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Thread: Episode 2 - "Home" (PG)

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    Episode 2 - "Home" (PG)

    Title: Home (v.4.1 - Episode 2)
    Written by: Jen

    Notes, disclaimers, etc. all in Episode 1. But to be clear, we don't own anything but the plot and our original characters. Everyone recognizable belongs to DC/WB/CW.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    It looked the same. It smelled the same. Everything was normal. Like every other day when she had come into the Torch office. Sitting down at her desk, she ran a finger across the keyboard of her computer, smiling somewhat wistfully. Everything was different now.

    Pressing the small round button, she watched as the screen lit up and seconds later, found herself staring at its contents. Unfinished stories. Finished stories. An old To-Do-List.

    Shopping
    Laundry
    Dishes
    Check possibilities for financial aid


    After Gabe had lost his job, money had been tight and she’d started looking into the possibilities of getting financial aid both for school and to support them, at least until her father found another job. But that had been before every thing went to hell. Or more precisely, got blown up.

    “I thought you were dead.”

    Clark’s voice shocked her back into reality. Turning her head she found her friend hovering near the door, unsure it seemed of his welcome. The relief on his face was in direct contrast to the hurt visible in his eyes.

    “You were supposed too.”

    Her words were resigned, although she offered a slight smile. She’d known this confrontation would come, had counted on this exact reaction. Waving towards an empty chair beside her, she watched as he hesitated before entering, settling almost awkwardly into the seat. He rested his elbows on his knees and dropped his head, again seeming unsure. It took a few minutes before he looked up at her, his gaze intent, filled with a mixture of hurt and confusion. Chloe’s smile faltered a bit, but then straightened. No one had said this was going to be easy.

    “Clark. It was for the best.”

    Clark shook his head, unwilling to believe her words. He was still trying to grasp the fact that she was alive and well, sitting before him. He’d held his breath as he had walked towards the Torch office, knowing she would be there, but still harboring a slight doubt that nothing he had seen on television had been true--that she was really dead. And now, there she sat, looking a little pale but vibrating with life, telling him her faked “death” had been for the best. Anger filled his voice as he gave her an accusing look.

    “Do you really believe that? Do you know how hard it was to lose a close friend? Do you know how much grief you caused? My Mom and I even planted flowers on your grave. I spent hours talking to you, apologizing to you, feeling guilty I hadn’t been there for you. How can you sit here and tell me it was for the best?”

    Chloe felt something twist in her heart at his obvious pain, but a spark of annoyance surfaced as well. She turned her head. Looked at the monitor again, trying to control her fluctuating emotions.

    “Maybe because there are worse things than grief?” Her words were sharper as she had intended them to be. But annoyance and fear shaped them.

    “For example, living alone for three months, knowing everyone who knows where you are is in danger. Knowing that even one little wrong word could mean a death sentence to your closest friends?” She struggled to hold back her tears, taking a moment to compose herself.

    “I’m sorry that you were grieving for me. And I’m sorry about the trouble I’ve caused. But I’m not sorry that I did it,” her voice was firm with conviction, yet held a softness that she hoped Clark would understand. Taking a deep breath, she made sure he was staring straight at her as she addressed the other concern she knew was eating away at him.

    “And I’m not sorry that I did it with Lex. Because regardless of how you feel about him, he protected my Dad and me. We are alive today and Lionel Luthor is behind bars thanks to Lex. So yes, Clark, I can say it was for the best.”

    “But you trusted Lex with your life.” Clark knew his words were bitter, but she had hit on the heart of the matter that had bothered him.

    “Yes I did.” Her words were matter of fact and Clark tried not to let his conflicted emotions show.

    Chloe sighed, knowing that unless they worked this out, things were going to be very awkward. Reaching out, she placed her hand gently over his, glad when he did not pull back.

    “Look, I don’t know what the problem is between you two, but Lex was there for me when I needed him. And much as I appreciate your concern, you couldn’t have protected me the way Lex did. This was a complicated plan, with plenty of room for fatal errors. I know you would have done your best but in this case Clark, it wouldn’t have been enough. Lex’s plan was barely enough to survive.” She watched, sensing he was trying to understand, but still having problems realizing that what had happened had been for the best.

    “Chloe, Lex and I, there’s things you don’t understand, things that make me believe Lex is more like his father than anyone believes.” The conviction in his voice surprised her, making her even more curious as to what had happened to cause their friendship to fall so far apart.

    “Then make me understand, Clark. Tell me what’s going on.” She felt a pain in her chest as he looked away, remaining silent. The old hurts obviously were still there, coloring her voice as she managed to get out what had bothered her for longer than she cared to think about.

    “Or do you still think you can’t trust me? You still believe I would go behind your back.”

    “No! That’s not it at all.” His denial was quick, but he still couldn’t meet her gaze.

    Chloe wondered if he was lying, felt hurt that he could think that of her. Then again, their track record hadn’t been the greatest in the “trust” department lately. Pushing the emotions aside, she tried to make him open up to her.

    “You say it’s not that you don’t trust me, but you won’t tell me why.” She was frustrated now as he continued to elude her gaze. “Don’t gimme that secretive crap. And don’t tell me I trust the wrong people. I don’t need you to be my hero, Clark. I need you to be my friend.”

    Suddenly Clark was on his feet and on his way to the door. He was almost through it as he turned around.

    “I know that I wasn’t there for you, and I’m sorry about that. But trusting Lex is dangerous. It could be the last thing you do.”

    With those cryptic words, he was gone, leaving Chloe staring after him in confusion.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Getting back to normal wasn’t as easy as it seemed. Lex sighed as he realized it would take months, maybe years to untangle everything that Lionel had involved LuthorCorp in over the past years. So he had to start with the small things. But he didn’t think the man before him thought of this as a small thing. After all, Gabe Sullivan would get his reputation back, and a raise to boot.

    “So everything is back to normal?” There was a note of near disbelief in Gabe’s voice as he looked at Lex.

    The younger Luthor smiled politely and nodded. “As normal as possible, under the circumstances.”

    Gabe frowned. There was something in Lex’s tone that worried him.

    “What does that mean? Under the circumstances? Your father is where he belongs. And it doesn’t seem he’ll be getting out any time soon.”

    Gabe was nervous, and Lex could understand. The man had almost lost his home, his daughter and his life, then been forced into hiding for three months, apart from his daughter. Now he was about to be asked to jump back into the morass of what had caused all this in the first place. So, Lex wasn’t going to lie to him. Gabe deserved to know what he was getting into.

    “But that doesn’t mean that everything is settled and done. As long as my father is alive, even in prison, he’ll always be a factor.” He shivered at the words, knowing Lionel was safely behind bars, but his reach was long – and cell walls could not contain it forever. But for now, he suspected Lionel was too busy getting used to his new home to worry about sabotaging LuthorCorp or Lex.

    “But I’m not worried about that now. Until I hear something, everything is fine. Except for one thing.”

    “And that would be?” Gabe still looked unsure.

    “With all the work I’m going to be doing running LuthorCorp, I need someone to handle things at the plant here in Smallville.” He looked directly at Gabe. “I need a good plant manager. Someone who knows his job and his workers. Know anyone who would fit the bill?”

    Gabe felt a sense of relief at what Lex was offering, although he still had his reservations. Working for the Luthors in any capacity seemed to turn out badly for those in his family. Then again, Lex had gone to bat for him, for the plant, and more importantly, protected his daughter from the wrath of Lionel Luthor. And he really needed a job if Chloe was going to be able to afford a college education. He looked directly at Lex, noting the man wore a neutral expression. He kept his own voice casual in reply.

    “Are you offering me my old job back, Lex?”

    “Promoting you actually. With full benefits and the appropriate salary increase. You’d be in charge of the plant and its operations, answering directly to me.” Lex watched as Gabe contemplated his offer. Waiting a minute more, he held out his hand.

    “Do we have a deal?”
    He wasn’t sure if he was doing the right thing, but for the moment, it was his best choice. His only choice it seemed.

    “Yes, we have a deal.”

    The two men nodded as they shook hands.

    “I’ll send over the paperwork tomorrow and you can start back on Monday.” Lex felt as if a small burden had been lifted from his shoulders. If there was one thing he knew, it was that Gabe Sullivan would do his job and do it well.

    “Thank you.” Gabe rose gracefully and with a few final details confirmed, left, promising to get in touch with him tomorrow.

