Antipathy: The Mistake

by aforgottenwish

Warnings: Implications of rape and explicit violence.

Smallville and all of its related elements are copyright 2001 - 2007 Tollin-Robbins Productions, WB Television and DC Comics. Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

Part ONE: the mistake
Chapter One

She had wondered, vaguely, if this was why Clark had refused to touch her. The attraction that she'd had for Lex had faded into a dull sort of disgust, and had spent the last weeks desperately concocting excuse after excuse for not touching him. Last night, Lex had uttered the very same words that she had said to Clark, long ago.

"Lana, we haven' t been together since..." he had said.

"Since the baby," she had whispered.

"You don' t think that' s a bit strange?"

She shook her head, brought herself back to the present. She was staring at the panel in Lex's office, behind which the surveillance files for the Luthor mansion were held. Her entire body was visibly quivering, and she pulled the blanket tighter around her. She reached out with a shaking hand and opened the panel, and hoped desperately that Lex had lied to her; that he'd continued to watch her sleep, change and inspect chisels in her bedroom without her consent.

When Lex had reached out to her last night, when he had rested his lips softly on hers, she had felt her stomach churn. It wasn't quite repugnance that she felt, but it was something close. She remembered how much she had loved Clark, and how she had convinced herself that it was his secret that kept them apart. She had told herself that she could feel how much he wanted her, in every touch, in every glance, but maybe... maybe he was just repulsed by her.

She could feel Lex's hand on her face, and how its pale companion had run down her neck and caressed her breast through her nightgown. "Lex," she had whispered, "not tonight,* please*."

His lips, so eager, so willing, had kissed across her collarbone and Lana had wanted, more than anything, just to go to sleep. And then, as a flicker of arousal passed through her, an image, completely unsolicited, had traversed her mind.


She had pushed him away then, not willing to let her husband touch her when she was thinking of another man. Now, staring at the blank screens that had appeared from behind the panel, she felt another cramp bloom from between her legs. The pain was exponentially larger than the cramps the night before had been, with Lex sleeping next to her. She rushed to the nearby bathroom, her blanket falling and tripping her up.

When she had vomited the contents of her stomach into the backroom, she continued to dry heave for several minutes. She wanted to start sobbing, to let herself curl up into her mother's warm, safe arms.

Wandering back to her bedroom, she pulled her cell phone from the tangle of clothes on the floor. Trembling, she dialed Chloe's number.

"Hey!" Chloe answered, enthusiastically. Lana jumped at the sound, as if she hadn't expected an answer.

"Chloe," she said, her voice low, rasping. "How quickly can you get over here?"

"Lana?" Chloe's voice sounded worried. "What's wrong?"

"I need your help getting through some of Lex's security. Can you do it?"

"Lana, are you okay?" Chloe switched the phone from one ear to another, and turned to the other person in the room, shrugging dramatically. Clark could hear Lana's voice on the other side of the conversation, and her reply, so empty sounding, so hopeless, terrified him.


"I can be there in five minutes," Chloe said. She looked imploringly at Clark, who nodded.

Lana hung up the phone and slumped to the floor. She stared at her hands, tracing, with her eyes, every line in her palm. She let time disappear, and tried, as hard as she could, to force the images from last night from her mind.

She could still feel his hands, how they had stopped gently patrolling her skin and had become violent, invasive. For now, the only part of him that haunted her was his hands. Letting herself remember anything past the hands was too painful.

Her eyes fell shut and her hands clenched; she let out a desperate sob and brought her fists to her face, covering her eyes with her curled fingers and resting her nose between her wrists. She pushed herself to her feet and stumbled across the room. She made it to her dresser, where, through the oval mirror, her own dark eyes stared back at her, a somber reminder of what she'd become.

Mechanically, she pushed her makeup and perfume from the table. Her smell filled the room like a mist, and penetrated her already pounding head. She put one knee on the table and used its leverage to pull the mirror from its hinges. With a barely contained shriek of rage, she threw the mirror onto the ground.

When Chloe pushed open the door of her room minutes later, that was how she found her, panting, standing barefoot in the middle of the shattered mirror, her arms wrapped tightly around herself as if her skinny arms could protect her. Lana could barely take her eyes off the broken glass and how every part of herself stared back up at her through those shards.

"Get him out of here," she said, her voice much deeper than normal. Chloe looked over at Clark, who was standing just out of sight behind the door. It had been Clark who had run her all the way from Metropolis, and she had assured him that his presence wouldn't be adverse.

Clark came out from around the door, and his eyes opened wide when he took in the scene; Lana's bloody feet, her swollen eyes, how she clung to herself. "Lana," he said, moving forward, wanting, no doubt, to take her in his arms.

"Get him out!" she yelled, suddenly. He jumped back, as if she had struck him. He watched her, for a moment longer, distressed by how her shoulders heaved; frightened by the hollow look in her eyes.

He left the room.

"Give me a call when you need to leave," he muttered to Chloe.

Imagining any man's arms around her right now was terrifying to her; even if they were Clark's arms. Fighting back tears, she let herself remember how warm he had always been.

"Lana," Chloe said softly, approaching her carefully through the glass. "What happened?"

Lana's eyes snapped up from where they had been fixed, and she seemed to have gained some sort of control over herself. "I need your help," she said stoically. Without pause, she walked through the glass and out of the bedroom, leaving a trail of bloody foot prints. When she reached the door, where Chloe was standing, she stumbled, and when Chloe reached out to catch her she flinched away, letting herself fall onto the floor.

"Don't touch me," she whispered. "I'm sorry... just... please don't."

Chloe's eyes widened, but she nodded. "Okay," she said. "Its okay, Lana, just let me know what you need me to do."

On the way back to Lex's office, Lana lent down and picked up the blanket that she had dropped, and wrapped it tightly around her shoulders.

"I need," Lana whispered, "I need, I think, to go to the police."

Chloe's breath caught in her throat. "What did he do to you, Lana?" she asked firmly.

Lana turned toward her and, for the first time since Chloe had arrived, their eyes met. Lana's eyes were large, frightened. Her brow furrowed slightly and she looked back down at her hands. "He hurt me," she said, sounding shocked. "God..." she muttered. When she looked back up at Chloe, she looked disgusted.

"I just need the tapes," she said. "Can you get past Lex's security? He caught me snooping before and encrypted it or something. I just need the tapes for my room, for last night. Then... then I can go to the police or to the hospital..."

Chloe wanted to be able to bring Lana close, to hold the frightened child that looked up at her, but Lana had been adamant about not being touched. She wondered how Lex had hurt her; asides from the bloodied up feet and the haunted look in her eyes, she looked unscathed.

Of course, she thought, there were some places that weren't visible on the mostly clothed girl.

"Lana," she said softly. "Let me call Clark. He can take you to the hospital, and I can get the tapes and bring them by. If you're hurt... I mean, you should at least get your feet looked at."

A small hand moved forward and grabbed tightly onto Chloe's arm. "No matter what," Lana said firmly, "Clark doesn't hear about any of this. Promise me that you won't tell him."

