, she began plucking at the buttons on his flannel shirt. "You are so considerate of everyone..." One button slipped through the slot. "You talk to your parents, take care of your friends, you worry about me constantly... you could very well be the perfect boyfriend."

"Oh yeah?" Easily, he slipped into the teasing game she had started.

"Uh-huh." Sliding against his body, she leaned over him to take his lips with hers. As their kisses grew more intense in tasting, their hands stole beneath shirts to caress and touch. Clark moaned at the feel of her soft skin under his hand. He slid lower on the couch so that she lay across his chest. Her fingers clung to his shirt to keep from sliding off his lap.

The teasing continued, tongues massaged each other while hands explored daringly. Clark moaned when he felt the bare skin of her stomach against his. It was at that point that everything seemed to shift into slow motion. His hands and body moved of their own accord, not that he had any complaints when he sat up and gently tugged her shirt over her head, barely pulling his mouth off hers in the process. He helped by shrugging out of his flannel shirt when she pushed it open.

Their upper bodies clung together as they kissed fiercely, more ardently than they ever had. He thought his head might explode from lack of oxygen by the time her mouth left his. As she trailed her mouth down long his neck, she pushed him back down on the couch, straddling his body. His hands roamed over her back and down over her bottom, jerking her down against him when she nipped at his throat.

The flush swept through his face and neck when he realized she could probably feel his arousal between them. He would have said something if her hands hadn't started a trek down his body, tracing over the muscles in his stomach. The touch was so soft he could have imagined it if her nails had not scraped a little lower. Instead he moaned, and then returned to real time.

"Clark." Liz whispered, lifting herself back up to eye level.

"I'm sorry, I didn't..." He gave up because it didn't matter. He still had a hard on and she still knew that.

"Don't be sorry, Clark." She kissed him softly. "We just probably shouldn't out here." She kissed him again as her hands worked at the top of his jeans. Her hand slid over his bulge and swallowed his gasp. "But I can't leave you like this."

Her hand slipped between the flaps of his jeans and rubbed him through the cotton briefs. His hips bucked slightly under her caresses. "God, Liz."

"Do you want me to do this?" Her breath tickled his ear a little.

"What are you doing?" He croaked out, his voice cracking slightly.

"I was thinking I could take care of this for you." She bit her lip when he grew harder under her hand.

"You don't have to..."

"But if I wanted to, would you want me to..."

"Well... yeah but you..."

"Alright then." Then she was sliding down his body and that slow motion thing happened again. His hands released her when he felt a breeze. They flung back to grip the couch when her warm breath hit him just seconds before her mouth burned him. He resisted every urge he had to grip the back of her head. More than once his head pitched backward and he thought he was going to die from extreme pleasure overload.

"Liz..." His hands tightened on the couch. In the back of his mind he could hear the wood frame creaking under the strain. He only dared glance down once. The sight of her head moving in his lap brought him to the edge. Then he felt it coming along with the return to reality. "Liz. Liz, stop. I'm gonna..."

Liz sat back and looked up at him uncertainly until he turned away, coming into his hand. Glancing around, she found a rag and handed it to him. Slowly, she crawled onto the couch beside him, laying kisses on his shoulder. Slipping her arms under his, she pressed her ear to his back and listened to the pounding of his heart. "Clark..."

"Liz. That... was amazing." He turned slowly, he sucked in a deep breath and let it out slowly before pulling her against him. "I don't know if I could..."

"Don't even bother." She smiled and kissed his mouth soundly. "And don't worry about it."

"But—" His speech was cut off by her lips again.

"It's late, we should probably head in." She groaned and reached to the floor for their shirts. He pulled her back up and held on tight. "Clark..."

"We're gonna have a talk, aren't we?"

"Maybe..." Running her fingers through his sweaty hair, she grinned up at him. "You go on ahead. I need to cool off first."

Their lips met one last time before he was bounded down the stairs, resnapping his jeans. Liz watched him go and let her head drop against the couch. Hitting something hard, she turned to find a sunken patch on the top of the couch. Running her hand over it, she found it was hard as stone.

--

Fire lit the room and cast amber shadows through the snifter of brandy sitting on the desk. A man set a folder on the desk and nodded to its occupant. "Anything else I can do for you, Mr. Luthor?"

"That will be all." The man left the Luthor alone, where the rich man simply stared at the name on the folder. Parker, Elizabeth.

TBC
posted on 17-Feb-2002 10:55:15 PM by DMartinez
Part 9

"Relax, Liz, relax." She whispered to herself, hands hidden inside her jacket. She hunched over her keyboard and hoped it would pass. The painful green current had engulfed both hands this time. There was no way she could understand why it had just come back after so many months away from home.

"Liz? Is something wrong?"

Her line of sight rose to include Lex leaning over her desk. Slowly, she cleared her throat. "It's nothing, just a mild case of carpal tunel. I should watch my posture."

"Are you sure?" His blue eyes examined her closely. He couldn't recall having had her type much in the past few days.

"Yeah. I'm fine. Just give me a few minutes." She flashed him a smile.

"Why don't you take a walk? Sometimes just moving around in some fresh air will do the trick." Lex reached out to take her hand. "Come on. I bet you haven't seen much of the grounds."

"Ok." Nodding, she bit her lip and rose to her feet. She couldn't be rude and she couldn't tell him. Jamming her hands into her jacket pockets she let him lead the way out to the gardens in the rear of the house. Amazingly enough, the fresh air did seem to calm the energy flowing through her veins.

"So, what is on Liz's mind?" Lex cleared his throat, hands shoved into his own pockets and his face turned toward the sun like one of the many flowers in his garden, as if he hadn't been snubbed just a few seconds before. "She's too upset for it to be a certain farmer's son... not quite distraught enough for the evil Max..."

"He's not evil." Liz scoffed at him, feeling better with every minute they spent walking among the flowered bushes. Then a bush caught her eye. Green roses.

"If you insist but I can't believe he let you go." Slowly, he let his eyes follow her gaze. Furrowing his brow he approached the bush. "Huh."

"Wow. I've never seen green roses before."

"What's your favorite flower?" He reached out and touched a soft green petal. The roses had grown the same color as the stems that fed them.

"White roses." She smiled tenderly at the memories of receiving them. "Always loved them."

"I don't believe I have any of those." Lex bent to smell the flower only to get a disturbing memory of being beaten by an unseen assailant. He shook his head slowly to rid himself of the intrusive memory.

"These must be extremely rare."

"I actually don't recall noticing them before." Lex ran a hand over his scalp as he puzzled it over. "They haven't been dyed or painted so this must be a natural occurrence but... it's almost as if they don't have any pigment at all."

"Geek." Liz smiled as she pulled her hand out of her pocket to touch one; confident the energy in her hands had faded.

"Do you always state the obvious?" He commented as he examined the plant closer. "I wonder how long these flora have been growing here like this."

"The base of the bush seems very thick. Probably several years." Liz noted as she took a closer look. "You might have a new variety of rose on your hands."

"Maybe." Blue eyes focused in on the flower and its scent as the memories invaded again. 'That kind of love could get me arrested... she's a little young for me, Jeff.' "Feeling better?"

"Yeah, actually. I'll get back to work." Liz flashed him a bright smile and turned.

"Hold on." Carefully, he reached into the bush, careful of the thorns, and snapped a rose low on the stem. "Talk to it if you get bored."

"Thanks." Liz hesitated a second before she took the rose and headed back inside.

--

Clark sat with his head in his hands as his father kept talking about the emotional entanglements that could arise in a sexual relationship. When the older Kent began on sexual technique, that was the line that Clark had drawn, he needed to stop the talk immediately. "Okay, you know what? This conversation is bad enough without you giving me pointers."

"Clark." Mr. Kent sighed heavily. He realized that his own father had given him a similar talk when he was just a little younger than Clark was.

"No really, Dad." Clark cleared his throat and ran his hands over his face. "I realize that you and Mom see these three days next week as... an opportunity for Liz and I to... explore our physical relationship... I know you think you need to talk to me about it—"

"Clark, I just want you to understand the risks that are involved nowadays—"

"But you're telling me the wrong things. You can't even imagine the things that I need to hear from you on the subject." His blue eyes turned up to look at the questions in his father's. "Dad... the advice I need... doesn't have to do with... if I can pleasure a woman... or where to touch or not touch... or..."

"What are you saying son?" Jonathan sat up straight and trying to open his mind to whatever it was that his son was trying to tell him.