    Lex waited until he’d gone before rising and walking over to the small table that held the myriad of liquor bottles. He hesitated, then picked up a bottle of TyNant. He briefly checked the cap before opening it. He’d been poisoned twice by alcohol. Maybe he should think about changing his drinking habits.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Since Lana had returned from Paris, Clark had been trying to compose himself. Their last meeting had been awkward and held too many hurt feelings to be ignored easily. They both felt guilty for not being there for Chloe when she needed them, but even more so, their unresolved and conflicted relationship had increased the tension.

    He regretted sometimes that he hadn’t spoken to her at the airport. But as he’d watched Lex saying goodbye he hadn’t been able to move. Too many emotions had hit him at once, from betrayal to anger to the sheer knowledge that Lana would be better off far away from his own conflicted feelings and uncertain future, not to mention the danger she, like all his friends, seemed to be in when around him.

    As he reached the Talon, he hesitated at the door, unsure of whether to go inside. It was always going to be hard to face her. There was so much he wanted to talk to her about but wasn’t sure he could. She would ask him again to be honest with her, just as Chloe had.

    And he still couldn’t do that.

    But if she were back for good, they had to start somewhere. And the fact that she’d returned gave him a spark of hope that things might not be as unsalvageable as he had previously believed. Taking a deep breath, he pushed open the door. He saw her coming down the stairs, smiling at a waitress. She briefly spoke to her and the young woman nodded. She looked relaxed and confident, her smile making his heart lurch painfully as it always had.

    He left before she could see him, suddenly unable to face removing that smile from her face. He would talk to her – see what he could do to repair things.

    But not today.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    “So he hired you back?” Chloe’s smile was relieved. She knew the blacklisting had hurt her father deeply on a personal as well as financial level. Her dad hadn’t talked with her, but she knew that not only had they run out of money, but also were in serious debt. But the smile of relief on Gabe’s face as he’d told her of Lex’s offer had made her breathe a little easier.

    “Yes, and promoted me with benefits and a larger salary.” Gabe winked at his daughter. “So that college education you’ve been talking about might become a more affordable reality.”

    Chloe grinned. “I can live with that.”

    “And you? You ready to face everyone at school?” Gabe’s voice was slightly concerned, although the tenderness in it made her eyes moist. Quickly resorting to her usual snark, she tried for a snappy reply.

    “Do I have a choice? I’m really not fond of the idea, or of how everyone will look at me.” She winced at the words, only able to imagine the mixed reaction to her “miraculous” return.

    “You’re famous now.” Gabe too made his voice light, but reached over and squeezed her shoulder, understanding the worry behind the words.

    “I’d rather just be regular old Chloe Sullivan, somewhat odd but endearing editor of the Torch and all ‘round pain in the butt.”

    Gabe laughed, this time pulling her into a hug and kissing the top of her forehead.

    “Silly me. I always thought that you wanted to be famous.”

    Chloe pulled out of his arms and smiled wryly.

    “No. I always wanted to see my name in the Daily Planet or the New York Times. But not like this. I would have liked it more if it said “by Chloe Sullivan,” not “Read everything ‘about’ Chloe Sullivan.” It’s not the same.” Her voice was weary but resigned.

    Gabe smiled. “No it isn’t but it’s something. Isn’t it?”

    Chloe only sighed.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Clark really thought he should rename his barn -- from “Fortress of Solitude” to “Fortress of Unnerving Thoughts and Irritating Secrets.” Before the last summer had turned everything upside down, he’d needed his loft to escape to, a place to clear his head. Now, all it seemed to be filled with was uncertainty and confusion.

    “So where have you been this time buddy? I’m guessing that you didn’t hit the Metropolis party scene again. But maybe I should read the tabloids more often.”

    Clark’s head jerked around at the familiar voice. And for a few seconds he wondered if his eyes would pop out of his head. As he blinked, however, his eyes stayed intact, registering a grinning and very relaxed Pete Ross.

    “Pete! What are you doing here? How are you?” Clark wasn’t sure he could believe his eyes, but when his friend approached and hugged him, he realized in relief that he wasn’t dreaming.

    “I’m fine. Alive and kicking. And you?” Pete watched as his friend struggled to come up with a reply. He’d known when Mrs. Kent called him that things had changed drastically. He only hoped he could help straighten them out.

    “Good. Better now that you’re here. How is Wichita?” Clark motioned for his friend to sit down, grinning as Pete immediately picked up the conversation with his usual flare of enthusiasm.
    “Small. Very small. You know that a town is tiny when the girls in school want to know everything about your exciting life in Smallville.”

    Clark laughed. With Pete everything seemed really easy. The guy just knew when someone needed a good laugh.

    “So, not to sound rude, but why are you here? Where are you staying?” He was truly curious.

    “I’m staying here.” Pete grinned at his friend’s confused expression. “And I’m here because of you. And because of Chloe.”

    Clark looked surprised.

    “You heard Chloe was alive?” He knew it was stupid, considering her story had topped the local news for the last few weeks.

    “I heard. I do read the papers, ya know?” Pete grinned. “But I’m not here just to see her. Your parents invited me.” He paused, looking directly at his friend. Now was the tricky part. “They asked me to talk to you.”

    Pete leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. He still looked relaxed but there was an expectancy about him, as if he were waiting for Clark to confess something. And Clark knew exactly what he was expected to confess.

    “Thanks, but why come here in person? Why not call? Not that I’m not glad you’re here.” Clark stopped as Pete laughed and shook his head.

    “Because man. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone face to face.” He sobered. “Also because it’s not very many people you can talk to about whatever went on this summer.”

    Clark nodded. Truth to be told, he’d wanted to talk to someone about what happened during his time with Jor-El. But he didn’t feel comfortable talking about it with his parents -- he didn’t know how to explain it. Maybe his parents knew him better than he thought.

    Pete cocked his head and waited patiently. But when Clark remained silent, he took the first step.

    “So where have you been? Metropolis? Edge City?” He figured he’d start easy, let Clark tell the story at his own pace. But his friend’s next words floored him.

    “No... I’m not really sure where I was. But I think…” he paused, looking Pete directly in the eye. “I think I was home.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Pete was glad that some things never changed. The caves hadn’t for hundred of years and obviously didn’t plan to in the near future. He still felt reluctant to enter them however. Too many things had happened here that nobody knew about, much less could explain and who knew what still hid behind the stone walls.

    But he couldn’t refuse to go with Clark, after his friend had asked him to. Much of Clark’s history and perhaps parts of his future were painted on these walls, he’d explained, and it was the place where his journey had begun. It made it, Clark said, the perfect place to tell his tale. Now that he was inside again, he remembered the awe that came with the reluctance.

    “Wow… I didn’t know… but I think I missed this little old hole.” Pete reached out and touched one wall of the cave carefully, then looked at his now filthy hand and grimaced.

    “Or not. Dirty little place.”

    Clark laughed and shook his head. He knew Pete was not exactly comfortable being here, but he needed to have the images that defined so much of who he was surrounding him if he were going to tell his friend what had happened to him with Jor-El.

    “So I take it there aren’t that many caves in Wichita?”

    Pete laughed.

    “Nope, and no Freaks or Kryptonite. It’s pretty boring.”

    Clark smiled as they wandered deeper into the caves. Pete fumbled with a flashlight, as Clark unerringly stopped in front of the picture of Namahn and Segeeth.

    “So did Jor-El tell you something about that?” Pete motioned to the intertwined figures in blue and red.

    “No not really. I think because it has to do with my destiny.” Clark sounded unsure and Pete’s eyebrow rose.

    “So what did he tell you? After the demands he made on you about world domination – you’d think he’d at least have something to say about your destiny.”

    Clark sighed. “Actually, he told me about my past. Where I came from – my planet.”

    Pete tried not to look surprised. “Don’t get me wrong but it’s still kind of weird when your best buddy speaks about his “planet,” and you know that he is totally of his right mind.”

    Clark couldn’t help a wry smile. “I know.” He turned to look at his friend, wanting him to hear the truth in his next words. “Pete, I know how hard it was for you to keep my secret. And that you had problems because of it but…”

    “No man, I’m sorry.” Pete interrupted, determined not to let Clark delve into his seemingly never-ending guilt complex. “I’m sorry that I gave you a hard time. Looking back on it now, it wasn’t so much your secret that gave me a hard time.” He paused hating to admit it, but knowing they had to get this straight. “It was knowing that I wasn’t half the man you were.” He continued before Clark could interject. “Pathetic I know. And it’s true, it’s not easy living with your secret. But I think being the secret is even harder. And being the secret that you have to keep to yourself is something I know I couldn’t handle.”

