Prodigals (Part 4)


Chapter 12 [Next morning-Modern Languages Building]

Dr. Roberts typed away on her manuscript as she tried to forget about the fiasco from the day before. While things had remained quiet, she expected a visit from the campus 'mutant-police' at some point. I should be packing. I doubt they're going to let me stay on after that scene.

A knock came from the door.

Speaking of which¸. "Yes? It's open."

The door opened, allowing Gabe to march into the room. He had a very determined look on his face and it didn't take much to see the steam coming from his ears.

"Gabe?" she asked. "What are you doing here?"

"I got a call from Lex yesterday about what happened. How could you do that to Chloe?" he demanded.

"Do what? She challenged me in my classroom! Maybe you let her mouth off at home, but I'm certainly not going to let her do that to me!" she snapped. "Gabe, there is a respect issue here."

He shook his head. "You have a lot of nerve, Amy. How can you sit here and demand her respect when you walked out on us? When you made no attempt to stay in contact with us? And worse, you insult her friends and husband? How dare you?" He sighed deeply before glaring into her eyes. "Look, I'm going to make this really clear for you. I let you hurt me but I can deal with that. However, if you hurt Chloe again like that, you'll deal with me."

"I'm surprised that Lex Luthor isn't here himself," she retorted.

"He would have been, except that I talked him out of it," he noted. "Whatever your problems are, you need to resolve them and act professionally toward her and the other students."

"You accept the fact that they're¸well¸.?"

"Different? Special?" he supposed, giving her a skeptical glance. "Everybody's special in their own way, Amy."

"You know what I mean, Gabe. Our daughter's a freak," she sighed, wringing her hands.

"Excuse me," he shot back. "Our daughter is not a freak. She has some unique gifts, all right? Some of her friends do too. As for why, I think we know that you're different too."

"You knew? I tried to hide it from you," she replied with a horrified look on her face.

"It wasn't hard to guess when frozen spots started appearing out of nowhere. I always knew, Amy. You don't have to be ashamed of being a mutant," he told her.

"You're not one. How would you know?" she inquired.

"As far as we know, I'm not. But I know that Chloe is a special person, abilities or not. She's our daughter, Amy. Accept her for what she is," he continued.

"I suppose you've told her to stay away from me too, haven't you?" she wondered.

"Chloe's an adult, Amy. I would never tell her anything like that, but it's up to her. You've created a lot of bad blood between you and her. It'll be up to you to apologize, but it's her call whether to accept that apology or not," he indicated. "Well, I've said my piece. There's a guy you might want to talk to. His name is Adam Kane and he's a professor here. He's into mutant genetics."

"I've heard the name. Do you think he can help me?" she inquired.

"Maybe," he said. "It can't hurt for you to talk with him about yourself and Chloe. Who knows? Maybe he might have some insight."

"I'm willing to do anything to get closer to Chloe. You may not believe this, Gabe, but I feel like a fool for leaving you both," she revealed.

"I can believe that. While it's too late for us, I think you owe it to Chloe to make an effort. Good luck," he concluded, walking out the door.

She shook her head as she headed over to her desk and sat down. Opening up the top right desk drawer, she took out a picture of herself as a younger woman. In the image, a small girl with blonde pigtails and a big grin on her face sat on her lap. What happened to us, Chloe? Why couldn't we have had a normal life? Maybe Gabe has the right idea. Flipping through the faculty phone book, she found Adam's number and dialed away, looking for answers.


Chapter 13 [Student Union, noon]

Lana and Miri walked through the front door of the Student Union looking for a sandwich. Unlike the previous day, that morning's art history class was enjoyable and seemed to set the stage for an interesting semester.

"What did you think?" Lana asked as they walked into the Union's bistro.

"I don't know. With the material that Drs. Messenger and Cantaro covered last year, it'll be nice to know more about those times," Miri replied while getting in line. "You know what Uncle Dave says about context."

"Uh huh," the former cheerleader concurred wryly, hearing the words in her head. "He wants us to know everything about everything."

"It can't hurt to have perspective," Miri pointed out. "Anyhow, I'm thinking turkey on wheat. How about you?"

