It was actually a pretty good day. Clark woke up that morning feeling relatively sure nothing really weird was going to happen. There were pancakes for breakfast. Nothing amiss, such as a cow with cold hand issues (not that Clark's ever were) or a busted fence in need of immediate repair, complicated chore time. He even made the bus.
No pop quizzes.
Lunch was palatable.
The soda machine did not eat his money.
Lana smiled and waved "hi" at him - twice.
And best of all, there were no meteor mutated fat sucking, cold sucking, life sucking or generally any sort of sucking schoolmates in need of a good ass kicking.
Life was grand.
He walked into the Torch office grinning, and whistling, and actually prepared to turn in his story regarding the girls' tennis team's desperate need for new rackets. The girls had swarmed him when he'd showed up at the courts with his clipboard in hand for their interview. He'd even gotten a kiss on the cheek from Missy Boomhauer (dubbed "Boobshauer" by the basketball team) which still remained on said cheek, a pale pink bloom etched in lipstick. He'd overheard her tell a friend that he was "geeky cute," which in Clark's book was very high on the "way cool" scale.
Thus he was not prepared to be confronted by a box of Whoppers, the presence of which drew him up short as it was waved in front of his nose as a shrill, angry voice issued from somewhere behind it.
"Did you do this?"
It took Clark a minute to focus on the waggling box clutched in fingers with nails painted a bright neon blue. He felt rather like a deer in headlights as his attention wavered from the Whoppers box to the bright flashing fingertips. They were strangely mesmerizing. In fact, he wasn't sure what the voice was referring too, but somehow he thought maybe it meant the nail polish, and was rendered completely muddled.
"This!" Chloe said fiercely, and bonked him in the left pectoral with the box of Whoppers. It didn't hurt, but Clark raised a hand to his chest anyway, somewhat startled that she'd hit him. "Did you eat my Whoppers?"
Anybody else might have laughed. If Pete had been there, he probably would have doubled over in giggles at the thought of eating anybodys "whoppers." In light of Clark's recent encounter with Missy Boobshauer he sort of had whoppers on the brain anyway, but he didn't think it was funny. He blushed and, to his horror a second after he did it, looked down Chloe's shirt.
She followed his gaze as he looked down, and then hastily back up again.
"Did you just look down my shirt?"
"Nuuh....yes?" Clark winced as she smacked him with the Whoppers box again.
"You're all alike." Chloe stalked over to her desk and set the Whoppers box down on top of it. Then she took a picture of it and said, "Exhibit one, an empty box of Whoppers." Turning, she took a picture of Clark. "Exhibit two, guilty expression."
That knocked Clark out of his befuzzled state. "Hey! Wait. I was guilty about looking down your shirt. There is no Whoppers guilt here," he pointed to his face. "This is pervert guilt, not candy guilt."
"Aha!" One blue tipped finger stabbed out at him. "Then you admit it!"
"That you're a pervert!" Chloe laughed, sat down on the edge of her desk, and then took a picture as Clark screwed up his face in an effort to find a witty retort. "Seriously. Did you partake of the malted milk ball cache?"
"No." Clark dumped his book-bag in his chair and went over to Chloe's desk. He picked up the Whoppers box and gave it a shake, even though he knew it was indeed empty. Sure enough, there was no tell-tale rattle from inside the cardboard carton. "Did you ask Pete?"
"He swore on Francis Hampton's yearbook picture that he didn't even know they were there."
Cocking his head, Clark looked up from peering into the carton sans x-ray vision. "Francis Hampton? That's who he's crushing this year?"
"Shh. You didn't hear it from me."
Chloe grinned back.
"Are you going to tell her, or shall I?"
"You do it, Chloe. You can make it sound casual. I'll stick the poem into her locker."
"Now," Chloe said, lowering her voice in an attitude of supreme seriousness and gravity. "Who do you suppose ate my candy?"
"I don't know. Where did you have it stashed?"
"Well, Holmes, it was in my usual spot for candy stashing - the top drawer of the filing cabinet behind the photos-misc. folder." Hopping down from her perch, Chloe made her way over to the filing cabinet in question and made a show of pointing at it ala game show bimbo.
And if the price is right you can have this ugly yellow file cabinet with the dent in one side for your very own home!!
Clark followed her. He pulled open the top drawer of the cabinet and looked behind the last folder. Sure enough there was a small cache of candy, including a very large box of Dots. These he pulled out and showed them to Chloe.
"You've been holding out on me."
He put the box back. "Man, don't let Lex see those. He's bonkers for Dots."
Chloe rolled her eyes. "Lex can afford his own Dots."
"Well you know," Clark said, crossing his arms over his chest. "People who shoplift often have more than enough money to pay for the items they've stolen."
"So you think Lex ate my Whoppers?"
"Hmm. No. If it were the Dots that were missing I might think so, but Lex isn't much of a Whopper man."
"There's a really rude joke to be found in that statement, Clark, and I'm avoiding it."
"Good idea. It would make you sound crass, Chloe, and we all know you are the epitome of sophistication. You would never do anything like, say - cut class to spend the afternoon spitting off the roof of the gymnasium onto unsuspecting cheerleaders."
Chloe's eyes widened in outrage. "I did not! Who told you that?"
Clark whistled, and rolled his eyes up at the ceiling.
"Nevermind. It was Pete. Who else?"
Deflated, Clark pouted. "I have friends other than Pete."
"Yeah? Like who?"
She pulled herself up in a stance of mock outrage. "I never said we were friends."
"Who kissed you?"
The suddenness of the question took Clark off guard. He blinked, and raised a hand to his cheek to wipe off the incriminating pink-pouty-pucker-print.
"Uh," he said. "Missy Boobuhoomhauer."
One of Chloe's eyebrows shot up into her bangs. "Oh? And why was Missy Boomhauer so intent on leaving her mark on you? What did you do?"
Clark scurried over to his backpack and produced the story he'd hastily scribbled out during study hall. He just needed to type it up and it would be ready for print. He said as much to Chloe as he presented it to her. She looked at the crumpled piece of paper for a moment, then held it up toward him with her finger pointing to one corner.
"Is this chocolate? This looks like a giant Kent thumbprint outlined in something that looks...." She raised the paper to her nose and sniffed. "And smells, suspiciously like chocolate."
"I actually turn a story in on time and you're bent because there's a chocolate thumbprint on the draft? Chloe, I'm hurt."
"Is this Whoppers chocolate?"
"No," Clark said sheepishly. He snatched the draft copy of his story back and laid it carefully on his desk, smoothing out some of the worst wrinkles. "It's Ding Dong chocolate."
Chloe laughed. "I thought your Mom banned Ding Dongs."
"She did. She banned them from the house, but see some villainous person happened to put them in the vending machine outside the lunchroom in the slot where there used to be Twinkies."
"And since there is no school ban on chocolate goodies that make Clark Kent goofy...."
Clark grinned. Chocolate didn't make him goofy, that was just an excuse he'd used to explain the ban to Chloe, who happened to overhear Martha's tirade on the subject. The truth was that Clark was so addicted to Ding Dongs he'd eaten five boxes all by himself and left the wrappers all over the living room floor while watching an all day Gilligan's Island marathon. He had just opened a sixth box when the business end of a broom came down on his head. Ding Dongs and the broken broom had gone flying when he popped up off the couch to defend himself only to find it was his mother home early from a shopping trip.
