[Witness Protection House-Dawn, the next morning]
Chloe opened her eyes and stared at the ceiling. Feeling the hard wood floor under her, she realized that she had blacked out for some reason. What happened? She sat up, rubbing the back of her head. Everything seemed so fuzzy for the last few hours.
Gabe did the same thing, taking in everything around them as well. "What are we doing on the floor?"
"Beats me," she declared, standing up and helping him to his feet. "I'm just glad we're okay."
"Why wouldn't we be, Pumpkin?" he asked, feeling anxious for some reason.
"I just get the feeling that Lionel Luthor might try something," she told him.
"Chloe, he's been put away for a long time. Let's get some coffee," he assured her.
No matter what, the sound of her number one vice could perk her up. Still, she knew something had changed. She couldn't figure out though what it had been exactly.
[Smallville Regional Medical Center]
Lex's eyes snapped open. He was in the hospital for some reason although he couldn't recall why. "What is this?" he wondered.
A slender red headed woman in a white coat entered the room with a clipboard in her hand. Seeing him awake made her start. "Mr. Luthor! You're awake?"
"I guess," he replied. "What am I doing here?"
"I'm Dr. Belanger. You don't remember anything, do you?"
He quirked his eyebrow at her. "Should I?"
"You were poisoned with Rapolotine. It's a rare poison that breaks down the blood. We managed to get it out of you. It also says here that someone gave you a blood donation but it doesn't say who," she recounted, flipping through his chart.
"Really? Well, Doctor, I hope I can find out who my anonymous benefactor is. I owe someone a big thank you and a favor. I don't forget my debts," he explained.
"In that case, I hope you find out, Mr. Luthor. Oh, I did have a question," she agreed.
"Fire away, Doc," he concurred, trying to ease the stiffness out of his joints.
"You were muttering in your sleep about a brother named 'Dave'. You might want to start with him," she concluded, opening the door. "I'll be back to check on you later. Rest well, Mr. Luthor."
After she shut the door, he rubbed his scalp, trying to place her statement. Julian's gone and I haven't seen Lucas in a while. So who? And then it hit him. David Dubois? He hasn't been here since right after the meteor shower. As always, the memories of that time remained hazy and out of focus. If so, why didn't he stay? He remembered his mother's admonition to him before she passed away. He knows we're like brothers. Someday, Dave, I need to ask you about this.
With that, he closed his eyes, letting his mind retrace things and put those pieces together.
Clark heard the rooster crow and stretched his arms over his head. For some reason, he felt lighter than he had in a while. After taking his shower and getting dressed, he went downstairs.
"Well, look who's finally up! Morning, Sleepyhead," his father teased. "Chores are waiting for you."
"I know," Clark agreed. "Be right back." Streaking out the door, he did everything in just under five minutes and returned just as his mother put the first plate on the table. "Thanks, Mom."
"You're welcome," Martha agreed. "For some reason, there seems to be more to do this morning."
"Kara didn't do anything destructive around here, did she?" Clark worried. "When I left with her, I didn't think she had done anything." Seeing the parents' looks, he continued, "She wanted to show me something in the caves but I can't remember what it was."
"That's not important, Clark. I hope she's gone. That girl's nothing but trouble," Jonathan admonished, drinking his coffee.
Clark looked out the window at the landscape. "I have a feeling that she is, Dad. And, this is really weird; I don't feel the pressure from Jor-El either."
"Really?" she inquired, hoping to minimize his birth father's influence. "Are you sure?"
He shook his head. "Just call it a gut feeling. You ever get the feeling that someone's watching out for you?"
"We all have a guardian angel of some sort," she agreed. "Why don't you get ready for school and then, you can visit Lex in the hospital."
Recalling that his friend had been poisoned although he didn't know why he knew that, he nodded. "I'll go over after school. I have to go by the Talon first. Miranda Arighatto wanted to talk." Picking up his knapsack, he walked out the door and waved to his parents. Then he disappeared in a blur, leaving them to marvel over his abilities once again.
[St. Joseph's Hospital, New York City]
Lana's eyes slowly fluttered open. As with Lex, the hospital room startled her. What am I doing here? She felt woozy and a bit weak but otherwise, saw nothing out of the ordinary about herself.
Judging from the IV bag and the needle in her hand, she needed to be helped along.
"Great! You're awake!" Frank cheered, sticking his head in the room.