Lana looked at the menu board, considering her options for a second before deciding. "Tuna on rye for me, I guess."

"Sounds good," Miri agreed. "This is on me today." She placed the orders and picked up the food.

"You didn't have to do that, Miri," Lana told her.

"Forget it. You're always giving me coffee at the Talon," Miri stated.

"That's different. You work for me there," Lana argued.

"Well, let me have this one. You can get me back at some other point," Miri suggested.

"Okay," Lana conceded, wanting her friend to be happy. Then she spied a lanky red headed girl sitting by herself in the corner. "Look over there. Isn't she in the class from this morning?"

"Yeah, she is. Want to see if she wants some company?" Miri inquired.

"Lead on," Lana agreed, heading with her toward the table. When they reached it, she greeted, "Hi, can we sit with you?"

The red head looked up at them with her green eyes. "Sure. Say, aren't you both in art history?"

"We were in the class this morning," Miri replied, smiling at her. "I'm Miri Dubois and this is Lana Kent."

"Nice to meet you both. My name's Mary Jane Watson but my friends call me 'MJ'. I just started here," Mary Jane introduced herself. "This place is huge, isn't it?"

"It is, especially when you're from a small town in the Midwest," Lana agreed. "Miri and I are from Smallville, Kansas."

"I guess that being from New York, I should be used to lots of people. I heard that a friend of mine is out here too, but I haven't seen him yet," MJ supposed.

"I can imagine," Miri agreed, taking a bite of her sandwich. "Unless you're in the same major, you might never see him on this campus. What is his major anyway?"

"According to his aunt, he's in Physics. Since I'm over in theater, I'm usually across campus," MJ noted. She sighed. "Pete's a really nice guy. I just wish that he wasn't so aloof and mysterious. It's almost like he's hiding something."

Miri and Lana glanced at each other before the latter answered, "Sounds like Clark."

"Excuse me? Who?"

"Sorry. I was referring to my husband, Clark Kent. When we were in high school, he kept secrets and it nearly drove us apart," Lana added.

Along with driving the rest of us nuts. Miri mused to herself.

"Did he ever tell you his secrets?" their new friend asked.

"He did. It took a real bad situation for him to do it," Lana admitted.

MJ nodded. I hope that Peter would trust me with whatever his secret is. "Did Clark have a habit of disappearing whenever trouble shows up too?"

"That describes our Clark to a tee," Miri agreed.

"Miri, give him a break! He did try and help us plenty of times," Lana interceded.

"Well anyhow, we can sympathize. How about after lunch, we go on a quick tour of campus?" Miri offered.

"I would really love that. Thanks. I just need to be back for my Renaissance lit class at 2," the new student accepted.

"Dr. Alvaro's class, right?" Miri asked. Seeing MJ nod, she continued, "We're in that class too. Don't worry. We'll be there in plenty of time."

MJ smiled at her classmates. At least I have two friends in this place. I wonder if Pete's busy right now?



[Chemistry Building]

Adam collected his lecture notes and placed them in his satchel. Admittedly, the first lecture had proved a little more nerve-wracking than he had anticipated. However, with an assist from Emma, he produced a good lecture for the students, allowing both himself and them to orient themselves for the semester's work.

"Thanks for the heads up on the reading, Dr. Kane. It sure helped to understand what you were saying up there," Clark expressed.

"Anything to help," the geneticist replied with a smile. "I'm glad you're so interested in science, Clark."

"Yeah well, math and science have always been my favorite subjects. Still, I guess having you as a guide to genetics is the best thing."

"Careful, Clark, you wouldn't want me to think you were buttering me up," Adam teased.

"After those Saturday morning tutorial sessions? I know that won't work," the Kryptonian retorted, flashing him a smile in return.

"Good thing for you, Clark," Lex interjected, walking into the room with a smirk on his face. "Great lecture, Dr. Kane. Nice to see you haven't lost your touch."

"That's very kind of you to say, Lex," Adam replied. Noting the slender brown haired teenager with the businessman, he continued, "You're in my class, correct?"