"So who did eat my Whoppers?" Chloe pulled open the file cabinet drawer a little further and peeked inside. "Ew, what's that?"
"What's what?" Clark returned his attention to the mystery, joining Chloe at the filing cabinet where she was pointing to something in the very back of the drawer. "Oh," he said. "Chloe I think I know who, or what, ate your Whoppers."
"Who or what? What?"
"That's mouse poop."
Chloe made a face and quickly shut the drawer. "A mouse!" She shuddered. "Ew, Clark! A mouse has been pawing all over my stuff! And using my filing cabinet as its own personal litter box!" After a pause, she frowned. "Are you sure?"
"Well you do live in a barn," Chloe acquiesced.
"I don't live in a barn, I just....." Clark trailed off, deflated. "Just kinda hang out in one." He scowled, trying to figure out if hanging out in a barn was really that much of an improvement over actually living in one.
"Well this isn't a barn, and there should not be mice in a public school facility. It's unsanitary and just plain gross." With a flourish, Chloe sat herself down at her desk and began typing on her computer. "I'm going to write a letter to the Lowell County Board of Education to have this place fumigated...what are you laughing at?"
"You can't do that!"
"Yes I can!" Chloe stabbed a blue bejeweled fingertip at her monitor. "To whom it may concern," she read.
"Chloe," Clark said gently. "This is a rural area. There are cornfields all around the school campus. There are probably tons of mice sneaking around in here." He looked back into the drawer, and then looked past the drawer. A quick scan revealed that the mouse with the sweet tooth had not only taken up residence behind the filing cabinet, but that the thief was actually at home, enjoying what looked to be a potato nugget pilfered from the lunchroom.
Clark motioned at Chloe with one hand. From her point of view it had to have been a humorous sight, Clark Kent with his head stuck in a filing cabinet, waving with one arm as if he were engaging in a really bizarre form of synchronized swimming. He really wasn't worried about what she thought though, and continued to flail.
"What?" Chloe demanded after Clark jerked his head out of the drawer and glared at her.
"Can't you see me waving at you?"
"This," Clark said, waving his arm around. "Means 'come over here.' "
"I thought it meant 'help, I've got my head stuck in a drawer.' "
Clark rolled his eyes so far back in his head he could practically see his brain. "Noooo...." He stopped. "Wait, how come you didn't help me then?"
Chloe leaned back in her chair, grinning. "Because it was funny." She lifted one arm in the air and waved it around as if she were doing a one armed backstroke. "You looked like one of those whirly-gig things old people put out in their yards, but instead of a goose or a plane, it's 'boy with head stuck in filing cabinet.' "
"Do you want help catching this mouse or not?"
"Is this a trick question?"
"Give me that," Clark demanded. He crossed the room and took a glass mason jar that was sitting on her desk..
"That's my specimen jar!" Chloe protested. She got up and rounded her desk, snatching the jar away from him before he could unscrew the lid. "It's sterile."
Clark wrinkled his nose. "Ew. What, you're going to...."
"No, I'm not going to pee in it. It's not that kind of specimen flyboy."
Chloe cranked her arm around.
Giggling, Chloe held out the jar. "This, my friend, is for collecting samples of weird things that may or may not occur in this, the Freak Zone Supreme of these United States of America."
"I doubt Sean Kelvin would fit in there, Chloe," Clark said wryly, crossing his arms over his chest. "Nor would the lamb with three legs that was born on Henderson's farm last spring."
"What?!? There was an animal mutation and you didn't tell me about it?"
"Just give me the jar. The mouse is behind the filing cabinet. If we move fast I can catch him."
"Oh," Chloe tossed her head and gave up her jar. "In that case...."
Clark took the jar with a grin and unscrewed the lid. "I'm going to tell Pete you're afraid of mice."
"I'm not afraid of mice, Clark," Chloe's voice was filled with indignation. "I'm afraid of the diseases mice carry. Lyme disease, hanta virus, the plague...."
"The plague? Oh come on, Chloe. It's just a little mouse."
"Lice...." she concluded. "It's pooping in my files, specifically my photo files. You never know when I might need a picture of the homecoming queen from 1972. How can I publish it if her highness' lovely dress is smeared with mouse excrement!"
Clark narrowed his eyes suspiciously. "How many Dots have you eaten today?"
"Shut up and catch the mouse now that you've contaminated my jar."
He pretended to stumble as she shoved him back toward the filing cabinet. Another x-ray eyeball scan revealed that the ballsy candy caching culprit (and it was male, Clark confirmed) was still enjoying its potato nugget, blissfully unaware of the fact that a teenaged alien with a mason jar was about to ruin the picnic. Clark felt a pang of guilt. Salve was applied to said pang with the thought that he could always take it home and let it loose at the farm. The Kent farm was a more mouse friendly environment, if one didn't take into account several barn cats and the trap Martha had hidden behind the refrigerator.
"You move the cabinet, and I'll catch it when it runs out." Clark motioned to the side of the filing cabinet that was pressed snuggly against a low bookshelf. "Climb on top of the bookshelf."
A globe, a stack of newspapers, and a voodoo doll that looked vaguely familiar were moved so that Chloe could climb up to stand on top of the bookshelf. Clark ducked away from her, swatting playfully at her hand as she took the opportunity to ruffle his hair on the way up.
"But you're so cute!" she laughed.
"Just move the cabinet. On the count of three." Clark added under his breath: "No more Dots for you."
It was a rather awkward situation for Clark to be playing the part of the mouse catcher, primarily because he knew for a fact he could catch the mouse. He moved faster than the time it would take for the mouse to process the "oh crap I'd better run" thought. The problem, however, was in making sure that he moved fast enough to catch the mouse, but not so fast that big fat flashing neon lights went off warning Chloe that something just was not normal in Clarksville.
"One," he said softly.
"Two," Chloe whispered. She put both hands on the top of the cabinet so she could lever it away from the wall.
The mouse was blocked on two sides by the wall and the bookcase. On the third side was an old, obsolete radiator, and on the fourth was Clark. The trick would be to catch it before it could dart under the radiator, which is where Clark suspected it had its hole. He was hoping it would run straight ahead, toward him, or get cornered beside the bookcase.
He braced himself.
As Chloe twisted the filing cabinet away from the wall, Clark had a brief moment of panic wherein he worried she would squish the mouse, which would not have been very pretty, not to mention how badly it would smell after a while. Shifting into x-ray mode yet again revealed the mouse not being squished, but hastily abandoning its potato nugget to dash underneath the radiator.
A split second later it darted out from under the radiator and over Clark's shoe, prompting Chloe to let go of the filing cabinet with a shriek.
"There it goes, Clark! Catch it, catch it!"
Clark whirled around at the same time the cabinet hit the floor again with a bang, which in turn caused the top drawer to fly open. It nailed Clark right between the shoulder blades.
It didn't hurt, but it caused him to miss his first attempt to catch the mouse, which was proving to be pretty gosh darn quick as it darted around Clark's shoes like a pygmy engaged in a one on one game against Shaq.