    Clark swallowed, reading the sincerity in his friend’s eyes. But he wasn’t sure that he felt better now that he knew about his origins. He carefully leaned against the wall and looked around again.

    Pete was about to join him, but sat back down quickly. Clark looked surprised and Pete grinned ruefully.

    “No need for a new rush, man.”

    Clark grimaced in reply. All his experience with kryptonite and the mutations it caused had been crazy and sometimes very dangerous. There was no need to risk lightning striking twice. Once Pete got settled, Clark struggled with where to begin. Sensing his friend could wait while he tried to organize his thoughts, he decided the best way was to start from the real beginning.

    “There was a time when Krypton was a highly developed planet; blooming, cultured and prosperous. But a series of disasters nearly 250,000 years ago weakened it considerably.”

    Pete looked at him solemnly.

    “Did Jor-El tell you that?”

    “No, I saw it. I was there.”

    Pete was startled, but remained silent as Clark remained lost in his thoughts. It was almost as if he was trying to remember something he hadn’t thought about for a very long time.

    “There were experiments. Really bad experiments.” Clark shuddered at the memory of seeing first hand those experiments. He was not going to tell Pete about that however. “Finally a resistance group called “Black Zero” decided that the people who did these experiments should suffer for what they did. They believed the experiments had to stop, and that the destruction of Krypton was the only way to make this happen.”

    Clark could literally see Krypton in his mind. And how it had gone from a flowering planet to a cold ice-desert in such a short span of time. He could see people dying. Suffering. He remembered how he had tried to close his eyes so he wouldn’t have to see them. Tried to close his ears so he wouldn’t have to hear their screams.

    “Krypton had a capital city named Kandor. It was destroyed by a nuclear bomb. 40 million people died instantly.”

    His voice shook slightly, and Pete wanted to say something, but couldn’t find the words. He couldn’t imagine what his friend had gone through, had seen and suffered along with.

    “After that, a war started, lasting for about a thousand years.”

    “Talk about time consuming,” Pete threw in absently. “What happened next?”

    His concentration focused fully on his friend at the matter-of-fact answer.

    “The end came.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Lex smirked as he watched his father enter the small cubicle, hands manacled in front of him. Reaching for the black telephone, he looked at his father calmly while the guard released him, freeing Lionel to pick up the corresponding phone on his side of the glass wall separating them.

    “Hello, Dad. Orange really seems to be your color.” He knew his tone was condescending, but he couldn’t help it. It wasn’t often one saw Lionel Luthor in a prison orange jumpsuit. Or in a jumpsuit at all.

    “Son, is there an actual purpose for this little visit or did you just come to throw immature taunts at me?” Lionel’s tone was smooth and controlled.

    “Oh I came here for a reason, Dad. The taunts are just a bonus.”

    Lionel sighed, a resigned expression on his face. “I expected more from you.”

    Lex frowned. “No you didn’t. You expected less from me. Otherwise you wouldn’t be in here.”
    “So that’s all this is about. You’re here to enjoy your triumph?” Lionel looked at his son carefully, trying to read something in the expression he once believed he knew so well.

    “No, I’m here to inform you personally that you were officially replaced as CEO of LuthorCorp this morning.” Lex’s smile was slightly evil as he leaned back in his chair.

    “And I suspect you took my place immediately?” Again, Lex’s expression remained neutral and Lionel had to give his child credit.

    “Someone had to do it.”

    Lionel fixed Lex with his eyes. His expression was unreadable to most, but for Lex, who barely managed to repress the small shiver it sent down his spine, it was a look that warned of something more to come. Lex didn’t know if he wanted to think about that yet.

    “Cheering because you won the battle, Lex?” Lionel’s voice was cultured and almost amused. “Are you certain you’re up for the war?” The amusement disappeared, replaced by an intensity that shook Lex’s confidence.

    His expression remained calm, however, giving away nothing. He knew that Lionel was up to something. He was always up to something. And Lex didn’t think that even a jail cell would hold his father for long. But he refused to give his father that credit openly. Their power positions had changed, and he was going to make sure they stayed that way.

    “I don’t know. What do you think, Father? Are you afraid of your son?” Lex watched as Lionel’s eyebrow rose. A familiar smirk crossed the elder Luthor’s features and Lex suffered another moment of unease.

    “I’m not afraid of you, Lex.” Lionel smiled, sensing a crack in Lex’s calm façade. “But I think you’re afraid of me.”

    Lex swallowed, masking his expression, pleased his voice was calm as he replied.

    “Maybe I am afraid. You’re a powerful man with powerful connections that I’m sure reach farther than this jail cell.” He watched as Lionel refused to show any emotion at the statement. Firming his expression, he knew it was time to end this conversation.

    “But at least I have time to plan and fight this war. But you, Dad, are running out of it.”

    Lionel’s jaw tightened at Lex’s cold words as his son hung up the phone and left the room without a backward glance.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Lana smiled as she approached an older man, reading a paper at one of the tables in the Talon. She was slowly settling back into life in Smallville, although every now and then she did feel a pang for what she’d left behind.

    Pulling out her notepad, she mentioned the day’s specials and took the man’s order before returning to the counter. Passing the sheet over to Mrs. Kent, she wondered at how easy it was to fall back into the routine that had dictated most of her life after experiencing the culture shock that Paris had provided.

    The art class she’d taken had been wonderful but a lot of hard work given that she didn’t understand everything being said. She frowned, remembering her first day when everyone had laughed at a joke one of the students had made. Everyone except her, because she hadn’t understood the meaning. She had felt terribly dumb and left out, wishing for a moment for the safety of Smallville High.

    The awkward memory was quickly replaced by one of her nicest, and one of the reasons that she had seriously considered staying away.

    A wonderful guy named Jason. He had been sweet and understanding, feeling along with her the sense of being an outsider in a foreign place. Jason traveled a lot, his parents being well known, high profile lawyers, and she had loved listening to his stories about Italy, Spain and Germany. He had convinced his parents to let him take classes in Paris, because he’d enjoyed the city so much on his visits there. And after a getting to know her better, had asked her whether she could think of the city the same way. She hadn’t answered him that evening and he hadn’t pressed. But despite the wonderful times they’d had, the romantic dinners and walks and gifts, with every day it became clearer to her what her heart desired was not to be found in Paris.

    So she went home. Jason hadn’t been happy with her decision, but he’d accepted it, offering to come visit her and perhaps even move back to America himself. She’d convinced him to stay, telling him he shouldn’t change his life and dreams because she couldn’t change hers. So she’d left him, with a kiss and a tear, and stepped on the plane home. Despite the fact that she wondered if Smallville could really be considered “home” anymore. At the time, Chloe and Gabe were presumed dead and the Talon had been taken over by Martha.

    But when she’d walked in and received a familiar welcoming smile from Martha Kent, heard the older woman’s reassurances that she should act like nothing had changed, she’d known it had. Everything had changed and she wasn’t quite sure if it was for the good. Sighing at her thoughts, Lana turned from the counter with her tray of coffee. She nearly dropped it as she saw the person standing in front of her.

    Chloe had entered the Talon quietly. She’d heard from Gabe, who’d been in that morning for coffee, that Lana had returned. Unsure of what to feel considering how strained things had been between them when she’d left, she’d figured it was time to brave the waters. After all, she intended to spend lots of time in the Talon and that would mean seeing and straightening things out with Lana. Spotting the brunette at the counter, she took a deep breath and approached. The surprise on Lana’s face at seeing her would have been amusing if she hadn’t felt so unsure of her reception.

    “Hi Lana. How are you?”

    Lana was taken aback. After everything that happened a “Hi Lana” was the last thing she expected. Then again, considering the way they’d left things before her Paris adventure, and Chloe’s own haphazard summer in hiding she wasn’t sure what she’d expected. Chloe seemed to be as relaxed as ever, although there was something in her posture that spoke of a slight nervousness. Snapping herself out her shock, she came to a decision. If Chloe were making an effort she would too. Plus, it really was nice to see the blonde alive and well.

    “I’m fine, Chloe. How are you?”

    Chloe sat down on a stool at the counter and smiled ruefully.

    “Alive and thankful for it. So how was Paris?”

    The tension was thick, but not as uncomfortable as either had expected. Noticing the hand waving from across the room, Lana remembered the tray she held. Smiling awkwardly, she motioned to her tray.

