MY FIRST TASTE
It just wasn't fair.
Some people would say that growing up in a town like Smallville, any kid would have it made. There weren't the same fears about being out late at night like in the city, most of the inhabitants were friendly and protective of one another, the schools were good - one couldn't complain. But what if you were different? Really different. And even if no one really knew that you were different, they still knew that you weren't quite the same. Of course, that resulted in a severe lack of popularity at school. In small, Midwestern towns, high school sports were everything. If you were male, and didn't play either football or basketball, there was obviously something wrong with you. Likewise, if you were female and you weren't a cheerleader or volleyball player or soccer player, there was something wrong with you.
Hudson wanted to be a cheerleader. Like Lana `Miss Perfect' Lang. Everyone adored Lana because she was beautiful and graceful and cheered on her quarterback boyfriend, Whitney Fordman, during every Smallville High Crow's game. Hudson knew she could be a great cheerleader. She could flip higher than any of the others. And she could hold the entire squad on her shoulders if she really wanted to. Not that she would -- it would be too blatant an admission of her abilities. She knew better than to do that; her well-meaning parents had drilled it into her every day of her life. Still, it didn't mean she couldn't do some fairly spectacular things without going overboard.
It just wasn't fair that she was different. That she was an alien.
She'd had two years to come to grips with the truth of her origins and still it was hard to accept. Growing up, she had always known she could do things that no one else could - run faster, lift more, never get sick or injured. She fell out of trees over and over again, never breaking a bone; picked up the tractor when her father needed to work on something underneath; raced the trains that sped along the tracks just outside of town. But Hudson's most trying moment had come at the onset of her period - when she suddenly began shooting heat out of her eyes. Scorching heat so hot it set fire to things instantaneously. She'd been at school, walking past Lana in the cafeteria, when she had suddenly tripped, dropping her lunch on the floor. Lana and her friends had laughed and Hudson had felt anger and hurt shoot through her. The next thing she knew, her milk carton went up in flames. It had all gone down as a freak accident but she knew the truth - she had caused it.
When she got home that day, Hudson had immediately explained to her mom and dad how she'd felt the heat emanate from her eyes. Why? She had demanded of them. Why were all of these strange things happening to her? That was when they had told her the truth. The meteor shower, the spaceship, her abilities. She was an alien; not an over-achieving human. They didn't know where she came from or who her people were or why she was here but they did know how they had found her - or how she had found them, as her mother had put it. It had taken her months to get used to the idea. Sometimes Hudson would go down to the storm cellar where the ship lay, hidden beneath a tarp, and she would just sit there and look at it, wondering how it worked, why it had been built... why her real parents hadn't wanted her. Eventually she had come to accept, if not understand, the truth about who she was. What she was. But that still didn't make life any easier.
Kicking at the railing of the bridge, Hudson stared down into the river water below. Kansas had seen an inordinate amount of rainfall through the spring and summer, and autumn was proving not to be much different, causing the rivers to swell beyond their usual level. During years of drought, Hudson had seen the river beneath her dried up into a dustbowl. Now she figured it was a good twelve feet in depth, maybe more. Somewhere, just outside of Lowell County where the river suddenly forked off to the east, it met up with the Missouri. When she was younger, Hudson used to dream of building a little raft and following the river to wherever it would lead, just like Huck Finn.
Sighing, she glanced over her shoulder as a truck carrying bailing wire rumbled onto the bridge. Her gaze strayed back to the river, where the sun winked off the gently flowing water and the sound of a fish jumping somewhere beneath her caused her mind to wander once more to the idea of going somewhere else, far away where no one knew her, where she could begin again and actually do something.
It was the screeching of tires and simultaneous popping sounds, like a gun going off in succession, that brought Hudson's attention back to her surroundings and she turned in stunned horror to find the flash of a pale blue sports car, and matching blue eyes, careening toward her.
And then she felt it. Actually felt the metal slam into her, trapping her for the briefest milliseconds between hood and railing and then the bridge behind her snapped outward and she was falling, falling down into the swelling river with a car following her descent, as if intent on trapping her there. The water closed around her before she could close her mouth from her scream, and she forced it out with a purse of her lips, blinking against the cold, murky water that surrounded her. For a brief moment, she had no idea what had just happened, then the creaking of metal next to her brought her gaze around to the upended car.
Hudson swam toward the driver's side, not even hesitating to grab a rent in the roof and yank it back, tearing a gaping hole between the door and windshield. Reaching inside, she took hold of the driver, pulling him from the seat belt, holding him carefully around his waist and swimming hurriedly toward the surface. Carrying him with her up the bank, she laid him against the ground and quickly placed her ear near his mouth to see if he was breathing. Panic filled her when she realized that he wasn't and she mentally ticked off the process of CPR, reaching out to pinch his nose closed and pull his jaw open. Pushing her wet hair from her face, she leaned over, blowing a few quick breaths into his mouth, and then placed her hands against his chest and began the compressions. One, two, three. One, two, three.
"Come on! Don't die on me!" She whispered in a near plea, preparing to restart the procedure when the man beneath her began coughing, the river water spewing out of his mouth.
Hudson sat back as relief washed over her, watching quietly as the man before her struggled to regain consciousness and his bearings. She recognized the blue eyes immediately, remembering them well from the view through the windshield. And what if that had been her last view in this life? God. What was she doing here?? That car hit her. She should be dead. They should both be dead!
Lex's chest felt like it had been ripped open, his throat was raw and he was more than certain he was supposed to be dead. Had been dead. Maybe he still was. The angel leaning over him certainly could have been proof of Heaven, at least from his perspective, especially with the way the sun seemed to cause a halo around the dark cloud of her hair. Finding the strength to draw a breath, he gasped, "I could have sworn I hit you."
"If you did, then I'd be..." Hudson trailed off for a moment, a little mystified, a little terrified because he had hit her, slammed her into the railing, into the river below and she most certainly should be... she should be... "I'd be dead."
Her eyes met his and he was staring at her curiously, as if he didn't quite believe that he hadn't hit her, and could she blame him? His last vision had probably been her eyes and it would be etched into both of their memories for the rest of their lives. Hudson could only hold on to the possibility that since he had just drowned, his memory might be a bit hazy. He wouldn't -- couldn't remember that he had hit her. Besides, it was too unbelievable to be true. Too impossible.
Pulling her gaze from his, Hudson turned and looked back at the huge hole in the railing on the bridge above. Too impossible.
Like an alien on Earth.
Forty minutes later Hudson sat staring at the water, hugging the red blanket draped over her shoulders. Rescue personnel moved around her, working to pull the Porsche out of the water, occasionally checking on her, checking on the man she rescued. Lex Luthor. That was who he had introduced himself to her as - son of billionaire pesticide king, Lionel Luthor. Major employer in Smallville. Major employer half the world over actually. And the one person her father was most critical of. Hudson felt she probably recognized the name Lionel Luthor faster than any other name as a child. And now his son had just hit her with his Porsche and she had saved his life.
Not as if that was the story she had given to the police. That version had been slightly skewed, where she had jumped out of the way in time, watching helplessly from the bridge as the sports car had plunged into the river below. Acting on impulse, she had jumped in after it, knowing that the driver would need help. The Sheriff had patted her shoulder, told her what a brave girl and strong swimmer she was.
He had no idea.
Hudson looked up to see her father hurrying over to her, concern etched over his rugged features. Inwardly, she thought it was a little silly he seemed panicked that she might be hurt - she was hit by a car for Christ's Sake, and didn't harbor a scratch! The irony was so thick it could have been mistaken for sludge.
"Honey, are you all right?" Jonathan touched his daughter's cheek, as if to assure himself that she wasn't injured in some way that he couldn't see.
Hudson nodded, a little exasperated because, at the moment, it was the most ridiculous question she had ever heard. "Yeah. I'm okay."
Reassured that his daughter wasn't hurt, Jonathan allowed the anger he had felt since the phone call to come to the surface. "Who's the maniac that was driving that car?" He demanded, glancing over at the officer to Hudson's left.
"That would be me."
Both Hudson and her father glanced to the right at the voice.
"Lex Luthor." He held his hand out in greeting.
Hudson watched silently as her father ignored the simple courtesy, moving to remove his jacket and set it around her shoulders. "Jonathan Kent. This is my daughter."
"Thanks for saving my life."
Looking up at his words, Hudson couldn't help but think how undeniably gorgeous Lex Luthor was. Sure, the whole bald thing was a little weird but she was getting used to it. His color was returning a little as well, not that there was too big of a difference, he obviously didn't get outside much. Still, he was a far cry from the farm boys that Smallville seemed to grow in abundance. Just the thought of the man before her wearing a baseball cap was near hilarious.
"I'm sure you would have done the same thing," she lied automatically, knowing full well that it would have been impossible. He would have been dead.
Similar lies had become easier over the years, excuses for doing things in front of others that maybe she shouldn't have done. But this lie... It was the biggest yet. It was very possible that Lex Luthor might have jumped in to save her had her car gone careening off the bridge into the river. But had she hit him in the process... He would have been dead and she would have been very alive and very responsible for it.
Standing, her father's hand at her back, Hudson moved past the man she had saved as she heard him say, "You have quite an extraordinary daughter there, Mr. Kent. If there is any way I can repay you... ?"
Jonathan stared at Lex for a moment before replying in a voice simmering with unreleased anger, "Try staying off the roads. Try not endangering the lives of any more young girls. And try very, very hard to stay away from my family."
Wincing a little at her father's tone, Hudson stared a moment longer at Lex, then continued up the incline with her father at her side to head home.
"Check this out! Front page, girlfriend!"
Hudson glanced over as her best friend, Chloe, appeared beside her, shoving a copy of the school paper into her face. Grasping it, she pulled it back, grimacing a little at the horrid year book picture of herself next to an enormous headline reading: `Farm Girl Rescues Metropolis Prince'. Hudson groaned.
"Chloe, the title is bad. Even for you."
"I think it sounds romantic, in a gothic sort of way." Chloe laughed at the displeased expression on her friend's face. "Oh, come on! You know I had to jump on this story. It's not every day your best friend dives into a river to save the life of someone like Lex Luthor."
"You're making it out to be a lot more than it was, Chloe," Hudson told her as she stopped beside her locker, turning the combination on the lock, and opening it to switch out the books in her backpack. "It really wasn't a big deal."
