Chapter Four: The Fuel in The Fire
‘The Elephant in The Room’
Oliver held up the green and black punch mitts circling Ian slowly. They’d been inside his private training studio for the past forty-five minutes working on a little hand to hand combat. He needed to assess Ian’s skills and what they’d need to go over before they made their way back into Tower Prep in a couple of weeks.
He motioned for Ian to come forward as he spoke. “I want you to deliver three sets of kicks. Remember, Front kick, Roundhouse kick, Side kick then repeat.” The teenager nodded and moved forward raising his right knee and foot shooting out his leg as the ball of his foot connected swiftly with the mitt.
From there Ian stepped forward swung his leg sideways in a circular motion and kicked out, knocking his instep into the mitt hard. When his foot hit the ground he shifted and moved back into position for another roundhouse kick causing Oliver to shift in the appropriate position, when Ian switched tactics at the last minute and delivered a rough side kick to the mitt on his opposite hand.
Oliver’s eyes widened slightly as he arched an eyebrow at the blonde haired boy in front of him. “You know the bituro chagi technique…” It was more of a statement than a question and Ian nodded moving out of the ready position and standing with his arms to his side.
“Yeah, right before Mia and I tried to escape it was one of the techniques Coach was teaching me.” Oliver pursed his lips and frowned. That wasn’t good. Teaching teenagers forms of low level Okinawan Te fighting and Shotokan Karate is something you would do if you were training a mercenary, which really didn’t bode well for what they were training these kids for.
Ian’s voice knocked him out of his thoughts and he blinked twice before speaking. “Sorry what?” The teenager rolled his shoulders out as he moved his head side to side. “I said is that bad or something? You’ve got this funny look on your face.”
Oliver shook his head and pulled off the mitts tossing them on the ground. “No, it’s just unusual for moves like that to be taught in a school that’s all. It makes me wonder exactly what they were training you guys for…” Oliver shook his head and smiled.
“It’s good though, just one less thing I need to show you. Let’s do a little hand-to-hand for a while. Maybe work on your reflexes and a few new techniques…is that cool?” Ian sent a small smile Oliver’s way and nodded. If he was being honest with himself the one thing he actually did miss about Tower Prep was the physical activity.
He enjoyed having a place to release his energy and the tension that he built up throughout the day. He moved into a fighter’s stance as Oliver did the same and spoke. “I’m sure you know how the hand-to-hand thing work…lets go over some of the best places to incapacitate your enemy.”
He nodded as Oliver moved forward gliding his arm out into a simple arm punch. Ian could sense the direction the hit was coming from before Oliver’s had even made the first move. His hand shot out blocking the hit and the next three the older man threw his way.
He grinned at Oliver’s raised eyebrows and laughed lightly. “Preflex…it’s my ability…but you knew that.” He nodded, a hint of humor in his voice. “I did…okay I’m going to come at you in an attack, block me to the best of your ability and counter attack me.”
Ian nodded as Oliver glided forward gracefully throwing a series of punches his way. Ian blocked the arm punch, backfist punch, two chambered punches and a cross punch before getting clipped by a jab punch. He grunted and took a step back to reevaluate the situation.
His mind was reeling at the quickness of Oliver’s pace and for a minute he was wondering if maybe the older man had a unique ability of his own. He sent a roundhouse kick knocking into Oliver’s side and he countered with front kick to the gut.
Ian stumbled back slightly, but stood his ground a light sheen of sweat beading on his forehead as he once again moved forward arms, wrists and hands slamming against each other as he blocked the constant hits from the taller man.
Oliver grunted again when Ian clipped his shoulder and he assessed his own reaction time as he swiveled out of the way of a kick before delivering his own that sent the teenager back several steps. The kid was good…possibly even better than good.
Whatever they were teaching him at that school it was working. Oliver could feel the sweat building on his body and as he stared forward watching Ian’s moves with a calculated eye so as not to be caught off guard, the thought that they must make quite the picture almost made him laugh.
