"Are you sure you want to do this?" She asked as she pulled the car onto the side of the road next to the sprawling wooden fence. "I mean, will they even know who you are? And if they do then what? Some off the wall would be family reunion?"

I don't know, Clark replied.

He'd told her everything about what Lex had said, shown her the paperwork he provided. About how father always got what he wanted. It didn't matter the product. She was shocked to say the least. She'd always known that the Luthor's were contenders for the dysfunctional family hall of fame. But everything about baby stealing, essentially that's what it was, put them in the front running. She'd attempted a reply but found that no words that could possibly offer any form of understanding. It was a topic beyond her. She'd been, and currently still was, skeptical of even coming near the "Kent" farm. She thought that no good could possibly come of it.

He felt her eyes on him as he surveyed the landscape. It almost seemed like a Norman Rockwell painting, all peaceful and serene in the heart of mid-west Americana. He looked back to Chloe whose face still bore features of apprehension. He smiled softly at her as he opened the car door.

Wait here, he said.

"Okay."

A small breeze kicked up as he made his way along the fence and to the dirt road leading into the property, whipping his hair around. He saw a flock of bird's jump from the roof of the barn and into the gusts, heard the distant mooing of cows off in a pasture, saw the massive growth of vegetables just beyond the house. He felt a complete sense of calm in his surroundings. He'd never felt so peaceful in Metropolis. Not even in his soundproof apartment. He knew he could have enjoyed growing up here. Knew that it could have been great. A nice hard working family. A mom and a dad whole would love him the way parents were supposed to. Not the mind games father liked to play with his family. The endless game of chess where checkmate was never won.

He made his way closer to the barn, could smell the hay and horses inside. He imagined having to learn to ride them in a more natural way. A trial and error process with a father who possessed patience and understanding. Not like learning at the country club with a fifty-two year old horse breeder named Josephine, who had neither the patience nor social skills to deal with a child. He imaged a mother to be there to put rubbing alcohol on his skinned knees (if he'd ever gotten a skinned knee) when he fell.

He looked at the garden, lush with carrots, and lettuce, and potatoes. He imagined helping a mother who would appreciate the effort. Would teach him when exactly a vegetable was ripe for the picking. When the time was right to harvest. How to clean and prepare them. A mother that would make him lunch when they were finished.

He imagined parents that would listen to his problems and help him with his homework. Imagined holiday celebrations that weren't just dates with words in the boxes on a calendar. Imagined smiles that were real and honest. He imagined feeling loved.

He imagined being happy here.

He saw the truck parked on the side of the barn. He walked slowly up to it. It was blue rather than red. He put a hand on the hood. It was still warm from some chore of hauling wood or bales of hay.

Not the truck, he murmured.

Not his truck. The red one. The one in his dreams.

He wasn't completely disappointed. He knew trucks didn't last forever. Head gaskets blew, fuel lines broke, and front ends were crushed by flaming rocks falling from the sky.

He imagined learning to drive as a pleasant experience. A time where knowledge was passed on in a helpful way. Where a father told the son when the let the clutch out, and when to brake and downshift. Where a father told him to "feel" the car. To know when to turn, how to gas, how to park. Not like Lionel Luthor who simply tossed you the keys and told you to go.

All of a sudden the door to the house opened and Clark hid himself just behind the truck bed. He watched as the sight of a little girl, ten or eleven by his guess, wandered onto the porch in red pants and a white shirt. The resemblance to a candy cane made him grin. She danced around the front steps and sung some unknown song. Clark watched and knew his instincts about this being a happy place were true. Two older people, presumably Jonathan and Martha Kent, walked out of the house and smiled at the little girl still dancing around. Clark took the papers Lex had given him from his pocket and read them over again. These were the Kent's. The people who found him, who named him. The papers indicated that. He didn't think father would have chosen Clark as a name for his son. Lex was named after a conqueror. Alexander the great. There was no Clark the great. Only Clark the lost boy. Not the best title, but it seemed to work. He's surprised father didn't change his after the adoption. A small part of him inside suddenly felt hollow. A part somewhere deep that could never be filled. He imaged what it would have been like, what could have been. He turned and ran at full hilt, careful to let the blur of his speed escape their line of vision, back to the car.

He knew he had to get out of there before the urge to talk to them overtook him.

Before he made the mistake of introducing himself.

It was pointless imagining a life here.

It was pointless letting himself revel in the "what ifs" and "could have beens."

His cards were not dealt that way.

The house had already won.

It was pointless to think about the possibilities of the past.

He had enough trouble dealing with the present.