So Chloe sat herself down in front of the panel, and within minutes had cracked through the security. The screens flickered to life, revealing several different rooms in the Luthor mansion. Chloe brought up an index, and opened the files with "Bedroom" labels. A few different rooms opened up, but they were all live feed, meaning that they were all currently empty.

Lana's room, though, was easily picked out from the lineup--the tousled sheets on the bed and the broken glass on the floor were obvious enough indicators.

She turned around to check on Lana, who was sitting on the floor, curled up against the side of Lex's desk. "Do you have it?" she asked.

"Yes," Chloe replied. Lana pushed herself to her feet.

"You can save it to a disk or something?" she asked.

"Yes," Chloe repeated.

"Just go back," Lana muttered. "Find where it begins."

It? Chloe wondered. She realized, suddenly, how nervous she was. She was starting to suspect that what had happened was worse than simple domestic violence, and wasn't sure that she wanted to see her friend in a position like that.

But she knew that nothing short of hard evidence would be able to convict a Luthor of anything, so, for her friend, she scrolled backward.

When she realized what she was seeing, she instinctively covered her eyes, the same way that she had when she was a child and was watching a scary movie. The sounds though, they could still be heard, and they were worse... so much worse.

"Lex, please," they heard Lana whimper. "Please get off of me..."

Chloe scrolled further back, and Lana's words were angry at this point, she was yelling, and Lex was responding to her in a horribly apathetic way.

"You' re my wife," he muttered, only just loud enough for the camera to pick up. "Why won' t you touch me?"

From behind her, Lana let out a sob. "Please, Lex, no..." she whispered, as if she had forgotten where, and when, she was. Chloe scrolled much further forward this time, to when the room was empty and safe, and saved the entirety of the rest of the tape onto a USB key.

When she turned around, it was to see Lana struggling to her feet. She was shaking violently and was pale, too pale, like she hadn't eaten for days. Chloe picked the blanket up off the ground and wrapped it around her. With a sob of resignation, Lana let Chloe hold her close, and together, they stumbled out of the room.

Chapter Two

"He raped her, didn't he?"

Chloe turned away from the window. Clark stood, just behind her, looking past her. She suspected that he was looking through the blinds that gave Lana her shred of privacy. Chloe felt sick when she considered what Lana had been through. They'd gone to the hospital; they'd spoken to the police; and then Lana had been violated all over again by the doctor's probing tests.

The rape kit had come back positive for semen and blood.

Wincing, Chloe tried to pretend like she hadn't heard the question. "Sorry for not calling you," she said, falsely upbeat. "We took advantage of one of the many Luthor drivers."

Clark grabbed her arm. She looked up at him, pulled close, their faces almost touching. "Did he hurt her?"

She pushed him away, knowing that this was a pathetic act of rebellion; knowing that she couldn't have moved away from him unless he'd decided she could. "Lana wants you to stay out of this."

"How can I?" Clark hissed. "I heard it happen."

Chloe froze.

"There' s something wrong,* Chloe*," he'd said. He'd run his hands through his hair, rocked back and forth on his feet. "It' s over now... Chloe,* I don*' t know what to do..."

"I thought," she muttered, "I thought you were talking about the Zoner."

"Please," Clark said, dropping his voice to a whisper, "please, ask her if I can see her."

Sighing loudly, Chloe turned toward the door. "At least tell me you dealt with that Zoner."

Clark, looking confused, answered slowly. "Yeah; it's done."

Lying just inside the room, Lana pretended to sleep. She'd caught parts of the conversation; she felt ashamed and slightly nauseous when she heard Clark's opening question. "He raped her,* didn*' t he?" as if he'd been expecting this; as if the idea that Lex might be a decent human being had never crossed his mind.

After that, most of the conversation had been carried out in frantic, indistinguishable whispers. Chloe had entered the room. "It's okay," Lana said, trying to sound strong; like nothing had changed. "He can come in."

As soon as she saw him, every ounce of resolve melted away. She remembered her wedding day; how she'd wanted, so badly, to leave with him. She thought of what she'd seen in the wine cellar--his words, so painfully spoken, "Giving up Lana' s the hardest thing I' ve ever had to do..."

He just stood there, in the doorway, not even noticing that Chloe was trying to squirm past him. His eyes were fixed on her, taking in her swollen eyes and pale lips. They hadn't spoken since the wedding day. Lana wanted to ask him to hold her; to wrap his warm arms around her and hear him whisper that everything was going to be alright.

"Clark," she said. She knew that she sounded shocked, and she was; she was shocked that she still had these feelings for him, that he'd shown up to comfort her after what she'd done to him... she was shocked that he hadn't saved her.

"What are you doing in here, Lana?" he asked, his voice softly accusatory.

When she heard the quiet anger in his voice, as if it was her fault that her husband had put her in here, she almost broke down. The skin around her eyes was puffy from her neurotic rubbing, and she was hoping that, because of it, he wouldn't notice the tears welling in her eyes.

Her lips twitched, stretching across her face into a taut frown. Her eye brows bunched together, but she pushed the sobs back down her throat, and let some words, sounding trite for the pain they should have portrayed, slip out instead.

"I lost the baby."

He moved forward then, taking the seat next to her bed, and reached out to her. She took his hand, but as she did images shot through her mind; hands moving haltingly down her back, fingers digging into the soft flesh of her thigh, the nails biting into her leg. With a gasp, she pulled her hand back.

"It's okay," Clark said, seeing the terror in her eyes. "I won't touch you."

She stared straight ahead, as if she couldn't see anymore. Her eyes cleared of tears and her face became distant.

"You're allowed to cry, Lana," he said softly. She shook her head vigorously, refusing to take her eyes off the white wall of the hospital room.

"Lana," he said, moving closer to the bed, but keeping his hands clasped tightly on his lap, "you cried on your wedding day." Lana let out a little gasp, but pressed her lips together, her jaw moving slightly, betraying that she was chewing on the inside of her cheek. "I heard you, through the door before we talked."

His voice got louder now, and he stood up, knocking the chair over. "You thought your love would be enough to change him, but it wasn't."

Calming himself, he let the next words come out at a normal volume. "You say the word, Lana, and I'll make sure he pays."

Finally, he kneeled next to her bed and said, sounding defeated, "Just tell me what you want me to do."

Lana's eyes flickered shut and she let herself be taken away to those days where every atom seemed to be quivering at just the right speed; where every breath was just perfect. Clark had held her on that day--the one before he disappeared to Metropolis--they had sat in the sun together, with the horse grazing at their feet, and his arms around her had fit exactly.

She remembered the other time she had been overwhelmed by happiness--Clark standing in his front hall, his clothes burnt and tattered, his face charred and tragic; and again, he had lifted her up out of her mundane existence and given her a reason to love.

Her eyes still closed, she pictured the night sky; stars shimmering at her. Her mouth opened, only a little, but it was enough.

"Hold me."

And when Clark climbed into bed next to her and let her snuggle her face into his chest, she felt like this was where she was supposed to be. Her brief moments of happiness with Clark, the ones so powerful that they fueled a doomed relationship for months, always preceded or followed terrible, devastating events. That he held her now, when her sense of worth and self respect had been so viciously ripped from her, seemed somehow fitting.