They were dressed identically, but in opposite colors. While he was sporting black sweats and a black tank top Ian was all in white. It reminded him of one of the scenes from that GI Joe movie he’d seen with Chloe, Lois and Clark. He shook his head, voice slightly winded as he spoke while they circled each other.
“The best way to incapacitate your attacker without exhausting them to death which can also be a risk to you, is to find their weak spots. Study their movements, see where they falter or what on themselves they seem to protect the most.”
Ian nodded. He’d been doing that, but had yet to find the kink in Oliver’s armor, though he was sure there was one because everyone had it. Some were just better at hiding it then others. Oliver once again moved forward engaging Ian and blocking several hits the teenager sent his way.
Five minutes later they were each gleaming with sweat and Ian was starting to get tired. He didn’t think he’d ever trained this long at one time. Oliver might even be a better fighter than Coach, which was definitely saying something about how long he’d been doing this.
The older man’s voice brought him from his thoughts. “If you can’t find their weakness, focus on the head. Any blows to the nose, jaw, eyes and ears will likely take a minute or two of recuperation leaving it open for you to attack them further in that small window of time.”
Ian nodded but before he could deliver another blow he heard the door open causing him to turn his head and the minute he saw Mia he lost his focus. There was a thwack, a loud grunt and then a bam as Ian’s body hit the floor of the mat.
He groaned his head turning back to Oliver who was giving him a reprimanding look. He opened his mouth but before he could say anything Ian waved him off. “I know I know…keep your eyes on the enemy at all times. Sorry.”
Mia grinned as he pushed himself into a sitting position and Oliver offered him a hand. He took it and let the older man pull him to his feet. “You okay?” Ian nodded. “I’m good.” Oliver glanced over at Mia and took note of her work-out clothes.
He grinned and rocked back and forth on his heels. “Did you come here to spar with me my dear protégé?” Mia bit her lip and glanced between Oliver and Ian, voice light. “Actually I sort of came by to see if Ian wanted to spar a little.”
It had been three days since Ian had found out about his parent’s death and ever since then they’d gotten even closer than before. They’d spent the last few nights lying in bed together as he relived stores from his childhood, opening up to her and in exchange she had done the same.
He was the first person aside from Oliver that she had told about how her parents abandoned her. How she’d been pulled into the system and went through a rash of horrible foster parents and eventually ran away. She had told him Oliver found her on the streets, but left out the part about what she had been doing there, not wanting him to see her differently for her past mistakes.
The level of emotional things they’d talked about the past few nights under the cloak of darkness hadn’t gone unnoticed by her, but somehow in the dark of the night sharing those intimate details, things no one but Oliver and possibly Chloe knew about her…was okay…and slightly freeing.
Amusement settled on Ian’s face as he grinned at Mia and Oliver frowned and spoke, arms crossing and resting gently against his chest. “I’m feeling kind of cheap.” She rolled her eyes as she walked further into the room Ian’s gaze following her. “Don’t be so melodramatic.”
Oliver pouted and Ian arched an eyebrow. “You want to spar with me? You?” He chuckled and Oliver glanced between them as humor lit up his eyes while he pointed to Ian. “Did you not tell him?” Mia smirked and shrugged as she unzipped her sweater and tossed it aside moving in their direction in tight black yoga pants and a yellow sports bra.
She stepped onto the mat with them and spoke. “I might have forgotten to mention it.” Ian gulped as his eyes traveled from her head to her toes. He was used to seeing her in more clothes…not clothes that were so…formfitting and hormone inducing.
Oliver slapped the back of his head lightly and Ian snapped out of his thoughts, his gaze flying to the older man. He glared at the teenager giving him a look that clearly said ‘touch her and I’ll shoot you with an arrow.’ He cleared his throat focusing back on the conversation and spoke.
“Forgot to tell me what?” A slow predatory grin slid onto Mia’s face. “That I used to cage fight when I lived on the streets…it’s how I made money.” Oliver noticed she left out how else she used to make money and he wondered if Ian knew about her past or if she’d kept it from him on purpose.