The teenager reached out to shake his hand. "Yes, sir. I'm Peter Parker from New York. I've read all of your pieces on genetic DNA manipulation. Your theories are amazing."

Adam looked Peter over carefully and then shook his hand. A teenager who understands my theories like that? "Well, they're not that amazing, Peter, but that's nice of you to say."

Emma and Clark gave each other a knowing look, trying to stay quiet.

Lex chuckled and spoke up. "Peter won the LexCorp scholarship for this year. He's everything he says he is."

"Mr. Luthor, that's too kind of you," Peter declared.

"Nothing you didn't earn with your high school performance," Lex told him. "Oh and these are some folks you should meet: Emma di Lauro and Clark Kent."

"Hi," Emma greeted warmly, shaking his hand.

"Nice to meet you. Are you just starting out?" Clark inquired.

"Sure am. And you?" Pete asked, trying to keep a straight face. For some reason, his spider sense tingled around Emma and Clark, as if there was more to them than met the eye. I'll need to keep an eye on them.

For her part, she also detected something strange about the new student. I'll need to tell Adam about him at the right time. He's hiding something and there's a hidden trauma inside of him. Something bad happened and Peter feels it's all his fault.

"Hey, umm¸I have class at 2 over in Social Sciences. Peter, you want to grab a hot dog or something over at the Union?" Clark inquired.

"If it's okay with Mr. Luthor, sure. By the way, you can call me Pete, all right?" Peter accepted.

"Deal. Lex, is it okay?" Clark asked.

"Sounds good to me. Thanks, Clark. See you and Lana later, all right?" the businessman agreed.

Clark nodded and led Pete from the room.

"What do you both think?" Lex asked them.

"Seems nice enough," she told them. "Adam, I got a read off of him. There's something that Peter's blaming himself for. Also, he isn't what he seems."

"Not many teenagers are that smart, Emma. I did some checking. Trust me. He is that smart," Lex disagreed.

She shook her head. "That's not it, Lex. He's hiding some secret."

Adam looked at them and scratched his chin. "Having secrets isn't a bad thing necessarily. Still, he will bear watching. Come on, I need to talk with you both about some things."


Chapter 14 [New Sanctuary-Several hours later]

Adam turned from the computer with a sigh of relief. The students' data is finally current. I need to talk with Toni and see if there's a faster way to do this. Stepping out of his lab, he headed down the stairs and over to the living area to find the students waiting for him. "How are you all doing?"

"We're hanging in there," Chloe sighed, bowing her head.

"I know the Professor talked with her but Dr. Roberts' words still hurt," Lana pointed out.

"Welcome to the real world," Sasha groused.

"Yeah well, I don't think it has to be that way," Jasmine disagreed. "Attitudes can be changed."

The geneticist nodded. "Yes, Jasmine, they can be changed, but it's going to take time. That's why you are all here-to change things. To show that special people can fit in too. That is Professor Dubois' dream and mine as well."

"Meantime, we all stick together," Clark asserted, giving Chloe a hug for emphasis.

"You got that right, Farm Boy," the reporter agreed. "Thanks again, everyone."

"That's what friends are for," Ashley told her, eliciting nods of support from everyone.

Adam smiled warmly at them. "Good job, all of you. Keep it up. Now, I have to check on something. Feel free to relax for a while." With that, he walked off, leaving them to their devices and heading back to the lab.


Emma watched Amy carefully, not certain of what to think of her. For the things the latter had said to Chloe, she wanted to hate her. However, she sensed the emotional tempest within the poetry professor. She's so confused and in pain. How can I lash out at her?

"I suppose you think I'm a monster," Amy said crestfallenly, trying to relax in the scanning chair.

The psionic shrugged. "What I think isn't important right now. The question is how you feel about yourself."

The professor stared at the ceiling from where she reclined in her chair. "I have regrets. I wish I never left Chloe behind nor pushed her away later. I wish I didn't have these damn powers. I wish that I could start over."

"Maybe you can. That's up to you and Chloe," Emma told her. "It's going to take time. Meantime, we have to make the best of what we have. I know I treasure my gifts. Accept yours."