He was trying really hard not to step on it.
Jar in hand, Clark pounced, narrowly avoiding the mouse's long pink tail as he quickly scooped it up into the mason jar and slammed the lid down on the opening. The pygmy apparently had skills when it came to the slam dunk because it would have jumped right back out of the jar had the lid not been in the way. As it was there was a horrible "pop" sound as the creatures head hit the lid. A mouse noggin shaped dent appeared.
The mouse stared, and twitched its whiskers as if annoyed. It probably was annoyed. It probably also had a headache, Clark thought as he examined the dent in the jar lid.
"There's something weird about this mouse."
Chloe appeared at his side and peered over his arm at the mouse. "It looks like an ordinary mouse to me. Was it eating a potato nugget or was I hallucinating?"
"It was eating a potato nugget."
"Poor mouse," Chloe snorted. "If it's eating the food provided so generously by the Kansas State Board of Education there's definitely something wrong with it, and if there wasn't before, there is now. That stuff is lethal."
Clark turned the jar around, watching the mouse carefully as it explored the confines of its prison. "I like the potato nuggets," he murmured absently.
"Ew, Clark, that's gross. You keep eating school lunches and you'll be dead before you graduate." Chloe hesitated, cocking her head at the jar. "Er...what's it doing?"
This was true. The mouse had started jumping up and down as if it were on a little bitty trampoline, or as if it were trying to break through the bottom of the jar, which, much to Clark's amazement, it proceeded to do. There was one last "plink" of tiny pink paws against the glass. It was followed immediately by a loud "crack!" and the bottom of the jar broke away.
"Whoa!!!" Chloe jumped backward as the glass bottom hit the floor and shattered. "Hey! What the....."
Clark dropped the jar and lunged after the mouse, his sneaker making sand of what remained of the jar as it hit the floor. Like a baseball player sliding for home he leaped, and just as he fell to the floor he managed to wrap both hands around the mouse before it could squirm under the door into the hallway.
A second later....
His hands popped open, and the mouse vanished through the crack under the door.
Clark staggered to his feet, clutching his left hand in his right. From a small gouge in his palm blood was welling up onto his skin.
Chloe hurried toward him. "What happened?"
"It bit me!"
"Well, what did you expect?" Chloe took his hand. "Yeowch," she intoned gravely, and went to fetch the first aid kit.
His voice was plaintive. "I'm bleeding."
"You'd better go see the nurse, Clark," Chloe swatted his fingers away as he tried to wipe away the blood. A squirt of Bactine produced a wounded shriek. "Big baby."
"Do you think I need stitches?" He knitted his brows and peered down at his wound, which Chloe blew on to help reduce the sting. In Clark's very limited experience with flesh wounds he wasn't quite sure of the procedure involved with a mouse bite.
"No, but that mouse was acting pretty peculiar. It might have rabies."
Could he even get rabies? Clark wasn't sure.
"Did you see it's eyes? They were kind of gree...."
Chloe paused in the middle of applying a Band-Aid to Clark's palm.
"Green," she finished. "And it was behaving oddly, and it seemed to be unusually strong and fast."
Clark wasn't sure he liked the grin that slowly spread across her face as she applied his Band-Aid. (It was a Scooby Doo Band-Aid he noted.) Chloe only got that mysterious, squinty-eyed look when she was on to something. He watched her suspiciously as she put away the First Aid kit and then began rummaging around in the Torch's supply closet.
"Chloe?" he asked cautiously. "What are you thinking?"
There was a bang, a rattle, and the closet door slammed. Chloe reappeared with her hair sticking out even more wildly before and decorated with a few cobwebs. In her hand she held a butterfly net.
"If my theory is correct, that mouse has had a run in with some meteor rocks. If that's the case, it will be the perfect lab specimen for someone, someone interested in the effects of meteor rocks on humans."
"Not your kooky Dr. Hamilton? Chloe don't tell me you're still talking to that lunatic!"
She grinned, then turned her gaze up to the ceiling as she tapped her chin with one finger. "If I were a mouse loose in this school, where would I go?"
Clark's shoulders slumped. "The lunchroom?" he asked, deflated.
Chloe waved her net. "To the lunchroom!"
"Supermouse," Chloe said.
Pete choked on a cookie. Clark had to pound him on the back for a second. While he was pounding, and Pete was choking, Chloe stole the cookie and smashed it into pieces with a text book borrowed from Lana who was standing nearby. Lana was politely not laughing. Neither was her quarterback boyfriend.
"You know," Whitney commented quietly. "I've always thought she had a screw loose. Now I know she does."
Chloe was picking the chocolate chips out of the cookie crumbs. "Well I know this mouse has a sweet tooth and I know it's lingering around in the lunchroom." With a wave of her hand, she indicated said lunchroom, occupied this late in the day by only a hand full of students and a single teacher.
"Maybe he got detention too." Clark said wryly. "For hiding a copy of Pentmouse in his locker."
Whitney snickered. "Good one Kent."
Pete scowled. "Yeah, good one, Kent. My mom's gonna kill me."
Clark waggled a finger at him. "If I told you once, I've told you twice, don't take porn to school."
Chloe stopped what she was doing to stare at Pete agape. "You did not!"
"Yes he did," Lana said quietly. "Sections 125 through 300 had random searches done on them today. Patricia Franklin had a bag of pot, Donna Donaldson had a nude pin-up of Pamela Anderson...."
Whitney, Clark and Pete all spoke at the same time: "Donna?!?!"
Licking chocolate from her finger, Chloe nodded. "You guys didn't know that?"
"Damn!" Pete pouted.
"Pete had a Penthouse."
"It's my brother's!"
"Yeah, yeah," Chloe laughed.
"It's true, I swear!"
"Rob Gordon had about two years worth of dirty gym clothes," Lana continued, wrinkling her nose in disgust.
"That explains a lot," Clark muttered. "His locker is right next to mine."
"Wait, wait, wait. How did you come to know all this?" Chloe sat down at the table across from Pete, leaning her butterfly net up against Clark, who instinctively grabbed it to prevent anyone from getting bopped in the head if it slipped.
"You're slacking off on your reporter duties, Chlo," Pete laughed.
"I was preoccupied." She waved a hand. "Go on, go on. Anything else?"
"Well to answer your first question," Lana said, grinning. "I was scribe for Principal Kwan." The grin abruptly faded. "And if you print any of it in the Torch, Chloe, I'll be busted. You won't, will you?"
"I'll plead the fifth," Chloe bargained. "And I'll leave out the smack, because that's like - criminal. So what other goodies did Kwan find lurking in the lockers of Smallville High? Any skeletons? Any bodies? Body parts?"
"Chloe! That's kinda morbid!" Clark scowled at her, which resulted in a look of exasperation on her part. "I mean, this isn't a horror movie."
She threw up her hands. "Hello, Clark? This is Weirdville. We have super powered mice running around, why not body parts?"
"No body parts," Lana said, giving Whitney a shove as he made a cork screwing motion at one temple. "Just an empty box of Ding Dongs."
Chloe and Pete looked at Clark.
He felt his face getting hot.
