Verite

by Bellat


Feedback is always appreciated. Clark and Lex centric story, but no sex.


Verite by Melanie M.

Chapter 1

He kept picturing his face. The way the jaw slowly tightened and wide eyes gradually narrowed, as shock gave way to anger, and then outrage. The myriad of emotions that flickered inside those ice blue eyes, made Clark hold his breath in anticipation, dreading the final gaze Lex would level at him.

But then, Lex did something else, something worse; he turned away.

Clark had stood paralyzed with fear, staring at the receding bald head, listening to the quick, determined footsteps growing ever fainter. He just stood there, hand still gripping the handle of the knife, not sure what to do. Clark remembered clumsily picking up the shards of steel, the only remnants of the knife that lost its battle against his impenetrable skin, from the marble kitchen floor.

His hands were shaking and unshed tears burned his eyes. He always wanted Lex to know, but not like this. What dumb luck that Lex walked in just as he, caught in another panic attack about his father's condition, forgot what he was doing, and let the knife slip. He'd been concentrating on cutting plump tomatoes for a breakfast of omelets and toast to surprise Lex and thank him for letting him crash in his mansion the night before.

Clark showed up there, soaked to the bone, well after it was polite to call on a friend. Lex didn't bring up the late hour, just ushered Clark out of one of Smallville's worst summer storms and asked one of his servants to draw him a hot bath in a guest room.

Clark found Lex waiting for him in his study. He was dry and wore a t-shirt and flannel pajama bottoms that were magically waiting for him at the edge of the bed after his bath. The fire roaring in the open hearth felt so warm and comforting. A cup of hot chocolate sat on the table in front of the fireplace. He crept cautiously over to an overstuffed chair, and sank into it.

Lex came over after awhile and sat opposite him; Clark still remembered the clicking of his shoes on the stone floor. He reached behind him and picked up Clark's untouched cup and thrust it forward, imploring him to drink it, in that ridiculously calm voice of his. The voice felt like a strong embrace, and Clark, on the edge for so long, broke finally. He held his head down, terrified to look up. He cried so rarely, it shocked him as much as it seemed to shock Lex. When Lex finally spoke, his voice was low and full of concern.

"Clark? Did something happen? Clark, look at me...its ok."

And he did finally look up. Face flushed and wet with tears, he told Lex about his father, about the heart attack the night before. He'd been at the hospital all night. Lex didn't question him when he choked out how it was all his fault. He probably just thought he was being irrational and upset.

Clark wondered what he thought now.

Then there was the conversation they had when Lex showed up at his loft two days later....but Clark didn't want to think about that now. Clark turned over again in the bed, groaning in frustration into his lumpy pillow. Apparently this particular motel hadn't changed its pillows in about thirty years; Clark didn't want to think about that either. A city as big as Metropolis probably had a few hundred hotels, but Clark stopped at the first one he saw with a vacancy sign as soon as he entered the city limits. He looked around the dismal room now, regretting his decision, though he doubted he could afford much more comfort than this. He pulled at the thin gray coverlet, covering his boxer-clad body, and tried, once again to drift into a dreamless slumber.

But sleep wouldn't come.

Finally, he gave up and climbed out of bed, shrugging off the thin sheet of cotton draped over his body. He began walking around the room. It only took six normal strides to walk the length of the room, and four to go across it. Clark computed a few math equations in his head to try and keep his mind off the reason he now stood in a dingy motel room in the outskirts of Metropolis. He stopped computing and walked over toward the window, tugging it further open, careful not to pull it completely off its tracks.

Even the cool breeze that stirred the horrible floral patterned curtains---someone's idea of injecting cheer into the room he guessed--didn't penetrate the thick dank air of the room. He leaned his naked torso out the window and inhaled deeply. His sensitive nostrils picked up scents of rotting garbage, spilled whiskey, and human sweat and decaying flesh. Somehow, he promised himself, I'm finding a better place to stay tomorrow. There was nowhere else to go tonight.

Clark moved back into the room and walked over to the bed. He stood staring down at it, letting the full weight of the realization of being far away from the farm, from his family and his friends, and not knowing when he could see them again. He didn't even know if he could stay in Metropolis. Moving even further away would probably be necessary soon. The mattress groaned beneath his weight, as he sat down heavily, leaning his head forward into his palms.

He thought back again on the night Lex came to see him.

As soon as he heard the familiar gait, he fought the urge to immediately stand up and go towards the stairs. His ready smile fell as soon as he saw the expression on Lex's face--or the absence of one. There was no warmth, and almost no familiarity. Clark's felt sick when he realized that nothing had changed, that Lex was still angry, or worse. When Lex spoke, his voice was calm and calculated, as he relayed some information he thought would be useful to Clark, as if it were simply his duty.

"Lex..." Clark started.

But Lex cut him off with a simple gesture of his hand, his jaw as tense as it was that morning in the kitchen. "I thought I should warn you about what I found in my father's office. Actually, he came to see me the same evening of the...incident."

Clark closed his eyes and winced a little.

Lex continued. "Apparently after viewing the surveillance tape from one of several cameras he installed in the mansion, unbeknownst to me of course, he decided we needed to have a little chat about you."

Lex looked at him pointedly. Clark went to speak, obviously alarmed, but Lex silenced him again. He sighed then looked at Clark, like he was seeing him finally.

"My father is a dangerous man, as you know, especially when he's obsessed, and especially if he believes something of extraordinary power could be of use to him. He has an entire file on you. It seems he saw things you did when he was supposedly blind--I don't know if I ever mentioned he faked being blind long after his eyes had healed."

Lex moved toward Clark, stopping a short distance in front of him, looking him directly in the eyes, but it wasn't a friendly gesture. He reached inside of his long black coat and removed a single disc. He held it up to Clark.

"This disc contains all of the information my father has on you, including what he thinks is your weakness. I have to tell you Clark, I don't know whether to believe this is all some twisted delusions of my father's, or that it's actually true. A shattered steel blade sitting at the bottom of my kitchen waste can makes me lean towards the latter."

Clark watched Lex as he paced slowly around his loft. It killed him to see Lex like this, like the Lex everyone else saw--all business--but there was pain there, Clark could see it, and he knew no one else would have been able to. He knew what a leap of faith Lex had to take to truly be a friend to him, and now he must feel like Clark betrayed him too.

Lex finally sat down on Clark's old sofa, leaning over, holding the disk between his fingers.

Clark moved closer. "Lex...I wanted to"

Lex looked up "You wanted to tell me. I know. But I can't help thinking about all the times you looked me in the eyes and lied. Even when I asked you directly, you still lied. I was right about the car crash, wasn't I?"

Clark nodded silently.

"What exactly did you think I would do with the information if you told me the truth."

Clark became very interested in his work boots.

"I..I'm not sure Lex. I don't know if I thought anything at all...I never...You have to believe I never thought you would hurt me."

"Then why Clark?"

"I was afraid of what you'd think of me."

Clark wasn't really sure if that was the true reason, but he was confident it was part of it.

Lex seemed to weigh his response. He moved the disc deliberately through his fingers, and said nothing. Clark fought the urge to rip it out of his hands, and force him to speak to him.

He finally spoke. "Incidentally, my father hasn't seemed to be able to figure out exactly why you're the way you are."

Lex looked at him. "Care to enlighten me?"

Clark knew this was his chance to make everything right, to let Lex know he trusted him, but he stood silent.

"Clark..." Then Lex shook his head, and got up from the couch.

"Lex..."

He turned. "Yes Clark?"

"What did your father tell you?"

Lex sighed, and a small smirk played across his lips. There was something very cold about it, and Clark shivered slightly.

"Oh yes. My father wants to take you to some lab he's been building for this exact purpose, and find out what you are the only way he knows how. He's sending men tonight to subdue you. He thinks the meteor rocks make you weak. So,anyway, I suggest you leave unless you want to be a lab rat."

Clark's eyes went wide in shock, grabbing Lex by the shoulder

"You're...serious!?"

Lex shrugged out of his grip

"Very. So if you want to live, go. I'll take care of my father. I think I know where he put his lab. I'd warn your parents as well. I doubt they're any safer than you. Contact me in a week."

Lex walked down the stairs, and out of the barn, without another word, leaving Clark in a panic about what to do.

Clark slowly stood up again. Dwelling on painful things wasn't going to help now. He needed to sleep so he'd have a clear head in the morning. He just wished his parents had listened to him when he asked them to leave the farm for a while, until Lex could find a way to stop Lionel. Clark knew what his father's response would be before he even got the words out. There was no way his father would ever risk the farm being idle for even a short while; they simply couldn't afford it. Lex bailed them out once, and it wasn't the sort of favor you could expect a second time.

Still he'd feel better if he knew they were safe, but his father brought up a good point; Lionel Luthor wouldn't want attract too much attention to his strange obsession with Clark, and hurting his family would definitely raise suspicions. He hoped he was right.


Life on the edge in Metropolis wasn't bad at first. Clark managed to find a slightly cleaner but no less cheap motel the day after he arrived, after venturing out into the city a bit more, careful to stay far away from the business district. There was a small corner grocery across the street from the motel, where he managed to get enough bread, peanut butter, lunch meat, and milk he could afford weekly.

He counted his money the night he arrived, and budgeted as best he could, without knowing how long he'd have to stay there. Clark took his purchases up to the silent but pleasant enough clerk. His funds were beginning to get low, and he was getting a little worried.

He hadn't heard a word from Lex at all, and aside from calling his parents after he got settled in the motel he nicknamed *"hotel happiness"*, he hadn't spoken to them either. Clark was basically left to fend for himself in this huge, ominous city. He was no longer protected by the warmth and comfort of the farm. Here, people were simply shadows moving at hurrying paces, offering comfort to no one--at least that's how it felt to him.

Part of it had to of been the strange feeling of not knowing what was coming next. He wasn't even sure if Lex intended to keep his promise of finding out what his father was up to. He shook his head, trying not to think that Lex would simply leave him in the hands of his father.

He knew the best thing to do was to put as much distance as possible between himself and Lionel Luthor, but there remained a part of him that was still in denial about the whole mess. Besides wanting to stay close to his family, and Lex, he often convinced himself that this would all be over soon, and his life would soon return to normal.

As Clark walked back to his hotel, his chest tightened at the realization that is was all just wishful thinking.

Clark ate his dinner of two ham and cheese sandwiches and a pint of milk, while watching one of the four channels and ancient TV set. Just as he was about to settle into a slightly fuzzy episode of Friends, the cell phone Lex sent him, rang.

Of course he could only assume it was Lex that had it sent to his hotel a week ago. The man at the front desk said the person who dropped it off didn't leave a name. It couldn't have been Lex himself, Clark thought, the man definitely would have mentioned if a young, well dressed bald man had left the package.

Clark nearly tripped over the small dorm fridge grabbing for the phone. He tried to calm himself, as he felt woozy with delight at some sort of human contact.

"Hello?"

"Clark. Good, you got the phone. Look this is going to have to be quick I don't have a lot of time."

Clark forcibly calmed himself. No warmth had yet returned to Lex's voice, and there was no point in getting his hopes up for a friendly conversation.

"Its ok Lex...is it safe to talk on a cell phone?"

"I had these phones specially equipped. As far as I know, there is no way to trace the signal."

"Ok, so what have you found out?"

"Next to nothing unfortunately--whatever my father has planned he's keeping it more covert than usual. The lab isn't where I suspected it might be. I hate to say it Clark, but this is proving to be a lot more difficult than I imagined. But I have a few more leads to look into. How are you holding up?"

Clark was slightly taken aback by the interest in his well being, but he proceeded cautiously. "I'm fine. Its not home, but things could be worse."

"The eternal optimist--Oh, as far as your folks are concerned, I think my father will stay away from them for now. He obviously isn't interested in drawing any unnecessary attention."

Clark ignored the *"eternal optimist"* remark. He couldn't tell if Lex was mocking him or not. He did seem a lot less angry and cold than the last time they talked, if not completely friendly.

"That's a relief...have you seen them, I mean do they seem ok?"

"To be honest Clark, I haven't been spending much time in Smallville lately. But knowing your Dad, I'm sure they're fine. Listen I should go, I'll call you in a week."

Clark didn't like the idea of spending another week with only the television to keep him company, and tried to think of anything to keep Lex on the phone for even a few more seconds.

"Lex...I just wanted to thank you. I know, this must all seem really weird to you, but thanks for doing helping me."

He heard Lex omit a faint sigh on the other end. "Clark, despite how I'm feeling right now---well the truth is, I have no idea what I'm feeling right now, but I do know I have no intention of letting my father slice you open to see how you work."

Clark had so far managed to not think of what Lionel might do if he actually did manage to capture him. He felt a chill slide down his spine.

"Lex, do you honestly think he would do something like that?"

"My father is capable of things much worst than that." He said it simply, like it was a well worn fact.

"Anyway Clark, now I really do need to go. I'll send some cash tomorrow."

Clark felt his face flush. That's the last thing he wanted Lex to do.

"No Lex, I'm fine, honestly. In fact I was planning to get a job...of some kind"

"I don't really think that's wise. You need to keep a low profile. Unfortunately, you're not exactly inconspicuous. Besides, I don't want to run around doing all this work, just to have it all end with you starving in a hotel room. Provided you can starve..."

Clark felt some sort of resolve creeping over him.

"I don't know if I can or not."

"Ok. Then I'll talk to you in a week--oh before I forget. Chloe has been snooping around and asking too many questions. I would tell her where you are, but I thought it might be too dangerous, especially considering her track record with my father."

Clark realized he'd give anything to see Chloe right now, the loneliness was driving him crazy, but Lex was right; it was far too dangerous involve her.

"No, you're right...just tell her, I don't know, tell her whatever you want, I doubt Chloe will back off, just keep her out of it, if you can."

"Good. You'll have some cash tomorrow. Goodbye Clark."

Lex hung up without waiting for him to respond. Clark sat holding the phone to his ear for a second, before realizing how ridiculous he was being. He shut the phone off and put it back in his bag.

He walked over to the window and peered down into the street. Nightfall was just descending, and the neon lights of the shops were blinking on, one by one.

Clark leaned against the window watching people walk by, going in and out of the grocery. He noticed a man wearing a gray suit enter the grocery. The man walked in and came out in less than five minutes. Clark wondered if he'd lost his way from the business district. Then, as three weeks in a neighborhood that could easily be considered a slum had taught him--you never knew what seemingly decent people were up to.


Chapter 3

The next few days passed without incident. Clark had grown tired of sandwiches and used some of the money Lex gave him to buy a hotplate, so he could graduate to canned food and hotdogs. Twice a week, he treated himself to a full burger and fries meal and the local diner. He considered changing locations; finding another diner. It wasn't good that the waitresses greeted him with smiles of recognition as he entered each time, but it was the closest thing he had to a home, and it would be too hard to give it up; besides, people in this neighborhood minded their own business.

He glanced around the diner at the patrons. Many he saw there every time he came. Occasionally, some unfamiliar face would allow him to engage them in brief conversation. The talk was always guarded, never venturing beyond the sort of small talk you found in places where there was little hope and a lot of bitterness, however resigned and almost cheerful people seemed to be about their circumstances. There stood some unwritten rule not to ask any personal questions.

Everyone had a past or present they wanted to hide, so Clark's reluctance to not say too much, stood out to no one, the main reason he felt almost safe there. But temptation to relieve suffering when he could was great, and he managed it in small ways when he thought attention wouldn't be drawn, but as much as it pained him, he couldn't do it too often, or people would start to talk about him.

Clark tried his best to make his meal last. The small dingy room that had become his home was nothing to rush back to. For a boy used to being so active, hours of idleness were almost torture. He recognized a few faces in the diner, but no one he knew well enough to speak to. He imagined most people were there on their lunch break. They rarely talked to each other, only the staff of the diner. Clark wished desperately someone would talk to him; anyone, even the slightly drunk guy sipping coffee at the counter. He ran a hand through his hair in frustration, a frequent habit lately.

Exhausting all ways of extending his meal, Clark finally called for his check and prepared to leave. He pulled out his money, and counted carefully, resisting the urge to see exactly how much he had left.

He smiled appreciatively at the waitress and left a ten dollar bill on the table. He glanced towards the front door and something caught his eye. A young girl shifted uneasily outside the diner window. He realized now he'd been looking at her dark purple coat outside the window during most of his meal. She looked agitated and a little scared.

Clark opened the door, hesitating, weighing his options. He wanted to make sure he wasn't just making up an excuse to go talk to her because his solitude wore heavily on him now. He stopped just outside the restaurant, pretending to look for something in his pockets. He glanced cautiously toward the girl, never lifting his head. He caught her eye briefly but she quickly looked away. There was no point in resisting anymore. She looked harmless, and he didn't think he could walk away and leave her alone on that street. Looking as casual as he could muster, he walked over to her.

"Excuse me...you seem a little lost. Is there anything I can do to help?"

The girl looked at him uneasily, obviously on the defensive-and who could blame her. Clark held her eyes and he saw her look soften a little and a slight smile formed on her lips.

"I hope I'm not making some huge mistake, but I could use a little help. But I'd like to see if my friend comes through first."

Clark stepped a little closer, keeping a comfortable distance between them.

"Is that what you're waiting for, your friend to show up?"

She nodded. She looked directly up at him now, and Clark felt an unfamiliar stir somewhere in his abdomen; her eyes were very green. He smiled and told himself to stay focused.

"Yeah...well friend would be exaggerating things a little, but I'm waiting for someone who..." She sighed, glancing down the street. "...is obviously not going to show up."

Clark waited patiently, letting her make her decision.

"Ok, I'm a kind of stranded here...I'd rather not go into details, but basically, I can't go home, and the person I was meeting said he'd help, but obviously, that's not going to happen, so I'm not really sure what to do now, and this doesn't look like the best place to just wander around."

Clark looked at her not sure what to say. Could he invite her to stay in his tiny hotel room? Somehow he didn't think even the most desperate girl would accept an invitation like that. He supposed he could offer to get her a room of her own, at least for the night. He saw her shiver slightly in her purple coat that up close looked a little thin. Obviously the temperature must be dropping, but the change of weather had no affect on him, so he usually didn't notice if it suddenly became cold.

She suddenly shook her head, pulling him away from his silent debate.

"You know, I'm not sure what I'm thinking--listen, thanks for stopping and everything, but I'll figure something out."

Clark's brows furrowed with concern. "You seem like you really could use a break right now. I know I'm a complete stranger, but if I can do anything I will."

