Summary: Clark doesn't sneeze the same way as humans do.
E-mail: buggreallthisforalarke at yahoo dot co dot uk
Author's Notes: I'd forgotten I had this chapter finished a couple of weeks ago. Sorry! Here, you can have it now... Please don't hurt me...
Disclaimer: Smallville doesn't belong to me.
Chapter Two - Sneeze-a-roo!
"I can't believe you're dropping me off at school."
Martha looks across at Clark-sorry-Lara, and can see Clark so clearly in those red pouting lips that for a second she worries that this isn't the best thing to do.
"Your father went to all that trouble of arranging you a place, Lara Clark," Martha instructs in a sing-song sort of way. "So you're going, whether you like it or not, missy."
Lara shoots Martha a oh-god-if-we-weren't-in-such-a-public-place-I'd-consider-matricide look. "Hmm," is all she says, looking mournfully out at the bustling area. "Can't my new thing of the day just have been my bra? Put it on myself, you know."
Martha laughs, shaking her head at how bizarre that comment would sound if you didn't know the situation. "Get on with you," she says. "I'll pick you up from the Talon at half five."
"The Talon?" Lara's eyes are round as she picks up her rucksack, a new one so no one will think that Lara has stolen Clark's. "Why-"
"You have to get used to this, Clark," Martha says, and then looks flustered. "Lara."
"Whatever," Lara sulks, before catching herself. "I don't mean to sulk," she says, looking up at Martha with those eyes that are just like Clark's.
Martha laughs again, a tinkling sort of sound, and reaches one hand out to brush Lara's hair away from her forehead. Bright green eyes watch her hand hestitantly. "Now scoot!" Martha says, still laughing, and Lara pulls a face but gets out of the vehicle anyway.
"Bye, M-Martha," Lara calls, and if her eyebrows wiggle a bit funnily no one notices. Martha watches Lara walk away a little before gunning the engine and driving away, leaving Clark alone, and if maybe she cries a little on the way back, no one notices that either.
Great. Juuuust great. Lara tried to remember what her first day at high school was like, and pulls her memories of other newbies out. So even though she knows where everything is, she dallies a litle in the car park, looking up at the building. She walks a little to the left, past some students who give her the once-over in confusion, and Lara knows that the knowledge of the new girl will be right around the school in no time.
She walks past some of the cars of the football squad, happy that none of the macho players are in them, and catches glimpse of her own reflection. At first she thinks it is of the girl behind her, but then she remembers her predicament and knows it is her. The face is familiar, if smaller, and the hair and eyes and skin the same colour, and maybe she's nearly as tall, but there the resemblances end.
She's wearing clothes she picked out herself, although she would have worn what her mom would have picked out for her, had Martha been willing to. Lara had thought about the gossip of "newbies" around school, and didn't want to offend anyone right away. Some girls got bullied really badly just from what they wore on their first day. Lara had chosen a pair of slimline black trousers, with a white flower embroidery up one leg, knowing that choosing the right skirt was beyond her - one inch could make all the difference and she didn't even want to think about waxing her legs, and she thought jeans were maybe a bit causal for the first day. She wore a white stretch tank top, which had involved shaving under her arms. Razors had never worked on her hair before, but they did now, so maybe it's something to do with being turned into a female, she doesn't know. Over that, she's wearing an unfastened red shirt, which even that is unfamiliar to her, because it curves in places men's shirts don't curve in. Her mom said it showed off her lovely figure, so she supposes that's a good thing. She didn't exactly want to look herself over in the mirror at home and see if she would fancy herself, because that was going beyond the borders of unreal.
But this glimpse, she didn't look too bad, if she forgot for a second it was her.
A little more confident now, and sure her hair looked okay because she'd checked that over and mom had made her use some sort of chinese peony conditioner which made it soft and if she ever got back to being male then she was using it, who cares if men's hair is allowed to be fluffy or not, it smelt really good.
Lara picks up her pace again, heading towards the entrance, and is accosted by none other than Pete Ross. He is smiling toothily at her, and Lara is a little worried at how wide his grin is.
"You must be Clark's aunty," Pete says, extending a hand.
Feeling incredibly clumsy, Lara holds out her hand and shakes his, and his handshake is surprisingly firm. Lara never knew this before, Pete had never shaken Clark's hand. Not that she can think of, anyway.
