Lex Luthor sat in the light of a single small desk lamp. The curtains of his office were pulled shut, the door was closed, his shadow loomed large behind him. He sat in silence, twisting the ring he wore on his left hand. The the facets of the eerily luminescent stone winked and flashed, casting sparks of green light across Lex's face and the cold, hard expression he wore.
Finally there was a soft knock on his door, and a woman entered. She clasped her hands before her, and stood very still, unspeaking.
One more twist of the ring, and her employer nodded in her direction, acknowledging her presence. "And?" he asked quietly.
"Superman took the bait Mr. Luthor. We're waiting for your instructions."
Lex paused. He'd been dreaming of this moment for a very long time. He savored it, tasting the triumph he knew this time would be his. A small smile crept over his face.
He woke from dark dreams. In them he was bound and screaming, writhing in a pain so intense, so vibrant, it filled his mind with nothing but a blinding white light. It was different from the pain of Kryptonite exposure. It was sharper, hit him harder, than the "bends"-like cramping he normally associated with the deadly poison. A spiked hammer, it hit him again, and again and again.
The voice was soft, somewhat familiar, somewhat mocking in tone. Clark moaned and there was a chuckle.
"Lost? Confused? I imagine so, given what you've been through in the past forty-eight hours." The voice hardened, and bit deep. "Wake up. You're not that damaged, not yet anyway."
He was lying on his side, still bound. There was a pounding ache in his temples and his tongue felt swollen. Nausea knotted up his stomach. His awareness returned only slowly, beginning with the fact that he was cold; his feet were bare and his clothes were gone. He wore thin cotton pajamas and his arms were strapped down tight. He was unable to move. Had it not been a dream?
A stark, white room, its walls thickly padded, was revealed to him when he opened his eyes. His mind struggled to make any sort of connection for him. How had he gotten here? Who was holding him against his will? He couldn't remember.
"Dreams," he grated. His voice was hoarse, raw and ruined from screaming. It startled him. With much effort he rolled into a seated position, closing his eyes as the room tilted and spun. "Dreaming."
"I can assure you, you're not."
Clark moaned again. He felt sick, like he was going to throw up, but his stomach was empty. His mind was not clearing.Where was he? His head lolled. He fell heavily against the side wall, leaning his shoulder into the padding and resting his cheek on its vinyl covering. It was cool. It made him shiver. Before him was a barred wall, also padded for his protection.
From what? Myself? What's going on?
It was dark in the hallway, save for the pale blue glow of a night light in an outlet directly across from the door, and the brighter light streaming from Clark's cell. It was a cell. It wasn't a room, no room was so bare. And he was bound. He looked down at himself and saw the criss-crossing straps of a strait jacket.
"Where am I?" he croaked, and struggled, feebly. His strength was gone.
"Belle Reve." The voice was chiding. "You remember Belle Reve, don't you?"
The affirmative came as a choking cry, both of fear, and the pain of things he did remember. Those memories made his chest hurt, among other hurts. His eyes watered as he raised his head. With the greatest effort he focused them, finding himself no longer able to penetrate solid steel, nor set the world aflame. His vision blurred. He saw movement within the shadows beyond the touch of either light source, and finally a man stepped out of the darkness.
Clark's breath caught. He felt his chest tighten as he struggled to keep breathing, while he shook his head in denial and his mind searched for answers that stubbornly would not come. His thoughts were muddy as if he was still dreaming. He didn't realize he was speaking until he heard the rasp of his voice.
A small, vicious smile graced the full lips. "Kal. Kal-el. It has a nice ring to it." Large, strong hands grasped the bars of the cell as if he would tear them down. He didn't, but instead stood with his face close to them, so that Clark could see him more clearly. "Poor Clark. You must think you're hallucinating. Maybe you are. You're locked up in the nut house after all."
Swallowing heavily, Clark closed his eyes tightly. "You aren't real. You can't be real."
"Oh, I'm very real."