    “I’ll be right back.”

    Chloe nodded, watching as Lana casually delivered the drinks, amused to note she was wearing a combination of white and blue today. A far cry, and a better one at that, from pink. She was still smiling when Lana came back and set the tray on the counter before taking the seat next to her.

    They sat there in silence for a moment, neither sure what to say. Lana took a deep breath, deciding to start.

    “Well…” she began.

    “Yeah…” Chloe answered.

    “You’re alive…” Lana couldn’t hide the relief in her voice.

    “As ever. And you’re back from Paris.” Chloe smiled as she stated the obvious, watching as Lana nodded.

    “I needed to come home.”

    “I know the feeling.”

    The two girls looked at each other, remaining silent. But the silence, as so many seemed to be lately, Lana noted, was not a comfortable one.

    Chloe sighed mentally, realizing that things would never be the same, no matter if she wanted them too. There were too many things that needed to be said and resolved. Lana’s run to Paris. Chloe’s “death.” Lana’s confession from a few month ago…albeit under the spell of the truth drug. But neither woman knew where to start.

    The silence finally getting to be too much, Chloe turned and tried to keep her voice light.

    “Well, I’m just going to grab my coffee and go. I still have a lot to do getting ready for the first edition of the Torch now that I’m back.” She grabbed her coffee and stood, noting Lana rose with her.

    “Chloe, I’m glad you’re alive.” Lana wasn’t sure how her words would be taken, could sense Chloe was just as unsure as she was about where they stood with each other.

    Chloe smiled, still feeling awkward, but it was a start.

    “I’m glad you’re home, Lana. I’ll see you later.”

    With a small wave she turned and strode from the Talon. Lana watched her go, feeling a bit of hope that perhaps they’d taken a step towards getting their friendship back on track. They still had a lot of issues to resolve, but at least they were speaking. It was a start.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    The next day Pete decided to try again to get Clark to open up about his time with Jor-El. After their last conversation, Clark had refused to say anything more. His friend had been pale and seemed nervous giving Pete the feeling that whatever had happened was troubling Clark more than he would admit.

    Then again, Clark always seemed to feel that the weight of the world lay on his shoulders.
    He’d let it drop, and they’d returned to the Kent farm for dinner and the requisite catch up conversation late into the evening. This morning found both of them in Clark’s loft and Pete decided it was worth another try at getting Clark to open up.

    “Clark, I know this hard for you to talk about. But what did you mean when you said “the end came?” Which end?”

    Clark sighed and walked over to the window. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to tell Pete—he just couldn’t. He didn’t know how to explain that his whole planet had been destroyed and that one of his ancestors was part of the reasons he was Krypton’s only survivor.

    “I don’t know what to say Pete! I just don’t know how to start.”

    Pete heard the desperation in his friend’s voice and walked over to stand next to him, laying a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

    “Well, start simply. Tell me what end came?”

    “The end of everything.” Clark looked surprised at his words. That had been easier than he’d thought.

    Pete looked confused. “What do you mean “the end of everything?” The end of your family? Your town? Your planet? Everything? But how? Why? When?”

    This was going to get difficult. Clark sighed and shrugged his shoulders.

    “I meant … I meant it like I said it. Everything ended. The planet exploded.”

    Still unsatisfied, Pete decided a little humor was needed. “So the planet just thought to itself one day, ‘I’m bored. What could I do? Hey… exploding could be fun.’ Come on Clark, no planet does that… does it?”

    “No, of course not.” Clark couldn’t help but smile at Pete’s attempt at humor.

    “So?”

    Clark turned back to his window and ran a hand through his hair. He knew that it was not going to be easy to talk about, but he hadn’t believed it would be so hard to reveal everything to someone he considered a brother. He understood his reluctance to tell his parents. He couldn’t stand the thought of his father telling him that the sins of his ancestors had nothing to do with him. Because those sins were the reasons why he was in Smallville. And he had the sickening feeling that those sins would continue to influence his future.

    “Well, I told you about the war, didn’t I?”

    “You mean the little one that lasted about a thousand years? Yeah I think I remember.”

    Clark sighed at Pete’s comment.

    “Someone named Kem-L built a machine that bound every born person on Krypton to Krypton. No one was able to leave the planet. It’s really hard to explain, and even I don’t understand everything. I just know that leaving the planet was impossible because of the genetics involved.”

    “But you left.” Pete’s voice was calm.

    “I wasn’t born.” Clark kept his voice steady as he saw Pete’s eyes widen in confusion.
    “But how could you leave when you weren’t born?” Pete was beginning to wonder if the time with Jor-El had done something to Clark’s brain because he wasn’t making any sense.

    “Later Pete.”

    Pete groaned, knowing Clark wouldn’t elaborate any more for the moment.

    “Okay… so this Camelguy…”

    “Kem-L,” Clark interrupted.

    “This Kem-L guy built this machine so no could leave the planet.” He stopped, something occurring to him. “Hey, how did the people of Krypton know that they couldn’t leave?”

    Clark grimaced.

    “The few who tried suffered a very untimely death.”

    Clark watched as Pete sank back against the couch.

    “Oh.” He wasn’t sure what to say after that revelation, so he contented himself with waiting for Clark to continue.

    “Yeah.” Clark sighed, turning away again. “Anyway, everyone lived in peace on the planet for a while, but after the seventh era, another machine built by members of “Black Zero” exploded. The explosion released an element that killed more than 20 million people in a single year.”

    “Kryptonite.” Pete spoke before Clark could, seeing the truth as his friend turned agonized eyes towards him. “You’re saying kryptonite killed all your people, your family?”

    Clark nodded.

    “Most of them. My father was a scientist who spent a long time trying to convince the government that the people died because of the new element, not a contagion as was widely believed. No one believed him though.” Clark stopped, amazed at realizing that he could feel sympathy for his father, knowing how hard it was to try telling people something they didn’t want to hear.

    “So what happened?” Pete’s voice was quiet, but firm.

    “No one believed him when he told them that as a result of the kryptonite exposure, the planet was doomed.” Clark looked away from Pete, taking a deep breath before continuing.

    “Finally, Jor-El recognized that he couldn’t save Krypton— only me by sending me away at the very last minute before the planet blew up. That’s the reason so much kryptonite came down to Earth with me and the ship. And that’s the reason why I’m the last one.”

    Clark sighed, knowing it was difficult to understand, much less explain. He was still searching for words when Pete’s voice broke into his thoughts again.

    “And if that machine bound everyone to Krypton, why could you leave? And back to my earlier question, what did you mean you weren’t born?”

    Clark sighed.

    “Pete, giving birth on my planet wasn’t the same as giving birth is here on earth. Please don’t ask for the details. I’m not ready to tell them yet, if ever.”
    The plea in his voice was desperate and despite his nearly unending questions, Pete slowly nodded, trying to give Clark a reassuring smile—and the time he needed.

    “I wish I could say I understand, but I really don’t.” He stopped Clark as he tried to interrupt. “But you’re my friend and I’m not going to push you for more.”

    Clark felt relief rush over him as Pete stood and walked to his side.

    Pete swallowed, trying to find the words to tell his friend it would be okay. But there weren’t words, because somewhere inside, he knew it wouldn’t. Not yet at least, maybe not ever.

    “I wish I could tell you that it’s going to be okay, that you’re not your father and that whatever his plans were, they were his plans not yours.” He stopped for a moment as Clark looked at him curiously.

    “But I can’t. I know there’s things you can’t tell me, things I probably don’t want to know, but I do know one thing.”

    Clark waited as Pete paused, looking directly into his eyes. “I’m here for you, no matter what. You want to talk, call me. I might not understand, but at least you’ll have someone to talk to.”

    Clark swallowed, amazed that his friend was so willing to let things go, despite the questions he knew were begging to be asked. It only reinforced his belief that telling Pete his secret, while burdensome to them both, had been one of the best things he’d done.

    Strangely enough, he felt somewhat better, although he was far from at peace with what he’d learned. Absentmindedly, he stuck his hand in the pocket of his jeans, his fingers brushing over the object he’d been carrying around since his return.

    Pulling it out, he held a necklace up to the sunlight, watching it sparkle before tossing it in Pete’s direction. Pete caught it, looking intensely at it before turning back to Clark.

    “What’s this? And don’t tell me it’s a necklace. I can see that.”

    “It is a gift from my father. It’s from my planet.”

