Chapter 8 [Next morning]
Adam sat at the computer in his lab, checking the list of new students and faculty for the university. Since his genetics ethics class didn't start until the next day, he had time to run the routine sweeps himself rather than having Jesse do it.
"Hey, Adam, what's going on?" Shalimar wondered, as she set a fresh cup of coffee down beside him.
"Not much. Just running the profiles from our newcomers against the rest of the database. I want to be sure that we aren't blindsided again," the geneticist commented.
"And discovering family members is a bad thing?"
Adam shook his head. "Of course not. But I just want to avoid another nasty surprise like the one Dave got last winter." At that moment, a red light flashed on the screen. "Speaking of which¸.I'd say we have a match."
"Among the students?" Shalimar wondered.
Adam scanned the results and reported, "No, between a student and a faculty member. If this is what I think it is, it could be difficult to deal with." He took a gulp of coffee before continuing, "Very difficult indeed."
[Modern Languages Building-Twenty minutes later]
Chloe walked up the stairs and through the doors, heading for class. After the get-together on the previous night, she knew that everyone awaited this class eagerly. A little poetry would be nice. Maybe I can get Lex to read me some. She smiled slyly. Especially if it buys us more time in the bedroom. I can never get enough of that. Note to self: Have Byron twist Hubby's arm to do it. Entering the room, she saw her friends sitting together on the left side of the room with an open seat in their midst. "Hey, guys. That's for me, right?"
"Hey, Chloe. We figured you'd like a seat on the left side," Clark replied, smiling at her.
"And you're so right," the reporter agreed good-naturedly while sliding into the chair. "Ready to go, Lana?"
Lana shrugged. "Summer was nice but we do have to get started again at some point right? I hope this Dr. Roberts is a good lecturer."
"I'll say," Byron agreed, turning from the front row where he sat primed and ready.
"Now you are going to behave, Byron," Chloe teased, her eyes sparkling at him.
"Yes, I'll try to control my response to the Siren's call," the poet promised reluctantly.
"Good luck on that one," Clark interjected, grinning at his friend and earning himself an elbow in the side from his wife. He shrugged and shook his head. "I wonder when the prof is going to get here."
"Good question," Chloe agreed, opening up a newspaper to read as they waited.
At that moment, a slender, forty-something blonde woman in a gray suit entered the room and put her satchel down on the desk at the front. Taking out a grade book, she set that item on the podium.
Lana gasped and stared at the woman. "Clark, is that¸?"
"She looks familiar, but I can't quite place her," he whispered. "Chloe?"
At that moment, the professor saw Chloe reading the paper. "Excuse me. You can read the paper after class."
Upon hearing the instructor's voice, Chloe froze and turned pale, allowing the paper to float to the floor as she locked eyes with the other woman. She only allowed a stray tear to crease her left cheek.
The professor's eyes bulged and her jaw dropped. "My God, it can't be!" She looked over her class list and checked back and forth. "Chloe? But you aren't listed here!"
"Chloe, who¸?" Clark asked.
The reporter waved him off. "Try looking under Chloe Luthor, Mother," she retorted in her iciest voice; her eyes firing hazel daggers at the professor.
In the midst of this encounter, Dr. Roberts forgot that they were in a classroom. "You married¸a Luthor? Chloe, they're despicable! I tried to keep your father from moving to that town, especially with all of the freaks there and that bald megalomaniac!"
Clark put his hand on Chloe's shoulder. "Chloe, don't blow now."
"Clark, she's talking about our neighbors, not to mention my husband," Chloe hissed low. "Let go of me or I'll kick your tail, got it?"
He shrunk back, knowing that with one red sun radiation burst, she could do just that.
She rose and collected her books. As she did, she told her mother, "You have no right to insult Lex! At least he sticks by those he loves, which is more than you ever did!"
"Don't you talk to me like that!" her mother retorted.
"Why not? You want me to respect you? How can I? You left without a word. You didn't want me around even after I came looking for you! Do you know what that did to Daddy? What it did to me? Even worse, when you pushed me away after that? It hurt. I'm glad you've got your degree, Mother, for all of the good it does you, but don't you ever make another comment about freaks or my husband in my presence! Got it?" Chloe lectured, putting her foot down. Then, taking a deep breath, she apologized to her classmates, "I'm sorry about the scene, guys." With that, she left quickly and quietly.