Kal grinned. "Does it matter? I don't think it matters, do you? What's done is done. Now I'm out here, and you're in there."
"And I can make sure you never see the light of day again."
Clark pushed himself to his feet, bracing himself against the wall as the dizziness threatened to overwhelm him again. "My parents...."
"They're not going to help you. In fact, they probably think it would be better for you to stay locked up in here." Clark's own face twisted into a mock expression of sympathy. "You went out of your head, ranting about aliens and super powers. Tried to jump off the Luthor Corp. tower, tried to fly." The hazel eyes narrowed, glinted with a spark of red. Clark thought he saw the flicker of flames in them. "Men can't fly, Clark, and that's what you are. Just a man." Kal's voice lowered ominously. "I have it all. All your speed, all your strength, all your alien abilities."
"NO!" Clark lunged at the bars, enraged. "You're lying! You're not even real! You're just in my head!" His voice cracked with sobs. "You're not real."
"Really," Kal drawled, moving back a pace from the bars. "If that's the case, you belong in here." He smiled broadly. "Don't you remember when they brought you here?" The smile faded abruptly. "When they strapped you down and shocked the fuck out of you? Drugged you until you couldn't eat, drink or piss on your own and lay there mewling in your own crap until they came and changed you?"
"Augh!!" Clark threw himself at the bars, ramming his shoulder against the padding. "You can't do this! Let me out!"
A hand shot out and long, steely fingers dug into Clark's face, stopping him short as he made one last charge at the barrier. They lifted him easily from the floor and left his bare feet dangling. His heart raced as he was drawn up inches from the face he had looked at in the mirror all his life. He saw the truth in his own eyes, and heard it confirmed.
"I can do this," Kal hissed. "And I will."
Clark dropped to the floor. Unable to stop himself, he hit it hard, and fell forward, smacking his cheek on the linoleum. The sound was bright and sharp. The pain left him stunned.
There was a rush of air and Clark didn't bother to look. He knew Kal was gone.
He rocked back and forth in his chair, his knees drawn up against his chest. They didn't trust him enough to take him out of his cell, even though he was heavily drugged and still bound in the strait jacket. They asked him stupid questions and he gave them the truth. Someone had once told him that he should tell the truth so he did, but they didn't seem to want to believe him.
"My name is Clark Kent. I'm not human."
The doctor sighed. "Why do you think that?"
"Check my blood."
"We did. You're very much human."
Clark rocked a little faster. His lower lip trembled. "I want to see my mother."
"Your mother is dead."
"She's not!" Clark turned his head to fix the doctor with a steady stare. "I want my mother!! Martha Kent. You bring her to me!"
A large orderly had stepped forward at Clark's outburst, but the doctor waved him off. He was a thin man, Clark's psychiatrist, with a balding head and thick, dark glasses perched on the end of his nose. His white coat had a spot of indigo on it, where his pen had leaked. He slouched.
"She doesn't want to see you like this," the doctor soothed. "Let me help you get better, and then you can see her. Then you can see anyone you like. You can go home."
"You can't help me. I need to find Kal. We have to be together again. Don't you understand? We're two halves of a whole. I don't know how he did this to me, but we have to stop him!" Clark moaned, closing his eyes as the pain of a headache squeezed his temples. "Please...."
"Kal is the alien? From Mars."
Infuriated, Clark rose from the chair. "I've already told you all this! Why are you asking me again?! I'm telling you the truth! Every word is the truth! I'm not human! Neither is he, and he'll destroy you all! He's not like me, he....no!!"
He whirled, eluding the grasp of the orderly. A second appeared.
"This is useless." The doctor closed his notebook.
"NO!" Clark fought. He twisted, arcing his back as the orderlies grabbed him and forced him down to the floor, wedging his face hard against the wall to expose his neck. "Damnit....listen to me! You've got to listen to me! Please!!! NO....ow....God...PLEASE!"