Ian arched an eyebrow. “Are you serious?” She nodded and Oliver saw a spark of something in his eyes before his face lit up with a large grin and he motioned to the middle of the mat. “Well then…let’s go. Bring it on Barbie.”
Oliver stepped off the mat as Mia tilted her head to the side and dropped into a fighter’s stance. “I know you didn’t just call me Barbie, Archer…are you trying to get your ass beat by a girl?” Ian circled her slowly and Oliver watched as the two teenagers fell into an obviously familiar routine of bantering with each other.
He eyed Mia with amused eyes as he got into a fighter’s stance as well. “You think you can beat me?” He shook his head a smile tugging at the corner of his lips. “I think you can try…but I wouldn’t get your hopes up.” Mia inclined her head eyes studying him carefully, voice low. “We’ll see.”
She stepped forward, movement’s quick throwing her right arm out, fist seconds away from Ian’s head, when his arm came up quickly intercepting the punch and sending one back in her direction. She ducked, other arm thrusting out with a quick jab to his gut causing him to grunt and move back.
Mia grinned, her tongue darting out and running over her top lip as Ian eyed her completely entranced by the changes in her and the movements of her body. So much so that her next hit nearly clipped his jaw before he stepped back and sent a roundhouse kick her way.
Mia threw both hands up, his leg hitting her open palms as she blocked the kick and lifted her knee before kicking out towards him connecting with his chest. He stumbled, but didn’t lose his footing. Her eyes squinted slightly as she stepped forward picking the pace up a notch and throwing several quick front jab punches his way.
She knew he was holding back she’d seen him take on grown men and gnomes…there was no way he could be losing to her unless he wasn’t giving it his all. Ian blocked all of her hits and pulled back before crouching as she sent another kick his way.
His heart was pounding, breathing coming quick and he wasn’t sure if it was from all the training or if it was seeing this side of her. Ian had always been attracted to Mia, since the first day he met her at Tower Prep, but this…what he was feeling it was something different. Something much more intense.
Oliver crossed his arms over his chest as he watched them go at it fists flying, bodies ducking, legs kicking. His eyes rapidly moved between the two teenagers as another one of Mia’s kicks knocked Ian in the stomach.
He watched as the resistance broke on the young man’s face and he propelled forward hands jutting out with perfect technique quicker than anything Oliver had ever seen. Mia blocked his hits, but Oliver could see the effort it took for her not to fall behind on his swift movements.
And then it was over. Ian sent one final kick to her knocking her on her back as he pinned her to the ground with his body. If Oliver blinked he would have missed it. Ian grinned down at Mia, voice winded as he spoke. “You were saying?”
Mia’s breathing was heavy, face flushed, hair tussled as she gazed up at him eye lashes fluttering slightly. She could feel his body pressing her into the mat as he held her down, her heart beating frantically against her chest. She arched her body slightly, pushing her cleavage up against her sports bra and Ian’s eyes were drawn to the creamy sweat slicked flesh. He licked his lips eyes darkening slightly as the world around him tilted and he grunted head slamming against the mat hard.
He frowned confusion settling on his features as he now glanced up at Mia. What the hell had just happened? Mia looked down, body straddling his waist, palms flat against the ground above his head, smirk on her lips. “Never lose focus Mr. Archer.” She was no stranger to using her body to her advantage and she’d seen the way his eyes had roamed over her when she first took her jacket off.
He shook his head and smiled slightly. “Well it’s not every day I have a gorgeous brunette beneath me…we’ll just have to practice more so next time it’s not as surprising.” She snorted and rolled her eyes good naturedly. “I’ll be ready for you next time.” He tilted his head to the side amusement in his eyes.
“Mmm I’m sure.” His hands had just gripped her hips when Oliver cleared his throat and their heads whipped around to face him. He arched an eyebrow as he spoke voice stern. “Practice is over…let’s go…up…Ian I want you to hit the showers…and Mia you need to practice your roundhouse kick. It’s looking a little weak on the left.”
