MARKING THE TERRITORY

"Your mother made a terrific impression on some very influential people." Lionel Luthor
"She wasn't the only one." Clark Kent

Clark Kent focused on the cup of coffee, laying on the table in front of him.

He was tired. The consequences of "Dark Thursday" were still making him feel guilty, even though he had managed to fix what Zod had destroyed. His mom had told him that it wasn't his fault, but she was his mother, make him feel better was quite like her job.

Now, Martha was at a cocktail party, where she would be introduced to the 'deep pockets' of Metropolis, and would suggest a partnership.

She had invited him to go, but didn't feel like going to a party. Besides, as Clark had told his mother, he didn't have a date.

"Lois will be there," she had said. "You could hang out with her."

But Clark had refused. She would probably be with her billionaire boyfriend, and wouldn't want to be disturbed. Also, he wasn't exactly in the mood to be around several wealthy, arrogant and rude individuals. He had his share of dealing with and bolstering rich people.

Maybe that's why Clark didn't feel pleased about the idea of Lois dating one.

That Oliver Queen, he would sure be at the party, as a billionaire and as her date. Clark didn't know him, and he wasn't sure he wanted to. Maybe that was another reason of why he didn't go to the cocktail.

He finished his coffee and was about to go upstairs when he heard the door opening.

"Clark, I'm home,"

He frowned as he heard his mother's voice. Clark looked at his watch.

11 p.m.

It was relatively early.

"Mom?" he said, walking towards the hall to meet her. "You're early."

"The party ended sooner than we all expected." she answered, locking the door. Clark watched her.

"What happened?" he asked, concerned. Something was wrong, her hands were a little shaky. "Mom, are you allright?"

Martha straightened herself and looked up at Clark.

"The diamond necklace Lionel lent me to wear was stolen." she explained, low.

"What?"

They walked to the kitchen as Martha explained how it had happened.

"We were all at the party, then the lights wore off and a man in a green costume walked in and ripped the necklace out of my neck…" she was saying. Clark made her a cup of warm milk and handed it to her. "Thank you." she said. Martha looked nervous. "Lois ran after him willing to hit him with a tray, but---"

"She did what?" asked Clark, surprised and suddenly worried. "Is she okay? Did you talk to her?"

"Yeah, she came back right after. She said she almost got him, but he managed to escape." said Martha, drinking her milk to calm herself. "She was quite angry."

"Mom, you should have asked me to pick you and Lois there. You're nervous, you could have had a car accident."

Martha chuckled a little. "I'm fine, son, I just… Oh, I feel terrible. I mean, I was already feeling nervous about wearing that expensive necklace, now it has been stolen…"

"Mom, come on, it was not your fault." said Clark, feeling that, for one moment, they were exchanging parts. It was kind of nice for him to know that, now, he was the one consoling his mother.

"Maybe not, but the necklace was my responsibility---"

"It was Lionel's responsibility. I'm sure he knew the risks involved in getting that necklace out of the strongbox." Clark was relieved when he saw Martha seemed to be calmer, now. "I'll talk to Lois to see if she remembers anything, and to check if she's okay." Martha smiled. "Where is she, by the way?"

"She's at Mr. Queen's apartment, at Metropolis." said Martha. Clark nodded. He felt a slight gust of bother, that thankfully went away as his mother kept talking. "I believe there were already a few persons who wanted to interrogate her, so don't push her too much, allright?" she asked.

"I'll try." answered Clark, smiling. "Goodnight, mom, and stay calm. We'll find this diamond necklace."

She watched him as he super-speeded off.

There was always something about her son's smile that tranquilized Martha. It often remembered her of Jonathan.

Martha smiled again. She really hoped he'd help her find the necklace. And, hopefully, the man behind the green costume.

Too bad that Lois hadn't been able to catch the guy. But considering the way she sounded after talking to Martha and Lionel, she was sure she'd end up finding him eventually.

Martha just hoped it didn't get her in trouble.

Clark stopped in front of Queen Industries building. Where he knew Oliver Queen's apartment was.