Clark and Lana immediately got up and started to collect their things as well.
"Wait! Where are you going?" Dr. Roberts demanded.
"To be with our friend," Lana replied. Seeing Byron and Sarah about to join them, she told them, "Stay here and hold the fort."
At that moment, Francesca hurried into the room. "What's going on here?"
"And who are you?" Dr. Roberts wondered. "This is my class!"
"I'm Francesca Alvaro, a professor in Italian Studies. I could hear yelling from down the hall, saw an upset student, and came to check it out," Francesca explained. "What's going on here?"
"It seems that my daughter took exception to me being here," Dr. Roberts noted tersely.
"Lana, is that true?" Francesca inquired.
Lana nodded. "She had no idea that Dr. Roberts is her mother. None of us did until she stepped in the room. The argument started over her comment about 'freaks' and Lex."
Francesca looked around the room. "Is that what you all heard?" Seeing nods, she told Clark and Lana, "Go and be with Chloe. Can you talk with Professor Dubois?"
"Dubois? As in those no good Duboises that almost destroyed Smallville?"
At that point, Mika and Miri got up.
"Girls," Francesca told them, shaking her head. "Don't."
"But, Fr¸Dr. Alvaro, she can't say that about us! How can you let her?" Miri asked indignantly.
"Trust me, this isn't the time. Get your things and go on. Make sure that Chloe's all right," their cousin told them.
They nodded and did so.
"Now, as for the Dubois family, it happens that they are both Duboises. My cousin is David Dubois, a History professor at this university. He also saved the town on several occasions. I think we've said enough for now on that matter. I would suggest you get on with your lecture or dismiss the class," Francesca told her counterpart.
"Seeing as we've lost twenty minutes already, we might as well let the class go," Dr. Roberts decided, collecting her things and leaving the room.
"Kayla, you and the others meet me at Professor Dubois' office. I want to talk about this with all of you in an hour."
"Absolutely," the skinwalker agreed.
Having heard that, the literature professor left the room.
This is going to be some semester. Kayla sighed, as she motioned for the other students to follow her out of the room.
Chloe ran out of the building, feeling both embarrassed and humiliated by her mother's words and presence. She can just show up out of the blue, say things about Lex and the others, and everything's supposed to be fine. Well, it's not! How can she show up here? She slumped onto a stone bench and released her tears.
"Chloe?" Clark called to her.
"Leave me alone, Clark!" she yelled. "Why aren't you in class?"
"Because Dr. Alvaro dismissed it," Lana added, running over to where they were. "Are you okay?"
Chloe frowned. "Do I look okay?? What do you mean she dismissed the class?"
"Apparently, she heard and passed you in the hall," he explained.
"Oh great. Now I've embarrassed everyone," she said sadly, bowing her head.
"You did no such thing," Lana assured her, rubbing Chloe's shoulder. "You stood up for the rest of us."
"Sorry I threatened you, Clark," the reporter apologized, looking at him sheepishly.
"If I get a hug, you're forgiven," he replied, giving her a warm smile.
"Thank you," she expressed, grabbing onto both of them desperately. "I don't know what I'd do without such great friends."
"It's mutual," Lana declared. "Come on; let's get over to Professor Dubois' office. Dr. Alvaro wants to talk with us all there."
"Oh great¸." Chloe started, thinking she had really stepped in it now.
"Just hear them out, all right? Besides our friends are looking for you as well," he told her, guiding the two ladies toward the Social Sciences Building.
Chapter 9 [Fifty minutes after the class standoff]
Dave and Angie sat in his office, waiting for the students to arrive. When they had started the Community experiment, they knew that a moment like this would come. Fortunately, Dr. Fishburne covered her duties, allowing her to be with the students and help resolve the situation. Leaving the girls with Natalie, they had called Lex and hurried over to campus.
"How the hell does something like this happen on a university campus?" he groused, taking a gulp from his coffee.
"You have bigots everywhere, Sweetie," she replied, watching him carefully. We don't need a Child appearance right now. "I'm glad that Francesca was right there to bring matters under control."
"But with Jasmine and Sarah in the room? This wasn't what I had in mind for their first class here," he argued.