"Mr. Landers, what are you doing here?" she asked. Although the details of the flight remained fuzzy, she did remember him.
"I'm a doctor here," he noted, giving her a warm smile. "You had us pretty nervous there, Lana."
"What happened?" she asked, trying to grab onto whatever details she could manage.
"You fainted on the flight. Fortunately, I managed to stabilize you and get you over here," he reported.
"How long have I been here?" she wondered.
"Two days," he replied. "Don't worry. Everything's been taken care of apparently."
"It has?" she asked.
He nodded. "An anonymous benefactor covered your stay. You should be discharged this afternoon." He turned to leave.
"Dr. Sanders?" she inquired.
"Yes?" He faced her again.
"Did you say something to me about knowing when something's right or not?"
He smiled. "I did indeed. I was telling you about a friend of mine actually. Why?"
She replied earnestly, "I think I know what's important. Thank you for the advice. I appreciate it."
"It was my pleasure, Lana. Best of luck to you," he concluded, shaking her hand and leaving the room.
She took a deep breath. Until that moment, she had remained torn. For some reason though, she knew what she had to do. Picking up the phone, she started dialing numbers....
[Smallville-Talon later that afternoon]
Clark walked through the front door to the old café and looked around. The place still felt the same with customers chatting at their tables and drinking the top of the line brew. For some reason, he expected to see Lana with the other waitresses. Alas, she wasn't there.
Miranda spied him and finished with an order. Then she walked over. "Hi, Clark; thanks for stopping by. How's it going?"
"I'm hanging in there," he replied. "And you?"
"Same here. Sandra's been a big help but well...I miss her, Clark," she reported, looking at him with sad knowing eyes. "The last couple of days, business picked up slightly and we could have used an extra hand."
"You're ready to manage this place, Miri," he pointed out.
She chuckled at him. "Thanks for the vote of confidence. I wish I felt that way." She shrugged. "Maybe I should just accept that she's gone and go on. I can't though."
He nodded. "I know what you mean."
"I knew you would, Clark. Lana should feel better about herself than she does. And, you, Mr. Kent, need to come clean with her."
"I do?" he inquired, feeling anxious. Does she know?
"Tell her how you feel, Dummy. What else is there? Unless, of course, you're a meteor mutant and aren't telling us?" she retorted, shooting a smirk in his direction.
"What you see is what you get, Miri. Yeah, I miss her too," he commented.
At that moment, she glanced around the area, as if picking up on something. "Did something happen here while I was gone?"
"No. Why?" he asked.
"Funny, I could have sworn that I felt something familiar...something I knew a long time ago," she asserted.
As if playing with her, the sunlight caught the old plaque, glinting at her.
"Miri, we would all like to know our real families," he indicated. "Maybe that weekend with your stepdad's got you on edge."
She frowned. "Maybe you're right, Clark. Keep your chin up. And thanks for being such a good friend. I really appreciate it."
"My pleasure," he concluded, grinning at her as he walked out of the café.
She walked over to the plaque and read the inscription. While she had looked at it hundreds of times, she had never really focused on the details. David Dubois? Why does that name mean something to me? She sighed. Even if he was a relative, Stepfather probably killed him already with the rest of the family. She ran her fingers across the metal, tracing the raised letters with her fingers almost hoping he would appear there. Figures. Face it, Miri, your family's dead. Deal with it.
She moped back to her routine, knowing that the shift would be over an hour later and she could go home.
[A/N: Peggy, this next scene's for you...]
[Lex's Hospital Room]
Lex stared at the ceiling, fighting down the butterflies that floated through his stomach. How many times do I have to betray my friends before I learn? How many times? He shook his head, feeling the tears of shame stinging his cheeks. I led Chloe to her death. Lana, I talked her into abandoning her dreams for a long shot. And, Clark, Clark, what did I do to you? I dug into your affairs even as you trusted me not to. He let a tear drizzle down his cheek.
"Knock, knock," Chloe announced, walking into the room with a cup in each hand.
"Chloe?" he wondered, staring incredulously at her. "You're...you're...."
Her eyebrow quirked and she smirked at him. "I think the operative word you're searching for, Lex, is alive. Yes, my father and I somehow survived the blast although I can't remember how for the life of me." She frowned. "I mean everything's really fuzzy and then, I wake up this morning and come to find out, we've all lost two days."