***

He tried to hide from Chloe's concerned eyes by staring into his black cup of coffee, but his own reflection offered no solace. They were sitting in the local coffee shop sipping on over priced drinks and not saying a word. He could tell Chloe wanted to. Wanted to ask him why he ran to the car so fast. Why he told her to just go. He hadn't said a word otherwise, didn't reply when she pulled up in front of this shop. Didn't ask for anything else when she ordered him house coffee. He tried to ignore the way she nervously drummed on the end of the table, but the idle chit chat he overheard by the other patrons simply wasn't loud enough.

Chloe, he said reaching to stop her hands from tapping.

He looked up from his coffee to see her eyes locked on his hand over hers, noticed the way the left side up her lip curled up in a secret smile. He wanted to pull his hand away, because he thought it selfish to want comfort for something he couldn't even talk about. If the brief minutes he walked on that farm, for the first time in so long, he knew life could have been better. Better for him, possibly better for everyone. Maybe if he'd been raised in Smallville, mother wouldn't have died. Maybe Lex wouldn't have grown up to be so resentful of father. Maybe the whole world would have been different.

He felt Chloe's hand lift from under his. He almost grabbed for it again but she was already winding her fingers in his when the urge hit. He looked at their entwined fingers, felt something he couldn't describe and didn't want to bother to try. He sipped at his cooling coffee and enjoyed the feeling of finally having someone next to him. Someone who was just there.

"I'm sorry it didn't go as well as you wanted it to," she said softly. "But you really shouldn't have expected any better."

He looked up at her a little stung.

"I'm not going to baby you Clark. I didn't think it was a good idea and it wasn't. But I am sorry that it wasn't. You deserve so much..."

She blushed and turned her head away, taking a long sip of her drink.

"So much more than you already have," she said softly.

The sincerity of her words almost scared him. It suddenly felt like she was too close. He was poison. He would only bring those around him pain. He had a brief instinct to run from it, to escape and save himself. But she stopped blushing, smiled sweetly at him, gave his hand a reassuring squeeze, and he knew everything could be all right.

"So this coffee is pretty good," she said. "Not as good as Jitters but still pretty good."

He smiled at the reference to the coffee shop a few blocks away from school they were known to frequent. She'd taken him there after he had finished his first article for the Excelsior. He drank his coffee, groaning slightly against its now chilly temperature. His eye caught the front display of a flower shop just down the street. He looked at his and Chloe's hands, looked up at her friendly eyes. He thought she deserved a small present for being so good to him. Something for just being her.

I'll be right back, he said.

"Oh, uh, okay," Chloe replied, reluctantly letting go of his hand.

***

The bell chimed as he opened the door and walked inside. The scent of so many different types of floral arrangements attacked his senses. He thought that who ever this Nell of Nell's Bouquet on the sign outside must not have a good sense of smell to be able to work here all day. He didn't know much about flowers. Mother used to have a potted plant or two around the penthouse, but was never a green thumb. She liked roses. He knew that. So roses he would get. The shop seemed to be empty, not another customer in sight, but he could hear the sounds of someone tinkering in the back. A small focus of his eyes revealed the outlined form of someone cutting flowers over a sink, just beyond the doorway behind the counter. Maybe they hadn't heard the bell. He looked back through the window briefly, could see Chloe's form still at the table in coffeehouse window.

"Can I help you?" A voiced asked.

He turned back to see a girl about his age. He looked at her strangely for a second. She reminded him briefly of girls he'd seen plastered all over teen magazines that focused on who was hot and who was not, millions of beauty tips, but never any articles with substance. Or she could have been one of those flawless faced girls in skin care commercials, telling you about revolutionary acne fighting ingredients and facial cleansing cloths.

She was beautiful. He knew anyone with a pair of eyes would have thought so. Even in her plain garb of water splashed overalls and hair pulled into a simple ponytail. She wore little make up, and in his opinion she didn't really need it. She leaned against the counter and folded her arms.

"Can I help you?" She asked again.

Roses, he said.

"Huh?"

Uh, I'd like some roses.

"Roses," she repeated with a friendly smile. "A classic. They for a special occasion? Girlfriend maybe?"

Um. Sort of.

"Ah, a sort of girlfriend. We get a lot of those. What color do you think she'd like?"

Good question. In the short time he'd known Chloe, she never had seemed the 'stop and smell the flowers' type. Far too busy with other things to do. He thought of her style of dress outside of the school uniform she'd managed to dash her own flavor to. He sighed. He wasn't good with fashion. He wasn't sure what, if anything, he could find to match anything she might enjoy it with. Chloe was colorful yes, he knew that. But what color would be...

"That hard of a decision is it?"