"Follow me." He rose to his feet and trudged up the stairs to his loft. "I need to show you something." After a moment his father followed him. Clark yanked the blanket off the couch and pointed to three spots on the head of the couch; the two outside spots lay equidistant to the spot in the middle.

Jonathan looked at one and then another. He reached out to touch them, finding them hard as stone. "What is this?" Clark nudged him aside and sat on the couch with his arms stretched out on top of the couch. Jonathan suddenly nodded when he saw how the hard patches lined up with his son's body. "How... um..."

"We didn't... have sex..." He learned forward on his knees. "Pretty much... um... the safest thing you can... do without... having sex."

"Is this all that happened?" The elder pointed to the couch.

"This is bad enough. What if I crush her?" He buried his head in his hands.

Jonathan sat next to his son gingerly. He knew he couldn't tell Clark what he wanted to hear because no one knew what was true or normal for one of... whatever Clark was. "Son... I have every confidence that you will take care of her. I think of all the times you've saved us and each one of those times you could have gripped too hard, thrown too far but each time you've held back just enough. You care enough to make sure you don't hurt us."

"Dad... I've bruised her before." Clark swallowed the lump in his throat thickly. Just thinking of the horrible purple bruises that had marred Liz's arms made him sick to his stomach. "What if I care too much?"

--

Liz examined the petal closely before sliding it beneath the microscope. Compared to a petal she had plucked off of one of Mrs. Kent's roses, it wasn't that different. It just reacted to light differently. That wasn't unheard of but she wasn't aware of it occurring in roses though. It seemed odd but surely someone would have noticed and said something. Never in her recollection had Smallville made national news on the science front, aside from the initial meteor coverage back in the late 80s.

"Hey." Clark leaned into her room and froze suddenly. He took a step back and forced a smile. "Ready to go?"

--

Pete watched Clark carefully as he stared into his coffee. "What's the big deal?"

"I don't know. She just... wanted me to think about it before I gave her any kind of answer." Clark sighed heavily and leaned back in the couch. "I mean, I kinda figured with the way she used to talk about her ex-boyfriend that she had... but she seems to think I might think about her differently."

"Wish I could tell you what to do but it looks like for once in your life... you're two steps ahead of me." Pete raised his cup of coffee in toast to his friend. "Where is she now?"

"Getting a cup of coffee by now. She said she saw something in the new antique store... told me she'd only be 10 minutes." He shrugged and sighed again. "I just wish I knew what she was thinking, you know? I mean, if she thinks I would think differently, why did she tell me? Is she trying to scare me off or did she really want me to know?"

"Why don't you ask her?" A voice spoke low in his ear. Clark jerked to the side and looked up only to find Lex leaning over him. Lex nodded to Pete and took a seat across from them in an armchair with his own cup of coffee. "I would assume you were discussing the lovely Liz." He only paused to watch the two boys turn toward them. "I say ask her. She'll tell you."

"What do you know?" Clark tilted his head slightly.

"Only that women aren't always as complicated as they pretend to be and in the case of Miss Parker, she's not pretending. Ask her." Lex prodded and sipped at his cappuccino. "Gentlemen, don't tell me that you're going to sit around here all evening."

"Actually. I'm waiting for Liz." The taller teen leaned forward with a small smile on his face.

"From what I hear, things are... progressing nicely." The bald man smirked slightly, then grinned when his eyes rose to meet the object of their conversation. "Good evening, Liz."

"Good evening, Lex." She shot back just as cheerfully and then leaned over the couch to kiss Clark softly on the head. He turned slightly and caught her lips with his just once. "Sorry I took so long. I'll be right back. Gotta get my cup of coffee..."

Lex watched Clark stare after Liz as she made her way to the counter. "So, Clark.... apparently I'm hosting a gathering for the company. It's all higher-level employees, so Liz gets an invite... think you might want to join her?"

"Liz didn't say anything about it." Clark whipped his head around.

"Because she doesn't know yet. I wanted to see if you would come before I give her the invitation. She'll need a date and if you can't go... then I shouldn't bother." Lex blew on his drink before taking a sip. "Happens next Thursday. Of course my father made sure I knew nothing about it until the planners showed up today. I can work with that."

"Shouldn't you ask Liz?" Pete piped up.

"Yeah." Clark agreed. "I mean... it's not my scene but Liz might actually want to go."

"Want to go where?" Liz slid onto the couch next to Clark and looked from male to male to male. "Go where?"

--

Liz flipped through the catalog and bit her lip. They were all very beautiful but she couldn't just ask Lex to give her one even for a soiree like he had described. She snuck a glance over at Clark. He hadn't said much since they left the Beanery. "Clark?"

"Huh?" Clark had pulled over on the side of the road so they could have some time before they went home but they had yet to say a word. "What's up?"

"Would he really just give me a dress?" She laid her head on the back of the seat.

"Probably. He bought me a suit to wear to these things but... I keep it at his place. My parents would never let me keep it." Clark nodded his head slowly and then turned to look at her. "Can I ask you something... about what you told me earlier?" Biting her lip again, she nodded. "Why did you want me to know?"

"To know..." Liz tilted her head at him slightly, trying to remember exactly what they had talked about on the ride into town.

"About Max and Sean." He clarified and took a deep breath. "I... figured that you had already had sex and what I want to know is why you told me. Is it because you don't want to and if I knew I wouldn't want to... or is it something else?"

"I didn't tell Max about Sean and I should have, if he had found out... it would have been bad. I didn't want that to happen again. So, I came clean. I've been with two guys before. That's that." She took a deep breath and watched him carefully. "It's just that we've reached this... point and even though I don't think of you as young, you are sixteen and it makes me nervous." She caught the raised eyebrow and the question on his face. "Fine. I keep thinking that your mom is going to immediately know and hunt me down for de-virginizing her underage son."

"If it makes you feel better, age of consent in Kansas is sixteen." He managed a soft laugh. "I promise I won't cry rape."

"Dork." She smiled and then slid over to his side of the truck. She shivered at his bright smile. "Why do you have to smile like that?" His smile faded and his brow furrowed. "I get all light headed and tingly when you do."

"Oh yeah?" He couldn't help it, he smiled again. His arms wrapped around her waist, then he swallowed thickly when she straddled on of his legs.

"Clark? Why do you... hesitate to touch me?" She whispered into his ear. "You won't break me. I'm not made of glass..." She shifted slightly to put more of her weight against him. "I... if you are ready... I am ready for next week." His answer was to open his mouth over her neck and to drop his hands to her thighs, drawing her even closer. Their mouths met hungrily as they gripped each other tightly.

Clark closed his eyes and reveled in having Liz so close. Even as tight as he held her, he was still holding back.

--

"I know we haven't talked in a long time, Maria." Liz sighed and twirled the green meteor rock between her fingers. Her green rose was dying on her desk at Lex's. He was at the plant for the day so she didn't have to worry about being on her personal phone. "Things have been hectic."

"I miss you chica and you forget to call me." Maria whined.

"I thought you were going to New York permanently, Maria. What happened to that plan?" The brunette asked idly as she leaned forward and dropped the pretty rock into the thin vase encasing her green rose. She watched it sink into the water and to the bottom. Turning away, she rose to her feet to take a turn of the rooms on the first floor.

"I was but... I can't do it. I was there for a week and I couldn't do without the alien mystery that is Roswell."

"So you got back together with Michael, then decided you were better off without him and broke up with him again... then decided that you would string him along to keep him free for future bootie calls." Liz droned into the phone.

"So you can talk to Michael but you can't talk to me?" She snapped angrily.

"I talk to Michael for three minutes a week when I call my parents. I told you and from him I can guarantee complete honesty about what's going on. It's good that everyone is getting on with their lives. I am. It feels good." She had to smile at the thought of Clark and his eternal enthusiasm.

"How is jailbait, by the way?"

"Maria."

"Well, he is."

"I will have you know that Clark is no ordinary sixteen year old. Maria, he has the body of a god. I kid you not. He's the sweetest guy that I've ever met."

"Are you sure you're not rebounding the kid?"

"At least I'm not clinging to a dangerous past. My grades are good, I'm happy and I am just days away from getting seriously lucky."

"You're feeling it too, huh... the absolute need to... be with... someone..."

"No. I really like Clark and things are... progressing in that direction and I am going with the flow..."

"What is it chica?"

"Has Kyle... shown symptoms?" Liz whispered as quietly as she could.

"No, not like you did... why?"

"It's happened four times since I've been here. The glowing..."

"Why?"