"I just didn't want Chloe to be a mutant is all," Amy sniffled. "I wanted her to have a normal life and have normal friends."

"And your leaving was supposed to help that? Look, Amy, maybe you thought you were protecting her, but she's a strong young woman. Don't judge her and the others for being different. Give them all some credit," Emma noted. "And do the same for yourself, all right?"

Amy nodded. "I'll try."

"That's all we can ask," Adam expressed, joining them. "How are you doing, Amy? Feeling better?"

Amy shook her head. "I feel like I want to die, Adam, after the other day."

He rubbed her shoulder in support. He did have a lecture brewing for this occasion, but he saw it was unnecessary; that the poet was beating herself up far worse than his words ever could. "You know that you owe the students an apology."

Amy nodded. "And my daughter too."

Adam continued, "Just try to be more tolerant of yourself and those around you. Now lie back." Pushing a couple of buttons, he started the scan.

Amy closed her eyes, imagining the light's feather soft touch gliding across her body. If this helps, more power to it.

"End scan," he commanded, telling the computer to cease its operation. As the results appeared on the CGI display, he assessed, "It seems that you are a mutant just like Chloe. Interesting."

"What is?" Amy asked.

"We assumed that Chloe's talents came from the meteor rocks around Smallville," he noted, matching mother's and daughter's files. "It seems that she was born a mutant."

"And does that mean anything?" Amy wondered.

Emma shook her head. "Not here it doesn't. We have special people here from a variety of backgrounds, Amy. We're all trying to coexist is all."

"I see," the poet agreed. "And David Dubois, he's one of them-I mean us?"

"Yes," Adam indicated. "Dave has some of the biggest issues to deal with but he wants to help everyone."

"The camaraderie helps him," Emma added. "What you remember from Smallville was a lonely boy screaming for help. We're giving it to him."

"That's why he changes like that?" Amy asked.

"Right," Adam agreed. "Look, we're coming up before the University's board on Monday. If you are serious about this new attitude, I can get your case downgraded to a stiff warning and probation."

Amy bowed her head, still feeling the shame of her acts. "All right, Adam, I'll do anything to put my life back together."

He nodded. "That's good. It's going to be a long road. Now let's get some coffee."



[Downtown Tucson]

Later that night, Spider-Man swung over the rooftops, surveying the Old Pueblo. He had already busted up a jewel heist earlier that day. Now he was playing tourist, familiarizing himself with his new city. I wish that some of the buildings were a little higher on the east side. This is a nice place.

Stopping on the rooftop of the Congress Hotel, he looked down at the traffic. Definitely not as heavy as Manhattan. Then he felt his spider sense tingle, alerting him to someone standing behind him. Whirling, he found Max crouching in the shadows. "Great. The first member of my fan club down here," he deadpanned.

She smirked. "Not quite yet. I've been watching you all night. Those are some neat tricks you have there."

"Everyone's got a few tricks," Spidey replied, trying to figure out the girl in the biker outfit.

"Like crawling up the walls?" Max shrugged. "Do you have a name or do I call you 'Bug Boy'?"

"Spider-Man and you are?" he wondered.

"Max," she replied. "Hey, umm¸if you ever want to hang with other mutant types, just look me up."

"And how do I do that?" he inquired. "The Yellow Pages don't list biker chicks as a category."

She rolled her eyes. And he's a smart ass on top of it. "I'm around. You ever get over to the university?"

"I swing by there every now and again," he told her. I wonder if the X-Men are down here too? He fired a web line at a nearby building. "I'll see you around. Thanks, Max."

"No sweat," she told him, as he swung away into the night. That's definitely different. I'll need to ask Logan and Adam to run cross checks on him for sure.


[Modern Languages Building-Monday morning]

Amy walked into the classroom and looked around. Seeing the empty seats dotting the crowd, she shook her head. I deserve this. The students need to feel safe and I took that away from them. Over to the side, she saw the group of mutant students looking anxiously at her.

Chloe, in particular, fumed with indignation. She didn't want to be there, but her friends convinced her otherwise.