"I can relate," he concurred. "Still, we were hurt and nearly killed by my father's goons. What's that you got in your hand?"
She held the cups up in the air. "These, Lex, are prime liquid from your establishment extraordinaire. You know I never go far without my coffee fix."
"Hell hath no fury like Chloe Sullivan without her coffee," he quipped humorously.
"That's right, Billionaire Boy, and don't forget it. Anyhow, I thought you might need some cheering up so I dropped in. Sorry I can't stay longer but Dad needs me back at the house," she noted.
As she got up, Clark walked in. "Hey, Clark!"
For some reason, he embraced her. "Glad to see you in one piece! Mom and Dad told me about the bomb."
"Oh yeah...that. Hey, Clark, you know me, super reporter. It'll take more than a big bang to get me off of the case," she cracked.
"Just be careful, all right?" he requested.
She smiled and nodded. "You too. Both of you. See ya both around."
"Chloe?" he asked.
"Thanks for dropping by. I mean that," he declared, giving her a warm smile.
"No problem. What are friends for?" she retorted, getting a last playful smirk in before leaving the area.
As soon as the door closed behind her, Lex motioned to the chair. "Take a seat, Clark, and a load off."
The teenager eyed the other man cautiously, as he sat down. "What's going on, Lex?"
"Nothing. I just wanted to see that you're okay is all," the billionaire responded.
"I seem to be all right. I even woke up in my own bed this morning. Go figure," Clark recounted. "And I see you're here. Your Dad bungled the job?"
The businessman shrugged nonchalantly while drinking his coffee. "Something like that. I don't remember much other than a haze for the last two days except for one thing. I don't know who it is or how it was possible but someone from my past was there with me. He reminded me of my promise to him."
"You reneged on him too?"
Lex scowled. "Humor me, Clark, okay?"
Clark rolled his eyes. "What the heck? Lex, go on."
"Thank you," the patient expressed sarcastically and impatiently, as he pressed on. "He also told me that he'd kick my tail if I started acting like my father."
Clark shook his head. "Lex, you've kept that promise. You're nothing like your father."
Lex sighed and managed a brief smile. "I wish I could agree with you, Clark, but yeah, I'm turning into him. This damn chess match of ours makes it inevitable. I envy you sometimes, you know, not having to play the games and weigh the scenarios."
If only he knew Jor-El. Clark went silent for a minute, as he thought about all of the ways he had tried to work around the overbearing spirit's interference in his life.
"I did realize something while I was there, Clark. I betrayed you and probably threw away the best friendship I ever had," Lex noted.
"You did that when you continued probing into my family's affairs. How could you, Lex? How could you?" the younger man demanded.
"Curiosity, Clark. I wanted to know what makes you tick. Why I was still alive after that day on the bridge. Now it doesn't matter," Lex informed him.
"And why is that?" the visitor asked in disbelief.
"Because, Clark, I've come back again. It seems that someone or something has entered your formerly exclusive turf," he jabbed.
"Anyone can be a hero, Lex," Clark pointed out.
"True but not to the extent that you seem to be. What I'm saying is that, I need to accept that without wondering how or why you do it. Those reasons aren't important. Being Clark Kent, the man, now that's important," the billionaire replied sagely. Taking another sip out of the cup, he tipped it to him. "And I was going to ask for your help on a project at the mansion, Clark."
"And what would that be? Giving samples?" the teenager inquired, still feeling incredulous.
"Actually, Clark, what I had in mind was asking for your help in dismantling the equipment in that room! I have a reason to play it straight with you. I want you as a friend and that's always been the case," Lex declared, keeping his voice calm.
"I suppose this voice of yours said that?"
"Something like that, yes."
Clark thought on that comment for a second. "And what would your father think of this person?"
"If it's who I think it is, they already know and hate each other. In fact, this person would kill my father if given half a chance," Lex contemplated. "It's a really long story, Clark. One that I have to admit I need to think on myself for a while. So how about it? Meet me at the mansion tomorrow and we'll dismantle the room?"
"No tricks?" Clark asked.
"Nope and no strings either," Lex insisted. "Thank you, Clark, I mean that. Thank you."
"Yeah, we'll see. Take care, Lex," Clark concluded, leaving the other behind.
For a long time after, Lex stared at the ceiling, thinking of what he had just set in motion. I hope that makes you happy, Dave, wherever you are.