"I don't know. The first time, I freaked and I ran and then... I was fine. The next time it was just for a few seconds, thank God, cause then I ran into a few of Clark's friends in town. The third time I was here at work. Lex took me for a walk and then it was gone. The last time... it was hardly anything. There and gone."

"Is it going to keep on happening? If it does... we'll have to tell Max. Did you tell Michael?"

"No. Cause you know how Michael is. I just wish I knew what was making me do it... or stop doing it for that matter. That would be a nice little secret to know." Liz laughed quietly. "If there's cure around here, I could ship some to Kyle for safe keeping."

"Yeah, huh." Maria went quiet. "So, anything exciting happen in Smallville?"

"Not really but next week, Lex is throwing some kind of 'gathering' he says for the higher-level employees and apparently I qualify." Liz grinned. "He offered to have a dress made for me. Gave me a catalog to choose a style and everything.... but I don't know if I could take something so expensive from my boss."

"You're not... Lewinskying him are you?"

"Maria! No!" Liz gasped in shock. "He's Clark's best friend and I am just his secretary."

"You know, every time I talk to you... you talk about Lex and I swear there's a smile on your face."

"He's a good friend. I smile when I talk about you."

"You do not and that's beside the point. Lex is a guy and those smiles are always different."

"Get over it Maria. I am completely smitten with Clark." Liz looked up to realize she had already circled back to her desk. She walked over to stroke the petals of the green rose and found them healed. Any sign that the plant was dying were gone, completely. "Besides... I'm not up to Lex's style. My God, Maria, you should see the women he dates. They all look like models and wear clothes that fit like second skin. I'll bet not one of them had to save a month to get those clothes either."

"Oh yeah."

"And refined, Maria. There's this one woman, she's his fencing trainer. Fencing. She's really good too... I think her name is Hykia and has she got her eye on Lex."

"So the water cooler's always buzzing is it?"

"I'm the only 'corporate' employee in the house besides Lex." Liz sighed. "I do miss you Maria. My friends consist of Lex, my boss, of Rosy, the cook, Jeseph the doorman, Eurich the driver and all of Clark's high school friends."

"You mean Joseph."

"No, I mean Jeseph. That's his name... of course I don't know whether that's his first or last name." Liz giggled a little before turning back toward the strange rose on her desk. She stroked the petals gently and there was not even a trace of dryness in them. Suddenly the phone was plucked out of her hand. By the time she spun around, it was too late.

"Actually, Jeseph is his first name. His last name isn't something I could pronounce without practice." Lex wandered into his office with the phone on his ear. "So you must be the infamous Maria DeLuca."

"Who is this? What have you done with Liz?"

"Lex Luthor, pleasure to hear your voice."

"You don't sound old." Maria cleared her throat.

"Now what gave you the impression that I would be old?" Lex flipped open a folder on his desk, ignoring Liz on the other side of the desk. "Ah, Liz must have mentioned my lack of hair. I assure you that I am in peak physical condition and my shiny scalp has nothing to do with age." He narrowed his eyes at something and then grinned up at Liz. "I could send you a picture but I wouldn't want to give you a heart attack. I am devastatingly handsome if I do say so myself."

"Give me that." Liz reached forward and took the phone from his hand. "Maria, are you okay? Do you need me to call someone for you? I'm sure your jaw is on the floor by now. I know how big his ego is. It's probably crushing you at the moment." She spun on her heel and hurried back to her desk.

"My God, is this guy for real? I'm like... in awe and I've never seen him." Maria cleared her throat. "If he's half as sexy as he sounds..."

"Go take a cold shower." Liz hit the end button and turned to find Lex standing in the doorway. "How do you do that? You completely disarmed a cynic from two states away."

"Glad to know that I haven't lost my touch." He smirked and kept walking, disappearing up the stairs.

--

Clark actually had to pinch himself to keep his eyes open. Suddenly he was glad that he was an only child. He was certain that if he had ever had a sister then he would be more accustomed to sitting in a chair outside a dressing room waiting. His suit lay draped over the next chair. His mother had insisted on getting him a new one and since she would still be in town when they left for the party, he couldn't very well wear the one at Lex's.

Liz turned in the dress she and Martha had picked out. Unfortunately they were shopping on a budget and therefore their selection was limited. Martha pulled at the waist on the dress and tugged downward on the hem. "This is no good, is it?"

"It's hopeless." Liz groaned and headed back into the dressing room.

Martha bit on her lip and cast her eyes around the store for another possible candidate. "Clark, how are you holding up, honey?"

"It's just a party."

"Yes but these are people Liz might work with, people she deals with on the phone. She needs to look nice." She murmured as she pored through the rack.

"She looked great in all those dresses."

"I know but... huh..." Martha pulled out a dress and sized it up. It was too big but the only one of the style. If she could take it in and add a trim... "Liz, I think I have it. It'll take a little work on our parts but I think it will look beautiful. Do you still have that catalog?"

--

"I do hope that this isn't too sudden." Lionel's voice boomed through the speakerphone.

"Not at all. The planners are doing a great job. All the guests have returned their RSVPs. Everything will go off without a hitch. I, of course, invited those you omitted from your list." Lex smiled to himself.

"Lex...."

"I'm only thinking of your image. Assuring that all the guests were invited would be paramount to good PR. You're a busy man. People would understand why you invited the supervisors from four plants and forgot the fifth." He lifted a glass of scotch to his mouth. "A minor oversight that was no problem to correct."

"I will arrive Thursday morning to finalize the details." The dial tone filled the room for a full minute before Lex hit the end button.

TBC
posted on 11-Mar-2002 1:57:29 PM by DMartinez
Part 10


"Liz won't know what hit her." Jonathan clapped a hand on his son's shoulder. Clark managed a smile and straightened his suit in front of the mirror. "Son..." His father started and waited until he was sure Clark was paying attention. "Have you thought about what we talked about?"

The younger Kent sighed. He had thought about it... and thought about it... and thought about it. Even after his talks with Liz, he wasn't sure what he was going to do. The safest solution would be to abstain. "I think that... even if I wanted to... I'm not ready." His blue eyes dropped to the cuffs of his jacket. "I can't take the risk of hurting her."

The hand was back on his shoulder, rubbing comfortingly. "Trust me when I say that she won't think any less of you and that she'll understand better than you think."

--

Liz put on the dress and cringed. They had worked really hard on it and it did look better than when they had first started on it but it looked like it had been worked on. The trim managed to bunch in some places and the seam on the left side was slightly crooked. Looking at her reflection, she sighed and lifted her hand. There was only one chance for this to work.

--

Liz stepped out of her room and was immediately met with a gasp. Martha held a hand over her mouth. "Honey, you look gorgeous. It turned out better than I could have hoped."

A smile graced her lips until Clark came bounding down the stairs. He looked hot. When his head lifted, he froze. His eyes were riveted to Liz in her dress. He hadn't realized he was staring until his father poked him in the back none too gently. "Liz. You look great."

"You're not so bad yourself." She smiled then found herself being jostled over to the fireplace.

"Mom..." He whined but complied.

"I want some pictures, that's all." Martha raised her hands. "I want something to remember this by. I'll probably be in bed when the two of you get home and we're leaving before you sleepy heads wake up."

Jonathan fiddled with the camera and aimed it at the teens. "Smile, kids."

Clark turned slightly and pulled Liz slightly back before he managed a smile. When his father hit the button, nothing happened. Martha reached up to take the camera from him. "Jonathan, you forgot to turn on the flash."

"There are so many buttons on that thing..."

"It's a fairly simple camera." She nudged him and turned the camera back towards the teens. "Smile... Clark, stand up straight.... and smile, really smile."

Liz and Clark froze for a few moments after the flash went off to get their wits about them. Clark took a deep breath. "So. We're leaving now and we'll try not to stay too late but..."

"We won't leave early enough to be rude." Liz finished for her and smiled. Martha had been trying to fill them in on all the details and manners that could not be overlooked. "Have a nice anniversary."

"Thank you." Mrs. Kent nodded. "Have fun and be careful."

"Night Mom, Dad." Clark waved as he ushered Liz out the door.

"Night, Martha, Jonathan." Liz waved and then stepped outside to the waiting limo. "He's going to keep doing this, isn't he?"

"Probably." Clark nodded and opened the door for her before the driver could get to his feet. He waved off the agitated man and climbed in after Liz.

