As soon as Clark lowered Lois on the porch, she swung around, grabbing a pot of nasturtiums along the way. The pot met rather terrifically with Conner's face.
"I know that didn't hurt but I feel much better!" Lois snapped.
"Lois," Clark began but she stomped off inside the house. Just as he made a move to follow her, Conner's shoulders slumped and he supersped down the driveway. Clark blocked him as he hit the main road. "Do not go away."
"I mean it. You're in trouble but we don't hate you. Just go to your room until we can all talk, okay?"
Clark pulled himself up and crossed his arms, implacable. With a sigh, Conner dragged his feet back to the house.
"Lois does too hate me," he muttered.
He patted Conner's shoulder. "What you did under the influence of Red K was very violating and frightening. Lois understands what Red K does but she's also reacting to what you did. Give her some space and a really heartfelt apology and everything will turn out. I promise, she doesn't hate you."
"I hate me! I hate all these stupid, creepy Luthor genes inside me that made me do things like... like like hurting Lois and stealing fur coats."
"Red K brings out the darkness in Kryptonians. I don't have Luthor genes and I do some pretty bad things when I'm exposed to it."
Conner wiped his sleeve across his nose. "But Lois said even when you're on it, you weren't as bad. And you and Tess didn't tell me about the whole Luthor thing because you knew it was bad."
Now it was Clark's turn to sigh. They'd reached the farmhouse by now
and he stared up at the north upstairs window, his parents' old room,
now his and Lois'. He willed all of their wisdom down on him right now.
"We all did and said things that were wrong today. Please, go to
your room and we'll sort this all out. Which isn't to say that you're
not in trouble."
He found Lois with a pint of ice cream in one hand and a bag of salt and vinegar chips in the other, glaring at the blank television screen. She didn't say a word until Conner went upstairs. Then what came out was, "You hid Call of Duty from me. You must be punished."
"Lois, you know what gory first-person shooters does to your sleeping patterns." Clark eased onto the couch beside her, easing his hands around her shoulders. "How's your throat?"
"Still throbbing, thanks to Mini-Me."
"I know! I know! Freakish allergic reaction to space rocks but ugh! Clark! He's like your son!"
"I prefer brother."
"Which makes me his stepmom. Life is spicy enough without throwing in a dash of American Pie in this alien beer batter. Although seeing Conn desecrate one of Mrs. K's pies would be infinitely more disturbing than what happened today; I love your mom's pies."
"Conner's very sorry for what he did," said Clark.
"So, why doesn't he say so himself?" Lois demanded.
"He will. You're just a little scary right now."
"I have only begun to scare!"
"I know. You're right to want an apology and maybe a little more. I'm so glad you're safe." He kissed her neck, right where it met her shoulder. She smelled like smoke and vanilla soap. He kissed her nape next then pulled her close so her head rested on his chest. "You kept the city safe by leading Conner away and you escaped--"
"Not quite in time."
"Most people wouldn't've been able to leave at all." He rubbed circles on her back, trying to broach the next topic diplomatically.
"Just spit it out, Smallville."
"I just wanted to clarify something. Conner mentioned that while you were fighting him, you said that the Red K brought out the Luthor in him. Was that-- were those your exact words?"
"I don't know. Maybe? I was kind of fighting for my life, y'know."
"Your memory's almost as good as mine," he reminded her.
Lois shrugged. Her huff warmed his chest. "We all know only Luthors reach that level of wrong, Clark."
"Lois, I've done worse things on Red K and I don't have a drop of Luthor DNA. You and Tess have become pretty good friends--"
"Halt, right there." She sat up. "Tess and I are good co-workers and we agree on a lot of things concerning the league. She is, however, still creepy."
"Which is one of the things you like about her," said Clark.
"I plead the fifth. What exactly is your point, Smallville?"
"I really don't want Conner to think that just because he's half-Luthor, he's got a timebomb of evil in him."
He cupped Lois' face, needing the eye contact. "I believed that once about being Kryptonian. I caused so much pain and trouble for people around me because I labeled that part of myself as uncompromisingly evil. Dad did something similar when he first met Lex and look what happened."
"Hey, your dad had nothing to do with Lex turning out the way he did," Lois said, as fiercely protective of her adopted family as ever.
"Maybe not entirely, but that lack of trust fed Lex's downfall in part. I made that mistake with him; I'm trying to make up for it through Tess."
"In a way." She kissed his collarbone and he continued, "I'm not entirely innocent. I told Tess we had to keep Conner's heritage a secret. It was... I panicked. I saw what he could do, remembered what Lex and Lionel wanted to do with me, and I reverted. And look what happened. I am going to apologize to Conner for it and... and I think... I'd like to think that you might as well."
"Apologize that you kept a secret? Sure!"