Ian’s hands dropped from her hips as she stood and nodded. “Got it.” She moved over towards the combat dummies glancing briefly over her shoulder, shooting Ian a smile before getting into a fighter’s stance and starting in on a set of roundhouse kicks.
Ian pushed himself off the floor as he walked over towards Oliver while rubbing the back of his neck, voice hesitant. “No more training today?” The older man shook his head. “Not this kind. After the shower I want to go over a little bit more about our team with you.”
Ian nodded. “Okay…” he pointed towards the back of the room. “Showers are over there?” Oliver nodded and Ian gave him a small smile before walking the short distance from the floor to the back of the room his head craning slightly to watch Mia for a minute before disappearing down the small hallway.
Oliver turned his gaze back to Mia. With the way these two were looking at each other he was going to have to put them in opposite corners of the house. He sighed, sometimes he really hated being the authority figure for an 18-year-old girl.
Chloe lifted the glass of ice tea to her lips and she nodded her head in Lois’s direction as she continued to ramble on about her upcoming wedding plans. They’d met for lunch a little over an hour ago and as much as she loved her cousin, her head was close to exploding from the excess amount of changes that had been added to the already muddled wedding plans.
She sighed. She had begged Lois to hire a wedding planner or to at least let her help, but no. Her cousin was nothing if not stubborn and she had said from the beginning that this was going to be her only wedding and she wanted to handle every step of the planning herself.
She put down the drink and cleared her throat efficiently cutting off her cousin’s words. “Lo’ stop…take a breath.” She blinked and Chloe smiled pointing at the book on the table between them. “What exactly was wrong with the red dresses you picked out? I thought Dinah, Courtney and I were going for our fitting this week.”
Lois rolled her eyes. “I decided I didn’t like them anymore. I mean really red? What was I thinking? How do you feel about pebble beach?” Chloe groaned and Lois frowned. “You better not be groaning…this is my special day Chlo…I want it to be perfect.”
The serious look on her face made Chloe chuckle. She reached a hand out placing her palm over Lois’s. “Lo’ no matter what color the dresses are, or what kind of flowers you have the day will be perfect regardless. You’ve got Clark which basically means you have the hardest part taken care of. Everything else will fall into place if you stop second guessing yourself.”
Lois bit her bottom lip uncertainty filling her face as she stared at Chloe. For some reason these past two weeks she’d been more nervous about making sure everything was perfect even though she knew with their lives, there was a huge chance that would never happen.
When Lois didn’t respond right away Chloe squeezed her hand and tilted her head to the side, concern coloring her features. “What’s really going on here Lois…the last minute changes in dresses and flowers and talk of moving the venue…”
She pursed her lips and when Chloe arched a brow she let out a long breath shoulders deflating. “I just…I want everything to be perfect. This is my chance to prove to myself that I can handle this…” she motioned around them as she continued speaking. “That I can handle the whole superhero thing, be the awesome career woman that I am…and be a…wife.”
Chloe was torn between amusement at Lois’s wince at the word wife and sympathy at the fact that her cousin felt like she had something to prove. She met her cousin’s eyes, expression comforting, voice soft as she spoke. “Lois I want you to listen up because I’m only going to say this once got it?”
She nodded and Chloe continued speaking. “Clark chose you. You don’t have anything to prove to him or anyone else. If he didn’t think you could handle who he was, then he would’ve never proposed. You’re it for him and he knows that…now you just need to believe it. There aren’t any two people more perfect for each other…so stop second guessing yourself and go with the original plans because that’s how you wanted the wedding and like you said you’re only getting married once. Clark will love anything that makes you happy.”
Lois’s eyes glistened with unshed tears as she leaned over the table and pulled Chloe into a tight hug. “Thanks cuz.” When she pulled back she discretely wiped her eyes before settling back into her chair and clearing her throat. “So we should probably order food…”
Chloe laughed at Lois’s ability to change the subject and nodded right as her phone beeped with a message. Lois watched as Chloe fiddled with her phone and while her cousin’s attention was on the object in her hands Lois’s thoughts drifted to her words, her mind remembering the night Clark had proposed a few months back.