--

The strings sent soft swells of music into the air, setting the atmosphere of a comfortable but rich gathering. Dresses shone and clung, suits blended and shoes clicked. Lights hung dimly over the elegant people with their champagne and delicacies on trays. All talk was kept to soft tones that left a rasping in the air as the many conversations rose and fell.

Liz sipped at her cider and glanced at Clark, who seemed very uncomfortable in this environment. He had just confessed that he couldn't dance and that he didn't know many of the people in the room so they were content to walk around the perimeter of the great room without even a hope of finding someone they knew. They had spotted Lex earlier with a beautiful girl on his arm and in the midst of a conversation with some upper level suits.

The first thing that Liz had noticed was there was barely a handful of men and women in their early twenties. Everyone else had to be in their thirties or over, mostly over. He had explained the strategic mingling of corporate employees was crucial to the morale of the team. On the premise of relaxation, the employees were gathering to drink and dance but the main purpose was to make them feel important and ease the gossip mill, fill it with personal information rather than office rumor. The night seemed to drag on and on until finally they met up with Lex on his rounds of the room.

After what seemed like hours, Lex made his way over. He nodded to Clark and turned to introduce his date. "Evening. This is Amber Brien. Amber, my assistant Liz Parker and Clark Kent."

"Nice to meet you." Liz smiled brightly only to be snubbed by Amber.

Lex cleared his throat and offered a smile, not seeming to be embarrassed by his date's behavior. "Could the two of you keep Amber company? My father beckons."

"No problem." Clark nodded and pursed his lips when Lex left. Amber made it clear that she would rather be somewhere else so it was up to Clark to break the tension. "So, you know Lex?"

"Obviously." Amber turned a pair of glittering green eyes on the two teens, glass of champagne dangling in one hand. She eyed Liz from head to toe. "Nice dress. JC Penney?"

"Actually..." Liz bit back a rude remark and forced a civil answer. "It's a Martha original. Hickory Lane Collection."

"Really." Amber raised an eyebrow, obviously intrigued. "Can't say I've heard of that designer. Boutique?"

"Smaller. Lex knows the owner. She deals on a case-by-case basis. She's very hard to please." Liz flashed a bright smile toward Clark, who bowed his head to keep from laughing. "Maybe Lex will put in a good word for you."

Before Amber could open her mouth again, Lex had returned. "Amber, Justin and Melissa just arrived." One deadly look at Liz and the woman was off to find 'Justin and Melissa.' Lex tilted his head at Liz. "That was icy."

"Battle. Liz won. You missed it." Clark explained, finally releasing his laugh.

"I was gone two minutes. What on earth could the two of you have gotten into it over?" Lex hung his head and let out a breath. "Let me guess. She snubbed you."

"Possibly." Liz shrugged and took a sip of her cider. "I'm not going to worry about it."

Lex turned to run his eyes over the floor. His father made a small gesture. Clearing his throat, he turned back to his friends. "I'm supposed to take a turn of the dance floor about now and I just lost track of Amber... Clark, do you mind if I steal your girl for a dance?"

"I don't mind." Clark hung his head, feeling guilty about his lack of dancing skills.

"I'd love to but you didn't ask me." Liz flashed him a tight smile.

"Miss Liz." Lex bowed his head. "Would you do me the honor of a dance?"

"I'd love to, Mr. Lex." Handing off her glass to Clark, she winked.

"Don't start." He chuckled. "Clark." He nodded to his friend and took Liz's hand to guide her out to the dance floor. Liz settled into his arms easy enough and they began a slow spin into the mill of other couples of various ages. "So my father thinks that I haven't shown my face around enough so I have to be where everyone can see me."

"Ah, so I'm a tool."

"No... not for that. Dancing with you will piss him off." He managed a genuine smile and flashed it in his father's general direction. "The plus for me is that I don't have to chat you up while we're out here. With everyone else here, it's politics."

"Then why bring Amber?"

"Can't show up without a date to my own party. Makes me seem anti-social, or worse, that I haven't grown out of my bad habits. I have to show these fogies that I am completely capable of doing my job, part of that show is a view into my personal life." Lex shifted her in his arms slightly, his hand resting on the skin of her back. "Amber is perfect for that. She's pretty and as far as the social pages are concerned, she's a good girl. Debutante, community leader, and her father has a struggling company that my father wants."

"So it's all politics." Liz nodded with a sad smile. "Do you ever get to live?"

"I wasted my living time. It's over now. I'm LuthorCorp property now. When I eventually take over, they'll watch me even closer. Everything from here on out is PR. It's a puppet show with animatronics and I'm the prize piece. I do my dance, wave my hands and smile just bright enough. Due to my troubled youth, I'm not allotted a title of bachelor."

"It's like... whatever trouble you get into, nothing you do afterward is enough to make people see that you've changed, recovered and can lead a normal existence." She shut her eyes and shrugged.

"And this is why we former troublemakers get sent to Smallville." He nodded, suddenly understanding his assistant a little more.

"To prove that we are better people. To earn trust. To show the world that we won't screw up again."

"Exactly. I'd better return you to Clark before Amber throws a tantrum." He cast a glance around the great room. "Unfortunately, I might not be joking."

--

Clark looked up when Lex wandered back to his corner of the room. Liz had disappeared to a bathroom and left him alone. The two guys surveyed the great room and then looked to each other. "Enjoying yourself?"

"Not really." Clark shook his head.

"I gave you an out." Lex reminded him.

"But she's having fun... and she looks great." Clark smiled to himself.

"That she does." The bald man agreed and turned slightly. "Your mother is one hell of a seamstress. Amber will be so disappointed when I tell her that Liz's dressmaker has gone into early retirement."

"So she told you." The smile tugged at the pink lips but never really let go.

"She may have dropped a few names. Liz is clever, I'll give her that." A sip of champagne and a glance towards his father. "One more hour Clark and then it won't be improper to leave." Slowly his head turned back toward his friend, who was hanging his head at being found out so easily. "I trust that you've gotten precautions for this long weekend. Women like a man who takes care of that sort of thing. Shows responsibility and thought to detail. Abstraction should be left to programmers, not lovers."

"Thanks for the tip." Clark sighed heavily and stared down at his feet.

"Don't look so down about it. Most men have anxiety but you'll forget all about it when the time comes." Lex nudged Clark as he walked off. "At least you know she cares about you..."

--

Lex didn't look up when the door opened. A hesitant round of clicks let him know that a female had entered the coatroom. He raised the glass to his lips and took a long swallow. The cedar felt cool against the back of his scalp, a sharp contrast to the burning down his throat. The heels stopped a foot away from where his legs lay in the path. There was once a time when his body had fit neatly onto the low shelf and no one would have found him but at 22 his body was much too long to be concealed.

"Having fun?"

"Just reminiscing. I won't get to do this at the Christmas party in Metropolis."

"Taking Amber?" Liz adjusted her skirt. She watched him shake his head in that way he had so that she knew what was going to happen without him saying a word. Amber would probably spend the night in the manor, be back in Metropolis by noon and she would never be seen in the company of a Luthor ever again.

"Leaving so soon?" The glass threatened to obscure his words where it lay against his bottom lip.

"We're thinking about it. It's a little late and I feel like I'm about to fall over." A heel knocked against his leg briefly. "I hate to break it to you but you'll be missed soon. I think I saw your father looking for you... discreetly so."

"You're probably right. Wouldn't want him waiting long." He nodded but made no move to get up. "Good night, Liz. See you on Monday."

"Night, Lex."

--

Clark turned his head to find Liz asleep in her seat. The limo had just stopped in front of the house but he didn't want to disturb her. Gently, he lifted her into his arms and ducked out of the limo. The driver nodded to them as Clark made his way up the steps and into the house, using just a little of his super speed to get them into the house without dropping her. Gently, he sat on the couch with her to take off her shoes. It was late and early by the pre-dawn glow from outside. His parents would be up soon to make the trip to Metropolis.

Suddenly feeling drained himself, he sat back... for just a minute. Five minutes later had him holding Liz against him as he stretched out. Just a minute longer and he'd help Liz to her room and he would go upstairs... The next time he opened his eyes, the living room was alive with morning sun. The quilt from the rack beside the fireplace had been thrown over them and his mother's lipstick lay smeared on his forehead.

Looking down at the angel in his arms, he suddenly wished he hadn't. The sight wasn't going to make his morning erection go away any time soon. The quilt had fallen back. Smooth back as far as he could see into the shadow of her dress and where the flimsy garment had shifted, exposing a slight curve. Biting his lip, he let his hand trail down the bumps of her spine until just centimeters away from the edge of her dress. He froze the instant she stirred.