Chloe snorted, "Yeah. Neither was the meteor shower."
Hudson laughed, glancing over at the blonde beside her. "Now you are comparing my pulling a soggy Lex Luthor out of a river to one of the largest meteor showers in recorded history? Chloe, that's silly."
"A soggy billionaire Lex Luthor," Chloe retorted. Leaning against the row of lockers, she fixed Hudson with a steady gaze. "So, tell me all about him. What was he like? How was he dressed? Could you tell he was oozing with money -- ?"
"I could tell he was oozing with river water and mud."
Chloe rolled her eyes.
Deciding to play a bit, Hudson leaned over and whispered, "Oh! And the way he smelled... "
Eyes widening in an exciting scoop, Chloe brought her head closer. "Yeah?"
"Like fish." Hudson straightened, closing her locker with a resounding snap.
Chloe frowned. "You are so not fun."
Hudson's salvation came in the form of Chloe Sullivan. From the moment they had become friends when she and her father had moved to Smallville from Metropolis, Hudson had found a like soul, someone with whom she could snub her nose at her Smallville peers and just be herself. Well, herself as far as it didn't concern the whole alien thing. As close as she and Chloe were, she knew her friend could never learn the truth. Not that she believed Chloe would ever hurt her, but she was overly curious, overly determined to follow the path of journalism and Hudson doubted that the last thing any journalist needed was proof that aliens existed. Especially in the form of her best friend.
"Chloe, let it go." Hudson smiled at the ever-persistent reporter-in-training as she closed her locker. Taking a few steps forward, she stopped suddenly when a familiar feeling of nausea swept over her.
"How can I let go the fact that you had such a strange encounter with someone like Lex Luthor? Hey, do you think you could get me an interview with him? That would almost secure an internship with the Planet..."
Hudson barely noticed Chloe's chatter as she stared a few lockers down where Lana Lang had appeared with her quarterback boyfriend in tow. For years it had been impossible to explain but ever since she could remember, whenever she got within a few feet of Lana, Hudson would grow weak, become nauseous, trip, make a complete fool of herself. Her entire body seemed to become numb, her muscles wouldn't to obey her commands and her stomach felt like it was shredding into pieces. When she had tried to explain it to her parents, she could only point to the movie `Alien' and say she figured that she probably knew what it felt like to have something crawling out of your stomach. Only, in this case, it would have been an alien crawling out of an alien.
Through the years, the feeling had occurred many times in various places but it wasn't until Hudson had tried out for the cheerleading squad a few weeks before school began that she and her parents had pieced it all together. She'd been doing fine, made it up to the finals to be on the Crows cheerleading squad, when Lana had shown up and everything had gone to hell. Lana had stood beside her during the last two cheers and suddenly Hudson had become the biggest klutz on the face of the earth. She had gone home totally confused, trying to figure out what had gone wrong, what it was that had made her uncoordinated and ill in Lana's presence (aside from Chloe's explanation that Lana made everyone sick). That was when her thoughts had turned to Lana's necklace, which contained a chunk of the meteor that had killed her parents during the storm.
A meteor that Hudson had been responsible for.
Explaining her theory to her parents, Hudson and her father had gone out into the woods, searching for a piece of meteor rock, something which was prevalent all over town. When they had finally located some, the hypothesis was quickly turned to fact: the meteor rocks which Hudson had brought with her on her descent to Earth also made her sick. Why? They had no idea, couldn't begin to figure it out but at least one of the mysteries had been solved.
Leading to a further growing dislike of Lana Lang. It was bad enough that Lana got to do all of things that Hudson didn't but now she realized that many of her problems - not making the cheerleading squad, making a fool of herself at inopportune times - were all Lana's fault.
Realizing that Hudson had been ignoring her for the past few moments, Chloe followed her gaze and sighed. "Oh, when are you going to get over the whole not making the cheerleading squad thing? I mean, who would want to be a cheerleader? Wearing those little skirts, hanging out with jocks. We'd have to change your name to Buffy or something for Pete's sake!"
"Did someone say my name?"
Chloe looked over to see their friend, Pete Ross, join them. Grinning, she told him, "Your name is regaled through these hallowed halls like the welcoming cries to a returning conqueror."
Pete bowed. Chloe curtsied. Hudson didn't even notice.
Staring at her with a raised brow, Pete commented, "Let me guess. There's a certain popular cheerleader at twelve o'clock?"
"You got it," Chloe responded as she watched Pete reach out and wave his hand in front of Hudson's face for a moment.
Finally snapping out of her fugue, in which she convinced Lana to throw her necklace away and she was able to join the squad and be just as popular as anyone else, Hudson turned to find Pete standing next to her. "Huh?... Oh. Hi Pete."
"'Hi Pete'," he mimicked, shaking his hand. "Girl, you've got it bad."
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Hudson slung her backpack over her shoulder and started back down the hall with her chin raised defiantly. She could have pulled the whole look off too but once she neared Lana, she tripped suddenly, as if her own feet got in the way. Luckily, Pete was beside her and reached out to steady her before she could make a complete fool of herself. Hudson didn't bother acknowledging what had just happened, not even when she heard Lana laughing behind her.
Waving to her friends in the bus, Hudson watched as it departed down the road then turned and walked down the gravel drive towards the lemon yellow farmhouse that was her home. Pete and Chloe had, as usual, teased her mercilessly during the bus ride regarding her desire to be a cheerleader. She couldn't help it - it was the one thing she knew that if she could accomplish, she could fit in, be normal, be like all of the other girls. Maybe even be as popular as Lana.
It wasn't so much that Hudson wanted to be popular; it was more that she was tired of being unpopular, overlooked, resented. Maybe if she were a cheerleader, most of the guys could forget that they had occasionally seen proof that she was stronger than them, more capable. Like the time she had made the mistake of tossing a football back to the team while she had been watching practice, and she had done so a little too well. Or when she and Chloe had attended a party over the summer and Rick Claven had made a move on Chloe that she hadn't liked. Hudson had pushed him a little too hard across the room. Those insignificant, occasional moments had left her a bit of an outcast in high school, where too many of her peers considered her a freak. Their opinions had only caused her to withdraw, become maybe too quiet, hide her face in a book, and earn the mark of a geek on top of it all.
Lifting her gaze as she reached the edge of the barn, Hudson's eyes widened just a bit at the sight of a shiny new red convertible BWM with a big bow across it, sitting beside the shed. Hurrying closer, she looked over it longingly for a moment, before seeing her mother on the tractor ahead of her. Still mystified, Hudson forced herself forward, asking, "Hey, mom! Whose car?"
Martha turned at the voice and glanced at her daughter. "Yours." She reached into her pocket, ignoring the slack-jawed expression on Hudson's face, and handed her the card that accompanied it. "It's a gift. From Lex Luthor."
A big smile crossing her face, Hudson took the envelope, reaching into it quickly to find the initials `LL' scrawled in purple over the front of the card. Opening it, she read, "Dear H.C., Drive safely. Always in your debt. Maniac in a Porsche." Looking back up at the car, knowing this smile would be permanently plastered to her face forever and a day, Hudson commented, "I don't believe it." Glancing over her shoulder, she asked her mother, "Where are the keys?"
Climbing down beside her daughter, knowing that the next few minutes wouldn't be pretty, Martha responded, "Your father has them." She felt like adding `I wish you could keep it' but decided not to get involved unless it got too out of hand. While she knew Jonathan had a point, she could also see it from the point of view of a teenager who would never be able to afford a car like the one just gifted to her, for a very long time, if at all.
Hudson grimaced the moment her mother spoke the words and she probably could have answered herself if she had thought about it for a moment or two. There was no way her father was going to allow her to keep a gift like this - actually any gift - from Lex Luthor. It was unfair. It was beyond unfair. Moving forward like she was suddenly following the path to hell, Hudson made her way inside the barn where her father was working with the wood chipper.
Jonathan looked up as his daughter approached. Turning off the machine beside him, he removed his protective goggles and turned to her. "I know how much you want it, honey," he told her, walking past as he removed his gloves. "But you can't keep it."
It was exactly as she had expected. Still, she felt compelled to ask, "Why not? I saved the guy's life!" Okay, that hadn't come out how she meant it to sound.
Her father jumped on it. "So you think you deserve a prize?"
Hudson ran a hand through her hair in frustration. "That's not what I meant." Watching as her father kept his back to her, she tried to come up with an adequate argument to keep the gift. "Look, how about mom drives this one and I'll drive hers? Everybody wins." It made sense to her.
"It's not about winning, H.C.," he replied, glancing at his daughter for a moment before moving past as if dismissing her.
"It's not like the Luthors can't afford it!" She protested.
"Do you want to know why that is?" Her father asked with a sigh, looking over at her. "Do you remember Mr. Bell? We used to go fishing on his property. How about Mr. Guy? He used to send us pumpkins every Halloween. Well Lionel Luthor promised to cut them in on a deal."
It took every ounce of willpower Hudson had not to roll her eyes at the sound of that name again.
"He sent them flashy gifts," her father continued, swinging the ring of keys on his finger in demonstration. "Only once they'd sold him their property, he went back on his word. He had them evicted, H.C.."
"So you're judging Lex on what his father did?" Hudson couldn't understand that. Her parents had both always told her to judge people based solely on their own merits.
Jonathan grunted in exasperation. "No, H.C., I'm not. I just want you to know where the money came from that bought that car."
Hudson stared at him angrily, thinking it was a pretty pitiful excuse, considering. When had she ever asked for anything? When had she ever expected her life to be like everybody else? But now, she had a chance to have something that might help her fit in. Something that the other girls at school might look at it and think was cool and think she was cool. And it was just sitting there, waiting for her to take it.
And her father said no.
Wanting very much to throw a tantrum then and there, and knowing it wouldn't get her anywhere, Hudson turned and started up the steps to the loft, her fortress of solitude, as her parents referred to it. They knew better than to bother her there and right now she wanted nothing more than for everyone to just leave her alone.
"H.C., I know you're upset," she heard her father say behind her. "Honey, but it's normal."
Normal??! Hudson threw down her backpack and sweater and turned to glare at her father, as only a fifteen year old girl could. "Normal?" She stomped past him over to the wood chipper, determined to prove once and for all exactly how `normal' she was. Flipping on the power button, she asked, "Is this normal?" Then shoved her arm into the opening.