    Pete’s eyes widened comically and he glanced again at the trinket. It was one thing to hear about a planet from far, far away. But it was a completely different thing to hold something from this very planet in your hands. Kryptonite did not count, considering the damaging effects it had on nearly everyone who touched it.

    “Do you think it’s important?” His voice was quiet.

    Clark shook his hand and looked a little bit disgusted at the piece of jewelry.

    “No. My father gave it to me so I had something that would remind me of Krypton. Where I came from and who I am.” Clark’s voice turned bitter. “It’s a twisted kind of a souvenir if you want to look at it that way.”

    Pete handed Clark the necklace. “Do you want to keep it?”

    “I don’t know.” There was confusion in Clark’s voice as he turned to look back out the window. “Every time I learn something about my past, I’m not certain I want to have something that reminds me of it.”

    Pete nodded, biting his lip before asking his final question.
    “There is just one thing I don’t understand, Clark.”

    Clark closed his eyes, waiting for the inevitable question.

    “After everything you went through when Jor-El started speaking to you last year, the attempts he made to get you to go with him, when he finally had you, why did he let you leave?”

    Clark sighed, knowing it was a question he continually asked himself. Closing his eyes, he could still hear Jor-El’s words ringing in his ears.

    You’re not finished Kal-El. Your mission is far from over. Go back and finish it.

    “Clark?”

    Jor-El’s voice faded as Clark became aware of the concern in Pete’s expression. Taking a deep breath, he struggled to find an answer he wasn’t sure he wanted to know.

    “I think he sent me back because there’s something else he wants me to do. He said my “mission” wasn’t finished.”

    “And what does that mean?” Pete looked concerned as well as confused now. Clark sighed, turning to look out the window into the yellow sun, closing his eyes and wishing things were different.

    “I wish I knew Pete. I really wish I knew.”

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    (episode continues in next post)

  2. #2
    NS Senior Member Senior Member sydsvaughn's Avatar
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    04 Mar 2003
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    Re: Episode 2 - "Home" (PG)

    ~*~*~*~*~
    The Talon went silent for a moment as Chloe stepped through the front doors. She felt everyone staring at her before the whispers started up. It was a familiar happening when she entered any room, yet it still had the power to unnerve her. Composing herself she tried to seem relaxed, knowing the curiosity of the people would fade with time. People never stayed interested in something very long. She could only hope that was the case with her “rising from the dead.”

    She approached the counter slowly, noting Lana and Mrs. Kent talking and laughing with each other. Lana looked happier than she’d seemed the last time they’d talked and Chloe could only hope that with time, their relationship could regain the ease that she and Mrs. Kent seemed to have fallen back into.

    Smiling as the two women nodded to her, Chloe ordered a low fat cappuccino, and upon receiving it, settled herself into a corner booth, out of the direct line of sight of most of the coffee shops curious patrons.

    Before the summer, before the trial she’d loved the Talon. Loved watching the people and absorbing the atmosphere. But after spending the summer in a small, cramped safe house, always on guard for anything suspicious, the crowd unnerved her and the loud chatting felt rather irritating. Even the coffee wasn’t the same, tasting not quite as good as she remembered.

    But maybe it wasn’t the coffee. Maybe it was her. Maybe she wasn’t the same anymore.

    She groaned mentally when she felt someone slide into the seat next to her. Looking up, she prepared to deliver the speech she’d rehearsed about wanting to be left alone – but the face smiling back at her pushed the speech right out of her head.

    “Pete!” She was so happy to see her friend, wanted to reach over and hug him. But the awkward way they’d left things before he’d moved made her unsure whether he’d welcome such a gesture now.

    “Chloe.” Pete smiled, noting she looked slightly thinner, but no worse the wear for her ordeal. “Didn’t expect to see me, did you?”

    Chloe smiled at his easy tone. “Not at all. What are you doing here?”

    “I came back to see if the stories of your miraculous rise from the dead were true.” Pete’s grin widened as he reached over and took Chloe’s hand. “I’m glad to see the paper’s weren’t exaggerating.”

    She blinked in surprise. Physical contact between them had been almost non-existent since his “truth” induced confession of his feelings for her. It was a welcome surprise, she decided as she squeezed his hand in reply.

    “Enough about me. So how are you? How is Wichita?” She relaxed as Pete launched into a description of his new life. He sounded happy, although there was something in his words that told her all was not quite what it seemed. When he paused for breath, she looked directly at him and smiled.

    “So, with your brand new life, do you ever miss us old folks here in Smallville?”

    Pete nodded. “Wichita is okay but I have to admit, it’s a little boring. I miss Smallville sometimes.”

    “You should come back more often. We’ve missed you too.” Chloe knew she’d opened a can of worms as his eyes changed, although his grip on her hand remained steady.

    “I came back once.” His voice was soft as he looked her directly in the eyes. “To say goodbye to one of my best friends.” There was a deep pain his words that brought tears to her eyes.

    “I’m sorry Pete. I don’t know what to tell you.” She paused, looking away for a moment before taking a breath and continuing. “I know that we always tried to be honest with each other. But that wasn’t possible this time.”

    Pete shook his head sadly, his grip tightening on her fingers.

    “I know. But it still hurts. At your funeral…” he paused, looking away, not wanting to remember the emotional turmoil he’d lived through in those few weeks after learning of her “death.” “I thought my heart would break,” he finally continued. “I thought I’d lost you for good. And there wasn’t anything that I could have done to save you.”

    Chloe swallowed around the lump in her throat, wanting to say something to comfort him, but sensing the words would be too little, too late. She could only take comfort from the fact that he was here with her now, talking to her, that he could, perhaps, one day forgive her.

    “I’m really sorry, Pete. I know it doesn’t make up for what I put you, all of you through.”

    Pete remained silent, but Chloe hadn’t expected anything less. When he finally spoke, she felt as if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders.

    ”Don’t do it again.” He looked up, squeezing her hand, something in his eyes telling her that while they still had a ways to go in rebuilding their friendship, they’d taken the first steps.

    She nodded, feeling unsure and more emotional than she liked. She decided that the best escape at the moment was to rely on her own sarcastic wit.
    “So, how was it?”

    “What?” Pete looked confused, but not as melancholy now.

    “My funeral. How was it?”

    Pete laughed and just like that, the tension of the moment was broken. When he finally got himself under control, he smiled wryly.

    “Very tasteful, but definitely not your style. Lots of flowers, lots of people, even some reporters.”

    Chloe sighed. “Too bad I wasn’t there. It’s not everyday one gets to see their own funeral.”

    Pete smiled, but the pain lingered at the back of his eyes. Suddenly feeling contrite, she tried to comfort him with words.

    “Pete, I can’t tell you how sorry…”

    “Then don’t,” he cut her off. “I’m just glad that you’re alive and kicking.”

    “Even if it is because of Lex?” She waited, knowing she was opening another can of worms, but needing to see if Pete still felt his animosity towards Lex.

    Pete sighed. “Even if it’s because of Lex. I still don’t like him. And I still don’t trust him.” His voice was solemn, but there was truth in his eyes. “But I’m thankful, that he kept you safe.”

    Suddenly the emotion in his eyes was too much and the tears she’d been holding back for so long let loose in a flood of quiet sobs.

    Seeing her breakdown, Pete moved over to her side of the booth and pulled her into his arms, keeping her anchored against him as she sobbed for everyone she’d hurt, for everyone who’d grieved and mourned for her, for everything she’d lost in an effort to help put away the person who caused them all so much pain. When she was finally out of tears, she sniffed, pulling back and trying to wipe her cheeks with her hands. She felt a bit embarrassed at breaking down, but was thankful at least that they were hidden from the other patrons.

    “Better now?” asked Pete quietly. Chloe nodded and gave him a thankful look.

    “Thanks, Pete.” There was more in those two words than she could ever express, and from his response, she knew he understood.

    “Good to have you back, Chloe.” Pete smiled heart-warmingly at her and gave her hand a last squeeze before he stood up.

    “I have to go. There are a few more things I need to take care of before I leave.”

    Chloe nodded. She didn’t want him to leave so soon but she knew she wasn’t the only one in Smallville who needed his sturdy shoulders to unload the events of the last summer on.

    “‘Kay Pete. But I hope I don’t have to die again for you to come visit.”

    Pete grinned. It was still a little sad but there was a warmth in it that made her believe everything would eventually be all right.