Kind of, he admitted glancing at her nametag. Lana. Nice name, he thought.

"Well let me see," she said wandering over to a large display of various colored roses in the corner of the shop. "We have pink, white, red, blue, and yellow. Oh, Nell made some more black. I don't think she'd want black would she?"

No, too dark.

"Exactly, I tell Nell all the time that girls aren't exactly dying to get a black rose. She says they're for funerals, but we hardly get enough of those around here to warrant such a supply and..."

She trailed off when she noticed the bemused look on Clark's face. Rarely had he ever seen someone talk so openly with a virtual stranger. He guessed it was true about what they said about small towns.

"Sorry," she said. "I tend to ramble sometimes."

Not a problem, he replied.

"Well what do you think she would like?"

I don't know really, he said. I've never had to shop for flowers before, and Chloe wouldn't be the easiest person to buy something for anyway and...

"Chloe," Lana said. "Nice name."

Lana is pretty nice too, he offered.

She smiled slightly.

"Thanks, but it is a little dull if you ask me."

He smiled, and turned his attention back to the flowers. I think I'll go with pink and white.

"Not bad," she nodded approvingly. "I bet she'll love them."

I hope so.

"Trust me," Lana grinned. "Any girl who doesn't love getting a gift has to be crazy."

Lana grabbed three pink roses and three white ones from the display and carefully cradled them in her hands to avoid the thorns. She walked passed Clark and he felt his head begin to spin, and his body fill with ache. It felt as if all the energy was suddenly drained out of him. He swayed on his feet slightly and moved to lean on the counter. He took a few deep breaths and watched as Lana took the roses behind the counter and wrapped them in cellophane, tying them in the middle with a white ribbon. She took a few small plastic vials, filled them with water, and attached them to the bottom of the stems. He saw a necklace wrapped around her throat with a tiny green gem in the middle. It reminded him of a pair of earrings mother used to have. How they seemed to make him instantly feel sick. It was the only other time he remembered feeling this way.

"I hope half a dozen is all right," she said.

Perfect, he said, still trying to shake off the nausea.

"Great," she said handing the bundle to him. He could see the veins on the back of his hand. "Will that be cash or charge?"

Cash, he replied pulling out his wallet and producing a bundle of twenties, the veins and the sickness still prominent.

"Don't see too many kids our age with such a cash flow," she commented.

Oh, well, he said staring at the bills as if they'd suddenly sprouted gills. Uh...

"I'm sorry," she apologized. "Was that unnecessary? I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

Oh, no, you didn't.

"Are you sure?"

I am.

"Okay. That'll be $9.95 then."

He handed her a twenty, eyes squinting against the ache, and she quickly produced his change.

"I didn't get your name," she said handing him the money.

Clark, he replied hoarsely. Nice to meet you.

"Clark Luthor?" She asked.

You know Lex huh? He asked, teeth gritted.

"Not many people in town who don't know him," Lana replied. "I've met him once or twice. He comes in every now and again to buy flowers. Roses as a matter of fact."

Must run in the family, he replied.

"Seems like it. He mentioned you once. Said he had a brother my age, asked if I'd want to meet you if you ever visited."

Please tell me he didn't, Clark sighed, waves of illness still pouring through him. His cheeks flushed with embarrassment.

"Don't be embarrassed," she smiled. "I bet all older brothers do that sort of thing."

I hope not, Clark replied. For all the little brothers sakes.

"I hope Chloe likes her flowers."

Me too, he said smiling and turning to walk out.

"It was nice meeting you," she called.

Likewise, he replied, opening the door and magically feeling better.

What the hell was that? He wondered.

***

He knew it was a good idea when he walked back to the table and Chloe's face lit up as he produced the bouquet from behind his back.

"What are these for?" She asked as she brought them to her nose to inhale the sweet scent. "You trying to butter me up for something Clark?"

Just because, Clark replied, grinning at her enjoyment.

"Well, they're wonderful Clark," she said smiling. "Thank you."

I was hoping that you'd come over for dinner again, he said. I think Lex is going to be out doing something somewhere and Victoria will most likely be with him. So, it wouldn't be crowded. Just, you know, the two of us.

"Flowers and a dinner invitation," Chloe grinned. "You know something Luthor?" She asked taking his hand again.

What?

"I think you like me."

***

As soon as Chloe had dropped him off at the house, he ran straight to Abe and asked for something special. Something that, you know, a girl would enjoy. Abe had merely smiled at him, and said he would have something wonderful cooked up. Clark had thanked him and ran off to the dining room to set the table. He didn't want the staff to attend to it like they insisted on doing. He wanted to do something for himself for a change. Give it a personal touch.