Instantly she felt the blades inside attempt to chew at her skin, and it tickled and she knew she would be lucky to break a nail, and all the time the blades were becoming dull, possibly bent and torn, destroying yet another expensive piece of farm equipment. She heard her father call out her name and then he was beside her, reaching in to pull her arm free. The damaged machine sputtered one last death rattle before going silent. Hudson remained silent, glaring at her father as he held her arm, looking over the chewed up sleeve of her shirt to the untouched skin beneath it.
"I didn't dive in after Lex's car," she admitted, very near tears. "It hit me at sixty miles an hour! Does that sound normal to you?" Hudson sighed. "I'd give anything to be normal - instead of alien."
Pushing past him, Hudson hurried up the steps to her loft.
She remembered when her father took her down to the storm cellar to show her the spaceship that had brought her to Earth. She was standing there beside him, listening in disbelief as he was trying to tell her she was an alien, not human. An alien. Hudson just stared at him in shock, waiting for the punch line, the whole `Just kidding, honey. But I thought I should show you that there are worse things than being unpopular in high school'. Of course, those words never came. He just stood there, watching her, waiting for her reaction, like she was going to be pleased with this news or something.
"This is a joke, right?" Hudson had prompted, silently praying that it was. Silently hoping that thing in front of her was just some piece of scrap metal her father found at the junk yard. But she was met with only silence. A long, drawn out silence like her father was expecting her to come to terms with this or something. "Why didn't you tell me about this before?"
It had been a stupid question and Hudson knew it. She could only imagine being told at seven years old and then showing up at school for show 'n' tell, deciding to use herself as her special topic. She could have charged a dollar to each friend who wanted to see her spaceship, telling them `She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts'. Hysterical laughter had almost threatened to break through. Almost. But she had been a little too angry at the man in front of her to find much humor in it. All of these years she had wondered why she was different, why she couldn't be like the others kids, why she hadn't been allowed around small animals until she was old enough to understand how to be gentle.
"We wanted to protect you," her father had replied earnestly.
"Protect me from what?!" She had demanded.
But she had never received an answer because she had left then, ran across two counties before she had finally stopped, dropped, sat in the middle of a field somewhere and tried to come to terms with what she was.
That moment replayed through her mind now and the question came to her once more. What did she need protecting from? Obviously not Porsche's hitting her at 60 mph. What else did being an alien mean? What else, in the end, would she be forced to accept in exchange for being different?
The next day after school, Hudson was instructed to return the BMW to Lex. She was also told by her father, quite specifically, not to speak to him, not to see him, to simply place the keys into the mailbox and return home. Of course, she wasn't going to do that, just leave the car there without explanation, without even a `thank you'. Whatever Lionel Luthor had done to this town and its people, that didn't mean they had to hold those things against Lex. And that was what Hudson didn't understand. Her father had always taught her to form her opinions of others based solely on their own merits - not on their past, not on what others might say about them but how they treat you, your own experiences. Apparently, those words only rang true for anyone who didn't harbor the last name `Luthor'.
As she pulled up outside the Luthor Estate, Hudson couldn't help but think that at least she got to drive the BMW once. Parking the car outside the gates to the castle because they weren't open, Hudson grabbed the keys and climbed out of the convertible for both the first and last time. Walking up to the gate, she looked around for a moment before taking hold of two of the bars and pulling them apart, stretching a hole big enough to squeeze through before turning and placing them back in their original shape.
The structure before her wasn't exactly something found in fairy tales but it was gothic enough not to belong anywhere in Kansas. It just sort of rose up out of the middle of nowhere, amidst the cornfields and farms and cows on either side. Hudson could partly understand why there were those in town who resented its presence - it did bring to mind a Lord presiding over his peasants.
After about five minutes of ringing the bell at the main door and no one answering, Hudson cautiously tested the knob, finding that it was unlocked and pushed the door open, stepping inside.
"Hello?" She called out, glancing around the darkened hallway. Only silence greeted her.
Uncertain for a moment of what to do, Hudson finally took a few small steps forward before gathering the courage to continue on down the hall. She glanced around at the dark paneled walls, the various furniture blanketed in white dust covers, the only sound greeting her being that of her boots ringing against the wood floors. Peering into a multitude of rooms during her walk, Hudson finally heard what sounded like the clanking of metal just ahead. Turning into a nearby doorway, she came to an abrupt halt, watching in surprise as two figures fenced through a long room.
They sparred back and forth in a graceful dance that Hudson found herself envying, wanting to be able to do what they could do, wishing that she could be allowed to participate in something other than farm work. It was readily apparent, even to her untrained eyes, that one participant was either more skilled than the other or simply more involved in the current battle. Within moments, they had the other pinned against the far wall before stepping back in silent victory. Whoever had lost apparently wasn't too pleased with the result, and angrily sent their foil sailing across the room, where it implanted itself into the wall inches from Hudson's head. She stared at it in complete shock. Not because she was afraid of it hitting and hurting her, but because she could only imagine the shock of the room's inhabitants if the blade had hit and then harmlessly bounced off of her.
Removing his mask, Lex's brow furrowed as he noticed the dark-haired girl standing by the door. "H.C.? I didn't see you there."
Glancing at the foil embedded in the wall next to her head a little nervously, she replied, "I... uh... buzzed but no one answered."
Moving toward her, he removed the foil from the wall and Lex frowned. "How'd you get through the gate?"
"I kinda squeezed through the bars," she explained quickly, which wasn't really a lie, not when you thought about it. "If this is a bad time - "
"Oh no, no. I think Heike has sufficiently kicked my ass for the day."
Lex moved back toward the statuesque blonde female who had removed her mask and was standing proudly and gracefully on the other side of the room. It took every bit of willpower Hudson had within her not to shift self-consciously beneath the other's gaze. She doubted she could ever be quite so poised.
Shaking the thought from her mind, Hudson commented, "This is a great place."
Tossing his mask and foil to Heike, Lex started back over to his guest. "Yeah?" He almost snorted in reply but allowed a smirk instead. "If you're dead and in the market for something to haunt," he commented sarcastically as he moved past the girl into the hall.
"I meant... uh... it's roomy," Hudson quickly amended, wondering if he was laughing at her. She didn't want to seem too provincial and in awe but then, she didn't want to seem unappreciative either. Truthfully, she just felt a little uncomfortable in this enormous place.
"It's the Luthor ancestral home," Lex explained, glancing to see if his guest was following. "My father had it shipped over from Scotland, stone by stone."
"Yeah, I remember." Hudson gazed around the hallway as she moved toward the staircase. "Trucks rolled through town for weeks but no one ever moved in." She stopped at the bottom of the steps to find Lex looking down at her and for a moment their eyes locked and she wondered what Chloe would think if she knew how hard her heart suddenly began to beat.
"My father had no intention of living here. He's never even stepped through the front door."
Hudson furrowed her brow. "Then why'd he ship it over?"
"Because he could," Lex smirked flippantly.
Hudson glanced away for a moment. Rich, eccentric. She got it now. She'd never really understood the whole having too much money concept before but now she did. Lionel Luthor obviously simply had too much money. Shaking her head a little, she moved up the staircase after Lex, stopping only when he had come to a halt in front of her, glancing back with a raised brow.
Blinking up at him, she asked, "What?"
Lex's eyes narrowed a little as he looked down at her. Fifteen. He still refused to believe the information that he had gathered. The girl-woman standing at the foot of the steps didn't look fifteen - maybe twenty-five - but certainly not fifteen. Stronger than any fifteen year old girl he had heard of as well, with the way she had pulled him from the wreckage of his car and up on to the riverbank. Lex told himself it was because she was raised on a farm that produced the strength she would have needed to dive in after him, pull him out, rescue him. But looking at her now, he just didn't see the bulkiness that one would expect. Instead, the young woman gazing up at him was tall, shapely, built more like a supermodel in appearance than what Lex had ever pictured as a farm girl.
"H.C. What do the initials stand for?"
Hudson felt her cheeks grow warm at the unexpected question. "It's kind of a family tradition on my mother's side. Mother's give their daughter's their maiden names for middle names. So Clark was my mother's maiden name and now it's my middle name."
"And the `H'?"
"For some reason my mother decided to give me her middle name, my grandmother's maiden name, Hudson."
A slow smile crossed Lex's face. "Hudson."
The way he spoke her name - like he was tasting it, rolling it over his tongue like a fine wine, exploring it - sent a little chill through her. She stared up at him for a moment before he turned and continued up the stairs. Sighing a little, she hurried up after him, following him into a room much like the one before, only this one seemed a little more lived in, at least when it came to the exercise equipment spread throughout. There was a bar to the far side with bowls of fruit and some blue bottles. Hudson watched near the door as Lex removed his fencing jacket, revealing a long-sleeved black shirt.
"How's the new ride?" Lex asked, slipping a white towel over his shoulders as he walked across the room to the bar.
"That's why I'm here," Hudson admitted cautiously.
Lex began removing the cap from a blue bottle of Ty Nant water, his brow furrowing. "What's the matter? You don't like it?"
"No, it's not that," Hudson assured him quickly. Feeling uncomfortable, she admitted, "I can't keep it."
Lex froze, frowning a little. Setting the bottle down, he turned and walked toward Hudson, watching her, surprised that she wasn't accepting of his gift. People didn't just turn him down, certainly didn't turn down a gift of a car. Grabbing the edges of the towel, he stared into her eyes for a moment. "Hudson, you saved my life. I think it's the least I can do."
Hudson glanced away, wondering why she was feeling guilty for not accepting the car.
At her silence, Lex repressed a sigh. Really, if he were her father, would he want her accepting anything from someone like himself? Probably not. "You're father doesn't like me, does he?" Knowing she was about to deny it, try to give some plausible lie, Lex continued as he brushed his hand over his bare scalp, turning to the mirror behind him, "It's okay. I've been bald since I was nine. I'm used to people judging me before they get to know me."
More guilt. Hudson didn't know why but there was something about Lex that made her feel that no matter how much he seemed to have, she was better off. "It's nothing personal," she assured him quietly. "He's just not crazy about your dad."
"Figures the apple doesn't fall far from the tree?" He asked, then nodded. "Understandable." Turning, Lex regarded Hudson for a moment before smiling coyly. "Bet he didn't even want you coming here, did he? Don't worry. If I was your father, I wouldn't want you near me either."