    “Gee, girl. Where’s the creativity? You already died once.” He winked as he pulled on his jacket. “Find something new. You’re no Buffy.”
    Chloe laughed. An honest to goodness laugh. Pete had a point. And it was even a funny one.

    “I’ll think of something.” She paused, something suddenly occurring to her. “Hey, how long are you in town and where are you staying?”

    “I’m staying at the Kent’s and I’m leaving tonight.”

    Chloe grimaced. She’d expected it but having it confirmed put a damper on her hopes of seeing him again before he left. She wasn’t so sure whether it was a good idea to go to the Kent’s, simply because it would mean dealing with Clark.

    Pete noticed her change of mood and his expression softened.

    “Talk to him, Chloe. You both are going to need each other’s friendship. It wasn’t easy for you or him or any of us.”

    Chloe could only nod as he turned and headed over to say hello to Lana.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    It was always the same. Come to the Talon after school to hang out. Try not to laugh at Clark as he pretended not to watch Lana as she served the patrons before coming to the counter to chat. Watch Chloe enjoy a cup of coffee like no one else could. Except it wasn’t the same. Pete sighed as he made his way to the counter. It was bittersweet coming here, seeing Chloe, knowing this was no longer his home. He watched Lana approaching the counter. She held a tray with some cups on it, but didn’t seem very busy.

    “Let me guess, Paris just couldn’t compare with the charm and sophistication of Smallville.”

    He watched amusedly as the brunette beauty whipped around towards him and nearly dropped the cup she had been about to put in the dishwasher. After a moment, she graced him with a smile and Pete felt something soften around his heart. He knew without a doubt that if he hadn’t fallen for Chloe, he could have easily been among the many that fell for the young woman before him.

    “Pete! What are you doing here?”

    “Visiting friends.” True, he and Lana had never been particularly close, but he still counted her among his friends. “How was Paris?”

    He watched her eyes soften as she began to speak. “Paris was … great. Totally opposite from anything I had experienced before. I expected everyone to be rude especially to an American, but the people were very kind. Everything had a bohemian flair and some parts of the city just threw you back into the middle ages. It was terrific, romantic and overwhelming.”

    “It sounds like you had some wonderful times. So why come back?”

    “I’m not sure. Maybe there’s more of Smallville in me than I like to admit.” She smiled wistfully. “Maybe going to Paris just wasn’t what I needed to find myself.”

    Pete nodded sympathetically. “I have to admit, I was surprised you decided to go to Paris. I never knew you were so interested in seeing France.”

    “Honestly, I never was into France. I was interested in the culture and the art there, and all around Europe.”
    “Art? Huh...never would have guessed you were an artist.” Pete caught the slightly hurt look.

    “Well, I never wanted anyone to know. But I was never really confident about my art. I always thought that it… that I wasn’t good enough. And that I’d just make a fool out of myself if I told anyone.”

    He could understand that feeling all too well. “Then how did you end up in Paris studying art?”

    “It just happened, I guess. I saw the advertisement and applied just for fun, never truly believing I would get in.”

    “But you did.”

    Lana nodded. “I decided to take the opportunity. I didn’t want to wonder “what if” anymore.”

    “But it turned out that Paris wasn’t the right thing.”

    “Yea.” She shrugged, smiling slightly. “Who knows, maybe I took a chance on the wrong thing in my life.”

    They talked for a bit longer before Pete was forced to make his goodbyes. As he walked out of the Talon, stopping briefly to hug Chloe goodbye, he marveled at the changes the last few months had made to his small circle of friends. Only time would tell if those changes were for the good.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Clark was once again staring out the window of his loft. It had been good to talk with Pete about his experience but it nagged at him that he still couldn’t tell his friend everything.

    The darker sides of his planet. The genetic experiments. The clones and the war that had wiped them from the face of the planet. How could he have explained to Pete that “being born” on Krypton meant literally being “cloned?” It was only because his father had secretly experimented with the cloning process, that he had been able to leave. His people, his father, had been on the search for everlasting life and youth. Instead, they’d only found death and destruction.

    He turned around as he heard steps on the stairs. To his surprise he saw Lana hesitantly approaching. She smiled at him, but remained standing on the last stair.

    Clark understood. He couldn’t make himself close the space between them either. Even if it was something he craved more than anything.

    “I missed your loft. It was always so quiet and relaxing.” Lana knew it was an inane way to start a conversation, but she wasn’t sure what to say now that she was actually here.

    “It still is.” Clark wasn’t sure how to respond, wasn’t sure what she expected from him. “As always, my fortress of solitude.” He heard the depression in his voice.

    It was that depression that made Lana step forward, beginning to breach the gap.

    “But always home.” She looked around, smiling as if she were remembering good times. “It’s very important to have someplace you can call home. I know that now.”

    Clark was puzzled at her words. “You’ve always had a home here, Lana. I hope you never doubted that.”
    Lana sighed. “I did.” She moved a little closer as she tried to explain. “There were so many times when I wasn’t sure where I belonged. Wondered if I should have packed it in and moved to Metropolis with Nell.”

    Clark swallowed, knowing much of her feelings most likely had to do with the secrets he’d kept, and was still keeping from her. But it didn’t stop him from asking the next question.

    “And where do you consider home now?”

    Lana looked surprised, but if she thought about it, she’d been expecting his question. The trick now was how to answer. Mrs. Kent’s words lingered in her mind as she took another step towards him.

    “I don’t know. Maybe I’m still searching for it.”

    Her words sent differing emotions through him. Happiness that she hadn’t given up completely on Smallville, but fear that once more his issues and their fragile relationship would send her packing. But she was being honest with him, and it enabled him to take a step towards her. It was a small step, but it was the first, he hoped, on the road leading back to each other. Whether it was as friends or something more.

    “Then take your time. It’s not always easy to define what makes a place home.”

    Lana turned her head away and looked thoughtful. She wanted to ask him about his statement, but knew that right now, she wouldn’t get any answers. But she could live with that. For now.

    “Yes maybe it is. Time will tell.”

    Clark smiled tentatively. “The most important thing is that you’re here now.”

    Lana nodded, moving back towards the stairs. Before she reached the top one, she turned back to him, giving him the first genuine smile she’d managed around him since her return.

    “I hope we can be friends again, Clark.”

    Clark nodded, trying not to let the hope springing to life inside his chest come out in his words. He didn’t want to scare her off again. “I hope so too, Lana. More than you know.”

    Lana smiled softly at him before descending the stairs. Clark walked over to the banister and watched as she reached the double doors. She was almost outside when something made him call her back.

    “Lana!”

    Startled by his voice, Lana turned and gave him a questioning look.

    “I was at the airport. I wanted to say goodbye and wish you luck. I just wanted you to know that.” The words were breathless and jumbled, but he needed her to understand. His breath caught at the slight smile that appeared on her face.

    “I knew that Clark. I knew that all the time.”

    He watched her go with a stunned expression on his face and hope in his heart.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Pete felt rather melancholy as he realized it was nearly time for him to leave Smallville again. He wasn’t sure his presence had done what Mr. & Mrs. Kent had hoped, but he knew neither Clark nor Chloe would say more.

    His talk with Chloe had gone better than he’d thought, but he needed to know exactly what had happened over the summer, how she and Lex had pulled it off. Except she wasn’t ready to tell, and he could only hope that when she was, she knew he’d be there. One thing he’d learned from his friendship with Clark was patience.

    Clark was still keeping things from him, but it was obvious they were too painful to relate. He just hoped that when he was ready, Clark would tell him what had him so horrified. But until then, he’d try to remain patient and give his friend the time and space they needed.

    But damn, it wasn’t going to be easy!

    “You ready, Pete?” He jumped as Clark’s voice broke into his thoughts. Smiling, he turned as his friend approached carrying the various pieces of his luggage.

    “Yeah, but I’m gonna miss this place.” He looked at the quiet simplicity of the farm once more, breathing in the peace and serenity like a drug.

    “I’m really going to miss you, Pete.” Clark knew it was stupid to feel like he’d never see his friend again, but after everything he’d been through, this parting felt so final.

    “I’ll miss you too.” He paused, looking directly at Clark. “But you have other friends here you know?”

    Clark sighed. “At the moment I’m not so sure about that.”

    Pete nodded, knowing it was not going to be easy for Clark to make his peace with Lana and Chloe, especially when he still couldn’t tell them who he was and what secrets he held. He didn’t envy that burden one bit, but he’d do what he could to ease it.