It was late and Lois had just spent the last three hours scouring Metropolis for a dirty senator. In the end her hard work had paid off, but still hiding around in dark ally’s was never fun. She made her way up the last set of stairs towards the room and sighed.
She didn’t know why in the world she had to trek up tons of stairs to meet Clark. She was slightly pissed that he’d ditched her earlier in the day leaving her to finish their story alone, but then again if it was Superman business, which it usually was it’s not like she could fault him.
She stepped off the last stair and pushed the metal roof door open and as she stepped onto the cement ground she spoke. “Alright Smallville I’m up here. You better have a good reason for makin’ me climb an absurd amount of steps after the long day that I’ve….”
She stopped in her tracks when she noticed the table set up on the middle of the roof. There was a white cloth over it, place settings for two complete with two candles that were already lit, making the table glow slightly with their light.
Lois gasped slightly and when she blinked Clark was standing in front of her a single red rose in his hand. Her face softened and he grinned. “Thanks for meeting me up here…” He handed her the rose which she took before placing a quick kiss on his lips.
Clark placed a hand on her back guiding her towards the table as she spoke. “What’s all this?” He pulled out her chair for her before heading around to his own seat and smiling. “This is a romantic dinner for two…you’ve been working really hard lately and I know you have to do a lot of it on your own and I’m sorry about that…but I wanted you to know how much I appreciate you covering for me.”
She grinned, “You’re welcome…” He poured them some wine and she could see him fidgeting slightly as he took a sip, licked his lips and met her eyes. “Lois…I want you to know that even though I didn’t realize it at first I think maybe a part of me always knew that we’d end up here.”
Clark took her hand in his as he spoke. “I’ve never met anyone like you…you’re one of a kind. You continue to surprise me every day and I’m so glad that when I shared my secret with you, you not only accepted me, but encouraged me to take my abilities to the next level.”
He swallowed hard, Lois’s eyes glistening in the moonlight and he took a deep breath releasing one of her hands and reaching into his pocket pulling out a small black velvet box. Lois’s mouth dropped open as he slid the box onto the table in front of her and popped it open.
“I’ve never loved anyone the way I love you Lois…and if you let me I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to make you as happy as you make me…will you marry me?”
A large grin broke out on her face as elation swirled through her body. She didn’t need to think about it, she didn’t even hesitate before giving him an answer. This was exactly what she wanted. When Lois looked into her future…the only man she saw by her side was Clark. “Yes.”
His face lit up as he pulled the ring out of the box and slid it on her finger before leaning over the table slightly making sure to avoid the candles and kissing her.
A warm hand on her arm snapped her out of her thoughts and she blinked glancing at Chloe in front of her. Her cousin arched an eyebrow amusement on her face. “Where’d you go there Alice…it looked like you fell down the rabbit hole for a minute.”
She chuckled and shook her head. “Sorry cuz…just thinking, but seriously it’s time to stop that cause I’m starving…let’s grab some grub before you leave me to go meet up with the billionaire boy wonder.” Chloe chuckled and shook her head sometimes Lois was just so…Lois.
Mia took a deep breath before pushing the doors to Watchtower open. After sparing with Oliver for a little bit and then hitting the showers she had left Ian with Oliver so he could finish explaining about the team while she went to go speak with Bart.
She caught sight of Victor who waved as she made her way into the room with a small smile. “Hey Vic…” She glanced around quickly not seeing Bart and frowned. “Is Bart here?” He nodded and pointed towards the kitchen. “Yeah, he just went to get a drink.”
She nodded and turned heading in the direction of the kitchen. She hadn’t seen him since the day he’d helped pull them from Tower Prep and she knew despite how hard she tried it was going to be awkward between them for a while.
Before she could enter the kitchen she spotted him walking out, a can of soda in hand. He paused when he saw her, lips pursing. He gave her a nod of acknowledgment and spoke. “Hi.” She fiddled with the keys that were in her hands and spoke softly. “Hey.”