Hudson shifted uncomfortably, wondering what he meant by that. She held out the keys to him, slipping them into his hand. "I better go. Thanks for the car." She gave him a smile then turned to leave.
That chill again. She really liked it when he said her name. Stopping, she looked back at him curiously.
"Do you believe a man can fly?"
She kind of smiled. "Sure. In a plane."
Lex shook his head. "No, I'm not talking about that that. I'm talking about soaring through the clouds with nothing but air beneath you."
"People can't fly, Lex," she responded.
"I did." Lex turned away for a moment, thinking about what had happened, skidding toward the railing, seeing that beautiful girl standing there, not wanting to be responsible for her death. He turned back. "After the accident, my heart stopped. It was the most exhilarating two minutes of my life." His gaze drifted off for a moment. "I flew over Smallville, and for the first time, I didn't see a dead end. I saw a new beginning."
Hudson shifted again, feeling as if she were being allowed to see a part of Lex Luthor that not everyone was privileged enough to glimpse. The moment seemed too personal, too intimate.
Lex was looking at her again, smiling just a little. "Thanks to you, I have a second chance."
Embarrassment washed over her and Hudson glanced down at the floor, away from the intense, blue-eyed gaze that watched her so closely.
"I think we have a future, Hudson."
She glanced up quickly, her heart skipping a beat. What did he mean by that? She and Lex Luthor were like a million miles apart.
"And I don't want anything to stand in the way of our... friendship."
Swallowing, Hudson returned her gaze to his for just a moment. "I... See you around, Lex."
Lex smiled and watched quietly as she hurried from the room, the memory of her blush-stained cheeks remaining with him.
"See, here she is. Her name is Jennifer Creek. This picture is from twelve years ago." Chloe pointed to a picture in a Smallville High School Yearbook from 1989. The photo showed a young girl, awkward in appearance, with glasses that were a little too large for her face, her hair pulled back in a ponytail. "And this is a picture I took four hours ago." She made a few clicks with the mouse and the photo that opened was an exact match to the picture in the yearbook.
Hudson frowned. When she had made it to school that morning, missing the bus yet again due to lagging around the farm, Pete and Chloe had immediately pulled her into the Torch office, telling her all about the attacks that had occurred that week on three former Smallville High cheerleaders. They had each apparently been electrocuted, but no one knew the full story because they were now each in comas. While it was believed that someone was purposely doing this to them, there was no proof. While there, Pete had noticed a strange-looking girl he had never seen before and Chloe had taken her picture. Now they claimed that the girl in the crowd was the same as in the photo in the yearbook, from twelve years ago.
"That's impossible," Hudson declared, shaking her head. "She'd be like twenty-six now. Must be some girl who just looks like her."
Pete nodded. "My money was on the evil twin theory, until Chloe checked out missing persons."
The blonde walked over to Hudson, handing her a piece of paper. "Jennifer disappeared from the state infirmary a few days ago where she'd been in a coma for the past twelve years. According to this, she suffered from massive electrolyte imbalance."
"That's why she hasn't aged a day," Pete said by way of explanation.
Hudson raised an eyebrow. "So you're telling me she just suddenly `woke up'?"
Chloe shook her head. "Well, no, there was a huge electrical storm, and the hospital's generator went down. When it came back on, Jennifer was gone."
"The electricity must have charged her up like a Duracell." Pete snapped his fingers.
"And now she's back in Smallville putting former cheerleaders into comas? Why?" Hudson frowned, thinking she could probably think of a few reasons to put a couple cheerleaders into comas but not actually voicing the thought.
"Apparently, the cheerleaders just didn't like her," Chloe replied, pursing her lips and frowning as she handed Hudson a newspaper clipping.
Hudson read aloud, "'Harmless Hazing Goes Array'. Comatose girl found in field twenty yards from meteor strike." The article went on to describe how after being stripped of her clothes and pushed out into the halls of Smallville High, Jennifer Creek had ran off in humiliation, hiding in one of the nearby cornfields when the meteor storm had occurred.
"The exposure to the blast must have done something to her body," Chloe theorized.
Ever since Hudson had been informed by her parents that the meteor strike had happened thanks to her arrival, the subject had been a touchy one. Now, she refused to believe that her appearance could still be causing pain and suffering throughout Smallville. Looking up sharply at Chloe's comment, she replied, "No. This can't be right."
Pete sighed and glanced over Hudson's head to Chloe. "I think you ought to show her."
"Show me what?"
Making a face, Chloe moved off, waving to Pete and Hudson to follow her. Furrowing her brow curiously, Hudson slid off of the desk she had been sitting on and walked through the Torch office to a door which led to a large closet. Pete flipped on a light switch and Hudson looked ahead to a wall covered in newspaper clippings, photos and essays. She frowned, stepping forward as Chloe moved in front of it, spreading her arms wide proudly as she spun around to smile at her friend.
"It started out as a scrapbook and just kind of mutated."
"What is it?" Hudson asked, moving in for a closer look.
"I call it the Wall of Weird. It's every strange, bizarre and unexplained event that's happened in Smallville since the meteor shower. That's when it began - when the town went schitzo," Chloe explained with a quirky smile. "So, what do you think?"
Hudson's eyes scanned the clippings as she stopped in front of the wall. The stories ranged from two-headed chickens and oversized vegetables to mutated fingers on a local farmer's hand and glowing fish in the Smoky Hill river. "Why didn't you tell me about this?"
Chloe glanced at Pete, noticing the sudden irritation in Hudson's voice. "I didn't think you'd be interested, H.C. I mean, you normally aren't into these kinds of things. You're more Scully than Mulder, you know. The skeptic. Besides, everyone has secrets. Have you told me everything that happens in your life?"
"All of this... my fault," Hudson whispered, glancing down at the cover of Time magazine, which featured a photo of three-year old Lana Lang in a Princess outfit, crying. The headline read: Heartbreak in the Heartland.
Hudson swallowed. If Lana's parents hadn't died in the storm, she would never have started wearing a necklace of the meteor rock and maybe Hudson never would have been so awkward and unpopular. She might have even been a cheerleader. Everything might have been different, if not for her, if not for the fact that she was an alien.
"H.C.?" Chloe stepped up to her friend, placing her hand on her shoulder. "Are you okay?"
"No... I... " She glanced at Chloe and realized that she was really just another story to her best friend, just another headline that would be splashed on this wall, if she had the proof. "I have to go."
Pete and Chloe stood in confused silence, glancing at one another, as Hudson ran from the room.
Not that she had anywhere to go. There were still four hours left of school and she was forced to head to English class, where her mind wandered from the poetry discussion Mrs. Brambles was giving. Hudson was never going to be normal at this rate, not when reminders of who and what she really was seemed to be spread all over Smallville, making themselves visible just when she was beginning to forget. First meteor rocks, then media coverage and now, apparently, meteor-infected mutants using their inflicted abilities in order to exact revenge on those who had placed them in harm's way. When really, it was Hudson who should be blamed, Hudson who this Jennifer Creek should be after. While what the cheerleaders had done had been cruel and unjustified, they hadn't meant to ruin her life, only her social life.
When class ended, Hudson headed down the hall toward the science rooms, passing the teacher's lounge on her way. Glancing inside, she saw Erin Watson, the cheerleading squad's instructor, reading through a paper. Stopping, Hudson stared at her for a moment before making a quick decision. She couldn't allow the truth about what she was and the consequences of what her arrival had brought about, to ruin her life. She wasn't going to end up like Jennifer Creek, lamenting the way things should have gone, seeking revenge for what might have been. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door and walked in.
The pretty blonde woman looked up from her paper, smiling on recognition. "Miss Kent. Is there something I can do for you?"
Hudson nodded. "Yes. Miss Watson, I would like to have another chance. Let me audition for you again. I know I can do it."
Erin raised an eyebrow at the girl standing before her. She had always believed that Hudson Kent would make an excellent cheerleader, until she had seen her trip over her own feet more than once. Every time she thought about giving the girl a chance, Hudson would completely screw up one of the cheers. Erin was surprised she hadn't severely injured herself yet. All that she could figure was the girl had grown too quickly and wasn't used to her height yet. She was five foot eleven in stocking feet; that would make anyone gangly and uncoordinated.
"I don't know, Kent." Erin stood and walked over to the coffee pot to refill her cup. "You've had two chances so far."
"It's... nerves," Hudson lied quickly. "I get weirded out with the other cheerleaders watching. They just make me nervous. If I could just audition in front of you, then I know I would be fine. I just know I need the confidence of knowing I could make it on the team." It would be the perfect way to make certain Lana wasn't there and therefore, no necklace.
Pursing her lips, Erin turned and regarded the girl for a long moment. Finally, she nodded. "Very well, Kent. Come by my office the morning after the Homecoming Game. I won't be able to get you prepared in time to join us for that anyway."
A smile broke out across Hudson's face. "Thank you, Miss Watson! Thank you! You won't regret this!"
Feeling as if she was being given one last chance to be normal, Hudson hurried out the door, heading to her science class.
Lana stood in the back office of the teacher's lounge where she had been grading algebra papers for Mr. Anders, until she had heard Hudson's voice. Creeping forward, she had listened to the conversation, frowning when Miss Watson agreed to give the awkward girl another chance. So, Hudson thought she was good enough to be a cheerleader, that she could perform next to Lana during each game? That she had the right to be included as part of the `in-crowd'? Not if she had anything to say about it. It was obviously time that the Kent girl learned her place in this school. But how?
Furrowing her delicate brow, Lana considered for a long moment how to teach Hudson the proper lesson, to humiliate her into submission. She needed to learn once and for all that she simply didn't belong anywhere but the Torch's office with her little reporter friend.
Lana started, glancing up from her musings to frown at Whitney as he walked through the doorway. "You scared me. Don't do that."
"Sorry." Whitney rolled his eyes, sitting on the edge of the desk. "You done? The Homecoming Committee was going to meet up for lunch, right?"
Staring at her boyfriend, Lana's eyes widened as inspiration struck her. A smile spread across her face. "Whitney." She moved over to stand between his legs, placing her hands on his shoulders as she smiled at him. "Wanna have some fun?"
The quarterback raised an eyebrow at the coy tone she was using. "Am I going to like this? You've got that look in your eyes."
"Oh. You're going to like this," Lana promised, her smile broadening. "You're really going to like this."