Before the conversation could continue, forcing Clark to have to explain, in front of Lana and Whitney, his addiction to carbohydrates, Whitney changed the subject. He'd been looking around the lunchroom as if supremely bored (he probably was) and now spoke. His eyes were trained on the door leading into the kitchens, just past the table where Mr. Keaton, the teacher currently assigned to detention duty, was napping.
"Didn't you say you were looking for a mouse?" the quarterback asked quietly.
Chloe's attention went from Clark, to Whitney, which made Clark sigh with relief. He handed over the butterfly net as she jumped to her feet. "What? Where?"
Whitney pointed. "As far as I know, hoagies don't walk."
Clark turned around. Sure enough, right in front of the kitchen doors, a very large submarine sandwich was making its way across the lunchroom floor trailing a long strand of shredded lettuce behind it. Utilizing a bit of x-ray vision revealed a propulsion unit made up of one small mouse. It trundled along with the sandwich perched precariously on its back, licking its whiskers in anticipation of the feast to come. Clark felt a little surge of irritation at its smugness, before reminding himself that it was just a mouse.
Sort of. It had, after all, bit him. Maybe super mouse was an apt description. He idly peeked under his Band-Aid - ow.
"You know what," Whitney said, as Chloe's eyes widened and a grin spread across her face. "I think we should be going, Lana. I'll be late for practice." Carefully, he guided Lana away by the shoulders. "Besides, if the great blonde hunter over there wakes up Mr. Keaton, it won't be our choice to be here anymore."
Lana smiled and waved with her fingers as they departed. Clark waved back with a wistful sigh, but the beginnings of a pleasant little daydream were interrupted by a sharp slap to the back of his head.
"Come on! We'll flank him," Chloe said. "Clark you go that way, Pete you go the other way. I'll go straight up the middle."
"Oh no!" Pete exclaimed. "Count me out. I'm in enough trouble already." He shook his head. "I'm not chasing a mouse all over the lunch room. Just set a trap, Chloe."
"First of all, this is no ordinary mouse. He's fast, strong, and very cunning. He broke out of a glass jar and he escaped from Clark, who has experience with mouse catching."
"I wouldn't say...." Clark began.
Chloe poked him.
Clark obediently displayed his Scooby-Doo Band-Aid, holding up his hand and pointing at it just in case Pete failed to notice the garish strip of brown and yellow plastic across his palm.
"Maybe it just has rabies or something. Have you had your shots, Clark?"
"Yes...uh, I think so."
Grabbing Pete by the sleeve, Chloe dragged him out of his seat. "We're wasting time! Go, cut him off so he can't get back into the kitchen. Clark, sneak up behind him. No, not like that, crouch, crouch!"
"Crouch! Be sneaky!" Chloe illustrated this by bending her knees and creeping along the floor in a hunched over, curled up, crab-like scuttle, dragging the butterfly net behind her.
Pete and Clark looked at each other.
"How much candy has she had today?" Pete whispered behind his hand.
"I don't know, but I've cut her off." Clark shook his head. "I'm not good at sneaky."
"No kidding. You're the size of Big Foot and dress like a circus tent."
They watched as Chloe crawled under the table directly behind Mr. Keaton, much to the amusement of the other detainees - the ones who hadn't left the minute Mr. Keaton fell asleep.
Clark gave Pete a look. "You know, just for that circus tent comment, you get to crab walk behind the trash cans." With a little shove, he sent Pete stumbling toward the trash cans while he went the opposite direction, sneaking around, with as much sneakiness as he could muster, a long row of tables pushed up against one wall.
The mouse blundered along, oblivious to the fact he was being stalked, and to the loss of a slice of tomato that slipped out of the sandwich and onto the floor - hoagie flotsam. Oddly, nobody else in the room seemed to have noticed the walking sandwich, or else they didn't want to notice it. Or, Clark thought, watching Chloe crawl under the tables toward the kitchen, they were too distracted by how goofy their classmates were acting.
Chloe emerged from under the table where Mr. Keaton still snored peacefully. The elderly teacher had his head propped up on a stack of papers and as Clark grew nearer he saw that he was drooling a little. A trail of red ink, smeared by teacher slobber, ran off down the side of the stack and onto the table. Clark felt sorry for him until he saw that the topmost paper was his own.
It was an essay regarding the poetry of an obscure seventeenth century Norwegian writer. The poem hadn't made much sense to Clark, whose mind tended to approach the language on more of a literal basis. Poetry gave him trouble as a matter of course - poems weren't very literal. He'd also been extremely hungry since Mr. Keaton's English class was his last class before lunchtime, and therefore his essay contained quite a few references to food. Somehow Clark had latched on to the idea that the poem was about two people having dinner in a Mexican restaurant.
"Thy glistening orbs of of liquid fire" had been interpreted as someone spilling the hot sauce.
"A D minus?!?!"
Mr. Keaton snorted, and mumbled something about ear mites, causing Clark to freeze in place and clap a hand over his mouth.
Chloe's eyes widened and she hissed, "Shhh!!" in his general direction.
Fretting about the damage to his GPA and wondering if Mr. Keaton would offer extra credit if he threw himself down on his knees and begged, Clark scurried away. Behind him Mr. Keaton snored on, possibly dreaming of spicy hot chimichangas considering the content of the essay he'd just finished grading. The ear mite thing though - Clark hadn't said anything in his essay about ear mites.
Why do we have to have English anyway? What's wrong with a whole day of math? I hate writing.
"Clark!" Chloe hissed, and motioned him to hurry, and he saw why; the mouse was making for a bank of vending machines on the far side of the lunchroom. If it made it, it would wedge itself and its sandwich in behind the heavy machines and they would never get it out.
Well, Clark would be able to get it out, but demonstrating his ability to juggle vending machines in front of several members of the student body would get him grounded for sure. Then the realization occurred to him that even if he did catch the mouse, what would prevent it from biting him again? Clark wasn't particularly keen on being gnawed on by a rodent, especially a rodent that very likely had some sort of meteor rock mutation.
He paused to peek at his wound again. What if it got infected?
Chloe was looking daggers at him. She was very close to where the mouse still struggled with his hoagie and Pete was closing in behind the sandwich with his hands outstretched as if to grab it. Clark moved in front of it and crouched down near the floor. All three of them froze as the mouse came within a foot of Clark's outstretched hand. He waited, holding his breath.
"Now!" Chloe whispered.
With one smooth motion, Clark reached out and snatched the sandwich away, revealing the small rodent that had been underneath it. The mouse looked startled. It sat up on its haunches and for a split second met Clark's eye before dropping back down to the floor to make a break for it.
Chloe brandished the butterfly net, lunching forward with a cry of , "I've got it!" as she brought the net down over the mouse.
At least that was what she'd intended to do. What happened next would provide endless entertainment for those who had been in Mr. Keaton's detention that afternoon as they retold the tale to their fellow Smallville High students. It would go down in infamy, the story of Chloe Sullivan, the mouse, and a tomato.
As she took a step forward, the heel of Chloe's shoe was introduced to a slice of tomato that had fallen out of the hoagie. The effect was not unlike that of someone stepping on a banana peel, and a yelping Chloe, the butterfly net, and one shoe became airborne. The mouse was momentarily forgotten as Clark tried to figure out what to grab first.