[Tucson-University Campus, That evening]
Dave sat in his office, looking at his note cards. With Alti's attack on campus still very much on people's minds, he wanted to keep trouble at a minimum. If it isn't one thing, it's another.
Lydia Coltrane knocked on his door. "Hi, Dave, do you have a minute?"
"Sure. What can I do for you?" he asked.
His former professor walked in and shut the door. "It's about that witch actually. Alti, right?"
For some reason, her question triggered a flash of memory to Rowenshire. What? This is Alti, not Lichtenfeld that she's talking about. Get a grip on yourself, Dave.
"Are you okay?" she wondered.
"Just had a flash of deja-vu. It's nothing. What about Alti?" he queried.
"The Anthropology Department was embarrassed that they invited her to speak here. And what was the deal with the two Xenas?" she asked.
He shrugged. "Publicity stunt for the TV show, maybe?" If she really knew, she'd flip out. "As for Anthro, I'd tell them to forget about it. That woman's a mistress of deceit."
And you would know, wouldn't you? "Still, it's funny that she targeted you both times."
"My condition makes me a target for her kind, Lydia," he noted.
"Dave, you're schizophrenic, not possessed! The next thing you'll be telling me is that the other personality is a demon or something. Oh well, I have to go. Thanks for keeping things under control. And be careful around that guy-what did you call him? Dijon or something? He seems to have it in for you."
He had a retort ready but bit it back. I wonder what she would think if she saw the duel that'll happen between us? "I will. Lydia, thanks for stopping by."
"You're welcome. Stay safe while I'm on sabbatical," she concluded, heading out.
"I'll try," he indicated. Just another day in Paradise. He went back to his work, knowing that there were some things he needed to get caught up on.
[El Gato Negro]
Nick entered the bar and took his usual seat. As with the others involved in the recent adventure, he remembered nothing of the events that transpired. Why did I need to take two days off from work? That is definitely strange.
"Something troubling you, Nicolas?" Janette asked.
He sighed, trying to keep an upbeat expression on his face. "Nothing. Why?"
"Nicolas, c'est moi. Tell me," she pressed.
"I wish I knew. You ever have the feeling that you know you did something but can't remember what it was? I'm having that feeling right now," he revealed. "And it's tied to Dave and the Child somehow."
"Oh dear," she replied, feeling anxious. "Knowing those two, it could be serious business. You should be careful. Anything risky could jeopardize the Community."
"I know. Trust me, I know," he concurred, finishing his glass off. "Au revoir." With that, he left the building.
She mused about her brother/master, wondering how much this triangle between Alyce, Natalie and him ate at his psyche. You bear too much guilt, mon Cher. Just accept things and let it go.
Gabrielle and Eve watched as Xena entered the former's hut and stretched out on her hammock. She appeared weary, as if tired out by something.
"Did you two find what you were looking for?" Eve asked.
"Nah," her mother replied with frustration. "I wish I could remember."
"Until I got back here, I feel the same way," the Bard-Queen concurred. "What do you think happened, Xena?"
"Magic of some kind. Someone doesn't want us to know what's goin' on," the warrior supposed. "I hate it when people mess with my head like this."
The other two Amazons considered her words. They seemed to have merit for the situation. However, they would never know how much.
"Whatever. Good night, you two," Xena concluded, drifting off to sleep.
"What do you think happened, Gabrielle?" Eve wondered.
"Your mother's right. I don't think we'll ever know. Good night, Eve," Gabrielle replied before drifting off to sleep.
This can't be good. One day, those experiences might come back to haunt us. If and when they do, Eli, help us. She whispered a brief prayer and fell into an uneasy sleep as well.
[A/N: Once again, Peggy, this whole chapter's dedicated to you.]
Clark walked up to the front door and knocked anxiously. While his parents had argued with him about this visit, he felt that he had to do it for some reason. I know what Lex was getting at last night. For some reason, I feel as if something or someone wants us to mend fences. But can I trust him?
Instead of the butler, Lex opened it himself. "Morning, Clark, come on in. Can I get you some coffee or something?"
"Thanks, Lex, I'm fine. You doing okay?" the visitor wondered.
"Yeah I am, thanks," Lex replied, shaking Clark's hand. "Follow me."
They headed up the stairs and down several halls into the east wing. As they went, each watched the other carefully, wondering what thoughts echoed through that head. Finally, they reached the door in question.