Chloe parked her car just outside the barn on the Kent's property before swinging open the door and jumping out, barely remembering to shut it behind her as she darted toward the loft. She'd headed straight for the Kent farm the moment she had finished putting the paper to bed, dying to know if the rumor she had heard was true.
"H.C.!?" She called out, racing up the steps to find her friend huddled on the couch, looking through a fashion magazine. Making a face, Chloe dropped onto the cushions at the far end. "From what you're reading, I take it the rumor is true?"
Hudson set the magazine down, smiling ecstatically. "Yes!" She declared, pulling her longs legs beneath her and leaning forward. "True! All true!"
Chloe shook her head and laughed. "Well, don't leave me hanging! What happened? Inquiring minds want to know - and we want details!"
Like Hudson had expected to hear any less from Chloe. Not that she didn't have the entire story already played out in her mind to relate to her friend. This was big news - the biggest, as far as she was concerned. Maybe Chloe could even write a story about it, with Hudson's photo on the front page of the Torch!
It had all happened after math class. Hudson had stopped by her locker to drop off her geometry book, not needing it since she had finished her homework in class, and grabbed her history books for her homework that evening. Just as she had closed her locker, she turned to find Whitney Fordman leaning against the row of lockers a few feet from her, watching her with a smile --
"What kind of smile?" Chloe interjected.
"What?" Hudson frowned, not appreciating the interruption.
"What was the smile like? A friendly one? Sly? Was he checking you out?"
"I said I wanted details, not Cliff Notes!"
Rolling her eyes, Hudson returned to her tale...
Whitney was leaning there, looking all jock-like in his letterman jacket, his blonde bangs falling over his eyes, and smiling at her in sort of a coy manner. Not really friendly like Pete's smile usually was, but not really checking her out, either. But there was definitely something there, like he knew something that she didn't and he was just dying to share it with her --
"You mean like the cat who ate the canary," Chloe offered.
"One more interruption and this interview is over."
"Fine, fine, fine. Go on!"...
"Hey, H.C.," Whitney had greeted and Hudson found herself trying to recall if he had ever actually said hi to her before.
"Hi, Whitney." Hudson slipped her backpack over her shoulder and smiled at him, a little nervously. Hell, very nervously. It was right about now that she expected Lana Lang to appear around the corner, asking just what Hudson thought she was doing talking to her boyfriend. Trying to think of something else to say so she didn't appear boring as well as dorky, she finally spit out, "What's up?"
It was one of those easy, neutral conversation starters which completely left the other person open to taking the topic any direction they wished to. Or simply end it there.
"I was wondering if you wanted to go to the Homecoming Dance with me - "
"Wait!" Chloe interrupted again. "Just like that? Just `go to the Homecoming Dance with me'? No small talk? No life's history? Just a date?"
Hudson nodded. "Just like that. Now, let me finish or go home..."
For a long moment, Hudson had just stood there, staring in some mild form of shock, wondering when the crew from Candid Camera was going to suddenly appear -
"I'm thinking meteor rocks," came Chloe's comment. "Definitely meteor rocks."
Whitney frowned and looked away for a moment. "We had a fight at lunch. I've had it with how great she thinks she is." He returned his gaze to Hudson. "I figure I'm important, too, right? It doesn't always have to be about her. So I thought you might be a little more fun to get to know."
Hudson was in shock and definitely didn't know what to say. "I... I don't know what to say."
Smiling, Whitney replied, "Is this about the time I hurled all over your shoes? I am sorry about that."
"No, that really isn't - "
"Hey, wait!" Chloe broke in. "Those were my shoes he puked all over! I should be the one he's apologizing to!"
Hudson leaned back on the couch and regarded her friend with an irritated expression. "May I finish now?"
Chloe rolled her eyes and waved her hand. "You can try. But I'm finding the whole story decidedly twisted at the moment..."
So Hudson explained that it wasn't necessary for an apology. It had happened over a year ago and wasn't really that important any longer. What she didn't understand was why he was asking her out? There were plenty of other cheerleaders and girls he hung out with that he could have asked instead.
Whitney had shrugged. "Most of them all ready have dates or are too close to Lana and wouldn't do that to her." Pushing away from the lockers, he took a few steps closer to her and smiled as she kind of stepped back. "Besides, there's something about you, H.C. I don't know what it is, but I'd like to find out."
What did one say to that??
"Oh. Okay." She couldn't come up with a better response.
"Great." Whitney watched her a moment longer then added, "I'll swing by around eight fifteen to pick you up. Since I'll have to get ready after the game we'll already be late, so be waiting outside, okay?" And then he had kissed her cheek and walked off down the hall.
"And so I have a date with Whitney Fordman!" Hudson finished.
Chloe shook her head. "Amazing. I can't believe you would lower yourself to dating a jock."
Hudson sighed. "Did you ever think that maybe under that jock exterior he might be a good person?"
"You know, you're going to the dance with a jock, too."
"Pete is not a jock!" Chloe denied vehemently.
"He just made the football team."
"Sitting on the bench does not a jock make. Besides, you know as well as I do why he tried out for the team - so he wouldn't be this year's Scarecrow. It's a perfectly logical choice to make."
Laughing, Hudson stood and walked around the couch to her desk to set the magazine down. Her gaze moved over to the edition of the Ledger from the morning after she had saved Lex Luthor's life. There was a photo of him on the cover and a five paragraph story about how, during his first day in town, he had been rescued by a local farm girl when his car had plunged into the Smoky Hill river. Though her mom had already kept a copy, Hudson had this one specifically for herself. She liked the picture of Lex and found herself staring at it a lot more than she would admit to just about anyone.
"So, have you found a dress yet?" Chloe asked, peering her head over the back of the couch.
"No." Hudson sat down at the desk, still regarding the paper in front of her. "Mom and I are going shopping tomorrow after school."
"Huh?" Hudson glanced over her shoulder at her friend with a frown.
"Dark blue. It's the best color on you. Although a deep green would look good, too. Both bring out your eyes. But a nice dark blue, maybe midnight blue, would be stunning with your features."
"Stunning? Chloe, when did you become a fashion consultant?"
"I'm just saying," Chloe replied with a shrug.
Hudson's gaze returned to the paper and a comfortable silence ensued. Before long, she heard Chloe flipping through the textbook she had discarded on the couch in favor of the fashion magazine. Reaching out, Hudson traced her fingertips along the picture of Lex, wondering not for the first time, if his skin was as soft as it appeared. Now there would be a date for Homecoming worthy of bragging about. Though she couldn't really see Lex Luthor at a Homecoming Dance. Or any dance, for that matter.
"Have you met him yet?"
Chloe peered over the couch once more when she heard her friend's question. "Huh? Who?"
The blonde raised an eyebrow. "Nope. Haven't had the pleasure. Dad seems to like him okay though. Said he wasn't here to lay people off like he had at first feared. Dad doesn't believe that Lex takes the job that seriously, but he does seem to be trying to settle in." Then she frowned. "Why?"
"Oh. No reason."
Chloe knew better. Her journalistic instincts said there was something going on here and besides, Hudson was her best friend and extremely easy to read. Climbing to her feet, Chloe wandered slowly around the couch, glancing around the loft as if she were simply meandering around with nothing to do, until she neared the back of Hudson's chair. Then she quickly leaned over and snatched up whatever it was that her friend's gaze had been so focused on.
"Hey!" Hudson protested.
"What's this?" Chloe held the paper aloft and looked down at her friend knowingly. "While the whole saving a man's life thing is very cool, I've never seen you as the type to marvel at your own accomplishments. Which leads me to believe that this paper is on your desk for an entirely different reason."
Chloe danced away as Hudson reached to take the paper from her hands. "Oh, no, no, no. There's a mystery to be solved here and I'm the one to do it!" Her eyes scanned the article as she moved around the couch, continuing to avert Hudson's grasp as she chased her.
"Chloe, come on! Just put that down."
"Aha!" Chloe whirled around in triumph watching as an expression close to panic crossed her friend's face.
"This!" Chloe pointed to a smudge against the newsprint. "On first glance, it appears to be a simple mark, possibly made by a finger or some other object that had been placed there. But, if one looks close enough, one can see that it is, in actuality, an eraser mark! And an eraser mark can only mean one thing - you wrote something here that embarrassed you and you didn't want anyone to see! I can only come to the conclusion that said doodle was either a) a heart or b) the bad boy billionaire's name." At Hudson's expression of defeat, Chloe pressed, "So, which was it?"
With a heavy sigh, Hudson dropped onto the couch. "His name."
"Whoo!" Chloe sat next to her friend triumphantly. "I knew it! You have a crush on Lex Luthor! Smelled like fish, indeed!"
Sobering, Chloe looked down at the article, staring at it for a moment or two while beside her, Hudson remained unusually quiet. It took a few minutes for it to sink in but finally it hit her as to why her friend has suddenly clammed up. Turning her gaze to Hudson, Chloe said in a tone of horror, "Oh, H.C.! If your dad knew, he'd lock you up in your room for like two life sentences!"
Making a face, Hudson simply sighed in reply and gazed out across the loft.
"I like this one best," Hudson declared, turning from the mirror to smile at her mother.
Martha glanced over her daughter for a moment, returning the smile. It seemed like only yesterday that she and Jonathan had turned to find the toddler crouching amidst the wreckage from the meteor shower, smiling happily. Now she was going on her first date, looking all grown up and beautiful in the dark blue satin prom dress they had chosen from the rack. Jonathan had wanted his daughter to wait until she was at least sixteen - or eighteen or maybe thirty - before allowing her to go out but they had talked it over and Martha had explained to him how important something like this was to a young woman. They couldn't hold on to her being a child forever. Hudson was already far more mature than most girls her age. If they were to allow her to go to college still harboring the innocence that was so innate to her nature, she would eventually be hurt more deeply than her father could possibly imagine.
So Jonathan had relented and now Martha stood with her daughter in Hanna's Boutique, a little clothing store on Main Street that seemed to make all of its money off of the teenage girls during Homecoming and Prom. Luckily, agreeing on a dress hadn't been all too difficult. Martha knew her husband wouldn't have allowed his daughter out of the house in anything that was strapless and apparently Hudson wasn't brave enough to fight for something like that just yet. The dress they had chosen was relatively modest with thick straps over the shoulders, the neckline square and not too low, the waist cinched and the skirt falling in soft folds to the floor. Martha didn't see how her husband could possibly object to it, especially if she bought the matching wrap to go with it.