In the end, as he had only a split second to decide, he tossed the hoagie over his shoulder and just grabbed blindly, hoping he came up with Chloe first.
He came up with her right shoe.
She hit the floor with a bone jarring thud and lay there stunned for a moment, arms and legs akimbo, eyes wide with surprise. Nearby the butterfly net clattered to the floor and Clark, still holding Chloe's shoe like it was the most precious thing on the planet, watched as the mouse ran over her chest.
Instantly Chloe was moving, flinging her arms around, kicking her feet, and screaming as the mouse bounced around on her chest as if it were Michael Flatley doing an Irish jig. It was squeaking.
Clark dropped the shoe and went for the mouse.
Much to his horror, he missed the mouse, grabbed a breast, and was summarily smacked across the face when Chloe sat up, grabbed her shoe and hit him with it. Such a gross misappropriation of breast fondling was apparently not going to be tolerated. Her blow didn't hurt, but it certainly made Clark let go of her breast. It also made him lose his balance and with his arms flailing he fell backward onto his butt. The mouse leapt over Chloe's shoulder.
For a moment it was airborne, flying across the gap that separated Chloe from Pete, who was standing behind her. Chloe turned around just as it landed - on Pete's foot.
"Pete! Grab it!"
He looked down, then up again with a look of sheer terror on his face.
"Uhoh," Clark hastily levered himself to his feet. "It's gone up his pants leg."
The words had no sooner left his lips when Pete opened his mouth and let out a shriek that would have raised the dead. It did raise Mr. Keaton, who woke up at the shrill cry to see Peter Ross dancing across the lunchroom screaming like a girl and pulling at his belt buckle in an effort to get his pants off.
Chloe scrambled through the swinging door into the kitchen just as Mr. Keaton started gearing up to lay down the law. Clark was not so lucky. As he pondered the decision whether he should follow Chloe or go help Pete, the teacher's eye fell on him. Like a deer in headlights he froze, clutching the butterfly net in one hand, and Chloe's shoe in the other, while in the distance Pete finally got his pants off and the mouse scrambled into hiding behind the pop machine.
Pete fell down.
Mr. Keaton exploded.
"MR. KENT! WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!?!?!"
Clark burst into the Torch office. The door slammed against the wall and several framed certificates hanging on it crashed to the floor. His eyes were wide, his hair was mussed, and his face was extremely flushed. He waved a stack of pink note paper at Chloe.
"Three weeks, Chloe! I got detention every day after school for THREE WEEKS!"
She cringed, looking apologetic. "I'm sorry."
"SORRY? SORRY?!?! MY DAD'S GONNA KILL ME!!"
"We'll just explain to him that it was all in the name of science. Obviously that mouse....."
Chloe looked at him sideways. "Clark, you're going to give yourself a stroke. Take deep breaths, count to ten."
He glared at her.
"Or maybe not." Smiling, she offered up a brightly colored box. "Dot?"
Clark slammed his stack of detention slips down on his desk, followed by his backpack. From within he produced Chloe's shoe, which she received quite happily. He was infuriated that his day had gone so awry, not to mention the fact that it was harvest and being late home from school would really get his dad's panties in a wad. Then there was the fact that any hope of salvaging his English grade flew out the window. Mr. Keaton would not easily forget the fact that he spent a good twenty minutes in Clark's face screaming a lecture about irresponsibility, puerile behavior, and outright laziness, all of which probably contributed the to abysmal showing Clark had made on his last test.
He glared at his computer as he read his e-mail, trying to ignore Chloe.
She was not to be ignored. "You know what I noticed about that mouse, Clark?"
He didn't answer but she kept talking anyway.
"It's not a field mouse."
Clark paused as he penned a response to Lex's invitation up to the mansion for a movie.
Sorry, I can't make it seeing as how CHLOE got me three weeks worth of after school detention....
"It was white."
He hit send, and peeked over the top of his monitor.
Clark frowned. "That's not a field mouse. That's a lab mouse."
"Snarf!" Chloe giggled. "And where do you get a lab mouse?"
"A....laaaab." Sitting back in his chair, Clark looked at her. "Marty?"
Nodding, Chloe popped another Dot into her mouth. "Marty."
A second later they were both up and out of their seats, heading down the hall to the science lab.
Marty "Mouse" Kitiere was Smallville High's number one science geek, having inherited the position when his fiend Greg "Bugboy" Arkin befell a tragic fate. Clark used to come up in the number three position behind Greg and Marty by virtue of winning every science fair since kindergarten. The fact that Clark never seemed to have to work very hard to achieve his status in the high school "science community" created a certain degree of bitter jealousy among its more studious members. High school politics. Clark worked on the school paper and was often seen with "cheerleader" i.e., Lana. This placed him well into a different category in the hierarchy and by virtue of that, he needed to keep himself, and his science projects, out of geekdom. He messed up the status quo, their GPAs, and their scholarship opportunities.
Marty was not thrilled to see Clark, with Chloe in tow, appear in his science room. That was clear by the disgusted look on his face when he looked up from feeding a python and saw the duo enter. He dropped the dead rat he was holding into the python's tank, and turned around, crossing his arms over his chest in a classically defensive posture. It was marred by the fact that he was wearing a white lab coat that was much too large for his small frame, and he had to take time out to push his thick, Army issue style glasses up his nose. Standing just barely over five feet in height he looked like a Hobbit sized version of Drew Carey. Clark didn't just make him look bad academically.
"Well at least he hasn't turned into a mouse," Clark muttered as he and Chloe approached.
"How do we know that?" Chloe whispered back. "He could be a weremouse."
"Did your supermouse have braces?"
"No, but I wasn't exactly looking that closely."
Clark grinned. "Yeah, you were too busy doing the funky chicken."
Chloe poked him with a finger. "Yeah, you try keeping your cool when there's a mutant mouse attacking you." Her face shifted into a broad grin. "Hi Marty! You're here late."
"I was feeding the animals," Marty said coolly.
Clark looked at the tanks and cages lined up on shelves at the back of the room. There were mice, rats, several reptiles and an extremely large bunny. He felt a little queasy as he watched the python begin eating the dead rat.
"There's a lot of them," Chloe remarked casually as she went over to examine a tank full of white mice. "A lot to keep track of."
"That's my job. Principal Kwan has praised my efforts to make Smallville High's science department one of the best in the Midwest." Marty said this with a smug glance up at Clark. "I know each of them by name."
"Ever come up short?" Clark asked. He followed Chloe to another tank, where a single mouse ran on a wheel. He still felt sick to his stomach, and avoided looking at the python.
Marty bristled from where he stood with his head just about level with Clark's armpit. "Excuse me?"
Chloe smoothed over the blunder before Clark could stammer an apology. "What he means is, are you missing any?"
Turning away, Marty went over to a table, picking up a brown bottle with an eyedropper lid before insinuating himself between Clark and the mouse running on the wheel. Almost immediately Clark was overwhelmed with the urge to spew tater nuggets onto Marty, the mouse, and anything else within range. A headache exploded behind his eyes, and his guts began to play cat's cradle.
Marty opened the lid to the tank. "No," he said. "They're all here."