"We'll know soon enough," she told him. Hearing a knock at the door, she saw the group standing outside. "Hi, everyone. Come in!"
"Thank you, Dr. Dubois," Jasmine responded, trying to maintain her resolve.
As the others followed, Dave observed the pale complexions and a range of facial expressions from them. He saw fear in some faces, anger in others, and concern from the rest. Granted, Francesca had only sketched out the situation during their phone conversation, but what she said had sent him into a rage. It took the whole trip to campus to regain control.
"Professor? Are you all right?" Sarah inquired, looking at him.
"It's nothing," the medievalist told her, trying to collect himself.
Martin shot the two newest students a firm look and shook his head. As with Angie, he knew how touchy the Professor was on that morning. "Fortunately, nobody was hurt."
"I wouldn't say that," Mika groused. "That woman really slammed us too, Uncle Dave."
"Sticks and stones, Mika," Angie replied firmly. "Did you say anything that we might have to deal with?"
"Francesca wouldn't let us," Miri said, making no effort to hide her distaste over the situation.
"Good for her," Dave told his nieces. "Kids, some times you need to deal with prejudice. This is one of those days."
"So you're going to let it go? How can you do that, Professor?" Byron complained, feeling his own darkness rise up within himself.
"I have no intention of letting this go. What happened this morning violates everything I believe in. However, there are ways of dealing with people," Dave told them.
"We can work within the system. Still, I can't believe the administration would hire someone like that," Angie added.
"They missed it entirely. More than likely, Dr. Roberts didn't mention her family in her application," her husband retorted. "No parent has the right to do that to his or her child." As he said that, he saw Chloe walking across the lawn with Clark and Lana outside of the window.
["Na 'gain!" the Child snarled from within his head and screamed.]
Sarah stared at him. "Professor, I felt something happen within your head just now!"
"Sarah, don't go there," Miri advised, knowing full well what waited for her if she did so.
Dave shook them off, standing up and walking over to the door. As the trio arrived, he asked, "Are you all okay?"
"We're dealing with it," Clark sighed, recalling his father's admonitions about these situations.
"Chloe?" Dave asked her. The sight of her condition sent waves of indignation up and down his spine.
"You know me, Professor, tough as nails. I let her have it and then walked out," she sniffled.
"And she apologized to the rest of us for doing it before she left," Jasmine complimented.
"Is that true?" Dave inquired.
"Yeah, I¸well¸got a little carried away. It's just to see her there and to hear her talk about Lex and everyone¸I¸oh geez¸." The reporter broke down again. "I'm sorry."
"Let it out," Dave told her, hugging her tightly. "Believe me. I know what you're dealing with. And you're among friends. We won't tell."
"Absolutely," Kayla agreed, standing by her side too.
As one, the rest of the students huddled around their friend in a show of support.
"Th¸thanks, guys. I really appreciate this," Chloe expressed, trying to maintain her dignity.
"Just like the Professor said, Chloe, we're all friends here," Byron indicated.
At that moment, they heard the screeching of tires and a car door slam outside.
Two seconds after that, Lex ran into the room. "Chloe, I just heard. Are you okay?"
"Lex, I¸" she started to reply before losing the words and grabbing onto him tightly.
The billionaire held her against him, allowing her to cry in the safety of his arms. His eyes glared angrily out the window. People could take shots at him. As a Luthor, his upbringing prepared him for that, but to shoot at his wife like that wounded him deeply. Nobody did that to her. At least our friends are here. "Dave, I hope you don't mind but I'm taking her home."
"That's all right," the medievalist agreed. "Chloe, if it's okay, I'll be by to check on you."
"That would be-great. Thanks," she replied. "Sorry, guys, I ruined the first day of the semester with my performance."
"You weren't the problem, Chloe," Clark assured her. "Lex, sorry¸."
The businessman shook his head. "Clark, it's okay. I appreciate the effort. No, this is my fight now."
"It's our fight, Lex," Lana disagreed.
"Amen to that," Angie concurred. "We'll talk with you later."
"Come on, let's go," Lex advised his wife.
She nodded but before they left, she requested, "Professor, be sure to give her hell."
He managed a smile. "Count on it. Go on now."