"Mff." She squeezed her eyes shut. "Don't tell me it's morning."

"I won't." He whispered back, amusement lighting his eyes.

"Are we on the couch?"

"Yeah."

"Why?"

"I didn't make it much longer than you did. My parents have already left." Clark waited until she opened her eyes to confirm that. Her brown eyes widened to let in some light before she buried her face in Clark's chest. "Comfortable?"

"Oh you have no idea." She murmured and shifted slightly, her hip rubbing against his erection. He bit his lip but she didn't seem to notice. "Thanks for putting up with last night. I know that it's not exactly your thing."

"It was worth it. You seemed like you were having a good time." His hand resumed its path up and down her back, occasionally his fingers would dip beneath her dress for just a second. "You looked so... stunning when you were dancing with Lex."

"Remind me to teach you to dance." Her head lifted to look up into his face. Then they let their eyes closed and just held on to each other.

The silence grew heavy, smiles faded and lumps stuck in throats. His blue eyes opened to her big brown eyes. That first kiss was so soft, even softer than their fist kiss had been. Their progression was slow and felt like torturous hours of tasting, touching and feeling each other. Only once did she pull away and that was to utter two words. "My room."

Picking her up in his arms, he carried her to her room and nearly dropped her the second he walked through the door. As he laid her down to take off his jacket and shirts, his eyes found the green pebble in a small glass vase with a rose on the desk. The nearer to the bed he got, he less its effects had on him.

Slowly he explored her body with soft kisses and caresses. Reveled in each moan of his name that spilled from her lips. His heart pounded in his chest when she touched him. In the back of his mind lay the reminder of what he'd done to the loft couch when she'd given him head... but he barely had strength to hold her as tight to him as he wanted.

Liz found herself unprepared for the strength with which he made love to her. Though slightly awkward, she reassured him in every way she could. She clutched onto him as he managed to take her far and away...

TBC

Due to my recent block.. this story will in all likelihood stay R+. sorry.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 11-Mar-2002 1:59:54 PM ]
posted on 27-Mar-2002 8:43:26 PM by DMartinez
Part 11

Clark woke while Liz slept on in the aftermath of their lovemaking. He could lie there and watch her for hours... the way her soft brown hair splayed on the pillow, her hands curled up against his chest, the curve of her breast that peeked from under her arm. He watched as the flush faded from her face in sleep. Ran his hand down her back reverently, convinced that she was the center of the universe... His only hope was that he had been good enough for her expectations...

Eventually, he got up to shower, reluctant to leave her but he still had chores that he was supposed to do. There was no way he was going to be able to concentrate if he could smell her on him. It was bad enough that she had completely invaded his mind but there was no way he could function if he kept thinking about how she tasted and felt and looked while they had been... so a cold shower it was.

As he was coming down the stairs, pulling his T-shirt over his head, Lex opened the back screen door. "Morning Lex."

"Morning? Clark?" Lex tilted his head at his friend and gestured to the bright atmosphere of the cheery kitchen. "It is very well into the afternoon, my friend." He stepped fully into the kitchen, hands in pockets. "Don't tell me you were that wiped after last night." Clark stood there frozen a moment but it was long enough for Lex to read the situation. "So, it was the after-party activities and not the party that's kept you in bed until this afternoon."

Clark blushed but didn't look away. Then at Lex's imploring look, he pointed behind him to Liz's bedroom. "She's still asleep."

"Well I had come by to invite you lovebirds for lunch but you're busy."

"Clark?" Liz's voice reached their ears. She came out of her room wearing Clark's dress shirt from the night before. "Oh." She blinked and took a step back. "Hi. Lex." She blushed and a hand went to her face. She backed up another step. "I'll be back."

"She looks... sated." Lex ran a hand over his scalp and nodded to Clark. "Maybe I'll come back to take you to dinner... or maybe I'll call first." Slowly swaggered out the door, calling over his shoulder, "You're a lucky man, Clark."

--

Lex let a smile cross his face when he saw the headline in a paper whose reputation was far below that of the Inquisitor. Those reporters were really stretching things to get a headline these days. "Luthor Scion's Bad Boy Days Far From Over." Beneath it lie two images. One of he and the illustrious Amber Brien and another of he and Liz Parker dancing. The caption noted that the pictures were taken on the same night at the same event. There were more pictures to accompany the inside article. "Lex Luthor appeared with Metropolis's own Amber Brien, daughter of the muti-millionaire David Brien of BriTech, at a small gathering for LuthorCorp employees. Later in the evening Lex was seen in the company of Liz Parker, who was arrested in Utah for attempted armed robbery of a convenience store, at the same event." Beside that sat a picture of Amber from the last fundraiser for the needy and Liz's mugshot. How in the world reporters got into the Manor would have to be taken up with security.

Jeseph waddled in with his lunch and set it down on the desk. Lex couldn't resist. "Look Jeseph. I made a national paper."

The doorman just nodded and retreated without a word. He hadn't been in on whatever plan admitted a camera into the exclusive party. If the house staff wasn't in on it, then it had to be his father's staff and on his father's dime, and that meant that there was a game in progress and it was his move.

--

Liz's body shook as she stood under the showerhead. Letting the hot water soothe her aching body, she mused on how ravaged she felt. Only two occasions had left her feeling so weak; the first time with Sean and then the weekend she and Max had spent 'camping.' Clark was a lot stronger than she gave him credit for.

Thought about him working on his chores and she had to snap off the hot water. Suddenly she understood Martha's sly comments about the benefits of being a farmer's wife. Laughing to herself, she rinsed off. That train of thought was a long way off.

--

Chloe fought the urge to gag. Clark and Liz sat at a table, cups of coffee going cold as they leaned on each other and talked softly, shadows of night and glow of streetlight through the window making them look like a picture. She nearly jumped when someone spoke near her ear. "Sickening, isn't it." She turned to find Lex looking at the couple himself. "Join us." He nudged her. "I'm bound to get a cavity if I go in by myself."

"Is Lex Luthor afraid of something?" She teased him.

"Not afraid but trust me when I say that even I couldn't handle that much sweet without something to cut it." Lex took her elbow and guided her over to the table. The couple didn't even look up when they arrived. "Look who I found loitering."

"Look who I found sneaking up on people unaware." Chloe shot back and sat across from Clark. "So, what did I miss last night? My father hasn't had time to regale me with all the details."

"Not much." Liz shook her head and took Clark's hand under the table.

"Liz made my date jealous." Lex tossed out and motioned to a passing waitress.

"Oh stop." She shook her head again.

"Amber was about ready to spit nails when she found out she couldn't have an original Martha from the Hickory Lane or any other collection." Lex cleared his throat and noted Chloe's expression of appreciation. "I must say that Mrs. Kent has quite a handle on sewing. That dress was flawless."

"How did you get out of going? I thought your dad dragged you to all those things?" Clark cut in. Sitting back as their cups were refilled.

"Pete and I had a movie date." The blonde made a face and raised her cup to her lips. "Return of the Killer Tomatoes. Like we don't get enough of that sci-fi crap just living here."

"In defense of our lovely town, nothing weird has happened in quite a while." Clark cut in, blue eyes darting from Chloe to Lex.

"Oh yeah?" Chloe challenged him. "I heard that Dr. Hamilton is back. He wouldn't be back if there weren't still some meteor anomalies."

Lex turned his cup of coffee slowly, meeting Clark's curious eyes but not saying a word. Liz raised an eyebrow. She had heard some of the stories but couldn't find it in herself to believe in any of it. She had enough going on in her life to listen to some urban legends. Lex broke the staring contests. "I've had no proof of meteor related incidences but I do agree that there is more to Smallville than corn and fertilizer."

"Thank you." Chloe nodded stiffly and shot a glare at Clark for not speaking up.

"These meteor rocks are those shiny green rock fragments, right?" Liz spoke up suddenly, remembering the odd occurrence with her rose.

"Have you found any?" The blond sat up.

"I think I did but I'm not sure." The brunette remembered Lex suggesting that she listen to Chloe's theories sometime. Decided to push it. "What's the correlation to Smallville?"

"And the scientist breaks out of the fence at a gallop." Lex leaned back in his seat and shot Clark a look. "Team these two up and nothing would escape their eyes."