Moaning, Clark stepped backward as Marty placed a single drop of green liquid into the mouse's food bowl. He back-pedaled until he no longer felt sick, keeping his eye on Marty and his squeaky subject. The mouse hopped down from the exercise wheel and began to voraciously eat its food.
"What," Clark managed, as soon as the metallic taste of bile faded and he regained use of his tongue. "Are you giving them?"
"Vitamin supplement." The boy smiled at the mouse. "There you go Hobbes, eat your din din."
Chloe moved closer to the tank. She watched the mouse nibble at its dinner. "The reason we were asking, Marty is that there's a mouse running around in the Torch office. It's a white mouse."
The red face was a giveaway, belying Marty's words. "It's not my mouse."
"Then where's Calvin?"
Marty and Chloe both turned to look at Clark, who stood several feet away, holding up a clipboard. He turned it so that they could see the list of names pinned to it, and tapped it with his finger.
"According to this chart," he explained. "There should be two mice in that tank. If that's Hobbes, you're missing Calvin."
There was a long pause, and then Marty quickly crossed over to where Clark stood, snatching the clipboard away from him. It wasn't hard to do since he still had the bottle of green liquid in his pocket. Clark let go and retreated before he did spew his lunch.
"Cal is at my house. He was sick, and had to be separated from the others, not that it's any of your business!"
"Marty," Clark pursued him as closely as he could when Marty turned back to his work. "If you're experimenting with meteor rocks...."
"Meteorites," Marty snorted. "Mr. Science, you should know that, and I repeat, what I do here is none of your business." He cast a baleful eye at Chloe. "Or your hack tabloid writer wannabe. See any little green men lately, Chloe?"
Chloe stiffened, and shot back. "No, but I'm looking at a little yellow boy...."
Clark interrupted quickly before an outright battle began, gently shoving Chloe behind him. "Do you give Cal that supplement too?" he asked. "Like Hobbes?"
There was a long pause. Marty obviously didn't want to tell Clark anything, but after a moment he relented with a shrug. "No," he said. "Cal had an allergic reaction to it. It made him sick. That's why I took him home."
Clark's eyebrows rose. "Oh, really?" He began shuffling backward toward the door, forgetting that Chloe was behind him and nearly bowling her over in his haste. "I uh....just remembered that I forgot something that I was supposed to remember at home."
Chloe's face screwed up in a scowl. "What?"
"I'll catch up with you later, Chloe. Thanks Marty. Bye."
Clark hurried out the door, and once in the hallway, exploded into "freaking out need to go home RIGHT NOW" speed.
"A mouse?" Jonathan Kent laughed as he plopped the last layer of cheese on a sandwich that would have made Dagwood Bumstead proud (and made his son wonder if he was going to unhinge his jaw to eat it) "You're kidding?"
"The only good mouse is a dead mouse," Martha murmured. Her blue eyes glittered dangerously. "Dead," she repeated.
Clark shuddered. She was creeping him out. Zombie Mom. Must. Kill. Mice.
Mice were the bane of Martha's existence though. Despite three cats that ran around the Kent farm, there were mice in her pantry and she waged constant battle against them. Just last week Clark had gotten a glimpse of his mother's dark side when she pulled out a box of rice and it had all run out onto the floor from a hole chewed in one corner. It sent her into a rage wherein she immediately delved into her massive arsenal of traps, poisons and other mouse eliminating devices to set up a series of booby traps that would have thwarted Indiana Jones had he wanted to raid the Ritz Crackers, let alone a field mouse. Clark no longer wondered just how she kept his rather passionate (read: temperamental) father in line. He wouldn't want to be on the receiving end when Martha got her back up, no way.
"Seriously," he said. "I think it was a stowaway, on my ship, from my planet."
"Clark, that's a little far fetched don't you think?" Jonathan insisted. He poured a glass of milk to go with his sandwich. He actually patted said sandwich with an affection he usually reserved for his family, and licked his lips.
Great, Zombie Mouse Killer Mom and Sandwich Lust Dad.
"Hello?" Clark intoned, annoyed that they were blowing him off."Alien in a cornfield talking here. Wouldn't I recognize another alien if I saw one? I definitely think this is an alien mouse." He held up his hand. "Look, it bit me!"
Martha was up out of her chair immediately. "Oh, honey!" She grabbed Clark's hand and gently peeled up the Band-Aid to look at the bite. It was red, but already scabbing nicely. "Jonathan he's not joking. Look at this!"
Jonathan looked, and nodded. "That doesn't mean it's an alien mouse."
"The meteor rock supplement Marty was giving the others made this one sick." Clark's voice lowered. "And it has this thing - about carbohydrates."
Martha and Jonathan looked at each other.
"Ding Dong's," they said.
"Oh, so now I've got your attention."
It was a dark and stormy night.
Clark and Chloe crouched side by side in the doorway of the Torch office, staring down the hallway. The lights were out, but in the random flashes of lightning illuminating the hall from the big windows at either end, they could just make out the long trail of brown globules stretching out from the doorway of the Torch to the stairs leading down toward the cafeteria. They were Milk Duds, not Whoppers, and what they hadn't used as bait for the mouse, they'd eaten.
In the "throw the Dud and catch it in your mouth" contest, Chloe had reigned supreme. Clark could never quite temper his throws just right. There were now Milk Duds stuck to the Torch office's ceiling, just over Clark's desk. (In days to come they would randomly disengage themselves to land in Clark's hair, causing him great distress when he finally discovered their presence and his mother great confusion when she found chocolate ground into his pillow cases.)
The trail of Milk Duds lead into the Torch office and up to a box sitting in the middle of the floor with its lid propped up by a piece of a wooden skewer. A string was tied to the skewer. Inside the box was a Ding Dong. Inside the Ding Dong was a tiny piece of meteor rock - but Chloe didn't know that. Clark knew by virtue of having watched (from a distance) as his mother secreted the little crystal inside the cream filling before she shut it up inside the lead box. Lana's necklace had been safely deposited in a box of lead sinkers in Jonathan's tacklebox until the mouse was dealt with and the box returned to its regular duties of keeping said necklace from making Clark throw up.
Somehow he thought it was cruel to be using a Ding Dong in "Martha Kent's Better Mousetrap", and had indeed protested.
"Where are you going to get one anyway?" he'd demanded.
Martha had promptly raided the stash he'd hidden in the bottom drawer of Jonathan's tool chest, acquiring one to use as bait, and confiscating the others in a move Clark found horribly unfair. She had, after all, only banned them from the house, not the barn. As he crouched in the doorway of the Torch office he could smell the chocolate, and pictured his parents at home with their feet up on the coffee table eating his Ding Dongs while they watched Jeopardy.
*"What is transcendental mediation?"*
Clark glanced over his shoulder at the mousetrap. He could also picture Lex making wry commentary regarding Clark's use of his heirloom as a mousetrap.
*"St. George's armor was good enough to go up against a dragon, why not a mouse?"*
He couldn't help thinking Lex would be amused. He couldn't help wondering if the Luthors had mice in that big old mansion.
Nah, they probably had it fumigated.
There was an insistent poking sensation coming from his left side. It had the signature of Chloe's elbow. It was Chloe's elbow and Clark turned back around to look down the hallway. He saw nothing at first, but within seconds there was a lightning flash and there, sitting up on its haunches with a Milk Dud clutched between its forepaws, was the mouse.