He found flawless bone white China in the cabinets just beyond the kitchen, where Abe, already knee deep in a recipe sang while he cooked. He also grabbed two candlesticks and a box of matches. While setting up the table he'd nearly forgotten he'd told her to come back in an hour. He'd spent most of that time arranging and rearranging everything. The placemats, the plates, the silverware. He wanted it to be perfect.

Unfortunately, perfect was a concept that seemed to allude him time and time again. Victoria strolled into the dining room in a black silk nightgown that barely did its job in covering her body. He tried to ignore the smile on her face when she saw him. Even tried to sneak back into the kitchen to see how Abe was progressing. But she caught up to him before he could even turn around.

"Why Clark," she said with a smile. "What a wonderful surprise."

Um...

"Did you do this for me?"

Chloe's coming over, he mumbled.

"Oh," she replied, the mention of his friend's name making no impact at all. "How sweet."

You're not out with Lex? He asked.

"Sitting in a stuffy, smoke and brandy filled room with a bunch of other small town businessmen is not my ideal Saturday night," she replied. "Lex is only there to make a good name for himself. He doesn't need me to be his trophy."

Trophy?

"Oh please Clark," she said grinning. "I told you we had an arrangement."

You two aren't dating?

"Well, yes and no. We're together, but he can do what he wants. And I can do who I want."

Don't you mean what you want?

"Mmm," she purred. "Maybe."

She was moving closer again, much like she had last night. That devilish sensual grin curving across her lips, the lustful twinkle in her eye. She looked like she knew exactly what she wanted. Clark wasn't to keen being that object of want and backed away but she only kept moving toward him.

"Why don't you like me Clark?" She asked.

I like you fine, he said.

"You're afraid to be close to me."

Well...

"Why? It's not like I'm going to bite."

You might.

She laughed deviously, hips swaying back and forth, moving all the closer to him. His back hit the wall and suddenly there was nowhere else to go.

"You know I just might," she whispered. "If you want me to."

That's okay.

"When are you going to stop pretending that you aren't attracted to me Clark? Hmm?"

I don't think Lex would...

"Lex isn't here."

Her hand moved to caress his face. He could feel the heat building between them, the closeness of her body igniting some unknown spark. The silk of her nightgown was suddenly under his touch as she lifted his hands and placed them on her hips.

"Is that so bad?" She asked. "Is it so bad just touching?"

Chloe's going to be here any minute.

"I thought she was just a friend Clark," she said, moving so that no space existed between them.

Well, she... I mean she and I...

"She's not here now is she?"

She's going to be.

"Mmm," she purred guiding his hands along her silk covered body, moving them across her chest and over her shoulders, down to the small of her back. "Such strong hands."

I...

"Aren't you going to kiss me?"

Umm....

"Don't you want to?"

Chloe's going to be here...

"Kiss me."

She wasn't asking. Clark didn't even have time to say no before her lips were pressed against his, her hands sliding between the buttons of his shirt, fingers caressing his chest. She moaned softly into his mouth, her tongue prying between his lips and demanding satisfaction. He slid his hands slowly up her shoulders, let her think he was going to wrap them around her, before firmly wrapping his fingers around her upper arms and pushing her away. She gasped at the force, and her eyes widened with shock.

"Problem?"

Chloe...

"What about her?"

Clark stared past Victoria's shoulder, his eyes meeting his friends who stood frozen at the end of the dining room table. His felt a pang in his chest at the hurt etched across her face. His heart pounding painfully against his ribs from the tears welling in her eyes.

Chloe, he said. It's not... I mean this isn't.

She shook her head, clearly not interested in what he had to say. She didn't say anything. No screams of disappointment. No words to match the hurt. She just stood and stared. Not knowing anything else to do.

"How nice of you to drop by," Victoria said sweetly.

Chloe showed no sign of hearing her. Her eyes remained locked with Clark's. A wordless battle of pain and misunderstanding. She sniffed lightly and before Clark could push Victoria out of the way, she was already out of the dining room and running for the door. Clark glared angrily back at the young English woman, whose hand was still holding his arm.

Why did you do that?

"I wanted to."

You wanted to hurt Chloe? He yelled.

"Of course not. I just wanted to have a little fun."

You call this fun?

"Well it was before she showed up."

Clark shook his head. She and Lex were perfect for each other. They both didn't care what happened to anyone else as long as there was a good time to be had. He pushed her roughly away from him and ran out the door. He had to find Chloe. He had to tell her...

Well, he had to tell her something.