"Anyway...." Chloe steered their attention back to the meteors. "So there was Greg, Kafka boy. I'm serious. Then the football coach was all pyrokinetic. Um, my almost boyfriend was a heat sucking freak that nearly got me and Clark killed... An old man that turned into a young man and killed the people who were descendant of the jurors that convicted him. There was the invisible kid. The um... salesmen." Chloe cleared her throat and lowered her eyes before continuing. "Our friend with the eating problem... ate like... whole deer. Superboy. There was the guy that used to work for Clark's dad that took us all hostage..."

"I thought you said he was sick." Liz turned to Clark who didn't quite know how to respond.

"Actually, that one I can verify. Earl was exposed to a chemical that may have been related to the meteors and is now receiving care for that. I can't say for sure if it was indeed due to the meteors." Lex shrugged slightly. "The one thing that Chloe's stories lack is—"

"Proof. I know." She scoffed and sat back in her seat. "It's not my fault that these things seem to get solved when I'm not around."

"Unfortunately, in this world, no matter how much people believe... only proof propels discovery. We all have our secrets..." The thin eyebrow rose, blue eyes meeting each pair in turn. "And so does this town."

--

Clark settled on his back and stared up at Liz where she sat astride his stomach. He had just gotten off the phone with his parents for their nightly check in. They had decided to stay the extra day after all and would not return until the following night, maybe not until the morning after that. All he had to do was to get back into the mood that his parents' call had cooled. There was nothing like Mom's voice to cool any guy's amorous frame of mind. His eyes ran over her bare flesh and narrowed upon the sight of bruises. "Did I do that?"

"Yep." She leaned over him with a sly grin.

"I'm sorry."

The worry and panic in his blue eyes made a crease in her brow. "Why are you sorry?"

"I hurt you."

"It's okay, really." Ran a hand down his arm. "It's not the... it won't be the last time it happens." Met his gaze evenly. "Clark, you are a very strong person and given how easily you bruised me before... I'm surprised it wasn't worse." She laid kisses all over his face, over his closed eyes, on his parted lips. "Hey, it's okay. It happens sometimes... to everyone..."

He cursed to himself. If only he had been half an inch nearer to the rock on her desk then he wouldn't have hurt her. This time he made sure he was aware of every movement of muscle possible. Even if she was in control, he didn't trust himself not to leave more bruises on her body.

--

Liz excused herself almost as soon as they met up with Lex at the Beanery the next day. She had been acting odd all morning and Clark knew something was up by the expression on Lex's face as they stood there. Lex phrased his question carefully, knowing Clark would catch on right away and had to smirk at the kid's expression. Clark tapped the counter and waited for the smirk to leave Lex's face. Watched the mug lift to his mouth, sip, roll, swallow. Smirk and chuckle. Clark glared, eyes narrowed, slowly realizing that he didn't have to lie in this situation but that he should be careful as always. "Lex."

"What do you want me to say? That you're a freak?" The deep chuckle rumbled once more. "It's not unusual, Clark."

"Not unusual. That's what she said. When did she talk to you?"

"This morning when she checked in. Said that you were acting strange. Thought you were hurting her. And you want to know if she was lying?" Lex had to smile. "Clark, the girl was concerned that you were spazzing. She knew I could talk to you about it and trust me... I've left my share of... marks on women's bodies."

"Marks. Like hickeys?"

"Hickeys. Love bites. Whatever. Bruises sometimes." Lex lifted his mug again. "The most gentle person can turn into an animal during sex. Sex is a primal act that brings out the basest instincts." Draped an arm around Clark's shoulders to guide him to another part of the shop where they could talk more freely. "It feels so good that every sense comes alive. Have to have more. Have to be deeper inside, thrust harder... faster to reach that final moment of absolute bliss. In the process of all that, there are chemicals flowing through your bloodstream. Adrenaline, endorphins and the like... make a person stronger than normal. That gentle person will claw, clench and bite... and all in the name of sex." Patted the younger man's back. "Now. When you stop blushing and she comes out of that bathroom... talk to her. You'll see. She's alright. You did nothing wrong. And you'll probably continue to do more of the same."

--

Chloe looked up when Liz rushed into the bathroom and gripped the sink. She looked sick... and her skin was glowing green. "Liz?"

Liz's eyes widened when she realized that she wasn't alone in the bathroom. Immediately she tucked her hands into her sleeves to hide the green energy flowing just under the skin. She didn't know what had caused this latest bout but Chloe couldn't see it.

"Are you alright?" Chloe prodded, hands drying in a paper towel, eyes concerned and intrigued by the panic in the other girl's face.

"I'm fine." Liz lied, hands shoved into pockets.

"Okay. I'll see you back out there in a minute then." She stepped out of the bathroom, trying to make sense of what she had seen. Clark and Lex were sitting on the couch where they had agreed to meet and she was never one to keep suspicions to herself. "Clark... don't take this the wrong way but I think your girlfriend is strange."

"Strange?"

"Strange in a very Smallville way." Chloe plopped down and stared at him. "Did she just go running to the bathroom in a very strange way, making excuses?"

He nodded slowly, not understanding what she was getting at. "She had to go to the bathroom. It happens... to everyone."

"But never girls. Oddest thing. They go to the bathroom but it's usually to powder their noses or touch up their make-up." Lex commented as he sipped on his drink.

"Yeah. Shut up." She scoffed. "But... she rushes in and grips the sink like she's dying and her skin was like... glowing... green... When she realized there was someone else there, she got all defensive. Swore up and down that she was fine."

"Maybe she is."

"Maybe the meteors aren't as harmless as we think. What if she's already been affected? What if she came into contact with something and doesn't want us to think she's weird or strange?"

"You already think she's strange." Clark pointed out. "She's been here barely six months. Are you really going to spend Christmas vacation worrying that my girlfriend is going to eat people or suck the heat out of me?"

"I didn't say that. What if because she didn't grow up here... she's affected more easily?" Chloe poked him in the chest.

"What about me?" Lex cleared his throat. "I didn't grow up here and I haven't been affected in anyway. You're forgetting your proof, Ms. Sullivan. We talked about this yesterday."

"I know what I saw. She was glowing. Green." Chloe pressed.

"Green." Clark tilted his head to the side. "Like how?"

"Her skin was green-tinted and it was like there was energy flowing along the skin."

Almost the way he reacted to the meteors. Could a small fragment do so much? "She's got one. A piece. It's tiny and sitting at the bottom of a vase in her room."

"How long has it been there?"

"The vase... only about a week or so. The rock... don't know." He shook his head. Surely Chloe's little theory didn't have any merit in it but he couldn't take that chance. What if the tiny pebble was changing her? Hurting her?

"She's had the fragment for a few months now. It's tiny. I'm sure if this was meteor related it'd have to be a bigger piece or for much, much longer." Lex cut in, leaning on his knee. "I very much doubt our Liz has been turned into a candidate for your Wall of Weird, Chloe."

--

"What?" Liz turned from the window to look at Lex. She had felt him looking at her the whole way back to the house.

"I didn't say a word."

"But you're staring." She blinked at him and the expression on his face. "I'm not feeling well. I need to rest."

"I could send for a doctor." The bald man offered, eyes on the road, patiently waiting for her answer.

"Okay. So I'm not feeling well but not unwell. I'm just tired." Liz answered vaguely and turned in time to meet his gaze. "You're not pulling girlfriend status on me, are you?"

"Do I have to?"

"I'm... tired." Liz repeated and then sighed. "And sore. And in need of some rest before Clark is back from hanging out with his friends." Caught his slow nod. "You wanted to know."

"But I'm certain that I really wasn't wanting to know how Clark is in bed despite our conversation this morning." He quipped and pulled into Hickory Lane. "He's new to all this, he'll get the hang of it."

"You make it sound like he's learning to play football. And I do realize that everything takes a certain amount of practice but sometimes he worries me. He's so insecure about a lot of things." She sighed and then smiled. "But he's really sweet."

"You know that he adores you, right?" A wary blue eye studied her as he pulled to a stop.

"Of course. He's great." She nodded and reached for the door handle.

"I'll walk you in." He cleared his throat and escaped the expensive car with her. At her expectant look he acquiesced and nodded to the front steps. "There's something else I wanted to talk to you about. Chloe seems to think..." Wry chuckle. "That you are the next victim of the meteor mutations that she believes have taken over this town."

"What?" Liz laughed a little too loudly. She had hoped that Chloe would have let that go.

"Yeah, we didn't believe her either. I think Clark is accustomed to humoring her antics. So prepare yourself for some amateur journalist interrogations." Lex opened his mouth to say something else when a cloud of dust announced a car on the Lane. "Who drives a sky blue Chevelle?"