I pushed his hands further inside his jacket pockets, unconsciously trying to appear less imposing.

"I'm not in a much better position than you, but I do have a place to stay. It's a hotel...not the best hotel in the world, but its clean. Its not too expensive, so if you didn't want to stay in my room, I'm pretty sure I can get you a room of your own."

She smiled a little, fighting to control her gratitude, determined to be firm, and find strength somewhere to refuse his offer.

"No, you're very sweet. I know I should be a little more suspicious, and maybe I'm completely wrong, but you just don't look dangerous to me...but I couldn't ask you to do that."

Clark looked down at her, "I'm sorry, but there's no way I can just walk away and pretend this didn't happen. Please let me help, I'll never get any peace if you don't." He smiled a little.

She glanced around the street. The winter sky was turning dark blue early, and the idea of walking around, trying to figure out who to call, knowing full well, there was no one, made her sick to her stomach. She didn't know if this guy-this ridiculously tall guy with the kindest face she'd ever seen was secretly a serial killer, but right now, she felt like she didn't have a lot of choices.

"Ok. I'll go to the hotel with you. I'll have a look at it anyway, and then we'll go from there. I'm Charlotte by the way...or Lotti, in a past life, people called me Lotti, so call me Charlotte."

Clark extended his hand. "I'm Clark. It's nice to meet you"

He picked up her large backpack from the sidewalk. "It's only a couple of blocks from here." She walked quickly to keep up with his long strides.


Chapter 4

"If you want, maybe we can call around and see if there's a room somewhere else..."

Clark walked into his tiny hotel room, with Charlotte in tow.

"I can't believe there's not a single room available tonight, but he said tomorrow maybe."

He didn't know quite what to do. Part of him was glad when the front desk man said there was nothing available tonight. Though he would gladly have made good on his promise to pay for her room; his dwindling funds were grateful he didn't have to--at least not tonight. Hopefully tomorrow would bring better options. Charlotte hadn't said much on the way to his upstairs. He sensed her hesitation combined with some sort of resolve to just see this through. Clark wished she could trust him, but then he knew no sensible girl would. But still, there she was, standing in the threshold. He turned and looked at her.

"Look, you can have the bed, and I can sleep in that chair, or on the floor."

Charlotte looked pointedly at the tiny lumpy armchair and then at the long expanse of Clark's legs and shook her head with a smile.

"I don't think you'll fit." She walked past him towards the window. "It's fine, really. This is great of you...I'm not really sure what I would have done tonight."

Clark put her bag next to the bed.

"Are you hungry or anything? I have a few things here, or I can run back to the diner and get you something."

She kept looking out the window. "No. I think I'll just take a shower, if you don't mind. I don't think I could eat anything anyway."

"Ok...well, the bathroom is right there."

Charlotte just nodded, grabbed her bag, and disappeared into the bathroom. Clark sank down on the edge of the bed. Now he had to wonder what he'd been thinking. He was supposed to keep a low profile, and now he'd invited some girl off the street to stay in his room because...because he was lonely.

But what threat could a young girl pose to him? He thought he knew the answer to that. Girls have certainly caused him trouble in the past. He thought of one particular girl now, and even though the promise of human companionship loomed just on the other side of the door, it took all his strength not to call her.

In fact it shocked him there had been no phone call from her yet. He was sure Chloe would have found a way to wrestle some information out of Lex by now. That was another thing. There was no sign of Lex. The only evidence that Lex hadn't completely forgotten about him was when he went to pay the hotel bill, and he was told it had been taken care of. He could only assume it was Lex.

Charlotte looked in the mirror, trying hard to recognize the girl she saw there. She hated that Clark was so nice and so damn nave. She tried to tell herself it wasn't his fault if he left himself so vulnerable, why should she feel sorry? Her own circumstances weren't exactly perfect, and she honestly felt like she had little choice in what she agreed to do. She sighed heavily, and splashed water on her face, and walked back into the room.


Clark's hand rested on a naked thigh. It felt warm, and soft beneath his long fingers, caressed the skin. He shifted a little in the bed, moaning softly as a small smile appeared on his lips.

Clark went to move closer to the thigh when he felt the bed creak with a loud groan, startling him out of his lucid dream. His eyelids flickered open, and his bleary eyes made out the shape next to him. He jumped at the realization he was definitely not alone in his bed, and it was no dream-the thigh was very real, and he quickly jerked his hand away. He could feel his face burn crimson as he realized he was only in his boxers, and having too much fun with his dream. He carefully climbed out of bed and went into the bathroom.

Charlotte must have climbed into his bed while he slept. After many protests, she insisted on sleeping in the reclining chair, stating firmly that she couldn't sleep if she knew he was contorted into some weird shape all night, while she slept comfortably. Apparently the chair wasn't as comfortable as she imagined, because there she slept, curled around her part of the blanket, sleeping peacefully.

He turned the shower on and let the water run over him as he leaned against the wall. He stayed in the shower for a long time, not sure what to do in such a tiny room with Charlotte sleeping. Finally, he gave up, dried off and quickly dressed. He decided to go and get them breakfast, though he had no idea what time it was. The sun was just starting to peak over the downtown skyscrapers, so hopefully the diner would be open.

When Clark returned, Charlotte was awake and sitting on the bed watching the fuzzy television set. She smiled sweetly at him as he handed her coffee.

"I hope you drink coffee, I got a couple of bagels too."

"Thanks Clark. I practically need a coffee IV, this is perfect. Oh, sorry about invading your space last night, I just couldn't sleep in the chair."

Clark smiled. "Oh no...I...I just didn't realize you were there."

"I didn't wake you did I?"

"No...not at all..."

Clark immediately resented his tendency to blush. He really wished Kryptonians were immune to it. Charlotte noticed and laughed a little, making him blush harder.

"Anyway, I am really sorry. Thankfully you won't have to worry about it tonight." She looked away, smile sliding off her face, pretending to be engrossed with the TV.

Clark sat next to her on the bed.

"About that, do you know what you're going to do yet?"

She shook her head not looking at him. He wasn't sure how far to push the issue, so he proceeded cautiously.

"You don't have to tell me anything, but I'd like to help if I can. Are you from here?"

She turned to look at him. His look was so earnest it made her want to cry.

"Yes, well near here anyway. I'm sorry I'm being so vague. Its just such a long story and I don't even quite believe it yet."

"It's fine. You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to. If there's anyone you need to reach, we can do that today. If not-I was getting bored talking to myself anyway."

He smiled warmly at her.

But she just shook her head. "Clark, you've been wonderful, but I can't ask you to do any more for me. Especially since I'm not sure how long it will be."

"How about we take it one day at a time? When the time comes, we'll just deal with it."

"Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I think we could both use a friend right now."


Chapter 5

When Clark awoke the next morning, Charlotte was no where to be found. He sat up quickly, panicking, thinking she may have changed her mind and run off. Adjusting his hearing a little, he could hear Charlotte's voice distinctly and it sounded upset. Not wanting to invade her privacy, he adjusted his hearing back to normal, even though it was killing him not to find out what was upsetting her. He'd learned his lesson long ago-well not so long ago-not to use his *"super"* hearing to spy on people. His father had driven that point home on many occasions.


Charlotte leaned against the wall, clutching the phone to her ear, trying not scream in frustration. She honestly didn't know what she expected. Did she honestly think men like that would let her simply change her mind? She listened to the impatient English accent tell her she would go ahead with everything as planned, and he didn't expect another phone call like this in the future, or he'd be forced to let his superior deal with her. Charlotte definitely didn't want that.

She'd dealt with his "superior" on one occasion only and that was more than enough for her. She cut off his assistant abruptly and thanked him for his time, hanging up after assuring him she would do what they agreed. She sighed heavily, steeling herself to go back into the room, and have to look Clark in the eyes again. She reasoned as hard as it was to hurt someone like him, she owed him nothing, and his life wasn't more important than her own. She had no choice. Taking a deep breath, she walked back down the hall towards the room.

Clark was in the shower when she returned. She made the bed and tried to get one of the three channels the tv could pick up if you were nice enough to it to come in. She smiled a little thinking of how cute he looked blushing hard last night, when they both decided it was best if they shared the bed. He was very clear that it was a comfort issue, and nothing else. He also insisted on wearing a t-shirt and sweatpants to sleep in, much to her dismay. She wondered if he was still a virgin or just incredibly polite-maybe both.

He emerged from the shower with wet hair and glistening skin, smiling brightly at her.

"I thought you'd made your getaway."

Charlotte laughed "No, just trying to reach my friend."

"Any luck?"

She shook her head, but didn't turn to look at him. Clark looked at her oddly, but didn't say anything.

"So, you want to go find some coffee or something?"

Charlotte got up and grabbed her coat. "Absolutely"


The day was a little warm for that time of year, so they decided to take their breakfast up to the roof of the motel. Clark was desperate for some uninterrupted sunlight, since he no longer spent time working outdoors. Charlotte was oddly quiet since the trip to Starbucks--they decided to splurge just this once--and Clark had run out of small talk.

Finally, tired of the silence, he looked at Charlotte. He wanted to know what happened to her. It bothered him greatly that she was obviously upset, and didn't seem to want his help.

"Charlotte...what happened to you? Obviously you don't have to tell me, but maybe there's something I can do."

She didn't look at him "No, there's nothing you can do."

"Well do you have a home? You had to have come from somewhere."

She looked at him finally.

"Yeah, I do have a home and its not far from here...but I can't go back...not yet anyway."

She saw the look on his face, she'd seen many times since they met just two days ago. The look of earnestness and slight confusion mixed with concern. She thought he was going to push the issue, but then his face relaxed and he simply nodded and turned back to look out over the city.

"Clark? Can I ask you something?"

He looked over at her.

"Why are you here? I can't imagine you not having someone out there who cares about you."

Clark felt his throat tighten at her last statement. Most of the time, he tried not to think about everyone back home, only two hundred miles away. But he felt that familiar ache in his chest when he thought about the farm. So used to keeping everything shrouded in secrecy, his first instinct was to simply lie. But instead, he told her as much as he felt he could.

"Someone is after me, and I'm just staying here, hiding until I can figure things out."

"Do you know why they're after you?"

He nodded. "I'd rather not say though, more for your safety."

"Did you do something to this person who's after you?"

Charlotte wanted so much to understand why someone would want to hurt him.

Clark leaned his back against the short wall. "No...I didn't do anything to him."

"Then why does he want to hurt you?"

He noticed a slight catch to her voice, but ignored it.

"I wish I knew. Part of me just wants to go find him and get it over with; just face it, but if I can't win, it would kill my family. I'm just tired of waiting around...especially here."

"Why especially here?"

He wanted to say everything that had been plaguing his mind for weeks, but he wasn't sure how to put it into words.

"It's just...scary, I don't know. Not that I'm afraid of anyone here...it's something else. I feel like I'm losing something. I've always seen mostly the good in people. But watching everyday, the things people do to each other, such small petty things...I just...it makes me start to doubt the basic decency of people, and I don't want to lose that."

He looked directly into her eyes. "Does that make any sense?"

"Yeah, yes it does. It's why I felt I could trust you. I just knew you wouldn't hurt me, because I felt like it was something you'd never even think of doing to anyone."

Clark smiled, but it was almost a cynical smile. "You'd be surprised."

Charlotte took his hand. "Clark? I'm sorry you're going to lose your innocence here."

He tried to put on a brighter smile. "Well, I'm not cynical yet...there's still hope."

Charlotte gave his hand a squeeze. "Yeah...listen. I'm getting a little chilly; do you think we can go back inside for awhile?"

When they got back to the room, Clark was shocked to see the door slightly ajar. He told Charlotte to hang back, and he approached the door cautiously. Nothing prepared him though for the sight of Lex sitting on his bed, waiting patiently, holding an envelope in his hand.

"Lex...what are you doing here?" He couldn't suppress the smile on his face; he was so relieved to see him.

"Hi Clark, I..." Lex looked past him suddenly, and then back at Clark with a look of bemused surprise. Charlotte had appeared in the doorway.

Lex looked back at Clark. "Am I interrupting something?"

"What? Oh, no...Um, this is, this is Charlotte."

It hit Clark how this must appear to Lex, and he suddenly felt very stupid. After all the trouble Lex had gone through, he had no right to jeopardize everything just because he felt lonely.

Lex stood up leaving the envelope on the bed. He extended his hand "Nice to meet you Charlotte. I don't mean to be rude, but Clark and I have some things to discuss. Do you think you could give us a minute?"

Charlotte looked unglued to say the least, but she found her voice finally. "No, of course not, I'll just be down the hall"

"Thank you."

Lex turned to Clark "Nice girl. Where'd you find her?"

"Lex, I know I shouldn't have her here, I just...honestly, I don't know what I was thinking."

"I understand Clark. You must be going stir crazy here alone all the time. I just never thought I'd see the day when you invited a girl to your hotel room." He raised his eyebrow slightly in mock amusement.

Without meaning too, Clark immediately flushed with anger. "That's not why she's here!"

Lex smirked at little at his indignation. "I don't really care Clark. What concerns me more is that she's here at all. I thought we agreed you need to keep a low profile."

"I know, but she needed some help, and I couldn't just leave her out there, she has no where to go."

"And I'm sure your intentions are honorable, but your hero complex will get you into serious trouble one day."

"I don't have a complex."

Lex just glanced at him, "Anyway. Chloe wanted me to give you this."

He handed Clark the envelope.

"Chloe? But how does she...?"

"She doesn't. But she didn't believe me when I told her I didn't know where you were, so she asked me to give that to you."

"Thanks Lex, I'm sorry about this"

"Don't be. I'm sure a teenage girl isn't going to put that much of a kink in the plan."

"There's a plan?"

"Figure of speech. I can't stay long, I just wanted to check on you, and give you that. You holding up ok?"

Lex walked the length of the room, pausing to look out the window and then turned back to Clark.

"Yeah, I'm fine. So, no word about your Father?"

"No. But I suspect he may be on to me, which I expected. I'm hoping he'll slow things down if he knows I'm watching. The only fear in that is that he may feel the need to be even more cautious."

Clark sat on the edge of the bed, feeling the full weight of everything suddenly. He said nothing. Lex stopped pacing and sat next to him. More than anything, Clark missed their friendship--any friendship. Even though Lex sitting next to him was a small gesture of comfort; it wasn't the same. Clark made sure he could control his voice before he spoke again.

"Lex...I can't stay here indefinitely. I hate this place and I miss my family. Who knows how long this will go on? I've been thinking the best thing to do is just confront your father."

Lex sighed. "Clark, I don't think you really understand what my father is capable of. I think he has every intention of killing you."

Clark looked at Lex, with a new determination in his eyes.

"I know that. But I'm willing to take that chance; besides, I'm not sure this is better."

Lex nodded slowly "You realize what you're saying?"

"Yes, I think I do."

"Well..." Lex stood up again, picking up his jacket off the chair.

"I don't think you do. But I understand. Clark, just give me another week, and if I can't figure out a way out of this, take the matter into your own hands."

Clark stood up. "Ok, I guess I can hold out for another week."

Lex gave his shoulder a firm squeeze "Good. Don't do anything until you hear from me."

"I promise...oh Lex? Could you tell my parents you saw me, and that...and that I'm ok?"

Lex smiled only slightly. "I always do Clark. Oh and be careful of the girl. I know she seems harmless, but you can't afford to take anything for granted. I'll see you soon."

Clark sat down again after he left. He never felt so tired in his life.


Chapter 6

The letter sat on the bed, Clark picked it up, fingering it gingerly, not sure if he wanted to read it now. Charlotte would be returning to the room, once she saw Lex pass her in the hall. He wanted to be alone with Chloe for some reason, even if it just meant he could only be alone with her words. He sighed at the new mix of emotions he felt daily.

Things had to come to an end soon-or Clark knew he would create his own ending, even if it was just in his mind. He was feeling stretched and thin lately, and quietly going insane. The one thing he hated was being alone, and while Charlotte offered some companionship, she didn't know him. He wanted the comfort of someone he could share anything with. But who did he ever share everything with? Not even his parents knew everything.

Charlotte knocked lightly on the door. Clark couldn't help noticing she seemed a little shaken, though she tried to hide it. He wondered if Lex really was that imposing. It was hard for someone like Clark to imagine.

"Did you have a good chat?"

"Yeah, he just came to check on me."

Charlotte sat next to him on the bed. "So he knows what's going on?"

Clark just nodded and put Chloe's letter away in his bag.

"How do you know him?"

"Long story."

"Ok...Listen, do you want to see a movie or something? There's a theater about three blocks from here that's actually sort of clean. They show second run pictures for two dollars."

Clark just smiled at her absently, obviously distracted by thoughts of his own.

"Sure, that sounds nice."

They walked down the street together after the movie, Clark held her hand, more as an act of protection than affection, or so he told himself. The only movie playing was a silly comedy, and Clark tried to relax and just enjoy it. He managed to laugh a couple of times, and enjoyed Charlotte occasionally resting her hand on his shoulder and leaning into him, but the nervous tension wouldn't completely leave him. He felt like he was waiting for something terrible.

Charlotte squeezed his hand and looked up at him. "Clark, what's wrong?"

He gave her the same smile he always gave her, shook his head, and changed the subject.

"Are you hungry? I think there's a pizza place around here somewhere."

She ignored his offer. "You don't look ok."

He stopped walking and looked at her. "No really, I'm fine."

She didn't know why she wanted to help him, and make him feel better. He didn't look like the sort of person anyone needed to help. Maybe it was because she knew that his life would change forever tomorrow, maybe even end. She had no idea what those men had in store for him, but even in her brief dealings with them, she knew it wouldn't end well. She'd be instructed to complete her task tomorrow. Tomorrow she'd be saying goodbye to Clark forever, and tonight she wanted him to feel safe--though she had no idea how to make that happen.

The streets around them were dark, and lifeless, though dozens of people milled about. She knew these streets well. They'd become her home recently, and after tomorrow, she hoped with the money she was promised she'd be able to leave them and everyone behind forever. Money wasn't what motivated her to take on this "assignment".

A very nice Mr. Luthor, who she mistakenly thought was just another pompous business man, and tried to rob, informed her, her very life depended on completely the task satisfactorily. At the very least he would send her to prison for the theft. Apparently Clark had only two weaknesses, and she was one of them-or girls like her. She still wasn't sure what that meant. She didn't understand any of it, and she learned quickly not to ask too many questions.

"Clark, I realize you don't like to talk about things...I don't either, but really, at this point what do either of us have to lose? "

"I know...I just don't want to put you in danger"

"You don't have to worry about me Clark."

