A Saturday morning in Smallville, it didn't take much work for Alexandra to find out where her favorite savior had gone. So, after checking on Jeremy Creek at the hospital, she went to the local Farmer's Market. The previous evening's events had weighed heavily on her mind, filling her fitful dreams with images of her finding a dead Clark still hanging from the pole. If she concentrated, she could almost remember the exact sound her mind had supplied when his body hit the ground after she'd untied him. It had been that particular part of the dream that had finally driven her from her bed in the early morning hours to sit by the fire in her study, a glass of cognac in hand, her gaze moodily watching the flames.
She didn't understand why the imagery haunted her so and she reminded herself briskly that Clark was fine. Safe in his bed at home. Unhurt. But the dark thoughts persisted, whispered around the edges of her mind. If she hadn't found him in time, if he'd been up there much longer, if she'd never seen Jeremy Creek and stopped...
He could have very easily died.
And it was that thought that drove her to seek out the teenager the next day. Someone had put him up there and, in Alexandra's mind, that meant they had to account for their actions and her best chance at finding out who'd done it lay in whatever answers Clark could provide her.
She found the young man in question watching a pretty dark-haired girl and her equally handsome light-haired boyfriend sharing a kiss. With a wry twist of her lips, the red-headed heiress surveyed the couple. They looked like some gender-swapped version of Ken and Barbie. How...quaint.
Forgetting the teenagers, Alexandra slipped one hand from her pocket and reached out to take an apple from the basket in Clark's hands. "Pretty." She noted of the girl. "A little on the pouty side though.." She examined the apple in her hand with a critical eye, waiting for Clark to look at her. "You want to tell me what happened last night? Or do I get to guess how you ended up in that field?"
Clark tensed, tearing his eyes away from Whitney and Lana to put the basket back in his Dad's truck. "It was just a stupid prank."
"No, running someone's underwear up a flagpole is a stupid prank." Alexandra disagreed bluntly. "I found you tied to a post in the middle of a field. As I recall my history, even the Romans saved that for special occasions. You could have died out there, Clark. If I hadn't found you when I did..."
He turned to face her, his expression awkward. "I...I, uh, appreciate your help but I just want to forget ever happened, okay? Please?"
She frowned up at him. "Clark..."
Whatever Alexandra would have said was lost when Jonathan Kent approached the pickup, putting a box in the back. "Hey, Clark, what's the holdup, son?"
Not missing the suspicious look directed her way, she braced herself and turned to face him with a smile. "Mr. Kent, it's good to see you." She held out her free hand, watching him with just the faintest hint of challenge in her gaze, almost daring him to turn away.
Jonathan hesitated then saw the look in her eyes and reached out to reluctantly shake her offered hand. They both knew he wasn't about to let the daughter of Lionel Luthor get the better of him. Not even in a matter so trivial as a handshake. He smiled awkwardly then turned to his son. "C'mon, we've got to finish up."
Casting a glance from his father to Alexandra, the teenager nodded once. "Okay."
When Jonathan was out of earshot, she couldn't resist noting, "At least I got a handshake this time. Part of me was expecting to be run out of town."
"It's nothing personal..." Clark began to repeat only to have her finish the statement for him.
"He's just not crazy about my father, I know. Few people rarely are." She shrugged as well. "I'm used to it. Truth is, I'm not that crazy about my father myself so I can't blame him." Reaching out to lightly brush a leaf from one of the plants from his arm, she smiled at him. "Are you sure you're all right? Last night..."
"I'm fine." He assured in all honesty. "I, uh, I guess I looked worse than I was."
"I guess so." She agreed, not believing a word of it. Something they both knew.
"Have to go." Alexandra smiled again. "I know..." She watched Clark start to walk away but stopped him with the sound of his name. "Clark?" He turned to look at her and she let the smile fade to a look of honest concern. "Are you sure you'll all right?"
He nodded once.
"Good." She said quietly. "That's good."
Clark smiled, just a little, then hurried to join his father. Jonathan looked from his son to the watching redhead, an unreadable expression on his face. Unwilling to give in to her immediate frustration at the elder Kent's automatic distrust, Alexandra smiled brightly at him then turned to survey the field, genuinely curious at all the sights but it was the young woman who drew her attention. The one Clark had been staring at.