Clark had sat through the trial, and he knew, though his knowledge of law was limited, that it wasn't going well. Lex Luthor could afford the best lawyers in the country, and Lana, without Lex's vast assets to back her, had nothing. She'd moved into the Talon with Lois temporarily, had refused to speak to Clark since that day at the hospital, and was looking so painfully thin that Clark could see all of her bones without the aid of his x-ray vision.

The tape had been removed from evidence by Lex's lawyers saying that since the chain of custody started with the victim; it could have easily been tampered with. Take away the audio, and all you're left with is a couple having consensual, albeit slightly rough, sex. The original computer files had been strangely corrupt--the sound was missing in all tapes.

And the semen found by the rape kit? It was just as easily explained by the tape of the consensual sex--not rape. It was Lex's word against hers, and Lana, clearly near hysteria, was not responding to the cross examination with any sort of dignity. Clark's visit to the hospital was taken into question, as well as her reminiscent feelings for him, and she was accused of looking for an easy out from the marriage.

Clark knew that Lex couldn't be allowed to walk after this. The defiance that Lana had shown by going to the authorities would not go unpunished, regardless of if their marriage survived the trails. In the case of Luthor v. People, the people were going to lose.

For Clark, making that decision, the choice to act instead of sitting idle while a rapist walked free, was almost as hard as it was to gather the resolve to actually do something.

He had briefly considered slipping on a red Kryptonite ring, to give him a little more courage. In the end, though, he had walked up to the Councilor representing Lana's case without the aid of the rock.

"Councilor," he said, holding out his hand. "Clark Kent." She shook his hand, but gave him a perturbed look, like she'd rather be elsewhere. He lowered his voice, tried to make himself sound sophisticated for the attractive lawyer. "I understand you're handing the Luthor v. People case?"

"I am," she replied, "but I'm not able to discuss details of the case with--"

"I'm a witness," he interrupted. "I heard it all."

Her brow furrowed, and she looked momentarily angry. "Why didn't you come forward earlier?" she asked.

"You had the tape," he replied, "so I didn't think that you'd need me." He looked across the empty courtroom; all the spectators had funneled out the front door. "Is there somewhere more private that we can talk?"

"Yeah," she said, "I can take you down to the station."

"So why, exactly, didn't you come to the police before?" the detective asked. He had a hard face, but it looked like he was a good person. Just a concerned one who was willing to tear anyone apart who got in the way of justice.

"It seemed like you had a solid case," Clark said. He was terrified, but he pushed that terror deep down, to the place where he stored his hysterical rage so that he could function. Without this inner jail house of emotions, he wouldn't have been able to stop himself from destroying Lex himself. "But I guess that the lawyers that the Luthors can afford are of a somewhat higher standard than the court appointed ones."

"This is not the fault of our lawyers," the man yelled. He slammed his hands on the table that separated him and stood up. "That you withheld information pertaining to a criminal investigation is in itself a criminal offense."

"So I'm going to talk," Clark said calmly. This was a lie, he mused. He certainly wasn't going to talk--not until he had certain measures in place that would assure his security. Being watched through a two sided mirror while being interrogated by a constraint impaired cop was not his idea of security.

"Tell me exactly what you heard," the man said, sitting down.

"I need some guarantees," Clark said. "I need to know that my family and I are going to be safe if I testify."

The cop sighed. "We'll do our best to ensure your safety during the proceedings," he said.

"I'm going to need a little more than that," Clark replied. "I'm afraid I'm a special case."

"Of course," the cop said. "I understand. Your mother is the Kansas state Senator; she's quite the target."

Clark shook his head. He didn't know how high up in the hierarchy of justice he'd need to go to get the protection he'd need. They'd need to be able to verify that what he was saying was possible, so they'd need scientists and resources and confidentiality agreements... no, talking to this detective was not going to be enough.

"You don't understand," Clark said. "I think I'll need to talk to a Judge about my testimony."

The detective was quick to anger, again. He marched around to Clark's side of the table. "You'll talk to me, now, or I'll have you arrested and thrown in jail for obstruction of justice," he yelled, and he lunged at Clark, clearly meaning to pin the boy against the wall, or otherwise manhandle him. When he came into contact with Clark, he crumpled as if he'd been hit by a truck.

Clark looked down at him, and rose from his chair. "That's what I'm saying," he said, slowly, as if he were speaking to a child. "Your jails aren't going to be able to hold me."

Chapter Three

The judge stared at him.

"Let me hear your story one more time, please, Mr. Kent," she said, slowly.

Clark sighed. "I realize that it sounds completely impossible," he said. "But I can prove it."

"Which part?" she asked. "What you heard or how you heard it?"

"The second bit," Clark said, sheepishly. He was very intimidated by the powerful woman sitting in front of him. That he was standing here at all was difficult to believe--after the detective had bounced harmlessly off of his chest, him and four other police officers had tried very hard to drag him to jail. Clark had simply stood, steadfast, and insisted that he speak with a judge.

"Tell me again, then," she said.

"Lana was sleeping," he started. "I think, at least. Her heart beat was very slow. That's why I noticed when it sped up all of a sudden; I thought she was in trouble. I... listened harder. I could hear her and Lex talking, he was saying all these things, asking why she was being distant. I thought that this meant she was fine, so I was about to leave them alone, but then Lex started yelling.

"He must have pushed her up against something," he continued. "There was a crash, and she cried out. She asked him to stop.

"He asked her why she wouldn't touch him. She started yelling, telling him to get off her; she sounded angry. Soon though, she sounded scared, and shocked, and she just kept asking him to stop, to get off her..."

"Why didn't you put an end to it?" the judge asked. "If you were close enough to hear the conversation, you must have been close enough to intervene."

Clark dropped his eyes to the floor. Up until this point, he was just an eavesdropping, law-avoiding boy. He opened his mouth, wishing he didn't have to do this, but knowing that he had to: for Lana, for the life of that unborn child; for the women that Lex might rape in the future.

"I couldn't get to them on time," Clark said slowly. "I was in Germany. By the time I got back, it was morning, and Lex was long gone."

The judge leaned forward onto her desk. "You have some sort of surveillance set up in their room?" she asked. "The detectives found nothing like that on the scene; it's undetectable and transmits cross-ocean? It must be good."

When Clark raised his eyes again, the judge was surprised to see that he looked petrified. She was used to people being frightened by her presence, but generally it was restricted to a tremble of a hand, a trip of a tongue; never this. She'd never seen such blatant terror.

"No," he said, leveling his chin and pressing his lips together before continuing. "I just have very good hearing."

Though she was already convinced by the fear rolling off this boy that he thought he was speaking the truth, she didn't see how that could be possible. Slowly, she said, "You'll forgive me if I find that hard to believe."