"Well?" Hudson prompted, twirling before her mother.
"It's beautiful on you, of course," Martha replied with a smile, reaching out to push her daughter's hair behind her shoulder.
Hudson smiled, turning back to the mirror to peruse her reflection. Today at lunch, Whitney had sat with her, which Pete had found cool because they had been able to discuss the upcoming game and Chloe hadn't seemed too pleased about. She'd plied the quarterback with question after question, as if she just didn't seem to believe that he really wanted to go to the dance with Hudson. That it was all some big mistake. After lunch, Hudson had gone to the Torch's office and she and Chloe had argued about it for about two minutes before apologizing and hugging and deciding that no man and no dance was worth fighting about. If worse came to worse, they could just go to the Homecoming together. Later, Pete had suggested that the three of them could have gone together, but Hudson commented that she would have felt like a third wheel. Chloe had stared at her as if she had completely missed something but she had just let it go.
The gown and wrap were rang up by the clerk and enclosed into a dress bag which Martha gathered into her arms as she and Hudson exited the boutique, heading down the sidewalk toward the Smallville Savings and Loan. They had a few more errands to run before heading back to the farm so that Hudson could get her chores done and her mother could start dinner.
"I just need to stop in the bank and make a deposit for your father," Martha explained while Hudson's gaze swept over the block.
"Mind if I run into the Beanery?" Hudson asked. "I'm kind of thirsty."
"Sure, honey." Martha reached into her purse and withdrew a few dollars to hand to her daughter. "I'll meet you there, okay?"
Nodding, Hudson walked with her mother to the bank then waved and continued on up the street to the town's coffeehouse. Chloe had been ecstatic when The Beanery had opened its doors, claiming that maybe this one-horse town might not be so bad after all. She still talked about Metropolis like it was the greatest place on earth and Hudson found that she had yet to agree with her. While the city was exciting whenever she got to go there, she still found that she preferred the quiet farmland of Smallville. Besides, she felt safer here where there were fewer people to pry into her secrets.
Walking into the coffeehouse, Hudson glanced around to see a few of the kids from school scattered around the tables before stopping by the counter to order an iced caramel cappuccino. She had been hoping to find Chloe here but figured that her friend was likely in the Torch's office where Hudson swore she would sleep if her father and the school would let her get away with it.
"What a pleasant surprise."
Hudson spun around at the voice to find Lex Luthor leaning against the counter behind her, his cool blue eyes regarding her intently. "L-Lex," she stammered, wondering when it was precisely that she had lost the power of speech. "Hi."
Lex smirked in amusement. "Hi back." He glanced at the girl behind the counter, ordering a cappuccino, before returning his attention to the young woman beside him. "What brings you to town?"
"Mom and I drove in to buy a dress. I'm going to the Homecoming Dance tomorrow!" She smiled brightly in excitement.
Apparently this was a very important event to her. Lex's smirk turned to a smile as he slipped his hands into his coat pockets. "I take it Homecoming is a big thing around here."
"Well, of course." Hudson rolled her eyes. "Do you see much else going on?"
"Your point is well taken." Their drinks were delivered together and Lex slid his money across the counter, telling the girl, "This is for both."
"You don't have to do that," Hudson protested, trying to lay her own money down.
"I know," he replied, returning his unreadable gaze to her. "But if I can't give you a car, at least I can give you a cappuccino."
Hudson grinned. "Oh. All right. But just this once."
Lex raised an eyebrow as he regarded her. "Of course. Wouldn't want to break the bank or anything buying you coffee."
Hudson laughed at the unexpected joke and received a smile in return.
"So who is the lucky fellow?" Lex asked, sipping at his beverage as he glanced at her over the rim.
"Whitney Fordman. He's our team's quarterback." Hudson shook her head, still amazed that this was all actually happening, that Whitney had asked her to Homecoming. "He's only like the most popular guy in school," she added as in afterthought.
Lex frowned, glancing down at his cup. "Interesting. You don't seem the type to be impressed by dating the `popular' guy, or a jock for that matter. No offense."
Shaking her head, Hudson told him, "You sound like Chloe. She said almost the exact same thing to me today."
Smiling, Lex commented, "Smart girl," before taking another sip of the cappuccino.
"Honey?" Martha called out from the doorway. "You ready to go?"
"Oh! Yeah." Hudson glanced from her mom to Lex, who had turned to flash a smile at the woman in the door. "Mom, have you met Lex?"
Martha smiled at the handsome young man, stepping into the coffee shop and juggling the items she was carrying to hold out her hand in greeting. "No, I haven't."
"Mom, Lex Luthor. Lex, my mother, Martha Kent."
"Mrs. Kent." Lex took her hand, shaking it and offering a quick nod. "It's a pleasure to meet you." And it was. Unlike her husband, Martha Kent wasn't staring at him as if he were Satan himself and Lex found himself discovering where Hudson had inherited her easy affability.
"Welcome to Smallville, Lex," Martha told him, glancing over him critically in an attempt to see the dangerous creature her husband had warned her about.
Beyond the strange ethereal quality that surrounded him from his lack of hair, she didn't immediately recognize any warning signs that screamed out at her to stay away. Certainly, he carried the Luthor name and he was dressed impeccably and the fancy Italian sports car parked out front was likely his but Martha was more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. While the BMW had been a bit much, she had the feeling Lex Luthor had no idea how else to say `thank you' for his life.
"I understand you and your husband run an organic produce farm," Lex commented, drawing the focus of the attractive red-headed woman before him. He had learned a lot of other information during his fact-finding mission on the Kents as well, such as the financial problems the farm regularly had. If they wouldn't allow their daughter to accept a gift from him, then perhaps he could thank them in another way. "I was wondering how I would go about placing weekly orders for myself and my staff?"
Martha smiled, pleased with the unexpected business. "Feel free to call us anytime to place your order. H.C. makes the deliveries for us every Sunday."
Lex glanced over his shoulder at Hudson who glanced up, meeting his gaze. Smiling a little, he turned back to Martha. "Excellent. You'll be hearing from me soon then."
Nodding, Martha turned her gaze back to Hudson. "Come on, honey. I'd better get dinner started before your dad decides to try it himself. It was nice to meet you, Lex." She turned and headed out the door toward the car.
Hudson was still attempting to picture her father's reaction to her delivering produce to the Luthor Estate every week. Looking up, she found Lex watching her with a slight smile and wondered, if only for a moment, if he hadn't planned out this entire scenario. Knowing that such a thought was completely outrageous and impossible, she returned his smile.
"Guess I'd better go. Thanks for the cappuccino."
"Not a problem, Hudson," he replied with a nod. "Have a good time at the dance."
Moving past him to the door, Hudson hesitated just a moment, glancing back to find him watching her still, that same unreadable expression from earlier once more in his gaze. Unable to fathom what it could possible mean, she flashed him another parting smile before turning and hurrying out to the car.
Hudson sat staring into the mirror of her vanity, with just the slightest amount of trepidation flowing through her. Tonight was the big night, her first date - a date with Whitney Fordman. While it wasn't exactly a dream come true, it was better than anything that had previously happened to her.
She had wanted to be able to attend the game but unfortunately the fence in the south pasture had to be fixed because the herd was getting through and finding their way out onto the main road. Then the tractor had broken down and Hudson had to help her father with the repairs. By the time she got everything done, she knew she would spend the better part of an hour simply cleaning up. Going to the game would have been pointless. Chloe had called an hour ago to say that the Crows had won the game and she and Pete would see her at the dance. For a moment, Hudson had almost asked her if she could just go with them and completely chicken out of the date with Whitney but she had remained strong and hung up the phone without admitting her fears.
A knock at the door drew her attention away from her reflection and Hudson turned to see her mother step inside, smiling at her. "I came up to see if you needed any help with your hair?"
Hudson nodded and watched in the mirror as her mother stepped behind her, picking up the brush by her hand and beginning to thread it through the long strands.
"Your father may not make it through this night, I'm afraid," Martha said with a smile as she met her daughter's gaze in the mirror. "He's pacing a hole into the floor downstairs."
"He has nothing to worry about. It's just a dance." Hudson played with the tube of lipstick in front of her.
"Maybe." Martha began gathering thick strands of Hudson's dark hair, holding them in place and gently securing them with a pin. When her daughter had been younger, Martha had spent hours brushing and styling her hair, just because she couldn't stop marveling over how beautiful and strong it was. To this day, she had never seen a split end, never seen a break in it.
"You're worried." Hudson sighed, glancing up at her mother. "You and dad think something is going to happen to give me away."
Martha shook her head. "No, H.C. We trust you. Your father has just been more nervous than usual since the accident."
"It's funny. One would think their parents would be pleased that they had saved someone's life. Proud of them or something."
Setting the brush down, Martha placed her hands on Hudson's shoulders and met her gaze in the mirror. "We are proud of you, H.C. We couldn't have prayed for a more perfect child. But that doesn't mean we can't worry. You're our baby; you're all that we've got. We don't want anyone or anything to break up this family."
Hudson reached up to clasp one of her mother's hands. "I don't either, mom."
Smiling, Martha kissed her cheek before she returned to working on her daughter's hair, securing it all in thick strands over her head, leaving loose tendrils to curl around her neck. Looking at the reflection in the mirror before her, she told her daughter, "Perfect."
"Let's hope Whitney thinks so." Hudson stood to grab her purse and wrap. Turning back around, she found her mother regarding her with a faintly furrowed brow. "What is it?"
"I'm just... " Martha shook her head, mildly exasperated with herself. "I've just been wondering... You've never shown any interest in Whitney Fordman before, beyond the occasional insult. Why now?"
Hudson shrugged. "He asked me, mom. It's not like I have a crush on him or anything. I mean, he's cute, sure. But... I don't know. It's the chance to do something I've never done before. Maybe my only chance. If I can't be a cheerleader, at least I can date a quarterback." She had yet to admit to her parents that she had one more try-out to make the cheerleading squad. She planned on waiting to spring that one on them after she actually secured a spot.
"Oh. I see." Martha didn't like Hudson's reasoning but she knew there was no point in arguing it now. Showing interest in the first guy who shows interest in you isn't a choice - its resignation. She wanted more than that for her daughter. She wanted her to have the best, whatever that might be. Glancing down at her watch, she told Hudson, "It's eight o'clock. We'd better get you downstairs so your dad can take all of the pictures he wants to."