"Hi, I'm Lara," Lara says. "You must be Pete Ross."
Pete looks a little surprised.
"I've seen your picture," Lara goes on to explain, because Pete looks a little wigged, and this is Pete. Pete who knows about aliens and kryptonite and other planets and whose best friend is an alien.
"Ah, I see," Pete says. "There goes my self delusion that I'm not photogenic, and that in real life I'm so much more prettier than I'm unrecognisable."
Lara can't help herself, she laughs, because this is really the sort of cheesy pick-up line that Pete tries to use a lot too. It's weird being hit on by two of your best friends, so Lara looks pointedly at the school as if to hurry things along and Pete gets the point.
"Well, I'm your appointed guide for this morning," Pete says quickly, smiling crookedly this time, like he does when he's been put down, and Lara feels a little bad but can't give Pete false hope because there's absolutely no way she's going to fool Pete, she feels bad enough fooling him this much so far.
Pete leads her into the hallway, with a gentlemanly arm on her back. "Welcome to Smallville High," he says, his voice levelling off as he delves into the introductory speech, where things are, what places to avoid, what classes she has. Lara tries her best to keep interested, but Pete keeps telling her things she knows. Eventually he drops her off outside her maths class, she's been put a year below because of her "transcripts being lost" but Lara likes that idea, she gets to resit a grade and maybe do better this time, and not being distracted by Chloe or Pete or Lana might do really good things to her grade sheet. Pete waves her goodbye, with a "see you at lunch, Lara", and Lara wonders what else exactly she's nodded agreement to if she hasn't noticed an invitation to join them at lunch.
Peering into the classroom worriedly, Lara shifts the new handbooks and timetables and forms into her bag, and then knocks on the door. Mrs. Penhallow, Lara recognises her from last year, looks up and smiles, beckoning her in. Feeling more nervous than she thinks she really did on her first day here, Lara plasters on a wide smile and walks into the classroom.
Rows of not-quite-familiar faces glance at her, and Lara is glad there's no one in here that she really knows all that well. Here she can be herself or whoever she wants to be, and no one can look at her funny and go "that's not you."
"Class, this is Lara Clark, she's joining our class today. Lara, my name is Mrs. Penhallow. Would you like to introduce yourself?"
Figuring "no" wasn't that great an answer at this point, Lara tried to keep her knees from shaking, and turned to face the class. "Uh. Hi, I'm Lara Clark, I'm nineteen. I've just come from a few years of schooling in the UK, and, um, it's great to be in Smallville. My sister keeps telling me what a great football team you all have."
Apparently there were some footballers and cheerleaders in the room, for a great section of the class start whooping at her words.
"Your sister?" Mrs. Penhallow asks, a little confused, as if she recognises Lara but can't quite place her.
"Martha Kent," Lara says. "From the Kent organic farm?"
"Oh yes, of course!" Mrs. Penhallow exclaims. She peers a little closer at Lara. "You look a lot like their son Clark."
Lara shifts a little, uncomfortable with that observation.
"Oh, what am I thinking about! Dear, there's a seat free opposite Kaylee on the third row. Sit!" Mrs. Penhallow waves a textbook at her, which Lara picks up and then she hurries to the empty desk on the third row. A mousey-brown haired girl with dimples smiles a greeting at her, and Lara smiles gratefully back as she slides into her seat and pulls out her file and some pens.
"Class, today we're looking at matrices, if you'll please open your textbooks to page one-hundred and ninety-seven..."
Lara opens her file and automatically starts taking notes even though this was one topic that came really easy to her, and she's so busy doing the exercises when Mrs. Penhallow stops talking that she doesn't realise the boy to her right trying to get her attention.
He has blond hair, sort of lazily over one eye, and bright blue eyes, and is wearing a Smallville Crows shirt, and Lara suspects he was one of the guys that cheered when she mentioned the sports team doing well. And he winks at her. "Hey, my name's Rufus. I'm on the reserve squad for the team. You doing anything after school today?"
"Uh..." Lara flounders, because her stomach feels like it has dropped away, and the guy is really forward, and for just a second she thinks oh-god-he's-cute which startles her so much that she says, "uh, my sister's picking me up."