"Of course," Clark said, "I'll be willing to submit myself to a doctor for examination, as long as you can ensure that all findings will be kept confidential." That he didn't vomit a little at voicing the suggestion was tribute to his super-human gag reflex. His whole life, research had been his monster under the bed; men in white coats wanting to take him away from his parents; the only menace with teeth sharp enough to hurt him. He could barely understand why he was doing his--could he still love Lana so much that he'd put his livelihood on the line for her?

He knew though, that he was doing it because it was right. He had never hesitated before saving someone's life, even if doing so meant revealing who he really was. This was no different; and he didn't owe Lana anything. He couldn't make this about her, couldn't tell himself that he was expecting something in return, because that would make all of this wrong.

"So you're telling me," the judge said, "that with your own ears you heard the two of them fighting--and you're in Germany. You take the next flight back home to see if she's okay?"

Clearing his throat, Clark corrected her. "No, I actually, uhm, swam back."

"You swam."

Clark held his hands up in self defense. "Okay, some tangible proof, right?" he asked. He concentrated his hearing--it had been getting so sharp lately that it had been frightening him the distances and precisions that he could hear. Honing in on the conversation across the hall was no trouble--there was a trial in progress.

"In the courtroom," Clark said slowly, "they're questioning the defendant. It's a murder case; they're asking him about the murder weapon... it's a length of rope that was found in the trunk of his car. He raped her... the used condoms were found with her blood and his semen with the rope. He's insisting that he doesn't know how they got there--"

Eyes wide, the judge remembered having discussed the case with the presiding judge. Over drinks, the man had told her about the defendant--either he was the best actor that had ever seen the inside of a court room, or he was being framed by one hell of a clever perpetrator.

"Your story is going to be difficult to corroborate without sufficient evidence, Mr. Kent," she said, still not fully convinced. There are ways that a boy with a pretty smile could find his way into the adjacent courtroom to get that information. The real question is--why?

"If a scientist, someone of some sort of standing, went on the stand and told the jury that I could have heard what I heard, would I be able to testify?"

The judge paused, pursing her lips and contemplating the strange town that she lived in. Since Judge Ross had left, and she'd been called to Metropolis to take her position, she'd seen things in court that were inexplicable. People with abilities--a convict who could control glass, and a boy who could control magnetic fields--that she'd been forced to deem criminally insane because there was no other plausible explanation. This boy though, he wasn't hurting anyone, quite the opposite in fact. So she made a bound of faith and indulged him.

"If what you're telling me is true, what you heard, you could be the star witness this case needs to sway the jury. If you're going to get on that stand and testify that you heard a woman's heart quicken from across the ocean..." the judge smiled slyly, and for the first time in a while, she let the smile reach her eyes, hoping to reassure the nervous boy. Her last words though, did little to sooth his nerves.

"You're going to have to prove it."

"It's too risky."

Clark looked up from his breakfast. His brows drew together in a frown and he muttered, "I know," between bites of egg.

"You're not saving anyone, Clark," Martha Kent insisted. "What happened to Lana is horrible, but it's over now. There's nothing you can do to change that."

Burying himself in his food, he managed to ignore her for a full minute before he could physically feel her stare on the top of his head. Slowly, he raised his head, and sighed. "No, I can't change it," he said, speaking up, "but I can prevent it from happening again. Lex has been going downhill for a while now, and the next time he's standing in that courtroom it's going to be for murder. Lex's crimes keep escalating and he's not the type of person who will let the justice system get the better of him. If I can help put him away now, I think it's for the better."

"You've spent your entire life hiding who you are," Martha said, sitting down next to her son. "How can you just give you secret away like this?"

"I've taken precautions," Clark assured her. "The judge is going to chose scientists that she trusts, ones that have been expert witnesses for sensitive cases before. They're not going to know my name, or where I came from, and the lab is going to be far away from here. I'll probably only be there for a few weeks."

Putting his fork down, he placed his hand on top of his mother's. "They've dealt with meteor infected people before, and as far as they know, I'm no different than any one of them." He grinned reassuringly at her. "I'll come back to you, I promise."

He quickly finished eating, and walked over to the barn, figuring that he should fit as many chores in as he could before he had to head to Metropolis in a few hours. He started tossing hay down from the loft, but paused for a moment when he heard a squeak.

"Hello?" he called. To his surprise, Lana peered around from under the staircase.

"Clark," she said, as if she were shocked to see him there.

"I thought your Clark-watching days were over," he said, throwing another bale of hay to the ground, purposely missing Lana by only a small amount.

Sliding her hand onto the railing, she pulled herself up the first step as though it were taller than normal. She moved slowly up the rest of the stairs.

"I just wanted to thank you," she said, "for everything."

"I don't know what you're talking about," he said, wondering if she could possibly know about his impending testimony.

She shook her head, and then lifted her chin and met his eyes. "For being there for me; for being so understanding."

"Lana..." he started.

"I know, Clark, how much I hurt you," she interrupted. "I know that you need some sort of an explanation for what I did to you--"

"You mean how you coerced me into thinking that you'd leave your fianc at the altar? How you kissed me and told me that nothing mattered; that you weren't going to marry Lex? I haven't been understanding, Lana, because that's something that I will never understand." He threw a final bale of hay down, and then moved past Lana.

She followed him down the stairs, and reached for his arm. He spun towards her before she could touch him, and looked down at her as if he didn't recognize her.

"Lana," he said, his voice quieter now, less angry. "I will always care for you. I will always do everything in my power to protect you. We've hurt each other, and I think we've reached a point that we can't recover from."

"Clark," she said, moving forward. She lunged forward, and managed to grab his wrist this time. She held on as tight as she could, her small fingers throbbing slightly. She knew that if he wanted, he could be out of her grasp and halfway across the world before she could form another word.

"When you broke up with me," she said, trying to catch his eyes, "I didn't understand. I hated you for not being able to open up to me." She shook his arm desperately, wishing that he'd look over at her, or at least somehow acknowledge her presence. "Now, though, I understand what it's like to have a secret. You have to believe me when I say that I did this to protect you."

He stifled a bitter laugh, and she knew what he was thinking--nothing could penetrate his iron skin; what could Clark Kent possibly need protecting from?

"No," he said, finally turning to look at her, "I don't have to believe you." The pulled his arm gently from her hand and picked up the hay, and started to robotically load it onto the tractor.

"The final part of the trial's been postponed," Lana said, conversationally, "due to the need to prepare a new witness. It's been put off by a month... what kind of witness takes a month to question?"

Clark stopped moving. "I don't know, Lana," he said firmly. He looked at his watch--if he left now, he'd be hours early. If he stayed, he'd have to think of some other excuse to get Lana to leave. Seeing her after the rape had been painful for him--it had been a shock to see her in such a state. The horror of knowing what she'd been through had eclipsed the memory of the wedding.

Her standing here, in his barn, looking deathly pale and thin, with this aura of sorrow around her so thick that he could smell it--all he could remember was that she'd chosen Lex over him. She'd chosen this depraved life.

"I have to go," he said sharply. He threw the last bale of hay at the tractor; it overshot slightly and instead of landing quietly on the tractor, flew overtop of it and punched a hole in the barn wall. Lana's eyes widened, and she turned to look at Clark, but he was gone.