Hudson rolled her eyes at the thought of such torture but followed her mom out the door and down the stairs to the living room. Sure enough, her father was pacing around like a caged tiger, but he looked up as they joined him, a smile appearing on his face.
"H.C., you look positively beautiful." Stepping forward, he kissed his daughter's cheek, grinning down at her. "Isn't she beautiful, Martha?"
"The prettiest girl in Smallville," her mother agreed.
Hudson gave a very-unladylike snort and rolled her eyes. "Yeah. Okay. Let's get this whole picture-taking thing out of the way. I promised Whitney I would be waiting outside."
For the next five minutes, she somehow made it through various poses by herself, with her mother and with her father before they thankfully ran out of film. Her parents loved cataloguing just about every moment in her life with a photo except, thankfully, those ones which they never wanted anyone to get a hold of proof of. Otherwise, there was photo album after photo album of Hudson, beginning the week that they had found her and on through their years together as a family. She figured the ones just taken might begin to fill up her freshman year in high school.
Standing by the door, she looked at her mother and father and smiled. "Well, I guess I'd better go out and wait for him."
"We could keep you company," Jonathan offered hopefully, still not relishing the idea of letting Hudson go anywhere with a boy without accompanying her.
Hudson shook her head. "No. I don't even want you peeking out the window. It's... embarrassing."
Martha laughed and walked over to hug her daughter. "Very well. We'll hide away inside here, knowing that our daughter is ashamed of us."
"Oh stop." Hudson shook her head in response, rolling her eyes.
"Be good," Martha told her as she opened the door.
"And," he father began.
"Be careful," Hudson finished for him with a grin before stepping outside onto the porch, closing the door behind her.
The sun was just setting in the west as Hudson made her way down the steps and into the yard to wait for Whitney. The shoes she had chosen to wear were flats and therefore comfortable to walk in while also being practical - she was the tallest girl in her school, much to the chagrin of the girl's basketball coach who asked every time she was in gym why she didn't try out for the team. Sighing, Hudson leaned back against the white picket fence, staring down the road in anticipation of Whitney's pickup truck.
A few minutes passed before she finally glimpsed it heading down the road toward the drive. Smiling, Hudson pushed off from the fence and walked forward, waiting for the truck to pull around. Watching it, her brow furrowed a little when she began to realize that there were two people seated in the cab. A feeling of dread washed over her, causing her stomach to feel queasy and her heartbeat to accelerate. She couldn't even find a hint of surprise when the passenger side window rolled down as the truck moved past and Lana hung out from it.
"Maybe this'll teach you to stay where you belong!"
Hudson didn't even consider moving as a volley of eggs and mud-filled balloons slammed into her, splattering over her gown and face and the fence posts behind her. She just stood there and stared as the truck turned and headed back down the road, Whitney and Lana's laughter fading into the stillness of the evening.
Hearing her father call out to her from the door, Hudson quickly brushed away the tears that had begun to fall. Not even pausing to consider where she was going, she sped away from the farm, ignoring her parent's pleas to know what had just happened.
Hudson was halfway through the next county before she stopped, just dropped down in the middle of the field she had been passing through, and broke into tears. If anyone had ever asked the question, can aliens cry?, well Hudson figured here was their answer. The truth was, she hadn't cried in years, not since they had lost a newborn calf during delivery. She didn't cry when she learned the truth about her origins, when she realized that not only had her birth parents given her up, they had sent her so far away from them as to never have to even worry about her attempt to contact them. She hadn't cried when she realized there truly was no one on Earth like her, that she was really alone and she always would be. She didn't even cry when the Lone Gunmen had died, though Chloe had been sobbing her eyes out on the couch beside her.
But she was crying now. Great, big alien tears, if there were such a thing, and heart-wrenching sobs that probably would have terrified her mother and spurned her father into some sort of action against the persons who caused them. For in that brief moment in time, what was really no more than a paragraph in a chapter of her upcoming life, Hudson hated who and what she was. She couldn't imagine being anything more miserable than some freakish alien female who would never be able to share her secret with those she cared the most about, never be able to do anything that might give her away, never be normal. And that was what she wanted, more than anything, to be normal, to join the basketball team and track and try out for the cheerleading squad without having to worry about the damn meteor rocks. Hudson didn't want to feel like this, she didn't want to be able to set fire to objects just by looking at them or hear the faintest of whispers or survive being hit at 60 mph by a car and walk away without a scratch. She didn't even want to know it was possible, know what it was like, conceive even the possibilities of such things. She wanted to question, like everyone else, the possibility of the existence of aliens without knowing with a surety, the answer.
That was it; she just didn't want to know.
The longer she sat there, the more Hudson's anger grew. When she considered it, all of her problems, all of her failures in life, anything that caused her to question her identity, came down to Lana. If not for Lana Lang, she could have been a cheerleader at first try, she would never trip and look like a fool in front of her entire school. Everything was Lana's fault, and she deserved, for once, to see how it felt to be the outsider, to be ridiculed and laughed at. Rising to her feet, Hudson glanced toward Smallville, her gaze clouding over with anger. She took a small step forward and then sped off through the county, back towards Smallville High, determined to teach her tormentor a lesson. And she could, too. If she could, just for a moment, ignore her parent's warnings and teachings and just give herself a chance to be who she really was, without fear of reprisal, then she could teach Lana a very good lesson. She wouldn't hurt her - just humiliate her. Show her that there were people out there who just happened to be better than her, only they didn't flaunt it as much.
Reaching the outer grounds of the school, she finally slowed to a walk, passing through the football field and across the track before racing up the bleachers and out to the parking lot. Hudson was still mulling over exactly what she should do when she caught a figure moving in the shadows. She would have ignored it except that they seemed to not wish to be seen as much as she didn't. Following quietly, Hudson finally hung back as she watched the person pass beneath a lamppost, eyes widening in recognition as she realized the person she was following was none other than Jennifer Creek, the girl that Chloe believed was responsible for the three electrocutions of the ex-cheerleaders in town. Wondering just exactly what Jennifer was doing sneaking around the school grounds during Homecoming, Hudson put off her revenge on Lana to follow the girl.
Stepping quietly among the shadows, careful to make certain her presence went unnoticed, Hudson followed her over to the service buildings, frowning as she watched Jennifer step up to the emergency access panel of the Fire Sprinkler System. She shook her head for a moment, refusing to believe that this girl was so upset with what had happened to her twelve years ago, that she was prepared to take it out on people she didn't even know. How far could one carry revenge?
A chill swept over Hudson as she considered the question. How far had she been willing to go? And how far would she have allowed her abilities to carry her in order to prove herself? She would have hurt people she cared about, her family, herself, all to be something `better', to make her place among those in Smallville High. She would have jeopardized everything, just because a peer had played a joke on her, albeit a cruel one. Hudson wouldn't allow herself to make that mistake, now that she truly understood what it meant, and she certainly wasn't going to allow anyone else to make it in her place.
Jennifer Creek had seen enough. It had been bad enough to wake up in the infirmary, knowing all that she had lost, all because she had been different, because she hadn't fit in. And she had returned to Smallville to rectify that situation, to make those girls pay for the crime they had committed against her, thinking they were so much better, that they had so much more of a right than her to a normal life. Because they were prettier, more popular, had boyfriends and better clothes. Well, she had seen to it that they learned the hard way what that kind of arrogance repays you.
She had been on her way out of town, pleased with her success, hoping that everyone had learned their lesson, when she had watched another scene of cruelty play itself out on a farm just past the town limits. The poor girl had been all dressed up for Homecoming, only to have those dreams of a night she would never forget dashed away cruelly by yet another pair of students who thought themselves better. More worthy. It had been all Jennifer needed to make the decision to teach this town a lesson once and for all. She had turned around and headed straight back to the school, determined to show all of those snobs that turned out in mindless droves for the dance exactly what happened to them when they excluded and ridiculed and pretended to be more important. Once she was done, all of Smallville would think twice about raising cheerleaders and jocks and teenagers who thought it was fun to destroy the hopes and dreams of others.
"Jennifer, you need to stop this."
Pausing from her musings, Jennifer glanced out into the darkness to see a figure in a gown standing a few yards away. Frowning as she recognized the girl from the farm, she called out, "You shouldn't be here. You should have stayed away. Go home."
"I won't let you hurt my friends."
"Those people in there aren't your friends," Jennifer argued in a tone that suggested Hudson had no idea what she was talking about. "The sprinklers will get them nice and wet. I'll handle the rest."
"They never did anything to you," Hudson told her, taking a few steps forward, approaching cautiously, like she would a wild animal.
"I'm not doing this for me," Jennifer retorted, her expression earnest, desperate. "I'm doing this for you and for all of the others like us."
Hudson shook her head, drawing nearer. She could almost touch the other girl. "What happened to you was my fault." The meteor shower. The coma. Blame it on the alien. "I can understand your pain."
Jennifer scoffed. "I'm not in pain! I have a gift and a destiny and a purpose."
She turned with the intention of continuing with that purpose, only to find Hudson blocking her path, somehow beating her from the place she had stood just a second before. Jennifer stared in mild shock as Hudson told her, "So do I."
"I didn't want to hurt you," Jennifer told her angrily before reaching out to grab Hudson by the shoulders, bolts of electricity shooting through her hands into her opponent.
Hudson winced, more from expectation that any feeling. A slight tickle moved through her body, from head to foot, that threw off her concentration for a moment as she marveled at it. Bringing her attention back to the present, she grabbed Jennifer by the arms and tossed her like a pillow over her shoulder, turning to watch the girl's descent and make certain that she wasn't injured. Jennifer slammed into the hood of an old school-owned pick up truck before sliding off of the edge to the far side. For a moment, Hudson thought that was the end of it, until the girl climbed to her feet, throwing an angry glare her direction. Placing her hand back on the hood, the electricity moved through her fingers and the engine rumbled to life. It was impossible for Hudson not to consider what a really handy ability that would be whenever you misplaced your keys.
Jennifer climbed into the cab of the truck and threw it into gear, slamming her foot onto the gas and racing out toward Hudson with the intent on running her over. Unfortunately, instead of rolling away as she had expected, the girl in the gown grabbed hold of the front of the truck and held on as Jennifer raced it around the parking lot. Hudson's persistence only angered her further and she sped up, searching for a way to rid herself of the girl hanging on to the hood of the truck. Looking ahead, a smile crossed her face and she steered in the direction of the service garage.