At her side, Lex, Clark, and Lana observed things carefully.

Dave and Adam sat in the back of the class, taking in the scene as well.

Amy cleared her throat and started, "Good morning, everyone. I do mean that. Before I start on today's lecture, I wanted to apologize for my actions last week. I had no right to say what I said to all of you. I let my emotions boil over. I admit that I have some issues that need to be worked out. I want to do that. I know I can't force you to give me another chance, but I would appreciate it very much if you would." She looked at her daughter before continuing, "Very much." Feeling her eyes water, she continued, "I can't tell you how sorry I am. I¸I need to step out for a minute. Sorry." She left the room quickly.

Chloe shook her head. "She couldn't even stay for the whole thing. Geez."

"She did try, Chloe," Clark pointed out.

The reporter looked at her friends who watched her in return. I really don't want to accept it but it is the right thing to do. She got up slowly. "I need to find her."

"Want me to go with you?" Lex offered.

"No offense, Lex, but on this one, I need to do it alone. Thanks for the thought though," she told him, kissing him quickly before leaving the area.

Heading down the hall, she searched for about ten minutes. Finally, she walked into the women's room to wash her face. At that point, she saw her mother standing at the sink and gazing into the mirror. "There you are. I've been looking all over for you."

"I'll bet you want to kill me, don't you?" Amy asked.

"I have to admit that the thought did cross my mind," Chloe admitted, crossing her arms and frowning at the elder woman. "You did insult and embarrass me. You never wanted me around."

"I didn't want to make you sick with this mutant thing," Amy admitted. "I wanted you to be normal."

Chloe sighed. "How do you define 'normal'? Being like everyone else? We're all unique in some way, all right? It just happens that I can do this." She radiated on. "Your gift isn't so bad, you know."

"I suppose not. Chloe, I know I have no right to ask you to forgive me. What I did to you and your father was terrible," Amy declared.

"Oh you're right on that one," the reporter concurred, allowing her anger to show briefly on her face. "You can't just walk back into someone's life after ignoring them for years and not expect some repercussions."

"I'm willing to earn your trust, Chloe, if you'll let me," Amy told her.

"I'm not calling you 'Mother'."

"Then call me Amy if that's all right. I do want to be your friend and a part of your life," the poet offered. "Just don't shut me out."

Chloe took a deep breath and nodded. "Okay, Amy, if you're willing to try, I guess I can too. This doesn't mean that I'm not watching you."

Amy replied, "That's acceptable. Whatever it takes, Chloe."

As the two women walked out, they found Lex waiting for them.

"Working things out?" he asked.

"I know you want to keep us apart," Amy retorted to him.

He frowned and rolled his eyes. "Actually, I encouraged her to be here. Look, Dr. Roberts, I lost my mother when I was a teenager. I don't want to see Chloe lose contact with you. After your apology, I'm willing to work with you. Just remember, I'm not my father."

She nodded, trying to conceal her amazement. "I can't believe that a Luthor would be so¸well¸"

"Different?" he asked, arching his eyebrow.

"Well¸yes," Amy admitted. "I was wrong about you, Lex." She allowed the name to flow her tongue, trying it on for size to see how it would flow. After considering this thought for a minute, she urged, "I can see that it's time to get back to class. Shall we?"

"Why don't you go on ahead and we'll catch up," her daughter suggested.

"Thanks again," Amy expressed, heading down the hall.

After she had disappeared, Chloe closed her eyes, allowing the tears to flow down her cheeks. "It still hurts, Lex."

"I know it does," he replied, giving her a hug. "That was a great thing you did, Chloe."

"I feel as though I'm leaving myself open though," she retorted.

"Not when I'm watching your back," he assured her, kissing her warmly. "Now, I think our friends are waiting for us. Shall we?"

"We shall," she agreed. "You are such a taskmaster, Luthor."

He smirked, allowing his eyes to sparkle into hers as they headed down the hall. "I learned from the best, Sullivan." With that, they headed back to class, hoping for a new start for everyone concerned.


THE END (for now)

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