Rufus looks disappointed for a second.
Lara hurries to finish her answer, even though she doesn't quite know why. "She's picking me up at the Talon," she whispers, "at half five."
"Sweet," Rufus says. "I'll be there." And he turns away before she can say anything else, so she turns back to her work, a little perplexed at why she said what she said - maybe being a girl gives you girlish impulses like flirting with cute guys and telling the truth, and if so she's in danger, and someone just poked her.
Lara turns to her other side to see Kaylee looking at her. Kaylee has lovely soft brown hair and doe brown eyes but does absolutely nothing for Lara even though Kaylee is hot, so Lara is worried that she is properly stuck as a girl and will have to date a guy- But then, that thought isn't so horrible, is it? Not as horrible as it would have been had you thought that thought last year...
"Did Rufus Jackson just ask you out?" Kaylee hissed in wonder. "Wow, that is so cool."
"No, he didn't," Lara hurries to answer. "He just asked where I would be after school, and I said the Talon."
"Ohh, you're so lucky," Kaylee enthuses. "Every girl's been after him for months, but he hasn't gone out with anyone," and she's keeping her voice low so he can't hear.
"Hey," Lara says impulsively, "you should come. To the Talon, with me, after school. It's not a date, it was just me telling him where I'll be."
Kaylee looks reluctant, as if she should say no.
"C'mon," Lara says, pleadingly. "I hardly know anyone in this town. It'd be good to have someone to talk to."
Convinced, Kaylee beams at her happily, and they turn back to their exercises swiftly when Mrs. Penhallow casts some sort of expression at them, and Lara wonders while she pens down some of the answers if she was trying an evil expression, but it looks like her normal expression, so she doesn't know.
Lunch time is awkward. Kaylee has her own friends, but from their far-off glances, Lara feels too old. She's already pretending to be older because mom said she can pull it off as it is. So she stands somewhat awkwardly at the end of the queue, balancing milkshake and an apple and a plate full of some sort of spaghetti but she doesn't want to identify the meat. It's never a good idea with cafeteria food after all. She knows she won't look strange if she picks at her meat because it's a consistent school cafeteria thing.
"Hey, come sit with us." Lara looks up into chocolate eyes, to see Pete smiling at her, still in that slightly lecherous way, but she has nothing else to do, and the attention is rather nice. Smiling hesitantly she walks over to the table where Chloe and Lana are sat animatedly discussing something. They stop as Lana sits down.
"Hey," Lara greets, feeling a little out-of-place. The others notice and are all smiles.
"First day, huh, could it suck much worse?" Chloe says in her snarky sarcastic way, but its warm and Lara latches onto it gratefully.
"It's a little weird," Lara says. "I'm totally behind on my American history," she adds, knowing she has to make her lies plausible. Martha's done some research and has brought in a favor from an old friend from her school days, who will verify that Lara stayed with them if Chloe does her snooping thing and researches her.
"Yeah, but you'll have a head up on European history," Lana says, almost sympathetically. "We've just started it, and hello, could there be a more boring subject?"
"Yeah," Lara says deprecatingly. "It's called algebra."
They laugh, and just for a second it's all okay, and there's a twinge in her stomach so bad, she only really has time to think, what? what's going on- and then Lara is looking at her in a real funny way, and Lara holds her stomach a little, feeling queasy, and then gets an uncomfortable feeling of floating even though yep, she's definitely on the ground.
Realising that she was just moments away from throwing up, Lara claps a hand to her mouth and pushes herself away from the table. Maybe her chair goes a little too far back, but she runs skittishly through the throng of students, and heads for the toilets, and somehow in her panic even makes it into the girls' toilets...
Head bent over a basin, she retches, getting rid of everything she'd eaten so far. Mom was right, maybe I am more nervous than I think I am... Coughing and wiping her lip, she exits the stall, and gains a small glance of sympathy from a mousy-haired girl sheepishly leaving the toilet. Lara is all alone in the small room of three cubicles, and she crosses to the sinks, swallowing and spitting some water and washing her face. She reaches absently for the soap as she catches a glimpse of her face in the mirror - startled, and pale like a ghost, and more than ready to bolt far away... Lara pulls her hands away from the soap dispenser, the tap still running, ready to wash her hands, when she feels something strange building up inside of her.