Chapter Four

"How are you holding up, Mrs. Kent?" Chloe asked. Martha looked over at the kitchen door, and smiled when she saw Chloe standing there.

"Chloe," she said affectionately. "I haven't seen you for a while."

"I've been running interference," she admitted. "Lana's starting to wonder about Clark's disappearing act."

Martha frowned, her lined face betraying how often she adorned that expression these days. "What did you tell her?"

"I likened the situation to the red-Kryptonite party date he took a few years ago. She's not exactly a stranger to Clark's personality fluctuations and on-and-off impulse control."

Sighing, Martha sat down at the table. "I can't imagine how difficult this must be for Clark. His whole life, he's been terrified of scientists."

Chloe shook her head, and lowered her bag to the floor. "I can't imagine either. Clark was never exactly open about his feelings--the part of him that I got, I only got by accident. I don't understand why he's doing this."

"Because it's the right thing to do," Martha said.

Chloe thought about the conversation that she'd had with Lois over the phone earlier that day--Lana had been having nightmares. Lana was obsessing over Clark; spent most of her days looking through newspapers from all over Kansas for mention of him, or skimming police reports and stumbling through the internet. Chloe had told Lois that she'd drop by later that day and try to reason with Lana.

The detour to the Kent farm had been completely impromptu, and she was glad that she'd done it.

"I miss him," she said. "I mean, I was expecting him to leave--he finished off the last Zoner before this whole mess started. He was going to go train in the Fortress though, and that has a whole different ring of `right' than subjecting himself to his worst nightmare for his ex-flame."

Martha smiled sadly. "Stay for some tea, Chloe?" she asked.

"I can never say no to a dose of caffeine," Chloe replied. She sat down at the table, and Martha got up to put the kettle on. Switching the topic, Chloe brought up her job at the Daily Planet. They joked lightly about the press and Martha's position as Senator. Chloe brought up the impending election--Martha was running for US Senator--and did an imitation of a frantic reporter.

They didn't bring up Clark, Lana or Lex for the rest of the time they spent together. They stuck to trivial subjects, and stayed away from the heart wrenching ones.

"I know," Lana whispered. "Clark, I know your secret."

Chloe raised her eyebrows at Lois. "She's been sitting there for a while," Lois muttered. "She has that scrapbook there, and she's just been staring at it. She won't eat, or drink, Chloe... I don't know what to do."

"Go," Chloe replied. "Go have a break from Lana sitting. I'll give you a call if... when I get her, erm, lucid again."

Her brow pinched in worry, Lois nodded. "Yeah, okay," she agreed, and grabbed her jacket. When she was out of the room, Chloe locked the door and kneeled down next to Lana. The place on the carpet around where Lana was currently sitting was padded down, as though she'd shifted slightly in position since she'd originally sat down.

"Lana," Chloe said, and reached out to touch her shoulder. Lana let out a gasp of surprise and jerked away from Chloe's touch. She turned her head and made eye contact--Chloe took this as a `go' signal, and started to pull the scrapbook away from her. Lana let it be pulled from her hands.

"I..." Lana said, sounding shocked. "Chloe, I know Clark's secret. I know, and he left me anyway. There were no more secrets... no more lies, and he still left. Where has he gone? Why did he leave me?"

Cautiously, Chloe asked, "Clark's secret?"

"You knew," she declared. "You knew and you never told me."

"Lana," Chloe said, "you know I could never betray Clark's confidence."

Lana laughed. "He's one of them," she hissed. "You said it--nothing can hurt him. Nothing but me... and I did hurt him. I married Lex to protect him, and now Clark's gone."

Chloe felt her stomach constrict. "He's one of them?" she asked.

Nodding, Lana elaborated, "An alien." Her eyebrows furrowed, as though she was confused by the words. "The others, they killed everyone. They shot fire from their eyes and bounced bullets off their skin, just like Clark."

Lana lifted herself onto the couch and wrapped her arms around herself. When she closed her eyes, she could still feel Lex forcing her legs open; she could feel the despair of knowing that her child was dead. When she thought of all the people she'd lost--Clark's disappearance made it that much worse. Every death weighed on her and she recited names in her head: mom, dad, Whitney, Adam, Jason, Clark, her baby... that she'd lost the husband she'd thought she'd known and then lost the puppy-eyed boy that she'd thought would always be there for her--it tore her apart.

"Chloe?" she asked. Chloe was staring at her, eyes wide and frightened. "It's okay; I'll tell Clark it wasn't your fault. I tricked you--the wine cellar. I locked you in and watched when Clark saved you. I had to know; I wanted to leave Lex."

Chloe continued to stare at Lana, her mouth pinched into an almost-frown, her eyes round and unblinking.

"Chloe?" Lana said again. "Clark was the witness, wasn't he? They're doing awful things to him, aren't they?"

"You seem better," Chloe said. "You're, uhm, lucid, at least. A little bit delusional--"

"I'm not," Lana said, pushing up from the couch. "When I saw the aliens and the spaceship, Lex told me I was crazy. I will not have someone doubting my sanity again."

"Lana," Chloe said quietly, "you've spent the last two days clutching a scrapbook and refusing to eat or speak." She didn't know what to do: confirming any of Lana's disturbingly accurate accusations would be a betrayal to Clark. The only other alternative was lying to Lana, which didn't leave her feeling very clean. So instead, she did something that she hadn't felt the need to do for a long time.

She picked up her bag, and made a run from the room.

Lois didn't have very many friends in Smallville. Out of them, one was current AWOL, one was acting fairly insane, and the other was trying to bring the aforementioned back to reality. As a result, she found herself companionless in a small town. There were no shops open this late; the only theatre had been converted into a coffee shop, and both dancing and loud music seem to have been outlawed.

It wasn't surprising, then, that she found herself driving up to the Kent farm. She'd become close with Martha Kent, and had lived with the Kent family for a while. She knew that Martha could use the conversation--her recently deceased husband and runaway son were neither making for good company.

When she got there, she found the house deserted. Not wanting to return to crazy-Lana before she had to, she reached into her purse and pulled out the house key that she had been awarded for good behaviour during her stint under the Kent roof.

The house seemed cold--considering that three of the four bodies that usually occupied the quant cottage-like home were dead, missing or moved, this was hardly a shock. She opened the fridge, and found it mostly empty. She supposed that Martha wasn't doing much cooking--with no mouths to feed and an unusually stressful job, it was expected.

She moved to the living room and to the couch where Clark had slept for the time that she had lived there. Hesitantly, she stretched herself out on it, marveling at how uncomfortable it was. The sacrifices that Clark made--he really was a saint. She rolled onto her stomach and inhaled the smell of musk and teenage boy.

Sitting up, Lois was suddenly disgusted with herself. She never let herself become this sentimental; it wasn't as though she hadn't seen families fall apart before. Her mother had died, and her father had estranged himself from his daughters. Chloe's mother had gone missing, and her father had lost his job. Lana's parents had both died, and her aunt had left her for a new hubby.