***

Smallville wasn't as small as he had originally thought. He'd been running around for nearly half an hour looking for the street she lived on. It had gotten dark in that time, which made things all the more difficult. Her house was the last one on the block. He'd gone back into Gabe Sullivan's employee record to get the address. He and Chloe had been too busy to stop by today, so he'd never actually seen the house. It seemed nice. A simple two story home, with a balcony branching out in front. The lights were out, and at first he didn't think she was here, until he saw his Mercedes parked in front of the garage just behind the right side of the house. He sighed with relief and focused his eyes against the walls, trying to find her bedroom. He saw her form sitting on her bed. He wondered why she was sitting in the dark.

He rounded the perimeter of the house, keeping his eyes focused on her. Once he was sure he was standing under the right window, he quickly glanced around to make sure no one was around. He closed his eyes and concentrated on making his body feel lighter than air. He made sure to breathe evenly as he felt his feet lift slightly off the ground. He opened his eyes, keeping his attention focused on her window; as he slowly drifted toward it.

He saw her through the glass, sitting on the edge of her bed, hunched over what appeared to be a stuffed animal. He tapped on the window softly but it didn't grab her attention. He tapped a little louder and she looked up startled. He gave a small wave when she saw him, and he could see her roll her eyes in the small amount of light. She got up from the bed and made her way to the window.

"You could have gone to the door," she said.

I'm a sucker for cliches, he replied.

"What are you standing on?"

Um... A ladder.

"Do we even have a ladder?"

Can I come in?

"Sure, why not."

She pulled the window open completely and Clark crawled though easily. She wouldn't look at him when he stood up and he felt that small ping in his chest again. The last thing he'd ever wanted to do was hurt someone. Especially someone who seemed to be getting so close to him.

I came to explain, he said.

"You don't have to do that," she replied.

But I...

"No, it's okay Clark," She said sitting back on her bed and staring at a pile of books on the floor. "I don't know why I got so upset. I mean we're friends."

Yes, he replied. We are.

"Yeah, it's just that. Today, with the flowers and the dinner and everything... I guess I thought. Well it probably doesn't matter. If some English floozy wants to shove her tongue down your throat, who am I to say anything?"

She looked back to Clark, who was still standing by the window, saw the small grin on his face.

Floozy?

"What's wrong with floozy? It's a perfectly acceptable word."

Seems a little old fashioned for such a modern girl like you.

"Clark," she laughed, rolling her eyes again. "While I appreciate the tension breaking banter. We both know you didn't climb up to my window to discuss my vocabulary."

No, he sighed. I didn't.

This was going to be hard. Heartfelt talks (among many other emotional concepts) were something he still didn't fully comprehend. He never had a chance to give them before. He ran a hand through his hair and moved to sit next to her on the bed. He felt her eyes patiently watching and waiting for him to speak.

You're my best friend, he said softly. He liked the way she smiled when he said it. Actually, you're my only friend. Ever.

Her smile faded at the statement.

All my life I've dreamed of being someone else. Someone... normal. I've known that would never happen ever since I... Well ever since I found some thing's out about myself. You know how dad, Lex, and I never got along. I'm... not good with people or saying what I feel. Because I've never had someone to do that with before. Not until I met you. When I saw your face when Victoria kissed me, when you ran off I...

"Clark it's okay," she said reaching out her hand and placing it gently atop his shoulder. "You don't have to apologize for anything."

But I...

"No buts. We are best friends," she confirmed with a smile. "Nothing is going to change that."

He smiled in return as he moved closer, wrapping his arm around her.

You see, he began. I'm not so sure about that. Some thing's can change Chloe. Not always for the bad I know, but not always for the good either...

"Clark," she whispered, shifted her head to look him in the eye. "What are you saying?"

I'm...

"You can tell me," she said softly, her gaze traveling to his lips.

I know, he replied. But I'm... It felt strange to address it out loud. I'm scared.

"You don't have to be afraid of me Clark."

He moved a hand to her cheek, smiling to himself as her eyes drifted closed against his touch. He knew this was right. This moment. This girl. Everything seemed to fall into place. No more waiting, no more hiding.

I have something to tell you, he said.

"Oh," she said as her eyes snapped open, and she shied away from his hand to hide her blush. "You know for a second there I actually thought you were going to kiss me."

Oh, Clark replied, feeling the heat begin to flush his own cheeks. Did you want me to?

"Did you want to?"

Well, yeah of course, but I have...

The feel of Chloe's lips pressing softly against his own cut off his words. He felt a strange feeling begin to course through his stomach and slowly spread its way through his veins. He felt content. For the first time in his life he felt content.

He would tell her everything.

But he had time...