"You want the honors, Clark?" Lex asked.
"That's okay, Lex," Clark declined, still smelling a potential trap in this matter. "Go ahead."
The billionaire unlocked the door, allowing them to enter the area. As he surveyed the elaborate surveillance center, his heart sank again. "Where do you want to start, Clark?"
"I can take the east side and you can do the west?" the younger man suggested.
"Sounds good to me. Let's get to it," Lex agreed.
Throughout the entire day, Clark and Lex worked at dismantling the room and tossing its contents. As time had passed, the uncertainty lessened between them, allowing them to relax. Even as they discarded the incriminating materials, something more important was achieved. They were rebuilding that trust, which they had once shared. In between a simple lunch, a coffee break and a game of pool afterwards, they combined work and play efficiently.
As he sized up a shot, Clark expressed, "Thanks, Lex."
"For what, Clark?" Lex wondered.
"For taking that stuff apart. It means a lot," the guest declared, taking the shot and sinking a solid ball.
"For what it cost me, it wasn't worth it," Lex said frankly. "I'd rather have you as a friend than an enemy, Clark. That's why I'm letting you have the key. You can check on it anytime you want."
Clark fished out the key and set it on the table. "Nope. I don't need it. I believe you."
"You do?" Lex asked, not being quite sure of himself.
"Lex, I need to believe in you so that you can believe in yourself," Clark explained. "If I turn my back on you then what will you do? What will I do? I don't want you as an enemy either."
The host felt his eyes watering. He set his cue stick down and embraced the young man. "This time, I won't betray your trust, Clark. You won't regret this."
"Don't let me down, Lex," Clark advised.
"I won't," Lex vowed earnestly. At that moment, his cell phone rang. "Just a minute." He answered it, "Lex Luthor."
"Mr. Luthor, it's Miranda Arighatto. I hope I'm not interrupting anything," Miri replied.
"Clark and I are having a discussion, Miranda, but what's up? Is everything okay at the Talon?" he asked, hoping that his decision to make her the manager was a sound one.
"We're fine here. Actually, I'm glad that Clark's there. His mother stopped by here looking for him about ten minutes ago. I guess they need his help for something at home," she informed him.
"All right. We'll be on our way in just a few minutes. Was there an emergency or anything, Miranda?" Lex inquired.
"It didn't seem like it. Mrs. Kent just wanted me to let you both know. Well, we just got another wave of customers in so I'll let you go. Thanks," she concluded.
"Keep up the good work, Miranda. Thanks," he concluded and hung up.
"Who was that?" Clark wondered.
"Miranda Arighatto at the Talon. Apparently, your folks need you to help them with something. Come on; I'll give you a lift," Lex noted, grabbing his car keys.
"Sure. I hope everything's okay at home," Clark agreed, grabbing his jacket.
"I'm sure it is but we'll find out soon enough," Lex assured him, as they headed for the garage.
Lex parked his Porsche in the driveway and took a deep breath. For the five-minute trip, he had reassured Clark that everything was all right.
For some reason, though, his young friend remained on pins and needles, wondering what it could be. Why didn't they just call me directly at Lex's? He rushed into the house where his parents sat at the table, drinking their coffee. "Hi. Is everything all right?"
Martha and Jonathan exchanged curious looks before he asked, "Sure, Son, why?"
Lex came in at that moment and shut the door behind him. "Miranda said you all needed help back here. I brought him right back."
The farmer cast him a suspicious look. "And you didn't blow it out of proportion?"
"Dad, he's been trying to reassure me all of the way home," Clark countered.
"Let's give Lex a chance, Jonathan," Martha directed.
"Thank you, Mrs. Kent. I promise you that Clark's right. Anyway that I can help?" the billionaire offered.
"Actually, Lex, Clark can handle it by himself," the farmer indicated.
Martha offered, "Let me get you a cup of coffee, Lex. We need to talk about some things anyhow. Clark, go ahead. If you can check by the horse stalls, that'd be great."
"All right, Mom. By the way, the room is completely dismantled," Clark assured them both, as he headed out the door. The stalls? What's going on? They're usually done by now.
[Barn-two minutes later]
Clark surveyed the stalls, checking to make sure everything was in order. Sure enough, the hay looked fresh and the horses had been fed. "Okay, what was the emergency?"