The Kents were such a genuinely kind family. They were loyal and welcoming in a way that no family had ever been to her--not even her own.

Her mouth twitched, and she tried to convince herself that she wasn't fighting off tears.

She stood up from the couch and walked up the stairs. She found herself in the room that she had stayed in. It was Clark's room, of course, and he had taken it over again. She remembered all the posters; could even imagine them with her eyes closed, having spent a lot of time lying in that bed, not able to sleep.

This room smelled like Clark, and, as loath as she was to admit it, she missed him.

Stupid farm boy; dumb Smallville; trust a boy like him to make her heart ache. She felt as though she'd lost her best friend, her brother.

She hoped that Chloe was lying about his spontaneous vacation. It seemed very unlike Clark to leave Lana and his mother when they needed him so badly.

But most of all, she was hurt that he'd left her and Chloe to pick up the pieces.

Chapter Five

"Call your next witness, Councilor," the judge said firmly.

The lawyer stood. "The People call Clark Kent to the stand."

A confused look crossed over Lex's face. He turned around in his seat, seeking his wife's reaction; she didn't look surprised. She'd known, Lex realized, or at least suspected.

Lex wondered what Clark could possibly have to say.

When Clark saw the look on Lex's face, he knew, immediately, that he'd made a mistake. He had requested that he be questioned with only the jury present, but the Judge had informed him that the best she could do was keep the media out.

He saw his mother, sitting next to Lana, who clasped Chloe's hand in her own. He wondered how much she knew about him, what she suspected. Her face, though, was resolute and it was seeing her face that convinced him that what he was doing was right, even if it was a mistake.

"We will hear Mr. Kent's testimony," the judge said. "The cross will refrain from asking questions pertaining to the how of his testimony. We will be hearing from an expert witness who will verify the authenticity of Mr. Kent's claims."

The lawyer--the pretty blonde one that Clark had approached a month ago--approached him.

"Please describe for the jury," she said, "exactly what you heard on the night in question."

Clark steeled himself for the reply. He had rehearsed his response so many times over the month that he'd been away--he had tried his best to combine the right amount of indifference with a touch of real feeling: for the jury's sake.

He stared straight ahead, not wanting to catch Lana's eye.

"Lex Luthor," he began, "the defendant, was speaking with the victim. He was asking her why she'd been distant; he wanted to know the real reason that she hadn't wanted to go on a honeymoon with him. She said that flying off into a foreign country wouldn't have been good for the baby. He asked if there was another reason that she'd given up a week in paradise." He paused, remembering that the lawyer had coached him to be as specific as possible. "It sounded as though they'd had this argument before."

The lawyer nodded slowly. "Go on," she said in a comforting tone.

"The defendant said that they hadn't been together since the victim had discovered that she was pregnant," Clark said, stumbling over the formal labels. "That they hadn't had sex," he clarified, turning to the jury.

"The defendant started to get very... vocal," Clark continued. "He started yelling at her. I heard... I heard a loud crash, so maybe he threw something, or he might have slammed her up against something--"

"Objection," the defense lawyer said. "Calls for speculation."

"Sustained," the judge said reluctantly. "Stick to the facts, Mr. Kent," she said.

"Could it have been," the blonde lawyer said, "that Lana had been the one performing the violent act?"

Clark shook his head. "She screamed, she sounded scared and surprised," Clark explained. "Her heart beat sped up," he added, reluctantly.

"What happened next?" the lawyer asked.

"The defendant was yelling," Clark said. "He kept asking the victim why she wouldn't touch him anymore. The victim," Clark paused, and let his eyes seek out Lana's, just for a moment. He returned his gaze to the lawyer and continued, "she started to cry. There was more noise, crashing, and the victim kept asking the defendant to stop."

"She actually said that word?" the lawyer asked.

Clark nodded. "She was crying, but she was still very coherent. She used his name. She said," Clark closed his eyes, remembering her terrified sobs. He knew that this was the part of his testimony that needed emotion--he had to convince the jury that he'd heard what he had heard. "She said, `stop, Lex,' and `Lex, get off of me,' and `Lex, you're hurting me,' and `oh, God, no,'" He let his emotions overwhelm him momentarily, and he turned on the jury with teary eyes. "She said," he continued in a quiet voice, "`Think about the baby.'"

"Objection!" the defense lawyer yelled.

"On what grounds?" the judge asked, sounding surprised.

"On the grounds of being, er, redundant," he stuttered.

"Overruled," the judge said.

"On the grounds of making your client sound like a monster," the blonde lawyer suggested.

"Overruled," the judge repeated, sounding exasperated.

The lawyer turned back to Clark. "You are absolutely certain, without possibility for doubt, that Lana Lang was not, on the night in question, engaging in consensual sexual relations?"

Clark fixed Lex with a glare that might have, if he'd had the guts, set Lex on fire. When he answered the question, his once word carried such conviction that he knew that he had the jury eating out of his hand.

"Yes," he said.

"Your witness," the lawyer said.

The defense lawyer stood and, looking down at his notes, asked, "Where were you when you heard this?"

"Objection," the blonde lawyer said. She hadn't even reached her seat yet.

"Overruled," the judge said.

"He's asking how," the lawyer pointed out.

"Get where you're going, Councilor," the judge said to the defense lawyer. "You're treading on thin ice."

"How are we," the defense lawyer asked, "supposed to take the word of a peeping Tom who is obviously still in love with his ex-girlfriend, the victim?"

Clark drew back, unsure of which part of the question to answer first. "I wasn't spying on her," he said finally. "The victim is a little bit... accident prone. I was just keeping an eye on her."

"Or an ear, as it appears," the lawyer quipped. "You just sat back and listened to this exchange, with no thoughts of intervening?"

"I had every thought of intervening. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get there in time," Clark replied.

The lawyer looked confused and frustrated. Clark knew that he wanted to ask how it was possible that Clark was close enough to hear the exchange, but wasn't close enough to jump in and save the girl. Clark also noted, to his pleasure that the lawyer's confusion was throwing off his delivery of the cross-interrogation. He really had no idea what to ask.

He decided, then, to attack something that he understood.

"I think that he jury would have cause to doubt the authenticity of your testimony," he said, "considering your relationships with both the defendant and the victim. Lana Lang was your childhood sweetheart, who married your best friend, Lex Luthor."

Clark stared at the lawyer. He leaned towards the mic and said, "Was there a question?" he asked coldly.

"When Lana Luthor was on the stand," the lawyer said, "she admitted that she still had feelings for you. Could this not be an easy way out of a bad marriage and a chance to get revenge on the man who stole your girl?"

The lawyer for the People, who had coached him on responding to the cross-interrogation, had told him that there were many versions of the truth. She had told him that it was possible to not tell the truth, without lying. He had not, of course, framed Lex for the rape of his wife. He did, certainly, still have feelings for Lana. He wanted nothing more than to see Lex in jail. But saying those things, in those words, might show him in an untrustworthy light, and he needed the jury to trust him.