His voice rose high above the shouting of the orderlies, breaking as he pleaded with them as he had numerous times before. Again they forced him down and drugged him, just like before, until he lay shuddering and sobbing in one corner while the doctor handed down his sentence.
"We'll have another round of the shock treatments, and up his meds."
"Nobody misses you," Kal said.
"Leave me alone."
"I had a little chat with Lana the other day. She's doing well."
Clark opened his eyes. Kal was inside the cell again, crouched before Clark where he lay slumped in one corner. He was beautiful, Clark realized. I was beautiful, once. Maybe I did have a chance with Lana, once upon a time.
Not now. Maybe never. She'd gone to Paris, according to Kal. He planned on making it a big deal when she got back, show her a secret or two, whisk her off into the clouds like "Joe" had done for Louise so long ago. Kal had learned how to fly.
"You stay away from her," Clark murmured. Tears ran down his face. He was unable to wipe them away. Kal did it for him, mocking him with the gentleness of his touch.
"Poor Clark. You should have made a move when you had the chance." Kal laughed. "Before you went crazy."
"I'm not crazy," he whispered. "I'm not."
"Several highly paid, highly educated psychiatrists beg to differ."
Clark licked his lips. The drugs made him thirsty. It would be hours before anyone brought him anything to drink. They kept him slightly dehydrated. It cut down on the need to help him to the bathroom. If anything, the orderlies were lazy, mean too. He had a few bruises to prove it.
"Leave her alone, leave me alone." Clark moaned, and drew himself closer to the corner, away from Kal's gaze, h is touch, and his mockery.
"Heard you had another round of the shock treatments. I managed to watch a couple of times. Oh, don't worry, they didn't see me." Kal eased forward, sat down beside Clark and put one arm around Clark's shoulders. "Lit you up like a Christmas tree and had you jumping like a jumping jack."
"Don't touch me!" With a shudder, Clark closed his eyes and buried his face in his knees. Kal only moved closer, his touch intimate, soothing, like that of a brother, or a lover.
"What were you screaming? Oh, yes. I remember. You were calling for Lex. How ironic." The grip of Kal's hand on Clark's shoulder tightened. He cried out in pain. "Since you put him in the same place not quite a year ago."
Kal's fingers dug a little deeper, twisted a little harder. Clark gasped. "I tried."
"Tried what? To save him? Maybe if you'd acted a little quicker, told a little more of the truth....." Kal's voice flickered back from a cold growl, back to his softer, more soothing tone. "But that doesn't matter anymore, does it? Lex and I are closer than we've ever been before, thanks to you. You should be happy for him, Clark. He's living a good life now, the life he's always wanted."
Clark choked out a sob. Kal let him go.
Another day. The same questions. The same answers. The same results.
What is your name?
Where are you from?
"Krypton. It's gone, destroyed. I'm the only one left."
You mean you're not human?
"No. I have - abilities. I'm stronger, and faster. I have heat vision, X-Ray vision."
(Laughter)Can you fly?
"I don't know. I haven't tried. Kal says he can."
Kal? Who is Kal?
"He's me, only....he's my dark side. Somehow, I don't know how, he's gotten free of me. He's real, flesh and blood now. I don't know how it happened. He looks like me. He's been here. You have to believe me. He's dangerous. He can hurt people."
There's no one here. No one who looks like you, except you.
"He doesn't let anyone else see him. Just me. But sometimes, sometimes he visits Lex."
"Yes. He said so. Oh, God. That's it! Talk to Lex. Lex will tell you everything! He'll come here and when he sees me he'll know the truth!! Please! Let me talk to Lex."
I'd like to talk to Lex myself. Will you let me?
"Of course! You'll bring him here?"
He's already here. Why don't you let me talk to him.
"Where is he?"
Right here. With us.
No. I'm not.
"LIAR!!! Son of a bitch, where is he? What have you done to him?"
Clark rocked. It was soothing. It eased the pain pounding in his temples, and twisting up his guts. He sang a little too, a tune from an artist whose name he could not remember. His voice was barely audible. His thoughts were a writhing maelstrom of confusion. He no longer knew who he was, or had been. He was starting not to care anymore.