"I do."

She looked directly into his eyes, noticing for the first time, small flecks of blue and brown mixed in with the green. The sudden tension between them was palpable.

"Things happen pretty quickly when you don't have anyone or anything else, don't they?"

Clark was about ask her what she was talking about, but he knew. He had nothing to gain by playing dumb.

"I guess its human nature. And I'm beginning to feel like I can't afford to waste any time."

"Clark?"

"Yes?"

"Let's just go grab a couple of slices and go back to the room."

He picked up her hand again. "Ok." He smiled for real this time.


"Why is it every time I watch this show, no matter how many times I've seen it, I still laugh?"

"It's the genius of Seinfeld I guess."

"I guess..."

Clark turned his head to look at her. "Are you still hungry? I never seem to be able to get enough to eat."

Charlotte laughed, "Why don't you just call room service?"

"Of course, why didn't I think of that? So, do you want Lobster Thermidor or filet mignon?"

She laughed even harder. "Aren't you the gourmet?"

"Too many years hanging around Lex I guess."

"Lex Luthor, he was the one that showed up earlier wasn't he?"

"Yeah..."

"Long story right?"

Clark smiled a little. The night had grown cold, and the motel maintenance person had obviously fallen asleep drunk again and left the radiators turned up to high. So despite the rapidly dropping temperatures outside, it felt like a hot, stifling desert in their room. Clark shifted uncomfortably on his bed. Though he was impervious to most changes in temperature, the tight air made him feel like he was suffocating. He still wore his jeans, and he wished more than anything he could simply strip them off and lay around in his boxers.

Charlotte had found comfort in one of his t-shirts that swallowed her small frame. It hung well below her waist, making the need for bottoms unnecessary. Clark noticed how lovely her dark hair looked against his bright red t-shirt.

"Clark, you must be dying, why don't you take your jeans off, I won't care, boxers are longer than most swimsuits anyway."

"Not mine."

"I'll keep my back to you all night...my god! I've never met a guy more shy."

"I'm not shy, just polite."

"Well stop being polite, maybe I just want to see you in your boxers."

She laughed heartily when she got the reaction she wanted. The bright crimson made its way across his cheeks.

He glanced back at her; he had no idea why she was suddenly flirting with him, and he decided to remain calm-cool even. Lots of girls flirted with him, this was no different. It didn't matter that they were alone in a hotel room and she was only wearing one of his t-shirts, this could be any hallway in Smallville High, right? But that moment they shared on the streets, after the movie; Clark felt like kissing her, picking her up and just kissing her, but of course he didn't, he never did anything like that.

He decided to be brave for once and turned around and looked at her.

"No such luck."

She laughed and leaned on his back. His long frame was stretched the length of the bed, and images from the small television flickered against his face.

"What are you afraid of? I've seen boys in their boxers and less before."

Clark raised his eyebrow, but remained silent, turning his attention back to the television, but she saw the smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

"Clark...there's only the two of us, there's no reason why we shouldn't give each other some comfort."

She wanted to be close to him, as close as humanly possible in his last hours. She wanted to give him something to hold on to. But she knew it was more about her needs. Charlotte was terrified and she wanted one night of peace. His body looked so strong, she just wanted to crawl into it and pretend that nothing could ever harm either of them.

She tugged gently at his jeans. "Clark...?"

He turned completely around. "We're not having sex Charlotte."

He said it quietly and simply, looking her directly in the eyes.

She searched his face to see if he really meant it--he did.

"Ok...but could we lie back on the bed together? Just hold me and tell me about the place you came from; your home."

Clark sat up and lay with his back against the headboard, so she could lie in his arms. She nuzzled against his warm chest, loving the feel of it rising and falling with each breath.

"Why do you want to know about my home?"

After only a slight hesitation, he let his fingers entwine in her dark curls.

"I don't know...I just imagine it was a nice place."

Clark smiled. "It was-- it still is...I grew up on a farm, in a small town not too far from here. It was just me, and my Mom and Dad, we all worked the farm together. I know it must seem very boring to you, and it probably is...but it's the one place I've always felt safe, until...recently."

She snuggled closer against him. "Tell me about your parents."

She felt a small fissure forming in his wall, she knew she should probably stop, but she wanted him to go on, she wanted the wall to completely tumble down.

"My parents...my parents are great. They adopted me when I was about three--my mother couldn't have children of her own. But they always made me feel as if I was just as much a part of them as if I'd shared the same DNA. They give up so much for me--they never complain...they never make me feel..." Clark felt the swell of emotion pressing against his chest, he fought it hard, he didn't feel like being weak now, he couldn't afford it.

"Make you feel like what?"

Clark looked down at her, his eyes brimming with tears, he felt like he couldn't hold on anymore. It was too quiet in the room, and they were too close. Just for a moment he needed to let go, to let someone else hold him up for once.

It came out in almost a whisper.

"Like a burden."

He closed his eyes and laid his head back against the pillow. Tears fell from beneath his lids, and his whole body shook with the effort of trying not to sob. Charlotte wrapped her arms around him and pulled his head onto her shoulder. She held him as tightly as she could manage, as he clung to her as everything he'd been holding back for weeks came pouring out of him. She stroked his hair as he sobbed against her shoulder. There was no need to say anything; she knew she only had to hold him.

She felt his composure slowly returning as he loosened his grip on her. His head swam, and he couldn't think straight. There was nothing but pain and bitterness. He ached for his old life back. He didn't want to be here, now in this room, not even with Charlotte. He wanted every simple, insignificant thing he'd ever taken for granted before. More tears fell, as he realized he may never have any of it ever again.

He fell back on the bed, as tears silently ran out of the corners of his eyes. He stared at the ceiling, not moving. Charlotte bent over and kissed his face, wiping his stained cheeks. He looked up at her with pools of blue-green, and slipped his hand behind her neck and pulled her mouth to his. The kiss was a desperate one; he didn't want to feel the pain anymore. She gave in, knowing she'd do just about anything for him in this moment.

She pulled his shirt up over his head, and began unbuckling his jeans. She glanced quickly at his face to see if he wanted her to stop. He only looked at her blankly. After ridding him of his jeans, she laid on top of him, kissing him passionately, a passion he didn't return, it was more about the pain he felt-or didn't want to feel.

They spent the evening making each other feel as good as their hands and mouths would allow, stopping just short of taking Clark's virginity. She wanted to leave him that. If he did come out of this alive, she didn't want to take that away from him. She'd taken enough away. Besides, he was too terrified of hurting her to let them go that far. She didn't understand, and he wouldn't explain.


Chapter 7

The once bashful boy now lay next to her, naked, sleeping. He'd fallen into the deep hard sleep; he was clearly exhausted. She nudged him a couple of times to see if he was still alive; he didn't stir at all. The sun was just peaking up over the tenement buildings across the street. In just a few hours, she would be taking Clark to Lionel, and possibly never see him again.

Suddenly Clark turned over, and looked at her. She smiled down at him, but he didn't return it. For a moment she thought he might still be half asleep. He seemed to be looking through her.

"Clark?"

His eyes focused on hers for a second.

"Nothing is ever going to be the same is it?"

"What?.."

But he closed his eyes again, and fell back into a deep sleep.


The carpet needs cleaning. These are the inane thoughts going through Charlotte's mind as she stood in the hallway of their motel happiness receiving final instructions of where to take Clark. She listened impassively, scribbling down the address, and time. They were to arrive by 10am. Charlotte knew it would be easy. They allowed her to come up with her own story to lure him there, since she knew better than anyone what would work on him. She hung up the phone without saying goodbye and walked slowly back to the room.

The clock blinked 7:46am in the darkness, flashing red on the face of sleeping Clark. She sat down inside the curve of his body-curved into a near fetal position, and stroked his hair. He woke almost immediately. The familiar smile was there before he opened his eyes. Once they were open, the smile faded slightly.

"Morning"

Charlotte smiled in response. Clark climbed out of bed, pulling the sheet around his waist, and headed towards the bathroom. He stopped at the threshold.

"Um...I'll be out in a sec, want to go get some coffee?"

"Sure. Clark? I need to talk to you when you get out of the shower."

He frowned slightly but nodded, planting a ready smile on his face that didn't reach his eyes.

The shower felt wonderful, and he couldn't decide what he thought about last night. He felt tired, just tired of everything. He knew that one way or the other; this was the last day he'd spend in this motel room. It was time to face whatever it was he had to face. Unfortunately, that meant probably leaving Charlotte behind. But theirs was an impossible situation. They were only together out of loneliness and aching need; he doubted if they'd even know each other under normal circumstances. He did like her, and thought she was beautiful, but she was very different from him.

She never really felt like she was all there. He wondered if that was how Lana felt with him, if everyone did. There was something she held back, and it kept him from really knowing her. Still, when he needed her, she was there, and she was strong when he didn't have the strength to be anymore, and he would always be grateful for that. He blushed when he thought of the other thing she had given him, and couldn't help but smile.

Clark came out with a towel around his waist. Without glancing at her, he picked up a pair of boxers from his bag and put them on under his towel before discarding it. She noted his modesty and knew he thought last night had been a mistake-or he definitely didn't want to repeat the experience.

He sat next to her when he was dressed and leaned her against him, running his fingers down her arm.

"What did you need to talk to me about?"

"Well, I...I just talked to my father."

"I didn't know your Dad was here; when did you talk to him?"

She forced herself to meet his eyes, and she hated the concerned tone in his voice; she didn't deserve it.

"He is...I ran away, we had a horrible, horrible argument, and he pretty much threw me out...Anyway, I talked to him this morning, while you were still sleeping. He wants to talk to me, but I'm afraid to go on my own. Do you think maybe you could go with me?"

Clark brushed her hair out of her face. "Of course I'll go with you if you're worried. When?"

"I said I'd be there by 10 or so."

"Ok, we'll go to Starbucks and then head to your fathers, if all goes well...then we don't have to have the talk I need us to have."

"About what?"

"I...I've decided to leave here, just go home, or find the person that's looking for me...I can't keep hiding like this."

It took all her strength not to weep right then. "Clark, that's probably dangerous..."

"It is, I know and honestly I probably shouldn't do anything before talking to Lex. He's supposed to contact me tomorrow. I guess I can wait til then."

"Good, and please don't worry about me Clark. I'm sure everything with my father will work out fine."

He smiled brightly. "Let's hope."


Charlotte was surprised when they arrived at the building bearing the address on the paper she memorized. It was a tall penthouse building on the waterfront. She glanced at Clark to see if he recognized it, but he showed no indication of having been there before. She feared maybe Lex Luthor had a residence there. Clark stood looking up at the grand entrance.

"You grew up here?"

"No...no, I...we lived in a smaller town,Granville before. But a couple of years ago, my Dad got a job at his companies' headquarters here in Metropolis, so we moved. Things went downhill pretty soon after that."

Clark simply nodded in understanding, and grabbed her hand, giving it a squeeze.

"Ok, are you ready for this? And listen, if things get a little tense, we can go ok?"

Charlotte nodded, feeling her stomach drop. The doorman held the door open for them, and they walked toward the elevators, which would take them up to the 38th floor.

Clark took Charlotte's leaden step towards her father's door as nervousness, and held her firmly by the arm as he led her to it. He wished now he'd been paying attention, he was sure he would have noticed that something wasn't right. But his mind was too clouded with his own problems to fully take in what was around him.

He let go of Charlotte so she could knock on the door. She literally trembled with anxiety he thought. A man, almost as tall as Clark, and slightly stockier opened the door, and invited them inside. Clark guessed the man wasn't her father and wondered if it was a servant, or bodyguard.

As the guard passed them, he paused in front of a large ornate box sitting on a table, one flick of the lid, and pain cut through Clark like hot wires. The enormous rock glowed green ferociously, illuminating the room in a bright sickly green. Clark's head swam, and his stomach lurched, as every vein felt like it was burning his flesh. His muscles began to fail him, and despite his struggling he fell to his knees with a loud strangled scream. The pain was more than he had ever felt before, and soon the muscles in his throat no longer worked and the screams were deafening only to him.

In the swirling chaos saw Charlotte standing there, and felt anger, so much anger and pain. Her eyes looked terrified and she silently pleaded with him for forgiveness. But he only looked away, and closed his eyes, giving in to painless darkness.


Clark awoke hours later to the feeling of cool steel against his wrist and ankles. His first instinct was to push against the restraints, and try to pull himself free. But, his arms felt like leaded weights, and his entire body ached and throbbed as what felt like a thousand needles prickled his skin. The nausea was overwhelming, and he fought back the urge to wretch. The only thing to do was to stay calm and assess the situation. He pushed away all thoughts of where he was and what they planned to do to him, and tried hard to think of some way out, even if it seemed utterly impossible.

He was surrounded by darkness. He couldn't tell if the room itself was dark, because they had covered his eyes. The blindfold was so tight; he could barely open his eyes beneath them. He listened hard for any sound, hoping at least some of his extraordinary hearing had returned, but he only caught a low distant hum, that sounded like machinery.

He shivered violently. It was so cold in the room and he wasn't used to feeling cold. He realized suddenly that he felt his flesh hitting cold metal. That shouldn't be. They'd stripped him. A slow panic rose in his chest, and he swallowed hard to push it back. This wasn't the time to lose it, not yet. The idea that they left him so exposed and defenseless made him want to weep and his face flushed with humiliation.

Surprisingly a single thought pushed its way to the forefront of his mind.

Why Charlotte?

He shut his eyes, though there was little need, and he decided none of it mattered. He couldn't allow himself to die naked and alone in this cold little room.


Clark struggled to pull his arms free, his body thrashed against the restraints as he tried to get away. He was suffocating and drowning, there was so much pain, but he was pinned and couldn't move. His breathing became erratic and labored as he struggled to see what was in front of him but there was nothing but darkness. Clark let out an anguished, scream of frustration, and suddenly there was a bright light and a face looming above him.

Clark blinked hard, staring at the face in front of him. He was disoriented for a minute as the edges of the nightmare receded. Someone had pulled off his blindfold. His breathing calmed as he realized he was just back in his real nightmare.

"Yes, just relax. We aren't going to hurt you. I don't want to have to sedate you again."

A man he didn't recognize in a white coat held a needle in his hand-it had a glowing green tip. Clark tried to turn away from it.

"Get it away from me" He managed to choke out. His voice was barely audible.

"I'm not going to stick you with it. We still haven't figured out how much of this stuff you can handle. We don't want you to die yet. There's still a lot we want to discover about you. As long as you cooperate, there's no need to use this. Understand?"

Clark nodded.

"Good. We need to do complete x-rays of you. That doesn't sound too painful does it?"

Clark narrowed his eyes at the man. He was speaking to him like he was a child, or worse some unintelligent creature. Clark knew if they saw him as just a specimen, there'd be little hope for him. People like that didn't tend to be humane to things they didn't regard as human. He felt the anger, mixed with panic rise in him again, but he tried his best not to let it show. What he wanted now, was at least a blanket of some kind.

"Can you?...I'm cold."

"Yes is it rather chilly in here. Don't worry we'll get you a blanket. There are just a few others who want to look at you. We're all quite amazed at how much you resemble a human. We haven't figured out if this is some disguise to fit in here, or your natural form. Even your genitals resemble any other man--well maybe not the average man."

He chuckled lightly to himself.

Clark turned away, but he felt his face grow hot with embarrassment. He didn't think he could hate anyone more. The man smiled when he saw his reddened cheeks, and shook his head as he wrote something down.

"Mr Luthor certainly has a remarkable find here. Well Clark, I'll be back. They will be in to x-ray you shortly."

Clark watched carefully to see how he exited. The man pushed a code that Clark quickly memorized, and a panel in the wall slid open to let him out. Clark felt a wave of nausea as he exited before the door slid shut.

Clark shut his eyes tightly until the nausea passed. Small tremors shook his body, and made him wonder if there was kryptonite beyond the room. Of course he realized they would have taken that precaution. A wave of despair washed over him. It looked less and less likely there'd ever be a way out. He shook his head slightly, steeling himself against such thoughts.

If he felt hopeless, then he'd never have a chance. Hope was the only ally he had right now. Then he thought of Lex. Maybe Lex would find out and stop his father. That gave him a small glimmer of support, but in the back of his mind, he thought how quickly his time was running out.

The door slid open again, and Clark braced himself for the onslaught of nausea. Two men and a woman walked into the room; all dressed similarly to the previous man. The two men walked over to him immediately, while the woman hung back, a veiled look of shock registering on her face. She quickly turned towards the door, as if to exit. Another person entering the room stopped her. This man Clark recognized immediately, and strained against his shackles in anger.

The two men immediately moved to restrain him further, but Lionel waved them away.

"Don't worry. I always cause quite the reaction in Mr. Kent."

He glanced quickly at Clark, with a very satisfied smirk on his face and then turned his attention to the man holding a clipboard.

Clark tried his best to relax. He just wanted to break free; to wrap his hands around Lionel Luthor's throat and squeeze. But, his only defense was to keep calm, and not get too upset--a task that was proving to be more and more difficult.

He knew Lionel Luthor was ruthless, but his nave mind had no capacity to understand just how far he was willing to go to get what he wanted. He acted no different than the other doctors in the room. He knew him; knew his family; knew he was no unintelligent beast, and yet, he regarded him as little more than a caged rabbit.

"So Doctors, what have we discovered about Mr. Kent?"

"You were absolutely right Mr. Luthor, he is an amazing creature. We got the blood results back, and I've never seen anything like it. His cell regenerative rate is just...well there are no words really. And it definitely matches the blood sample you gave us. I know we need to do more testing, but I wonder if his organs have the same regenerative capabilities. It's definitely something worth exploring."

"Excellent doctor, so what's next on the agenda? Have you x-rayed him yet?"

"No, we're doing that shortly. We're bringing a portable MRI machine up here."

"Good, good. Keep me informed of the x-ray results, and then we'll discuss how we'll obtain some tissue samples."

"That's fine. Oh, we've noticed the meteor rocks seem to alter his basic chemistry as well, judging by the most recent samples we've taken. I think it'd be best to let him heal some before taking samples."

"That may be a bit risky. He's quite strong when he's at full capacity."

"No worries Mr. Luthor; we know how to restrain him."

"Of course. Well I leave to the matter to your capable hands doctor."

"Mr. Luthor?"

Lionel turned to find the female doctor approaching him quickly looking extremely agitated.

"Yes, Dr. Allen?"