She nodded, her eyes sparkling at him. "I'll be back."
"It wouldn't be the same without you, Chloe," Clark told her.
Her eyes watered, as Lex led her toward his Ferrari and drove them away.
"I still can't believe this," Samantha told them all.
Dave sighed and shook his head. "As much as I hate to say it, we do need to deal with it. Can you all make it through your next class? I was thinking of heading over to the hacienda about fiveish. Sound good?" Seeing nods all around, he told them, "You'd best be getting on, everyone. Oh and don't go pointing fingers at Dr. Roberts if anyone asks you about the situation. This situation's going to be volatile enough as it is."
"Thanks, Professor, for taking the time to speak with us," Jasmine expressed. "You must be very busy, especially with your class in a couple of hours."
Dave looked at her and then the others. "I'm never too busy for any or all of you, Jasmine. Remember that. I'm glad you all kept your cool and supported Chloe today. I really appreciate that."
When the students had left, Angie closed the door and watched him slump back into his chair. "I'm proud of you."
"For what? I was being a leader. Those kids are going through enough hell without me going Pompeii on them, Princess," he pointed out.
"But you stuck it out. Hey, we need to check with Dr. Roberts. Think you can handle it?" she inquired.
He nodded. "Thanks for being here, Angie."
"Would I be anywhere else?" she asked him, giving him a kiss. "Come on; let's hear the other side of the story."
[Modern Languages Building]
Amy Roberts paced about her office trying to collect herself. For the previous decade, she had tried to put her life in order. As much as she had loved Gabe Sullivan, she felt trapped by her marriage and life in Smallville. Finally, she made the decision to leave everything before the existence killed her-running in the middle of the night and leaving only a note behind to explain her reasoning. I wish Chloe could understand that I wanted to come for her, but I couldn't give her a good life and go to school too. I wish she could understand that I only want the best for her. I didn't want to share my problem with her. Hearing a knock at the door, she called, "It's open."
"Thanks. Dr. Amy Roberts, right?" a male voice asked.
"That's correct," she said, turning to see the two visitors walk into the room. She didn't know the woman but the dark haired man with her stuck out like a sore thumb. "You? What are you doing here?"
"Excuse me?" Dave asked. "I teach here."
"You're David Dubois! How could they hire you?" Roberts countered.
Angie shook her head. "Don't go there, Professor Roberts. My husband's not a monster. Besides, you're the one who started the scene this morning, not him."
"As if you would know about such things? And who are you to talk?"
The oncologist got right in the poetry professor's face. "As a faculty member, mother, and one of your so-called freaks, I have plenty of right to talk! How could you do that to your daughter?"
"Gabe never kept her in line," Roberts snapped. "She never should have mouthed off like that. I'll bet you encourage her, Professor Dubois."
Dave snickered. "Nobody has to encourage Chloe to be herself. As for being 'no-good', I'll have you know that I've spent my entire life trying to do what's right. You're a lousy mother in my opinion, Lady, but that's between you and Chloe. However, I do have a beef with you ridiculing my nieces in front of their peers. That I will not tolerate. Nor will I allow you to make examples of anyone due to their genetic makeup." He allowed his eyes to glow yellow at her.
"Are you going to have one of your tantrums now, I suppose?" Roberts supposed.
"You shouldn't be so cavalier about it," Angie told her, "especially when he's spent most of the morning picking up your mess."
"This will be reported, Dr. Roberts," Dave added, fighting to hold his anger in check. "Meantime, when things cool down, I think you owe your daughter an apology."
"Get out of my office!" Roberts grabbed a book from her shelf, shook it in her hand and flung it at them.
The book missed them, shattering into a million fragments.
"What the?" Angie asked, looking at the debris. "The book was frozen! How?"
"See what you made me do??" Roberts yelled. "I was hoping it would go away. I didn't want Chloe to know I was like this!"
"Tough shit, Dearie," the Child rasped, taking over from Dave. "Life sucks. Deal with it. Ya'll come after mah fam'ly 'gain, Ah'll deal with ya'll!"
"It is true! The scene at the Talon happened!" Roberts realized.
"Which one, Toots? Ah've whupped butt there lots of times," the Dark One hissed. "Mah Daddy did this to us. Ya won't do it to Ch¸loe. Ah'm dealin' with Big Bro an' the Little Woman here. It ain't easy but Ah git through."