Involuntarily stepping back, she has time to look at the small tinge of green on her fingers from the dispenser before she realises that no, she's not going to be sick again, she's about to sneeze.
The sneeze wracks violently through her, blearing her vision, and she feels even worse than she did throwing up, and stars burst violently across the entire world, ironic, she thinks, that's where I'm from, and she stumbles back so hard her back connects with the cubicles, and shakes them, and there's a creaking sound, and oh, it hurts, it hurts so bad, and when she looks up-
That sight is more familiar, but Clark can't take it in. Suddenly he's back to being a he, which is incredibly confusing, but then he places where he felt that way before - yes, when he was sneezing. Somehow he was back to being him, and he wasstuck inside the girls' toilets. With no apparent way to explain where Lara had gone.
He knows he's panicking, but he at least retains enough sense to hide in the cubicle he threw up in, and he closes the lid and sinks onto it, scuffing at Lara's bag with his toes and staring down at his hands like he can't quite believe it. They're his hands all right, just as bony and angular and pale as he remembers from before, but tinged with the soap- the soap-
Clark thinks he's about one step away from figuring out something huge, when the door opens and a very familiar female voice calls out: "Lara? Lara, are you in here?"
Clark remembers in time to lift up his feet, as along with the return of his body came the return of his original clothing and Chloe would definitely suss out that something weird was going on if she saw Clark's shoes in the girls' toilets, especially if she found out I was still attached to them.
"Are you okay?"
And Clark curses silently, for Chloe must have seen Lara's bag resting against the inside of the stall door, and he does the only thing he can think of, he raises his voice as squeakily as it can go- it's a little huskier than Lara's tones, but Clark hopes Chloe will take it to mean that Lara isn't well, not that Lara-who-is-secretly-Clark-has-sneezed-herself-back-into-being-Clark. Around other people Clark wouldn't be worried about this sort of wild leaps to amazingly correct solutions, but Chloe has the intuition of a psychic.
"Just a little queasy," Clark manages in his faux-Lara voice.
"You want me to get the matron?"
"No!" Clark knows he answered too quickly, and tries to soothe it with a softer, "no."
"A'ight," Chloe murmurs. Clark squints his eyes and uses his x-ray vision to glance through the door, but he lowers his head in despair when he realises Chloe is assuming her guard-position, her I'm-not-leaving-until-you-come-out position. He tries not to freak out, but he can hear his own heartbeat and he hates that his super-hearing is this weird, but is also reassured at the same time that he has a heart, so he's not so much of a freak after all. He's a gender-bending alien from the planet Krypton with comic book hero super powers, but at least he has a heart.
Yes, Tin Man, you are in Kansas after all... The thought makes Clark's eyes snap open, and he sees again the unwashed soap on his hand, a pale green, but if he tilts his hand and it catches the awkward light of the long filament bulb above, it's darker green, almost flashing, like... Kryptonite?
Realisation floods over him. The washing powder! Dad knocked over the washing powder, and it's a Smallville own brand, right? His heart thumps even louder, until he can't really hear his own thoughts. This is what is making me switch!
Knowing desperately it was the only way out of there, Clark lowers his nose to his hand, although somewhat tentatively as the remembered knowledge that the transformation will hurt filters through him. Chloe will get suspicious if you wait! Everyone else gets a lifetime of a pain, so sniff it, you wuss! Clark inhales, and pain smashes through him again, like a whirlwind, smashing and destroying everything in its path, and Clark is so glad he's not going to have to fake the symptoms of pain because, guess what, he really was in pain.
And a she again.
Quickly rubbing the soap from her hands, Lara walks hesitantly out from the cubicle and manages to smile waveringly at Chloe, who looks at her sympathetically. She drops her bag to the ground and scrubs at her hands, hoping to get every particle of the damn stuff from her hands before she switches again. She hopes no one else who washed their hands in this soap comes close to her.
Chloe sees her squinting at the tap, and incomprehensively rummages in her bag quite loudly. Lara watches her in confusion, and Chloe brings out a small bar of soap wrapped in foil. Chloe unwraps it and holds the bar forth to Lara.