"Chevelle?" Liz's eyes closed, her tone weary. She raised a hand to her face. "This isn't happening." Stamped her foot. "Go away." She could already feel the green tingling return with the stress.

Lex puzzled over Liz's reaction but kept his eyes on the dark-haired man that stepped out of the Chevelle once it had pulled to a stop beside his Mercedes. He couldn't help but smirk at the vintage leather jacket and tattered jeans. The guy was a walking ad for bad boy. What kept an outright laugh from tumbling out was the way the guy carried himself. Even James Dean hadn't walked like that. Lionel Luthor wished he could pull off that kind of power in a simple walk. Lionel walked and he was important. Lex walked and he was confident. Bad boy walked and he was almost regal, despite the grungy shadow of growth on his face.

Lex was about to shoo the character off when Liz stepped to the edge of the top step. "What are you doing here?"

"I have to talk to you." Came the gruff response. Amber gaze flicked to the bald man beside her, eyes narrowed.

She took a breath. "Lex, this is Max Evans. Max, this is Lex Luthor."

TBC
posted on 12-Apr-2002 2:58:30 AM by DMartinez
quick note while I have time...
Life took a real shit on my life and I don't know if or when I'll start writing again. It could be tomorrow or next week or next month if at all but I thought I'd let ya'll know.
posted on 27-Apr-2002 10:31:11 PM by DMartinez
Short but there it is

Part 12

"So you're Max." Lex held out his hand, which was taken in a very strong grip. He recognized the signs of a jealous boyfriend when he saw them. "I've heard many things about you."

"I haven't heard much about you." Max bit out. Eyes back on Liz, watching her for any sign of anything.

"I'll see you Monday, Lex." She gave him a half smile. Her hand tucked into her sleeves for the second time that day, she reached out to touch his elbow. "Thanks for the ride home. I appreciate it."

"No problem. Have a nice weekend. Feel better." Lex nodded to them both and strode to his car. Only glancing back when he had reached his car door. Liz didn't look very happy with Max's presence but obviously wanted to deal with it alone... and probably before Clark got home.

Liz stared after the Mercedes as it disappeared onto the main road. "Max, what are you doing here?"

"We need to talk." His amber eyes swept the house and surrounding fields. "Is there someplace we could go?"

"Here is just fine, Max." She sat on the step. "Jonathan and Martha are in Metropolis. Lex is on his way there now. Clark is still in town and I doubt the bovine will mind if you talk out here." She glanced up at him, fighting the pain in her arms that seemed to only come with stress or Max's abrupt and agitated appearance. Just for the sick pleasure of guilt on his face, Liz pulled off her long sleeve shirt to reveal her tank top and the green crackling under her skin. "This started about two hours ago, been coming on and off ever since. Is that when you got to town?"

"About then." Max nodded, eyes cast to the ground. He hated how he triggered that. It didn't always happen, though. Only when she blamed him for all the wrong things he had done. The times she had been too busy to be offended had been rare since the affliction started. "Look. This is why I came." He pulled out a cheap tabloid from inside his jacket. "Jesse looked the guy up. He's not the kind of guy that you want to be involved with."

"So what? You saw this picture and drove all the way up here to tell me that he's trouble? It's Lex." She said as if that answered everything.

"Liz look." He ordered when he opened the paper to reveal her mug shot on another page. "He puts you in the spotlight and that makes people look at you and when they look at you, they're going to look at me. And that puts the rest of us in danger."

"Why are you really here Max? You showing up here puts that much more attention on you." She whispered, wincing at the pain in her arms. The pain grew the angrier she got at him.

"I've talked to Maria and you shouldn't be seeing this guy much less sleeping with him. We don't even know what that would do since..." He trailed off and turned to stare out over the fields.

"Is that what this is about?" She flopped back, stunned. "You think I'm sleeping with Lex so you just run up here to tell me to stop?" He turned to see the stunned fury in her eyes. "You don't get to do that... even if I was sleeping with Lex. If Maria told you that she was lying."

"She said you were seeing someone."

"I am... just not Lex. He's my boss, Max. My boss, my friend, my girlfriend, whatever. Yeah, I know there are still things that I don't know about him but we're in the same position. We were both brought to Smallville to start over. To get away from everyone thinking we can't do better anymore, that we are no longer upstanding citizens."

"I never thought that."

"Max! This is not about you. This was about me and my parents and the fact that they don't trust me when I'm with you. That hurts. I'm here to gain back that trust." She paused and dropped her voice. "And as for my dating Clark... that is none of your business. I'm not asking questions about Deirdre… Where is she? I hope you didn't just up and leave without saying goodbye to her."

"How do you know about that?" Max paled and dropped onto the bottom step.

"Michael told me. Are you still with her?"

"I guess I'll find out when I go back." His head bowed and they sat in silence for a while.

"You know. You don't have any rights over me here. We are not together anymore and we both have other people in our lives."

"I know. I just... I saw that picture and I had to know. Jesse looked some stuff up for me. Couldn't find anything concrete. Rumors mostly."

"Lex's father is a billionaire. Any trouble that he's been in has probably been covered up. He doesn't like to talk about it. Just like I don't like to talk about you or Utah." Stared out over the fields and sighed. The crackling subsided some. "You have someplace to stay tonight?"

"I didn't actually plan that far." He conceded. "I am kinda hungry though."

"That I can do... but you'll have to go without Tabasco." She stood and headed for the door.

"You think I'd leave home without any?" He joked lightly.

Liz led him into the kitchen where she pulled some leftovers from the fridge and set about heating them up. Max took a seat at the table and after some fidgeting, pulled his phone out of his pocket. A wary glance at his ex-girlfriend and then he hit talk, eyes on the table as it rang in his ear. "... Hey... Yeah, it's me... I know. I'm sorry... Deedee... Kansas? ... No... NO... No... That's not it... Deedee... Deedee... It's not like that. She's with someone and I am with you..."

He got up and stepped just outside the kitchen door but Liz could still hear him talking. “Sweetie… I know that I should have told you but I honestly thought she was in trouble… if it makes you feel better she gave me a good reaming for even thinking that I could just come up here and protect her… Yeah, I thought you’d like that… Yeah, I miss you… it’s not the same. No… No. It is not the same… I thought we had been over this… I was with Liz for the most part of three years and she still means a lot to me and I need to know that she is alright. Apparently I don’t need to do that anymore… why?” He chuckled. “Because she’s a lot stronger than I ever gave her credit for… and you are more patient that I could hope for because I am going through hell these days and you try to understand. It’s easy to forget that she can build a life without me like I built a like without her.”

Liz had to turn away. It stung a little to hear him voice his epiphany. The same one she had so many months ago when Michael had told her about Deirdre. It had to hurt him as much as it hurt her but the truth was in those words. They had already built lives without each other.

“Yeah… yeah. I’m staying the night at least… I drove straight here and the Chevelle needs a rest… I don’t know...”

Just then the front door opened and suddenly Clark was beside Liz, kissing on her neck, pulling her against his body. There was no way to stop the smile that spread across her face or the chuckle that rose in her throat. “Hello to you, too.”

“Hi.” He murmured into her hair, turning her body into his slowly. “I’m not so hungry…" He made a flippant gesture at the food on the counter. "... why don’t we…” Kiss. “Find something better to do?” She yelped as he hoisted her up against him, pulling her legs around his waist.

“Liz--- oh.” Max stopped as soon as he caught the intimate embrace. He had held Liz like that once or twice.

Clark turned to see a strange man in his kitchen and put Liz back on her feet in front of him. “Um… Hi.”

“Max, this is Clark. Clark, Max.” Liz felt him stiffen against her. “Max was… in the state and thought he would come to visit. Isn’t that sweet?”

“Yeah.” Clark nodded almost to himself and regarded the guy that had kept up Liz most nights. This was the ex.

“But he’s leaving as soon as possible.” She shot Max a look.

"Um, yeah. I probably shouldn't have come." Max nodded stiffly as he regarded the tall boy beside Liz. "If you could just... point out the direction of the nearest hotel, I'll get out of your hair."

"Clark... think he could crash on the couch for the night? He'll be gone first thing in the morning." Liz whispered softly, curling a hand around his hip.

"I don't know if I like the idea of him in the house much less 20 ft away from you." Clark whispered softly, hoping she wouldn't think he was some jealous jerk.

"Well, you'll be sleeping with me, won't you? To keep me safe?" She teased him gently.