Chloe and Clark ducked back behind the door jamb, not, Clark thought, that it would do them any good. If it was an alien mouse, it could see through walls. He clutched at Chloe's arm and dragged her back into the room, hoping the mouse would be too distracted by the plethora of chocolate goodness to look out for lurking mouse hunters. They duck walked on their toes around behind the desks where Clark took up the end of the string that would spring the trap. With Chloe hovering over his shoulder, Clark watched, and waited.
Thunder rumbled. Soon there was another lightning flash.
The mouse flew in through the door.
Flew in the door, about a foot off the ground.
"Yeep!" Chloe's squeak of amazement nearly blew their cover, but she caught herself in time, clamping both hands over her mouth as she watched the mouse drift in circles above the box.
Clark blinked, and the little voice in his head that freaked out every time he thought too hard about the whole alien issue, had a meltdown. If Clark had already experienced floating, and this mouse who he thought was an alien mouse was demonstrating a marked disrespect for gravity, then logic dictated that it was entirely possible Clark could also hover around a Ding Dong like a fly circling a bowl of potato salad.
He felt faint.
Chloe's elbow revived him.
Cal the mouse came to a gentle landing in front of the lead box. It stood up on its hind legs again, sniffing, then poked its head into the opening of the box, its whiskers twitching madly. Clark mentally supplied cartoon sound effects when those twitching whiskers suddenly stiffened (ZING!) the mouse reeled (WHOO-ah, WHOO-ah) and then tumbled head first into the box. (BONK!!!)
He jerked the string. (DOING!)
And the box lid fell. (CLANG!)
Chloe jumped up from behind her desk and scrambled around to switch on the lights. Clark approached the box cautiously and picked it up in his hands. He handed it over to Chloe when she came over to him, and together they peeked inside. Muffled by lead and cake, the tiny meteor rock's effects on Clark were minimal, just a slight feeling of nausea. On the mouse, however, they were incapacitating. It lay curled in a little ball, shuddering, its little eyes squeezed shut and its tail twitching.
Guilt punched Clark in the guts. He knew all too well what the mouse was going through. It sucked. It hurt.
"It does look sick," Chloe said, giving the box a little shake. "Maybe it does have rabies."
Clark took the box away from her, and removed the Ding Dong. It burned his fingers as he tossed it into a nearby trash can. He quickly wiped the contaminated chocolate off his fingers onto his jeans before he got the dumb idea to lick it off. That would most certainly make him hurl, not to mention turn him off Ding Dongs forever, which was a scenario he did not want to contemplate.
"Clark...." Chloe said warningly. "He's better."
Slamming the lid down before Cal could make an escape, Clark flipped the latch and wrapped his hands fully around the box as it jerked and twitched in his grasp. Even latched, with Clark holding it shut, the heavy lead box was not going to hold the creature for long once it fully recovered.
"You know, Marty might not have mutated this mouse, but something did," Chloe remarked, eye-balling the box as it bounced around in Clark's hands. "That's one freaky mouse."
"Just because something is different doesn't mean it's a freak." Clark pouted. "I mean the words 'mutant' and 'freak' are so negative."
There was a loud BANG from within the box. Clark nearly dropped it but quickly recovered and tightened his grip.
"Uh-huh," Chloe nodded. "And just what term would you use for an unusually strong, flying mouse?"
"Oh, I dunno. Genetically enhanced?" He smiled wryly. "Alien."
He'd meant it as a joke, but Chloe suddenly lost all her animation and stood there staring at him. After a moment Clark started getting worried, especially when her eyes dropped from his face, to the box, and back again. His smile faded.
Abruptly her animation came back as she snapped her fingers and grinned. Turning on her heel she went to the filing cabinet, waving one hand excitedly as she spoke. Her bob bobbed as she nodded her head happily.
"You know, I've always had this theory, substantiated by an old article I'd read from one of the Tabloids that covered the meteor shower back in '89."
"Theory?" Clark asked weakly. "What theory?"
A file was produced, rifled through, and then waved under Clark's nose with much vigor. "We are not alone." Flipping open the file, Chloe proceeded to reveal its contents. "More than one person reported seeing something besides meteors streaking through the sky that day. Now mostly they were written off as kooks after some background checks. One was a drunk, another an elderly lady suffering from the early stages of dementia - not exactly people high on the reliable witness scale."
"Witnesses to what?"
Chloe's eyes widened. "A UFO."
It took him a second, but Clark managed to arrange his features into an expression of skepticism. It wasn't as difficult as he thought it would be, but considering he had been playing Scully to Chloe's Muldar for a very long time, he shouldn't have been surprised. Even his voice was very nonchalant, revealing nothing.
Clark Kent - aahktoooohr!
"Oh come on, Chloe. You can't be serious!"
"I'm totally serious. Think about it, Clark. How does a meteor shower of that magnitude get past radar? There was absolutely no advanced warning. How does that happen in this day and age?"
Clark opened his mouth to reply but Chloe interrupted.
"It doesn't. I'm thinking wormhole. I'm thinking those meteors came through a portal, along with something else."
It was logical, Clark had to admit, and it certainly got him thinking, but he wasn't about to admit anything to Chloe. He found his skepticism was a bit easier to produce this time. After all, Chloe was talking about a mouse, not an alien baby such as himself.
"A mouse? So Earth is just the intergalactic dumping ground for alien vermin?"
Chloe closed the folder with a snap. "Forty-two," she said.
"The answer to life, the universe and everything." Spreading her arms wide, Chloe demonstrated her frustration at the "Whaaaa???" Clark was continuing to express. "Douglas Adams? Don't you read, Clark?"
"Well, yeah." Clark frowned.
Of course the last book he'd read was "Tractor Repair for Dummies" in an effort to help his father repair their ancient and troublesome farming equipment. The conclusion to the catastrophe that had followed Clark's attempt at tractor repair not only required the purchase of a new tractor, but had left Clark disillusioned by the whole "Dummy" series. Apparently he was dumber than your average dummy because he'd put the spark plugs in upside down and backward despite spending a great deal of time studying the graphics provided in the book. Jonathan had been rather perplexed as to how he'd actually managed it. That was after the engine blew up.
"What does reading have to do with anything?" he added.
"Never mind. What I'm getting at is that just because that thing, " Chloe pointed toward the box with one corner of her file folder."Looks like a mouse, and except for the flying bit, acts like a mouse, doesn't necessarily mean it's a mouse. It could be an alien species that just closely resembles an Earth mouse."
Clark rolled his eyes. "Or it could be an alien mouse and the spaceship your drunken witness saw was really just a giant mouse trap."
"Just look around you, Clark. The planet is populated with a myriad of different species, all with varying forms with a multitude of functions. If something works, for example, our bipedal form, then why wouldn't it be repeated elsewhere in the universe?"
"Well that's assuming life exists elsewhere in the universe."
"Let's assume it does, for the sake of argument."
"We're arguing?" Clark quipped, flinching when she hit him with the file folder. "Okay, okay. For the sake of argument let's say there are such thing as aliens and they look like humans. What then?"