"It's my own soap from home," Chloe says, with a foul look directed at the soap dispenser. "The school switched to LuthorCorp soap this week, so I've taken to bringing in my own soap." Chloe looks fired-up, as if she's in the middle of a story. "It's manufactured in Smallville, and I really don't trust the company."
Lara accepts the soap thankfully, and washes her hands clean, careful not to touch anything of the green shimmering parts around the sinks. She makes a mental note to avoid the toilets completely in future if possible. "Thank you," she says politely, wrapping up the soap as carefully as she can and handing it back to Chloe, who beams at her.
"Are you okay? Do you want me to call your sister to come get you?"
Lara blinks, and shakes her head. "No," she says, "M-Martha can't pick me up until half five, and I'm sort of meeting someone at the Talon."
Not for nothing is Chloe destined for investigative reporting, for she notices Lara's small blush, even though on Lara's part it is embarrassment for being 'picked up' by a younger guy.
"A guy someone?" Chloe says with a wider grin, a teasing look on her face that Lara knows very well.
Lara fidgets awkwardly. "Well, yes, but a girl someone too."
Chloe's expression doesn't change but her eyes flicker thoughtfully, and Lara realises how it came out.
"A girl classmate," Lara quickly explains. "And a boy classmate, come to think of it..."
"I was wondering," Chloe admits with a quick grin. "Is he cute?"
"Ungggghh..." This is so not a question Lara feels she can answer, and she tries to think back to what Rufus looks like, and she sort of remembers the floppy blond hair and the bright blue eyes, that sort of reminded her of someone, only she couldn't pin it down. Lara wasn't attracted to Rufus, even though - and her belly aches again - she's been sort of wondering recently if maybe just maybe Rufus was more her type than not - but she reckons that a girl like Lara should find him cute, so she manages a squealed: "He's jailbait."
Chloe wrinkles her nose knowingly. "Uh-huh, I see." A distinct note of teasing there.
Lara pouts. "They're like, three years younger than me," she hurries to explain.
"Uh-huh," Chloe says again with that horribly knowing look.
"You should respect your elders," Lara informs her darkly.
"I'm no cradle snatcher," she adds, as irritably as she can manage, but Lara is really enjoying this, this is banter that she never had with Chloe before. Chloe could manage snark with Clark really well hey, that rhymed, but this easy banter is something Lara really enjoys, it must be a girl thing.
"Unlike a certain Mr. Luthor and your nephew," Chloe says, and she laughs as if it is the funniest thing in the world.
Unlike a certain... A lead weight drops in Lara's stomach. "What do you-"
Chloe waves her off, like it's nothing. "Clark won't have told you, I suppose," Chloe says, inching closer as if she's imparting a great secret. "Clark's secretive, I don't know if you've known him long enough to figure that out, but pretty much everyone knows he and Lex are... well, interested in one another, even if they're not" Chloe pantomimes a rude gesture with her hand, and Lara can't help it, her eyes are round. Whaaaa-
"He's not," Lara says, feeling stupid. "I, we, he- we talked, and Clark's never- He hasn't-" She shuts up, feeling even more embarrassed.
"He talked about that with you, huh?" Chloe sounds surprised. "Guess Clark's policy about keeping secrets doesn't extend to his family." Chloe sounds bitter. Lara promises to herself to try and make things up to Chloe when she's back to being just Clark. This girl thing is even more disturbing than she thought, finding all this stuff out about herself, about Clark, is way too weird to contemplate.
"I thought you had a crush on him," Lara says softly, twisting her hands awkwardly.
Chloe blinks, taken a little aback. "Once-upon-a-time," she admits, and the words twist in Lara's gut, but she doesn't show that on her face. Chloe's expression looks slightly sad, like maybe she's lying, and Clark hates that he's hurt her this much. "But sometimes you just have to move on and realise-"
"-that the object of your desires is not on the same wavelength as you?" Lara suggests delicately, even though her head is spinning, she thinks- they all think Lex and I- LEX and I? Oh, god, oh, god, oh god... but you do... you do like him... like that?
"Exactly," Chloe says, with a conspiritorial wink at Lara. "So what have you got next?"
"English Lit," Lara says absently, her mind completely a turmoil of fragments of thoughts, and even as Chloe leads her out of the restroom, giving her hints and tips of how to placate the teacher, and where not to sit if she can help it, Lara's mind is still far, far away.
To be continued...