"What exactly is this?! This isn't some alien, this is a young man!"

"I assure you doctor, Mr. Kent is not a "young man" He's not from his planet, as the test results have proven."

"I don't know what to think of those results."

"Have you ever seen another human being's test results come close to what we've found?"

"Be that as it may, we can't just treat him like some lab rat."

Lionel paused and seemed to ponder this for a moment. "I really don't see your point doctor."

She knew she would get nowhere with him. She was a scientist first and this was indeed an incredible find. There was no telling what they could discover, but still, his eyes, though trying to remain defiant, looked like those of a frightened child.

"I'm afraid I want no part of this Mr. Luthor. Consider me off your team."

"That's unfortunate Doctor. I did have reservations as to whether you had the mettle for this job. But you came highly recommended. Of course if you don't feel comfortable, it would probably be best for all of us if you weren't here to interfere."

"I just don't feel right engaging in inhumane practices."

"Ah, there's that word again. How many times must I remind you Doctor that we aren't dealing with a human?"

"Mr. Luthor there, are laws governing even the smallest housecat to protect it from cruelty; why should he be any different?!"

"Well doctor if you remain, perhaps you can teach us all some compassion. You know where to contact me once you decide."

He stopped at the sliding doors.

"Of course...if you decide to leave us, you won't have anywhere to return will you? I mean your lab is shut down now isn't it..."

"What are you talking about? This is just a temporary project."

"Oh, if I gave you that impression I'm sorry. But not to worry, I'm sure you'll find another situation."

They were both distracted by the table rattling. Clark was shaking and his breathing became erratic.--*"Tissue samples."*--that phrase echoed in his mind. They intended to cut him open. There it was--his worst fear about to be realized.

"What's happening to him; is this some sort of reaction to the meteor rocks?"

"No..." Lionel's voice affected concern, "I believe it's just an emotional one. A panic attack I think they call it. Well, good day Dr. Allen. You'll let me know if your decision, won't you?"

Clark clenched his eyes at the wave of pain traveling through his body when the door opened and shut. Tears flowed out the corners of his eyes, pooling beneath him on the table. He saw the female doctor coming towards him. She walked over to him and smoothed his hair back.

"I know this must be terrifying. But I don't think they'll hurt you. We're going to x-ray you now, and then I'll get you a blanket...and perhaps some clothing."

Clark had no control over his body as it continued to betray him. No matter how he tried to relax himself, it didn't help. He knew he was breaking down, close to sobbing like a child, and it was the last thing he wanted. He needed his strength now, even if his physical strength had left him. It was the soft hand caressing his hair. It was too much. He turned sharply away, and she turned and left.

He didn't know how he was supposed to stand this. How do you prepare yourself to be left alone, completely vulnerable and at the mercy of people who had no regard for your life?

Dr. Allen returned with a blanket. It was soft fleece, and very warm. She noticed, the bright blue of the cloth caught the flecks of blue in his eyes. It was her turn to look away. She tucked the blanket around him, and left him lying there without another word.


Chapter 8

Charlotte stood outside of the Kent farm. It wasn't hard to find. She knew Clark was from Smallville, and all she had to do was ask the first friendly face she saw when she arrived in town. The money Lionel Luthor gave her enabled her to buy a car, and a place to stay for awhile in the town she lied about being from, and it was just a few miles from Smallville.

She tried hard to forget about Clark, and concentrate on a new life for herself-the one she traded for his. She wondered if he was still alive. It never made sense to her what they possibly could have wanted with him. He definitely wasn't a threat to anyone. Despite his imposing presence, he was never anything but gentle and kind with her-even the night before she left him, when he was obviously tormented. It was like he knew something terrible was about to happen to him. Why didn't she tell him everything and run with him? It was the one thought that assaulted her daily. She could have saved him, instead she delivered him to--god knows what. She almost felt like a murderer.

She stood just beyond the property; across from the old wooden sign, proudly displaying the family name of Kent. It wasn't hard to imagine someone like Clark growing up in such a warm inviting yellow house. She had no idea what she expected to find when she came. It was her third visit, and the last couple of times, she'd seen a strong, yellow-haired man working the fields, who she guessed to be Clark's father. She assumed no one would pay attention to a young girl pausing by the edge of a field. But she was wrong.


For the past two days, Clark saw no doctors. The only people he did see were the silent men who brought him food three times a day. After the first morning, he'd awaken to find a pillow under his head, and his jeans and someone else's sweater on the floor beside him. His limbs were no longer bound, only a thin metal bracelet with a sliver of green embedded in it replaced them. It left him with a nagging nausea that didn't prevent him from devouring the first plate of food brought into him. He didn't even know what day it was. It amazed him how the mind adjusts to its surroundings.

He couldn't sustain the level of sheer anguish any longer, so he started to lose himself in his thoughts. He had whole conversations in his head with his parents and friends, and tried to recall entire pages of books he loved; anything to make the hours seem shorter. He found himself wanting to see Dr. Allen. He didn't trust her anymore than the rest, but at the very least, she tried to cheat him like a person, even if she mostly petted him like a child. All she felt was pity for him; he realized that; but in his situation, it was equivalent to a warm embrace.

His two days of peace were interrupted in a flurry of motion as 3 doctors, including Dr. Allen came walking into his room. He had been sitting on the floor, trying to x-ray the walls to see if any part of the room wasn't encased in a layer of kryptonite. He was hoisted up by his arms and ordered to take his clothes off. Their tones were calm, and non-threatening, but it made Clark shiver. If they took his clothes, he'd be reduced to a lab experiment. He didn't move. By now they knew the drill. One of the doctors slipped a fairly large meteor rock out of its lead casing, and Clark slumped against the arms holding them. The placed him back on the table and began removing his clothes.

Clark tried to pretend Dr. Allen wasn't in the room. He refused to look at her. His first instinct was to fight them, but he felt so weak and dizzy he knew it was pointless. He merely lied there while they stripped him, refusing to look at them, waiting to hear what the purpose of this visit was. He saw no sharp instruments, so he hoped it wasn't what he feared. It wasn't; they wanted to take a semen sample.

They first argued at length as to whether an alien would even have semen. Clark tried his best not to listen--he had no desire to lose it again. He thought of anything; the farm, his friends, even the last movie he saw to try and drown out the incessant chatter of his torturers-as he'd come to think of them. They discussed how best to obtain a sample. A needle, tipped with kryptonite and injected into his scrotum, brought Clark much pain, but no satisfaction for them, since there was no fluid. So finally it was decided to obtain it the old fashioned way.

They gave Clark the option of doing it himself, but their suggestion was met with an icy glare, and Clark ripping one of his shackles free from the table. The doctors panicked immediately, and called for backup, and two of them held him down, while one opened the door, letting the room flood with that familiar green glow. Clark fell limp almost immediately. Dr. Allen was sent out of the room, at Clark's pleading-the one request they seemed ok with honoring, while another did the necessary act to get what they wanted.

Afterwards, Clark was bathed, and released from his shackles. He immediately curled into a fetal position as someone placed the soft blue fleece blanket over him. He tried his best to pretend it was his own blanket, in his own bed on the farm, forcing his mind to go blank, and not think about where he was and what would happen to him now.


Dr. Allen stood just outside of the room. She watched her colleagues walk out with very satisfied expressions on their faces. They ignored her completely as they passed. It surprised her how much that whole scene shook her to the core. The desperation in which he clung to his innocence, or as much of it he could protect, made her want to run out of the room and never see any of them again. For the first time his voice was strong, and his eyes were wild as he begged the other doctors to please send her out of the room. She was grateful when they didn't object.

She turned before walking out the door to see him stop fighting; shutting his eyes and pulling his head back, trying to get as far away from what was transpiring as possible. He swallowed hard as a gloved hand gripped his penis firmly, and shut his eyes tighter. She noticed a single tear escape and she left the room quickly. Now she stood in the hall, listening to his quiet sobs, feeling like a monster.


Chapter 9

"We should just run off...get far away from here."

"Where would we go Charlotte?"

"Does it matter?"

"Clark?"

Clark turned over in his sleep, wrapping the blanket tightly around his body. He felt consciousness creeping in and he fought it. He had no desire to be awake.

"Clark, I have your breakfast. They just brought it in."

He'd been moved to a bed--a real bed in an adjacent room he had no idea existed. After his ordeal, they let him sleep for awhile, and then prodded him awake, helping him off the table, and motioning him towards the open panel in the wall. He followed them in a daze, blanket draped around his still naked body. He took in nothing of the room; he just sank into the soft mattress and fell immediately back to sleep.

"Clark, wake up."

He slowly opened his eyes. Every sound felt like it resonated from the far end of a tunnel. His head swam, and he instinctively pulled at the bracelet clasped around his wrist.

"Whats wrong? Is that hurting you?"

Dr. Allen took Clark's hand in hers, gently pulling him up. Clark pulled away from her, trying to sit up on his own. The room suddenly flip-flopped, and he lurched forward spilling the contents of his stomach on the floor. He fell back against the pillow pleading with the nausea to stop. Dr. Allen called for some men to come and clean up the mess. She opened a cabinet above the sink in the small bathroom just off the room, and pulled out a towel. She wet it and gently wiped Clark's mouth.

"It...it's the bracelet...I've had it on too long."

He thrust his arm weakly towards her, not wanting to move too much for fear of retching again.

Dr. Allen stared into his eyes. They were glassy and unfocused, but the look of quiet desperation was unmistakable.

"Clark, I don't think I should remove it."

"Please...just for a minute...I need a break."

Dr. Allen punched the tiny buttons near the clasp in a specific sequence and the bracelet sprang open. She removed it and placed it on a far counter. Clark sighed heavily with relief as the nausea began to recede.

"Please don't make me regret doing this, Clark."

"Don't worry doctor; I'd never get out of this room without passing out. There's so much kry...meteor rock out there."

"Why does it incapacitate you so much?"

Clark looked up at the ceiling stoically. "I don't know" but he realized that was the truth--he really didn't know.

Dr. Allen sat next to him on the bed. "Are you more comfortable here?"

Clark nodded very slightly, keeping his gaze towards the ceiling.

"Good. I told them you needed to rest."

Clark didn't answer her. He wasn't sure what she wanted. Every time she spoke to him, it seemed like she was asking for his forgiveness. He had no intention of giving it. Her methods may have been gentler. But all it amounted to, was he would be slightly more comfortable while he waited to be tortured and eventually killed.

"Clark...there's something I need to talk to you about."

His gaze met hers again. The immediate change in them once the bracelet was gone amazed her.

"Are they planning something?"

"Yes, I'm sure you overheard they want to take tissue samples...of your organs."

Clark's eyes went wide "My organs?! But, how...how without killing me?"

"They seem to think the rate at which your cells regenerate will protect you from death, or any permanent damage."

"But what if they're wrong?"

"Clark, how much do you know about your physiology?"

"Next to nothing."

"Well did you ever think these experiments may give you new insight?"

Clark looked at her incredulously, anger building in him.

"Are you trying to tell me that cutting me open is for my own good?!"

"No...no, you're right, that was stupid of me."

"Doctor, I can't make you feel better about this. What they're doing to me is horrible, and you know it."

"I do know it Clark."

"Then why do you allow it?"

"I'm not allowing it Clark...my hands are tied, you know that."

"Of course." Clark smiled cynically.

"Why should you endanger your life to save mine? You're only doing what you have to. It seems I'm at the mercy of cowards lately."

She hated to see that expression on his face.

"If you're talking about that girl Clark; you can't blame her. What could she do in the face of Lionel Luthor?"

Clark looked at her curiously. "You know about her?"

"Yes. I spoke with her briefly after they'd taken you. I didn't know why she was around at the time, but I understand now. She's really upset Clark, terrified."

Clark's face shut down. "I don't want to talk about her. Lex warned me my hero-complex would get me in trouble one day."

"Still, she's just a young girl. Don't be too angry with her."

"Oh no..." Clark glanced around at his accommodations. "Why would I be angry?"

He ran his fingers through his dark tangled hair. "So...when are they doing this procedure?"

"The end of the week. I'm trying to convince them to remove all traces of the meteor rock from your presence until then, because I think you'll need your strength. Also, Dr. Sutton and I are working on an anesthesia especially made for you. It's tricky, but we're pretty confident it will work. So you'll be unconscious during the surgery. And afterwards, they'll take all meteor rocks away again to allow you to heal. They just want samples of your liver, kidneys, and anything else they think they can safely take. They think taking a sample of your heart is too risky. But the goal is we think we can re-grow your organs if we can keep the tissue alive."

Clark turned away from her. She watched as he seemed to close in upon himself. His cheeks colored, as his breathing took on the all too familiar pattern. She reached over to smooth his hair back. Clark jumped suddenly.

"Stop doing that!"

She moved back, startled. Clark knew she was debating whether to call someone to restrain him. He forced himself to calm down.

"Its something my mother used to do. You're not my mother,so please...don't"

Dr. Allen stood up slowly. "Ok Clark. I'll leave the bracelet over there. If anyone else comes in, put it on ok?"

He nodded, and then lay back down, turning to face the wall.


Chapter 10

After a few hours, Clark forced himself out of bed and walked to the small bathroom. He took a long, hot shower, and washed his hair. He felt ashamed of his pathetic state of the last few hours. He found his jeans on a chair and put them on, along with the sweater. He stopped and looked around the room. He let the realization of where he was wash over him. It was too tiring to try and push everything away constantly. As long as he hid, he'd never get out of this situation, and somehow, he intended to find a way.

Yesterday nearly crippled him. It was something he couldn't even comprehend. They treated his body as if it meant nothing to him. He was a project now, no longer a person; there was no point in trying to get them to see otherwise. He had to accept it, or he'd never leave there alive. He glanced around the sparsely furnished room.

There was a bed, with a tall lamp next to it. A chair in a corner and a counter with small drawers under it, which Clark guessed didn't contain more clothing. He sat on the bed and heard the soft crinkle of paper as he sat down. He felt inside his back pocket and pulled out the piece of paper. It was the letter Lex had given him from Chloe. He'd forgotten all about it. That part of his life seemed so far away now. He opened the letter and immediately recognized Chloe's determined scrawl.

Clark, I hope this reaches you. Lex claims he doesn't know where you are, but I know he's lying. Obviously you're in some kind of trouble, and Lex is involved, and knowing Lex he's doing everything he can. So I'm not too worried. I've been doing some digging of my own, and for the first time, I'm coming up with nothing. So whatever it is you're going through Clark, please be careful, and come home safely. I guess you probably want to know the simple things, like what's going on in sleepy little Smallville. I have to say, the town seems pretty bleak without you. I haven't seen much of your parents, and they've told everyone you're away visiting relatives. I don't think most people believe them, especially after your disappearance last summer. Come home soon, and if you need me, I'm here.

Love Chloe

Clark pressed the paper against his face, trying to inhale something of his former life. He immediately felt silly for doing it, smiling slightly at himself.

After reading the letter again, he put back in his pocket. Everything clicked together in his mind. He walked out into the other room, stopping slightly when saw the table he'd spent nearly a week on. He forced down the sudden wave of anxiety and walked over to the door. He stood in front of the digital panel and thought back to the pattern he'd memorized. He noted the numbers and walked back towards the room. He placed the bracelet in a draw so there was no chance of any of its effect reaching him. He wanted to have all of his strength for what he intended to try tonight.


Lex waited just beyond the property line of the Kent farm. He sat in his Porsche, until he saw what he'd been waiting almost two hours for. The young girl approached the road just on the other side of the entrance to the Kent farm. It was the same girl he saw briefly when he visited Clark at the hotel. He hadn't heard from Clark all week. He'd tried to call him on his cell phone, and there was no answer. When he visited the hotel, he was told Clark and the girl left and never returned; their belongings were still in the room. And now, here was this girl, in Smallville with Clark no where in sight. He had no choice but to assume the obvious.

Today he intended to find some answers. He's spotted her here yesterday, and wasn't sure why he recognized her at first. The realization hit him late last night, and like he hoped, she returned to the same spot. Lex got out of his car, and walked up the road, hoping she wouldn't run when she saw him. She turned towards him and stood very still watching his approaching figure. Her instincts told her to run, but she didn't. She realized suddenly this is what she'd been waiting for- a way to help Clark.


Clark stood in front of the door, staring at the digital numbers. He ran the numbers over and over in his head, willing his fingers toward the buttons. He'd waited until the last guard checked on him and turned out all the lights. Clark then slipped out of bed, still clad in his jeans and pulled the sweater on. He had no idea what happened to his shoes, but he didn't need them. That was twenty minutes ago and Clark still stood in front of the door.

He listened hard again to detect any sound beyond the walls. He was pretty sure everyone was gone. He only wished he could see through the walls, but they were made of lead. Of course he knew he was just stalling. He knew there was a huge chance it wouldn't work, he wouldn't get free, and things would probably be even worse if he was caught. But he'd lain in this room too long being victimized-he needed to do this, even if he lost. He needed to fight.

He punched the numbers and the door immediately slid open. The pain ripped through him like a thousand knives, and he wavered, trying hard to stay focused, and not collapse in the threshold. Alarms started screaming loudly and Clark pushed himself forward on unsteady legs and moved as fast as he could. His head swam, and there was a fierce green glow surrounding him, but he kept running.

He could barely see in front of him, and all he saw were two dark shadows approaching him. He tried to move faster, but he was finding it harder to even breathe. The pain was relentless; his entire body felt like it was on fire, and he knew it was about to be over. Two arms grabbed him, pulling him towards the room. He screamed at them to let him go. Suddenly he thought he'd rather die, than be placed in that room again. He struggled in their grasp, but a third guard came to help them and together they picked him up easily and threw him down on the table.

They immediately activated the metal restraints. Clark gathered all of his strength and shoved one of the guards, snapping one of the restraints in the process. The guard flew into a far wall, and collapsed sprawled on the floor. The other two moved back instinctively, until one quickly came to his senses.

"What are you doing? Hold him, he'll kill us!"

The guard ran to hold Clark down, while the other one opened the door to the room, yelling for backup. Clark cried out in pain, and pleaded with them to close the door. The guard fixed the door open in response.

He was exhausted, drenched in sweat and shaking from head to toe. His mind reeled. He couldn't think straight, he just wanted the pain to stop. He was tired of being in pain; tired of being held in that room, and tired of all of these strangers, doing whatever they liked to him. He wanted it to end, all of it. He fought with the last bit of strength he had, but he felt his body start to fail him, as his breathing became more ragged.

"Should we get the needle?"