"I broke up with Lana over a year ago," he said slowly. "And though I definitely felt betrayed at first that Lana had hooked up so soon after our breakup, and even though I did feel like Lex, perhaps, should have honoured the friendship he claimed to have with me and not jump into the sack with my ex-girlfriend mere weeks after we'd broken up, I bore no ill will towards them. I suppose that love isn't something that you can control."

That Lex didn't squirm guiltily in his seat when Clark said this was a testament to how far gone he was from the Lex that Clark had known. Of course, he reasoned, the friend that he'd known wouldn't have raped his wife.

"There was an incident during the engagement party of Lex and Lana Luthor," the lawyer said, and Clark's stomach sank. He knew that this was going to be brought up.

"You broke into the Luthor residence and created a scene, assaulted Lex Luthor, the defendant, and then kidnapped Lana Luthor. I would think that breaking and entering, destruction of property, assault and kidnap would communicate that you did, indeed, bear ill will towards them."

Clark dropped his gaze to his hands for a moment. When he looked up, Lana's eyes were fixed on him; Lex's eyes were grinning; his mother's looked worried.

"That night changed a lot for me," Clark said. "Before then, I did, I think, hate Lex and Lana for what they were doing. They both knew, unequivocally, what their relationship would do to me. I believed that Lana was not actually in love with Lex, and that she'd only embarked on this relationship with him to hurt me. I thought what she was doing was a mistake, and that I could somehow save her from it. I went to that party, that night, to convince her to leave him."

He looked at his hands, again. They were twined neatly in his lap, much the way a couple would hold hands, each finger interlocked. He squeezed his hands together, slowly, and slightly painfully, taking out his feelings on the only thing in that courtroom that wouldn't break on him.

"I looked at both of them differently after that night," he continued. He shrugged his shoulders. "I'm not sure if what I did was kidnapping, since she didn't actually protest much to coming with me, not after the first few seconds, certainly not once we were out Luthor's earshot. Once we got back to my barn we yelled at each other, and then Lex showed up. He held a gun to my face as I asked Lana to tell me that she didn't still love me."

Clark took a deep breath. "She couldn't say it," he said. The lawyer looked like Clark had just thrown him a very tasty bone. Clark ignored his apparent elation and continued.

"Lana didn't love Lex," he said. "She knew it, and Lex knew it, but she forged a relationship with him, slept with him, and agreed to marry him. I'm not saying that she did this to get back at me, or something petty like that, in fact, now, since that night, I feel the opposite. Lana needed to feel as though she was trusted. She thought that Lex was honest with her, and she desperately needed that. She was willing to feign love, offer him her mind and body, for that feeling.

"He got her pregnant," Clark continued. "She agreed to marry him. Everything she was doing was for the wrong reason, and I couldn't respect that. I can't love a person that I can't respect. I'm not doing this so that I can jump back into Lana's arms. I'm testifying because Lex deserves to be behind bars for what he did to her."

Clark met Lex's eyes. He could sense Lana's tearful stare, but didn't look. "Incidentally," Clark said in an offhand voice, "Lex, you're a billionaire. Could you not have afforded a seventy cent condom?"

"Mr. Kent," the judge said sternly. "You will address only the jury, the Council, or myself, understood?"

Nodding seriously, Clark couldn't help but be pleased by how pissed off Lex looked. He turned back to the lawyer.

"Does that answer your question?"

Chapter Six

Clark closed his eyes and sunk into his mother's arms. He'd missed her immensely while he'd been away, and knew from the desperate way she was holding him, that she'd missed him too.

"Was it terrible?" Martha whispered.

"It was okay, mom," he said, pulling back. He was surprised to see that a tear ran down her face, pooling in the corner of her mouth. "They were very polite. Very... impressed. They didn't pry, or ask too many questions, they did only what the judge told them they could do."

"What did they do?" she asked, curious and worried.

Clark put his bag down on the kitchen floor. He'd gone straight from the labs to the court room, and only now had finally been allowed to go home. A pie sat on the window sill.

"They just tested my speed and hearing," he said. "I didn't tell them about anything else; not the strength or heat vision or x-ray vision."

"And they don't know who you are?" she asked.

"They know my name," he said. "They don't know much else, though. I told them that I didn't know the origin of my powers."

"Those things that you said," Martha said, hesitantly, "about Lana. Were they true?"

Clark squinted at his mother, contemplating how he should answer the question. He'd always been honest with his mother, had always confided in her, but something about the way he was thinking now made him feel... cruel.

"Lana has been through a lot," he said, finally. "She lost her parents, she's been kidnapped, threatened, stalked, and had her heart broken on many occasions. What I did to her... our relationship was just another low point in Lana's already very dismal life. What she deserved was happiness. What she deserved was... some sort of relief from the trend that her life has been following." He paused and reached for the pie. Just holding it reminded him that he was, indeed, home again.

"But," Clark continued, looking back up at his mother, "she made the wrong choice."

Martha took the pie from him and started to cut it. She pulled a plate down and stopped suddenly, taking in a deep breath, as though poised with the words almost out of her mouth.

"If what you are trying to say," she said slowly, "is that Lana deserved--"

"No," Clark interrupted, his voice firm. "She didn't deserve what Lex did to her--no one deserves something like that. But what I'm saying is that I don't love her any more." He stopped there, as though shocked that such a sentiment had passed through his lips. "I just mean," he continued, his voice quiet, defeated, "that she said that she loved him when she didn't. She married him for reasons that I can never understand, but certainly not for love. That isn't the Lana Lang that I fell in love with."

He took the pie from his mother and placed it in front of him, as though unable to eat.

"The Lana I fell in love with was this sweet innocent girl. She was honest, she laughed easily, she had this wide, hopeful look in her eyes. She changed so slowly that I didn't even notice it, until suddenly," he looked up at his mother and blinked heavily--a tear ran down his face.

"Suddenly she wasn't."

Clark stared out at the stars. They shone bright in the background of his thoughts; they served as a backdrop as he relived the trial.

He heard his words, felt his lips moving, and saw Lana. She held Chloe's hand as though it were her only anchor keeping her from falling into the deep, starry abyss that surrounded his mental image of the members of the court.

She looked broken.

Lana had wanted, more than anything else in the world, to be able to trust someone, and to have them trust her. She was forever bitter towards Clark for not letting her have that, and, perhaps for that reason, had thrown herself so completely into her relationship with Lex.

This may have been why his betrayal had hit her so hard. She'd wanted to trust Lex; believed that she could.

"Lana didn' t love Lex.* She knew it*,* and Lex knew it*... he'd said that day. He remembered, a night a while ago, when he'd been infected with red Kryptonite, what he'd said to Lana--"You' re just a trophy to him. And he's nothing but your consolation prize."

On that night, he'd wanted her back. He'd asked her to leave Lex for him. He'd vowed that Lana wouldn't marry Lex.

He couldn't help but wonder if, maybe, all of this had been his fault.


Looking away from his window, he saw that Chloe had managed to make it up his driveway and into his barn without him hearing her.

"Chloe," he said, and moved towards her, wrapping his arms around her in a comforting, familiar hug.

"You didn't miss me," she said, sounding slightly squished. "Did you?"