Then with his super hearing, he picked up on a creak upstairs in the Loft. What the? Not knowing who or what was waiting for him up there, he decided to climb the stairs as normally as possible. When he got there, he found Chloe looking through his telescope. "Hey, Chloe, what's going on?"
She shrugged. "I guess you were keeping a close eye on Lana, weren't you?"
He frowned both at her insight and at her choice of subject.
She noticed this as well. "I was kidding, Clark. Sorry, I wanted to see how you were doing."
"I'm okay. I just spent the day with Lex, working on a project and settling our differences," he declared, running his hand through his hair.
"Your friendship is very important to him, Clark," she affirmed. "I can tell you that."
"You don't know him that well, Chloe. Come on!" he doubted.
She retorted, "Reporter's instincts. Besides I saw how he looked at you when you entered his hospital room. He was desperate-desperate to make peace with you. It's him versus his father, Clark. We're his support. Trust someone who's been snared in that web and regrets it."
"I know, Chloe. Based on today and our conversation last night, I believe you. It's so tough when you lose two days of your life and...well...." He allowed the sentence to die unspoken, as he slumped on the couch.
She sat down next to him and rubbed his shoulder. "It's okay. Want to talk about it?"
He looked at her, allowing her to see the tears glistening in his eyes. "Not really. I just feel like I threw something wonderful away, you know?" He sprung to his feet and started pacing about the room. By some miracle, he remembered to restrain himself to a 'normal' pace. At that point, he broke down and started, "Lex talked about this voice he heard during that time. Get this-it told him that someone would kick his tail if he started acting like Lionel."
"Maybe he did hear it, Clark," she affirmed, shuddering. "I don't know why but I know something happened in those two days. It's like this sense of cold and burning but I don't know why. And I hear this sound-like a scream echoing through my head. Want to know what scares me most?"
He urged, "Tell me."
"That I don't know what happened to us," she admitted. "But that's only part of it, right?"
He admitted, "I want her to come back, Chloe." He put his hand up, cutting off a response while he continued, "I'm sorry that I...well...that I can't...."
"I wish you could, Clark," she replied sadly, clearly catching his intent. "But I know you can't." She put her hand on his elbow, rubbing it supportively.
"I don't want to hurt you any more either, Chloe," he told her.
"And there's your problem, Clark," she declared. "You treat us all as if we're made of glass. We aren't, all right? Trust in us a little. Just a little. All right?" She looked at him earnestly. "Clark?"
"I'll try. Things have been so out of control the last two years, I don't know how to fix them," he noted.
"Don't try so hard. Let's just make an effort to be friends again, all right? I hurt you too with that Lionel stuff. We've all paid for that," she noted. "And for what it's worth, I'm sorry."
"Listen to her, Clark," Lex agreed, walking up the Loft stairs. "We'll be there for you if you let us."
Clark tried to smile and managed a halfhearted attempt. "I appreciate that, Lex. Really, I do. We can try to rebuild things but it's going to take time, I guess." He moped. "I feel like such a jerk."
"As she just said, Clark, we're all guilty," Lex pointed out. "You're human like the rest of us. Accept it and move on." Then he looked into the other's eyes and saw the pain there. "You want to let it out?"
"It's all right," she agreed, hugging him from one side as the billionaire did from the other. "We all miss her."
For once, Clark let his guard down, allowing the tears to flow uncharacteristically in front of his friends. He bowed his head, letting his frustrations come to the surface. He clutched at them and cried his eyes out.
Rather than say anything, Chloe and Lex embraced him, allowing him to do so.
"Sorry, guys," Clark finally told them.
"It's okay, Clark, we're not going to tell the Inquisitor or anything," she assured him.
"But you need to tell Lana, Clark. Tell her how you feel," Lex urged.
"But she's over in France!" Clark disagreed.
The billionaire rolled his eyes. "I think you can afford six dollars for air mail, Clark. Hell, I can fly you over there if you want."
"Lex, I couldn't ask for that," he declined.
"You didn't. I offered. Friends do that for friends, all right?" the billionaire countered. "Didn't you just ask about fixing your mistakes?"
"Yeah. So?" Clark inquired, feeling really low by this point.
"Take the initiative. Write a letter at least," she chimed in. "You have two options, Clark, you can either pout up here with your telescope or you can take the initiative. What you do is up to you."