Clark's eyes went wide.

"I'm not sure, they said it was dangerous...only in emergencies."

"This is an emergency!"

"Look...he's calming down, I think we'd better close the door though, they want him well tomorrow, for whatever the hell they're doing to him. Just cancel backup, we can handle him now."

He closed the door, and the other went to help up the guard Clark had obviously injured. They returned and finished strapping Clark to the table. They left him laying there and closed the door, turning off all the lights. He laid there in the dark, letting the despair he knew was coming, overtake him.

He'd allow himself this one moment to let all the fear and anger consume him, and to mourn the person he used to be, knowing he'd never be that person again, whether he made it out of there alive or not. Clark sobbed in the dark alone, until he was too tired to open his eyes.


Chapter 11

Charlotte waited patiently as Lex made his way towards her.

"Hi, Mr. Luthor."

Lex stopped. "So I am right, you're the girl I saw with Clark."

She nodded, not quite meeting his gaze.

"Is Clark here with you?"

"No, he...he's still in Metropolis, I think, Mr. Luthor..."

"It's Lex."

"Sorry Lex, I don't know where Clark is now. I was hoping maybe you could help me find him."

"What happened exactly? I'm sorry, what's your name?"

"It's Charlotte."

"Ok Charlotte. Tell me what happened. When did you last see Clark?"

Lex didn't like that way this girl avoided his eyes. She was a tiny little thing, very pretty, but his instincts told him not to trust her. It wasn't like Clark to leave without letting anyone know, let alone strand some poor girl. He just hoped worse imaginable hadn't happened.

"I'm horrible; I can't believe I let this happen..."

"Let what happen?"

She dared to look up at him; her eyes were full of unshed tears.

"I delivered Clark to your father."

Lex took a step backwards, afraid of what he'd do to the girl if he was within arm length of her.

He almost laughed at clever his father had been, and how stupid he had been. It was the perfect plan. He could only imagine what this poor girl did to end up crossing paths with his father. He took a deep breath and spoke when he was sure he could trust his voice.

"Just start from the beginning. What happened?"

Charlotte explained as best she could, how she met Lionel, and how she was coerced into helping Clark.

"...I didn't realize what I was getting myself into. I didn't know anything about Clark, or what he wanted with him. I still don't understand. Clark is probably the most decent person I've met in my life."

"Clark is probably the most decent person any of us will ever meet in our lives. Where did you take Clark?"

Charlotte pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. "This is the address they gave me--It's a penthouse building. I'm not sure if they kept him there...it was so strange. They opened some box, and for some reason he collapsed in pain. It just looked like some odd rock to me. I didn't feel anything." Charlotte shook her head. "I don't understand any of this."

Lex took the paper from her. "Neither do I. Thank you Charlotte. I'll take it from here."

Lex turned to leave.

"Lex?"

Charlotte was unprepared for the cold angry stare he leveled at her when he turned around.

"I just want him to be ok...anything I can do to help..."

"You've done enough! Thanks to you my friend is probably dissected into a million pieces by now and endured more suffering than anyone can stand. But you have your freedom and some money. Tell me, is that a fair trade?!"

Charlotte stood there stunned, as tears sprung to her eyes.

"The only thing you can do for Clark is to stay away from him. If I somehow manage to get him out of this alive. I'd like to give him the luxury of never having to look at your face again."

Lex turned and walked quickly towards his Porsche. He immediately regretted his harshness. He knew it wasn't her fault; but now, his only concern was finding Clark while he was still alive.


Clark turned over again in the bed. At some point during the night, he'd been released from his restraints, and led back into the other room. The bracelet was found and placed on his wrist. The nausea made him refuse all meals that day. Coupled with the extreme anxiety and fear he felt about what was to take place that evening, he could do nothing more than lay there and try hard not to think. He'd failed miserably last night, and he couldn't find much hope of succeeding if he tried again. A full wall of refined kryptonite surrounded the room. He'd never felt anything like it, not even the time he was shot. Even if he somehow could push away the pain, his body would never survive.

He wished suddenly he had a window. He missed the sun. He thought of how red his mother's hair looked when the sun hit it while she worked in the fields. He smiled at the memory. He always loved the way his father watched her. He never felt safer than when he saw how much love his parents had for each other-and it always spilled over to him. He hated the thought of how much his parents must be worrying. Lex would know something was wrong by now, but it seemed less and less likely he'd get there in time. Clark decided what ever happened; he'd try his best to be brave. There didn't seem to be much else he could do.

A few minutes later, the door to his room opened. A doctor he recognized and didn't like, followed by a guard came in.

"Clark. We need you go get up and go shower."

His mother would have yelled up him for what he was thinking, but wordlessly, he got up and walked to the bathroom.

"You'll only need your towel when you return."

Clark felt his knees buckle slightly, but he kept his back straight and closed the bathroom door behind him. Clark returned, draped in only a towel as he was told. The doctor stepped aside and the guard flanked him.

"This way Clark"

Clark didn't move. Despite his determination to be brave, he began to panic.

"Don't make this more difficult than it needs to be. This way."

Clark slowly walked towards the door. The guard kept a firm grip on his arm, and another greeted him in the entrance way. He shut his eyes at the sudden brightness.

The room looked dramatically different. The metal table was covered with a sheet, and new restraints had been added. Next to the table stood a tray with several sharp instruments, all tinged in green. A large light glowed overhead. Clark felt woozy suddenly and sank to his knees. He cursed himself for behaving so weakly. The two guards pulled him to his feet and the outroom door opened. Three doctors, all dressed in surgical gowns appeared. Dr. Allen was among them. He stared at the door a second longer, waiting for who he thought would be the guest of honor. But the door slid shut behind them.

"On the table."

Clark knew by now, there was no point in hesitating. He walked as calmly as he could over to the table. He dropped his towel before he climbed up on it, simply because he didn't want anyone else to remove it for him. He flushed a deep crimson, and he wondered if he'd ever get used to being naked in a room full of strangers. He purposely didn't look at Dr. Allen. He wanted to feel like a thing, and object; he wanted to forget he was human for the moment.

Once he laid down, his wrists and ankles were bound in the titanium restraints. Several more light metal straps were wound across his chest, shoulders and hips. Clark couldn't move at all. Dr. Allen walked forward, and placed a sheet across his hips. He stared at the ceiling, feeling the panic rise in his chest. It took everything he had not to scream. He moved his body to test the restraints, but he couldn't move at all.

"Clark, this is Dr.Bellistri. He's the colleague I've been working on the anesthesia with. We're going to administer it now. But we have to insert a needle with a minute amount of meteor rock at the tip so it can penetrate your veins. It'll hurt for a minute, but it will be over quickly I promise."

Clark noticed the other two doctors exchange glances and roll their eyes. He glanced quickly at Dr. Allen, but his face remained expressionless. She saw the terror in his eyes though. She wanted to much to sooth him somehow. But she knew that it would only make it worse for him. He braced himself as the needle pierced his skin. Despite his efforts to relax, he couldn't help but cry out as it entered his flesh. He saw the liquid hanging on a pole above him make its way down the tube in his arm. He felt it enter his veins. A slight wooziness came over him, and Clark was prepared to be swept away by it. He closed his eyes, and the wooziness began to fade.

"Clark?"

He opened his eyes, to see Dr. Allen peering over him.

"Clark, are you feeling drowsy at all?"

"I...I was, but not now...what's wrong?"

Dr. Allen sighed and glanced at her colleague.

"Clark, I'm afraid despite our confidence, the anesthesia didn't work."

She turned to the other doctors. "We'll have to postpone. I'll tell Mr. Luthor."

"That won't be necessary Doctor."

Clark's jaw tightened at the sound of the familiar voice.

"Hello, Mr. Kent. I hope your stay hasn't been too unpleasant. What were you saying Doctor?"

"The anesthesia for him didn't work. So we'll have to postpone until we correct the problem."

Lionel walked around the table, looking Clark over like his own personal prized possession.

"I really don't see why that's necessary Doctor. Mr. Kent is very strong, I'm sure he can handle it."

Dr. Allen looked incredulous. "You can't be serious! He can't handle that, no one can!"

"Mr. Kent isn't like us. I'm sure he can handle a great deal. If you don't have the stomach for it Doctor, I'll understand if you'd rather leave."

Clark pulled against his restraints with all his might. He didn't care anymore; he had to get someone to listen to him.

"Dr. Allen please, you can't let them do this!"

"Relax, Mr. Kent. Dr. Allen has no authority here. Her soft spot for you is becoming a liability. Are you staying Doctor?"

Clark looked at her, his cheeks flushed and tears beginning to form. She looked directly in his eyes, then turned away and walked towards the door.

"Ok then Doctors, you may begin. I'll watch for the observation room."

Lionel exited the door behind her.

Clark bucked against the straps, pulling wildly. Tears fell from the corner of his eyes, as he twisted his head in exasperation. Lionel noticing the state he was in reentered the room and placed his hand on Clark's hair and he immediately jerked his head away.

"Just relax Mr. Kent; it'll all be over before you know it."

His eyes looked terrified, and a murderous rage filled him. They quickly affixed a band embedded with a large strip kryptonite around his ankle. Clark's limbs went limp as it touched his skin.

Lionel leaned closer to Clark, speaking almost in a whisper close to his ear. "You want me dead don't you Clark? Unfortunately you'll never get that chance. What I'm doing is for the good of the entire human population. I'm afraid you're just a casualty."

Clark glowered at Lionel, wanting to bash him with his head--his only available weapon, but the first cut of the knife into his flesh made him freeze. His eyes went wide with shock. He gasped as the pain shot through him. But it was only the first cut. Clark panicked, knowing the worst was coming. He yanked at his restraints with every ounce of strength he had, but it wasn't enough to even jar the surgeon's precise cutting.

The surgeon made a deeper cut, dragging the blade across his abdomen. As much as the doctor managed to remove himself mentally from the proceedings, he never wanted to hear that sound again. It was much more than a scream. Clark's guttural wail echoed off the walls, and he tried feebly to pull at the surgeon's hand. He watched in horror as blood poured from the gaping incision.

"Please...I can't...you have to stop...please!"

Clark looked wildly around the room for Lionel, hoping somehow he could reach some small part of humanity in him that wasn't dead. But Lionel was gone--his shadowy figure could be seen just beyond the glass. Clark wailed as they pulled back the folds of his flesh, and prayed for unconsciousness, or death, he didn't care. As the scalpel made its first cut into his liver, Clark could stand the pain no more, and slipped into darkness.

Over the next few hours, Clark slipped in and out of consciousness, awaking to unbearable, blinding pain, before slipping back into the dark. It seemed like a long, never-ending nightmare. Nothing was real but the pain. And finally, mercifully--it stopped.


Chapter 12

When he woke again, he was back in the small bedroom. There were no more doctors, no more knives. The room was dark, except for a tiny lamp giving off a small dull light in the corner. His whole body burned, and itched as it tried to knit itself back together. There was a wide bandage across his midsection and both bands of kryptonite had been removed. He tried to move, but pain shot up his chest, making him lay still.

He felt numb. He'd screamed, cried, begged, and now there was nothing left. How could anyone comprehend what was done to him? It was torture. They call it science, but they tortured him, and for what? Because he came from somewhere they don't understand. For the first time in his entire life, he wished his birth parents never sent him to this place. He would have preferred to be blown up with the rest of his planet.

The door to his room opened, and Dr. Allen walked in. Clark turned his head to look at the wall.

"Hello Clark." her voice was very quiet.

He didn't turn to look at her.

She walked cautiously over to his bed. "Are you still in any pain?"

Clark turned and looked at her sharply. He remained silent, holding her gaze until she was forced to look away.

"Clark...I just came to say goodbye. I've been relieved of my duties. I can't say that I'm upset about that."

"So you can pretend none of this happened?" His voice was still weak, but the bitterness was clear.

"I'm sorry I abandoned you Clark. But I don't think my presence would have made any difference."

"What do you want Doctor?"

"I wanted to ask if there was anything I could do for you when I leave."

He looked at her coldly. "Find Lex and tell him to come and get me out of this hell."

"Lionel's son?"

Clark nodded.

"But why would his son help you?"

"He will."

"Ok, I'll try and contact him then...Is there anything else I can do...anyone else you'd like me to contact?"

He looked at her, and his gaze softened a little. It nearly broke her.

"Sun...I need the sun, it'll help me heal."

"Really?" He never ceased to amaze her, "Clark...honestly the longer you take to heal, the longer you'll have some peace."

"I don't intend to be here much longer."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm tired Dr. Allen."

"Clark?"

He closed his eyes and turned away. Dr. Allen took one last look at him, and she gently closed the door behind her.


Chapter 13

Lex slammed down the phone in frustration. The man tailing his father had come up empty yet again. His father was being extra covert it seemed, even for him. He found nothing at the address Charlotte had given him. His father had rented a space on the top floor for one day, and then was never seen again, according to the doorman. After much insistence and some monetary persuasion, he'd been allowed upstairs. There was no trace of anything, just a suite of empty rooms. Confronting his father directly would be both dangerous for Clark and pointless for him.

Lex leaned back in his leather chair, weighing his options. The shrill of his desk phone snapped him out of his thoughts.

"I asked not to be disturbed."

"I'm sorry Mr. Luthor, but the woman on the phone says it's urgent, it's concerning a friend of yours."

"Put her through." He hoped it wasn't Charlotte. He didn't think she could be of any more use to him.

"Mr. Luthor?"

"Yes, who is this?"

"This is Dr. Allen. I was working with your father, and...well your friend, Clark asked me to contact you..."

"Wait! Don't say another word."

Lex put her on hold and transferred her call to his secure line.

"Dr. Allen? Meet me at the bar across the street from my office in ten minutes. Can you do that?"

"Yes...so you'll help?"

"I'll do what I can. Clark is very important to me. I'll see you in ten minutes."

Dr. Allen had no idea if Lex could be trusted, but she felt she had to try and do something for Clark. She hadn't slept since the night she left him there, looking so despondent in his tiny room. Luthorcorp was just two blocks from where she called. She started walking.


Lex glanced around the small, dark bar, looking for any sign of a woman who could possibly be Dr. Allen. He'd been delayed a few minutes by an unexpected call from his father, he hoped she'd waited. The bar was the typical businessman bar, full of dark mahogany and overstated brass. He settled himself in a back booth and motioned the waiter over. The waiter saw him, and indicated he'd be right over, ducking behind the bar to retrieve something. He made his way over to Lex and handed him a thin white envelope.

"What is this?"

"A woman asked me to give this to you, with her apologies, she couldn't stay."

"Did she leave a lone?"

"I believe so..though there was a man waiting for her outside the door."

Lex sighed, clutching the envelope in his hand. He rose dropping a twenty dollar bill on the table. "Thank you."

He walked out the door, glancing up the street. He knew he wouldn't see anyone, and he knew he'd never hear from Dr. Allen again.


Everyone had strict instructions not to bother Clark for one week. The actual command was *"do not interfere with the project"*. Clark was a project now. He noticed a decisive change in attitude towards him. There was no longer any pretense of his intelligence. The guards treated him according to whatever guidelines they'd been given. They didn't talk to him anymore, not even to taunt him. The doctors were no different. They checked on his wound without so much of a glance at his face; they'd just make notations and leave the room quietly. Clark assumed that after you sliced open and tortured someone, your mind had to find a way to deal with any lingering guilt, so it was better to pretend your *"subject"* is an unthinking, unfeeling being.

Without the benefit of sunlight, Clark's body was taking its time to heal. Only now, after almost a week, could he sit up in bed without excruciating pain, and the constant burning and itching was driving him crazy.

He picked up the pen and paper he'd be given on the third day. He made the request to a silent doctor, and a notebook appeared the next morning. The intent was to write letters to his family and friends, hoping that if he didn't make it out of there alive; someone would be kind enough to send them the letters. But instead, he made various sketches of what he remembered from the night of the failed escape.

Fortunately, his memory was photographic, and even in the chaos and he found that his brain recorded most of the room. He knew there were two windows, and he tried desperately to scribble what he saw there. He still didn't know what he would do with the information, but it gave him hope. Hope had been in low supply the first couple of days.

For the first time in his life, Clark seriously thought about death. He wished for it in moments of extreme pain before, but this was different. His body and mind were so completely drained and so tired of fighting, he felt ready to give in. He simply didn't see a way out. Dr. Allen's visit was hard for him. Though he behaved coldly towards her the truth was, he didn't want her to go. Though he couldn't forgive her for being part of all this, she was the only one to show some compassion towards him. Her leaving meant he was left completely alone.

Clark sighed and put the notebook down. He pulled the soft blanket tighter around his body, more for comfort than warmth. His regular clothes had been replaced with a white shirt and pants that resembled hospital scrubs after the operation, and he hated the feeling of the rough cloth against his skin. His entire body seemed to be more sensitive to anything touching it, but that could very well be psychological. He simply no longer liked to be touched--anywhere. Having to endure the doctors examining his wound was a new form of torture. The minute he felt a hand against his skin, anger rose in him so quickly he had to concentrate hard to quell it.

He leaned back against the propped up pillows, laying his latest drawing beside him. His eyes felt heavy, and they burned with fatigue. He couldn't sleep--sleep meant never-ending nightmares, where the pain was relentless, and death was always a certainty. He often woke up screaming. But no one ever came. He didn't know if anyone heard him, he doubted they'd come even if they did. For that he was grateful. Any sign of being out of control frightened them, and when animals are frightened their first instinct is to lash out. Leaving him alone was the best thing they could do.

He didn't look up when the door lock clicked; he assumed it was just another guard bringing him a meal, or a doctor. Clark drew the blanket tighter around him. He didn't care what he had to do; no one was touching him today. He shouldn't have been surprised when he saw who it was, but he hadn't seen him since the day his shadowy figure watched him get dissected, safely from the observation room. His natural instinct was to turn away, but he faced Lionel, refusing to let him see his fear.

Lionel glanced around Clark's bare room.

"Not bad, not bad, of course, not as comfortable as what you're used to I'm sure. I always admired the warmth of that tiny little farm house."

Clark watched him closely as he walked over to the bed and picked up one of the drawings.

"Planning another escape Mr. Kent?" He dropped the drawing at Clark's feet. "Well I can't imagine you'll have anymore luck this time, but you're certainly welcome to try."

Clark said nothing. He was fighting to control the anger welling up inside of him at the very sight of Lionel. He knew he was capable of destroying Lionel in this moment, but he didn't want to do that. He refused to turn into a monster. Clark clutched the blanket tightly in his hand, he could hear the fabric ripping, but he didn't let go.