Glancing over her shoulder, Hudson took a deep breath as she saw the cement wall approaching, bracing herself for the impact. Now that she knew she would survive it, the anticipation stemmed from wondering exactly how it was going to feel. Jennifer wasn't letting up on the gas and for a brief moment, Hudson couldn't help but wonder if maybe she wasn't immune to cement walls. Maybe they were just a little different from the metal railing of a bridge. Then she felt her body crushed between the two and the wall broke away as the truck charged through it, pipes bursting and water spewing out as the truck finally came to a stop, trapped amid the rubble.
Pushing the cement blocks off of her, Hudson slowly and gingerly climbed to her feet, wondering for a moment at what point she had lost her shoes. Her body ached and burned a little from the impact but other than that, she could tell that she was fine. Looking down, she noticed that water was pouring out of the mangled water main and her eyes were drawn to the cab of the truck which was similarly being flooded. Jennifer raised her head at the same moment and as their eyes met, identical realization hit - if she didn't get out of there, she would end up electrocuting herself. The girl reached for the door, only to discover that it was trapped against a section of the wall which had not collapsed in the crash. Seeing her dilemma, Hudson reached for the bumper to pull the truck free when the cab suddenly lit up in a brilliant display of electricity that shot through the engine and sent her sailing backwards through the air.
Landing with a hard `umph!', Hudson remained dazed for a brief moment as the electricity fizzled out of her body before she was able to struggle back up to her feet. Hurrying over to the truck, she pulled it free of the wall, then ripped the driver's door from the cab, watching as water cascaded onto the floor. Jennifer lay slumped over the steering wheel, her appearance significantly changed from high school age to the twenty-six year old that she really was. Hudson watched her quietly as she slowly lifted her head, breathing a silent sigh of relief that the girl... woman, wasn't dead.
"Are you okay?" She asked quietly.
Jennifer turned to look at her blankly. "Who are you?" She gazed around the cab of the truck and out into the garage they had crashed into. "Where am I?"
Hudson smiled a little. Jennifer didn't remember any of what happened and that was good. She didn't have to worry about questions regarding what she had done or fear that Jennifer would continue to seek vengeance. "My name's Hudson Kent. And you're in Smallville."
"I want to go home," Jennifer said quietly, still dazed, her eyes worried.
Nodding a little, Hudson reached in to help her out.
Hudson walked slowly along the road towards home. She could have been there long ago but felt that she needed the time to collect herself and come up with a plausible explanation for what had happened tonight. She knew her parents would have questions, had heard her father calling to her, which she had ignored, and they likely had seen the remains of the eggshells and balloons near the fence. Her father would want answers and her mother would want to coddle her. It was entirely possible that her mother was even now sitting at home in the kitchen, waiting for Hudson with a slice of apple pie and glass of milk so that they could talk about it. Her mother would expect her to have a good cry, because boys did those kinds of things to you, and then they would hug and Hudson would go up to bed and sleep and tomorrow morning everything would be better.
The only problem with that scenario was, Hudson didn't feel like she needed a good cry any longer. Seeing Jennifer, understanding the pain and rage she was feeling because of what had happened to her, the way she had been treated, made her realize something. Hudson didn't want to be popular. If being popular meant having people hate you, if it meant not being able to trust people because they might just as well stab you in the back to have what you have, then she was more than happy to remain in the background. She would much rather have good friends like Chloe and Pete, that she could trust, and just sit back and watch what the rest of the school did. Sure, it would be nice to have people look up to her and vote her Homecoming Queen and receive Valentine's cards from all of the guys in February but was it really that important?
On the outside, it appeared that Lana Lang had everything. She was beautiful, popular, head cheerleader, invited to sit on every committee, all of the teachers adored her and every piece of clothing she tried on was likely a perfect fit. But Hudson doubted that Lana could really consider the people she hung out with as true friends. She doubted that Lana's aunt Nell would be sitting at home this very minute with pie and an empty glass at the ready, watching anxiously out the window for her daughter's return. And Hudson knew very well that Lana wouldn't have been able to stop what was going to happen to her tonight. While she wasn't completely comfortable with her abilities, while she was far from comfortable with the knowledge that she was an alien, Hudson did understand that she had to make the best of what she had been gifted with.
Jennifer had claimed to have a purpose, a destiny and Hudson had replied that so did she, only at that moment, they had simply been words. But now, she understood her meaning behind them. She might never be head cheerleader but she had saved a man's life the other day. She might never be Prom Queen, but she had saved her fellow students from death tonight. And maybe no one but her parents would ever know, ever realize what she was capable of, but she knew. There was something oddly comforting in that realization.
Hudson knew that she had to accept the fact that she would never crawl out from under Lana Lang's shadow. Their lives had been inexplicably intertwined from the beginning. The meteor shower that had brought Hudson to Smallville had killed Lana's parents. This event, in effect, caused Lana to wear the necklace made of that very same meteor rock; the same rock that turned Hudson into a clumsy, uncoordinated fool in front of the entire student body on a regular basis. Sometimes, she couldn't decide if her life was purposely based on an Alanis Morrissette song or if it were all simply coincidence.
The sound of a car approaching at an undeniably high speed from the road behind her pulled Hudson from her musings. Glancing over her shoulder, she briefly considered ducking into the rows of corn beside her, when the flash of an expensive European sports car coming around the corner changed her mind. Since most of the teenage boys in town were currently at a Homecoming Dance, she should have figured that the only other person driving at such a velocity would be Lex Luthor. Turning, she stopped to watch as the car came to a screeching halt a few feet from her, the door opening almost instantly.
"Hudson," Lex called out as he exited the Porsche, his expression one of concern as his gaze traveled over her.
A smile touched her face at the sound of her name and the way he said it. No one called her Hudson; it had always been H.C. The way Lex said it made her feel important, mature. She decided she liked that.
"One would think you would have been taught a lesson about driving so fast," she called out.
Ignoring her little barb, he returned, "What are you doing out here?"
Tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, Hudson dropped her gaze to the ground beneath her, staring at the way the lights from the car played over the weeds, lengthening the shadows. She didn't want to admit that the date she had been so excited over in town had really turned out to be a sham.
"Aren't you supposed to be at the dance?" Lex approached her, his eyes sweeping over the dark blue gown which was frayed around the edges, torn at the hip, ripped near her shoulders. It was covered in various stains, none of which he wished to identify, and he noticed her bare feet peaking out beneath the hem. Removing one of his hands from his pockets, he reached out and cupped her chin, raising her gaze to his. "Hudson, what happened?"
Feeling her cheeks grow warm with embarrassment, she tried not to meet the blue-eyes that were regarding her so intently. "I... "
"Where's your date?"
Hudson bit her lip and forced a tremulous smile. "It wasn't real," she admitted quietly, ashamedly. "It was all just a... a joke. Something meant to... put me in my place, I guess."
Lex's expression hardened as an unexpected anger swept through him. He understood the cruelty of others, especially in high school, but why they chose to pick on Hudson was beyond him. She was beautiful, she was kind, she was bright - not to mention she was good to have around in case of driving your car off of a bridge into a river. Unfortunately, with high school boys it was always the same. They were still too young and stupid to see anything beyond the 5'3", 75 pound cheerleader who hopefully `put out', to notice a prize like Hudson hiding in the background. Lex knew - he'd made the same mistake himself more than once.
"You really wanted to go, didn't you?" He brushed his thumb over her jaw gently, before pushing a few strands of hair off of her neck.
Trying not to shift beneath his touch that was sending a tingle right through her, Hudson shrugged. "I just... I've never danced with anyone but my dad. I thought it would be... fun."
"With a jock?" Lex smirked. "You'd likely have your feet stepped on all night."
Hudson frowned a little as Lex pulled back, turning and walking away from her. Her hand reached up to touch the spot where his fingers had moved over her skin and she thought she wouldn't mind having him do that again. Not that she would ask but still, she had been so surprised by the moment that she hadn't taken the proper time to savor it. Wondering what he was up to, she continued to watch curiously as Lex reached his car, opening the door and leaning in. Moments later, music from the CD player blared through the speakers, sweeping over the silent roadside.
"Come and lay right on my bed
Sit and drink some wine
I'll try not to make you cry
If you get inside my head
Then you'd understand
Then you'd understand me"
Returning to stand in front of her, Lex held out his hand. "May I have this dance, Miss Kent?"
A feeling of elation swept over her and Hudson couldn't contain the smile that appeared on her face as she nodded silently, reaching out her hand and slipping it into his. Lex tugged her forward until their bodies were pressed together, his free arm slipping around her back, holding her close, while he brought their clasped hands up near their shoulders. He watched her for a long moment before offering a small smile and then slowly began swaying to the music.
"Why I felt so alone
Why I kept myself from love
And you became my favorite drug
So let me take you right now
And swallow you down
I need you inside"
"You're very tall," Lex commented a bit gruffly after awhile, glad that she wasn't in heels or she actually would have had a few inches on him.
Laughing a little, Hudson replied, "That's not the first time I've heard that."
Lex regarded her eyes for a moment, which were currently more blue than green and he couldn't decide which color he liked better. "I don't mind. Those extra inches might have been the difference between pulling me from the river in time."
Hudson smiled softly, dropping her gaze to rest on the black pullover he wore.
"If we had this night together
If we had a moment to ourselves
If we had this night together
Then we'd be unstoppable... "
Silence fell between them again as they moved together easily to the music. Lex continued to watch her, marveling at the mystery of the young girl-woman in his arms - the same one who saved him from death and couldn't get a date to her school's Homecoming Dance. Her eyes and smile spoke of innocence; her tempting lips and voluptuous form brought to mind anything but. Lex had never met anyone like her before. He wanted to know everything about her, he wanted to satisfy the curiosity that was tugging at him to unravel the mystery of the young woman who saved his life.
"Do you think that this is right
Or this is really wrong
I know that this is what we've been wanting And all this burning in my soul
It fills up to my throat
It fills up `til my heart is breaking"
"Sorry it's not the school gym." Lex finally broke the silence in the form of an apology.
Hudson shook her head, still smiling, before laying her cheek against his shoulder. "No. It's perfect. Thank you, Lex."
Lex just smiled and continued to dance.
"If we had this night together
If we had a moment to ourselves
If we had this night together
Then we'd be unstoppable... "
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