"Then how would we know an alien if we saw one? Especially if it were raised thinking it was one of us, learning to act like one of us?"
"Or an alien mouse raised with regular mice."
"Exactly," Chloe said triumphantly. "Ergo, how could you tell an alien that looked like a mouse from a regular mouse?"
"Well it flies...."
"But if it didn't?"
Clark paused for a moment, then posed the question: "Would you want to?"
Chloe frowned. "Want to what?"
"Know. I mean, if there was an alien running around that looked and acted like one of us? Would you want to know?"
"Oh!" Chloe twirled, grinning. "To prove the existence of extra terrestrial life? Clark, what a story that would be!" She stopped. "And this mouse could be it!"
"I'm not talking about the mouse. Well, okay maybe I am in a way. But think about it, Chloe. What if it wasn't the mouse? What if it were someone else - Pete maybe, or Lana? What if it were someone you knew and you found out they weren't what you thought they were? Could you betray that alien? You know what would happen if that story got out." He held the box up toward her. "They'd lock him up, just like little Cal here. Maybe do experiments on him like Marty does with Hobbes. Is there really that much of a difference between an alien that looks like a mouse and an alien that looks like a human?"
"But it's just a mouse," Chloe murmured, deflated.
"How do you know?"
In the silence, thunder rumbled. It was growing more distant as the storm passed over Smallville on its way toward Metropolis. Out of habit Clark counted time between the next flash of lightning and the subsequent thunderclap.
Chloe reached out her hands and took the box from Clark, cracking the lid just enough for them to peek inside.
Cal peered back at them, his little green eyes blinking in the sudden onslaught of light and air into the box. His whiskers twitched, but he made no effort to escape. He just sat there, staring at them with his tail curled around his fluffy white body and the light shining through the thin skin of his ears.
It should have been an "awwww" moment, but Clark was suddenly reminded of Lex and how the light from the windows in his study often shone through his ears in the same way, illuminating the tracery of tiny blood vessels that ran through them. Clark's mind tended to wander sometimes when Lex got on one of his lengthy allegorical tales. Not only did Clark watch the sunlight through Lex's ears, but once had been lulled nearly to sleep by the beating of Lex's heart in a vein at his temple during a lengthy discourse on ancient Roman politics. By how rapid the beat became the further into his speech Lex went, gave Clark the impression that either history excited Lex, or pissed him off. Which it was, Clark couldn't tell.
Chloe shut and latched the box again. "Cal's a stupid name for a mouse," she said, handing the box back to Clark and gathering up their things. "Let's call him Pinky." With that, she swept out of the room, flipping off the lights on her way out. "Come on, Clark. Let's find a new home for Pinky."
Clark grinned, and hastily followed her out. "Can I vote against the name Pinky? I kinda like Cal myself."
I love you, Chloe.
He hated to think of Lex as being dull, and in truth Lex wasn't dull at all most of the time. When he wasn't dispensing advice or being "on" for strangers, Lex was a lot of fun. He had a game he liked to call "Annoying Celebrity Justice" in which he'd pin a photograph of his "annoying celebrity of the week" up on a dartboard and they would throw darts at it. Different locations upon the body or face (depending on the photograph used) were issues different "points."
Clark had once earned one hundred points for hitting Ashton Kutcher in the crotch. That had led to a lengthy discussion on whether or not Demi Moore was hot. (Clark said yes, Lex said no and that Clark's thinking she was hot just proved she had some sort of mystic power over younger men. Clark then brought up the point that Lex himself was in fact younger than Mr. Kutcher. "But I'm an old soul," was the convenient excuse with which Clark had no argument.) Demi Moore then became the next weeks annoying celebrity because Lex said her name was an oxymoron and that was annoying enough.
In front of Chloe, who was interviewing Lex for a series she was doing on modern farming and the impact of genetically altered foods (and fertilizer) upon the American public, Lex was exceedingly dull. In fact, Clark, who was in charge of recording said interview, caught himself nodding off a few times. Lex had a low and very melodic voice, especially when he got all scientific and serious. It was very effective as a sleep aid.
When a blood curdling shriek of terror pierced the air, waking Clark from a dream wherein he was following cows around with a bucket emblazoned with "LuthorCorp. Fertilizer Plant No. 3" in large purple letters, he was relieved. He really hadn't wanted to know what was going to happen when one of the cows felt the need to produce some fertilizer. If Lex had continued droning, and Clark had continued dreaming, the odds were that very soon Clark's bucket would have come into play very soon and in his dream he hadn't the benefit of either rubber gloves or nose plugs.
The interview came to a screeching halt and the three of them - Clark, Chloe and Lex, rushed into the den to find Victoria Hardwick standing on the coffee table, dancing around in a pair of stiletto heels that should have been registered as lethal weapons. She was also screeching like a banshee and pointing at the floor.
"What?" Lex asked.
Clark silently changed it to, "What now?" as he caught the hint of annoyance in Lex's voice. While Lex insisted that Victoria's presence was a welcome addition to the household, Clark suspected otherwise, especially when she became demanding and shrill. She wasn't being demanding at the moment, but she was definitely being shrill.
Victoria shook her long nailed finger at the carpet and her voice, also sharp enough to be registered as a lethal weapon, climbed higher on the "make your ears bleed" scale.
"A MOUSE!!!" she shrieked.
Chloe clapped a hand over her mouth, stifling a giggle. Clark shot her a warning look and she schooled her features into a more serious expression, complete with pseudo concern for the obviously traumatized Ms. Hardwick.
Lex scowled. "Impossible. This place is fumigated every three months. There isn't a rodent within ten miles of the entire estate."
"I'm telling you, I. Saw. A. Mouse!" Victoria stomped her foot and pointed again, stabbing at a point just beyond Lex where there was a bookcase shoved up against one wall. "Right there!"
Clark decided that based on her footwear, her voice, and her nails, Victoria should have been registered as a lethal weapon.
"Victoria, trust me...." Lex began.
He never finished, his words being cut off by a repeat of Victoria's original banshee shriek.
Pinky, f.k.a. Cal, quickly vanished up one very expensive pant leg.
"Do you think a year's supply of Dots will make Lex forget he screamed like a girl in front of Victoria?" Chloe asked.
"Never," Clark said, pouring a few of the sticky candies out onto his palm and passing the box back to Chloe.
They continued to watch the sun setting over the horizon. It was nearly gone, and the sky was divided into zones of varying color from gold, to pink, to indigo. High above their heads the stars were beginning to emerge. Clark pointed out a shooting star.
Chloe laughed. "Maybe it's another alien mouse deposit."
Clark shook his head and chuckled. "It's just a shooting star, Chlo." He paused, looking into her eyes as she turned to smile back at him. "Make a wish."
"I already had my wish come true," she said. She looped her arm around his and leaned her head against him with obvious affection. "I'm glad you came, Clark."
He frowned. Did she mean what he thought she meant?
Her eyes sparkled, but revealed nothing as she let go of his arm and moved back to her side of the window as if she had not shown any sign of affection, nor hinted at what Clark was pretty sure she was hinting at. He was boggled, and speechless.
Waggling the box of candy at him, Chloe just smiled.
"Dot?" she asked sweetly.
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