"Clark!" Martha called up the stairs. "Can you come down? You won't believe who just drove in!"
Hoping it was his love, the Kryptonian leaned over the rail to see Pete Ross standing there. "Pete!"
"Hey, Clark! You didn't think I'd stay away forever, did you?" Pete asked, grinning at him.
"But what about Wichita? What about your Mom?" Clark asked, coming down the stairs.
"I'm old enough to choose where I want to live according to the state. I wanted to remain here for my senior year so here I am!" he cheered. "Besides someone has to have your back, right?"
"Pete!" Chloe cheered, running down the stairs and nearly tackling him. "You're back!!!"
"Yeah. It's great seeing you okay, Chloe," the jock reported. Then seeing Lex on the stairs, he added, "Lex, how's it going?"
"Good to see you again, Pete," Lex replied, smiling as he shook the other's hand. "And welcome back."
"I never thought I'd admit this publicly but it's good to hear that," Pete disclosed. Then he grabbed the backpack he had sitting by the barn door. "I even brought stuff back from there. I hope you don't mind the gift certificates. Mom helped me pick them out."
"This is great," Chloe expressed. "Thanks! There's a new journalism book I wanted!"
"I can always use something special," Lex agreed. "I'll treasure this, Pete, thank you."
Pete grinned. He really means it too.
"What about Clark?" Chloe wondered. "Didn't you get anything for him?"
"That's okay, Chloe. Seeing Pete is reward enough," Clark interjected. Then he saw the corners of his friend's mouth tugging themselves into a smile. "Now what?"
"You don't think I'd forget about my main man, do you? Clark, Dude, I told you, I always have your back. Close your eyes. No peeking."
"Pete, come on!" Clark protested. "I'm really not in the mood!"
"Just go along with it," Pete urged.
When Clark had done so, Pete guided Lex and Chloe out to his truck. "Come and see!"
Clark muttered, "Pete, come on!"
Then he heard Chloe squeal with delight.
What could it be?
He heard footsteps coming into the barn. "Pete?"
"Keep those eyes shut, Clark," Lex instructed, trying to keep his voice neutral.
The footsteps came closer. They were light...almost like feathers falling on the grass.
"Chloe, come on, stop playing with me," Clark declared, losing his patience.
He heard the footsteps circle around him before stopping in front of him.
Then he felt something touch his lips. It felt like a kiss.
But not just any kiss...
Instinctively without opening his eyes, he returned it, embracing the person in front of him. The contact was like holy water to his parched soul.
"Open your eyes, Clark," a familiar voice told him.
As he did, he found Lana standing there in front of him with a big smile on her face. His jaw dropped. "Lana? But how? You're supposed to be in Paris!"
"I was," she replied. Then she rolled her eyes and grinned. "I apparently fainted on the flight to New York and spent two days in the hospital. Imagine that."
"Are you okay?" he asked, worrying about her.
"Now I am," she responded. "Clark, I couldn't go through with it. I just couldn't!"
Seeing his friends and parents watching, he asked Pete, "You brought her back?"
"She called me from New York. Apparently, the only flight she could get was into Wichita. As I said, Clark, I watch out for you."
Lana smiled. "I know how you feel too. Pete told me on the way."
Seeing his friend flush, Pete shrugged. "You would never do it so I saved you the trouble. Problem solved."
"Lana, there's something else I wanted to tell you too...."
She shook her head. "It's okay, Clark, I can accept your secrets. As long as you promise to tell me everything some day."
He nodded. "I promise." He let her eyes sparkle into hers. "I can't believe you came back!" He held her close to himself and they indulged in another kiss. "Lana, I love you."
"And I love you, Clark," she concurred, as they turned to face their admirers. "And it's so good to be back!"
[Metropolis-St. Gabriel's Cemetery]
Cybelle opened a portal, allowing Dave and Angie to walk up to Lillian's monument. "This is it." Waving her hands, she cast a spell, making herself appear to be a normal person.
"Thanks, Sis," Dave replied.
"This is it, Dave?" Angie wondered, admiring the marble monument.
"It is," he affirmed, kneeling before it. "The Child wanted me to come here for some reason. I don't have a problem with that." He held up the bouquet of mixed roses and carnations. "I had this made up for Auntie really special."
Seeing the doctor look at her, Cybelle added, "If I remember right, that were her favorite assortment."
Angie nodded, holding his hand. "She was something special, wasn't she?"