Pretty but her kind of pretty was a dime a dozen in Metropolis. The simply elegant was all the rage in the city that year and it seemed every socialite in town had perfectly straightened hair, immaculately done makeup, and a flawlessly white smile that would have made a dentist weep for joy. But then, Alexandra supposed, in Smallville it was a novelty. She'd find out soon enough.
It was the boyfriend, a football player if the jacket had been any indication, that made the connection.
This girl was the reason Clark had been up on that pole...
With the realization in mind, Alexandra smiled slowly and brought the apple to her mouth, taking a bite.
It was time to take a close look at that necklace she'd found. She had a feeling it was going to be far more useful than she'd first envisioned. Far more. With a contemplative expression, the heiress walked away from the Farmer's Market, enjoying her apple as she moved. Reaching her car, she tossed the remnants aside then slipped into the vehicle and left.
Picking up the necklace, Alexandra lifted it up to eye the gem, watching it sparkle in the light from the windows. It had seemed as if the apparently worthless little bauble played a far bigger role in the previous night's events than she could have expected. She'd originally been confused by the necklace. It had seemed unimportant at the time, a glance at it had confirmed the relatively inconsiderable value of the gem, it certainly wasn't an emerald. But, if she'd read the situation at the market right... going with what she'd seen the night before...
She smiled faintly, tilting her head slightly and watching the green crystal twirl on the end of the golden chain. "Such a little thing to be so very useful...But, first, we have to be sure about it don't we?" She didn't want to proceed without considering all the angles. Though the consequences of a failure in this case were slim to her, they could very well be disastrous to Clark and, for once, the thought of someone else paying the price for her mistake bothered Alexandra a lot more than she cared to admit. A lot more.
Walking away from the window, she picked up the engraved box her mother had given her so many years before and carefully placed the necklace inside. Putting the box back down onto her desk, she gave it a gentle pat. Safe for now.
Time to go check on a few things...
Finding people in Smallville seemed to be markedly easy. Particularly when they turned out to be the local teen queen. It had taken Alexandra's staff all of five minutes to find out the identity of the young woman from the market and even less time to find out that she'd planned on spending the afternoon horseback riding. Where...well, finding out where was laughably easy. At this rate, her security staff would be bored out of their minds inside of a week.
Leaving her car, Alexandra took her time walking up to the barn. There was no sign of the young woman so she wandered out to the large, open door which led to the large fields beyond. There she could see a dark-haired girl astride a horse and riding back in the direction of the barn. With an analytical gaze, she watched them approach. It had been a while since she'd been riding and she was surprised to realize she actually missed it.
She made a mental note to take up the practice again as the teenager neared the barn.
The girl didn't notice her as she dismounted and walked it into the barn and Alexandra chose not to announce her presence. She watched and waited until the girl, Lana, had turned to say, "Your form's good. But his gait's off." Moving closer, she laid a hand on the horse's neck, stroking gently. "You might want to check his shoes. He might have picked up a stone."
The girl's surprised eyes landed on the older woman's face and Alexandra didn't bother to hide her amused smile. "Alexandra Luthor -- I'm an acquaintance of your aunt." Lana was clearly unimpressed by her greeting and, despite her best efforts, she couldn't help but find the teen's annoyance terribly amusing. She had a feeling that it would be a persistent occurrence in her dealings with the girl.
"Sneaking up like that," Lana noted, her tone annoyed, "you're lucky you didn't get kicked."
"You'd be surprised how little luck has to do with anything or just how much." The redhead returned casually, stepping back to let the girl work on removing the saddle. "You must be Lana, it's nice to finally get to meet you. Your aunt's been quite effusive in her descriptions of you." She allowed an amused smile. "Frankly, I was expecting wings and a halo."
"Actually," the teen turned to hang the saddle on a stall, "we've already met."
Surprised, Alexandra turned away from another stall. "We have? Funny, I don't recall being introduced to Nell's niece." She frowned, trying to recall the moment, angry with herself for forgetting something so easily recalled. "In fact, I'm sure I wasn't."
"Well, we weren't actually properly introduced." Lana admitted, reaching for a brush. "You were a little preoccupied at the time. I would have been surprised if you had remembered."
The redhead allowed a faint look of chagrin. "Why do I get the sense that the first impression I made was...less than exemplary?" Lana had the upper hand now and she quite obviously knew it. Inwardly, Alexandra cursed. She hated losing control of a situation, especially to a fifteen year old girl from a little town in the middle of nowhere. She let the girl continue to speak but concentrated every effort on keeping her facial expressions under tight control. There was absolutely no way in hell she was letting this kid hijack their conversation. Besides, as she reminded herself sternly, this could be useful.