"I'm glad you're finally starting to come around." Kal said quietly. He stood with his arms crossed over his chest, his eyes following Clark's rocking motion. His handsome face bore an expression of amusement. "Catatonia was boring. I had no one to talk to."
"To torture," Clark muttered. He stopped rocking, and looked up. "Isn't that what you mean?"
"You look horrible. They should back off the shock treatments. I don't think they're working anyway...."
"What do you want?!?" Clark squeezed his eyes shut, tossed his head back and forth as if Kal were a hallucination he could make go away. "God! Just....what?!?!"
Kal chuckled. "I just want to share some good news.You came home today. Your mother was happy to see you. Lana comes in tonight, and you're planning something special. This time you won't stand her up."
"I hate you!"
"I'm aware of that." Crouching, Kal grasped Clark's chin, forcing him to look into his eyes. "But what good does it do you? Huh? It's been disgustingly easy to become you. Nobody gave it a second thought when you came back after such a long absence. Apparently your little disappearing acts are common."
"They promised me I could talk to Lex," Clark whispered. "They promised."
"They're liars, Clark," Kal laughed, and let him go, standing up once more. "They only tell you what you want to hear."
"Lex knows the truth."
"Yes he does."
"He'll stop you."
"I doubt it. You see, Clark. He really doesn't need you anymore."
Slowly, Clark raised his head. "Then I'll stop you. I swear. I'll stop you."
Kal laughed. In a swift movement, much too fast for Clark to follow, he'd grabbed Clark by the collar and thrust him hard against the bars of the cell. "I'd like to see you try."
"Dr. Katz is running late," the man said. "You sit here and wait."
Clark stumbled as he was shoved toward the room's only chair. He caught himself awkwardly, unaccustomed to using his hands after weeks (months?) in a strait jacket. They'd changed his meds again, this time after a period of good behavior on his part. Basically, he'd stopped talking, stopped letting them upset him, and became a docile little sheep. His tactics changed. He'd tell them what they wanted to hear, and then maybe they'd let him go. Then what would Kal do, when Clark showed up to reclaim his life....
With a chunk of Kryptonite in his hand.
He sat down, flexing his fingers, stretching his arms. They ached from being bound for so long. It was his first day of freedom. Blinking, he rubbed at his eyes. It felt good. The grittiness was gone. His mind was clearer, save for short periods of time when he tried to access the memories he was missing, when the confusion would overcome him again. He stopped trying, and was left with only a mild headache.
The room was small. There was a two-way mirror directly opposite Clark's chair. Dr. Katz might have been watching him. Anyone could have been watching him. Clark didn't care. He recalled Kal's derisiveness regarding his appearance and curious, rose to get a closer look at himself.
Shards of glass lay scattered across the floor along with streaks of blood smeared like ancient heiroglyphs upon the bright white tile. He had battered the mirror to pieces, rending the folding chair into a twisted hunk of metal that no longer resembled much of anything, especially a chair. Blood streaked his face - war paint for a war nobody knew he battled except for himself and his enemy. His enemy, who stood in the doorway looking shocked and innocent while he lay writhing in the grip of two orderlies who fought to administer a sedative.
He lunged, throwing off the two who held him down. His voice was a low growl as he attacked the man who had tormented him for months. He grabbed double fists of crisp cotton jacket, and left bloody streaks down the lapels. "What have you done to me?"
"Nothing," Kal whispered, and then smiled gently. "Lex."
There was a brief moment of silence, very brief, for the orderlies still advanced. Clark's words failed him. His hands began to shake as the drugs and the full realization of what had been done started to take affect. The mirror had not lied to him. "No," he breathed. "No. You didn't. You can't!"
"You should have told me the truth, Clark." Lex shoved him, not hard, just enough to break his grasp and throw him back into the hands of the orderlies. "Welcome to my so-called life."
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