His eyes watered. "She was the greatest woman I've ever met, Angie. She helped save me from Dad and Lionel Luthor. She's a hero." He placed the bouquet in the holder and looked at the gravesite for a minute. "Her son, Lex, was a special kid. I wonder what became of him?"
"Someday, Sweetie, you'll know," his wife assured him. "To put her up with Grandma Dubois and Grandpa Alvaro must make her really special."
"She's definitely that," he agreed. "And I try to honor her every day."
"You do just by being you, Dave," Angie assured him, kissing him. "Just try to stay alive for me, okay?"
"I'll do my best," he teased, allowing his eyes to sparkle at her.
"Oh brother!" Cybelle retorted humorously in "bratty little sister" mode. "Come on; let's get back before someone spots us." She guided them through, closing the portal behind them.
Unknown to Cybelle, four spirits appeared just afterwards. From their invisible vantage point, the deceased quartet had observed the whole thing.
"You do me great honor, David," Lillian declared to the spot where he'd been standing.
"And to us as well," Laura agreed. "It won't be long until he and the Child return to Smallville to fulfill the Promise."
Lewis, her husband, nodded. "One turn of the seasons' dial remains before the destinies of him and the children intertwine once more." He looked at the remaining angel: a slender man with dark hair. "In more ways than one."
Lorenzo sighed, knowing what else lay there in Smallville. "And on that day, a child now thought lost shall be found."
With that, the quartet vanished from sight.
Epilogue [Faerie Realms]
The Faerie Empress speaks....
And with that, the future was preserved.
You might ask why I allowed them to remember their feelings and not the events. And that would be an insightful question.
It's due to the fact that everyone had issues to work on before their destinies could begin.
For Nicolas de Brabant, he needed to find the confidence within himself to define his relationships within personal and Communal circles.
For Xena, Gabrielle and Eve, they had to figure out why the Child came out the way he did. Furthermore, when the witch did appear again almost two years later, they wouldn't hesitate to deal with her.
For the Child and the children from Smallville, ties needed to be reestablished. As much as it angered me to hear it, the Child was correct. In casting my last spell, I kept him from his charge. As you all know by now, when the next danger to his young friends arose, I didn't repeat the error.
We also see those friends from Smallville reaching out to each other. As we who know them have witnessed, the legacy of overbearing father figures has run that hamlet into the ground. Only with the trust gained between each other will Clark Kent, Lana Lang, Alexander Luthor and Chloe Sullivan assume their place as the four Founders of Kandorian society, which, as you doubtlessly know by now, provides the benchmark for so many future benchmarks.
And then there is the Child himself. I often wonder how one composed solidly of anger and raw emotion keeps himself from getting killed in battle. Indeed, he continues to surprise me with his resiliency. As you might recall, it was a year later that he did indeed defeat Bertrand du Dijon in their duel. With that act, he completed the process started in Smallville so long before with his birth between the viciousness of a mob and the loving kindness of those friends that continue to inspire. With his victories over Anne Lichtenfeld, Jor-El and Dijon added onto his efforts against Lousain the Wizard and his allies, he came of age, showing me indeed that he was ready to assume his mantle.
It is the Child's caring for Lillian Luthor as well as Laura and Lewis Lang that astounds me and yet, it gladdens my heart to see there is a light for him at the end of that dark tunnel of pain and anguish. As a result, he will protect the young ones to the death, as they will him.
As this story and the others you have read show, he is never alone. Nor will he ever be.
You might ask though about the Duboises and why I didn't allow Miranda and Deirdre to return in this tale to waiting arms in the desert. Again, Gentle Reader, that is a worthy observation.
For Deirdre, much training remained before she could begin her task. She would return to her parents' side six moons later and begin to rebuild her life and relations there. As always, she is a valued priestess and my trusted emissary in all matters.
Miranda had a destiny intertwined with the Smallville children. They would keep her safe and protect her innocence against the demon, Yodoshi, for the remaining year that they were there. I do regret not being able to let her know that her uncle longs to see her again. It was not much longer before they did find each other again.
While I would have made things run quicker, such are the goddess' ways of doing things. It is not for us to question them.
As always, Queen Gabrielle continues to write away on her scrolls, recording her friends' future adventures. This one, however, will never be known except between us.
And you can keep a Secret, can't you? I would hope you can.
THE END (for now)
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