"When I was ten," the girl elaborated, running the brush over the horse's body in slow, deliberate strokes, "I went to Metropolis for a riding competition and your father invited us to stay over."
Now that triggered a recollection. Alexandra leaned back against a stall, feeling a faint sense of amusement at the memory. Lionel had paid dearly for ruining that weekend. That had been the catalyst for a rather lively night at Club Zero. Much to her father's frustrated anger. It'd taken quite a tidy some to hush the papers up after that one. Since Lana was still talking, she tuned back in to hear what the teen was saying.
"...an indoor pool - when I went to check it out...I found you and some guy...skinny-dipping."
The fact that Lana had been that little girl surprised her. Surprise turned to anger at being surprised before finally cooling into indifferent amusement. "Mmhmm..." She nodded once, refraining from saying his name. Somehow, she suspected Bruce didn't want any of their past becoming gossip at the local coffee shop.
Not paying attention to Alexandra's expression, Lana looked over, preparing to deliver what she considered the 'zinger'. "I think he was teaching you the breast stroke?"
The heiress chuckled. "Oh, there was stroking involved but it had very little to do with anything in the vicinity of my breast." She held back a grin when the other girl's face immediately flamed and she dropped her gaze. Petty comebacks weren't usually her style but Lana's reaction made it more than worth it.
With the situation back in hand, she turned her attention back to the horse nudging at her shoulder. "So that was you, hmm?" She lifted one brow in an expression of surprise. "Puberty's been kind."
Leaving the horse, Alexandra crossed the barn to a display case filled with ribbons and photographs. She'd passed another trophy case on the way in but this one was what held her interest. A picture of Lana with the necklace she'd found in the field. The one that'd been hanging from Clark's neck. She nodded once at the case. "Impressive."
"Tacky." Lana disagreed, joining the elder woman before the display. "But, it makes Aunt Nell happy, so..."
"You pretend to graciously suffer the indignity...." Despite herself, a note of longing crept into her voice. "You shouldn't. It's something you should be grateful for, someone who cares that much." Tapping the glass lightly with one flawlessly manicured nail, she indicated the necklace in one picture. "Interesting necklace. I've never seen one quite like that before."
Confused by the sudden shift in conversation, it took the teenager a moment to thank her for the compliment. "It's very special to me...it's a...it reminds me of my parents."
Who, as Alexandra's staff had been told repeatedly, had been killed by a meteor while coming back from a football game. 'Right in front of the poor dear' were the exact words according to Raines, her somewhat aggravated chief of security. He'd complained at having to listen to the same tragic tale three times and Alexandra had no intention of suffering through the same tale with the grieving daughter herself. Who would, no doubt, relate it with considerable detail that the locals who'd spoken to her people just couldn't recall. Not that Lana, herself, would have any better a recollection. She'd barely been four at the time.
Instead, she cut off any further comments from Lana by asking, "Why aren't you wearing it then?"
"I lent it to my boyfriend." The wary way the girl answered her told her loud and clear that Lana was beginning to wonder just where this line of questioning was going and not liking the possibilities all that much. After all, billionaire heiresses didn't make visits to barns to inquire as to the whereabouts of one necklace they didn't know existed and if she already knew about it...Lana was clearly perplexed by the idea of just how Alexandra could have come into knowledge of that necklace and it was that perplexity that fascinated the elder woman so...
Perhaps, something wasn't quite right in the land of Ken and Barbie after all? Neutrally, she commented, "Lucky guy. Who is he?"
"Whitney Fordman." Lana's answer elicited another surprised look from Alexandra.
"The boy that Clark saved today?"
"Yes, I just came back from seeing him. He was lucky Clark was there."
Alexandra smiled ruefully said, almost to herself, "I know the feeling." Stepping away from the case, she pushed a lock of hair out of her eyes. "Quite a difference between those two, isn't it?"
"Excuse me?" Guiding her horse into his stall, Lana looked over the wooden structure at the other woman.
"Clark and Whitney - one has a habit of scoring touchdowns... the other saving lives...not really in the same league is it?" She looked amused. "But, then, I may have a different view of things."
Irritated, Lana stepped out of the stall, locking the door behind her. "For someone who just moved into town, you've got a lot of opinions."