"Trust me, that's mutual," Angie interjected, earning her a glare from the Child.
"Wha'ever. Look, bein' different ain't nothin' to be 'shamed of. Ya'll can run 'way or ya'll can face yer deal. Makes no differ'nce to me. Ya'll mess with them kids 'gain an' ya'll will git me. Got it?" he growled low. "'Mon, lessgo, Big Bro.'s got talk comin' up with them kiddies." With that, he stormed out of the room.
"Think about what he said. It's not such a bad deal. Really, it isn't," the oncologist advised before following the Child out of the room.
For a while after that, Roberts sat in the room, thinking on what they had said. She had spent so many years running from her past and her responsibilities. Maybe it was time to take control of things¸that is, if it wasn't too late already. Looking at the puddle on the floor, she shook her head, wondering how she would make sense of these things.
Chapter 10 [Luthor Hacienda-about 6:00 that night]
Lex sat at his desk, trying to get things under control. For the majority of the day, he had comforted Chloe, trying to make her feel better. He had talked with Gabe earlier and promised an update on the situation by that night. At least Dave confronted her mother without serious damage or assaulting her. That's got to be a first. I hope there's some more news. Aw hell, I'm not going to do any of this stuff. Not when she needs me. He walked out of his study and down the stairs to the courtyard. There, he found her sitting by the fountain with a sad expression on her face.
Jenkins, the butler, walked over with a wrapped bundle. "Pardon me, Mr. Luthor, here is your delivery."
The billionaire grinned, admiring the roses. "Thank you."
"I hope that Mrs. Luthor is feeling better. Please let me know if I can do anything."
Lex smiled. "Thank you. I really appreciate that. Trust me; you'll be the first to know."
The butler nodded and left the couple to themselves.
No smart aleck remarks now, Lex. "Hey, Chloe, are you feeling better?"
"Not really but thanks," she sighed, chucking a pebble into the water. "We're a pair, you know that?"
"How do you figure that?" he asked, sitting down next to her.
"Our parents get their thrills off of putting us down in public," she replied, wiping a tear away.
"Your Dad isn't like that and you know it. He's very concerned about you right now," he countered.
"Oh geez. I bet he's beside himself," she realized, wincing as she imagined her father's reaction to the morning's events.
"He's not the only one," he mentioned, putting his arm around her. "I can't stand seeing you like this, Chloe. If your mother can't see how special you are, then that's her problem." He handed her the wrapped bouquet. "Oh, these are for you."
Upon seeing the roses, her eyes watered. "Lex, this is so sweet! Why?"
"Because I can't stand seeing the woman I love in pain. That's why. Now, can you smile for me, please?" he requested before kissing her on the cheek. "Besides, from what I've heard, you have nothing to be ashamed of. You stood your ground and then apologized to your classmates. That was classy and brash and all you, Chloe. I'm proud of you. Hey, you still have your dignity."
She shrugged. "I wasn't going to let her talk about our friends or you like that, Lex. I don't care if I get thrown out of school. It won't happen on my watch."
"And I'd be disappointed if it did. That's what I love about you, Sullivan," he pointed out. "Still, don't worry about me. I'll deal with your mother when I cool off. Meantime, your father was wondering if he could come down here."
She looked at him, knowing how her father still resented how her mother left them alone. "He's welcome any time. I just don't know if he'll be able to keep it under wraps, Lex. This is me, after all."
"Hey, the Child confronted her this morning. She's still breathing and unharmed from what I understand. She still needs to deal with your father and me though. Nobody talks to you like that, Chloe. I don't care who they are."
She pleaded, "Lex, I don't want a scene, all right? Please don't make things worse."
"I won't touch her," he promised, pulling out his cell phone and pressing a button. "Hi, Gabe. There's a plane waiting for you at the airport and you'll be staying here with us. Here she is. See you tonight."
"Hi, Daddy," she greeted.
"Hi, Pumpkin, are you okay?" Gabe asked. "I heard what happened."
"Yeah, other than a bruised ego and a massive case of embarrassment, I'll live," she told him. "My friends were there for me, as were Professors Dubois and Alvaro."