    “Talk to her. She really does care about you.” He stopped, waiting for Clark to meet his gaze. “But remember, you weren’t the only one who had a difficult summer. Chloe made some decisions, and while I’m not very happy about them myself, they were her decisions.”

    “She trusted Lex with her life.” Clark still couldn’t get over the anger and bitterness the thought brought.

    “And she was right to.” Pete cringed at Clark’s shocked look. It wasn’t easy for him to give Lex credit for anything. But in this case, he had too. “He saved her life, Clark. Despite what I’ve always believed about him, that counts for something.”

    Clark knew his friend had a point, but listening to it was proving difficult. “He’s still Lex. He’s dangerous for anyone to be friends with – after the investigating he did on me, how he took down Lionel--” he trailed off as Pete shook his head.

    He wouldn’t rant about Lex and how he still didn’t think the man trustworthy. The only thing that counted at the moment was that Chloe was alive—and it was because of Lex. Whether Clark liked it or not.

    “Is this really about her trusting Lex, or her trusting Lex more than you? Or maybe because you’ve learned that you can’t save everyone. Even if you want to more than anything.” He watched an unknown emotion flitter across his best friend’s face. When he got no response he continued. “I understand that it was hard for you. Believe me I do. But it was hard for her too.” He watched as Clark looked at him in confusion. “Talk to Chloe. Get over yourself and speak with her. No Luthor is worth loosing your friendship over.”

    Clark sighed as Pete turned, loading his luggage into his rental car. Walking forward to help, he mulled over his friend’s words, realizing that Pete was right. No Luthor was going to ruin another relationship with someone he cared about.

    Hugging his friend goodbye, he watched until Pete’s car was out of sight. Turning, he walked back into the house to inform his parents he was going out. He was finally going to start trying to make things right.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    Clark smiled as he walked into the Torch office, finding Chloe exactly where he’d suspected. She sat behind her computer, diligently typing something. Typical Chloe, always on the hunt for a story.

    Chloe looked up as she heard a throat being cleared. Trying not to feel excited at spotting Clark’s smile, she smiled a bit hesitantly, waving him inside, an echo of the last time they’d confronted each other.

    Clark took a deep breath before walking over to take the offered seat. When he’d settled into it, he looked over to find Chloe watching him hopefully.

    “So…” she began.

    “So…” he replied. They looked at each other, neither sure what to say. Finally, Pete’s words fresh in his mind, Clark started to speak.

    “I’m sorry, Chloe. I’ve said a lot of things I didn’t mean.” He stopped her interjection by raising a hand. “I’ve missed you Chloe. And I’ve grieved for you. But I’m happy that you’re alive and safe.” He looked directly into her eyes, forcing him to say and believe his next words. “And if that’s because of Lex, then I have to be okay with it.”

    Chloe was surprised. She could tell how much effort it was taking for Clark to be so honest, to admit that he was okay with her turning to Lex for help. Something inside her she thought she’d lost sprung back to life. And if he were being honest, she could too.

    “I’m sorry too, Clark. It was never my intention to hurt anyone in the process. But it was necessary. And I’m not sorry I did it.” She waited, knowing she needed him to accept that part of her confession as well. She wasn’t going to apologize for something she wasn’t sorry for.

    “You don’t have to be.” It took a lot for him to say the words but he knew they had to be said if there was any hope of repairing their friendship. He only hoped that in time, he could believe them.

    “So we’re okay?” She asked hopefully.

    Clark smiled at her before reaching over and placing his palm over hers. It was very much like what Pete had done and a lump appeared in her throat as she carefully laid her other hand on top of his.

    “We’re okay, Chloe.” They looked at each other for a few more seconds before Clark pulled back, remembering what he’d grabbed before leaving the farm.

    “I have something for you.”

    Chloe looked surprised as she watched him pull something out of his pocket. Her breath caught as she found herself staring at a beautiful necklace with a strange looking symbol on it. She couldn’t be sure in this light, but it looked a lot like the symbols she’d seen on several of her visits to the cave.

    Leaning forward, Clark placed the necklace in her hands. “I want you to have this. Sort of a welcome home, I’m glad you’re my friend type gift.”

    Chloe felt the tears close to falling as she took the chain, looking more closely at the pendant, noticing it looked very expensive. “Clark, I can’t accept this, it’s too much-”

    Clark shook his head cutting her off, a look of urgency in his eyes that confused her.

    “No it’s not. I want you to have it. Besides,” he tried for a self-mocking grin, “I think it’d look a lot better on you than me.”

    Chloe smiled knowing there was more behind the gift, but willing to accept it at face value. For the moment.

    “Thank you, Clark. It’s beautiful.”

    He smiled as she fastened the chain around her neck. Somehow, the symbol of everything that scared him about his past looked a lot less sinister resting in the pale hollow of her throat.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~

    Lex sighed as he pushed open the doors to his office, glad to be once more at home, if you could call the mausoleum he lived in a home. He’d spent far too long trying to prove to everyone that he could handle LuthorCorp’s daily business and now, he wanted nothing more than a good stiff drink and to relax with a book by the fire. He’d told only a few people he was returning to Smallville, craving the peace and quiet after the long day he’d put in.

    Which was why he was so surprised to find Chloe Sullivan sitting in the chair in front of his desk, scribbling away on a notepad. For a moment, he wondered if something were wrong, if his father had found a way to get to her again. But her casual stance, and the slightly embarrassed look she wore as she became aware of his presence relieved those fears. If she’d been upset or afraid, he would have known. He felt something ease inside his chest as she smiled tentatively at him.

    “Ms. Sullivan, to what do I owe this unexpected visit?” His words were dry but she could hear the amusement behind them. She might not know him that well, but she definitely knew him better than she had months ago.

    “The businessman is back, I see. Complete with the formal address.” Chloe smiled as Lex actually looked amused for a moment.

    “So, is there a point to your visit, Chloe,” he stressed her first name as he settled into the seat behind his desk. “Or were you just in the neighborhood?”

    Chloe smiled. “I wanted to personally thank you for giving my dad his job back.” She held up her hand as he started to interject. “No, Lex. I know why everything happened the way it did, and I know how hard it was for you. So thank you for making it right.”

    Lex swallowed, unsure of what to say to such a heartfelt declaration. He wasn’t sure what his relationship with Chloe was, nor would be now that they’d finally put Lionel behind bars. Technically, they had no real reason to see each other, and he should have been fine with that.

    But it didn’t explain the feeling of relief that was creeping through his bones as he felt the warmth of her presence around him. Deciding that was territory best not explored, he changed it back to something he was more comfortable with – something that she would be interested in as well.

    “I visited my father, to tell him about the power shift within LuthorCorp.”

    Chloe watched him carefully, knowing he had to have been more affected than he let on.

    “And how took Daddy dearest to his dethroning?” She didn’t hide the amusement and pride she felt towards him as she spoke.

    “A little “I expected better” a little threatening. Nothing serious. Nothing I can’t handle.”

    Chloe looked away and Lex could see her insecurity. The instinctive need to reassure her immediately surged forward.

    “Chloe, I know that you’re still worrying. But you’re safe now.”

    Chloe smiled sadly. She wanted to believe him, but she’d had too many experiences with Lionel that told her otherwise. Sensing the serious turn this could take, she opted to lighten the moment.

    “You know something good did come out of this, aside from you father being put in jail.” At Lex’s raised brow, she continued. “At least when someone asks how my summer was I can say, with complete honesty, that my summer was a blast.”

    Lex laughed, hoping the quip was a sign she was getting her spunk back. Dealing with his father, with a summer of hiding, working to bring down a man who had caused so much pain had matured her faster than any 17, almost 18 year old should. He felt a little sorry that her maturity had to come with such a traumatic experience. But he knew she would recover. It wasn’t in her nature to give up. Rather like his own.

    “Not quite up to par but your verbal judo skills are returning.”

    Chloe smirked and Lex found himself thinking how much it mirrored his own self-satisfied smirk. He wasn’t sure if that should amuse or frighten him.

    “Thanks. Your praise means so much.” She reached to push a piece of hair off her face as she spoke, the move causing the necklace she wore to catch the gleam of the desk light.

    Lex wondered if it was new, and if so, who had given it to her.

    “That’s a pretty necklace. I don’t think I’ve seen you wear it before.” He hoped he didn’t sound as obvious as he felt.

    “It’s a “Sorry-I-was-jerk-can-we-be-friends-again” present from Clark.” She sighed as he tensed up at the mention of Clark’s name.