Even though it was night, he could tell it was one beautiful construction.

Lois's car was parked near him. Clark looked up.

The building was dark, but there was light where it seemed to be the last floor.

Oliver and Lois should be alone right about now.

A second gust of bother hit him, and Clark, refusing to let it take over him, quickly sent it away.

A man with a cranky face leaving the building. Clark, being careful not to be seen, super-speeded in, passing by one guard and leaving him confused by the sudden rush of wind.

He took the elevator and pressed the last button. When he stopped at the 21st floor, the door opened, and he entered at a very modern and well-decorated apartment.

Clark heard the voice he knew so well, and walked in to see Lois talking to a man standing in front of her, with his back turned to him.

The footsteps noise awoke Lois and the man to Clark's presence.

"My mom told me you were here." he said, looking at her and then at the man he assumed to be Oliver Queen.

"Smallville?" said Lois, taken aback by his presence. "It's almost midnight."

Clark noticed how Oliver looked at him, surprised and amused, and wasn't sure he liked it.

"'Smallville?" repeated Oliver. "YOU are Clark Kent?"

In an unusual flurry of sarcasm, Clark felt like saying 'No, I'm Madonna', but he chose not to answer. Lois would kill him.

"You must be Oliver Queen." he simply said, politely, walking towards Oliver and offering his hand.

"Yeah." answered Oliver, still amused.

They shared a quick, yet strong, handshake. Oliver was watching him observantly, but Clark didn't notice this time, because Lois was staring at him, and he was too busy trying to read the look on her face. Surprised? Tense? Oh, there was definitely some apprehension there. Maybe anxious?

Oliver seemed to notice, because he broke Clark and Lois's stare with an uncomfortable laugh.

"This is funny, it's---the way Lois talked about you, I thought you were going to be a little bit more of a---"

"I could use some water!!" Lois quickly interrupted, as Clark raised his eyebrows. Now, that had gotten him curious.

"A little more what?" he asked, even though he probably already knew the answer.

Lois was good in hiding her feelings, but her guilty face was unmistakable.

"Well…" started Oliver, seeming to be trying to put whatever he was going to say in a nice way.

"Of a geek?" completed Clark, matter-of-factly. Oliver opened his mouth, but Lois justified herself before he could speak.

"Well, you're not exactly jumping in the velvet robes of the night clubs, so..."

Oliver looked at Clark, smiling, seeming to have fun.

Clark plastered a cynical smile on his face. "It's very nice to see Lois has found someone who can overlook her personality." he said, sardonically, and was very pleased to see her rolling her eyes.

"Oh, don't worry about it, Clark." started Oliver, which turned Clark's gaze away from Lois. "You know, I mean, if I lived under the same roof with such a beautiful woman I probably would have masked my feelings under sarcasm too."

Clark felt his heart sank as Oliver playfully slapped his arm and passed by him.

Now, what the hell did he mean by that?

Lois looked at Clark, disbelieving and surprised.

"Feelings?" she asked, frowning. Clark started to feel uncomfortable under her stare.

"Feelings?" he asked, frowning as well and looking after Oliver, as if he was waiting a reasonable explanation. He refused to look back at Lois.

"Right." she started, with an odd tone of voice. "Little advice, Freud Jr., there: stick with the day job."

"The only reason I'm here is to get that necklace back." said Clark, quickly, looking from Lois to Oliver, who was behind some kind of balcony inside his own apartment, a few meters away from them. "The last thing I want is for my mom to be in debt with Lionel Luthor."

"Yeah, well, you know, she should have thought of that before she accepted his help to her fundraising." Oliver replied. Clark frowned. He sounded slightly offensive. "Oh, and if you're really championing the cause of big-pocket billionaires, you might wanna add a few more to the list."

"What, you're saying that Lionel Luthor is not the only victim?" asked Clark, suspicious.

"Over a dozen of Metropolis's who's whos have been hit recently." explained Oliver, a bit trivially, in Clark's opinion.

"Good, then there are some leads." he said, exasperated.