"What's wrong Clark, are you in pain?"

Lionel reached to remove the blanket from him, but Clark jerked away, shoving Lionel's hand a bit harder than he intended.

Lionel smiled and rubbed his wrist.

"I see we're regaining our strength; good."

"What do you want Lionel?"

"I just came to check on my favorite specimen. Even I was amazed at how your tissue growth exceeded even our expectations. We were able to re-grow whole organs out of the samples we harvested from you. Do you have any idea what this will mean to organ transplants in the future? Of course we don't yet know how compatible your unique genetic makeup is with other humans, but it's very promising."

"And this is supposed to make me happy?"

"You're the one with the hero complex. Aren't you interested in helping mankind?"

Clark sat up in bed, pushing the blanket aside.

"If I truly thought that's what you were doing; maybe. But I know you don't have an ounce of humanity in you. You're either going to sell them on some black market, or you're helping yourself somehow. Either way, being tortured isn't worth any of it."

"I see, I always underestimate you Mr. Kent, or perhaps this time I overestimated you. I always imagined you to be this highly selfless being."

"I'd never willingly help you."

"Well fortunately your will is of no consequence to me. Since you are healing so nicely, we'll let you rest up for a couple more days before we attempt to get new samples."

Clark stood up and walked towards Lionel. He no longer cared about controlling himself.

"You're not going to touch me again!"

He grabbed Lionel's collar and twisted, lifting him slightly.

Lionel somehow remained perfectly calm, almost pleased with Clark's display of raw anger.

"I advise you to let go Mr. Kent. So far your life has been mercifully meteor rock free. I wouldn't want to have to introduce that element back into your life."

Clark slowly regained control of himself and shoved Lionel into the wall, releasing him.

Lionel straightened his tie, and looked at him. Clark saw the smallest flicker of fear in his eyes, before he turned to go without another word.


Chapter 14

Lex sat in his office at the mansion. He'd waited until this moment to open the envelop Dr. Allen left for him. Dusk was just settling over Smallville, and the sounds in the mansion were quieting to a soft hum. Lex felt safe he wouldn't be interrupted. He carefully slit the envelope open and pulled out the white sheet of paper inside. On it was a long paragraph that obviously had been typed in haste. He read the letter twice before grabbing a pen to make notes. She had last seen Clark alive 2 days before. Apparently his father wasn't taking any chances in anyone discovering Clark's whereabouts.

All the doctors met at the same location; a public building. It wouldn't look odd to see a group of professionals getting aboard a shuttle in downtown Metropolis. From there they were driven to the location. She noted the windows were tinted black, so it was nearly impossible to see. But she remembered "...feeling the wheels of the shuttle hitting metal grid, and sounds of ship horns..." The bridge. They must being working on the other side of the city bridge. Lex tossed the paper aside and quickly turned on his laptop.

With any luck, he'd be able to hack into his father's holding account to see if he'd recently bought any waterfront property. The Luthorcorp logo had just begun to spin on his screen when he heard his name called He carefully shut the laptop and looked up to see Jonathan Kent standing in the doorway, flanked by a very apologetic looking security guard.

"Its ok Johnson...come in, Mr. Kent."

Lex hadn't seen him since the night Clark left for Metropolis. That night he never looked more like a man who wanted to rip Lex's head off. He couldn't blame him, all his fears pointed to this eventual end for his son. As far as Jonathan Kent was concerned, he'd been right all along. Now he stood a little awkwardly, dressed in the uniform of farmers, the outfit he found so comically endearing on Clark; on his father it only looked imposing in its simplicity.

Jonathon walked towards Lex's desk, as Lex came around to meet him.

"What can I do for you?"

"Lex...I appreciate everything you've done for Clark up to this point."

Lex could tell by his tone he didn't appreciate it at all.

"But, I've talked it over with Martha...and we both agree, its time for Clark to come home."

Lex felt his chest tighten, what timing he had.

"That's very dangerous Mr. Kent, My father..."

"I know, your father is a dangerous man, I understand that. But this has gone on long enough. Its time we just face this, whatever it is, together...as a family. We just want our son home. We'll protect him as best we can."

Lex swallowed hard. How could he tell this man that his absolute worst fears had been realized that everything he feared would happen since they found Clark had come true? His son was now at the mercy of Lionel Luthor, and Lex wasn't even sure if he was still alive.

"Mr. Kent..."

But Jonathan tumbled on, "I know you and Clark thought this arrangement was best for all of us. And Clark doesn't want us to know where he is for our protection. He may be strong, but we're still his parents. Protecting him is still our job...and I'm just sorry we forgot that for so long. I'm done hiding Lex, just tell me where he is so I can go and get my son."

"I can't do that Mr. Kent."

Jonathan stepped forward, closing the distance between them.

"I think you misunderstand me Lex. I'm not asking you politely here, I'm demanding to know where Clark is."

His cool, blue eyes held Lex's gaze steadily. Unlike Clark, there was nothing ambiguous about Jonathan Kent. He had no choice but to simply tell him the truth.

"The reason...the reason I can't tell you where Clark is, is because I don't know."

Jonathan spoke very carefully, "What do you mean you don't know where he is?"

"I lost track of him a few weeks ago."

He saw immediate panic and anger flash in those blue eyes.

"And you didn't tell us!"

"I realize now that may have been a mistake..."

Jonathan grabbed Lex by the collar, unleashing all his pent-up anger and frustration.

"Lex this isn't a game, this is my son we're talking about, if you've done anything to hurt him, so help me...!"

"I wouldn't hurt Clark, Mr. Kent. I've done everything I can to help him, but my best efforts weren't good enough."

Jonathan let go of Lex, and walked away in frustration.

"What do you mean?"

"My father has Clark."

Jonathan stopped and turned to Lex, eyes wide.

"How is that possible?! You told us he was safe! "

"And I honestly thought he was."

"And I can't believe I was stupid enough to trust you! "

"Mr. Kent calm down..."

"Don't tell me to calm down! My son, who means more to me than anything in this world is being held by that monster you call your father!"

"Mr. Kent if you'll just listen to me, I have every reason to believe Clark is still alive...and relatively well."

Lex sighed heavily, leaning against his desk

"There was this girl...I met her once when I went to check on Clark. I didn't think much of it at the time...I just figured Clark probably met her in the neighborhood, and invited her up because he was lonely. I should have seen something like that coming. Clark doesn't like isolation much."

"What does this girl have to do with Clark disappearing?"

"I'm getting to that. When I hadn't heard from Clark in a while, I called the hotel. They said he left with the girl, and hadn't been back; his things were still in the room. I went there to check if out for myself. The room was left as if he thought he'd be returning shortly, and there was no sign of a struggle. A few days after that, I noticed a suspicious girl standing just outside the entrance to your farm. I went back the next day to see if it was the same girl I saw in the room with Clark that day...I was right. She's the one who told me she'd been hired by Lionel to lure Clark to him...she took him there herself. She doesn't know what happened to him once she left."

Lex watched as all the color drained from Jonathan's face. For a moment he thought he was going to collapse. His hand instinctively went to his chest, and Lex suddenly remembered his heart condition.

"Mr Kent would you like to..."

He just waved Lex away. He turned slowly and looked at Lex with moist eyes. "So...she doesn't...she doesn't know if he's..."

Lex shook his head. "No, but I got a call from a doctor this morning. She was part of the team my father assembled to...take care of Clark. She saw him less than 2 days ago, and he was very much a live. She seemed to think my father has no intention of killing him.

"Then she knows where she is!"

"No, she doesn't exactly...but from the clues she gave me, I think I can find him pretty easily, if you'll give me just a minute."

Jonathan paced back and forth in front of Lex's desk, tugging at his face frantically. Lex went back over to his laptop to see if he could access his father's accounts.

Jonathan felt ill and very tired suddenly. He fought hard not to let his mind wander to thoughts of his most precious thing on earth being held against this will, with strangers doing god knows what to him--everything they'd tried to protect him from...everything, he just wanted to scream; but there wasn't time to panic, he had to stay focused or he'd never see Clark again.

"Did you find anything yet?"

Lex sighed "No...I should have known it wouldn't be this easy."

"Lex we can't just sit here!"

"I know Mr. Kent. But the only clue I have is that he may be holding him somewhere over the bridge, near the docks. That area is so vast we'd never be able to find him without something more to go on."

"Then I'll go through every building on that waterfront if I have to. I can't just sit here and let them kill Clark. So you do whatever you need to do, but I'm going to Metropolis."

"Mr. Kent, listen; if my father finds out you're going after Clark, he may decide it's too risky, and discontinue his experiments."

"What are you saying?"

"I'm saying, my father may decide to kill Clark if he thinks he'll be discovered."

Jonathan stopped at the doorway. He swayed a little, but regained control immediately. But he when he turned around he looked defeated.

"I'm at a lost Lex, I just want him home...I really don't know what to do."

"I know it's frustrating, and I promise you I want Clark home safely too. But, unfortunately with dealing with men like my father, you have to tread carefully. I think you should go home. I'll contact you when I find something more."

Jonathan nodded slowly. "I really hope I can trust you Lex."

"You don't have a choice."


Clark stood naked in front of the full length mirror in the bathroom. Droplets of water from his shower still glistened on his pale skin. He stood there calmly studying his reflection. He ran a hand down the length of his torso, over his now protruding ribs. The realization that he was much thinner than he'd been when he arrived, barely registered with him.

He felt detached from his body. So many people had claimed his flesh for their own, he no longer felt it belonged to him. The only thing he had left was the person trapped inside; the person that slowly slipped away from him a little more each day.

He discovered he no longer remembered the smell of wet grain, or fresh baked muffins in the morning. Even trying to recall the timber of his mother's voice, or the sound of Chloe's laugh, proved difficult. That now all seemed part of some distant past that belonged to someone else.

He touched the faded scar across his abdomen. All that remained was a slight twinge of soreness. His body was almost completely healed, and tomorrow they planned to reopen the scar, and the ordeal would begin all over again. He wasn't sure how he'd manage it, but things weren't going to go as planned. Whatever was left of his life wouldn't become an endless cycle of pain and torture.

Clark froze suddenly. The lock to his room clicked open, but he remained still, mentally checking if he remembered to lock the bathroom door. No one thought much of walking in on him, no matter what he was doing, so he learned quickly to always lock doors, and listen hard for approaching footsteps. He waited patiently, listening to every sound, and only relaxed when he hard the soft clank of a tray being set a table and then retreating footsteps.

He emerged, still wet, from the bathroom only when he heard the sound of the second door shut. Fresh white scrubs sat waiting for him at the edge of the bed. He sat next to them, fingering the rough cloth gently. With a sigh he finally pulled the top over his head, still hating the feel of roughness against his skin, but realizing he was getting used to it.


Chapter 15

The blood oozed thick and dark out of the gaping wound. His pale hands clutched his stomach in desperation trying to stop the steady flow. His flesh had grown so weak and thin that even the slightest touch of his fingers tore new gashes. Clark's hands and arms were soaked with his own blood, and more he tried to stop it, the faster it flowed. His head swam and the pain was unbearable, but he only gripped harder. The blood began to glow green and he felt his insides melting. White hot pain ripped through his veins, and he screamed in agony. He fell forward with a thud, and opened his eyes to darkness.

Clark looked wildly around as his pupils adjusted to the dark. He felt the cold hardness of the floor beneath him. He'd fallen out of bed. He rose slowly on trembling knees, shaking his head, trying to dislodge the nightmare. The white shirt he wore clung to his body in large wet patches. A drop of moisture fell from his brow, and he panted heavily. He took a deep breath, trying to slow his heart rate. Looking down, he noticed the shirt was shredded across his stomach and flesh and fibers were caked beneath his nails. Only faint red marks remained from where he obviously clawed his skin, and they faded before his eyes.

He peeled off his soiled shirt, tossing it into a corner. His throat felt sore from the screaming he couldn't remember. He stood there, trying to make sense of his nightmare, but he knew why they were growing more violent. In a few hours they intended to open him again. The very thought sent waves of nausea and panic through him. He lay down across the bed, breathing hard, staring at the ceiling. But his jaw was set and he swallowed hard; he knew what he had to do.


Lex had never bribed, coerced and threatened so many people in his life. But every threat of imminent pain and death had been worth the list he held in his hands. He was going over it for the third time, wondering how he'd missed it.

His father had managed to buy up almost all the property on the west side of the river over the past six months. Clark could be in any one of those buildings. He had men scoping the area, on both sides of the river, and he planned to go there himself the next day. His hand lingered over the phone, debating whether to call Mr. Kent. He'd promised to call as soon as he got any leads, but he feared what Clark's father would do. He had a tendency to act first and ask questions later, a trait Clark shared.

If Clark were still alive and had gone through what Lex suspected he had, he'd need Jonathan there. There was no doubt the situation would be extremely dangerous, and there was a chance one of them would be injured or worse. But if he somehow managed to get Clark out of there, Lex wasn't sure if he could give Clark the emotional support he needed. He picked up the phone and dialed the Kent's number.


"Mr. Kent, I suggest you come out now, or we'll have to send someone in to get you."

Clark gripped the edge of the sink, and stood up slowly. He flexed his arms, standing perfectly straight, feeling strength and vitality coursing through him. His wet hair clung to his scalp, and he wore a towel tied loosely around his waist. The shower before the procedure--he imagined it was some form of control to make him prepare himself for his own torture. He pushed down waves of anxiety, praying he'd be able to do what was needed.

He emerged from the bathroom, staring blankly at the doctor and the two guards accompanying him. He hooked his thumb inside his towel and let it drop to the floor. He raised his arms slightly, signaling to the guards to take hold of them. The guards and the doctor looked slightly taken aback by his sudden courage. The guards hesitated before flanking his sides. They guided him towards the door. Clark paused only briefly at the doorway. The door to the lab opened and Lionel Luthor walked in. Clark smiled slightly, sealing his resolve.

Clark stopped at the threshold and focused. The room erupted in an explosion of flames. The metal of the table immediately began twisting and melting under the intense heat. Clark narrowed his eyes again, training them on every corner of the room, and the rest of the lab exploded in a fiery blaze. Lionel tried to run forward, but a blast of heat drove him back. Everyone seemed at a lost of what to do. The guards holding Clark moved away from him in shock and fear. Lionel's screams of anger brought them back to their senses.

"What are you doing? Stop him!"

Clark saw the look on Lionel's face. He looked terrified and enraged. Clark held his gaze before Lionel quickly left the room. The guards flicked a switch on their batons, exposing their kryptonite tips. Clark immediately fell to his knees from the pain, and they dragged him back into his room. The lab became a flurry of activity as more men rushed in with extinguishers to contain the fire.

The guards slammed the door behind them and shoved Clark against the wall, striking him repeatedly. Each stroke of the baton burned his skin and he cried out in spite of himself. Something had snapped in the guards, Clark could sense it, because they were no longer trying to subdue him, they were beating him now out of anger. He felt his skin opening and blood beginning to flow, but the small smile never left his face. They could do whatever they liked to him. For now at least--he'd won.


Chapter 16

The Kent house had this way of shutting out the whole world. Nothing bad could ever make it past those pale curtains blowing wistfully in the kitchen windows. Lex had just gone through a very harrowing week, but none of mattered sitting in the Kent kitchen with a warm mug of coffee in his hand.

He glanced across the table at Martha Kent. Nothing could distract her from the gestures of hospitality, not even a meeting to discuss her son being imprisoned by one of the most notoriously dangerous men in existence. Martha still held a ready smile and a warm pot of coffee for Lex as he entered. But he saw the stress fraying the edges of her demeanor; the smile that didn't quite reach her eyes, and the thin lines edging her tired eyes. But it wasn't a faade; she was genuinely happy to see Lex when she greeted him, and not even the graveness of their circumstances could suppress that, and he truly admired her for it.

"So...what do we do now Lex?"

"Well my men have reported seeing some activity inside two of the buildings my father owns; they're about a quarter of a mile from each other. One of the buildings has an underground garage, so I'm going to assume that's where they are keeping Clark. It would explain why there haven't been any sightings of people actually going in and out of the building."

Martha had a firm grasp of her husband's hand. Her voice was calm, but he could hear the edge of desperation in her voice.

"And...and you're sure Clark is still alive?"

Lex looked at her directly in the eyes, "I don't know that for certain Mrs. Kent, but they say we always know when people close to us leave this world...do you still feel like Clark is with us?"

Her eyes filled with tears, and she nodded.

Lex offered her a small smile of reassurance. "On a more practical note...and I hate to bring this up, but my father's intention is to use Clark, so I imagine he'd have to keep him alive."

Marth gripped her husband's hand harder at the thought of what Clark was enduring right now. The tears threatened to spill from her eyes. Jonathon pulled her a little closer to him. Lex could tell they were both trying very hard to remain calm and not get upset, but he could see what a toll this whole ordeal was taking on them.

"How exactly do you plan to get into the building without being stopped?"

Lex was prepared for that question, and though he had his doubts his plan would work, he decided to be nothing but optimistic when he answered Mr. Kent.

"I've managed to buy off a couple of guards. They refuse to admit to Clark being there, but they are willing, at a considerable fee, to gain us access into the building and take us to the lab. They promised to create a diversion, to allow us time to get to Clark. It all sounds very simple, but it will be extremely dangerous, which is why I need to go into the building alone."

Jonathon shook his head emphatically, "There's no way I'm letting you do that Lex. Clark is my son, if there are any risks to take, I'll be the one taking them."

"I appreciate that Mr. Kent, but Clark needs both of his parents alive when he gets out of this. It's just easier for one person to get into the building than two."

"Lex, I'm sorry, but I'm going with you."

Lex looked to Martha for help.

"Jonathan, Lex is right. I don't want you getting hurt."

"Martha, I know, and I'm sorry, but I need to do this." He turned to Lex. "When do we leave?"

"Late tonight. Mrs. Kent, I'd like it if you'd come with us and wait at the penthouse. I plan on taking Clark there first."

"Why the penthouse?"

"I think it's better if we stop there for the night first. I don't think Clark will be able to travel that far right away."

Jonathan started to protest, but Martha put a hand on his shoulder. "Ok, we'll be ready to leave tonight."

Lex rose to go. "Don't worry Mr. and Mrs. Kent, if all goes well, this time tomorrow, Clark will be home."


Clark awoke a couple of hours later, huddled in a corner, shivering. His entire body felt like one giant aching wound. He must have passed out at some point during the beating. The guards didn't utter a single angry word to him; they just beat him wordlessly--letting the batons say everything they wouldn't.