    “So things are back to normal with you both?”

    Chloe frowned. “I don’t know. I don’t think that we can ever be on our old terms again. But for now, we’re okay.” She looked over at him with an intensity that had he been anyone else, would have had him squirming in his seat. “So have you two talked yet?”

    Lex sighed, knowing she would have to bring this up. “No, we have not. I did some things he can’t forgive. But I can understand that.”

    Chloe sighed in frustration. “But neither you nor he will tell me what exactly happened, will you?”

    “Doesn’t really matter, Chloe. It is as it is.” Lex hoped she’d leave it at that. He was too tired to get into the mess his relationship with Clark had become.

    “That’s very cryptic.” She bit her lip, unsure of how to ask the next part of her question, but needing the answer. “But you would tell me if it had anything to do with me and my part in our plan to bring down your father?”

    Lex could hear the worry and the question in her voice and was surprised she seemed to care so much. Then again, this was Chloe and as he’d learned over the summer, she was full of surprises.

    “Of course I would.”

    Chloe wasn’t sure if she believed him, but knew she would get nothing more out of him at the moment. She’d learned to quit when she was ahead. Or at least try.

    “Okay, on that rather cryptic note, I have to go. My father and I are going out tonight to celebrate his promotion.”

    Lex nodded, smiling as he stood to show her to the door.

    “I’ll see you later, Lex.” She gave him a soft smile as she turned and walked through the double doors without looking back.

    He watched her go, ruminating on their conversation. Lex was sure that he’d done the right thing in not telling her about the investigating he’d done on Clark behind his friend’s back. Even though she, more than anyone, might have understood.

    ~*~*~*~*~

    A half hour later, Lex was startled when the doors to his office swung open to admit a rather determined looking Clark Kent.

    “Clark.” He nodded to a chair as Clark walked over and took a seat. The two men stared at each other for a while, both waiting for the other to speak. Finally Lex broke the uncomfortable silence.

    “Clark, I don’t think you came here just to stare at me.”

    Clark shifted, looking uncomfortable as he focused his gaze over Lex’s shoulder and towards the huge stained glass window.

    “This isn’t a friendly visit Lex. But after everything you did for Chloe and her Dad… I feel like I owe you a thank you.”

    Lex shook his head, his words resolute.

    “You don’t owe me anything, Clark. I did it for Chloe. Without her, my father would still be ruining people’s lives on a daily basis.”

    Clark stood and started pacing. It was irritating but Lex remained silent, knowing with Clark the only thing one could do was wait.

    Finally, Clark stopped and focused his accusing gaze on Lex.

    “Did you ever think about how dangerous it was for Chloe? She almost died, Lex! Your father certainly wanted her dead. How could you involve her in that?”

    Lex let Clark rant, knowing the boy needed to get his anger out, knew he had several valid points. It was true that it had been very dangerous for Chloe, and he had tried to talk her out of it, but one could not talk Chloe Sullivan out of something once she set her mind to it. It was a trait that both frustrated and amazed him at times. When Clark finally paused for breath, he interjected his defense in a calm, controlled voice, showing none of the anger he felt.

    “I know it was dangerous and had there been any other way, believe me I would have found it. But Chloe wouldn’t back down. It was her decision to take the risk and she did. She trusted me to protect her, and I gave her my word that I would. She helped me bring down my father, and for that, I’ll never be able to thank her enough.”

    Clark shook his head. In his mind, he knew Lex had a point, but he wasn’t ready to concede yet. He’d trusted Lex to protect someone he cared about, and once again, had been disappointed.

    “How can you talk about trust, Lex? It’s one thing that you lied to me, and went behind my back, but it’s something completely different when you put Chloe’s life on the line.”

    Lex knew nothing he said would have any impact on Clark at the moment. He wasn’t sure he wanted to reply but knew he had to say something.

    “Chloe’s a grown woman, Clark. She makes her own decisions. One of those was to trust me. Someday, I hope you might be able to trust me again, to realize that I never meant anything I did, to hurt you.”

    He was surprised at the truth he heard in his words. He hadn’t realized how much he’d wanted Clark to understand, to let him explain why he’d been so obsessed with finding out the truth. But from the expression in the other man’s eyes, he knew that day was a long time coming.

    “I thought I knew you, Lex. But now I’m not certain I ever did.”

    Lex remained staring at the door long after Clark disappeared through it.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    Martha Kent smiled politely as a young man approached the counter, looking around the Talon as if he was searching for someone. She hadn’t seen him before so she guessed he was either new in town or just passing through. Smiling, she approached and offered him a menu.

    “Welcome to the Talon. How can I help you?”

    The young man smiled back warmly and nodded to the menu.

    “For a start, a large coffee would be great.”

    “Large coffee. On its way.” Martha smiled as she turned to place the order.

    The young man nodded his thanks and looked around again as if he were trying to find something that was missing. Martha watched him carefully – normally people brought books with them, or even computers. But this young man simply kept looking around, his eyes intense and bright. Walking over, she set the coffee down in front of him, waiting as he looked as if he were trying to find the words to ask a question.

    “Is there anything else I can do for you?” Martha smiled encouragingly. He cocked his head, thought for a moment then smiled.

    “Do you know a young woman who lives here?”

    Martha laughed. “Well many young women live here despite this town being called Smallville. Maybe you could be a little more specific.” She waited as his expression took on a longing look.

    “Raven hair, brown eyes. Her name is Lana.”

    Martha tensed very slightly. “Lana? As in Lana Lang?”

    “Do you know her?” The excitement in his expression had her carefully answering.

    “Yes, I do. She’s a friend of the family. Why?”

    “I’m looking for her. It’s sort of a surprise. She doesn’t know I’m here.”

    Martha was intrigued, wondering who this young man could be and how Lana knew him. Something suddenly occurred to her and she wondered if she would regret asking the next, although logical question.

    “How do you know her? I don’t remember her mentioning you.”

    The man looked slightly disappointed, but masked it quickly with another friendly smile.

    “We met in Paris. I’m surprised that she didn’t mention me. I’m Jason. Her boyfriend.”

    Martha Kent took a deep breath realizing things had just gotten a whole lot more complicated.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~
    End of Episode 2

  3. #3
    Happy-ending addict Senior Member lexie's Avatar
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    Re: Episode 2 - "Home" (PG)

    Well, this was one of the episodes I´d missed. It´s got a lot of Clark, but I know this is supposed to be Smallville and not just Chlex, so I won´t complain. I enjoyed the little Chloe/Lex interaction at the end- it made up for the overall non-Chlexiness of the episode and left me eager to read more.

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    An Accused Heretic Senior Member Kit Merlot's Avatar
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    Re: Episode 2 - "Home" (PG)

    “You don’t owe me anything, Clark. I did it for Chloe. Without her, my father would still be ruining people’s lives on a daily basis.”
    That's such a great moment-good for Lex for telling Clark that not everything revolves around him.
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  5. #5
    Members Lynzie914's Avatar
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    Re: Episode 2 - "Home" (PG)

    This is great! I love that Pete was included for the episode. It always bugged me that Pete was never really brought up again after he left. He played such a big role to barely be mentioned. I also loved that it showed the fallout of relationships and the effects the characters actions had on each other. Smallville's characters are all seriously flawed and I think this series showcases that in a good and truthful way.

  6. #6
    Raelis
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    Re: Episode 2 - "Home" (PG)

    Argh! Clark pisses me off so much! The only thing he should care about is that his best friend is ALIVE!! It doesn't matter who saved her, for Christ's sake! But no, it's all about him and his hurt feelings. If he wanted Chloe to have trusted him with her plight, maybe he shouldn't have left with Jor-El! Who else was she supposed to have turned to?

    At least Pete has proven to be much more mature. He has really grown up a lot, unlike some.

  7. #7
    NS Full Member kcsgirl82's Avatar
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    Re: Episode 2 - "Home" (PG)

    Clark is so self righteous he can't even properly thank Lex for saving Chloe's life without turning it into a Lex bashing session, when even Pete who detests the Luthors can admit that he owes Lex thanks for what he did for Chloe and her dad!!
    This was great thanks for the update!!!

  8. #8
    NS Full Member HotCrossedBunny's Avatar
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    Re: Episode 2 - "Home" (PG)

    Yay, better than the series. I love the Chlex.

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    Re: Episode 2 - "Home" (PG)

    Still loving this series!

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