"Or just a fresh point of view." The elder woman shrugged lightly. "I haven't had twenty years of living here to cloud my vision." She leaned back, watching the girl. "Doesn't following the age old stereotypes get just a little boring after a while?" Not giving Lana a chance to answer, she pushed away from the stall and started across the barn. "While you're playing nursemaid to your boyfriend, you might want to ask him what he was doing before the big game."
Hefting the saddle into her arms again, the dark-haired girl gave the other woman a confused look. "He was with me."
"Mmhmm..." Looking back over her shoulder, Alexandra gave the teen a skeptical look. "You sure about that? He was with you the whole time?" Lana's silence was all the answer she needed. "Tell your aunt I stopped by." She looked around one last time and smiled a little. "Beautiful animals."
Slipping her hands into her long coat, she walked out of the barn, leaving the confused girl in her wake.
Outside, a self-satisfied smirk touched her lips. How very interesting this was turning out to be.
It was getting to be a worrying pattern...
Every time Clark Kent showed up, Alexandra found herself promptly forgetting about whatever task she happened to be in the midst of at the time and, no matter what she did, her attention was instantly fixed on the young man. He was a teenager! She wasn't supposed to be getting this distracted by a teenager. And yet, when the housekeeper came to tell her he was waiting for her and that he'd delivered the produce she'd ordered, she immediately put aside the reports she'd been reading and went down to meet him.
He was crouched by the model table when she walked in, surveying the placement of soldiers and horses. An amused smile played about the edges of her mouth as she watched his fascinated eyes roam over the miniature landscape. Boys with toys...
"So," she interrupted casually from the doorway, "save any lives on your way over?" Walking into the room, her smile widened as he stood and smiled at her. "You keep that up, you can make a career out of it." She wasn't sure whether she was talking about his habitual life-saving or his smile, if anyone could actually be in possession of a million dollar smile, Clark Kent was that person.
"I was just dropping off your produce." He responded, sharing a grin with her. "Sorry my parents gave you a hard time..."
She waved him off with a casual gesture. "Oh, no worries...if push came to shove, I'd've arm-wrestled 'em for it." Her grin turned impish. "Think I'd stand a chance?"
With a frank laugh, Clark shook his head. "No." He gestured to the sprawling model. "Planning an invasion?"
"Not lately." She moved forward, picking up a little general. "My father gave this to me when I was nine." She gestured with the figurine, indicating the entire board.
Looking up from the table, Alexandra's amusement surfaced again and she smiled. "It wasn't a gift - it's a strategy tool." Walking around the table, she put the general back where he belonged and picked up another figure, eyeing it critically. "My father equates business with war." Inclining her head toward the simulated battle, she continued, "Take the battle of Troy...it started because two men were in love with the same woman." She looked up at Clark through her lashes, watching him intently. "Rather like you and the quarterback...that is why he strung you up in that field isn't it?"
Clark dropped his gaze. "Poor war...Whitney's pretty much won."
She shrugged. "You lost one battle, Clark. Hardly the entire war." She smiled up at him, a slow, predatory expression. "Besides...I don't think Lana's as infatuated as you think."
The teenager echoed her shrug. "The guy's captain of the football team, whole town treats him like a god. Game over."
"Well," The redhead said glibly, turning away. "If you hadn't pulled him out of that truck, your problems would be solved." Looking back, she grinned impishly. "Relax Clark, I'm kidding." She lifted a teasing brow. "So, think me capable of murder do we?"
"Of course not..." He began only to be waved off by a laughing Alexandra.
"I'm teasing, Clark." She said after clearing her throat. "Honestly, you are too easy." He flushed under her mirthful gaze and Alexandra deliberately let the moment lengthen, enjoying the expression on his face, before taking pity on him and continuing. "Don't worry, I have the perfect Trojan horse..." Slipping past him, she was aware of his eyes following her as she crossed the room to the mantle, taking down a small box.
She turned with a smile, meeting him in the middle of the room to show it to him. Opening the box, she displayed Lana's necklace and was surprised by the expression that crossed Clark's face. He took a step backward looking almost... nauseated. A concerned look on her own face, Alexandra watched him closely, "Clark? Are you all right?"
"Yeah...I'm...uh...I'm fine." The difficulty with which he responded confused her but she said nothing, merely closed the lid again, her eyes still focused intently on him. He seemed so unsettled and completely out of nowhere.
Clark seemed to recover, brushing his hands together, he nodded at the box. "Uh...that's a cool box, what's it made out of?"