A blanket lay near him and he moved cautiously towards it. His hands were caked with blood, where he tried pointlessly to deflect the blows. There was a small wet puddle beneath him; his stomach lurched when he realized it was his own blood. He took a deep breath, trying to ease his queasiness, but it wouldn't subside. He felt a familiar throbbing around his ankles. A glance down revealed two wire-thin anklets adorning him; glowing a sickening green.

Clark carefully moved to a sitting position and pulled the blanket around him. The room was dark, but he could still tell the bed had been removed. There was only a lone lamp in the corner turned off. Clark laughed bitterly to himself. Things were definitely going to change around here.

Suddenly the room flooded with light, Clark shielded his eyes against the sudden brightness. He looked up to see a mane of hair silhouetted against door jam. He braced himself against the wall in anticipation.

"Mr. Kent, I thought we had a deal."

Clark looked up at Lionel coldly, not answering.

"You give me what I want, and in exchange I keep you as comfortable as I can." He leaned down towards Clark. "Didn't I do that? Wasn't I accommodating?"

"If you think..."

"No! I don't want to hear your excuses! Do you have any idea what you've cost me today? How much work and time you've wasted? It'll take more than a week to repair that lab."

Clark glared at Lionel, not quite believing his ears. The man couldn't possible expect him to be sorry for what he did.

"Good."

"Good? Oh Clark you clearly underestimate me. You seem to think I won't let any real harm come to you. Trust me, I will if I have to. I've been too kind, trying to treat you like a human being, when we both know you're nothing of the kind. If you want to resume our previous arrangements, then I suggest you learn to cooperate. I'll give you some time to think about it. I'll return in three days for your answer. And if you won't listen to reason, you'll die in this room."

Clark's gaze never wavered; he stared unflinching and defiant at him. For some reason this enraged Lionel, and he reached down and grabbed Clark by the throat. He seemed to consider something, then think better of it. He let Clark go with a shove into the wall.

Clark lunged at Lionel with all this strength, but missed him by inches. The effort caused Clark to gag, and cough; a clot of blood escaped his mouth. Lionel drew back laughing softly.

"Three days Mr. Kent...provided you last that long." Lionel shut the door behind him.

Clark slowly raised himself up, wiping the blood from his mouth. He drew the blanket tightly around himself, wishing the shivering would stop.

He felt surprisingly calm. His act of defiance shed his feeling of being a victim, giving him hope finally. He'd been full of so much misery and anger, and so willing to give up for so long, he'd forgotten what being alive meant. He realized now, he had no right to give up on the life his parents spent their whole lives trying to protect. There were people who loved him, and who were waiting for him. He'd simply have to find a way to get back to them. Clark wrapped the blanket closer around his body, curled up on the floor and tried to sleep.


Chapter 17

It was surprisingly easy. It hadn't taken much convincing at all to round up an impromptu group of men willing to wield heavy artillery and ask no questions. He hadn't expected a problem--since there were few that couldn't be solved with large amounts of cash--but still, he always found it surprisingly how easily some men could be bought. For his purposes he was grateful, because time was extremely limited. He stood in front of the five men, asked only to bring themselves, their own black clothing and the ability to fire a machine gun. They stood there looking at him impassively, awaiting instructions. He neglected to mention this part of the plan to the Kents.

He wasn't sure if the addition of five armed men would make them feel safer or much more nervous, so he decided to remove it from the equation. He told the men briefly what they were expected to do, and gave them pictures of the people they were to protect and not harm under any circumstance. His father's picture was not among the photos. That was one issue he'd been pushing to the back of his mind since all this began--how to deal with his father; more importantly how far was he willing to go.

It wasn't pure altruism that prompted him to rescue Clark, though it made him ill to think of what may have happened to him already. It was a chance to win and important battle against his father. He'd treaded too far into Lex's territory now, and he felt forced to draw his sword, and it was a fight he didn't intend to lose. Once the men were debriefed, Lex left and headed back to the Kent farm.

The Kents looked anything but ready for what was about to take place, but their smiles were genuine if wavering. Jonathan was dressed in a black jacket--an old one of Clarks he said--and dark jeans. Martha seemed to understand the need to keep a low profile and dressed in dark colors as well. Lex almost smiled knowing the fiery red of her hair would never go unnoticed by anyone. But she wasn't going anywhere near the building, so he felt it made little difference. No one would see her enter the penthouse. They would park in the underground garage and take the elevator straight to his place from there.

The three of them piled silently into Lex's black Escalade. The helicopter was ready for them in Metropolis if they needed it. Lex felt it best to go towards the situation as quietly as possible.


Clark counted the distance from the tub to where he lay. It was only have the distance he'd already traveled. He smiled at his small triumph. His legs felt raw from being dragged across the rough floor, but every time he tried to stand, his head swam and his limbs felt leaden--he was much better off lying on the floor. The goal was to somehow get into the bath. He hoped the warm water would soothe his aching wounds. At least the bathroom tiles would feel cool against his skin; he was really looking forward to that--only four more feet to go.

Beads of sweat fell into his eyes, making them burn slightly. His body shook with fever, making it harder to control his limbs. Even the thin bands of kryptonite around his ankle were too much to take. They were slowly incapacitating him, and he began to wonder if he would make it to tell Lionel in no uncertain terms to go "fuck himself" two days from now. He took another sharp breathe and begin to continue his journey.

He stopped suddenly shocked when he saw his mother suddenly standing in the doorway. His heart nearly leapt out of his chest with excitement as he reached out to her. All he felt was warm soft fingers entwined in his, and a gentle hand on his forehead, smoothing his hair back. Her voice was a soft caress in his ear, and he smiled, so relieved it was finally over. He shut his eyes and relaxed against her lap. His eyes flew open with the shock of pain when his head hit the hard floor.

He looked around the dark room frantically, trying to find his mother. She was gone. It was like being cut open again when he realized it was only a hallucination. He stifled a sob, and sucked in his breath, wincing from the pain. He felt sick, and disoriented, but kept going. That's how he'd get through this he thought, one tiny goal at a time.


The night air was cool in Metropolis, and the dampness rising off the stagnant water of the downtown river gave off a curious old stench. Jonathan Kent wiped absently at his eyes, not used to the dank stifling air of the city. He felt like silent bolts of electricity were buzzing throughout his body. Each nerve ending pulsed in anticipation of what was coming.

He felt his stomach drop as Lex slowed down the SUV as he neared a tall unassuming building just off the north bank of the Metropolis river. Lex drove past the building, going further north. Jonathan was about to protest when he realized they couldn't exactly just drive up, park, and go through the front door. They left the car a few blocks away. They walked in silence, the only sound being the clicking of their heels against the pavement.

As they approached the building, two men emerged from the shadows. Jonathan instinctively moved to step in front of Lex, but Lex stopped him and whispered to him. "I'm expecting them." He motioned for the men to move into the darkness of an overhang, and Jonathan followed them. There were five men waiting, holding guns, and Jonathan knew immediately what Lex had done.

"Why didn't you tell me about this?"

"I didn't know if you'd approve. And before you protest further, this is the only way I could ensure we'd even get to where they're keeping Clark. An informant told me exactly where Clark is held and he'll be the one on duty near the main entrance. We still have two rooms to get through, both I imagine are heavily armed. Morals aside Mr. Kent, if you want your son back, we have no choice."

There was no time for regrets about the choices he'd been forced to make. He nodded quickly at Lex and moved to join the men.


Clark sat draped over the edge of the tub. Despite all his efforts, the final one of climbing over the short porcelain edge, proved to be too difficult. He let the water run into the tub, and he threw whatever warm water he managed to reach over his aching wounds, bathing them as best he could. It was getting harder to continuously remind himself that the tub was located in some remote location far away from everything, and not the water trough he used to quench the cattle's thirst. With a start he realized he'd forgotten to feed them. He went to move, and the pain reminded him sharply there were no cattle anywhere near.

He'd almost gotten used to seeing people from his life, walk into the room, or try and soothe him. Even if he knew they weren't real, he talked to them. The sound of his scratchy tired voice seemed to fill the dark space.

Thin green spider webs crawled up his calves and his skin had taken on a sickly pale greenish color. Clark felt his stomach lurch again, and his head nearly hit the porcelain. Noting the danger if his head ever met with the rim of the tub, he pushed his body away and began his slow crawl back towards the room. He pulled himself up against the door jam of the bathroom. The pain was great, but even stumbling was quicker than crawling on the floor. He took a few steps, but crumpled against the wall, falling on the floor. His arms worked frantically to push his weight forward, but he was too heavy, and they were too weak. He rested his head against the cool floor, as his eyelids grew heavy. He swore he heard the faint sound of gunfire just before he passed out.


Chapter 18

Jonathan Kent froze at the sound of gunfire. Lex sent the men ahead of them to create a clear path. The men were instructed to eliminate any obstacle. They proceeded into the building cautiously with Lex leading the way, holding a small semi-automatic handgun at his side. It all felt surreal. Life on a farm just didn't prepare one for storming into an abandoned waterfront building, trailing behind a small army in the dead of night. Jonathan could only use his common sense and determination to find his son alive to see him through all this.

He had refused to carry the gun Lex offered him. He wasn't sure why, since he never shied away from grabbing the rifle hanging in the hallway at home if there was any trouble on their property--but this time he knew it was very likely he would have to take a human life--it wasn't something he was prepared to do...not yet.

They moved quietly up the service stairs until they reached the sixth floor landing. Lex stopped and motioned for Jonathan to do the same. Lex listened carefully outside the door, waiting. A small red light flashed on a device affixed to his belt. He carefully pushed the door open, and motioned for Jonathan to follow. Lex grabbed him in the door way and whispered to him quickly.

"There are three adjoining rooms. Once we get through the first door, there may be guards there. They flashed the signal for the all clear, but I told them to hold at least one guard to open the door to the lab--there's a code. They were instructed to threaten, and let whoever wanted to go, leave, and take out the rest...I just want you to be prepared for what you may see."

Jonathan took a deep breath, but nodded quickly. The room they stepped into was dark, with the only illumination coming from a single window facing the long hallway.

One of the armed men stood waiting by the door. As they approached he told Lex they had taken out two men, and would clean things up later once they were out of the building. Lex barely nodded as he walked through the next door. The implications of taking lives to save his son's kept entering Jonathan's mind, and there was no doubt, their entire family would pay for all of this mentally in the end. But for now he had to stay focused, they were so close to their goal.

There were indeed two guards laying face down on the ground. They had to step over their bodies. Lex glanced quickly at them, but kept his eyes affixed to the next entrance. Jonathan hesitated, thinking they should at least see if they were alive. Lex looked at him, sensing his thoughts.

"There's no time Mr. Kent. Clark is just beyond the next room."

The rest of the men stood near the entrance to the lab. One was holding a guard around the neck, while they waited patiently for Lex. Jonathan stopped--the entire room was surrounded by a solid wall of kryptonite. He moved quicker, wanting to get Clark out of there now. Lex told the guard to open the door. The guard reached to push the keypad, but Lex saw his other had reach down to touch a silent alarm. With no hesitation he shot the guard in the hand. The man screamed but Lex pushed his gunman aside and pushed the guard against the wall.

"Push the code, or your knee cap is next." The guard hurriedly did as he was told.

The powerful stench of charred metal and chemicals hit them as the door slid open. Jonathan rushed into the room, looking frantically around for any sign of Clark. He turned to Lex, who still had his gun trained on the guard.

"Where is he?! I thought you said they were keeping him in here."

His panic began to rise seeing the state of the lab. The walls were charred in a definite pattern no normal fire could make. He felt like his heart would burst out of his chest. He prayed they weren't too late.

"There's another door, Mr. Kent."

Lex pushed the guard towards it, ordering him to open it. He obliged and the door to Clark's small room slid open.

There was no preparation for this. The entire ride to Metropolis, Jonathan had thought of every horrible scenario, trying to steel himself for when they finally found Clark. But he'd been foolish. Nothing could prepare him for the site of his only child sprawled lifelessly on a cold floor, naked, covered in gashes and caked blood, with a thin blanket surrounding his much thinner body.

"Oh God...Clark!"

Jonathan chocked back a sob and ran to his side. He kept the overwhelming anger he felt at bay, and gently turned him over looking for any sign of breathing. He almost cried with relief when he saw his chest rise slightly. He shook Clark, trying to get him to wake up.

"Come on son...please, Clark."

Clark opened his eyes and looked up at his father. He stared at him blankly, not moving, knowing it was just another hallucination. His head fell back against his father's chest, and he closed his eyes again.

"Lex! Get over here and help me. We have to get him out of here."

Lex was standing at the threshold, feeling sick. He never hated his father more in this moment, though the thought was oddly calming because he'd never been so certain that his father deserved to die. He went to Mr. Kent's side to help him get Clark up. As soon as they had him standing, Clark's eyes flew open and he moaned in pain. Lex looked down his legs, noticing two very thin anklets of meteor rock adorning them. Jonathan followed his gaze.

"We have to get those off of him, Lex."

"We will, once we get in the car, I have tools, for now we have to get out of here quickly, before anymore guards show up. I sent the men down to make sure we get out of here safely. One will accompany us."

"Wait...I'm going to try and carry him."

Jonathan wrapped the blanket tightly around Clark, and lifted him with all his strength. He was heavy, but Jonathan felt he could manage it.

When Clark opened his eyes again, they were wide and scared. "Dad..?"

Jonathan pulled Clark tighter to him, and whispered to him.

"We're about to leave the lab, the kryptonite will hurt, but I'll try and get you out of there as fast as I can, ok?"

Clark was too terrified to believe his Dad was real, the disappointment would be too great, but his father's arms weren't letting him go and he felt warm and safe.

"You're...real?"

Jonathan's tears fell on Clark's face and he simply nodded. "Ok Clark, hold on to me tight."

The door opened, exposing the kryptonite, and Clark gripped his father tightly, screaming into his chest. Jonathan knew he had to remain calm, or he'd prolong his son's agony. Though, it nearly killed him to hear Clark muttering *"no more"* between gasps of pain.

Once they were beyond the lab, Lex felt it safer and quicker to take the elevator down. He avoided looking at Clark. It was just too much to take in. Someone as strong as Clark should never be reduced to such a state. They both helped him out to the waiting car. Lex sent the men back in to clean up any mess. He glanced around the dark lot. It had been far too easy, and he hoped they weren't walking into a trap.

Jonathan laid Clark across the back seat, and went to look for tools to remove the kryptonite anklets from Clark.

"Mr Kent we need to get out of here."

"I'm getting those things off of him now; he's in too much pain!"

"Ok...there's a tool kit in the back, there may be something to snap those things off of him. Just grab it and get in, you can do it while I drive."

Jonathan grabbed the tool kit, and jumped in back with Clark, who had passed out again. He snapped the thin anklets off of him with wire cutters and tossed them out the moving car window. The green veins started to slowly fade, and some color was returning to Clark's pale skin.

Lex glanced in the rearview window at them. Jonathan was gently smoothing Clark's hair while Clark slept peacefully in his lap. He picked up his cell phone to call ahead for the helicopter. They'd stop at the penthouse to get Clark cleaned up, but he felt it safer if they didn't stay in Metropolis for the night.

The dispatcher came on the line with some very odd news. "I'm sorry Mr. Luthor, but your helicopter was called away suddenly. I'm not sure what happened, but it left a few minutes ago."

Lex threw his cell phone down, and for the first time noticed a sleek black sedan a couple of car lengths back tailing them. Lex sighed and glanced back and Clark. This wasn't over yet.


Chapter 19

Clark gripped the walls tightly as he made his way towards Lex's penthouse. He pretended to be asleep most of the car ride, so he wouldn't have to talk. His weakness since his father found him scared him a little--it wasn't something he felt he could afford yet. He desperately wanted to believe this marked the beginning of the end, but the last several weeks taught him the danger of false hopes.

But for now he simply concentrated on walking his own.

His father stepped aside to let him open the door himself. He turned the knob gingerly and slowly pulled the door open. Martha Kent felt her stomach drop and something twist sharply inside of her. She stood, paralyzed in front of the door; in front of her only child. Tears spilled without warning when she saw the way he straightened his back, and leaned away from his father to stand on his own. It was such a Clark thing to do; to do anything to relieve her of even a small amount of pain.

His tall, very strong frame was thin, she could tell even through the blanket he wrapped tighter around himself. His once clear, bright eyes were dark and rimmed in deep shadows. But he smiled weakly at her still, and once she wrapped her arms around him, she was happy just to feel him again. The smell of old blood filled her nostrils, but she didn't let go. She felt Clark's tears against her neck and he cried softly into her shoulder, while his father kept a strong arm around him to hold him up. Clark was crumbling before their eyes, and Martha knew she needed to sooth him somehow, quickly. She gently pulled Clark off of her with Jonathan's help.

Clark snapped his head up looking at them both, finally taking in where he was--and where he wasn't. His legs faltered and his father caught him.

"Its ok Clark...we need to get you into a bath."

He nodded, and allowed himself to be guided by his parents. His mother ran a warm bath, while his father sat him down in the bathroom, and carefully removed the blanket. Clark shuddered at his father's touch, but remained still, trying to remember it was his father's hands on him and he wouldn't hurt him. Once the water was ready, his mother averted her eyes out of politeness while his father helped him into the warm bath. Jonathan grabbed a nearby wash cloth, but Martha stopped him.

"I'll do it Jonathan--Clark needs me right now."

He nodded and walked out of the door, leaving them alone in the bathroom.

Martha picked up the cloth, soaking it in the tub and let the warm water run down Clark's back. She watched his jaw tense, and then slowly relax as she repeated the motion several times. Clark closed his eyes finally and let the simplicity of the warm bath and his mother at his side sooth him. She tried not to notice the water turning a dark pink rapidly as she cleansed the blood from him, or the scars covering his body, or the way his ribs protruded. She pushed away all thoughts of why her normally affectionate son would tremble at the touch of his own parents. She knew she had to stay calm for him right now, because she could see him coming apart at the seams in his own quiet way.

She ran a hand through his wet hair, and he leaned into her palm slightly.

"Clark, after this we're going to get you out of here, and get you home."

He didn't look at her. "What about Lionel?"

"Let Lex take care of that...you only worry about yourself right now. "

"He's dangerous Mom...even to Lex."

She heard the quiet panic in his voice, and turned his face to look at her.