"Well, not if all the victims are as uncooperative as Lionel Luthor. You find it interesting he never called the police?"

Oliver's voice had a superior tone, and Clark glared at him irritated, frowning. Before he could think about something equivalent to answer, Lois interrupted them.

"Okay!!" she said, in a rush. "If you boys are done marking your territory – which, for clarification, is NOT me," Clark, bewildered, watched her walk towards the sofa to grab her purse. "I have a front-page article that's missing a few key-details." She stopped between Clark and Oliver and looked from one to another, with a serious – yet uneasy – expression. "Good night, boys. Now, play nice."

She seemed crazy to get out of the middle of the discussion as soon as possible.

Clark watched her leave, the noise of her heels echoing in his ears. He looked at Oliver, who was watching him with the strangest smirk ever.

"Well, Mr. Queen, could you give me the names of 'Metropolis's who's whos' you have so delicately mentioned?" asked Clark, surprised with his own harsh voice. Oliver's smirk widened.

"I'm not that well-connected, Mr. Kent." he said. "I'm afraid you're on your own."

Clark breathed out, irritated.

"Fine." Clark turned around and started to walk towards the apartment's door.

"Oh, and take a good care of those feelings."

Clark stopped walking, his blood warming and his heart quickening at Oliver's sentence. He felt frustrated.

There were NO feelings. Why wouldn't he just stop saying that?

Clark decided not to say anything back. He did turned his head to look at Oliver, though. And what he saw made him feel ill.

There was something else in his eyes, behind the amusement.

Something that he had already seen in many people's eyes and had even felt it, but had never liked it.

Rivalry.

Trying to ignore it, he turned around and left his apartment, forgetting about the elevator and super-speeding downstairs.

It was not until he was almost at the entrance door that Clark realized he was still frowning.

Clark rolled his eyes.

Just like he had expected, Oliver Queen was an arrogant and rude rich boy.

Well, obviously, not arrogant and rude with Lois, he thought, annoyed, since she seemed to like him. Or maybe he did act that way around her as well, and maybe she didn't mind, since she was quite rude and arrogant herself. But she was funny, smart, feisty, determined, brilliant and sweet (when she wanted to be). Besides, she wasn't a spoiled rich boy. That was the difference between her and Oliver.

"If I lived under the same roof with such a beautiful woman I probably would have masked my feelings under sarcasm too."

Feelings??? Please! That was just stupid.

Of course, they had lived under the same roof for more than an year. And well, yes, she was attractive (not that he was attracted to her, of course), there was nothing wrong with that, was it?

He thought his head had started to throb again, but he noticed the sharp noises were coming from a certain pair of heels, walking a few meters in front of him.

Silver high heels, that seemed to match perfectly with her black dress. A beautiful black dress that had a cut on the back showing her soft skin.

Clark shook his own head, exasperated.

Allright, she was beautiful, and yes, she did get on his nerves in a way no one had ever been able to do before, but feelings?

Please.

He looked at Lois.

Don't do that. You've already done that before and she was angry.

He seemed unable to realize he was following her

Wait for her to leave. Don't do that, just don't.

"Lois, wait!"

Oh, damn.

Clark straightened himself as she turned around to look at him, surprised.

They were already out of the building. It was dark.

"Smallville." she said, stopping to walk so he could catch her. "Didn't manage to extract any extra information from Oliver?"

"No." answered Clark. "Looked like he didn't want to give me any. He told me I 'was on my own'."

"Hum." said Lois, looking at him.

"But I, uh, actually wanted to know if you know anything that might help me find the necklace." he said. Lois's expression was now serious. She looked for both of her sides to check if there really wasn't anyone in the empty street. She walked closer to Clark and lowered her voice.

"I swung a tray on the guy, but he blocked me and didn't give me the necklace. Then, he shot an arrow to the ceiling and kind of flew off." Clark watched her, frowning. An arrow? "But…" she smiled, a bit. "I managed to grab something. It isn't the necklace, but it might help identifying him." Clark looked at the silver ring that Lois was showing him. "I didn't have a chance to examine it closely yet, but it will be the first thing I do when I arrive at the Inquisitor tomorrow."