"Or you know." Clark raised his voice enough for Max to hear him clearly. "You could just borrow my bed for the night. No big deal. Plenty of room."

Max eyed them as he sat down. He knew better than to comment. Clark had meant that he would be sleeping with Liz, whichever connotation he wanted to take. "Thanks."

"Um... yeah. I think the food's as warm as it's going to get." Liz offered a strained smile.

--

"Evening, Dad." Lex strode into his father's home office, pulling off his gloves slowly and deliberately. "I trust you've had a good week."

"Lex. You're early." Lionel noted without halting his perusal of a contract in front of him.

"One of my many character traits that you've never appreciated before." Lex nodded smoothly. "There are of course many more you've never realized I had. You've always focused on the bad habits."

"Is this going somewhere?"

"As always." Lex pulled out a fresh copy of the tabloid he'd read earlier that week. "I must say that I like the one on the right better than the other. It captures my best side."

"You brought it on yourself." Lionel barely glanced up, knowing full well what Lex was talking about.

"My name is as soiled as they come." Lex started but changed his mind, folding the paper up and clearing his throat. "I see you got around my security measures... My assistant shouldn't have been used as a means to get under my skin."

"You are judged by the company you keep. It was an embarrassment to hire the girl in the first place but to invite her to a gathering of local stockholders was downright appalling." Finally, Lionel set down his pen and removed the glasses from his nose. "You would have done well to do a security check on her."

"What makes you think I didn't?" Lex pulled a manila folder out of his jacket. "I always do security checks but the girl is not a threat."

"She was arrested for armed robbery in Utah."

"Arrested for alleged attempted armed robbery. Nothing was stolen, no gun turned up, she was never convicted. I know her, this isn't part of her character. Now if you want to talk character, I met her ex-boyfriend a few hours ago. He is just the type to pull a stunt like this, probably the reason he is out of the picture."

"Not too far out of the picture if you met him a few hours ago." Lionel pointed out.

"In the future, aim your attacks at me. Everyone else is just an insult to your creativity." Lex dropped the paper on the desk. "I trust I won't be missed on Christmas." Without even training his cool expression on his father, he walked out the way he came.

--

Max put his plate in the sink and glanced around. Then he turned his gaze on Liz. "Thanks for the food... I don't think I've had anything that good since Isabel got Mom that subscription to Martha Stewart."

"It's mostly Martha Kent, actually." She kept her eyes on her book, highlighting occasionally. "I made the casserole though."

"Since when do you cook?" He crossed his arms and leaned on the island. "Last I recall, only thing you could make was cookies. So when did you get all domestic?"

"Only for you Max." She cracked a smile but kept right on reading. "That recipe was only for you."

"Glad to hear it. Don't think the Kents would take to chocolate-Tabasco cookies very well." He snuck a glance through the hall, opened his ears but didn't hear anything. "Honeymoon over already?"

"What?" Liz shook her head as she looked up from her book.

"Where'd your boy disappear to?"

"Chores. This is a farm, Max." The book shut and her gaze locked with his. "They've got a herd of cows, fields bigger than they can handle sometimes but the business is good for it being local. I'm amazed sometimes that they do all they do with just the three of them."

"Guess it's tough."

"Yeah." She shrugged. "Um... Max... there's something that I want to show you." She nodded toward her room. He hesitantly followed her, glancing over his shoulder for any sign that Clark was coming. Liz turned and shrugged helplessly at him. "I wanted to tell you earlier but I chickened out and then Clark came home..." Struggling she reached for the small vase with the meteor rock in it. "I um... I found this and there was a scientist and Chloe has a lot of theories and I never know what to believe."

"Liz." Max shook his head. "What are you talking about?"

"You know... I hadn't really thought about it until just now but... now that I'm trying to put it into words, the pieces are coming together." Liz sighed hopelessly at his obvious confusion. "Smallville used to be the Cream Corn Capital."

"Liz? Honestly... you're not making any sense."

"Because now it's the Meteor Capital." Liz sighed yet again. "1989, Max. That's when the meteor shower hit and there are these meteor fragments all over this county and the next. Chloe says they've changed people, made them different."

"Different how?"

"That's the part that's hard to believe. Chloe said Clark's friend Greg was bitten by his bugs, which were exposed to the meteors for generations. They mutated so when they bit him, they... transformed him into a... Bug-boy." Liz stopped her speech, it sounded even more ridiculous in her own words.

"Liz... are you feeling okay?" The soft rumble of laughter filled his voice.

"Max, I'm serious. This town is weird. There are all kinds of stories but I still haven't gotten to the reason I'm telling you." She punched his shoulder and dumped the rock out of its vase. "Lex gave me this flower and it started to die. I got bored and threw this little rock into the vase, took a walk and then when I came back… the rose was thriving." She picked up the rose and pushed it at him. "It's been three weeks since it's been picked. It should be dead but it's not. It's thriving... as long as the rock is in the water. I think..."

"What happened to the flower?" Max took a really good look at it. "There's no color."

"Which is what I'm coming to. This bush was in Lex's back yard. Looked like it had been there a long time. If these rocks are in the soil... they could have caused the pigment to die out..." She took a short breath. "I've been glowing Max. Not as bad as today but still, enough to hurt. When I'm around this rock... I feel better."

"How?" Max slowly took the rock from her hand, turning it over in his hand.

"Like I said... the pieces are just now coming together. When I'm around that thing... I feel good. Really good. Great, actually."

Suddenly, a shiver ran down Max's spine. "You think this rock makes you... stop hurting when you glow?"

"Yeah, actually. If I really think about when I have and it's gone away... there's always been one of those around..." Liz shut her eyes and when she reached out to touch the rock, her memories sprang to life in her head. Quickly she jerked her hand back. "Whoa."

"What?" Max blinked at her.

"Memory recall... like I've never had before."

"Huh..." He turned the rock over again. The wheels in his head began to turn. "When did you say the meteor shower happened?"

"October '89. Why?"

"We came out of our pods in November '89." Max whispered. If the two events were in anyway involved...

--

Max lay awkwardly in his replacement's bed, twirling the rock between his fingers. Judging from what Liz had implied and how she had reacted, she hadn't actually touched the rock so much as had it near. She didn't have much time to go into the other theories that Chloe had because that's when Clark had come back from his chores. Slipping the rock into his pocket, he shut his eyes. At least the background track was low, he might be able to sleep... maybe.

--

Clark slid his hands beneath the sheets to cup her heat beside his. He tried to cover up most of her moans with his mouth. Sliding over slightly, he shifted his weight over her. Liz opened her thighs to welcome him and his attentions. They had agreed, neither one of them was engaging in this act because Max was in the house or because this was their last night together without fear of being caught.

Liz shut her eyes and left him carry her away. Her gasp caught in her throat when he slipped inside her. Her blood roared in her ears at the sensations, blocking out the sound of the bed creaking. Her fingers clenched into his back every time he pushed into her. She felt so tight that when he showed signs of release, she beat him to it.

The silence in the aftermath was deafening. Clark very slowly shifted out and off of her body. That time had been different. He could feel it in every sense and cell in his body. Turning his head to look at her, he noticed how still she lay. "Liz?"

"Mmm?" She asked with barely a move of her head.

"Are you okay?"

"I am recovering, thank you." Came the sleepy answer before she carefully rolled into his side. She sighed heavily as her eyes fluttered open. "I'm going to miss sleeping like this when your parents get back."

"Can we refrain from mentioning my parents when I'm naked?" Clark winced slightly and settled himself more comfortably on the bed.

"Sorry... but I will... miss having you sleep here with me."

"Yeah, me too."

--

Max had hooked his finger into his pocket sometime after he had fallen asleep, his fingertip resting against the green rock inside. The dreams rolled around in his head aimlessly, images of his past mixed with his fantasies. Slowly a glow emanated from his pocket. The images flew faster yet clear in his mind and his body relaxed completely. An image of Liz in the aftermath of their lovemaking rushed to the fore of his mind.

"You are completely gorgeous." Liz smiled and reached over to flick an erect nipple.

"You're not so bad yourself, handsome." Max's sight followed Liz's only to be rewarded with a sheepishly grinning Clark.

Gasping for air, Max snapped out of the dream. His hands ran over his face as he tried to wipe the images from his mind. He had just done more than dreamwalked Liz, that he was certain of but he had never done it before. That's when he felt the throbbing in his finger. He had yanked it out of his pocket roughly upon awakening. When he fished the rock out, he could remember the images with startling clarity.

TBC