"You only worry about yourself. Do you understand? You can't help Lex or anyone else, if you can't take care of yourself."

He nodded slightly. "This is so surreal Mom."

She kissed his face. "I know baby....but it is real, and you're going home."


Lex stood by his bar, with a scotch in his hand. Jonathan was going over the logistics of getting back to Smallville, with Lex nodding his affirmation occasionally. He knew neither one of them was thinking about the car ride back; they were both thinking of a very broken Clark in the other room.

As if sensing this, Jonathan said completely out of the blue "He'll be ok Lex...we just need to get him home, and he'll be fine. Clark's strong, and it'll be hard, but he has us, and we'll do everything we can for him."

Lex watched the dark liquid swirl in his glass, not wanting to give himself the satisfaction of it going down his throat just yet.

"He is strong Mr. Kent, but he's been through a lot, I hope you realize you may need outside help, if he's really going to be ok, and I hope you'll allow me to assist you."

Jonathan turned to protest, when the door opening interrupted him. It took him a moment to digest that Lionel Luthor was standing in front of them suddenly. Lex moved towards him, but he pointed a gun at Jonathan.

"Don't do anything foolish son. I believe you have something that belongs to me. Just return it and I'll be on my way."

"Belongs to you?! My son is not some thing you own!"

Jonathan rushed towards him in a rage, but Lionel closed the distance, pressing the barrel of the gun firmly into his chest.

"Mr. Kent, stop!"

Clark jerked his head up when he heard the shouting; he didn't need his super-hearing to recognize Lionel's voice. Before his mother could stop him, he shot out of the bath, grabbed and towel and sped into the room. Lionel saw Clark appear suddenly and a look of sheer glee crossed his face.

"Well Clark, you are full of surprises, I'll..."

Clark appeared in front of him, and his hand was wrapped firmly around his throat. He had grabbed the gun out of Lionel's hand and tossed it away. Now he held Lionel a few inches off the ground, pressed against the wall. All he had to do was squeeze just a little bit--that's all it would take, and his neck would crumble in his hands. Clark's breathing was labored, and his eyes were wild and glazed over. Jonathan looked at him in shock, realizing what he intended to do.

"Clark, no!...son, please, you have to let him go."

Clark pressed his thumb against Lionel's windpipe and watched with satisfaction as Lionel's face turned bright red as he struggled for breathe.

Lex watched the scene, fascinated by the pureness of Clark's rage. He glanced down at the discarded gun near his feet.

Clark flexed the muscles in his arm, readying to inflict the final blow, when a load bang exploded in his ears. He felt the blood on his face before he saw the gaping hole in Lionel's skull. Shocked, he dropped Lionel's limp body and quickly stepped away from it. He knew who'd done it before he turned to face him. He turned his head slowly just as Lex lowered the still smoking gun. Clark stared at him with wide eyes, and for the first time since they rescued him, Lex didn't look away.


It was amazing how time slowed to a crawl when life happened too fast. There they all stood, stock-still in Lex's expansive living room; the sound of the gunshot still ringing in their ears. Lex was the first to move. He slipped the gun into his pocket, and lightly pushed past Clark and bent down to feel for his father's pulse--there wasn't one. Clark noticed the hitch in Lex's movements before he stood again that one else would have seen. Lex turned to face him, looking directly into his eyes, but his words were directed at his parents.

"Take the car, and get Clark out of here now. His clothes are in the back bedroom. Move as quickly as possible."

Clark hadn't seen his mother enter the room, but he knew the expression on her face--he didn't need to turn around.

"Lex, what about..."

Lex placed a hand firmly on Clark's shoulder to silence him, and he said quietly.

"You go with your parents; I'll take care of everything here. I'll see you in a few days."

Clark glanced down at Lionel Luthor's fallen body. This man had brought about so much pain and suffering and altered their lives forever, he felt it should have taken a whole artillery to kill him, not just a single bullet shattering his skull--it shouldn't have been so easy. Clark felt two strong hands on his shoulders, pulling him away from the scene. His father spoke to him gently, like he did when he'd have nightmares as a child.

"Clark...Get dressed quickly and meet us back out here, ok?"

He nodded, not able to tear his eyes away from Lionel.

"Clark..."

He jerked his body away, and sped into the other room, afraid he'd be unable to accomplish the task otherwise.

Jonathan walked over to where Lex stood, and cautiously touched his shoulder.

"Lex...you've done so much for Clark, for us...you don't have to do this alone."

"Its better I take care of this on my own, I'd rather no one knew you and your family were involved." He looked up at the concerned blue eyes. "Thanks Mr. Kent."

"There aren't enough words to thank you for what you've done, Lex."

He gave Lex's shoulder a firm squeeze and went to his wife's side.


Chapter 20

It felt odd to be back in his old clothes again. He kept fingering the soft flannel absently, rubbing it lightly against his skin. His father glanced over at him with a slightly sympathetic frown, and Clark immediately felt silly, placing his hands firmly in his lap. The three-hour car ride never felt so long. Clark resumed his position in the farthest corner of the front seat, with his head pressed up against the window, watching the dark Kansas fields whip by. No one spoke, but he welcomed the silence.

Just a few hours ago he'd been resigned to his own death, and now he was safely in a car with his parents on his way back to Smallville, to the bed in that small yellow house he longed for every night since he arrived in Metropolis. Except, he didn't feel safe.

He glanced down at his trembling hands and took a deep breath, clasping them together and tried his best to let fatigue take over for the rest of the ride. He soon slipped into a deep dreamless sleep, and only his father was awake to hear his Mother's quiet sobs coming from the back seat.


Lex sat for a long time just staring at his father's lifeless body. He didn't bother to close his eyes, or clean up the blood or bone fragments--he wanted to experience the sheer brutality of what he had done. The cleaners would be arriving soon, and this would be the last time he'd ever see his father's flesh. He bent down, kissed his father's cheek, and whispered, "It had to be me Dad."


Clark rolled over in his bed for the tenth time in the last five minutes. He glanced at the clock by his bed. It was almost 6am, and for the last six hours he tried without success to fall asleep. He'd spent more than an hour just walking around his room, touching and smelling everything, not knowing whether to scream with joy or sob.

He'd nearly given up hope he'd ever be standing there again, and had played the scenario in his mind over and over. But somehow in his lucid dreams, the nightmares always ended, and he felt safe, like nothing could ever harm him again. The reality was quite different. Almost worse than living in constant terror was being safe and terrified it would all be taken away again, this time knowing full well what that meant.

He heard his mother downstairs in the kitchen, starting breakfast. The delicious smells wafted through the house; and the warm sense of familiarity gave him the strength to leave his bed and face the day.

His mother's uneasy smile greeted him when he entered the kitchen. The strain of the last couple of months was etched in her face, and he immediately felt a pang of guilt. He swallowed hard and tried to return her smile as he made his way over to her side. She pulled him into a tight embrace, and let her head rest on his chest--he knew she was listening to the reassuring rhythm of his heart. He smiled and gently extracted himself from her arms.

"Its smells wonderful Mom."

She beamed at him "Well we definitely have to get some weight back on you..."

Clark looked away uneasily, and Martha immediately regretted what she said.

She looked at him with full concern. "How are you feeling Clark?"

"I'm ok, just a little sore still...um...what's for breakfast?"

"A little bit of everything; do want omelets?"

Clark nodded, leaning against the kitchen island. His mother smiled brightly and pulled out some beautiful plump tomatoes, and started slicing them with a paring knife. Clark's eyes went wide as he stared at the knife. Everything closed in suddenly and he stumbled backwards knocking over a chair. His father, just coming in from the fields, quickly grabbed him, but Clark jerked away, startled, and stepped away from both of them.

His parents moved to help him, but he put his arms out to stop them, in between gasps he muttered.

"I'm fine...I just...I'll be ok"

His father ignored his warning and moved towards him, "You are not fine Clark! Let me help you!"

Clark backed against the wall, face flushed--it was the fear in his eyes that stopped his father.

"Its ok son...I'm sorry, but I really think we should eventually talk about what happened."

Clark looked back at him defiantly, fear quickly turning to anger.

"I'm never talking about it Dad...I just need time...I'll be fine."

"Clark..."

"No!"

His mother cautiously approached him, and he didn't move away.

"Look, its ok...just eat some breakfast, and we'll worry about it later."

She looked pointedly at Jonathan for reassurance--he nodded.

He shook his head, more out of frustration, and the realization that it wasn't ok, and it would be a very long time before it was Ok. He slid past them and headed for the door.

"I'm sorry...I can't eat right now." And he was gone.

Martha looked at her husband. "Jonathan, we have to do something."

"What do you suggest we do? I think he should talk about it, but we can't make him."

"Maybe he should talk to someone professional."

"And tell him what? That he was abducted and experimented on because someone found out he's an alien? You know we can't do that."

"What was the point of rescuing Clark, if we fail him now? There has to be something we can do."

Jonathan looked exasperated. They knew Clark wanted to spare them the pain of what happened to him, but he knew all of Clark's reasons for not talking were not completely selfless. He pulled Martha to him, quietly letting her know he was giving in.

"Ok, we'll think of something. For now, we'll let him be on his own. I imagine he's more confused than anything. I think he just needs some peace and to know he's safe right now."


Clark hadn't intended to go to his loft. It'd be weeks since he felt the sun on his face, and he stood in the fields, facing the sky for several minutes, before finally turning and heading towards the barn. It'd always been the place he retreated to when the world became too much--he need to know if it could offer him any comfort now.

He sat down on the old lumpy sofa, and looked around. All of his things were still there, exactly as he'd left them. A history book was open on his desk, along with his notebook with a half finished history notes scribbled there. His laptop still sat open beside it. He rubbed his eyes absently. He was exhausted and wanted so much to just sleep, but every time he closed his eyes, he saw Lionel's face--crushed and thick with blood, or simply grinning smugly at him with cold eyes. He lay down on the sofa, looking up at the rafters.

Life would have to resume somehow soon. He'd have to go to school and see his friends, and act like he was any other normal teenager whose biggest problem was getting into the right school and finding a date for the prom. He didn't even know who that person was anymore. He lost him the minute that knife sliced into his flesh. He shut his eyes tightly again against the memory, but never opened them. He drifted off to sleep.

He jumped suddenly as loud screams tore him out of his sleep. Someone was grabbing him, shaking him and he turned sharply to get away. His face collided with the wood floor and he looked up dazed and shaking. A very concerned Lex loomed over him.

"Clark..."

He blinked at Lex, trying to shake the nightmare.

"Clark...its ok...you were dreaming."

The room around him came into focus, and his face burned with the realization the screams he heard must have been his own. He pulled himself up, politely shrugging off Lex's help, and sat down.

"What happened?"

Lex sat beside him. "I'm not sure. Your parents told me you might be out here. I heard you shouting when I was coming up the steps."

"I'm sorry..."

"Its ok, you were obviously having a nightmare. I imagine you couldn't sleep last night."

Clark shook his head. "I'm afraid to, it's always nightmares...has been for weeks. But I don't want to talk about that...what happened...I mean what about your Father?"

Lex stood up and walked towards the open window. "It's taken care of."

"How?"

"As far as anyone knows, my father died in Metropolis General, after he collapsed in his office. The cause of death will be a degenerate liver disease."

Clark stared at him in disbelief. "How is that even possible?"

Lex turned at looked at him; Clark saw the bitterness in the set of his jaw.

"It was extremely expensive, but worth every penny. I've been ensured there's no way the truth will ever come out. And the one good thing is, my father really did have a liver disease. It probably played a large part in why he abducted you in the first place."

"He wanted me to save him."

"Something like that."

They were silent for a few minutes, with Lex looking out into their fields and Clark trying to find the words to say what he needed to.

"Lex...I just want you to know I'm sorry I didn't tell you the truth about myself."

"It's ok Clark, I think after everything that's happened I understand you wanting to keep it a secret."

"I know...I just wanted you to know it isn't because I didn't trust you. I think I was scared it would change everything, and scared it would put you in danger. As it is, you murdered someone for me."

Lex looked him in the eyes. "He didn't deserve to live after what he did."

"He was your father, Lex."

Lex didn't answer him. "Well, I have a lot to take care of still, but I wanted you to know that everything you need to worry about is taken care of, and you're safe."

He walked over to Clark's desk, and picked up his pen, scribbling something in his notebook.

"That's the name of a doctor in Metropolis. He understands the delicate nature of the situation, and I really think he can help you. I trust the commute won't be a problem for you?" Lex smiled a little.

Clark couldn't help but return it. "No, it won't...Thanks Lex."

He nodded. "So you're fast, strong, your skin can break knives. What else can you do?"

For the first time, Clark didn't hesitate. "I can see through things and shoot fire from my eyes. But I've gained a new power every year since puberty so far...so we'll see."

"I always knew you were extraordinary Clark."

"I'd give every one of my powers away if I could take back what happened to me...to both of us."

Lex looked at Clark, seeing that the nave, optimistic boy he'd found so charming was gone.

"I'd better go. Make sure you call that doctor."

"Lex, I hate to ask about this...but your father...he had a lot of files and that footage from the mansion..."

"Everything was destroyed Clark, I saw to it personally."

Clark nodded, and asked what had been plaguing his mind since he heard the shot ringing in his ears.

"Lex...If you could change anything that happened...do it over again...would you still shoot your father?"

Clark wasn't sure why he asked that, but he felt like Lex did it impulsively, to protect him.

Lex stopped on the stairs, and turned to look at him. "We don't get second chances Clark."

He descended the stairs, without glancing back.


Clark stayed in the loft the most of the day. He didn't dare fall asleep again, but he spent most of his time, sitting in the window, trying not to think of anything at all, just enjoying the sun and the familiar smells of the farm.

Chloe stopped by to see him. He thought he wasn't ready for any visitors, but when he saw her big smile and eyes bright with tears; he hugged her tightly, and let her stay for awhile. She caught him up on everything happening in the small town. They didn't mention why they hadn't seen each other in nearly three months, except once when she gave his arm an affectionate squeeze and asked if it had been bad. He kept his head down and nodded, he could feel the anxiety creeping up his neck. She lightly kissed his cheek.

"I'm sorry Clark, we'll find a way to make it better, I promise."

He did smile weakly at her then, but she understood it was time for her to go.

The sun was starting to disappear into the fields. He looked out the window towards the yellow house. He knew his mother was inside somewhere preparing dinner, and his father would just be coming in from the fields. What his ordeal had done to them was mapped across their faces, and he found that hard to deal with, but he had to go inside sometime. He decided to take a walk out to the fence first. The gentle Kansas spring air was warm, and a cool breeze blew his dark curls off his face as he walked across the fields.

He noticed a lone figure in the distance, standing across the road. He kept walking, though every nerve in his body told him to turn around. He kept his eyes deliberately on the figure as he approached, almost willing the person to turn away and keep walking. But she didn't and soon they faced each other across the fence.

Clark gripped the fence tightly as everything he'd held back for the last twenty-four hours came rushing at him. Charlotte watched as the wood splintered beneath his grasp.

"Clark...I...I kept checking everyday to see if you made it back safely."

She watched his jaw clinch, and his face flush with anger, anxiety, she didn't know.

He kept his eyes on the ground beneath him, so she continued.

"Lex wouldn't see me, or take my calls...I gave him all the information I knew, so he could find you."

Clark looked up at her; his eyes were glazed and tinged with pain. He swallowed hard, forcing himself to relax.

"What do you want Charlotte?"

"I just wanted to see if you were ok."

Clark carefully let go of the fence he'd have to repair later.

"Well...I have to go." He turned to leave

"Clark, do you really think Lionel Luthor left me with any choices?!"

He stopped and looked at her.

"I didn't know what they wanted with you Clark. I did something really stupid that landed me in this situation, and Lionel didn't give me any other option. I just didn't want to go to jail...now I would gladly have traded my freedom for yours."

"Why now?"

"Because, I've never met anyone who made me feel so safe and gave me so much hope before...it was just too late, and I was scared. I didn't know what to do. I thought maybe there was something about you that was bad, that I couldn't see. I know the truth now...and I'm sorry. I don't know why I need you to forgive me, but I do."

Clark leaned across the fence; she was standing in front of him now. He looked at the slight girl in front of him and knew she was no match for Lionel Luthor--he hadn't been either. He couldn't place all his anger and pain on her shoulders. They were all victims of a man he hoped was laying six feet deep in the earth. But seeing her reminded him too harshly of things he intended to forget. He remembered their last night together, and how silly it seemed now for him to be so scared and hurt then, when he was still safe in a warm bed. He could feel his wall beginning to crack, he fought to find his voice; it came out in almost a whisper.

"I do forgive you...I never blamed you, not really, but I can't see you Charlotte...its too painful...so please, don't come back here."

She nodded slowly, and placed her hand on his, she could feel him trembling beneath her.

"I'm glad you survived Clark." She let go and started walking away.

Clark sank down to the grass, not having the strength to hold back any longer. He'd give himself this one moment of despair, before he put it all behind him.

His sobs shook his entire body, and he wrapped his arms around himself, letting all the pain pour out. He felt another's arms wrap around him, and soft hair touch his cheek. He turned and buried his head in her shoulder, as Charlotte gently stroked his hair. They stayed like that for a long time, before she finally let him go; walking away in silence.


Things were eerily quiet in the mansion when Lex returned. The arrangements for his father's funeral had been made and a press release announcing the untimely demise of Metropolis's most prominent citizen had been sent out. His lawyers were drawing up the appropriate papers to transfer Luthorcorp over to him. He could still hear the blast of the gun, echoing in his head, and he reached for the scotch sitting next to him on the table.

He hadn't thought twice about what he did; he thought of only two things, Clark's freedom and his own. His freedom had been worth the price...but Clark's...he picked up the folder containing every bit of information his father had gathered on Clark, and the video surveillance tape played on a monitor in the background. But like he told Clark...there were no second chances.


When Clark finally walked through the door, his mother didn't hesitate and immediately went to him, hugging him close. She saw the faded tear tracks on his face and wiped at them with her hand.

"You really should eat something Clark."

"I know...but I'm just so tired, I think I want to try and go to sleep. I promise to eat tomorrow."

She just nodded, keeping an arm around his waist. His father walked over to him, and brushed his bangs off his forehead.

"Do you think you'll be able to rest son?"

He nodded. "I think I can...if you guys will sit with me for awhile."

The followed Clark up to his room, and let him get into bed. His mother sat by his side, holding his hand while he drifted off to sleep, feeling for the first time in a long time, that he was home, and he was safe.

The End



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