"Lead." Alexandra responded, looking at it fondly. "My mother bought it in a casbah in Morocco. Some little guy told her it once belonged to Nefertiti." She smiled. "A lie, of course, but...it was the perfect fantasy for a little girl with an overactive imagination...in fact, it's what started my fascination with Egypt." She held the box out to Clark, "Here."
Again, to her surprise, Clark looked uncomfortable and backed away. "I can't take that."
She shook her head, aggravated. "What is it about Kents and gifts? I promise you, Clark, it's not going to kill you." She smiled and held it out. "It's yours - give it to Lana, tell her about how you found the necklace. Trust me, once she hears your story? Sees the necklace? She'll be yours." Stepping closer, she offered the box again. "This necklace is the key, Clark, the key to finally winning Lana - all you have to do...is use it."
He met her gaze, searching it, and Alexandra did her best to ignore the sudden thrill that raced through her at the contact and forced herself to focus on waiting for his choice. To see if he would take it. Accept her help. She refused to examine why it mattered so much. It only mattered that he let her help. Why was irrelevant.
She watched a small, conspiratorial smile form on Clark's face and with a tiny smile of her own, she placed the box in his hands.
The following Saturday found Alexandra again at the Farmer's Market where she again sought out the Kents' table. As she weaved through the melee of brightly decorated tables and booths, she noticed Whitney Fordman ambling through the displays as well, his arm firmly draped around Lana Lang's slim shoulders. A closer look confirmed the girl was wearing the necklace.
Contemplating that particular little factoid, she began scanning the crowd, watching for a familiar dark head.
Moments later she approached him where Clark was lifting a basket of his mother's tulips from his father's truck. Leaning against it, she eyed him with a faintly amused look. "You didn't tell her, did you?"
"No." He shook his head.
He turned away, carrying the basket back to the table, leaving a surprised Alexandra to catch up. She did so quickly, still quite surprised. People didn't do that. They didn't just up and turn their back on her, much less walk away. Yet Clark Kent, a kid from Nowheresville, Kansas just had.
Even more surprising? She didn't care.
Reaching out, she slipped a flower free of the bundles and sniffed delicately. "Beautiful."
The conversation seemed over as Alexandra concerned herself with examining the flowers, telling Clark they would look great in the library, and showed no further interest in the Lana issue. She lingered over the flowers as if the decision would be the lynchpin upon which she would base a massive business deal until Clark finally burst out, with the frustration only a teenager can manage. "I just couldn't, ok?!"
Looking up at him, she lifted one questioning eyebrow. "Couldn't what?"
"Tell her." Clark elaborated, "I just couldn't tell her. It wouldn't have been fair."
"To who?" Putting the flowers down, Alexandra straightened up and surveyed him with an expectant look. "Lana? How exactly? Letting her live with her illusions is less cruel than showing her what's behind the quarterback's facade?"
"He told her the truth."
"When forced." She responded pointedly then shook her head. "Okay, so you didn't tell her. Did she at least thank you for finding...you didn't give it to her did you?"
The realization hit her halfway through her statement, right around the time he dropped his gaze again, looking guilty. "Why is it, Clark, that I have the sneaking suspicion you are going to confuse and confound me more than anyone I've known in my entire life?"
Alexandra laughed and rested a hand on his arm, squeezing gently. "I can't say I would have done the same thing in your place but, I think, that doesn't mean that my choice would have been the best one. I'm afraid when it comes to a moral compass, I'm somewhat lacking in direction." She smiled up at him. "There're other ways to do this...We just have to find the one that you're comfortable with."
"Why?" He asked suddenly, giving voice to the confusion that her determination to help had elicited. "Why are you doing this?"
"Trying to help you?" She laughed. "Why not?" She dropped her hand from his arm, not missing the fact Clark's gaze followed the movement. "You saved my life, Clark, that's not something I'm going to forget anytime soon and, you'll find, Luthors aren't used to random acts of kindness....besides," her gaze softened and gave him a glimpse of a longing she kept closeted away. "You're the first person in a very long time who's looked at me and saw me. Not my father, me. That...that's a rare gift. One even rarer than giving me back my life. Helping you with this...it's the least I can do. Believe me, it is."
Alexandra experienced a rare moment of anxiety as he stared into her gaze and she had the feeling he was looking past the defenses she'd spent years carefully crafting. It left her feeling exposed, bare, and...vulnerable. She wasn't sure she liked feeling vulnerable...
Then he smiled, her breath caught...and she didn't care.
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