He placed her delicately back on the floor and smiled shyly. He leaned forward smoothly and kissed her cheek. "I did," he said, grinning his one hundred watt grin.

She beamed back at him.

"The lab," she said, "everything... it was okay?"

Clark sighed. "I don't think that something like that could ever be okay," he said, sounding depressed. "But they did their best to make it okay. I appreciated that."

She looked at him for a moment, before cocking her head in that knowing, Chloe way. "What aren't you telling me?" she asked.

Clark looked guiltily down at his hands. "Clark," Chloe said sternly. "Clark, look at me."

"I'm leaving, Chlo," he said softly. "Soon."

"For the fortress?" she asked.

He nodded.

"Is it Lana?" she asked. "It's hard to see her like this, I know, but you don't need to go running off to the Arctic to get away from her."

"Chloe," he said, meeting her eyes. "I'm scared."

Chloe's stomach plummeted at those words. She had never before imagined that Clark Kent could ever be scared. Clark Kent was her rock, her savior--the source of her courage. She watched his lips moving as he continued.

"Something happened in that place... something I haven't told anyone about, but it... it really scared me. I think that staying, it could be putting everyone in danger."

"Wait, wait, wait," she said quickly, putting her hands firmly on his shoulders and forcing him onto the couch. She perched on the table in front of him and gave him a concerned look. "Tell me," she demanded.

"One of the scientists," Clark said, pressing his lips together nervously for a moment before continuing, "was from Smallville."

"He knew you?" Chloe asked.

"No, no, he moved to Metropolis soon after the first meteor shower. He didn't know that I was from Smallville. But... he knew a lot about Smallville--he had studied all of the other people who had been affected by the meteor rocks, and was very enthused to think that he might have found another person affected by `exo-solar radiation'." He fiddled nervously with a loose thread from the couch.

"He brought in some Kryptonite," he said slowly. Chloe gasped and recoiled slightly, fully anticipating the implications of such an action. "I didn't even know until he was holding it right in front of me, asking me if I'd ever seen anything like it before. He knew about what the radiation could do to people, better than anyone, and kept it in a lead box most of the time."

"So they know," Chloe breathed.

Clark shrugged, trying to make small of his announcement. "They were very understanding about it," he said, sheepishly attempting to smile. "They put it away and never talked about it again. They're all sworn to secrecy, of course, but it's scary to think what could happen if..."

His eyes wide, he looked up at Chloe, wishing that there were some words that she could offer him that might bring some comfort.

"If that information got into the wrong hands," he finished.

The one word that she said, quiet and tentative though it may have been, did nothing to soothe his nerves.


Lex reached through the bars of his cell, taking the book from the man on the other side. He watched as he wheeled the cart away, and then sat on his bed. He curled up, gripping the jagged piece of metal that had come in the last book in one hand, and using his other to open the new book.

He was pleased to see a thick wad of paper folded inside the pages of the book. Slowly, his grin spread across his face. Clark Kent was the title of the first page.

Spreading the pages over his bed, he poured over them for most of the night.

The next morning he moved swiftly to the pay phone at the far side of the field. With his jagged piece of metal slid up the sleeve of his uniform, the other inmates backed away swiftly.

He dialed the phone using his free hand and held the mouth piece slightly away from his face. "Dr. Williams," he said.

"Mr. Luthor," the voice responded. "You received the package, I assume?"

"I always suspected," Lex said, "that there was something different about Clark Kent. Tell me more."

"We tested his hearing and speed," Dr. Williams replied, "in order to confirm his allegations that he was in Germany on the night, and could have heard what he said he heard, and could have made it back in time. His capabilities were... extraordinary."

"He has superhuman hearing," Lex said, the wonder apparent in his voice. "And travels faster than the speed of sound?"

"Closer to the speed of light," the doctor corrected. "The speed of sound is 343 meters per second; the speed of light is about three hundred million meters per second. At our closest estimate, he was moving around--"

"Eight million meters per second," Lex breathed, remembering the number from the sheets he'd near memorized the night before. "Amazing."

"What truly is amazing," the doctor said, "is that, I believe, he was holding back."

"What do you mean?" Lex asked.

"Clark Kent is a modest boy, and a paranoid one," Dr. Williams said. "He only gave us exactly what we needed, nothing more. I think that he may have other... capabilities."

"Strength," Lex suggested, remembering when Clark had been hypnotized and had thrown him easily across the room.

"Perhaps even more," the doctor said. "I have no way of knowing without further research. That is, I'm assuming, what you were looking for when you requested my assistance?"

"Yes," Lex hissed. An animated woman's voice warned that he had a minute left on his time.

"The caves," Lex said. "The Kawachee caves--I have reason to believe that the wall paintings are about him. You told me that he has a weakness--"

"The meteor rocks," the doctor replied, sensing Lex's urgency.

"He goes to the cave all the time," Lex said. "It will be a good place to catch him without others around. If that fails, he is often alone in the loft at the Kent farm, but that is tricky because his mother--"

"We'll get him, Mr. Luthor," the doctor said firmly. "For the amount of money you're paying me, I'll get him personally."

Clark walked away from the farm. He looked back and saw his mother and Chloe, standing on the porch of the house, and, for them, remained at normal speed.

He waved; he listened and heard his mother's hiccoughing sob. She had her arm wrapped around Chloe, and he could hear Chloe's comforting words. They waved feebly back.

Looking down the road, he saw Lois's car pulling into the driveway. With a last, furtive glance at his family, he reset his bag on his shoulder and took off.

Less than a minute later, he stood in the Kawachee caves. He glanced at the paintings, feeling, as he usually did, that they were some sort of rough sketch of how his life was supposed to play out.

Suddenly he knew that something was wrong. His head snapped around and he watched as a green blur sped towards him. He crumpled before the rock even touched him. His knees drew up to his chin; he forced his eyes open and tried to look at his assailants. A man, dressed in full combat gear, was looking confusedly at the rock.

"Didn't even hit him," he grunted. There were more men around him and they rushed forward, binding his hands and legs. The Kryptonite was brought closer to him, and its effects amplified; Clark's vision began to cloud with the intensity of the pain. His head throbbed faintly and his stomach twisted. He turned his chin up, looking at the people surrounding him. A familiar face came into view.

"Dr. Williams?" he groaned.

"Sorry, Clark," the doctor said, taking the rock from the other man and kneeling next to him. "You're a good boy," he said, his voice quiet and soothing, "and a fascinating specimen. Unfortunately, you are also a tremendous money-making opportunity. It's a sorry testament to humanity that the last characteristic overwhelms the first."

Raising the hand with the Kryptonite in it, he brought his arm down in one, solid swoop.

As the rock sped towards him, the world suddenly faded to grey... and then sharply fell into black.

Clark's eyes shot open.

It took him a moment to focus his eyes, and when he did, he did not know where he was, or how he'd gotten there. He suspected that he knew why he'd been betrayed, and perhaps even what they'd do to him while he was here. However, there was one thing that he knew, without any measure of doubt.

He'd made a mistake.

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