He arched an eyebrow keeping his face completely neutral as he walked around her towards the couch. “You said you wanted to talk?” She swallowed heavily and nodded as she followed him. “Yeah…Bart I…I don’t even know what to say.”
She sat beside him, but left a good amount of room between them. “I never meant to hurt you and before you say anything I know that doesn’t change the fact that I did. The only thing that happened between Ian and I while I was gone…is a kiss. One kiss.”
She licked her lips to moisten them and when he said nothing she continued talking. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I don’t feel anything for him, because that would be a lie and it wouldn’t be very fair to you. I didn’t mean for this to happen…”
Bart finally looked at her, eyes hard as he spoke. “Didn’t mean for what to happen?” She frowned and shrugged. “To care about someone who wasn’t you. You have to know how happy you’ve made me…and how much I enjoyed our relationship…”
Bart let out a slightly bitter laugh and leaned back on the couch. “I like how that’s past tense…Mia I don’t need some long drawn out apology. You don’t want me anymore fine. At least have the guts to come out and say it. Have the guts to tell me that you fell for some other guy…cause as far as I’m concerned…this thing between us…it obviously never meant as much to you as it did to me.”
She felt her heart clench as she shook her head. “That’s not true…it meant so much to me Bart…you were the first person to look at me and really see me…see the person I was and everything I’ve been through and still be there afterwards. You have no idea how much that means.”
He studied her face, his expression angry, voice slightly more harsh then he intended. “Then why Mia? What, was I not good enough? Did I not treat you right? Or the bigger question for you is once he finds out who you really are will he look past everything and still stay with you…cause you know I’m not so sure.”
Victor stood by the computers and shook his head at Bart’s words. He knew how much the younger man cared about Mia, but throwing her past in her face was wrong. They all had a past that they weren’t proud of, but they weren’t those people anymore.
Tears pooled in her eyes as she pursed her lips and nodded. “I get it…you’re angry…I hurt you so you want to hurt me back…well mission accomplished.” She stood up visibly upset as she tried to hold her tears back. “Don’t you think I know that he’s too good for me? That he’d probably never understand the life I’ve lived? But I’m not the same girl I was before and I thought you of all people knew that…”
She shook her head. “I want us to be friends…it’s how we started out and it’s obvious you can’t do that right now and I get it…this is my fault I accept that, but throwing my past in my face…that’s something I’d never do to you.” Mia turned on her heal not bothering to say goodbye to Victor before making her way out the doors and slamming them behind her.
Bart winced as the noise echoed through Watchtower before leaning forward and putting his head in his hands. He shouldn’t have said that. It was wrong and she was right. He’d wanted to hurt her. He let out a sigh and when he glanced up Victor was giving him a look of disappointment.
“What?” Victor shook his head and pressed a few keys on the keyboard as he spoke. “That was messed up. You know how insecure she is about her past and what you said was malicious.” Bart glared at the older man and stood arms crossing over his chest.
“She hurt me!” Victor looked away from the computer and arched an eyebrow at him. “She hurt you or she hurt your ego?” Bart frowned. “What are you talking about?” Victor eyed him carefully. “I saw you Bart.”
Confusion settled on the younger man’s face as his brows furrowed. “You saw me what?” He glared at the younger man. “I saw you here that night with Courtney…not long after she came back from college hunting or whatever she was doing. I forgot something at Watchtower and I came back to get it.”
Bart swallowed hard his face paling slightly as Victor continued speaking. “It’s messed up…and you know it. You can’t have one set of rules for yourself and another for her. You own her an apology man…I’m not going to say anything cause I don’t want Oliver to kill you…but seriously if I were you I’d tell her and make-up your mind or a lot of people are going to wind up getting hurt.”
Bart gave Victor a curt nod before turning away from him. He remembered that night vividly, but he had stopped it before anything went too far. And if he was being honest with himself…he felt something when he was with Courtney that he’d never felt with Mia. He sighed, Victor was right…he needed to do the right thing. He needed to tell her…and he would…eventually.
Chapter Six: The Informant in The Teacher