"Clark." She sidled away but Clark chased her back, missing the warmth of her body. "I've put up with a lot including your dark doppelganger almost succeeding in what Conner was starting--"
"-- but it was like Chucky, y'know?"
He could be married to her for decades and still fall behind as her train of thought jumped tracks. "No?"
"Chucky. The cute doll that turns into a serial killer. Or those creepy children of the corn things. Or the M&M mascots which're supposed to be cute but are really pretty disturbing especially the one with the pretzel shoved inside him while still having eyes inside his stomach."
"I was trying to think of him as our kid, Clark! Then it got weird times ten squillion then I have to apologize for calling him out on being a Luthor?"
"I can't believe in someone being pure evil. And neither can Conner. Please understand, sweetheart. Just this one little thing. The rest you're right about, definitely and absolutely ."
"Considering this is your home now as much as it's mine, you will definitely have a say in Conner's punishment."
She reared back again. "You mean you haven't kicked him out?"
"Sweetheart, he doesn't have anywhere to go."
"Unless Tess has been keeping him in a cardboard box, he sure as hell does!"
"Clark! How am I supposed to sleep when-- argh!" Lois flung his arms away and stood, marching up the stairs moments later.
"Lois, please, let's not go to bed angry." But he saw that she was actually heading for the spare room-- Conner's room-- and he continued as she shoved the door open. "Lois, he was drugged and it was partially my fault for--"
But Conner was already sitting up at the foot of the bed. His eyes were red and wet, his posture utterly defeated. Clark wanted to embrace him and tell him that it would all turn out all right but Lois's expression didn't back up his words. He refused to lie any more.
"We need to talk," Lois told Conner. To Clark, she said, "Out. And don't listen in."
He tried with one last, "Lois," but she crossed her arms and
pointed so out the door he went.
"I'm so, so sorry and I'll leave right now!" Conner burst out.
Lois plastered herself against the door. "Oh no, you don't! You and Clark, whooshing away before I can finish talking. That's one thing that's definitely going to change around here: no super-speeding as an avoidance tactic or the super-speeder in question forfeits the argument."
"I... don't understand."
"You're not going anywhere until I hear a proper grovel."
"I'm sorry! I'm sorry I stole all that stuff and I'm sorry I kidnapped you and I'm sorry I hit you and I'm just... really, really sorry." Defeated, he dropped his head onto his heads. His shoulders shook a little. Lois was reminded of Shelby when he knew he wasn't supposed to snatch food off the table but the temptation to have a slice of ham was too much.
She gentled her tone. "As you should be. Anything else?"
Conner looked up. "I'm leaving?"
A smile tickled her lips. "Really, kiddo."
"Oh. Um." He scanned the room for inspiration. "I'll make it up to you?"
"I'll do all your chores."
"And I'll always give you the last piece of dessert."
"Excellent idea. And?"
Conner blinked. "I don't know. Tell me how to make it up to you and I'll do it, I promise. I want to stay here, Lois. I want--" His ears went visibly pink even in the dim light. "I'm sorry."
"Believe it or not, you've actually said that enough times to make me sick of it." Lois pulled the chair out from beside the study desk. She twisted it around to sit backwards, resting her chin on the backrest. "This problem I have with you? It's not going to go away quickly."
"Shush. Not done."
"Part of that is because I'm just not as trusting a person as Clark. Clark's willing to give Lionel Luthor a fourth chance which just tells you he was dropped pretty badly on the head before the invulnerability kicked in. Me, I withhold judgment. Another part of this issue is because of things I know about your past."
"You mean being a Luthor."
"Yeah. I have a metric fuckload of baggage against the Luthors."
"I can't help that!
"No, you can't," said Lois. "I'm sorry I implied that you were bad because you're a Luthor. That's not true."
Conner snuffled. He really did look like Shelby. A Black Lab Shelby.
"I'm friends with Tess now and she's a Luthor. Weird as hell though, don't tell me I'm wrong."
"I don't really think I'm supposed to point fingers at weirdness," he said.
Lois smiled, a genuine one. "Point. So here's the deal. You stay here, do my chores for a month, volunteer at the women's shelter thrift shop down the street from the Planet every Saturday, and write me a five hundred word essay on the theory of nature versus nurture."
"Then you'll forgive me?"
"Then I'll know enough about you to judge you according to who you are, not who jerked off in your test tube."
Silence rushed into the room.
"I'm so sorry for that," said Lois, after she'd gathered her wits.
"I only know what Lionel looks like so the mental image makes me want to die a little," said Conner.
"I think I already did."
"The psychological scarring should knock a week off my added chores."
"Don't push it, kid."
He grinned, reminding Lois of simpler days with meteor "freaks" and dunk tanks. "I won't let you down," Conner promised. "Not you or Clark or Tess."
"Good. And somewhere in all of that, don't let yourself down either."
Conner positively beamed and it was a little like watching a sunrise.