"I'm glad to hear that. At least you didn't have to go through it alone," her father declared.
"As if Clark and Lana would have let that happen. Yeah right," she noted.
"I suppose not. Still, your Mom and I are going to have a talk about this morning. I don't care what happened. She had no right to talk about you, your classmates, or our friends like that. Besides, I need some time with my favorite girl too, right?" Gabe told her.
She managed a warm smile. "I think I can fit you in on my dance card. See you soon. I love you."
"I love you too, Pumpkin," he concluded, hanging up.
"Feeling better?" Lex asked.
"Yeah, I guess I am. I can't be too depressed, right?" she supposed. Then, seeing her classmates entering the area, she added, "Not with you all on the job. Come on." Taking his hand, she led him to their friends and proceeded to hug them all tightly. "You all are the best."
Chapter 11 [Four hours later-El Gato Negro]
Dave entered the club and walked over to the bar with a lot on his mind. Although his class went well and Chloe seemed to be dealing with the situation rather well, he remained concerned about the incident that morning. There are enough problems between the groups here without inciting a debate right now.
"Good evening, Monsieur Dubois," Janette greeted warily, placing an ale in front of him. "Are you all right?"
"Rough day but I'm dealing with it. Merci, Janette," he replied, managing a smile for her benefit.
He puts up a good front. She studied him carefully, feeling the vibes coming off of him. The Child is very close to the surface. Fortunately, Nicolas is on his way over here. "You're very welcome." With that, she went off to check on her other customers.
For several minutes, he sat at the bar, enjoying his ale and considering recent events. It had only been three days since the Child and Xena had dealt with LaCroix, sending him to his final reward. I definitely need down time and the semester's only beginning. Terrific.
"I hear somebody spoke up about your group of freaks," a familiar voice taunted.
Dave tensed and turned slowly around to find Mason Eckhart standing behind him with a saucy smirk on his face. "Cruising for a bruising, Whitey?" For good measure, he shot the fledgling Enforcer an intense glare.
"You do presume too much, Dubois," the Enforcer added.
"Mind your own business, Eckhart, or end up like your master and big brother," the medievalist countered darkly, allowing his eyes to glow.
At that moment, Tracy Brown walked over and interceded, "Hey, guys, we really don't need a fight."
"Don't look at me. I just came in looking for a drink and to talk with Nick," Dave replied.
"And I don't think Janette wants any trouble," she added.
"Miss Brown, I suggest you mind your own business," Eckhart told her.
"I would say the same of you," Janette warned him as well. "I don't want a scene. If you can't conduct yourself properly then leave."
Eckhart scowled at Janette, knowing that Nick supported her authority. "Whatever," he conceded. "Dubois, you will fail, you know. I promise you that."
"Scram, Whitey, before you get a sliver in that delicate skin of yours," Dave countered menacingly, taking a large gulp of his drink and letting the froth run out the sides of his mouth. "I won't give you another chance."
Eckhart vanished into the night, knowing that wasn't the time to force a confrontation.
"What was that about?" Tracy asked.
"I would like to know the same thing," Janette agreed.
"I was sitting here minding my own business when he decided to start on my case. I was trying not to let His Darkness out," he explained, finishing his brew.
"And I do appreciate your restraint," the bartender expressed. Especially after what happened with LaCroix and Xena. "What is the trouble?"
"We have a new professor on campus who's anti-mutant and an estranged relative to one of the students. There was quite a stink this morning," he pointed out, starting on a second beer.
"Oh dear," Janette replied.
"And you talked to this person?" Tracy asked.
"Uh yeah. And then, the Child got his two cents in too. Didn't touch her though."
The two women nodded in relieved agreement. That was a potential situation avoided.
"So what happens now?" the detective wondered.
"Well, the university's going to have to get involved. I think Adam Kane's going to speak to her on the issue," he detailed. "Speaking of which, I need to have a talk with him and Emma diLauro about that matter." He put $10 on the counter. "That covers it, right?"
"Indeed it does. You have a good night," the bartender agreed.
He smiled and waved before walking out the door.
"At least his control's improving if the Child didn't touch that professor," Tracy supposed.
Janette nodded. You have no idea how right you are, Detective. No idea at all.
Onto Part 4
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