"Okay. You tell me if you find out anything, okay? Mom is really upset. She thinks it's her fault." said Clark.

"I know. But we'll manage to ID the guy, and when we do…" There was this weird glee of determination in Lois's eyes that Clark had never seen before. "We'll get the diamond necklace back."

"I hope so." Silence. "Uh… what's this thing with you and Oliver?"

The moment she looked back at him, he regretted asking.

"It's exactly that, Smallville. A thing." Lois said, dangerously calm. "Why?"

"Oh, because you know, I just thought it was pretty serious if you are already alone with him on his apartment…" Now, he just couldn't stop himself. He felt the danger as she walked back towards him and he looked at her eyes.

"First, I was there because there was some guy who wanted to interrogate me. Second, it's none of your business, and third: don't start with that again."

"I'm not starting with anything, I just---"

"Let me guess, you didn't like him." Lois crossed her arms against her chest.

"How did you---"

"Because, Clark, you seem to feel that way about every guy that I date!"

She was getting angry now, and honestly, he couldn't blame her.

Warning her and having that kind of conversation every time she went out on a date, he knew what it seemed like. But, of course, it wasn't that. She just had the misfortune to pick bad guys to date. But how could he say this to her without sounding the way he was already sounding?

"Lois, the guy is rude, annoying, mocking and arrogant---"

"---and we happen to be very alike when it comes to those characteristics!" she interrupted, irritated. "Or isn't that what you think of me?"

"Yes and no." said Clark, after a silence. Lois narrowed her eyes.

"What was that supposed to mean?" she asked.

"You are rude, you are annoying, mocking and arrogant, but you're also my friend, and I happen to care about you---"

"Well, and I happen to care about him!" she said, exasperated. But she caught the glimpse of hurt that quickly passed through Clark's eyes. "Don't give me the puppy-dog face, Kent, I care about you too, but it's just---" she said, clumsily, starting motioning with her hands to try to explain, but she wasn't being successful. Clark raised an eyebrow. "Well, you get the big picture!"

Clark bit back a smile at her ungainliness.

"Look, Lois, I know what I'm talking about, okay, I've dealt with rich guys---"

"So have I, Clark! In case you've forgotten, I'm a three-star general's daughter! I've dealt with rich men as well, and I've figured enough about them to know Oliver is not a bad guy!"

"Well, you've thought the other guys you've dated were good guys, and look how that turned out! Almost every time, there are you, in danger!"

"No one asked you to play the superhero." she said, between her gritted teeth.

"I'm not complaining," said Clark. "I just don't want to see you in danger again---"

"Look, Clark, I'm a big girl, and I'm sick of having these conversations with you!" she blurted out, shutting Clark's mouth. "I don't care if he's rich or poor, he is a nice guy, and I've found someone who I think is a decent guy for me, so I'll ask you to stop sticking your nose in my love life, otherwise, I'll start to think Oliver's comment about feelings hidden under sarcasm has a basis!"

She turned away from him, angrily, walking to her car, the heels noise echoing in the empty street.

After a few seconds, Lois turned to him one last time, her face flustered with anger.

"I'm still mad at you, but I will not let you in the middle of the night with no one else around, so I'll give you a ride if you want to!"

Awkwardly, Clark answered "Uh, no, thanks, I, uh, parked my car near the building…"

"Fine!" she said, turning around, entering her in car, turning it on and driving away.

Clark shook his head and super-speeded towards his house. He looked at the clock, placed at the kitchen's wall.

It was almost one o'clock in the morning.

Tired, Clark went to his room.

He hadn't found the necklace, and he had an awkward argument with Lois.

He sighed, choking down all the thoughts that had come with his interesting visit to Oliver Queen's apartment. He wasn't sure if he was ready to go to that new territory.

Clark would keep trying to find the necklace tomorrow.

Tonight, all he needed was a good night of sleep.